I thought I’d share the houserules I use for D&D. No single person is going to like all these rules as a DM (except me), but perhaps you will like some of them.
Over time I’ve tried to be responsive to criticism, winding back and changing a few things. Thanks for all the feedback which was helpful in achieving that.
1. Social contract
2. Choose your spellcasting ability
3. Barred and modified spells
4. Half progression in saving throws + Compensatory monk buff
5. Expertise is out
6. Multiclassing- you need permission
7. Origin spells for the sorcerer
I recently posted this to the main D&D subreddit- you may have seen it there
The normal rules about not being a dickhead, prejudiced or a flake out game apply.
Party members must work with the party, unless the other players are cool with it for the sake of roleplay. Cooperation is defined negatively, through a list of examples of non-cooperation. Forms of non-cooperation include:
Stealing from party members (includes not sharing loot).
Hiding during a fight because your character is “cowardly” and feels no loyalty to the party.
Attacking someone while a majority of the party want to negotiate, effectively forcing the party to do what you want and fight. (“I am a barbarian and I have no patience” isn’t a valid excuse. )
Refusing to take prisoners when that’s what a majority want.
Abusing the norm against no PvP by putting the party in a situation where they have to choose between attacking you, letting you die alone or joining in an activity they really don’t want to ( e. g. attacking the town guards).
Doing things that would be repugnant to the groups morality, e.g. torture for fun. Especially if you act shocked when the other players call you on it, in or out of game.
Additionally, when a player does these things, especially when they do them consistently in a way that isn’t fun, the DM shouldn’t expect them to solve it in game. An over the table conversation is necessary.
In extreme cases the DM might even be justified in vetoing an action (“I use sleight of hand to steal that players magic ring.” “No, you don’t”.) Generally though it’s possible to prevent it from coming to this point.
You need rules like this otherwise one player can effectively set the agenda by ignoring the group consensus, making themselves a weird kind of dictator. When it gets really bad it can be kind of a hostage situation. Any real party of adventurers would have kicked the offender long ago, but the players feel they can’t.
2. Choose your spellcasting ability
Casters can choose their spellcasting ability out of Charisma, Intelligence & Wisdom. You have to be able to explain why it makes sense in terms of your character concept, and their way of interacting with magic. For example, a druid who was unusually close to the feywild might use Charisma instead of Wisdom. A theologian-cleric might use intelligence instead of Wisdom. A Bard who was more of an interprid scholar of legends than a charismatic performer might use intelligence.
Mostly there are no balance problems with this. To the extent that there are they focus on multiclassing and are dealt with by reduced access to multi-classing.
3.Barred and modified spells
Counter-spell, Force-cage and Wall of Force are out. Since counter-spell is pretty key to the abjurer subclass, I give them a bonus of some sort, negotiated with the player.
Contagion uses Jeremy Crawford’s rule clarification.
Healing Spirit can only benefit one character per round (still very powerful but no longer ridiculous, esp. out of combat).
Hypnotic pattern incurs a save at the end of each turn.
Polymorph is limited to 1/2 of level CR. Shape-change and True polymorph to 3/4 of level CR.
Creatures created via simulacrum cannot have any spell slots above level 5.
Finally a small and niche point. The secondary intelligence saving throw on Feeblemind made one month after losing the initial saving throw is made as if you still had your initial stats.
4.Half progression in saving throws
Starting at level 6, all characters can add half their proficiency bonus to saving throws they are not proficient in. This avoids the common situation in the late game where characters can only very rarely, if ever, make saves in abilities they are not proficient in.
This weakens the post level 14 Monk with Diamond Soul considerably. In exchange, I give the Monk at level 14 an additional ASI which can only be spent on an attribute increase, not a feat. Incidentally, this helps the Monk somewhat with it’s MAD problem.
5.Expertise is out
Expertise is house-ruled out. It breaks bounded accuracy, and has absurd effects like making the Rogue leave the Wizard for dead in Arcana or making the Bard a better tracker than the Ranger. I work out a unique bonus with the players to compensate Bards, Knowledge Clerics and Rogues for losing a key class feature. Most commonly it is:
Choose a number of skill proficiencies determined by how many expertises your class or subclass generally has access to. Any time you roll a skill check for one of these proficencies, you may choose to reroll. You must keep the new result, even if it is worse than the original. You must choose to reroll before the DM declares the result. You may do this a number of times per long rest equal to your proficency modifier- split between all skills you have selected. For the knowledge cleric these proficencies must be from Arcana, History, Religion or Nature.
Note that the knowledge cleric still receives their two bonus proficiencies, just not expertise for those proficencies.
In addition rogues, add one point to either their intelligence or dexterity score.
6. Multiclassing- you need permission
That bit in the PHB about multiclassing only being allowed with DM consent? It’s actually enforced at my table. Things like two level dips into Warlock are looked upon unfavourably.
7. Origin spells for the Sorcerer
Sorcerers receive 6 bonus spells, one from each level 1 to 6. By preference I negotiate the list with the player, with the goal of creating a list that reflect’s the sorcerer’s personality and source of power. Part of the goal is, with the player’s help, to give them access to some spells that may not be strictly optimal but which are fun or neat.
Alternatively if the players don’t want to negotiate a custom list or if I don’t have time they can use these the relevant expanded spell list from this source, depending on their subclass (use vampiric blood origin for the shadow sorcerer ):
I use the revised Ranger rules. Plus I also let rangers choose their spells each morning from the ranger spell list, rather than having a list of known spells.
Some kind of Nerf gets applied to the Circle of the Moon at level 20. I haven’t decided what it is yet, because I’ve never had a player want to play it.
Monk of the Long Death is out, or an alternative level 11 feature must be agreed upon.
Clerics of all sub-classes can choose at level 8 whether they want Potent Spellcasting or Divine strike.
10. Optional rules that I’m testing or considering
Limited legendary resistance: Legendary resistance cannot block damage. Only non damage effects. E.g.- Legendary resistance would stop suggestion but not disintergrate. For spells with both types of effects, the damage, but not any additional effects occur.
Alternative limited legendary resistance: Legendary resistance can only ever reduce damage by half, not cancel it. E.g., using legendary resistance on disintergrate would halve the damage, but not cancel it altogether.