Dungeon Master Assistance

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Tag Archives: D&D

D&D 5E – Line of Effect

Line of Effect Definition for Fifth Edition

The Player’s Handbook says:

“To target something [with a spell], you must have a clear path to it, so it can’t be behind total cover. If you place an area of effect at a point that you can’t see and an obstruction, such as a wall, is between you and that point, the point of origin comes into being on the near side of that obstruction.”


This isn’t especially clear and and leads to many questions.
A clear definition of “line of effect” would clear up much of the confusion. However, neither the Player’s Handbook nor the Dungeons Master’s Guide use this term at all. Because fifth edition doesn’t define a line of effect, below is my unofficial definition. I went back to the definition in third edition and modified it to account for the differences in 3rd and 5th edition. Because the following is not official, you should consider it a house rule.

Line of Effect [for Spells]

You must have a clear line of effect to any target that you cast a spell on or to the point of origin for any spell’s area of effect. A spell’s area of effect affects only an area, creature, or object to which it has line of effect from its origin.
Line of effect is a straight, unblocked path that indicates what a spell can affect. A line of effect is canceled by a solid barrier. It’s like line of sight for ranged weapons, except that it’s not blocked by fog, darkness, and other factors that limit normal sight.
A line of effect is also blocked by a solid barrier that doesn’t block sight, such as clear glass.
An otherwise solid barrier with a hole of at least 1 square foot through it does not block a spell’s line of effect. Such an opening means that the 5-foot length of wall containing the hole is no longer considered a barrier for purposes of a spell’s line of effect.
Line of effect is required for spells unless the spell description specifically states otherwise. Any spell that says that you need to see the target still requires a line of effect. If the spell description says that an effect spreads around corners that effect doesn’t require a line of effect.

Concentration Spells

If a spell must be maintained with concentration, you must have a line of effect to cast the spell, but you do not need to maintain a line of effect to maintain concentration. However, if the concentration spell allows you to use an action, bonus action or reaction to effect a creature or object then any round that you perform that action you must have line of effect to the target.

Line of Effect [for Auras]

The line of effect for an Aura is different than for spells. To be effected by (or to detect) an Aura there must be a straight path to the source of the aura that isn’t blocked by 1 foot of stone, 1 inch of common metal, a thin sheet of lead, or 3 feet of wood or dirt.

D&D – Business Card Dungeons

If you are a Dungeon Master, you may have business cards that you give to your players. Here is a way to improve them. Give people a reason to keep your cards, and even collect them, by printing dungeon maps on the back!

These aren’t new, but they are new to me. I just ran across these the other day. They are excellent business card sized dungeon maps. When printed on business cards, each card can be placed next to any other card to create a random dungeon. There are 20 different images. and you can print them on the back of your business cards. I printed mine on my printer and cut them apart, but you can use MOO Business Cards and they don’t charge extra to print a different image on the back of every card!

Get these images from “Dyson’s Dodencahedron” Blog. There are 5 maps in each set, and instructions on how they might be used.

Set 1

Set 2

Set 3

Set 4

D&D – DM Screen Reimagined

DMScreen_A

A different type of DM Screen.

As a Dungeon Master, I quit using a DM screen about 5 years ago. I had always used one because I was told that that was the way the game was played. The players can’t see any of your maps or reference books. You can hide the minis of the monsters until you bring them out for an encounter. And you can roll behind the screen so your players can’t see when you fudge your die rolls.

When I stopped using a DM screen, I loved it. My players are all mature enough that they aren’t inclined to cheat, so hiding my books and notes isn’t an issue. I make all of my rolls in the open. At first I thought I might need to make secret rolls from time to time, so I put a couple of dice in a small wooden box with a lid for making secret rolls. In the last 5 years, I have never used it. I have a small cardboard box where I keep the monster minis until time to bring them out. And I really enjoy the game more where I can have a closer connection to the players, not to mention that I hate having to stand up whenever I need a good view of the battle mat.

The only problem has been my maps. My players don’t purposely look at the map, but it is hard not to look at it when it is in the open. So to help keep my honest players honest, a couple of weeks ago I started using a DM screen again. It didn’t take long for me to regret it, for all of the reasons I just mentioned.

Then, one morning I woke up with this idea. If all I was using the DM screen for was to make it easier for my players to not look at my maps, I didn’t need a full sized DM screen. I found an old shoebox that was just the right size for an 8 1/2 inch x 11 inch paper to fit inside. I cut off one end. I cut off two panels from an old DM screen (any 8.5 x 11 sheets of cardboard would do) and taped them to the sides. As I hope you can see from the photos, this is high enough that the players seated on each side of me can’t see the map and players at the other end of the table can’t see the map over the end of the shoe box. I taped a monster picture to the end just for fun. And the best thing of all, it doesn’t obstruct my view of the battle mat.

What do you think of this idea? I have only used it a couple of sessions so far, but I really like it. Also, I can easily set it aside when I don’t need to reference the map.

D&D – Torch & Lantern Cards

This blog just reached 500 followers. I was looking around for a way to thank you! I haven’t done anything that is ready for posting lately (I have been working on something), but I ran across this. These are from “Dyson’s Dodecahedron” 2017. Both cards are copyright 2017 by Dyson Logos, based on a design by Kirin Robinson, and you can download them to print on 2″ x 3.5″ cards. HERE:

Or you can use this version to print on a letter sized sheet – HERE.

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 – The Complete Guide to Lycanthropy

The official rules for Lycanthropy in D&D 5E don’t make it clear on how a DM should run the game should a player’s character become effected by the curse. I was looking to come up with some house rules when I ran across this post by Halfling Hobbies. I didn’t think I could improve on it much so I thought I would share.

Source: The Complete Guide to Lycanthropy in D&D 5e | Halfling Hobbies & Trinkets

D&D 5E – Effects of Magical Aging

Can my D&D character die of old age?

In 3.5 and earlier editions of D&D your character could die of old age. This is not presented as an option in 5th edition. If you want some rules for how your characters are effected when they are magically aged, with the possibility of dying from old age, this post is for you.

Your character ages normally as time passes in your campaign. Most campaigns won’t represent a long enough time for your character’s advancing age to effect your character’s abilities. But the world of D&D is a world full of magic and anything can happen.

The Player’s Handbook tells you when each race is considered an adult and their expected lifespan. You also learn that the “petrified” condition ceases aging and creatures under the effect of the “imprisonment” spell don’t age. You also learn that the “resurrection”, “true resurrection”, and “revivify” spells don’t work on creatures that died from old age. I would also have to assume that a properly worded “wish” spell could change the age of a creature.

From the Dungeon Master’s Guide you learn that both the “Boots of Immortality” and the epic “Boon of Immortality” both stop you from aging, make you immune to any effect that would age you, and with them you can’t die from old age. You also learn that a creature trapped in an “iron flask” doesn’t age.

The Monster Manuel only has one monster that effects aging. The “Ghost” has a “Horrifying Visage” ability that can age a character 1d4 x 10 years. The aging effect can be reversed with a greater restoration spell, but only within 24 hours of it occurring. [For the following rules to work as intended, change the aging from “1d4 x 10 years” to “one age category”.]

In the magical world of D&D there may be additional spells or magical effects that are not in any of the core books. As the result of some magic, you might be unnaturally changed to any older (or younger) age. I have created the following unofficial rules to provide a framework for the DM to handle these situations.

I have divided the ages into 3 groups: Young, Mature and Old
Each of these groups are further divided into three categories. Although the Player’s Handbook says that you can choose any age for your character, it is assumed that a starting player character would normally be somewhere in the “Mature” group.

The three age groups and the categories for each group are as follows.
Young: Infant, Child, Adolescent
Mature: Young-adult, Adult, Middle-aged
Old: Senior, Elderly, Venerable

When a creature is affected by magic which changes its age, it will typically make it older (or younger depending on the magic effect) by a single age category. When your age is changed in this way your character changes as described below. Please note that, except for Infants, you are NOT changing any ability scores. Also these changes are NOT cumulative. When your age is magically changed to one of these categories you should start by removing any previously applied changes from earlier age changes before applying the new changes.

PC age categories

Infant: Your size becomes tiny, Your speed becomes 0, You loose all ability to communicate. You can’t cast spells. You loose all of your proficiencies. All of your ability scores become 3. You automatically fail all ability checks and saves.

Child: Your size becomes small. Your speed becomes 10. You can’t cast spells. You loose all of your proficiencies. You have Disadvantage on STR, INT, WIS and DEX checks and saves. You have Advantage on CHA checks and saves.

Adolescent: You loose all weapon and armor proficiencies. You must succeed on a concentration check to cast any spell. You have a -2 on STR, INT and WIS checks and saves. You have a +2 on CHA checks and saves.

Young-adult, Adult, and Middle-aged: No changes.

Senior: You have a -2 on STR, DEX and INT checks and saves.

Elderly: You have disadvantage on STR, DEX and INT checks and saves. You have a +2 on CHA and WIS checks and saves.

Venerable: You automatically fail all STR and DEX checks and saves. You have advantage on CHA and WIS checks and saves. If you fail any CON save you receive one level of exhaustion. If you die from exhaustion, you will have died from old age.

Too young or too old:

If magical ageing makes you younger than the youngest category you die from never having been born. Your body dissipaters and your sole returns to the font on the Positive Energy Plain from whence it came.

If magical ageing makes you older than oldest category you die of old age.

PC Races

For the races that are in the Player’s Handbook.

Dwarf
Young: Infant 0-1, Child 2-19, Adolescent 20-49
Mature: Young-adult 50-99, Adult 100-149, Middle-aged 150-199
Old: Senior 200-249, Elderly 250-299, Venerable 300-350

Elf
Young: Infant 0-1, Child 2-19, Adolescent 20-99
Mature: Young-adult 100-199, Adult 200-299, Middle-aged 300-399
Old: Senior 400-499, Elderly 500-599, Venerable 600-750

Halfling
Young: Infant 0-1, Child 2-13, Adolescent 14-19
Mature: Young-adult 20-49, Adult 50-89, Middle-aged 90-129
Old: Senior 130-159, Elderly 160-199, Venerable 200-250

Human
Young: Infant 0-1, Child 2-12, Adolescent 13-17
Mature: Young-adult 18-24, Adult 25-44, Middle-aged 45-64
Old: Senior 65-79, Elderly 80-99, Venerable 100-120

Dragonborn
Young: Infant 0, Child 1-3, Adolescent 4-14
Mature: Young-adult 15-24, Adult 25-34, Middle-aged 35-44
Old: Senior 45-54, Elderly 55-64, Venerable 65-80

Gnome
Young: Infant 0-1, Child 2-19, Adolescent 20-39
Mature: Young-adult 40-99, Adult 100-159, Middle-aged 160-219
Old: Senior 220-279, Elderly 280-339, Venerable 340-500

Half-Elf
Young: Infant 0-1, Child 2-14, Adolescent 15-19
Mature: Young-adult 20-34, Adult 45-69, Middle-aged 70-94
Old: Senior 95-119, Elderly 120-144, Venerable 145-180

Half-Orc
Young: Infant 0-1, Child 2-5, Adolescent 6-13
Mature: Young-adult 14-23, Adult 24-33, Middle-aged 34-43
Old: Senior 44-53, Elderly 54-63, Venerable 64-75

Tiefling
Young: Infant 0-1, Child 2-12, Adolescent 13-17
Mature: Young-adult 18-24, Adult 25-44, Middle-aged 45-64
Old: Senior 65-99, Elderly 100-119, Venerable 120-150

Monster age categories

For NPCs and all Creatures that do not have a class level (monsters) what happens when they are magically aged depends on their type. They will use the age categories that are shown below for the monster type. We can ignore their actual age in years.

Aberrations, Celestials, Constructs, Elementals, Fey, Fiends, Monstrosities, Oozes, and Undead are immune to magical aging.

Beasts
Beasts are assumed to start as an Adult.
Beast age categories:
Child: Disadvantage on STR and DEX checks and saves.
Adolescent: -2 on STR and DEX checks and saves.
Adult: Starting age.
Old: Disadvantage on STR and DEX checks and saves.

Dragons
Dragons have their own age categories. When they magically change to a different age category all of their stats change to those for a dragon of the same color but with the new stat block.
Dragon age categories:
Wyrmling 0-5 years
Young 6-100 years
Adult 101-800 years
Ancient 801+ years

Faerie Dragons
They will change color, and the abilities associated with that color, as they change change age categories.
Faerie Dragon age categories:
Red 0-5 years
Orange 6-10 years
Yellow 11-22 years
Green 21-30 years
Blue 31-40 years
Indigo 41-50 years
Violet 51 years

Giants and Humanoids
Use the same age categories as shown for PCs.
Giants and Humanoids are assumed to start as an Adult.

Plants
Plants are assumed to start as an Adult and they don’t die from old age, they just get larger. Use your common sense, for instance plants that don’t have a speed or move rate don’t get them when they change size.
Plant categories:
Young: Size decreases from Adult by two size categories and reach decreases from Adult by 10′ and speed decreases from Adult by 10′.
Young-adult: Size decreases from Adult by one size category and reach decreases from Adult by 5′ and speed decreases from Adult by 5′.
Adult: Starting age.
Middle-aged: Size increases from Adult by one size category and reach increases from Adult by 5′ and speed increases from Adult by 5′.
Old: Size increases from Adult by two size categories and reach increases from Adult by 10′ and speed increases from Adult by 10′.

D&D 5E – How to Publish D&D Content

habitation cover

How to publish your own D&D 5E adventure (or any other D&D related content such as alternate rules or home-brew monsters).

If you just want to share your stuff.

If you are just a fan and only want to share your stuff for free with other fans (like I do on this blog) you could simply abide by the WotC’s (Wizards of the Coast) fan content policy.

What is WotC’s fan content policy?

WotC claims the IP (intellectual property) rights to everything they publish. I am a fan, and everything I share here is free and unofficial. To the best of my understanding, everything I make available here complies with their fan content policy. WotC’s fan content policy explains what you, as a fan, can and can’t do with their IP. Most of it is pretty simple. Don’t claim any of their stuff is yours and don’t try to sell it.
There is a little more to it than that. You should read their official fan content policy (HERE).

If you want to sell your stuff.

Then it gets a little more complicated. WotC does a good job explaining most of this (HERE). Below are my thoughts on the subject. (You should check with a lawyer. I am not a lawyer and nothing contained here should be taken as legal advice.)

Probably the safest way to avoid any legal hassles is to use the WotC’s OGL (Open Game License), OGC (Open Game Content), and SRD (System Reference Document). Abiding by these rules you can publish anything you want, any where you want. WotC also provides an easy way to publish your stuff on-line with the Dungeon Masters Guild.

What is the OGL (Open Game License)?

The OGL is a short contract Wizards of the Coast created. It contains provisions that explain the rules surrounding what D&D material you can use in your published work.

What is OGC (Open Game Content)?

OGC is a “body of work” that many creators have contributed to over time. It’s the open-source world of D&D material. Anything in the OGC is free to use as long as you properly credit and cite the original publisher and abide by the OGL’s rules.

What is the SRD (System Reference Document)?

The SRD is an example of OGC you can use in your writing if you use the OGL. The SRD contains most of the basic D&D 5E rules and guidelines for publishing content under the OGL.

What is the Dungeon Masters Guild?

The Dungeon Masters Guild is an officially supported website that allows you to create content using Wizards of the Coast intellectual property (IP) and sell it on their site. You can charge whatever you want, you get 50% of your sales. The other 50% goes to Wizards of the Coast and OneBookShelf, which runs the DMs Guild marketplace. They have their own set of somewhat more flexible rules (HERE).

Another, riskier, option

You could ignore all of the above and use your own common sense (and a good copyright lawyer wouldn’t hurt).

Why some people choose NOT to use the “Open Gaming License”.

If you agree to the terms and conditions in the OGL, you are bound by it. That means that WotC doesn’t need specific legal backing to go after things – they can leverage their license itself to enforce things.

Many things that WotC wants to protect by the OGL are already covered by existing copyright and trademark laws. The primary things in 5e that you are not allowed to use in your work because they are protected under these laws are:

  1. Product identity – terms like Dungeons and Dragons, 5e, Dungeon Master, etc.
  2. Lore, settings, adventures, and characters. This includes places like the Faerun, the Underdark, specific monsters like Beholders and races like Githyanki. This also includes the proper names referenced by spells and items. Spell names like Bigby’s Hand are protected, though spell names like Fireball are not (too generic).
  3. Actual wording and expression of the rules. This includes the specific text that describes spells, items, and features.

If you agree to the OGL, it does allow you to use a bunch of their stuff exactly as they worded it. But the OGL gives you very few other rights you do not already have, and by agreeing to it you are giving up the right to do a lot of stuff you could have done otherwise.

  • For one thing, no one can copyright, trademark, or patent the rules of a game.
  • For another, take the phrase “world’s greatest role-playing game”. That’s required by the OGL, but under normal conditions, having never signed on to the OGL, you could just say “Compatible with D&D 5e rules” as much as you like. The only thing stopping you from doing that is the OGL.
  • No one can claim mythical creatures, literary archetypes, or that kind of thing as their intellectual property. That includes the overwhelming majority of the names of all D&D classes, races, and monsters. You can already use those names. The stuff you can’t use are names like beholder or Illithid that were invented by WotC. But they are not available in the OGL anyway. As long as you never agreed to the OGL, you can create generic versions with different names and you’re okay. For any creature, pact, effect, etc., as long as you don’t copy the WotC descriptions word for word you should still be okay. Any one of these names in and of itself can’t be copyrighted, but the paragraph of description can. So, just be careful. Or, better still, just create your own stuff from scratch.

I hope this helps. Good luck writing your own D&D 5E Adventure.

P.S. If you are interested, you can purchase and download a copy of the adventure whose cover I show above (HERE).

D&D 5E – Combining Different Speeds

Speed

“Using different Speeds” on page 190 of the Player’s Handbook says:

“If you have more than one speed, such as your walking speed and a flying speed, you can switch back and forth between your speeds during your move. Whenever you switch, subtract the distance you’ve already moved from the new speed. The result determines how much farther you can move.
For example, if you have a speed of 30 and a flying speed of 60 because a wizard cast the fly spell on you, you could fly 20 feet, then walk 10 feet, and then leap into the air to fly 30 feet more.

This rule is simple and makes for fast game play, but it bothers me because of all the ways it can be used that make no logical sense. Foe instance, you can not do their example in reverse. You cannot first fly 30 feet and then walk 10 feet. That would not be allowed because if you subtract the distance you’ve already moved (30 feet) from the new speed (30 feet) you get zero – no move remaining.

I do it this way:

A combat round is only 6 seconds. When you switch from one move rate to another you see how much time you have used and then see how much time you have left. Use this to see how much farther you can move.

Because one round is 6 seconds, to convert “speed” to “feet per second” divide the speed by 6.

  • Walk speed of 30 ft. = 5 ft per second
  • Fly speed of 60 ft. = 10 ft per second

If you fly 30 feet (taking 3 seconds) you could then walk 10 feet (taking 2 seconds) and then you could take the rest of your time (1 second) to fly an another 10 feet. And your trip back will work the same way.

Lets say you only walked 20 feet, and then flew as far as you could. It took you 4 seconds to walk that 20 feet so you only have 2 seconds left. You can fly another 20 feet.

If you walk 30 feet you can’t move any farther because it took all 6 seconds to move that 30 feet.

This also applies if you get up from prone. This takes half you move, therefore it takes 3 seconds to stand up, leaving only 3 more seconds regardless of your move rate.

D&D 5E – Spirits and Souls

Soul_Magic

In Dungeons and Dragons, according to the Great Wheel cosmology, all souls in the multiverse originate from fonts on the Positive Energy Plain, sometimes called the Plane of Life. When a sentient being is born his soul enters his body with his first breath. How long that soul existed before it occupied the newborn and how the choice of host is made is not known. A PC’s soul then continues throughout his life and beyond. A PC’s soul isn’t typically destroyed when he dies and if he is brought back to life, his soul re-joins his body. It is possible for his soul to be moved into an object or another body or travel to other planes and other timestreams. In a very real sense, a player’s character’s soul is that character.

What is a “soul” in D&D? Is that different than a “spirit”?

In 1st-edition D&D; humans, dwarves, gnomes, halflings, and half-elves had souls. Elves, orcs, and half-orcs had spirits. Those with souls could be resurrected and the others could not. This was changed in later editions.

In D&D 5E, a “spirit” is a creature’s bodiless life force. As mentioned in the “Speak with Dead” spell, an animating spirit is the part of your life force that makes your body move to your soul’s wishes and has some semblance of awareness. A “soul” is a creatures spirit that also includes it’s memories, personality, and alignment. All souls have a spirit but a spirit can exist without a soul.

The Dungeon Master’s Guide (DMG) seams to imply that all living creatures have souls:
“When a creature dies, its soul departs its body, leaves the Material Plane, travels through the Astral Plane, and goes to abide on the plane where the creature’s deity resides. If the creature didn’t worship a deity, its soul departs to the plane corresponding to its alignment.” (DMG p.24)

In D&D 5E what creatures have, or don’t have, souls?

There is nothing official that I can find in any of the published books, so here are my thoughts on this subject.

As a house rule, I propose that most creatures have souls. Creatures that don’t have souls are: beasts, constructs, elementals, oozes, plants, unaligned creatures, and most undead.

The following are the undead in the Monster Manuel (MM) that specifically DO have souls.

A ghost has a soul:
“A ghost is the soul of a once-living creature, bound to haunt a specific location, creature, or object that held significance to it in its life.” (MM p.147)

A rvenant has a soul:
“A revenant forms from the soul of a mortal who met a cruel and undeserving fate.” (MM p.259)

A will-o’-wisp has a soul:
“Will-o’-wisps are the souls of evil beings that perished in anguish or misery as they wandered forsaken lands permeated with powerful magic.” (MM p.301)