Posts Tagged ‘D&D Did You Know’s’

D&D Did You Know’s: Friendly Fire in Third Edition

September 8, 2019

The give-and-take between the granularity of simulationism and the ease of playability is a familiar conundrum to any role-playing game fan. The temptation to have the game rules function at greater levels of precision is quite often directly opposed by the desire for the game to be easy to learn and quick to adjudicate. Every edition of Dungeons & Dragons has handled this balance differently; indeed, it’s not inaccurate to say that how they handle it is the major point of differentiation between each edition.

Third Edition is typically regarded as when the pendulum moved closer to playability, reducing the simulationism accordingly. Issues ranging from checking morale for monsters and NPCs during a fight to fireballs melting gold coins were no longer concerns. But contrary to popular belief, there were a number of simulationist concerns that were still addressed under the Third Edition rules. Case in point are the rules for friendly fire.

Consider the following, which was a standard part of the rules for cover in D&D 3.0 (and so found its way into the 3.0 SRD) as per page 133 of the PHB:

Striking the Cover Instead of a Missed Target: If it ever becomes important to know whether the cover was actually struck by an incoming attack that misses the intended target, the DM should determine if the attack roll would have hit the protected target without the cover. If the attack roll falls within a range low enough to miss the target with cover but high enough to strike the target if there had been no cover, the object used for cover was struck. This can be particularly important to know in cases where a character uses another creature as cover. In such a case, if the cover is struck and the attack roll exceeds the AC of the covering creature, the covering creature takes the damage intended for the target.

If the covering creature has a Dexterity bonus to AC or a dodge bonus, and this bonus keeps the covering creature from being hit, then the original target is hit instead. The covering creature has dodged out of the way and didn’t provide cover after all. A covering creature can choose not to apply his Dexterity bonus to AC and/or his dodge bonus, if his intent is to try to take the damage in order to keep the covered character from being hit.

Interestingly, this rule actually survived into 3.5. However, it was downgraded to being a “variant rule” (and so was never added to the 3.5 SRD) and moved over the DMG (p. 24).

What’s less well-known today is that there was a more general rule for hitting unintended targets as well. Rather than simply being for people between you and your target, this covered missed ranged attacks in general, and required quite a bit more adjudication to resolve, enough so that the text made a warning in that regard. Listed as a variant rule even back in 3.0 (and thus not part of the 3.0 SRD), it was absent entirely from the 3.5 rules. Nevertheless, if you want to find rules for missed ranged attacks potentially hitting someone else under the d20 System game engine, the following comes from pages 65-66 of the 3.0 DMG:

Variant: Firing into a Crowd

Normally, if you fire a ranged weapon at a foe engaged in combat with someone you don’t want to hit, you suffer a -4 attack penalty (see the Player’s Handbook, page 124). Sometimes, however, a player wants to know exactly where an arrow went if she missed her target. For groups that want to simulate reality in a very detailed way, the following guidelines answer that question. Be warned, however, this is an example of how D&D rules, in the interest of simulating reality, can become fairly complex—there’s a lot of work here for very little payoff.

The attacker makes the attack roll normally. If it’s a miss, check to see whether the thrown weapon or projectile at least connects. If the attack roll would have been good enough for a ranged touch attack, then the thrown weapon or projectile has flown true but failed to damage the target. If the roll isn’t good enough for a ranged touch hit, then the thrown weapon or projectile is errant.

Now determine the path of the errant thrown weapon or projectile. For direct fire shots, an errant thrown weapon or projectile is most likely to veer to the right or the left. For indirect fire, a projectile is most likely to go too far or fall short of its target. The range out to which a projectile weapon or a thrown weapon makes a direct fire attack is summarized on Table 3-3, below. If the weapon is fired at a target farther away than the listed distance, then the attack is indirect fire.

TABLE 3-3: DIRECT FIRE RANGE

Weapon Direct Fire Range
Shortbow Up to 60 ft.
Longbow Up to 100 ft.
Short composite bow Up to 80 ft.
Long composite bow Up to 120 ft.
Hand crossbow Up to 120 ft.
Light crossbow Up to 200 ft.
Heavy crossbow Up to 250 ft.
Sling Up to 50 ft.
Any thrown weapon Up to 20 ft.

TABLE 3-4: DIRECT FIRE PATH

1d20 Fire Path
1-8 Left
9-16 Right
17-19 Long
20 Short

TABLE 3-5: DIRECT FIRE DEVIATION

1d20 Deviation
1-12 One-tenth of the distance between attacker and target (round to nearest square)
13-17 One-fifth of the distance between attacker and target (round to nearest square)
18-19 One-third of the distance between attacker and target (round to nearest square)
20 Half of the distance between attacker and target (round to nearest square)

Once the direction and the amount of deviation is determined, trace a path starting at the firer. If characters are in the path, starting with the character nearest the firer, determine if the thrown weapon or projectile has a chance to attack each character. A ranged touch attack roll is made for the thrown weapon or projectile with no modifications for the skill of the firer but using magical adjustments and modifications for cover. If the roll is a hit, then apply the same attack result against the target’s full AC (not as a touch attack). If that’s successful, roll damage. If it’s not, the thrown weapon or projectile stops.

If the touch attack was unsuccessful, the thrown weapon or projectile keeps traveling along its path, with each new target in that path using the same procedure. No modification is made for range, but direct fire thrown weapons or projectiles effectively travel no farther than the distances given above, at which time the thrown weapon or projectile drops to the ground.

TABLE 3-6: INDIRECT FIRE TARGET AREA

1d20 Target Area
1-4 Left
5-8 Right
9-14 Long
15-20 Short

TABLE 3-7: INDIRECT FIRE DEVIATION

1d20 Deviation
1-12 One-tenth of the distance between attacker and target (round to nearest square)
13-17 One-fifth of the distance between attacker and target (round to nearest square)
18-19 One-third of the distance between attacker and target (round to nearest square)
20 Half of the distance between attacker and target (round to nearest square)

Once the direction and the amount of deviation is determined, determine if there is a character in the given square. If so, make an attack roll for the ranged weapon with no modifications from the skill of the firer but using magical adjustments and modifications for cover. If this is successful, roll damage. If it’s not, the projectile goes no farther.

While it’s not hard to see why this particular rule was always an outlier, and was dropped as the game went to 3.5, it’s still interesting to consider how this would change combat. Certainly, wizards and sorcerers would (hopefully!) be a tad more careful about firing their disintegrate spells when they know there’s a chance they could hit their allies! That’s slightly hyperbolic, of course (the table regarding range for direct fire weapons doesn’t have a listing for spells…though it wouldn’t be hard to figure that out), but it underscores how rules like these can make an otherwise-familiar game feel very different.

D&D Did You Know’s: Curses and Ravenloft’s Dark Lords

June 15, 2019

Ravenloft has always been my favorite of the official settings for D&D. Nor am I alone in this particular regard, since Ravenloft’s popularity is self-evident from a look at its product history. After the original module (and its sequel) made a landmark impact on AD&D First Edition, Second Edition saw Ravenloft receive an unprecedented three campaign setting books.

First among these was the original Realm of Terror boxed set, though it needed the Forbidden Lore expansion set to really reach its full potential. Later, they’d be effectively combined as the Ravenloft Campaign Setting boxed set (aka the red boxed set), before finally having the Domains of Dread hardback published. And of course, Ravenloft made a very fast return as a licensed setting during the days of Third Edition, first with a hardback Ravenloft Campaign Setting book for 3.0, and then the Ravenloft Player’s Handbook and Ravenloft Dungeon Master’s Guide for 3.5. Clearly, demand for Ravenloft was considerable!

But among all those campaign settings, there seems to have been a curious little rule that was only found in one of them. Specifically, a rule that it was impossible for anyone to lay curses on the domain lords of Ravenloft. But (unless I missed something) you wouldn’t find this rule if you looked in the Realm of Terror boxed set or the Domains of Dread book, or any of the Third Edition books.

Rather, it seems to be exclusive to the red Ravenloft Campaign Setting boxed set. Specifically, from page 65 of the set’s “Realm of Terror” book, which says:

Exclusivity of Curses

As a general rule, any individual–player character or nonplayer character–can suffer the effects of only one curse at a time. Otherwise, a truly evil brute–the type of person who makes for an excellent antagonist in any adventure–could quickly become so burdened with curses that he or she would be crippled. What a waste of a perfectly good villain that would be! Therefore, no curse can affect a character if he or she already suffers from one.

An important note to make at this point concerns domain lords. By definition, all of them are laboring under the most horrible curse of all: that of ruling a domain in Ravenloft. Thus, any curse that the players might wish to lay upon them is doomed to fail.

And there you have it. Trying to lay a curse on a domain lord, whether via a spell or as your PC’s last act of retribution when slain by them, is an act that simply can’t work. It’s a small, but possibly not-insignificant, advantage that domain lords have, and yet seems to have been overlooked everywhere outside of the red boxed set.

Now if only there were a way to lift the curse that seems to be keeping Ravenloft from being revived as its own campaign setting once again…

D&D Did You Know’s: Third Edition Conversion Exploit

October 7, 2018

Across the spectrum of Dungeons & Dragons, over the course of many iterations and editions, there have only ever been three official conversion books.

To be sure, there have been numerous guidelines, spotlights, and overviews whenever a new version of the game nears release. From magazines to messageboards, the issue of changing things between versions of the game (and other games) is a perennially popular topic. But in terms of actual, official stand-alone products that walk you through the process of changing things from one version of the game to another, I’m only aware of three.

The most recent of these is the 5E conversion guide. It’s something that only really barely qualifies, as it’s a four-page PDF (and, insofar as I know, never had a print version) that deals more in guidelines than in hard-and-fast rules about how to convert your D&D game over to Fifth Edition. Prior to that, there was the v.3.5 Accessory Update Booklet, which did have a print run but was more concerned with – as the name says – updating specific 3.0 products to 3.5 rather than a more general guide to converting characters, items, and other game abilities.

That leaves the D&D Third Edition Conversion Manual as the sole remaining book that could be called an honest-to-goodness conversion guide. I still have my print copy, and looking back now it’s interesting at how it attempted to convert pre-Third Edition characters to what was, at that time, the latest version of the game.

Far more fun, however, is that this allows for an interesting – albeit minor – “exploit” for converted characters.

Exceptionally Unusual Strength

Normally, the highest Strength score you can start with for a Third Edition (3.0) character is 20. That is, start with an 18 (whether by an exceptionally good roll or by splurging on your point-buy), and then play a race with a +2 Strength bonus. Notably, this would mean that you won’t be playing as a human, since in Third Edition they have no racial modifiers. So presuming the DM isn’t letting you play a monstrous race out of the Monster Manual (which, in 3.0, didn’t list things like level adjustments or ability score modifiers), this pretty well limits you to being a half-orc if you stuck with the Core Rules. Otherwise, the highest Strength you could hope to start off with was an 18.

Unless you were bringing over a character from AD&D 1st or 2nd Edition.

Maybe.

You see, older versions of the game had what was called “exceptional Strength,” where – if you were a fighter or fighter subclass (in AD&D 1st Edition), or were a member of the Warrior group (in AD&D 2nd Edition) – and had an 18 Strength, you could roll a d% to further measure just how strong your character was. Someone who rolled a measly 01% would have a +1 to hit and +3 damage, for instance, whereas someone who rolled a 100% would have +3 to hit and +6 to damage!

Of course, there were numerous obstacles to getting an exceptional Strength score. In addition to being restricted to the most overtly-martial classes, you were also limited by race (and, in AD&D 1E, sex). Halfling fighters in AD&D 2nd Edition, for example, weren’t allowed to roll for exceptional Strength at all. With the way the racial guidelines in the Core Rule broke down, if you wanted to get the best Strength possible, you had to play a human (male) fighter of some sort.

So what does all of that have to do with exploiting the Conversion Manual for D&D Third Edition?

The answer is found in the Manual’s guideline for converting abilities scores (pg. 3-4):

Exceptional Score New Strength Score
18/01-18/50 19
18/51-18/75 20
18/76-18/90 21
18/91-18/99 22
18/00 23
19-20 24
21-22 25
22-23 26
24-25 27

Now, leaving aside that a Strength of 22 in the older editions could apparently be a Strength of 25 or 26 in the new one, notice what the exceptional Strength values convert over to. A character with any exceptional Strength at all is going to convert over to a Strength of at least 19. If you had that coveted 18/00 Strength before, you now had a Strength of 23!

Now, that won’t really matter much if you’re converting over a higher-level character, since Third Edition assumes inflated ability scores far more than previous versions of the game ever did. But at 1st level it’s a notable score indeed. A +6 to hit and damage right off the bat is a powerful advantage when you’re trying to survive those early adventures.

Of course, insofar as exploits go, this one is rather hard to take advantage of. Utilizing it essentially requires you to follow the AD&D 1st or 2nd Edition guidelines for generating a character and then converting them over via what’s in this book. So even if you follow the various race and class restrictions for being able to get an exceptional Strength score, you’ll still have to actually roll the score you’re hoping for, as those editions weren’t exactly enamored of point-buy generation for ability scores. But it’s still technically possible, and hey, all the books are official.

So, the next time you’re sitting down for a Third Edition game and want to play a fighter, try making an older-edition character and then converting them to 3E rather than generating them under the Third Edition rules directly.

You just might end up with something exceptional.

D&D Did You Know’s: Comeliness in AD&D 2E

November 20, 2016

Charisma measures a character’s personality, personal magnetism, ability to lead, and appearance.

With this sentence, printed in the Pathfinder Core Rulebook, Paizo inherited one of the great debates in D&D: Should appearance be something that Charisma measures?

The issue of measuring something that’s highly subjective wasn’t necessarily the problem. After all, things like “willpower” and “intuition” are also incredibly difficult to measure, and yet no one has any problem assigning those to a character’s Wisdom score. Rather, the problem is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, not the beholdee (insert obligatory jokes about eye tyrants here).

Having an objective statistic for something that would vary wildly based on the attitudes and beliefs of other characters tended to be more than a lot of role-players were willing to accept. While the attitude of “low Charisma means being ugly” – and its reverse with regards to high Charisma being beautiful – is still thoroughly enmeshed in the gaming community today, it’s largely treated as a vestigial attitude.

Instead, Charisma is more and more being treated solely as a measurement of force of will and personal magnetism. In fact, the Pathfinder stipulation that it was related to appearance was really the last gasp for the “Charisma is beauty” idea. D&D Fifth Edition struck all references to physical appearance from the entry for Charisma entirely.

Of course, this wasn’t the only attempt to resolve the disparity, however. For many people, the answer was to attempt to break beauty away from Charisma and instead make it its own ability score. This tended to be a bad idea, simply because there were few places to implement the impact of a seventh ability score; for the most part, the game engine already had the main six ability scores apply where they needed to, leaving any new one struggling to define itself.

That said, attempts were still made. E.N. Armoury – Chainmail Bikini added a “Beauty” score, while the infamous Book of Erotic Fantasy had a seventh ability score called “Appearance.” But these third-party products aren’t the attempt that most gamers remember. For that, we turn to the classic AD&D 1E product Unearthed Arcana, which was where most old school gamers came across Gary Gygax’s attempt to resolve this dilemma with a new ability score: Comeliness.

Comeliness was quite wacky, as far as ability scores went. Instead of the usual 1-25 range for AD&D 1E ability scores, it could go as high as 30, and plunge as low as -16 or even further! It also had odd effects, such as acting as an auto-charm on the people around you if high enough, to the point where many of them would start to follow you like love-sick puppies.

The Comeliness statistic didn’t originate in Unearthed Arcana, of course. Like so much of that book, it was compiled from Dragon Magazine, issue #67 in this case. Still, UA was where it reached its widest audience. But for all the attention it drew – a new rule from the co-creator of D&D! – it ultimately failed to find an audience, and by the time AD&D Second Edition came out, Comeliness had been forgotten and quietly slipped into the annals of gaming history.

Or did it?

In fact, Comeliness managed to survive into AD&D 2nd Edition, thanks to the RPGA. You can find intermittent instances of NPCs having Comeliness scores in various issues of Polyhedron Newszine well into the AD&D 2E years, such as in “The Living City: Misti’s Moonlight Pawnshop,” from Polyhedron #105 (March, 1995).

While it would be easy to write this off as a few holdovers from 1E that were being translated into 2E, that wasn’t the case. In fact, rules for the Comeliness score in 2E were tucked away in Polyhedron #89 (November, 1993) in an addendum to the adventure “The Ugly Stick.”

In fact, the 2E Comeliness rules are quite brief, consisting of only three paragraphs and a table:

Comeliness

Much of this scenario relies on the Comeliness rules from the Network’s Living City tournaments. The DM can institute this rule, or the DM can simply substitute Charisma wherever the scenario mentions Comeliness. Here are the Comeliness rules:

Comeliness reflects a character’s physical attractiveness. It can influence the initial reactions NPCs have to a character. Comeliness is not Charisma. The latter score represents a character’s force of personality.

Unlike the original edition of the AD&D game, a character’s Comeliness score is not adjusted based on Charisma, nor can characters with a high Comeliness score “fascinate” others. Comeliness in Living City play affects reaction bonuses that are tied to Charisma. Therefore, a character with a high Charisma and a high Comeliness has a significant reaction bonus.

Comeliness Reaction Adjustment
6 -2
7 -1
8-12 0
13 +1
14 +2
15 +3
16 +5
17 +6
18 +7

That’s all there was. While this doesn’t go below 6 or above 18, it’s fairly easy to calculate what the reaction adjustment would be for such extreme scores; the reaction adjustment listings are identical to those for a Charisma of the same score in the AD&D 2E Player’s Handbook.

While reducing Comeliness to a cut-rate bonus or penalty to one aspect of Charisma might be rather prosaic, it’s also a fairly easy thing to implement. Since reaction adjustment largely only applies to NPCs whose attitude the PCs cared about interacting with, that helped to self-limit the problems of applying beauty to creatures with truly alien standards; such creatures tended to be monsters to be killed, rather than people to be parleyed with.

D&D Did You Know’s: Using Turn Undead on Fiends (AD&D 2E)

September 4, 2016

Clerical turning – the ability for clerics to channel the power of their deity and force the undead to cower before it (or, for evil clerics, to be controlled by it) – is one of the defining powers for priestly characters in Dungeons & Dragons, druids notwithstanding. While the power manifests differently in different editions, in most it’s a built-in class feature for clerics (and classes with similar themes, such as paladins).

While clerical turning had already become standard by the time AD&D Second Edition had rolled around, the diversity found in the massive breadth of 2E products that were released over that edition’s lifespan meant that clerical turning would see some new options also…even if these were relatively few and far between.

Perhaps the best-known modification to clerical turning is the revised turning rules that came into use if you found yourself trapped within Ravenloft. In the Demiplane of Dread, clerical turning was far less efficacious…though it was arguably strange that for evil clerics, using their turning power to control the undead was similarly blunted.

Far less known is the ability to turn lycanthropes, a power commanded solely by priests of the Knorr barbarians (from Jakandor, Island of War) who take the shapeshifter kit. While this functions best against afflicted lycanthropes, it also gives the shapeshifter power over natural lycanthropes as well. (And if you’re a DM who read that and immediately thought “but I bet it doesn’t work against wolfweres” then kudos to you for your deviousness.)

But just as (if not more) obscure – and the real subject of this article – is the change that was made to clerical turning in the Guide to Hell, right at the end of AD&D Second Edition.

Released in December of 1999, when AD&D 2E had less than a year of life left, the Guide to Hell allowed classes with the the ability to turn undead to also use that ability on fiends (while the book was about devils specifically, it notes that this allows turning to be used on “devils, demons, yugoloths, and so forth”). This required no kit or other alteration to do; it was explicitly allowed to all clerics, paladins, and by extension any other class that could turn undead. It even provided its own table with which to chart the results. (And, of course, it noted that evil clerics and their ilk could also control fiends in this manner.)

Needless to say, this is a notable boost in power for clerics, since fiends tend to be one of the major categories of monsters for characters as they get into the higher levels. While this notes that fiends can’t be turned on their home plane, it’s still a not-inconsiderable buff to give priests the ability to turn them.

Except, as it turns out, that boost was there all along. Sort of.

You see, the Guide to Hell explicitly notes that the ability to turn fiends, along with the undead, is actually explicitly stated in the PHB…for paladins. In the class description, it notes:

A paladin gains the power to turn undead, devils, and demons when he reaches 3rd level. He affects these monsters the same as does a cleric two levels lower–e.g., at 3rd level he has the turning power of a 1st-level cleric. See the section on priests for more details on this ability.

And that was it. Insofar as I can tell, nowhere else in the PHB does it mention using clerical turning to affect creatures besides the undead (notwithstanding an ambiguous notation on the Turning Undead table which says that turning “special” creatures include “certain Greater and Lesser Powers” – “Powers” meaning “deities,” of all things!). It appears that the designers, along with everyone else in the wider gaming community, simply forgot that paladins were explicitly granted the ability to turn “devils and demons” as well, along with the implication that this power extended to clerics too.

So really, the Guide to Hell was simply giving clerics back an ability that had been there, forgotten, since Second Edition had debuted.

(Of course, what it doesn’t mention is the possibility of the inverse of turning fiends also holding true: namely, that evil clerics can turn celestials while good clerics can rebuke them. That would also make for an interesting dynamic, particularly if you were playing celestial PCs via Warriors of Heaven, which had just come out three months previous.)

D&D Did You Know’s: Dragonlance was the Original Ravenloft

August 28, 2016

“D&D Did You Know’s” is another open-ended series that I’ll be doing. In this case, it’s going to be short posts wherein I highlight tidbits of D&D lore that I think are interesting, quirky, or otherwise worth noting.

Ravenloft was always my most favorite of the AD&D campaign worlds. The gothic horror atmosphere of the setting was always very evocative to me, particularly with how it wasn’t afraid to rewrite the rules of the game to be less friendly towards the PCs. Fear and horror checks systematized how sometimes a character’s reactions aren’t under their control. Powers checks punished immoral behavior with physical corruption. And of course, magic was altered in ways that diminished the forces of good and heightened the powers of darkness.

But to me, one of the most iconic aspects of Ravenloft was that it could snatch you up at a moment’s notice…and once it did, getting out was almost impossible. Portals out of the Demiplane of Dread were exceptionally rare and always temporary (albeit typical fare at the end of the early Ravenloft adventures), meaning that characters that went to Ravenloft could usually count on being there for quite a long time.

…just like with Dragonlance.

It’s easy to miss, but if you look at the AD&D First Edition book Dragonlance Adventures – the first formal campaign setting for the world of Krynn, being published just after the original fourteen adventures that made up the War of the Lance – there’s a little note on page 12 (under the “Travelers from the Beyond” section) that reads as follows:

Those who come to Krynn from other worlds may find more than they bargained for. The gods of Krynn have secured their world against such incursions for fear of upsetting the balance of the world. There is a 1% per day cumulative chance that a character visiting Krynn from other worlds cannot return across the void to his home world. This percentage is checked any time an attempt is made. Those failing this check remain on Krynn. This percentage never gets any higher than 98%.

Now, that’s not quite the same as Ravenloft’s near-unbreakable ban on leaving, but it can be quite daunting to characters that spend weeks or months on Krynn before trying to leave. Especially when you consider that they have no way of knowing that this is a percentile roll rather than just a blanket ban; when the first five or six plane shift spells fail, is it really unreasonable to think that whatever’s going on is insurmountable, rather than just playing the odds?

Of course, all of this is only true in AD&D First Edition. No such provision shows up in the AD&D Second Edition or D&D Third Edition incarnations of the Dragonlance campaign. Heck, Second Edition even had an entire supplement about spelljamming there.

We can catch a faint glimpse of that old rule, however, in Chronomancer, an AD&D 2E supplement about time-travel. It has an appendix talking about how that works in specific campaign worlds, and notes that Krynn’s timeline has several points that branch off into alternate realities:

Should a chronomancer enter Temporal Prime at one of these “nodes,” he may be shunted into a reality other than his own (75% chance, or DM’s choice). When this happens, the trip becomes one-way, and the chronomancer cannot return to his original timeline, instead being confined to this new reality even if he returns repeatedly to the node.

Dragonlance is the sort of campaign world that, once you go there, you just can’t pull yourself away from it…literally.