Dungeon Master Assistance

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Category Archives: Optional rules

D&D 5E – Are Dead Creatures Objects?

This question comes up quite often. There is no official clarification in either the Player’s Handbook or the Dungeon Master’s Guide. Jeremy Crawford said “A non-undead corpse isn’t considered a creature. It’s effectively an object.” But, dead creatures are not simply objects. If they were not still creatures they would not be valid targets for Revivify.
Time for another house rule.

House Rule:  A dead creature (non-undead corpse) can be either a creature or an object, depending on the situation. It is immune to poison and psychic damage, but otherwise can be affected by physical and magical attacks.

As a creature:

  • The creature has 0 hit points.
  • The creature is unconscious.
  • The creature can’t move, hear, see or speak, and is unaware of its surroundings.
  • The creature can’t take actions or reactions.
  • The creature is not affected by magical or mundane healing.
  • The creature is an “unwilling target” for spells that target creatures.
  • For any spell that requires an “unwilling target” to fail saving throw to be effected, the creature automatically succeeds on its save.
  • The creature automatically fails all other saving throws.
  • Attack rolls against the creature automatically hit.
  • Any attack that hits the creature is a critical hit.

As an object:  

  • The DM determines its Armor Class and hit points. For example: if the object is a dead unarmored human it might have 3d6 Hit Points and an Armor Class of 15.
  • The DM might decide that certain dead creature objects have resistance or immunity to certain kinds of attacks.
  • A dead creature object always fails Strength and Dexterity saving throws, and is immune to effects that require other saves.

As a weapon, it is an object.

“An improvised weapon includes any object you can wield in one or two hands, such as broken glass, a table leg, a frying pan, a wagon wheel, or a dead goblin.” (PHB p. 147)

As a target for a spell, it depends.

If a spell specifically says it works on creatures, it works on dead creatures.

What the target of the spell can be, as defined in the spell description, determines whether or not a dead creature can be a target for any specific spell.

If the spell describes the target as a

Does that include a dead creature?

Dead creature

Yes

Creature

Yes

Creature or Object

Yes

Corps

Yes

Willing Creature

No

Object

No

Some specific spell examples:

Animate Object cannot be used on a dead creature.

Revivify, Raise Dead, Resurrection and True Resurrection all work on dead creatures.

Fabricate “You can fabricate a Large or smaller object …” In this case a creature would not be an object you could fabricate.

True Polymorph has no effect on a dead creature. For this spell, a dead creature is considered a creature with 0 hit points.

Telekinesis has separate descriptions for the target being a creature or an object. For this spell, a dead creature is considered an object.

D&D 5E – Astral Adventuring Revisited

An unofficial suppliant to the 5th edition D&D book Astral Adventurer’s Guide with ship-to-ship combat rules and other enhancements. Download your free copy HERE.

Last month (August 2022) Wizards of the Coast brought Spelljammer into the fifth edition when they published Spelljammer: Adventures in Space. This, for the most part, is very good. However I was disappointed in the lack of information and rules needed for actually conducting a spelljamming campaign. Specifically I was expecting clear descriptions regarding how the spelljamming helm functions and better rules for conducting ship-to-ship combat. The “Ship-to-Ship Combat” section includes boxed text with 3 sentences on “Shipboard Weapons”. Other than that, the entire section on ship-to-ship combat consists of 4 sections; “Starting Distance” (1 paragraph and a table), “Initiative” (1 sentence), “Moving and Steering a Ship” (2 paragraphs), and “Boarding” (2 paragraphs).

This document has two purposes:
1. This is an attempt to make sense out of the Astral Adventurer’s Guide for D&D players that are new to Spelljamming. Some of the terminology and many of the descriptions have been reworded to make it easier for players new to the topic to understand. It also includes a few alternative rules you may want to use in your Spelljamming adventures.
2. To make Spelljamming combat more fun this supplement provides a complete set of spelljamming ship-to-ship combat rules along with new ship statblocks, ship outlines at 1″=20′ scale, and rules that make each of the players active participants in ship-to-ship combat.

D&D 5E – House Rules for Lava

Lava Should NOT be Realistic.

My first inclination was to make the rules regarding lava as realistic as possible but eventually gave up. I have decided to not even try to make lava in D&D realistic. Here is why.

As I see it, you have two different options when coming up with house rules for lava in your D&D games. You can try to make interactions as realistic as possible or you can give it more of a fantasy feel. As an example, here are two different ways I might come up with house rules for falling into lava.

Falling into Lava (2 options)

Option 1 – Reality

  1. In the first second falling towards the lava, the air temperature rises to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. At this point any exposed skin will immediately blister. It feels as though every inch of your skin is touching a hot stove.
  2. You fall for another second toward the lava, and now the air temperature has doubled to 410 degrees. At this point your hair and any clothes you were wearing ignite into flames.
  3. A second or two later you approach the surface of the pool of lava which is between 1200 – 2500 degrees Fahrenheit. You lose consciousness from the immense pain as your flesh is charring, your blood and fluids are boiling.
  4. You begin to asphyxiate as your lings are charring due to the hot gases above the surface.
  5. The superheated air is burning your lungs filling them with fluid much like a blister from a burn fills with fluid.
  6. You are have a cardiac arrest before you ever touch the lava. Your brain isn’t registering much if anything at all at this point.
  7. As you get closer to the lava the water in your body rapidly turns into steam, causing your cells to burst and rapidly swell your body. The pressure from the created steam passes the amount of pressure that your skin and muscles can tolerate, and they begin to tear apart – either in an explosion, or by creating large openings for said steam to escape.
  8. As your skull gets closer to the lava, the water inside your brain behaves similarly, causing your head to explode as the pressure from your brain boiling alive goes above the threshold of what amount of pressure pushing outward your skull can contain.
  9. When hitting this super dense substance at a high speed you may break your neck or crack your skull open.
  10. Then, resting on a bed of molten rock four times hotter than the broiler in an oven, you quickly burst into flames.
  11. In the blink of an eye, it is just your bones and ashes on top of the lava.
  12. Your bones are all burned to ash a few seconds later.

D&D reality house rule: If you fall into lava you die. No saves.

Option 2 – Fantasy

  1. You can sink into the lava like Gollum does in the movie “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.”
  2. Lava should be scary and potentially lethal but possibly survivable, like falling form impossible heights. Some examples where D&D rules aren’t very realistic:
    1. Fireball damage: The fireball spell does 8d6 fire damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one. Objects that are worn or carried are not affected.
    2. Falling damage: A creature takes 1d6 bludgeoning damage for every 10 feet it falls, to a maximum of 20d6.
    3. Power Word Kill: This spell has no effect on creatures with more than 100 hit points.
  3. Also, lava would not make a good backdrop for an encounter if it was strictly realistic.

D&D fantasy house rule: Any creature that falls into lava or starts its turn there takes 55 (10d10) fire damage.

Here are the rest of my house rules regarding lava (these apply to magma as well). Whether it is because lava is different or for some other reason it is just more “fun” if works like this.

How lava behaves (in my fictional D&D world)

  1. You can think of lava as being similar to thick oatmeal that is extremely hot.
  2. Crust: It doesn’t normally form a “crust”.
    1. As long as it is in motion the surface stays liquid, hot, red, and glowing but there may be exceptions.
    2. When it stops moving and pools up it will form a crust after cooling for 24 hours. (It cools twice as fast if underwater.)
    3. The crust is 1 foot thick and does 1d6 fire damage per round to any creature that walks on it.
    4. After 10 days the crust will be 2 feet thick and no longer does fire damage when you walk on it.
    5. The crust continues to thicken one additional foot every 10 days until the lava all becomes solid stone.
  3. Lava rate of flow: It flows slowly enough that you can normally avoid it. Lava flows at 5 ft. per round (50 ft. per minute, 1/2 mph). This is the same at any angle or over any terrain, even straight down without any support.
  4. Swimming in Lava: Swimming speed in lava is 1/4 your walking speed, or 1/2 your swim speed.
  5. Walking on Lava: Even if you are immune to fire, you can’t walk on the surface without magic, such as the “Walk on Water” spell.
  6. Wading through Lava: If the depth of the lava is not above your shoulders you can wade through it. When wading through it, if its depth is no higher than your knees it is treated as difficult terrain, otherwise your speed is reduced to 1/4 of your walking speed..
  7. Immunity to Lava: An immunity or resistance to fire serves as an immunity or resistance to lava. However, a creature immune to fire might still drown if completely immersed in lava.
  8. Gasses: Lava doesn’t normally also have toxic or dangerous gasses emanating from it.
  9. How it spreads: When it reaches a relatively flat surface it will spread. As an example, in one round a 5 foot cube of lava will spread to fill 5 random adjacent 5 ft. spaces to a depth of 1 foot. Lava that is only 1 foot deep no longer spreads unless more lava is added.
  10. Damage:
    1. Being Close: When a creature enters to within 10 feet of the lava, or starts its turn there, it takes 1d6 fire damage due to the heat radiating off the lava. It takes this same damage if it is using the “Water Walk” spell to walk on the surface of the lava.
    2. Wading: A creature takes 5d10 fire damage each round when wading through a lava stream
    3. Falling In: Any creature that falls into the lava or starts its turn there takes 55 (10d10) fire damage.
    4. Objects: Any object that isn’t being worn or carried takes fire damage as a creature does. An object that is reduced to 0 hit points from taking fire damage from lava is completely destroyed.
    5. Dying: A creature that is reduced to 0 hit points from taking fire damage from lava is disintegrated and everything it is wearing or carrying is completely destroyed (no saving throw, no death saves).

Note: the damage is less than indicated in the DMG but I have added the no death saves and destroying all objects rules.

D&D 5E – Armor Grades

There has been a lot of talk about how Armor Class (AC) is calculated in D&D and how armor could be be handled differently. This post is not about that. Without changing any of the basic D&D rules, the house rule I am proposing here simply adds to (or subtracts from) your armor class depending on the quality of the armor.

This system is simple and easy to remember. This works with all armor. Use the armor in the PHB but change the price and Armor Class (AC) based on the grade of the armor as indicated below. Shields are not available in Excellent or Poor condition.

EXCELLENT
These are created by the best armor smiths in the land. Armor of this grade isn’t always available.
Cost: 4 times the PHB price
Armor Class: +2 bonus to the AC

FINE
This is a the best armor most people will ever see. It is highly prized and often passed down from father to son.
Cost: 2 times the PHB price
Armor Class: +1 bonus to the AC

GOOD
This is the grade of the armor in the PHB.
Cost: PHB price
Armor Class: Use the AC in the PHB

FAIR
A peasant or low CR monster might have such armor. No fighter would use such low grade armor if he could passably get something better.
Cost: 1/2 the PHB price
Armor Class: −1 penalty to the AC

POOR
These may be found discarded or abandoned on a battlefield. They are often rusted, chipped, broken or have pieces missing. They would typically only be used when there is no other option.
Cost: 1/4 the PHB price (or found)
Armor Class: −2 (or greater) penalty to the AC.

DAMAGING ARMOR [Optional Rule]
When you take Slashing, Piercing, Bludgeoning, Acid, Lightning, or Force damage from a critical hit your armor takes a permanent and cumulative −1 penalty to its AC. The damage is applied to your shield unless your opponent had advantage on the attack. In that case, or if you aren’t using a shield, the damage is applied to your other armor. If this penalty drops the armor’s AC to 0, it is destroyed.

The DM might apply the penalty in other situations where the armor might be damaged.

 

 

D&D 5E – Weapon Grades

Wanting to add more weapon options to your Dungeons and Dragons 5E game? The weapons available in the Player’s Handbook (PHB) are simple and easy to play, but there is no variety based on the quality of the weapon. All short swords do the same damage. The house rules I am presenting here will allow allow your characters to spend more gold for a higher quality weapon that does more damage, or if they can’t afford the best they can get a lower quality weapon that does less damage.

This system is simple and easy to remember. This works with all weapons. Use the weapons in the PHB but change the price and damage dice based on the grade of the weapon as indicated below.

EXCELLENT
These are created by the best weapon smiths in the land. Weapons of this grade aren’t always available.
Cost: 4 times the PHB price
Damage Dice: Roll two additional dice and drop the lowest 2.

VERY GOOD
These are a the best weapons most people will ever see. They are highly prized and often passed down from father to son.
Cost: 2 times the PHB price
Damage Dice: Roll one additional die and drop the lowest one.

GOOD
This is the grade of the weapons in the PHB.
Cost: PHB price
Damage Dice: PHB damage

FAIR
A peasant or low CR monster might have such a weapon. No fighter would use such a low grade weapon if he could passably get a better one.
Cost: 1/2 the PHB price
Damage Dice: Roll one additional die and drop the highest one.

POOR
These may be found discarded or abandoned on a battlefield. They are often rusted, chipped, or broken. They would typically only be used when there is no other option.
Cost: 1/4 the PHB price (or found)
Damage Dice: After rolling the standard damage dice, roll one additional die and subtract that from the total of the others. If this total is zero or less, your weapon damage will only be the ability modifier you are using for this weapon (STR or DEX).

CRITICAL HIT
If your attack roll is a natural 20 (a 20 on the dice before any modifiers), roll double the standard damage dice before making an adjustment for weapon quality.

CRITICAL MISS [Optional Rule]
If your attack roll is a natural 1 (a 1 on the dice before any modifiers), the weapon attack misses. There is also a chance your weapon is damaged. Immediately make another attack roll applying all of the same modifiers against the same AC but this isn’t an attack, it is a roll to see if you damaged your weapon. If this second roll is a miss your weapon drops to the next lower grade. If your weapon is already poor quality, it is destroyed.

D&D 5E – Nautical Adventures – Version 2

Revised rules for conducting a seafaring campaign in D&D. Including rules for Ship-to-Ship Combat.

You can download a free copy here:

This is a major update to my earlier Nautical Adventures supplement. I have changed form a Ship Record Sheet to the Ship Stat Block format as presented in the “Ghost of Saltmarsh” book under its “Of Ships and The Sea” appendix and have streamlined the special officer actions. This has made running ship to ship combat much faster and easier to play.
Everything here is fully comparable with “Ghost of Saltmarsh”. I highly recommend its “TRAVEL AT SEA”, “OCEAN ENVIRONS”, “ENCOUNTERS AT SEA”, “RANDOM SHIPS”, “MYSTERIOUS ISLANDS”, and “UNDERWATER LOCATIONS” sections for use in your nautical adventures.

D&D 5E – Nautical Adventures [re-post]

Ship-Book_Cover

Rules for conducting a seafaring campaign in D&D. Including rules for Ship-to-Ship Combat.

This is a re-post. I first posted this in 2015. It has been by far my most downloaded file. My records for downloads doesn’t go back farther than July 2019, but just in 2020 there were over 30,000 downloads. For any of my followers that may have missed it, here is a copy of the original post. For those who have downloaded this and used in your games I am very happy that this has been so well received. So here again is – Nautical Adventures.

You can download a free copy here: 5E_Nautical_Adventures.pdf

This is a complete re-write of the Ship to Ship Combat rules I published before (3.5 version here).

In keeping with the spirit of 5e, this  is  not  about  conducting  massive  sea battles, moving small model ships around on a hex battle map exploring tactics and the intricacies of wind and sail. Rather this is about what the PCs can do with ships. Ship-to-ship  battles  do  take  up  the  majority  of  the  pages here, but the battles are from the point of view of the player  characters  on  board  their  ship.  Care  has  been taken to assure each payer has something to contribute each round of ship-to-ship combat. Each player controls one of their ship’s officers. That officer can be his or her PC  or  it  may  be  an  NPC  and  he  has  several  actions available to him that are specific to that officer.

I copied liberally from Wizards of the Coast’s 1997 publication “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons of Ships and the Sea”. I also got a lot of good ideas from Pathfinder’s “Skull and Shackles”  (their “Wormwood Mutiny” adventure path will work with these rules for those of you who want a good Pirates campaign.)
I also found a lot of good information in Kenzer and Company’s “Salt and Sea Dogs”.

A special thanks to Shawn at http://tribality.com/ for his series on Naval Combat for D&D 5th edition. He got me to thinking seriously about how to keep all of the players involved in naval combat.

D&D 5E – Simplified Rules

5.0-EZ Version 6

Download your free copy here.

This version contains several minor corrections to the previous version.

This is a supplement to fifth edition dungeons and dragons for those who prefer simpler rules or want an easy way to introduce the game to new players.

If you sometimes feel that the fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons rules are too complicated, this is for you. I created this set of house rules to simplify character creation and advancement among other things. It also introduces a whole new way to select and track the casting of magic spells.
One thing I tried very hard to do was keep the characters levels and power as close as possible to the Player’s Handbook characters so that if you play using these rules, you can still use published 5th edition adventures, and the monsters will require little or no modifications

 

 

D&D 5E – Playing on a 1 Square=10′ Grid

How to Play on a 1 inch = 10 feet square grid.

I am the DM for a table top “Storm King’s Thunder” campaign. The final battle map is drawn in the book with one square = 10 feet. I usually draw the map on my battlemat with each 1 inch square = 5 feet. But this is such a large playing field that it won’t fit on my table at that scale so I am drawing it with 1 inch = 10 feet. I have occasionally done this before, but adjusting movements and attacks have always been a hassle. In anticipation of a large complicated battle I came up with this set of house rules.

To play with miniatures on a square grid where each square on the grid represents 10 feet:

Scale
Start with the rules in Variant: Playing on a Grid (PHB, page 192). Change “Each square on the grid represents 5 feet” to “Each (one inch) square on the grid represents 10 feet.”

Creature Size
For game purposes, creature sizes and speeds don’t change and if they have a 5 ft. reach they can attack creatures in adjacent squares even though creatures in adjacent squares are considered to be 10 ft. apart for all other purposes.
Gargantuan Creatures
These each occupy a 2 inch square (four 1 inch squares).
Large or Huge Creatures
These each occupy a single 1 inch square.
Medium and Small Creatures
You can have more than one medium or small creature in one square. (I recommend flat, one inch diameter, tokens rather than minis. If there is more than one creature in a square you can stack them.)
A medium or small creature occupies one 1 inch square. Up to 4 creatures of this size can occupy a single square, but they are each considered occupying the entire square. If there is more than one such creature in a square they are considered to be 5 feet apart from each other.
A single medium or small creature can not be attacked by more than 8 medium or small creatures (or 4 large or larger creatures) with 5 ft. melee attacks.
Tiny Creatures
You can stack 16 tiny creatures in one square. They are considered to be 2 1/2 ft. apart. You can have a combination of tiny and medium or small creatures. There can be a maximum of: 1 medium or small and 12 tiny, 2 medium or small and 8 tiny, or 3 medium or small and 4 tiny.

Movement
Speed and movement doesn’t change, but you can’t move into a square if you don’t have enough movement left (10 feet).
Example: If your move rate is 25 feet, you can only move 2 squares (25 ft. rounded down = 20 ft.), but if you dash you can move 5 squares (25 ft. x 2 = 50 ft.).
Medium or small creatures can move through, but not stop in, a square occupied by a Gargantuan or Huge creature but it can’t move through a square occupied by a Large creature.
Medium or small creatures can move through, or stop in if they choose to, a square occupied by fewer than 4 medium or small creatures, regardless if the occupying creatures are hostile or not. If it is occupied by 4 non-hostile creatures you can move through it but you can not stop in it.

Ranges and areas of effect:
All ranges and areas of effect are rounded down to a multiple of 10 feet (minimum of 10 feet).
Some examples: All melee attacks with a range of 5 feet will have a range of 10 ft. (or, rather, they are treated as if they were actually only 5 ft. away.) So you can attack a creature in an adjacent square with your short sword, or you could attack it with your long bow without disadvantage because, for everything other than 5 ft. melee attacks, it is 10 ft. away. For the same reason an attack on a prone creature in an adjacent square is with advantage if you make a 5 ft. melee attack (it’s 5 ft. away), but it is with a disadvantage if it is made with range weapon (it’s 10 ft. away). A blowgun’s range changes from (25/100) to (20/100). The spell Word of Recall‘s range changes from 5 ft. to 10 ft. The spell Lightning Bolt will form a line 10 ft. wide instead of 5 ft. The Gust of Wind spell will push a creature 10 ft. instead of 15 ft.

Opportunity Attacks
Your 5 ft. reach becomes 10 ft. in regard to creatures in adjacent squares. So if a hostile creature moves out of an adjacent 10 ft. square you can make an opportunity attack against it. But if it moves from within the same square you are in to an adjacent square you can not (because it will still be within range).

D&D 5E – Adventures on Mongo

A sword and planet/space pulp RPG.

Download your free copy here.

This is a conversion of The Savage Worlds of Flash Gordon from the Savage Worlds core system to Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition..

I have attempted to convert the information contained in The Savage Worlds of Flash Gordon into a playable D&D alternative..

Enjoy!

Update #1: July 2020 Corrected some errors. Revised and expanded Mongo-Tech spellcasting.