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  • Writer's pictureKL Forslund

D&D: House Rules

Updated: Sep 16

After a long hiatus, I am back in the Dungeons and Dragons saddle. I started with 2nd Edition back in 1990. Played tons of 3rd edition, while skipping the alleged miasma of 4th Edition. Alas, when 5th Ed. came out, time became scarce and I played maybe two sessions of it. But now, the stars have aligned, a party has gathered, and it’s time. Time to, um, whip up some house rules.

House Rules

Any good Dungeon Master has a few things they do differently from the stock rules in the book. And they owe their players fair warning to be aware of those changes or additions. Which gives me an opportunity for a blog article. Everybody wins.

Table Guidelines

I find it handy to clear up how I run my game with some declarations.

  • Exceptions exist. The DM is final arbiter and maker upper of rules

  • I can handle up to six players, more than that gets unwieldy

  • Everybody is welcome to play except those who make others unwelcome

  • Bite the plothook, I only made up one for the session

  • Be ready to take action on your combat turn, lest you pass/hold your action

  • Include others in a scene or planning

  • Avoid splitting the party, especially solo, to pursue a personal thing

  • If we can’t find/figure out a rule quick enough, the DM will make it up when needed

  • Made up rule solutions keep getting used until a correct one is found

  • “Wrong” rulings in prior rounds still stand.

  • Pay smurfing attention. Put the phone down. Listen to your fellow players. Stay on topic.

  • Try to minimize/downplay in-party conflict. “I’m just playing my character” is gaslighting for being a jerk to your friends.

  • Stay in character kind of. We all like jokes, but act more like an elf and less like a teenager trying to setup an elven fart joke.

  • I’m used to 3.5E and am still getting used to 5E, expect some booboos

  • My dice land where they may most of the time.

  • DM Fudging saves player lives sometimes, never monsters

  • I prefer DMing a goodish party. Enabling player depravity isn’t my bag.

Rule Changes, Clarifications, and Additions

This is not a huge list. We’re new to 5E and not inclined to mess with something we don’t have the full experience of. Plus, I’m not a fan of lengthy rules that aren’t in the books.

  • Certain books are for DMs-only. Players should not look at them during the game.

  • Generation is 4d6, keep the best 3, arrange to taste

  • Roll for starting gold and buy your equipment

  • The DM will roll for players when the outcome may be hidden from them (ex. Sneaking, persuasion, trap detection, etc)

  • Player rolls must be out in the open and done when it is time (no preroll/reroll switcheroo)

Accepted Rulebooks

At present, I’m sticking to the original core books. Prices have gone way up since I started with $20/book. The new stuff is $50 a pop unless you find a sale. I’ve also found that until we’ve played so much to try most of the main content, there’s no point getting more add-ons we’re not ready to use. It’s not like we’re rolling up new characters every month.

  • Player’s Handbook

  • Dungeon Master’s Guide*

  • Monster Manual*

*Dungeon Master only. Players should not have these books at the table.

General Expectations

I have always made my own adventures for D&D. This time around, I am experimenting with a more ad-lib approach. Which really means that I look at what just happened in the previous scene and what the party said they’re trying to do next. Then I set up the next scene to be challenging and in line with a story we’re making up together. I do not have a strict plotline in mind, but I do know where the party is in a story arc they are making by virtue of engaging in the problem set up in the beginning.

The game will start, the characters will get introduced if they haven’t already and the scene will be set. If players want to chew the scenery or go shopping, that’ll happen. Then something will happen that the players will need to address. The plot hook, or inciting incident as it were, and we’ll be off to adventure.

Encounters will range from easy to hard. It’s always a guess, but I’ll not put in a super powerful monster that I know for sure you can’t beat. I’ve always felt those encounters to be a railroad, and if the party “wins” it’s likely DM fiat. There’s no way a 1st level party beats a 20th level genius dragon unless the DM plays it stupid to cut them a break. Your character could die, and might need to run. Or talk. Not everything in D&D needs stabbing. Surprise me.

Let’s Roll!

That’s enough words to make a blog article. And covers everything my players need to know. I’ll update this as needed, but there’s nothing earth shattering here. If you don’t play D&D, I hope this was an amusing look into a game about making stuff up and the administrivia that entails.


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