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Apr 30, 2019

D&D Homebrew: My 10 Favorite Homebrew Rules

Ever since I discovered Critical Role, I've been obsessed with Dungeons & Dragons 5e. No other medium or pastime has fully captured all of the aspects of creativity that I enjoy: worldbuilding, epic combat, monstrous creatures, and amazing unexpected story paths. Since then, I've compiled a myriad of lists of homebrew rules, riddles, magic items, custom spells, and random generators to help me with my preferred method of enjoying D&D: Dungeon Mastering.

I figured now that my YouTube channel, while more active than ever, isn't being focused on in Pretzel Lectern, I should use it to post more D&D content like other D&D blogs I've seen, my most favorite of which are theangrygm.com and blogofholding.com. Today I'll be looking at a few homebrew rules that enhance the D&D experience for me.

My 5 Favorite Homebrew Rules

1. Not-Lame Criticals.

Instead of rolling dice damage twice when you score a critical hit, maximize one of the dice and then roll the rest.

This will ensure that no matter what, you will at least score a solid hit with a critical hit. I think rolling two 1s on damage dice on a critical completely sucks the fun of rolling a natural 20. Note that you maximize only one of the dice, even on weapons and attacks that use more than one. This means that critting with a greataxe will do 12 + 1d12 damage, but a greatsword will do 6 + 3d6 damage. Otherwise, critting with a 1st-level inflict wounds would be guaranteed to deal 33–60 damage. Also remember that enemies crit with this extra damage as well as the PCs.

2. Glancing Blows

On an attack roll that exactly matches the target's AC, the hit is a glancing blow that deals half the damage rolled.

This rule pairs well with rule #1. Basically, it seemed odd to me when I first learned the rules of D&D that you either hit and did full damage or double damage or didn't hit at all. This rule tapers the edges of these two extremes so that if you just barely hit someone, you'll still deal damage, but you'll only graze them. I think the sensibility of this rule speaks for itself, and it's gone over very well in my games. Remember again that the DMed creatures follow this rule as well.

3. Targeted Attacks

A player character can choose to target a specific part of a target creature with an attack roll by declaring it and rolling with disadvantage. On a hit, that part takes the damage from the attack. A body part typically takes up 20%–25% of the creature's maximum hit points, and when it is reduced to 0, maiming, blinding, grounding flying units, and so forth may occur.

I haven't experimented much with this rule, but I really like the idea of it. If a pesky manticore won't come down and keeps volleying spikes, you should be able to aim for its wings with a spell or ranged attack and blow them off to ground it. If you want to stop a bandit from shooting with a bow or dual wielding, you should be able to hack off its hand or arm. Keep in mind that the damage type of an attack may affect the outcome of a targeted attack—obviously psychic damage can't lop someone's hand off. Unless you want to threaten your players with the possibility of getting lingering injuries rather easily, this rule slightly imbalances the game in favor of PCs. But it most likely amps up the fun factor and moves away from repetitive "I attack that creature" mechanics by adding tactical options. And I like the disadvantage factor better than, say, a -5 to hit with a targeted attack, since it reduces the chance that the player will score a critical hit on the body part.

4. Burst Concentration

If you are concentrating on a spell and cast another spell that requires concentration, you can choose to concentrate on both spells at the same time until the end of your turn.

I think it's lame that rangers have to break their concentration on hunter's mark to be able to use single-shot, "The-next-time-you-hit-a-creature-with-a-weapon-attack-before-this-spell-ends" spells like hail of thorns or ensnaring strike. The concentration mechanic on those spells is there to benefit rangers by allowing them to try again if they miss the first time—it shouldn't discourage them from using other spells that require concentration during a fight. Hence, this rule allows, say, a paladin to use searing smite on a creature while still maintaining concentration on a bless spell. If the searing smite misses, it's their choice whether they want to just let it go and keep their fellow adventurers #Blessed or keep the smite powered up for one more try on their next turn.

5. Life Diamonds

If you are a cleric or a paladin, you can donate any amount of gold pieces to a temple of your deity. Afterward, you may spend up to 10 hours in meditation, plus an equal number of spell slot levels (Channel Divinity counts as a 2nd-level spell slot). After this period, your deity provides you with a life diamond worth 100 gp per hour spent in meditation, with a maximum value equal to the amount you donated to the temple.

Diamonds are commonly used and useful components for holy spells like greater restoration, revivify, and resurrection. This allows characters to create these components if they don't already have any by sacrificing time, money, and their divine powers. I haven't had a chance to test this mechanic out yet, but I like the lore behind it.

I also would allow druids to bury gold in the ground and meditate, receiving afterwards life diamonds or the components for the reincarnate spell.

6. Battle Fatigue

If you are brought to 0 hit points, you gain a level of exhaustion. Levels of exhaustion gained in this way go away after your hit points are brought to their maximum or you take a short rest.

I like 5e's combat system, but it bugs me that a creature can be damaged so severely they get knocked unconscious, and then get up and be completely fine when a paladin Lays on Hands for 1 hit point. This rule ensures that players value being alive and conscious, rather than treating 0 hit points like a minor inconvenience ("I'll just let them knock me down. It's the healer's turn next anyway"). That's just not realistic. It also increases the stakes in battle once they've been knocked down a couple of times and start moving more slowly and having disadvantage on saving throws. Exhaustion is a powerful mechanic and I think this is a great chance to make using it count.

7. Death Susceptibility

When your character dies and is brought back to life, you must permanently fill in one of your death saving throw failures. If your character dies with three death saving throw failures filled in, that character cannot be brought back to life. A wish spell can remove a permanent death saving throw failure.

Another problem I see with D&D is that death is merely an inconvenience if holy magic is available. Sure, it costs money to raise the dead, but it should also be more taxing on the player's character in the long run. This rule makes it so that player characters only have at most three lives, and each time they die, they are more susceptible to dying again. Death should be feared and respected in the game. Optionally, I also describe a permanent scar the player has from the ordeal of their death, based on the thing that killed them, to remind them of the time or times they have had a brush with death.

8. Last Stand

If an allied player character dies, all of the rest of the player characters gain advantage on their next ability check, attack roll, or saving throw before the next round.

Another way to make death more profound of a thing in the game is to add this rule, which inspires all other players to action in the moment that one of their friends dies. Advantage is a powerful mechanic to gift, but obviously this benefit is limited to a very crucial moment that won't happen very often and that the players dread.

9. Maiming Blows

If a creature deals a critical hit to a player character that brings that character to 0 hit points, that player character receives a lingering injury (see DMG, p. 273). If a player character brings a creature to 1 hit point, it maims the creature, inflicting 3 levels of exhaustion on it.

This is mainly a mechanic to add lingering injury to the game, because I think it's fun for players to have challenges they have to work around and overcome over time. It's also a way to clue players in and give them a boon for being so close to finishing off a target enemy creature but not quite enough to kill it.

10. Inspiration and Setbacks

(Replaces the existing Inspiration mechanic) When you gain a level, you gain one Inspired Action. You can use this action at any time to grant yourself advantage on any one attack roll, ability check, or saving throw. Alternatively, you can grant an ally within 30 feet of you this advantage if doing so relates to one of your character's ideals, bonds, or personality traits. You can only have one Inspired Action at a time. Any time after expending this Inspired Action, you may declare a Setback, imposing disadvantage on an attack roll, ability check, or saving throw. This Setback must be significant (DM's discretion) and related to one of your character's flaws. After doing so, you gain one Inspired Action.

I never remembered to give Inspiration during play to my characters, so I give this mechanic to them to let them take control of when they gain it instead. It also helps them make better roleplaying choices with their flaws, which can really add to the story of a game.
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I'd love to know other DMs' opinions on these rules. I have about a hundred others I gather over time as options, but they're more complicated and nitpicky. I think these are the most significant 10 I have implemented in my games, and I like them a lot.

Stay tuned for more regular D&D-related posts!

Apr 9, 2019

Poem: Time Never Ceases

I already published this poem on this blog under a different name, but I realized I had an updated version I revised in my creative writing class that made it more... poetic, I guess. It was kind of dumb in the original version for just being about food. This one adds some emotion into it by moving up the ladder of abstraction every once in a while and eliminating clich├ęs.

Time Never Ceases

Drinks get warm
Food gets cold
Crackers get stale
Friends get annoying
Bread gets hard
Cereal gets soggy
Soda gets flat
Clothes tighten
Fruit spoils
Vegetables wilt
Ice cream melts
Children grow up
Gravy lumps
Cheese molds
Eyesight blurs
Milk sours
Hair grays
Meat rots 
Pets die
Time never ceases.

Apr 7, 2019

Poem: Craving

I made this in a creative writing class my second year of college, back when I was still having withdrawals from Brazil. Not a huge fan of it because it don't rhyme none, but from what I can tell from other free-verse poetry, I think it's not half-bad the way it talks about simplicity and nostalgia vs. fanciness.

Craving

I have tasted succulent steaks,
Seasoned with pepper and sauce and cooked just a little bit pink.
Sandwiches and hamburgers,
Some so tall you have to pin them together with a toothpick.
Salads so fresh,
Every half-moon of lettuce, cucumber, and celery would crunch.
Breadsticks dripping with butter—
Literally dripping. And all rough and salty with garlic on top.
I have sampled soups and broths,
Whose robust aroma warms the kitchen for half the evening.
Restaurants have their specialties, and the melting pot of America
Also happens to be bubbling with a dozen different cultural sauces.

But oh, how I long for a simple Brazilian coxinha,
Golden and fried, made from a common chicken
Cooked in a plywood stall, by a tattered gentleman
Feeding strangers so his family can eat.