I'm now setting up my first session as DM. I don't have the whole story yet, but I have a very simple first session that will introduce 3 players to the game (they are 4 in total).

I'm thinking of a few things to spice things up, based on their die rolls.

  • natural 20: critical success, the player gains advantage on its next attack
  • natural 1 : critical miss, the player misses and gains disadvantage on its next attack
  • natural 13: get a random effect from the tarokka deck

I may swap the 20 and 1 rolls by a player (or me) drawing a card from the luck deck, but not sure.

Does this sound like a good approach, or am I risking losing balance of the game?

  • 15
    \$\begingroup\$ Why are you adding more rules and more things to keep track of and interrupt the flow of combat before you've begun your first session? What about the regular flow of combat needs these additions above and beyond the regular crit rules? \$\endgroup\$
    – StuperUser
    Jul 2, 2020 at 7:11

2 Answers 2


I would suggest against this.

It's your first time DMing and this session is one "that will introduce 3 players to the game", they won't want to have to deal with an extra set of rules that will add a deck in the flow of combat.

It's a bad idea as a DM because:

You haven't run a combat encounter yet, keeping track of player HPs, creature HP, creature strategy, if they're new players, they'll be level 1, which can be easy to kill, you'll be explaining and re-explaining rules to new players too, for the combat mechanics, for each of the class mechanics. You'll have to also explain each tarokka power, why the tarokka deck is affecting the characters, what the tarokka deck is. You might draw a power that ends an encounter or kills a player, making it less fun for everyone.

For the nat1/nat20. Keeping track of something else between rounds is another thing to deal with, when you'll already be juggling a lot, and it's your first time. There is already a rule for crits that make them exciting. Use that.

You're asking because you can't foresee how this will effect how you run combat. Build a baseline with standard rules before you add anything.

This is bad for players because:

Depending on what your players want, they might want to RP, in which case adding complexity to the combat is going to put them off. They might want to just kick-ass as adventurers, in which case adding complexity to the combat is going to put them off.

Don't underestimate how much players, especially new players, will be looking up when they start combat, even level 1 characters. If you've seen a lot of playing on streams it can look easy, because they've prepped a lot or are used to improv and making a decision and going with it. New players will have a lot of confusion and fear about "doing it right" or "not interrupting the fun with questions", when learning together and finding your own game is part of the fun.

Why I think you're really asking:

You're excited and nervous about DMing, you want to do well and you want to make the game special and unique for you and your friends.

Here's the secret, you will. You don't even have to try.

Use the base rules before you add anything, get used to them, be comfortable running combat as DM and spend the extra brain space making sure all your players are comfortable and having fun. Get used to how your players play, what they're interested in, then add using that.

The secret sauce is in how you all play together so you don't need to add these rules, at least not for a while. There's plenty of fun to be had with simple rules and the simpler the rules, the easy the choices for you and your players and the more those choices will shine.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Really good answer. As a fairly new GM, I agree with that fact that adding more to the base rules before you get used to it might be a not so good idea. My firsts combats were really slow in pace even using base rules, so I can't imagine with these custom rules added. Adding these kinds of rules later based on what players want is good advice, you should follow it. And finally, the part about stressing for doing well talk to me, but after a few sessions I also think that even without adding custom things, you can perform well using basics just being yourself. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zoma
    Jul 2, 2020 at 7:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ Ahah thanks a lot @StuperUser, you got it absolutely right with your "Why I think you're really asking". Ok, I will stop overthinking the gameplay mechanics and perhaps focus a bit more on options for this first session in case they don't go with what I am thinking. \$\endgroup\$
    – Sos
    Jul 2, 2020 at 8:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ No plan survives contact with the players, so having the options laid out in front of you and the brain space to react is going to pay off. The session won't go how you plan, but the good news is that if the wheels come off you'll have plenty of fun as a group chasing them down the hill! Have fun with your first session! You'll do great. \$\endgroup\$
    – StuperUser
    Jul 2, 2020 at 8:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ "in case they don't go with what I am thinking", if you haven't already, have a look at session zeros to cover off what everyone expects and wants from the game and you'll have a good idea of what they're thinking and how to run the game you all want. \$\endgroup\$
    – StuperUser
    Jul 2, 2020 at 8:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ @StuperUser I'd like to come back here after my 1st session. I now see exactly what you meant by this being too much. It was a lot of fun and super interesting, but it was not easy keeping track of everything. And now I can also see that I missed a few things too (like forgetting some save throws). With time, maybe I'll introduce new things, but definitely not now. :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Sos
    Jul 4, 2020 at 16:47

I agree with @StuperUser's answer, but would also like to add that:

  1. Adding random effects in tends to favour the enemy rather than the player, since there are more of them arriving and dying every encounter but only one character (per player).

  2. Critical fails/fumbles on a natural 1 - while a common optional rule - tend to frustrate players due to the way things work in D&D. Consider this: As a fighter gains levels, they get more attacks. This means more chances of rolling a 1 at least once per turn. So the character will counter-intuitively get worse as they level. And your penalty of disadvantage on the next roll means that if they do get a natural 1, they have more chances of it happening again, meaning they get even worse as they level up!

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I have to agree with this one. The critical fail rule is probably the worst house rule I see and I don't understand why so many people seem to run it, at least beyond 'I occasionally use critical failure to introduce something funny'. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Jul 2, 2020 at 13:05

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