House rules in Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) change something about the way the game was supposed to be played. The handbooks contain all the critical information to get started, but sometimes an aspect of the game will just rub you the wrong way. House rules help you fix that!
Combat is one of those hotly debated subjects in the D&D community. Is it too long? Is it too complicated? Are the classes balanced? How should you deal with min-maxing? There’s a lot to think about! If you’re the Dungeon Master (DM) for a party that is really anti-combat, here are a few house rules you can use to make the D&D experience more enjoyable for them.
5/5 Taking Potions As A Bonus Action
The first one is easy: allow players to drink potions on their turn as a bonus action. Potions can be full of helpful concoctions, and under the regular rules of D&D, this would cost a full action. However, that usually just serves to extend the combat rather than have any meaningful impact on the difficulty.
If they don’t like combat, one can assume your players want to spend as little time doing that as possible. Allowing the players to take their potions as a bonus option allows you to shorten the overall length of time the party will spend fighting.
4/5 Group Initiative
Group Initiative is a surefire way to shorten how long combat encounters will take. If the thing your party doesn’t like about fighting is the fact that they have to do it at all, you can reduce their suffering this way.
The premise is really simple. Instead of each individual enemy and player having a place in the initiative order, entire groups are placed in the initiative together. All the players go, then all the enemies, and so on.
There are lots of debates about this house rule, as it’s fairly well-known. Some argue that it takes away agency from your players; if the first enemy in the enemy round badly wounds or even kills someone, the other players won’t have a chance to react until all of the other enemies have had a turn. You could consider adding clauses like this to the basic idea:
- Not all encounters will use group initiative; it will be used at the DM’s discretion.
- When there is a large number of allies/enemies, the groups in group initiative will contain only 3 or so individuals, serving to speed up the combat but not allow one side or the other to take control too quickly.
Players may choose to group up and create group initiative at their own disposal as a bonus action, with groups of as little as 2 or as large as they want, but are forced to deal with the positive
3/5 Conversations Mid-Battle Can Lead To Advantage/Disadvantage
We’re calling this a house rule, but it isn’t really; it’s just something that most people don’t do. While advantage and disadvantage may be earned through a skill or a spell, the DM is also free to assign advantage or disadvantage to any roll as they see fit.
Take advantage of this and don’t shy away from having conversations mid-battle! Not only does it serve to break up the combat that your party doesn’t enjoy, but it also means you can find ways to give your party advantage when they land a sick burn, or disadvantage when they’re questioning something they know, to ease or speed along the process.
2/5 Lifestyle Buffs & Debuffs
Lifestyle refers to how well or poorly a character is living. Depending on the kind of players you have, the time spent traveling or between fights may be a tedious nightmare or a blissful opportunity for roleplay. If they don’t enjoy combat, we’re assuming they enjoy the other aspects of D&D better.
This house rule is a way to connect combat more clearly to the other decisions they make. Let’s say that a night in a reasonably comfortable is the baseline: it doesn’t give any buffs or debuffs. What if you drank a little too much ale the night before? Would you wake up with a headache and be unable to focus all the way in combat? What if you’d been sleeping on the dirt for weeks on end before now? Would you wake up feeling refreshed after your night in a proper bed?
Exactly what buffs and debuffs you give can be entirely up to your own discretion. The point is just that the players begin to connect combat with their recent roleplaying experiences, and – hopefully – strive for new experiences to keep their lifestyle high!
1/5 Ever-Changing Alignment
Alignment in Dungeons and Dragons is meant to give you a baseline for your character’s personality. While there’s plenty of nuance within the categories, you basically get ranked on two scales: how law-abiding you are (whether those are the government’s laws or your own) and how focused you are on your own good, rather than the good of others.
This house rule suggests that, instead of giving you a set Alignment category, you actually measure it on the spectrum of those two scales we mentioned, using a percentage. Not only does this give you an even more nuanced impression of a character, but it also allows it to easily change throughout the game. In combat, do you decide to attack without looking for a non-violent solution? Then your character moves back towards ‘Evil’ on that scale.
|0% – Evil||—————-||100% – Good|
|0% – Chaotic||—————-||100% – Lawful|
It’s a great way to give combat brand-new stakes for players who don’t see the point in it. Try it out to freshen up your games!