Sunday, August 26, 2018

Miscellaneous House Rules (5e D&D)

No rules set an perfectly appease all players.  When it comes to Dungeons & Dragons, this isn't a problem.  House rules have been a part of the game since the beginning; dungeon masters were encouraged to customize the rules to their needs.  These rule sets, after all, are guidelines for play--the experience of the game trumps the mechanics.

Below are a few house rules for games that I run:


Initiative is not only the ability to react, but also the ability to perceive one's surroundings and judge the best course of action.  Therefore, an initiative roll should incorporate Wisdom in addition to Dexterity.  A simple Dexterity check, though an easy mechanic, does not suffice; though adding a new mechanic would be too bulky.  I prefer to modify the core mechanic as follows:

Breaking Initiative Ties.  If a tie occurs, characters act in order of Passive Perception score.  If the tie remains, they act in order of Passive Insight score.  Should a time still remain, follow the guidelines in the Player's Handbook for initiate ties.
In an earlier attempt at "fixing" this rule, I had players add both their Dexterity and Wisdom modifiers to the d20 roll--but this added a new mechanic that I had to consciously remember when I was using stat blocks for monsters & NPCs.  The above rule incorporates Wisdom without modifying a core rule that is fundamentally ingrained in the system.


There is not core rule in 5th edition for flanking.  Optional rules are provided for use with miniatures on a square ot hex battle grid--but these are too specific to apply to abstract sessions.  Having enjoyed some of the nuances of 3rd edition, flanking is a mechanic that I have gotten used to playing with.  My interpretation of flanking in 5th edition comes from a misunderstanding the Rogue's Sneak Attack ability.  However, I'd like to run with that misunderstanding:

Flanking.  If you and at least one of your allies is within 5 feet of your opponent, and your ally is not incapacitated, then you both have advantage on your attack roll.

This is worded so as not to negate the rogue's Sneak Attack benefit, which specifies an example that would still not qualify as flanking--particularly if the target of the sneak attack is enganed in combat with someone that is not the rogue's ally.  Flanking circumstances also require melee combat, while a rogue may used ranged sneak attacks.

Non-Lethal Damage

The core rules for what has been known as "non-lethal" or even "subdual" damage are included in the Player's Handbook under the heading "Knocking a Creature Out."  I take issue to two aspects of this rule:  1) any melee attack may be used (including a piercing or slashing attack), and 2) the decision to knock a creature out may be made after damage is dealt (and, seemingly, only if it is revealed that the attack has reduced the reature to 0 hit points).  

While the nuances of 3rd edition can sometimes be praiseworthy, they also became very bulky; so I understand the need for simplified rules. However, this in one case when siplification has gone too far in my opinion.  I would, therefore, like to revise this rule as follows:

Non-Lethal Damage.  Any time you make a bludgeoning, melee attack, you may choose to deal non-lethal damage.  This damage applies to the target normally until it would otherwise kill the creature.  Instead of dealing a killing blow, a non-lethal attack merely reduces the target to 0 hit points, knocking them unconscious.  The choice to do non-lethal damage must be made before the results of the attack roll are announced.
        The victim of such a non-lethal attack is stable, and does not need to make death saves.

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