Monday, May 28, 2018

How To Divide The Treasure Among Your D&D Characters, or for any RPG

Dividing the spoils of the adventure among the party characters is often easy, but it doesn't have to me, and occasionally leads to disputes between players.  Decades of gaming has taught me several methods for sharing the loot, some that work better than other.

The first question to answer is, "Do the characters in the game divide the loot, or do their players do it?"  I think the best answer to this question is almost always to let the players decide.  Would any player like to devote a little time to having their characters role play the discussions?  If the players are new to each other, or if the party of characters are new, players are more likely to desire to role play the outcome, but a group of players with characters that have adventured often together are likely to have settled upon a solution that is acceptable to all with little or no role playing.  Regardless, as a DM I recommend that you allow the players to use role play to divide the treasures any time they decide to do so.

In your role as DM, you should help facilitate friendly role play as always, and that is especially important during the role play of the distribution of treasure.  I once saw a party of 2 half-orcs try to bully a halfling into splitting the treasure unevenly.  The player of the halfling was not happy with this play, even though it seemed in character with all involved.  As DM I helped the players of the half-orcs understand that this was not fair to the player of the halfling, and if they went forward with the plan then it was unlikely these characters would be able to get along in the future, and it was very possible that the halfling may get very lucky if he attempted to steal some coin from those half-orcs and the half-orcs would likely be very unlikely to notice.  Ultimately, the DM is always in control and anything the DM says go.  Perhaps a dragon could show up and beat the half-orcs unconscious, then the halfling could take the coin and tell the half-orcs the dragon took it all.  There are certainly endless options for the DM to make things "right", but hopefully the players will understand that in order to be good players, they need to play their characters in ways that don't create anger and resentment between the players.

Even if the players are not antagonistic, you will often find characters don't divide treasure evenly.  Perhaps one character was unconscious for most of the adventure and the player of that character honestly wants his character to forfeit his even share of the reward.  As a DM you should certainly allow this, but as a DM I do not recommend that you allow the players to decide not to share reward evenly with a single character that was out of commission for part of the adventure without that players consent.  Dividing rewards based on characters participation can become highly subjective.  Would a rogue that make no attacks and failed to unlock any doors receive part of the treasure found in the pockets of the enemies after they were killed in battle?  If a character is charmed and fights for the other side, is he rewarded?  If a character is paralyzed for 6 of the 8 rounds of the battle, does she only get a 6/8th's share of the treasure?  It is easiest, and probably best, just to draw the line and say that any character that had any part in the adventure gets an equal share.  However, as mentioned previously, if the player of the character that appeared to do less wants her character to take a smaller cut, then certainly allow her to do so.

Another factor that prevents a simple and equal distribution of the treasure is when some players decide one of their characters does not want some of the treasure.  Perhaps your party of four found four diamonds on the body of the vampire they slew, but the cleric in the party adamantly refuses to own something that was once owned by a vampire.  There are several ways to resolve this and the best is usually to let the players have their characters decide.  Perhaps the characters will sell the other diamond and give the cleric gold in place of the diamond.  Perhaps the cleric will desire the diamond simply in order to crush it and destroy it.  My parties occasionally come upon magical items that are dangerous to good characters, perhaps something like a dagger of human slaying.  Some in the party may want to destroy the item, while others may want to keep it and use it, but hopefully only against evil humans.  As a DM I recommend you allow the players to role play the results.  As a DM, it is also your responsibility to prevent all the rewards from going to just a few characters.  If you have a gnome character that refuses gold forged by dwarves, then you, as the DM, should make sure that treasure other than dwarven-forged gold is an option for the party. 

Dividing coins and gems is usually pretty easy.  It is up to you, as the DM, to help determine how an uneven amount of coins should be divided.  If a party of three scores 100gp of treasure, let the players decide how to divide that.  If they want to divide it exactly equally, perhaps the DM could say they found 2 more gp in the treasure, or perhaps they can easily exchange 1 gp for 99 cp, giving 1 cp to the banker.  If the party finds simply a 1,000gp gem, don't make it too difficult for the players to turn that into coin.  With low level characters and first time players, you may find it rewarding to have the characters barter to turn the 1,000gm gem into 950gp, or maybe 1,020gp if they are charming.  But once players have years of gaming experience they probably don't want to spend much game time haggling over a few coins and you should just generally allow a one for one exchange into a form of currency convenient for them.  Although this does not mean that low level characters should simply carry a few 100gp diamonds around to reduce their carrying weight and expect to always be able to exchange it for other lightweight gems and coins.

Now we come to the challenge that probably brought you to this article.  This is The Boss of loot allotment.  How do you divide up the magical items?  If you've been paying attention, then you will probably guess correctly that the first and best option is to let the players role-play it with their characters.  And, as in the case of coin, this may be done more frequently when players are characters are new to each other, and less frequently once they have established a pattern.  The pattern my groups typically use and it is the best pattern I am aware of is to have each player roll a d20 for their character(s), using a separate roll for each character if a player has more than one.  We always roll the d20 in person using a physical die, and we even use the same die.  (There was this one time, that each player asked Alexa to roll the d20 for us).  Whoever rolls the highest chooses first.  If two people rolled the same number those two roll again.  They keep their place in line with respect to all the other characters in the picking order, the subsequent roll(s) are simply to break the tie(s) between these characters.  Once the picking order is established, players pick items for their character one at a time from the pile of loot.  Most importantly, once the last character has chosen, if more items remain to be chosen, the last character then chooses again, and we proceed through the picking line in reverse order until we reach the top.  Another way to phrase this is to consider that when each character has made a pick, round one is complete, and then you move on to round two of the picks.  So the character that chose last in round one gets to choose first in round two.  As we reach the end of round two, if items still remain, the first character will choose an item as the last pick in the second round, then choose again as the first pick in the third round.  This continues until we run out of items.

Even though my groups follow this pattern, I estimate that about 30% of the time some player will have his character do a little role-playing before we divide the treasure and offer to forgo getting multiple choices (when there is a lot of loot) for the right to choose one specific item before the picking begins.  If the other role-played characters agree to this, then by all means the DM should allow it.  Let the players work it out for themselves.  Our characters often recognize that the stupid barbarian really needs a better sword, or the wizard needs those bracers +4.  No one else will take it because it is in the best interest of the party to help every character overcome their weaknesses.  We also have characters that take one or two items when there is a big pile, but then forgo all of their remaining choices, while the rogues sometimes simply take the item that they can sell for the highest price every time.

I am sure I have said it often enough, but when the players can use role-play to distribute the treasure and a friendly and fun fashion, it is more fun for them and sometimes creates memorable experiences.  But you are the DM and you should try to make sure treasure is somewhat evenly distributed and that the players leave satisfied.  This article is long enough, but as a final note I will point out that a good DM does not leave the magic items found totally to chance.  The DM should strive to supply some items that may be fun and useful for the characters, and try to get something good into the hands of a character that may be falling behind the others in the party.

Monday, August 7, 2017

D&D 3.5 Site to Calculate Spell Resistance (SR), Difficulty Class (DC) or Dispel Magic Success

Here is a simple little web site that helps you calculate Spell Resistance, or the Difficulty Class (DC) for Saving Throws, or even those pesky Dispel Magic rules.

The rules are for the D&D 3.5 (Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 edition). 

Just plug in your numbers and find out if you succeed in overcoming your opponent's SR, or figure out the DC for your spell, or see if your Dispel Magic succeeds against your enemy.

Very simple to use!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

D&D 3.5 - Can my character with Spell Immunity to Silence talk to other characters in the Silence?

Our party of intrepid adventurers encountered pixies that could cast silence on themselves at will with a 15' radius.  This greatly affected the abilities of the spell casters.  One spell caster cast Spell Immunity (PH 282) against silence on himself.  As expected, this caused an interruption in game play to debate the rules of spell immunity to silence.  We identified five possible scenarios to be adjudicated.  Poof casts Spell Immunity, Silence on himself.  Talia, the bard, is outside the area of silence and singing.  Poof moves into the area of silence.  Devis is already in the silenced area.

Q1) What happens when Poof attempts to cast a spell while within the area of silence?
A1) Obviously, he can cast verbal spells successfully due to his Spell Immunity.

Q2) Can Poof hear Talia singing when she is outside the area of silence and he is inside the area?
A2) Yes, because he is immune to the effects of the silence spell.

Q3) Can Talia, being outside the area of silence hear what Poof is saying when he is in the silence?
A3) We decided the answer was Yes, although an argument could be made that sounds emanating from Poof get blocked by the area of silence before reaching Talia.  We felt that would violate the spirit of the Spell Immunity spell and would also possibly imply that Poof could not even cast spells within an area of silence if "the universe" could not hear what Poof was casting.

Q4) Can Devis, who is also within the same silence area as Poof, hear what Poof is saying?
A4) No.  Even though the silence does not affect Poof and his ability to put vocalizations into the air, those vocalizations do not reach Devis because Devis is affected by the silence.  This does imply that the vocalizations could go past Devis to reach Talia beyond him and she, being outside the area of silence, could hear him.

Q5) Can Poof hear what Devis says when both are in the area of silence?
A5) Again no.  The sounds Devis makes are blocked by the silence spell.  The spell is effectively muting Devis while not affecting Poof.

Sound emanates from one source, vocalizations from mouths in these examples, and is received by another source, the ears.  This complicates trying to create rules based on the laws of physics.  Does the silence spell affect the source of the sound, or the reception of the sound?  One of our group thought that silence only impacted hearing, not vocalizations, but that the reason you were unable to cast spells within an area of silence is that you were unable to hear yourself in order to vocalize correctly.  We were able to rule out that interpretation by the fact that even verbal commands to items did not work, and the description of "Control Plants" spell on PH 213 implies that all vocal communication is impossible for people within silence.

The above is our House Rule.

UPDATE on March 29, 2017:
After a close reading of the Silence spell, I see that our house rules are incorrect, but we plan to play by our house rules rather than what the books say.  We think the silence spell is overly powerful (for a 2nd level spell) when cast upon a moving creature.

Spell Immunity does not work unless Spell Resistance is allowed: PH 282 “…immunity doesn’t protect a creature from spells for which spell resistance doesn’t apply...”

In the Silence spell it lists this for “spell resistance”:
Spell Resistance: Yes; see text or no (object)

“…The spell can be cast on a point in space, but the effect is stationary unless cast on a mobile object. The spell can be centered on a creature, and the effect then radiates from the creature and moves as it moves. An unwilling creature can attempt a Will save to negate the spell and can use spell resistance, if any. Items in a creature’s possession or magic items that emit sound receive the benefits of saves and spell resistance, but unattended objects and points in space do not…”

I am pretty sure it should be ruled that Spell Immunity to silence would only apply to an attempt to cast silence directly upon the target.  If you would attempt to say that silenced flying monsters are “creatures” and thus a different ruling would apply (I don’t think it would), that could easily be resolved by saying there is a Silence upon an object the monsters are carrying because the monsters cast the silence upon that object instead of themselves.

The silence spell is probably overly powerful when it is used to cast upon a willing creature, thus that is why we wanted to allow Spell Immunity to work against it.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Trello Is A Great Tool For Tracking The Spells You Have Cast

I recently started using Trello to track which spells my cleric Tansen has cast and I just wanted to share that it has been working really well for me.  Some of the things I like about Trello is:
  • It is free
  • It is very easy to move the cards around
  • I can share my characters Trello board with the DM and other players in my group
  • It is easy to modify and customize the cards
Trello may not be the best tool for all types of spell casters, particularly sorcerers, but I think it works well for those that prepare spells.

As you may notice from the image above, Tansen is a high level cleric with a lot of spells.  I have a printed sheet that lists the spells he usually takes, but of course I have him change those sometimes to fit the campaign.  The first column of my board just lists the number of spells he has at each level, and those of you that play D&D 3.5 clerics know that the +1 represents his domain spell at each level.
The second column lists his first through fourth level spells that he prepared for the day.  I also include his pearls of power where appropriate because otherwise I often forget about them.
The third column lists his higher level spells.  Then in the fourth column I have the spells cast.  Those of you familiar with Trello no it is very easy to drag those cards from one column to another, and even a little bit fun to do so.
You can also see I added a little color to some cards.  The blue color I added for a few spell slots he gave up in order to get a special ability related to an item he carries.  The green color I add to spells that are currently active.  I am considering using another color, perhaps red, to denote which spells can be cast as swift or immediate.  I should also add a card for his metamagic feats.  He has the empower metamagic feat which he can use a few times a day, so I probably should add a card for each time he can use it.
Finally, in the column on the right I have some of the spells he often takes, but just did not take today.  When the day ends, it is simple to move the cards back to their respective columns.

If you have not considered using Trello as a spell tracker, I suggest giving it a try.  You could do a lot more with it if you took the time, such as adding more details about each spell to each of the cards.  It would be nice if we could pulls all the spells from a pre-made Trello board that had all of them along with their notes, but I don't think that is a feature Trello currently provides.

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): 

How To Divide The Treasure Among Your D&D Characters, or for any RPG

Dividing the spoils of the adventure among the party characters is often easy, but it doesn't have to me, and occasionally leads to di...