10 Dungeons & Dragons Rules That Dungeon Masters Should Pretend Don’t Exist

Dungeons & Dragons is enjoying a new height of popularity thanks to 5th Edition. With more people playing the game, Wizards of the Coast has every reason to release more rule books and campaign settings. At their best, these new and expanded rules add more options to the game. New classes, new items, new ways to enjoy a game with your friends. But every DM has rules that just rub them the wrong way.

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But surely that doesn't matter; they're the rules, right? If we just start throwing out rules, it'll be chaos! Except that almost certainly isn't true. Most DMs get away with handwaving or reworking some rules that just don't work for their table. Here are some that you can probably do without.

10 Experience Points

This one's up first because it depends entirely on your preferred play style. Experience points can be very useful! Especially if you're running a combat-heavy game. A tally of experience means you know exactly when characters should level up, and players have a rough idea how far away they are from that next juicy stat increase. But that doesn't mean experience tracking is right for everyone.

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If you're running a more roleplay-based game, there aren't a lot of rules out there for assigning EXP values to social encounters. How many points do you get for flirting with that lord? For talking your way out of a fight? Or maybe you just prefer that your whole party level up together, which isn't guaranteed when using experience points. If you prefer, you can use "milestone" leveling, which boosts all players to the next level when the DM sees fit.

9 Negative HP

There's a weird oversight in 5E regarding how hit points increase as you level up. The rules say that you roll a die and add your Constitution modifier, the stat that dictates how hale and hearty you are. Usually, this works fine. Even if you roll a 1, that's still 1 more HP between you and death! But what if a character has a negative Constitution score? If you have a negative 2 in Con, and roll a 1 on the die, well, now you have one less HP than you started with. This doesn't make any sense when your character is supposedly getting stronger. Previous editions had it so that you always gained at least one hit point, and this would be a good house rule for any DM to implement.

8 Wimpy Crit Fails

Critical fails used to mean something, you know? Maybe your sword broke in half, maybe you stubbed your toe really bad, maybe your trousers fell down in the middle of battle. But now they're hardly more important than a regular missed attack. Meanwhile, critical hits get double damage and all the glory.

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If you want to spice your game up with a little chaos, luckily there are resources to add meaningful critical fails back into the game. Other players make and post tables online, or you can even buy a deck of cards with hilarious penalties on them. Make players fear the 1 again.

7 Useless Spell Focus

Another weird rule according to RAW (rules as written) is that spellcasters can't cast certain spells using their focus. To break this down a little, every spell has three possible components: verbal (magic words), somatic (hand movements), and material (eye of newt, wing of bat, etc.) A spellcasting focus is something like a wand or a staff that you can use to channel your magic, usually capable of replacing the material costs of a spell. If you use a focus in place of materials, you can also use the hand holding the focus to fulfill the somatic component.

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But if the spell doesn't have the material component, somehow your wizard forgets how to use his wand and requires a free hand to complete the spell. Most people don't even notice this strange contradiction in the rule book, but this is one it certainly makes sense to forget.

6 DonAnd Doff Armor

Some rules exist for nitty-gritty, every-move-could-be-your-last kind of games. For the people who want to go really in-depth into every action their characters make. The rules for putting on and taking off armor are such rules. According to the book, it takes a minute to put on light armor, and a whopping ten minutes for heavy armor. Now maybe this doesn't seem like that long. But imagine your party's been ambushed in their sleep. If everyone was caught unawares, it'll take your rogue 10 rounds of combat (6 seconds each) to get into their armor. Your paladin wearing full plate? 100 rounds. There can be interesting roleplaying situations where it makes sense to not wear armor, but most people just don't want to worry about it.

5 Survival Rules

This is sort of similar to the above entry. Sometimes you're running a game where your rations really matter. A survival game set in the desert, for example, where resources are scarce and your biggest enemy is the environment. But most games of D&D aren't about fighting dehydration, they're about fighting goblins. Usually, you're just not going to want to keep track of how many granola bars your players have left. Plus, it's likely at least one person knows how to survive in the wilderness. Let them hunt for their food and worry about how Big Bad will kill them instead.

4 Alignment

In 5E there just isn't a lot of use for player alignment. Sometimes there isn't even a use for monsters' alignment! A lot of the spells and effects that worked based on alignment have been changed to affect certain types of creatures instead. In addition, there aren't really penalties for characters acting outside their chosen square on the grid. More often than not, the traditional Good/Evil and Lawful/Chaotic splits end up restricting characters. Don't be afraid to let your players move around the alignment grid if it fits their character.

3 Can't Sell Magic Items

"Wondrous items" are priceless in D&D. And apparently, that means no one's willing to cough up any gold to get their hands on them. Listen, sometimes your players are going to find a cool magic item in a dungeon and then never use it. Maybe it doesn't work with their class, or maybe they just forgot about it until they had better options. Why shouldn't they be able to sell those trinkets to someone in town?

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Maybe they lose out on the true value of an object of power, but what's the alternative? Letting it gather dust in the bottom of their backpack forever? There should probably be places players can buy magic items, too. Nothing crazy powerful, but giving characters toys to play with makes everyone happier. You know they've got gold burning a hole in their pocket.

2 Encumbrance

Perhaps the number one most ignored rule in roleplaying game history! Do you really want to track how many pounds your hoarder— er, rogue is hauling around in their backpack? Of course not! You're just going to give them a Bag of Holding anyway.

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There should be limits to your generosity. Your puny wizard shouldn't be able to haul a boulder up a mountain. But when it comes down to it, your party is going to be carrying a lot of loot—loot they worked for!—and they won't be happy if you rule they have to leave 2/3 of it behind because they skipped leg day.

1 Any Rule You Want!

At the end of the day, there's only one rule in D&D that really matters. "The DM's word is law." This doesn't mean you can't listen to your players if they make a case for a rule. But it does mean that they should respect what you decide, whether it's what the book says or not. There aren't any D&D police waiting to write you a ticket for ignoring a rule you don't like. The most important thing is for everyone at the table to have fun.

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