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Taking Note - Baldur's Gate 3 - 5 House Rules for Your D&D 5e Table

Updated: Jan 6

Today's Taking Note is looking at Dungeons & Dragons video game Baldur's Gate 3 by Larian Studios. After 7 years in development we are finally given the full game and critics and players alike are raving! My personal take is that this game brings the best version of Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition yet so I wanted to bring five rules from Baldur's Gate 3 to your own D&D or other Tabletop Roleplaying Game.

1. Simplified Initiative

Example of party rolling initiative in Baldur's Gate 3

The downside of this is a lack of variability in combat order if that is something you are looking for. My tables haven't noticed a huge difference with this rule except in the case of multiple enemies going in a group. In those cases you could implement group combat rules or scale the size of the die rolled based on the size of the combat.

Tangent Thought: What if you rolled for the group of initiative you fall under, then use your initiative bonus to determine your order in that group, almost like airplane boarding groups. Ex. the Paladin rolls a 2 and falls under Group 2, then because they have a +2 to initiative they will go before anyone else in group 2 with a +1, +0, and so on.

2. Inspiration stacks in Baldur's Gate 3

The Inspiration screen in Baldur's Gate 3 that explains Inspiration and its maximum of 4 along with examples of how backgrounds can earn inspiration

We've all had that moment when a story critical roll could use another chance for success and you just haven't gotten an inspiration or hero point in awhile for whatever reason. Baldur's Gate solves this by pooling inspiration points between the party. You can only have as many points as there are party members, but now you have multiple ways to earn those points! This doesn't work as well in systems with pools of points already such as Pathfinder 2e, but can provide a nice bonus for those groups that need a little extra help sometimes.

The downside to pooled inspiration is party members may find that some folks are earning them more than others are using the points, which can cause inner-party tension if a GM isn't providing opportunities for everyone to earn inspiration or is paying too much attention to specific player characters.

3. The MVP eternally known as Guidance

Everyone who has played a Cleric knows the cantrip called Guidance. This simple spell gets a character a d4 bonus on ability checks for up to a minute with concentration. This can be quite the bonus in the right circumstances. Baldur's Gate makes it easier than ever to use Guidance by allowing anyone in the party to ask for the bonus as long as one person knows the spell. Parties may want to implement something similar at your table, but GMs will want to consider the implications of this bonus on EVERY roll.

The downside to allowing Guidance is that is an easy bonus to add on every roll, but also takes the the immersion out of the situation as your caster clearly casts a spell in front of the audience in the case of persuasion or other social checks. My personal note is that out of social situations it is fine to give Guidance, but having a witness see you cast magic during a conversation could make them see it as a malicious spellcasting. I would suggest preplanning the Guidance cast before any conversation could start to remove the chance of a noble or fellow spellcaster acting in kind or turning aggressive.

4. Changing how spells are prepared

Example image of a Wizard's Prepared Spell Menu in Baldur's Gate 3

Allow me to paint a picture, an adventuring party is taking a break outside of a goblin camp and discussing their course of action. In the meantime, the wizard is idle as they've already used some spell slots for the day and prepped their spells. They definitely won't need Mold Earth after the collapsed bridge, but now they are stuck with it. What if instead, anytime there is a lapse in time (perhaps a short rest?) the prepared casters were able to change their prepared spells for the remainder of the day. This allows them to strategize more if the party is scouting and preparing for encounters ahead of them. This rewards the spellcasters who may be spending those precious spell slots on things like scrying eyes or teleportation to get their party into position for the next hurdle of the adventure.

This could get a bit meta-game heavy as the party tries to scout ahead before a short rest so the casters have the perfect spells for any problem. In these cases I would recommend limiting the number of times they can change their prepared spells by either their spellcasting modifier or their proficiency bonus. This should ensure they are being more mindful about when/where they are trying to rest and make changes to those very valuable and very flammable spellbooks and components.

5. Lockpicks and Traps

This last one is actually rules as written (aka RAW), but I've hardly seen it implemented at a table. Any character, despite their background or class, can ATTEMPT to open locks or disarm traps without thieves' tools. Their lack of proficiency will make it hard to crack these obstacles, but this at least deters the idea that every party needs a rogue. The expansions to Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition, such as Xanathar's Guide to Everything, also include ways to train in new tools, so with enough time anyone could be cracking safes with the best of the thieves' guild.

The other half of this tip is to allow the martial characters a crack at breaking any locked chests or doors, but that of course comes with all the noise and attention these kinds of attempts can bring. Smash at your own risk Barbarians, don't say I didn't warn you.

And with that, we've covered 5 House Rules you can implement for your D&D 5e or other TTRPG campaigns! I'd also like to cover some of the changes Larian Studios made to the classes/subclasses, but that'll take some more time to delve into! What's your favorite house rule covered here? Do you have any tips/rules I might have missed from BG3? Be sure to let me know either way!

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