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Archive-name: games/roleplay/dnd/part8
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Last-modified: August 2003

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                            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 
  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 
      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 <>, 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

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

    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/
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, 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
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