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

( Part1 - Part2 - Part3 - Part4 - Part5 - Part6 - Part7 - Part8 - Part9 )
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Archive-name: games/roleplay/dnd/part9
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Last-modified: July 2004
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                            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 campaign world should I use?  
  K3: How do you deal with critical hits?
      A)  Determination of criticals
      B)  Resolution of criticals
  K4: How much do coins weigh?
  K5: What can I do to make the hit point system more true to life?
  K6: How do you apply multiple multipliers?
  K7: Is caster level a prerequisite for creating magic items?
  K8: 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 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, *D&D has had a plethora of "official"
    choices of worlds published over the years for you to campaign in.
    Here is a brief description of each.

    Greyhawk:
      Greyhawk is the first widely-known campaign world; in fact, 
    the characters behind the names in most of the "named" spells and
    magic items in the PH & DMG 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, D&D generally uses
    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 current
    PH & DMG are set in Greyhawk, and all mentions of gods and locales
    in the PH & DMG use Greyhawk deities and Greyhawk locations.

    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.

    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 *D&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, 
    altered to fit the 2nd ed. rules.  Like the Forgotten 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?  That's exactly what Council of
    Wyrms was designed to do.  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 is essentially 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:  How do you deal with critical hits?

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.

K4:  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; PH3R, p. 112).  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 was 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.  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.

K5:  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) 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, use 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.
    
K6: How do you apply multiple multipliers?

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.

K7: Is caster level a prerequisite for creating magic items?

A:  Not directly, no.  Items' "Caster Level" entry is an end result of
    the item creation process and represents the creator's caster level
    or the level at which the creator set the item to function.  Thus,
    the Caster Level listed for magic items is an inherent property
    rather than a prerequisite.  Some magic items also have caster level
    prerequisites; this information is then included in the prerequisites
    section of the description.  (For example, see /Bracers of Armor/
    and /Ioun Stones/.)
      The Caster Level listed in the DMG represents the default level
    for random magic items found over the course of an adventure. This is
    used for level-dependent effects (such as duration), for dispelling
    magic items' effects, and for determining saving throws bonuses magic
    items get to avoid being damaged themselves.  (It could, if the DM
    chose, also be used for determination of saving throw DCs for item's
    effects, but the normal rule for that is to use the minimum needed
    for the spell.)
      For example, the Caster Level for a /Pearl of Power/ is 17th, which
    is the default caster level for random /Pearls of Power/ found in
    dungeons.  If someone found a Pearl of Power and then was the target
    of a /Mordenkainen's Disjunction/ spell, the Pearl of Power would
    have to make a Will save; its saving throw bonus would be (2 + half
    the caster level, rounded down) = +10.  (In this case, the caster
    level is set at 17th in part because that is the level needed to
    cast 9th level spells and thus be able to create all types of /Pearls
    of Power/.)  Also, if you look through the list of magic rings, the
    minimum level at which one can get the Forge Ring feat is 12th; thus
    all rings have 12th as a minimum level prerequisite, but many or most
    of the rings have caster levels far below that, generally more in
    line with the level needed to cast the prerequisite spells.
      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; while one of the item's
    prerequisites is the ability to cast spells of the desired level,
    the minimum level at which a wizard can gain the Craft Wondrous
    Items feat is 3rd.
      However, for potions, scrolls, and wands, that's just the price for
    entry; the person creating the item can 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 that 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 caster
    level 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 performs; the one who
    supplies the feat must meet the feat's minimum, each one who provides
    a spell must meet that spell's minimum, and so forth, but the one
    chosen as "creator" must still meet any creator-specific prerequisites
    and must have a caster level equal to or higher than that needed to
    cast the highest-level spell in the prerequisites (even if she does
    not know that spell herself).  If working on a potion, scroll, or
    wand, 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 chosen primary creator.

      This is currently explicitly stated in the rules. In earlier
    versions of the 3rd edition rules, this was not as clear, so what
    follows is an explanation of why the actual intended game play has
    not changed between then and now; rather, the wording in the DMG
    has been made clearer.
      In the section of the DMG on Creating Magic Items, the rules
    state, "A creator can create an item at a lower caster level than her
    own, but never lower than the minimum level needed to cast the needed
    spell."  No mention is made that this statement is limited to potions,
    scrolls, and wands, therefore it is not so limited.  This means the
    actual caster level of a type of magic item may vary from actual item
    to item as the creator (or DM, when arming NPCs or stocking a dungeon)
    wills it.
      That section also states, "Note that all items have prerequisites in
    their descriptions. These prerequisites must be met for the item to be
    created."  Therefore, the minimum creator caster level needed to
    create an item on one's own is the minimum needed to fulfill the
    "prerequisites" section of the item's description.  Also, because the
    "Caster Level" section of the description is as typographically
    separate from the "Prerequisites" section as the "Market Price"
    section is, when the DMG says "prerequisites" it means only the
    prerequisites list; not the market price, and not the caster level.
    (This is similar to the concept of a "bonus" meaning only a positive
    modifier, so that someone with a -2 penalty when swimming who has
    something that doubles a swimming bonus must use zero rather than -4.)
      The first statement in the second paragraph on Magic Item
    Descriptions says, "For potions, scrolls, and wands, the creator can
    set the caster level of the item at any number high enough to cast
    the stored spell and not higher than her own caster level."  That
    exactly matches the statement in Creating Magic Items, but note the
    difference between "cast the stored spell" here and "cast the needed
    spell" there.
      In the 3rd edition rules, the second major statement in that
    paragraph originally read, "For other magic items, the caster level
    [of the item] is determined by the item itself.  In this case, the
    creator's caster level must be as high as the item's caster level..."
    This statement caused no end of argument.  It was poorly worded (in a
    paragraph about determining item caster level, it suddenly flipped
    over to discussing determining the creator's caster level), but
    apparently because what it said was technically true, WotC did not
    consider it as a candidate for errata (which, by definition, only
    includes mistakes--witness the difference between the errata and
    the clarifications files for the v.3.0 Player's Handbook). According
    to the section on Creating Magic Items, the minimum item caster level
    is the minimum needed to cast the highest-level spell listed in the
    prerequisites.  Therefore, what the problematic statement meant is
    that, even when a creator is working with other spell casters, and
    even though no spells are actually stored in the item and the items
    effects may be different from the listed spells' descriptions (which
    is different from potions, scrolls, and wands, and is apparently why
    the writers felt two statements about caster level were necessary)
    the creator's caster level must still be at least high enough to meet
    the minimum item caster level (that is, the minimum needed to cast the
    highest-level spell listed in the prerequisites) or the selected item
    caster level if it is being set higher than the minimum needed to cast
    the highest-level spell, though other prerequisites may require the
    creator to have a higher caster level than the final item caster
    level.  The final item caster level does not have to be the same as
    the item caster level listed in the item's description.
      Not far below that, in the section on Prerequisites, the rules
    provide two methods for getting around the prerequisites.  The first
    is to use a spell trigger or spell completion item (such as a wand or
    scroll) or have access to spell-like abilities that mimic the desired
    spell. In this case, the item creation feat becomes the minimum
    requirement for the caster's creator level, but the final caster
    level of the item itself (for the purposes of dispelling magic items'
    effects and damaging magic items) can still be set anywhere between
    the maximum of caster's actual level and the minimum needed to cast
    the highest-level spell in the prerequisites list.
      The second method is to have multiple spellcasters cooperate in
    magic item creation. In this case, one can provide the item creation
    feat, another can provide the spells, and others can fill any
    necessary skill, race, alignment, or feat requiremenets.  Then, "they
    must agree among themselves who will be considered the creator for the
    purpose of determinations where the creator's level must be known."
    Determinations where the creator's caster level must be known include
    meeting caster levels listed in the prerequisites section, as well as
    the maximum (and indirectly, the minimum) item caster level that can
    be assigned to the item. (Note that choice of creator is also affected
    by prerequisites such as "creator must be an elf," since there can only
    be one "creator" per magic item, even when characters are cooperating.)
    Via this method, the item creation feat and some of the prerequisites
    may be provided by someone other than the assigned creator, but the
    caster level of the character chosen to be the creator "must be as high
    as the item's caster level" (that is, the caster level selected for the
    item, which cannot be set below the minimum needed to cast the
    highest-listed spell).  Thus, the rule, as it was originally written,
    was in harmony with the rules for creating magic items, and the listed
    Caster Level entries are not themselves prerequisites.
      In the section on Prerequisites, the rules also state, "These
    include feats, spells, and miscellaneous requirements such as level,
    alignment, and race or kind."  Every magic item has at least one feat
    prerequisite (an item creation feat), and every or almost every magic
    item has at least one spell prerequisite.  Of the listed miscellaneous
    requirements, very few magic items have a prerequisite of alignment,
    race, or kind. If the listed caster level were indeed a prerequisite,
    it should have been listed with feats & spells as common prerequisites;
    however, if you look at how few magic items specify a level
    requirement, if the listed caster level is not a prerequisite, then
    this list makes perfect sense as is--meaning caster level is a rare,
    miscellaneous prerequisite.
      If the listed caster level were a prerequisite, then the Creating
    Magic Items sentence and several magic item descriptions would be
    wrong and in need of errata. Chief among these is the entry for Ioun
    stones, which has a listed Caster Level of 12, and a listed
    prerequisite of "Creator must be 12th level".  If the Caster Level
    entry were to be considered a prerequisite minimum creator caster
    level, then the listed prerequisite entry for that item would be an
    erroneous duplication and errata would have been issued for it long
    ago.
      If the listed caster level were an unchanging prerequisite, then
    many of the listed caster levels would make absolutely no sense in
    light of other listed prerequisites that require higher caster levels,
    unless almost every item is always created cooperatively, with the
    necessary feat being provided by someone other than the creator.
    Chief of these is the item creation feat for rings, which requires a
    caster level of 12 to take, even though most rings have listed caster
    levels less than 12.
      If the listed caster level were a prerequisite, then it would be
    nearly impossible to create brand-new magic items that aren't written
    up anywhere.  Such an item does not have a writeup, therefore it does
    not have an official caster level.  Since there are no separate
    instructions anywhere in the rules for the DM to determine the
    prerequisite number, even instructions to simply make one up, then the
    only existing rule that could cover this is the above-quoted rule
    from the "Creating Magic Items" section that the creator can choose to
    set it anywhere from the minimum needed for the highest-level spell
    and the maximum of his own caster level.  Since this must be the case
    for brand-new items, it must also be the case for existing items.
    (Otherwise, the caster level rule could be trivially circumvented by
    creating a new item that is essentially identical to an existing item,
    but adds a trivial additional spell and effect to the item. For
    example, add Arcane Mark to the list of prerequisites for a 1st level
    /Pearl of Power/, with the differences that the item is permanently
    inscribed with the creator's "maker's mark" and has a item caster
    level of 1 instead of 17.)

K8: 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://users.rcn.com/aardy/faq/rgfdfaq.html

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Last Update March 27 2014 @ 02:11 PM