Dungeon Master Assistance

A place to share thoughts and ideas about Dungeons and Dragons

D&D 5e – Poisons


Poisons in D&D 5e explained

Although 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.

Using Poison

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].

Becoming poisoned

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

Additional conditions

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.

D&D 5E – Character Sheet – Autofill


I added autofill to my Character Sheet. You fill in most of it but, where it can, it will make the calculations and fill in the rest.

Download this fillable, autofill, Character sheet here: 5.0 – Character Sheet – RRH-fillable – Rev2

[I made a minor correction to the file - it wasn't calculating the weapon damage bonus correctly - if you downloaded this file before Oct 7, 2014 - you should replace it with the new one]

I recommend that you make a copy of this before making any changes, and save a separate copy for each character. You can save a separate copy each time you advance a level to have an historical record.

I tested it on Adobe Reader XI (Version 11.0.5). If you use another PDF reader and something doesn’t work, download and use this one (it’s free).

What has changed from the previous version?

Page 1

This form no longer calculates the “Character Creation Date.” You can enter any date you want.
When you enter your character’s “level” The “Next Level Goal” will be filled in with the total  XP required to advance to the next level. For example, if you enter your character’s level 5, it fills in the experience point total required to advance to level 6. The exceptions are for levels 0 and level 20. It leaves the spaces blank if you enter 0, and it lists the XP required to reach level 20, even when you are already at level 20, because there are no riles for advancing beyond that level.

Entering your “level” also calculates and fills in your “proficiency bonus.”

Initiative is not filed in for you. Typically this will be your Dex modifier, but there are feats and effects that might change this.

When you fill in your Ability Scores, the form automatically fills in your ability modifiers and also puts these in the appropriate spots for your saving throws and skills.

Click on the little boxes next to a saving throw or skill and your Proficiency Bonus is automatically added to it. If you have additional bonuses to a skill or save, you will need to note it in the Notes section.

The Passive Wisdom (Perception) bonus is filled in for you based on your level and wisdom modifier.

It does not calculate Hit Points or Armor Class.

The spaces in the Weapon boxes remain blank until you enter text on the line provide for the weapon’s description. Type in any name or description and it will fill in your ability bonus for attack and damage. If you have proficiency with this weapon, click on the box next to the word proficiency and your proficiency bonus will be added to the attack bonus. If you are using a finesse weapon and want to use your Dex bonus on attacks instead of your Str bonus, click on the “Finess Weapon” button and it will switch them. If you want to use your strength modifier on a range weapon and it has the thrown property, click “thrown”. Any magical bonus you enter will also be added to the attack and damage bonus.

Page 2

Your “Carrying Capacity” and “Push, Pull or Lift” numbers are calculated and filled in based on your strength.

The “total weight carried” box is calculated based on the total weight entered for all the items above. You must use only whole numbers or decimal numbers (don’t enter 1/2 for instance, use .5 instead). If you enter anything other than a number it will display “NaN”. This total does not include weight of coins or treasure.

Refer to my Weight of Standard Equipment Packs.

You can insert an image into the “character sketch” area. Just click on it and locate the image you want to use. This must be a PDF format image. If you want to use an image from my Player Character Image Gallery, you must first convert it to PDF format. There are several available programs for doing this. If you have a problem with it, just let me know.

Page 3

This page remains blank until you use the pull down box to select your spellcaster’s primary ability: Intelligence, Wisdom or Charisma. When you select one, it fills in your spell save DC and spell attack modifier.

If you need more room for spell descriptions, you can download spell cards here: Spellbook Cards

There are two shaded Buttons on the bottom of page 1 that do not print. The first is “Update Calculations.” All of the fields on all 3 sheets should update whenever any change is made to any one of them. Sometimes it doesn’t do this right away. That is what this button is for. Click it and all of the calculations for all of the fields that are field in for you are forced to recalculate and update. I recommend that you click on this button before you print the sheets. Of course you can click on it at any time to be sure the values are all correct.

The other button is “Clear”. This clears all information from all of the fields. You can click this to clear all information and start over, or if you want to print a blank sheet to fill in by pencil. Be careful though, this clears all information on all 3 pages. I found that sometimes this doesn’t clear the image from the character sketch. If this happens to you, try saving and closing the file. Re-open it and you should then be able to clear the character sketch.
If you realize you clicked the clear button it by mistake, you have one chance to restore the erased information. You can press Ctrl Z to restore the form. But you must do this before you do anything else or it may be too late.

The previous version of this form is still available here: 5e Character Sheet




D&D 5e – Multiclass


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.


D&D 5e – Spellbook Cards

Do you use Spell Cards to reference your spells?

Magic_CardsI have always found it useful to write down the information for each spell that my character could use on a 3×5 index card. Then I could pull just those cards with the spells I had prepared for easy reference.

Gale Force Nine has announced that they will soon have available now have available an official set of spell cards for 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons. I will probably get a set when they are available. You can read about them here: Adventurers Kit

In the mean time, Someone on reddit created an online spell card creator, where you can upload your own CSV file to make your own cards. It’s located here: D&D Next spellbook  card generator

If you are like me, and like the larger 3×5 cards, you can download a Form-fillable PDF file that I created that prints 4 3″x5″ cards on one 8 1/2″ x 11″ sheet of paper. You will have to enter all of the information about each spell, but then you can print them on your own printer. The first card has the information on the GREASE spell for you to use as a guide. You can download this file here: Spell_Cards


UPDATE – now more cards on a sheet!

Thanks to the suggestion by James RW.  You can download them here: 5e_Blank_Spell_Cards

These cards are the more traditional 2 1/2″ x 3 1/2″, like the power cards that the 4e Character Creator would print out.

Thanks to godeckyourself.com for appropriate printing instructions:

Take some time to find the right paper for your printer.
Traditional paper makes your prints look dull and faded, and feel very flimsy. Find the thickest paper your printer can handle; photo paper tends to have a nice thickness.

For best resuLts use the Latest version of Adobe Reader. After clicking print disable print scaling to prevent the cards from stretching.

Buy some card sleeves at your Local gaming store to protect your deck from gaming onslaught. These cards are the same size as poker cards, 2.5 by 3.5 inches, and fit modern sized card sleeves.




Ian Eller posted a system for creating a lost spellbook with just a few dice rolls.


Here is a link to his post: Magical Monday: Tons of Tomes

Bounded Accuracy

This is my attempt to explain the term “bounded accuracy”.

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 +4 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


D&D 5e – Animal Companion / Familiar Character Sheet

Fillable Animal Companion / Familiar Character Sheet for the 5th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons

Critter_SheetClick on the image above for a form you can print out and fill in by hand.

For a Fillable PDF version click here: 5.0 CRs – Animal Sheet – RRH – fillable



D&D 5e – Chase rules

Optional House Rules for D&D 5e

rooftop_chase-500x337A 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.

New Theme for my Blog

Don’t panic! This is the same blog, I just changed the theme.

I felt that it was time to update the appearance of this blog to make it easier to read.

This is the “zBench” wordpress theme. I hope you like it.

Threat creation using bounded accuracy

TrapThis is an expansion of an idea presented by the “Thinkerer GM” here: http://thinkerergm.wikispaces.com/Threat+creation+using+bounded+accuracy

He says: “This system allows to create a threat (monster, trap, etc) by extending the Difficulty Classes to apply it to other characteristics. “

You can use these guidelines for monsters and traps that you can’t find in official sources, such as monsters that you are converting from an older module, or one of your own design.

Here is his table

Extended Difficulty Classes Table

Difficulty\Characteristic AC Attack
HP Damage Save DC CR
Very Easy (DC 5) 8 +2 5 2 (1d4) 11 0
Easy (DC 10) 10 +3 10 4 (1d6) 12 1/4
Moderate (DC 15) 12 +4 20 8 (2d6+1) 13 1
Hard (DC 20) 14 +5 40 16 (2d10+5) 14 3
Very Hard (DC 25) 16 +6 80 32 (2d10+21) 15 5
Formidable (DC 30) 18 +7 160 64 (2d10+53) 16 7
Nearly Impossible (DC 35) 20 +8 320 128 (2d6+117) 17 9


This is the idea for Traps:
How hard is it to notice? [DC for WIS (Perception) check]
How hard is it to locate? [DC for INT (Investigation) check]
How hard is it to avoid? (If it is activated.) [Attack bonus]
How hard is it to deactivate? [DC for DEX (Disable device) check]
How hard is it to destroy? [Hit Points]
How hard is it to hit? (in the proper location or with enough force to cause it damage) [AC]
How hard is it to save against? (for poison and the like) [Save DC]
How hard is it to endure? [Damage]

Answer each of these questions with “very easy”, “easy”, “moderate”, “hard”, “very hard”, “formidable”, or “nearly impossible”, and look up the difficulty class table above.

Add all of the DC’s together and divide by 8 to get the average DC for the trap. Use this DC for the traps Challenge Rating (CR).

The idea is very similar for monsters:

How hard is it to detect? [DC for WIS (Perception) check]
How hard is it to avoid? [Attack bonus]
How hard is it to hit? [AC]
How hard is it to destroy? [Hit Points]
How hard is it to save against? (for poison or spells) [Save DC]
How hard is it to endure? [Damage]

Add all of the DC’s together and divide by 6 to get the average DC for the monster. Use this DC for determining the CR if the monster is encountered singly. Use the next higher DC for an encounter with two of these monsters. Increase the DC by one additional level for each doubling of the number of monsters in the encounter. For example, a DC 10 monster becomes DC 15 it there are two of them, DC 20 for 4, DC 25 for 8, etc.

For DCs above 35; For each additional level, increase the DC by 5 and increase the CR by 2.

When determining how hard it is to do these various things, you should be thinking about a single, 0 level commoner. This is what bounded accuracy is all about. Each activity is hard or easy regardless of the level of the characters attempting it. To determine how difficult an encounter this will be for your group use the CR and adjust for the number of PCs.

For Experience Points, you can use the XP values of similar CR monsters as a guide.



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