Dungeons and Dragons 5E: The Critical Successes and Failures of Home Brews

Lets discuss what it takes to home brew a game of Dungeons and Dragons 5E
“Okay, so you want to use home brew to create nunchucks out of a quarter staff, I will allow it, but every time you roll a nat 1 or 2, you will take the full amount of damage that you would’ve dealt the enemy”

My experience with homebrew:

I have played in several campaigns, both as player and DM, and a handful of one shots (a DnD story that begins and ends during the same session), and typically the games I play in are very home brew-friendly. I multi-classed from a ranger to a bard, and I wasn’t supposed to get any cantrips, per the original DnD rules, but my DM allowed me to choose one. It’s small thing like this that make each game truly unique.

My current DM uses XP (experience points) different than what the official rules suggest. He gives monsters/enemies their own unique XP, and the amount of XP needed to level up is changed to help level up quicker in the beginning of the campaign (roughly the first 10 levels), and slower as the game goes on from there.

I have become quite accustomed to home brews, but enough about my own experience, let’s talk about why people want homebrews in their campaign, and why some… simply refuse it. 

Why you should use (some) home brew:

Dungeons and dragons 5th edition offers so much to the players and dm. Countless spells, and monsters to fit any campaign, and even without Unearthed Arcana there’s enough races and classes to make things diverse among your party, so why use homebrew?

  1. Make the game yours with custom rules! Sometimes you will come across a rule that is in the Dungeon Masters Guide or Player’s Handbook that makes you scratch your head and wonder why that’s a rule. No matter how amazing the writers are, sometimes you may simply disagree. But it’s when a DM is willing to learn how to bend rules and not break them that things get interesting!
  2. Make custom spells for/with your player’s! The “Creating a Spell” part of the Dungeon Masters Guide (pages 283 and 284) is actually very helpful and gives good advice. But again, don’t be afraid to bend the rules for the sake of the campaign, the plot, or the overall enjoyment of the party.
  3. Make the monsters your own! Sometimes you need a zombie that’s more like “The Walking Dead” (I know they’re called walkers, please don’t crucify me), or maybe “World War Z” is more your style, but a few changes to a zombie’s intelligence and dexterity scores may make things interesting…
  4. Modifying Weapons! Modifying weapons can be a good way to encourage players to be creative, as it usually doesn’t change much… but I promise, allowing your players to make nunchucks out of a quarterstaff, but homebrewing the rule of “if you land on a 1 or 2, you hit yourself, dealing the traditional amount of quarterstaff damage”, will make your players extremely excited!

Why some Dungeon Masters just don’t like home brew:

Up until this point I’ve been pretty “pro home brew”, but now it’s time to switch gears and talk about the other side of the argument. One of the biggest arguments for not using home brew, is staying pure to the game. The game’s base set of rules is all you need to play a game, and a fun one at that. While some may prefer being able to use homebrew, you can have fun as long as you have a fun group with you.

Another reason to not use home brews is to keep it simple. “The rules are the rules, no ifs or buts” may sound like a harsh way to play, but that’s how sports are played, that’s how chess is played, and other than cheat codes, that’s how video games like dark soul work, and does not being able to bend the rules in those games ruin it for anyone…? Probably not.

There are several other reasons some DM’s don’t like home brew, I asked my DM (Matthew Denny), who has been playing for around 3 years, the pros and cons of home brew, and he gave me a great example. “…The other reason is because homebrew things might alter the feel of the DM’s campaign, if the campaign is about political intrigue like Game of Thrones and you’re trying to play a Tabaxi (homebrew race) wizard that eats nothing but lasagna you’re going to ruin it for the other players and the Dungeon Master

The writers behind Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition knew what they were doing when making the rules, spells, monsters, and everything else in between, as long as you’re creative you can easily play within the constraints of the original rules.

So what should you do?

Most DM’s agree that a balance a good balance of home brew will make any game more fun, but the truth is the game will always be fun as long as there’s open communication and a group of friends playing together.

So find the balance that works for you and your friends, have an open mind and have fun!