A place to share thoughts and ideas about Dungeons and Dragons
Tag Archives: Reference
February 20, 2017Posted by on
So What Can I see From Here?
Usually, the limit to how far characters can see will be some obstruction, such as a building, a forest, or some hills. Mist and darkness also limit vision. Sometimes, however, the characters will be on flat plains on a clear day and the only limit to their vision will be their perception and the horizon. Once something goes below the horizon, it can’t be seen. But where is the horizon?
|Height in feet||Miles away|
This table has been simplified for gaming use. On an earth-sized planet, the horizon for a six-foot tall person standing at sea level or on flat plains will be about 3 miles. This means that they can see features that are at ground level for up to three miles (depending, of course, on the quality of their vision and the size of the object). Features that are higher than ground level can be seen further.
To determine how far away you can see something, just add together all of the heights. For example, if a 6 foot man is on a 4 foot horse standing on a 30 foot hill, how close would you have to be to a 60 foot tall tower to see it? First add all the heights together 6 + 4 + 30 + 60 = 100 feet. Look at the table under “height in feet” and find 100 feet. Then look across under “miles away” to find 13 miles. So the tower could be spotted if it was no farther away than 13 miles.
You could see a 14,000 foot mountain a little more than 100 miles away.
This is good for seeing features on a map, such as lakes, forests, mountains, towns, etc. but knowing how far you can see is often not what your Player Characters need to know. Just because you can see 3 miles doesn’t mean that you can see a monster on the horizon. For that we need another table.
Perception Distance Table
|Creature – Fine||6” or less||30 ft. or less||5 ft. or less|
|Creature – Diminutive||6” – 1 ft.||30 ft. – 60 ft.||5 ft. – 10 ft.|
|Creature – Tiny||1 ft. – 2 ft.||60 ft. – 120 ft.||10 ft. – 25 ft.|
|Creature – Small||2 ft. – 4 ft.||120 ft. – 240 ft.||25 ft. – 50ft.|
|Creature – Medium||4 ft. – 8 ft.||240 ft. – 480 ft.||50 ft. – 100 ft.|
|Creature – Large||8 ft. – 16 ft.||480 ft. – 960 ft.||100 ft. – 200 ft.|
|Creature – Huge||16 ft. – 32 ft.||960 ft. – 1,920 ft.||200 ft. – 400 ft.|
|Creature – Gargantuan||32 ft. – 64 ft.||1,920 ft. – 3,840 ft.||400 ft. – 800 ft.|
|Creature – Colossal||64 ft. or more||3,840 ft. or more||800 ft. or more|
In this table “perceive” means that you can see it and may notice it with a perception check. If you do notice it you will recognize the creature type if you have seen one before. If you don’t know what type of creature it is you will be able to tell the creature’s coloration, size, shape, number of limbs, wings, etc. If the creature is moving, you will also be able to tell which direction it is traveling and about how fast.
“Identify” means that you can see details and may recognize an individual that you have met before.
Here is a simple rule of thumb that is accurate enough for gaming use:
Distance away (in feet) that you can perceive an item is its size (in feet) times 60.
Distance away (in feet) that you can identify an item is its size (in feet) times 12.
Round fractions down to the nearest 5 ft.
The item’s size is its longest dimension (height or width).
One more thing.
You can perceive a burning candle 1 1/2 mile away.
January 16, 2017Posted by on
Looking for Inspiration?
I ran across this Facebook site. Whenever you, as a DM, are trying to think of an original location for your next adventure, just browse through the photos on this “Abandoned World” site.
December 30, 2016Posted by on
Classes with Class
In 2004 and 2005 Skip Williams (co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition) put a series of articles on the Wizards website with tips on playing each of the various character types. Wizards of the Coast has moved them to their D&D Archives, but you can still find them there if you are diligent in your search.
These are an excellent reference. They were written for D&D 3.5 but even if you are running a fifth edition game you will find then a useful reference.
Here are direct links to them:
And here is a link to the 3.5 D&D Archives page:
December 23, 2016Posted by on
Just as characters take damage when they fall more than 10 feet, so to do they take damage when they are hit by falling objects. I was using these house rules for 3rd edition and they still work for 5th edition. I would typically allow a character to make a DC 15 DEX saving throw to jump out of the way and take no damage.
Objects that fall upon characters deal damage based on their weight and the distance they have fallen.
For objects weighing 200 pounds or more, the object deals 1d6 points of damage, provided it falls at least 10 feet. Distance also comes into play, adding an additional 1d6 points of damage for every 10-foot increment it falls beyond the first (to a maximum of 20d6 points of damage).
Objects smaller than 200 pounds also deal damage when dropped, but they must fall farther to deal the same damage. Use this table to see how far an object of a given weight must drop to deal 1d6 points of damage.
|Object Weight||Falling Distance||Maximum damage|
|200 lb. or more||10 ft.||20d6|
|100-199 lb.||20 ft.||10d6|
|50-99 lb.||30 ft.||5d6|
|30-49 lb.||40 ft.||4d6|
|10-29 lb.||50 ft.||3d6|
|5-9 lb.||60 ft.||2d6|
|1-4 lb.||70 ft.||1d6|
For each additional increment an object falls, it deals an additional 1d6 points of damage up to the maximum damage. Objects weighing less than 1 pound do not deal damage to those they land upon, no matter how far they have fallen.
December 13, 2016Posted by on
The Attack Action
With all of the different class features that allow multiple attacks, I am seeing a lot of confusion as to how many and what types of attacks a character can get on his turn.
“Attack” and “Attack Action” are two different things.
On your turn, you can move and take one action. A special ability, spell, or other feature of the game may allow you to also take a bonus action, and/or take a reaction. You may also interact with one object and do other simple activities. What is important here is that you can only take one action. One possible action you can take is called the Attack action. None of the other combat actions are an Attack action (Cast a Spell, Dash, Disengage, Dodge, Help, Use an object, Hide, Search, Readied action, Improvised action).
|Attack action: “With this action, you make one melee or ranged attack… Certain features, such as the Extra Attack feature of the fighter, allow you to make more than one attack with this action.” PHB, p192.|
This rule sounds fairly straight forward but combined with other rules, features, and options it can become a bit confusing. In certain situations, you make a melee or ranged attack when you Cast a Spell, take a Bonus action, or take a Reaction. In other situations when you take the Attack action you don’t make a melee or ranged attack. And, just because an action is called an “attack” doesn’t mean that you can perform that action when you use the “Attack action”.
This confusion could have been lessened a bit if the “Attack action” had a different name. Perhaps they could have called it the “Offensive action” or something. I am not going to do that here. However, it is important to know that when you read something in the Player’s Handbook, the Dungeon Master’s Guide or the Monster Manuel the wording is important. See if it says “Attack action” or just “attack”.
Partial list of things that you can do with an Attack action:
- Make a weapon attack with a melee weapon, ranged weapon, or improvised weapon. This includes drawing ammunition for use with a ranged weapon.
- Make an unarmed strike.
- Grapple a creature.
- Shove a creature.
- Two weapon fighting – When you use the Attack action to attack with a light melee weapon that you’re holding in one hand, the second attack, with a light weapon in your other hand, is a bonus action and not part of the Attack action.
- “Extra attack” – With many weapon-using classes you can gain the ability to attack multiple times, instead of just once. This feature can only be used when you take the Attack action.
- (Monks) “Flurry of Blows” can only be used (as a bonus action) after taking the Attack action.
- (Druid – while in beast form) Your weapon attacks, where the “weapon” might be a manufactured item or a natural weapon, can only be used when you take the Attack action.
- (Druid – while in beast form) If the creature has the Multiattack action, you may make the listed attacks rather than, or in place of, an Attack action.
Partial list of actions you CANNOT do as an Attack action:
- Cast a spell – even if that spell has you make a “range attack” or “melee attack” or “”spell attack”.
- Dash, disengage, dodge, help, use an object, hide, search, ready an action, or perform an improvised action.
- Make an opportunity attack. (This is done as a “reaction”)
The Attack action is not the only way you can attack. Some spell examples:
If you cast Eldritch Blast (with the Cast a Spell action), you make a ranged spell attack against a creature. This is an attack, but you’ve used the Cast a Spell action, not the Attack action to do so. As a result, abilities such as Extra Attack and Flurry of Blows won’t trigger.
If you cast Shocking Grasp (with the Cast a Spell action) you make a melee spell attack against a creature. Once again, you’ve used the Cast a Spell action, not the Attack action, so extra attack doesn’t apply.
Not all spells work that way, however. If you cast Shilleagh (as a Bonus action), you don’t immediately attack. Instead, it modifies how you attack (with the Attack action) for the duration of the spell, instead of using your Strength as the modifier for your attacks, you use your spellcasting ability score (normally Wisdom for druids).
Another wrinkle are the spells which have an ongoing effect. Vampiric Touch is one such spell – it allows you to make a melee spell attack when you cast it (with the Cast a Spell action), but the spell persists for up to a minute. Its text reads “Until the spell ends, you can make the attack again on each of your turns as an action”. Is this an Attack action? No, it isn’t. It’s a brand new type of action you get to use. Call it “Vampiric Touch action” if you like. These new actions allow you to attack, but they don’t use the Attack action. The trick to identifying them is that they read “as an action” or “use your action” to describe how they work. A few require the use of your bonus action instead.
All attacks are described in terms such as ranged spell attack or melee weapon attack. Each word means something.
“Ranged” attacks suffer disadvantage if you’re adjacent to an opponent, “melee” attacks do not. “Melee” attacks can be against any creature within your reach (generally 5 feet), while ranged attacks can be made against any creature within the stated range of the attack. In some cases, an attack form has two ranges; attacks at the longer range are made at a disadvantage.
If the wording says “melee weapon attack” you can do an unarmed strike. You add your strength modifier and your proficiency modifier (you are proficient with unarmed strikes) to your attack roll and it does damage equal to 1+ your strength modifier. But an unarmed strike is not a weapon. This means that any rule that applies to a “weapon attack” will apply to unarmed strikes but ones that apply specifically to a “weapon” do not.
“Spell” attacks use your spellcasting ability modifier, while “weapon” attacks use Strength (melee weapon) or Dexterity (ranged weapon). There are exceptions to this depending on the spell or type of weapon.
The word “attack” indicates that it is an attack roll, one of the three types of d20 roll in D&D. (The others are saving throw and ability check.) Attack rolls are different because a natural 1 is an automatic miss, while a natural 20 is an automatic hit and a critical hit. Both saving throws and ability checks don’t have special things happen on 1s or 20s.
One of the special cases is the fighter ability Action Surge. This allows you to take one additional action during your turn. If you use this to take the Attack action, you get as many attacks as you would if you took it for your first action. So, a 20th level fighter can get 8 attacks in a turn – four from the first Attack action and four from the second Attack action. You could then use your bonus action to attack with your off-hand weapon (Two-Weapon Fighting). Note that Action Surge does not give you an additional bonus action or move; only an additional action.
Another special case is the spell Haste. It allows an affected character to take an additional action each turn (not all actions are allowed). However, if you took the Attack action, you can only gain one additional attack with it – the Extra Attacks you might have don’t count.
Interestingly, this doesn’t stop you using Flurry of Blows or Two-Weapon Fighting, as both are part of bonus actions. You could use your first action to cast a spell, then your additional action from haste to make a single weapon attack with the Attack Action, then use your bonus action to make an off-hand attack with Two-Weapon Fighting since you’ve used the Attack Action during the turn.
Most of the rules and power descriptions use quite specific wording, but because the terms can be quite similar, it’s easy to get confused. “Attack action”, “As an action” and “Attack” mean three separate things, as do “When you make an attack” and “When you take the Attack action”. As long as you keep the differences in mind, you should be fine.
(Special thanks to Merric’s Musings for his April 21, 2015, post on this topic, which I have heavily plagiarized.)
November 3, 2016Posted by on
How to Pick a Lock
There is some confusion on what the rules are for picking a lock. It all depends on whether or not you have a set of thieves tols and if you know how to use them. There are six different possibilities.
- You have Thieves’ Tools and are proficient with them. You can attempt to pick the lock and get to add your proficiency bonus to the (Dex) check.
- You have Thieves’ Tools and have expertise with Thieves’ Tools. You can attempt to pick the lock and get to add twice your proficiency bonus the (Dex) check.
- You have Thieves’ Tools but you aren’t proficient with them. You can still attempt to pick the lock but you don’t get to add your proficiency bonus (since it’s a bonus you only get when you are proficient with something).
- You don’t have any Thieves’ Tools so you improvise some (with your DM’s approval) but you aren’t proficient with Thieves’ Tools. You can still attempt to pick the lock but with disadvantage.
- You have improvised tools and you have proficiency with Thieves’ Tools. You have disadvantage on picking the lock, but you do get to add your proficiency bonus.
- No Thieves’ Tools and no improvised tools. Take a strength check to throw the closest party member through the door or crowbar the lock. Basically, look for another way to get past it because you can’t pick it.
June 4, 2016Posted by on
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.
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).
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.