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Subject: rec.games.frp.dnd FAQ: 8/9 -- Gamespeak 1: Players

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Archive-name: games/roleplay/dnd/part8 Posting-frequency: monthly Last-modified: August 2003 URL: http://users.rcn.com/aardy/faq/rgfdfaq.html
REC.GAMES.FRP.DND FAQ Part 8 Gamespeak 1: For Player's Eyes =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= * designates topics which have been updated. + designated topics which have been added. For Player's Eyes J1: What books do I need in order to play? J2: Is the use of poison automatically an evil act? J3: What about slitting throats? Anything else? J4: Are all orcs inherently evil? What about orc babies? J5: What does "Lawful/Neutral/Chaotic Good/Neutral/Evil" really indicate? J6: Is alignment really necessary? J7: Can paladins have an alignment other than Lawful Good? J8: How do attacks of opportunity work? J9: Ouch! How can I avoid attacks of opportunity? J10: What exceptions are there to the rule that spellcasting provokes attacks of opportunity? J11: When can I take a five-foot step? J12: What is "stacking"? J13: But medieval combat wasn't anything like the way it is in *D&D! =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= For Player's Eyes J1: What books do I need in order to play? A: Technically, as a player, you need absolutely nothing. Nada. Zilch. A pencil, paper, and dice certainly are useful, but can easily be borrowed; rules can be explained by the DM or more experienced players. However, it is usually move convenient to have a personal copy of the rules for easy perusal in and outside of the gaming sessions. To this end, it is advisable to get the Players Handbook (preferably the same edition which the group is playing). There are many other books that might also be helpful; your DM can tell you which, if any, would be good for you to acquire. Beyond that, it is just personal preferences. Nothing else is truly needed, despite what the game's promotional material may say; however, many people like having a little more than just the PH by their side when they play. J2: Is the use of poison automatically an evil act? A: If depends on how the DM rules. Some DM's feel that use of poison is an inherently evil act, and its use by a character causes an alignment switch. Others feel that, while it is not a particularly good act, it is not particularly evil, either, and can be used with caution. Still others feel that poison is just a weapon, as is any other, and thus may be used by any and all characters with impunity. There are equally persuasive arguments for any of these positions, and it is really best left to individual DM's. Here to help with the decision are three of the various points of view. * Poison is a cowardly way out of a situation. It is best left to those who wish to skulk in the shadows and strike from afar. It is also good for those people who like to make sure their enemies suffer horrible agonies before dying. Since poison is essentially a tool for cowardly bullies and torturers, it is a proper tool of those of evil alignment. Everyone else should stay as far from it as possible. * The use of poison is not inherently evil, but, by the same token, is not inherently good either. Thus people who wish to stay pure should avoid its use, but any others don't have to worry much about how they accomplish an end. * Poison is a weapon, just like any other. Thus it can be used like any other weapon, whether to strike down otherwise-unreachable fiends, or to put an end to the overwhelming righteousness of a paladin, or to have a political superior suddenly leave his position vacant for the taking. Poison may be used in much the same way as a sword, but has less of a chance of maiming and is thus possibly more humane! In any case, poison is just the tool--it is the heart behind the action which determines one's good or evil nature. J3: What about slitting throats? Anything else? A: Once again, this is really a decision for individual DM's. However, there are hardly any situations where slitting a throat could be considered a good act. In most cases, it requires having an otherwise helpless victim, one which good characters should be trying to reform or turn over to the proper authorities for suitable punishment. Killing someone in cold blood, regardless of their past actions, is an action which any character should seriously think twice about. Killing in the heat of battle is one thing, but in cold blood (and especially if premeditated) is something else altogether. A character who consistently does this sort of thing should do some serious introspection on his outlook on life and consider an alignment change to something more suitable. Nevertheless, there are a few situations where slitting a throat might be a necessity. Mercy killing is one, as the onset of death is quick. Killing captured guards of an evil temple who would otherwise raise an alarm is another, but more questionable one. In either case, if the action does not haunt the character for a long while, then it is quite possible that the character is a closet sociopath, and therefore is not actually of his stated alignment. J4: Are all orcs inherently evil? What about orc babies? A: The "inherently evil" question is best left to individual DM's. Some campaigns work best with definitive divisions between black and white, much like many old westerns. The good guys are always heroically good, and the bad guys are always detestably and thoroughly evil and corrupt. In these games, all orcs are evil, regardless of age, period. However, some campaigns thrive on shades of grey, where the line between good and evil isn't always obvious. In these games, orcs might be misunderstood, might have some good tribes falsly accused of wrongdoing by nearby townspeople, or might have a wide range of alignments, but with a higher percentage of evil alignments just as a high percentage of elves are usually seen to be of good alignments but not all elves are good. The question of orc babies is a tough ethical question, and is a curve which many DM's like to throw at their players. After a party sacks an orcish camp and completely annihilates the entire adult male population, they are left with the women and children. If they kill them, they are denying that orcs have any chance at all at redemption, regardless of whether or not the orc in question is a newborn. If they do not kill the orcs, then the party is leaving behind a future horde of orcs who may want revenge for the slaughter of their fathers--and almost definitely will thirst for revenge if the DM has ruled that all orcs are naturally and automatically evil beings. This is a perennial problem which each character must sort out on their own. However, it is much easier for evil characters to make a decision than neutral, and somewhat easier for neutral than good; but knowing this does not make the decision simpler. One question which good characters should weigh in their minds: Is it better for me to not kill in cold blood, or better that the potential for future difficulties be taken care of while the solution is easily accomplished? In the current edition of D&D, morality is absolute rather than relative. Good and Evil are objectively measurable attributes within the game. Certain creatures (such as demons) are always evil, without exception. Orcish society is geared towards raising children who grow up to be evil themselves, so almost all orcs are evil--but there can be individual orcs who are exceptions to that rule, whether because they were raised that way, because they had a change of heart, or for some other reason known to the DM. J5: What does "Lawful/Neutral/Chaotic Good/Neutral/Evil" really indicate? A: Good/Neutral/Evil should be fairly obvious, but Lawful/Neutral/Chaotic is often trickier to pin down. The easiest way to remember it is that Law is more concerned with the letter of the law than with the people. Chaos can be anti-law, but it can also merely not require set rules of conduct. The PH contains a good description of each of the nine alignment's typical mindsets, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many variations on each alignment that it is very difficult for any two people to agree on even the vaguest definitions. However, if in need of a standard, use the PH stereotypes. J6: Is alignment really necessary? A: For many people, no. For just as many others, yes. Alignment itself is not meant as a straitjacket, but as a tool for playing the character. There are as many different ways of playing a LG character as there are LG characters, so the argument that the alignment system stifles creativity doesn't hold water. However, there are just as many characters who don't fit any alignment whatsoever, and should not have an arbitrary label forced on them. Whether or not to use alignments is a question for the entire group to decide, and not one that should be handed down from above. J7: Can paladins have an alignment other than Lawful Good? A: The by-the-book paladin cannot be anything other than Lawful Good; this paladin is derived from the romantic historical notion of a holy warrior fighting for law and order and all that is good, and who, as a reward for his unfailing service to the church and state, and as a result of his pure, saintly behavior, gains some "miraculous" abilities. Over the years, many people have expanded this concept to include other varieties of "holy warriors"--especially evil counterparts to paladins--and several varieties of anti-paladins and demi-human paladins have sprung up over the years. The most-often cited (and looked for) article on the subject appeared in Dragon #106; it was titled "A Plethora of Paladins" and was written by Christopher Wood. This article detailed paladins of every alignment except Lawful Good ("true" paladins) and Chaotic Evil (anti-paladins, covered in an article in Dragon #39 and Best of Dragon, vol. 2). For those looking for a copy of this article, but who haven't managed to turn up a copy of Dragon #106, you can find it on the author's web page at <http://www.geocities.com/Area51/Vault/1642/r-gbo.htm>, in a somewhat revised version. The current DMG includes a prestige class called the Blackguard that is similar in many ways to an "anti-paladin"; otherwise, standard paladins still must always be lawful good, even if this puts the character in conflict with the default alignment for his race. J8: How do attacks of opportunity work? A: Attacks of opportunity simulate what happens when a character momentarily takes his mind off of actively defending himself from an opponent in order to cast a spell, pull something out of his backpack, turn his back and flee at top speed, etc. Specifically, anyone standing near enough has a chance of whacking him while his concentration is elsewhere. One very important note for attacks of opportunity is that they are one of the few ways by which you can cause an enemy spellcaster's spells to fizzle. All characters can potentially attack anyone within a certain range, depending on the weapon weilded. For example, most standard D&D weapons (including fists) allow standard characters to "threaten" an area of 5 feet in every direction, and most pole-arms (as weapons with "reach") allow standard characters to threaten an area between 5 and 10 feet. If an opponent in that area drops his guard by doing something that merits an attack of opportunity, you can attempt to capitalize on the situation and make an extra attack that round. The PH lists many actions which, if done by a character while in a threatened area, allow any opponents who threaten that area to attempt an attack of opportunity, in addition to their normal number of attacks per round. Basic movement and casting spells are the most commonly seen of these actions. Note that movement only incurs attacks of opportunity as you leave a threatened area (especially important for pole-arms) or if you move around inside of a threatened area. (If using a gridded map, this occurs any time a character leaves a square that is considered "threatened.") Exceptions to this are discussed in the next question. Standard characters can only attempt a single attack of opportunity per round, no matter how many opponents within range drop their guard; the Combat Reflexes feat adds to this a number of attacks per round equal to your Dexterity Bonus, with the exception that you can never attempt more than one attack of opportunity per round against an opponent unless that opponent does multiple things that provoke attacks of opportunity. Also, you are not required to attempt an attack of opportunity if an opening presents itself; since most characters only get one attack of opportunity per round, you may want to save it in case a more important target gives you the opportunity later in the round. J9: Ouch! How can I avoid attacks of opportunity? A: There are three primary methods of avoiding attacks of opportunity. 1) If your total distance moved in the round is five feet, then that movement does not cause you to incur attacks of opportunity. Think of this as making a small adjustment with your feet while keeping your guard up. If that five-foot step takes you into an area that is not threatened by any opponents, then you can also attempt any other actions--as long as they do not involve any movement on your part-- without any chance of incurring attacks of opportunity. 2) If you take the full-round "withdraw" action (which allows you to move up to double your speed that round), then the first five feet of movement do not count when checking whether or not opponents can make attacks of opportunity. Note that, since you do not have to always move your maximum distance when you move, a withdrawal can cover any distance from five feet up to your maximum movement distance times two. Note also that direction of movement does not matter; you can move out of reach of one opponent and towards another. Think of this as a fighting withdrawal; your concentration is still on your opponent(s) while you spend the entire round cautiously moving out of reach. 3) Certain feats protect you from attacks of opportunity in certain circumstances. (The Spring Attack and Quicken Spell feats are two examples of this.) Likewise, if you have a certain amount of cover (such as when trying to fight around a conveniently placed tree), you are protected from attacks of opportunity from anyone on the other side of the cover. J10: What exceptions are there to the rule that spellcasting provokes attacks of opportunity? There are two primary exceptions before considering modifications such as feats or special situations. 1) Spells that are a free action to cast (such as /feather fall/) do not provoke attacks of opportunity. 2) Spells that take a full round or longer to cast (such as /Binding/) only provoke attacks of opportunity during the caster's first turn of casting. The latter is somewhat contentions, though it is an official ruling from the Sage. The rationale behind the ruling is as follows. Long castings are considered to be one continuous action. Because of their interrupting nature, attacks of opportunity are checked for immediately when a provoking action begins. Also, one action is considered a single opportunity, even if it bridges several rounds, so a particular opponent can only make a maximum of one attack of opportunity per spell, and opponents who happen to move to threaten later on have missed the opportunity. An alternative explanation is that the "cast a spell" action provokes attacks of opportunity, but the "continue casting a spell" action does not, though that is not backed up by anything from the rule books. Since any damage taken during a spell's casting time has the potential to disrupt the spell, the game balance purpose for spellcasting provoking attacks of opportunity (namely, allowing characters to disrupt opponents' spells) is fulfilled in this case via normal attacks. There are two variant rules that have cropped up to change this situation, based on the argument that casting spells is an inherently distracting action for the entire duration of the casting time, and that each round, spellcasters can choose to either continue casting or stop casting and lose the spell, therefore each round of casting can be treated as a separate attack of opportunity-provoking action for the purpose of combat resolution even though the spellcasting technically constitutes one continuous action. 1) Although each opponent can only make one attack of opportunity per spell cast, any opponents who did not threaten the caster on the first round but do on the second or later rounds of casting a spell with a long casting time may also make one attack of opportunity against the caster on the caster's turn. Also, any character who decided not to make an attack of opportunity against the caster on the first round he was eligible to may decide to make one during a later round. 2) Any opponents who threaten or who move to threaten a character casting a spell with a long casting time may make an attack of opportunity each and every round during the casting time. These variant rules emphasize the concept that spells with long casting times should generally not be used in the middle of combat, and do so by drastically shortening the average life expectancy of spellcasters who try it. J11: When can I take a five-foot step? A: You can take a five-foot step anytime during your turn, as long as you have not physically moved, and will not physically move at all during your turn. You will not incur any attacks of opportunity for this movement, and if that step takes you outside of a threatened area, any subsequent actions on your part that round will not incur attacks of opportunty. Note that, even though some actions count as movement for the purposes of what you can normally do in a round, they do not count as movement when determining whether or not you can take a five-foot step unless they actually involve traveling a distance of five feet or more. Some DMs may make an exception to this if you gain an extra action in addition to your normal actions and movement that around--in which case, they might rule that you could take a five-foot step as part of your normal action sequence and then move as your extra action. However, this is an exception; under the standard rules, you are limited to a total movement of five feet in one round if you want to attacks of opportunity caused by movement. J12: What is "stacking"? A: Stacking is how the current rules determine what bonuses can be used together. Every bonus has a type, such as "armor", "dodge", "enhancement", and so forth. (The various types of bonuses are described in the DMG on p. 21.) With some exceptions, if multiple bonuses have different types, you can add them together ("stacking"); if multiple bonuses have the same type, only the highest one counts. The exceptions to stacking are dodge, synergy, and circumstance bonuses (which stack with any other dodge and synergy bonuses, and any other circumstance bonus not caused by the exact same circumstance), and penalties (which stack with any other penalties, except those from the exact same source). Some examples: 1) A fighter with a 13 Dexterity, +3 chainmail, a +1 light steel shield, /bracers of armor +2/, a /ring of protection +1/, who has just drunk a /potion of haste/, and a potion of /cat's grace/, has an AC of 25. Dexterity: +1 (ability) chainmail: +5 (armor), +3 (enhancement--armor) light steel shield: +1 (shield), +1 (enhancement--shield) /bracers of armor/: +2 (armor) /ring of protection/: +1 (deflection) /haste/: +1 (dodge) /cat's grace/: +4 (enhancement--ability) The /cat's grace/ adds +4 to his Dexterity, making it 17, and thus changes the bonus to AC from Dexterity from +1 to +3. The shield and chainmail's enhancement bonuses increase their respective standard bonuses, which then stack with each other. The bracers of armor do not stack with the chainmail, so the chainmail's higher bonus is used and the bracers' bonus is ignored. Everything else stacks, resulting in a +15 bonus to AC and a total AC of 25. Note that the /bracers of armor/ aren't completely useless to this character because they provide a "force" effect. If he finds himself up against an incorporeal creature (such as a spectre), the incorporeal creature's attacks bypass all armor that is not made of force or that does not have the "ghost touch" ability. Against such a creature, the fighter's AC bonus would lose 8 for the chainmail and 2 for the shield, but would gain two for the bracers, resulting in an AC of 17. 2) A wizard with a Dexterity of 13, Intelligence of 18, a /headband of intellect +6/, and a scarlet & blue /ioun stone/, who has drunk a /potion of fox's cunning/ and a /potion of cat's grace/ has a total Dexterity of 17 and Intelligence of 24. /headband of intellect/: +6 (enhancement--ability) /ioun stone/: +2 (enhancement--ability) /fox's cunning/: +4 (enhancement--ability) /cat's grace/: +4 (enhancement--ability) The headband, /ioun stone/, and /fox's cunning/ all provide enhancement bonuses to the wizard's Intelligence, so they do not stack; only the highest, the headband, is counted. Even though /cat's grace/ provides an enhancement bonus, since it does not enhance the same ability as the other enhancement bonuses, it takes full effect. Note that the /ioun stone/ and /fox's cunning/ aren't completely useless; if the /headband of intellect/ is destroyed while the others are in effect, the +4 from /fox's cunning/ immediately applies, and the wizard's Intelligence only drops from 24 to 22. Then, when the duration runs out on the spell, the +2 from the /ioun stone/ immediately applies, and the wizard's Intelligence drops from 22 to 20. (The wizard's memorized spells may be significantly affected, however, as the /headband of intellect/ and /ioun stone/ can increase the number of spells that can be memorized whereas /fox's cunning/ cannot.) J13: But medieval combat wasn't anything like the way it is in *D&D! A: You're right! Congratulations, kid; you win the kewpie doll. The combat system in *D&D is a gross simplification of real combat, designed to streamline the process of determining the outcome of such a situation. Many arguments about the reality of such-and-such a weapon's speed, damage, use, size, etc. are often seen on rec.games.frp.dnd, usually based on personal observations and/or on SCA tournaments. One thing to keep in mind is that this is just a game; it is not real life. It is not meant to be extremely realistic. There are other, more detailed combat systems out there in other games, several of which take hours to determine one simple combat. The best thing to do, in any case, is find a system which the group prefers to use and stick with that. If the group doesn't feel like taking the time to learn a new system, then the current one still works just fine for thousands of players, especially with a few house rules to customize it to the specific campaign. ***End Part 8*** -- Aardy R. DeVarque Feudalism: Serf & Turf Rec.games.frp.dnd FAQ: http://users.rcn.com/aardy/faq/rgfdfaq.html