Friday, April 27, 2012

Proficiency of the Week: Netherworld Knowledge

So, your biology roll tells you it's not a natural creature. Religion, spellcraft and whatever weird concept you've come up with and begged the DM for a roll on just says this monster is a bad, bad, thing. The Paladin in the party is screaming 'kill it,' the bard is gibbering in the corner, having failed her knowledge roll, and you're gripped with fear as it reaches down into Hell itself to pull out some bad guys to help you. What the hell is it, and how could you know?

This sounds like an opportunity for the use of this week's Proficiency of the week: Netherworld Knowledge.

Netherworld Knowledge is a Mage or Priest proficiency, that is to say it costs one slot for clerics and wizards, and those with access to such things, such as bards and paladins. For everyone else, it costs two slots. The check is WIS based, and has a -3, so it might not be a good pick for someone scraping the bottom of the wisdom barrel.

Here's your Core Rules definition of the proficiency:

Netherworld Knowledge: With this proficiency, a character learns about the cosmology and organization of the AD&D® game multiverse, focusing primarily on the ultimate destination of spirits after death: the Outer Planes. In addition, the character learns about behavior of the dangerous creatures that inhabit the nether regions, including such fiends as the tanar'ri and the baatezu. As with necrology (which applies exclusively to undead), netherworld knowledge can reveal the specific weaknesses and natural immunities of beings from the Outer Planes. The proficiency can also be used to classify the exact type of extraplanar creature encountered. Both of these abilities require an ability check, however.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Units of Measurement (from the Core Rules)


The simplest units of time measurement for time in the game are the same ones we use in real life: Seconds, Minutes, Hours, Days.
In combat situations, and in some out-of-combat spellcasting situations, we change from Seconds, Minutes, Hours and Days to segments, rounds and turns, or “game time.”
At the DM’s discretion, a spell or effect with a game time limit may be stretched out when out of combat, if the effect is not affecting game play. For example, a mage could extend a faerie fire or cantrip spell without requiring an additional casting while riding on a wagon or taking a gentle walk through a forest, simply gathering the energies around himself to extend the spell. Such effects are considered “out of game time” or non-combat timed, and if they have no discernable effect on play, should be allowed.
The table below shows the in-combat or game time units and their real-world equivalent:
In Rounds
Real-World Equivalent
10 minutes
1 minute
6 seconds, generally
*Initiative and most spellcasting is measured in segments. An initiative of 2 goes on the second segment of a round in combat.
It is possible for a segment to “count” as more or less than 6 seconds. For example, some items of speed or weapons force an attack at the beginning or end of a round. These “outside of initiative” times are considered part of a round, even though ten segments equals one round.


For the most part, distance is measured in real-world units, standard or metric as the campaign allows. Yards are generally the standard measurement for spells and ranges, although tens of yards (1989 Player’s Handbook) and fives of yards (Combat and Tactics) are occasionally used. These are based on board hexes used for miniatures, which come in three sizes themselves. “Board Inches” are a 1st edition AD&D measurement which usually equals 10 yards and corresponds to one grid on a miniatures sheet. This grid can be further divided into either 10ths, halves (fives of yards) or thirds, which gives the 10ft hex used in most dungeon hallways.
This can be further simplified by the DM as each medium creature taking up about a 1/3 of a 10ft hex, each small creature taking up 1/6 of a hex and each tiny creature taking up 1/12 of a hex, although the DM should use the most logical arrangement in such situations.


 Volume is primarily used for spellcasting, and in other situations should use real world measurements. In fact, the volumetric fireball of AD&D is often used as an example of a lazy measurement in gaming. In generally, volume-based spells come in two types, regular hexahedrons (cubes, cuboids, boxes, walls) or spheres, although cones, cylinders and rays are not uncommon. Regular hexahedron spells are either given in volume (cubic feet) or in surface area (square feet) but occasionally are given in “cubes.” Spells given a volume of a number of 10ft cubes can often be arranged in any form, but only in 10ft cubes (and these shapes can be represented by d6s.) Any shape where a full face of each cube touches another face of a cube may be allowed without a spellcraft roll to modify, but a successful spellcraft roll can be used to place the cubes edge to edge. Such spells cannot form cubes that are not touching at least one other cube unless it is explicitly stated as such in the spell description.
Sphere effects are generally given with a diameter (the maximum distance of a straight line from one side of the sphere to another) or a radius (the distance from the wall of a sphere to its center.) Other spells may require more complex geometry, and the DM is encouraged to use units comprehensible to his/her players

Proficiency of the Week: Dagger, Thrown

The standard dagger proficiency gives you any dagger as a melee weapon, but if you want the special benefits of a katar (punching dagger) or a throwing dagger, you need to take that as a proficiency.

Throwing Dagger's benefits are described in the core rules as:  
                                May throw 2 daggers per round without To-Hit penalty, reduced penalty for single-point throwing weapons (only when thrown.) May use Throwing Dagger as melee weapon. Reduced penalty for non-throwing daggers.
You can specialize in throwing dagger, for a total of two proficiency slots, or go as high as grand mastery, if available to your class. Throwing Dagger is modified by the Missile Attack Adjustment score (under Dexterity.)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Proficiency of the Week: Languages, Obscure

There are three major groups of language proficiencies in the core rules.

Languages, Modern are any languages spoken on the planet in modern times. Typical languages are Gnomish, Dwarven, Elven, Eastern Common, Western Common, and the like. They are general proficiencies, and take one slot each. You must specify a language when you take this proficiency. In general, most characters are given the ability to speak (but not Read/Write) their local language as a bonus by the DM. A second proficiency slot must be invested in a language if you want to also Read/Write that language.

Languages, Ancient are any languages which are no longer commonly spoken on the planet in modern times. There are ancient forms of elven, ancient draconic, and several different ancient commons. Ancient Eastern Common in particular is frequently used in Heraldry, similar to Latin in our world. Most people in places like Misty Cross are assumed to know a little bit of it because the city uses it all the time. Ancient languages take two slots, or one slot for mages and priests. A second (or third) proficiency slot must be invested in an ancient language if you want to also Read/Write that language.

Languages, Obscure, are any languages which either were never commonly spoken on the planet or were intentionally invented as secret battle languages or cyphers. If a character joins a guild with a secret language, it counts as a modern language, because s/he learns the language as a guild member. If s/he must learn it from books and study, it is treated the same way as an ancient language: taking two slots, or one slot for mages and priests. Most Obscure languages have no written form, but proficiency usually includes it.

"Typical" (if an obscure language can be said to be typical) obscure languages include very specific dragon languages, far outer planar languages, the secret tongues of secret religions or brotherhoods, the family languages of some powerful clans and several invented codes. A modern "obscure" language might be Esperanto or Klingon. An example in fiction might be the House Battle languages in Dune. Alignment languages, when allowed, are often obscure languages, but because of their special rules, they may not be allowed.

Obscure languages require talking with the DM, because you have to explain why you have it, what it is and where it comes from. Translating from an obscure language without "Read Languages" or "Tongues" can be impossible in some situations.

Edit: I thought that obscure languages required an additional proficiency for read/write, but I was incorrect. It is assumed you get both (in the rare instance where both exist.)

Friday, April 6, 2012

Ending Fighter-Only limitation on some Proficiencies

In looking over the specialty priests, assassins, exceptions for thieves, etc., I noticed that five weapon proficiencies listed as "Fighter Only" are frequently given as exceptions for various classes. As a result, I have removed the fighter only status of these. Most of them basically came down to everyone but mages could have them. I figure if a mage wants to muddy up his very few Weapon Proficiency slots with them, the mage should go right ahead, and having them listed as fighter only except when A, B, C, D, etc. was stupid. These are as follows, and in the parentheses are the exceptions I found in the rules before I changed them:

  • Ambidexterity (which is given as a bonus to characters who roll ambidexterity regardless of class, anyways)
  • Non-Lethal Combat (which is given as a bonus or allowed to many types of cleric and mentalists and is not much different in theory from the NWP "sap" which many rogues take.)
  • Martial Arts [X] [X=A, B, C, D] (Which is allowed of most clerics, most thieves and some mages)
  • Missile or thrown weapon style (which is allowed of some rogues, archer god priests, etc.)
  • Two-Weapon Fighting (which is allowed of some rogues, and some clerics already)
From now on these will just be listed with the Weapon Proficiencies in the core rules without italics (remember italicized entries are Man-At-Arms only.)

In addition, I updated the "higher levels of specialization" entries to read "specialization + 1 slot" so that there can be no question about the number of slots involved. I thought the "adding an additional slot to a specialization" in the initial explanation was clear enough, but no one should be confused by this:

Weapon Mastery [Specialization+1 additional slot]:

In lieu of taking proficiencies in additional weapons, players may choose to add a proficiency slot to weapons they are specialized in. This will raise specialists in melee weapons from +1 to hit, +2 to damage to +3 to hit and +3 to damage. Archers and Crossbowmen go to +3/+3 at point blank, and gain an additional +1 to hit at all other ranges. [This is only available at 5th or higher level.]

High Mastery: [Specialization+2 additional slots]:

Critical hit on 19 & 20 (this is not cumulative, if character already has this ability, i.e.: Swordmage, it does not improve.) Increased speed on weapon (subtracting 2 from initiative rolls in d10 or 4 in d20.) Missile or thrown gain a range category: Extreme range (or ~33% further, -7 to hit.) [This is only available at 9th or higher level.]

Grand Mastery [Specialization+3 additional slots ]:One additional attack or missile per round (in addition to those from specialist), increase damage die to next standard die. A 1d6+2 weapon does 1d8+2, A 2d4 does 2d6, a 1d12 does 1d20. Missile/Thrown: All ranges count as one less. [This is only available at 12th or higher level.]

Please tell me if any of this is still confusing. Seriously, tell me.

Proficiency of the Week: Chain

Chain is a one-slot weapon proficiency open to most classes, although it frequently occurs as an improvised weapon. People with a proficiency in chain have practiced extensively with chains (and related heavy things, in theory you could use a very heavy knotted rope, cord, leather pieces, etc.) and have experience with them as a weapon. If you have access to specialization, it is possible to specialize in chain, it is treated as a specialized melee weapon. A chain may be weighted at the ends or not, but doing so will not effect your damage or to-hit, because if you're using chain as a non-improvised weapon, you have tried different ways of using it and maximize accordingly. Chains with sharpened ends or small attached blades are counted as scourges, and if you use such a weapon without a scourge proficiency, you will take the non-proficient penalty, and probably hurt yourself in the bargain, as they are not swung the same way.

Chain can be used similarly to a flail (you hold one end and beat with the other) or as a garrote (you hold it in two hands and wrap it around the neck of the opponent.) You can wrap the chain around your hand and use it similarly to a cestus (and get cestus damage). You get the related weapon penalty (the lower non-proficient penalty) when using a flail or nunchucks, but not things divided into more than two ends (three-piece rod, for example.) You are considered to be attacking with a weapon of proficiency even if the chain is not your 'normal' chain. (For example, you need to attack with a chandelier chain that's lying around.)

On a successful called shot (-2 to -8 to hit, depending on size of target and type of attack) you can tangle or trip an opponent (this is active tripping, where you put a thing around a foot or legs and yank, not passive tripping where the opponent falls over something he cannot see). When tripping, you are treated as if you have a STR score of 4 points higher than your score. An opponent can oppose this with a successful STR roll of his own. Therefore a small creature with a STR of 6, even with a +4, might not be able to trip a giant troll with a STR of 19.

Pulling is attempting to move an opponent already in a chain (tangled on a previous hit for example or chained up in another way, such as while unconscious.) In these actions, your STR is also treated as 4 points higher because you have experience in using the leverage of a chain to manipulate various masses.

At the DM's discretion, it is possible, if the tangled or chained opponent is unconscious or stunned, and small enough relative to your strength, to swing a tangled opponent at another opponent. Assume a penalty of -1 to -5, depending, again, on the tangled or chained opponent's size relative to the person swinging it and weight relative to the character's natural STR (and this is impossible to do if the tangled opponent is heavier than your character's normal max press.) Both the opponent within the chain and the one struck will take normal chain damage (and, indeed, should take the same numerical damage, as it is an equal and opposite reaction.) If the chained opponent is particularly heavy or spiky, the DM should add appropriate damage.

Chain 1 Yes No To-Hit penalty for using chain as a flail or garrote

reduced penalty for flail, nunchucks. Chain may be used

as Cestus. +4 to STR when using chain to trip/pull.

A chain can also be used with the rope use non-weapon proficiency within reason. Someone with a chain and the appropriate attachments can use a chain to scale walls, chain someone up and the like, but it cannot be used as a lasso.

The default weapon size and length for a chain when used as a weapon is a 3ft length of chain weighing 1 lb per foot. (This should be understood as the "end" of just about any length of chain.) This will do 1d4+1 blunt damage to a Small-Medium opponent and 1d4 to a large. Such chains have a speed factor of 5 and are considered Large Size weapons, but unlike most large size weapons, they may be wielded without penalty by a less-than-mansized character.

Extra heavy weight chains, or chains with weights on them, may be allowed to do extra damage or assigned a different damage die, but in general, a heavy weight chain is harder to swing, so most additional damage would be accomplished by a character's STR bonus, if any.

The major downside of chain as a weapon proficiency is that you are unlikely to find a magically enhanced chain (+1, etc.) in any random loot drop. You may be able to have one enhanced by an enchanter or cleric, however.