As a dungeon master homebrewing is inevitable. Once you start running games you start to think about ideas that will make things that will make your games run better and hopefully add a bit of unique fun to your campaigns. But are your homebrewed rules actually adding something worthwhile to your game, or are they just making things more difficult? Though they may start with good intentions, some custom rules can be hit or miss. In this article, DMs share some of their rules that they felt didn’t quite work out for them. I also share my thought on why I think they didn’t work and how they could be utilized better. Let’s go!
I ran a true survival system, where people would have “severe wounds” that would not heal over long rests, but over specific in-game time. ranged from broken limbs to various heavy sicknesses. even with a healer, it was pretty brutal when half the party was dealing with a broken limb of some sort.
Dungeon Master Chalres C – Tiamat’s Tavern
I can see this rule being pretty bothersome for players unless they have all agreed that they are looking for a truly difficult survival-style game. This could bog down a system that isn’t inherently built for it, which 5th edition D&D is not, and slow the game down. This will force your party to regularly spend downtime to heal their wounds which is fine if a character takes a severe wound like that every once in a great while, but if they have to worry about being grievously wounded every time they have a combat encounter it will change the way they go about everything in a game. If you are going to force your players to take days or even weeks of in-game time to heal their wounds, hopefully, you aren’t forcing them to roleplay that downtime and allow them to fast forward through it. If not, I would find that very frustrating as a player.
Sin points for Clerics and Paladins. When a player picks one of these two classes they have to pick a list of tenets to stand by to get their divine powers. If they break any of them they get 1 Sin Point. The Sin Points show a deviation from their faith and their highest spell slots once used will not come back unless they go on a pilgrimage of some sort to reaffirm their faith, and reduce their Sin Points by 1D6. Get to 0 spell slots their gods or divine power they follow will abandon them, and they will have to look elsewhere or make a deal with a devil/ demon.DM Robert G- Tiamat’s Tavern
I like this idea in theory. I’ve always thought there should be something implemented for characters who claim to uphold a deity’s specific tenets and then just do whatever they want. This is a good start but I don’t think it’s necessarily balanced. I’d like to see more of how many points it takes for a player to start losing spell slots. If one sin point immediately means you lose your highest level spell slots, that could nerf a character very quickly, especially if they are a low level. There should probably be some sort of warning from their deity before they begin to punish them. This also means that a higher-level character takes longer for a deity to abandon them. If you are true to the tenets of your faith for a very long time and begin to begin sinning, your deity may give you a little more of a break than a brand new acolyte, but sinning is still sinning. If you are breaking your tenets your deity isn’t just going to sit back until you betray them just enough to upset them.
Also, I am not a fan of the sin reduction being left up to a roll of the die. As their dungeon master, you know when their character sins so you should know what they need to do to atone for it. When their deity tells them they need to complete a task, the number of sin points it reduces should be set based on the task to be completed. Some tasks may atone for more sins than others, and from there you adjust the sin points they reduce based on how well they completed their pilgrimage. With all that being said, if a player doesn’t want to follow the tenets of the deity they have chosen to follow, they probably shouldn’t have chosen that deity or maybe even that class. In that regard, you could do away with all of the sin point tracking by having the character approached by another deity whose tenets do align with their actions which could also lead to some interesting storylines as these gods fight over the character.
Everyone starts the game with 5,000 hp but there is no healing of any kind. Once you lose any hp it’s gone for good. Watch as your players start off feeling like invincible gods and turn into cowards as they reach higher levels.Stephanie G – Tiamat’s Tavern
This is an interesting concept, but I don’t think it works for your average D&D campaign. I could maybe see this working in a specific kind of campaign, but not as a rule to use in just any game. Maybe there has been a curse put upon the realm they are playing in and the party has to work to stop it before they die, kind of like being on a timer. There are two big issues I see with this, the first being that if there is no healing available it makes healer classes much less useful. Sure a cleric can still cast support spells and paladins are still strong attackers, but no one wants to play a class where their main abilities are going to be useless for most of a campaign. The second is that it takes away the pressure of low-level encounters. One of my favorite things about the start of a campaign is how every encounter should be taken seriously as there is a very real chance of death when you only have 10 hit points. They are right, it is nice for your players to feel like gods from time to time, but what’s the point if they are just going to die in the end to something they have no control over? I think for this to work there would certainly need to be an option for the characters to end that threat before it eventually kills them all.
You must say when your character eats, drinks, and by extension goes to the restroom. If not done regularly there is a secret DM tally. Eventually, your character will experience negative effects and possibly die of starvation/dehydration or soil themselves.Dungeon Master Mathew C – Tiamat’s Tavern
This is a bit too nit-picky for me. I don’t want to have to tally every time I think my players need to take a shit. My players have always been pretty good about roleplaying when they eat and do things like that and I don’t feel like it’s at all necessary to try to remember to check in on the status of their bowels. Again, if you are looking for a hyper-realistic difficult survival style kind of game, this could probably fit into that with no problem. Don’t make your players roleplay going to the bathroom. It’s just extra steps for both you and your players to keep track of, and besides, there are many more fun things you could be doing with your time during a game.
Pun Skeletons: When players make puns, I make a note in my campaign document. When the players next fight the undead, they are forced to fight that many extra skeletons for which they receive no treasure or experience. In one campaign, the players eventually have to fight an army of skeletons. They meandered a lot on the main quest by visiting every pub in the city, in alphabetical order, and by the time they got to the main quest they had racked up 300 puns, meaning when the skeleton army attacked the city, they thought it was their fault.DM Winston S – Tiamat’s Tavern
I think this idea is quite funny. I’d say introduce the concept to them early and make sure that they know this is a mechanic you are going to use and have an undead encounter early on in the game. That way they know that they are going to be making jokes at their own risk. I know that most of my groups, as well as most other D&D groups that I know of, would be screwed by this rule! Anyone that has played D&D knows that it only takes that one joke to have an entire session devolve into an endless bout of puns and one-liners. Everyone likes to have fun at the D&D table, so just make sure this doesn’t turn into a way of punishing your players for doing so.
I tried simultaneous turns. Roll for initiative. Then everyone writes what they want to do down. Then the DM takes all the cards and works them out into a 6-second scene. It sucks when what you are shooting at moves back out of range at a higher initiative than you, wasted turn. But it made some amazing cinematic turns, bar fights were wild. But it does take too long for larger brawls so it got scrappedDungeon Master Dan C – Tiamat’s Tavern
Sounds like they eventually figured it out, but this is not a good way to do turns in Dungeons & Dragons. First, everyone has to come up with what they are doing and write it down for the DM who then has to organize it all and figure out how the actions interact with the enemies’ actions. It’s one thing to have the game slow down a little because someone needs to re-think their strategy after someone else’s turn affects what they planned to do, it’s another to stop the game completely for several minutes while your DM tries to piece together your single round of combat. And, even they said that pre-determining your actions can tend to screw over a character’s entire turn by an enemy moving out of range or getting killed by another player. It’s one thing to have your turn wasted because you failed your save against an enemy’s spell, but having to waste your turn just because you weren’t allowed to adjust your thoughts for your turn after someone else takes theirs would feel even worse. You can still make fight scenes feel very cinematic by using lots of description during turns and having fun stuff to interact with in the environment and it doesn’t have to mean more work for the DM.
In 5th addition, I added an ability score. When they make their characters they roll for that score and it doesn’t change as they level up. After each long rest, they roll luck to see how hard that day is gonna be for them.DM Melody S – Tiamat’s Tavern
We’re already playing a game that involves rolling a bunch of dice, I don’t think luck needs to become a mechanic, at least not in this regard. As the DM and storyteller, you get to decide how tough the day is going to be for your players. They will inevitably have situations in the game that are tougher for them than others. A die roll shouldn’t dictate how your session goes. If you already have a difficult encounter planned for that day and they roll well on their luck roll, does that mean they just get to breeze through it now? Or vice versa? Also, does this mean everyone rolls and only some people may have a hard day while others have an easy one? That isn’t fair to everyone and that also seems difficult for the DM to pull off. On top of that, as I said, this game is played by rolling a bunch of dice. Ultimately your dice will normally decide whether you are going to have a good day or a bad one. You don’t need to add in a mechanic for determining the game’s difficulty, you’re the DM, you get to decide what it’s going to be and your players can prepare for it or react to it as they need.
I made a traumatic event rule. When your character sees some kind of unspeakable horror, they roll a wisdom or constitution save(I generally let them pick). Every time you make an insanity roll though, you add -1 for each previous roll. Set the DC really low like 5-10 so they succeed along and then watch them get more and more terrified as they stack up -1’s.Lane A – Tiamat’s Tavern
To me, this just feels like using the optional Sanity score rules with extra steps. Insanity mechanics only have a place in specific kinds of games, not all games are going to deal with unspeakable horrors. For those that are, just use the optional Sanity score, it’s easy. When you have a Sanity stat, you have your players make a Sanity saving throw, if they fail then you can have them roll on the short-term or long-term madness tables in the DMG. Or, if you feel like what they experienced was enough to change them permanently, you can have them roll on the indefinite madness table, give them a -1 to their Sanity score, or a combination of both. After that, maybe they can have their madness cured, or the -1 penalty removed, with magic or by going to therapy of some kind. Keeping a tally of how many times each player has made a specific kind of save seems a bit tedious to me.