Train Bridge at Swarthmore College crossing Crum Creek

D&D House Rules

These are the rules and guidelines I’ve built up over years of playing D&D 3.5 and Pathfinder. They’ve always worked well in the games I’ve DM’ed but feel free to cherry pick rules to your own groups play style.

Small Rule Changes

Critical Rolls

Critical rolls (1 or 20) during combat act as a -10 or +10 for the roll respectively. A critical roll can not make the impossible happen. So with a Natural 20 the roll effectively is 30 and a Natural 1 is a -9.

eg. 1000 peasants dealing on average 25 criticals a round can not kill an adult dragon.

Critical rolls out of combat count as a -5 or a +5 to the roll. So a Natural 20 would be a roll of 25 and a Natural 1 would be a roll of -4.

Heal Check

I’ve always wished there was more to the heal check. Spell casters are really the only ones who can heal you and if you’re dead you better start p[r]aying for a cleric.

Within 5 minutes of a characters death assuming the character does does not have injuries incompatible with life (eg. blown up) a living player may attempt to resuscitate a dead player. If the value rolled on a d100 falls within the range of 1 and your Heal Skill + 10 then you are successful in resuscitating the fallen character. It takes 5 rounds to complete a full cycle of resuscitation and leaves the character performing it Fatigued.

After each attempt at resuscitation the character performing it takes a -10 to the check. A character may continue to resuscitate as long as their check stays above zero. A fallen character can have no more then 5 attempts at resuscitation. If resuscitation is successful then the fallen character is revived at their lowest possible health stable with zero negative levels with the Exhausted effect.

Outright Banned

Level Adjustments

If it has one, you can’t play it. Zero discussion.

eg. My Dragonkin Ghost Lich is totally fair! Yeah I have 2 5d6 natural attacks and I can fly at level 1 but it’s level adjusted.

Sacred Geometry

Holy crap no.


It’s not that I find them too powerful but that they break the flow of combat. They’re so nerfed to keep their weird rules fair that it’s actually not fun to play. They’re also super out of place in a high fantasy world of D&D.

My one caveat to the rule is that I do allow gunpowder weapons in the form of cannons.

Alternate Rules

These very optional rule sets I’ve added to my games in the past to add depth or a feature to a situation that needed it.

Character Insanity

Rules I’ve come up with to handle characters going crazy.

Rolling with (Dis)Advantage

Shamelessly taken from 5th Edition. Fills a gap in the Pathfinder skill system that leaves certain characters (non Charisma Casters) at a huge disadvantage. Use then whenever a character’s profession comes into the limelight.

For instance it’s absurd a rogue has a 1/20 chance of critically failing a mundane lock pick attempt or a sorcerer can bluff a king into just about anything.

Alternate Skill Attributes

If a player can make a solid argument that the base attribute for a skill would differ for either the character or the situation.

eg. A gruff war torn fighter would use Strength for an Intimidate roll.

GM ADVICE. Go wild with this one, especially if it gets players role playing.

Points of Interest

Back Story

Anything non-standard for a character in an environment in D&D MUST be explained by a back story. Anything from a paragraph to a full page will make the DM happy.

eg. A 6 legged mantis man from the desert won’t have points in swim.

Non-standard Races

You must inform the DM at least once of your non-standard race. If you have four legs and you don’t tell the DM, he will remove two of them.

eg. Oh, I’m playing a Centaur. What? Didn’t I tell you?

Sexy Characters

It’s a privilege, not a right.


Prepared spell casters must write down all of their spells known that day. Changes may be made to the list during the session rules permitting. No more pretending you had that super important spell prepared the whole time.

Aquatic Characters

Transportation must be worked out before hand.

eg. I’m playing a mermaid princess. I’ve got my loyal followers to carry me around in a fish bowl.

Puns are Punishable by Blood

When the DM wills it, there will be blood.

Guidelines and Suggestions


Suggestions on how to match a character with the correct alignment.

Party Dynamics

D&D is essentially a teamwork game. You rely on your friends characters to keep you alive in battle. For this to work everyone’s characters need to be able to trust each other. No one is going to trust a Rogue who keeps jerking around the party or a Wizard that just blew up a village. Actually get into your character and think. If the shifty Rogue you hired gets caught hoarding loot or robbing players the party is going to tie them up and leave them by the side of the road. No questions asked.

This is precisely why evil characters don’t work. Their morality doesn’t align with society and they have issues playing with others. Sure, your character wants to end the world and kill babies but you’ll have a hell of a time finding others who share these views.

TL;DR Don’t be a jerk.

You’re playing a game

Never forget that. It’s about having fun solving puzzles and blowing up monsters. It’s about feeling awesome when you save the princess from the dragon. If your not having fun something is fundamentally wrong.

Be Unique

Stories of past campaigns get repeated quite a lot around new players so it’s no surprise they are itching to capitalize on those stories. I strongly suggest resisting the urge and instead forging your own stories.

Other Thoughts

  1. Don’t plot against the DM. You will lose.
  2. Better to specialize then generalize.
  3. If you don’t speak common, I hate you.
  4. Write the back story first then build your stats. Flawed characters tend to be the most fun to play.
  5. Make your character to have fun, not fill a niche in the party.

Books I Use

If you are playing with me then I have all of these books (purchased legally) as either hardcover or PDF. Feel free to borrow them while making your characters but please treat them with respect.