Let's Fix D&D (or, House Rules by a Guy who Hates Rolling Dice)

At the risk of pissing off every Dungeons and Dragons fan within a two-mile radius, here are some “house rules” for any D&D game I might find myself running.  You may notice they are not quite the kind of house rules you are used to – in fact, they are more of a list of things that I do not give a tuppeny fuck about if they get in the way of telling a story.

Things I do not care about

Trivial items and spell components Your Wizard does not run out of the cinnamon he needs to cast Lesser Summoning of the Cupcake. You rogue does not run out of caltrops. You can have an infinite bag of caltrops. I do not care. Life is too short.

Copper pieces You spent the last three days lugging a treasure chest full of rubies from the bottom of the Chasm of Certain Death. Just buy shit. Buy the shop if you want. Buy all the hookers within a two-mile radius. Do not buy more sodding caltrops.

XP per kill No-one gets denied a level-up because that harrowing, multi-session dungeon ended with a battle against an elder demon-king that only gave you 2643 XP rather than the 2651 XP that you needed.

Movement speed Sneaky McRogueface can run ahead if she wants. The guy with 6 Strength and full plate armour, he probably goes a bit slower than the rest of you.  But you’ve played MMORPGs, right? Let the tank go first and hide behind him. Just stick together and stop worrying that someone should be joining the combat 0.35 seconds after everyone else.

Dungeon maps Look, I’ll keep my levels consistent if you promise not to explore every damn corner while drawing the thing on a sheet of graph paper. I want to describe my rooms by telling you what you notice, not how many feet square it is.

Spell preparation Let’s just pretend you prepared whatever spell that you need to save your arse. No-one dies because they learned one too many Magic Missiles and one too few Cones of Cold.
EDIT: Maybe not such a good idea, see the comments section below.

That First Meeting at the Inn Oh god, how many times have we done that scene now? It’s painful. We can say your characters already know each other if you like. Unless of course you’d like to give a totally misleading first impression.

Temporary modifiers One character sheet I’ve seen has an entire A4 page just to keep track of temporary effects that change your dice rolls. Let’s keep that crap to a minimum.  Life, if you hadn’t figured by now, is on the short side.

Being burdened YOU HAVE A BAG OF INFINITE CALTROPS! Stop worrying if you’re carrying too much, damnit.

Using miniatures during combat If you need a reminder of where your characters are, the combat is too slow and we’re not kicking ass in memorable enough ways. Anyone attempting to use miniatures will be made to eat them.

Storytelling by dice I am going to roll my dice in secret. Because whenever the story and the dice disagree, the dice can suck my +1 greatsword.

Things I do care about

Game balance The day you equip Pansy McWizard with adamantium articulated plate mail is, by an astonishing coincidence, the day I start caring about spell-casting penalties.

Having a chance to shine Spend those character points on 30-foot dark vision and the ability to read Urdu if you want to. Someday you’ll save your party’s collective arses with them, I’ll make sure of that.

Nobody getting left behind If I have to dish out the XP unfairly to stop Lolwut, Cleric of Fail, being five levels behind the rest of the party, I will do so. Everyone should be kicking ass together.

And the one that probably goes without saying:

Having fun If the game’s not going how you thought it would, or something’s about to happen to your character that you’re not comfortable with, or you wanted more hack’n’slash and less social stuff, tell me. We’re all grown-ups.


These are the kind of annoyances that usually lead me to playing other roleplaying games, but I can get behind pretty much all of that. Spell Prep and Encumbrance being ignored messes with game balance a bit (Wizard vs Sorceror and advantages of high str, respectively)

I assumed the other ways in which Wizards suck (extreme physical suckitude) and other ways in which high Strength is useful (Thag hit orc with stick) were much more significant than spell prep / encumbrance annoyances, though I should probably defer to your experience there :)

Wizards with spont casting can break the game faster than you can say Jack Robinson. With prepared casting, it takes them a little bit longer. The thing is, for a well played wizard past level 5 or so, the fact that they're physically weak is irrelevant because they have enough options to stop it from ever being an issue. Most of the rest of the stuff I agree with, but don't just let Wizards cast spontaneously. If you want to go that route, ban Wizards entirely and only let people play Sorcerers.

Fair enough -- as I said, I'll trust you guys' experience and relegate spell preparation to just "a reason that playing wizards annoys me" rather than something I should mess with!

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