Roll Initiative

For my first post, I covered a lot of the history and basic rules of D&D. I didn’t go too in-depth on actual game play mechanics as I had a lot of material to cover…but now, I figured I’d elaborate more on how a D&D session actually runs. Get ready for a How-to on fighting a round in D&D…with lots of cool graphics!

D&D can be broken up into two kinds of game play: character interaction and battle. Character interaction involves the PCs interacting with the world around them and any NPCs they may come across such as villagers or shopkeepers. This part of the game always takes much more time and is far less structured as, generally, the PCs can do anything they wish. Because of this…

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In my experience, a session should last at least 2 hours at barest minimum, otherwise there is just not enough time to truly get into character and get a real juicy story going.

Battle, on the other hand, is more structured. In it, PCs fight against a hostile force of some sort, taking turns to dish out damage or support each other with magic while trying their best to not take damage themselves. While battles don’t (hopefully) pop up as much as character interaction and are more streamlined, they can still go on long if the foe is particularly tough or crafty.

So, let’s break down how a common battle might go. The PCs are first informed that a skirmish is on the way with the DM’s infamous words of…

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Source: giphy.com

“Roll Initiative” is a classic phrase in D&D which simply means everyone must roll a d2o die in order to determine which order they will be acting in during the battle. Obviously, a higher number is best as it means a PC can move earlier, perhaps crippling a foe before it can attack. The DM then rolls initiative for the enemies before proceeding to call out each fighter in order to allow them to act.

During their turn, a PC has an Action, Bonus Action, and Move. Move is self-explanatory; it’s the PC’s chance to move about the battlefield, the distance dependent on the character’s speed, either towards or away from a foe…depending on the situation.

Action is where a PC can choose to attack a target with a weapon or spell. They roll a d20, add any special modifiers their fighter may have, and tell the DM the final number. If the roll is greater or equal to the target’s AC or Armor Class, then it hits and the DM tells them to roll for damage. If the roll is lower, then the attack misses or does no damage…which can be frustrating when you REALLY needed that hit.

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Assuming the PC hits, they can roll any number of dice according to what weapon or spell they are using to determine damage dealt…plus any special modifiers such as cover shielding the target, added damage from a support spell, bonuses from the PC’s abilities scores, class and/or racial skills that apply to that particular form of attacking, and so on. It can get pretty complicated.

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Bonus Action is any extra action that is less complex than an a standard Action such as drinking a healing potion or casting some buff spells, though some classes can use it to take an extra attack.

Once these all are done, the PC ends their turn and the next fighter goes. When it comes to an enemy’s turn, like PCs, they can take the same Action, Bonus Action, and Move…sometimes even more if the DM wishes.

Simple, right? Now, let’s add in something called Ability Saves and Checks. In order to do certain actions which require skill like picking a lock or vaulting over a wall, the PC rolls a d2o and based on the number, the DM determines if the action succeeded or failed. In the same way, a PC may have to try to resist the effects of a spell or react fast to land on their feet after falling so they roll to beat the number of the Save DC. If they make it, they can take less damage or even come out completely unscathed! However, there are two numbers which can literally make or break a PC: a 20 or a 1.

A natural roll of 2o on a d20 or Nat 20 is an instant success on whatever the PC was trying to do, no matter how crazy or impossible it may have seemed. A Nat 20 is the saving grace to any hopeless situation. Say you are have to make an Acrobatics check to avoid an obstacle and roll a Nat 20…

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Source: giphy.com

A natural roll of 1 on a d20 or Nat 1, however, is the exact opposite. Referred to as a Crit Fail, this means no matter how simple the task, it went completely and utterly wrong for the PC. Sometimes, the PC might even suffer damage or an additional penalty for such a complete screw up. A Crit Fail is the bane of even the most experienced PC. So, if you had made that same Acrobatics save and got a Crit Fail…?

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Source: giphy.com

And, so once every fighter had taken their turn, that round finishes and a new one starts from the top. Rinse, lather, repeat until either all enemies are taken out…or there’s a TPK or Total Party Killed. All that’s left is for the DM to hand out EXP or experience points to the party which the PCs can use to level up and gain new abilities or improve their stats.

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Source: giphy.com

That, loyal readers, is how a battle runs in D&D. Hope you enjoyed all pics and gifs! I had too much fun with this one…

Can you Teach an Old Dog New Tricks? D&D 3.5 Edition vs 5th Edition

I’ve mentioned in previous posts such as D&D for Dummies that there are many different versions of Dungeons and Dragons. While they all are basically the same game, each is slightly different from the generation before it. The most popular, I’ve found, of the D&D editions is 3.5 as it was the last “good” edition as far as many people are concerned. 4th edition left a bad taste in the mouth of many players due to focusing more on combat than storytelling, which only leaves 5th edition, the new kid on the block. How does this newest edition compare to the oldy-but-a-goody 3.5?

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D&D is known as a very detailed and admittedly complicated game. Whether it be sword-fighting or chatting with a king, there are a LOT of stats that go into every roll and action a PC can take. This is one of the most major ways 3.5 and 5th differ in my opinion. 3.5 has thirty-five different skills which PCs could put points into in order to become better at said skill such as opening locks or spotting hidden enemies (Player’s Handbook: 3.5 Core Rules). It also gives PCs six abilities: Wisdom, Charisma, Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, and Constitution (as well as a Reflex, Fortitude, and Willpower for saving throws) which add further bonuses or penalties to a PC’s roll. On top of that, each class and/or race might get different penalties or bonuses that could further influence the outcome of  their course of action.

What I’m getting at here is that 3.5 had a lot more source material and expansion books, therefore it had a lot more numbers and rules to keep track of. While this had the advantage of allowing a PC to be whatever they want and be good at whatever they want, the surplus of information could be overwhelming to newbies, as I can say from personal experience. “3.5 is great for people who really love the number crunching and mechanical aspects of character building. There are a lot of options and you can pretty much always find a way to build whatever character you want. [But] It can be difficult to keep track of that much content and granular rules… It is a mountain of material that, while opening up vast opportunities for those that know all of it and where to find it, can be extremely daunting for those trying to jump in,” (Pros & Cons to D&D 3.5, 4e and 5).

5th edition on the other hand is “Simplicity, Simplicity, simplicity,” (Pros & Cons to D&D 3.5, 4e and 5).  Many of the rules in 3.5 were condensed or simplified in 5th which made it much easier to just pick up and play, especially if you’re green to D&D in general. The original thirty-five skills were condensed to eighteen (the six abilities stayed the same), and instead of adding a bunch of negative or positive modifiers to skills, a PC was proficient (add +1 up to +5 to roll) with a skill or not (Player’s Handbook: 5th edition). 5th brought in the advantage/disadvantage system. If a PC had advantage, they rolled their d20 twice and took the higher of the two rolls, and conversely, at disadvantage, they took the lower (3.5e to 5e). This helped to speed up game play, particularly in larger groups. With simplified stats and proficiencies, PCs could get at best a +11 to a roll, instead of a +20 (if they played their cards right) as they might in 3.5 edition. Some resented this as being too restricting while I feel it balances PCs across the board better.

In the same vain of simplicity, 5th brought in resistance and vulnerability. While in 3.5 a PC might take a +5 or -5 to damage of a certain type (plus other modifiers), a PC takes a flat half damage with resistance or twice the damage with vulnerability (Nerd Immersion). Weapons, taking rests, and other mechanics that were determined by numbers or more complex rules in 3.5 were condensed down into a “type 1 or type 2” sort of style.

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Source: serpent77.com

D&D, being a fantasy RPG, also has a lot of lore and importance in magic. This is the one other area where 3.5 and 5th edition differentiate greatly. There are a lot of expansion books in 3.5 that go into different magic circles and orders, but to simplify, spell casters in 3.5 were complicated but widely powerful classes. They couldn’t wear armor as it interfered with their spells (inflicting one of those many penalties I mentioned earlier), their cantrips or “free” spells were useless in combat, and there was a LOT more spells that a PC could choose from which ranged from quirky but useful to ridiculous and completely over powered (Nerd Immersion).

In contrast, 5th edition spell casters were more balanced. Armor no longer got in the way of their magic, letting them wear armor if they had a proficiency in it. Their cantrips could actually do damage and scale in power well enough to remain useful in combat. The spell list was condensed a bit overall, and the different magic wielding classes could no longer know as many spells as they once could in 3.5. In general, using magic was “much less mathy…mostly fixed numbers instead of per-level calculations”(Pros & Cons to D&D 3.5, 4e and 5). These changes were met with mixed reviews as some veterans disliked what they felt were more limited options for spells.

As you can see, there are a lot of difference just between these two editions of the same game! Yet, both 3.5 and 5th edition D&D remain ever popular and heavily played. Every tabletop RPG has its pros and cons, so if you want to dive into this world, go look into what sort of game might be the best for how you like to play!