How to make DND homebrew rules

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Whether you are playing dnd, pathfinder, or any other ttrpg that the world has to offer, you are probably come across a rule at some point, or a lack there of, that causes hiccups to your game.  Perhaps combat moves too slowly for you.  Or maybe exploration is too bland and/or grueling, or your party wants to try something that the book does not talk about.   Regardless, you feel the need to change or add a rule to your table. My goal for this article is to give you parameters as to when and how you should make dnd homebrew rules, or other systems, for your table.

First Step to make Dnd Homebrew Rules

Why are you making a homebrew rule?

When I first started DMing, I always felt like the rules were never good enough and always needed either ironing out or replacing.  In the midst of all these changes I was trying to make, the only thing that ended up happening was that people would get more confused, the game slowed down more, and often times, even when someone remembered the rule, our group found that the rule didn’t actually help anything. 

So why all the bad experiences, because I have learned that if I am to make a rule there are a couple questions that I MUST answer before implementing it into my game.

1st Question:  Is a rule, or a lack there of, causing an issue?

While playing a one shot of cyberpunk, I found a rule that offered a d10 table that told you where you hit somebody when you succeeded an attack against them.  I thought it was really cool and tried to implement it into my games.  It flopped HARD.  My players remembered the rule just fine but it still turned combat into a complicated slog. “I hit him in the leg again.  Does that mean anything?” my players would often ask.  That rule worked for the rules of cyberpunk where every limb has its own health and conditions specific to cyberpunk, but according to the other rules of Dnd, it did nothing but slow us down.  Nobody complained that they felt like they needed a rule to specify where they hit somebody.  The rule I added was not a necessity to my table and that was my first mistake in adding it.

2nd Question:  Will this rule enhance the game?

Although this is not MY homebrew rule, it was a house rule that we eventually implemented which was the “brutal critical” rule.  Whenever you got a critical, you maxed out your weapons damage dice and rolled an additional on top of the maxed result.  The table loved it and critical felt like crits. A homebrew rule that I did make was more of a homebrew table and rules but it was for alchemy.  It involved studying and gathering materials as well as harvesting them from monsters.  It had its own level-up system and formula table.  It added a whole new task for downtime.  This rule enhanced our experience.

3rd Question:  Will this rule be easy to remember?

Occasionally you may spend a lot of time fleshing out a rule that you really like. Unfortunately, once you start playing at your game table, it all goes out the window.  This question is more a question of “how intentional is your play group.”  I know that my play group was a nice cauldron of different players. I had the players that learned all the rules but were open to homebrew.  I had the rules lawyer. I had the players that never remembered their abilities.  I also had the player that after playing for 2 years, still didn’t know what advantage meant (despite being a barbarian).  So whenever I made a rule I had a lot of players to consider.  Building a rule around them meant it had to come up often enough for at least half of my members to remember it.  Otherwise, we all forgot about it. 


Second Step: Make the rule. By yourself.

Think about the what you want to add for your players.  Whether it is at work, at school, at the mall, in bed, it doesn’t matter, find time to think about it.  Then once you find something you like, immediately write it down.  Just write it down somewhere.  On your phone, on your palm, on a napkin.  Once you are able, pull up a document and just start writing your unfinished thought you had earlier about that rule.  Brainstorm where it will work and where it will go wrong and fill in the gaps. 

A homebrew rule I had made had to do with the death saving throws for dnd.  I hated them so I made a system revolving around the exhaustion system and every time you went down, you gained a level in exhaustion.  It wasn’t pretty but after some thought I came up with a rule I felt comfortable with, that answered all the above questions.

Third Step: Test run your rule

Flesh it out amongst small group of trusted friends. The next thing you are going to want to do is grab 1-2 friends that are veterans at rpg games and mention your rule to them.  Have an open mind, odds are, they will easily find your flaws.  Talk it through with them and come to a conclusion on the rule you guys can all agree on. If they don’t like the rule in the test run trash it.

Fourth Step: Bring up the rule to your play group

Bring up the rule to your play group

Now at your next session, bring it up to everyone.  Let them know that this is still being play tested and subject to change.  Do your best to bring up encounters that involve your rule, just so you can see it play out and the players can get used to it happening. If the playtest goes well, now it is time to make that rule permanent.  Treat it like any other rule from the core rulebook.

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This site will plan on consistently judging common homebrew rules or making our own. If you’d like to check out our page visit our blog page to read more posts.

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