A place to share thoughts and ideas about Dungeons and Dragons
October 6, 2014Posted by on
Poisons in D&D 5e explainedAlthough save or die poisons haven’t been in D&D since before the 3rd edition, I still regret the time I was running an adventure and a first level character encountered a poison spider. He failed his save and died. Not fun. D&D 5e has really simplified the use of poisons. No more initial and secondary damage. No more ability damage. No onset time. No multiple saves (I was always forgetting to require the second saving throw a few minutes later for secondary damage). And, of course, no save or die.
I am sure there will be more about poison when the Dungeon Master’s Guide comes out, but for now here is my attempt to remove some of the confusion about poisons in the current, fifth edition of Dungeons and Dragons.
The only poison listed in the Player’s Handbook is basic poison. You can buy a vile for 100gp. You can coat one slashing or piercing weapon or up to three pieces of ammunition with it. Applying the poison takes an action. A creature hit by the poisoned weapon or ammunition must make a DC 10 Constitution saving throw or take 1d4 poison damage. Once applied, the poison retains potency for 1 minute before drying.
The description doesn’t say that the poison wipes off when you hit a creature with it, so you can continue doing damage for 1 minute after it is applied. Plenty of time for the typical encounter. The poison damage is in addition to any other damage the weapon would normally inflict. The creature hit by this poison takes poison damage but doesn’t become poisoned (see below).
Unlike previous editions, the Player’s Handbook doesn’t say that using poison is an evil act. So it is up to the DM to decide. Perhaps some types of poison are more evil than others?
Some poisons do hit point damage, some give you the poisoned condition, and some do both.
Taking poison damage
Poison damage is hit point damage, the type of damage is poison. Most poisons allow a Constitution saving throw to avoid any poison damage [basic poison and poison spray spell for example], but some don’t allow a saving throw [like basilisk poison]. Still others do poison damage on failed save, or half as much damage on a successful save [like the cloudkill spell or dragon breath].
Although a failed saving throw is not always required to receive poison damage, you must always fail your Constitution saving throw to become poisoned. When the description says you “become poisoned” it means that you will have the poisoned condition, which gives you disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks.
The poison description will indicate how long this condition will last. The weakest last only until the start of your next turn. Others last until end of your next turn, or for 1 minute or for 24 hours. Some last until saved against and allow you to attempt a saving throw each round. The most powerful last until removed by the lesser restoration spell or similar magic.
On a successful saving throw against some creature’s poison, you are immune to this creature’s poison for 24 hours
While the poison condition is in effect, different poisons may also impose one or more additional conditions (sometimes the additional conditions are only in effect if the saving throw fails by 5 or more). The additional condition might be Paralyzed, Incapacitated or Unconscious. For the Unconscious condition, some poisons allow another creature to use an action to shake the target awake. Although awake, he would still have the poison condition. Another effect could be that you can take either an action or a bonus action on your turn, not both, and you can’t take reactions. Other poisons have you take some amount of poison damage at the start of each turn, or not allow you to regain hit points while you are poisoned.
Arguably, the worst poisons are those that leave you infected with a disease.
These allow a saving throw against disease or become poisoned until the disease is cured.
Here are the diseases listed in the Monster Manual:
GAS SPORE – Spores invade an infected creature’s system, killing the creature in a number of hours equal to 1d12 +the creature’s Constitution score, unless the disease is removed. In half that time, the creature becomes poisoned for the rest of the duration. After the creature dies, it sprouts 2d4 tiny gas spores that grow to full size in 7 days.
OTYUGH and DEATH DOG: Every 24 hours that elapse, the target must repeat the saving throw, reducing its hit point maximum by 5 (1d10) on a failure. The disease is cured on a success. The target dies if the disease reduces its hit point maximum to 0. This reduction to the target’s hit point maximum lasts until the disease is cured.
September 21, 2014Posted by on
As a DM, should you allow your players to multiclass?
To Multiclass, or not to Multiclass, that is the question -
Whether ’tis Nobler in the game to suffer
The Outrageous Limitations imposed by a single class,
Or to take on a Second – perhaps a Third or more -
And by so doing, overcome them?
(My apologies to the Bard of Avon.)
My knee-jerk reaction is to not allow characters to multiclass. When I developed my D&D Lite rules, I had to disallow multiclass characters. This was the only way that I could simplify the rules and still use 90% of the standard D&D rules for the 3.5 edition. However, with the fifth edition most of my objections have been addressed.
Objections to Multiclassing
1) It is too complicated.
This was my primary objection to multiclassing in the previous editions of the game. They have done an excellent job simplifying the muticlassing rules in 5e. And besides, if a player wants to multiclass it does nothing to complicate the game for anyone but him, and possibly the DM.
2) It encourages “munchkinism”.
There are players that will use “level-dipping” to grab some features from a class so they can min/max their character. This is the main objection that many Dungeon Masters have with multiclassing. 5e makes this a much less attractive option for players that only see it as a way to create the ultimate PC. You can create almost any character you can think of without the need to multiclass.
I think that I will allow it.
After much thought, I have decided to allow muticlassing in my games. I will discourage its use, but if a player has a character concept in mind that needs muticlassing I will allow it. The only requirement will be that the player must explain, in terms of what is happening in the game, why his character wants to advance in this different class and how his character is getting the initial training or what event has propelled him in this direction. (See the small sidebar in the Player’s Handbook as a good example.)
I will strictly enforce all of the multiclass rules.
You must meet the minimum ability requirements, not only for your new class, but also for any of your current classes.
You only get the proficiencies listed in the multiclass rules for the new class you take. These are severely limited. For instance, you don’t get any ability save proficiencies and you can’t get proficiency in heavy armor.
You don’t get any free equipment. You will have to find, be given, or purchase your spellbook if you want to lake a level of wizard.
If you have levels in more than one class of spellcaster, you must keep track of your spells for each different class separately. The rules are clear as to how many spell slots you get based on your various spell caster levels.
Some other options
If you don’t want to forbid multiclassing, but want to have some reasonable restrictions, here are some suggestions:
1) Require a PC to advance 3 levels in any class they have before multiclassing. This is not unreasonable, and makes for less “level-dipping”. Most of the best features of each class don’t occur until 3rd level anyway.
2) Have some classes only be available at first level. You can only have levels as a Barbarian or Sorcerer, for example, if your background indicates that you have always had this in you. This could also apply to a Druid. You could also restrict Monk, Warlock and even Wizard to this list. The Wizards cantrips are always available because he has been casting these spells for so long they are second-nature to him now, so how could a Fighter simply start being a Wizard with cantrips and all the rest?
3) Don’t allow certain combinations. Some classes are polar opposites of each other. These would include Barbarian/Monk, Sorcerer/Wizard, Cleric/Warlock, and Paladin/Rogue.
August 30, 2014Posted by on
This is my attempt to explain the term “bounded accuracy”.
Bounded accuracy is the term that TSR uses to represent a role playing game design concept. It is not a “rule” and you won’t find it in the Player’s Handbook, but it is the foundational design philosophy behind the core of 5 Edition D&D.
The “accuracy” part of the term refers to how hard it is to do something. For combat, this relates directly to armor class and bonuses to your attack roll.
The “bounded” part of the term refers to establishing upper limits.
What are the limits?
There is a maximum Ability Score of 20, a maximum Difficulty Class of 30, and a maximum Armor Class of 30. There is a maximum Ability bonus of +5 and a maximum Proficiency Bonus of +6 making a maximum total bonus of +11 (resulting in a maximum score of 30 on a roll of 19.)
Also, there is typically no more than +1 on magic items, with +3 being the cap and representing things of artifact power. The game makes no assumption that you have magical enhancement bonuses on your weapons and armor.
This is all about the Core Mechanic: To resolve an action roll a 20-sided die and add modifiers. If the result is greater than or equal to a target number then the action succeeds.
Regardless if this target number is a Difficulty Class (DC) or an Armor Class (AC), the concept is the same.
|DC-or-AC||Difficulty||To Break||Armor||To Hit|
|5||Very Easy||a glass bottle||an inanimate object|
|10||Easy||a wooden chair||No Armor||a badger|
|15||Medium||a simple door||Leather Armor*||a troll|
|20||Hard||a small chest||Plate Armor**||a dragon***|
|25||Very Hard||a treasure chest||a tarrasque|
|30||Nearly Impossible||a masonry wall(1 ft. thick)||a deity|
|*with shield and +2 Dex modifier **with shield ***Adult Red Dragon is AC 19|
To explain the effects of bounded accuracy on the game, it can be illustrative to compare its effect on three different characters.
Let’s start with a typical commoner. We’ll call him Fred. Fred is average in every respect. All of his ability scores are average (10) and Fred has no proficiencies or special skills. The table above was designed with Fred in mind. If any task is hard for Fred, it has a DC of 20. Fred adds no modifiers to his d20 roll when he attempts a task.
Our second character is Norman. Norman is a first level Fighter. The highest modifier Norman could add to his d20 roll would be about +5 (Ability +3, Proficiency +2).
Our third character is Conan. Conan is a 20th level Fighter. The highest modifier Conan could add to his d20 roll would be about +11 (Ability +5, Proficiency +6).
All three characters attempt to do something “hard”. They all need a 20. Fred rolls a 20 and succeeds. Norman’s roll is only 15, but with his +5 modifier he also succeeds. Conan only rolls a 9, but with his +11 modifier, he succeeds. So this “hard” thing is hard for Fred, not so hard for Norman and it is easy for Conan. Being normal PCs, Norman and Conan are better at some things than they are at others. They do not have maximum ability scores in all of their abilities, and they are not proficient at everything. At some tasks, they may not have a better chance of success than Fred does. Conversely, not all Non-Player Characters (NPCs) are as “average” as Fred. At some tasks, a NPC may have an ability score that is higher than a PC and a larger proficiency bonus. So most tasks within reach of specialist also fall within the ability of a lucky novice.
Higher level characters and tougher monsters are that way because they can do more damage, more often, in more ways than lower level characters.
If you are new to D&D, this may all seem obvious, and hardly worth more than a passing glance. However, this is a break from some earlier versions of the game. In some earlier versions, your PC’s “to hit” bonuses and Armor Class increased with each level and thus forced monster attacks/defenses to also increase with level. This resulted in lower level creatures being unable to have any possibility of hitting higher level PCs and visa-versa. This was done in the very reasonable goal of allowing higher level PCs to combat tougher monsters. D&D 5e accomplishes this goal, not by making tougher monsters harder to hit but by making them harder to defeat by giving them more hit points. So as PCs increase in level they do improve in their ability to hit higher armor classes (although at a much slower rate) but their ability to defeat tougher opponents comes mainly from their increased ability to inflict more damage when they do hit, and their increased capacity to survive stronger attacks due to their own increased number of hit points. So in this edition, characters can meaningfully interact with the same threats for most of their career, if they so choose. Lower level monsters will still be a threat at higher levels if they are encountered in larger numbers.This was described by Rodney Thompson in Legends & Lore (June 4th, 2012) on the Wizards of the Coast website. This is no longer available on their web site, so I quote from it here:
The basic premise behind the bounded accuracy system is simple: we make no assumptions on the DM’s side of the game that the player’s attack and spell accuracy, or their defenses, increase as a result of gaining levels. Instead, we represent the difference in characters of various levels primarily through their hit points, the amount of damage they deal, and the various new abilities they have gained. Characters can fight tougher monsters not because they can finally hit them, but because their damage is sufficient to take a significant chunk out of the monster’s hit points; likewise, the character can now stand up to a few hits from that monster without being killed easily, thanks to the character’s increased hit points. Furthermore, gaining levels grants the characters new capabilities, which go much farther toward making your character feel different than simple numerical increases.
Now, note that I said that we make no assumptions on the DM’s side of the game about increased accuracy and defenses. This does not mean that the players do not gain bonuses to accuracy and defenses. It does mean, however, that we do not need to make sure that characters advance on a set schedule, and we can let each class advance at its own appropriate pace. Thus, wizards don’t have to gain a +10 bonus to weapon attack rolls just for reaching a higher level in order to keep participating; if wizards never gain an accuracy bonus, they can still contribute just fine to the ongoing play experience.
This extends beyond simple attacks and damage. We also make the same assumptions about character ability modifiers and skill bonuses. Thus, our expected DCs do not scale automatically with level, and instead a DC is left to represent the fixed value of the difficulty of some task, not the difficulty of the task relative to level.
The link is back up on the Wizard’s site if you want to read Rodney Thompson’s comments in their entirety : Legends & Lore Archive | 6/4/2012
August 20, 2014Posted by on
Optional House Rules for D&D 5e
A couple of years ago I published chase rules for D&D v3.5. You can download them here.
With the release of the fifth edition of Dungeons and Dragons, those rules seem rather heavy. You can still use them if your campaign will have a lot of chases. However, in keeping with the slimmed down rules of 5e, I am proposing a simple house rule for chases. The description below is in terms of a PC character chasing a fleeing foe. Keep in mind that the same rules apply when the PC is the one fleeing.
What if your opponent tries to run away?
Most of the time the standard rules for combat work just fine. A chase may occur when one or more opponent turns and runs away. In game terms, he uses the Dash action to spend his entire turn moving away from combat as quickly as possible. If he starts his turn within 5 feet of you, or passes within 5 feet of you, you can use your Reaction to make an opportunity attack.
What if you want to chase him?
It all depends on how far away you are from him at the beginning of your turn. Compare this distance to your characters speed. There are three possible results.
1) You can use your Move to get within 5 feet of him.
- You can attack him and combat continues.
2) You can catch up to him by using your Dash action.[If you have enough speed to pass him you may do that, but if you come within 5 feet of him as you pass, he gets to use his Reaction to make an opportunity attack against you, so you will typically want to stop when you get within 5 feet.]
- You stop within 5 feet of him.
- If he continues to run away you can use your Reaction to attack him. [If you speed is the same or greater than his, this can repeat each round. This is not a good strategy for your opponent, unless he can reach shelter or he is leading you into an ambush.]
- Or he may choose to turn and fight on his turn.
3) You cannot get to within 5 feet of him using your Dash action.
- If your speed is greater than his, you should catch up with him in a few rounds.
- If your speed is less than his, and you have no way to increase your speed, he will get farther away each round. You may as well attempt to shoot him with ranged weapons until he is out of range.
- If your speed is the same as his, he will stay the same distance away from you forever. You move closer on your turn, he moves away on his. This is where a house rule is needed.
House Rule #1
A chase is not a race. There are multiple factors that could enable a creature to catch up to another one that has the same speed. Even a lucky slower creature should have a chance. Here is my house rule:
At the end of a turn where you have used a Dash action to advance toward an opponent that is fleeing, you may call for a Strength (Athletics) contest between the two characters. If you win the contest, you move an additional 5 feet toward your opponent. If you lose the contest, you move back 5 feet.
House Rule #2
Characters can’t continue running at top speed forever. For extended chases:
After 5 rounds of continuous running, a character must make a [DC 15] Constitution save or suffer one level of exhaustion. Each additional round of continuous running requires another save at an additional +2 to the DC.
The DM may rule that certain creatures are immune to this exhaustion effect, or that they can run for longer periods before requiring this check.