My couples' D&D session was postponed over a month or two, I think, because of sickness and holiday madness, but last weekend there was much role-playing, and despite spending the entire night on one combat scenario, I thought it was a good time. There was mystery, magic, acts of heroism, adventurers on death's edge, and lots of tactics on display. And additional fun for me, because I was able to test a couple of house rules that I thought helped things move along nicely.
My group is new to D&D and I wanted a way to incentivize them to become familiar with their character abilities, so I wrote up an activity each character could accomplish to grant their team bonus XP for the encounter. Each character's achievement involved an action particular to their combat role -- e.g., the cleric heals, the rogue performs a sneak attack, or the wizard hits multiple monsters. I thought the group ate them up, though, looking for opportunities to earn them and helping each other finish combat having accomplished the target, and it seemed a great way to motivate an understanding of their abilities. I can't wait to craft a bunch more.
Nothing sucks more than waiting your turn, maneuvering to make a big attack, rolling, and failing. The enormous deflation that results is, in my opinion, a genuine weakness of D&D, and so I came up with a mechanic to help. Glass beads, referred to as fate points, rest on the table. If every attack roll you make misses in a round, you get a fate point. One fate point can be exchanged for a +1 bonus to your attack roll, two for a +1 bonus to someone else's, and 5 for an action point. Earning fate points doesn't remove the disappointment of missing, but it curbs it, and since you can help others with fate points, there are more incentives to pay attention to the fight. I was elated when one player missed a big attack by three but only had two fate points; another player with two points pitched in, however, and it was just enough to make the attack. I loved that they were able to make it happen through player action, made possible by failure, and it was great.