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Subject: rec.games.frp.dnd FAQ: 9/9 -- Gamespeak 2: For DM's Eyes

This article was archived around: Wed, 01 Jan 2003 11:58:21 -0600

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Archive-name: games/dnd/part9 Posting-frequency: monthly Last-modified: June 2002 URL: http://www.enteract.com/~aardy/faq/rgfdfaq.html
REC.GAMES.FRP.DND FAQ Part 9 Gamespeak 2: For DM's Eyes =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= * designates topics which have been updated. + designated topics which have been added. For DM's Eyes K1: What books do I need in order to be a DM? K2: Which TSR campaign world should I use? K3: 2ND: Stoneskin seems too unbalancing. What can I do? K4: 2ND: What can I do about Bladesinging elves? K5: 2ND: What can I do to prevent psionics from really unbalancing a game? K6: How do you deal with critical hits? A) Determination of criticals B) Resolution of criticals K7: 2ND: What can I do to make crossbows as useful as normal bows? K8: How much do coins weigh? K9: What can I do to make the hit point system more true to life? K10: 2ND: The energy drain power of greater undead sucks. What can I do? K11: 3RD: How do you apply multiple multipliers? K12: 3RD: Is caster level a prerequisite for creating magic items? K13: Where else can I look for info about being a Dungeon Master? =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= For DM's Eyes K1: What books do I need in order to be a DM? A: Unlike players, for whom it can be possible to play with just pencil, paper, and dice (if that), a DM generally (with some exceptions) needs a bit more in the way of rulebooks. The minimum needed by most people to DM a satisfying *D&D game is: the DMG, the PH, and the Monstrous Manual. These three references are the core of the game; everything else just adds window dressing. K2: Which TSR campaign world should I use? A: Well, if you don't have the time, or don't wish to take the time and energy to create your own world, TSR has come out with a plethora of choices of worlds for you to campaign in. Here is a brief description of each. Forgotten Realms: The Core Realms (Faerun): The main section of the Realms is intended to be a generic *D&D world. It has many similarities to medieval Earth. It also has enormous cities, many countries with foreign flavors, hordes of NPC's, and more room to maneuver than you'll ever need. There are also wild magic and dead magic zones, where magic can surge in power (and unpredictability) or not work at all. There are also a lot of supplements out for the core Realms, and a lot more on the way. The "Baldur's Gate" and "Icewind Dale" computer games are also both set in the Faerun of the Realms; the former in the Sword Coast area, the latter in the far north. Al-Qadim: This setting is located far to the south of the core Realms, but can easily be placed on any campaign world. It encompasses the genre of the Arabian Nights, with djinn, magic lamps, Sinbad-like sailors, emirs, and the ever-present Hand of Fate. It is intended that players in Al-Qadim use Al-Qadim characters, but it is possible to take "normal" characters into the Al-Qadim setting. Kara-Tur: This setting is located far to the southeast of the core Realms, but like Al-Qadim, may be transported anywhere. It is an "oriental" setting, with much of the flavor of ancient China, Japan, and Mongolia. There are martial arts, intrigue, highly civilized areas, family honor, and wild horse-folk. It is intended for use with oriental characters, but "normal" characters can easily be worked in. Maztica: This setting is located far to the west of the core realms and, unlike the previous settings, can only be reached via a long sea voyage. It is meant to represent the Americas during the time of the Spanish conquistadors. While it is possible to play a "conqueror" from the core realms, it is intended that native characters be created. This setting has its own unique magic variant, which not only changes the way priests and wizards operate, but many warriors as well. Greyhawk: Greyhawk is the first widely-known campaign world. Flip through the PH or DMG--most of the "name" spells and magic items originated in Greyhawk. The world is essentially a general fantasy-genre world, similar in that way to the Forgotten Realms, but with its own very distinct flavor. Since most of the modules published before the arrival of Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance are actually set in Greyhawk, there is a wealth of information out there for gaming purposes. Also, TSR has begun using Greyhawk as a "default" world of sorts, so that modules that otherwise would not be set in any specific game world use Greyhawk's towns, deities, and NPCs. Additionally, all of the examples in the new PH and DMG are set in Greyhawk, and all mentions of gods and locales use Greyhawk deities and Greyhawk locations. Dragonlance: The world of Krynn is fairly well-known, through the series of novels and modules which started it. Gold has little or no value there, as the world is on a steel standard. Clerics are relatively unheard of as well, because the main focus for the world is the ongoing battle between the deities Takhisis and Paladine; other "normal" deities have been pretty much forgotten. In addition, as the name might suggest, dragons are more active here than elsewhere, as they are strongly polarized on the Takhisis-Paladine battle. There are also several time periods to adventure in; the time of the War of the Lance is only one. Dragonlance: Fifth Age takes place long after the War of the Lance, and uses a completely different game system instead of AD&D. Spelljammer: In a nutshell, Spelljammer is *D&D in outer space, but in more of the swashbuckler pirate genre than a hard science fiction one. Many of the typical *D&D races of characters and villains are present, but many behave very differently from any you may have met before. In addition, Spelljammer may include adventuring on many of the other published game worlds, as spelljammers visit almost all of them from time to time. Ravenloft: Ravenloft is a world of gothic horror. It is located in the Demiplane of Dread, and fairly reeks of evil. Many who go there are corrupted and never return. Some new mechanics are fear and horror checks. A failed fear check involves running in abject terror. A failed horror check, well, lets just not talk about that right now. The mists of Ravenloft often gather up unwary travelers and take them to the demiplane, from whence half the fun is trying to find an exit which supposedly doesn't even exist. Masque of the Red Death: This setting is based on Ravenloft, but with a twist; it is set in the equivalent of the Victorian-era--but in a world where magic has existed since the very dawn of time. There is a much higher technology level than most *D&D worlds, and like Ravenloft, terror is everywhere, now aided by the after-effects of the Industrial Revolution. Every time a character casts a spell, that character is drawn a step closer to the "Red Death," a powerful force of evil in this world. However, "Masque..." is technically a separate game from *D&D which happens to use the Ravenloft rules. Therefore it is not intended to be a place that "normal" *D&D characters visit. Not that that will stop many DM's from having them do so anyway... Dark Sun: Athas is a metal-poor desert world, which by itself makes life quite a challenge. Add to that the fact that almost everyone on the planet has some degree of psionic ability, and you get a pretty lethal world. Also, clerics are different from usual, in that they are either templars who are granted spells by their sorcerer-kings or clerics who gain spells by worshipping the elements around them. Mages, too, are changed; all magic is powered directly by the life force of the world around them, which tends to be a detriment to the continued existence of any plants and animals in the area. Planescape: This is basically the 2nd ed. revamp of the Manual of the Planes, but it is much more than that, as well. This setting is designed for entire campaigns run on the planes themselves, with all the interesting beings that may involve. Characters may belong to any of a number of factions, which interact in a similar way to secret societies in Paranoia. Adventures are typically set in Sigil, an enormous city in the neutral center of the planes, and involve visits to one or more of the other planes. It also comes with its own lingo, so if you hear the occasional "cutter" (someone in the know) or "berk" (someone not in the know) comments on the newsgroup, you'll know where they're from. Mystara: Mystara is the world which used to be the setting of Basic D&D, now altered to fit the AD&D rules. Like the Realms and Greyhawk, it is a general high fantasy world with an individual flair. It is unique from the other worlds in that several of its supplements also came with audio CD's for sound effects and storytelling. The Red Steel and Savage Coast lines are also part of the world of Mystara Council of Wyrms: Ever wanted to have a dragon PC? Well, now's your chance. This campaign setting is located on a remote group of islands where dragons and half-dragons reign supreme, and the other races are minor players. Birthright: In this setting, the players are characters of noble birth. They must deal with intrigue, spying, wars, the occasional adventure, and succession to the throne. Special powerful magic spells whose power is drawn from the land one controls, as well as the possibility of magical traits caused by royal bloodlines, are also thrown into the mix. It seems to be a mix of "normal" *D&D, tabletop miniature wargaming, and Diplomacy. Diablo II: This setting is based on the computer game of the same name. It is essentially a typical high fantasy world, with plenty of evil- doers to challenge the heroes, lost treasure-hoards to uncover, and the like. To this end, it has a greater-than-normal emphasis on combat and the accumulation of wealth and magic, though it also retains plenty of opportunities for character interaction. K3: Stoneskin seems too unbalancing. What can I do? (2ND) A: If the DM thoroughly reads the spell description, and uses a bit of imagination, the spell is actually quite balanced, as there are many ways to damage and/or quickly remove layers of protection from a character with stoneskin. Some examples: Damage: any magical (i.e. spell) attack, such as *Fireball*, *Lightning Bolt*, or *Magic Missile*, drowning, noxious gas, being buried alive, psionics, and *Pick of Earth Parting*. Many of these also remove layers of protection; especially notable on this regard are *Magic Missile* and *Melf's Minute Meteors*, which have the possibility of removing multiple layers of protection per spell casting. No damage, but still affect the character with stoneskin: lasso, net, mancatcher, and bolas. Once the character is tied up, netted, or otherwise occupied, he is nowhere near as much of a problem. Quickly remove layers: unarmed combat, burning, darts & other missile weapons with high ROF's, contact poison, acid, overbearing, multiple attackers, multiple attacks (especially creatures with more than four attacks per round), falling down a steep incline, missed attacks. Missed attacks do indeed remove layers of protection, as per the spell description's use of the words "regardless of attack rolls" instead of "successful attacks." Many people also include handfuls of thrown pebbles, with each pebble removing one layer, but this is better left up to individual DM's, as it has good potential for getting obnoxious. However, if the spell still seems to unbalance your campaign, there are many things you can do to tone it down a bit, any one of which should be sufficient for your purposes. 1) Be doubly sure to follow the spell description where it states that repeated castings of this spell on the same individual are not cumulative. 2) Be sure to follow the official errata for the spell, which is also the way the spell is described in the High-Level Campaigns book, which changed the duration to 24 hours or until the requisite number of attacks is reached, whichever comes first. 3) Make it Range: caster 4) Designate it as a specialist Transmuters-only spell. 5) Use the 1st ed. version of the spell (from UA); it is dispelled after one attack or attack sequence. 6) Have the caster's skin change to the color of stone so that it is painfully obvious that he is wearing a stoneskin. 7) Ban it altogether. 8) Enforce the material components option for this spell; diamond dust is going to be very hard to come by at best, and may often be completely unavailable. Even if it is available, it will be extremely expensive, anywhere around 200 gp-1000 gp per casting is possible. Also, the mage in question becomes a good target for pickpockets if it gets around that the mage in question carries a bag of diamonds, albeit in dust form. 9) Have every NPC mage wearing it as well. K4: What can I do about Bladesinging elves? (2ND) A: Simple. Bladesinger is a kit. Kits are optional. Put your foot down and decide that bladesingers are an optional rule you do not wish to follow. In fact, the entire Complete Book of Elves is optional, so you may allow or disallow any portion of it. Of course, you could just grin and bear it, or you could pull a DM fiat and have some jealous dwarven god instantly strike dead every bladesinging elf that appears and hope that the players catch your subtle hints. If you actually go ahead and allow the Bladesinger, but later regret it, here are some tips to remember: 1) Enemies can use ranged weapons, including spells, before the Bladesinger can close. 2) Undead and other creatures with special touch attacks or area effects (such as a dragon's *fear* aura) make good opponents, as the Bladesinger must get within weapon range to combat them. 3) Many creatures have corrosive effects on weaponry, such as oozes, puddings, slimes, and rust monsters; after all, what is a bladesinger without a blade? However, be careful in using these tips, as repeated use of these techniques may lead to anger on the part of players who feel the DM is making life harder for their characters than for the rest of the party. K5: What can I do to prevent psionics from really unbalancing a game? (2ND) A: Be doubly sure to have easy access to the Complete Psionics Handbook. Read it through completely, and have any players who wish to play psionicist characters do the same. You may also want to look for The Will & the Way, a Dark Sun supplement that expanded greatly upon the basics of the Psionics Handbook. Many people agree that, when followed correctly, these psionics rules are neither impractical nor imbalancing. (And, with a little work, they can work for 1st edition games as well.) Here are a few things you should do to keep a campaign with psionicists a happy one: 1) Many psionic powers seem incredibly powerful, e.g. Disintegrate. However, the automatic failure on a natural '20' offsets this nicely. No matter how earth-shattering the power of the psionicist becomes, there's still a chance of the power backfiring and affecting the psionicist himself instead. A Sage Advice column explained that the '20' rule is always in effect, even if the character has a power score above '20'; if a natural '20' is rolled, some sort of backfire occurs. 2) If the constant 5% chance for backfire, regardless of level, seems to be a bit strict, remember that it does work to balance the innate power of some of the psionic abilities in much the same way that aging effects and exotic spell components balance out the innate power of wizards. 3) Remember that many of the "most powerful" psionics effects grant saving throws to the victims. This definitely helps prevent psionics from becoming too out-of-control in a campaign. If you still think psionicists can still get too powerful, there are a couple of things you can try to attempt to prevent this. 1) If you feel that a flat 5% chance for backfire, regardless of level, is too rough, especially for higher-level psionicists using powers they have had for a long time, feel free to improvise and down- (or even up-!) play the results of a backfire, depending on what works in the situation at hand. 2) Give saving throws whenever you feel it necessary, even for powers that don't normally allow saves. 3) Using the d10+weapon speed individual initiative system (or even just the plain d10 for each side system) allows for a good chance that a psionicist's concentration is lost due to sudden blood loss thus disrupting whatever power he was trying to use. 4) Scrap the system of granting a spectacular result on a Power Score roll. This tends to make players unhappy unless you also scrap the backfire on a '20' roll, but can work. Of course, scrapping both systems can work just as well in some campaigns. K6: How do you deal with criticals? A: There are almost as many different ways of determining and resolving criticals as there are players. Here is a selection of various methods, in no particular order, gleaned from various postings on rec.games.frp.dnd. The standard 3rd edition rules for determination and resolution of criticals are included for comparison. A) Determination of criticals 1) Backing a Critical: If a natural '20' is rolled, roll again. If the second number would have hit, then the '20' is considered a critical hit. If the second roll was too low, then the first was only a normal hit. Also, if a natural '1' is rolled, roll again. If the second roll is high enough to hit the creature, then the roll is considered a normal miss. If the second was too low to hit the creature, then the '1' is considered a critical miss. VARIANTS: 3rd edition standard rule: A natural '20' always hits, but is not always a critical hit. All weapons (including the natural weapons of monsters, and spells which require a normal to-hit roll) have a "threat range", usually of "20", "19-20" or "18-20". If a number in that range comes up on the die, and the result is a hit, then roll again. If the second roll is also high enough to be a hit, then the first roll is considered a critical hit; otherwise the first roll is condidered a normal hit. Optionally, if you rule that critical hits result in double damage, if the second roll is also a '20' then roll a third time. If the third roll was sufficient to hit the creature, then the original '20' is a critical and the damage is tripled. Continue the pattern as long as you wish. Also optionally, for certain powerful creatures, lower the reroll number so that, for example, rolling a natural '19' or better requires a second roll. If the second roll is good enough to hit, treat as above. If you also use option 1B and the second roll is, for example, a '19' or better, then the critical does triple damage, and so on. 2) Always Hits: If a natural '20' is rolled, then that attack automatically succeeds, and damage is rolled normally. If a natural '1' is rolled, that attack automatically misses. No special critical damage is awarded in either case. VARIANT: A natural '20' always hits, with normal damage, and a natural '1' always misses. However, in either case, roll again. If the second roll is identical to the first, then it is a critical. If not, then ignore the second roll. 3) Extra Attack: If a natural '20' is rolled, the character gets an immediate extra attack with that weapon, no matter what kind of weapon, save those such as heavy crossbows that take more than one round to use. 4) Straight 20: If a natural '20' is rolled, and a '20' was not the minimum number needed to hit, then it is a critical. If a natural '1' is rolled, it is a critical. 5) Over the Top: If a 20 is rolled, roll again and add the two results together. If the combined total is greater than the minimum needed to hit by 10 or more, then it's a critical. If a 1 is rolled, roll again and subtract. If the combined total is 10 or more less than what is needed to hit, then it's a critical. VARIANTS: If a natural '20' is rolled, roll again and add the result to '19;' the same end result as above is needed to hit. I.e., if a character needs a '22' to hit, the character must roll a natural '20,' followed by a minimum roll of '3.' A total of 10 higher than the minimum needed to hit still results in a critical hit. If a natural '20' is rolled, roll again and add the new result to '19.' If the second roll is also a '20,' roll again. If the third roll is a natural '20,' then it is considered a critical hit. Combat & Tactics optional rule: If a natural '18' or higher is rolled and the to-hit number, after any bonuses, is 5 or more than the minimum needed to hit, then it is a critical hit. B) Resolution of criticals In all cases that result in a critical hit or miss, they can be resolved by any of the following: 1) Chartbuster: Use your favorite chart; Best of Dragon V and Combat & Tactics are good places to look. 2) Double Damage I: Double the damage on critical hits and damage yourself on critical misses. VARIANT: Combat & Tactics optional rule: Double the rolled damage, and do any other multipliers necessary (such as for charging or backstabbing), then add any damage bonuses. 3) Double Damage II: When a natural '20' is rolled, roll damage twice; i.e., if damage die is 1d8, roll 2d8. VARIANT: 3rd edition standard rule: When a critical hit is rolled, each weapon has a "multiplier" that tells the number of times to roll damage. For example, "x2" means roll damage twice, "x3" means roll damage three times (i.e., if damage die is 1d8, roll 3d8). 4) Double Damage III: A roll of natural '20' always hits, and damage is rolled normally. However, if a character rolls the maximum damage (i.e. '6' on a d6), no matter if it was a to-hit roll of natural '20' or not, roll damage again, but subtract 2 from the second roll; negative numbers are equal to '0.' If the maximum is rolled again, roll again and subtract 2 from the third roll. Keep going until the highest number on the damage die doesn't come up. 5) Full Damage: Do full weapon damage on critical hits and full damage to yourself on critical misses 6) Random Multiplier: On a roll of natural 20, the player rolls damage, adding any bonuses he might have. He then rolls a d6, multiplying the damage done by the result. 7) Dexterity Check: If a natural one is rolled on an attack roll, roll a DEX check at half DEX (or a number the DM assigns in the case of a monster). If the check is made the attack simply misses. If it fails a fumble occurs, and any remaining attacks for that round are lost. In addition, every opponent who is in melee with the character who fumbled and/or any opponent who is aiming a missile or hurled weapon at this person gets an immediate free attack at +4 to hit, due to the poor character leaving himself wide open. 8) Lose an Attack: On a roll of a 1, the attacker fumbles and misses out on 1 attack. This means that a fighter with multiple attacks or someone with more than one weapon loses the next attack that round, and someone with only one attack per round may not attack during the next round. 9) D10 Method: Roll 1d10. If the result is 1-8, then the weapon does its maximum damage. If the result is 9-10, the weapon does double damage. 10) On a roll of natural '1,' you lose your weapon. 11) If a natural '20' is rolled, the attacker rolls again. If the second roll is higher than the attacker's level/HD, then it is a normal hit. If the second roll is lower than the attacker's level/HD, then the defender rolls. If this roll is lower than the defender's level/HD, then the hit does maximum damage. If this roll is higher than the defender's level/HD, then roll on your favorite critical hit chart for the results. 12) Free attack: If a natural '20' is rolled, damage is resolved normally. However, the character immediately gets a free attack, unless a natural '20' was required to hit in the first place. If a natural '20' is rolled on the free attack, then the character gets another free attack, and so on. 13) When resolving crits where another dice roll indicates whether extra damage is done, STR bonuses, magical weapon bonuses, etc. are added after the "extra" damage has been added to the rolled damage. 14) On a roll of natural '1,' the attacker must make a DEX check at -1 to -4, depending on the situation, or drop the weapon and lose initiative for the next round. If the DEX check is made, the character simply loses initiative for the next round. 15) Any combination of any part of 1-14. K7: What can I do to make crossbows as useful as normal bows? (2ND) A: If you wish to change the damage value of crossbows, here is a suggestion, averaged and smoothed out from many responses to the issue, and relatively balanced with respect to other weapons: S/M L Hand 1d4 1d4-1 Light 1d6+1 1d8+1 Medium 1d8+1 1d10+1 Heavy 1d10+1 2d6+1 The Combat & Tactics book of optional rules deals with this situation in a similar manner; the hand crossbow is 1d3/1d2, the light crossbow is the same as is listed here, there is no medium crossbow listed, and the heavy crossbow is the same as is listed under medium here. It also adds the pellet crossbow, which fires a pellet which does 1d4/1d4. If you wish to change the entire way crossbows are handled, here are a few suggestions to mix and match: 1) Make longbows 2 proficiencies to learn and 1 to specialize. 2) Change the nonproficient penalty by +1 for crossbows and -1 for long bows. Thus the to hit penalties for bows become: Warrior Wizard Priest/Rogue Longbow -3 -6 -4 Short bow -2 -5 -3 Crossbow -1 -4 -2 3) Make all crossbows +1 to hit, due to ease of use. 4) When resolving a hit with a crossbow, treat all armors with an AC of 4 or less as if they were AC 5 (add any magic bonuses after doing this). This can also be used for longbows. 5) When resolving a hit with a crossbow, treat all armors as if they were three slots worse, to a maximum of AC 10. This can also be used with longbows. 6) Give all crossbows and long bows relative strength values; use the Strength to hit and damage bonuses when using the bow. For longbows, the strength value is also the minimum strength needed to draw the string. For all bows, use the respective damage dice listed in the PH. 7) Use the optional rule for weapon type vs. armor type from the PH and treat all crossbow quarrels & longbow arrows as "piercing" weapons; remember that the number is a bonus to hit only, not a bonus to damage as well. 8) When using the damage dice listed in the PH, treat crossbows as arquebuses for the method of determining damage; i.e. if the maximum damage is rolled, roll again and add the results. Keep doing this until a lower number is rolled. This method may be used for any missile weapon that does not involve direct muscular effort, i.e. crossbows, ballistae, and atlatls could work this way, but short and long bows, and hurled weapons would not. 9) Use the optional armor penetration rule for light and heavy crossbows from the Combat & Tactics book, which worsens the AC of an armored opponent by 2 at medium range and by 5 at short range. K8: How much do coins weigh? A: In first edition AD&D, ten coins weighed one pound, regardless of what metal the coins are made of. In second and third edition AD&D, fifty coins weigh one pound, regardless of what metal the coins are made of (DMG2, p. 134; DMG2R, p. 181; PH3, p. 96). This should result in coins of different sizes, with copper pieces being much larger than gold pieces due to the weight difference between the two metals; while there is no mention of any such distinction in the second edition rules, the third edition rules directly state that all standard coins are the same size. Historically speaking, coins of different denominations were of varying weights and sizes--making an accurate scale a merchant's best friend--and you may wish to introduce this detail into your campaigns, as well as naming the different denominations something other than "gold pieces" and "copper pieces", in order to add more local flavor. K9: What can I do to make the hit point system more true to life? A: The *D&D system intentionally simplifies combat as much as possible. See the previous Section for details and suggestions for combat in general. If you are concerned about a higher level character's good chances of surviving an attack by a mob while wearing nothing but a loin cloth and while tied to a stake, or surviving at ground zero of a thermonuclear explosion, read on. The hit point system works as is, if you keep a couple of things in mind when dealing with characters with hit points to spare. 1) Overbearing: As outlined in the PH & DMG, overbearing is an excellent way for a group of low or 0-level characters to incapacitate a tougher opponent (such as a high level PC who can take a blow or four from any normal weapon and ignore it). Once incapacitated (pinned to the ground by sheer weight of bodies), the victim can be knocked out, tied up, gravely injured, or even killed with much less difficulty than normal, as there is a +4 to hit bonus for prone characters. Even a high level fighter will think twice about trying to take on a group of people single- handed after suffering such an ignominious defeat; his high number of hit points will do him no good. 2) Entanglement: Some weapons are excellent for entangling a character's limbs, thus preventing normal actions, or even resulting in a fall. Chains, ropes/lassos, and nets are good examples of this. The Combat & Tactics book outlines the "Pull/Trip" maneuver, which is one method of achieving this; it also describes the game effects of several "non-standard" weapons (like chains & lassos). Since these attacks do not have much direct effect on hit points, a high number of hit points will not be nearly as important as in one-on-one combat. Also, if a victim is completely entangled and tied down, the DM may rule that that counts as "held", and thus all attacks automatically succeed. 3) 2ND: Sap: A sap is both a maneuver and a specific weapon; both are described in the Combat & Tactics book. When using the weapon, or anything similar (like the flat side of a sword), one makes a called shot to the head, with -4 penalty for a called shot (an additional -4 if the victim is wearing a helm). If the attack is successful, there is a 5% chance per point of damage done (40% maximum) that the victim is knocked out for 3d10 rounds. Due to the to hit penalties, this is best attempted in conjunction with one of the above situations, as then there are bonuses to counter the called shot penalty, as well as the opportunity for more than one character to attempt a sap per turn, increasing the possibility that a knockout is achieved. Once knocked out, the victim is considered "sleeping", and all further attacks automatically succeed. 3RD: Strike to Subdue: A strike to subdue is the same concept as the above "sap" maneuver, but with different resolution. Instead, such attacks do "subdual" damage; if the amount of subdual damage a character has taken is ever more than his remaining hit points (not total hit points), the character is knocked out. Subdual damage goes away at the rate of 1 point per hour per character level. 4) Missile attacks: An attack by a single bowman may not faze a character with a lot of hit points much, but a group of longbowmen or crossbowmen at medium range, or in sniper positions, will cause any intelligent character to fear for his life. If enough arrows are fired into a given area in a single round, chances are that some of them will hit. If this continues for multiple rounds (which is a good bet if there is any sort of range between the bowmen & the character, or in the case of snipers), any character, no matter how many hit points they started out with, will not feel so hot. Crossbows have the additional bonus of being able to punch through armor, according to the optional Combat & Tactics rules. This is one of the quicker ways to reduce hit points. 4) Be sure to watch out for situations that may result in automatic or near-automatic hits. The above are some examples of this; there very well may be others. 5) Memorize the combat bonuses table, and apply them judiciously. Many otherwise "intolerable" situations would be helped if the PC had a greater chance of being hit. 6) Intelligent opponents: Be sure to play opponents intelligently, unless the situation dictates otherwise. Villagers should know that going toe-to-toe with a grizzled war veteran is not a smart move, and thus will take actions accordingly if they wish to attack him. Mob actions, sniper fire, and deadfalls are all examples of tactics 0-level characters can use. Creatures or characters fighting on their home turf should know exactly where to stage pitched battles and when to flee to a more favorable combat arena. Higher ground and staircases are prime examples of this. 7) Fudge: Either keep track of all hit points yourself, or retroactively add on to or subtract from opponents' hit point totals, and thus make battles last as long or as short as seems appropriate. If you are keeping track of all hit points, then players don't get cocky from knowing that they have enough hit points to grin and bear an attack. 8) Remember that any character who receives 50 or more points of damage from a single attack and survives must immediately make a fortitude saving throw (2ND: save vs. death) or die from the sudden, intense shock. However, if you decide that the system simply does not work for you as is, there are a number of options you might try. 1) Assign a certain percentage of the character's hit points to the torso, head, and each limb. Then use hit location rules. This works best with no increase or slow increase in character hit points. It also increases the effectiveness of called shots. 2) Whatever a character rolls for hit points for 1st level are that character's "body points"; all others gained through normal advancement are "fatigue points". Certain types of attacks & certain spells automatically affect only the body points; otherwise, the fatigue points are affected first. When all fatigue points have been lost, the character loses consciousness; when all body points are lost, the character dies. 3) As for #2, but rather than having certain attacks target the body points, one body point is lost for every (Level) points of damage taken. The rest is subtracted from the fatigue points. 4) Don't give increases in hit points for level advancement. 5) Reduce the hit point increase for level advancement, giving characters an extra hit die at every other level or every third level. 6) Hit points are rolled as normal. All hit points up to the character's CON are "body points" and the rest are "skill points." Damage will be taken from the skill points first, unless the to-hit roll was 5 or more than needed or a saving throw is missed by 5 or more, in which case the damage is split evenly between the skill points and the body points. Skill points are recovered at (character's level/day); body points are recovered at (CON bonus+1/day, maximum of 3) starting the day after all skill points have been recovered. 7) Change the hit dice used for each class; for example, reducing all classes by one die, with mages getting 1d3. 8) Give damage bonuses or even multipliers for some situations, such as those listed in the PH & DMG as giving to hit bonuses. Possibly even give damage bonuses or multipliers to some weapons, such as bows or crossbows used at point-blank range. 9) Reduce the availability and/or effectiveness of healing magics, so that when a character gets hurt, he won't be immediately up to full strength for the next encounter, and may start thinking twice about head-on combat. Lasting injuries (scars, wounds that refuse to heal, and the like) are also good ways of keeping characters humble. 10) Critical hits: If you are concerned about characters with a lot of hit points shrugging off combat as too easy, start using a critical hit system. Most include ways for even 0-level characters to do significant amounts of damage with one good hit. Those systems that have location-specific results will increase the effectiveness of called shots, and increase the chance of a character losing the use of his sword arm, for example. Smart characters will think twice before charging into combat. 11) Make characters who lose more than half of their hit points in a single round roll for system shock, losing consciousness if they fail. 12) Any combination of the above. A warning for options 1 through 5: if you take one of these options, you will most likely have to rewrite the damage dice for weapons table as well as the damage done by certain spells, such as fireball, which could then kill every character every time, regardless of whether or not a save was made. K10: The energy drain power of greater undead sucks. What can I do? (2ND) A: You bet it does. That's part of the problem, you see. In any case, the chief out-of-game reason that is ascribed to this ability is so that there are some creatures out there that characters will fear, and rightly so, each and every time such creatures are encountered. Also, just as hit points are a measure of health, levels are a measure of the soul's vitality or some such ephemeral quality. As in normal combat, 0-level characters won't last nearly as long on the average as high-level characters will. The chief in-game explanation is that the touch of an evil creature with such close ties to the Negative Material Plane has a profound effect on a character; in much the same way that a character in a campy horror film gets permanently white hair and stutters and shakes uncontrollably after a ghostly encounter, a *D&D fighter has his confidence shaken by feeling the touch of death and the loss of soul energy that goes with it and so can't fight quite as well, a wizard can't quite keep his thoughts straight enough to cast higher level spells, a priest has lost some confidence in his deity so that some spells just won't work, a thief's hands shake when performing certain activities, and anyone so affected is generally unable to perform at their past level of achievement, even to the point of 'unlearning' many things, due to the severing of pathways in the mind by the momentary connection to the Negative Material Plane. Also, all affected characters lose some of the vitality & energy they once enjoyed, so they don't quite move as fast or as well, are somewhat more susceptible to disease, and can't take nearly as much damage before blacking out. With time and experience, confidence and composure can be regained; however, it is not uncommon for such experiences to deeply scar a character, possibly even to the point of giving up their previous life and becoming a hermit or the town lunatic or mystic. An alternate (or parallel) in-game explanation is that level- draining undead have strong ties to the Negative Material Plane, and are essentially negatively-charged objects, and void of life. Living beings' souls are charged with the positive power of life; gaining experience increases the positive charge. When something with a positive charge comes in contact with the undead being by being struck by the undead creature, part of the positive flows into the void of the negative, leaving the positively-charged being with a lower charge than before (fewer levels), and partially filling the void in the undead (so it can "feed" on the energy gained). Any knowledge that was gained with the energy that is drained is also lost. Further experience or magic can be employed to recharge the character and relearn abilities; otherwise, the energy level will remain at the current level. Lower-level characters have lower starting levels of positive energy, and so can be drained faster than characters with higher levels of energy. However, many players believe that these lines of reasoning do not make sufficient sense; these people wish to find some other way of expressing the effect that strong undead should have on characters. If you are one of these people, here are some quick suggestions (note that in all cases with alternatives to level drain, *Restoration* automatically reverses all effects): 1) Drain stats rather than levels. CON is usually the best choice, but STR & DEX are close seconds. Different types of undead may drain different stats. 2) Drain hit points, which then don't heal as normal. Either make the hp drain is permanent, or increase the time for natural healing by a factor of 10. 3) Give the character a curse, which changes from undead to undead. Vampires might bestow a lesser form of vampirism, wights a taste for human flesh, spectres a case of magical gangrene that becomes insubstantial as it rots, and so on. 4) Age the character, the number of years depending on the type of undead encountered. 5) Have energy drain affect hit points and saving throws as per normal, but not THAC0, proficiencies, and spells. If hit points are regained over time rather than with magic, subtract one from each roll for more hit points until the previous level of experience has been regained. 6) Keep track of hit point gains for each level, and subtract the number that was initially gained (including CON bonuses) for the particular level that was lost. 7) Have the character make a system shock roll or a save vs. paralyzation. If the roll is failed, the character loses a level. 8) Make the drain only temporary. Lost levels are regained at a certain rate, such as (xp lost divided by 6) per month, or one level per one month of compete bed rest. 9) Have all skills return automatically, without need for training again, and give bonuses to any rolls to relearn spells. 10) Alter the non-corporeal undead, such as wraiths and spectres, so that instead of draining levels, they can ignore armor; all opponents are treated as AC 10 plus any DEX adjustments. Magical armor adds only its plus to this number. Thus, a character with a 15 DEX wearing *plate +1* would be treated as having an AC of 8 when facing a spectre. 11) Instead of being drained of existing experience levels, the victim receives a cumulative -10% xp penalty each time he is struck by level-draining creatures. (Stronger or weaker undead may cause this penalty to be larger or smaller.) If a the penalty reaches 100%, the character dies. The penalty is reduced by 10% for each level the drained character gains thereafter, as the character naturally overcomes the effects of the soul drain. The *Restoration* spell instantly reduces this penalty to 0%. K11: How do you apply multiple multipliers? (3RD) A: Since multipliers aren't actually "multipliers," but rather represent extra dice, they do not work the same as they would with normal mathematics. "x2" does not mean "multiply the damage by 2", but rather means "roll damage an extra time"; "x3" does not mean "multiply the damage by 3", but rather means "roll damage two extra times". To figure out the proper multiplier to use when several of them affect a single damage roll, subtract one from each multiplier, add all of the results together, and add one to the total. For example, if you are using a lance from the back of a charging horse (x2) with Spirited Charge (x2), and achieve a critical hit (x3), the result is (2-1) + (2-1) + (3-1) + 1 = x5. Another way to do the math is to take the first (or highest) multiplier as is, subtract one from all of the others, and add the results together. In the above example, this would be 2 + (2-1) + (3-1) = x5. K12: Is caster level a prerequisite for creating magic items? (3RD) A: Not directly, no. The "Caster Level" listed for magic items is the default level used for level-dependent effects (such as duration) and dispelling of magic items for random magic items found over the course of an adventure. (It could, if the DM chose, also be used for determination of saving throw DCs, but the normal rule for that is to use the minimum needed for the spell.) The Caster Level for a /Pearl of Power/ is 17th, which is the default caster level (for dispelling, and similar purposes) for random /Pearls of Power/ found in dungeons. (In this case, it is 17th in part because that is the level needed to cast 9th level spells and thus be able to create any /Pearl of Power/.) Some magic items also have caster level prerequisites; this information is then also listed in the "Prerequisites" section of the description. For a single character doing all the work of creation, the minimum caster level necessary to create a magic item is the level required for the necessary item creation feat, or the minimum needed to cast the highest level spell listed as a prerequisite, whichever is higher. Thus, a wizard creating a /Pearl of Power/ for 1st level spells must be at least 3rd level to do so, as the item requirement is the ability to cast 1st level spells, and the minimum level at which a wizard can gain the feat is 3rd. However, that's just the price for entry; the person creating the item can then set the level the item acts at as high or low as is desired and possible. A wizard creating a /Wand of Magic Missiles/ must be at least 5th level to do so, as the minimum level to cast the spell is 1st level and the minimum level at which the wizard can take the feat is 5th. If the wizard in question is 9th level, he can set the "caster level" of the wand at anything between 1st and 9th, with all level-dependent effects being set accordingly. If he picked 9th, to get 5 magic missiles per charge, the "Caster Level" listing of the magic item description would be 9th, even though the minimum necessary to create the item was only 5th. If he picked 1st, in order to save on costs, the "Caster Level" listing of the magic item description would be 1st, even though the minimum necessary to create the item was actually 5th. If multiple characters are working together to create an item, then the minimums vary by which task each character does; the one who supplies the feat must meet the feat's minimum, each one who provides a spell must meet the spell's minimum, and so forth. The end result can then have any "Caster Level" within the limits of the spells involved and the level of the character who is the primary creator. K13: Where else can I look for info about being a Dungeon Master? A: There is a very interesting FAQ about DMing, complete with tips, tricks, and things to do & not do, with something for any level of experience as a DM. Written by lucifer (No, not that one, lucifer@infernal.demon.ac.uk), it can be found at <http://www.egms.org/faqs/dming/dmfaq.htm>. ***End Part 9*** ***End FAQ*** -- Aardy R. DeVarque Feudalism: Serf & Turf Rec.games.frp.dnd FAQ: http://www.enteract.com/~aardy/faq/rgfdfaq.html