Behold the Hoard of House Rules

I’m still working up to the point where I’m ready to write regularly here, but part of what I’ve been doing in the meantime is finishing the Hoard of House Rules. It’s…52 pages of stuff for D&D 5E ranging from new spells to new monsters, a psionic class with three subclasses, and a bunch of optional ways to handle treasure, combat, backgrounds and so on. OK sales pitch over.

D&D 5E: Treasure Alternative and More

Torchbearer Style, but Forgiving

I like the way treasure is handled in Torchbearer – represented by dice that are rolled to buy things in town – but I find it to be too punishing for my own style. It’s readily possible. to risk life and limb to drag treasure out of a dungeon, go to town, and fail the roll to purchase a candle. It feeds into the grinding style of Torchbearer, but is a thing that I’ve seen put players off the system overall. (I mean, hell, you can be a peasant and fail to buy a candle. Why go into dungeons?)

Going along with my house rule of no cash, treasure could be represented by dice rather than a set bonus. Using the dice as a bonus retains some of the unpredictability of Torchbearer treasure while still guaranteeing a minimum of +1 per die. As with the previous no-cash house rule, if you fail the roll you roll with disadvantage going forward, representing the fact that you’re tapped out and have called in all the favors and goodwill that is forthcoming for a while.

  • Some silver: d4. Lots of silver would be multiple d4s.
  • Some gold: d6, and lots of gold would be multiple d6s.
  • Gems or art objects: d8 each
  • Magical treasure: d10s, assuming it’s incidental magic that you don’t want to keep
  • Legendary treasure: d12s, so a mundane legendary object might be a d12, but a legendary magic item could be 3d12.

Generally speaking, I wouldn’t have more than 3 dice of any type as the maximum for treasure of that type. So, a big chest of silver would be 3d4.

One Roll, Not Two, for Damage

As it stands, D&D requires every weapon attack to be resolved by two different rolls – one roll to see whether you hit, a binary yes/no, and a second roll to see how well you hit, a sliding scale represented by rolling the damage dice. In order to simplify this sytem to have only one roll, the usual method supported by 5E is to use the average default dice-roll for damage (the Monster Manual lists default damage for monster attacks for this reason).

Another option is to avoid the to-hit roll entirely. Iefit hen this version of a one-roll rule for D&D, you only make the damage roll. The big benefit here is that classes that rely on weapon attacks never feel like they are ineffective. If you are a fighter, you always do some damage. If you roll a 1 on your weapon die, you don’t do much, and if you roll the maximum value, you do a lot. The problem with relying on attack rolls is that sometimes you wait ten or twenty minutes for your turn to come back around only to roll, miss, and do nothing that round. That’s just…not fun.

The only necessary consideration would be to change Armor Class to represent damage reduction. I’d propose AC -10 /2 being that formula, so an AC of 18 would be a damage reduction of 4 from all damage take. Dexterity would no longer modify armor in this case, but that is not a devastating loss. It’s another way of abstracting out combat, not less reasonable than the rules as written, just different.

Automatic Downtime Investment

In ancient times, each class in D&D had some kind of extra benefit earned at 10th level, like a fortress for a fighter or a tower for a magic-user.

One of the odd things common to D&D campaigns is that the characters spend a short amount of time in-world leveling from 1st to higher levels. There are plenty of adventure paths and campaigns published by Paizo or WotC that span a few weeks or months, during which a wizard would go from magic missile to wall of force; from being threatened by a single arrow to shrugging off a dragon’s breath weapon (at least once)

A possibility here is to adopt a detailed downtime system that the characters can participate in. You can come up with your own or find one on DriveThruRPG or improvise one. Another possibility is to assume that downtime is banked into a class’s particular project, and bring back the level rewards in some form as a way to justify what is in effect hand-waving the passage of time during game.

I find that when I try to hand-wave the passage of time in a D&D campaign, players sometimes get protective of their time because they feel like they are missing out on opportunities. Can I roll to research? Can I perform at taverns for money? Can I go pickpocketing around town? Can I find a fight club? And so on. This house rule would both resurrect the old school practice of class rewards and allow me to hand-wave time as a DM.

Some example class rewards (You’ll have to come up with your own):

  • Artificer: a large golem that can serve as an assistant and defend your workshop
  • Barbarian: a group of fellow barbarians from your clan or tribe who can serve as a war-band
  • Bard: you are able to open your own venue
  • Cleric: founding a temple or shrine, of course
  • Druid: you purchase a huge tract of land, at the center of which you have nurtured a druid grove
  • Fighter: you purchase a fortress or small keep
  • Monk: you found your own monastery, complete with disciples or acolytes to train
  • Paladin: similar to a cleric, you found a temple or shrine
  • Ranger: maybe you purchase a huge tract of land so that it can remain wild and untouched
  • Sorcerer: could simply be similar to a wizard’s tower
  • Warlock: depending on your warlock patron, this could vary wildly, but should further your patron’s agenda
  • Wizard: you build a wizard’s tower

There, I Fixed It: The Wish Spell

Image result for wish aladdin

Updated and re-released for your reading pleasure!

Something that the System Mastery guys love to harp on, all the way back to their very first episode: Dungeons & Dragons’ wish spell (and similar spells in the wish tradition from other RPGs as well). As written, wish spells, or wishes in general in TRPGs, are almost always explicitly ways to disrupt players’ expectations and, in a word, screw them. GMs and DMs are often encouraged to find any possible loophole, any interpretation in the player-character’s wish that might justify screwing with them.

In 5th Edition and 3.5 as well, other than that, a wish spell is for the most part just a catch-all for replicating an 8th level spell. There is otherwise a list of possible effects that are clearly defined and limited in scope. Part of the problem is that wishes in the folkloric sense should not be spells – the simple solution here is to excise wish from the list of arcane spells entirely. But if you want to keep it, or if your game is going to feature a significant number of genies, then there must be something better than punishing players with it. (If you want to punish a character, hand them a Deck of Many Things and stand back).

The potential problems with wishes should be obvious, and there are plenty of folkloric stories about well-intentioned wishes going wrong, or at the very least not having the effect that the wisher intended. On the other hand, these problems are usually ways of moving the story forward so that the protagonist can learn something or change in some way. All too often in TRPGs, wishes are simply opportunities for the DM to punish a player for trying to be creative, when it’s the DM’s decision whether to allow wishes in the first place. For those DMs whose players are not masochists, I have some other thoughts.

The first is that a wish should be fun. Here I’m thinking of Aladdin’s first (official) wish in the Disney animated adaptation of his story regarding a certain lamp. He basically gets what he wishes for, and if anything, Genie goes overboard (as Robin Williams invariably did) in embellishing the whole scene. Rather than being a stingy saboteur, one pictures Aladdin’s DM just throwing cool things at the player-character until the player’s head spins. There are complication, of course, as “Prince Ali” draws the attention of a sinister visier and is suddenly plunged into court life having been a fruit-stealing street kid not long ago, but the story moves forward with the wish fulfilled at face value, plus interest.

Wishes should be fun. D&D should be fun. It should never be a DM power trip, or about ‘punishing’ players.

Second, a wish should indeed have a cost or an unforeseen complication, but this cost or complication should be something that is part of the story moving forward and continuing to be fun. The street rat suddenly lifted to Princedom has no actual idea how to be a Prince. No history, no family, no connections, no homeland, nothing. And as mentioned, he draws the attention of the sinister vizier. I would even recommend discussing possible complications with the player who is making the wish. I know this is not everyone’s play style, but in my experience this doesn’t diminish the fun – you kind of trade surprise for a higher guarantee that you’ll all enjoy the twist.

Third, a wish should take context into account. I still think that DMs should just eliminate wish from all spell lists where it might appear, and keep wishes as a story element. Obvious options are powerful fey or genies whom the PCs have worked to befriend. Maybe the goal of a whole campaign could be to earn a wish from a powerful entity, and then to use that wish to restore the kingdom, or end a curse, or cure a plague. But remember that the wish is interpreted in context. If a PC makes a wish granted by the genie, that genie will interpret the wish, and a wish granted by an ifrit will be very different from one granted by a marid, or a djinni. Rather than a chance to punish players, this is a chance for a DM to show off her creativity. To use this example again, a wish granted by a genie voiced by Robin Williams will be one thing – one granted by a stingy cantankerous fey quite another.

Remember that a wish’s fulfillment does not need to be immediate (unless maybe the PC adds that to the request – in which case, it could rain gold pieces or cause other upheaval). Feel free to take a moment in game when the wish is finally made (which again should be a huge story moment) to go think through what it will look like when it is fulfilled.

Discourage players from gaming the wish. A player might be tempted to go off and write out a page-long run-on sentence as her wish, full of legalese and dependent clauses. Depict the wish-granter getting bored and starting to wander off. Understandably, players will anticipate the DM trying to twist their wish against them, and will try to avoid that eventuality. Maybe reassure them, if necessary, that this is a big story moment and you’re not going to sabotage it.

Possible house rule: total the words in the wish, and that number becomes a percentage chance of failure for the wish. So if you say “Make me a prince!” Then there is a 4% chance of failure, but if you write out a mini contract rife with legalese then it could easily become a coin-toss.

So, to summarize the wish spell – don’t make it a spell at all. Make it a story element. Make it fun. Have a cost or unforeseen complication, but make it one that moves the story forward in an interesting way. Take the context of the wish, and the wish-granter, into account. And push the players not to lawyer the wish, even if you just have to reassure them.

Another Solution

After I posted this, I came up with another interesting idea for wish-fulfillment. In this version, you make your wish, and then genie is bound to do whatever they can to fulfill that wish, using their own abilities. So if a dao gives you your wish, and you wish for a million gold pieces, then that dao has to do all it can to get you a million gold pieces. They don’t have the power to just wave their hand and fulfill the wish, but they will interpret it according to their alignment and their capabilities. Probably, in this case, disguise themselves, break into a vault, and abscond with their gold pieces.

The way that a genie fulfills your wish will vary from genie to genie. A marid, being chaotic neutral, will be quite different from the dao mentioned above, who is neutral evil.

This situation could be handled as if the genie was under the effect of a powerful geas.  They would have 30 days to accomplish your wish by any means they could, or to work toward it as far as they can by the end of the time limit. As an added bit of interest, and the end of the time-limit, the charm effect ends and the genie might have a chip on their shoulder.

Personally, I like this idea, and want to try it for my world of Alaam.

Do you have any stories of wishes going well, or poorly, in your campaigns? If so, share in the comments. 

5E Supers as Classes

I was thinking about something as I have gotten back into listening to Godsfall. Some kind of dust-up between some of the creators/Neon Rivals/Dungeon Rats crew has occurred, and Godsfall went into an extended hiatus, but I noticed there were some new episodes when I  hadn’t checked in months. Anyway, one thing I notice consistently with Godsfall is how often the characters rely on their Divinities (read: superpowers) and forget they even have D&D 5E class abilities to draw from. And that’s fine, it makes sense, but it got me thinking.

I’ve also noticed that as a 6th level monk and 6th level cleric, my poor tortle has more abilities than I can keep track of, even as an experienced player. There is often a spell I could have used to help resolve a situation (hello Augury before we made a literal deal with a devil) or abilities that I forgot that I have (i.e. I can zap anyone who hits me in melee with lightning or thunder damage but usually forget). It’s just a lot to keep track of. I imagine adding Divinities or other setting-based powers (say, Dark Sun psionics) to that long list and being quite lost. If I was playing Godsfall as written, that is, where you layer Divinities on top of 5th Edition D&D characters.

So what if broad categories of supers were classes of their own? Plenty have written and posted about how they’d create various Avengers or DC heroes in 5th Edition D&D, but what if we created classes to represent ‘standard’ supers types (speedster, hulk, paragon, flyer, etc.). A D&D style pool of hit points would even explain the savage beating that most supers can take without outright dying, even if super toughness isn’t theoretically part of their suite of powers. Anyway, here we go, assuming that these superheroes still exist in a D&D-style pseudo-medieval world:

Bear in mind, many heroes, like Cyborg or Superman or even some mentioned below like Iron Man would have to be multi-classed. Superman alone would be a Blaster/Brick/Elementalist/Paragon/Speedster, plus flight powers from somewhere obviously. PCs using this system would start out as ‘street level’ heroes and move up from there, but it would be a long time before they are comparable to an Avenger or member of the Justice League. 

Supers as D&D 5E Classes

Armored

Examples: Iron Man, Steel

Hit Dice: d12

Proficiencies: two tools, Arcana, Athletics, Investigation

Sample Abilities: this would be similar to the artificer, with particular worn items granting particular powers, some swap-ability, and the potential for a high AC. Less of a focus on any ability to grant bonuses to others – the new UA artificer might fit this perfectly.

Aquatic

Examples: Aquaman, Namor

Hit Dice: d10

Proficiencies: Primordial (Aquan) language, Athletics, Nature, Survival

Sample Abilities: increasing swim speed, amphibious ability, speak with aquatic animals, charm aquatic animals, spell-like abilities like control  water, a water-jet attack like the Marid

Blaster

Examples: Cyclops, Nova, Wasp

Hit Dice: d8

Proficiencies: Acrobatics, Intimidation, Perception, Persuasion (blasters tend to also be social types)

Sample Abilities: somewhat like a warlock, the blaster has a core blast ability that they then attach various special abilities to, as is done with eldritch blast. There could be lethal and non-lethal, push-pull effects, knocking prone, stunning, blinding or deafening, etc., depending on what the blast is made of

Brick/Tank

Examples: Colossus, Thing

Hit Dice: d12 of course

Proficiencies: Athletics (many of these will have Athletics), Acrobatics, History (for a Jeckyll/Hyde type) or another lore ability, Intimidation, Intuition

Sample Abilities: increased carrying capacity, advantage on Strength checks, Strength increases, bonus hit points, extended range for thrown weapons, throw debris like a giant, earthquake-type abilities, or creating shockwaves, extending jumping distance and range, the ‘siege monster’ ability

Elementalist

Examples: Human Torch, Iceman

Hit Dice: d6

Proficiencies: Acrobatics, Nature, Perception, Performance

Sample Abilities: I could see just drawing abilities from related spell-lists, especially for wizards and druids, depending on the element involved. Because of the close focus, though, there would need to be bonuses – rerolling elemental damage dice, fire shield type effects, etc. For heroes like the Human Torch, just make a Elementalist/Flyer multi-class character

  • Cold
  • Force: Green Lantern, any telekinetic ability from mage hand to telekinesis
  • Fire
  • Sonic: any ability the inflicts thunder damage, ventriloquism
  • Vegetation
  • Weather

Feral/Shapechanger

Examples: Beast Boy, Wolverine

Hit Dice: d10

Proficiencies: Animal Handling, Acrobatics, Athletics, Insight, Intimidation, Perception, Survival

Sample Abilities: claws, fangs, increased movement, climb speed or swimming speed, contingent flying like Spider Man perhaps?, scent, advantage on Perception, darkvision, blindsight

Gadgeteer

Examples: Cyborg, Iron Man again

Hit Dice

Proficiencies

Sample Abilities

Ghost

Perhaps a literal ghost, or a super whose ability is based on them being incorporeal some or all of the time.

Examples: Deadman, Ghost, Shadowcat

Hit Dice: d4 (yeah, bringing back the d4 hit die, as ghosts are not particularly tough)

Proficiencies: Insight, Intimidation, Perception, Stealth

Sample Abilities: etherealness, plane shift, resistance to physical damage, healed by necrotic damage, vulnerability to radiant damage, truesight

Healer/Regenerator

Examples: Deadpool, Iron Fist, Mantis

Hit Dice: d8

Proficiencies: Survival

Sample Abilities: would have to differentiate between a super who heals others (which is interestingly rare) and a super who has fast healing like Deadpool or Wolverine. I can see the regenerating hero being a multi-class with other hero types

Illusionist

Examples: Emma Frost, Jean Grey, Mystique (not an illusion, but functions that way)

Hit Dice: d6

Proficiencies: Deception, Insight, Sleight of Hand

Sample Abilities: lots of at-will illusion spell effects, at-will invisibility, persistent illusions. Would have to differentiate this from an illusionst wizard.

Mastermind

Examples: Joker, Lex Luthor, Riddler

Hit Dice: d6

Proficiencies: Arcana, Deception, History, Insight, Nature, Performance

Sample Abilities: maybe some battle-master abilities, abilities that pull in minions to take shots intended for the matermind, advantage on everything like with precognition, and some familiar-ish and unseen-servant-ish abilities.

Mecha Pilot

Eamples: Iron Man again (Hulkbuster armor), Peni Parker

Hit Dice: d8 (it’s not supposed to be the pilot doing the fighting)

Proficiencies: depends on how the pilot would do their piloting, in terms of the skills used. Proficiency in mecha and other vehicles obviously

Sample Abilities: at least a large-sized mecha, maybe one that grows to huge or gargantuan over time. Lots of boosts for the mecha, but some cost for summoning it (exhaustion makes sense).

Mentalist

Examples: Jean Grey again, Martian Manhunter, Professor Xavier

Hit Dice: d6

Proficiencies: Deception, Insight, Intimidation, Persuasion

Sample Abilities: lots of single-target illusion abilities and spell-like abilities from the enchantment school

Paragon

Examples: Black Panther, Captain America

Hit Dice: d12

Proficiencies: Acrobatics, Athletics, Insight, Survival

Sample Abilities: longevity, unarmed combat, weapon proficiencies, ability score bonuses, limited self-healing

Rider

Eamples: Ghost Rider, Silver Surfer

Hit Dice: d10

Proficiencies: vehicle proficiency, Animal Handling if the special thing you are riding is a creature of some kind,

Sample Abilities: this is another one that’ll probably often be part of a multi-class, as the abilities will be augments of the ride – speed, damage, special abilities, flight, armor, etc. Would have overlap with animal companion in a fantasy setting, and would need to make sure the ride doesn’t upstage the rider.

Robotic/Cyborg (Warforged)

Examples: Cyborg again, Vision

Hit Dice: d12

Proficiencies: Athletics, Investigation, History, Nature, Perception

Sample Abilities: natural armor class, damage resistances, damage immunities, probably a particular vulnerability (lightning?), unarmed combat, condition immunities, and some crossover with the Gadgeteer.

Size Changer

Examples: Ant Man, The Atom

Hit Dice: d8

Proficiencies: Athletics, Acrobatics, Stealth

Sample Abilities: set new abilities for each new size, starting with small and large with advantage to Dexterity and Strength respectively (starting with a human scale). Bonus or reduced hit points with size, along with possibly varying AC. Would have to be significantly more interesting than spamming Enlarge/Reduce Person.

Speedster

Examples: The Flash, Quicksilver

Hit Dice: d10

Proficiencies: Athletics, Perception, Sleight of Hand, Stealth

Sample Abilities: speed, obviously; effects like the haste spell, or like slow imposed on everyone around you, evasion, cunning action

Teleporter

Examples: Cloak, Nightcrawler

Hit Dice: d8

Proficiencies:

Sample Abilities: misty step, reactive teleportation, dimension door, teleport, a form of banishment, redirect missile attacks

Time Manipulator

Eamples: Cable, Doctor Strange

Hit Dice: d6

Proficiencies: History

Sample Abilities: culminating in time stop, of course, and even reversing or rewinding time – eliminating the last action taken, action surge, haste and slow

Some Closing Thoughts

Black Widow is a monk/rogue. Hawkeye is a ranged fighter. Doctor Strange could just be a wizard. Ideally, the above classes would be somewhat balanced with these existing D&D classes which cover a lot of what various heroes do. Supers would be very good at narrow, thematic things, while many 5E classes would be more flexible but not nearly as good at that one thing. But I’d have to make sure that the Brick didn’t outdistance the Barbarian, for example, or that the Blaster was boring compared to an Evoker Wizard. Here’s the germ of the idea, though.

My D&D 5E House Rules

Updated a bit, so this is a re-post. Yay!

I’ve written up a ton of hacks and house rules, and I’ve been given some thought to what house rules I would use if I could use any I like. (Alas, I have to take players’ tolerances into account)

Hard Rest

This is similar to the system for rest used in Adventures in Middle-Earth. Long rest is only available when in civilization, or at least resting someplace safe and comfortable. Ever gotten great sleep on the ground out in the weather? Yeah, me neither.

I also like the system whereby during a long rest, rather than recovering all of your hit points automatically, you are able to roll all of your remaining hit dice to recover hit points. This will recover a lot of hit points, but not necessarily all.

This house rule does give somewhat of an advantage to classes that can partially recover their abilities with a short rest, like Warlocks or Monks. I would have to playtest this house rule to figure out whether it is too unbalancing.

No Cash

Half of my players can’t even be bothered to track their own coinage (my wife in particular) and I never particularly enjoy making sure every monster they defeat erupts into the correct amount of coins, gems and art objects when they die. Instead, I’d like to just use rolls against set difficulties, using the character’s proficiency bonus. If the character is flush with cash, say just back from a dungeon delve, then they roll with advantage. When they are in debt or broke according to the fiction, they roll with disadvantage. Since my players love to haggle, successful haggling doubles your proficiency bonus for the roll, while failed haggling makes you just roll a straight d20. (Maybe the haggling DCs are just the buying DCs, +2)

When you want to buy something, here are the DCs:

  • Something simple and inexpensive, like adventuring gear: DC 8
  • Something mundane but expensive, or a common magic item, like a longbow or a healing potion: DC 10
  • Something very expensive, like plate armor, or an uncommon magic item: DC 12
  • A rare magic item: DC 15
  • A very rare magic item: DC 18
  • A legendary magic item: DC 20

Of course, PCs have to put in the work finding rare or expensive (or magical) items before they can make the roll to see if they can afford them. The DM has an option of saying that a character who fails the roll still buys the item, but is strapped for cash. Most of the time, when returning from an adventure, the characters will be flush with cash, and that’ll be the time they want to buy things anyway. So a mid-level character (level 9+) returning from an adventure will have just shy of a 50/50 chance of affording a legendary magic item, and better than 50/50 of affording a very rare magic item. The limitation there will be based on the setting, with this being plausible in Eberron and less likely in another setting, based on availability of magic items overall.

Update: Modified Cash

Taking an idea from Torchbearer, but being much less punishing about it, I thought you could use dice to represent treasure in the abstract. So some silver pieces might be a d4, and some gold pieces a d6; gems or art objects could be a d8. An artifact might be a d10 or d12 – same with magic items. You can roll the die when you appraise the items, or when you try to use them to boost your d20 roll to buy something, in addition to your proficiency bonus. If you gain debt, it can be measured in dice, or it can simply grant disadvantage on rolls to purchase things until you roll as success, as above.

Modified Firearms

I think that the payoff of using historical firearms, rather than a weapon like a longbow, is that it as a slower rate of fire and does a lot more damage. At least, that’s what I’d like to house-rule firearms to do. So as a house rule, I have black powder pistols require two rounds to reload, and black powder rifles require three, and their damage dice are doubled. In essence, they will function as powerful first-shot weapons, and I think that this fits their historical use pretty well.

10th Level Spells

10th level spells exist, and as one  would expect they are available through scrolls (which are of course artifacts) and for 19th level spellcasters. Such spells can be world-changing, but can only be cast once each by a given spellcaster. The heading is a link to my full post on 10th level spells.

Deeper Backgrounds, and Backgrounds as Level 0

When a player selects a background, they should also flesh out the background with all of the NPCs who might be connected, including their immediate family, rivals, mentors and the like. As a rule of thumb, at least a couple of interesting NPCs who might get caught up in the story per background. I also linked my post about treating Backgrounds as 0-level classes, adding a bit of survive-ability to first-level characters.

Alignment Redefined

I like using alignment, but alignment as written in D&D includes a lot of nonsense and argument-fodder. So what I do is I replace “Good” with another descriptor that defines what “good” will mean in this setting. For example, in my Twilight of the Gods setting, good becomes “Generous.” I replace “Lawful” with an order-oriented, pro-social term from the setting that is morally neutral if possible. In Twilight of the Gods, that becomes “Civilized.” I replace “Chaotic” with a pro-freedom, or maybe individualistic, term; in Twilight of the Gods, that term is “Wild.” And then for “Evil” I do the same as I did for “Good” – choose a more specific or helpful term. In Twilight of the Gods, that term is “Treacherous.” So instead of Chaotic Evil, a character would be Wild and Treacherous. Instead of Lawful Good, a character would be Generous and Civilized. See? Better. Also, a result of this is that “evil” characters are much more viable. One can play a “Selfish” character in Twilight of the Gods more easily than an “Evil” character in a standard D&D setting.

Discount Adventuring Gear

In a game that is using currency, this is just an option to buy adventuring gear at a 50% discount. The associated cost is that with any failed roll, and almost certainly on a roll of “1”, the gear breaks, and can probably only be repaired with the appropriate tool proficiency.

With the above system of going cash-less, maybe a failed roll allows a PC to buy a discount version of what they wanted. So they get what they were after…kind of.

Simplified Paralysis Effect

For any effect that paralyzes, such as hold person or a ghast’s claws, a paralyzed character is shaken free of paralysis the first time an automatic critical hit is scored against them.

…Or Resist Paralysis at Cost

As another option for PCs who are paralyzed, they can choose to take 10 psychic damage for each level of the spell used to paralyze them (or an amount the DM thinks is appropriate for monster abilites that aren’t spells) in order to take an action to break free. So they still lose at least one action, and take the damage, but aren’t standing there doing nothing for round after round. Probably need a house rule that for species that are resistant to psychic damage, like kalashtar, they need to take the full damage to break free. Their resistance doesn’t help them in this one instance.

Bards Rock

Bards have never really gained a bonus, or any kind of benefit, for using their musical instrument in combat. I like the idea of a bard being able to use their abilities more effectively if they focus on their music alone (much like bards in Everquest, honestly). I would want to work out specifics with the bard player, assuming they were interested, but here are the options I’d have in mind:

  1. The bard counts as two levels higher than normal, and has access to more powerful spells
  2. The bard’s spells are power potent, adding 1 or 2 to their spell attack bonus and to the DC for saves against their magic
  3. They don’t lose spell slots – they can keep casting indefinitely, or maybe they have one extra spell slot per level that can only be used when they are using their instrument in combat (since indefinite spells is pretty powerful)
  4. There is an ongoing bonus effect – an aura of courage like a paladin has, or an aura of bonus hit points for her comrades, or something similar
  5. Her other bardic inspiration dice go up one die type, so from d6 to d8 and so on

Area of Effect

The heading is a link to the full table that I posted a while back, but for theater of the mind I like a system where you roll randomly to see how many creatures are caught in an area of effect spell. Just assume that the character is doing all they can to maximize the spell’s effectiveness and avoid hitting their friends. I would have to adjust this system for an evocation specialist wizard who could sculpt their spells to hit their foes and avoid their friends, but that’s easy enough to hand-wave (add a bonus to the AoE roll or something).

Prestidigitation and Animate Object

I just personally dislike Prestidigitation as it works in 5E – it takes me out of what’s going on every time to have someone doing magical laundry every day. House rule is that it allows you to perform sleight of hand tricks like a stage magician and that’s pretty much it. Still can be used creatively, but isn’t the cure-all for discomfort.

In the case of Animate Object, it’s simply broken if used to animate 10 daggers, so I would say that you have to animate objects one at a time. Otherwise you get a ‘cloud of daggers’ effect that deals a potential 10d4 +40 damage every round.