Now is the time to reduce the house rules in your D&D game

Dungeons and Dragons is more popular than ever. That is undeniable. The game has grown and become a side channel to the mainstream, with its influence everywhere. But it is about to get a lot more popular. Tens of millions are going to watch Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves.

That’s going to attract a lot more neophytes to the game.

The Honor Among Thieves trailer has vibes of Thor: Ragnarok, Guardian of the Galaxy, and Princess Bride.

But the D&D movie is not the only thing that will grow fantasy gaming.

Johnny Stanton, the Cleveland Browns fullback, and his group have been featured in Sports Illustrated. Stanton is also part of San Diego ComicCon’s Everybody is Playing Dungeons & Dragons! seminar — expect even more coverage of his game in mainstream media.

From Chris Pine saying every high school should have a D&D club to mainstream local soccer fundraisers like YachtCon playing the game (we’ll do something this year too) the game is spreading faster than ever before. After a season of not-really-D&D Stranger Things dipped back in with the Hellfire Club. Season five, the final will also be D&D themed.

There’s also D&D adjacent properties like Wheel of Time (season 2 of Origins is out in August and season 3 is already happening) and Rings of Power (season 1 in Fall). Witcher keeps going strong. Vox Machina got a season 2 and probably will get a third. List goes on, and on.

There’s no better time for fantasy TV and movies — none.

As experienced players and DM’s it is our responsibility and duty to welcome these new players to the game. One way to do that is through the classic Starter Set, the Stranger Things boxed set, the Essentials Kit, the new Dragons of Stormwreck Isle, Spelljammer Academy, etc, etc.

But you also have your home games with elaborate and thought-out original plots. These games are the most common way to play D&D, a majority do not play in the official worlds. There’s a danger in welcoming people to the game the first time in an original world. Those campaigns can have a lot of custom rules.

When the Lorebook Hunters first started in the World of the Everflow there were more than four pages of custom rules, heavily tweaking the game. Now there are just four sentences of rules not taken from the books – all able to integrate with DnDBeyond, excepting the custom subclasses. Players new to the game can create a character in 30-60 minutes rather than hours.

That helps first-time players pick up the game. There’s plenty of support online for the official rules — blogs, video, podcasts, social media. There’s only your table as a place to learn about custom rules. That can be intimidating. Plus they need to pick up custom lore. Another barrier to play.

Reducing both of those weights helps a first-time player become a perpetual player and eventual Dungeon Master.

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Tips for types of rules to add

  • Optional rules from the Dungeon Master’s Guide — they’re already official, in a book for others to read.
  • Rules that enable your story — the World of the Everflow has a key question as to why we love pets. It wouldn’t be the same without the bonus feat of Bonded Companion.
  • Changes that empower cinematic flavor — since many people new to the game will come from watching film give them that vibe.
  • Tweaks that don’t require technical knowledge — asking a first time player to learn a VTT rather than just video or theater of the mind can reduce their interest.

At the same point, if you have a massive world already, don’t retro those rules. Find ways for your table to welcome new people into your complex lore and ruleset. Use session zeroes frequently, both one-on-one and with the group. Tell a new player why you have those rules. House rules that help tell the communal storytelling are always better than house rules that add complexity, at least for the modern gamer coming at D&D as a storytelling game that empowers group tales of action and adventure.

Most of all, enjoy the new players and their new stories. They’re going to add to your table coming up with ideas and concepts you’ve never seen before. If you are doing it right you’ll have a more diverse group, telling more diverse tales — and you’ll be stronger both in real life and in the game.

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