DM Tips

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How Did I Get That?

Sort of in the category of House ruling, but not exactly, is finding ways to answer vague or adjudication issues that aren't covered or aren't very well covered in the books. So, as I find ways that I think solves a problem well enough, I will write it down here. One reason being, my short term memory sucks and another reason being, maybe my method will work for someone else who is looking for a solution to the same issue.

Magic Stuff

How To Decide If a PC believes or Disbelieves an Illusion

I have the Player roll a check against their PC's Wisdom score with a penalty for each level of the Illusionist casting the spell. So, if someone has a WIS score of 15 and the illusion is being cast by a 3rd level Illusionist (lets say it's a "Phantasmal Force spell) the PC must roll a 1 to 12 (15-3=12) to disbelieve and get a saving throw.

I check against WIS because in my view, that's where one's gullibility is based. Certainly INT has an effect on it, but even highly intelligent and educated people can be conned or fooled by a talented con artist.

A possibility to get INT involved in the equation would be to allow a bonus for disbelief for every point above 15 INT the PC has.

So in the above example, the PC has a 15 WIS and it's a 3rd lvl caster would need to roll 1-12 against WIS, BUT, if the PC has say a 17 INT, they would get +2 bonus on the roll (15-3=12+2=14) and the PC now gets a better chance to disbelieve based on INT impacting the roll.

Giving Cleric Spells 1

Clerics are freecasters for the most part. In my game, I allow them to have been trained in the use of all 1st level spells. When they train to use 2nd level spells, again, they are pretty much given the whole 2nd level spellbook to choose from as they will. After that though, they must ask intermediaries and the deity itself to grant them spells. The Deity needn't give them what they ask for. In fact, for me, depending on how "trusted" the Cleric is has a lot to do with being granted new spells. For the highly trusted Cleric who follows their path and is roleplayed very well, the deity is likely to give them the spell they ask for.the less trusted or reliable the Cleric is, the more likely the deity is to give them a spell the deity wants them to have.

Clerics usually request new spells above 2nd level as they are training to level up. However, I allow them to ask for a new spell spontaneously in a heated moment such as in battle. The Cleric is in no position to write the spell down for future use, it is pretty much just channeled through them. Use of an on-the-spot spell casting counts against their total spell usage for the day. I allow Clerics, like MU's to memorize the certain # of spells they plan to have readily available for the day but they can also use spells from their spellbook at a penalty of one round casting time due to having to read from a spellbook. Thus, they are vulnerable and unable to react in case of attack while looking up the spell on the spot.

Cleric Spells 2"

While the above method works fine, I have moved on from that to something just a little different in my own games. I think it works better in the spirit of roleplaying. The beginning stays the same/ While training as Acolytes, they are taught a ritual that allows them to know all of the things they are capable of for the level of service (cleric xp level) they are going to move up to. The ritual itself is comprised of tests of their knowledge, their character and their FDP. (Faith, Devotion and Piety). Having passed those tests and proven their FDP, they are given to know all the "spells" they can choose from while at that level. For the first two levels, it is a matter of meditation to cast their spells. From 3rd to 5th level are performed as Prayers to their divine intercessionary. That being something like an arch-angel, a patron saint, perhaps even a demi-God. Anything 6th level or higher comes directly from prayer to the deity themselve(s). Spell execution is essentialy BtB. The ritual I describe to level up and gain knowledge of the spells for the level to-be-gained is not BtB but really makes things work nicely because it adds "flavor" to the process and fills in some informaation gaps.

While BtB uses the Vancian concept of spell memorization and loss, it really is too cumbersome and unwieldy. This is especially so in the case of Clerics and Druids who do not execute "magic" the same way that Magic Users and Illusionists do. I have kept it close to the book in that CLerics and Druids can only cast the number of spells each as the tables allow for because while the power source of the magic comes from elsewhere and is not powered by the caster, there is much duress and stress on the caster in the casting procedure. Now I have done it so that the memorization can still be used in a Free-casting vs Prepared (memorize) casting situation.

Free-casting is essentially what is described above. It's all in the here-and-now. Because it is "live" it takes longer to cast because the caster is having to go through the appropriate prayer/meditation(spell) then see the results of the spell. The caster is also able to prepare before going out by doing the meditaions and prayers up front (memorex) and then putting them on "pause" by not saying the very last word of the prayer until the moment it is needed then the spell casting is almost immediate. Either delivery method uses up a spell from their daily allotment but gives the caster more options.

The how and when to use what I refer to as "Live vs Memorex" boils down to something like this. If the caster is going knowingly later into a situation that they know their time to cast spells is limited or not there, such as on a battlefield, then "Memorex" is a smart way to go. Before entering into a dungeon the next day or something planned like that, the Cleric kind of knows ahead of time what they might be expected to do or need while in the midst of exploring and so can have some spells queued-up for fast action when they will be contstrained from going through the steps of the casting.

Outside of those situations, they can simply Free-cast as it comes up. Free-casting takes longer but it offers a lot more selection and specificity.

Determining Damage

Sometimes, you're just not sure how much damage something causes. For example, how much damage does falling into a pit filled with spikes cause?

Pit Spike Damage

So, a character fell into a pit filled with spikes and you're not sure how much damage to deal out. Normally, just falling into a 10' open pit causes 1d6 damage, surely falling into a pit of spikes does more than that, right? I say yes indeed.

first, I decide by rolling 1d10 how many spikes are in the pit. then, I roll that 1d10 again to determine how many spikes the character actually landed on. It might sound silly, but armor type, position of body at landing, etc.. will logically change the number of spikes one actually is damaged by and the extent of that damage.

I give 1d4 damage per spike contacted.

What about poisoned spikes though? (see Poisons ) First I decide what type of poison it is. Figure out the type of poison. Most of the tables in the books, especially in the random traps, etc.. tables, just say "poison", but not what type.

I allow for lethal poisons, paralyzing poisons, debilitating poisons(loss of a sense like blindness, touch sensation, hearing, etc...), and disease carrying poisons. (I just roll 1d4 to figure it out if I don't have a specific thought on it already).

Right off the bat, the character makes a saving throw vs poison if they did indeed make contact with a poisoned spike. If they make the save, they got lucky. if they fail the save, we have to find out when it hits them.

I roll to see when the poison takes effect in terms of rounds (some poisons are slow acting, others are fast acting, depends on how much of the poison was taken in and other considerations).

Determining how well two characters get along

Sometimes there are encounters PC's will have with NPCs or with intelligent monsters where there may not have to be a fight. In order to determine the chance of that, I use the table from the DMG on page 63.

"Any intelligent creature which can be conversed with will react in some way to the character that is speaking. Reaction is determined by rolling percentile dice, adjusting the score for charisma and applicable loyalty adjustment as if the creature were a henchman of the character speaking, and the modified score of the percentile dice is compared to the table below:"

Adjusted Die Score Reaction
01 (or less)-05 Violently hostile, Immediate attack*
06-25 Hostile, Immediate action* (demand they leave immediately or they will be attacked, etc..)
26-45 Uncertain but 55% prone toward negative (Not inclined to negotiate or participate if that character is involved)
46-55 Neutral-uninterested--uncertain (chance for other to make a show of good faith and re-roll)
56-75 Uncertain but 55% prone toward positive (inclined to give communication/collaboration a shot, but it won't take much to kill things)
76-95 Friendly Immediate action, "let's have a beer and talk about this)
96-00 (or greater) Enthusiastically friendly, immediate acceptance (Let's do this)

"*" Or morale check if appropriate

Initiative ala Matthew

I couldn't help but to blatantly "borrow" this from a thread that Matthew contributed to in the DragonsFoot forums. This is one of the most sensible presentations of handling Initiative I have seen.

Let us take an example of three fighters versus three orcs.

   Declare actions (if necessary)
   Roll initiative
   Resolve actions (in order of winners to losers)

Say the fighters roll "3" and the orcs roll "4", then all actions of the orcs are resolved before those of the fighters. However, if one fighter has a modifier of "+2" (for example from dexterity and is using a missile weapon), then he will have his action resolve before everybody else. Similarly, if one of the fighters is level 7 and it is an odd round, he will attack once before and once after everybody else. In other words, group initiative is used except when it is not applicable to a situation.

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