Combat Options

The options in this section provide alternative ways to handle combat.

Variant Initiative: Cunning

Initiative can include processing variables and enacting a response to changes in a stressful environment as well as simple reflex. Under this interpretation, initiative falls under the domain of cunning, and is an expression of analysis and drive. A creature adds its Intelligence modifier to it initiative roll instead of its Dexterity modifier.

Delayed Initiative

Provided you aren’t surprised, after rolling initiative, you can choose to reduce your initiative count to 1 less than another combat participant. In the event of a tie, you always go last.

You can explore allowing creatures to delay their initiative during combat, but be aware that the duration of spells, powers, and periodic effects will need to be addressed for when they occur during the round a creature chooses to delay its turn. Permitting this option will allow a creature to delay suffering the effect of a spell or condition to allow an ally to remove it before it comes into play, opening an exploitable situation for players and DMs alike that your table might not enjoy.

Stepping over Downed Creatures

You can move through a prone or unconscious creature’s space as if it is difficult terrain. This movement will provoke an opportunity attack against you from a conscious creature whose space you enter.

Variant Two-Weapon Fighting

When you take the attack Action with a one-handed weapon held in one hand, you can use a bonus action to attack with a different weapon, provided the following criteria are met:

  • Both weapons are one-handed weapons.
  • One weapon must have the light property and weigh less than the other weapon, or both weapons must have the light property.
  • Neither weapon can have the heavy or versatile property.
  • Neither weapon can weight more than 3 lbs.
  • You don’t add your ability modifier to the damage of the bonus attack, unless that modifier is negative. If either weapon has the thrown property, you can throw the weapon. If the weapon is ranged and has the ammunition property, you can’t reload it this turn even if you have a feature that normally allows this.

Focus Spells

A focus spell requires concentration like a concentration spell or power, but doesn’t require as much effort. As long as a focus spell only targets a single target, you can also concentrate on one other focus or concentration spell or power.

The following spells have their duration changed to focus with the same maximum time as listed in the spell block:

Focus Duration Spells
Spell LevelSpell
Cantriptrue strike
1stbeast bond*, fog cloud, heroism, spider climb
2ndbarkskin, beast sense, enhance ability, locate object, magic weapon, skywrite*
3rdelemental weapon, flame arrows*, protection from energy
4thbestow curse, locate creature, stoneskin
5thimmolation*, skill empowerment*

Each spell is in the Player’s Handbook unless it has an asterisk, in which case it is in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything.

Power Casting

A 1st-level or higher spell with a casting time of 1 action and an instantaneous duration can be cast at a stronger version by increasing its casting time to 1 minute. Any damage received or other distraction, such as failing a saving throw or being under a negative condition, will interrupt the casting, consuming the spell slot, as will moving during the casting. While power casting a spell, the caster has disadvantage on Dexterity and Wisdom saving throws and ability checks.

A successful power casting doubles the number of dice rolled for the spell, up to a maximum number of extra dice equal to your proficiency bonus. For example, if a 7th-level cleric power casts cure wounds using a 1st-level spell slot, its target would regain 2d8 + its Wisdom modifier hit points, while if it used a 4th-level spell slot, its target would regain 7d8 + its Wisdom modifier hit points since it only has a proficiency bonus of +3.

Saner Summoning

Conjure animals, conjure minor elementals, and conjure woodland beings tend to be spells that add a lot of additional creatures to a combat that can slow the game’s pace to a crawl and leave the players or the DM with a lot of extra bookkeeping. The following change aims to make things more manageable all around without affecting the spells when you first get them, especially when casting them with a higher level spell slot.

A creature can only summon eight other creatures at a time. Any additional conjured or summoned creatures will replace an existing summoned creature. A familiar from the find familiar spell doesn’t count as a summoned creature for this purpose.


States are minor conditions some of which some expire at the end of your next turn after they are applied, and others which persist until the situations which causes them has ended.


After suffering a powerful blow, being partially blinded, or severely distracted, you may be dazed. You have disadvantage on your next attack roll and each Constitution saving throw to maintain concentration until the end of your next turn.


An item carried or held by you has been removed from your possession and is in a space within 5 feet of you. You need to enter this space to retrieve it as an object interaction.


You are within the weapon reach of at least two foes which aren’t incapacitated. At least one of these foes must occupy a space opposite another in respect to you. Your AC is reduced by 2.


Shaken happens when something catches you off guard or causes you to be ill from revulsion or fear. You can’t take reactions until the end of your next turn.


You can’t move or take an action on your first turn of the combat, and you can’t take a reaction until that turn ends.

Variant 0 Hit Point Rules

Below are some options to change how a creature behaves when it is reduced to 0 hit points or when making death saving throws.

Take a Knee

When a creature has been reduced to 0 hit points, it doesn’t immediately fall prone and unconscious. Instead its movement speed is halved and it has disadvantage on attack rolls, Dexterity saving throws and Dexterity ability checks. It can’t take a bonus action or make a reaction.

After the creature has failed one death saving throw, it becomes incapacitated. When it has failed two death saves, it falls prone and is unconscious.

Death’s Door

Failing a death saving throw is a serious proposition. Failed death saves are tracked, and once a creature has failed a total of 8 + its Constitution modifier death saves, it dies. When the creature finishes a long rest, its failed death save counter is reset to 0.

Deadlier Hits

Whenever a creature takes damage that would reduce it to −5 hp or less, it automatically fails 1 death saving throw.