Sunday, April 12, 2015

From D&D 3.5 to 5.0 - 19 - Inspiration

Inspiration is a game mechanic DM's can choose to use to reward players for good role-playing. 

When the DM believes the player has played well and worthy or a reward the DM will grant a character "Inspiration".  A character can only have one "Inspiration".  The character can use this to give their character an advantage roll on an attack, saving throw, or skill check.  Of course the character should declare they are using their inspiration before making the d20 roll.

PH page 125.

I think I may introduce this mechanic in my 3.5 campaigns.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Stop - Don’t Pick the Greater Weapon Focus Feat!

D&D 3.5 rules.

So you're upgrading your fighter and it is time to pick a bonus feat.  Nothing looks too exciting and you already have Weapon Focus and Weapon Specialization with your favorite weapon.  Might as well take Greater Weapon Focus to get another +1 on your attack rolls, right?  Wrong!  There is a much better feat in the Players Handbook II waiting for you and it is called Melee Weapon Mastery.  It will give you an additional +2 not only to your attacks, but also to your damage rolls.  I can't think of any reason to choose Greater Weapon Focus over Melee Weapon Mastery because when you qualify for one, you are likely to qualify for the other.

But Melee Weapon Mastery does even more.  The benefit doesn't apply to just your favorite weapon, but to any weapon you use that does the same type of damage, slashing, piercing, or bludgeoning.  But the benefits do not stop there!  Once you have the Melee Weapon Mastery feat, your next feat can be something like Slashing Furry which allows you to take two attacks on a standard action instead of one, although they are at -5 and -10 to hit.

Melee Weapon Mastery is just one of several good feats in the PHII.

Monday, April 6, 2015

All about Flanking, Sneak Attacks, and Attacks of Opportunity - 3.5 Rules

3.5 Rules

Wizards produced a series of excellent articles providing detailed rule interpretation for Sneak Attacks and Attacks of Opportunity; but I feel they didn't quite cover some areas in clear enough detail, and I hope to clarify the rules here.

When I began writing this article I believed there were some cases under which a rogue with a crossbow could earn the +2 flanking bonus and also apply his sneak attack damage earned by flanking; but by the time I finished my research my position has changed.  Even though I don't like my conclusion.  But I am pretty sure now that a rogue with a crossbow will never be able to apply sneak attack damage that can be earned just by flanking an opponent.

The article that follows was mostly written while I believed there would be a case for the rogue to be able to flank with a crossbow, so if it reads a little awkwardly, that partially explains why.

Flanking simply means that two characters are on opposite sides of enemy and within melee striking distance of that enemy.  But that definition of flanking is not sufficient for the characters to obtain the bonuses that may be supplied by flanking.  For the bonuses (+2 To Hit, and applying sneak attack damage), the enemy must be flanked AND threatened.

For purposes of a +2 flanking bonus, threatening requires being in position to make a melee attack with a weapon that causes lethal damage, and the opponent being aware of this.
For purposes of attacks of opportunity, threatening means being in position to make a melee attack with a weapon that causes lethal damage.  The opponent's awareness is irrelevant.

The +2 Flanking Bonus:
Typically when two fighters are on opposite sides of an opponent they each get a +2 flanking bonus to their attack roles; but we occasionally read about scenarios where the flanking bonus does not apply.  What exactly is going on?

I think the rule makers believe it should work as follows:
  • When a creature has to pay attention to a potential attacker, allies of the potential attacker on the opposite side of that attacker get a +2 on their attack roles.
    • That means that when a rogue with a rapier and a fighter with a long sword flank an orc, each gets a +2 attack bonus.
    • But, if the rogue is unarmed, the orc does not feel threatened by the rogue and thus does not pay much attention to the rogue and thus the fighter does not get a +2 attack bonus. 
      • My guess at the 3.5 intended rule:  The rogue also does not get the +2 attack bonus.  Both characters must be threatening for the +2 attack bonus to apply to either.
      • My preference, but I don't think it is what 3.5 intended:  The rogue still gets a +2 attack bonus in this scenario because the fighter is both flanking and threatening.  So if that rogue attempts to punch the orc the rogue does so with a +2 flanking bonus.
    • Characters holding ranged weapons also do not threaten!  Now, I can understand that a person standing right next to me with a long bow is not as threatening as a guy with a sword because it seems I could easily disrupt or deflect his long bow attack if he tried to shoot me.  But if the guy next to me had a crossbow instead of a long bow I would feel very threatened.  However, to abide by the rules, no ranged weapon causes a threat.
      • Therefore, if a rogue armed with a crossbow and a fighter armed with a long sword are flanking an orc, the orc is still not threatened by the rogue and the fighter does not get a +2 attack bonus.
        • The rogue also does not get a +2 attack bonus.
        • I prefer this interpretation:  But the rogue does get the +2 attack bonus because the fighter is threatening to the orc.  Thus the rogue fires at +2 with his crossbow.
    • If the unarmed character happens to be a monk, or any character with Improved Unarmed Strike, the opponent somehow "knows" the danger and the flanking bonus still applies.  So a monk and a fighter with a long sword on opposite sides of an orc each get a +2 flanking bonus.
    • If the rogue with the rapier is invisible, and he flanks the orc with the visible fighter with the long sword, neither gets the +2 flanking bonus because the orc is not aware of the rogue and thus is not threatened.  But the rogue does get other bonuses to hit by virtue of being invisible.
    • If the invisible rogue with a rapier and the visible fighter with the long sword flank a dragon instead of an orc, the dragon might be aware of the rogue with its blindsense and thus both characters would get the +2 flanking bonus.
    • If a rogue with a crossbow and a fighter with a longsword flank an orc, neither gets a flanking bonus.  But if the rogue has a hand crossbow and also draws a dagger, then the fighter does get a flanking bonus because the rogue has a melee weapon and thus both characters threaten.  The rogue also gets the +2 flanking bonus, and can apply sneak attack damage to damage; but only on attacks made with the dagger, not on attacks made with the crossbow.

From a few sources:

  • PH page 137: "If you’re unarmed, you don’t normally threaten any squares and thus can’t make attacks of opportunity" 
  • "You threaten an opponent when you can make an armed melee attack against that opponent. You're "armed" when you use a manufactured weapon, natural weapon, the Improved Unarmed Strike feat, or the monk's unarmed strike ability"
In comparison to the +2 flanking bonus, attacks of opportunity are simple.

  • You can only make an Attack of Opportunity with a melee weapon, not with a ranged weapon such as a crossbow.
  • You can also make an Attack of Opportunity with an unarmed strike if you are a monk or have the Improved Unarmed Strike feat.  You must be capable of doing non-lethal damage.
  • A rogue with a crossbow and dagger in hand can make an Attack of Opportunity with the dagger, but not the crossbow.
  • A rogue with a crossbow in hand and a sheathed dagger and the Quick Draw feat cannot draw the dagger as a free action and take an Attack of Opportunity with it because the free action that comes with the Quick Draw can only be performed on your own turn.
The rules for sneak attacks.

  • When a rogue with a rapier and a fighter with a long sword flank an orc, each is perceived as threatening by the orc and the rogue is able to apply his sneak attack damage because the orc is flanked and threatened.
  • If the same rogue is using a crossbow instead of a rapier:
    • The rogue cannot apply sneak attack damage because the orc is not threatened and is thus not "flanked".
    • I prefer this interpretation:  the rogue can still apply his sneak attack damage to the crossbow because he is flanking and because the orc is still threatened, by the fighter.  It is the fighter's threat to the orc that allows the sneak attack damage to apply to the rogue.
    • I also prefer this, but it is not what the 3.5 rules intend:  If one rogue is using a crossbow and another rogue is using a rapier and these two are flanking the orc, the rogue using the crossbow can apply sneak attack damage to his attack because the orc is more wary and concerned about the rogue with the rapier.  The rogue with the rapier cannot apply sneak attack damage because the orc does not feel threatened by the rogue with the crossbow and is not paying much attention to him.

  • But I'm pretty sure the actual intent of the 3.5 rules is that benefits only apply if you are flanking and threatening:

    • Even though the PH description under Rogue on page 50 says: "Basically, the rogue’s attack deals extra damage any time her target would be denied a Dexterity bonus to AC (whether the target actually has a Dexterity bonus or not), or when the rogue flanks her target."


Attacks of Opportunity (Part One):
Attacks of Opportunity (Part Two):
All About Sneak Attacks (Part One):
All About Sneak Attacks (Part Two):
All About Sneak Attacks (Part Three):
All About Sneak Attacks (Part Four): 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

My Favorite MetaMagic Feats in D&D 3.5 are from Complete Mage

I am in the process of adding a few wizard levels to my rogue and at 5th level she earns a metamagic feat.  I've never been very satisfied with the metamagic feat list in the PH, so I was pleased when I found the "Reserved" class of metamagic feats in the "Complete Mage".  These feats allow your character to do some minor but potentially useful magic all day long; as long as they hold some magical energy in reserve.  That means your character has to refrain from casting certain spells; because once those spells are cast, you no longer have the reserve energy remaining to use your reserve feat.

There are twenty five reserve feats in the book, and they allow things like:

  • The ability to cast a 3d6 lightning bold every round all day
  • The ability to cast a 3d6 fireball every round all day
  • The ability to teleport a short distance every round all day
  • The ability to fly for one round, but every round all day
  • The ability to summon an elemental every round all day
  • The ability to detect magic every round all day
  • I think you get the picture

Each reserve feat is keyed on a type of spell.  For example, the Storm Bolt reserve feat allows you to cast a line of electricity that does a d6/level of damage every round as long as you have a spell of the electricity type currently in mind that is 3rd level or higher and is uncast.  Also, the caster gains +1 Caster Level on all electricity spells cast.

So get your hands on that book if you want a good alternative to the PH list of metamagic feats!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

From D&D 3.5 to 5.0 - 18 - Spell Concentration

I'm not sure what the rules were in 3.5, but we always played that you could not cast a second spell while you are still concentrating on the first spell you cast, without giving up the first spell.  But in the 5th edition it is clear from page 203 that you can cast additional spells while continuing the concentration of the first spell, as long as the subsequent spells do not also require concentration.

Normal activity such as moving and attacking (I think it is funny that attacking is "normal activity") doesn't break your concentration.  But getting incapacitated does, so does getting killed, and so does casting another spell that requires concentration.  Getting hit in combat may also cause you to lose concentration if the damage is severe enough.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

From D&D 3.5 to 5.0 - 17 - Preparing Your Wizard Spells

In my last post I was careful to say you have a limited number of spells until you rest again, instead of for the day, because in the 5th edition of D&D you can recover some spell slots during the day without an 8 hour overnight rest.  Under the ability known as Arcane Recovery, a wizard can choose to reclaim some spell slots after a short rest.  You can recover up to half your wizard levels in slots, rounded up.  So our 3rd level wizard could recover 1.5 spell levels worth of slots (round that up to 2).  The 3rd level wizard could choose to recover 2 1st level slots, or 1 2nd level slot.

Spell casters of many varieties start with a few cantrips, and in the 5th edition you don't have to keep track of how many cantrips you have cast because you can cast them every round all day long.  Cantrips are embedded in the caster's mind and don't require a spell slot to cast.  You can cast them at will.  No preparation is required.

Friday, February 13, 2015

From D&D 3.5 to 5.0 - 16 - Spell Slots for Wizards

The big change for wizards is the use of spell slots.  Just as in all previous editions of D&D, wizards will learn spells and record them in their spell books, but each day the wizard will only be able to prepare a few of those spells.  The number of spells that a wizard can prepare is the sum of his spell level and his intelligence ability bonus.  So a 3rd level wizard with an Intelligence of 18 could prepare 7 spells a day, 3 for being 3rd level and an additional 4 due to his +4 Intelligence modifier. 

So after your wizard has reviewed all his spells in his spell book and selected the spells he wants to prepare he is ready to go.  A wizard would never prepare a single spell more than once.  In 3.5, your wizard might memorize three magic missile spells before adventuring, but in the 5th edition the wizard can prepare magic missile once, but still have the flexibility to cast it zero or many times during the day. 
A 3rd level wizard gets 6 spell slots as shown on the table on page 113.  He gets 4 1st level slots and 2 2nd level slots.  This means that he could cast prepare many different 1st level spells (up to 7), but he could still cast magic missile 6 times, once from each slot.  When a wizard casts a spell, the cast spell essentially fills one of his available spell slots.  And notice that the wizard could cast 6 magic missiles (a 1st level spell) even though he only has 4 1st level spell slots.  That is because you can always use a slot from a higher level to cast a lower level spell, but you can't use lower level slots to cast a higher level spell.  Our 3rd level wizard could cast, at most, 2 2nd level spells before resting.
Some spells, like magic missile, have greater affect when cast from a higher level spell slot.  When casting magic missile from a 1st level spell slot you get three missiles, but when you cast it from a 2nd level spell slot you get four missiles.  When you cast fireball from a 3rd level spell slot you do 8d6 damage, but when you cast it from a 4th level spell slot you do 9d6 damage.  Notice that, unlike the 3.5 edition, fireball damage is not dependent on caster level, only upon the spell slot from which it is cast.
Check out my next post for more changes for wizards.