Still looking for ways to crack open your Dungeons & Dragons game and mess around with the internals? (Um, gross.) Here’s three more tweaks you might want to try if you’re looking to fine tune your gameplay. Missed the first ones? You can find them right here.
“Hacks” isn’t the most appropriate term as these are really just rules adjustments that promote one style of play or another. I’ve played at tables that have used all these tricks and I still use some in my own home game. Still this is not for every table. Why not try it, if anything it will get your mind working on your own modifications.
Using Intimidate as an alternative to Deception Checks
The various social stats in 5e are great for creating a variety of play styles and it makes sense that some characters specialize in different ways of interacting. Still, it can suck to focus a character on being the scariest mo-fo in the room only to find yourself hamstrung by not being able to lie about which mercenary outfit you are actually part of.
Of course, lying isn’t the only way people pass off falsehoods. It can be hard to concentrate on checking someone’s identifying papers when they are so scary you’re more afraid you’ll soil yourself. Try allowing players with a lot of intimidate to “bluff” by way of a specific distraction. It’s not so much that they’re trying to use force to make people accept something that is clearly false, they’re just cleaning the bones out of their teeth at exactly the same moment someone is trying to decide if what they said is true.
“What’s that? You work for the king?”
-The half-orc pulls a dagger out of his leg and tosses it off casually as if it didn’t hurt.-
“Sure… sure… the king. Move along.”
Using “Phantasmal Force” to heal.
The spell “Phantasmal Force” allows a mage to create an illusion so believable that the target actually takes damage from what they see and hear. Admittedly, this is psychic damage but it still kills the monster just as good. So if you can make that Goblin think the floor is lava, can you make your party members think they’re in a cushy hospital back in their home castle? Would the ministrations of a fleet of elvish doctors heal your friend for 1D6 hit points per round they allowed themselves to believe the illusion?
Weirdly, this actually has some real-life science behind it. The placebo effect is a very real, measurable thing that causes people who feel like they are receiving medicine to get better, even if it’s just a sugar pill or water. Scientists who study placebos actually see trends like 3 fake pills are more effective than 1, and fake injections are more effective than pills. Placebos are well worth the read, but the grander point is that if people can heal themselves in their minds in real life, why not allow an illusion spell to do the same?
Using Tenser’s Floating Disk as Mobile Cover (and more)
If there was a short list of spells that were “pre-nerfed,” this would be right at the top. Don’t get me wrong, I get it: this is a spell that could really break the game if the gloves were off. If you allowed the disk to move at will, you could use it for all sorts of tasks including a poor man’s levitate.
So how much more control can we add without breaking the game? Personally, I think you can risk allowing the disk to move slowly as directed within 20 feet of the caster (not just following behind as it currently does). This makes more sense as you can move it up to things you want to lift and set on it. It’s not much use if it won’t come over to the treasure or rubble pile you want to load.
So with that tweak what else can you do? Well, pile on some furniture and shields and use the spell as a slow mobile cover. Have it float out in front of the mage and have your archers hide behind it black-ops style. It shouldn’t feel very controllable, no more then one of those bomb defusing robots, but as it rolls along, you can grant some cover to your front-liners while the mage stays 20 feet back. I suppose you could also use it to move something into position–like a few hundred pounds of explosives–but that’s your siege to write.
As a fun moment, you can rule that the collected arrows that have hit the barricade as it floats forward have pushed the total weight over the spell’s limit, so it comes crashing down to the ground.
So there’s 3 more interesting twists. Half the fun of really digging into your roleplaying experience is allowing your players and yourself to build, not just the world of Dungeons & Dragons, but the rules that govern it. Remember to avoid doing anything that’s going to make your life harder by adding a bunch of mechanics and rolls you have to track. Plus, always make it clear that no ruling sets a precedent: you can always decide that doesn’t work in the future. So get to modifying your game DM, the power is within you!
Do you play with any unique house rules? Do any of these seem up your alley? Are you a strict “rules as written” player or do you like to modify? Put your thoughts in the comments.
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