[Index to the Combat Section]
So you know how to determine the order of you turn in the combat round, you know how many actions you can take on your turn… but neither of those things tell you how combat actually works. In this section, we summarise the statistics that determine success in combat, and detail how to use them.
An attack is defined as any offensive action that directly targets an opponent. So casting a spell can be an Attack in just the same way swinging a sword is one. All attacks in the HD&D game follow the same basic process. Talents and feats may alter these rules according to their own descriptions. This is the process in brief:
- Your character has numerous attack options open to him. He may cast a spell, swing a sword, throw a dagger or shoot an arrow from a bow. All of these are attacks, and selecting which attack you’re going to use is the first step in any combat. All attacks fall into one of four categories: Mêlée, Close, Ranged or Far so be sure you understand how these attack types work.
- Select the target for your attack. Normally you attack one target at a range indicated by the weapon you’re using. However, your feats, talents and spells can completely alter this basic assumption. You normally need to make sure you can see or otherwise target your enemies in order to attack them.
- If you are attacking, then you have to make an attack roll. This is a skill check with your appropriate skill. This may be a Weapon Group skill if you’re using a weapon, Spellcraft if you’re casting spell or other skills at the GM’s option.
- All attacks target one of your foe’s Defences: either Reflex, Fortitude or Will. If your attack roll is equal to or greater than the foe’s defence then you have hit the target. If not, you have missed.
- If you hit you deal damage to the target’s hit points… normally. Some attacks don’t deal damage. Instead they have other nasty or deliterious effects. Sometimes the target has protection against the damage, such as thick armour or energy resistance. All of this is covered below.
Regardless of whether the origin of an attack is mundane (a sword stroke), magical (a spell) or supernatural (a dragon’s breath) all attack types fall into one of four categories. These categories impose consistant rules and conditions on the attack.
A mêlée attack usually uses a weapon and targets one enemy within your mêlée reach. However, it can equally apply to a monk’s round-house kick, a monster’s vicious claws or a spell that can only be discharged by touching an opponent.
Unless otherwise stated, your mêlée reach is about five feet. Certain weapons and long-armed monsters may have a greater Reach than five feet. This allows them to use mêlée attacks at greater range, and to inflict Opportunity Attacks (q.v.) at more distant foes. But it may prevent them from attacking with the weapon within that range.
For example, many polearms have a reach of 10 feet. They can be used to attack opponents at a range of 6-10 feet normally, but they are unable to strike foes standing 1-5 feet from your character.
Some talents (e.g. Double Attack) allow you to make more than one attack as a standard action. You can attack multiple opponents, or attack the same opponent mulitple times. In these cases you must roll each attack on each opponent separately. If your talent tells you to make one attack and apply the result to all targets in a certain area, then you’e not making a Mêlée attack, you’re making a Close or Far attack.
A Close Attack targets an area of effect that originates directly from you. Swinging your axe in an arc so that it hits all the enemies around you in one blow, or shooting a burst of fire from your hands to engulf the foes standing in front of you, are both Close attacks.
If you’re making a Close attack you only make one attack roll, and compare it to the relevant Defence of all your targets. Equally, you only make one damage roll and all targets take the same damage. Many close attacks (particularly spells) may still deal some damage even if you miss.
Close attacks can hit foes you cannot see without imposing a penalty to the attack roll, because you are targeting an area rather than an individual. A close attack does not turn corners or affect foes with total cover (q.v.). If you cast a spell with a 20 ft blast radius in a stone corridor that is only 10 feet wide, then spell still won’t affect anything further than 20 ft away. It doesn’t contort into a different shape to fill the same volume.
Close attacks are further categorised as either Bursts or Blasts.
Close Bursts: These are effects that are centred on you, and affect an area in a specified radius around you. For example, a “Close Burst 10 ft radius” affects everything in a ten foot radius from where you are standing. Bursts don’t necessarily attack all targets in the area of effect. They might still affect only one target, but you can choose which target within the area of effect falls victim to your power. The talent Whirlwind Attack is an example of a Close Burst.
Close Blasts: These are attacks that originates from you, and affect a designated area of a certain shape in a direction you indicate. The most common shape for a Close Blast is either a Line or a Cone.
A Close Blast (Line) affects all targets in a straight line in the direction you indicate. The range of the line is expressed in feet. A Lightning Bolt is a Close Blast (Line). An electrical arc leaps form your fingers and zaps all enemies standing along its path, out to a range of 120 feet.
A Close Blast (Cone) affects all targets in a 90° arc in the direction you indicate. The extreme range of the cone is expressed in feet. The GM determines which enemies are caught in your cone. Normally you can catch up to 2-3 foes who are engaging you directly in mêlée combat, but wily opponents may space themselves to avoid just such an attack. The cone will also catch other enemies in an ever-widening arc. Cone of Cold is an example of a Close Blast (Cone). You gesture and unleash an arc of frozen death out to a range of 60 feet.
A ranged attack is a strike against a distant foe. These attacks function in a similar manner to Mêlée Attacks, except that rather than targeting a foe within your mêlée reach, you target a foe at a prescribed distance from you. This distance may be listed in the description of the spell, or is dependent on the maximum range of the weapon you are using. Hitting extremely distant targets with a ranged weapon may result in a penalty to hit (see below).
Ranged attacks are usually a single attack against a single foe. Some talents and spells allow you to make Ranged attacks against multiple targets, or multiple ranged attacks on the same target. In these cases, each attack is rolled separately. Ranged attacks always target individuals, or multiple individuals. They do not target an area.
If you use a ranged attack while you are engaged in mêlée combat, then you provoke an opportunity attack from all the foes currently engaging you in mêlée combat. There’s more on Opportunity Attacks (q.v.) below.
Range Increments: All projectile and thrown weapons have a range increment listed in their description. Projectile weapons (like crossbows) can hit a target up to ten range increments away. Thrown weapons (such as axes or hammers) can hit a target up to five range incremements away. For each range incremement beyond the first that your attack must travel, you take a cumulative -2 to the attack roll. It’s more difficult to hit distant targets, after all.
For example: a longbow has a range increment of 100 ft. That means you can try to hit any target standing between 0-100 ft without taking a penalty to hit. For each 100 ft beyond the first, you take a -2 penalty to the attack roll. So an archer using his longbow to attack a foe 850 feet away would take a -14 penalty to the attack roll. The maximum range of a longbow is ten range increments, or 1000 feet.
A Far attack is the ranged equivalent of Close attack. Far attacks target a particular area of effect, but the origin point of that area can be some distance from you. The shape of a Far attack’s area of effect sets the parameters of the power. There are a variety of Far Attacks although bursts, cylinders and walls are the most common.
If you use a far attack while you are engaged in mêlée combat, then you provoke an opportunity attack from all the foes currently engaging you in mêlée combat. There’s more on Opportunity Attacks (q.v.) below.
Far Burst: This attack functions as a Close Burst, except the area of effect originates at some distance from you, instead of where you are standing. The description of all such attacks presents you with a range in feet, over which you can target the effect. A far burst affects an area within a certain radius of the origin point, also specified in feet. If cast on the ground this takes for form of a hemisphere, but if you cast it in the air (or underwater, or any other terrain where you are able to move in three dimensions) the burst will take the form of a sphere.
The Fireball spell is the quintessential example of a Far burst. Its Area of Effect is described as “Far burst 20 ft radius, within 400 ft + 40 ft / level”. So a tenth level caster can select any point from where he is standing out to a distance of 800 feet as the origin point for the fireball. The spell explodes and engulfs all creatures within 20 ft of that point in fiery doom.
If you make a Far Burst attack, then you only make one attack roll and compare the result to the Defences of everyone in the area of effect. Equally, you only make one damage roll, and everyone caught in the area takes the same damage. Like Close Bursts, far bursts can hit foes you cannot see, but will not affect targets with total cover. They can’t turn corners.
Far Cylinder: A far cylinder is very similar to a far burst, except the area of effect has a different shape. A cylinder affects everything in a certain radius of the origin point, but only in two dimensions: it is a circle and not a sphere. This area of effect then explodes upwards and downwards for a specified distance forming a gigantic cylindrical column. If the origin point is on the ground then the downward thrust of the cylinder may damage the ground it is standing on at the GM’s discretion.
The cleric spell flame strike is a good example of a Far Cylinder. It is a column of holy fire than scorches enemies of the faith. Its area of effect is described as “Far cylinder 10 ft radius (40 ft high) within 100 ft + 10 ft / level”. So a tenth level caster can cause a flame strike to appear at any point within 200 feet of where he is standing. The spell affects anyone standing in a 10 foot radius circle of that point, and also explodes upwards for 40 feet, and downwards for 40 feet (if it can). If cast on solid rock it’s not likely to make much of an impression. Rock has 15 hit points per inch of thickness, and fire does only half damage to such material. The best the cleric could hope for would be a shallow crater.
If you make a Far cylinder attack, then you only make one attack roll and compare the result to the Defences of everyone in the area of effect. Equally, you only make one damage roll, and everyone caught in the area takes the same damage. Like Close Bursts, far cylinders can hit foes you cannot see, but will not affect targets with total cover.
Far Wall: This allows you to create a special area of effect that originates at any point within range of the spell. You create a wall of a specified length, height and thickness. The material the wall is made from depends on the spell (examples include fire, ice, iron and wind).
The wall extends in one direct from the origin point for the specified distance. Some walls can be formed into rings, completely surrounding a certain area (whether to keep something in or keep something out is up to you!). Other walls can even form solid hemispheres utterly encapsulating a given area.
The spell Wall of Fire is a good example of a Far wall. It’s area of effect is described as: “Far wall 20 ft high and either 20 ft long/level or a ring with a radius of 5 ft / 2 levels; cast within 100 ft + 10 ft/level”. So a tenth level caster can cause a wall of fire to spring up at any point within 200 feet of where he is standing. The wall can take the form of either a continuous sheet of flame that is 20 feet high and 200 feet long, or as a ring of fire that is 20 ft high, and with a radius of 25 feet.
If you want to try and trap foes inside a far wall, or place a wall so that foes are damaged by its elemental effects, then you make one attack roll and compare the result to the Defences of everyone in the area of effect. You also only make one damage roll. If you’re not trying to trap or damage foes, then conjuring a far wall doesn’t usually require an attack roll. It simply appears at the point you designate.
Understanding the difference between Mêlée, Close, ranged and Far attacks allows you to make an informed choice when you decide which particular can of whupass you’re going to open on your enemy. You may be the world’s greatest archer, but if you’re backed into a corner by a gang of yodelling ettins then you may not want to risk the opportunity attack from each of them that you’ll provoke by using your patented off-the-wall boomerang shot.
A wider issue is not what you want to do, but what you can do. Circumstances may well limit your choice of targets. In this section we look at Line of Sight and Line of Effect. Mostly you need to be able to see you foes to attack them, and if you can see them, then you need a clear path from where you’re standing to where they’re standing.
Line of Sight
If you can see a target then you have line of sight to that target. Any number of things can obscure your line of sight to a target. He might be hiding behind a tree, or standing at the centre of a magically conjured fog bank; he might be invisible, you might be blind or it might simply be too dark to see your target.
In game terms you have line of sight to target who has cover, superior cover or concealment. You do not have line to sight to targets with with total concealment. Targets with total cover are probably outside your line of sight, although they could feasibly be hiding behind a transparent barrier such as a Wall of Force.
If you are using a Close or Far attack (i.e. an attack that targets an area, not individuals) then if doesn’t matter if you can’t see the target. You attack normally and carpet-bomb the area. As you can’t see your foe, there is a possibility that he has had the chance to move out of the way of your area of effect, but the GM will adjudicate this impartially should the need arise.
If you a using a Mêlée or Ranged attack (i.e. an attack that targets separate individuals and not an area) then you can still take you best guess and attack anyway. This works as follows:
There are two steps to attacking a foe you cannot see with a Mêlée or Ranged attack. Firstly, you have to use your senses to pinpoint the general area where he might be standing, and secondly you have to make an attack roll.
You make a Perception check against a DC equal to the target’s Stealth check. The target may have made this stealth check several rounds ago (see the text of the Stealth skill for more information on this). The target gets +10 to his skill check because you can’t see him. Remember that the DC of your Perception check increases by +1 for every ten feet you are from the target, so ranged attackers are less likely to succeed than those in mêlée combat. If you succeed in the Perception check then you can make an attack against the foe. If you fail the Perception check, you have no idea where the foe is, so you cannot attempt an informed attack roll. Kind GMs may still alow you to flail wildly and trust to luck.
Even if the Perception check is successful you haven’t pinpointed your target, you still only know the general area where they are standing. The target still has total concealment (q.v.) from you, so your attack roll is made at a -5 penalty to hit.
Line of Effect
A line of effect is a straight, unblocked path between you and your target. A line of effect is blocked by a physical barrier between you and your intended victim. As a rule, if your target has Total Cover (q.v.), then there is no line of effect between you and the target, and therefore you cannot attack the target, or have an area effect originate from that point. Cover, Superior Cover, Concealment and Total Concealment are no barrier to Line of Effect.
You almost always have line of effect to opponents within your mêlée reach, so these rules most often apply to Close, Ranged or Far attacks. If you do not have line effect to your target then you cannot make a Ranged attack against them, or target them as the origin point of a Far attack. You cannot cast a fireball spell on the other side of a stone wall because you have no line of effect to the other side of the wall. If there is a door in the wall and the door is closed you still don’t have line of effect. If someone opens the door, then you do have line of effect. Boom.
Do not confuse line of effect and line of sight. Line of effect isn’t affected by intangible barriers such as fog or darkness. Such barriers may (feasibly) make the target more difficult to hit, but they don’t stop your weapon or arrow or spell from passing through them.
Line of Effect stops you from designating a particular spot as the origin point for a burst, blast, cylinder or wall affect. It doesn’t stop the area of effect of such an attack from washing over or even destroying the barrier than stopped your line of effect in the first place.
For example: you’re in a geisha house and you’re trying to attack an evil warlock. He’s standing on the other side of a wall made of paper. You can see his evil moustachioed silhouette. The wall of paper blocks your line of effect. You can’t cast fireball on the other side of that wall. But you can cast it against the wall on your side. The fireball goes off, destroys the paper wall in seconds and still catches the warlock in its area of effect.
Using the same example, there are evidently occassions where a ranged weapon can also punch through a barrier that is obstructing your line of effect. You can just as easily shoot a warlock through a paper wall with your crossbow as you can with your fireball. In these cases, the GM will make the ultimate call as to what attacks can and cannot circumvent the barrier blocking line of effect. See the rules on destroying cover (q.v.) for more guidance.
To determine whether your attack is successful or not, you have to make an attack roll. As previously stated, an attack roll is simply a check with the skill you are using to make the attack. If it’s a weapon you use your Weapon Group skill, if you’re casting a spell you use the appropriate Spellcraft skill.
When making an attack roll you need to roll has high as possible. The result of your roll is compared to your opponents Defence: either Fortitude, Reflex or Will. If the result of your attack roll is equal to or greater than the defence you hit, if not then you miss.
Size and Attack Rolls: Remember that you character’s Size may influence some attack rolls you make. If you’re a Small or Medium character (and most player characters are) then this is a complication you don’t need to worry about. But if you’re Large or larger (or Tiny or smaller) then special size modifiers are applied to your attack rolls in certain situations.
The modifiers are: Miniscule (+6), Diminuitive (+4), Tiny (+2), Large (-2), Huge (-4), Gargantuan (-6) and Colossal (-8). These size modifiers apply to attack rolls in the following situations:
- Mêlée combat using weapons, natural weapons or unarmed attacks.
- Missile combat using thrown weapons such as axes, hammers and javelins.
The bonus (or penalty) doesn’t apply to projectile weapons such as bows and crossbows, to Spellcraft checks to cast ranged spells, or to supernatural abilties such as a dragon’s breath weapon. There is much more informaiton on Size in the section on Races and Monsters.
Automatic misses and hits: A natural 1 on an attack roll is always a miss. A natural 20 is always a hit, and it is also a critical hit (q.v). These rules only apply to attack rolls. They don’t apply to skill checks you make at other times.
Defences and Saving Throws
So you can dish out the damage, but can you take it? Any time you are attacked your character’s defences and saving throws spring into action to defeat, mitigate or absorb some of the pain that is coming you way.
Combat in HD&D establishes a relationship between the attacker or instigator of an action, and the target or victim. As a rule it is the instigator that rolls the skill check or the attack roll, against a static DC set by the GM or determined by the defences of his adversaries. So when you make an attack, you are the one who rolls an attack against your foe’s defence. Sometimes, however, attacks are themselves passive. In these cases the instigator is actually the defender, who rolls a Saving Throw to end an ongoing effect.
Defences and Saving Throws work together in HD&D to keep the combat fluid and dynamic and, most importantly, to keep the fate of characters in the hands of their players. The GM shouldn’t roll dice to kill player characters, the players should roll dice to try and stop him.
Defences: All defences have a base of 10 + half your level (rounded up) + your related ability score modifier (see below). Each defence is then modified by your racial modifiers, the decisions you made in character generation and a host of spells, feats, talents and items that can add to your defence score. Your Size may also affect your Reflex Defence. You never roll your defence, it is a static DC against which enemies can take shots.
Saving Throws: Your saving throw modifier is the same value of your defence -10. You make a saving throw by rolling 1d20 and adding this modifier. So if you have a Fortitude Defence of 25, then your Fortitude Saving Throw is rolled on 1d20+15. Normally all bonuses that apply to defences also apply to saving throws, but there are sometimes exceptions. As with Attack rolls, a natural 1 rolled on a Saving Throw is an automatic failure, and a natural 20 is an automatic success.
There are three Defences in HD&D, each with its corresponding Saving Throw. The higher the defence the better, but remember that it doesn’t matter how good you are, there are always enemies out there who are better. So don’t get cocky!
This measures your ability to stand up to physical punishment and attacks against your vitality and health. Fortitude represents your inherent toughness, mass, strength and resilience. It is the defence you use to fight off diseases and poisons. A high Fortitude Defence helps you avoid being pushed, tripped or grappled.
Attacks against Fortitude might take the form of the poisonous bite of an iron cobra, or a repulsion spell that sends you hurtling over a cliff to your doom. Fortitude saving throws are most often made to fight off disease or other ongoing afflictions. The better your saving throw, the quicker you can return to full health.
This measures how hard it is for your enemies to land a significant blow upon you. A high reflex defence lets you deflect or dodge attacks that would otherwise have hit you. If you’re proficient in its use, a shield increases your Reflex defence and makes it harder for your enemies to attack you.
Most attacks with weapons and spells are targeted against your Reflex Defence. Someone is trying to hit you, and you are doing your best to get out of the way. Reflex saving throws are often made to avoid known dangers. If you want to move down a corridor avoiding the huge axe that is swinging backwards and forwards on a long pendulum then you would make a reflex saving throw to do it.
Size and the Reflex Defence: Just as your Size can affect your attack roll, it can also affect your Reflex defence. Bigger creatures are just easier to hit. Full rules for Size are presented in the section on Races and Monsters, but in brief the modifiers are as follows:
Miniscule (+6), Diminuitive (+4), Tiny (+2), Large (-2), Huge (-4), Gargantuan (-6) and Colossal (-8). Characters of Small or Medium don’t need to worry about these size modifiers.
This measures your resolve, self-discipline and general strength of mind. A good Will defence lets you resist effects that would otherwise daze, disorientate or distract you. You are not easily fooled by other’s lies, and you also show a remarkable resistance to mind control.
When one thinks of attacks that target the Will defence, one automatically thinks of spells such as charm person, dominate or confusion. But a high Will can equally defend against mundane threats. You can use Will to avoid being Intimidated, or having your opinion changed by honeyed words. Will is the defence that protects you from fear in all its guises and descriptions. If a Will effect has penetrated your defences, you are often allowed a Will saving throw to try and shake off the compulsion after a certain amount of time has passed.
You have made your attack roll and penetrated your foe’s defences. Now you want to know what has happens to your enemy. Most attacks deal hit point damage, but things are seldom as simple as that. Some foes are inherently resistant to certain attacks, others are wearing thick armour; some are inherently resistant and wearing thick armour. Here’s the low down on some of the things you need to think of when applying the results of your attack.
If your attack succeeds, you normally deal damage. All weapons and spells have a damage die (or dice). Roll this and apply whatever additional modifiers you gain from your ability scores, feats or talents. That’s your damage score. Subtract that from you opponent’s hit points.
Usually, you add your Strength modifier to the damage you inflict with mêlée weapon. If you are wielding a two-handed weapon, or versatle weapon with two hands, then you inflict +1 damage in addition to your Strength modifier. Characters with the Two-Handed Master talent inflict much more.
The strength modifier is also added to the damage inflicted by thrown weapons, but may not apply to projectile weapons such as bows and crossbows. Always check the description of the weapon you are using (in the Equipment section) before using it. Don’t just assume that all weapons work the same way, because they don’t!
You seldom add ability score modifiers to the damage inflicted by spells. Such damage tends to be dependent upon your character’s level, rather than your character’s ability scores. Check individual spell descriptions for details of how much of punch the spell packs.
Ability Damage: Some damaging attacks don’t reduce a character’s hit points, instead they reduce a character’s ability scores. These attacks are particularly nasty, so of course the GM likes to use them as frequently as possible. Refer to the section on Wounds and Healing (q.v.) at the end of this chapter for details on inflicting (and suffering) Ability Damage.
Special Qualities: Make sure you understand the special qualities of your weapon or your spell. Details of these are found in the equipment section or the spells section. Your attack my bypass your enemy’s armour class, be stopped by his resistances, or play to his vulnerabilities. It’s the player’s job to remember these qualities so make sure you write them on your character sheet. If your weapon inflicts acid damage rather than regular damage, make sure the GM knows!
Anyone with a lick of sense doesn’t enter combat wearing a posing pouch and a big smile. Armour can help protect all characters against damage. The degree of protection offered by armour is called Armour Class, or AC.
Many monsters, and some player characters, are lucky enough to have a little thing called Natural Armour. This means their skin is so thick that it resists damage as if they were wearing armour. As you can imagine, this very handy. What is even handier, is that the AC bonus you get from natural armour, and the AC bonus you get from manufactured armour (such as splint mail) stacks. It’s probably best to stay away from a great wyrm red dragon dressed in full plate.
For those not in posession of natural armour their only recourse is to go and get a trusty suit of armour from their local outfitters. Different types of armour are described in the section on equipment. They range from simple leather armour (AC 1) to shiny honking plate armour (AC 8). So how does AC work?
Regardless of its source, Armour Class acts as a buffer zone. Whenever your character takes damage, the damage is reduced by your Armour Class value. For example, chainmail gives you AC 5. That means any damage you receive from an attack is reduced by 5 points before it is subtracted from your hit point total.
This degree of protection applies separately to all attacks. So if someone wearing chainmail is struck once for 50 points of damage, they will take 45 damage. But if they’re struct five times for 10 damage each time, they’ll only take 25 damage. If this sounds too good to be true, then it is. Armour is a useful tool, but using it effectively is difficult, and it comes with a price.
Armour Check Penalty: All manufactured armours carry an armour check penalty that applies to the following skills: Acrobatics, Athletics, Climb, Disable Device, Escape Artist, Fly, Sleight of Hand, Stealth and Swim. Depending on the armour you choose, this penalty is anywhere from 0 to -7. Natrural armour never imposes an armour check penalty.
Reduced Speed: If you’re wearing armour, you can’t move as fast as unarmoured characters. Manufactured armours can imposed a 5 or 10 ft penalty to your character’s speed. Natural armour slows you down as well, but because its part and parcel of your being, its effects are already accounted for in a race’s Speed score.
Light, Medium and Heavy Armour: All manufactured armour is characterised as light, medium or heavy. Any character in the game can wear light armour with no bother at all. However, if you want to wear anything heavier than that, you need to pick up one of the two Armour Proficiency talents (Medium or Heavy). If you don’t, then the armour check penalty is doubled and also applies to all Weapon skills and Spellcraft checks to attack with spells that have somatic components. As penalties go,that’s crippling.
Protection is not universal: Armour doesn’t stop all attacks. Some weapons are specifically designed to go through certain types of armour. For example, a dirk will go through chain mail as if it isn’t there. Also, armour provides absolutely no protection against energy damage. So if you are attacked by fire, lightning, acid, poison, thunder, cold, necrotic or radiant energy then you might as well just be wearing your underpants. It works against force attacks though, which will probably be cold comfort to your family as they are scooping your cindered remains into a bucket.
Minimum Damage Value: Regardless of what armour you are wearing, all successful attacks do a minimum of 1 point of damage. No suit of armour or natural armour lets you avoid damage completely. Therefore even if you have an AC of 18 (and some monster do!) you are not invulnerable. You can still be killed by attrition – albeit rather slowly.
Armour and Magic: Some magic spells or effects can grant you an Armour Class value. Spells like Mage Armour are very popular with low level wizards. However, unless the text of the spell expressly states otherwise, the armour bonus conferred by these spells does not stack with either Natural Armour or manufactured armour.
Some characters and monsters possess inherent resistances to certain types of attacks and forms of attack. These most commonly manifest themselves as Energy Resistances. For example, a Fire Giant is resistant to fire attacks.
Energy Resistance works in the same way as Armour Class. The resistance is expressed as a figure, and this figure is subtracted from the energy damage before it is applied to the target’s hit points. For example, a Fire Giant has Resist Fire 20. That means all fire attacks do 20 less damage to the giant. Unlike armour class, there is no minimum damage for energy resistances. If the resistance reduces the damage to below 1 point, then the target takes no damage at all.
Sometimes energy resistance is taken to such a degree that it becomes Energy Immunity. The more powerful fire giants simply can’t be damaged by a flame of any intensity. Other creatures such as elementals and dragons enjoy the same degree of protection.
However, do not think that such resistances are only for monsters. Plenty of player character races and classes have access to energy resistance. Gods often provide such protection of their clerics, genasi are closely tied to an element and receive some resistance to its effects, and wizards are able to call upon the Weave to defend them from such forces.
Resistances may apply to a form of attack that is not energy; and they may use different mechanics to the ones presented here (and for Armour Class). Here are some examples:
Regeneration: This is a classic example of a form of resistance. While Armour Class and Energy Resistance stop a creature from taking damage, a monster with Regeneration takes the damage, but heals it almost immediately. Lycanthropes and trolls both have regeneration, and its very difficult to put these foes down and get them to stay down without special types of weapons or attacks. There’s more on Regeneration in the section on Wounds and Healing (q.v.).
Incorporeal: Some creatures have a degree of the intangible about them. Sometimes these are beings that stand between two worlds. Ghosts and Ethereal Marauders, for example, are half in our reality and half in the misty Ethereal Plane that divides Iourn from the Shadowfell. Insubstantial characters take no damage from mundane attacks. Magical and Supernatural attacks (including damaging spells, dragon breath and magic weapons) do only half damage if they hit. Fortunately for player characters insubstantial characters usually have to manifest completely on Iourn to affect the real world in a meaningful way.
Heroes are often overmatched, under-powered and on the brink of total defeat. Often only those who are clever enough to exploit the vulnerabilities of their enemies will live to fight another day.
There are several different types of vulnerabilities. Most common are creatures that have vulnerability to a particular energy type. Creatures with a vulnerability to a certain form of energy take extra damage every time they are exposed to it. It works a little like ‘anti-resistance’ if you will.
For example, most undead are vulnerable to damage from radiant energy. A death knight has “Vulnerable 10 Radiant” in the description of his statistics. That means, whenever he takes any radiant damage, he takes +10 to the value. If he’s hit three times, each attack doing just one point of radiant damage, then the death knight actually takes 33 damage.
Some creatures are vulnerable to certain materials. Lycanthropes are unusually vulnerable to attacks from silver weapons. They take extra damage whenever they are struck with a silver weapon. Lycnathropes can’t regenerate damage from silver weapons either, so their doubly vexed.
Regeneration and energy vulnerability often work hand in hand. Trolls for example have vulnerability to fire and acid damage. They take more damage when exposed to these forms of energy and, like lycanthropes, they can’t regenerate the damage they take from these sources, even though they can regenerate everything else.
Vulnerabilities are usually the province of non-player characters and monsters. However, there may be occassions when player characters pick up a vulnerability – perhaps through a disease, a curse or a spell. Some GMs might even entertain PC trolls and lycanthropes. Of course these GMs are mad. Vulnerabilties are usually acquired through a compulsory extra racial trait during character generation.
It’s possible to have both resistance and vulnerability to the same form of energy. For example, a troll wizard with Vulnerable 10 Fire, might cast a spell to give himself Resist Fire 5. In these cases simply take the net result. The troll in this example would have a net vulnerability to fire of 5.
Conditions are special circumstances that can be opposed on your character by outside force or entity. For example, if someone grabs you then you immediately gain the Grappled condition. If you engage in too much physical activity you might gain the Fatigued condition, and if you push yourself too hard you might become Exhausted.
Having conditions allows HD&D to have a consistant set of rules that apply in all circumstances. If, for example, we have a Blinded condition then at any point in the game that your character cannot see, all you need to do is refer to the effects of the Blinded condition. This degree of uniformity in the rules is essential in creating a seamless and consistant system.
In HD&D there are twenty-nine different conditions that can affect your character. If you are suffering from more than one condition then the effects of each condition is combined. If it cannot be combined, then the most serious effect applies instead.
Blinded: A blinded creature cannot see, cannot flank opponents and grants combat advantage to his adversaries. All opponents of blinded creatures are considered to have total concealment. Blinded creatures take a -5 penalty to their Reflex defence, and to all Strength and Dexterity based skill checks (including all attack rolls). All sight-based Perception checks automatically fail, and Perception checks that rely on a combination of sight and other senses take a -10 penalty. A blinded character must make a DC 10 Acrobatics check to move faster than half speed. Creatures that fail this check fall prone. Those who remain blinded for a long time grow accustomed to these drawbacks and can overcome some of them.
Bloodied: A bloodied character is someone whose hit point total has been reduced to a number from 0 to their bloodied value. A character’s bloodied value is a negative number equal to their Constitution score or one quarter of their total hit points, whichever is the greater. Bloodied characters fall unconscious. They drop whatever they are holding, fall prone and are considered helpless.
Broken: This condition applies only to inanimate objects that have lost half their hit points or more to damage, but have not been reduced to 0 hit points or less. Broken items are less effective at their designated task. Any tool required to use a skill check imposes a -2 circumstance penalty on that check. Broken weapons impose a -2 cirumstance penalty to all attack and damage rolls. Broken armour has its armour class value halved, and its armour check penalty doubled. A broken magical item such as a wand or a staff may begin to behave erratically if broken. Other broken items may impose penalties at the GM’s discretion. Magical spells such as mend and make whole can repair items, although if the item is magical the caster has be a higher level than the item. Mundane items can be mended by anyone with the appropriate Craft skill. The DC to mend an item is the same as the DC to create it. The cost of repairing an item is usually 10% of its value. Use this figure to work out how long the repair takes.
Confused: A confused character is mentally befuddled by a magical spell or effect and cannot act normally. In phase one of each turn that a character remains confused, his actions are determined randomly by rolling percentile dice:
||Attack caster with any means available, or close to the appropriate range.
||Do nothing but babble incoherenetly
||Flee from caster at top speed
||Attack nearest creature (excluding familiar or other bonded companion)
If a confused character cannot carry out the indicated action then they babble incoherently instead. Attackers are not at any special advantage when attacking a confused character. Any confused character who is attacked automatically attacks its attackers on its next turn, as long as it is still confused when its turn comes. A confused character does not make opportunity attacks against any creature that it is not already devoted to attacking (either because of its most recent action or because it has just been attacked).
Cowering: The character is frozen in fear and can take no actions. A cowering creature also takes a -2 morale penalty to all defences and saving throws.
Dazed: A dazed character grants combat advantage to its enemies. Dazed characters can take only one Standard action on their turn. They may not take swift or immediate actions. They may take free actions only at the GM’s discretion, although they can still spend action points. Dazed characters cannot flank opponents.
Dazzled: You are unable to see well because of the over stimulation of the eyes – usually because of a sudden bright light. Many subterranean races do not function well in normal light conditions and are easily dazzled. Mole people often accompany the dazzled conditions with cries of “Eeeee!” and aimless running with their arms held above their heads, but this is not compulsory. Dazzled creatures take a -1 penalty to all attack rolls and sight-based Pereception checks.
Dead: There are many ways to be declared dead. You may have had your hit points reduced to your bloodied value or lower, failed three stabilisation checks, had your constitution ability score reduced to zero or gained negative levels equal to your character level. Some spells and other effects can kill you in an instant without meeting any of those criteria. If you are declared dead, then your spirit has departed your body and you can no longer benefit from regeneration, magical or mundane healing. Dead bodies decay normally unless magically preserved. You can be returned from the dead by certain complex rituals such as raise dead and resurrection. However, these are not easy and there is often a price to pay.
Deafened: A deafended character cannot hear. He takes a -5 penalty on Initiative checks and on all Spellcraft checks to cast spells with a verbal component. All hearing-based Perception checks automatically fail, and Perception checks that rely on a combination of hearing and other senses take a -10 penalty. Those who remain deafened for a long time grow accustomed to these drawbacks and can overcome some of them.
Dying: See Bloodied. The terms are interchangeable.
Encumbered: Encumbered characters are carrying more weight than they can comfortably manage. A character that carries a Medium Load is considered encumbered. The weight of this load is dependent upon the character’s size and strength (see Carrying Capacity). Encumbered characters reduce their Speed by 10 ft per round and cannot run or charge. Slowed is a more extreme form of encumberance.
Exhausted: An exhausted character cannnot run or charge, and moves at only half speed. He also takes a -5 penalty to all defences, saving throws, skill checks and ability checks. After one hour’s complete rest an exhausted character becomes fatigued (q.v.). A fatigued character becomes exhausted after doing something else that causes fatigue.
Fascinated: A fascinated creature is entranced by a supernatural or magical effect. The creature stands or sits quietly, taking no actions other than to pay attention to the fascinating effect, for as long as the effect lasts. It takes a -5 penalty on skill checks made as reactions, such as Perception or Insight checks. Any potential threat, such as a hostile creature approaching, allows the fascinated creature a Will saving throw against the fascinating effect. Any obvious threat, such as someone drawing a weapon, casting a spell, or aiming a ranged weapon at the fascinated creature, automatically breaks the effect. A fascinated creature’s ally may shake his friend free of the spell as a standard action.
Fatigued: A fatigued character can neither run nor charge, and takes a -2 penalty to all defences, saving throws, skill checks and ability checks. Doing anything that would normally cause fatigue, causes the fatigued character to become exhausted (q.v.). After eight hours of complete rest, fatigued characters are no longer fatigued.
Frightened: A frightened character is fearful of a particular object, location or creature. Such a character flees from the source of its fear as best it can – this includes utilising any magical or supernatural powers at its disposal. If unable to flee, then it may choose to stand and fight. Frightened characters also take a -2 morale penalty to all defences, saving throws, skill checks and ability checks. Frightened is a more severe state of fear than Shaken, the effects do not stack. Panicked is a more extreme state of fear than Frightened.
Grappled: A grappled creature is being restrained by another creature, trap or effect. Grappled creatures cannot move, and take a -5 penalty on Spellcraft checks to cast spells with somatic or material components, their Reflex Defence, and all attack rolls (except those made to grapple, or escape from a grapple). In addition, grappled creatures can take no action that requires two arms to perform. Grappled creatures cannot make opportunity attacks.
Helpless: A helpless character is one who is bound, sleeping, paralysed, unconscious or otherwise at the mercy of the attacker. Any attack against a Helpless opponent hits automatically. If a character can potentially take an action to dodge or deflect incoming damage then they are not helpless. A sleeping creature would probably get a Perception check to notice the attack, and therefore not be helpless when the blow is struck. A helpless character can be killed in one blow. Helpless characters are susceptible to a Coup de Grace: a special attack action that is quite likely to be fatal. Fortunately, a coup de grace is too tricky a manoeuvre to deliver on opponents with their wits about them – unless the attacker happens to be an assassin.
Invisible: If you are invisible you cannot be seen by normal vision, low-light vision or darkvision. While invisible you receive a +10 to your Stealth check to avoid notice, and even if you are found enemies can still not pinpoint you. You have Total Concealment from enemy attacks, as well as combat advantage over everyone who cannot see you. Regardless of what you do, you don’t provoke opportunity attacks from enemies that can’t see you.
Nauseated: Nauseated characters are experiencing severe stomach distress. Nauseated characters are unable to attack, cast spells or do anything else that requires attention. The only action such a charatcer can take is a single Move action per turn. Nauseated characters may not use swift or immediate actions, but they may take free actions and spend Action Points. Nauseated is a more extreme form of illness than sickened.
Panicked: A panicked creature must drop anything it holds and flee at stop speed from the source of its fear, as well as any other dangers it encounters, along the most expedient path. A panicked creature will use any items, spells or abilities at its disposal to facilitate its escape. During flight, the panicked creature cannot take other actions. It also takes a -2 morale penalty to all defences, saving throws, skill checks and ability checks. If cornered, a panicked creature cringes in fear and does not attack. Typically, it uses the Active Defence option to protect itself. Panicked is a more extreme state of fear than shaken or frightened.
Paralysed: Paralysed creatures are frozen in place and unable to move or act. Depending on what the creature was doing at the time paralysis set in, the GM may rule that the paralysed creature topples to the ground and is Prone. A winged creature flying in the air cannot flap its wings and falls. A paralysed swimmer cannot swim and may drown. Paralysed creatures are Helpless and cannot move or speak, buy they are not unconscious. Purely mental actions such as telepathy, or the direction of active spells are still possible. A paralysed wizard with the still spell, silent spell and eschew materials feats could still cast spells. A creature flying under the power of the Fly spell could still fly, but wouldn’t be able to do anything else.
Petrified: A petrified character turns to stone and can take no actions. Petrified characters are considered unconscious, and are completely unaware of their surroundings while suffering this condition. Damage to a petrified character has no effect unless the character is returned to flesh while still damaged. Any pieces broken off a petrified character are still missing should the character be restored, although they can be held in position at the appropriate point when the condition ends, and will safely fuse back into place. If the petrified form is smashed into small pieces, or if crucial pieces are missing, then the character cannot be returned to the flesh without instant death. However, a smashed statue could be rebuilt months or years later and the character returned without harm. A character does not age while petrified, and may live out an eternity in his stone prison.
Pinned: A pinned creature cannot move and grants combat advantage to his enemies. He also takes a -5 penalty to his Reflex Defence. Normally, the only physical action a pinned character can make is an attempt to escape the pin: he cannot make attack rolls against his opponent, draw weapons or items or signal to allies. A pinned creature can speak, although the grabber can prevent speech if desired as a free action. A pinned creature cannot cast any spells that require a somatic or material component. Purely mental actions such as some psionic powers, or casting a spell using the Still Spell and Eschew Materials feats are unaffected by being pinned.
Prone: A prone character is lying on the ground. Unconscious characters automatically fall prone, but sometimes characters throw themselves prone on purpose. Prone characters grant combat advantage to anyone attacking them in mêlée combat, but gain a +2 bonus to all defences against enemies who attack from beyond their mêlée reach. Prone characters take a -2 penalty to attack rolls except for those with weapons they can easily use from their position – such as crossbows. If you’re knocked prone when you’re flying you can glide safely down a distance equal to your Speed, but if the drop is longer than that, then you fall.
Shaken: A shaken character is nervous, jumpy or suffering from shock. He takes a -2 morale penalty on all defences, saving throws, skill checks and ability checks. Shaken is a less severe state of fear than Fightened or Panicked.
Slowed: Slowed characters are carrying so much extra weight that they can barely move. A character that tries to carry a Heavy Load is considered slowed. The weight of this load is dependent upon the character’s size and strength (see Carrying Capacity). Slowed characters reduce their Speed to 10 ft per round and cannot run or charge. Slowed is a more extreme condition than Encumbered. The two do not stack. Some spells can impose this condition without the character carrying a medium or heavy load.
Stable: A character who is Bloodied, but has stopped having to make stabilisation checks is considered Stable. Such characters are no longer dying, and will probably recover on their own given sufficient time.
Stunned: A stunned creature cannot take any actions. It drops everything it is holding and grants combat advantage to its enemies.
Surprised: A surprised character cannot take any actions of the duration of the Surprise Round. He also grants combat advantage to all his enemies during the surprise round.
Sickened: A sickened character is one who feels queasy. Such characters take a -2 penalty on all defences, saving throws, skill checks and ability checks. A more extreme form of illness is nauseated.
Unconscious: Unconscious characters fall Prone, cannot take any actions and are Helpless. They may be attacked automatically,, and are susceptible to coup de grace or similar attacks. Bloodied characters are usually unconscious.
A natural 20 is always a hit, but it might also be a critical hit. If you roll a natural 20 and the result of the attack roll is also enough to strike the defence of the target, then you have scored a critical hit. This is worth repeating. If 20 + Skill Modifier is not enough to hit a foe’s defence, then you cannot score a critical hit with the attack. A natural 20 will still hit, but it won’t be a critical hit.
So what’s so good about critical hits anyway? When you score a critical hit you don’t roll damage. You attack scores the maximum possible damage instead.
For example, a fifth level rogue sneak attacking with his flaming dagger would normally inflict 1d4 (dagger) + 1d6 (fire damage) + 3d6 (sneak attack) + 2 (Strength bonus). If he scores a critical hit, he doesn’t bother to roll the dice, he simply inflicts 30 damage instead.
Some weapons, talents and feats allow you to score a critical hit more frequently. For example, you might score a critical hit on a natural roll of 19-20, or even 18-20. An extended critical range does not change the rule that only a 20 is an automatic hit. If your critical range is 19-20, you can score a critical hit on a natural 19, if 19 + your skill modifier is equal to or greater than your foe’s Defence. But if it isn’t then, a natural 19 is not an automatic hit. Only a natural 20 is an automatic hit.
Critical Misses: In a game with Critical Hits, you would think that it would only be logical to have a system for critical misses. If you roll a natural 1 then something bad happens to you. Right? The problem with critical misses is that they have a disproptionate impact on player characters, who tend to roll more dice than the GM. Characters making multiple attacks are also penalised in this respect. Critical misses are usually only fun if you’re not on the receiving end of them. Should your seasoned battle veteran have a 1 in 20 chance of slicing off his own ears every time he draws his sword? A natural 1 is already an automatic miss. It’s probably best not to be any harsher than that.
For the most part attacks in combat are over and done with in an instant. The stab of a knife, the whoosh of an arrow or the muffled cries of an ally as he is turned inside out by a powerful spell. However, some abilties may last much longer than this. Some may last as long as you concentrate on them, others will persist autonomously for a set amount of time, and some will last forever.
In this section I will take number of examples from the game’s talents and spells and demonstrate how the duration functions for each of them.
Tactical Presence: This is a Warlord Talent that allows the warlord to grant a morale bonus to the attack rolls of allies who can see and hear him. The bonus is +1 at first level and increases by +1 at every five levels after that. Using Tactical Presence is a standard action and the duration of the effect is one round. That means it lasts until phase three of the warlord’s turn in the following round. If he wants, the warlord can use his standard action the next round to use Tactical Presence again. In this case it lasts another round. The warlord can go on maintaining the effect with his standard action indefinitely, until the battle is won or he sees a dire need to use his standard action to do something else.
Melf’s Acid Arrow: This spell allows a wizard to send an arrow of acid hurtling across the battlefield, to stab a foe for 1d4 damage per two levels (maximum 5d4). That damage is an instantaneous effect. However, the arrow goes on to inflict 5 points of acid damage every round until the target makes a successful Reflex Saving Throw to shake the effect off. This is an example of ongoing damage. Every round, during phase one of his turn, the victim takes the ongoing damage; and every round, during phase three of his turn, the victim gets to make a saving throw to stop taking the damage the following round. Obviously the victim can, if he wants to, try something in phase two of his turn to stop the acid damage more quickly. For example, he might jump into a barrel of milk and hope for the best.
Hold Person: Another spell, although this one doesn’t damage opponents. Hold Person paralyses a single victim for one round per level of the caster. So if the spell is cast by a tenth level caster, then the victim is going to be held fast for ten rounds (one minute) before the spell wears off. The caster could wander off and do anything else he liked, and Hold Person would keep running. However, Hold Person is special. It gives the victim additional chances to break free of the effect every round if the victim wants to take them. Once per round starting on the round after the spell was cast, the victim may elect to use a standard action to make a Will Saving Throw to end the effect prematurely.
Wall of Fire: This spell conjures a broiling sheet of flame either as a wall or as a ring around a particular area. In either form the duration is described as “Concentration + 1 round / level”. This means that the spell lasts for as long as you concentrate on it, and then for one round per level after you stop concentrating. In order to concentrate you must use your Move action each round to maintain the spell.
Mage Armour: Once cast upon a target this spell (which gives you a +4 bonus to AC) lasts for 1 round per caster level. So a seventh level caster can make this spell last for seven rounds. There are no strings and no hidden rules. The spell simply persists with no concentation required by the caster.
Unless the description of the spell specifically says otherwise then spells with an autonomous duration can be ended by the caster as a move action. Normally, you would have to be within the maximum range over which you can cast the spell in order to dismiss it. Any spell with a duration of longer than Instantaneous can be brought down with Dispel Magic.
The rules for attacks and defences are only true if all things are equal. But in combat, all things are never equal. On Wednesday we’ll look at combat advantage, cover, concealment and all types of Combat Modifiers.