D&D 5e: House Rules 2021 4

At the request of a reader and for the general convenience of my players, this is an update to the Aurikesh house rules. It’s been five years, and I’ve had time to see the effects of things in play.

Character Generation

4d6 drop lowest for one column. Roll 2d6 for a safety-net column. Pick either one, and arrange stats to taste.

Safety Net Stats (2d6)

2: 15, 14, 13, 12, 12, 11
3: 15, 15, 13, 12, 11, 10
4: 16, 15, 12, 11, 11, 10
5: 16, 14, 14, 12, 11, 8
6: 16, 16, 12, 10, 10, 10
7: 17, 15, 12, 11, 10, 8
8: 17, 14, 12, 11, 10, 10
9: 18, 13, 13, 10, 10, 8
10: 18, 14, 11, 10, 10, 8
11: 18, 12, 12, 10, 10, 10
12: 18, 12, 12, 12, 10, 8

This chart is a minor tweak to the one I’ve been using, because it never quite stopped bugging me to have a 10-11 line. The current 12 line is a new array. My other option is to turn it into a 1d10 roll, but at this point I sort of like weighting the odds toward the 6, 7, and 8 arrays.

After many years of using this ability score generation method, it continues to be well-received by players. It’s clearly more generous than the standard 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8 array and I am honestly quite comfortable with that.

Starting Hit Points and Leveling Up

All characters receive +5 maximum hit points at 1st level, in addition to maximum hit points on their first hit die. When a character gains a level, they receive the fixed value for hit points (d6: 4, d8: 5, d10: 6, d12: 7).

New Characters

Aurikesh PCs use Aurikesh races. None of their rules are the same as any standard D&D race, not even humans or goblins. I intensely dislike PH human mechanics.

New characters in Aurikesh now start at 4th level. After many years of always starting at 1st level, I increased the starting level to 4th so that one player coming in right in the middle of an adventure wouldn’t be 1st level for the showdown. With the highest-level player now 10th level, I think this is fine. This has continued into the Team Goblin spinoff game because the first PC goblin joined the Gallant Shields campaign.

Also? We’ve played a ton of tier 1 D&D. Getting to tier 2 a bit faster is fine.

Give Ground

Give Ground: when you take damage from a melee attack, you may spend your reaction to reduce the damage by 1d6 and move 5 feet away from the attacker. The attacker may immediately follow you into the space you just left. Neither of these moves provoke opportunity attacks.

Having some defensive way to spend your reaction is good, and if I were to rework 5e from the ground up, every character would have some kind of defensive reaction option as well as the offensive option of opportunity attacks. Several classes get something that supersedes Give Ground, but to my mind that only proves the need for this option for everyone else.

Warlock Changes

Agonizing Blast and Repelling Blast are banned.

At 5th level, choose either Eldritch Power or Thirsting Blade. If you choose Thirsting Blade, you also gain Lifedrinker at 12th level. These choices do not cost Eldritch Invocation slots.

At 1st level, your patron bestows upon you a magical secret called an arcanum. Choose one 1st-level spell from the warlock spell list as this arcanum.

You can cast your arcanum spell once without expending a spell slot. You must finish a long rest before you can do so again.

At higher levels, you gain more warlock spells of your choice that can be cast in this way: one 2nd-level spell at 3rd level, one 3rd-level spell at 5th level, one 4th-level spell at 7th level, and one 5th-level spell at 9th level. You regain all uses of your Mystic Arcanum when you finish a long rest.

Eldritch Power

Starting at 5th level, when you cast a cantrip that can target multiple creatures (even when you choose to target only one creature), add your Charisma modifier to the damage it deals on a hit or a failed save. When you cast a damaging cantrip that can’t target multiple creatures, add your warlock level to the damage it deals on a hit or on a failed saving throw.

(For more on this thought process, see here.)


Damaging cantrips deal +2 damage. This bonus is superseded by and doesn’t stack with greater bonuses to cantrip damage.

Rolling a 1 on cantrip damage is just a bummer of a turn at 1st through 4th level. That’s the whole story.

No Immunities from Class Features

If a class feature says it grants you immunity, you instead gain resistance to damage of that type, advantage on saving throws against that damage type or condition, and you can roll 1d6 and add it to the result of your saving throws against that damage or condition.

If you take nothing else away from this blog, take this: PC immunities are a bad idea. An alternate implementation that I thought about last night was replacing PC immunity with a limited usage of Legendary Resistance. For example, once per day when you fail a saving throw against the charmed condition, you pass it instead.

Changed Spells

This list is subject to further expansion.

Fighting Styles

Funny enough, my change to the Protection fighting style got turned into the Interception fighting style in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. So, you know, whatever. Do your thing.

Paladins and rangers have access to all of the fighting styles that fighters can learn. If you want to play a two-weapon-fighting paladin or a great-weapon ranger, go for it! I do at least understand why paladins can’t get Archery, even if I don’t like that root cause in turn (i.e., it’s a trap choice because you can’t smite with arrows… which I would rather fix).

Spears and Tridents 

If you are proficient with all martial weapons, when you wield a spear or trident it deals 1d8 piercing damage, and its Versatile damage increases to 1d10. (Throwing a spear or trident uses its one-hand damage.)

Two-Weapon Fighting

I can’t sum this up quickly, any more than the baseline two-weapon fighting rules can, so… it’s toward the end of this post. In brief, TWF is less reliant on bonus actions, but bonus actions are still helpful. I guess I’m now committing to implementing this as a rule in my campaign! Up to this point it’s been an idea that I’m pretty sure is right, but haven’t had much of a chance to field-test.


I call for upkeep when appropriate. Sometimes you get a few free days. Especially if a character hasn’t been active in a long while, you may get free weeks or months.

I have my own Upkeep chart, paid weekly and priced in silver. I created mechanical effects for each grade of upkeep, because I don’t think PCs feel the differences between purely descriptive upkeep values, and they all live together in the barracks of their mercenary company, so I don’t have a lot of room to describe their individual dwelling-places.

Weekly Upkeep Effect
0 -2 hit dice per day of healing available (minimum 0)
10 -1 hit die per day of healing available
50 No modifier
100 Minimum roll on all hit dice for healing is half the die’s maximum value
250 +1 virtual HD per day of healing available, and minimum roll on all HD for healing is half the die’s maximum value
500 Gain advantage on all saving throws against disease effects, and as above
1000 Gain proficiency in Charisma (High Society) as long as you maintain this status, and as above
5000 +2 virtual hit dice per day of healing available, and as above
10000 Once per week, perform the Recuperate downtime action in a single long rest, and as above
50000 Gain one Trait of the Noble or Knight backgrounds


There are a lot of little things that I do that are official variants or borrow from indie games. For example, if you put effort into a Charisma roll, you’re not going to get screwed by a low roll – the stakes of the roll change from pass/fail to yes-and/yes-but, or maybe yes/no-but if the NPC is particularly recalcitrant.

Inspiration (non-bardic) is a reroll rather than advantage declared ahead of time. I’m not fully satisfied with this rule. I’ve seen Inspiration rules that I really liked, but I haven’t fully committed to learning and implementing them.

I like cool stunts and I’ll work with you to support them. What that means is going to be an ad-hoc deal with room to negotiate.

Please No

The College of Creation is banned. I care about expended component costs.

The Twilight Domain is on the bubble. If you super want to play this, let’s have a talk, and be prepared for me to spend time annoyed with you in tier 2 play. It’s not personal – this subclass just negates an absurd amount of damage in that level band if the NPCs aren’t focusing fire.

And I think that’s it, but I could still be missing things. I’m sure Kainenchen, GFo, or Samhaine will remember something that has slipped my mind here. This doesn’t include the general span of additional content – added races, classes, subclasses, spells, magic items, whatever. For that, well, I need to sit down and build a proper campaign book for Aurikesh, which is way outside the scope of a single blog post.

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4 thoughts on “D&D 5e: House Rules 2021

  • Craig W Cormier

    I love to see how other DMs house-rule the system, it really shows you what areas of the game are most important to them and which areas they feel really need some fine-tuning. Which I will use as an excuse to list my house rules. Sorry for the wall of text.

    In my upcoming campaign, I am using a similar ability score generation method to yours (I think I stole the Safety Net idea from your previous house rules list). I offer the player the option of taking the standard array or rolling. For rolling they roll a safety net score and then roll 3d6, drop the lowest and add 4 for all scores. I am doing this because I am trying to prevent characters with easy access to scores of 20 super early. It’s an experiment that may not survive past the first round of PCs in this game.

    I also start all new PCs at 3rd-level. I have not played a lot of 1st-level 5th edition, but the overwhelming consensus from the group was that they didn’t want to start that low, so there we go.

    So far I have not made any major changes to the existing class options. I personally don’t have a problem with EB and its various upgrades. It’s boring but it is also easy, and sometimes that’s what players want. My current PC line-up includes one warlock who has chosen specifically to not take EB.

    I think I am going to add Give Ground to the list of options. I really like it for dynamic and fast-moving combat.

    I also offer all existing Fighting Styles to both rangers and paladins. I go one step further and basically just make it a blanket thing for anyone with the Fighting Style feature. I don’t mind fighters with Druidic Warrior any more than I mind Great Weapon paladins. I also added an Arcane Warrior style to round out the spellcasting styles.

    I grant a feat at 1st-level to all PCs and ban the human variant (the only ancestry option of over 250 that is currently banned in my game) cause I like feats. This feat is not tradable for an ASI.

    I allow spellcasting PCs with spells granted by their ancestry to use their spell slots to cast those spells (still subject to the spellcasting ability score from the ancestry feature).

    My current group is primarily made up of players that enjoyed 4th edition and have no problem tracking some minor bonuses in combat, so I lifted the flanking rules from that edition. I really disliked flanking granting advantage and my players wanted flanking to be an option in the game.

    I changed the way long rests work, they are no longer allow PCs to fully recover. They essentially now work the same way as short rests, allowing you to spend Hit Dice to heal. The difference is that the Hit Dice recovery mechanic still goes off at the end of the rest. I added Extended Rests to take the place of LR, and they work just like the standard LR except that they take 24 hours.

    The final major rule I use is Enduring Trauma. With this mechanic, a PC can only ever make (fail or succeed) a number of Death Saves equal to their Constitution score. Once they reach that limit they die the next time they have to make one. Rolling a 20 on the save means it doesn’t count toward the total and rolling a 1 means it counts for 2 toward the total. There are several ways to reduce your cumulative total as well. The basic idea was to increase the lethality of the game a little bit and provide a natural in-world reason why a character might retire, “I’ve been close to death too many times, my soul is tired”. I started using the rule when we ran Tomb of Annihilation, expecting it to really up the tension and drama. I think the PCs only made like 10 saves total across 6 characters for the whole game. So it was not the game-changer I was expecting.

    • Brandes Stoddard Post author

      Teachin’ me new things about the comment size limits in WordPress. 😉

      Starting at 3rd level is a good general policy. After 2-3 runs of 1st and 2nd level, the bloom is off that rose as far as I’m concerned.

      When boring + easy is also optimal by a large margin, that’s a problem to me. A player can choose to swim upstream against the warlock and EB, but (outside of a Bladelock build) it’s accepting much, much lower damage numbers. Mileage varies, whatevs. =)

      I wouldn’t object if a fighter wanted to take Druidic Warrior, but I’d also find it to be very much a corner case.

      I offered my players “everyone gets a feat at 1st” a long while back, and the people who were active in the campaign weren’t into it. I was surprised.

      Spellcasting PCs getting to use spell slots for more uses per day of their racial spells seems like the direction things are headed for WotC. Thumbs up.

      I kinda like those rest rules. Worth thinking about. =)

      I can see offering those Enduring Trauma rules to my PCs as a way to get to a long-term-consequences deal. Interesting!

      Thanks for sharing!

  • Weird-Wizard

    Neat to see, I already like a lot of your house rules from their blog posts (Eldritch Power and Dual Wielding especially). It’s funny how Interception hit a lot of the same points as your old thoughts on Protection.

    I did make a minor change to Interception style in my own game. I like that it doesnt require a shield, but at the same time I wanted it to reward protective shield use. If a character with the Interception style in my game wields a shield, the reduction roll becomes 1d12+PB instead of 1d10+PB. In practical terms, it’s only one more point of damage prevented on average, but I still like it.