The Four Winds
I dont require any player to read this part. I have been using these rules for a long time (most of them, some are more recent) that I never have to refert to any of them. However they are written down so that any player can research them and see how my mind works (scary). Basically they are here in case players want a referance point.
I have been using most of these rules so long I am not sure what the offical ruling on most of them are. I remember that we (me and my players) didnt like the way the rules were written or simply couldnt find the rules so we made up what sounded right and stuck with it. Players are usually fine with a made up rule as long as it is fair, applies to both them and the monsters, and most of all consitant.
A natural roll of 1 on inititive means that character misses the first round of combat due to surprise and inattention. They also act last on every following round regardless of where their modified result would have normally placed them.
Either Alertness or Improved Initiative Feats would negate this penalty and the one would simply count as a the lowest possible result. You would still use your normal modifiers to determine what order you act in and you dont miss out on the first turn.
A natural roll of 20 means that the character gets a surprise round. Even if there was already a surprise round previous (such as a ambush).
The Improved Initiative Feat raises this to either a natural 19 or 20.
Skill checks and skill points
There is no cross class penalties. As long as it makes sense for a character to have a skill then you may spend your points however you wish. Fighters can even take Scry, Psicraft, and Spellcraft if they can come up with a realistic reason they would have those skills.
Four new skills added to my campaign are Run, Fly, Grapple, and Taunt. They are put in place because even if two people with the same movement rate, feat, and statistics were to run a marathon, they wouldnt cross the finish line at the exact same time. Same with Flying. Grapple was put in place because some people study the art of wrestling and choke holds. Taunt has nothing to do with movement, it is to have enemies focus on you over other targets.
Also with grappling is the dwarven + 4 racial bonus vs being bullrushed. So a grapple check is 1d20 + Strength modifier + Size modifier + Skill ranks + misc. Escape artist also adds a characters best BAB to the roll.
Some skills that are based on str according the PHB can have dex substituted instead. Skills such as jump, swim, climb, run, and fly can all be either str or dex.
Taunt skill: You must have the Goad feat to make this work. Goad may be selected as a fighter bonus feat. As a move action, you can goad an opponent that threatens you, has line of sight to you, can hear you, and has an Intelligence of 3 or higher. (The goad is a mind-affecting ability.) When the goaded opponent starts its next turn, if it threatens you and has line of sight to you, it must make a Will saving throw (DC 10 + ranks in Taunt + your Cha modifier). If the opponent fails its save, you are the only creature it can make melee attacks against during this turn. (If it kills you, knocks you unconscious, loses sight of you, or otherwise is unable to make melee attacks against you, it may make any remaining melee attacks against other foes, as normal.) A goaded creature can still cast spells, make ranged attacks, move, or perform other actions normally. The use of this feat restricts only melee attacks. However, unless it is very unlogical to do otherwise, all attacks; melee, ranged, magical, or otherwise, will be headed your way.
Finally nat 20s on a skill check explode. Roll again and add the result. A Natural 1 fails no matter how many ranks a character has in the skill.
Learning new languages. Every 8 levels a character learns a new language just due to their experience and time spent traveling. It must be a language that they have had a decent amount of exposure too, but other then that there is really no limit. A character may also “purchase” a new language for 4 skill points. If a character gets less then 4 points per level then they need to save up.
Spell Resistance from all sources stack. However it normally caps at 40. “Normally” means that gods, archedemons, celestrial devas, and fantastic creatures of the sort may rise above the max but it is rare and unusual.
Overcoming Spell Resistance hasnt changed. Roll a d20 + caster level. A roll a 1 always fails and a roll of 20 always succeeds, despite the actual result.
Spells always take place at the same time. The reason for this is that if two normal 5th level mages faced off and both threw a fireball at the other, whoever went first would win. Pretty much whoever wins initiative would win the fight. So unless it is a very chaotic battle and it would be too much hassle to keep track of, spellcasters fighting each other go at the same time. Its rather amazing how often in a fight, if the enemy has a spellcaster, the PC spellcaster will target them and they will fight it out from afar. So this happens quite often.
To see what another caster is about to do you must have a clear line of sight (or possibly have to make a spot check) and make a Spellcraft check DC 15+ level of the spell if it is the same as yourself (in regards to Arcane or Divine) or DC 20 + spell level if opposite. If you have access to both arcane and divine magic, then the DC is always base 15. This has no effect on psionics. Usually the other caster is also allowed a check to see what the PC is doing.
Counterspelling is casting the same spell or exact opposite. For example if someone is casting a slow spell then you could counter it with either Slow or Haste. But to counter a spell with the same spell, it must be cast at the same time. There is no roll needed. Either caster has veto power to cancel a spell out. Metamagic Feats have no bearing on the spell (except Quickened because the other cant act in time).
Example, a 1st level mage is facing off against a 20th level mage. They both cast Magic Missile at the other. The 20th level mage cast it Still, Silent, and Empowered making it a 6th level spell. But at its base it is still just magic missile. Either mage has the option to have their spells cancel each other out. The 20th level mage will probably opt to let them hit each other, but the 1st level one will want to cancel! If either mage chooses to cancel, there is nothing the other can do about it.
Another feature is damaging spells can hit each other. This is because two 5th level mages with 19 hit points casting a Fireball and a Lightning Bolt at each other are probably both looking at death. Either one of them can opt to have their spells “run into” each other. The spells must be physical and not be of the same element.
For example, in the above with the Lightning Bolt and the Fireball, if either mage wants to have his spell take the hit instead of himself, then it happens and there is nothing the other mage can do about it. Roll damage normally and subtract, whatever is left over hits the mage who lost. So if the Fireball does 25 points of damage and the Lightning Bolt does 29 points of damage, the Fireball is absorbed and the Lightning bolt carries on, but it only will do 4 points of damage (Reflex save for half) to whatever it hits.
If both choose not to hit each others spells, then they hit each other to normal effect.
Now if the elements are opposite, the two most common cases being Fire vs Cold / or Holy vs Unholy then neither caster has a choice, their magic MUST clash as described above. If the element is the same but the spell is different, such as a Fireball vs a Scorching Ray, then the spells cant hurt each other, they must pass through unharmed. If the spell is the exact same, damage is not rolled but either mage may Counterspell (see above)
Spells take effect at the same time assuming they act withen one round. If a spell takes more then one round, such as Phantom Steed or something, then it takes its full duration (and isn’t a good choice for a spellbattle). However there is only one factor to consider if one spell takes effect before the other. Is it on me or not?
Two casters are facing off, one cast a spell that has to travel from him to his opponent (anything from Ray of Enfeeblement to Charm Person to Meteor Swarm) The other is casting a spell on himself (anything from Shield to Protection from Spells) Since one spell is going from point A to point B, and the other is only going from point A to point A. The spell that targets yourself goes first.
So if a enemy is casting a spell at you, you make your Spellcraft check and realize that it is going to be Fireball, you cast Protection from Elements on yourself, since your spell is only traveling from yourself to you, will take effect first.
As you can see, there is a big advantage in going second. If the mages are part of a bigger fight then they alternate. One round one mage goes first and the other reacts, and vice versa on the next round. If the mages are in a duel then initiative is rolled every round and the winner gets to go second (if they choose).
Finally I loved the idea of spellduels. However they junked alot of spell duel spells from 3.5 edition and made the Abjurations pretty much useless. Abjuration still has some neat spells, but nothing anyone would want to specialize in. Look at the Mage Slayer section. It is not a new class, just a wizard specializing in Abjuration. I brought back alot of spells from 2nd edition (and Baldurs Gate 2) and updated them to 3.5. I realize these rules are much more complicated but I wanted to make sure I covered every scenario so there were no questions. It actually is quite easy and makes sense once you try it out.
I use a bastardized system of 2nd and 3rd edition psionics. I loved the 2nd edition rules and dont care for the 3rd edition system. Therefor I took some time and came up with a way to make second edition rules work in a 3.5 setting. Please check out Psionics for full details on how this works.
In a duel it works very similar to normal combat with a few exceptions. For one thing a duel has to be one on one. If another combatant enters combat, on either side, then normal combat rules apply. If others are interfering without actually participating (like a mage casting buffing spells or a psion messing with one of the combatants) then duel rules are off and normal combat is resolved. But if it is a real duel then follow the below rules. Not every 1-1 encounter results in a duel, in fact few do. If one opponent is clearly outclassed and the fight will be over with in a short time anyway, normal combat is used. Up to DMs discretion, although if a PC request it take place in a duel, I would rarely refuse.One is that Initiative is rolled every round. The other is that if a character has multiple swings, they dont get to take all their swings before the other person gets to act. So if Fighter A has 5 attacks per round and Fighter B has 3 then it goes in one of two orders, depending who won initiative.
Fighter A wins it goes: A,B,A,B,A,B,A,A
Fighter B wins it goes: B,A,B,A,B,A,A,A
Finally either fighter has the option to Parry. What that means is that one fighter uses his attack to block the other fighters attack. This is a poor strategy if both fighters have the same number of attacks, or the other guy has more. But in the above example it might be something Fighter A would like to use. This is common if one fighter uses two weapons vs one who does not.
What happens is that both fighters roll an attack roll, if the attacker rolls higher then he may roll again for his actual attack (he doesn’t get to keep his first roll, he must roll a new one to break through the opponents AC). What this does is basically makes the attacker succeed twice to hit his foe. However this uses up an attack on the defenders part.
I used to use more rules in parry that took into account weapon size, speed, opponent Str, Dex, and Int because all of those would factor into a duel. But I found they detracted from the fun. Rolling two dice and adding a hundred modifiers just to see if you hit wasnt exciting. So it is just normal attack rolls like you would use in normal combat,a dagger can block a great sword just fine. If you want to factor in all the above, be my guest, but I tried it and it didnt work.
So lets use the example above and say that Fighter A wants to try to Parry all of Fighter B’s attacks. Well initiative doesnt really matter anymore because basically all Fighter A is going to do for the first three swings is try to block Fighter B. Lets forget rolls and modifiers for the example and I will just give some results.
Fighter A 24,20,16,18,14
Fighter B 19,21,16,0,0
Well lets see how they did. Fighter A did better on the first attack so he blocked Fighter Bs attack. But Fighter B did better on the second so he gets to make an attack roll with his second attack vs Fighter A armor class. In the third fight they actually tied, but tie always goes to the defender so Fighter A lucked out. Fighter B doesnt have any attacks left and just tries to defend as Fighter A spends his last two attacks swinging at him. He got a 18 and 14 respectively. He may have gotten hit depending on what Fighter B’s AC is.
Again, these rules look more complicated because of how long I explained them. But if you read through them again slowly they should make alot of sense. The easiest way to try is to create a mock battle.
Firing into melee.There is no longer a attack roll penalty for firing into melee. However the Precise Shot feat is now even more valuable. The reason is that if you fire into a melee and you miss your target by 4 or more, you have a chance of hitting a random combatant. The roll to hit the random combatant differs according to the situation. Two fighters facing off with polearms, and you try to hit one and miss, only has a bout a 10% chance of accidentally hitting the other. However if one enemy is surrounded by six allies of equal height then I would roll a 1d8 with each combatant having a 1 in 8 chance of being the new target. There would still be a chance shooter would miss everyone.
If two (or more) combatants are grappling and you fire at one of them. If you miss by anything, even one point, the other combatant automatically becomes your new target. If there are multiple combatants, roll randomly to determine.
In either case, it is possible to miss your intended target and still hit another enemy.
There are very few spells under 7th level that I use spell components for. Identify is one since it grants xp to the caster. The others are mostly obvious, Animate Dead you still need a corpse, Stone to Fleash you need a statue, etc etc. However once spellcasters reach 7th level and higher of spellcasting, normal spell focus’s are required.
I do this because looking for rare components can be an adventure in itself. Or to put a cap on casters pumping out high level spells every day just so they arnt “wasted” before the caster rest. Or to give lower level adventurers something to do, they can hunt down components for a higher level wizard.
A long time ago during a fight a player asked me “Cant I just attack his weapon arm?” This was back in second edition, and while it may have existed, I didnt know of any rules to specifically target one portion of the targets body.
So I made it up.
I use a second edition book called Skills and Powers and in Chapter 8 there are several tables for Spells in Combat. They work just as well for weapons. Basically the character specifies a called shot before rolling their attack. A limb is at – 4, torso or stomach at – 6, a head shot at – 8, and finally a throat shot at – 12. If successful damage is rolled normally, if target takes any damage roll a 1d12 and consult the chart.
There are very few modifiers to the d12 roll. – 2 if the weapon used was tiny (dagger), – 1 if the weapon was small (short sword),+0 for an average weapon, + 1 if the weapon was large (greatsword), and + 2 if the weapon was reach (longspear).
Also the size and DR of the target come into play. – 1 for every point of DR the target has that the attacker couldnt bypass. Size modifiers: + 8 for fine, + 4 for diminutive size, +2 for tiny, +1 for small, + 0 for medium, – 1 for large, – 2 for huge, – 4 for gargantuan, – 8 for colossal. The harder the creature is to hit due to size, the more impact you can actually do if you do hit it. The bigger the creature is, the less your weapon will penetrate into it.
Finally if you are hitting a creature with a spell, ignore all modifiers but DR and add the level of the spell, metamagic doesnt count towards what level the spell is. To do a called shot with a spell it must be a spell that has a attack roll, such as Scorching Ray or Ray of Frost. Summoned weapons such as Mordenkainen’s Sword and Spiritual Weapon cannot attempt called shots. So if you hit a creature with a Scorching Ray called shot (with the extra penalties to hit) and succeed, roll damage, if it hits roll a 1d12 + 2. Only take into account the targets DR that you did not bypass (if there is any). If the creature has 10/+ 1 DR your spell bypassed it so it doesnt count, but if the creature has 5DR vs Fire then you have to subtract 5 from your result.
It is possible to ignore all modifiers that are negative if you end up using something that is the direct opposite of the target. Such as using a frost dagger on a fire giant. Normally looking at a – 3 penalty to the d12 roll (more if fire giant has DR) the frost of the dagger turns it into a straight d12 roll with no modifiers. If it was a frost greatsword you could keep the + 1 for the large weapon. Holy weapons vs undead, good aligned weapons vs evil outsiders, and other things of that nature. It must be their exact opposite or something they have a particular vulnerability to.
Finally the Keen feature of a weapon (but not Improved Critical) can ignore the creatures DR bonus to the d12 roll, only the size of the Keen weapon and size of target is factored in. It is possible to get a called shot unintentionally either through combat or by a spell, see Crits section below.
I very rarely ever have NPCs or monsters used called shots. Only intelligent named NPCs will even consider trying this tactic.
Only the base weapon damage is multiplied on a confirmed crit. The reason is actually to protect the PCs from lucky dice rolls. Generally any given combat favors the PCs, so the more randomness in combat, the more it usually favors the monsters. Enchantment, strength, spells bonus’s and any other bonus to damage is ignored on a confirmed crit. You just multiply the base die damage. Elemental Burst weapons still upgrade however.
But crits have a chance of being even more devastating. If you roll another possible crit to confirm a crit (they dont need to be natural 20s, just crits) then roll a third time. If you succeed a third time then you automatically did a called shot. I use the same chart system as if you had intentionally done so but randomly, using a d10 as per books description, pick what part of the body you attacked. So it is possible to succeed a called shot even though you weren’t trying for one.
You can crit on spells as well. If it is a spell that involves an attack roll and you roll a 20, roll again. If you succeed then it is a critical and you roll on the called shot chart (you dont do more damage however). This only involves spells that deal hp damage or statistic damage (such as Ray of Enfeeblement or Ray of Clumsiness). In the case of statistics the damage is considered withering, same as Vampiric Touch or Inflict Wounds.
Finally you can crit on area spells such as Fireball or Cloudkill. If the spell deals hp or statistic damage it can crit. Spells like Charm Person and Stinking Cloud cant crit. If target rolls a natural 1 on their save, then they must roll again immediately at the same DC. If they fail again (doesnt have to be a 1, just a failure) then they are considered to have been hit by a called shot. Roll the random 1d10 to determine where they got hurt the most and 1d12 + spell level – DR the spell didnt bypass to determine result.
When the Dice arnt Big Enough
Sometimes a roll of 20 just wont make it, the target number is to far out of reach. Or a 1 cant even miss. Well a roll of 20 always succeeds and 1 always fails right? Most of the time but not all.
When even 20’s fail: If you are trying to do something that a 20 isnt good enough, you need an exploding twenty. See Skill Checks above. If the fighter with no ranks in open locks wants to try to pick the royal vault, why not, they have a 1 in 20 chance of succeeding right? Statistically if you have 20 peasants untrained in anything, you can accomplish almost anything right? Doesnt make much sense.
Ok I realize that some skills are untrained but according to the rulebook, if you have 20 untrained people trying to tightrope across a thousand foot chasm in high wind during pitch black night with a balance check of 40, one of them will probably succeed. So I have the rule to roll a natural 20, add the modifiers, and if your still short then you roll again and add. If you roll another natural 20 then roll a third time. And so on.
A friend pointed out that a highly skilled thief trying to sneak up on 20 people is destined to failure because one of those people is likely to roll a nat 20. This makes sense so that is why the exploding 20s rule. It is still possible one of those people perceive the thief, but less likely.
This works for attack rolls as well. Not for normal attacks but for called shots. If a goblin is fighting a 18th level dwarven fighter wearing so much magical armor and protection his AC is 40+ why not go for a called shot to the head? The goblin needs a nat 20 to hit anyway. If the goblin goes for normal attacks, then a 20 hits. If it goes for a called shot then a 20 explodes. Roll again and add. If the number still falls short then the attack was still a miss. This stops a horde of kobolds from taking down a group of highly trained warriors by just everyone of them going for head shots.
When even a 1 cant slow you down: This is pretty much only on attack rolls. If you roll a 1 on a attack roll and you would have hit anyway, you count as missing, but you can keep going if you have more attacks. So a fighter with 4 attacks a round rolls a 1 against a kobold on his very first swing. The fighter has +30 on his first swing and the kobold has a AC of 14. His result on his roll of 1 was 31. He misses with his first attack but can still swing 3 more times.
This can also be applied to saving throws. If you roll a 1 on a saving throw but that would have made the attempt anyway, you still fail but cannot critically fail. So if you get hit by a Fireball and roll a 1, but that still would have made the save, then you take full damage but there is no chance of suffering a called shot.
More on Rolling 1’s.
Usually however, if you roll a 1 then you didnt succeed in reaching the target number. If you roll a 1 and didnt reach the target number, as is usually the case, then you must roll again or critically fail.
In the Crits section I covered what happens if you critically fail a saving throw. But what about a skill check or an attack roll? On a skill check if you roll a 1 there is no confirming. You just screwed up bad. The penalty depends on the skill check and the situation. If you were using lockpicks then they broke. If you were using diplomacy then you seriously pissed them off. If you were using ride then you fell off. If you were swimming then you sink and are starting to drown.
On a attack there is a confirmation. If you roll a 1 on a attack, miss the AC, and have more attacks left that round then you just miss out on any other attacks. So if you have 4 attacks a round, roll a 1 and that would miss, then you dont get your other three attacks this round you are considered done. But what if it was your last attack, or you only had one? Then you roll again trying to hit the target number.
If you succeed then the weapon falls out of your hand and lands at your feet. It is a move action to pick it up unless you have the Quick Draw feat. But if you fail again then it is a critical fail and the weapon goes flying. It goes off in a random direction about as far as the character could throw it. There is a random chance it hits anyone or anything nearby, including friends. It could also go overboard or over the edge if near a cliff or on a ship. It is possible to forever loss a weapon this way.
Finally the most embarrassing of all, hitting yourself with your own weapon. If you roll a 1, followed by another 1, then roll a third time against your own AC. If it fails (which is good) then you send the weapon flying (see above paragraph). If it succeeds then you manage to hit yourself with your own weapon. Roll damage normally.
I’ve had players knock themselves unconscious or cut off their own appendages this way. I have actually seen the unprecedented 1 (fail), 1(critical fail against self), 20 (hit self) 20(crit self), hit (called shot self), 10 (on the 1d10 random roll which indicates head) 11 (on the 1d12 which is one short of a self beheading. We said he cut his own throat on accident). Now I dont know what the statistical odds of that are, but it was hysterical. Even the player who did it couldnt do anything but laugh at their bad luck.
Skills with more uses.
Alchemy is a Craft skill that is very generalized. However it is still very useful. In the Tinker section there is a place talking about Tinker potions that show how Alchemy can be used in conjunction with Brew Potion to create magical potions cheaper. There are two basic ways to get Alchemy ingredients, to buy them or harvest them. Buying them is pretty simple and in most places can be bought for a 1 point of Alchemy (called A) for 1gp. Harvesting them is a bit tricky but usually pretty fun.
Strange exotic creatures can be harvested, and D&D is full of these critters. The amount of Alchemy available depends on the size of the creature and how “strange” it was. Also how much of its corpse is left intact after it gets killed. A pixie is pretty small but so magical that it would still count as a full search. The amount of Alchemy actually received depends on the harvester. Normally only one Alchemy check is available. Roll a Alchemy check and whatever the result is (remember 20’s explode) that is how many A the harvester receives. Doesnt always have to kill things though, rare plants, herbs, rocks, etc, might also work. Finally the harvester gets 1xp per point of A recovered.
After a harvester rolls their Alchemy check, they are to have assumed to have cleared out the area, and accidentally destroying anything left over, thereby preventing someone else from trying again on the same creature or place. Some are renewable (like plantlife) but most are one shot chances.
Another skill similar is Poison Making. To be able to take Craft Poison Making the character must first have 10 ranks in Craft Alchemy. Obviously the sole purpose of this skill is to create poisons and antitoxins. Someone with ranks in Poison Making never accidentally poisons themself. The DC to make poison is 10 harder then the save DC if using Craft Alchemy, or equal DC if using Poison Making. For every five ranks in Poison Making, the character gets a + 2 on saves vs poison, that stacks with similar bonus’s. The cost is half the poisons market cost in A.
A similar process is Blacksmithing compared to Armorsmithing or Weaponsmithing. A character must have 10 ranks in Blacksmithing before they can take the first rank of Armor or Weapon smithing. Nothing is stopping someone with only Blacksmithing skills from trying to make weapons or armor. But the DC is 10 less when using the specific feats. Like most of my skills, xp can be gained when making something. Blacksmithing is much more versatile, but when you want the best, you go to the best.
These are just a few examples of how versatile skills differ from specific skills. I almost always reward xp for successfully using skills to solve problems.