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Vorrioch
Chaotic Hungry
Karma: 38/6
406 Posts


A few questions for 2nd edition DMs

I’ve been running a 2nd edition game in chat over the last couple of weeks. As I’ve started refamiliarising myself with some of the rules I’ve come across a few sticking points which will probably come up in play at some point. I’d really appreciate any feedback or advice on how to handle these sort of issues.

1. A lot of the spells presented in the PHB aren’t exactly balanced. This one really came to my attention about a week ago when I was statting up a spell-using enemy of the party. A lot of the spells restricted from use in underground encounters seem particularly overpowered (e.g. Call Lightning) … presumably because the writers assumed they’d only ever be used in the one or two random encounters on the way to the adventurers’ latest dungeon crawl. As written, a lot of low level spells also don’t give saves that IMHO really should (Silence 15’ radius and Colour Spray- I’m looking at you).

How do you handle this? One group I knew back in the day had their own house rules for pretty much every spell in the books… but that seems far too much book-keeping for my liking. I also don’t want to put off my players by bombarding them with pages of house rules. Nor does it seem particularly fair to arbitrarily impose these sort of limits on players when they try to use these sort of spells in play.

The best hard and fast rule I can come up with is to allow saves for all non damage-dealing offensive magic, possibly at some sort of penalty to balance them with staples such as “Sleep” and “Charm Person”.

2. If a Cleric turns undead to force them to retreat and then uses ranged weapons to fure on the undead while they’re moving away then is the enchantment broken? All the PHB says is that turned undead are compelled to retreat from the caster. My first inclination was just to say “yes” (for the same reason that I wouldn’t let undead with bows fire on the party once they’d been turned) but I’d be curious to see how other DMs have handled this one?

3. I’ve been looking over the “overbearing” rules in the PHB. Do you allow armour to count against grappling attacks? As wearing a set of full plate would, if anything, unbalance a character I can’t think of a good reason why it should give any sort of protection against being grappled. But if it doesn’t then overbearing suddenly becomes an all-too deadly tactic both for swarm monsters (10 orcs making an overbearing attack against a 5th level fighter) or for PCs to use against more powerful adversaries (5 party members grappling that one 12th level enemy). Neither of which really fit the fantasy genre particularly well.


Posted on 2008-03-21 at 15:21:25.

TannTalas
Trilogy Master
RDI Staff
Karma: 174/117
6297 Posts


MY Thoughts

Remember Vorrioch, before you read this post that the opinions expressed below are mine and that other people may view things differently..........

1. A lot of the spells presented in the PHB aren’t exactly balanced. This one really came to my attention about a week ago when I was stating up a spell-using enemy of the party. A lot of the spells restricted from use in underground encounters seem particularly overpowered (e.g. Call Lightning) … presumably because the writers assumed they’d only ever be used in the one or two random encounters on the way to the adventurers’ latest dungeon crawl. As written, a lot of low level spells also don’t give saves that IMHO really should (Silence 15’ radius and Color Spray- I’m looking at you).
The way I handle this is to check if the creature or object has any form of magical resistance, if it does I then allow it a saving throw vs. such spells at the LvL of the resistance itself. Example: A creature with a 25% magical resistance would get a roll of a 5 or less on a D 20 to resist, 50% a roll of 10 or less and so on. 100% of course means of course no effect but very rarely do you find a lower HD monster with a high resistance. If the creature has no Magical Resistance then the spell effects them as stated.


2. If a Cleric turns undead to force them to retreat and then uses ranged weapons to fire on the undead while they’re moving away then is the enchantment broken? All the PHB says is that turned undead are compelled to retreat from the caster. My first inclination was just to say “yes” (for the same reason that I wouldn’t let undead with bows fire on the party once they’d been turned) but I’d be curious to see how other DMs have handled this one?
The Undead are forced to flee because of the Priests belief in his God which depending on how high LvL he is decides the spells reaction, whether to turn or just destroy. Also as you asked above the Undead do get a semi saving throw vs. the ability and thats the Priests LvL itself and then if failed they run away. So I say NO as they are fleeing if the party attacks with long or short range weapons the spell is not broken, the Undead keep trying to run as long as the ability lasts no matter what is done to them.

3. I’ve been looking over the “overbearing” rules in the PHB. Do you allow armor to count against grappling attacks? As wearing a set of full plate would, if anything, unbalance a character I can’t think of a good reason why it should give any sort of protection against being grappled. But if it doesn’t then overbearing suddenly becomes an all-too deadly tactic both for swarm monsters (10 orcs making an overbearing attack against a 5th level fighter) or for PCs to use against more powerful adversaries (5 party members grappling that one 12th level enemy). Neither of which really fit the fantasy genre particularly well.
To me if the character is up and moving his armor class counts for any type of attack be it Ranged, Melee, or Hand to Hand. Now if he is stunned, paralyzed, or some such then no his AC does not count in hand to hand but still counts vs. Long and Melee with minuses.
It all really depends on the current status of the character, if he is out cold, lying in the middle of a cleared area and his opponent is right next to him the bad guy gets +’s to Hit.
Each combat is different and so is each DM’s ruling the bottom line of AD&D, at least to me, is not to follow the rules religiously but to follow them to make the game fun for both you as DM and for the players as the characters. The rules as stated in the first few pages are to be used as a GUIDELINE to help solve disputes not to be thrown at the players faces just to get them to do what you want them too.

I Hope this helps and the only example of my philosophy I can give you is my own game, The Trilogy War, which in August will have been running on the Inn for 4 years so I guess I must be doing something right


Posted on 2008-03-21 at 16:53:55.
Edited on 2008-03-21 at 16:56:01 by TannTalas

Vorrioch
Chaotic Hungry
Karma: 38/6
406 Posts


Perhaps I should have phrased that one better…

Thanks for the feedback Tann’Talas but I think you may have misunderstood my first question (which is probably my fault for not phrasing it more clearly in the first place).

I know how to roll for magic resistance (I’ve been playing and DMing games of AD&D for a good few years…. I’m just slightly rusty at the moment ). What I was asking is: is there any handy ground-rule that you’ve found useful in balancing spells.

For example:

Take the 1st level Wizard spells Colour Spray and Sleep. As far as I can tell, they both do basically the same thing- incapacitate opponents.

Colour Spray doesn’t give a save to opponents of an equal or lower level to the spell caster unless they‘re also 6th level or higher. They’re out for 2-8 rounds no matter what. In my opinion, this is probably too powerful an effect for a 1st level spell- in the hands of either my player party or their enemies. It’s certainly a good deal more powerful than most of the other 1st level spells listed in the PHB (Sleep for example, not only gives a save but can't be used at all against targets with more than 4+3 HD. I'd say the range limitation on Colour Spray bradly balances out with the ability to actually choose your targets).

EDIT: As written, Silence 15' radius is even worse. Again, becuase it doesn't give any saves and effectively renders a caster of any level powerless if caught within a closed environment. This seems too powerful by far for a 2nd level spell.

If it were the only unbalanced spell in the core rules then this wouldn’t be a problem. I’d just house-rule it to allow a save (possibly at a -2 or so penalty) and move on. The difficulty is that there must be another good few dozen spells in the PHB alone that seem similarly unbalanced. This wouldn’t be all that big a deal if only the party members could cast spells, I’d just upstat an encounter or two to compensate. The other side of the coin is that enemy spell casters have all of the same options and I want to be able to play them to the hilt without killing off the party. Given the choice between memorising, say, “Heat Metal” and “Hold Person” it might be entirely rational IC for an enemy priest to choose the former (especially if he knows the characters he’s going to be up against)… but if he does then characters are probably going to die.

When you run games to you tend to house-rule spells extensively to reduce this sort of imbalance, or do you just play by the books and try to give your characters and NPCs the same sort of options? Are there any rules you’ve found useful in fixing magic overall (e.g. “all spells of this type give saves”) or do you really need to work it out on a case by case basis?




What I was trying to get at with the third question is basically as follows:

I can’t think of any good reason why wearing armour should protect a character from being grappled or just pushed over with an overbearing attack. (In my experience of wearing heavy armour at medieval re-enactments it will, if anything, leave you more unbalanced and probably a good deal more vulnerable to those sort of attacks).

But… from a purely mechanical point of view grappling becomes a great deal more powerful if armour isn’t allowed to protect against it. In a lot of situations I’d imagine it would even be a good deal more effective than just making standard sword attacks against a heavily armoured target.


Posted on 2008-03-21 at 17:51:26.
Edited on 2008-03-21 at 18:00:51 by Vorrioch

t_catt11
Fun is Mandatory
RDI Staff
Karma: 346/54
6103 Posts


good questions!

Good questions, all. Since I almost exclusively DM 2nd edition, I feel qualified to answer. Of course, please realize that what works for my games won't necessarily work for everyone's.

1. A lot of the spells presented in the PHB aren’t exactly balanced. This one really came to my attention about a week ago when I was statting up a spell-using enemy of the party. A lot of the spells restricted from use in underground encounters seem particularly overpowered (e.g. Call Lightning) … presumably because the writers assumed they’d only ever be used in the one or two random encounters on the way to the adventurers’ latest dungeon crawl. As written, a lot of low level spells also don’t give saves that IMHO really should (Silence 15’ radius and Colour Spray- I’m looking at you).
Some feel that 2nd edition spells are quirky and not always balanced - and they are right. *shrug* I don't subscribe to the opinion that every class should be equal in power. A rogue can do things no one else can, but if they don't outsmart their opponents, they will be carved to bits by a fighter or reduced to ash by a wizard - and the universe has no issues with this.

I might allow a saving throw for silence, 15' radius if it were cast AT someone, but if it is cast in an area, nope. Such are the breaks.

As for color spray, it is very powerful at low levels. Then again, at low levels, the wizard has one, two spells and is then useless for the rest of the fight. As the wizard gains in power, so do his enemies (unless your campaign is realy boring) and color spray has less of an effect... which ends up being none at all. Unless you see some spell that really ruins things for your game, I wouldn't overthink it too much.


2. If a Cleric turns undead to force them to retreat and then uses ranged weapons to fure on the undead while they’re moving away then is the enchantment broken? All the PHB says is that turned undead are compelled to retreat from the caster. My first inclination was just to say “yes” (for the same reason that I wouldn’t let undead with bows fire on the party once they’d been turned) but I’d be curious to see how other DMs have handled this one?

For this, let us reference the DM's guide.

If the character forces the free-willed undead to come closer than 10 feet, by pressing them into a corner, for example, the turning is broken and the undead attack normally.

It would seem to me that turning is meant to shield the characters from the undead, but if they exploit this, the effect is broken. I have always ruled that any attack instantly breaks the turning; it doesn't make much sense that following the undead breaks the effect, but that attacking them does not.

3. I’ve been looking over the “overbearing” rules in the PHB. Do you allow armour to count against grappling attacks? As wearing a set of full plate would, if anything, unbalance a character I can’t think of a good reason why it should give any sort of protection against being grappled. But if it doesn’t then overbearing suddenly becomes an all-too deadly tactic both for swarm monsters (10 orcs making an overbearing attack against a 5th level fighter) or for PCs to use against more powerful adversaries (5 party members grappling that one 12th level enemy). Neither of which really fit the fantasy genre particularly well.
Again, let us reference the DM's guide.

When punching or wrestling, a normal attack roll is made. The normal Armor Class of the target is used. If a character is attempting to wrestle in armor, the modifiers on Table 42 are used (these are penalties to the foe's attack roll). Normal modifiers to the attack roll are also applied.

The modifiers referenced here are penalties to one's attack roll for trying to wrestle while in restrictive armor.

And further...

To overbear an opponent, a normal attack roll is made. For every level of size difference (1 if a Large attacker takes on a Medium defender, for example), the attack roll is modified by 4 (+4 if the attacker is larger; -4 if the defender is larger).

Seems to me that the DMG is very clear on this: grapple-style attacks are done against the same armor class that a sword attack is done against. I see your point about real world armor, and making one less stable, but D&D specifically tries to abstract combat. Only if the defender could not move away from an attack would I consider ignoring the bonus offered by armor, and the passages here state pretty clearly that they should never be ignored.


Great questions! Makes me wonder if I should reconsider letting old Aerolus start his advice column back.





Posted on 2008-03-25 at 16:21:32.
Edited on 2008-03-25 at 16:24:24 by t_catt11

Grugg
Mun is Fandatory
RDI Staff
Karma: 357/190
6172 Posts


Dude!

Is Aerolus's stuff still somewhere on the site?


I remeber that...the fangirls one made me laugh.


*goes to search*


Posted on 2008-03-25 at 23:32:03.

Vorrioch
Chaotic Hungry
Karma: 38/6
406 Posts


...

Thanks again for the feedback. It’s interesting to see how different people interpret these sorts of issues.

I remember reading some of the Aerolus articles on here years ago. Have they been taken down or am I just too dense to find them?

If you'll allow me to elaborate slightly, this is what I was trying to get at with the 3rd question:

Because of the way that non-standard combat manoeuvres have been grafted onto the 2nd edition rules there isn’t really any unifying mechanic.

As you’ve said, the core rules go for a more abstract approach in allowing armour to count against overbearing attacks. For some reason, according to the rules presented in The Complete Fighter’s Handbook wearing armour also makes your attacks harder to parry (as a character parrying needs to roll against the attacker’s unmodified AC).

Conversely, according to the rules presented in The Sea Devils armour (even shields) offers no protection against net attacks. The various rules presented for siege weapons sometimes, but not always, allow armour to offer some protection. I’m also pretty sure that some of the monsters presented in various supplements are able to ignore armour when making touch attacks, while the ones in the core rules don’t.

My issue is basically with the lack of internal logic. An abstract system would be fine, provided that it was applied consistently, as would a completely realistic one. What doesn’t make sense is to mix the two to give an advantage to particular groups as the situation demands (it seems unlikely, for example, that the authors of The Sea Devils ever intended their rules to be used for net-wielding Player Characters).

My strong preference is for some sort of consistency when dealing with these sorts of combat manoeuvres. Unarmed attacks become deadly if they’re allowed to ignore armour, and parrying would be all too easy. At the same time, though, I don’t much like the idea of a character turning up for a wrestling bout in full plate and deriving any sort of advantage from it.

The most obvious solution seems to be to introducing some sort of independent modifier (say, a -4 when attempting to overbear any armed foe), but I was curious to see how other DMs had handled these sorts of issues. I’d also prefer not to tack on another set of house rules if there’s any way to avoid at.


Posted on 2008-04-02 at 10:55:45.

Rystefn K'ryll
Original Palassassin
Karma: 66/191
544 Posts


2nd edition

"1. A lot of the spells presented in the PHB aren’t exactly balanced. This one really came to my attention about a week ago when I was statting up a spell-using enemy of the party. A lot of the spells restricted from use in underground encounters seem particularly overpowered (e.g. Call Lightning) … presumably because the writers assumed they’d only ever be used in the one or two random encounters on the way to the adventurers’ latest dungeon crawl. As written, a lot of low level spells also don’t give saves that IMHO really should (Silence 15’ radius and Colour Spray- I’m looking at you)."

Well, Call Lighting is a spell without value at any time. One bolt per turn means one bolt, period, in any combat I've ever seen. Color Spray is gos good in low-levels, then sucks later in the game, same as Sleep, so I'd let it be. Silence doesn't completely shut down casters, as there are nonverbal spells they can toss around... in the end, some spells are just better than others. That's how things go. Some weapone are better than others, some armor are better than others, there's no reason I can think of that spells should be different in this.

"The best hard and fast rule I can come up with is to allow saves for all non damage-dealing offensive magic, possibly at some sort of penalty to balance them with staples such as “Sleep” and “Charm Person”."

If you don't think Charm Person falls into the Way More Powerful Than Other Spells group, you haven't read it. One save per month? It's pretty much the best spell in the game.

"2. If a Cleric turns undead to force them to retreat and then uses ranged weapons to fure on the undead while they’re moving away then is the enchantment broken? All the PHB says is that turned undead are compelled to retreat from the caster. My first inclination was just to say “yes” (for the same reason that I wouldn’t let undead with bows fire on the party once they’d been turned) but I’d be curious to see how other DMs have handled this one?"

I let them shoot at the undead, Turning is a powerful effect. Theoreticaly, the undead could shoot back, but they're retreating, which hampers the use of missile weapons, yeah?

"3. I’ve been looking over the “overbearing” rules in the PHB. Do you allow armour to count against grappling attacks? As wearing a set of full plate would, if anything, unbalance a character I can’t think of a good reason why it should give any sort of protection against being grappled. But if it doesn’t then overbearing suddenly becomes an all-too deadly tactic both for swarm monsters (10 orcs making an overbearing attack against a 5th level fighter) or for PCs to use against more powerful adversaries (5 party members grappling that one 12th level enemy). Neither of which really fit the fantasy genre particularly well."

I suggest you take a look at Combat & Tactics for better unarmed combat rules. It says there that armor doesn't help you against overbearing, that a swarm of monsters has a pretty good chance of taking down an adventurer that way, and that a person with a sword will likely kill a few before they accomplish it. I think this is reflected well in fantasy fiction, and might explain why, for instance, Gandalf would flee from a bunch of goblins under the Misty Mountains instead of trying to fight them with his magical sword.


Posted on 2008-04-15 at 19:31:42.

   
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