Introduction and Abilities

posted by hectorgrey Original SA post

Well, it has been a long time since I did one of these, and the last two kinda fell by the wayside due to mental health problems, but fuck it; third time's the charm?

D&D 3rd Edition - The Core Books

Part 1: Introduction and Abilities

D&D 3rd Edition was not, funnily enough, my true introduction to RPGs - that honour goes to Advanced Fighting Fantasy. It was, however, my first introduction to Dungeons and Dragons. I was a 14-year old, undiagnosed autistic kid at the time, so naturally the first thing I did with this was run a fucking awful game for my mum, where I would pit a CR1 skeleton against her by herself, thinking that was how CR worked, and rescued her with my own DMPC. Ultimately, I didn't really understand the d20 system at the time - much like other folks on the internet at the time, I thought level 1 was someone with barely any training, and level 20 was where the folks we see in most fiction was. Strider? Level 20 Ranger. Conan? Level 20 Barbarian.

Ultimately, D&D 3rd Edition is not by any stretch my favourite RPG, my favourite edition of D&D, or even my favourite iteration of the D20 system. It was, however, the game that introduced the d20 system (for better or worse), and it is now old enough that there are probably folks reading this now who have never read or played by these rules, and short of piracy never will (3.5 has been put on drivethruRPG, but this is specifically 3.0, which has not). It was also the system (as I understand it) to introduce the concept of the OGL, which in turn led to the RPG market being what it is today - many RPG publishers started out on third party stuff for D&D 3rd edition (or on games that used the same rules, modified for a different setting). Without 3rd Edition, we wouldn't have the likes of Mongoose, Green Ronin or Paizo. There are awesome games that exist today that would never have existed without this iteration of D&D. Therefore, I consider it a historically important RPG (which, incidentally, I would still be more than happy to play or run at low level; just maybe not at high level).

With all that bullshit out of the way, let's move onto the first of the Core Rulebooks: the Players Handbook (or PHB). My copy of this is the second printing, from November 2000. If any readers have a different printing, please feel free to point out any changes. The book begins with a two-page spread, explaining how to create a character and giving page references for more detailed information. It then has a page of introduction, which at no point ever asks the question "What is a Roleplaying Game". It begins with this:

Introduction posted:

Welcome to the game that defined the fantastic imagination for over a quarter of a century.

When you play the Dungeons & Dragons game, you create a unique fictional character that lives in your imagination and the imaginations of your friends. One person in the game, the Dungeon Master (DM), controls the monsters and the people that live in the fantasy world. You and your friends face the dangers and explore the mysteries your Dungeon Master sets before you.

Each character's imaginary life is different. Your character might:

  • explore ancient ruins guarded by devious traps
  • put loathsome monsters to the sword
  • loot the tomb of a long-forgotten wizard
  • cast mighty spells to burn and blast your foes
  • solve diabolical mysteries
  • find magic weapons, rings, and other items
  • make peace between warring tribes
  • get brought back from the dead
  • face undead creatures that can drain life away with a touch
  • sneak into a castle to spy on the enemy
  • travel to other plains of experience
  • wrestle a carnivorous ape
  • forge a magic wand
  • get turned to stone
  • get turned into a toad
  • turn someone else into a toad
  • become king or queen
  • discover unique and powerful artifacts of amazing magical power

That's... actually one of the better "What is an RPG?" sections I've ever come across in an RPG rulebook. It tells you right here what the game is, and what it involves doing. This is followed by an explanation of what you need to play, a list of what is included in the various chapters of the game, and how the dice notation works. All of this takes up just one page.

After this, we get the chapter on ability scores. By default, you roll 4d6, drop the lowest, to get six scores. You keep them to one side for the time being; if you don't have a single score above 13, or if your modifiers add up to +0 or less, you get to reroll. 10-11 is human average in every stat (being the most likely result on a straight 3d6), with modifiers starting at -5 at 1 and increasing by 1 on every even numbered score. If you've played or read any edition of D&D since 3e, then you're familiar with how this works; if not, then the 5e basic rules are available for free. Each ability comes with list of creatures, with some idea as to where they lie on the scale where 10 is human average.

Just as a fun fact, the most likely array of results when rolling 3d6 is 13, 12, 11, 10, 9 and 8; for 4d6 drop the lowest, it's 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8 (rounding fractions down in all cases). I mention this because it means that on average, the strongest person you know probably has the equivalent of a 13 in strength. If you happen to know a lot of boxers, soldiers or generally strong people, then they might have it as high as 15. The strongest person in a country might have it around 18-19. No real human being on the planet has the equivalent of a 20+.

Strength is used to modify your melee attack rolls and melee damage rolls (as well as ranged damage rolls with specific weapons). There are rules that allow you to use Dexterity for attack rolls on some weapons, but melee damage is always strength based. Strength is also used for stuff like jumping, swimming, climbing, lifting stuff, breaking stuff and to determine how much shit you can carry. Kobolds have strength 6, goblins have strength 8, half orcs have strength 12, fire giants have strength 30 and great gold wyrms have strength 46.

Dexterity is used to modify your ranged attack rolls (or some melee weapons; I'll explain this under feats), but not damage rolls. It is also used for acrobatics, sneaking around, picking locks, riding horses and escaping if tied up. Finally, it represents reaction speed, meaning that it influences how early in a combat round you get to act, how hard you are to hit and how good you are at moving out of the way of things. A gelatinous cube has this at a 1, an ogre has it at an 8, an elf at a 12 and an elder air elemental at a 32.

Constitution modifies your hit points every level (to a minimum of 1 hp gained each level). It is also used to measure how long you can keep doing strenous tasks such as travelling long distance, as well as how good you are at maintaining your concentration. Finally, it represents sheer toughness, and your ability to avoid danger by virtue of being simply too tough for it to affect you. Elves have this at an 8, dwarves at a 12 and the Tarrasque has it at a 35.

Intelligence modifies how many skill points you get each level, as well as being used for searching (because of knowing where to search) and for knowing stuff generally. It is also used for crafting, lip reading, disarming traps and scrying. Finally, it determines how many additional languages you speak at first level. Animals have this at a 1 or a 2, trolls have it at a 6, Beholders at a 16, and great gold wyrms at a 32.

Wisdom is a combination of perception, willpower and common sense. As such, your sense of direction, your ability to notice things and your ability to survive in the wild are related to it. It also relates to your ability to resist certain effects through sheer willpower. An orc has this at 8, while a unicorn has it at a 20.

Charisma is primarily force of personality - while it may play some part in looks, it doesn't necessarily. It is also your ability to influence people and animals, and even to fool magical items into working when they really shouldn't. A dwarf has this at an 8, while a storm giant has it at a 14.

Well, this has been a rather long post, so I'll leave it here. Next up: races, maybe classes, and how they differ (or don't) from 3.5.

Edit: missed out a bit from Intelligence.

Races and Classes

posted by hectorgrey Original SA post

D&D 3rd Edition - The Core Books

Part 2: Races and Classes

The second chapter of the PHB deals with the playable races. Humans are introduced first - they are the baseline of the races, receiving no racial bonuses to their stats at all. They do, however, get an additional skill point per level and an additional feat at first level (this will be explained later). They start off with only the common human tongue by default, but they are able to start with any non-secret langauge they wish if their intelligence is high enough (one bonus language per point of intelligence bonus). Where other races have a specific favoured class, the class that a human has their highest level in is counted as their favoured class for the purposes of multi-classing (which I will deal with later, under classes). As medium creatures, humans have a 30 feet per round movement speed.

Dwarves are gruff and reserved, but tough; receiving a +2 to their constitution and a -2 to their charisma. They are slower on their feet than humans, moving at only 20 feet per round instead of 30, but are otherwise considered medium creatures. Since dwarves live primarily underground, they can see in pitch darkness up to 60 feet. This vision is monochrome (which I would argue does not allow for reading stuff written on paper, hence why they still light their homes), but otherwise functions just fine. They get a +2 to fortitude saves vs poison, and since alcohol is a poison, they can hold their drink pretty well, they get a bonus to detecting strange stonework, they're resistant to magic and as such get a +2 to saves vs all spells and spell-like abilities, they hate orcs and goblins (and get a +1 to hit vs them) and have fought giants often enough to receive a +4 dodge bonus against their attacks. They also get a +2 to checks made to appraise or craft items of stone or metal, giving them a reputation as master craftsmen. They speak Common and Dwarvish by default, and can select goblin, gnomish, giant, orcish, terran or under-common (the underground trading language equivalent to common above ground) with their bonus languages. Their favoured class is Fighter.

Elves are agile but frail, receiving a +2 to dexterity but a -2 to constitution. Like humans, they are medium creatures and move at 30 feet per round. They do not sleep as humans do, but instead enter a trance; four hours of which gives them the same benefits as eight hours of sleep for a human. Because of this, they are immune to magical sleep effects. They are also resistant to charm effects, receiving a +2 to saves vs those. All elves are proficient archers, able to use any kind of bow (short, long, or composite version of one of the previous), and are proficient with either a longsword or a rapier. Those of you familiar with medieval weapons but unfamiliar with D&D should note that in basically every edition of D&D until 5th, the longsword is a one handed weapon like an arming sword, rather than the two handed weapon we call a longsword in modern terminology. Yes, it irritates me too. Moving on, elves have sharp senses, and as such get a +2 bonus to spot, listen and search. Their favoured class is Wizard. They speak Common and Elvish by default, and can select draconic, goblin, gnomish, gnoll, orcish and sylvan with their bonus languages. Finally, they receive low light vision, which allows them to see twice as far as humans in dim lighting, retaining colour vision and detail in these situations.

Half elves are closer in physical form to their human parents, and as such receive no racial bonuses to their stats. However, they inherit their elven parent's immunity to sleep, resistence to enchantment, keen senses and low light vision. Much like their human parents, they are able to learn any language, and the class they have the highest level in counts as their favoured class. Finally, for the purposes of spell effects and special abilities, they are considered elves (both for good or ill)

Gnomes are tough, but not very strong due to their size, receiving a +2 to constitution and a -2 to strength. As small creatures, they only move at 20 feet per round, and are limited in the kinds of weapon they can use. On the other hand, they receive a +1 bonus to their AC and a +4 bonus to hide due to their size. They have low light vision, and are naturally good at illusion magic - their favoured class is Illusionist (a kind of wizard), and all gnomes with a 10 intelligence or higher are able to cast prestidigitation, dancing lights and ghost sound once each per day. They are also good at alchemy, and have keen ears for a +2 in alchemy and listen checks. Much like the dwarves, they have a +4 dodge bonus vs giants, and they hate kobolds and goblinoids, receiving a +1 to hit against those races. They speak Common and Gnomish by default, and can draconic, dwarvish, elvish, goblin, giant and orc with their bonus languages. In addition to that, they can speak with animals for one minute, once per day.

Half orcs are stupid and rude, but strong - they receive a -2 to both intelligence and charisma, and a +2 to strength. They are medium creatures, and move at the usual speed. They have dark vision, just like the dwarves, and just like half elves are considered orcs for the purposes of spell effects and special abilities (meaning a dwarf would get their +1 to hit). Half orcs speak Common and Orcish, and may select draconic, giant, gnoll, goblin or abyssal (the language of demons) with their bonus languages (if they have any, with their low intelligence). Their favoured class is Barbarian.

Halflings, much like gnomes, are not very strong due to their size, but they are very agile; receiving a -2 to strength and a +2 to dexterity. They are also small creatures, receiving the same bonuses and penalties as gnomes do. Halflings receive a +1 to all saving throughs, to represent their natural luck, a +2 bonus to saves vs fear (which stacks with the previous) to represent their courage, and a +1 to attacks with thrown weapons, to show how good they are at throwing things. They also have keen ears, giving them a +2 to listen, and are very light on their feet, receiving a +2 to move silently, climb and jump. They speak Common and Halfling, and may pick dwarvish, elvish, gnomish, goblin or orcish with their bonus languages. Their favoured class is Rogue.

Following on from this, we have the chapter on classes. This begins with level dependent benefits: base save bonuses, and base attack bonus. The main fighting classes (Barbarian, Fighter, Ranger and Paladin) have a base attack bonus equal to their level; the Wizard and the Sorcerer have a base attack bonus equal to half their level rounded down, and everyone else gets a base attack bonus equal to three quarters of their level rounded down. Once this reaches +6, you get a second attack at 5 lower than the first, a third at +11 and a fourth at +16. Likewise, each class has at least one good save, with the rest being poor saves. The good saves start at 2 and increase at every even numbered level, while the poor saves start at 0 and go up every third level.

We also get the XP table here; to sum it up, a character receives a feat at first level and then every third level, +1 to any one of their abilities every fourth level, and may have a maximum number of ranks in a class skill equal to their level +3 (or half that for a cross-class skill - this is not rounded, as you can have half ranks in skills. To level up, you need your level * 1000 XP more than the previous level - so you level up to 2nd at 1000, to third at 3000 etc.

The skill points gained per level are based on class as well - Clerics, Fighters, Paladins, Sorcerers and Wizards gain 2 per level, modified by intelligence; Rogues get 8, and everybody else gets 4. Note that this means that a human fighter with 10 intelligence has the same number of skill points per level as a half orc barbarian with 8. At first level, PCs multiplay this by 4. They also receive maximum hit points from their hit die; every other level, they must roll it.

Following this, we have our classes. The first class is Barbarian. The Barbarian represents the stereotypical "noble savage", combined with brute strength backed up by pure rage, and as such are able to use simple and martial weapons. Because they are "savages", they may not be lawful in alignment. They receive class skills based on living off of the land, being athletic and being scary. They begin the game illiterate, and must spend two skill points on learning to read if they wish to be literate. They move quickly, receiving a +10 feet per round to their speed, get uncanny dodge, which gives them bonuses vs traps, prevents them from being flanked and allows them to use their dexterity bonus to AC even when they normally couldn't. At 11th level, they receive damage reduction which can't be bypassed, and have a hit die of a d12. They have a full base attack bonus, a good fortitude save and poor reflex and will saves.

Finally, their rage gives them a bonus to strength and constitution, meaning that they hit harder, hit more often, and have more hit points. It also makes them slightly easier to hit, but it makes them harder to affect with mind affecting spells. When they leave rage, they are winded, taking an extra -2 to strength and -2 to dexterity. They also lose the hit points they gained while raging, meaning that if they took enough damage, ending their rage might kill them on the spot. As a result of their class features, they are excellent melee combatants, can be useful in outdoor terrain and are semi-decent scouts if you don't care too much about them being noticed.

Bards are performers and storytellers who know a little of everything, can cast some spells and use all simple weapons and one martial weapon. Bards must be non-lawful, can cast up to 6th level spells, can achieve magical effects with their musical performances and through their bardic knowledge tend to know lots of obscure facts. They have a hit die of a d6, a three quarter base attack bonus, good reflex and will saves and a poor fortitude save. A bard can fill almost any role in a party in an emergency, but are unable to fill any of them as well as a specialist class could - they're excellent fifth party members, but not much good at being one of the core four.

Clerics are warrior priests of their deities. They are trained in the use of heavy armour and can use all simple weapons, they have a three quarter BAB, good fortitude and will saves with a poor reflex save, and they have power over the undead. Good Clerics can drive away undead, or at higher levels even destroy them; evil Clerics can command undead, and at later levels can even sieze control over them from whoever was controlling them already. Clerics can also cast divine magic up to 9th level, and receive two domains based on their deity. These domains grant extra abilities as well as additional spells - the trickery domain, for example, grants hide, bluff and and disguise, as well as a bunch of illusion magic, while the death domain adds a load of necromancy spells and gives a once per day touch attack, where you roll a number of d6s equal to your Cleric level, and if the result is equal to or greater than than their current hit points, they die (it does no damage if lower). Finally, they can use any one of their prepared spells to cast a cure spell of equal level instead.

At low levels, a Cleric is a decent healer, with some support or offensive spells to round them out, and slightly less combat ability than a Fighter of equal level. At high levels, their magic makes them incredibly dangerous, and their ability to wear the heaviest armour arguably makes them better at the Fighter's job than the Fighter just because of their ability to self buff while also doing their job as healer and support.

The Druid is basically a Nature Cleric, with slightly more skills, different weaponry, and the ability to wear heavy armour replaced with the ability to turn into wild animals. By default, they cannot cast spells with verbal components in animal form, and unlike in 3.5, Natural Spell does not exist in the core rules; as such, higher level Druids must choose between turning into a fucking polar bear and outdoing the fighter at his job and doing powerful magic (whereas in 3.5, they get to do both at once). The Druid is still one of the more powerful classes in the game, with the ability to transform into animals making them excellent scouts in the wild in addition to being dangerous in combat and able to cast powerful magic.

Next, we have the Fighter. The fighter has a d10 hit die, full base attack bonus, a good fortitude and poor reflex and will, and lots of bonus combat feats. Unfortunately, they get little but bonus feats as class features. Their only class feature in addition to the bonus feats is that from 4th level onwards they get access to Weapon Specialisation, which is a fighter only feat that gives +2 to damage, but has weapon focus as a prerequisite. This means that while the Fighter is a formidable combatant at low levels, at high levels they're frankly fucking boring to play, as very few of their feats grant them extra options in combat. In addition, their lack of skills means that they have basically no out of combat utility compared to the rest of the party. I would honestly not play this as a single class character if playing core only, and would in fact be unlikely to play it beyond sixth level.

The Monk is basically your Wu Xia unarmed combatant. They get the three quarter base attack bonus, but unlike other classes, they get their extra attacks for unarmed strikes and monk weapons at a lower BAB - 4, 7, 10 and 13 for a total of five attacks per round. Also, they do more damage with unarmed attacks than other characters, starting with a d6 at first level and eventually reaching a d20 at 16th level. As for saves, all three of them are good saves. They get lots of class features and quite a few class skills. They get all the athletic and acrobatic skills, both stealth skills, listen and arcane knowledge. In addition to this, they get higher movement speeds as they level up. Between their aptitude for stealth and their faster movement speed, they make excellent scouts. They also get evasion (no damage on a successful reflex save when the save would have given half damage), the ability to deflect arrows, immunity to poison and disease, reduced falling damage so long as there's a surface they can feasibly use to slow their fall (like a wall for example), among a bunch of other things. They cannot wear armour, and use very little weaponry, but at higher levels the fact that both their wisdom and dexterity apply to AC (in addition to a bonus based on level) means that while they're not quite as good at combat as fighters of the same level, at higher levels they can become considerably more durable and they are much more mobile. Once you've started taking levels in Monk, you're pretty much locked into this class if you want to gain further levels - once you take a level in a class that isn't monk, you may no longer increase monk. Monks must be Lawful in alignment.

The Paladin is essentially a Fighter without Weapon Specialisation or bonus feats, but with healing, immunity to disease, the ability to do extra damage against evil creatures (charisma modifier as a bonus to attack, provided it's positive, and extra damage equal to paladin level. At third level, they gain the ability to turn undead, at fourth level they gain the ability to cast spells (up to 4th level spells) and at fifth level they get a special mount. Overall, the Paladin isn't too bad, so long as you roll well on your ability scores. Ideally, you need a good strength, wisdom and charisma for the different class features. Paladins may only be Lawful Good, and in addition have an even more strict code of conduct than merely remaining lawful good. No dirty tricks, no lying, no knowingly associating with evil characters and no hiring anybody else who isn't lawful good. If you break this requirement, you may lose all of your class features - potentially permanently. Also, like the Monk, if you gain any levels in a different class, you may no longer gain Paladin levels (though you do keep the class abilities you already have, provided you keep to the code of conduct). The Paladin's spells are primarily healing and minor buffing.

The Paladin's Mount, incidentally, is a horse of unusual strength and intelligence, with natural armour and bonus hit dice. It gets improved evasion (half damage on a failed reflex save and no damage on a successful reflex save where such would normally allow half damage). At higher levels, it also gains the ability to command other animals of its type, and finally gets spell resistance of the paladin's level +5. The spell resistance is, honestly, a little bit shit - even without feats, a wizard of equal level will still successfully affect the mount 80% of the time.

If a Paladin is midway between a Cleric and a Fighter, then a Ranger is midway between a Druid and a Fighter. The Ranger has full BAB and a good fortitude save, track as a bonus feat and favoured enemies, which grant the Ranger a bonus to certain skill checks used against them and to weapon damage against them. The Ranger does not receive proficiency with heavy armour; just light and medium. When wearing light or no armour, they are treated as though they have both the Ambidexterity and the Two Weapon Fighting feats, which allow them much lower penalties when fighting with a weapon in each hand. Their spells are primarily utility, with a little bit of buffing. Honestly, even with their spells, the Ranger is mostly just a shit Fighter. They can do stealth reasonably well and they have some utility magic, but they often have a pretty low armour class, and there is very little they can do that either the Druid or Rogue doesn't do better.

The Rogue is exactly what it has always been in D&D - this is the slightly dodgy skill monkey, able to scout, find and disarm traps, open locked doors and a bunch of other things. Not to mention stabbing things in the squishy bits (aka sneak attack damage). They get evasion and uncanny dodge, and are able to flank people at least four levels lower than themselves who would otherwise not be able to be flanked due to uncanny dodge. In addition, they get four special ability from among improved evasion, opportunist (allows them to make an attack of opportunity against someone who has just been hit), defensive roll (reflex save for half damage against weapon damage, once per day when it would reduce them to 0hp), crippling strike (deal a point of strength damage in addition to sneak attack damage), skill mastery (may take 10 even in situations where taking 10 would usually be disallowed with a small number of skills - I'll explain taking 10 when I get to skills), slippery mind (second chance on will saves against mind affecting spells or effects), or a bonus feat.

The Rogue has a three quarter BAB and a good reflex save, as well as a d6 hit die. They are not very durable, nor are they as good at fighting as a fighter of equal level, having access to only light armour, light crossbow, hand crossbow, dagger, dart, light mace, sap, shortbow and short sword (medium sized Rogues also get club, heavy crossbow, heavy mace, morning star, quarterstaff and rapier, but small sized Rogues don't), but they are dangerous combatants who shouldn't be underestimated and their wide selection of class skills allows them to be helpful an a wide number of situations. If I started out as a Fighter in a game of 3e and it was core only, I would be very tempted to swap over to Rogue after six levels of Fighter - the much wider selection of skills, the wider variety of class features and the addition of sneak attack would mix pretty well with the four extra feats gained by level 6, the wider selection of weapons and armour, and the higher BAB.

The Sorcerer and the Wizard are very similar; they are both dedicated spell casters. Simply put, the Sorcerer gains magic from innate talent, while the Wizard gains magic from study. The Sorcerer chooses new spells at level up, and is only ever able to cast those spells, while the Wizard can learn new spells from scrolls and other spell books in addition to levelling up - as such, the Sorcerer usually knows fewer spells than the Wizard, since the Wizard can theoretically know every Wizard spell in the game, but the Wizard must prepare each casting of a spell in advance - if magic missile is only prepared once, it may only be cast once. They also learn spells from the same list, but the Sorcerer gains access to new spell levels one level later than the Wizard. They are both able to summon a familiar from first level, they both have the one half BAB, and they both have a good Will save. The Sorcerer can cast more spells per day, but knows fewer overall.

The Wizard, on the other hand, gets Scribe Scrolls as a bonus feat, allowing them to create scrolls of spells to be cast later. In addition, they get a bonus feat every fifth level to use on metamagic and item creation (these will be explained when I get to feats). Familiars are much like the Paladin's mount; they are magical beings rather than regular animals, and as such are smarter, tougher, and able to deliver touch spells on your behalf. They also sometimes give their master a bonus to a skill - cats, for example, give a bonus to move silently. Wizards get access to one feat that Sorcerers don't - Spell Mastery. This allows a Wizard to prepare a small number of spells from memory, rather than needing access to their spell book to prepare them.

The final thing that Wizards can do but Sorcerers can't is specialise in a type of magic. Specialist Wizards are named after the school of magic they specialise in; Aburation specialists are Abjurers, Divination specialists are Diviners and so on through Evocation, Conjuration, Enchantment, Illusion, Necromancy and Transmutation. Specialising grants a Wizard an additional spell per day of each level they can cast, but it must be used for their specialist school. In addition, they must choose at least one school (depending on which school they're specialising in) that they cannot ever cast magic from. The Illusionist, for example, may decide to either lose both Divination and Necromancy, or else any one of the others.

How much more or less powerful the Wizard is than the Sorcerer depends very much on the DM. If the DM doesn't provide opportunities for creating magical items and the Wizard never finds any scrolls or spell books, then the Sorcerer will be more powerful; if the DM allows a Wizard to find literally all of the spells and to have all the time they need to craft all the magical items they could possibly want, then the Wizard is basically unbeatable if given sufficient time to prepare. If a balance is struck in between, then the Sorcerer will generally have more raw power, while the Wizard will have far more flexibility by virtue of being able to swap out spells every day in order to suit the situation.

Multiclassing is explained next. It's really quite simple: when you gain a level, instead of increasing the level of your current class, you add a new class at level 1. From then on, when you level up, you may increase either class. If any two classes are more than one level apart, the PC takes a penalty to gained experience of 20% XP per class not within one level of their highest level class. The exception to this is the favoured class: this class is not counted for the purposes of XP penalties. As such, an Elf Fighter 6 Rogue 1 will receive a 20% penalty to XP until Rogue is at level 5 (assuming no Fighter level ups), but a human with the same levels will not (since their highest level class is treated as their favoured class for this purpose). All things considered, this is a bit of a pain in the arse to deal with, but it is pretty much the only thing deterring players from creating five class min-maxed monstrosities other than a sense of decency.

When you add a new class, you do not get the 4 * skill ranks that you do at first level, nor do you get maximum hit points from the hit die, starting gold or equipment (or an animal companion, if you're a druid). You get everything else you would get as a first level character of that class - base save bonuses and base attack bonus are simply added together. As such, a Fighter 6/Rogue 14 would have a BAB of +16 (giving all four iterative attacks), a Fortitude Save of +9, a Reflex Save of +11 and a Will Save of +6, would have 10+5d10+14d6 hit points (not including constitution), and would in all other respects be both a sixth level Fighter and a 14th level Rogue.

And so a second part is ended. The next part will focus on skills; and with the number of skills that 3e offers, this will probably only focus on skills, lest it end up far too long and boring.


posted by hectorgrey Original SA post

D&D 3rd Edition - The Core Books

Part 3: Skills

So now we get to the fun bit; skills. It is interesting to note that Monte Cooke worked on RoleMaster prior to joining Wizards of the Coast; I suspect some of the inspiration for how 3e skills work probably came from there. Simply put, each level, you receive a number of skill points; multiplied by 4 at first level. Some classes get more skill points than others, and some classes get more class skills than others. Ultimately, this means that some classes have more out of combat utility than others.

Some skills are only available to members of specific classes - this was removed from 3.5, making the skill either simply not a class skill (aka a cross class skill), or removing it from the skill list and making it a function of class level for those classes that received it. For example, only Bards and Rogues could learn Decypher Script (the ability to work out roughly what unfamiliar text says).

To increase a skill, you buy ranks in the skill with skill points. A skill check is simply a d20 + ranks + ability modifier + other bonuses - any penalties; where contrary to popular belief a natural 20 can fail if the skill is low enough and a natural 1 can succeed if the skill is high enough. If the result is equal to or higher than the Difficulty Class (DC), it's a success. This is part of the reason I feel like players should only roll dice if the GM asks them to - if their skill is too low, the GM can just straight up tell them they can't do it, and if their skill is high enough the GM can just tell them it works. Some skills can be used entirely untrained, but a few require at least one whole rank. To buy a rank in a class skill costs a single skill points, and to buy a rank in a cross class skill costs two. At first level, you can spend up to four skill points on any given skill, and as your level increases, you can have spend up to your level +3 skill points total on a given skill. You can purchase half ranks, but your number of ranks is rounded down.

Now, if a skill check is such that there are absolutely no consequences to keeping trying until you succeed (opening most locks, for example, or searching a room for a secret door), then instead of rolling repeatedly until you succeed, you have the option of taking 20 times as long and assuming that you rolled a natural 20 - at that point, if you had any chance at all of performing the task, it succeeds. This is called Taking 20. There is also the option to Take 10 - if there are no distractions (such as immediate danger from other sources, or combat), then for most skills you can simply assume that you rolled a 10 if that would be sufficient for success. This is the other reason I feel like players should only roll dice if the GM asks them to - in most cases, the players should be Taking 10 or 20 on their skill checks, simply because if doing that would be sufficient to get the job done, then it wasn't an interesting enough challenge to be worth the time rolling.

Some of my descriptions will refer to standard, move and full round actions; these will be explained when I get to combat, but in general, in a single six second combat round, you can do a move action and a standard action, two move actions, or a single full round action. Finally, we have the option to Aid Another - this is a flat DC 10 to grant someone a +2 to their check, meaning that a character can practically always Take 10 to do so. This is useful in helping elderly wizards to climb walls and suchlike.

As for the skills, I'm not going to present them in the order listed in the book (which is alphabetical); instead, I'm going to present them by related groupings so as to better illustrate how they work. To begin with, I'm going to start with the athletics and acrobatics types of skills; Climb, Jump, Swim, Balance and Tumble, as well as one related skill; Use Rope (yes, that's a skill in 3.X; they removed it from Pathfinder, assuming that all adventurers should know it anyway and it shouldn't need rolling for). All of these skills can be used untrained, and all but swim take the armour check penalty if your armour has one.

Use Rope basically governs your ability to do exactly that; to tie knots, to bind prisoners and generally use rope for stuff. Honestly, I can see why this skill was removed. It can be used untrained, and it is DC 10 to tie a knot, so outside of combat, anybody with a Dexterity 10 or higher can tie a secure knot in a couple of seconds. A special knot (such as a slip knot, or one that remains secure until given a sharp tug or the like) is DC 15 - a Dexterity 12 and 4 ranks are enough to allow you to Take 10 on this. Likewise, splicing two ropes together and tieing a rope around yourself with one hand are DC 15 tasks. Use Rope is a class skill for Rangers and Rogues only; everybody else has it as a cross class skill. If you have five or more ranks in Use Rope, you get a +2 synergy bonus to Climb and Escape Artist checks involving rope. Synergy bonuses are essentially where one kind of training aids you in another task; another example is that certain knowledge skills grant synergy bonuses to related practical skills.

Speaking of climbing, the Climb skill governs exactly that. Climbing has a mix of low and high DCs - scrambling up a hill that's just a little too steep to walk up, or using a knotted rope to climb a wall are DC 0 tasks; unless something is making them more difficult, literally anybody can do them out of combat, and anybody with an 8 or higher in Strength can do them in combat without needing to roll. Climbing a knotted rope by itself, or using a rope to clime a wall, are DC 5 tasks; Literally anybody can do these out of combat (since untrained and a Strength of 1 gives you a -5, and Taking 10 then gives you a total of 5), but during combat there's the potential for failure (and thus falling). Climbing a very rough wall or the ships rigging is DC 10, meaning that most people can do this out of combat, but those of below average strength will struggle without help. Climbing a surface that has hand and foot holds is a DC 15 (if you've ever seen a climbing wall, this DC roughly represents the beginners wall) - this is the point where regularly pulling this off is going to take training and fitness. Climbing a rope by itself is equally difficult, as is climbing an average tree. That said, all of these tasks are doable by a level 1 character with Climb as a class skill and a Strength 12 or higher.

At DC 20, we have climbing an uneven surface, such as a typical ruined wall or dungeon wall. Without spending a feat on Skill Focus (which is a +3 to the skill) and a Strength 16 or better, you're not going to pull this off regularly at first level. Finally, at DC 25, we have the difficulty of climbing a cliff with no easy hand holds, an average brick wall, or an overhang. Even with high Strength and Skill Focus, you're not going to pull this off regularly until you reach around level 5-6. At least, not usually. There are a few situations which can modify the DCs of these checks. Firstly, a Climbers Kit (which costs 80 GP - not cheap) will give you a +2 to climb checks. Secondly, if you have a solid surface roughly at right angles to the wall you're climbing to brace on, that reduces the DC by 5; if you have a solid surface roughly parallel to the one you're climbing, that reduces the DC by 10. As a DM, it's worth bearing these things in mind - if a good way to get past an obstacle is to climb, it might be worth designing rooms such that they look too difficult to climb at first, but there are ways of making the climb easier. Climb is a class skill for Barbarians, Bards, Fighters, Monks, Rangers and Rogues - as such, this might be a decent place to give the Fighter a little bit of out of combat utility at low levels - while the Fighter might have to do a difficult climb, they can then lower a rope for everyone else, making their climb much easier.

Jump is likewise self explanatory. There is a minimum distance that you make with a jump, regardless of how you roll on the check - anyone can jump five feet with a run up, or three feet without, for example; likewise, anyone can jump two feet up. After that, distance is based on how much higher than 10 you roll - for a running long jump, you get one foot per 1 over 10 on the check; for a standing long jump, it's per 2 over 10, for a running high jump it's per 4 over 10 and for a standing high jump it's per 8 over 10. This is limited based on your height - the furthest you can jump with a running long jump is your height * 6. Assuming you are roughly six feet tall, that gives you 36 feet with a DC 41.

For reference, that's roughly 7 feet further than the current world record for the long jump; the roughly 29 feet that is the world record is DC 34 - an athlete with Strength 18, 8 ranks and Skill Focus (Jump) still requires a 19 to pull it off - which makes sense, given that it's the best a real life human being has ever done. It can be done at level 5. By level 15, a character who started with a 15 in Strength can regularly break the real life world record for the long jump; I do not believe this is accidental. A running high jump has a maximum value of your height and a half - someone of six feet tall can reach 9 feet, which is roughly one foot higher than the real life world record. This is a DC 38 check, compared to the DC 34 to make the current world record. Again, this means that someone who focuses in jumping can, by mid teens in levels, trivialise real world records, and I do not believe this is an accident. I'm not sure if records are kept for standing long jump or high jump, but I suspect that I would get similar results.

There are a couple of spells that make you even better at this - the Jump spell gives you a +30 bonus and removes distance limits, while Expeditious Retreat simply doubles the limits. The Run feat increases your distance by a quarter, but not beyond the limits, on a running jump, and five or more ranks in this skill give you a +2 bonus to Tumble. Jump is a class skill for Barbarians, Bards, Fighters, Monks, Rangers and Rogues.

Swim is also fairly self explanatory; swimming in calm water is DC 10 - if you are reasonably fit and have had a lesson ever, you can swim in calm water. Rough water is DC 15 - you need to be a pretty strong swimmer (4 ranks; Strength 12) to do this without any distractions, and stormy water is DC 20 - this is a serious challenge that even strong swimmers will struggle with. A successful roll allows you to move a quarter of your speed as a move action, or half your speed as a full round action. If you fail, you simply don't make any progress. If you fail by 5 or more, you slip underwater and start drowning. Remember how I said Swim doesn't take an armour check penalty? That's because Swim takes a penalty equal to a fifth of all the stuff you're carrying with you in pounds. If you're wearing full plate, that's a -10 penalty. DO NOT SWIM IN FUCKING PLATE! Unless of course you're level 15 or some shit, and once again can do things that real life humans can't. If you're underwater, you take a cumulative -1 penalty per round spent underwater - whether it's because you're drowning or because you're swimming underwater deliberately. The Dungeon Masters Guide (DMG) covers drowning. Swim is a class skill for Barbarians, Bards, Druids, Fighters, Monks, Rangers and Rogues.

Balance is once again, fairly obvious. A successful check allows you to move half your movement as a move action; a failed check means no more movement that round, and a failure by 5 or more means you fall. Movement on a solid surface wider than a foot does not requires a check. A solid surface 7-12 inches wide requires a DC 10 check; 2-6 inches DC 15; and fewer than 2 inches DC 20. Likewise, movement on an uneven floor is a DC 10 check. If the surface is slippery or at an angle, add +5 to the DC; if both, +10. If you get attacked while you're on a narrow surface, you're considered off balance, losing your Dexterity bonus to AC and giving a +2 to hit to whoever is attacking you. If you take damage, you must roll balance to avoid falling. If you have five or more ranks in balance, you maintain your Dexterity bonus to AC. You can take a -5 penalty to move your full speed. Five ranks or more in Tumble give a +2 bonus, meaning that a level 3 PC with 15 Dexterity, along with six ranks each in Tumble and Balance, could walk the tightrope on a regular basis.

Tumble is basically your ability to do flips, rolls and other acrobatic stunts not covered by Jump. In practical terms, tumble is generally used for three things: reducing falling damage, getting past enemies without provoking attacks of opportunity, and impressing a crowd. Doing it as a performance uses the DCs for the perform skill, which I will discuss later. To reduce falling damage, you make a DC 15 Tumble check, and if this is successful, you reduce the distance fallen by 10 feet. Also, with a DC 15 Tumble check, you may move 20 feet as part of normal movement without provoking any attacks of opportunity. As a DC 25 check, you can even move through the five foot square in which an enemy is standing without provoking. This can be done once per round. On a fail, you still get your movement (including through enemy squares) but you provoke attacks of opportunity as normal.

If you envision your character as a Traceur, pulling off stunts like this, then invest in Balance, Tumbling, Climb and Jump. By around level 5, you can be about as good as David Belle is in real life, and by level 10 you'll be about as good as the character he portrays here. Tumble is a class skill for Bards, Monks and Rogues. Five ranks in Tumble improve your ability to fight defensively; this will be explained when I get to combat.

The next group of skills I will look at are the skills for dealing with other people; Bluff, Diplomacy, Gather Information, Intimidate, Sense Motive, Innuendo, Disguise, Speak Language and Read Lips.

Bluff is the art of lying convincingly, and is rolled as an opposed roll vs your target's Sense Motive. The nature of the lie may give your target a bonus or a penalty - assuming that the your target rolls a 10, has no ranks in Sense Motive and a Wisdom of 10, a lie where the target wants to believe you will be successful on a 5 or better; one that's believable and doesn't affect the target too much will be successful on a 10; one that's hard to believe, or puts the target at risk, will be successful on a 15; one that's really hard to believe or entails a large risk will be successful on a 20; and one that's almost too incredible to even consider will be successful on a 30. If you fail by 10 or less, the target doesn't go along with what you're trying to get them to do; if you fail by 11 of more, the target sees through your lie. That said, Bluff is not mind control; if you convince them the sky is green, then they walk out and see a blue sky, they'll feel bloody foolish for being tricked, rather than thinking that they're hallucinating...

You can also use the Bluff skill to feint in combat; as a standard action, you make a Bluff check vs your opponent's Sense Motive; on a success, your target doesn't get their dexterity bonus against your next attack, provided it is made the following round. This use is OK for Fighters, if their target is really nimble, and hard enough to hit that the lack of dexterity bonus to AC is worth sacrificing an attack this turn for, but where it really shines is in the hands of a Rogue, where it often allows Sneak Attack damage to be pulled off in situations where such would otherwise be really difficult. Bluff can also be used to create a diversion to allow yourself to slip into a hiding place. It is a class skill for Bards and Rogues, and five or more ranks provide a +2 bonus to Innuendo for sending messages, Diplomacy, Intimidate, Pick Pockets and Disguise checks made to stay in character.

Diplomacy is used to make people like you more, to be more convincing than a second person, or to negotiate a deal. In the latter two situations, you roll opposed Diplomacy checks to see who gets the better deal and/or who is more convincing. For the first, you roll vs a set DC based on whether or not the person likes you already. If you fail, you're unlikely to make them like you less, while if you succeed, they might be more willing to help you, depending what you ask them for. Diplomacy is not mind control; no matter how high your Diplomacy roll, you're not going to get someone to give you command over their armies unless they honestly believe you are up to the task. They like you more, and they might be willing to take serious risks on your behalf, but that doesn't mean they're necessarily going to do exactly what you ask. Diplomacy is a class skill for Bards, Clerics, Druids, Monks, Paladins and Rogues.

Gather Information is used to go out for a few hours and find information on a subject. For more generalised information, it's a DC 10 check; for something more specific, it could be anywhere from 15 to 25, or even higher. Retrying is possible, but may draw attention. This skill is a class skill for Bards and Rogues.

Intimidate is the art of being a scary motherfucker. If you get a result of better than 10 + their hit dice, they're scared of you. Congrats. How useful this is to you depends on how you use it; much like the other two, it is still not mind control. It is a class skill for Barbarians and Rogues. If you're familiar with 3.5/Pathfinder then no, I did not forget to add Fighter to that list.

Sense Motive has three roles; firstly, it is used to oppose Bluff rolls, as described under Bluff. Secondly, it is used to get a feel for the social situation you're currently in: is the person you're talking to trustworthy, what's the mood of the room, etc. It's just a hunch, so you don't get details; you just get a bad feeling. This is a DC 20 check, meaning that you have to be pretty skilled (level 3, with skill focus, six ranks and 12 Wisdom) to pull this off reliably. The third use is to tell if somebody is under the influence of an enchantment. This is a DC 25 check. Five or more ranks in Sense Motive give you a +2 to Diplomacy; this stacks with the +2 from Bluff, if relevant. It also gives a +2 bonus to Innuendo checks to intercept a secret message. Sense Motive is a class skill for Bards and Rogues.

Innuendo is the art of using double entendre for sending and intercepting secret messages. It is DC 10 for a simple message, DC 15 for a more complex message, and DC 20 for a really complex message, or one with new information. The same DC is used to intercept the message, with the check receiving penalties for each relevant piece of information unknown to the person doing the intercept. This skill is a class skill for Rogues.

Disguise is the art of pretending to be someone else - both making yourself look like them, and acting in character. This is rolled as an opposed roll vs another person's Spot skill. The more different from you your disguise is, the more penalties you take (a -2 penalty per different age category, for different gender, different race or different class, but a +5 if you only change minor details). If you are disguised as a specific individual, then people who know that person will get bonuses to their Spot roll - people who know them by sight will get a +4, people who know them reasonably well get a +6, close friends get a +8 and people who know them intimately get a +10. Spells like Alter Self and Polymorph give a +10. This is a class skill for Bards and Rogues.

Speak Language isn't really a skill; instead, you may spend skill points to speak a new language - two if it is cross class, or one if it is a class skill. If you are literate, then you are literate in all the languages you speak. Speak Language is a class skill for Bards only.

Finally, Read Lips is pretty self explanatory, and is a skill that is only available to Rogues - it is trained only, which means that a whole rank is required in the skill (half a rank isn't enough), and only Rogues are allowed to buy ranks in it. It is usually a DC 15 check; if you fail by 5 or more, you draw an incorrect conclusion about what you saw being said.

Next, we have the related skills for being stealthy and finding or noticing things - Spot, Listen, Search, Hide and Move Silently.

Hide and Move Silently do not have specific DCs; they are always opposed checks vs someone's Spot or Listen, respectively. You receive a -5 penalty for moving any faster than half movement speed (a slow, careful walk), or a -20 for running, and they are both take penalties from heavy armour. Both of these skills are class skills for Bards, Monks, Rangers and Rogues.

Spot is primarily used as an opposed roll to notice something or someone trying to remain hidden. You take a -5 penalty if you're distracted, and a -1 penalty for every ten feet away the hidden thing is. Spot is a class skill for Rangers and Rogues.

Listen, meanwhile, is used when you're uncertain whether a thing might be heard - this applies both to someone attempting to move quietly and to the sounds of a fight in the next room, through a closed door and 30 feet or through a stone wall, whichever gives the smaller penalty. Listen carries the same distance penalty as Spot, as well as a -5 to hear something through a closed door or -15 through a stone wall. Listen is a class skill for Barbarians, Bards, Monks, Rangers and Rogues.

It is worth pointing out at this point that the majority of human guards will probably only have a Wisdom of 10, and will only have at most two ranks in Spot or Listen. This means that even untrained, a careful character can still avoid notice by closing doors behind them, keeping a decent distance from anyone they want to sneak past, and sticking to darker areas that give spot penalties. Just don't try it in full plate.

Search, meanwhile, is what you roll to find a thing when you're searching a place. Finding one specific item in a single chest, for example, is DC 10. The average person can just do it. Finding a simple trap or a secret door is DC 20; the average person can generally do it given enough time. Finding more complex or magical traps is something only a Rogue can do (with a couple of exceptions). A well hidden secret door might be DC 30 to find. Dwarves are able to find complex traps made out of (or built into) stonework, regardless of whether or not they're Rogues, and a Cleric can cast Find Traps in order to be able to find complex traps - but they must still succeed on the search roll. Search is a class skill for Rangers and Rogues.

Now, we have the skills for Nature, Animals and the Wilderness. These are Animal Empathy, Handle Animal, Ride, Intuit Direction and Wilderness Lore.

Handle Animal is a trained only (with a couple of exceptions) skill that deals with the care and the taming of animals. Handling a domesticated animal is a DC 10 check, and is the first of the two exceptions. This involves the care of domesticated animals, as well as getting them to perform usual tasks (such as getting an ox to pull a plow or the like). Pushing a domesticated animal to do what you want is a DC 15 check, and is the second of the two exceptions. This involves getting more out of an animal than you usually would, such as getting the horses to go faster if you're in a carriage and you're being chased. Teaching an animal to perform tasks is DC 15, or DC 20 if they're unusual (such as teaching a horse to come when you whistle). You can also rear wild animals and magical beasts from a young age to make them effectively domesticated, and you can train a wild animal or beast to perform a task, but it'll only do so for you. Handle Animal is a class skill for Barbarians, Druids, Fighters, Paladins and Rangers. If you have five or more ranks in Handle Animal, you get a +2 bonus to Ride.

Animal Empathy is basically Diplomacy, but for dealing with animals and magical beasts (though you take a -4 penalty for the latter). It is a class skill for Druids and Rangers, it can only be used trained, and only Druids and Rangers may train it. Five or more ranks in this skill give you a +2 bonus to Handle Animal

Ride is, simply put, the skill of staying on the back of a mount. Most general riding tasks do not require checks; staying in the saddle is a DC 5 check, as is guiding a horse with your knees. It is a DC 15 to use the horse you're riding as half cover (this adds to your AC, but if you're missed by less than that bonus, the attack hits your horse instead) or to land safely after falling off a horse. Getting your horse to leap is also a DC 15 check. Controlling an untrained mount (i.e. a horse that hasn't been trained to remain calm in battle) in battle is a DC 20 check, as it rapid mounting or dismounting of a horse. If you're riding bareback, then you take a -5 penalty to ride checks. This skill is a prerequisite for a few mounted combat feats, and it is a class skill for Barbarians, Fighters, Paladins and Rangers.

Wilderness Lore requires very few ranks for most tasks; hunting and foraging sufficient food and water for yourself is a DC 10 check, and you can support an additional person for every 2 you beat this by. This lowers your overland speed by half. For DC 15, you can give yourself a +2 to fortitude saves vs bad weather if you move slowly (or +4 if you remain in the same area), and can provide that bonus for one other person per 1 that you beat the DC by. Finally, you can avoid getting lost or falling into natural hazards; likewise at a DC 15. Finally, this skill is used for tracking, but this use of the skill requires the tracking feat. Wilderness Lore is a class skill for Barbarians, Druids and Rangers. Five or more ranks in this skill give a +2 to Intuit Direction.

Intuit Direction is the art of being able to work out where north is on an almost instinctive level, and as such is Trained Only. It is a DC 15 check; if you succeed, then you know which way north is; if you fail, you don't. On a natural 1 (I believe this is the only skill where this is the case) you believe a different direction is north. This check is rolled in secret, and is only rolled once per day. Intuit Direction is a class skill for Barbarians, Bards, Druids, Rangers and Rogues.

Next up, we have the skillset that the Rogue is best known for - these skills are Disable Device, Escape Artist, Forgery, Open Lock and Pick Pocket.

Disable Device is how you disarm traps and do general sabotage, and it is a Trained Only skill. Something simple like jamming a lock is DC 10, sabotaging a wagon wheel is DC 15, disarming a simple trap is DC 20, and dissarming a complex trap is DC 25. Doing these things so that nobody can tell they have been done by looking increases the DC by 5. If you fail by 5 or more, something goes wrong; in the case of sabotage, you might think that the sabotage worked when it didn't, or in the case of disarming a trap, the trap goes off in your face. Rogues (and only Rogues) can use this skill to disarm magical traps. If the Rogue beats the DC by 10 or more, they can choose to leave the trap entirely intact, and simply tell the rest of the party how to get around it without setting it off. Disable Device is a class skill for Rogues only.

Escape Artist has a couple of uses - escaping bonds, and wriggling out of being grappled. This skill slipping out of rope binding (this is opposed by the Use Rope check of the person who tied you up), slipping out of manacles (DC 30), contorting your way through spaces so tight that you really shouldn't be able to fit (DC 30) and escaping a grapple (opposed by the grappler's grapple check - this will be explained when I get to combat). Escape Artist is a class skill for Bards, Monks and Rogues.

Forgery is fairly self explanatory, and is opposed by the spot check of anyone who looks at the forgery in question. The reader gets a bonus or a penalty based on how well they know the type of document, how well they know the hadnwriting of the person whose handwring has been forged, and whether they take more than a cursory glance at the forgery. You must be able to read and write the language that the forgery is in, for obvious reasons, and as such Barbarians can only learn this skill once they have learned to read and write. Forgery is a class skill for Rogues only.

Open Lock is also fairly self explanatory, and is Trained Only. There are set DCs for the kinds of locks you can pick; DC 20 for a very simple lock, DC 25 for an average lock, DC 30 for a good lock and DC 40 for one of the best non-magical locks in the world. These DCs make more sense than one might think: an Open Lock check takes roughly six seconds, and there are no penalties for failure, so anybody with a Dexterity of at least 8 and at least one rank in Open Lock can open a very simple lock in about two minutes. With a Dexterity 12 and 4 ranks, that makes a 25 entirely doable, and the best non-magical locks in the world can be done at level 5 with 8 ranks, Skill Focus (Open Lock), masterwork tools for an additional +2, a 16 in Dexterity and two assistants. A level 15 Rogue with 18 Dexterity, 18 ranks and Skill Focus (Open Lock) could open that lock solo in a couple of minutes with improvised tools (-2 penalty), and at level 20 with a 20 Dexterity could do it in an average of 12 seconds (+29 to the roll, so 11+ on the d20; just barely too high to Take 10) in the same situation, or do it in 6 with regular tools. Open Lock is a class skill for Rogues only.

Pick Pocket is, to be a little repetitive, a little self explanatory, and is also Trained Only. This check has both a fixed DC and is opposed by the target's spot check - if you beat the DC, you succeed; if not, you fail. If you beat the spot check, then you don't get caught; otherwise, you do. Basic sleight of hand, like making a coin disappear or palming something of similar size, is a DC 10 check; lifting a small object from a person is DC 20 - if you put ranks into bluff as well, then at level 2 you can Take 10 on this. Additional attempts are harder; a +10 is added to the DC. This skill is a class skill for Bards and Rogues.

The end is finally in sight; we just have two groups left to get through. The first, is Knowledge and Magic - We have the separate Knowledge skills, Decypher Script, Spellcraft, Scry and Use Magic Device

The Knowledge skills are separate skills for each field of knowledge, but they all work the same. Really easy questions are a DC 10 - practically everybody knows the answer to these. At DC 15, we have basic questions that a person may or may not know the answer to, and 20 to 30 is the DC for the really hard stuff. Someone who is untrained a given Knowledge skill may only attempt this for common knowledge; i.e. a DC 10 check. Knowledge Arcana is a class skill for Bards, Clerics, Monks, Sorcerers and Wizards; Knowledge Religion for Bards, Clerics, Paladins and Wizards; Knowledge Nature for Bards, Druids, Rangers and Wizards, and any other Knowledge skill for Bards and Wizards.

Decypher Script is a Trained Only skill, available only to Bards and Rogues. This skill is used for working out what writing means when it is written in an unfamiliar language. This skill is rolled secretly, and there is a Wisdom check of DC 5 on a failed roll to ensure that you don't draw any false conclusions. The simplest messages are DC 20. Longer texts may be DC 25, and ancient texts could be DC 30 or even higher. Note that you can't take 20 on this, since this skill cannot be retried.

Spellcraft is used for identifying magic; either as it is being cast or where it is already in place. It is also used for learning spells from a scroll or another spellbook - on a failure, this cannot be retried until a new rank in Spellcraft is gained. Learning a spell from a scroll or spellbook is DC 15 + spell level, as is identifying magic as it is being cast. Identifying magic already in place is Dc 20 + spell level. Finally, it can be used for some miscellaneous magical tasks, such as drawing runes, identifying glyphs or symbols, or understanding weird magical effects. Spellcraft is a class skill for Bards, Clerics, Druids, Sorcerers and Wizards.

Scry is used for remote viewing of places and people, or for telling whether or not this is being done to you. As such, only Bards, Clerics, Druids, Sorcerers and Wizards may train this skill, but anybody can use it untrained.

Finally, Use Magic Device is a Trained Only skill, available only to the Bard and the Rogue, which allows a character to essentially fool a magical item into working for them when it shouldn't. This includes pretending to be a different race, class or alignment, to have different ability scores - or it can also be used to activate a magical item without having any idea how it's supposed to be used. This is rather risky, since you cannot Take 10 or 20 on these checks, and a failure to activate a magical item blindly by 10 or more results in a mishap.

And, last but by no means least, we have the miscellaneous skills; Craft, Perform, Profession and Alchemy - I include Alchemy here, because Alchemy is essentially a Craft skill, but for Alchemical stuff. As such, in 3.5 it was merged into that skill.

Profession is a Trained Only skill, and over the course of a week, you earn half your check result in gold pieces. This is a class skill for everyone. It is mentioned here that the average wage of an untrained labourer is one silver piece per day - most such people have probably never seen a gold piece in person.

Perform allows you to make money using your skill at performing. A DC 10 check will get you a few coppers per day, DC 15 will get you a few silvers per day, DC 20 will get you 3d10 silvers per day, DC 25 gets you a few gold per day, and DC 30 nets you 3d6 gold per day. This skill is also the prerequisite for a number of Bardic musical abilities. Perform is a class skill for Bards, Monks and Rogues.

Craft and Alchemy, as mentioned, work essentially the same way. Basically, each kind of thing you intend to make has a set DC, and you make a craft check in order to make the thing. First, you work out the price of what you want to make in silver pieces. Then, you make the check. On a successful check, multiply the check result by the DC - that's how many silver pieces of progress you've made that week. Once you've got to the full price, the thing has been made. It's worth noting here, that a battleaxe costs 10 gold pieces, or a hundred silver pieces. A battleaxe is DC 15. A blacksmith with 4 ranks in Craft Weapons, Skill Focus (Craft Weapons) and an Intelligence of 12 can Take 10 to get an 18 - multiplying the two together, we get 270; enough to finish the axe in half a week. Making a masterwork weapon is DC 20, done separately from the DC 15 check for the axe - a Dwarf with the same stats could make such a thing because of their racial bonus. Because a masterwork battleaxe would cost 310 gold, or 3100 silver, creating such a weapon would take roughly eight weeks (a handful of days from 20*15 for the basic axehead, followed by 20*20 for making it the best it can possibly be).

Two months might seem like a really long time to make a nice axe, but it's worth remembering that this was pre-mass production, and that making this kind of weapon, the kind of weapon that costs more money than than the average level 1 PC has ever seen in their entirely life up to that point, actually does take quite a long time in real life. Your average blacksmith will not have these for sale. These cost a hundred gold pieces to make, so they would only make them to order. Making such a weapon would cost a little over a hundred gold pieces for the materials, and the blacksmith would want paying in advance for those. A masterwork weapon, incidentally, is the kind of quality of weapon required to create a magical weapon. By itself, it gives a +1 bonus to hit. Craft is a class skill for all the classes.

Alchemy has one additional ability: the ability to identify substances, potions and poisons. This has a DC of 20-25, and for the first two requires a gold piece worth of materials per attempt (or 20 gold pieces to Take 20). Identifying poisons, on the other hand, requires the use of a spell called Detect Poison. Alchemy is a class skill for Bards, Sorcerers and Wizards.

Well, that was longer than expected. A lot of this stuff, I didn't quite realise when I was younger. I honestly thought that a good blacksmith absolutely had to be level 5 at minimum, and that the Fighter could never even be competent at sneaking around. A lot of my original dislike for 3e came from those misconceptions. That said, it's probably for the best - that dislike led me to playing other games, and since then I have come back with fresh eyes. Next time, I'll be looking at feats. It'll probably be a very short post - which really sucks for Fighters, given that that's their special ability...

Edit: Shit, I forgot about Appraise. Well, that's what happens when you try to do a detailed look at a skill list this long. It is far too fucking long. There are some very good reasons for some of the changes 3.5 made from 3.0.

So yeah, Appraise tells you how much something is roughly worth. If you're trained, then you get an exact number on a success, and a rough estimate (2d6*10+30, for a number between 50% and 150% of the price. If you are untrained, you get the rough estimate on a success, and nothing if you fail.

Edit 2: I also managed to forget Concentration. Sometimes, concentrating on casting a spell during combat can be difficult. You roll this skill to see if you get to cast this spell. Do you cast spells? Get this high enough that you literally cannot fail it if at all possible.


posted by hectorgrey Original SA post

D&D 3rd Edition - The Core Books

Part 4: Feats

So, now we have the feats. I will present these feats in the order they're presented on the table (with a couple of exceptions), rather than in alphabetical order, because otherwise I'll end up talking about some feats before I talk about their prerequisites. Some of these feats are necessities for certain character concepts; others are utter garbage, and said concept would be better served by just taking a level in a different class. Some are highly circumstantial, and depend entirely on the campaign being played. Firstly, I'll go through the General Feats.

Alertness gives a +2 bonus to spot and listen checks. This isn't a bad feat, honestly; it's not great, but if you want a semi-decent chance of noticing hidden goblins before they ambush you and you're playing a class that doesn't get those skills as class skills, it's not a bad option. Just make sure you don't have something better to spend the feat on first.

Normally, if you use your off hand for anything that requires a roll (be it a weapon attack or arm wrestling), you take a -4 penalty. This feat removes the -4 penalty. If you want to specialise in two weapon fighting, then this feet is basically required; otherwise it's largely pointless. It requires a Dexterity of 15 or higher.

The Armour Proficiency (Light, Medium and Heavy) and Shield Proficiency feats are, in my humble and honest opinion, utter garbage. If you are proficient in armour, then you receive the armour check penalty on skills that always receive it (as I noted when I was discussing skills). If you are not proficient, you receive it on all skill rolls that involve moving and on attack rolls. However, if your class doesn't already give you a given type of armour, your class features and skills almost certainly work better without it anyway, making this an absolute waste of a feat. Even if you're playing a Wizard or a Sorcerer and don't want to look like one (and don't mind the possibility of spell failure, which proficiency doesn't remove anyway and increases with better armour), don't bother with these feats; leather armour will make you not look like a spell caster, and because it doesn't have an armour check penalty you gain absolutely no benefit from this feat.

Blind Fight makes you better at fighting people you can't see. Simply put, concealment gives a flat percentile chance that a given attack will miss, regardless of the roll to hit. This feat allows you to reroll the percentile roll if it turns a hit into a miss. In addition, it removes all the bonuses that enemies you can't see get to attacking you (i.e. you don't lose your dexterity bonus to AC, and they don't get a +2 to hit you), and it allows you to move at three quarters of your speed instead of only half your speed. It's not a bad feat, honestly; I would argue that pretty much anybody who doesn't have a means of seeing invisible creatures should consider taking it, since invisible foes will almost certainly show up eventually, as will poor lighting and potentially blindness. Not to mention that old trope of fighting blindfolded from martial arts movies.

Combat Casting gives you a +4 to concentration checks to cast defensively (i.e. to not provoke an attack of opportunity while casting in a threatened space). If you cast spells, take this feat - no matter how careful you are, your wizard is almost certainly going to find themselves in melee range eventually.

Combat Reflexes gives you an additional attack of opportunity each round for every +1 in your Dexterity modifier. Honestly, I probably wouldn't bother. In most games I've played, most enemies are careful to avoid attacks of opportunity in the first place. It doesn't have any prerequisites, but in order to actually do anything it does require at least a 12 in Dexterity.

Dodge requires a Dexterity of 13 or higher allows you to select a single enemy, and receive a +1 dodge bonus to AC vs their attacks. You may change which enemy you have selected as part of any action, and may do so multiple times per round. The benefit is nice to have, but I wouldn't take this feat unless I were playing a relatively high dexterity character that might attempt to go one on one against isolated targets (which is a dangerous tactic in and of itself). Because it is a dodge bonus, it does apply to touch attacks (which ignore armour since they only need to touch you), meaning that it might be useful against spell casters. For a Fighter, its main use is that it is one of the prerequisites for Whirlwind Attack.

Mobility is a feat which requires Dodge, and grants a +4 dodge bonus to AC vs attacks of opportunity provoked by movement. See Dodge for my opinions on its utility. That said, dodge bonuses are the only bonuses to AC that stack, meaning that for that kind of character, this feat would be pretty awesome.

Spring Attack requires Mobility and a BAB of +4 or better, and allows you to use your standard action to perform a melee attack in the middle of movement. In addition, this movement does not provoke an attack of opportunity. See Mobility for my opinions - in addition to helping you get by a defender in order to attack a weaker target, such as the mage, it potentially offers the ability to get a sneak attack in against the defender as you pass them.

Endurance gives you a +4 bonus to checks that involve moving long distances without rest. This feat is kind of circumstancial; either your GM makes you travel long distances without rest on a semi-regular basis, or you've wasted a feat.

Expertise is basically an improved version of Fighting Defensively - it requires an Intelligence of 13 or higher, and allows you to take a penalty to hit up to your BAB (to a maximum of 5, presumably so that it isn't better doing a total defence could theoretically be) in exchange for an equal dodge bonus to your AC. Potentially a useful feat for a combatant that finds themselves unarmoured, or against an enemy that's easy to hit but hits really hard, but its main use is for the feats that it gives access to.

Improved Disarm requires Expertise, and allows you to attempt to disarm a foe without provoking an attack of opportunity or giving them the chance to disarm you if you fail. Potentially useful against some human enemies; might be worth taking if there isn't something better.

Improved Trip also requires Expertise, and allows you to attempt to trip a foe without provoking an attack of opportunity of giving them the chance to trip you if you fail. See Improved Disarm.

Whirlwind Attack requires Spring Attack (and therefore the feats that it requires) and Expertise, meaning that the earliest a Fighter can pick this up is level 6; about the same time as they get their second attack from BAB. Whirlwind Attack allows you, as a full round action, to attack every enemy within reach once at your full attack bonus. You do not gain extra attacks from a second weapon, from cleave/great cleave or from haste. How useful this feat is depends on your campaign, honestly. If your GM likes to throw you against small numbers of tough enemies, then it's honestly not that useful. If your GM likes to throw you against large numbers of weaker foes sometimes, then the ability to potentially hit up to eight targets in a single round at level 6 is really not bad. In general, focusing down individual targets is usually a better choice than spreading out your attacks (since low hp comes with no penalties, so they're pumping out the same damage until they die), but if you're up against multiple foes that you can potentially kill in only a couple of hits, it might be worth using.

Great Fortitude, Iron Will and Lightning Reflexes each give you a +2 bonus to their respective saves. Might be worth taking on your weaker saves to make your character more survivable (very little is as frustrating to someone playing a Fighter as constantly failing saves vs fear), but only if you don't have a better option.

Improved Critical requires a +8 BAB, and is taken for individual weapons (that is, you choose which weapon it applies to when you take it, and you can take it multiple times for different weapons). Simply put, it doubles your threat range for that weapon (I'll explain this later, but basically it makes you more likely to score a crit). Unlike in 3.5, this feat explicitly stacks with Keen. Decent feat if taken with a weapon with a decent threat range; the wider the threat range, the better the feat is.

Improved Initiative gives you a +4 bonus to your initiative rolls before combat - basically, you get to go sooner. This is really good for Rogues (more chance to get a sneak attack if they go earlier) and spell casters (the earlier they can get their buffs up, the more effective they are), and is rarely a bad choice for anyone else.

Improved Unarmed Strike, simply put, makes you better at fighting unarmed. Usually, when you are fighting unarmed, you provoke attacks of opportunity from foes who have weapons; with this feat, that is no longer the case, and people who fight unarmed against you now provoke attacks of opportunity from you. Unlike in 3.5, this does not remove the penalty for trying to do lethal damage with a non-lethal weapon - since nothing in the Monk's class abilities removes that penalty either, this means that an unarmed Monk still only does nonlethal damage by default (which explains why they'd still carry a weapon, at least; something that I'd always wondered). Even so, this feat isn't a bad option for people who might end up taking part in a tavern brawl - it's also not a bad feat for games where people tend to use their fists rather than drawing weapons when disagreement comes up (like in real life). I'd especially suggest considering this feat for any game set in an Asian themed setting - most unarmed martial artists should just be Fighters who have this feat, since Monks represent a specific kind of martial artist.

Deflect Arrows requires Improved Unarmed Strike and a Dexterity of 13 or better. Quite simply, it allows you to make a Reflex save of DC 20 to deflect a ranged attack that would otherwise hit. This may be attempted once per round. How useful it is depends pretty much entirely on your Reflex save; if Reflex isn't a good save for your class, I probably wouldn't bother.

Stunning Fist also requires Improved Unarmed Strike, as well as a BAB of 8 or higher, a Dexterity of 13 or higher and a Wisdom of 13 or higher. You declare that you're using the feat before you make your attack (you can use this feat once per day per four levels, and only once per round), and if you hit, the defender must make a Fortitude save with DC equal to 10 + half your level + your wisdom modifier. If they fail, they are stunned for one round (meaning they lose their Dexterity to AC and anyone else gets +2 to hit them). How useful this feat is largely depends on the kind of game you're playing. Ultimately, if you're playing the kind of game where beating people into unconsciousness is something that happens semi-regularly, then it's probably worth considering - a Rogue in particular might get some use from this, since the second attack would happen with sneak attack. If not, then no.

Leadership allows you to attrack a cohort and followers. How it works is explained in the DMG. How useful it is largely depends on your campaign - essentially you get an extra party member who doesn't take a share of the party's XP, but instead gains XP based on how much you got and can be a maximum level of your level -2. If you can think of ways to make this useful, then it might be worth having; if not, don't bother.

Now, we have the three weapon proficiency feats: Simple Weapon Proficiency, Martial Weapon Proficiency and Exotic Weapon Proficiency. Simple Weapon Proficiency gives you profiency in all simple weapons. Only three playable classes don't start with that already (Monk, Rogue and Wizard), and only two of them (Rogue and Wizard) are liable to get any use out of being able to add things like spears and maces to the list of weapons they can use. Martial Weapon Proficiency and Exotic Weapon Profiency each give proficiency with a single weapon. These feats are, quite frankly, not worth taking. The two weapons which can be used two handed as martial weapons but one handed as exotic weapons aren't worth the feat to use one handed, and the double weapons are more easily replaced by just using a single weapon in each hand. I would not bother.

Mounted Combat depends on one thing: how likely is your campaign to involve combat out in the open? If you're spending most of your time delving dungeons or doing urban intrigue, then I wouldn't bother. If combat out on the open road is a thing that might happen, then this is a decent option. It requires at least one rank in the Ride skill, and it allows you to, once per round, replace your mount's AC with the result of your Ride check in order to potentially turn a hit into a miss. Paladins should definitely take this, since having a mount is one of their class features.

Mounted Archery requires Mounted Combat, and halves the penalties for shooting from the back of a moving mount. See Mounted Combat regarding usefulness.

Ride By Attack requires Mounted combat, and allows you to, as part of a mounted charge, continue moving after you attacked (provided the distance of the charge is less than double your mount's movement speed). See Mounted Combat regarding usefulness.

Spirited Charge requires Ride By Attack, and allows you to double your damage on a mounted charge (triple if you're using a lance). Once again, seee Mounted combat regarding usefulness.

Trample requires Mounted combat, and allows your mount to make a hoof attack when it runs through an enemy's space. I'm honestly not sure I'd ever bother with this, even if I were regularly fighting on horseback generally.

Point Blank Shot gives you a +1 to hit and damage on all ranged attacks made within 30 feet. If you regularly use ranged weapons, then you should have this feat, both for its bonus and for the feats that require it.

Far Shot requires Point Blank Shot, and increases your range increments by half (double for thrown weapons). If you throw daggers or shuriken regularly, then this is a very useful feat to have. If you fight outdoors regularly, then this might be a useful feat to have. Otherwise, I probably wouldn't bother.

Precise shot requires Point Blank Shot, and it removes the -4 penalty to hit for attempting a ranged attack against someone in melee combat. It is worth noting that it does not remove the cover provided by the person they're in melee with, if that person is between you and your target, meaning that you still risk shooting an ally in the back. This means that while it is still rather useful if you can find a good angle to shoot from, I'd wait until you have other feats first.

Rapid Shot requires Point Blank Shot, and it allows you an extra shot as part of a full round action. The extra attack is made at your highest attack bonus, but all your attacks for the round are at -2. If you use ranged attacks regularly, there is no good reason to not take this feat. With a -2 to hit, but a second attack, you're still more likely to hit at least once in most cases and if you hit twice it's more damage.

Shot On The Run Requires both Point Blank Shot and Mobility, and it allows you to shoot in the middle of your movement. Its usefulness is situational at best, but it can't hurt to have it if you don't have any other feats you want more.

Power Attack requires a Strength of at least 13, and allows you to take a penalty to hit of up to your BAB, in exchange for an equal bonus to damage. If you are wielding a two handed weapon, you double the bonus. Pretty much an essential part of any Fighter's toolkit; if stuff is easy to hit, then you might as well try and get the extra damage.

Cleave requires Power Attack, and if you hit something hard enough to make it drop (i.e. if you reduce it to less than 0 hit points) you get an immediate extra attack against any other target in reach, at the same bonuses to hit and damage as the attack you just made. This is a really useful feat at low levels, and it's still nice to have at higher levels. You can only use it once per round.

Great Cleave requires Cleave and a BAB of +4. It allows you to use Cleave multiple times per round (including if you kill something with a previous cleave). This isn't too bad if taken at 4th level, but at higher levels it just isn't worth it; you're highly unlikely to be facing enemies weak enough for you to kill multiple of them in a single round.

Improved Bull Rush requires Power Attack, and allows you to use a bull rush in combat without provoking an attack of opportunity. Since the usefulness of a bull rush is highly situational, so is this feat.

Sunder requires Power Attack, and it allows you to strike at an opponent's weapon without provoking an attack of opportunity. Unless your opponent's weapon is made of wood, this feat seems highly situational.

Quick Draw requires a BAB of +1, and allows you to draw a weapon as a free action. Remember Stunning Fist earlier? Combine that with this, and you can potentially stun a target, then draw a dagger and attack them with it for lethal sneak attack damage.

Run allows you to run at five times your movement rate instead of four, and allows you to increase the distance jumped with a running jump by a quarter (though not beyond the maximum).

Skill Focus gives you a +2 to the skill you applied it to, rather than the +3 from 3.5. That screws up the maths from my previous post a little bit, but never mind. Still, if there's a skill you want to be really good at, by all means take it. If taken with a cross class skill at first level, it basically makes you as good at it as someone with it as a class skill who didn't take the feat.

Spell Focus adds +2 to the DC of any spell you cast from the chosen school of magic. If there's a school of magic you cast a lot (or if you're a specialist wizard) then this is definitely worth having.

Spell Mastery is a situational feat at best - you have to be a Wizard in order to take it, and it allows you to take a number of spells up to your Intelligence modifier that you no longer need a spellbook to memorise. Given that the spell book is the Wizard's greatest weakness (if you've lost it, you can't prepare any more spells), taking this feat a couple of times as you gain levels is a good way to mitigate what might otherwise be a disaster.

Spell Penetration adds +2 to rolls to beat spell resistance. There's not really a good reason not to have it at higher levels, but it can wait a while.

Toughness gives you 3 hit points. You can waste multiple feats on this if you want; I wouldn't.

Track allows you to use the Wilderness Lore skill to track people or animals. Honestly, if you really want this feat, just take a one level dip into Ranger and get the free Ambidexterity and Two Weapon Fighting in light armour while you're at it.

Two Weapon Fighting, unlike in 3.5 and Pathfinder, does not come with a Dexterity prerequisite. This is because in 3.5, they merged this feat and Ambidexterity into a single feat. What this feat does is reduce the attack penalty for two weapon fighting by 2 - from -6/-10 to -4/-8 (or -2/-6 if you have a light weapon in your off hand). Because of this, going longsword and short sword is actually an option with a dexterity below 15 - you're roughly about as likely to hit with at least one of the two weapons as you would be if you only had one weapon. If you're planning on specialising in two weapon fighting, then you're obviously going to want this feat. If not, then it might be a nice optional extra if you have more feats than you know what to do with, but it isn't a priority.

Improved Two Weapon Fighting requires Two Weapon Fighting, Ambidexterity, and a BAB of +9. It gives you a second attack with your off hand at a -5 penalty relative to the first. Its utility is fairly obvious, I think.

Weapon Finesse allows you to use your Dexterity modifier instead of your Strength modifier on attack rolls for one light weapon with which you are proficient. That's right, one. If you use two different light weapons as a two weapon fighter, you need to take this feat twice. That's one change they made between 3.0 and 3.5 that I am definitely glad they made. As it is, this feat may be useful to Rogues and Bards, but not really to anyone else because anyone else is too likely to want to use more than one kind of weapon.

Weapon Focus gives you a +1 bonus to hit with a single weapons. I would only take this as a Fighter, honestly - unless I really had absolutely nothing better to spend the feat on.

Weapon Specialisation requires you to have four levels of Fighter, and gives you a +2 bonus to damage with a single weapon, which which you must also have Weapon Focus. If you have access to this feat, then you really might as well; I mean, it's the only real reason to play as a Fighter in the first place.

Extra Turning is available to Clerics and Paladins of a higher enough level to Turn Undead, and gives you an extra four uses per day.

Now that we've finished with the General Feats, it's time to move onto the Item Creation Feats. I'll go through these in order of caster level required. It is possible, incidentally, to create a magical item at a lower caster level (and thus make it less powerful) in order to reduce the cost.

Scribe Scroll requires a caster level of 1. A scroll can be made of any spell you can cast, and costs 25GP and 1XP per spell level, multiplied by effective caster level, to create. Wizards get this feat for free. The ability to have scrolls available of utility magic that you rarely use but might need access to quickly is really useful. The ability to create scrolls is the main thing that makes the Wizard as powerful as they are, because it basically allows them to spend a negligible amount of gold and XP to prepare a spell far in advance of when it will be used.

Brew Potion requires a caster level of 3. A potion can be made of any spell of third level or lower that targets one or more creatures (note that fireball targets an area, not individual creatures, thus you cannot make a potion of fireball). It costs 50GP and 2XP per spell level, multiplied by effective caster level. Potions are also really useful. Why wouldn't you want to be able to make your own potions of Cure Serious Wounds or Bull's Strength to free up spell slots for more important things?

Craft Wondrous Item requires a caster level of 3. Miscellaneous magical items are listed in the DMG, and each one has its own price. Creating one costs XP equal to 1/25 the price, and requires raw materials costing half the price. You can also mend miscellaneous magical items for half the price. This might be a little less useful, depending on the rarity of magical items in your campaign.

Craft Magical Arms and Armour requires a caster level of 5, and allows you to make your own magical weapons. The prices for these weapons are listed in the DMG, and creating or mending one costs the same as with miscellaneous magical items. Worth noting is the fact that you require a masterwork weapon or suit of armour for this; anything of lesser quality cannot be enchanted.

Craft Wand also requires a caster level of 5, and allows you to create a wand of any spell 4th level or lower. A wand costs 750GP per spell level, multiplied by caster level, to create, and 1/25 that in XP. In addition, if the spell has a material or XP cost, you must pay 50* that. The newly created wand has 50 charges. This is definitely worth having - make a wand of your favourite low to mid level attack spell, and you can use it regularly while freeing up the slots to prepare other spells.

Craft Rod requires a caster level of 9, and allows you to create magical rods. The DMG explains the kinds of rods that exist, and creating them costs XP equal to 1/25 the price. This may be worth having depending on the rarity of magical items in your game. An example rod would be the Rod of Lordly Might. It can, once per day, cast hold person on touch, fear on all enemies viewing it, or deal 2d4 damage on a touch while healing the wielder of the same. In addition, it is a +2 light mace which can turn into a +1 flaming longsword, a +4 battleaxe, a +3 short or long spear or a 5'-50' ladder that extends out with enough force to force open doors, and it can tell you where magnetic north is and how deep you are underground if appropriate. This costs 70,000 gold to buy, meaning that it costs 35,000 gold and 2,800 XP to create. That's a pretty sweet magical item, and being able to create one in a campaign where it wouldn't otherwise exist is kinda cool.

Craft Staff requires a caster level of 12, and allows you to create magical staffs. The DMG explains the kinds of staffs that exist, and creating them costs XP equal to 1/25 the price. This is well worth having; magical staffs are rare and powerful; when they are created, they have 50 charges. The most powerful staff you can create is the Staff of Power. For one charge, it casts Magic Missile at caster level 9, Ray of Enfeeblement with DC 17, Continual Flame, Levitate, Lightning Bolt for DC 17 and 10d6 damage, or Fireball for DC 17 and 10d6 damage. For two charges, it casts Hold Monster at DC 14, Wall of Force around the caster, or Globe of Invulnerability. In addition, it grants a +2 luck bonus to AC, counts as a +2 quarterstaff, and for one charge doubles its damage (or triples on a critical hit). Finally, if the shit has well and truly hit the fan, you can snap it over your knee. All charges in the staff are instantly released. Anybody within 10 feet takes 8* the number of remaining charges in damage, anyone within 20 feet takes 6* remaining charges, and anyone within 30 feet takes 4* the remaining charges. A reflex save may be made for half damage. What about you? Well, there is a 50% chance that you get send to a different plane of existance. If not, you're dead. Once it runs out of charges, it is still a +2 quarterstaff. The Staff of Power would cost 200,000GP to buy, if anyone were willing to sell it, meaning that it costs 100,000GP and 8,000XP to create.

Finally, Forge Ring also requires a caster level of 12, and allows you to create magical rings. Because who wouldn't want to be Celebrimbor? As before, the DMG explains the kinds of rings that exist. Worth noting that the Ring of Three Wishes is a thing that exists - it costs 97,950GP to buy, assuming you can find one, which in turn means that it would cost roughly 48,000GP and 4,000XP to create - were it not for the fact that Wish also costs 5,000XP, and this has three castings. As such, it costs roughly 19,000XP to create. It is interesting to note that that is also how much XP it costs to go from level 19 to level 20. Once again, the utility here depends largely on the rarity of magical items in your campaign. If they're rare, then being able to make your own is pretty damn useful; if they can be bought in major cities, then not so much.

The third and final kind of feat is the Metamagic Feat. Applying a Metamagic Feat to a spell increases the effective spell level of the spell in question (without increasing its save DC, if any), and modifies it in some way. Wizards must prepare a spell in advance with the metamagic they wish to use. Sorcerers are more flexible in this regard (as they are in general), but applying metamagic increases the casting time. It is worth noting that Metamagic Feats can be applied to a spell being stored in a magical item. As such, one could create a wand of Maximised Magic Missile, which could cast five separate missiles, each dealing 5 points of damage. I would argue that most of these have their uses.

Empower Spell multiplies any die rolls in the spell by 1.5, and increases the spell level by 2. As such, using Magic Missile requires a 3rd level slot instead of a 1st level slot, but each missile does 2-7 instead of 2-5 damage.

Enlarge Spell doubles the range of a spell, and increases the spell level by 1.

Heighten Spell increases the effective spell level for the purposes of save DC and spell immunity. Minor Globe of Invulnerability makes the caster immune to all spells third level or lower, but this feat being used to pump magic missile up to fourth level will allow it to effect the person within the globe.

Maximise Spell makes it so that you automatically get the highest possible roll for numerical effects, and increases spell level by 3 - a maximised Magic Missile would do 5 damage per missile instead of rolling, and would require a fourth level slot (it would not, however, get into the Minor Globe of Invulnerability noted above). Maximise and Empower stack with each other - you increase the spell level by 5, and roll for damage, healing or whatever else as normal. You then receive the maximum, + half of what you rolled. If this were done to Magic Missile, it would require a sixth level slot and each missile would deal 6-7 damage.

Quicken Spell allows you to cast the spell as a free action, and increases the spell level by 4. This allows you to cast multiple spells per round of combat. However, it cannot be used on spells that require longer than a full round action to cast, and (I believe) Sorcerers cannot use it, as the price of using Metamagic conflicts with the benefit of this feat.

Silent Spell allows you to cast the spell without using its vocal component (thus you can cast while silenced, or while trying to remain hidden), and increases the spell level by 1.

Still Spell allows you to cast the spell without using its somatic (movement) component, thus allowing you to cast the spell while grappled, and increases the spell level by 1. Combining this with Silent Spell increases the spell level by 2, and makes it very difficult to tell where a spell originated if the effect doesn't make it obvious.

And that's the feat list. It's significantly shorter than in 3.5, and shorter still than Pathfinder (core only in both cases), and some of them are quite obviously better than others. One thing I would definitely consider doing if I were running this game, however, is taking the idea from 5e to potentially give feats as rewards in lieu of money. Skill Focus in something the players aren't really specialised in, Weapon Focus and the proficiency feats (so basically, the trap feats) would be prime candidates for this, since they'd be a minor boost that adds some flavour without requiring that a characters limited number of feats gained through levelling be spent on it.

Description and Equipment

posted by hectorgrey Original SA post

D&D 3rd Edition - The Core Books

Part 5: Description and Equipment

There is only one chapter remaining for character creation, and that's the chapter that describes alignment, religion and other such details. The chapter jumps straight into alignments, and 3.0 uses the same three by three grid as AD&D, 5e and Pathfinder all use - one axis of Law to Chaos, and one axis of Good to Evil. I'm not going to talk about my own interpretations of these, because quite frankly opinions on alignment are almost like assholes in terms of how many people have their own. I will, however, describe how the PHB explains them.

Law is described as obedience to authority, honour and trustworthiness. It can also include close-mindedness, a reactionary adherence to tradition, and a lack of adaptability. You will notice here that it does not at any point mention legal codes. A Paladin on a mission to do good in a Lawful Evil society is not going to fall because they illegally freed a bunch of slaves, nor are they going to fall because they organise a rebellion against that regime, with the intent to replace it with an equally ordered but more just one. Chaos, on the other hand, is described as a desire for personal freedom, as well as a more flexible and adaptable mindset. It can also include arbitrary seeming actions, a resentment towards legitimate authority, irresononsibility and recklessness. Nowhere does it say that a Chaotic character cannot respect another person's authority in a given area. A Chaotic character does not necessarily break the law, and a Barbarian isn't going to lose their ability to rage just because they happen to respect the king of a given kingdom and choose not to break his laws.

Good is described as altruism, respect for life, and a concern for the dignity of sentient beings. A Good character is willing to make personal sacrifices for the good of others. Evil, on the other hand, implies harming, oppressing and killing others. An Evil character may be someone who actively seeks to do Evil, or they might simply be somebody who has absolutely no compunctions about murdering other people to complete their goals.

Where does neutrality lie? Well, in terms of Law and Chaos, it lies at the point where you have an average person's respect for authority; with neither a compulsion to obey nor a compulsion to rebel. In terms of Good and Evil, it's where you tend to have a preference towards good actions where such won't necessarily inconvenience you, and might consider doing evil deeds, but would feel genuine guilt about it afterwards. Alternatively, neutrality can be a choice to reject what you see as dangerous extremes. Blind obedience to authority can be just as dangerous as blind rejection of it, while a certain amount of selfishness might be better for the largest amount of people.

The book then describes the nine alignments (I'll quote the book below), but first, it points out that only the Good and Neutral alignments are intended for player characters; Evil is for monsters and villains.

Lawful Good - The Crusader posted:

A Lawful Good character acts as a good person is expected or required to act. She combines a commitment to oppose evil with the discipline to fight relentlessly. She tells the truth, keeps her word, helps those in need and speaks out against injustice. A Lawful Good character hates to see the guilty go unpunished. Alhandra, a Paladin who fights evil without mercy and who protects the innocent without hesitation, is Lawful Good.

Lawful Good is the best alignment you can be because it combines honour and compassion.

Neutral Good - The Benefactor posted:

A Neutral Good character does the best that a good person can do. He is devoted to helping others. He works with kings and magistrates, but does not feel beholden to them. Jozan, a Cleric who helps others according to their needs, is Neutral Good.

The common phrase for Neutral Good is "True Good".

Neutral Good is the best alignment you can be because it means doing what is good without bias towards or against order.

Chaotic Good - The Rebel posted:

A Chaotic Good character acts as his conscience directs him with little regard for what others expect of him. He makes his own way, but he's kind and benevolent. He believes in goodness and right, but has little time for laws and regulations. He hates it when people try to intimidate others and tell them what to do. He follows his own moral compass which, although good, may not agree with that of society. Soveliss, a Ranger who waylays the evil baron's tax collectors, is Chaotic Good.

Chaotic Good is the best alignment you can be because it combines a good heart with a free spirit.

Lawful Neutral - The Judge posted:

A Lawful Neutral character acts as law, tradition or a personal code directs her. Order and organisation are paramount to her. She may believe in personal order and live by a code or standard, or she may believe in order for all, and favour a strong, organised government. Ember, a Monk who follows her discipline without being swayed by the demands of those in need nor the temptations of evil, is Lawful Neutral.

The common phrase for Lawful Neutral is "True Lawful".

Lawful Neutral is the best alignment you can be because it means you can be reliable and honourable without being a zealot.

Neutral - The Undecided posted:

A Neutral character does what seems to be a good idea. She doesn't feel strongly one way or the other when it comes to Good vs Evil or Law vs Chaos. Most neutrality is a lack of commitment or bias rather than a commitment to neutrality. Such a character thinks of good as better than evil; after all she would rather have good neighbours and rulers than evil ones. Still, she's not personally committed to upholding Good in any abstract or universal way. Mialee, a Wizard who devotes herself to her art and is bored by the semantics of moral debate, is Neutral.

The common phrase for Neutral is "True Neutral".

Neutral is the best alignment you can be because it means you act naturally, without prejudice or compulsion.

As a quick note, I would argue that this description heavily implies that the vast majority of people in a believable setting should be True Neutral.

Chaotic Neutral - The Free Spirit posted:

A Chaotic Neutral character follows his whims. He is an individualist first and last. He values his own liberty, but doesn't strive to protect others' freedom. He avoids authority, resents restrictions, and challenges traditions. The Chaotic Neutral character does not intentionally disrupt organisations as part of a campaign of anarchy; to do so, he would have to be motivated either by good (and a desire to liberate others) or evil (and a desire to make those different from himself suffer). Devis, a Bard who wanders the land living by his wits, is Chaotic Neutral.

The common phrase for Chaotic Neutral is "True Chaotic".

Remember that the Chaotic Neutral character may be unpredictable, but his behaviour is not totally random. He is not as likely to jump off a bridge as walk across it.

Chaotic Neutral is the best alignment you can be because it represents true freedom from both society and a do-gooder's zeal.

Lawful Evil - The Dominator posted:

A Lawful Evil villain methodically takes what he wants within the limits of his code of conduct without regard to whom it hurts. He cares about tradition, loyalty and order, but not about freedom, dignity or life. He plays by the rules, but without mercy or compassion. He is comfortable in a hierarchy and would like to rule, but he is willing to serve. He condemns others not according to their actions, but according to race, religion, homeland or social rank. He is loath to break laws or promises. This reluctance is partly because of his nature, and partly because he depends on order to protect himself from those who oppose him on moral grounds. Some Lawful Evil villains have particular taboos, such as not killing in cold blood (but having underlings do it) or not letting children come to harm (if it can be helped). They imagine that these compunctions put them above unprincipled villains. The scheming baron who expands his power and exploits his people is Lawful Evil.

Some Lawful Evil people and creatures are commited to Evil with a zeal like that of a crusader commited to Good. Beyond being willing to hurt others for their own ends, they take pleasure in spreading Evil as an end unto itself. They may also see doing evil as part of a duty to an evil deity or master.

Lawful Evil is sometimes called "Diabolical" because devils are the epitome of Lawful Evil.

Lawful Evil is the most dangerous alignment because it represents methodical, intentional, and frequently successful evil.

Neutral Evil - The Malefactor posted:

A Neutral Evil villain does whatever she can get away with. She is out for herself, pure and simple. She sheds no tears for those she kills, whether for profit, sport or convenience. She holds no love of order, and holds no illusions that following laws, traditions or codes would make her better or more noble. On the other hand, she doesn't have the restless nature or love of conflict that a Chaotic Evil villain has. The criminal who robs and murders to get what she wants is Neutral Evil.

The common phrase for Neutral Evil is "True Evil".

Neutral Evil is the most dangerous alignment because it represents pure evil without honour or variation.

Chaotic Evil - The Destroyer posted:

A Chaotic Evil character does whatever his greed, hatred and lust for destruction drive him to do. He is hot tempered, viscious, arbitrarily violent, and unpredictable. If simply out for whatever he can get, he is ruthless and brutal. If he is committed to the spread of Evil and Chaos, he is even worse. Thankfully, his plans are haphazard and any groups he joins or forms are poorly organised. Typically, Chaotic Evil people can only be made to work together by force, and their leader lasts only as long as he can thwart attempts to topple or assassinate him. The demented sorcerer pursuing mad schemes of vengeance and havoc is Chaotic Evil.

Chaotic Evil is sometimes called "Demonic" because demons are the epitome of Chaotic Evil.

Chaotic Evil is the most dangerous alignment because it represents the destruction not only of beauty and life, but of the order on which beauty and life depend.

Once we have finished with alignments, we are introduced to the default deities of 3rd Edition Dungeons and Dragons. They come from Greyhawk, but it is never explicitly stated in the book. It is mentioned here that while most people tend to have a deity that they consider to be their patron, they will typically pray to other gods at appropriate times, and show respect generally. I am not going to give you the descriptions of these gods; they're incredibly brief, and if you're honestly interested, you might be better off taking a look on wikipedia instead.

The gods listed are Boccob (Neutral god of magic), Corellon Larethian (Chaotic Good god of the elves), Ehlonna (Neutral Good goddess of the woodland), Erythnul (Chaotic Evil god of slaughter), Fharlanghn (Neutral god of roads), Garl Glittergold (Neutral Good god of Gnomes), Gruumsh (Chaotic Evil god of orcs), Heironeous (Lawful Good god of valour), Hextor (Lawful Evil god of tyranny), Kord (Chaotic Good god of strength), Moradin (Lawful Good god of dwarves), Nerull (Neutral Evil god of death), Obad-Hai (Neutral god of nature), Olidammara (Chaotic Neutral god of rogues), Pelor (Neutral Good sun god), St. Cuthbert (Lawful Neutral god of retribution), Vecna (Neutral Evil god of secrets), Wee Jas (Lawful Neutral goddess of death and magic) and Yondalla (Lawful Good goddess of halflings).

After telling you to pick a name and gender, the book then moves on to talk about age. It gives a table for generating a character's age randomly (a minimum age for that race, added to a die roll), or else you can pick an age yourself, so long as it is no lower than the lowest you can possibly roll on the table (for example, elves reach adulthood at 110 years old, and add 10d6 if they're starting out as a Wizard, so an elf Wizard must be at least 120 years old). Then, it lists the ages at which a person becomes middle aged, old or venerable. Once you are middle aged, you lose 1 points from each physical ability (Strength, Dexterity and Constitution, and gain 1 to each mental attribute (Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma). Once you're old, you lose an additional 2 points from each physical ability and gain an additional 1 to each mental ability. When you're venerable, you lose an additional 3 points from each physical ability, and gain an additional 1 to each mental ability. This means, due to the quirks of this system, that an 80 year old human will often have better hearing and eyesight than a 20 year old.

Height and weight are likewise given as random tables, or alternatively you can just pick your own. Once this is out of the way, you're asked to decide your character's looks, personality and background, before finally customising your character. Such customisations include suggestions about tweaking race and class features (with permission from the DM), tweaking skills, and tweaking the looks of your equipment. It is here, interestingly enough, that it is mentioned that if you really want a katana, you should just get a bastard sword (it specifies a masterwork bastard sword, but you're not getting one of those at character creation).

Included in racial tweaking is the idea of playing a dwarf born of outcasts, who has the in born dwarf features (high CON, low CHA, darkvision and resistance to poison and spells), but not the cultural stuff like stonecunning or appraise/craft bonuses; it then suggests asking the GM for replacement features to compensate. In class tweaking, it suggests the idea of a Fighter who used to work as an enforcer for a thieves guild, and as such starts out with only the weapons and armour available to a Rogue, but also with 4 skill points per level instead of 2, and Bluff and Intimidate as additional class skills. Those honestly aren't bad ideas - it explicitly tells you that homebrew content is OK, and that the GM has room to be flexible in order to help you create the character you want to play. This advice was also given in the 3.5 PHB, and in both cases I suspect it ended up getting ignored by many people; either because it wasn't about game mechanics, or because it would involve a bunch of extra work by the GM.

Regarding skills and feats, it suggests two things; one that I definitely agree with (talk to your GM if you feel like something that should be a skill isn't listed; they have guidelines for adding new skills), and one that while it is a neat and flavourful idea, I don't think would actually work in practise: renaming skills based on what your character would call them. It uses the examples of a Rogue renaming Move Silently to "Footpaddin'", and a Monk renaming it to "Rice Paper Walk". I mean, it was a nice idea, but I honestly don't think it would be worth the possible confusion.

Next up, we have the chapter on equipment. Ooh boy. Please allow me to preface this bit with a disclaimer: I am autistic, and I like weapons. Specifically, I like medieval weapons. This means that while I am not an expert, I know a reasonable amount about the way they work, having spent a great deal of time reading articles and watching youtube videos by folks who know what they're talking about on the subject of medieval weaponry. There are a few reasons why I am not a fan of the weapon list here; some are things that D&D improved upon in 3.5; some are not.

The only real problem with the simple and martial weapons is the weight of the weapons. Cut the weights in half for the one handed weapons, and most of them are fine. I dislike that the regular one handed sword is called a longsword (those were two handed weapons), but I can just rename it to arming sword, broadsword or even just "sword" and be done with it. That and falchions weren't two handed weapons; they were one handed weapons from which the sabre may have evolved. But I digress.

The two handed martial weapons are ridiculously overweight though. If you were to cut the Greatsword down to around 6lb (as opposed to 15lb), it would be OK, but some of the weapons listed here weight as much as 20lb. How do you even make an axe that weighs that much but is still balanced for hitting people (the answer, obviously, is that you can't)?

In exotic weapons, we have the monk weapons, which are mostly fine. We also have the bastard sword; a sword that will only see use if your GM is someone like me who when someone says they're bringing a greatsword, asks how it's being carried. The bastard sword is the two handed sword that a person can actually wear at their hip, and that can be used one handed with a feat. If my GM didn't care about details like that, I wouldn't bother with it, because it's either a slightly better longsword that isn't worth the feat, or a shit greatsword. The dwarven waraxe holds the same position of being between battleaxe and greataxe.

This is where we get to the bit I really dislike about the weapons list. The double weapons. The only double weapon on this list that should actually be there is the quarterstaff. The rest of them are fucking stupid. First, we have the two bladed sword. Basically, think of Darth Maul's lightsaber, and you've got the general idea. Cool idea? Sure - if it were something that could actually, physically work. Here's the problem: in order to be effective at cutting, the centre of balance of a sword should be in the blade. The closer to the hilt, the more nimble the blade is to control, but the worse it is at cutting, and vice versa. The problem here is that if you have a blade on each end of the hilt, then the centre of balance is going to be in the centre of the hilt; nowhere near either blade. This weapon is going to be utterly shit at cutting - and if you only want to thrust with it, a spear of equal length would be a hundred times better. We also have the double axe. For an axe to be effective, the centre of balance should be in or near the head. On the double axe, the centre of balance is in the middle of the fucking shaft, so you're never actually going to cut with the fucking thing. And then, we have the dire flail - a flail, except with a ball and chain at each end. Would you like to be hit in the back of the head with a heavy iron ball? Because that's how you get hit in the back of the head with a heavy iron ball. None of these weapons would ever actually work in practice. And yes, I know, this is a game with dragons, why am I bitching about the weapons? Well, the more believable the stuff that could exist in the real world, the more magical the stuff that couldn't is by comparison.

There; rant over. The armour actually weighs reasonable amounts (except for the fact that studded leather was never a real time of armour, and padded linen is actually really effective at stopping cuts in melee and arrows from long range), and is roughly as effective as I would expect it to be. Hurting someone in full plate is difficult, and bearing in mind that a 12-13 in dexterity is actually pretty agile, full plate really isn't that cumbersome in game. The shields are far too heavy, bucklers are held by the boss rather than being strapped to the arm as described here (how would that even be useful?), and shields were basically never made entirely of metal, but they're no worse than the weapons.

Armour takes time to put on and to take off; light armour can be put on properly in a minute or quickly in half the time. Most armour takes roughly 4 minutes to put on properly (half that with help) or one minute to put on quickly. Half plate and full plate take four minutes to put on quickly or to put on properly with help; they cannot be put on properly without help. This is important, because sleeping in chainmail or heavy armour makes you really tired in the morning, giving a penalty to strength and dexterity and removing the ability to charge or run.

All armour also comes with arcane spell failure. This ranges from 5% to 40%; when you cast an arcane (basically wizard, sorcerer or bard) spell that requires somatic components, you roll a d% and if it is lower than the spell failure chance, the spell fails. The two kinds of armour that can be worn without proficiency due to the lack of an armour check penalty (padded and leather) have 5% and 10% respectively, meaning that they're unlikely to affect your spell casting (same odds as rolling either a 1 or a 2 on a d20) but still potentially could. All considered, it's not that big a trade-off, and it has the added bonus of not looking like a wizard.

After armour, we have a nice long list of other random equipment, including caltrops (throw them behind you to potentially deal a point of damage and to slow down anybody chasing you), candles (dim light in a small radius - good for moving around indoors or reading at night), torches (last an hour and illuminate a wider area - not mentioned in the book, but there would also be a shitload of thick, black smoke, making them unsuitable for indoor or underground lighting), thieves' tools, clothing and horses. After that, special goods and services are mentioned - masterwork armour reduces the armour check penalty by 1, masterwork weapons or ammunition give you a +1 to hit, silver weapons can hurt werewolves, and mighty composite bows allow you to add your strength modifier to damage. Note that this is the only way to add an ability modifier to ranged damage. Masterwork tools add a +2 to the related skills. We also see alchemists fire, acid flasks, thunderstones (basically like fantasy flashbangs) and holy water.

This is the point where, provided you didn't intend to cast any spells for at least a few levels, you would be done with character creation. You'd have your abilities, skills, feats and gear, and be ready to go out and die horribly to goblins seek adventure.

Next time, we look at the combat system. It's kinda complex, but not as bad as people often like to say. Grappling in particular is actually relatively simple, even if it did benefit from some simplification in Pathfinder.


posted by hectorgrey Original SA post

Damn, this bit took a while to write. Annoying thing about D&D combat is that if you want a good idea of how it works, there's very little that can easily be skipped. Also, while it's fun to engage in, and hopefully at least interesting to read about, it was really fucking dull to write about. Ah well; at least I don't really need to describe each individual spell, so I'm actually nearly done with the PHB.

So my question now is this: would people prefer I go directly into the DMG, or would a detour into the Monster Manual be appropriate? The Monster Manual will take less time to write about, since pretty much all I'm likely to do is mention what some of the special abilities are and describe a couple of the more interesting monsters, and I'm considering doing a worked adventure example with the guidance given in the DMG as part of the writeup, which would be easier if I've already covered at least some of the lower level monsters.

D&D 3rd Edition - The Core Books

Part 5: Combat

Now we come to the combat system of D&D 3e. The chapter begins with an extend example of combat that I will quote here, with some rules explanations in between if they seem appropriate.

Setup posted:

Tordek, the dwarven fighter, Mialee, the elven wizard, Jozan, the human cleric of Pelor, and Lidda, the halfling rogue, are in a ten foot wide dungeon corridor at a door. Tordek is making Strength checks to try to break it down. The DM asks the players to tell him where their characters are. Tordek is in front of the door. Lidda and Jozan are to either side of it, and Mialee is behind Jozan. The players are playing with minatures, so they arrange their miniatures in a line: Lidda, tordek, Jozan and Mialee.

The DM looks at his notes, rolls some dice, and determines that a gang of four orc marauders has arrived, having heard Tordek banging against the door. The orcs have come around the corner of a T-shaped intersection at the end of the corridor. They're 50 feet away from the door, so they're 40 feet away from Mialee, 45 feet away from Jozan, 50 feet away from Tordek and 55 feet away from Lidda.

The orcs know that the adventurers are there. The DM needs to know who among the adventurers is aware of the orcs. Those who are caught unaware will be surprised. The DM asks each player to make a Listen check (DC 9). Jozan and Lidda succeed; Tordek and Mialee fail.

So yeah; fairly average start of a fight. The players were making a little too much noise, and so attracted some orcs (presumably from an area they hadn't explored yet). Not the best tactical situation (the mage is up front, and the tank is towards the back), but not all is currently lost.

Surprise Round posted:

During the surprise round, only the characters who are aware of their enemies can act, and each takes only a partial action. The orcs, Jozan and Lidda all act during the surprise round.

The DM asks Jozan and Lidda's players to make initiative checks. Jozan's initiative modifier is -1 (the same as his Dexterity penalty). Lidda's is +7 (+3 for her Dexterity bonus and +4 for her Improved Initiative). They get 7 and 19 as their initiative results. The DM rolls for all four orcs (+0) and gets a result of 11. The order of the battle during the surprise round is Lidda first, followed by the orcs, followed by Jozan.

The DM calls on Lidda's player. Lidda recognises the bloody eye symbols painted on the orcs' shields. The symbol identifies them as marauders. She steps to one side to get a clear line of sight past her friends and shoots a crossbow bolt at one of the orcs. Lidda's attack bonus with a crossbow is +4 (+0 base attack bonus, +3 Dexterity bonus, +1 size bonus). The orc is 55 feet away, well under the light crossbow's range increment of 80 feet. Lidda therefore suffer's no range penalty. Even though the orc is flat-footed, Lidda can't sneak attack it because it is more than 30 feet away.

Lidda's player rolls a 17 for an attack result of 21, well over the orc's AC of 16. She rolls 1d8 for damage and gets a 3. The orcs have 4 hit points each, so the wounded orc has 1 hit point left. "He staggers," says the DM, "but he doesn't fall."

Then it is the orcs' turn. Two orcs have javelins, and they throw them. The DM decides that the two javelins head towards Mialee, 40 feet away. Javelins have a range increment of 30 feet. The targets are located more than one range increment and less than two range increments away, for a range penalty of -2. So, the orcs have a -2 attack penalty with their javelins (+0 base attack bonus, +2 Dexterity bonus, +0 size bonus, -2 range penalty).

Mialee's AC is usually 13 (due to a +3 Dexterity bonus), but she can't use her Dexterity bonus while she's flat-footed, so her AC right now is 10. Rolling for the orcs, the DM gets an 18 and a 13 for results of 16 and 11. that means both javelins aimed at her hit. The orcs deal 1d6+2 points of damage with their javelins (1d6 for the javelin, +2 Strength bonus), so the DM rolls 2d6+4 and gets a result of 12 points of damage. Mialee is knocked from 7 hit points to -5. She falls to the stone floor, unconscious and dying.

Then Jozan takes his action. He is next to Mialee already. He reaches down and casts cure minor wounds on her. Her hit points rise to -4, and she is no longer dying. If he had not cured her, she would probably have lost another hit point at the end of the round.

With that, the surprise round ends.

Well, that went downhill fast - in older editions, Mialee's player would be rolling up a new character at this point. Mialee either has the toughness feat or a 16 Constitution (meaning she would have had to roll an 18), but a couple of javelins will still ruin her day. Cure Minor Wounds is a Level 0 spell that heals one point of damage - since that's the minimum magical healing needed to stop someone dying, it's not a bad option (particularly since she'd need at least 6 points of healing to actually get back into the fight).

First Regular Round posted:

The DM asks Tordek's player to make an initiative check because he's the only conscious character who hasn't done so. He gets a 14, so he goes after Lidda and before the orcs. The order of battle is: Lidda, Tordek, orcs, Jozan (Mialee is unconscous and can't take an action).

On her turn, Lidda fires another crossbow bolt, but she misses. She drops her crossbow and switches to her short sword (rather than reloading her crossbow).

Then Tordek moves 15 feet to get between the orcs and Mialee (the orcs are 50 feet away from him; too far for him to reach them and attack, even with a charge). The corridor is too wide (10 feet) for him to keep the orcs from getting past him, but he will at least get an attack of opportunity on any single orc that tries it.

On their attack, the orcs are 35 feet away from tordek. That's within charging range (they can charge 40 feet). The two orcs with battleaxes in hand charge and attack. In a 10 feet wide corridor, only two can fight side by side. The other two in the back ready their actions and wait to get in. One orc could try to move past Tordek so another orc could get at him, but then Tordek would get an attack of opportunity on the first orc.

The orcs have a +4 attack bonus on their attack rolls with their battleaxes (+0 base attack bonus, +2 Strength bonus, +2 charge bonus). Tordek's AC is 17 (+4 armour bonus, +2 shield bonus, +1 Dexterity bonus), and neither charging orc hits him. "Their battleaxes clang against your shield and armour," says the DM, "and you can feel the strength behind their blows, but you're not hurt."

Jozan casts cure light wounds (his first level domain spell) on Mialee. That spell restores 1d8+2 hit points to Mialee, but Jozan's player rolls a 1 for a result of only 3 hit points cured. Mialee's hit points rise to -1, but that's not enough to get her back on her feet.

Well, from a round where basically everything happened to a round where basically nothing happened. Still, at least the orcs weren't able to finish off the wizard due to Tordek's positioning.

Second Regular Round posted:

Lidda steps in next to Tordek and thrusts with her short sword at the orc she wounded with the crossbow bolt. Her attack bonus is +0 (+1 size, -1 Strength), and she misses even though the orc's AC is penalised by -2 because he charged in the previous round.

Tordek swings his dwarven waraxe at the orc in front of him. His attack bonus is +5 (+1 base attack onbus, +2 Strength bonus, +1 Weapon Focus bonus, +1 racial bonus against orcs). He hits the orc in front of him (whose AC is also penalised) and deals 1d10+2 points of damage. His total is 7, which is enough to take the orc out.

Another orc marauder steps over the body of his fallen comrade and swings his battleaxe at Tordek. He hits and deals 1d8+2 points of damage (1d8 for a battleaxe, +2 Strength bonus). Tordek sustains 7 points of damage, and his hit points drop to a 6. He's now hurt badly enough that one more hit could easily drop him.

The orc that Lidda tried to stab curses her for hitting him with a crossbow bolt, swings his battleaxe at her, misses, and curses again.

Jozan, worried that the team could lose its fighter, drops his prepared bless spell to spentaneously cast cure light wounds on Tordek. Jozan's player rolls a 7, for a result of 8 hit points cured. Tordek is now healed back to his original 13 hit points (he only needed 7 of the 8 points of curing).

Third Regular Round posted:

Lidda moves back away from the orc to let Jozan step in. Since Lidda is taking a double move (doing nothing but moving), and since she moves directly away from the orcs, the orcs don't get to make attacks of opportunity against her..

Tordek's player rolls a natural 20 on his attack roll. That's a threat (a possible critical hit). He makes a critical roll (1d20 + his total attack bonus) and the result is 17. Since that would hit the orc, Tordek's hit is a critical hit. Dwarven waraxes deal 1d10 damage on a normal hit and x3 damage on critical hits, so Tordek's player rolls 3d10. He gets a result of 19 points of damage, which is more than enough to kill the orc instantly.

The last orc steps in to attack Tordek. He swings and misses. The orc that had been attacking Ledda also attacks Tordek and misses.

Jozan steps in next to Tordek with his heavy mace, hits the orc that Lidda had wounded, and downs it.

Now only one orc is left, and he's 10 feet away from Tordek and Jozan.

So, that happened. This being a first level party, Tordek is easily the most reliably dangerous member of the group. At higher levels that would change, but currently the Fighter kicks ass. Jozan was able to help Tordek to do his job, but was not yet able to outshine him at it.

Fourth Regular Round posted:

Lidda darts between Tordek and Jozan and swings at the orc, but she misses.

Tordek moves up and swings, but also misses.

The orc takes a double move and moves 25 feet back to the T-shaped intersection and 15 feet around the corner. Since this action involved only movement and the orc moved away from Tordek and Lidda without entering another area threatened by them, they do not get attacks of opportunity against him.

Jozan and Lidda each can run as fast as the orc. They might be able to catch him. but Tordek can't keep up and Mialee is still unconscious, so they let him go.

And yeah - the very first combat example involves the last enemy legging it, showing that enemies might not necessarily fight to the death.

That out of the way, the book explains the actual rules. Your attack bonus with a melee weapon is your base attack bonus, + your Strength modifier, + any size modifier. With a ranged weapon, replace Strength with Dexterity and add a range modifier. Damage, meanwhile, is a damage die, added to your strength modifier for melee weapons and certain ranged weapons. Even if your modifiers bring your total damage to 0, the total damage before damage resistance is still 1.

Multiplying damage multiplies the number of dice and all of the bonuses. It does not, however, multiply extra dice, such as those granted by sneak attack or flaming weapons.

Finally, ability scores can be damaged; temporarily reducing the score, and potentially reducing the associated modifier.

Armour Class (AC) is 10 + bonus from armour + bonus from shield + Dexterity modifier + size modifier. Touch attacks ignore the bonus from armour and shields, while if you're flat footed you lose your Dexterity modifier and any dodge modifiers. This means that while a Wizard's BAB is pretty low, they can still accurately hit people with spells that require attack rolls.

The game then describes hit points, speed and saving throws. Odds are, you're familiar with how all these work, but in case you're not, hit points are an abstract measure of fighting ability. At exactly 0, you become disabled, which allows you to either move or attack, but you take a point of damage if you attack. At -1 to -9, you're unconscious and dying. At -10, you're straight up dead. Speed is how far you can move in a single action, and saving throws are general rolls to represent toughness, reflexes and willpower as means of avoiding harm from stuff that will hit you pretty much regardless of what you do (such as the explosion from a Fireball spell).

During the surprise round, you get a partial action - this means you can either take a move action or a standard action, but unlike in normal combat you cannot take both. In regular combat, you get a standard action and a move action, or a full round action which takes both. You can multiple free actions on your turn (though the DM might decide that something isn't a free action if it logically shouldn't be - speaking is a free action on your turn, but reciting Shakespeare clearly isn't). You also get a single attack of opportunity each round - or more than one if you have Combat Reflexes. Certain actions will provoke attacks of opportunity, such as casting a spell, searching through your backpack for a potion or using a ranged weapon. A character armed with a melee weapon threatens any area they can attack - someone with a sword threatens a five foot radius around themselves, while someone with a longspear threatens a ring five to ten feet away from themselves, but not the area right next to them. Moving through or out of a threatened area provokes, unless the character is moving directly away from the threatening character and is not doing anything but move that round (you can move twice your movement speed, but you cannot run).

This is also where it is noted that a natural 20 always hits and always threatens a critical hit, and a natural 1 always misses with attack rolls. Note that there is no such thing as a fumble here; it's just a miss. Also, note that while this applies to saving throws and attack rolls, it does not apply to skill rolls.

After describing the above, it then moves onto casting spells. To cast a spell with a verbal component, you must speak in a clear, firm voice - you cannot whisper your spells. Somatic components likewise require a free hand and room to manoeuvre it. Material components or focuses must be easily to hand - if you don't have a pouch for your components, then you're going to have to go digging through your backpack for them before you get to start casting. Some spells require concentration to keep them going - concentrating on a spell is a standard action, but it doesn't provoke an attack of opportunity. If you take damage while casting the spell (or while concentrating on maintaining it) you must make a Concentration skill check of DC 10 + damage dealt + spell level or else the spell just fizzles (you still lose the prepared spell or the spell slot). You can choose to cast defensively to avoid provoking an attack of opportunity, but this requires a Concentration check of DC 15 + spell level or else the spell fizzles as before.

At early levels, this can make spell casting rather dangerous in enclosed spaces, because someone might get close enough to threaten attacks of opportunity. At higher levels, however, it isn't that difficult to get your Concentration skill high enough that you literally cannot fail to cast defensively. One of the best options against a spell caster is to grapple them - many spell casters neglect to prepare a stilled Freedom of Movement (or even to take Still Spell in the first place), since the Concentration DC while grappled is 20 + spell level, and if it has a somatic component, it simply cannot be cast.

Touch spells require a melee touch attack to hit; as mentioned before, this is a regular melee attack, except you ignore armour and shield since touching the armour works just as well as touching bare skin. Ray spells require a ranged touch attack. When you cast a touch spell, you can cast, move and touch all in the same round, and you can move between casting and touching. Alternatively, you can hold onto the spell and touch someone with it later on - so long as you don't touch anything with that hand, the charge will remain there. Inflict Light Wounds makes for an excellent knuckle duster, and yes, you can in fact cast cure light wounds from a distance before moving closer to apply it.

This is the point where the book goes into more detail about partial actions: basically, you can take a standard or a move action, but not both and not a full round action. You can, however, start a full round action and finish it the following round. This is useful if you're down to 0 hit points, for example, and still want to load a heavy crossbow (full round action). Also, as a standard action, you can choose to go total defence - this means that you can still move, but you can't attack, and you get a +4 dodge bonus to your AC. Useful if you're a Wizard stood next to something big and nasty.

Then we get to serious injury. If you go below 0 hit points and have your wounds treated, every hour you have a 10% chance of regaining consciousness. Even if you are still unconscious, natural healing occurs as normal, and you will wake up when you reach 1 hit point or higher if you haven't already by that point. If you stabilise by yourself and don't receive any treatment, you still have a 10% chance every hour of regaining consciousness, but if you don't, you lose a hit point, and natural healing doesn't happen. Once you regain consciousness, every day you have a 10% chance of natural healing beginning; if it doesn't, you lose a hit point. Once natural healing begins (assuming you don't die first), you are no longer in danger of losing further hit points (though your HP might still be in the negatives for a little while). How does natural healing work, you ask? Simply put, you rest. A full day of non-strenuous activity gives you one hit point per character level of healing. Complete bed rest for a full day gives your your level and a half of healing. For ability damage, light activity heals one point, and complete bed rest heals two. Resting in the middle of a dungeon? That nets you sweet fuck all.

Beyond this we get some tactical advice, such as fighting in positions where fewer enemies can get to you, flanking where possible, and generally being smart about where you stand. Also, it discusses which kinds of characters you can pass through the spaces of - you can pass through the space of an ally or a fallen enemy without provoking an attack of opportunity, and may attempt a tumble check to pass through an enemy's space to do the same. If a creature is at least three sizes larger or smaller than you, then you can pass through its space too - a gnome can quite easily run between a cloud giant's legs, while a cloud giant can quite easily step over a gnome. This does provoke an attack of opportunity though.

We also get a table of size categories, and roughly how large those creatures are. A great red wyrm (basically, the oldest of the red dragons) takes up a space on the map of 8x16 5' squares (40'x80'), while a horse takes up 1x2 squares (5'x10').

Next we move onto combat modifiers. These include such things as invisibility (+2 to hit), having the high ground (+1 to hit - which might explain how Obi Wan got a crit after Anikin failed his Tumble roll), a prone defender (+4 to hit in melee, but -4 to hit at range), cover and concealment. Cover is part of the reason why a doorway is a good place to fight - if it's five feet wide, then only three enemies (assuming there aren't any behind you) can get to you at once - one in front, and one to each side of that one. The one in front of you attacks as normal, but you get half cover vs the ones to each side.

Cover goes from a quarter (+1 to reflex saves and +2 to AC; waste high walls count for this), a half (+2 to reflex saves and +4 to AC; fighting around a corner grants this), three quarters (+3 to reflex saves and +7 to AC; peering around a corner grants this), nine tenths (being behind an arrow slit or peering through a barely open door grants this; +10 to AC, +4 to reflex saves, and you only take half damage if you fail the save; none if you succeed), and total cover (you're on the other side of a solid stone wall; they can't attack you). Half cover is also granted by a person of your own size - if a shot misses you by the amount of AC given by the cover, then if the attack roll would be enough to hit the person giving you cover they take the damage instead of you.

Concealment, on the other hand, gives a flat percentage chance to miss because of concealment. Moderate darkness, light fog or light foliage gives a quarter concealment, for a 10% chance to miss. A blur spell or dense fog gives half conealment, for a 20% miss chance. Dense foliage gives three quarters concealment, for a 30% miss chance, near total darkness gives nine tenths concealment, for a 40% miss chance, and invisibility or total darkness give total concealment, for a 50% miss chance, assuming you even guess the right location for where the target is.

Now, we come to helpless defenders. You know the common complaint given about d20 by people who don't actually understand how it works; how if you tie a level 20 Fighter naked to a chair, you still have to stab them about a million times to kill them? As you might have guessed from the above, that's not entirely accurate. A helpless target is treated as though they have a Dexterity of 0 for the purposes of AC (for a -5 Dexterity penalty in place of whatever their bonus would be). Naturally, a Rogue can use their sneak attack against a helpless foe. A melee attack against such a foe also gets a +4 bonus to hit, though a ranged attack doesn't. If you have the time to use a full round action, you can do a coup de grace (pronounced coo duh grass - the e at the end means that the final consonent is pronounced) - this is an automatic critical hit, and the Rogue gets their sneak attack. If the target survives the damage, they must then make a fortitude save of DC 10 + damage dealt or just die on the spot.

Now, a level 20 Fighter is unlikely to fail this save if a Strength 8 Wizard does this with a dagger. However, this can be explained by the Wizard not really knowing where best to stick a knife, and not being quite strong enough to get past dense muscle and such. It's also worth noting that a level 20 Fighter is already capable of superhuman feats, so surviving a cut throat (something real human beings have done for a surprising amount of time) isn't exactly unreasonable. A Rogue with a shortsword, on the other hand, might be rolling 12d6 for that damage, giving the Fighter a much higher DC to save against.

Sometimes it's actually useful to have a lower initiative score - this is where delaying comes in. If you want to see what someone else is going to do before you act, you can delay until after they have gone. You lower your initiative count to one lower than theirs, and then you take your turn at that time. Your initiative then remains at that lower count for the rest of the fight. Of course, sometimes it is useful to be able to say "If the orc moves into view, I shoot them"; this is what readying an action is for. Basically, you can only ready a partial action (such as a single attack or move). You specify what you're going to do and what is going trigger that response; then if it happens at some point before your next turn, you get to interrupt whatever is happening to perform the action, before whoever was taking their turn gets to finish their turn. From then on, your initiative count is treated as the count on which you acted. While this is more restrictive than delaying an action, readying allows you to interrupt someone else's action, while delaying doesn't. The final action that modifies initiative is refocusing. Basically, you take a full round action to assess the situation, and from then on you treat your initiative as if you rolled a natural 20. Honestly, I'm not sure how useful this is - I mean, even if you go last in any given combat round, that's basically the same as going first in the next one anyway.

Finally, we have special attacks and damage. This section begins with Subdual damage (renamed in 3.5 to non-lethal damage, because frankly that's just a better name for it). The way subdual damage works is that if you receive more of it than you have hit points, you fall unconscious. This might happen from receiving more subdual damage, or if lethal damage takes your hit points below the amount of subdual damage you've taken. Healing magic heals both hit points and subdual damage (so if you receive four points of healing, you heal four points of each). Unarmed attacks deal subdual damage. If you want to deal subdual damage with a weapon that normally deals lethal damage, or lethal damage with a weapon that normally deals subdual damage, you take a -4 penalty to hit to represent using the weapon in a way that it wasn't intended. Subdual damage heals naturally at a rate of one point per hour.

Aiding another person isn't only something you do with skills; you can also do this in combat. As a standard action, you can make an attack roll vs AC 10. On a hit, you can either give an ally a +2 to their AC vs a given target or a +2 to attack that target. You can also use aid another to help an ally under the effect of sleep or hypnotism.

Attacking unattended objects is relatively simple - they have AC 5 + size modifier, hit points, and hardness. Hardness is deducted from damage taken, and when hit points reach 0, the object is ruined. Striking an opponent's weapon or shield provokes an attack of opportunity, and then you both make opposed attack rolls. If you got higher, you hit the weapon; if they got higher, you miss. Items can also be broken; this depends more on construction than material, so a wooden door with a really good lock might be easier to chop down with an axe than to kick open, while an iron door with a crap lock might be easier to force open.

A bull rush involves running into a person to try to force them back. You move into the target's space, provoking an attack of opportunity from anyone threatening the space you were in - attacks made by people who aren't the target have a 25% chance of hitting the target instead. Afterwards, there's an opposed strength check, with size modifiers given, as well as a +2 bonus to you if you charged and a +4 bonus to the target if they're unusually stable (such as if they have more than two legs). If you win, you can push your target back five feet; if you lose, you fall back five feet, going prone if the square is occupied. For every five that you won by, you can keep going, pushing the target back a further five feet and potentially provoking more attacks of opportunity both on your target and yourself.

Disarming provokes an attack of opportunity, and is as simple as an opposed attack roll. The combatant with the larger weapon gets a +4 bonus per difference in weapon size; unarmed counts as tiny. If you succeed and you're unarmed, you get to hold onto the weapon; otherwise it falls to the floor. If you get hit by the attack of opportunity, the attempt is automatically ruined. It's not an awful option against humanoid foes, but to be really useful it does require investing feats into it.

Grappling is relatively simple: there are four stages. Firstly, you provoke an attack of opportunity, even if you normally wouldn't with an unarmed attack. If the attack of opportunity hits, you don't get to grapple. Next, you make a melee touch attack to grab your target. If this fails, you don't get to grapple. Third, you make opposed grapple checks. Your grapple bonus is your BAB + Strength Modifier +/- 4 for every size category larger or smaller than medium. If you lose this, you don't get to grapple. Fourth, you move into your targets space. This provokes attacks of opportunity from anybody other than your target who threatens the square, but they won't prevent grappling.

Once you are grappling, you make an opposed grapple roll on your turn. If you win, you may deal your unarmed damage, you may pin your opponent, you may break a pin that your opponent is holding on an ally (because grappling can involve more than two people), or you may escape the grapple. Alternatively, if you don't expect to win a grapple roll, you can attack with a light weapon while grappling (but not with two weapons), you may cast a spell (so long as it has not somatic components and any material components are close to hand), or you may attempt to use the Escape Artist skill to wriggle free of the grapple.

Next, we have grenade-like attacks. These are a ranged touch attack, and on a miss they land somewhere nearby (1d6 feet away, in a direction indicated by a d8). They generally do splash damage in addition to whatever they do to someone on a direct hit. This is stuff like acid flasks and alchemists fire.

Mounted combat gets a more detailed description next; basically, if you're on horseback and the horse isn't a trained warhorse, it's a DC 20 Ride check to prevent the horse from panicking. This takes a move action. Your mount goes on your initiative, and acts separately to you. If it moves more than five feet, you only get a single attack that round - charging is often your best option on horseback. Ranged attacks from horseback come with attack penalties if the horse moves too quickly. If you're casting spells, then you can have your mount move before you cast, after, or both. If you pick both, it's a DC 10 + spell level Concentration check to successfully cast the spell. If your mount falls in combat, you need to make a DC 15 Ride check to avoid taking a d6 of falling damage; if you fall unconscious during combat, then you have a 50% chance of remaining in your saddle (75% with a military saddle), otherwise you fall off and take the d6 falling damage. A riderless horse (or one with an unconscious rider) will try to avoid combat.

You can also attempt to trip a foe. This is a Strength check opposed by the better of the opponent's Strength or Dexterity, with a +4 bonus to the larger creature per size category difference. If you win, your opponent is tripped; if you don't, then your opponent gets the opportunity to try and trip you. You can also try this on a mounted opponent, to pull them from their mount. They may use their Ride skill in place of a Dexterity or Strength check.

When charging, you can attempt to charge through an enemy space. This is called an overrun. The enemy may choose to either let you pass, or try to stop you. If they try to stop you, then you make a trip attempt. If you succeed, you keep moving; if you fail, you were stopped. If you fail and got tripped in turn, you are prone in the defender's space.

Clerics get to turn undead - they make a roll based on their Charisma modifier, and the result determines the number of hit dice the toughest undead they can turn is (from their level -4 to their level +4 in hit dice). After that, they roll "turning damage" to determine how many hit dice of undead they actually turn. Turned undead flee via the fasted route available to them. If they cannot flee, they cower. If you get within ten feet of them, however, they overcome being turned and may act normally again. If you have twice as many levels as the undead have hit dice, instead of being turned they are destroyed. Evil Clerics instead rebuke undead - any undead they would normally turn instead cower in awe, and any they would normally destroy are now under their direct command. They may also bolster undead under their control against being turned in the future. Neutral Clerics choose whether they turn or rebuke undead. This is why Clerics are actually the best necromancers.

Finally, we have unarmed attacks. Unarmed attacks provoke attacks of opportunity from armed foes. Note that a character with Improved Unarmed Strike counts as armed for this purpose - you still deal subdual damage, but you don't provoke attacks of opportunity, and unarmed attacks against you do provoke. Unarmed strikes do subdual damage, and they count as light weapons for the purposes of two weapon fighting and weapon finesse.

And so I have finally got to the end of this chapter. Just a few more to go now - one on general adventuring, one on how spell casting works, and then finally, the spell list. Hopefully they won't take quite so long to write about as this one did...


posted by hectorgrey Original SA post

D&D 3rd Edition - The Core Books

Part 6: Adventuring

Our adventuring rules begin with the encumbrance rules. Everything you carry has weight, and your Strength score determines how much you can carry. An average person can carry up to 38 lb without being encumbered, while a person with Strength 13 (average for a soldier) can carry up to 50lb without being encumbered.

Medium encumbrance gives you a maximum Dexterity bonus to AC of +3 and an armour check penalty of -3 - these do not stack with your armour, you take whichever is worse. Heavy encumbrance gives a maximum Dexterity bonus to AC of +1 and an armour check penalty of -6 - which is roughly the same as wearing heavy armour anyway. They also affect your movement speed the same way armour does. Since they don't stack with armour, it is often worth carrying a load of up to whatever penalties your armour would give you - after all, if you're wearing full plate, you're getting the same penalties from that as you would from carrying over a hundred pounds of gear at Strength 13.

Your maximum load is also the most you can lift over your head without needing to start making rolls. You can lift double that off the ground, but can only stagger around with it - your speed is reduced to 5 feet, and you lose your Dexterity bonus to AC. You can push or drag something up to five times your maximum load most of the time; good circumstances such as smooth ground or a grease spell might double this, while bad circumstances like rough terrain might half it.

There are three general kinds of movement; walking is three miles per hour for an unencumbered human, and is represented by moving up to your speed in a combat round. Hustling is roughly six miles per hour, and is represented by moving up to double your speed in a combat round (a full action that doesn't provoke an attack of opportunity). A mile and a half at this pace will take roughly 13 minutes. Running is usually quadruple your walking pace, or triple if you are wearing heavy armour or are heavily encumbered. An average, unencumbered human runs at twelve miles per hour; the Run feat brings that to 15 mph. A level 20 Monk with the Run feat can run up to 45 mph.

On bad ground, movement speed may be reduced. It is brought to three quarters for moderate obstruction or half for thick undergrowth, half for a steep slope or muddy surface, a quarter for deep snow, and half for poor visibility.

A character can walk for eight hours per day. For each hour after those eight, you must make a Constitution check of Dc 10 +1 per extra hour. If this fails, you take a d6 of subdual damage. This cannot be recovered normally until you halt and rest for at least four hours. You can fall unconscious from this.

A character can hustle for one hour per day without any problems. The second hour spent at a hustle causes one point of subdual damage, and each hour after that causes double the previous hour's damage.

A character can run for a number of rounds equal to their Constitution score without needing to make checks - for an average human with Constitution 10, this is a minute. For every round after that, they must make a Constitution check of DC 10 + the number of Constitution checks they've made already to keep going - a 14 Constitution runner could keep going for nearly two minutes, and could run a little under half a mile in that time. With the Run and Endurance feats, said runner could keep going for nearly two thirds of a mile at nearly a dead run. You cannot maintain these speeds for upwards of an hour - swapping between running and walking would even out to a hustle.

As such, a character with Constitution 10 could run a mile and a half in roughly 12 minutes, assuming they paced themselves for the first 11 minutes and then ran flat out for the remaining minute. Interestingly enough, this is actually around the time you'd want to get if you were doing a fitness test prior to joining the military. Likewise, they could run a marathon in a bit over four hours - which is pretty close to the average time. Having said that, they would take 7 points of subdual damage doing it, meaning that on average, a level 2 Commoner (an NPC class, which will be discussed when I get to the DMG) would require a constitution of 12 to still be conscious at the end (and even then, only just). A level 20 monk could run a marathon in about an hour and a half.

When it comes to mounts, light horses can move faster than heavy ones, but aren't as strong. A cart or wagon travels more slowly than a person walking, but can naturally carry significantly more stuff. A light horse can carry up to 450lb and still move at 4 mph (or 32 miles per day), but can go half again as quickly if carrying less than 150lb - note that this includes the rider.

A horse that is made to canter for more than one hour per day takes normal damage instead of subdual; same as if it's made to walk for more than eight hours in a single day (and it automatically fails the constitution save). An average horse has 19 hit points; if you make one move at a canter, it'll drop dead from exhaustion if it canters for five hours in a single day (even with breaks). My partner, who used to ride horses, tells me that this is reasonably true to life.

Ships, meanwhile, travel much slower than horses, but don't need to stop and therefore can often be a much quicker method of travel in the long run (especially if they don't need to make too much of a detour).

After the stuff about vehicles and mounts, the chapter moves onto exploration. Under preparation, it suggests that the characters should get whatever supplies they are going to nee (ammunition, food, water, torches, bedrolls or whatever else is going to be needed), as well as various tools. It also suggests that they should all bring ranged weapons (in case they come across enemies they either don't want to or can't engage in melee), horses for overland travel (since they can carry more stuff) and pack mules for exploring ruins and dungeons.

We also get a table of light sources. A candle gives off light in a five foot radius and lasts for an hour, meaning that it's a good source of light for reading or going about the house in the middle of the night, but it's not quite so good for exploring underground. The fact that it lasts an hour, however, makes it a useful means of keeping track of time when such things are important. It's not accurate to the minute, but if you know you need to wait roughly half an hour, then waiting for half the candle to burn isn't a bad option.

Torches likewise last an hour, but they provide 20 feet of illumination, making them a good source of light - provided there's somewhere safe for all the smoke to go. These things are made with pitch, which when burned gives off thick, black smoke similar to burning rubber - using one underground is an excellent way of dying from carbon monoxide poisoning (this isn't mentioned in the PHB, but it's a detail I often like to include in my games because so long as the players know about it in advance, it's just a little extra flavour.

The spell Continual Flame, however, can create a torch that burns smokelessly and never goes out, allowing you to still have all those abandoned underground complexes with lit torches all over the place in spite of the fact that there's nobody to light them, and they should have gone out from lack of oxygen decades ago, without needing to worry about such petty details. The Dancing Lights spell creates four mobile points of light which each give off as much illumination as a torch, but they only last for one minute.

An oil lamp provides 15 feet of illumination, and remains lit for six hours per pint of oil. Whether there is sufficient room in the lamp for a whole pint of oil largely depends on the lamp. An oil lamp is generally a pot filled with oil, which has a wick at the top which can be lit like a candle. It generates very little smoke, making it a semi-decent option for underground exploration.

Lanterns likewise use oil, and have the same benefits. A bullseye lantern basically has the benefit of a modern flashlight, using mirrors to amplify the light in one direction, providing a cone 60 feet long and 20 feet wide at the end. A hooded lantern, on the other hand, provides light for 30 feet in all directions. Both types of lanterns have shutters which can be used to obscure the light if you should wish to avoid being given away by it.

Sunrods are minor magical items which basically provide as much light as a hooded lantern and last for six hours. They cannot be turned off, but they can be hidden to obscure the light given off.

The Light spell gives off roughly as much light as a torch, but only lasts for ten minutes - there is never a point at which it is wise to rely on this as your primary source of light, for reasons we will get into when I start describing magic.

The Daylight spell provides a 60' radius of illumination, and lasts for half an hour. It also harms certain kinds of undead, such as vampires.

It is worth noting that characters with low light vision can double these distances, and that characters with dark vision see into dark places up to their range - so a dwarf at the centre of a Daylight spell would see no more than the human stood next to them, but the elf to their other side would see twice as far.

After lighting, the book talks about marching order. It gives advice that to us would seem fairly obvious - stick the folks in heavy armour at the front and back, and the squishies in the middle. It also points out the tradeoff between being closer together to better protect each other, but not being so close together as to all be caught in the same fireball.

There is a sidebar here that also talks about ways that players can help the game run more smoothly. Suggestions include having someone in the party keep a map of places you explore so that they can easily find their way back to places, having someone keep notes on names of NPCs, secrets learned, treasure found and so on. The DM will also want to keep track of such things, of course, but if a player keeps track of them then that's one less thing to bother the DM about. The final suggestion it makes is keeping track of things like hit points, spells per day and other such stuff on a separate bit of paper, and only transferring the changes over to the character sheet at the end of the session - not a bad bit of advice, since after a few levels you still might find yourself rubbing holes into your character sheet...

Then, we come to experience and levels. Levelling up is quite simple - first, you pick the class you're gaining a level in. This will often be a class you already have levels in, given that excessive multi-classing is punished mechanically (as a reminder, going for a one level dip in a class may result in XP penalties). You then modify your BAB and base saves, buy ranks in skills with your skill points for the level, improve an ability score if appropriate, pick a feat if appropriate, pick new spells if appropriate, roll your hit die for increased hit points (they increase by a minimum of 1, even if your Constitution is low enough that your roll brought your new hp to 0 or lower), and note down any new class features.

Regarding treasure, the advice is to split treasure evenly, since that tends to avoid arguments. In the case of special items, it suggests it should go to whoever wants them, in exchange for a portion of their share. If more than one person wants the same item, it suggests bidding portions of their share of the loot - and possibly even money they had prior to the adventure. It suggests that costs related to the adventure should be paid for out of the loot before splitting it, and that a party fund might be useful for picking up stuff that would benefit the whole party (like healing potions).

Finally, this chapter mentions that other rewards might be forthcoming from adventures, including reputation, followers, land or even noble titles.

Well, this was a relatively short chapter, with not much of note. This chapter is often ignored by GMs, for a number of reasons. Many dislike encumbrance, and so choose to ignore it. They often prefer to montage travel, and so ignore things like getting supplies together, or how the speed and distance a group can travel is limited by how much crap they're carrying and whether they have pack animals.

Personally though, I like the detail in this chapter. It provides limits on the party; you can't have a 15 minute adventuring day if doing so requires spending days - and resources - in a dungeon. The party can't just leave town if they can't buy (or forage) sufficient food and water to make the trip. The fact that a severe injury from a fight might mean that the pace needs to be slowed, and that the party might not have enough food for the trip, is a thing that might affect a party's decision of whether or not to attack potential enemies seen on the road.

Next up is magic - this will probably be the final update for the PHB, since the chapter on casting spells is only 12 pages long, and the spell list is the last chapter in the book. Since a couple of people have asked me to go straight into the DMG, I will do so once the PHB is finished.

Magic (Part 1)

posted by hectorgrey Original SA post

Libertad! posted:

I notice that if it's a really long post, splitting the post into two parts helps. I did that with some of my Northlands entries.

Thanks; this seems to be working.

D&D 3rd Edition - The Core Books

Part 7: Magic (Part 1)

Here we are, at the penultimate chapter. The chapter on magic begins by explaining that there are two types of magic: Arcane (used by Wizards, Sorcerers and Bards) and Divine (used by Clerics, Druids, Paladins and Rangers). In addition, most spells are part of one of eight different schools of magic. We then get a couple of examples different spells: Charm Person to get a goblin to give the party information (since the goblin thinks of the caster as his friend); Summon Monster 1 to provide a Rogue with flanking for a turn; and Burning Hands to roast some kobolds.

A side bar gives us the following regarding spell preparation:

What is a spell? posted:

A spell is a one-time magical effect. Most spellcasting characters - Wizards, Clerics, Druids, Paladins and Rangers - prepare their spells in advance and use them when the time is right. Preparing a spell requires careful reading from a spellbook (for Wizards) or devout prayers or meditation (for divine spellcasters). In either case, preparing a spell means casting the first and lengthiest part of it. Only the very end of the spell, its trigger, remains to be activated. After preparing a spell, the character carries it, nearly cast, in his or her mind, ready to use. To use a spell, the character completes casting it. Spellcasting might require a few special words, specific gestures, a specific item, or any combination of the three. Even though most of the spell was essentially cast ahead of time during preparation, this final action is known as "casting" the spell.

It's an interesting bit of fiction for the implied setting of D&D, and if I'd actually bothered to read that bit when I first played D&D, I might not have had the same problems with it as a game - Vancian casting always made far less sense to me in fiction when the terms used were memorise and forget, and the same terms were used by a lot of veteran players around the time I first got my hands on this.

This is where the game describes the casting of a spell. First, you choose which spell to cast - if you prepare spells, then you pick one of your prepared spells; if you cast spontaneously, then pick a spell known. You always have the option to use a higher level slot to prepare or cast (depending on whether you prepare or cast spontaneously) a lower level spell, but this does not improve the spell in any way. This, incidentally, means that you can in fact play the world's worst Wizard with an Intelligence of 10 all the way to level 20 without losing out on spells per day - while you can only cast cantrips, you can still cast 40 of them per day...

Spells that have a casting time of one action are cast as a standard action, and go into effect immediately. Spells with a casting time of a full round are cast as a full round action (surprise, surprise) and go into effect immediately before your next turn. Longer casting times naturally take longer to cast - a spell with a casting time of one minute cast on your first turn goes into effect immediately before your 11th turn, and so on.

There are six standard ranges for a spell (all of which include the caster: Personal means that it only affects the caster; Touch means that it can only affect a target that the caster touches; Close means it can reach up to 25 feet away, +5 for every two caster levels; Medium means that it can reach up to 100 feet away, +10 per caster level; Long means that it can reach up to 400 feet away, +40 per caster level; and Unlimited means that it can reach anywhere on the same plane of existance. Some spells don't have a standard range, and instead simply have a range expressed in feet.

To cast a spell that has a target, you must be able to see the target - which usually means you need line of sight, but remote vision might also help in some cases. You also need to specify a target - you can't simply say that your Magic Missile targets "the leader of the bandits" unless you can identify which of the bandits is the leader (or successfully guess).

For rays, you need to have line of effect - that is to say, there needs to be a completely unobstructed line between you and your target. You need to make a ranged touch attack to hit your target, and cover will apply (since the ray actually needs the target). Other attack spells also require line of effect to work, as do summoning spells.

Some spells create clouds of gas or fog, which spread out from an origin point. This can spread into areas you can't see, but you must be able to see the origin. This also applies to burst spells, such as dispel Magic or Fireball. A cone shoots away from you in a direction you choose - it is as wide at its furthest point is it is long. Some of these spells can be shaped, often in discrete 10 foot cubes.

Most spells grant a saving throw to reduce or negate the harm caused by the spell. The save might negate the harm entirely, do a different, lesser kind of harm (for example, a spell that would normally kill simply deals damage), do half its usual damage, or may simply not be allowed. Magic objects, and objects being used or worn by a character, may also make saving throws against spells that specifically target objects, using the character's saves unless their own are better. Also, some spells are usually harmless or beneficial, but allow a save anyway (for example, somebody who does not wish to be healed magically can attempt to resist it with a Will save). The DC for these saves is 10 + the level of the spell + the casting stat bonus of the caster (so Intelligence for Wizards, Wisdom for Clerics, and Charisma for Sorcerers). When a spell has a different level for different classes, use the one relevant to your own class.

When you succeed on a saving throw against a spell without obvious physical effects, you feel a hostile force or a tingling, but you cannot deduce the exact nature of the attack. The example here is that if you cast Charm Person on someone and you fail, they know that someone has tried to use magic on them, but they don't know what kind. You can tell if a target of a targetted spell has succeeded at a saving throw, but you canot sense this for area of effect spells (including such things as Zone of Truth).

You can, of course, choose to simply fail your saving throw - this is what is generally assumed to happen with healing spells under most circumstances. You can even choose to lower any special resistances to magic if you wish (for example, an elf can choose to allow a sleep spell to affect them).

A spell that does not explicitly target objects does not affect any object being carried or worn by a creature. However, if the creature rolls a natural 1 on a saving throw, there is a chance that a randomly determined item will also be struck. Unworn items are will be affected by area of effect spells - magical items get saving throws, while non magical items are assumed to fail their save and take whatever effect the spell would usually have. The DMG covers magic item saving throws.

Some characters have Spell Resistance (SR) - while some rare spells do not allow SR to apply, most do. To affect a creature with SR with a spell, the caster must make a caster level check (d20 + caster level) and get at least equal to the SR of the target. A creature can voluntarily lower their SR - this is often done so that they can receive magical healing - but this naturally leaves them vulnerable to other spells.

Most durations are measured in rounds, minutes, hours or some other easy to use increment. Once the time is up, the spell ends. If a duration is variable, the DM is supposed to roll it secretly. Some spells, such as Cure Light Wounds, have an instantaneous duration - the healing doesn't go away, but the magic is only around for as long as it takes for the healing to occur (which is instant). Some spells have permanent duration, in which case it will last until somebody removes it. Some spells require concentration to keep going - concentrating on such a spell is a standard action, and no other spells may be cast in the meantime.

For touch spells, you can hold the charge as long as you wish (though as mentioned under Combat, if you touch anything or anyone the spell immediately goes off) - this means that you can cast Cure Light Wounds on the first turn, and then wait until somebody has been hurt before walking up to them and using the spell on them.

Some spells may be dismissed; this is a standard action, and involves using a modified version of the spell's verbal component. If there is no verbal component, then the spell may be dismissed with a gesture.

There are six kinds of spell component, and each spell has at least one of them. All of the components for the spell must be present for the spell to work. A verbal component is a spoken incantation, which must be spoken in a strong, clear voice. A Silence spell or a gag spoils the incantation, and thus prevents the spell from being cast. A deaf spellcaster has a 20% chance to screw this up due to mispronunciations.

A somatic component is measured and precise movement or the hand or some other part of the body. At least one hand must be free to provide a somatic component. Naturally, if you are being grappled, you cannot do spells which require this component, and if you're wearing armour, you risk failing any arcane spell with a somatic component.

A material component is a physical substance or object that is annihilated by the spell as part of the casting. If a spell requires, for example, a pearl worth at least a hundred gold, then casting that spell five times requires five such pearls. Unless a cost is given for a material component, the cost is negligible. You shouldn't bother to keep track of such components; if you have your spell component pouch, you have all you need.

A focus is a prop of some sort; much like a material component except that it is not destroyed by the casting (thus it can be reused). As before, unless a specific cost is listed, you can assume you have it so long as you have your component pouch.

A divine focus is much like a regular focus, except it must be of spiritual significance to the caster. Sometimes a divine spell allows for such a focus to be used where the arcane equivalent would require a material component.

Finally, some spells cost XP to cast. These are spells like Wish, Miracle and Commune. That XP is permanently spent, and can only be re-earned the old fashioned way. You cannot spend enough XP to lose a level, and thus must have sufficient XP above what your current level requires in order to cast the spell. That said, you are not required to level up upon gaining sufficient XP; you may instead choose to keep it aside for spell casting purposes.

Casting spells also requires concentration. If anything happens which could interrupt your concentration while you are casting, you must make a Concentration skill check to not lose the spell. I listed the DCs back when I was discussing skills, but it is worth pointing out here that if a spell takes longer than a standard action to cast, further injury to the spell caster can force further Concentration checks - Sorcerers in particular need to be aware of this, since using any metamagic on their spells increases casting time.

A spell caster can also counter spells as they are being cast. In order to do this, the spell caster must ready an action to counter a spell from a specific opponent. If that opponent attempts to cast a spell, the spell caster immediately gets a Spellcraft check to identify the spell being cast. If this succeeds, then the spell caster can attempt to counter; if not, they can't. In order to counter a spell, the spell caster must have the same spell available to cast, Dispel Magic available to cast, or a spell specifically listed as being opposed to the spell being cast. Related spells cannot be used in place of the actual spell (for example, Delayed Blast Fireball cannot be used to counter Fireball). Metamagic is not taken into account for the purposes of whether a spell is the same spell. If you cast the correct spell, then both your spell and the other spell negate each other.

Your caster level is basically your level in the class that the spell was learned from. For example, a level 10 Wizard has a caster level of 10, while a level 2/8 Wizard/Sorcerer has a caster level of 2 for Wizard spells and 8 for Sorcerer spells. You can cast a spell at a lower caster level than usual, but the caster level you use must be high enough to cast the spell in the first place. This would rarely come up, but it might be useful for situations where you want to hide just how powerful a spell caster you are.

Spells can fail from Arcane Spell Failure from armour, failing a Concentration check, or from being cast on a target that's not appropriate for the spell in question (for example, if you cast Charm Person on a dog - even if that dog has been polymorphed into a human). In all such cases, that casting of the spell is wasted. This includes spells which only affect targets with sufficiently low hit points or hit dice, and no, the GM is not under any obligation to tell you in advance whether a spell would be wasted when you choose to cast it.

Some spells (such as Invisibility) end if the person under the effect attacks anybody. An attack is defined as all offensive combat actions, even those that don't inflict damage. It does not, however, include summoning magic, as this does not directly harm anyone.

Some spells give bonuses - with only a few exceptions (Dodge bonuses, most Circumstance bonuses and Armour bonuses gained from using both armour and a shield), spells with the same bonus type do not stack. Instead, the target simply receives the best bonus of that type in effect at any given time. This also applies to penalties; only the worst is taken.

Some spells have descriptors; they don't have any real mechanical effect, but some people gain bonuses to saving throws against spells with certain descriptors (such as Mind Affecting or Language Dependent). In the latter case, the spell only works if the language used with the spell can be understood by the target; otherwise the spell is wasted.

Some spells are able to bring back the dead. When a living creature dies, its soul departs its body, leaves the material plane, travels through the astral plane and goes to the plane where its deity resides. Creatures that didn't worship a deity instead go to the plane of their alignment. Raising the dead involves contacting this soul - provided it is free and willing to return, the spell may succeed. If the soul is either not willing or not free to return, the spell is wasted. The soul knows the name, alignment and patron deity (if any) of the character attempting to bring them back, and may choose not to return on those grounds.

You can prevent a character from being brought back from the dead in a couple of ways; the most certain is a spell called Trap the Soul, which prevents the soul from moving on to the afterlife in the first place. More common is to destroy the corpse, as the most common resurrection magic requires at least some part of the body to be intact in order to work.

Finally, being raised from the dead usually costs the character a level of experience. XP is set midway between the required amount for the previous level and their current level (i.e. if you were level 5 when you died, you will return as a level 4 character with 8,000 XP (level 4 requires 6,000 and level 5 10,000)). Honestly, level loss is a bit of a pain in the arse, and I usually prefer to roll up a new character rather than resurrect one that died, but if you really want to keep playing your current character, it means that death isn't completely toothless. If a level 1 character is raised from the dead, they instead permanently lose a point of Constitution. The level or Constitution loss cannot be repaired by any kind of magic, though XP may still be gained as normal and and Constitution may still be increased through levels.

Magic (Part 2)

posted by hectorgrey Original SA post

D&D 3rd Edition - The Core Books

Part 8: Magic (Part 2)

As mentioned before, for a Wizard, preparing a spell essentially involves casting the majority of the spell in advance, leaving only the smallest portion remaining to complete the spell. This process requires at least 15 minutes and up to an hour, and it requires at least eight hours of rest (not necessarily sleep, but there must be no movement, combat, spell casting, conversation or basically anything metally or physically taxing (including taking watch). If this rest is interrupted, then an additional hour of rest must be had, and at least one uninterrupted hour must be had prior to the preparing spells.

A Wizard may choose not to prepare all of the spells they could cast that day - instead leaving some slots empty in case they're needed later. This preparation of spells midway through the day takes a minimum of 15 minutes, and spells which have already been prepared cannot be swapped out with new ones. Once prepared, a spell remains prepared until it is cast - though some magical effects can cause prepared spells to be lost.

At this point in the book, we get an explanation on magical writings - basically, describing magic in writing requires a special notation, much like how we use musical notation to describe music and mathematical notation to describe mathematics and physics. While everybody uses the same magical notation, everybody uses it in their own unique way - it takes time and a Spellcraft check to decypher magical writing, or else a casting of the Read Magic spell allows the writing to be read without a check. Once it has been decyphered, it does not need to be decyphered a second time. Alternatively, the writer of the notation can grant automatic success.

A Wizard can prepare spells from borrowed spellbooks, but it is difficult. Assuming it has been decyphered, preparing the spell requires a Spellcraft check of DC 15 + spell level. If this check succeeds, the spell can be prepared once; a separate check must be made for each preparation, and once a check is failed, the spell cannot be prepared until the next day.

Wizards learn new spells in a number of ways. The one way in which they're guaranteed to learn spells is by levelling up - every level, they are assumed to have been doing their own research during their downtime, and as such receive two spells of any level they can cast when they level up. Specialist Wizards must take at least one of these from their specialist school.

The most common means of gaining spells is for a Wizard to copy a spell from either a scroll or another Wizard's spellbook. This process takes a day, and requires a Spellcraft check of DC 15 + spell level, with a +2 bonus if you're specialised in the school of magic. If this check succeeds, you now understand the spell well enough to transcribe it in your own words into your spellbook. If the spell is copied from a spellbook, the original remains intact, but if it is copied from a scroll, the magic is removed from the scroll. On a failed check, you cannot learn this spell until you gain a new rank in spellcraft, regardless of the source. If you were trying to copy from a spellbook, it cannot be copied from that spellbook; if you were trying to copy it from a scroll, the magic does not disappear from the scroll.

The third and final means of gaining new spells is through independent research. This is covered in more detail in the DMG, but essentially it can either duplicate an existing spell or create an entirely new one.

Naturally, a Wizard's spellbook only has enough space for so many spells - a typical spellbook has a hundred pages. Writing a spell into your spellbook takes one day per spell level, +1. A level 0 spell takes a single day. Each spell takes up two pages per spell level, while a level 0 spell takes up a single page. Having done the maths, assuming that a Wizard only gets spells through levelling up and takes the most powerful spells they can while attempting to not waste spellbook space, a level 20 Wizard requires four spellbooks. The kinds of Wizard you're more likely to find in play will generally require a few more, meaning that as Wizards reach higher levels, they tend to pick up a spellbook specifically for travelling, which includes only the most regularly used spells on their list. The special inks and other materials required for writing in a spellbook costs 100GP per page.

Sorcerers and Bards do not use spellbooks and do not prepare spells; they learn spells only by levelling up, and they may cast any of their spells known that they have sufficient slots for. However, they must have 8 hours of rest, and 15 minutes of meditation to ready their mind for the casting of spells.

Any spells cast during the 8 hours immediately prior to regaining arcane spells are counted against the spells a character may regain - for example, if there was an attack in the night, and the wizard had to cast a fireball, the Wizard has one fewer third level spell available to them when it comes time to prepare new spells.

When it comes to divine magic, things work a little differently. You must pick a certain time of the day when you create the character (or first take a level in a divine casting class). At that time of day, you must spend an hour praying and meditating in order to receive spells from your patron. As with the Wizard, you can leave some slots empty for later preparation. While preparation requires peace and quiet, it does not require rest. On the other hand, it must be done at a certain time every day, and if the opportunity is missed, spells may not be prepared until the following day. Divine casters must also deal with the recent casting limit, as described above.

As we reach the end of the chapter on Magic, we get a description of the eight schools of magic.

Abjuration is comprised entirely of protective and banishment spells - antimagic field, protection from evil, dispel magic and banishment are the examples given here. If multiple abjuration spells are active within 10 feet of each other for 24 hours or more, the magical fields interfere with each other, creating barely visible energy fluctuations. Barriers created by abjuration spells do not push away creatures within the area already.

Conjuration is comprised of four kinds of spells: Summoning spells bring a creature or object from another place to a place you designate, and sends them back once the spell ends; Calling spells fully transport a creature from another plane to the plane you are currently on; Creation spells create an object or creature in place, and Healing spells heal things. The main difference between Summoning and Calling is that Summoned creatures don't die when brought below 0 hp but instead return to where they came from, while a Called creature that is killed is dead. Calling extraplanar entities is a dangerous task, and requires a decent amount of preparation. Magic Circle and Dimensional Anchor allow the Conjurer to keep the being in place, while special diagrams can make these traps more secure.

Divination spells give you more information - Identify, Detect Thoughts, Clairvoyance and True Seeing are good examples of this school. Many of these spells have a cone shaped area that moves with you, and if you study the same area for multiple rounds you can often gain additional information.

Enchantment spells are one of two types: Charm spells change the way a creature views you (often making them see you as a good friend), while Cumpulsion spells force the subject to act in some way or changes the way their mind works. Sugession, Domination and Charm Person are good examples of this school.

Evocation spells manipulate energy, and are the main source of damage dealing magic. This is the school of magic that lets you throw around fire and lightning.

Illusion spells focus on deceiving the senses or minds of others. They cause you to see things that aren't there, not see things that are, hear phantom noises, remember things that never happened, or any number of things. They also include spells that create illusions that are so powerful, they can have a real impact on the world. Illusion magic commonly comes with a Will save to disbelieve, provided they have a good reason to - for example, an illusory floor over a pit only gives a save to disbelieve if you interact with it in some way (such as stepping on it - though at that point, it might be a little obvious).

Necromancy spells manipulate the power of death, and include pretty much all spells related to undead and many that cause instant death.

Transmutation spells change the properties of a thing, making them grow, shrink or changing them into a different thing entirely.

Finally, we come to special abilities - spell-like abilities are basically abilities that a creature has that mimic a spell, except they don't have verbal, somatic or material components. They are treated as spells in all other ways, and as such can be dispelled by Dispel Magic and do not work in areas of antimagic.

Supernatural abilities include things like a medusa's petrifying gaze, a spectres ability to energy drain and a Cleric's ability to turn undead. They aren't spells, and as such aren't subject to SR or Dispel Magic, but they still don't work in areas of antimagic.

Extraordinary abilities include a Rogue's evasion ability or a troll's ability to regenerate. They are not magical in any sense, though they may break the laws of physics.

Natural abilities are things a creature can do that aren't any of the above, like a bird's ability to fly.

The final chapter provides the spell lists for all the spell casting classes. Wizards and Sorcerers take spells from the same list. It also includes details of the Cleric domains. A Cleric chooses two domains, and gains one spell per spell level per day which may be taken from one of these two domains. In addition, each domain grants a special ability to Clerics of that domain.

The elemental domains (earth, air, fire and water) give a the ability to turn/rebuke elementals of the opposite and same types respectively, which works exactly the same as their ability with undead.

The alignment domains (law, chaos, good and evil) give a cleric a +1 to caster level on aligned spells.

The Animal domain allows a Cleric to cast Animal Friendship once per day, and grants Knowledge (Nature) as a class skill.

The Death domain gives a Cleric the Death Touch ability - once per day, you may make a melee touch attack, then roll a number of d6s equal to your Cleric level. If this is higher than the number of hit points your target has remaining, they die. If not, nothing happens.

The Destruction domain gives a Cleric the ability to smite once per day. This gives a +4 attack bonus, and a damage bonus equal to their Cleric level. This must be declared prior to making the attack.

The Luck domain allows you to reroll one roll per day, but you must take the result of the reroll even if worse.

The Magic domain allows you to use scrolls, wands and other devices with spell compltion or spell trigger activation as a wizard of half your cleric level. If you are also a wizard, your actual wizard levels stack with this.

The Trickery domain gives you Bluff, Discuise and hide as class skills.

The War domain gives you a free Martial Weapon Proficiency (if necessary) and Weapon focus with your deity's favoured weapon.

Magic (Part 3)

posted by hectorgrey Original SA post

Turned out I needed to split the post into three - apparently my connection to the site can't handle a post of more than roughly 15,000 characters...

D&D 3rd Edition - The Core Books

Part 9: Magic (Part 3)

So yeah; I'm not going to describe all the spells because I could just as easily send you a link to their 3.5 equivalents and most of the spells would be identical. I will, however, describe some of the more interesting ones. They are listed in alphabetical order in the book, so that is how I will present them here (because I am lazy).

Antimagic Field is a level 6 Wizard/Sorcerer spell or a level 8 Cleric spell, and it prevents any magical effects from working within a 10' sphere, centred around you. Note that this means that you cannot cast spells yourself while the effect is active. Magical weapons that enter the area of effect become mundane weapons (though still masterwork, so you still get the +1 to hit), and innately magical creatures are not harmed (though they lose their supernatural and spell like abilities).

Arcane Lock adds a +10 to the DC to break down a door, and otherwise makes it magically locked. The Knock spell does not remove an Arcane Lock; it merely suppresses it for 10 minutes.

Atonement is used to do a couple of things: it reverses magical alignment change; it can restore class features to a Paladin who unwillingly commited an evil act (note that it cannot restore a Paladin who willingly commits an evil act); and it can allow a Cleric or Druid that incurred the anger of their deity to regain their spell casting abilities. If this was intentional, it costs the casting Cleric 500XP; if it was unintentional, it costs no XP. This spell can also be used to tempt a character to your own alignment - it cannot be used on an unwilling target. It is noted that this use is mainly intended as an in character reason why a character might drastically change alignment.

Clone is a level 8 Wizard/Sorcerer spell that allows a wizard to create a duplicate of a creature's body. If the creature being cloned is dead, then so long as the soul is free and willing to return, it may return to the clone rather than to its old body. This is the only way a Wizard can bring someone back from the dead and it is, interestingly enough, a Necromancy spell. I say interestingly enough, because Raise Dead, the Cleric equivalent, is a Conjuration spell. Personally, I preferred the flavour of having pretty much all the healing spells be Necromancy spells, but meh.

Contagion immediately gives a subject a disease. The diseases are described in the DMG, but suffice to say they are all fucking nasty. This is a fourth level Sorcerer/Wizard spell, or a third level Cleric spell.

Cure Minor Wounds is a level 0 Cleric and Druid spell which cures one point of damage - enough to stabilise someone who is dying, but probably not much more than that.

Delayed Blast Fireball is a seventh level spell that creates a more powerful fireball than the regular fireball spell. You set a delay of up to five rounds, after which it explodes.

Dimension Door allows you to teleport yourself from where you are to any other spot within long range. You always get to exactly where you desire, and cannot do anything until your next turn once you have cast it (so you cannot take a move action). If you arrive in a plave that is already occupied by a solid body, you become trapped in the Astral Plane. Each turn you may make a Will save (DC 25) to return to the Material plane.

Disintegrate is a sixth level Sorcerer/Wizard spell. A thin green ray springs from your pointed finger. You make a ranged touch attack; if you hit, then you may disintegrate either a 10 foot cube of non-living matter, or a single creature or object, whichever is smaller. A creature or object that is hit may make a Fortitude save; on a success, they take 5d6 damage; on a fail, there is now a small pile of dust where they once were (which counts as enough remains for Resurrection, but not for Raise Dead).

Permanency, naturally, makes a spell permanent. This costs XP to do. There is a list of spells which may be made permanent by default, but a Wizard/Sorcerer may research the ability to apply it to other spells in the same way that Wizards can research new spells.

Phantasmal Killer is an Illusion spell that creates an image in the target's mind of the most fearsome creature they can imagine. The subject first gets a Will save to recognise it as not being real, and if touched gets a Fortitude save to not die. On a successful Fortitude save, the target takes 3d6 damage. If the target succees and is wearing a helm of telepathy, they can turn the beast on you instead, at which point you must make the same saves.

Polymorph Other permanently changes the target into a different form of creature, though it does not change the intelligence stat of the target. Polymorph Any Object changes the Intelligence stat of the target, and may also be permanent if used in this way. This is how you turn someone you don't like into a newt (though in the latter case, they at least get better after a week or so).

Power Word Kill kills a single target with a hundred or fewer hit points, or kills a group of people within 15 feet of 200 total hit points or fewer (no individual may have more than 20). Anybody with more hit points than this survives. There is no saving throw.

Ray of Enfeeblement gives a -1d6 enhancement penalty to the target's Strength (-1 per 2 caster levels to a maximum of -5), which cannot drop the ability below 1.

Rary's Mnemonic Enhancer allows you to prepare additional spells or to retain a spell that you have just cast. It's a fourth level spell, and limits you to three levels of spells. It also requires an ivory plaque worth at least 50GP.

Rary's Telepathic Bond allows a group of creatures to communicate with each other telepathically for a couple of hours - potentially useful for adventures where stealth is important.

Reincarnate restores a creature to life with their former mental abilities, but in a new physical form chosen at random. This form might be that of a fae, an animal or, if you're very lucky, a human, elf or halfling.

Shadow Evocation and Conjuration are Illusion spells that allow you to fake any Evocation or Conjuration spell of a lower level than these spells. There is a will save to disbelieve Evocation spells; if this fails, you treat the spell as the real thing, including its usual effects. If it succeeds, you take 20% of the usual damage.

The Summon Monster spells take a full round to cast, and therefore the summoned monster does not appear until just before your next turn. It's important to remember this, because this spell is often used as an example as to why the Fighter is unnecessary at high levels. Higher levels of this spell can produce either more powerful creatures or larger numbers of smaller creatures.

Transmute Rock to Mud, and it's counterpart Transmute Mud to Rock, are a pair of spells that can are basically opposits. It takes a standard action to cast either one. The latter gives a reflex save, but the ability to turn otherwise solid stone into mud has a number of very useful applications in the right hands.

Trap the Soul is how you make sure someone you don't like is never, ever coming back. It traps the soul into a gem, meaning that they cannot be returned from the dead until the gem is found.

True Resurrection can restore to life people who have been dead for upwards of a century, and whose bodies are completely gone, so long as you can identify the deceased in a completely unambiguous manner. This spell is a 9th level Cleric spell, and is the only way to bring someone back from the dead that does not cost a level. This uses up a diamond worth at least five thousand gold pieces.

Wish may duplicate any Wizard/Sorcerer spell of 8th level or lower, any other spell of 6th level or lower, undo harmful effects, create valuable items, increase ability scores (only by +1, but two to five wishes in immediate succession may increase a stat by as much as 5), create a new body for use with Resurrection, transport travellers or undo a single recent event. You can wish for more than this, but this gives the opportunity for the GM to screw with you (ideally in ways that are funny and allow you to get something out of the experience rather than simply vindictive).

And so we come to the end of the PHB. My next update will be on the beginning of the DMG. You know, there's a surprising amount of good advice in that book - I wish I'd paid more attention to it when I was younger. Oh well...

Introduction to the Dungeon Masters Guide and Dungeon Mastering (Part 1)

posted by hectorgrey Original SA post

D&D 3rd Edition - The Core Books

Part 10: Introduction to the Dungeon Masters Guide and Dungeon Mastering (Part 1)

So here we are, back to the introduction. The DMG's introduction is much the same as that of the PHB, in that it tells you what each chapter contains and gives advice on multiplication and rounding. Specifically, all fractions should be rounded down, and multiplication works a little weirdly. Basically, if you have more than one multiplier, then instead of multiplying them together, you should subtract one from each multiplier after the first, then add them all together - for example, if something gets doubled twice, it should be multiplied by three, or if something is doubled and then tripled, it should be multiplied by four, rather than four and six respectively. It also gives a brief introduction to the job of being DM:

DMG Introduction posted:

You've read the Player's Handbook, digested the material inside it, and you're ready to take on a challenge beyond creating a character. You want to be the Dungeon Master (DM). Or, you've been running games for quite some time and know a lot about what you're doing. Either way, this book is going to present you with some surprises and unveil some secrets.

Let's start with the biggest secret of all: the key to Dungeon Mastering (don't tell anyone, OK?). The secret is that you're in charge. This is not the telling everybody what to do sort of in charge. Rather, you get to decide how your player group is going to play this game, when and where the adventures take place, and what happens. You get to decide how the rules work, which rules to use, and how strictly to adhere to them. That kind of in charge.

You're a member of a select group. Truly, not everybody has the creativity and the dedication to be a Dungeon Master. Dungeon Mastering (DMing) can be a challenge, but it's not a chore. You're the lucky one out of your circle of friends that plays the game. The real fun is in your hands. As you flip through the Monster Manual or look at published adventures on a store shelf, you get to decide what the player characters (PCs) take on next. You get to build a whole world, design all its characters, and play all the ones not directly controlled by the other players.

It's good to be the DM.

The DM defines the game. A good DM results in a good game. Since you control the pacing, the types of adventures and encounters, and the nonplayer characters (NPCs), the whole tenor of the game is in your hands. It's fun, but it's a big responsibility. If you're the sort of person who likes to provide fun for your friends, to create new things, or to come up with new ideas, then you're an ideal candidate for DM.

Once your group has a Dungeon Master, however, that doesn't mean you can't switch around. Some DMs like to take a turn at being a player, and many players eventually want to try their hand at DMing.

It's not a bad introduction to DMing, though I would argue that creativity is something that can be developed. Far as I'm concerned, all players are potential GMs. Once this is finished, the book goes on to a whole chapter on DMing for beginners. It doesn't have anything required for future reference, but instead contains a bunch of good advice for the general running of a game.

It begins by saying that the DM has a number of jobs within the game. They need to provide adventures, which can either be done by buying pre-written stuff or by creating your own (advice for which is given later in the book). With regard to pre-written adventures, it mentions that not only are you allowed to make changes to the adventure to better suit your game, but you'll probably need to, if only to allow it to fit into your campaign world if it was written for a different one.

The next listed job is teaching the game to new players. The book recommends having a good grounding in how character creation works so you can help them with that, and teaching them the most basic aspects of the rules (roll a d20, add modifiers, equal to or better than the DC is a success) and then teach them other parts of the game as they come up in play.

We also have providing the world - even if you're using a published setting, the world is still yours. It is more than simply a backdrop for adventures (though it is certainly that too); it is everything in the fictional world that is not the PCs and the plot. A well run world should make the players feel like their characters are a part of it, rather than apart from it. While the PCs are powerful and important, they should feel like part of a world that is ultimately larger than they are.

Advice given here includes to make sure there's plenty of consistency in your world - the same NPCs should be running the shops (unless there's a good reason otherwise) in the same places. Change can and should happen for the world to feel alive, but it should make sense.

The next job is that of determining the style of play. There are three major styles of play listed here. The first is Kick in the Door, where the world serves as merely a backdrop for the players to kill shit and take its stuff. In such a game, mechanical balance is incredibly important, because the vast majority of the time is going to be spent on combat. The advice it gives here is that people they're meant to kill should be clearly evil; people they're meant to help (or who might help them) should be clearly good, and you should try to get them back into the action as quickly as possible.

The second is Deep Immersion Storytelling, where everybody remains in character all the time, combat should only ever happen for in character reasons (and as such should be rare), and you might go for multiple sessions without a single d20 being rolled. Here, it suggests that it might even be worth streamlining the game's combat system so that fights can be gotten over with quickly. I like this - even this early in the book, it's giving explicit permission to change the rules when doing so will make for a better game.

The third (and most common) is somewhere in between the two. The book advises that a good mix of role playing opportunities and combat encounters will generally be the most fun for most players.

In addition to these styles of play, the book also mentions that you should also have some idea of how serious or humourous your game should be, any naming conventions in place and whether or not players are allowed to play multiple characters. It suggests that each player should only play one character, but allowing them to play two each might be useful for groups of fewer than four players.

The next job is adjudication; basically, making rules calls where the rules exist for a thing, or making rulings where rules don't. In the latter case, it says you ought to keep note of what the ruling was, so that you can keep things consistent should something similar happen again.

After that we have moving the game forward. Essentially, this boils down to keeping things moving, but also includes suggestions about maybe using props and music to set the mood. It also says that a little bit of physical acting can be useful here, such as miming giving a thing to a player when an NPC is giving something to their PC, but that it shouldn't be allowed to get out of hand.

Next, we have keeping the game balanced. On balance, the book has this to say:

Keeping Game Balance posted:

A lot of people talk about game balance. They refer to the rules they like as "balanced", and the rules that don't seem to work as "unbalanced". But what does that really mean? All game balance does is to ensure that that most character choices are relatively equal. A balanced game is one in which one character doesn't dominate over the rest because of a mechanical choice he or she made. It also reflects that the characters aren't too powerful for the threats they face, yet neither are they hopelessly overmatched.

The book mentions two main ways in which balance is kept in a game of D&D: firstly, we have DM management. This refers to ensuring that challenges are appropriate to your party, giving all the PCs a chance to shine and, in aggregate, rewarding the the party equally for their efforts. In addition, the challenges should neither be too hard (resulting in a killer dungeon) nor too easy (resulting in a Monty Haul). The second main way is for the players to be able to trust that the DM will run the game fairly, will give adequate consideration to anything they include in the game, and will generally not be an asshole.

It then moves on to mention two different ways of solving potential problems if a PC has somehow become much more powerful than the rest of the party - dealing with it in game by having whatever it was be stolen (presumably to be regained at a more appropriate level, if at all), or dealing with it out of game by talking to your players like a fucking adult. It presents both options as equally valid, since some players might not be receptive to being spoken to like an adult, but I think it's obvious where my preference lies. In particular, it notes that one potential problem with dealing with the problem out of game is that if this fails, any attempt to deal with it in game will be obvious. Honestly, far as I'm concerned, if the problem can't be solved by talking to the player like an adult, then there's a bigger problem at the table than just game balance.

The next job mentioned is changing the rules. Yeah, that's right, front and centre, not only does the game tell you that you can change the rules, it tells you that you're expected to. That said, it points out that the rules as written were written the way they were for a reason, and changing those rules should only be done after a lot of thought. In particular, the following questions are given for you to ask yourself:

DMG posted:

  • Why am I changing this rule?
  • Am I clear on how the rule I'm going to change really works?
  • Have I considered why the rule existed as it did in the first place?
  • How will the change impact other rules or situations?
  • Will the change favour one race, class, feat, etc. more than the others?
  • Overall, is this change going to make more players happy or unhappy? (If the answer is happy, make sure the change isn't unbalancing. If the answer is unhappy, make sure the change is worth it.)

I don't think I've ever actually seen better advice on changing the rules of the game you're playing than is given here. It also adds that players might want to help with redesigning certain rules, and that that's perfectly fine, but the DM should make sure that their ideas aren't (intentionally or not) game breaking. The only advice I would add to this is that the DM should discuss this with the rest of the group, to make sure everyone is fine with changing things - it is, after all, their game as well.

It adds a couple of extra questions for making additions to the game (such as a new feat or spell) - "Is everybody going to want it?" and "Is it too limited?". If the answer to the first is yes, it's probably too powerful; if the answer to the second is yes, it's probably not powerful enough. Finally, it points out that mistakes can and will be made, and they should be dealt with as before; either in game or out of game.

Introduction to the Dungeon Masters Guide and Dungeon Mastering (Part 2)

posted by hectorgrey Original SA post

D&D 3rd Edition - The Core Books

Part 11: Introduction to the Dungeon Masters Guide and Dungeon Mastering (Part 2)

The biggest section in the chapter is dedicated to running a game session - which makes sense, since that's what a DM will usually spend most of their time doing. The first thing is says is that as DM, it is your responsibility to know your players well enough to know that they'll be able to get along with each other at the table. Beyond that, it suggests establishing table rules, such as who is responsible for snacks, what to do about absent players, what to do with dice (if it lands on the floor, for example, and where it may be rolled in the first place), what books may be referenced at the table and so on. Some suggestions here include only allowing the players access to the PHB at the table and not discussing rules in general during the session itself.

It also gives advice about dealing with problems at the table, such as when players start arguing over loot, or if you have an obnoxious player who ruins everyone else's fun (the advice here being to kick the bastard out of the group, because you shouldn't play D&D with people you wouldn't hang out with in other situations). It also mentions that, again, all of the PCs need time in the spotlight, and that if you have a player who's always telling the other players what they ought to be doing, you need to have a chat with them outside of the game about their behaviour.

Next, it says that you should try to discourage metagame thinking by subverting expectations on occasion, but at the same time you should encourage in game logic (for example, if the players are saying that there must be a lever somewhere to disable a trap because the DM wouldn't put a trap in that couldn't be disabled, then perhaps there is a lever, but it's rusted in place; while if the players are saying that there must be a lever somewhere because the inhabitants wouldn't have placed a trap that they couldn't get past themselves, perhaps the lever will actually work).

It is also your job to know your PCs - you should have some idea of their basic capabilities, because this will help you to design engaging encounters; you should know what kind of stuff they like and dislike, so that you're not introducing content that they're going to be bored by, and you should keep track of what's going on in the game so that you aren't going to be taken by surprise. In particular, your adventure design should take the players' plans into account - if they want to go and visit the Wizard's old master in the mountains, then you're going to have to allow for that rather than simply trying to force the PCs to do what you want.

Around here, there's a side bar about other things you might want to consider - whether or not you want to use minis (or counters or just about anything else for the tactical aspect of using minis without needing to actually buy minis), a DM screen to both hide your notes and provide easy reference material, a computer for having your notes in electronic format. These are interesting things for the new DM to consider, but obviously not important enough to get main rulebook space.

Obviously, preparation is important (though the form that the prep might take varies) - for published adventures, you might only need to note down relevant rulebook pages for certain NPC abilities, what the monsters might do prior to the fight starting (if anything), any changes that you need to make to the adventure in general, and reminders of consequences of certain actions. For your own adventures, it also adds things like maps of the local area (only as detailed as you want them to be), a key to said maps, NPC stats where relevant and any other notes you might find helpful. It does not say that all of these things must be prepared in advance, but that it might be helpful for some of it to be. There are things I would prepare in advance that aren't mentioned here, such as random encounter tables, but at the same time there are things I wouldn't prepare in advance, like plot (I much prefer situations, NPCs and aids to improvisation).

Naturally, you need to know the rules. That doesn't mean that you need to be intimiately familiar with every aspect, but it does mean that you need to know the basics and have a good idea of where to look so that looking up rules takes a minimal amount of time. It also mentions that if a player remembers the rules a little better than you do, but they're respectful about it, by all means thank them for their help (though obviously don't let them be a jackass about it).

For setting the stage, the book talks about three things: recapping the previous session, descriptions, and mapping. For recapping the previous session, it gives a decent example (quoted below), before explaining why a recap is useful - basically, that it can be frustrating both to the players and to the GM when the players can't actually recall what they were doing previously. This also means that you need to keep some notes of what happened previously. Under describing, it mentions that mood and emotion are as important as what they can see and hear. If the players ask a question, you should answer it; if they might not know the answer, ask how they intend to go about finding out. Also, it says that you should avoid leading questions - instead of "Do you look in the alcove?", "Where do you look?" is a much better alternative. Some of this stuff is fairly obvious to us, but as a guide to a complete beginner it's good advice to have available. Under mapping, it says that you should basically provide all the details the player asks for (though you should be willing to make an exception where this makes sense, such as when the party are running through unexplored passages or are exploring a maze - in the latter case, since potentially getting lost is part of the challenge, it makes very little sense to go out of your way to aid mapping.

A DM's job also includes setting the pace of play. As little time as possible should be spent on looking up rules - if you can't remember it perfectly and can't find it, then make a ruling and move on. Also, don't be afraid to ask questions. If the players seem bored, ask if they'd like to skip ahead or to pick up the pace. Ask them what their goals are (short and long term) for future preparation. Given that some players like to keep their PCs' goals secret from the other players, maybe ask them this outside of play. Finally, when you finish up a lengthy session, consider taking a break for people to go to the toilet, get a drink/snack or do whatever.

Next up, we have providing the action. For handling PC actions, it says to give them the answer to what happens as soon as possible after they tell you what they're doing. If it's not covered by existing rules, then extrapolate from something that is, make a ruling that makes sense, and move on. Encourage players to make decisions quickly during combat - each round lasts only 6 seconds, so while spending 30-60 seconds deciding what to do when you're not as familiar with your abilities as your character would be is fine, spending five to ten minutes just slows the game down. Finally, the player controls their own character. This means that you don't take actions for them (unless they're being magically compelled), you don't tell them how they feel (unless magic is involved), and high Charisma is not mind control. NPC actions should run on the same rules as PC actions, but the DM should be even quicker to decide what those actions are in order to keep things moving.

Around this point, we get another side bar - this time on DM tricks and tips using a notepad. It suggests drawing out a quick combat matrix with characters in initiative order down the side and turn order across the top. That way you can mark down when effects end and easily keep track of whose turn it is. It also suggests having a sheet of 20 random NPC names for when the players inevitably ask who the as yet unnamed NPC is, a more or less random flow chart diagram for use as an impromptu map, and a list of random magical items, spells and monsters that haven't been in the game recently as aids for improvisation. Finally, it suggests having a blank sheet of paper available just for taking notes.

For determining the results of actions, the first piece of advice given is that sometimes it doesn't make sense for a player to know how well they rolled - while the player should roll their dice in the vast majority of cases, sometimes skills such as bluff, diplomacy, sense motive, spot, listen, search, hide, move silently and rope use should be rolled in secret by the GM to avoid having the Rogue know that the reason they didn't find any traps might be that they rolled a 1 on the d20, rather than an actual lack of traps. Next, it says that you shouldn't tell the players the DC or AC for any given roll; it's up to the players to keep track of that stuff.

It also goes into the subject of fudging rolls. What it has to say on the matter is that ultimately, the DM can't cheat, since the DM is the referee. On the other hand, the DM might feel that both they and the players need to take the good with the bad when it comes to die rolls, and so roll everything in the open. What it also says is that even if you do fudge occasionally, make damned certain your players don't know it. If the players know you'll fudge the dice on their behalf sometimes, it drains most fights of any tension.

Ultimately, the dice might decree that one character's adventure ends a little sooner than planned for whatever reason. Let players be upset about this, but remind them that while bad things do happen, setbacks can also lead to new opportunities. If your character is dead, maybe there's another character concept you've been wanting to play for a while. Even a TPK doesn't need to mean that the campaign is over - maybe the party are raised from the dead, only to owe someone a big favour in exchange for all those diamonds, or maybe you just start with a brand new party in the same world - whoever the big bad was, they're still working towards their own goals, meaning that now a new band of heroes must put a stop to it. Whatever you decide, don't try to trivialise loss - if you retcon things like character death or level loss for one player, the others will expect it too, and this will drain dangerous encounters of their tension.

The chapter ends on ending the session. It largely gives common sense advice like not ending the session mid-fight and making sure there's a good way to work in any characters who were missing from the session next time. Finally, it mentions how you may wish to award XP at the end of the session, or you may wish to wait until the end of the adventure.

The final side bar is a session checklist that I'll quote below:

DMG posted:

  1. Set up the play area. Even if the game's not occurring at your house, you should set things up so that you're happy with where you're sitting. You need to have enough room for your notes and books and so forth. Make sure everybody can see and hear you.
  2. Make sure everyone is familiar (or refamiliarised) with his or her character and the current situation.
  3. Get a volunteer to keep a map/take notes.
  4. Determine the marching order of the characters - in general, where they will be in relation to each other during the adventure, so it's always clear who is where. This information can be written down or displayed with miniatures or counters.
  5. Describe the initial scene.
  6. Ask the players what their characters do.
  7. Run through all the events and encounters of the adventure (or that session's portion of the adventure), taking a few breaks as needed.
  8. Bring things to a good stopping point or a suitable cliff hanger.
  9. End the session.
  10. Ask the players what they plan to do next time.
  11. Award XP.

This chapter is, quite honestly, probably the best beginners' guide to GMing of its time. Where many games just give you a single chapter on everything that a GM might need to do with a game, this chapter is focused entirely on beginners' material. Perhaps if I'd actually read this chapter (beyond where it says fudging is OK), my very first game wouldn't have been nearly so fucking terrible.

Characters (Part 1)

posted by hectorgrey Original SA post

D&D 3rd Edition - The Core Books

Part 12: Characters (Part 1)

So you know how in the Players Handbook, the default rolling method is 4d6, drop the lowest, assign as you wish? This chapter begins with a number of alternatives. The first alternative is to roll 4d6, drop the lowest, and assign in order. You may then reroll any one stat, and switch any two. This method of rolling gives less control than the default, but can result in slightly more powerful characters to compensate. Personally, I quite like this option - if I were going to run a game of D&D 3e, I'd be very tempted to use this for generating the first characters, with the player's option of either this method or the default for replacement characters (say, if a PC dies for example). The switch means that you can still play whatever class you wanted to play, but you're also likely to have a few unusual stats for that class.

The second method is roll 3d6, and assign as you wish. This generates average characters (where the usual assumption is that PCs should be slightly above average), but still gives a little leeway in terms of the kind of class you can play. That said, it's worth noting that given that your highest stat is likely to be a 13, the average Wizard is going to need either magical items or multiple wishes in order to access 8th and 9th level spells, which may help to reduce the imbalance between casters and non-casters. Two weapon fighting, meanwhile, isn't going to be appreciably better than using a single handed weapon until level 8 on average. A Fighter may need to choose between being able to take power attack, dodge or expertise, and on average most people are going to end up with with two ability penalties and two ability bonuses.

The third method is the classic 3d6 in order. I understand why people like this option, but frankly I much prefer the first option if you're going to have a random character. The above notes apply here too, with the addition of potential problems from a character ending up with ability combinations that don't really lend themselves to any of the classes.

The fourth method is is the exact opposite of the above: 5d6, drop the lowest two, assign as you wish. This will generally result in very powerful characters even at first level - the imbalance between casters and non-casters will be increased at higher levels, as the casters get even more bonus spells per day than they might have otherwise been likely to get. I'm not a huge fan of this method either; I find the default provides characters who are already enough above average for the most part.

The fifth method is essentially the default method, except you get to reroll the lowest die once. This is just a little bit more powerful than the default, but not massively - the better the stats you're rolling, the less likely it is to make a stat significantly better than it would have been. It is a good way to avoid ending up with a 6 though.

The sixth and seventh methods are essentially the same: point buy. The sixth method, standard point buy, gives you 25 points. This is roughly as good as the default rolling method, and with it you can purchase the average result of the default method (15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8). The seventh method gives you a number of other point values, including 15 (which is roughly as good as the second alternative, and with it you can buy 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, the average of that method) and 32 (which I would imagine to be roughly the same as the fourth alternative).

The eighth method is to simply take the default array. I would probably not use this - instead, I'd be more likely to use standard point buy, and give this array as an example of what can be bought in order to save time.

Even given that there are some of these that I wouldn't use, I wouldn't tell anybody not to use any one of these alternatives to the default - I would simply make sure they'd thought through the potential consequences first. They each suit some games better than others. That said, the ones that are of roughly similar power level to the default are the main ones I'd suggest for people looking for alternatives that don't take much work.

Next up, we have races. While there's a decent selection in the PHB, someone is always going to want to play something a little different (one of the examples given is a cat person), so some advice on creating new races is given. Firstly, there is advice given on how to create subraces. There are no stats given, but there are suggestions for making subraces that are either focused more (or less) on magic, that live underground, that lean towards a different alignment, or that live in substantially different climates than the default races (including underwater).

The next possible change to races is to add limitations that weren't there before - for example, Dwarves and Halflings might only be able to become Fighters, Clerics or Rogues. The book then goes on to say that the explanation behind any changes here should make sense, and should be balanced by the race gaining something in exchange to make up for the reduction in flexibility.

Finally, it suggests changing races by either adding or removing features. It notes that this can be risky - removing dark vision from Dwarves is going to result in fewer people playing them, for example, while making Elves immune to death from old age would suggest the question "Why aren't Elves the dominant race rather than humans?", but it can add flavour to your campaign.

Next, we get advice on creating new races. The first part of this is given to adapting monsters to be played as PCs. Some monsters (such as Goblins and Kobolds) are easier than others - they can be given ability penalties and bonuses, and can be treated as any other race. Other races, such as ogres and gnolls, which have their own racial hit dice, are a little trickier. There are a couple of tables given here for generating stats based on the default stats of a given monster; it's a little more complex than using bonuses and penalties, but it allows for the bell curve to be maintained rather than having it be weighted towards the bottom end with penalties greater than -2.

Races with racial hit dice but few other special abilities have a minimum character level based on the number of hit dice they have. The more special abilities a race has, the higher this minimum level becomes. An ogre, for example, has a minimum level of 5. If you generate a fifth level Ogre, it has its racial hit dice as levels, and that is it. It has 10,000 XP, the amount of wealth you'd expect of a fifth level character, and other than having its abilities generated using either the default method or one of the ones listed above, it is otherwise basically identical to an ogre found in the Monster Manual. Once it reaches 15,000 XP, it gains its first level in a PC class, along with all that that entails.

The second part is creating new races in general. In general, you should use the races in the PHB as a guide. One thing of note, all abilities are not made equal. A bonus to Strength is not equal to a penalty to Intelligence or Charisma, for example - this is why the Half Orc gets a penalty to both. As such, there is a list of which stats ought to be penalised if a bonus is given to a different one - for Strength and Dexterity, a penalty in the other, Constitution, or any two of the mental abilities is roughly equivalent. For Constitution, a penalty to any other stat is fine. For the mental abilities, a penalty to any other mental ability will be reasonably balanced.

This section of the chapter ends with the idea that it might be worth considering halfbreeds other than half elves and half orcs to make races out of - and that it might be worth deciding that some of those halfbreeds might be infertile.

The next section is on Classes - modifying existing classes to better suit a character concept, NPC classes for the nameless nobodies the party will encounter on their adventures, and Prestige Classes that a PC might eventually qualify for (provided the DM chooses to include in their game). It begins with modifying existing classes by changing their class features around. The advice given here is that changes that simply make the class better should be avoided; instead, improvements should be balanced by drawbacks. For example, if you wanted to create a swashbuckling variant of the Rogue, you might give it the full BAB of the Fighter, but remove its ability to Sneak Attack. A slightly more extreme example is given of creating a Witch class by taking the Sorcerer and completely changing the spell list to include some minor healing, some illusions, plenty of charms, some nature magic, plenty of shapeshifting magic, some minor utility magic and absolutely nothing flashy (no lighting bolt or wall of fire here). It's a pretty cool example.

Around here we have a sidebar asking why we might want to mess around with the classes in the first place. It answers that while the classes in the PHB are very flexible and can fit seemlessly into most settings, some DMs might want something custom built to their own campaign setting. Likewise, a player might be interested in playing a certain class, but would like to change certain class features (remember the customisation bit in the PHB?). The example given here is of someone who wants to play a Ranger, but is only interested in hunting animals. On the other hand, the special mount from the Paladin looks pretty cool. A DM might consider that a fair swap. In general, it is worth making the effort to adapt a class to better suit the player wishing to play it; it makes the game more enjoyable for them, and it adds unique flavour to your game.

Finally, we get advice on how to create new classes - or rather, to modify a class already presented so radically as to be barely recognisable. The example given is to take the Ranger, but limit their weapon selection to that of the Rogue, only grant them one lot of Favoured Enemy (which must be used for Undead), grant them the Rogue's Sneak Attack, modified to work against (and only against) undead, modify their spell list so that it deals exclusively with undead and subterfuge, and at third level give them the Paladin's Smite Evil, only useable against undead. What you end up with is a class focused pretty much entirely on hunting the undead - which I find kinda cool.

Next, we have Prestige Classes. A Prestige Class can only be multiclassed into - you cannot begin as one at first level. A PC should be mid-level (that is, around 5-6) before they can enter a Prestige Class. It is entirely up to the DM whether Prestige Classes are available, and if so, which. If they were an assumed part of every campaign, that the players should be able to plan for right from the start, then they'd be in the PHB. A Prestige Class should have a number of restrictions, but class and level should not be among them. Skill ranks in one or more skills, Race, Alignment, BAB, spellcasting ability and specific class features are listed as good options for restrictions - that way, a combat focused Prestige Class with a minimum BAB of 8+ could still technically be taken by a Wizard, even though they'd have to wait until level 16 to do so.

Prestige Classes should be used to establish and develop racial and cultural distinctions in the world, religious orders, and specific guilds with their own specialised training. As such, this is a good place to create more specialised versions of the base classes, racial archetypes, classes that blend two other classes together, and special abilities that might improve with specialised training. The Prestige Classes listed in this book? The players should not assume that they exist in any given campaign; the DM should start introducing opportunities to take them if that seems to be something a PC would be interested in.

I'm not going to detail the Prestige Classes here (it would make this post far too long, their 3.5 variants are all on the SRD, and none of them seem to have changed much). The ones to look at are the Arcane Archer, the Assassin, the Blackguard, the Dwarven Defender, the Loremaster and the Shadowdancer. I will, however, mention that the Blackguard (essentially the opposite of the Paladin) has the option for fallen Paladins to exchange levels in one for the other. This is, I believe, the only way to be a single class member of Prestige Class - and after 10th level you'll still need a new class to move into.

Following Prestige Classes, we have the NPC classes. They are the Commoner, the Expert, the Warrior, the Adept and the Aristocrat. With the possible exception of the Aristocrat, players should not be taking levels in any of these - they are all less powerful versions of the regular PC classes. The Commoner has a d4 hit die, 2 skill points per level, proficiency in a single simple weapon (and no armour) and shit saves. The Expert is basically a shit Rogue - a d6 hit die, 6 skill points per level, the ability to pick their class skills (up to ten, and one or two can be exclusive to other classes), simple weapon and light armour proficiency and no other class features. The Warrior is basically a shit Fighter. Take the Fighter, lower the hit die to a d8 and remove the bonus feats and Weapon Specialisation, and you have the Warrior. The Adept is basically a shit Cleric, with a d6 hit die, proficiency in simple weapons but no armour, and spells of up to 5th level. The Aristocrat is basically the Warrior with a 3/4 BAB, but with 4 skill points per level and class skills that the Fighter wouldn't otherwise get. I still wouldn't have a PC take this class; I'd be more inclined to have them take Fighter, reduce their hit die to a d8, make Will their good save, and give them the Aristocrat skill points per level and class skills.

And at this point, I'm going to have to call it a post - much longer, and this update won't actually post. Next time, I'll be getting into optional rules such as starting at first level as a multiclass character and variant rules for levelling up. It will also include the rules for the Leadership feat, and descriptions of where the PC classes actually fit into the world.

Characters (Part 2)

posted by hectorgrey Original SA post

gradenko_2000 posted:

This section I would say accomplishes some of the goals that it set out for itself: because the effects no longer just inflict stat penalties, they're both easier to integrate into the game without needing to do a lot of derived-stat-math, and the penalties can be both gentler at the early onset and harsher at the late stages. This sort of progression is also more intuitive to deal with, and dare I say realistic, but in a good way. It divorced itself from the D&D 3rd Edition model of diseases and poisons, and is arguably all the better for it.

What it does not address is the relative power of spells like Neutralize Poison and Cure Disease and Heal to simply remove most of these effects completely. High-level spellcasters that are willing to put in the effort will not have a problem dealing with most diseases and poisons unless they're shackled/limited in some other way. Overall, I'd say these rules are well worth using.

Once again, I agree entirely. That said, at lower levels (where the game was already more balanced and, in my opinion, more fun anyway), it makes both poison and disease more dangerous and more interesting to deal with. Especially if (as I would generally recommend, you just tell the PCs what they're experiencing instead of outright telling them that they're diseased).

Speaking of D&D 3rd Edition...

D&D 3rd Edition - The Core Books

Part 13: Characters (Part 2)

So we continue this chapter by moving straight into the variant rule that allows for multiclassing at first level. Basically, each player class has a 0th level - it is BAB 0, +1 to your good save and +0 to your bad ones, fewer spells if it's a spell casting class, and fewer class abilities. The Fighter gets their level one bonus feat here - which kinda makes sense, since 0 is technically an even number. Other classes get some level based abilities here (with their level counting as 0). The wizard only gets bonus first level spells for high intelligence or specialisation, with none otherwise, while the Cleric only gets their domain spell as a first level spell. Basically, you pick two classes to be apprentice level in, and add all of the class features you get for apprentice level. You pick a primary class for hit points, class skills and skill points (so a Fighter/Rogue would start with either 10 hp and 8 skill pointss or 6 hp and 32 skill points. At second level, you roll the hit die of your secondary class and gain its skill points (and class skills for the level), in addition to gaining everything else needed to be a full fledged first level character in both classes.

Next, we come to levelling up. By default, it's assumed that so long as the PCs have access to civilisation of some description, they can do all the training and research they need to level up. That kind of stuff is largely assumed to happen in the background, so that once XP hits the right point, no further training is needed to level up. The first variant rule for this is requiring training to increase skills and/or gain feats - including the requirement to pay someone to teach you. Honestly, I wouldn't do this - it screws over the Fighter and the Rogue quite heavily while only being a minor inconvenience at most to everyone else. Another variant is how new spells are learned - a Sorcerer might need to make a deal with some inherently magical being to learn how to use their own innate magic, while a Wizard might have to spend time and money researching the spells they would normally get automatically on levelling up (though naturally they still don't need to roll for them). A third is to make everybody spend time and money getting training in order to gain a new level - this should not be combined with either of the others, since the price given includes such training. Alternatively, time may need to be spent in generalised downtime to level up (either a day per level, or just 1d4 days). The final variant listed here is that of fixed hit points - instead of rolling, you take precisely half the maximum (so Fighters get 5 hp instead of rolling a d10). While this is slightly below average, it's far better than potentially rolling significantly below average.

After this, we get the rules for creating a character above first level. This is easiest to do by creating a first level character and increasing them level by level. There is also a table of starting money for higher level PCs - 900GP for second level PCs, going up to 760,000 GP for 20th level PCs. Remember that all spells added to your spell books take up space, cost money to acquire and cost money to add to the spell book - a Wizard with access to most of the spells on their list will have a small library of spell books, and as such will not only need a travel spell book, but will need somewhere to store all their main books and will have spent a significant amount of money on all of those, reducing the amount of money they have left for magical items. Speaking of magical items, it is recommended that instead of giving the players a level to gen at, you instead give them a number of XP - this allows spellcasters to create their own magical items, but as such they will start at a lower level than other members of the party. It also makes it easier to deal with XP penalties for weird multiclassing combos.

This is follwed by a section on how the various player characters fit into society. Members of a PC class are amongst the most capable people in the world (or at least have the most potential) - a level 1 Fighter is easily the match of a level 2 Warrior, for example. The difference, for the most part, is a matter of training. Training is what separates an Adept from a Cleric or Wizard; a Warrior from a Fighter, and so on. Training isn't everything, of course - someone with INT 6 will never be a Wizard, for example - but anybody can become a member of any class (presumably becoming a Sorcerer would involve there having always been the potential, but some training being or awakening of power being required for the first level to be taken). The following descriptions of how classes otherwise fit into the world are direct quotes:

Barbarian posted:

Barbarians have no place in civilised society - that's the point. In their own tribal society they are hunters, warriors and war chiefs. but in a civilised community, the best they can hope for is to join Fighters' organisations and fill a Fighters' roles. Often, Fighters from a civilised society will not follow a Barbarian leader unless he's somehow proved himself worthy of their loyalty. Barbarians of legend often aspire to gather those like them and found their own tribe, or even their own kingdom.

Bard posted:

Bards serve as entertainers, either on their own, singing for their supper, or in troupes. Some Bards aspire to be an aristocrat's personal troubadour. Bards occasionally gather in colleges of learning and entertainment. Well known, high level Bards often found Bard colleges. These colleges serve as the standard educational system for a city as well as a kind of Bards' guild where they can find training and support.

Cleric posted:

Most Clerics have an organisational structure build right into their class. Religions have hierarchies, and each Cleric has hisplace within it. Clerics may find themselves assigned duties by their churches, or they might be free agents. Clerics can serve in the military of an aristocrat sanctioned by their religion, or within some autonomous church-based military order established for defence. A high level Cleric can hope one day to be the shepherd of his own congregation and temple, although some become religious advisors to aristocrats or the leaders of communities of their own, with its people looking to the Cleric for religious and temporal guidance. Clerics often work with Paladins, and virtually every knightly order has at least one Cleric member.

Druid posted:

Druids are often loners. They cloister themselves deep in the wilderness in sacred groves or other areas that they have claimed for themselves, sometimes working with a single Ranger or a group of Rangers. Druids sometimes organise themselves in loose affiliations. On rare occasions, Druids sharing a particular focus may organise themselves as a tight knit order. Sometimes creatures such as satyrs, centaurs or other fey join these groups as well.

All Druids are at least nominally members of Druidic society, which spans the globe. The society is so loose, however, that it may have little influence on a particular Druid.

Druids assist, and sometimes even lead, small rural communities that benefit from their wisdom and power.

Fighter posted:

These characters often serve as mercenaries or officers in the army. The sheriff in a small town might well be a Fighter. Common soldiers and guards are usually Warriors.

Fighters may be loners or may gather to form martial societies for training, camaraderie, and employment (such as mercenary companies, bodyguards and so on). High level Fighters of great renown typically found such societies. A Fighter of common birth can also hope to become an aristocrat's champion one day, but those with aspirations to true greatness plan on earning their own grants of land to become nobility in their own right.

Monk posted:

The tradition of Monk training started in distant lands, but now has become common enough that local people can go off to monasteries and learn the spiritual and martial arts. In large cities, Monks learn their skills in special academies. Monk often serve the monastery or academy that trained them. Other times, however, htey may join a different monastery or academy. A high level Monk with a good reputation can even foudn her own monastery or academy.

Only on rare occasions does a Monk find a place in society outside her monastery. Such monks can become spiritual advisors, military commanders, or even law enforcers. A unit of Monks in an army or in the local constabulary would be feared indeed.

Paladin posted:

Paladins are knights, working for their church or within a knightly order. Qualifying for an order is often difficult, and membership always requires that the Paladin follow a specific code of conduct. These orders sometimes allow non-Paladins as members, with good aligned Rangers and Fighters being the most common sort of non-Paladin members. No Paladin organisation exists long without a Cleric for support, advice, or leadership, however.

Paladins can serve in the military of an aristocrat sanctioned by their religion, or within some autonomous curch based military order established for defence. A high level P{aladin might seek to rule her own domain (to bestow her just benevolence upon the masses), establish her own temple where none existed before, or to serve as the trusted lieutenant of a high priest or worthy aristocrat. Paladins in such service are often called justicars or something similar, implying that the Paladin is in charge of dispensive church sanctified justice.

Ranger posted:

Rangers often seclude themselves, wandering into the wilderness for long stretches of time. If they aspire to leadership, it is often as the warden of a small frontier community. Some Rangers form loose knit and often secretive organisations. These Ranger groups watch over events in the land and gather to exchange information. They often have the best view of the grand picture of everything that occurs. High level Rangers aspire to found their own Ranger societies or to establish and rules new communities, often those they have carved out of the wilderness itself.

Rangers and Druids often work together, even sharing the same secretive network. Sometimes a Ranger group includes a few Druids, or vice versa.

Rogue posted:

Rogues may serve in armies as spies or scouts. They can work as operatives of temples or as general troubleshooters for aristocrats, having attained these unique positions because of the versatility of their skills and abilities.

Frequently, however, Rogues gathertogether in guilds devoted to their area of expertise: theft. Thieves' guilds are common. The larger a city is, the more likely it is to have a thieves' guild. The populace and the constabulary sometimes hate these guilds. At other times, they are tolerated or even accepted, so long as they don't allow themselves to get out of hand in their work. Acceptance is often gained through bribery in politically corrupt areas.

Sorcerer posted:

Sorcerers, to the general populace, are indistinguishable from Wizards. They often fill the same roles in society, although they rarely join Wizards' guilds, since they have no need to research and study. Sorcerers, more than Wizards, keep to themselves. Sorcerers are more likely to hand about the fringes of society, among creatures that other people would consider monsters.

Conversely, some Sorcerers find that military life suits them even better than Wizards. Sorcerers focused on battle spells are more deadly than Wizards, and they often are better with weapons. A high level Sorcerer might aspire to the same sorts of goals a Wizard would. Despite their similarities, their differing approaches means Wizards and Sorcerers find themselves in conflict more often than they get along

Wizard posted:

Wizards can serve many roles in society. Wizards for hire are useful to the military as firepower (some armies employ entire units of Wizards to blast the enemy, protect troops from danger, tear down castle walls, and so on). Or a Wizard can serve the community as a well paid troubleshooter - someone able to rid the town of vermin, stop the levee from bursting, or foretell the future. A Wizard can open a shop and sell magic items she creates or cast needed spells for a fee. She can aspire to serve an aristocrat as an advisor and chief Wizard, or even rule over a community on her own. Sometimes, the public fears a Wizard for her power, but more often than not the local Wizard is a highly respected member of the community.

Wizards sometimes gather in guilds, societies or cabals for mutual research, and to live among those who understand the endless fascination of magic. Only the most powerful and famous of Wizards have the reputations necessary to found permanent establishments, such as a Wizards' school. Where they exist, Wizards' guilds control such issues as the price and availability of spells and magic items in a community.

These descriptions, of course, are always subject to change. These are defaults only, and changes from these defaults are explored in Chapter 6: World Building.

After this, we get the section on guilds and organisations. It is simply a short section pointing out that if a guild exists for whatever it is you do for a living (for example if you plan to open up a magic shop and there's a Wizards' guild), you'd best be a member. Guilds typically offer training and equipment at discounted prices, lodging, information, hiring opportunities, contacts, legal benefits and some level of protection to their members, and they typically insist that anybody doing that job be a member of the guild. Not all organisations the PCs may join need be based on class; some may have members of many classes working together to a common goal.

Next, we get a side bar on how the Leadership feat works. Basically, you have a leadership score equal to your character level, modified by your Charisma modifier. So long as you have a leaderhip score of at least 2, you can attract a cohort (an NPC who joins the party at a lower level than your PC). If it is 10 or higher, you gain a number of followers - eventually this can become a small army with officers of up to 6th level. A cohort gains XP equal to half the XP that the PC gains, and levels up independently to a maximum level of one lower than the PC.

The leadership score is also modified by how the character behaves (aloof or cruel leaders, for example, tend to end up with fewer followers, while fair leaders tend to end up with more). Having a familiar, Paladin's warhorse, or animal companion reduces your effective leadership score for the purposes of attracting a cohort, as do getting a cohort of a different alignment or getting your cohorts killed. Meanwhile, moving around a lot and getting followers killed reduces your leadership for the purposes of having followers (leading to desertion from your army), while having a stronghold of some description increases it. Also, you can get special cohorts; for example, rather than a level 8 human cohort, you might attract a Unicorn to your side.

We also get a side bar on how animal companions work. A Druid or a Ranger may cast Animal Friendship to gain an animal companion - but they are just animals. As such, they need to be trained using Animal Handling in order to learn the various tricks they need in order to make themselves useful.

Finally, we receive a section on building NPCs. This section is largely tables, a list of feats and class features for NPCs of a given class and level, and a note on the difference between Elite (maximum hp at first level and 4d6 drop the lowest for stats) and Average (roll hit die for first level hp and 3d6 for stats) NPCs, noting that some members of PC classes may still only be Average by these definitions.

Well, that took a while - sorry for the delay, I had a con to GM for. Next up, we have chapter 3: Running the Game.

Running the Game (Part 1)

posted by hectorgrey Original SA post

D&D 3rd Edition - The Core Books

Part 14: Running the Game (Part 1)

So, now that we've gotten past the character options, it's time to get into the nuts and bolts of how the game works in practice. Or, at least, how it's intended to work. Here's the thing: I'm pretty certain most new DMs completely ignored this chapter other than to mine it for specific rules subsystems (much like the previous two chapters, and the one that says a Wizard needs a small but expensive library if they're going to have anything close to the versatility that most tend to assume of a high level Wizard). Why do I say this? Because of how this chapter starts.

Encounter distance is determined by a few factors. Firstly, we have terrain. If you're travelling in open ground in the middle of the day, the distance the encounter occurs at is 6d6*20 feet - 420 on average. Even at high levels, this is likely to be outside of the effective range of a Wizard's combat spells, but a Fighter with a composite longbow will only take a -6 penalty to hit - -4 with the Far Shot feat. I mention the composite longbow here since at higher levels a fighter will hopefully have a mighty one in order to take advantage of their strength bonus at range. Going through a light forest, on the other hand, gives you a range of 3d6*10 feet - far more likely to be in range of a wizard's spells, but there's also more cover and concealment.

This range is rolled, and a spot check with a base DC of 20 is rolled by each group to determine whether they two groups spot each other at this range. If a group fails, they don't see the other group until they reach half the rolled distance (or until they get hit by a fireball, whichever happens first.

Creature size influences the DC of the spot check - each size category greater than medium reduces it by 4; each category lower increases it by a like amount. Exceptions may be made here, depending on the creatures involved (for example, a large snake would be harder to spot than a large humanoid since one is presumably standing while the other is slithering on its belly.

After this, we have contrast - or put another way, camouflage. If you're walking in a verdant meadow wearing bright red, then unless a person is colour blind they're going to get a -5 to the DC; if, on the other hand, you've added camouflage to your already dull brown and green clothing, they're going to increase the DC by a like amount. Stillness also makes a group harder to spot - if they're still, then the DC increases by 5 again. Large groups, meanwhile are easier to spot - a group larger than six reduces the spot DC by 2.

The last thing that affects the DC of the spot check is lighting - moonlight increases the DC by 5 and starlight by 10 as compared with broad daylight. In both cases, low light vision gives a +5 bonus to the check, while darkvision that extends far enough gives a bonus equal to the increase in DC (essentially cancelling it out). Total darkness makes the check impossible, unless the spotter has darkvision that extends far enough.

Next, we get a section on missed encounters - while the rules assume that both sides will eventually notice each other and just establish the distance at which they do so, they don't take into account such things as the party trying to avoid guard patrols or the like. The suggestion here is to assume that roughly fifty percent of creatures encountered never get closer to the party than the encounter distance. It is also suggested that the likelihood of a random encounter should be increased if this rule is in use, since fewer of these encounters will result in combat.

As has been noted by other people, 3e was almost certainly written (and playtested) from the perspective of people playing AD&D, and the writers and playtesters just took for granted that that's how people would try to play the game. This, I think, is another sign of this - if you just montage all your journeys, then outdoor encounters will be rare, if they ever happen at all. If you plan all your encounters in advance, they'll almost always happen at a range where the Fighter dives into melee and the Wizard can throw around devastating close range magic. I honestly don't think the designers of this game took that kind of behaviour from DMs into account.

Once the encounter distance has been determined, there are three ways in which a combat encounter can begin - either one side becomes aware of the other side first, both become aware of each other at the same time, or some, but not all, of the creatures on one or both sides become aware of the other side first. Depending on distance, that last last option could be roughly the same as the second option (at 420 feet, for example, there's probably time to point out the other side), or it could result in the combat starting off as a mad scramble to make sure the Wizard doesn't get skewered in the opening rounds of the fight.

If one side is aware first, then it's up to the DM to determine how long that side has to prepare. This should be tracked in rounds in order to work out just how much can be done to prepare; either explicitly if the players are the aware side, or behind the scenes if not. Either way, once any prep time has been had, each creature in the aware side gets a partial action before initiative is rolled.

If both are aware at the same time, then either combat begins immediately or else preparation for combat begins immediately, with no need for partial actions. If some creatures (but not all) on one or both sides are aware of each other, then the aware creatures each get a partial action before the main action starts.

As a variant rule, all fights may begin with a surprise round (and thus only partial actions allowed) in order to prevent, for example, a high level archer from dropping four or five arrows on an opponent before they get to do anything. Personally, I wouldn't bother - it's a pain in the arse to get used to in the first place, and frankly the martial classes don't need nerfing further.

Next, suggestions are given for what might happen when new combatants enter a fight. If the new combatants are aware of either side of the combat, then they get to take their actions before anybody else in their first round of combat. If they are not aware, then they still enter combat at the start of the round but roll initiative normally instead.

When it comes to keeping things moving, the book reiterates advice given in the PHB (such things as rolling attack and damage at the same time, or allowing players to preroll dice). It also suggests writing down the initiative sequence once it is determined, and put it on display so that everybody knows how close their turn is, and can think about what to do in advance.

It is also mentioned that sometimes you might need to impose some simultaneity - ultimately, if a character moves into a trap towards the end of their turn, then logically the other characters should not be able to react to the trapbecause they would presumably have started acting before the trap was set off (since initiative is an abstraction rather than a real model of reality where people just stand around and wait their turn to attack).

A number of options are given with the example of someone doing a double move and reaching the trap at the end: firstly, play by standard initiative, and let the other players know about the trap at the start of their action. This is the most true to the mechanics, but probably the least true to the fiction. The third is to not tell the player about the trap until the end of the round, when everyone else has acted. This is probably the most true to the fiction, but the least true to the mechanics. The second is to get some commitment from the other players about what their characters are doing, so they can't use the information about the trap to help determine their characters actions, before resolving the effect of the trap. Personally, I prefer the second option as a reasonable compromise between the other two.

Another variant rule is introduced here: rolling for initiative each round. Honestly, I don't see much use for this - it's ultimately just more rolling. If your actions determined your initiative to some extent, then fair enough, but since they don't, it's just extra busywork.

In combat, the DM is expected to play each NPC appropriately, much like out of combat - for example, a Fighter with decent Intelligence isn't going to allow opponents to get attacks of opportunity unless they absolutely must, but a particularly stupid goblin might. Likewise, an Intelligence 7 phase spider might be able to tell that the Wizard is the biggest threat, but an Angheg (which has Intelligence 1) probably wouldn't.

In addition, players might want to try actions not covered by the rules. In such cases, it is the DM's job to come up with rulings on the spot to cover these actions. The advice given is that the DM should bear in mind the existing mechanics in order to keep things reasonably similar. For example, swinging from the chandeliers and attacking that way might be treated as a charge that requires a tumble roll of DC 13, while a sorcerer readying a spell to cast when a beholder uses an eye ray on them might have an opposed roll of their Wisdom vs the beholder's Dexterity to get the spell off first.

Also, while combat actions should only really take place in combat, sometimes situations will occur where having them happen outside of combat makes sense. In such cases, this should be allowed.

Next, we come to a section on adjudicating the Ready action. This is usually relatively simple - it should only ever happen in combat. It also requires some level of specificity from the player - what are they specifically waiting for, and what specifically do they intend to do about it. Outside of combat, the fact that you're keeping an eye on the door means that you're aware of anyone who comes through (and therefore get a surprise round before combat starts provided whoever rushes through wasn't aware of you).

If a readied action has been prepared and the character chooses not to do it when the opportunity arises, by default the character simply keeps the action ready. However, one option given to the GM here is to make things a little more difficult - either forgoing the action at the expense of losing it, or make a Wisdom check of DC 15 to avoid making the action at the first opportunity (for example, if you readied an action to shoot the first person to come out of a door, and it's an ally who comes out of the door, then you make a Wisdom check to not shoot your ally).

Also, while being specific is a good thing with readied actions, you shouldn't allow the players to be too specific. For example, if they specify the first unwounded ghoul, then that begs the question of how they'll be able to tell in a split second whether a ghoul is wounded or not.

Following combat actions, we have attack rolls. It mentions that if hitting is either almost guaranteed or almost impossible, attack rolls become boring - this is part of the reason why multiple attacks come with penalties. Another suggestion they make is to make sure to give good descriptions of the action when combat occurs (with more advice to follow).

There are two variant rules here: firstly, regarding automatic hits and misses. The option given here is that to get rid of hitting a minimum of 5% of the time and missing a minimum of 5% of the time regardless of training, you might instead choose to make a natural 1 count as a -10, or a natural 20 count as a 30 - in most instances, play will happen exactly the same way anyway, but it means that a level 20 fighter with 16 Strength will always hit someone of AC 13 or lower, while a level 1 Fighter will never hit someone of AC 50. Honestly, I wouldn't bother. DR is a far better way of dealing with PCs not being capable of hurting something, IMO.

The second variant rule is one of defence rolls - basically, instead of having a fixed AC, you roll a d20 and add your bonuses and penalties to AC. This would probably slow down play a fair bit if used as suggested here, but as an alternative, you could use it to have players roll all the dice (assuming for the sake of the game's maths that their enemies always roll a 10, and have critical hits against the PCs be tied to their defence rolls).

Speaking of critical hits, that's what we come to next. The book points out that a critical threat should always be called such - calling it a critical hit before it has been confirmed could lead to more disappointment if the player who rolled the threat then procedes to roll a shitty confirmation roll.

Again, we have a few variant rules here; the first is the idea of an instant kill. Essentially, if creature rolls a natural 20 to hit, and a natural 20 to confirm, they should roll a third time. If this would hit, the target is dead. Note that this only applies to natural 20s - your keen rapier stacked with improved critical still needs two natural 20s in a row (0.25% chance) to threaten an instant kill. This will naturally make the game a little more random (a level 1 commoner could roll three natural 20s in a row to insta-gib an ancient red dragon, for instance), and more randomness in combat will ultimately screw the players more than it screws any individual enemy of theirs.

The second variant is to make critical hits less dangerous, by reducing a weapon's capacity to inflict them. A weapon like the dagger or the long sword, which threatens a crit on a 19-20, would instead only threaten on a 20; one like the battle axe, which does triple damage on a crit, would only do double. Weapons that do double damage on a crit and only threaten on a 20 lose their ability to deal critical hits entirely. Where before, increasing the randomness screws the players more than any given enemy, this reduces randomness and as such benefits the players more than any given enemy.

The third variant is the idea of critical misses, or fumbles. On a natural 1, the player must make a Dexterity check of DC 10. If this fails, the character fumbles. As with the instant kill, this increases randomness, which will hurt the players more than any given enemy. Also, not only do I not find fumbles fun in practice, I also don't think they make any real sense from a verisimilitude angle either, as the only thing you're really likely to screw up massively in a fight is, funnily enough, something you never roll for - drawing a weapon.

Around here, we get a side bar on critical hits in general, explaining that Critical hits are in the game to add moments of particular excitement to combat. That said, they are deadly. Over the course of a single game session (let alone campaign), the PCs are subject to many more attack rolls than any given NPC. This makes sense, since the PCs are usually in every fight, while the NPCs are only usually in one. As such, any given PC will be subject to more critical hits than any given NPC on average. Also, the main reason they multiply all damage rather than just the die roll is so that they remain significant at high levels - the example given here is of a high level Fighter with a magically enhanced strength bonus of +10 and a +5 damage bonus from a magical longsword - rolling 2d8 instead of 1d8 isn't really going to make much difference in terms of the damage dealt.

After we leave critical hits, we get another variant rule - this time involving ranged combat. This variant is for when it becomes important where an arrow that misses its target goes. Direct fire is more likely to miss to one side than to come up short or long, while indirect fire is more likely to fall short or long than miss to either side. Direct fire is typically shorter range than the maximum range of a given ranged weapon - for bows, it is limited to the first range increment, while for crossbows it is typically a little more than two range increments. Shots fired further than this are always indirect.

Regardless of which kind of shot it is, a miss is always dealt with the same way. First, you see if the attack roll would have hit the target's Touch AC. If it would, then the arrow struck its target, but simply didn't penetrate the armour. Otherwise, you roll a d20 to determine the direction and distance by which the attack missed. For direct fire, if there are characters in the path of the attack, make ranged touch attacks against each one in turn, starting from the closest to the attacker, until one is hit. Then, compare the attack roll with the new target's full AC to determine whether they get hurt as normal. For indirect fire, if there is a character in the indicated square, then roll to hit once more; on a hit, the character is hit, otherwise the projectile goes no further. In either case, you ignore BAB and Dexterity for these attack rolls, but include magical adjustments and modifications for cover.

Here is the end of part 1 - part 2 coming soon.

Running the Game (Part 2)

posted by hectorgrey Original SA post

D&D 3rd Edition - The Core Books

Part 15: Running the Game (Part 2)

To kick us off for the second part of this chapter, we have subdual damage. Subdual damage should always be described differently and marked differently from normal damage - it should be obvious which is happening at all times. It is useful in situations where you want PCs to be captured or defeated without killing them (and, though not mentioned in the DMG, for bar fights, since most bartenders tend to frown on people stabbing their guests). It should be used sparingly, but it shouldn't be used overly often.

Next, we have some more variant rules; the first of which is the idea of being clobbered. If you take a hit of equal to or greater than your current hit points, you are clobbered and may only take a partial action on your next turn. After that, you're no longer clobbered. I kind of like this as an option - it makes individual hits more important and makes spreading the damage out (such as by doing a whirlwind attack) a more viable tactic.

The second is for death by massive damage to be based on size - the idea of this is to make it so that smaller creatures are easier to kill with a sufficiently hard hit, while larger ones are harder to kill that way. This generally favours monsters over PCs, and particularly screws halflings, gnomes, and anybody with small animal companions or familiars.

The third variant rule is damage to specific areas. Simply put, if a specific body part takes damage, you can apply a -2 penalty to anything the character does involving that portion of their body. Other conditions can be added based on this. It lasts until the wound is healed (either magically or through rest). Fortitude saves can also be used to tough it out, as it were - DC 10 + damage dealt to ignore the penalty. Finally, the penalties shouldn't stack. I actually kinda like this, and I wish I'd paid attention to it sooner - I would probably give the any attacks to such places a penalty based on size (for example, a limb might be a -2 to hit, an extremity a -5 and the eyes or ears a -10), but I feel like such things would give extra options to the martial classes without too much extra work.

With that out of the way, we move onto the use of grids and minis. It begins by noting why one would use them - to avoid confusion given the amount of movement that's going to happen in a fight. The standard scale, as I'm sure everybody is aware of by now, is a 1" square represents a 5'x5' square, and that a 30mm figure is a human sized creature. Creatures tiny or smaller can fit more than one into a square with plenty of room to manoeuvre, and can only attack a creature in the same square as it without sufficiently long weapons.

Line of sight is measured by measuring a line from the centre of one square to the centre of another - if nothing blocks the line, there is line of sight to that square. Only one square of a creature's position needs to have line of sight for a person to count as having line of sight on that creature. If line of sight is completely blocked, then ranged attacks are impossible; if it is only partially blocked then the target gets a cover bonus to AC against any attacks.

Grenadelike weapons, such as alchemists fire or flasks of acid, tend to deal damage in a radius. Just as importantly, if the throw misses its intended target, there's a chance that it could end up elsewhere. If an attack roll with such a weapon misses, then you roll a d6, +1 for every range increment of distance the weapon was thrown. This tells you how far off target you were. You then roll a d4, d8 or d12, depending on the distance (1-5 is a d4, 6-10 is a d8 and 11-16 a d12) and use this to determine where the weapon lands.

Next, we see area spells, and how to apply them to a grid. Examples are given for the cone and the quarter circle (both straight ahead and diagonally), radius bursts and semicircles.

After that, we have movement. In addition to regular ground movement, we have flying. Flight comes with a speed and manoeuvrability. Manoeuvrability has five rankings: Clumsy, Poor, Average, Good and Perfect.

A creature with Perfect manoeuvrability (such as a Will-o'-wisp) may hover in place, may fly in any direction, may instantly change direction in flight, may fly at full speed going up and requires no time to level out between going down and going up.

A creature with Good manoeuvrability (such as a Beholder) may still hover in place and fly in any direction, but needs to spend five feet in order to turn by more than 90 degrees in any five feet of movement. It may only travel at half speed going up, but may still go from down to up without levelling out. This is the manouvrability that the Fly spell gives you.

A creature with Average manoeuvrability (such as a Gargoyle) must move at least half its movement speed forward in order to maintain flight, meaning that it cannot hover or fly backwards. When turning, it may turn 45 degrees per five feet of movement, or up to 90 degrees if it spends five feet of its movement speed. Downward flight can be done at any angle, but upwards flight requires at most a sixty degree angle and is done at half speed, and five feet must be spent levelling out after going down before going up again. Overland Flight doesn't exist in the 3.0 Players Handbook, but the 3.5 version gives you this level of Manoeuvrability.

A creature with Poor manoeuvrability (such as a Wyvern) must likewise spend half of its movement moving foward at minimum, and may turn 45 degrees per five feet of movement at maximum. It may fly upwards at half speed at a maximum of a 45 degree angle, or downward at a 45 degree angle, and requires 10 feet of levelling out before it may fly up again.

A greature with Clumsy manoeuvrability (such as a Manticore) has all of the requirements of Poor, except that it can only turn 45 degrees for every 10 feet of movement, and requires 20 feet of levelling out before flying upwards again.

Regardless of manoeuvrability, downward flight is done at double speed.

Flight is probably not the easiest of systems to run off the top of one's head - the manoeuvrability table is one that I would definitely want on my DM screen (or at least have bookmarked ready for use if I'm liable to be using it). Having said that, I still like it - it allows for variety among flying enemies, with winged creatures having to keep moving forwards while a duel between high level Fighters or Monks with access to Fly looks like something out of Dragon Ball Z.

After that, we come to evasion and pursuit. The first thing a DM should do is determine the speed of the characters involved - someone with 30' speed can outrun someone with 20' speed pretty much any day of the week, provided there aren't other factors at play. If the characters have the same speed, then it comes down to die rolls - for a short chase, it'll generally be Dexterity, while for a long one, Constitution.

At the end of movement, we come to moving around using the grid system. Simply put, outside of combat the grid should be ignored. A person might need that much space when actively engaging in combat, but when walking down a corridor? There's no point. Likewise, an ally can generally move through another ally's space, since the latter would presumably not try to block the former.

This is followed by advice on describing the action. The general gist of this is that when describing the actions of a creature, you should be descriptive. You need to be clear about which one you're referring to, what they're doing, and how it changes the scene. Sometimes a little pantomime can be helpful. That's not to say that "You miss, he hits, you take 12 points of damage" is always a bad thing, but for the most part it should be more interesting.

In addition, it suggests adding other features to an area, and notes how they might affect the combat on a mechanical level.

With general combat advice out of the way, we come to special abilities. These are all the various nasty things that creatures can do to each other, and how they work in practice.

We begin with Ability Score loss, either through draining or damage. If all of the points in a stat are lost, the effects depend on the stat. Strength 0 means the creature cannot support its own weight, and collapses helpless ot the ground. Dexterity 0 means that the creature is unable to move, all of its limbs completely tense; if it was standing, it remains standing. Constitution 0 means that you die. Intelligence 0 means that you're unable to think, and so collapse into a stupor. Wisdom 0 means that you fall into a deep, nightmare filled sleep. Charisma 0 means you become catatonic. In all cases, if you're not dead, you're helpless.

Not having an ability score is not the same as having one reduced to 0 - a clay golem has no Intelligence score because it is incapable of thought, but that doesn't mean that it falls into a coma.

A variant is given to this - to track ability loss separately rather than reduce the stat. Mathematically it works the same, and it's easier in terms of book keeping, so I'm not sure why this isn't the default.

Antimagic prevents supernatural abilities, spell like abilities and spells from working in the area of effect, but it does not dispel magic. The duration of a spell should still be tracked, because it will go up again once the area of antimagic is no longer there. If the antimagic area overlaps another magical area, it only suppresses the spell if the centre is within the antimagic; otherwise the effect simply doesn't take place within the antimagic. Magic items of continuous effect do not function, but their effects are not cancelled - for example, a bag of holding within an antimagic field cannot be opened, but its contents won't just spill out onto the floor. Finally, the only dispelling spell that can effect antimagic is Mordenkainen's Disjunction (a spell that permanently disenchants magical items - including potentially artifacts - in addition to ending spell effects) - it has a 1% chance per caster level of destroying the field; if it does not, then items within the field are protected.

Blindsight allows you to use nonvisual senses to replace sight almost entirely. It works underwater, but not in a vacuum; it does not give colour or visual contrast and so cannot be used to read, it does not subject you to gaze attacks, it cannot be disrupted by being blinded, but it can be disrupted by being deafened, if it is based on acute hearing.

A breath weapon takes a standard action to use, and it fills an area. If a creature within the area fails their save, they suffer the full effect; on a successful save, they may still take a portion of the effect (such as half damage). Most creatures with breath weapons are limited to a number of uses per day or minimum length of time between uses, and tend to be smart enough to only use it when necessary. It is generally a supernatural ability unless otherwise noted in the description of the source of the breath weapon. Creatures are immune to their own breath weapons (so if you gain the ability to breathe fire, you won't instantly barbeque your insides), and in spite of their name, you need not be able to breathe in order to actually use the breath weapon.

Charm and Compulsion are related, but not identical. A charmed creature retains their original alignment and alliegences (with the exception of their newfound friend, whom they will trust implicitly and respect the judgement of), they only fight former allies if they threaten the new friend (and even then, only use the least lethal means at their disposal that are likely to work), may make an opposed Charisma check to resist instructions or commands that would make them do something they normally wouldn't even do for a close friend (on a success they don't go along with it, but they are still charmed), never obeys an obviously suicidal or harmful order, and does not gain any ability to understand their new friend that they didn't already have. Any order that the charmed person would be violently opposed to grant a new saving throw to break the charm; any attacks by the charmer or their apparent allies immediately breaks the charm.

Damage Reduction is exactly that; it is labelled as an amount followed by a weakness (for example, 5/+3 gives DR 5 vs all attacks unless they are made with a magical weapon with a +3 enhancement bonus or better). Any weapon more powerful than the weakness given will also work - special materials are the lowest in rank, so any magical weapon will work against a werewolf (whose weakness is silver). Personally, I prefer how 3.5 changed this - magical weapons just became a type of weakness, weaknesses could be mixed and magical weapons couldn't be used in place of special materials.

Darkvision works in areas with absolutely no light, and is not spoiled by light. It does not protect against illusions or gaze attacks, nor does it show you the invisible. It is entirely in black and white, so I would personally argue that that would make it impossible to read ink on paper, but not runes carved into stone (which would explain why Dwarves might still use runes for their writing).

Death Attacks slay instantly - and you cannot be brought back with Raise Dead (though Resurection works). The only protection against such things is Death Ward.

Diseases can be really nasty. Simply put, if you are exposed to a disease, you make a Fortitude save. If you succeed, you're fine; if you fail, you're infected. If you're infected, there is an incubation period (1 to 1d4 days, typically). After that time, you take ability damage. After that, a save must be made every day to avoid further ability damage. It is suggested that the GM make the first roll rather than the player, so that the player doesn't know whether or not a disease has taken hold.

Blinding Sickness, for example, is picked up by injesting tainted water. It has a Fortitude DC of 16 and an incubation time of 1d3 days. On a failed save, it does 1d4 Strength damage. Each time it deals 2 or more damage, another Fortitude save must be made; on a failure, the victim is permanently blind.

Energy Drain is particularly nasty; simply put, you receive negative levels. Each negative level reduces most of your checks by 1, and reduces your effective level by 1 for the purposes of anything that is level based. After 24 hours, you make a Fortitude save. The negative level goes away regardless, but if you fail you lose an actual level, with your XP placed midway between the minimum for your new level and the amount required to level up. A character reduced to level 0, or who has negative levels equal to their actual level, they die. The next night they rise from the grave as some variety of undead.

Running the Game (Part 3)

posted by hectorgrey Original SA post

D&D 3rd Edition - The Core Books

Part 16: Running the Game (Part 3)

Right, been a bit of a delay, but I've got some time on my hands, and there's a police helicopter hovering some hundred feet or so away making lots of noise, so I guess it's finally time to finish off the third chapter of the 3.0 DMG. We left off the last post partway through special abilities. We had just finished looking at Energy Drain. As such, it is time to move on to Etherealness.

An ethereal creature is invisible, inaudible, insubstantial and scentless to creatures on the material plane (i.e. the normal world that play starts on) - even most magical attacks have no effect on them. See Invisibility and True Seeing spells both reveal them though. They can see and hear into the material plane within a 60 foot radius, though they still require line of sight. Ethereal creatures cannot affect the material plane, even magically, but can interact with each other the same way creatures on the material plane do.

They may move in any direction (including up or down) at will, and are not blocked by the ground or other solid materials (although their line of sight is - if their eyes are in the middle of solid rock, they're not going to see anything). The only exception to this is a force effect - a Wall of Force spell can block an etherial creature, and a magic missile spell can harm one. Gaze attacks also work on ethereal creatures too, since they can see the monster in question. Ghosts are ethereal, but have a power called Manifestation that allows them to interact with the material plane. They are still on the ethereal plane, however, and may still be affected by other ethereal creatures as normal.

Evasion and Improved Evasion are pretty simple: the former means that if an attack would allow half damage on a successful Reflex save, then no damage is taken on a successful save. The improved version means that even if the save failes, only half damage is taken.

Fast Healing is exactly what it says on the tin - it is described by a number, and the creature heals by that many hit points at the beginning of their turn. Subdual damage is healed first, if both it and normal damage have been taken, and hit points lost from stavation, thirst or suffocation are not healed.

Fear has three stages - Shaken, Frightened, and Panicked. Someone who is Shaken takes a -2 morale penalty to attack rolls, saves and skill/ability checks. People who are frightened are also Shaken, and in addition will flee from the source of their fear as quickly as possible, choosing the path of their flight. Once they're out of sight or hearing of the source of their fear, they can act as they wish, but if the fear has a duration, they may be made to flee again should the source of their fear reappear. Panicked characters are shaken, and have a 50% chance of fleeing in a random direction away from the source. Fear effects are cumulative, meaning that a Frightened character who is then made Shaken becomes Panicked.

Creatures with Gaseous Form cannot run, but they can fly. They can go through even the smallest gap, but cannot pass through solid or liquid matter. They do not need to breathe, and are not considered ethereal or incorporeal. They are affected by wind, but it cannot disperse or damage them. Discerning a creature in Gaseous Form from natural mist requires a DC 15 Spot check; such a creature attempting to hide within other forms of visible gas get a +20 bonus. Finally, they have Damage Reduction of 20/+1 - a magical weapon will harm them normally, but a non-magical weapon almost never will.

Gaze Attacks are nasty - if you look at the thing, you die, or turn to stone, or some other nasty thing if you fail your save. If you deliberately look away, you have a 50% chance of not needing a saving throw - this however gives all of your attacks against such a creature a 20% miss chance. If you close your eyes, you're immune - but you're also effectively blind. Looking at the image of such a creature does not subject you to such an attack - thus a mirror would allow you to see it without problems. A creature is immune to its own gaze attack, invisible creatures cannot use gaze attacks, and anything that limits visibility provides a miss chance to gaze attacks (rolled separately from the other defences, rather than being cumulative with them). Finally, an intelligent creature with a gaze attack can generally turn it off if they don't want it on.

Incorporeal creatures can only be harmed by magical effects, +1 or better weapons, and other incorporeal creatures. Even then, anything that isn't either a force effect, something affected by Ghost Touch, or something from an incorporeal source has a 50% chance of still having no effect. Incorporeal creatures are otherwise much like ethereal creatures, except that they can interact with the material plane.

Invisibility naturally makes a creature undetectable by any kind of vision. A DC 20 Spot check will give a creature a hunch that something isn't quite right if there is an invisible creature within 30 feet of them, but they still cannot see it or target it with an attack. If it's alive and completely still, the DC goes up to 30; if it's undead or inanimate and completely still, the DC goes up to 40. A creature can attempt to use hearing to find an invisible creature, but it only gives a general location rather than an exact one (unless the listen check beats the creatures move silently check by at least 20).

You can try to grope around - a melee touch attack with a 50% miss chance will, if successful, tell you if it is in a given space (until it moves). If you successfully attack an invisible creature, then you also know where it is, same with if said creature attacks you (again, until it moves), though if you don't know where the creature is, you'll have to guess at a location and hope there's something there to attack. Otherwise, visible objects remain visible when interacted with by an invisible person - you'll see the door opening if one opens a door, you'll see a floating vase if one is holding a vase, you'll see tracks if one walks in snow and if one is stood in a pool of water, you'll see the gap in the water where they're standing (reducing the miss chance to 20%). Blindsight is not vision, and thus allows an invisible creature to be located as normal, and the Blind-Fight feat makes hitting an invisible creature easier by allowing a reroll on the miss chance.

Low Light Vision doubles the distance a character can see in limited light - since a torch gives 20 feet of vision, someone with Low Light Vision can see 40 feet away. On a moonlit night, they can see as far as they can during the day.

Paralysis and Hold basically work the same way, though the former is a physical effect resisted by Fortitude and the latter is a mental effect resisted by Will. A swimmer under one of these effects is naturally unable to swim, and may drown as a result (making Hold Person a pretty decent assassination tool if your target likes to swim). Likewise, a winged creature that suffers one of these effects while flying will no longer be able to flap their wings, and will (unless something else is holding them up) fall for normal damage).

Poison is generally just nasty. Upon first being poisoned, the creature must make a save to avoid the initial damage (usually ability damage). One minute later, they must make a second save, at the same DC, to avoid secondary damage (which is usually also ability damage, but in some cases is unconsciousness instead). There is a table of poisons, from Oil of Taggit (no initial damage, unconsciousness as secondary damage) to Black Lotus Extract (3d6 Constitution damage as both initial and secondary damage). Given that the latter is a contact poison with a DC 20 on its save, if you fail the first, you'll probably fail the second too. It is, on the other hand, 2,500GP a dose, so only use this is you absolutely, positively, need a motherfucker dead. There's also Ungol Dust, which does Charisma damage (good against Sorcerers), Insanity Mist (Wisdom, so good against Clerics/Druids) and Id Moss, (Intelligence, so good against Wizards).

Regeneration allows a character to treat almost all damage as subdual damage, and to heal subdual damage at a rapid rate - Trolls, for example, treat everything except Fire and Acid as subdual damage (meaning they can only be beaten unconscious, not killed by other kinds of damage), and heal three points of subdual damage each round. Severed body parts can be reattached or regrown, and an attack that can cause instant death may only do so if it's of a kind of damage that can cause normal damage to the creature. Finally, attacks that don't deal hit point damage ignore regeneration entirely (such as disintegration).

Energy Resistance gives the ability to ignore an amount of damage from a given energy type each round (the Janni, for instance, ignores the first thirty points of fire damage it receives each round). As such, these creatures still roll saves as normal, even if a spell can't hurt them, because you still need to know how much resistance to take off from the attack.

Scent allows a character detect others by smell (generally within 30 feet; doubled if they're upwind and halved if they're downwind). Its specific location is not given, but a scent can be followed. A variant rule is given here: an additional feat that allows a half orc or a gnome (as well as certain monsters like gnolls and orcs) to pick up this ability as a feat if they have a Wisdom of 11 or higher. It suggests that this might be more powerful than many other feats, and might make those characters a little OP. Personally, I'd be fine with including it; it's flavourful

Spell Resistance is quite simply, the ability to not be affected by spells. The spell caster makes a caster level check (d20 + their caster leve), and if it's equal to or higher than the Spell Resistance, the spell works. If it's lower, the spell doesn't affect the target. Of course, PCs who eventually Spell Resistance tend to get it at high experience levels, at a value of maybe five higher than their level if they're lucky - meaning a spell caster of equal level still has an 80% chance of successfully affecting them. Lowering your spell resistance is a standard action, and it remains down for a round. The reason you'd do this is so that you can be healed or buffed by someone without them having to roll and potentially fail.

Tremorsense is, simply put, the ability to work out where things are by vibrations in the ground within a specific range. You can use it to find anyone who is moving when a path between you and them exists within the ground. Moving within a five foot square counts (so attacks, spells with somatic components and so on). If a character is not in contact with the ground, then obviously you can't sense them; if there is a gap in the ground, then the shortest indirect path through unbroken ground must be shorter than the range.

Turn Resistance is, simply put, increases the effective HD of an undead creature for the purposes of the Cleric's Turn/Rebuke Undead ability.

Next up, we have a summary of all the conditions. Some of them have already been explained and the others are fairly self explanatory.

So, we're three parts into the third chapter. There's one more part to go, and after that we should (hopefully) finally be back to some of the more interesting shit.

Running the Game (Part 4)

posted by hectorgrey Original SA post

Holy shit, this is a long chapter. Spoiler alert, I won't be finishing it in this post. I don't have many pages to go, but each page is so dense with information that it's difficulty summarise it more efficiently than the book itself already has. With that out of the way:

D&D 3rd Edition - The Core Books

Part 17: Running the Game (Part 4)

This is where we finally leave combat behind, and start looking at the other major danger to PCs: the environment. We begin with landslides and avalanches - these are particularly nasty, and are basically run the same way. A landslide/avalanche has a bury zone and a slide zone. The bury zone is the area directly in the path of the fall, while the slide zone is the area where other debris is likely to land.

Anyone caught in either zone needs to make a Reflex save - in the bury zone, those who fail this save are pinned under rubble, and take 8d6 of damage; those who succeed take half damage, but are still pinned. In the slide zone, those who fail take 3d6 damage and are pinned, where those who succeed take no damage. Anyone pinned by rubble takes a d6 of subdual damage each minute. If a pinned character falls unconscious, they must make a DC 15 Constitution check or else suffer a d6 of normal damage until they're either freed or dead.

Next, we have water. Wading through relatively calm water does not require a saving throw, so finding a good ford is useful. Swimming in relatively calm water is only a DC 10 Swim check, meaning most characters can simply take 10 to succeed automatically (though remember the penalties for armour or heavy gear). In fast moving water, a Swim check of DC 15 is required, and even on a successful check a d3 of subdual damage (or a d6 of normal damage if there are lots of rocks or cascades) per round is suffered. On a failed save, a further check must be made to avoid going under. Very cold water deals a d6 of subdual damage per minute of exposure (due to hypothermia). Likewise, very deep water causes a d6 of damage per minute, per hundred feet below the surface. A Fortitude save (DC 15 +1 per previous check) allows the diver to avoid damage for that minute.

At this point, we have a sidebar on drowning. A character can hold their breath for a number of rounds equal to double their Constitution score (so 20-22, or roughly two minutes, on average). Each round after that, a Constitution check is required, with a DC of 10 + the number of previous checks. Once the character finally fails, drowning begins. In the first round of drowning, the character goes straight to 0 hp and is unconscious. In the second, they go to -1 and are dying. In the third round, the character dies. Now, this sidebar never actually states that the character stops drowning if you remove them from the water, which has led to a common joke about how you don't, but this is clearly not the intent.

After water, we come to starvation and thirst. A medium sized character needs at least a gallon of fluid and about a pound of decent food to avoid these things. After a day, followed by a number of hours equal to their constitution score, a character who has gone without water must make hourly Constitution checks (DC 10 +1 per previous check). Each one they fail causes a d6 of subdual damage. A character who goes without food for more than three days must make daily Constitution with the same result on a failure. Any such subdual damage will cause the Fatigued condition, and this damage cannot be removed (even by magic) until the character actually eats and drinks.

Extreme heat is the next environmental damager we come to. In temperatures above 90 Farenheit (roughly 32 Centigrade) a character must make an hourly Fortitude save to avoid taking a d4 of subdual damage. If they pass out from this, they will start taking a d4 of normal damage every hour. The Wilderness Lore skill may add a bonus to this save, and this bonus can be applied to other characters as well. Heavy clothing or armour of any kind adds a -4 penalty to the save. In temperatures above 110 Farenheit (roughly 43 Centigrade) these saves must be made every ten minutes. Either way, the DC begins at 15, and is increased by 1 every time. Any subdual damage from a failed save causes heatstroke and fatigue. In temperatures over 140 Farenheit (roughly 60 Centigrade), just breathing is enough to cause a d6 of damage per minute without a save. A further save must be made every five minutes to avoid a further d4 subdual damage. In addition, anybody wearing metal armour or coming into contact with hot metal is affected as though by a Heat Metal spell. Boiling water does a d6 points of scalding damage - unless the character is immersed, in which case it deals 10d6 per round. There is a sidebar for catching on fire, and a later entry for exposure to lava.

If a character is in danger of catching on fire (for example they're exposed to burning oil, or find themselves in the middle of a Wall of Fire unexpectedly), they may make a Reflex save of DC 15 to avoid catching on fire. If they fail, they take a d6 of fire damage, and must make a similar Reflex save each round after until they eventually succeed - each failure deals another d6 of damage. Stop, drop and roll gives a +4 bonus to this save, as does having someone smother the fire in some way. If there is a body of water deep enough to douse the character in question, then that will automatically put the fire out.

Next, we have extreme cold. In temperatures below 40 Farenheit (roughly 4 Centigrade), an unprotected character must make an hourly Fortitude save to avoid taking a d6 of subdual damage. It starts at DC 15, and increases by 1 for every previous save. As with heat, a character with Wilderness Lore may grant a bonus to this save for themself or an ally. In temperatures below 0 Farenheit (roughly -18 Centigrade), this save must be made every 10 minutes - though if the character in question is wearing good winter clothing, it may be made hourly instead. Any subdual damage causes frostbite or hypothermia (treated as fatigue by default). Once the damage is recovered from, the penalties are removed.

Following this, we have weather - starting with the wind. A light (up to 10mph) wind has absolutely no game effect. A moderate wind (11-20mph) has a 50% chance of blowing out candles, but no stronger flames. A strong wind (21-30mph) will automatically blow out unprotected flames (such as torches and candles), give a -2 penalty to ranged attacks and listen checks, and may knock down a tiny creature unless they make a DC 10 Fortitude save. A severe wind (31-50mph) has a 50% chance of even blowing out protected flames such as lanterns, gives a -4 penalty to ranged attacks and listen checks, may blow away tiny creatures, knock down small creatures and even prevent medium sized creatures from making much progress unless they make a DC 15 Fortitude save. None of these give any penalties for siege weapons (which include not only the usual suspects, but also boulders thrown by giants).

A windstorm (that is, winds of 51-74mph) makes normal ranged attacks impossible (but siege weapons may attack at a -4), may blow away small creatures, knock down medium creatures and prevent large and even huge creatures from making any forward progress unless they made a DC 18 Fortitude save. It also has a 75% chance of blowing out protected flames. Listen checks may be made at a -8 penalty.

A hurricane (75-174mph) gives siege weapons a -8 penalty, and may blow away medium sized creatures or smaller, knock down large creatures and prevent forward progress for a huge creature unless they make a DC 20 save. At this point, listen checks are impossible due to noise, and all flames - even protected ones - are extinguished.

A tornado (175-300mph) makes even siege weapon attacks impossible, will blow away large or smaller creatures, knock down huge creatures, and even prevent the forward progress of a gargantuan or colossal creature without a DC 30 save. The funnel of a tornado moves an average of 30mph. Characters in close proximity to a tornado who fail their saves are sucked towards the tornado - those who come into contact with it are picked up and whirled around for 1d10 rounds, taking 6d6 damage per round before being ejected violently (and potentially taking further falling damage).

With all kinds of wind, flying creatures are considered to be one size category smaller for the purposes of the effect of a failed save. A flying creature who wouldn't be able to move forward on land is instead moved 1d6*5 feet in the direction of the wind. A creature that gets knocked down is simply knocked prone - if flying, they're moved 1d6*10 feet. A creature that gets blown away is knocked prone and rolled 1d4*10 feet, taking a d4 subdual damage per 10 feet. Flying creatures are blown 2d6*10 feet and sustain 2d6 points of subdual damage. Basically, flying in bad weather is a terrible, awful, stupid idea, and you should absolutely do it.

Precipitation is also important to consider - rain reduces visibility by half, giving a -4 penalty to spot and search checks. It also affects ranged attacks, listen checks and open flames the same way a severe wind does. Snow affects flames the way a moderate wind does, and once on the ground reduces movement speed by half. While it's falling, it reduces visibility the same way that rain does, giving the same skill penalties and a -4 penalty to attack rolls. Sleet (kind of a cross between rain and snow) is slightly worse for flames (75% chance to put out protected flames; automatically puts out unprotected flames), and has the same effect as snow on the ground. Hail doesn't reduce visibility but does give a -4 to listen checks. There's also a 5% chance that the hail is large enough to deal a point of damage to anything in the open. Once on the ground, it has the same effect of snow.

Storms are essentially a mix of wind and precipitation, and those things are seriously nasty. A regular storm reduces visibility ranges by three quarters, imposing a -8 penalty to all spot, search and listen checks. They make ranged weapon attacks impossible (though siege weapons can try it with a -4 penalty), automatically extinguish unprotected flames and have a 50% chance of extinguishing protected flames. A duststorm has no precipitation, what with being in the desert, but instead deposits a layer of 1d6 inches of dust. There is a 10% chance that such a storm will be particularly powerful, dealing a d3 of subdual damage to anyone caught without without shelter and potentially causing choking (this uses the drowning rules). Such a greater duststorm leaves 2d3-1 feet of dust in their wake. A snowstorm is much like a duststorm in its aftermath, but more like a regular storm when it happens. Thunderstorms also add the danger of being struck by lightning, as well as a tornado showing up. There are also more powerful versions of these storms, with heavier precipitation and stronger winds.

In addition to the weather above, fog is also a possibility, it reduces all sight to only 5 feet, and even creatures within that distance have one half concealment (20% miss chance). Flash floods are often caused by hurricanes, and can easily wash away even large size creatures.

Around this point, we get a sidebar that covers suffocation. Rapid suffocation is basically identical to drowning. Slow suffocation, as might happen if you leave a person for 24 hours inside a bag of holding, is naturally slower. In a sealed chamber 10 feet on a side, there is enough air for one medium size creature to breathe normally for six hours. After that, the character takes a d6 of subdual damage every 15 minutes. The amount of air is, naturally, divided by the number of medium sized creatures and sources of fire, and it is also increased if the sealed area has a larger volume.

Other dangers include acid, which deals a d6 of damage per round of exposure (10d6 in cases of total immersion), while their fumes may be be poisonous i their own right. A creature immune to acid can, of course, still drown in it. Ice requires a Balance check to avoid falling over, and prolonged contact may cause cold damage. Low oxygen (commonly caused by high altitude) requires hourly Fortitude saves of DC 15, +1 per previous save, to avoid taking subdual damage. Over the long term, another save of the same DC is required every six hours to prevent altitude sickness - on a failed save, a point of ability damage is taken to each ability. Lava is basically twice as dangerous as acid, doing 2d6 and 20d6 instead of 1d6 and 10d6 respectively. This damage continues for an additional three rounds, though only half the damage is taken each time, once exposure has ended. As with acid, something immune to heat can still drown. Smoke acts like fog, but causes choking and subdual damage.

Falling objects deal damage based on how far they have fallen - something that weighs 5lb deals a d6 damage per 70 feet that it falls (rounded down), something that weighs 50lb deals a d6 per 40 feet, and something over 200lb deals a d6 per 200lb for the first 10 feet, followed by a d6 for every 10 feet after that. Something that weighs less than a pound deals no damage regardless of how far it falls - which makes sense; terminal velocity tends to be lower for lighter objects, and let's be honest, trying to work out the drag of any given object for a single damage roll would be a massive pain in the arse.

Finally, we come to the weather table. Simply put, there is a random weather table based on climate. It's reasonably concise, and changes in weather could well make travel significantly more interesting as it provides challenges for the characters to solve that don't rely on their ability to deal damage.

This is not the end of the chapter - there's still a whole bit on skill and ability checks to go, as well as saving throws and magic, before we move on to the chapter on adventures. We are very, very close though, and I'm definitely looking forward to the next chapter.

Running the Game (Part 5)

posted by hectorgrey Original SA post

D&D 3rd Edition - The Core Books

Part 18: Running the Game (Part 5)

Christ, how long has it been since my last post now? Sorry for keeping folks waiting; hopefully I'll be able to get back on track now. As I have mentioned in previous posts, where the PHB spreads its information out in a beginner friendly manner, the DMG is quite densely packed with information. This is great for people with the patience to sit down, read it, study it and actually get a really good feel for how the game is intended to run; it is less so for someone trying to summarise its contents on an internet forum .

We start here with skill and ability checks. As I described in the writeup for the PHB, DCs for these checks are based on a combination of the skill required to pull them off, the amount of time it should take, and whether there are immediate consequences for failure.

Firstly, it is suggested that both the roll and the DC may be modified - circumstances that affect the person performing the task should modify the roll, while circumstances that affect the task itself should modify the DC. Either way, you can either tell the PCs or not - and in many cases probably shouldn't. It does point out that it's entirely reasonable to completely ignore this distinction and just pick one or the other to modify - mathematically it's identical. The only reason I'd consider separating them out would be if I intended to tell the PC the modifiers to the roll, but not to the DC.

Next, it suggests that favourable circumstances should provide a +2 to the roll (or -2 to DC), while unfavourable circumstances should do the opposite. These things can stack. The general idea of this as a rule of thumb is just to just have a quick modifier that you can use when either nothing else seems appropriate, or when you can't actually remember what the one in the rules was and you want to keep the game moving. It does suggest modifying the rule in cases where a +/- 2 is insufficient for the situation at hand.

After that, we move onto tasks. A task is anything that requires a roll. Naturally most experienced roleplayers will be familiar with this concept, but the DMG gives a few examples here of various things that a person completely new to this might think of as a task, which are broken down into several gamplay tasks. These include being on watch, riding a horse, tracking a giant scorpion, and sneaking past a bunch of hobgoblins.

It is generally recommended that asking for specific information should receive a bonus (where such a bonus would make sense) to related rolls. The example here is that if a PC sees a kobold dart inside a poorly room, and looks in specific places, that should count as a favourable condition and add a +2 to the roll.

Next, we have degrees of success - if a character beats a DC by 10 or 20, they should get better results than if they only beat it by 1. Usually, they should only apply when it's a question of how much information a character gets as a result of the roll.

Here is where the DMG says outright what I said earlier on: encourage the players to take 10. It can really speed up play in situations where a roll might be technically required, but you have to make the roll repeatedly (for example, if you're climbing a high wall or swimming a long distance). I would add to this that sometimes it's better to just assume that your players get a 10 if such a roll is sufficient to succeed.

Ability checks come next; these work exactly like skill checks, except you're not adding a skill to the roll. Examples given include a DC 12 Constitution check to avoid going to sleep when remaining awake is important, while taking dictation would be a DC 15 Intelligence check, with a +2 if the person doing it succeeds on a DC 10 Dexterity check.

At this point, we get our next variant rule: making skill checks with different abilities. Examples include moving about in Zero-G, where a Climb check based on Dexterity instead of Strength would make sense, while picking the best horse out of a herd might be a Ride check based on Wisdom. Another variant rule is critical success or failure on skill rolls - if a natural 20 or 1 is rolled, you roll again to confirm. Personally, I'm not a fan of critical success or failures on skills and would never use this, but I understand some people like to include such things in their games.

Following this, we get a table of example DCs. These examples include the almost impossible to fail (like a DC -10 to hear the sounds of a pitched battle, or DC 0 to track ten hill giants across a muddy field) though to the genuinely impressive (DC 43 to track a gobling that passed over hard rock a week ago, and it snowed yesterday).

Next, we have saving throws. As a recap, saving throws are used to avoid danger - trying to catch oneself on a ledge to avoid falling would be a Reflex save, for example. The DC for a spell is 10 + spell level + ability modifier, the DC for a monster's ability is 10 + (hit dice / 2) + ability modifier, and for pretty much anything else the recommended DCs are between 10 and 20, with 15 as a good default.

As a variant rule, it is suggested that occasionally you might want to tie a saving throw to a different ability. Examples given include making a Fortitude save based on Wisdom instead of Constitution against mental attacks that call for them, or a Reflex save based on Wisdom instead of Dexterity for casting a Quickened Dimension Door spell to avoid falling into a pit. It's an interesting option, but not one I could see myself using very often if at all, if only because it makes things fiddlier than they really need to be for very little payoff.

Following this, we come to adjudicating magic. First, we're told that we should be creative with our descriptions of magic in use, and that it is worth giving players a degree of creative freedom in describing their own spells (though a spell shouldn't be allowed to look more impressive than it actually is; for example a fireball shouldn't look like a dragon breathing fire.

There is a decent amount of advice about handling divination. Firstly, the concern that the players could learn too much from their devination. The advice given here is that a situation shouldn't be designed to render divination useless, but it should take it into account. If investigating the murder of the king, for example, a divination spell might tell the party who did it, but it's not going to catch the murderer for them, nor will it foil whatever other plans the murderer had in mind.

The second potential problem given is the need for answers on the fly. The advice given here is that you should ideally already know the answers to anything important that the PCs could potentially use this magic to learn about, and that it is worth having a few default rhyming couplets you can easily insert information into (for example, "If into X fate doth thee send, thou wilt find Y in the end") for use when you're caught by surprise.

Next, there is guidance for creating new spells. The general advice is to compare new spell ideas with pre-existing spells. If it is better than sleep but worse than invisibility, it probably fits into second level, to use the example given. This is followed by some rules of thumb:

Dungeon Masters Guide posted:

  • If a spell is so good that you can't imagine a caster not wanting to use it, it's either too powerful or too low in level.
  • An XP cost is a good balancing force. An expensive material component is only a moderately good balancing force (Money is easier to replace than XP)
  • When determining level, compare range, duration and target (or area) to other spells to balance. A long duration or large area can sometimes make up for a lesser effect.
  • A spell with very limited use (only works against red dragons, for example) could be one level lower than it would otherwise be - even at this lower level, a sorcerer or bard would only take it if they knew it would be worthwhile in advance.
  • Wizards and sorcerers should not cast healing spells, but they should have the best offensive spells. (Note: I might be tempted to disregard this, but it would be setting dependent)
  • Clerics are best at spells that deal with alignment and have the best selection of curative and repair spells. They also have the best inormation gathering spells.
  • Druids are best at spells that deal with plants and animals.
  • Rangers and Paladins should not have flashy attack spells such as Magic Missile and Fireball.
  • Bard spells are enchantments, information gathering spells and include a mixture of other types of spells, but do not include large, offensive spells such as cone of cold.

Finally, we have some variant rules. Firstly, for GM's who like to add a little random chance to magic, we have the spell roll. Instead of the DC for a save being static, you replace the +10 with a d20 roll. This means that sometimes the casting just isn't as effective as usual or else is sometimes more effective. If I were to use this, I would simply assume that the target gets a 11 - mathematically it is roughly equivalent, but moves the die rolling to the person acting rather than the person reacting. More often than not, however, I'd probably just leave casting as it is.

The second variant rule is one of power components - the idea that some incredibly rare material components might be used to replace the XP cost of a spell. They should not be available to purchase, and getting hold of enough of a component to cast a single spell without spending XP should itself be the object of an adventure. The general guideline for the value in gold pieces is roughly 10-20 times the XP cost of the spell, and it ought to be unique to each spell.

The third variant is one of summoning individual monsters - the idea being that you summon the same specific monster each time you summon a given type of monster (for example, every time you summon a dire wolf, it's the same dire wolf). If multiple monsters are summoned at once, then they will also always be the same ones. I kind of like this idea; it can addflavour to spells that might otherwise seem a little boring with very little effort.

And so, finally, this chapter is over. Once again, I'm sorry for the long delay. Yay depression. Next post, which will hopefully be much, much sooner, I'll be diving into the Adventures chapter. Not only will that one hopefully be much quicker, it will hopefully be significantly more interesting (and thus less of a slog to get through).

Adventures (Part 1)

posted by hectorgrey Original SA post

D&D 3rd Edition: The Core Books

Part 20: Adventures (Part 1)

In case you're wondering why I've gone from part 18 to part 20, it's because I screwed up the numbering ages ago. Combat should have been part 6, not part 5. With that out of the way, let's begin one of the better chapters in the DMG: Adventures. This chapter is all about how to design your own adventures, and begins by defining two types of adventure: site based and event based.

A site based adventure is funnily enough, an adventure based around a location. It's your classical dungeon crawl, or your wilderness exploration, or your town filled with zombies. Essentially, something about the location or its inhabitants is inherently dangerous or challenging, and navigating the area is intended to be part of the adventure. As such, if you intend to run such an adventure, you're going to need a map of some description. The book recommends squared paper (commonly called graph paper in the USA, but when I hear graph paper I think of this), noting that five to ten feet per square is a common scale. Important areas should be numbered, and the numbers should relate to information on a key. If you have ever run a dungeon crawl of any description, you already know all this shit, but it's good to have it there for the many people for whom this would have been their first ever RPG.

After that, the book notes that a location can either be static or dynamic. An ancient ruin might be static; the monsters lurk where they lurk, the traps are where they are, and nothing is liable to change based on they PCs actions. A drow fortress, on the other hand, will dynamic - the inhabitants will have defensive plans, and if the alarm is raised it will change the locations of the various enemies and potentially even the layouts of the various rooms. A kobold warren would be a good option for a low level dynamic location; if the party can avoid notice, they can get away with a lot, but if not, that warren could turn very dangerous, very quickly.

Event based adventures, by contrast, are often considered more story based - there is an inciting incident of some description that brings the adventure to the PCs. Maybe there have been some unexplained disappearances, or a merchant hires the PCs on as guards for a trip from one city to another. Rather than a map, there are a couple of ways of organising this kind of adventure recommended by the book: A flowchart, working out some possible ways the adventure might go based on PC action, and a timeline that talks about how things will go if the PCs don't intervene. It is worth noting that many excellent adventures are neither entirely site based nor event based, but are instead a mix of the two. The DMG doesn't mention this, but I suspect after a little time a DM could work it out for themselves.

Following the types of adventure, we have a few paragraphs on motivation. It mentions that greed, fear, need, morality, anger and curiosity are all powerful motivators - as, of course, is fun. It then moves on to the difference between a tailored motivation and the status quo. Tailored motivations are, naturally, motivations the DM comes up with to motivate the PCs to action based on their characters. A status quo motivation isn't really a motivation but is instead a situation that the PCs can choose to intervene with or not that isn't really tied to them. Its main purpose is to remind the players that the world exists outside of the PCs and their actions.

Next, we go into structure. A good adventure should have choices for the PCs to make, be it navigational or moral. The players need to feel like their choices have some meaning. Some of these choices should be difficult and should have consequences - do the PCs help the temple of Heironeous wage war against the goblin menace, or should they stay on track to prevent the evil duke summoning the slaadi assassins? Should the PCs trust the word of a dragon, or ignore her warnings? A good adventure should also have different sorts of encounters. Attack, defence, problem solving, role playing and investigation are mentioned here. These encounters should allow the PCs to use their various abilities, giving all of them a chance to shine. Finally, a good adventure needs to include exciting events.

Pitfalls to avoid include leading the PCs by the nose (i.e. railroading), having the PCs be spectators to the important stuff (if only the writers of Legend of the Silver Skeleton had read this bit of the DMG), or preventing the PCs from using their cool abilities (such as creating a dungeon where flight and teleportation are impossible because you don't know how to challenge players once they reach that level).

The book then goes into the flow of information to the players. Simply put, how the adventure plays out depends entirely on what the players know and when they learn it. If they know to expect a red dragon at the bottom of a dungeon, they'll act differently than if they don't. If they don't know that certain actions will cause the caverns to cave in, they won't take effort to avoid those actions. As such, the DM needs to make sure the PCs receive information as and when it makes sense for them to receive it. Sometimes that means they know everything up front, but sometimes it means they don't learn it until later on. When the party have access to divination and the like, rather than cursing their ability to find out secrets earlier than intended, give them reasons to use that ability.

The next section is on encounters. Just like motivations, encounters are either tailored or status quo. A tailored encounter is one where you've taken into account the player abilities, while a status quo encounter is one where you have chosen not to. An example of the latter would be the players encountering bugbears in a place where it has already been established that bugbears like to hang out. The book recommends that you tell your players in advance if you intend to use a lot of status quo encounters, so that they know up front that sometimes they're going to run into things that they really ought to avoid pissing off.

After this distinction is explained, we get into Challenge Ratings (CRs). Simply put, the CR of an encounter tells you the rough level of four player party for which it would be a good challenge (spoiler warning: the CRs of many 3.x monsters are either way too high or way too low, but it was a nice idea in principle). Naturally more enemies mean a higher over all encounter level. We have a chart at this point saying roughly what CR the creatures should be in certain size groups - if you want a level 3 encounter with ten or so monsters, you should go for something with a CR of roughly 1/8.

This is followed by discussion on difficulty. Basically, 10% of all encounters should be easy - that is to say, a lower EL than the party level. 20% should be easy if handled properly - the example given here is a pack of ogres with an invisible cleric becomes much easier to handle if the cleric gets their invisibility removed. 50% should have an EL equal to that of the party (challenging), 15% should have an EL 1-4 higher than the party (very difficult) and 5% should have an EL of 5 or more levels higher than the party (overpowering). Basically, 80% of all encounters should be "Challenging" or lower, with only 20% having a higher EL than the party in a given adventure. Very Difficult encounters come with the warning that you may well lose a character in such a fight, while Overpowering says the party will most likely lose if they choose to stand and fight.

It's worth noting that if you stick to these numbers and you have more groups than individuals in your encounters, your martial characters will actually have more to do; particularly if there are a decent number of these encounters in a given day, sapping the Wizard's spells over time. There are a number of notes on difficulty given here that you shouldn't necessarily take into account when assigning a CR, but that should be considered when designing encounters:

Dungeon Masters Guide posted:

  • Tight quarters make things more difficult for rogues, since it's harder to skulk about and gain a sneak attack
  • A spread out force makes things more difficult for spellcasters since the area affected by most spells is small
  • Many lesser foes are harder for a character to engage in melee than one powerful foe
  • Undead are much more difficult to fight without a Cleric
  • Encounters involving animals or plants are much more difficult without a Druid or a Ranger
  • Encounters involving evil outsiders are much more difficult without a Paladin or Cleric (and perhaps a Wizard or Sorcerer)
  • A large force is much more difficult to fight without a Wizard or Sorcerer
  • Locked doors and traps are much more difficult to overcome without a Rogue
  • Multiple combat encounters are more difficult to win without a Fighter, Barbarian, Ranger or Paladin
  • Multiple combat encounters are more difficult to survive without a Cleric
  • The Bard and Cleric make good group support characters. Their presence makes practically every encounter easier

Next, we're told that in the Monster Manual, some creatures can be made tougher than usual - if this is done, then the amount of XP added should be proportional to the amount by which their Hit Dice have been increased. For monsters that can gain class levels, their new CR is equal to their normal CR + number of levels, -1 if the levels are in an NPC class, with a minimum of 1 higher than their normal CR.

This is followed by a few notes on location. Firstly, we're told that you can use a location to make things more interesting. For example, picking the lock of the only door out of the top room of a collapsing tower is more interesting than picking the lock on just another locked door in a dungeon. One suggestion is that one might set a series of encounters in a large wooden fort - that's on fire. Secondly, a location can change the difficulty of an encounter. Orcs with crossbows, behind cover, firing down at the PCs while they're trying to cross a narrow ledge over a pit of spikes is going to be a lot more dangerous than if those same orcs are the ones with no cover, don't know the PCs are there, and are carrying barrels of flammable oil.

The last part of this sector of the chapter is on rewards and behaviour. Basically, if you run a game where combat is the primary sort of challenge the party encounters, you shouldn't be surprised that the Cleric and Wizard are only preparing combat spells. Ideally, you want to have a mix of different challenges in an adventure; that way, you're providing a varied and interesting experience to the players, and you're giving the players a good reason to think about more than just how they can reduce the enemies to a fine red paste.

The following page is named The End, and it is all about how to end an adventure and lead into the next one. Generally, an adventure should have a climactic ending that has at least been foreshadowed prior to that point in the game. Leading into future adventures comes next. The book suggests that it's best to have a mix of continuing and episodic adventures - that is to say, adventures that flow naturally one into another, and adventures that are largely stand alone. Stand alone adventures can generally be integrated into an ongoing plot reasonably easily - navigating through a haunted forest during their travels or encountering a village filled with zombies, for example.

The book also suggests that running multiple adventures side by side (i.e. plot weaving) might be worth doing. The example given here is a conflict with a local assassins' guild and the hunt for a powerful magic staff. The reasoning it gives is that such things can make a campaign feel less like a series of adventures and more like real life. It acknowledges that some players might not actually enjoy this sort of thing, preferring to stick to one goal until completion before moving on to something else.

The page ends with a checklist for ending an adventure. Firstly, if you don't award it at the end of a session, you should award XP once the adventure is over. Second, you should make notes of what happened in the adventure, and what the players liked and disliked. This may lead to inspiration for future adventures. Finally, update your notes on how the PCs have changed, who they've pissed off, any friends they've made and anything else important related to them.

Now we come to the next major part of the chapter: The Dungeon. To quote the book:

The Dungeon posted:

Dungeons are deep, dark pits filled with subterranean horrors and lost, ancient treasures. Dungeons are labyrinths where evil villains and carnivorous beasts hide from the light, waiting for a time to strike into the sunlit lands of good. Dungeons contain pits of seething acid and magic traps that blast intruders with fire, as well as dragons guarding their hoards and magic artifacts waiting to be discovered.

In short, dungeons mean adventure.

The term dungeon is used here not just for underground fortifications, but for pretty much any enclosed, defined space where a number of encounters may take place. A fortress may as well be a dungeon, for example, even though it's above ground. The main types of dungeon are ruined structures, occupied structures, safe storage and natural cavern complexes.

A ruined structure is largely abandoned; beasts, traps and magical defences are the main form of danger found within. This will typically be a static location. Abandoned fortresses, temples, cities and other such locations make for good ruined structures.

An occupied structure is in use by intelligent creatures. There will generally not be nearly as many traps, but instead will be a more organised resistance should the party just walk in and start killing things. Some of them may only be partially occupied. They tend to be fortresses, mines, prisons or underground settlements, and will typically be dynamic locations.

Safe storage is simply a place built to protect something. It might be a fabulous treasure, a forbidden artifact or someone's remains, but whatever it is, it is protected. Protections generally involve traps, guardians (usually constructs or undead, since they don't require sustenance), barriers of many varieties, but it will not usually have beasts or intelligent foes. This will typically be a static location.

Natural cavern complexes are exactly that. There are very few traps or even doors here, though they may occasionally lead to other kinds of dungeon. The main light sources here will be either magical or phosphorescent. Fungi are common, and various predators may be lying in wait. They're generally static, but their main use in an adventure would be to conceal something - maybe some bandits have taken shelter here temporarily, or maybe it was an easily defensible entrance to a more permanent structure.

At this point, we have a Behind the Curtains side bar:

Why Dungeons? posted:

Dungeons facilitate game play. Dungeons, being underground, set apart the "adventure" from the rest of the world in a clean way. The idea of walking down a corridor, opening a door, and entering an encounter - while a gross oversimplification and generalization - facilitates the flow of the game by reducing things down to easily grasped and digestible concepts.

You have an easy way to control the adventure in a dungeon without leading the characters by the noes. In a dungeon, the parameters are clearly defined for the PCs - they can't walk through walls (not at first, anyway) or go into rooms that aren't there. Yet aside from those limits, they can go wherever they like in whatever order they like. The limited environment of the dungeon grants players a feeling of control over their own destiny.

A dungeon is really nothing but an adventure flowchart. The rooms are encounters and the corridors are connections between the encounters, showing which should follow which. You could design a dungeon-like flowchart for an adventure that didn't take place in a dungeon and accomplish the same thing. One encounter leads to two more, which in turn lead to others, some of which double back on previous encounters. The dungeon becomes a model, in this way, for all adventures.

Academic analysis aside, dungeons are fun. Deep, dark underground places are mysterious and frightening. Dungeons have many encounters crammed into one small space. Nothing is more exciting than anticipating what's on the other side of the next dungeon door. Dungeons often contain many different kinds of challenges - combat, tactics, navigation, overcoming obstacles, traps and more. They encourage players to pay close attention to their environment, since everything in a dungeon is a potential danger.

In the Dungeons and Dragons game, the classes, spells, magic items and many other facets of the game have been designed with dungeons in mind. That's not to say that the dungeon is the only possible adventuring environment, but it is the default setting. Many of the tasks that characters can do well, such as a Rogue's Open Lock skill or an Elf's ability to notice secret doors, are centered around dungeon adventuring.

When in doubt while creating the setting for an adventure, use a dungeon. However, despite the opportunities for exploration and the combat intensive nature of dungeons, don't neglect to include chances for the PCs to interact with NPCs such as Dwarven strike teams, other adventuring parties, or weird denizens that are happier to talk than to fight.

And on that note, this is where I will leave this post for today. There is far more detail on dungeons to get through. I recall one person saying that they were pretty certain that 3e was designed primarily with dungeon crawling in mind - well, the designers just backed them up. This chapter includes information along with various tables for not only dungeons, but also settlements. As such, I'm planning to design one of each based on the guidelines provided in this chapter - a small village and a nearby ruined temple.

Adventures (Part 2)

posted by hectorgrey Original SA post

Sorry about the wait; gathering sufficient spoons for writing this stuff is not always easy. We're still getting there though - and I do have some plans for where the posts on this chapter are going to go. In particular, I plan to design at least some of a dungeon.

D&D 3rd Edition: The Core Books

Part 21: Adventures (Part 2)

So, where we left off last, we were given the reason for why dungeons are the default setting of this game. What follows are a few brief descriptions of what might be found in a dungeon. Walls, doors, corridors and rooms are covered, complete with the different materials they might be made of. As a note on walls, arrow slits grant a +10 bonus to AC - there is absolutely no reason why a properly built defensive structure wouldn't have them, and they will definitely make the adventurers' lives more difficult at low-mid level.

We move on to floors. Uneven floors may require a balance check if someone attempts to run over them (such as very old and cracked flagstone floors, hewn stone floors or natural stone floors). Additional floor types include grates, ledges, bridges, transparent floors, trick floors and sliding floors.

Doors are features in the dungeon which could technically count as an encounter in and of themselves, from being locked, trapped or generally something that requires serious attention from the PCs. A simple wooden door has a DC 13 to open if stuck, or 15 if locked. A good wooden door goes to 16 and 18 respectively, and a strong wooden door goes up to 23 and 25. Stone or iron doors have a DC of 28 if stuck or locked, while a portcullis has a DC 25 to lift, with breaking being the same as a normal door of the same material. This of course means that at level 1, only a half orc can actually lift a portcullis without some kind of buff (such as rage), and even then only if they got an 18 before racial modifications.

Locks, incidentally, can only be broken if the lock itself can be attacked separately from the thing being locked - a padlock can be broken with a crowbar or a big hammer, for example, but if the lock is built into the door and the party Rogue is unable to pick it, the door itself will need breaking down.

We then go into the different types of hinges a door may have, an example of the kind of traps a door may have, and a few examples of doors that are unusual in some way. After doors, we have rooms, corridors and miscellaneous features like stairs, chimneys, pillars, tapestries, pools and so on. I'm skipping past a lot of this, because frankly it's not very interesting to read about unless you're actually busy designing a dungeon.

That said, as we come to obstacles, hazards and traps, our first section is on falling. Simply put, falling damage is a d6 per ten feet fallen, to a maximum of 20d6. To those who dislike the idea of a level 20 Fighter falling a mile to the ground and surviving, I would first point out that terminal velocity is a thing, then point out that people have survived ridiculously long falls before, and finally point out that if you have a problem with someone at that high a level surviving a ridiculously long fall, but you don't have a problem with people killing massive dragons with human scale weaponry, then maybe don't play Dungeons and Dragons.

Falling into water is slightly less dangerous than falling onto solid rock - it's a d6 per 20 feet fallen, with the first d6 being non-lethal. If the watter is at least ten feet deep for every thirty feet fallen, then a character make a DC 15 Swim or Tumble check to avoid taking any damage, with the DC going up by 5 for every 50 feet of the dive.

After learning how falling works, we then get pits and chasms. Someone who is moving carefully but doesn't see a covered pit until it is too late gets a DC 20 Reflex save to avoid falling in; someone who is running or moving recklessly gets no save. Spikes at the bottom of a pit count as daggers with a +10 attack bonus and a +1 damage bonus for every 10 feet of the fall (to a maximum of +5). If there are multiple spikes, the victim is attacked by 1d4 of them. Such damage is naturally in addition to the falling damage. Naturally, sometimes monsters will live in pits - oozes and jellies often find that food eventually comes to them. Otherwise, a pit may have undead or constructs at the bottom, placed there because they don't require any upkeep.

The next danger is the cave-in. A weakened ceiling can be spotted by a successful Knowledge check (architecture or engineering) or a successful Craft check (Stonemasonry) at DC 20. A weakened ceiling could collapse due to a major impact to it or its supports. Those in the centre of a cave-in (known as the bury zone) take 8d6 points of damage (half that on a DC 15 Reflex save) and are pinned. Those on the periphery (the slide zone) take 3d6 damage (none on a DC 15 Reflex save), and are only pinned if they failed that save. Pinned characters then take a a d6 of non-lethal damage every minute until they pass out (or are rescued). Once they've passed out, they must make a DC 15 Constitution check - if they fail this, they take 1d6 of normal damage until rescued or dead.

Digging out one's friends takes time, but it can be done. If you don't have any suitable tools, you can dig out up to five times your heavy load per minute - at Strength 10, this means that a five foot cube can be cleared out in four minutes, while with Strength 20 it can be done in one. With an appropriate tool, this can be done twice as fast. Cave-ins are nasty. Even at mid-level, they're a potential total party wipe if everyone gets buried.

Next, we have mechanical traps. These include the classics like arrow traps, spear traps, pit traps of various depths, poison needle traps, scything blade traps, portcullis traps and so on. They range in CR from 1 (arrow traps) to 10 (crushing wall traps), and costs a thousand gold to construct per point of CR. Magic traps follow - these can incorporate damn near any spell you can think of, from using Transmute Rock to Mud to cause a cave-in to zapping a whole corridor with a Lightning Bolt spell. These can be incredibly nasty, and have Search, Disable Device and save DCs based on spell level. Some of the examples given here include the floor transforming into acid (CR 6) and all the air being sucked out of the room (CR 5).

This is followed by another side bar:

Behind the Curtain: Traps posted:

Why use traps? Traps change the play of the game. If the adventurers suspect traps or have encountered them frequently in the past, they're much more likely to be cautious on adventures and particularly in dungeons. While instilling a little fear and paranoia in players can be fun, you should be aware that this also tends to slow down play, and searching every square foot of a corridor can get tedious for players and DM alike.

The solution is to place traps only when appropriate. People trap tombs and vaults to keep out intruders, but traps can be annoying and inappropriate in well-traveled areas. An intelligent creature is never going to build a trap that it might fall victim to itself.

After traps, we come to dungeon ecology. First, we're told that the creatures that inhabit a dungeon must be able to move around. The inhabitants generally need to eat, drink, breathe and sleep, just like anyone else. If there are predators down there, they need prey. If you want a believable dungeon, then you should be taking this stuff into account. If the water is behind a locked door, then your giant rats are going to have a very time getting to it, and will die long before the adventurers even get there. Taking such details into account also allows the players to make well reasoned decisions about their actions, such as waiting in ambush at a water source rather than hunting down a particular enemy.

Dungeons inhabitants commonly include animals such as rats and bats, slimes, and molds. Yellow Mold is a particularly nasty one - it is CR 6. If it is disturbed, it bursts out poisonous spores - all within ten feet must make a DC 15 Fortitude save to avoid taking a d6 of Constitution damage. A minute later, a second save is required to avoid taking 2d6 Constitution damage. At low levels, this can easily kill a PC; at mid-level, they should have the resources to avoid dying, but may need further care. Fire destroys yellow mold, and sunlight renders it dormant. It is CR 6.

The other thing to consider in a dungeon is wandering monsters. In general, there is a 10% chance of a wandering monster, with a roll being made every hour the PCs are in the dungeon, when the characters make noise, or in high traffic areas. In areas that have been cleared out, such rolls usually won't be made. Depending on how heavily populated an area is, you might roll more often. If you prefer not to keep track of time too strictly, then whenever the characters do something that takes a long time, like taking 20 to search a room for secret doors, might be a roll instead. Making noise generally includes breaking down a door, having a typical fight (both at once counts as one instance of noise), having a loud argument, running up and down stairs in full kit and so on. Wandering monsters don't generally carry much treasure - after all, their valuables will typically be in their lairs.

Next, we have random dungeons. Honestly, the random dungeon generation here is nowhere near as good as in AD&D 1e or in 5e - it starts by telling you to draw a map (i.e. the main thing you probably wanted to do randomly). There are then tables for random door types, random room contents, random traps and random monsters. It's not particularly interesting to read through, and it's definitely one of this book's weaker areas.

This is followed by a sample dungeon that I could probably do an separate post on, and an example of play that runs through a few rooms in that dungeon and ends with the rogue getting paralysed by a ghoul. I find it interesting that the only sample of play in these core books is in the DMG, given how this would have been many people's first introduction to role playing.

Anyway, now that we're finished with dungeons, we move on to wilderness encounters. The chance of an encounter depends on the location; 5% for a desolate wasteland; 8% for frontier or wilderness areas; 10% for verdant or civilised areas; and 12% for heavily travelled areas. This, like with wandering monsters in a dungeon, is per hour. The DM is expected to create encounter tables for their own regions, since a pre-written one might not make sense for the place the PCs are travelling through. There is a sample one for a Dark Mountains region that ranges from CR 5 to 13, with 8 being the most common.

This is followed by town generation - which is perhaps easier to explain with a worked example. As such, I present to you: Goonsville.

The sizes of town are as follows: a Thorp has between 20 and 80 adults, a hamlet goes up to 400, a village goes up to 900, a small town goes up to 2,000, a large town goes up to 5,000, a small city goes up to 12,000, a large city goes up to 25,000 and anything larger than that is a metropolis. Some of those numbers may seem a little small (my hometown would be considered a small city by these numbers), but it's worth noting that the overwhelming majority of people of people live in rural areas in a medieval economy. As such, a randomly generated town will be a thorp on a 1-10 of a d%, a hamlet on an 11-30, a village on a 31-50, a small town on a 51-70, a large town on a 71-85, a small city on an 86-95, a large city on a 96-99, and a metropolis on a 100.

The size of a community determines how much money or gear is available. The most expensive equipment in a thorp will be 40 gold; 100 in a hamlet; 200 in a village; 800 in a small town; 3,000 in a large town; 15,000 in a small city, 40,000 in a large city, and 100,000 in a metropolis. A small town is therefore the smallest settlement you can reasonably expect to find masterwork equipment on sale, and you're looking at a small city for magical weapons and armour. Custom work may, of course, be available to anyone willing to pay up front - possibly in more than just money. The amount of coin in a community depends on the population - half the GP limit for available equipment, multiplied by a tenth of the adult population.

I didn't roll for the size of Goonsville; I decided that I'd make it a large-ish village, with an adult population of 800 people (probably around a thousand if you include the kids). As it is a village, masterwork equipment isn't available here; neither is any armour heavier than a breastplate. Most weapons will generally be available though. With an adult population of 800 people, there is roughly 8,000 GP in coin. Of that, maybe 5,000 will be in copper, 2,500 in silver, and 500 in gold.

Next, we come to the power centre for a community. On a d20, a 13 or less is a conventional power centre, a 14-18 is nonstandard, and a 19+ is magical. On a thorp, you subtract 1, on a village you add 1, on a small town 2, a large town 3. On a small city, you add 4 and roll twice; a large city you add 5 and roll three times; and for a metropolis you add 6 and roll four times. The power centre will naturally have an alignment - generally, lawful is more common than neutral, which is more common than chaotic; likewise good is more common than evil, which is more common than neutral.

So I rolled the dice, getting a nonstandard power centre that is Lawful Evil. Nonstandard power centres include things like guilds, temples, aristocrats and other groups with no official political power, but who hold the real power in a settlement. I didn't know what I wanted the power centre to be at this point, so I just noted this down.

Following this, we have the community authorities and the NPCs. There is a 60% chance that the sherrif/constable/guard captain/whatever will be the highest level Warrior, a 20% chance it'll be the highest level Fighter, and a 20% chance it'll be the second highest level Fighter. For every hundred people, rounded down, there will be one full time guard or soldier; for every 20 there will be one militia member or conscripted soldier. For each class, you roll the level of the highest level NPC in the community, modified based on the size of the community. Given that the PC classes are only one die each, there's a good chance of there being no members of a given PC class in a given settlement if it is small enough - anything smaller than a small town has a negative modifier. NPC classes tend to have multiple dice, making it far less likely that there will end up being no members of that class. If the highest level NPC of a class is greater than one, there are 2 at half that level, 4 at a quarter and so on until you reach level 1. The remainder of the population are 91% commoners, 5% warriors, 3% experts, and 1% divided between aristocrats and adepts.

In Goonsville, we have a level 1 Barbarian, a level 1 Bard, a level 3 Cleric, a level 5 Druid, a level 6 Fighter, a level 2 Monk, a level 1 Paladin, a level 2 Ranger, a level 1 Rogue, a level 3 Sorcerer and a level 1 Wizard. We also have a level 5 adept, a level 2 aristocrat, a level 12 commoner, a level 2 expert and a level 3 warrior. The village constable is a level 6 Elf Fighter, who has eight full time soldiers and forty militia members under his command. Out of 800 adults, 680 are level 1 commoners, 769 are members of an NPC class, and 777 are level 1. A party of four first level PCs are absolutely a cut above the average by virtue of having PC classes and rolling 4d6 drop the lowest for stats instead of 3d6, but they are by no means powerful enough to go on a murder rampage through the town.

With this information, I decided that the level 12 commoner would probably be the mayor - he'd be a Dwarf, since the long lifespan would suit the high level, and probably the best weaponsmith in the village. He is Lawful Good, and knows full well that his position is largely ceremonial. Who is the real power in the village? The local temple, devoted to Hextor; the Lawful Evil god of conquest. Such a god might be worshipped in a frontier village if, for example, they were at the frontier of an empire. As such, the Paladin and Druids are probably in hiding; doing what good works they can without drawing too much attention to themselves. The mayor knows they're being hidden by sympathetic commoners, but has chosen to turn a blind eye.

The village constable is Neutral Good; his loyalties lie with the mayor, and the full time guards' loyalties are to him, but he doesn't know where the militia members' loyalties lie. He would back they mayor if there were any trouble, but he recognises that they'd probably both die if it came to that. If a small band of sufficiently skilled and equipped trouble makers could be raised, however, they might be able to swing things - they're far from the capital, and Hextor is worshipped far more out of fear of his Clerics than out of any real devotion.

Finally, we come to Racial Demographics. There are three types of racial mix: Isolated, Mixed and Integrated. An Isolated settlement has 96% humans, 2% halflings, 1% elves and 1% for all the other races. A Mixed settlement has 79% humans, 9% halflings, 5% elves, 3% dwarves, 2% gnomes, 1% half elves and 1% half orcs. An integrated society has 37% humans, 20% halflings, 18% elves, 10% dwarves, 7% gnomes, 5% half elves and 3% half orcs. Settlements where a race other than Human is dominant should place humans in second place and shift the other races down appropriately - a dwarf settlement, because they're all isolated, would have 2% humans and 1% halflings, for example.

As a frontier village, Goonsville is probably Isolated. The mayor's family are probably the only dwarves in the village, and the rest of the population are almost all human. That way, the contrast between the village and the outside world will be significantly greater.

Next time, I'll be detailing the first level of a dungeon close to town - the ruin of a relatively recently destroyed temple, now being used as a bandit hideout.

Adventures (Part 3)

posted by hectorgrey Original SA post

I'm apparently really, really bad at this whole "posting updates in a regular fashion". This will be finished though; I refuse to give up on it just yet...

D&D 3rd Edition: The Core Books

Part 22: Adventures (Part 3)

So, where last we left off, I had just finished describing Goonsville; a town run in all but name by the Lawful Evil temple of Hextor. Near to Goonsville, there is a ruined temple. Nobody is entirely sure which deity the temple was dedicated to, and now there are bandits (five or six 1st level Warriors, twenty first level Commoners, led by a third level Ranger; mix of Neutral, Chaotic Neutral, Chaotic Good and Chaotic Evil in alignment) taking refuge within the ruins. I had originally planned to make a map for this, but I'm just not up to it at the moment. Sorry about that.

When the PCs eventually come here, there are a few possible entrances. The first, where the main entrance to the temple once lay, is blocked by rubble on the other side. The rubble is moveable, but is heavy enough to prevent the doors being opened. There is a hole above the door which someone could potentially climb up to (DC 15 climb check, as there is a significant amount of material missing from the wall). Given the DC, a Fighter or Rogue should be able to get up by Taking 10, and if they brought a rope, then the rest of the party should be able to join them.

If the party choose to walk around the perimeter, the second entrance will make itself apparent. It's a small-ish hole in the wall that would require a Dexterity check to get through unhurt - a failure will cause a d6 subdual damage from the minor cuts scratches. This is how most of the wildlife enters the ruin - there's a 20% chance of encountering some form of wildlife, and a 1/6 chance that the wildlife is potentially dangerous (like a snake or a pack of wolves).

The third entrance is the one that the bandits use - a much wider hole in the wall that, going by some of the pits in the ground nearby, could have been opened up by an explosion of some kind. This entrance appears unguarded, but a DC 20 Spot check might give the party the chance to notice someone keeping watch in the distance. There aren't any traps here - not only do the bandits not want to risk one of their own getting caught in one, but they also don't want to confirm their presence to anybody who gets this far.

Once within the walls, The well, which was once used for holy water, does appear to be used if the PCs choose to examine it - the bucket is wet, and the winch seems to have been looked after with some care. The water is quite fresh, if the PCs choose to test it - this is an excellent opportunity to refill water skins if needed. To the east and west are a couple of old storage buildings, the contents of which are now all but worthless. To the north is the main temple itself. There are a number of stained glass windows, some of which are broken. This is likely where anybody keeping watch would do so.

Within the temple, most of the space is dedicated to the main worship area, which has broken pew upon broken pew (difficult terrain if one tries to pass through). To the rear, there is a door which was presumably once hidden, behind which is a stairway leading down into a basement level. There are ladders leading to walkways above (primarily for cleaning the walls and windows) - two or three commoners will be here, keeping watch and armed with light crossbows. The walkways will provide a small amount of cover. Such an ambush may kill an unwary party member if they simply go blundering in, but provided the players keep an eye out for trouble and don't flub too many rolls, they shouldn't be too much the worse for wear. This is a fairly low CR encounter, intended to show that at these levels, adventuring is dangerous.

As the party descend to the basement level, they hear a few shouts - but the shouts are heading away from them. One of the clearer shouts will be "WAIT! WATCH OUT FOR THE... mold..." - as the party descends, they see three of the warriors in the middle of a patch of yellow mold, coughing his lungs up in an almost literal manner. The other two will attempt to leave the temple as quickly as they can, but this may look to the PCs like they're being charged at.

There are more terrified shouts and pained screams; as the PCs reach the source (assuming they wish to see what's happening rather than do the sensible thing and bugger off), they see roughly half a dozen skeletons fighting the ranger and what remains of the commoners. This is liable to be a tough fight, even with the skeletons mostly preoccupied by the bandits. If the bandits survive the fight, they'll suggest a short truce, since likely neither they nor the PCs are likely to be in any condition for further fighting. They have no intention of being captured alive, however, and will fight to the death if necessary.

In the room protected by the skeletons is a door locked by an Arcane Lock spell, and with a message in Draconic carved onto it, saying "Great power sleeps under here - tread carefully to avoid waking it". There are a number of other rooms in this level of the dungeon; those with loot will primarily include traps, such as a poison needle in the lock of a chest or similar.

As for what is behind that door? Well, that could easily be the focus of an entire campaign, if you wanted it to be. Finding someone who can translate Draconic might involve taking a trip to another town, which will hopefully give them the opportunity to gain a couple of levels (and the Knock spell, since that or Dispel Magic are required to bypass an Arcane Lock).

Once again, I find myself apologising for taking ages on an update. Hopefully this is a suitably interesting post to make it worth the wait for those who are still following this. The next post will be on a new chapter - Campaigns. This should hopefully be easier to do, and with a little luck I'll actually be able to make another update before Christmas (though I wouldn't hold my breath).