My House Rules D&D 5E

I videoed my review of D&D 5E Players Handbook and posted it a couple of days ago.  If you watched it, (thank you very much!) you will know of the house rules I am going to discuss here but if you did not then this may be of interest to you.  There are numerous things that I find lacking in the 5E system for my style of play.  Some of these are complex issues that I am yet to find an answer to and some of them are easily fixed with a simple house rule or two.  The purpose of this post is to discuss the 3 house rules that I have put in place at my table and the reasoning behind them.  I am also going to talk a little about concentration because one of my players (Scott Desmond take a bow) said something at Tuesday night’s game that really made me think about concentration and how it fits into the game.

DnD Player's handbook cover
The DnD Player’s Handbook is available now

House Rule #1 Standing from prone

The base rules for this situation is that any person that finds themselves prone at the start of their turn can stand at the cost of half their movement with no other penalty.  While I agree that the stand should consume some movement I feel that there should be an added cost to this.  Hence I am adding the following house rule at my table;

When standing from prone in a threatened area a character may be subject to an Attack of Opportunity reaction from anyone threatening them.

House Rule #2 Standing from prone safely

I am not a cruel and heartless GM I understand that a player can put extra care into standing and defending themselves.  For that reason I offer this house rule as an addendum to the above rule;

If a player does not want to suffer an attack of opportunity when standing from prone in a threatened area, the player must combinetheir standing with the disengage action.

This rule does in fact mean that the player can stand safely and move away from their opponent with their remaining movement also with no penalty.

Play-testing house rule 1 and 2

I implemented these rules into the game on Tuesday night and they got used.  The players at my table pretty much all felt that the prone rules were a bit average also and the Warlock of the group used rule 2 after being dragged to the ground by a wolf.  It worked really well and hardly added any complexity to the game at all.  In fact, it does not offer up any real new rules but just reinterprets existing rules so it felt pretty natural.

House Rule #3 Concentration Limits

I have really felt that the idea of concentration in the new edition of D&D has severely hampered spell-casters of every type.  It pretty much makes most utility spells very limited and the combination of spells be limited to a utility spell and instantaneous spells being the only ones that can be combined.  It also assumes that a lowly magician straight out of an apprenticeship (1st level) is as capable with concentration as an arch mage of the highest order (level 20).  The rule here is that you can only concentrate on one spell at a time.  If you are concentrating on a spell (let’s say for example Stoneskin) and you want to use another spell that requires concentration (let’s say Wall of Stone) then you cannot do it because you can only concentrate on one spell regardless of your level.

I want to reflect the ideal that a magician (note that it is not just arcane spell-casters that suffer this) as they gain experience in their craft also gain the ability to maintain by concentration more than one spell.  To do this I offer the 3rd and final house rule at my table (so far) for consideration;

A magic-user may concentrate on a number of spells equal to their proficiency bonus minus one.  The proficiency bonus to be used is not equivalent of total character level but the total level of all spell-casting character levels combined and compared to the table on p.15 of the Player’s Handbook.

This is a slightly more complex ruling.  It needs to be weighed up that if someone takes a multi-class character that only the classes that offer spell casting be considered.  Also, it really should only be the levels that offer spells so if a player takes the Eldritch Knight portion of a fighter not all of the fighter class levels count, just those from third onward where they can choose the Eldritch Knight.

With this rule (let us for simplicity sake assume a cleric in this example) the spell caster can concentrate on one spell at 1st level through to 5 spells at 20th level with a continual, incremental improvement between those poles as they increase in levels.  To me this illustrates dedication and learning and offers up the ability to gain layered conditional techniques through a variety of utility spells that has been the way of every other edition of D&D until now.

There are no in-play notes to offer up here unfortunately as in all of the games the highest level character is only third level so far so this rule has not yet come into effect.  Having discussed this with the players though they feel it is a really good compromise though.

Concentration from a different perspective

On Tuesday we were talking about the spells and how ludicrously powerful some of them were like Witch Bolt.  We were talking about how the 1st level spell could be used by a 1st level wizard/warlock etc. to do 10d12 points of damage in a combat to a character.  Scott Desmond then said, “So if that started happening you would chase the mage down and cut them so they lost concentration.”

Now I know that is a simple concept and ideal and I should be ashamed of myself for not thinking about it from that perspective prior to that comment but that does make it a viable and interesting tactic.  These new concentration rules would cause a lot of tactics like this to occur to break the concentration of the magician.  Perhaps it was a good idea in that regard then?  It certainly deserved more thought.

When I gave it some more thought though I found some other flaws to this system.  Stoneskin that gives resistance to physical damage is going to require a saving throw any time you are hit as the magician concentrating on it.  The purpose of the spell is to allow a reduction of damage in combat, but it requires concentration so you might only have it for a round!  No, there are still some serious problems evident with the new magic system so I will have to keep on thinking!  Until next time, keep rolling 🙂

2 Comments


  1. I agree the system needs tweaking in more ways than one. One approach I’m toying with is having different ‘concentration slots’, such as one for controlling effects (hold person, cloudkill), one for buffs (haste, enlarge), and one for utility magic (detect magic).

    This would allow the caster to perform their age old role in the party: controlling the battlefield, while shielding themselves from harm/or buffing a teammate, and not squander their expensive stoneskin buff simply because they needed to cast detect magic.

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  2. I’ve been contemplating adding a system similar to the Alar used in Patrick Rothfuss’ “The Kingkiller Chronicles” where a character capable of magic can “break” their mind into parts, each of which is able to concentrate on a specific task and/or facilitate more power/control/finesse with their spells. More capable characters can maintain more parts, and thus channel more power, concentrate on more tasks, or achieve greater control.

    I haven’t figured out exactly how I am going to implement the system yet, but my initial reaction is that a caster can maintain a number of concentrations equal to 1 + (spellcasting ability modifier). This number could be mitigated by exhaustion levels on the character at the time of casting, as well as inflict exhaustion if maintained for too long. I haven’t played with the system enough to have a complete grasp for its bounds yet, but I like the idea of powerful casters maintaining multiple concentration spells, or using their powerful minds to apply Metamagic effects on the fly. So I may implement it as a Feat tree, or something like that. We will see. If anyone gets any ideas, let me know.

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