5e, homebrew, houserules, rules

Do Spell Scrolls Need Fixing?

TLDR: Rather than try to “fix 5e Spell Scrolls” just don’t use them. You can get the same effect, and frankly have more fun, with custom scrolls and all sorts of other trinkets that create the same opportunity to turn mundane encounters into memorable ones.

I recently saw some discussion online about house ruling scrolls in D&D 5E. Folks were looking for ways to make scrolls more accessible to non-spellcasters and maybe more common at their table. Creative and unexpected use of magic items is always welcome at my table so exploring ways to get more scrolls into players’ hands sounds like a fun time.

First, let’s look at scrolls themselves. Scrolls are usually pieces of parchment on which a spell has been stored in written form. In the Rules As Written, scrolls are described as a category of consumable magic item that can be used by anyone that can read the language written on the scroll (DMG p139). As with all rules in D&D, more specific rules such as those within an item description can override this rule. Fair enough.

Strangely, there are only two items on the DMG magic item list classified as scrolls: the Scroll of Protection and the Spell Scroll. The Spell Scroll is the only scroll in the Basic Rules at all. The Scroll of Protection works as described on page 139 but the description of the Spell Scroll overrides the page 139 rule by stating that the item can only be used by classes that would otherwise know the spell inscribed on the parchment. Hey now.

While there are lots of different variations on the lore behind scrolls, D&D 5E states that scrolls are “spells stored in written form”. They are physical manifestations of a spell already cast. When a scroll is created the arcane or spiritual power channeled by a spellcaster is woven into written words on parchment. Later, when the scroll is read, the power of the spell is released from the parchment and the full effect of the original spell is released.

So how much knowledge of the original spell does the user of a scroll need to have? I suppose it is not unreasonable to expect that the user/reader need to have some foundational knowledge to effectively access the magic embedded in the parchment, but that expectation seriously limits the usefulness of scrolls. Again, it’s strange that the most ubiquitous examples of scrolls in D&D are WAY less useful and interesting than they could be.

There are evidently a lot of house rules on this topic and, at first, I was tempted to follow suit. What might I change at my table to make scrolls more useful and more exciting for the party? Frankly, I think the simplest house rule is to just ignore the restrictions placed on Spell Scrolls. But as I wrote this article I realized that house rules aren’t required here. I agree that Spell Scrolls in D&D 5E are boring but I don’t think they need fixing. Just don’t use them! Use scrolls and other single-use items instead.

Umm. Did he just say don’t use Spell Scrolls, use scrolls instead? Yup. Spell Scrolls (notice the capital letters… I am referring to a specific magic item here, not the category of magic items called scrolls) can only be used by casters. But scrolls (lower case) can be used by anyone. So instead of giving the fighter a Spell Scroll with fireball written on it, give them a scroll called Scroll of Fireball. It’s an easy solution and still within RAW (yes, you need a simple homebrew magic item, but no house rule required).

Relics are more fun than scrolls anyway

That said, I still don’t use many scrolls. I like rewarding my party with consumables of wondrous power because, time and time again, creative use of consumables makes for a great gaming session. I want to encourage that as much as I can. Scrolls and potions are intended to do the heavy lifting here, but I actually think it is more fun to use other forms of single-use magic items. Sly Flourish’s Single-use Magic Items are my go-to.

Single-use magic items work like scrolls but don’t have the class limitations of Spell Scrolls. Anyone can push a button or speak a command word to release the magical effect. A ruby that is warm to the touch and explodes into a 3rd level fireball when thrown at a target is way more interesting than that Scroll of Fireball I recommended above. As a single-use item, the ruby could even have an interesting backstory while the scroll just feels like an extra spell slot. Of course, as a DM you are free to introduce any prerequisites to an item’s use that makes sense for your game. I think the Fireball Ruby would explode no matter who throws it, but perhaps only creatures of fey descent can activate the Twig of Invisibility.

For more ideas on single-use magic items, head over to Sly Flourish’s 2015 post on the subject, Relics: Single-use D&D 5E Magic Items. I find them way more interesting than scrolls and, because they are really homebrew and don’t require house rules, they are easy to introduce into your game.

Have fun out there.


5e, houserules

Party Levels

I love building characters and leveling them up. Doesn’t everyone really? 🙂 Pouring over new class abilities, feats, and spell selections in anticipation of your next level is a great way to keep playing between sessions. How cool would it be if, in addition to players leveling up their characters, the whole group had the opportunity to level up as a party? After all, this band of adventurers is spending a lot of time together. What does it look like as they learn about each other’s talents and start finding synergies that work well? Would it be possible to find new elements of play that compliment individual character journeys while emphasizing the team dynamic?

Where is the Party?

The D&D party is one of the defining characteristics of the game. The interplay between players and their characters is at the heart of  role-playing, exploration, and combat at the table. Some of the game’s subsystems, like encounter planning, use the party in the underlying math of the game. And yet the only mechanical reference I’ve seen in D&D 5e to the adventuring party itself appears in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything in the form of Group Patrons. It’s a cool idea, but I think that the adventuring party deserves more!

Blades in the Dark formalizes the crew with mechanics of its own. I’m sure that there are other RPGs that do something similar. As I was writing my last post about Party Factions I realized that there was one major faction in the game that I wasn’t accounting for – the party itself! Now I’m wondering if the adventuring party should be its own game mechanic that looks a bit like a faction but is controlled by the players themselves.

The Adventuring Party

I would introduce the idea of the adventuring party during a session zero meeting. Ask the players how their group come together or if they are just meeting for the first time. How does the campaign world view this newly formed company of adventurers?

  • Are you a ragtag band of kids trying to survive on the streets of the city?
  • A band of brothers caught in the middle of a war?
  • Long-time friends displaced from home by a cataclysmic event?
  • Or maybe you are treasure hunters or mercenaries always looking for the next job.

Whatever it might be, the inspiration for the party is a statement about the type of game the players want to play just as the setting itself often reflects what type of game the DM wants to play. Obviously, it is best to align your party concept with the concept for the campaign overall.

The Party Sheet

The party sheet is much simpler than your character sheets but the intent is the same: capture the characteristics of the party that might be important to the game. I suggest that it has three sections:

  1. Party background is a description of who the group of adventurers is in the world. Just like character backgrounds, we briefly describe where the group comes from and any characteristics they may have as a result of that experience.
  2. Party reputation is a place to track their reputation score with the various factions in the world. See my article on party factions for more on that.
  3. Party features are special traits and abilities that the party has while working together. These are similar to class features that each individual character has, but accessible to every member of the party. It is through party features that we can introduce the idea of the party growing as a team.

Party Progression

When your characters level up, so should the party. But what exactly happens when the party levels up? Where is the list of features, spells, and feats that we can pour over in between sessions?

Rather than introducing a whole new set of party stats or attributes, I propose that the players select a new party feature every time they level up their characters. The list of party features is created by the DM at the beginning of the campaign (ideally, with input from the players during session zero) and has more options than the players will be able to choose over the course of the campaign. If the party may get to level 20, I might start with 30 features to choose from. Every time the party unlocks a new feature on the list, the players should feel like they are reaping the rewards of working as a team.

NOTE: You might want to have the party advance more slowly by leveling only on odd character levels or even every 4 or 5 character levels.

Party Features

Of course, there is some work that goes into creating a list of party features in the first place. I think it would be important to share the list with the players very early on in the campaign. That way they can look ahead and see how each choice they make might open up additional options down the road.

Some party features will have prerequisites that serve as gates for more powerful features in the list. Some might be selected more than once, getting more interesting and more powerful as the players gain more experience together. There might also be room on the list for a few secret party features that the DM only reveals to the players when certain events unfold in the campaign. If you combine this post with my post on factions you might find ways to integrate the party’s reputation as prerequisites for some party features.

To be inclusive of a wide variety play styles I recommend organizing the list of party features around the three pillars of D&D: role-playing, exploration, and combat. A group of true murder-hobos may invest heavily in only combat features while a more balanced group of role-players might choose party features from all three categories. Here are a bunch of generic adventuring party features that my friends and I came up with. Use them or create your own that are more specific to your campaign and party background.


  1. You go first. At the beginning of each encounter any two party members can swap their initiative positions.
  2. The one-two punch. Once per short rest, when two members of the party start a round flanking an enemy creature, the can both take their turn before the flanked enemy’s turn that round.
  3. Look over here. Coordinated attacks confuse and overwhelm the enemy. Once per short rest, any party member can use the Help action as a bonus action. Each time you select this feature you get one additional use of the feature between short rests.
  4. Eye in the Sky. When two party members are within 10 feet of each other and at least 30 feet from an enemy, one can use a spyglass and their Help action to range targets for the other wielding a ranged weapon. The next attack made with that weapon is made at advantage and ignores the effects of long-range and partial cover.
  5. Martial magic conduit. Once per short rest, any spellcaster in the party that uses a spell attack can choose to target a melee weapon or piece of ammunition being held by another party member instead of a creature. The spell attack automatically hits. If the wielder of the targeted item hits an enemy with an attack with that item before the spellcaster’s next turn, the attack does both the normal weapon damage as well as any damage or effect from the spell.
  6. Not getting through. When two or more party members are standing no more than their maximum reach apart the empty squares between them are impassable by enemies.
  7. This guy is going down. Any party member can use 5 feet of movement to drop to their hands and knees behind a large or smaller humanoid creature. If another party member who is flanking the creature uses the Shove action against them before the creature’s next turn, the creature is automatically pushed to the square on the opposite side of the ally on their hands and knees. The creature is knocked prone and automatically fails any saving throw to catch themselves.
  8. Incoming! Once per short rest, at any time during any party member’s turn, every other party member can use their reaction to move 5 feet. If you select this feature a second time party members can move up to half of their normal walking speed.
  9. A force to be reckoned with. When the majority of the party is present and conscious and combat swings in their favor (see below), all enemies within 60 feet of a fallen enemy must make a Wisdom saving throw or become frightened of the party for 1 minute. Scenarios where this can be applied include (1) when an obvious enemy leader is defeated, (2) when more than half of all enemies have been defeated, or (3) when the party defeats more enemies than there are members of the party in the first round of combat.
  10. Party critical. prerequisite: the party must already have the ‘A force to be reckoned with’ feature. When any member of the party scores a critical hit against an enemy creature the momentum of the battle begins to swing in the party’s direction. Each member of the party can score a critical hit on a roll of 19 or 20 for the rest of the encounter or until a member of the party rolls a natural 1 or an enemy scores a critical hit.
  11. Minor Help. prerequisite: the party must already have the ‘Look over here’ feature. Party members can use a bonus action to distract a creature within their reach. If another party member attacks that creature before your next turn, the first attack roll gets a +2 bonus to hit. Characters that have the Extra Attack feature can substitute this ability for one of their attacks (but cannot also use their bonus action in this way during that turn).

Role-Playing / Social

  1. Good guard / Bad guard. Once per long-rest, when two members of the party are engaged in a discussion alone with a single NPC that requires a Persuasion check, one character plays the good cop (Persuasion) while the other plays the bad cop (Intimidation). The highest of their two rolls is used against the NPC’s Insight to determine success.
  2. Name drop. The party is always keeping an ear out for hints as to the power structure of local communities. Once per long-rest, if the party has spent at least 1 hour in a community of humanoids, any member of the party can use the name of one of the community members to influence an NPC interaction.
  3. Cause a distraction. Once per week, any member of the party can spend one hour prepping a distraction that will attract the attention of a group of NPCs. Through a series of simple signals and timing, the party can coordinate the distraction from up to 1,000 feet away. The attempt automatically succeeds.
  4. Watch my back. Countless hours in taverns and inns keeps you on your toes. When at least two members of the party can see each other in a public space, they cannot be surprised and have ADV on ability checks for Perception.
  5. Without saying a word. Members of the party can communicate with each other without making a sound as long as their fingers are free and visible. Each time the party selects this feature they learn three non-verbal signals to represent a phrase, command, or warning.
  6. Social Reconnaissance. When the party spends at least 6 hours split up in a humanoid community they will reliably learn key power players, threats, and at least one secret that most outsiders would never know.
  7. Best inn class. When the party spends at least 1 hour in a humanoid community they can reliably identify a place to stay for the night that best meets of the following requirements: safest, most discreet, best reputation, most dangerous, or loosest lips.


  1. Search the room. When the majority of the party spends 10 minutes turning over a room they automatically succeed any Investigation check to spot interesting items or characteristics of the room. They have advantage on ability checks for Perception to spot and avoid traps.
  2. Loot the bodies. When the majority of the party is present and conscious at the end of a combat encounter, the party automatically finds any valuable or interesting items on the bodies of their slain adversaries. Additionally, they automatically spot any indications that their foes may have a nearby lair.
  3. Standard door procedure. When the majority of the party is present at a closed door they have advantage on checks to surprise creatures on the other side of the door when it is opened. Party members must use their first action after opening the door in a prescribed manner determined when this party features is unlocked.
  4. Expert climbers. When two or more party members attempt to climb a wall each rolls an ability check for every 10 feet climbed and the highest roll is used to determine the group’s progress. On a failure the party encounters a portion of wall that they cannot pass (but they do not fall).
  5. Toss. Party members with above party average Strength scores can use an action to give a boost to any party member that weighs less than they do. The booster’s Strength score is added to the boosted’s jump distance when they move through the first character’s space on their next turn.
  6. Synchronized Skills. Any two party members can both use the same Strength, Constitution or Dexterity ability check during consecutive turns of a skill challenge.
  7. Overnight Watch. When the majority of the party is taking a long rest, they can take watch in a prescribed manner determined when this party feature is unlocked. When they do so, they have advantage on checks to avoid being surprised.
  8. Overland Travel. Gain one of the following benefits when the majority of the party is traveling together each time you choose this party feature:
    1. Navigation. The party cannot get lost as long as no external force is actively trying to take you off course.
    2. Ease of passage. The party can travel through wilderness at the same speed as they can travel a well-maintained road.
    3. Stealth. When the party is attempting to travel without attracting attention, use the highest ability check roll for Stealth among the party instead of a group skill check.
  9. Supplies Scavenger. When the majority of the party travels together you can scavenge for supplies on the go. You are automatically able to find food and water each day to sustain the party.
  10. Helping Hand. prerequisite: the party must already have the ‘synchronized skills’ feature. Once per long rest, when the majority of the party is engaged in a skill challenge, any party member can use their action to assist another. Both players roll the same ability check and the highest roll is used to determine success.


This is one of the bigger-in-scope ideas I’ve presented here and I am sure that it is not perfect. I’d love to get your feedback and I might revisit this subject next time I start a new campaign. In the meantime…

Have fun out there.


5e, houserules

House Rules for Spellcasters

I can’t say that I love the core spellcasting system in 5e, but I do like it. 5e spell slots are easily managed at the table and flexible enough to add flavor in just about any campaign setting. It’s true that part of me yearns for something more complex like the richer, more complex magic systems in fiction, but every time I start to write something up or read someone else’s interpretation on reddit, it never passes my house rules test:

  1. Is it fun?
  2. Is it simple?
  3. Is it worth it?

My house rules are usually mechanical overrides to the core systems of the game, but sometimes they are simply statements about how we play the game. For spellcasting in 5e, I’ve tried to keep my proposed house rules to a short list.


First up is the identify spell. Here’s my change to the spell:

  • If it is a magic item or some other magic-imbued object, the DM describes for you a vision that gives you clues as to the object’s properties and how to use them, whether it requires attunement, and how many charges it has, if any.

Let’s compare this to Rules as Written (RAW) at the table, first RAW:

After defeating the goblins in the forest, the party finds a pair of fine leather boots in an old chest at the back of the goblin den. The wizard steps up with owl feather and pearl in hand, mutters a few words, and after 1 minute lo and behold these are Boots of Elvenkind (check them out on page 155 of the PHB).

The spell did what it was supposed to and now the caster has the info they wanted. It was also boring and (ironically) took the magic out of the moment of discovery. Here’s the same scene with my house rule:

The wizards steps up with owl feather and pearl in hand, muttering under her breath. She reaches out to touch the boots and the color in her eyes pales. She catches her breath as a vision comes to her: a lone elf wearing the same boots, moving silently through thick brush. These are Boots of Elvenkind.

The spell functions almost identically to RAW for regular magic items. The player still gets the info they wanted but I try to give them an additional bit of history that ties the item to our world or even to their quest. For story driven items or artifact-level magic items I always hold back some details or introduce a complication to the vision. Very powerful magic items have a tendency to reveal themselves to the players on their own schedule, not just because the wizard asked nicely.

The dragon lies dead in its lair and the exhausted party finally gazes at the ceremonial knife atop the central pedestal in the chamber. The wizard approaches with one hand in his pocket and the other extended to touch the artifact. Behind the wizard’s closed eyelids he sees a vision: the back of a priest in robes standing over a frail man stripped of his clothes on the flat stone of an altar. The naked man struggles against thick ropes that hold him in place. The priest raises the knife above his head and plunges it into the screaming man’s heart. The gem in the knife’s hilt glows red and the man’s blood rushes up the blade to be consumed by the gem. In just a moment, the man’s skin has turned grey and he stops moving. The priest pulls out the knife and the now dead man’s eyelids open suddenly revealing solid black eyes. The priest turns toward you. You recognize him. It is your benefactor, Lord Honrach.

This house rule gives the DM a powerful storytelling tool. Even common and uncommon items found on a band of roving goblins have a history and the vision that you describe for your players can instantly strengthen your party’s connection to the story and the world.

Bonus action casting times

At my table there is no restriction on spells cast in the same turn.

  • You can always use both your action and bonus action to cast on your turn, provided that you have the spell slots to do it.

I’m not sure why RAW places restrictions on casting both a full action spell and a bonus action spell in the same turn. Specifically, if you cast a spell with a bonus action, “you can’t cast another spell during the same turn, except for a cantrip with a casting time of 1 action.”

The rule seems to protect against edge cases that aren’t game breaking without closing loopholes like a multi-classed fighter/magic-user casting two spells back to back with their Action Surge. With RAW you can cast a full action cantrip and a bonus action spell but cannot cast a full action spell with a bonus action cantrip? There are only two cantrips with bonus action casting times listed on D&D Beyond: magic stone and shillelagh. Neither of these give the spell caster an extra attack or otherwise mess with the action economy. So what exactly is the point of the restriction?

It feels overly complex, sucks the fun out of the spellcaster’s turn, and I don’t have time for that noise. 🙂

Ritual casting

Spells with the ritual tag can be cast without expending a spell slot but it take 10 minutes longer than the normal casting time. I like that this allows spellcasters to showcase their talents more often in the exploration and role-playing parts of the game without worrying about the economy of spell slots. I add one caveat:

  • While casting a ritual, the spellcaster must remain stationary for the duration of the ritual or effect.

This small change does two things. First, it stops the less-than-scrupulous wizard from ritually casting identify on his recent acquisition while fleeing the rightful owners at a gallop.

Second, being stationary gives a small hint as to how those extra 10 minutes should be used. By asking my players what casting a ritual looks like I introduce another small opportunity for role playing something that might become common or mundane later in the game.

Add flavor to your spells

This one is less of a house rule and more like a piece of advice. For players out there that aren’t already doing this:

  • Spell descriptions are only suggestions and should be customized to match your vision of your character. Players are strongly encouraged to make each spell their own by describing it as you cast it.

Talk to your DM and take ownership of your spells! At my table I usually even let players reskin spells to cause a different type of damage. Playing a wizard from the freezing tundra and want to reskin fireball as iceburst? Go for it.

Spell points alternate rule

The Dungeon Master’s Guide offers an alternate spellcasting system (page 288) that uses spell points in the place of spell slots. I’ve seen players use both systems and each has their pros and cons. Spell slots are simpler to use but a bit less flexible. I always recommend new players start with spell slots.

Spell points are more difficult to manage but also more flexible – so much so that I think you end up with more powerful spellcasters in the hands of certain players. Veteran spellcasters that are OK with doing more math at the table will likely love using spell points.

Passing the test

Are they fun?

  • Yes, they introduce new content for the DM and players to interact with without nerfing character abilities.

Are they simple?

  • Yes, none of these rules introduce new rolls or any additional resources to track. In fact, in the case of bonus action spells, they simplify an overly complex rule in RAW.

Are they worth it?

  • Yes, these are minor mechanical changes but have great impact at the table and are easy to remember.

These make the cut on my short list of house rules for D&D 5e. What about yours?

Have fun out there.


5e, houserules

Dying – The Final Act!

Today I’d like to talk about a specific house rule at my table… the dying condition.

In D&D 5e when a character falls to zero hit points they fall unconscious, which is a named condition that is exactly what it sounds like. The character blacks out and the player just starts rolling death saving throws. Playing an unconscious character is pretty boring stuff. Worse yet, if their character does end up dying on the battlefield three turns after the killing blow, it is an anti-climactic moment to say the least. To be clear, I have no problem with the death save mechanic itself (I know some players don’t like it). I just think that the process of rolling them is boring.

Enter my house rule and a new condition called dying. Instead of dropping unconscious, when a character drops to zero hit points, they enter the dying condition.

#### Dying

- **A dying creature is incapacitated (see the condition) but is still aware of its surroundings and can speak.**
- **When a dying character fails their third death saving throw, they can immediately take any single action except the Dash action.**
- The creature drops whatever it's holding and falls prone.
- The creature automatically fails Strength and Dexterity saving throws.
- Attack rolls against the creature have advantage.
- Any attack that hits the creature is a critical hit if the attacker is within 5 feet of the creature.
formatting courtesy of The Homebrewery

This is nearly identical to the unconscious condition but for the two bullets in bold. First, a dying creature is still awake and able to speak.

  • A dying creature is incapacitated (see the condition) but is still aware of its surroundings and can speak.

Just like Rules As Written, the creature has lost their ability to take actions or move so attacks and spells are impossible but, because the character is still conscious, they can still turn the tide of battle from the sidelines:

“Tossed aside by the fearsome yeti, Kyrill can feel the warmth of his own blood trickling down the back of his neck but it is his cry of alarm that warns his sister Kayla of the winter wolf hiding in the tangled thicket on the other side of the clearing.”

“Maklak knows that he is close to death. He can feel it in his bones. It wasn’t supposed to end this way, but he knows that his life is inconsequential compared to the disaster that will befall his family if the orcs get through this pass. With a smile he shouts “hey you! yeah, I’m talking to you… come here and let me spit on you!”

Now the player has a reason to stay engaged. The ability to shout out a warning or even a cry for help seems a small change but has fun implications. A dying character’s time is short as each failed death saving throw moves them closer to death. They should have every opportunity to make the most of it.

If they do fail that last save, I don’t want to miss that opportunity for role-playing either. So let’s make those final moments more exciting by giving the character a dying action.

  • When a dying character fails their third death saving throw, they can immediately take any single action except the Dash action.

Just like in the movies, I want our heroes to have one last shot at a glorious ending. At a minimum they can speak a few last words… a bit of role-playing that may bring the character to a more meaningful end. By giving the player the option to take a dying action, they also have a chance to go out with a bang. No, casting a healing spell on yourself at this point does not stop you from dying. Similarly, using your dying action to misty step into a fountain of healing might teleport the character but they are dead on arrival. The dying action is a reaction to failing that last save and cannot alter its result. The DM may even rule that the character is dead before they see the result of their dying action.

As the dying character crosses death’s door, they can’t change the inevitable or run across the room, but they can go out in one last burst of glory.

“Hillibrand the Wise had a bad feeling about this trip and for once it seems his premonition was true… there were just too many of them. Vile creatures these gnolls, but if there are any survivors they will pay a heavy price for messing with Hillibrand today. He still has just enough energy for one spell and Hillibrand has been holding onto a particularly nasty incantation all day…”

“Corelios watched as his comrades stood against the onslaught of undead. He would likely soon stand among the unholy horde, but while there was still light in his world he would do what good he could. Extending his arm as far as he could he touched the shoulder of the fallen knight by his side and channeled into him what lifeforce he had left.”

“Markus only had the energy to draw his bowstring one last time and so he knocked the Arrow of Bh’agulzar that had been buzzing at him since he found it. The old hag had warned him against ever using it, but he knew it was now or never. The darkness took him as he let loose the bowstring and the shaft found its mark, banishing the dark druid forever.”

At my table, the dying condition gives players a bit more to do while they make death saving throws on their already short turn. Players can sway the course of battle by calling out but caution is advised as some enemies may choose to finish off the overly talkative wounded. While every player is hoping for that natural 20 that will get them back into the fight, they also have three rounds to consider how to make their character’s death a memorable one. Could this house rule radically change the outcome of a battle? Yes, and your players will remember it forever!

Have fun out there.


5e, dndnext, houserules

Alchemy in D&D

alchemy-labOn multiple occasions throughout the years my friends and I have discussed how to best insert alchemy into D&D. Across each edition, alchemy has taken different forms. Sometimes it’s presented as a skill. The (awesome) potion miscibility table in AD&D was a form of alchemy in its own right. And in fourth edition, various alchemical compounds found their way into the consumables catalog along with potions, scrolls, and whetstones. Now that I’m playing fifth edition, one of my players asked how he might mix a little alchemy into his bard’s bag of tricks. That sounded like a good excuse to dream up a little sub-system that might work as part of the game. In the spirit of a more “hackable” D&D, I thought I would share those ideas here.

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4e, houserules, players_perspective

Mega Combo Moves with Action Points

A number of great bloggers have written commentary on the use of action points in 4e, and many have made good suggestions as to how to make the use of action points a bit bolder. Ameron’s “Putting More ‘Action’ in Action Points” on Dungeon’sMaster.com, “Other Uses for Action Points” on Polyhedral, and “Fun with D&D 4e Action Points” by the Chatty DM come to mind. I’ve been struggling with this question myself as my group hits our one year anniversary of play. More often than not, action points are being used as a simple re-roll which gets the job done mechanically, but fails to create the big moments that I’m looking for in our encounters.

So, David and I put together a set of simple house rules that attempt to encourage bold play without nerfing the flexibility of the system as a whole. These ideas definitely build upon suggestions others have already made but, hopefully, take them one step further.

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