Dungeon Master Assistance

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Tag Archives: House Rules

D&D 5E – Tracking Time in a Dungeon

Time

Gary Gygax said “YOU CANNOT HAVE A MEANINGFUL CAMPAIGN IF STRICT TIME RECORDS ARE NOT KEPT.

I almost didn’t post this for fear of it being misused. Please don’t simply look up the parties travel pace below, determine what was found, mark off the time and move on. This is a role playing game after all. The following is intended as an aid in Dungeon Mastering a game, not as a substitute for it.

Time in a dungeon is measured in minutes – switching to 6 second rounds when there is an encounter.

The following is my interpretation of the official rules and a few of my house rules mixed in, presented here as advice to Dungeon Masters. Where I refer to “you”, I mean the DM. This is specifically for a dungeon crawls, but most of it applies to all similar situations. This is intended as a guide for tracking time passage in a dungeon and also for a guide in deciding when to use a character’s passive perception score or to roll a perception check.

The Dungeon Master describes what the PCs can see, hear, etc. Most of the time you can expect that the PCs are being observant so if they could notice something, they will notice it. So don’t wait for a player to say his character is examining the floor, or looking for footprints to tell them that there’s an obvious set of footprints on the floor in front of him. Players can ask questions or tell you what their PCs are going to do (or attempt to do). Players should never have to refer to skill names to do this. You decide if they need to roll an ability or skill check and which one. To keep the game moving at a reasonable pace, I recommend that you keep the die rolling to a minimum. If a player’s character would most likely notice something or recognize something or understand something based on his abilities and background, no roll is required. Just tell him.

The DM will roll all of the PCs search checks in secret and tell the players what, if anything, their characters found. That way, if they don’t find anything, they won’t know if there wasn’t anything there or if there was something and they didn’t find it. Another advantage of rolling behind your DM screen is that you can ignore the roll when necessary.  If you want them to find something (or not find it), ignore the roll and tell them what they found (or that they didn’t find anything).

Ask them for their marching order, but don’t ask if they are moving at a “fast pace”, “normal pace” or “slow pace”. That makes it sound too much like a computer game. Instead, simply ask them what they are doing. Use their answer to determine their pace and use that to help you determine how long it will take and what they do or do not notice.

In addition to the fast pace, normal pace and slow pace listed in the Player’s Handbook, I have added a “very fast” pace and an  ”extremely slow” pace.

Overview:

1)         Moving at a very fast pace they automatically fail all perception checks. If they say “We are getting out of here as fast as we can” they are obviously not going to take the time to check for traps or secret doors so they are moving at a very fast pace (600 feet per minute).

2)         Moving at a fast pace uses their passive perception scores with a -5 penalty. If they say “We are going to move through here as quickly as we can and still be on the lookout for traps”, you can say to yourself that that sounds like a fast pace (400 feet per minute).

3)         Moving at a normal pace uses their passive perception scores. If they don’t give you any indication of how fast or cautiously they are moving through corridors, assume that they are moving at this pace. If they say “We are going to be watching for hidden monsters and checking for traps and secret doors as we proceed cautiously down the corridor”, you know that, even though this sounds like it might be a slow pace it is actually the normal way adventurers would explore a dungeon so it is a normal pace (300 feet per minute).

4)         Moving at a slow pace they can be stealthy or search for things. If they don’t give you any indication of how fast they are searching a room, assume that they are moving at this pace. They make a Dexterity (Stealth) check if they are hiding or being stealthy. Make a Wisdom (Perception) check for them if they are searching for secret doors or traps. If not actively searching, they use their passive perception scores. If they say “We are trying not to be noticed as we proceed cautiously down the corridor” they are being stealthy and can only move at a slow pace (200 feet per minute).

5)         Moving at an extremely slowly pace they will automatically find anything that can be found. If they say “We know there must be a secret door in this corridor, so we are going to search until we find it”,  you know that they are going to keep looking until they find it if they can, so they are traveling at a extremely slow pace (30 feet per minute).

The times listed below are the suggested minimum times required. Additional time may be required depending on circumstances and PC actions. Anything found (secret doors, traps, treasures, and especially monsters) will add to the listed times below as they take the time to deal with what they have found.

    • If they find a secret door they may then attempt to find a means to open it.
      • I might have the searcher make an Intelligence (Investigation) check and subtract the results form 20 minutes for low long it takes. I will never let them find a secret door and never find out how to open it!
    • If they find a trap they may then attempt to disarm or avoid it.
      • It takes 5 minutes to disarm traps or pick a lock if proficient with thieves tools; 10 minutes otherwise. This assumes fairly straightforward mechanisms, not complex puzzles
    • If they find a treasure they may then check it for traps.

I typically check for wandering monsters every 10 minutes (dungeon time).

 

Details:

Traversing corridors, stairs, and other passageways:

  • When moving at a very fast pace (600 feet per minute), all attempts to notice any secret doors, hidden monsters or traps will fail. This speed is equivalent to the Dash action.
  • When moving at a fast pace (400 feet per minute), passive Wisdom (Perception) scores, with a -5 penalty, will be used to see if they notice any secret doors, hidden monsters or traps.
  • When moving at a normal pace (300 feet per minute), passive Wisdom (Perception) scores will be used to see if they notice any secret doors, hidden monsters or traps.
  • When moving at a slow pace (200 feet per minute), the characters can attempt to hide or be stealthy. If hiding, Dexterity (Stealth) checks will be used against the Wisdom (Perception) checks of any monsters that are actively searching for them, and against the passive Wisdom (Perception) scores of any monsters that aren’t searching. Moving at this pace they can actively search for hidden doors or traps. Roll a Wisdom (Perception) check for the searchers and let them know if they found anything in this 200 foot length of corridor. Let the single roll be for detecting hidden doors and/or traps regardless of what they say they are searching for. Note that if they say they are being stealthy, but don’t express an interest in watching out for traps or finding secret doors, only roll Dexterity (Stealth) checks and use passive Wisdom (Perception) scores. Conversely, if they say that they are looking for traps, or secret doors but don’t seem interested in being stealthy, roll Wisdom (Perception) checks only.
  • If the party intends to take as much time as required to thoroughly search a section of corridor, the party will be moving at an extremely slowly pace (30 feet per minute). This represents that the character is being extremely cautious and diligent in his searching. At this pace that character will automatically succeed at finding any secret doors, hidden monsters or traps that can be found by that character. [The DMG says “In some cases, a character is free to [retry a failed ability check]; the only real cost is the time it takes[…] To speed things up, assume that a character spending ten times the normal amount of time needed to complete a task automatically succeeds at that task.” This is the 5e equivalent to the 3.5e “Taking 20” rule.]
    • One character can search the walls, floor and ceiling of a 5 foot wide passage, or one side of a wider passage out to 5 feet from the wall.
    • 2 characters can cover a 10 foot wide passage.
    • Characters that are searching can perform no other activities.
    • Characters that are not searching can be on the lookout for monsters. For large parties they may need one lookout near the front and another one in the rear. If a monster approaches the group from a direction that is being watched, the Dexterity (Stealth) check of that character will be used against the Wisdom (Perception) checks of any monsters that are actively searching for them, and against the passive Wisdom (Perception) scores of any monsters that aren’t searching.

Searching a Room:

If the party opens a door but doesn’t enter a room and only observes it from the doorway it doesn’t take any additional time to be able to map its location and general notes about it, but not its exact size or anything about the room that cannot be quickly seen. A detailed description will require that the party enters the room.

After they enter the room, describe what they see and ask what each character is doing.  Describe the results of their activities. If they say “I am searching the room”. Don’t ask “What are you searching for?” rather say something like “What does searching the room look like? Describe exactly what your character is doing.” If they say “I am looking for secret doors.” Don’t ask which 5 foot section of wall he is searching, rather assume he will search all of the walls and use the travel paces descried below to determine his success or failure. If it makes a difference, or if you simply want him to think it might, you could ask where he is starting his search and which direction he will be searching from there. A room can be memorable and fun if you can get them to describe how they are interacting with the objects in the room.

The party may have a different travel pace for rooms than it does for corridors. Their pace may change in a room if they discover something interesting (or dangerous) but I wouldn’t normally mark off more than 10 minutes per room unless they slow to an extremely slow pace. Your players should be able to search as much as they want. Just warn them of the consequences (time passing, wandering monsters, etc.) ahead of time.

How pace of travel effects checking out rooms:

  • Very fast pace (600 feet per minute – measured from entrance to exit by the shortest path). Treat these rooms like corridors. They are almost running through the rooms and won’t notice anything much more than their size and location. They automatically fail all perception checks. They will be surprised by any monsters waiting for them. They may surprise monsters that aren’t expecting them.
  • Fast pace (1 minute per room). They are mostly just passing through. They can note what is in the room, its size, number and location of its exits. The Passive Wisdom (Perception) scores of the searchers, with a -5 penalty, will be used to see if they notice any secret doors, hidden monsters or traps. They are moving through the room too fast to search for any hidden treasure but will notice things that are in plain sight.
  • Normal pace (5 minutes per room). Use this pace if they want to search the room but want to be quick about it. The passive Wisdom (Perception) scores of the searchers will be used to see if they notice any secret doors, hidden monsters or traps. At this pace they can make a quick search for hidden treasure at a disadvantage using their Wisdom (Perception) scores.
  • Slow pace (10 minutes per room). Use this pace if they don’t give you any other indication of how fast they are searching a room. Use this pace if they want to loot the room, or if they want to be stealthy. Roll the Wisdom (Perception) checks of the searchers to see if they notice any secret doors, hidden monsters, hidden treasure or traps. If they are being stealthy, their Dexterity (Stealth) checks will be used against the Wisdom (Perception) checks of any monsters that are in the room or that enter the room and that are watching for them, and against the passive Wisdom (Perception) scores of any monsters that aren’t.
  • Extremely slowly pace (1 hour per room). At this pace they can carefully examine every inch of the room. At this pace they will automatically succeed at finding any secret doors, hidden monsters, hidden treasure or traps that can be found by their characters. If there is something in the room that they wouldn’t be able to find even if they rolled a 20 on an ability check and added all of their bonuses, it is beyond their ability to find so it will remain hidden.
    • The times above represent at least 2 characters searching.
    • Two characters can search the walls, floor and ceiling and everything inside of a room up to 30’ x 30’. Larger rooms, or rooms with a large amount of “stuff” may take longer. Rooms smaller than 30’ x 30’ still take the indicated time to search.
    • A single character searching the same room will take twice as long.
    • More than two characters searching the room do not reduce the time any further unless it is a very large room.
    • Characters that are searching can perform no other activities.
    • Characters that are not searching can be on the lookout for monsters. One character can watch only one entrance without penalty. If a monster approaches the group through an entrance that is being watched, the Dexterity (Stealth) check of that character will be used against the Wisdom (Perception) checks of any monsters that are actively searching for you, and against the passive Wisdom (Perception) scores of any monsters that aren’t searching.
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D&D 5e – House Rules for Creating a Ghost

Ghost_Character

Ghost Template

You can add this “Ghost” template to any aberration, animal, dragon, giant, humanoid, magical beast, monstrous humanoid, or plant. When a creature becomes a ghost he becomes semitransparent and can use an action to move back and forth between the material plane and the ethereal plane but he remains visible to creatures in both planes.

Physical Description

Ghosts are flickering remnants of their past lives, appearing as they did before death, however, they are semi-transparent and have a blue tinge to them that drowns out all color of their body.

If the ghost is still coming to terms with its death, its appearance may reflect how it died. For example, a ghost that had drowned in a previous life may be dripping with glowing water droplets that disappear as soon as they hit the ground. A ghost that died in battle, may still have the wounds it sustained open and flowing with silver blood.

Similarly, if the ghost instead is more transfixed by guilt or regret at its previous life it is instead wrapped in ethereal chains.

This is because the image of a ghost is controlled by its own mental state and the way it is transfixed by death or regret will manifest in the image it takes.

It is possible for ghosts to be completely free of regret or transfixed by its death, but it would mean that the only thing tying it to the material plane is the ghost’s own willpower, which makes the its bond to the material plane weaker than the other two types of ghosts.

A ghost uses all the base creature’s statistics and special abilities except as noted here.

Size and Type

The creature’s type changes to undead. He does not require air, food, drink or sleep. Size is unchanged.

Hit Points and Hit Dice

The creatures hit points and Hit Die remain unchanged

Speed

Ghosts have a walking speed of 0 and a fly speed of 40 feet

Armor Class

The creature’s armor class doesn’t change but it applies only to ethereal encounters. When the ghost enters the material plane its armor class becomes 10 + its Dexterity modifier + any magical protections.

Ability Scores

These remain the same as the creature had in life.

The ghost gains the following special traits:

Damage Resistances acid, fire, lightning, thunder; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from non magical weapons [Note that a ghost on the ethereal plane cannot be hit by physical weapons if the attacker is on the material plane. If the ghost is also on the material plane it can be hit only by magical weapons.]

Damage Immunities: cold, necrotic, poison

Condition Immunities: charmed, exhaustion, frightened, grappled, paralyzed, petrified, poisoned, prone, restrained

Senses: darkvision 60ft., his passive Perception remains as it had in life

Languages any languages it knew in life

Ethereal Sight. The ghost can see 60 feet into the Ethereal Plane when it is on the Material Plane, and vice versa.

Incorporeal Movement. The ghost can move through other creatures and objects as if they were difficult terrain. It takes 5 (1d10) force damage if it ends its turn inside an object. [Note that the ghost uses this movement when on the Material Plane. When on the Ethereal Plane he is visible but utterly silent to someone on the Material Plane, and solid objects on the Material Plane don’t hamper the movement of the ghost in the Ethereal. ]

Actions

A ghost retains all the attacks of the base creature, although those relying on physical contact do not effect creatures that are not ethereal except as described below.

The ghost gains the following actions:

Withering Touch, Etherealness, Horrifying Visage and Possession (Recharge 6) as described in the ghost listing in the 5E Monster Manual. [Note that a ghost must use the etherealness action to move from the Material Plane to the Ethereal Plane, or from the Ethereal Plane to the Material Plane. ]

Spellcasting

When a spellcasting ghost is on the Ethereal Plane, its spells cannot affect targets on the Material Plane, but they work normally against ethereal targets. When a spellcasting ghost is on the material plan, its spells can affect ethereal targets and can also affect targets on the material plane normally unless the spells rely on touch. A ghost’s touch spells don’t work on nonethereal targets.

Ghostly Equipment

When a ghost forms, all its equipment and carried items usually become ethereal along with it. The equipment works normally on the Ethereal Plane but passes harmlessly through material objects or creatures. A magical weapon however can harm material creatures when the ghost is on the material plane.

The original material items remain behind, just as the ghost’s physical remains do. If another creature seizes the original, the ghostly copy fades away. This loss invariably angers the ghost, who stops at nothing to return the item to its original resting place.

D&D 5E – House Rule – Pop-up Archer

Pop-up Dwarf

Pop-up Archer

As a DM, have you ever ran into this situation? I had a player that wanted to stay down below a low wall during combat and just stand up and fire his arrow on his turn and then duck back down. His reasoning went like this; He starts the round with total cover so he can’t be targeted. On his turn he uses some of his movement to stand up. At that time he would have half cover (he might argue that he had 3/4 cover) and with half cover he got +2 to his armor class and dexterity saving throws. However that would only come into play if an opponent had readied an action to fire at him if he stood up. Otherwise he fires his weapon and then uses the rest of his move to duck back down, perhaps even moving to another location along the wall first. Then he would have total cover again until his turn on the next round when he would repeat the same tactic. This would also work behind rocks or trees or barrels. If there was nothing to provide cover, he could simply lie down. If prone, missile attacks against him (if the attacker is more than 5 feet away) are made with disadvantage. Then on his turn, he uses half his move to get up from prone (if he remained prone his attacks would be made with disadvantage), fires his arrow and then falls back down prone until his turn on the next round.

This tactic appears to be allowed with the rules as written. But I don’t like it. It doesn’t make for cinematic, or heroic combat. At its extreme, it is just plain silly. Can you imagine everybody doing this on both sides? When combat starts everybody lays down. On their turn they pop-up, fire and fall back down. But, in extreme circumstances, this may be the only reasonable tactic. Think of a cowboy on the prairie surrounded by Indians. He has no cover except for sage brush. He must do what he can to keep from being killed. And bad guys hiding behind a low wall should get some benefit from staying down except to fire.

Here is my thinking on this dilemma.

1) Even though each character takes his action during his turn which is based on his position in the initiative order. The entire round only represents 6 seconds of game time. Everyone is acting at the same time and breaking it up into individual turns is a concession we make in order to make it a playable game. So even if you start and end your turn totally concealed, when you pop-up to fire you are visible to your opponents.

2) If you start your turn behind cover (or prone) you can’t easily see your target. So when you pop-up to fire you must first site your target before aiming and firing. You have a better chance of hitting it if you have the target in your sights at the start of your turn.

My house rules:

Total Cover

If you have total cover (other than from darkness or invisibility) at the beginning of your turn, any attacks you make by moving out from behind that cover will be made with disadvantage.

If you have total cover (other than from darkness or invisibility) at the end of your turn, any attacks against you will be made based on the most vulnerable position you occupied during your turn. These attacks will be made with disadvantage.

With these rules in place, you can still use the pop-up archer tactic, but you have disadvantage on your to-hit rolls and your opponents have a chance to shoot you, but they also have disadvantage.

Prone

If you are prone at the beginning of your turn, any attacks you make after standing will be made with a -2 penalty on the attack roll.

If you are prone at the end of your turn, any attacks against you will be made based on the most vulnerable position you occupied during your turn and will be made with a -2 penalty on the attack roll.

So you can stand up from prone, fire and then drop to prone on your turn, but you have a penalty on your attack rolls and you are more likely to be hit than if you had remained prone.

Comments?

D&D 5E – House Rules – Underwater -Depth and Temperature

uNDERWATER

Into the Depths

Underwater – Depth and Temperature

The water’s depth and temperature will determine a character’s survivability when they are under the water.

DAMAGE FROM WATER PRESSURE

Depth CON Save Points of Damage
0-200 ft  none  none
201-250 ft  DC 10  1d6/minute
251-300 ft  DC 15  2d6/minute
301-400 ft  DC 20  3d6/minute
401-500 ft  DC 25  4d6/minute
501-1000 ft DC 30 5d6/minute
1001 ft or deeper DC 35  6d6/minute

The deeper a character ventures down into the water, the greater the water pressure. Freedom of movement and water breathing will not protect characters from either the crushing effects of deep water or the effects of cold. The indicated Constitution saves must be made one round after being at a certain depth. If the save is failed, then the damage is taken and another save must be made each minute until the character makes a Constitution save, after which further saves are not necessary. The character is then considered acclimated to that depth. Descending to a deeper depth range as indicated on the table, however, requires another saving throw be made.

DAMAGE FROM COLD WATER TEMPERATURE

Temperature  Degree F  CON Save  Points of Cold Damage
Tropical  >86  none  none
Warm  65-85  none  none
Cold  55-64  DC 10  1d6/minute
Frigid  45-54  DC 15  2d6/minute
Icy  32-44  DC 20  4d6/minute

Water conducts heat much more efficiently than air; therefore cold water causes much greater loss of body temperature than does cold air. It is also important for DMs to note that water becomes heavier as it cools until it reaches a temperature of about 37 degrees Fahrenheit (just above freezing). Below 37 degrees, as water crystallizes into ice, it becomes lighter so that ice will float on the surface of the water. Therefore, the bottom of any large body of water will tend to remain at 37 degrees F most of the year. The above table outlines the necessary saves and resultant cold damage from being in water at various temperatures. Unlike pressure, Constitution saves against cold damage from water must be made each minute, even after a successful save. The table assumes that the creature is not wearing anything that will provide meaningful insulation while in water. Normal clothing or armor is of no benefit. A creature wearing a watertight outfit that captures a layer of water next to the skin (like a wet suit) has advantage on Constitution checks against the cold damage. Smearing the skin with grease or fat, which repels water, will provide a +5 bonus to the necessary Constitution saves. Of course, magical forms of protection from cold also apply.

D&D 5E – House Rules – Falling

falling

FALLING

One of the great things about the 5th edition of Dungeons and Dragons is that it is vert light on rules. One problem with adding more rules is that if we add too many we run the risk of this edition devolving back into  3rd edition. However that will not stop me from suggesting potential house rules. Think of these as possible ways to address common issues that may arise during play.

Falling Damage: The basic rule is simple: 1d6 points of damage per 10 feet fallen, to a maximum of 20d6.

Jumping to avoid damage: If a character deliberately jumps instead of merely slipping or falling, the character receives no damage for the first 10 feet and on a DC 15 DEX (Acrobatics) check he receives no damage for the first 20 feet and lands on his feet. Thus, a character who slips from a ledge 30 feet up takes 3d6 points of damage. If the same character deliberately jumped, he takes 2d6 points of damage. And if the character leaps down with a successful Dexterity (Acrobatics) check, he takes only 1d6 points of damage from the plunge.

Falling onto Soft Surface: Falls onto yielding surfaces (soft ground, mud) also ignores the first 1d6 points of damage. This reduction is cumulative with reduced damage due to deliberate jumps and the Athletics skill check.

Falling into Water: Falls into water are handled somewhat differently. If the water is at least 10 feet deep, you must succeed on a DC 10 Dexterity (Acrobatics) check to enter the water without damage. Otherwise you receive 1d6 points of damage from any fall up to 20 feet of falling. Regardless of the save, you receive an additional 1d6 of damage for every 10 feet fall beyond 20 feet.

Diving into Water: Characters who deliberately dive into water take no damage on a successful DC 15 Dexterity (Acrobatics) check, so long as the water is at least 10 feet deep for every 30 feet fallen. However, the DC of the check increases by 5 for every 50 feet of the dive.

Landing on Your Feet: The official rule is that you land prone unless you receive no damage from the fall. I have no problem with this. However, I don’t think it would break anything if you allow the character to land on his feet if he makes his Athletics check.

5E – Skyships

Skyships_book_cover

D&D Skyships

Download your free copy here.

This is a complete re-write of the rules I posted in 2012 for version 3.5 (here). In keeping with the feel of 5E, these rules focus on the PCs.

D&D Skyships is a supplement to fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons set in a universe of ships that fly between the worlds and of battles in the air and in space. This is a basic set of rules compatible with Dungeons & Dragons 5E that provide a foundation for taking your D&D adventures into space.

Enjoy!

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D&D 5E – Nautical Adventures

Ship-Book_Cover

Rules for conducting a seafaring campaign in D&D. Including rules for Ship-to-Ship Combat.

You can download a free copy here: 5E_Nautical_Adventures.pdf

This is a complete re-write of the Ship to Ship Combat rules I published before (3.5 version here).

In keeping with the spirit of 5e, this  is  not  about  conducting  massive  sea battles, moving small model ships around on a hex battle map exploring tactics and the intricacies of wind and sail. Rather this is about what the PCs can do with ships. Ship-to-ship  battles  do  take  up  the  majority  of  the  pages here, but the battles are from the point of view of the player  characters  on  board  their  ship.  Care  has  been taken to assure each payer has something to contribute each round of ship-to-ship combat. Each player controls one of their ship’s officers. That officer can be his or her PC  or  it  may  be  an  NPC  and  he  has  several  actions available to him that are specific to that officer.

I copied liberally from Wizards of the Coast’s 1997 publication “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons of Ships and the Sea”. I also got a lot of good ideas from Pathfinder’s “Skull and Shackles”  (their “Wormwood Mutiny” adventure path will work with these rules for those of you who want a good Pirates campaign.)
I also found a lot of good information in Kenzer and Company’s “Salt and Sea Dogs”.

A special thanks to Shawn at http://tribality.com/ for his series on Naval Combat for D&D 5th edition. He got me to thinking seriously about how to keep all of the players involved in naval combat.

D&D 5E – Drowning

Drowning

I haven’t posted here in a while. I have been working on 5E Ship-to-Ship combat rules. They will be finished soon. In the mean time here is part that may be of general interest.

Drowning Rules for D&D 5E

Falling Off the Ship

Rough water adds 5 to all the following DCs except for saves made when more than 5 feet under the surface. Flotsam or other floating items grant advantage to saves to stay afloat.

The Fall

This can be hazardous to your health. If you fall overboard you will splash down 1d6+5 feet from your ship. If you are pushed overboard you will fall 2d6+5 feet from your ship. If you jump or dive into the water you can enter the water at any point up to the maximum distance you can jump (refer to the Jumping rules in the Player’s Handbook). If you fall or are pushed overboard, you must succeed on a DC 10 Dexterity (Acrobatics) check to enter the water without damage. Otherwise you receive 1d6 hit points damage from the fall.

Swimming

Each foot you swim cost you one extra foot of speed. If you are within 5 feet of a moving ship (or one that has been involved in a ramming or grappling maneuver), you must make as DC 10 Strength (Athletics) check. Failure means that you cannot move this round, you are using all of your strength to simply keep your head above the waves. Once you reach the ship, you must make as DC 15 Strength (Athletics) check to climb back onto the ship. Failure results in you falling back into the water.

Underwater

You can swim underwater as long as you can hold your breath (see “Drowning” below). Your underwater swimming speed is the same as your surface swimming speed. You can swim straight down at half that speed. You can swim straight down at 15 feet per round if holding the equivalent of medium armor, or 25 feet per round if holding the equivalent of heavy armor. If unencumbered, you can swim straight up at 20 feet per round.

Armor

In general, heavy armor is not terribly common on ships. The weight tends to be the most prohibitive factor – falling overboard in 65-pound full plate normally results in death. Occasionally, combat Infantry will don light or medium armor for a battle, but most of the time sailors go unarmored. A lucky few (usually the PCs and important NPCs) have magic items that improve their AC, but most sailors rely on their natural Dexterity.

Light Armor

Attempting to swim while wearing light armor requires that you make a DC 10 Strength (Athletics) saving throw each round. Failure means you have a speed of 0 as you go under water for that round and loose one carried item, shield or weapon (your choice as to what you drop).

If you choose to remove your armor after entering the water, it will take one minute (10 rounds). A successful DC 15 Dexterity (Acrobatics) save will cut that time in half. During this time you cannot swim or take any other actions. You make a DC 10 Dexterity (Acrobatics) saving throw each round. Each round that you succeed you keep your head above water and counts as one round of the rounds required to remove your armor. Failure means that you went under water this round and made no headway in removing your armor. After 3 failures you receive one level of exhaustion.

Medium Armor

You can attempt to swim while wearing medium armor, but you must make DC 15 Strength (Athletics) saving throw each round. On a success, if you are on the surface at the beginning of the round, you stay on the surface. Each foot you swim cost you two extra feet of speed and you can take no other actions besides shouting and stowing a weapon. Failed save means you sink 10 feet and lose any still-carried shields or weapons. On the round following a failed save you are under water. After that, on a successful save you can swim toward the surface at a rate of 15 feet per round. On failure you sink another 10 feet.

You can attempt to remove your armor, but you will be sinking at a rate of 10 feet per round during this time. It normally takes 1 minute (10 rounds) to doff your armor, but a successful DC 15 Dexterity (Acrobatics) save will cut that time in half. Without your armor you can swim toward the surface at a rate of 20 feet per round.

Heavy Armor

You cannot swim while wearing heavy armor, giving you an effective speed of 0. Whenever you are in water, you lose any carried shields and weapons and begin to sink. You make a DC 25 Strength (Athletics) saving throw each round. Success keeps your head above water, or if you start the round under water you can swim 15 feet toward the surface. You can take no other actions. Failed save means you sink another 20 feet.

You can attempt to remove your armor, but you will be sinking at a rate of 20 feet per round during this time. It normally takes 5 minutes (50 rounds) to doff your armor, but a successful DC 15 Dexterity (Acrobatics) save will cut that time in half. Without your armor you can swim toward the surface at a rate of 20 feet per round.

Drowning

After 1+(con bonus) minutes of holding your breath underwater you fall unconscious, your hit points fall to 0, and you begin making your death saving throws as per the standard rules. However, if you become stable there is a problem. If you are still under water you can’t remain stable. So you must start making death saving throws again. This continues until you die unless you are saved in some way.

D&D 5E – Quick Reference – Chase Rules

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Quick Reference – Chase Rules

Nobody told me that the new Dungeon Master’s Guide was going to contain rules for conducting chases. Hurray! These are good, fast and easy rules. You should use them. This is my interpretation of those rules along with my house rules and some Chase Complications tables.

My house rules are shown in blue. I find that using miniature figures helps when running a chase, so the following rules assume that you are using figures on a grid. Standard combat rules apply except as noted below. Characters that pause to take an action, other than Dash, move a distance equal to their move rate. Most characters use the Dash action and move a distance equal to twice their move rate.

  1. Setup. Determine where everyone involved in the chase is located. The only thing that matters is how far apart everyone is. Place the lead quarry first, then place the others at the appropriate distance behind him. If their locations aren’t pre-determined based on the encounter, you can randomly set the distance from the lead pursuer to the closest quarry at the speed factor of the fastest creature + 5x(1d6) feet.
  2. Determine Initiative. Set initiative order based on position. The lead character is assigned the highest initiative, followed by the others in order of their distance behind him. This initiative order may change from round to round as creatures pass each other. Ties go to the one with the highest dexterity score.
  3. Track Movement. After the lead quarry determines his total move distance – write that distance down so it can be referenced by all players. Don’t move that figure. On each participant’s turn, compare the distance he moved to that of the lead quarry. If they are the same, the distance between them remains the same, so his figure doesn’t move. If he moved farther than the lead quarry, subtract the lead quarry’s move from his and move his figure forward by that amount. If the lead quarry moved farther than he did, subtract his move distance from the lead quarry’s and move his figure back by this amount.
  4. No Opportunity Attacks. No one involved directly in the chase can use an opportunity attack against anyone else in the chase.
  5. Track Exhaustion. You can use the Dash action a number of times equal to 3+ your Constitution modifier. For each Dash action after that you must succeed on a DC 10 Constitution check or take one level of exhaustion. Your speed becomes 0 when you reach level 5.
  6. Pursuer Overtakes Quarry.
    1. Attack. If a pursuer is able to move into a quarry’s space, he may instead use a bonus action to perform a single melee attack against the quarry when he is within reach. The attack is made at a disadvantage. Note that the pursuer cannot use this option if he can only move within reach, but could not overtake the quarry if he chose to.
    2. Overtake. A pursuer overtakes a quarry when he moves into its space. He can then use a bonus action to attempt to grapple the creature. Normal grapple rules apply. If successful, both pursuer and quarry are stopped. Rather than grapple, the pursuer may attempt to trip, push over or tackle the quarry. The pursuer has advantage on the attack. As an optional rule, an attack that fails by 5 or more results in the pursuer falling prone.
  7. Quarry Escapes. The quarry can attempt to escape if it is out of sight for all of the pursuers. He makes a Dexterity (Stealth) check and must beat the passive Wisdom (Perception) scores of the pursuers.
  8. Complications. Roll 1d20 at the end of your turn and compare that roll to the appropriate Chase Complications table. The complication is not applied to your character, but rather to the next character in initiative order. You can spend an inspiration point to negate the complication you rolled or one that effects you. Rather than rolling on the table, the DM may allow a quarry to impose a condition on a pursuer to slow him down. It might be one listed on the table, or one of his own creation. Another option to using a table would be for the DM to declare conditions based on his map or the terrain and the path the quarry takes.

Prone. A complication may leave you prone. To get up from prone you subtract the distance represented by half your move rate from your total move distance.

Difficult Terrain. Each foot of difficult terrain uses two feet of your move rate. So if you cross five or ten feet of difficult terrain you can simply subtract five or ten feet from your total distance traveled.

Complication Tables. The following are Complication Tables that I have created for different terrain types. The first table is a generic complications table that can be used in a pinch, when you just need to run a chase quickly. The tables that follow that one list a complication type for each situation. Look up the type in the generic complication table.

 Generic Chase Complications

1d20 Type Complication Examples
1 Hazard Make a DC 10 Dexterity saving throw to navigate the impediment. On a failed save, you fall 1d4 x 5 feet, taking 1d6 bludgeoning damage per 10 feet fallen as normal, and land prone. Hole, crevice, trap, unseen obstacle, steep incline, heavily broken ground, the path skirts a quicksand pit, log bridge crossing a stream, running on rooftops, slippery floors, jump through window
2 Cramped space Make a DC 15 Dexterity (Acrobatics) check to get through this space. On a failed check, the obstacle counts as 10 feet of difficult terrain. street, market, public building, alleyway, shoppers, stationary crowd
3 Poor visibility Make a DC 10 Constitution saving throw. On a failed save, you are blinded until the end of your turn. While blinded in this way, your speed is halved. blind corner, woods, dense brush or busy area
4 Barrier Make a DC 15 Dexterity (Acrobatics) check to get past the obstacle. On a failed check you fall prone. wall, fence, cliff, thick hedges, tall fences, building, river, canyon or swamp
5 Impediment Make a DC 10 Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check (your choice) to get past the impediment. On a failed check, the obstacle counts as 5 feet of difficult terrain. Tree branch, fallen log, chicken coop or vegetable cart, trail suddenly drops off, flock of birds
6 Crowd Make a DC 10 Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check (your choice) to make your way through the crowd unimpeded. On a failed check, the crowd counts as 10 feet of difficult terrain. fleeing (or angry) peasants, a funeral procession, people leaving a performance, a moving crowd
7 Entanglement Make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw to avoid it. On a failed save, you are caught as if in a net and restrained. See chapter 5 “Equipment,” of the Player’s Handbook for rules on escaping a net. Clotheslines, curtains, banners, drying pots, chimes, hanging meat, vines
8 Animal herd Make a DC 10 Dexterity saving throw. On a failed save, you are knocked about and take 1d4 bludgeoning damage and 1d4 piercing damage. Must pass through a herd of animals. Camels, Donkeys, Horses, Cows, etc.
9 Uneven Ground Make a DC 10 Dexterity (Acrobatics) check to navigate the area. On a failed check, the ground counts as 10 feet of difficult terrain. Any stairs of 4 or more steps (less than 4 steps is considered an “impediment”), river bank, hill, 5 feet or more change in elevation in 10 feet of horizontal movement.
10 Obstacles Make a DC 10 Dexterity (Acrobatics) or Intelligence check (your choice) to past. On a failed check, the maze counts as 10 feet of difficult terrain. Tables, chairs, pews, benches, carts, crates, field of boulders, field of giant mushrooms.
11-20 No Complication

 

Complications by terrain type

The headings are:
1d20      results of your d20 roll
Complication     This is what causes the obstruction.
Type      This refers to the Generic Chase Complications above.

Aerial Complications

Complications are easier to avoid when you are flying, checks are made with advantage.

1d20 Complication Type
1 Flock of birds Impediment
2 Tower Hazard
3 Storm clouds Barrier
4 Updraft Impediment
5 Smoke Poor visibility
6 Turbulence Cramped space
7 Smokestack Hazard
8 Ship mast Hazard
9 Dust Poor visibility
10 Ice buildup Entanglement
11-20 No Complication

Artic Complications

1d20 Complication Type
1 Crevice Hazard
2 Snow drifts Cramped space
3 Blowing snow Poor visibility
4 Ice cliff Barrier
5 Chunks of broken ice Impediment
6 Herd of walrus Animal herd
7 Snow bank Uneven Ground
8 Field of Ice boulders Obstacles
9 Ice bridge over river Hazard
10 Pond covered by thin ice Hazard
11-20 No Complication

Beach Complications

1d20 Complication Type
1 Tidal pool Impediment
2 Crevice Hazard
3 River Barrier
4 Flock of birds Impediment
5 Fishing nets Entanglement
6 Sand hill Uneven Ground
7 Lobster traps Obstacles
8 Pier Hazard
9 Driftwood Impediment
10 Sea turtles Animal herd
11-20 No Complication

Cave Complications

1d20 Complication Type
1 Crevice Hazard
2 Narrow passage Cramped space
3 Bats Impediment
4 Floor slopes up or down Uneven Ground
5 Giant mushrooms Obstacles
6 Roots across passage Entanglement
7 Stalagmites Impediment
8 Wet floor Hazard
9 Ruble covered floor Impediment
10 Lava crossing Barrier
11-20 No Complication

Church Complications

1d20 Complication Type
1 Curtains across path Entanglement
2 Stairway Uneven Ground
3 Pews Obstacles
4 Narrow hallway Cramped space
5 Highly polished floor Hazard
6 Smoke filled room Poor visibility
7 Chimes across path Entanglement
8 Railing across path Hazard
9 Balcony to climb Barrier
10 Loose rugs on floor Impediment
11-20 No Complication

City Complications

1d20 Complication Type
1 Alleyway Cramped space
2 Bridge Hazard
3 Crowd Crowd
4 Dangling Things Entanglement
5 Market Cramped space
6 Fence or wall across path Barrier
7 Garden Impediment
8 Large Animals Animal herd
9 Rooftop Hazard
10 Stables Impediment
11-20 No Complication

Desert Complications

1d20 Complication Type
1 Dunes Uneven Ground
2 Oasis Impediment
3 Quicksand Hazard
4 River bed Impediment
5 Whirlwind Impediment
6 Cliff Barrier
7 Steep grade Uneven Ground
8 Cactus patch Impediment
9 Rocky Ground Obstacles
10 Crevice Hazard
11-20 No Complication

 Dungeon Complications

1d20 Complication Type
1 Pit Hazard
2 Stairs up Uneven Ground
3 Stairs down Uneven Ground
4 Coffins Obstacles
5 Rubble Impediment
6 Columns or Statues Cramped space
7 Slime covered floor Hazard
8 Natural cavern Impediment
9 Torture chamber Impediment
10 Chains across path Entanglement
11-20 No Complication

 Forest Complications

1d20 Complication Type
1 Log bridge crossing a stream Hazard
2 Heavily forested Cramped space
3 Dense brush Poor visibility
4 Thick hedges Barrier
5 Fallen tree Impediment
6 Vines across path Entanglement
7 The trail suddenly drops off Impediment
8 Panicked monkeys Impediment
9 2′ tall ferns obscuring path Hazard
10 Thorn bushes Impediment
11-20 No Complication

Graveyard Complications

1d20 Complication Type
1 Open grave Hazard
2 Low fence Hazard
3 High fence Barrier
4 Loose dirt Impediment
5 Tombstones Cramped space
6 Crypt Impediment
7 Coffin Impediment
8 Funeral Coach Impediment
9 Funeral procession Crowd
10 Vine covered graves Entanglement
11-20 No Complication

Indoor Complications

1d20 Complication Type
1 Narrow hallway Cramped space
2 Stairs Uneven Ground
3 Dining or sales area Obstacles
4 Curtains or beads across path Entanglement
5 Littered floor Impediment
6 Jump off balcony Hazard
7 Jump through window Hazard
8 Kitchen Impediment
9 Slippery floors Hazard
10 Hole in floor Hazard
11-20 No Complication

Mountain Complications

1d20 Complication Type
1 Crevice Hazard
2 Steep incline Hazard
3 Path narrows Cramped space
4 Blind Corner Poor visibility
5 Cliff Barrier
6 Flock of birds Impediment
7 Vines crossing path Entanglement
8 Mountain goats Animal herd
9 Field of boulders Obstacles
10 Log bridge across chasm Hazard
11-20 No Complication

Ocean Complications

1d20 Complication Type
1 Coral maze Hazard
2 School of dolphins Animal herd
3 Kelp beds Entanglement
4 Narrow strait Cramped space
5 Precipitation Poor visibility
6 Reef Hazard
7 Swell Uneven Ground
8 Flotsam Impediment
9 Fishing nets Entanglement
10 School of sea turtles Obstacles
11-20 No Complication

Swamp Complications

1d20 Complication Type
1 Quicksand Hazard
2 Thick Vegetation Cramped space
3 Muck & Mire Impediment
4 Insect swarm Poor visibility
5 Shallow water Hazard
6 Deep Water Barrier
7 Vines crossing path Entanglement
8 Lots of alligators Animal herd
9 Slick, algae covered ground Hazard
10 Fallen logs Impediment
11-20 No Complication

 

D&D 5E – Stealth and Hiding

sneaky

PCs being sneaky. Clarification of Stealth and Hiding Rules.

In the new 5th edition Player’s Handbook, the rules for Hiding/Sneaking are a bit unclear. In my attempt to make sense out of rules for hiding, I finally realized that the rules for stealth and for hiding are one in the same.

The rulebooks never give a precise definition of hiding. There is no “hidden condition”. After searching through the rulebooks, the best definition of “being hidden” that I could come up with is this: “Your opponent either doesn’t know that you are there, doesn’t pay any attention to you, or doesn’t know where exactly you are located”. Using this broad definition works well with all of the rules as presented. It also means that you could be hidden even if all your foe had to do is to look in your direction to see you. When he did, you would no longer be hidden. It also means that when you are successful at being stealthy, it has the same effect as being hidden.

The main rule in the Player’s Handbook for hiding is: “You can’t hide from a creature that can see you.” This sounds like it is saying that you must either be in a heavily obscured area or have total cover to even attempt to hide. I contend that this is not correct. It only means that whoever you are attempting to hide from is not looking in your direction (the DM has the final say on this).

“Being stealthy” is trying to remain undetected which is the same as trying to hide. Examples abound in the Player’s Handbook to support this idea. In the section on surprise, the terms “be stealthy” and “hiding” are used to mean the same thing. In the section on noticing threats “hidden threats” obviously includes “a stealthy creature following the group”. On the section on stealth – traveling at a slow pace, it says to refer to the rules on hiding when trying to “surprise or sneak by other creatures.” In the section on perception “hear monsters moving stealthily in the forest,” “orcs lying in ambush on a road,” and “thugs hiding in the shadows of an alley” are all examples of creatures that your Wisdom (Perception) check lets you detect. And in the section on stealth “Make a Dexterity (Stealth) check when you attempt to conceal yourself from enemies, slink past guards, slip away without being noticed, or sneak up on someone without being seen or heard.” Which are all examples of being hidden.

So when can I attempt to hide?

You can attempt to hide whenever the creature or creatures you are attempting to hide from can’t see you. You could be invisible. (Being hidden is different from the “Invisible” condition in that you can be invisible and still not be hidden if your opponent can tell where you are by hearing you or by some other means.) Or you could be on the opposite side of anything that provides total cover, or in a heavily obscured area (such as darkness if your foe doesn’t have darkvision), or your foe could be distracted (if the DM agrees). You can also attempt to hide if you are in a lightly obscured area if you have the Skulker feat.

With the wood elf’s “Mask of the Wild” ability you can attempt to hide even when you are only lightly obscured by foliage, heavy rain, falling snow, mist, and other natural phenomena. From the wording, I take it to mean that you can’t use this ability to attempt to hide in dim lighting (although your DM might allow it), but you can in the area of effect of an insect plague.

With the lightfoot halfling’s “Naturally Stealthy” ability you can attempt to hide even when you are obscured only by a creature that is at least one size larger than you. You would have to first move to a position that placed that creature between you and the creature you are hiding from.

The Rogue’s “Cunning Action” that allows him to take a hide action as a bonus action each round, does not release him from the need to meet at least one of the above requirements before attempting to hide.

How do I hide?

As a hide action in combat, or any time you attempt to hide, you make a Dexterity (Stealth) check and write down that number. As long as you remain in hiding, if any creature has a chance to detect your presence, your check must beat their Passive Wisdom (Perception) score. I would rule that if you are hiding and cannot be seen and are silent the creatures would normally have no chance to detect you. If a creature is actively trying to locate you, compare your check to a Wisdom (Perception) check that the creature makes at that time. If you cannot be seen, or if you are in an area that is lightly obscured, they have disadvantage on the check.

What benefits do I receive from being hidden?

If you are hidden before the first round of combat you can surprise your opponents and get a free round to attack them before they can react. (You are no longer hidden after you attack.)

On all attacks against you, the attacker must first identify where he thinks you are located. The attack will automatically miss if you are not in that 5 foot area. If you are in that area, the attack is made with disadvantage on the attack roll. The DM should require a roll with disadvantage, even if you are not in the targeted area and simply tell the attacker that his attack missed.

If you are hidden you make attacks with advantage. However, you will no longer be hidden if the attack hits or misses.

When am I no longer hidden?

You can come out of hiding at any time of your choosing. You are no longer hidden if you attack someone even if the attack misses (exception: if you have the Skulker feat, attacking with a ranged weapon and missing doesn’t reveal your position).

If you move to a location where your opponent can see you, or if your opponent moves into a position where he can see you, or if the object or creature that was providing your total cover moves or is no longer providing cover for some reason, if you make a noise, or do anything that could give away your position, the creature you are hiding from can make another Wisdom (Perception) check to attempt to detect you.

If you move from a heavily obscured area to a lightly obscured area you can try to continue to hide but the creatures you are hiding from get a Wisdom (Perception) check to detect you.

Once you are no longer hidden your opponents will know where you are so they no longer have to guess where to attack. But if you can still not be seen (if you are invisible, for example), attack rolls against you have disadvantage, and your attack rolls still have advantage.

If I am hiding behind a tree, can I stand out and attack with my ranged weapon with advantage and then return to hiding on my round of combat?

It depends. If you are doing this during a fight, it is assumed that all the creatures in the fight are alert and aware their surroundings, so they get a Wisdom (Perception) check to spot you when you move out from behind total cover. If they succeed you are no longer hiding so you don’t get advantage to the attack. However, if the fight hasn’t started yet, you have a chance to surprise them as long as they aren’t looking in your direction. In that case you an attack with advantage, but you will no longer be hidden as soon as you attack. If you are a 2nd level or higher rogue you can use a bonus action to attempt to hide again. But remember, if they see you duck behind a tree, they have a good guess at where you are hiding. In that case, when you stuck your head out I would give them advantage on their perception check – or give them an automatic success, depending on the circumstances.

Be a good DM and have the players describe what their characters are doing. If it makes logical sense, go for it. Don’t let the players use the rules to turn “hide” into a magical condition.