House Rules Q And A

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House Rules Q&A

I am kinda new to the rules, so I was originally going to just flood Ethan with rules questions, but then I decided that that might be annoying, plus if I have the questions, it is in theory possible that others have the questions (or have other questions), too. Plus if any of my questions actually end up being things that our DM needs to make a judgement call on, it would be nice to have a reference as to what his call was.

So, my solution: Make a Rules Q&A page, where we the players post any rules queries we have, and if other players can find a concrete answer, they can chip in (or they can chip in with their opinions on the matter?), and at some point Ethan will step in to “settle” the matter (unless a player has a concrete rules quotation handy, in which case they can present it). —dylanryan


Q1: Just to be clear, when the rules say “some ability score penalty”, they mean just the negative modifiers, right? And a “bonus” means just the positive modifiers, and a “modifier” means everything? At first, I read all the terms as more-or-less synonymous when a random rule said to “add a bonus” to such-and-such a thing and would happily add a penalty (which I saw as a negative bonus and adding negative numbers is easy), but that led to crazy issues with creatures with a strength penalty and off- and/or two-handed weapons (you’d end up saying that a creature with STR less than 10 did most damage wielding single handed in their off hand!), or characters with a DEX penalty having higher AC when flat-footed than when not. —dylanryan

A1: Strictly speaking, “bonus” and “penalty” only refer to a positive or negative modifier. So you add the normal STR penalty to off-hand and two-handed attacks, but if it’s a bonus then you add a different value; likewise, flat-footed klutzes still have their DEX penalty to AC.Ethan (answer transfered from email)


Q2: Should we keep track of all our HD rolls as we level, so that if we take CON damage we can correctly apply the min-cap to low rolls? For example, assume a level 2 character has 9 HP, but one of those HD rolls was a 1 (and the first auto-maxed D8) and no CON modifier. If they take 2 points of CON damage, do they have 7 HP (-1 HP per HD), or 8 (-1HP per HD, but since each HD is min-capped to 1, they do not lose any from the roll of 1). —dylanryan

A2: Keep track of each hit dice roll, just in case. Actually, due to the possibility of level loss, it might be safest to keep a record of everything that happens at each level-up, anyway. I’ll give the issue a little more thought, but most likely I’ll let you minimize the amount of HP loss if you can provide a paper trail for your hit dice (for loose definitions of “paper”).Ethan (answer transfered from private message)


Q3: What is the DC of using Move Silently in conjunction with a Double Move? I see a -5 for anything between half-speed and full speed (assuming that “less than full speed” really means “less than or equal to full speed”), and -20 for Running, but no indication for Double Move speed. Do you take 2 tests at -5 each (since you take 2 Move actions to make a Double Move), or one test at something higher (perhaps -10, or -12)? Note that the two-test approach is exceedingly easy once a character has high ranks in Move Silently, as if you auto-pass (or basically auto-pass) one, you auto-pass both (so that if you can say with certainty that you will pass the test, it is no harder to Double Move than to Move), whereas a single higher DC test is more prone to random luck but appropriately scales the difficulty. —dylanryan

A3: pending


Q4.1: Do Animal Companions (and maybe Familiars and Special Mounts?) really get weaker when their master dies and loses a level in the resurrection process? I can see it for a Familiar, there is some magical tie there, but I cannot make any logical explanation for why an Animal Companion, which is a completely separate living being with no magical connection to the master (unlike with a Familiar. Note especially that Share Spells and Link are both Extraordinary Abilities, i.e. nonmagical, and Empathic Link and Deliver Touch Spells for Familiars are Supernatural Abilities, i.e. magical), should get weaker just because their “master” dies. As I see it, the Animal Companion is supposed to be a separate living being that gains experience at ~2/3 rate of the master, and for convenience they are combined to level together. —dylanryan

A4.1: pending

Q4.2: If they do get weaker, do they also lose 2 CON if their master dies at level 1? Hypothetical worst case scenario: the master dies so many times that their Animal Companion “runs out” of CON so to speak (they get a con score of 1), and the master dies again (the master has enough CON in our example to lose 2 more). What happens to the animal companion? Does it spontaneously die? Note that I would like some form of logical explanation (for this and 4.1) as to why exactly they get weaker (if that is the final answer), although I will accept “the rules say so, dammit” with some distaste. My only suggestion to make it make logical sense is that Animal Companion leveling is one-way (IIRC they cannot be revived, so no worries about level loss from them actually dying) and if the master dies, they stay at whatever level they are at but have to wait until the master hits the next appropriate level to increase further. I have no clue what to do for Familiars, tho. —dylanryan

A4.2: pending


Q5: Should we be intelligent about when the rules use weights but they really clearly meant masses? For example, can you really Teleport more stuff on the moon, since gravity is less so everything weighs less? While that may seem absurdly unlikely to come up, free-fall is 0-gravity so everything weighs nothing in free-fall, so if you are falling some absurd distance, everything you are carrying weighs nothing, so could you teleport a giant lead cube 10 feet on a side that just happens to be in free-fall next to you? Or should we translate that to say ”...as long as the mass that is equivalent to the object’s weight at Earth-standard gravity doesn’t exceed …” What about Floating Disk, where it really IS weight that they want (I think? It is force, and forces are a mass and an acceleration, which is what weight is)? A blanket “always use weight” or “always convert to mass at Earth-standard gravity” ruling is easier, but will always have edge cases. I don’t necessarily want a solid answer here as to what specific case uses what, rather I just want to point out that there are issues (assuming of course that Earth physics even apply!) so that, if things come up, it is at least somewhat expected that a conversion to mass may be necessary. We could always record specific “this spell always uses mass” rulings here as they come up, unless we want a blanket rule. —dylanryan

A5: Measures in the imperial system are notorious for mixing weight and mass. So, I think we should be intelligent about when to use weight and when to use mass. In general, game rules dealing directly with crushing or lifting should be based on weight, and more general movements are likely to be based on mass. Effects that have more to do with volume, amount of matter, etc. are generally based on mass.

So, falling damage and carrying capacity are based on local gravity, but effects like Teleport are based on mass. There are some odd border cases, such as Teleporting a creature carrying its maximum load, or using Telekinesis, but those can be handled as we come to them.

Also, some side notes: why are you bringing relativity into this? Even WITH Wizards, everything is low-energy enough that Newtonian physics is sufficient, in which case you’d take the solid ground as your inertial reference frame on Material Plane (assuming you’re not ridiculously high up, of course). However, I know there are some planes with unusual gravity behavior – I think the Elemental Plane of Air is one – so you could always use that as your example. Also, “force effect” != mass times acceleration. Most spells that refer to “force”, such as Floating Disk or Wall of Force, are referring to a specific type of magical energy.—Ethan

Where did I bring in relativity? I certainly didn’t mean to. Objects in free fall (the only thing I can think of) are 0-weight because think of it – to weigh them in free fall, your scale must also be in free fall, so the net force on the scale is 0 (neglecting minor differences in air resistance). I intended nothing beyond classical mechanics and common sense, though interestingly wiki theory of relativity seems to talk extensively about free fall. I did not intend that! (hmm, planets are in free-fall about their sun, and weighing them in their own gravitation field makes no sense. So, planets also weigh 0?) And yeah, I know that force effects aren’t necessarily strict forces, but when we have a spell that is a force effect that gives a specific weight limit, it is much easier to just think of that as the amount of force it can exert. —dylanryan


Q6: Do Animal Companions and Familiars roll their own Initiative, or do they act at the same Initiative as their “master”? (note that this has some minor consequences in terms of gameplay: with a Familiar and an Animal Companion in the party, having them on different Initiatives would slow play-by-email) It is very easy to “synchronize” them – pretend that before battle starts they Delay until they match their master’s Initiative. However, it is entirely possible, through the use of Delay or Readied Actions, that they would diverge in battle even if they start synchronized. If we want them synchronized, do we want to guard against divergence?—dylanryan

A6: I think having them act on the same initiative as their master is a pretty common interpretation of the rules/simplification for sake of the players. Likewise, a group of monsters are often approximated as using the same initiative roll, rather than rolling individually for each monster. Certainly this will greatly assist the play-by-email situation if we do it this way under normal circumstances. At the same time, I’d generally allow Delay and Ready Action to break up a master and F/AC’s turns, or that of a group of monsters – there are legitimate tactical reasons why those could be important, and I don’t want to deny that to anyone.Ethan


Q7: How exactly does the Familiar and Animal Companion Extraordinary Ability “Share Spells” actually work with spells that have a duration? A quick paraphrase of the rules: Any spell the “master” casts on themselves may be cast on the Familiar/Animal Companion (henceforth “F/AC”) provided they are within 5 feet. If the spell has a Duration, it continues to affect the F/AC for the full duration but only if they stay within 5 feet of the master. If they move away, the spell ends for the F/AC and it does not start again even if they subsequently move closer. The reason I ask is because movement is sequential: It is impossible to maintain a maximum 5-foot distance and have them move any further than 5-10 feet (depending on if they start diagonally from each other or adjacent). Even if they are on the same initiative (see Q6), movement is sequential based on DEX mod within Initiative ‘steps’. The only way for it to work with movement is if the F/AC is being carried by the master (or the other way round in the case of a Horse Animal Companion), or else if there is a “one round grace period” so to speak, to give them enough time to stay together. Or is the rule meant specifically to say “Even though we SAY you can move, you really can’t if you want the spell to stay on both” Here are some hypothetical scenarios to consider:
  • F/AC has Initiative 18, Master has initiative 16, and an enemy with a bow has initiative 12. F/AC starts 5 feet away from the master. On the Master’s turn, s/he casts Cat’s Grace on self and F/AC, increasing DEX and by consequence Armor Class of both. In the same round, the master moves 30 feet away, but the F/AC “intends” to keep up on its next action. The Ini-12 enemy now shoots the F/AC. Does it benefit from the increased Armor Class from Cat’s Grace? It isn’t the F/AC’s fault that it is no longer within 5 feet, it PLANS to keep up but the turn order prevents it working out right.
  • Same as above, only now the F/AC has ini 10 (so will move after the enemy again, but at least in the same round as the Master)
  • Same as above, but now instead of moving, the master is pushed back with Bull Rush or similar before the F/AC can move, but the F/AC still “intends” to keep up as soon as turn-order allows.
  • Same as all above cases, but in all cases where I said “intends”, pretend that I said “the player says that they intend to, but really the player is lying but no one knows until it is too late” (I won’t do that, but it illustrates the dangers of a “grace period” for example)
  • Same as above, but the player really DOES intend to keep the F/AC with the master, but then something large and obviously plan-changing happens (such as an unexpected trap or similar) and the F/AC’s plan changes AFTER it has benefited from the increased AC.
  • Same as all the above, but with the Master casting the spell and not moving, next round the Animal Companion moves off (at a higher Initiative), and the master plans to keep up. (note: I am using Cat’s Grace just as an example, there are any number of other spells with a Duration, Alter Self, Invisibility, and others) —dylanryan

A7: nnh. Head hurt. There are cases where discrete combat rounds are a very poor simulation of what’s really happening; this is one of them. In such cases, we should actually act intelligently, rather than rely on an overly strict reading of the rules (that’s for Wish and Quest! hehehe). In this case, if you want to maintain a Share Spells effect, the F/AC and the master MUST act on the same initiative. They will move as a unit, thereby maintaining a 5-foot maximum distance between them. If it matters who moves first for any reason, it is the player’s choice, though if left unspecified the default is that the character with the higher DEX modifier moves first.Ethan

Note: each player may want to have a default answer for who is moving first, so that way we don’t have to ask whos going to step on the pit trap and set it off, giving the character a chance to send their familiar etc in first. (Or themselves if that is more preferable for some reason). Basically we don’t want the question “which of you is moving first” to mean “so who’s stepping on the fire trap?”—Cadin

In the case of an animal companion using the Heel trick, the master should be required to move first, so that should be the assumed (and probably immutable) default in that particular case, regardless of DEX, etc. I mean, you don’t Heel by staying in front!—dylanryan


Q8: Does changing DEX mid-battle (Cat’s Grace, for example) alter Initiative, or is Initiative a one-time thing? I assume Initiative does not change, but given that basically everything else based on ability scores change when the ability score changes (saves, HP, etc), it seems strange that Initiative is the odd man out.(Though at the same time, it would be bizarre if it did change. As I said, I am new to the rules and, as a Druid, I will have many many ways to alter DEX at my disposal). If Initiative does NOT change, what happens in the case where, for example, a DEX 14 character and a DEX 16 character roll the same Initiative (so that the DEX16 goes first) and the DEX14 character casts Cat’s Grace on him/herself, bumping him/her to DEX 18. Do they now go before the DEX 16 character, or is turn order immutable except for Delay and Ready?—dylanryan

A8: The rules describe an Initiative Check as as a Dexterity Check. So just as casting Owl’s Wisdom on a character who failed a save against an Enchantment spell doesn’t break the Enchantment, raising DEX mid-battle doesn’t change the combat order.Ethan

Just a random note: Is it just me, or does acting in order of Dexterity Modifier within initiative steps seem BACKWARDS? For example, consider we have a Dex 18 and Dex 10 character who both have a modified initiative 15. The Dex 18 goes first, despite having rolled 11 while the Dex 10 character rolled 15. It seems that the dice roll (I.e. luck) should take precedence here? I mean, since when does the low roll get rewarded? I get that higher Dex move faster, but at the same time, with dex mods usually on the range [-5,5] and the dice roll on the range [1,20], the dice roll (luck) is clearly meant to be the largest factor in who goes when. —dylanryan


Q9: How do we want to deal with “passive movement”? I know for example that Asëa is going to have Eruanna, her eagle Animal Companion, sitting on her shoulder/arm/whatever at least sometimes. If Asëa for example Runs (120 feet) with Eruanna in essence riding her (think a player character riding a Horse if it helps), can Eruanna take off and move away on her action (hypothetically she could “fly at a Run” for 320 more feet for a combined 440-foot move in a single round)? Note that for a Sorc/Wiz with a Familiar that can Deliver Touch Spells (wink wink nudge nudge), using passive movement can greatly expand their effective range for Touch spells. I mean, surely the F/AC doesn’t need to take ranks in Ride and go through the whole Mount/Dismount routine that a PC would have to do with a horse, right? (Ignoring for a moment the fact that you could get a Horse as an Animal Companion – we all know I’m specifically asking about an Eagle Animal Companion and/or an Air Elemental Familiar) But it doesn’t feel right to let them get so much passive movement for free either. —dylanryan

A9: Pending

Off-topic note, your elf is going to want some thick leather gloves or shoulder pads to rest her eagle on, especially if you plan to move at your full move speed lol otherwise you’re in for some serious piercing damage! ;) Cadin

Oh, don’t worry, I already thought of that. We’ve decided that Asëa has a walking stick with a perch on top. – Ethan


Q10: Do familiars gain Feats, and Ability Score Bonuses as the master levels (BAB, Saves, and Skills all basically just use the master’s scores)? The rules say to treat their HD total as the same as the master’s Character Level (not Sorc/Wiz level, but total Character Level), or their actual HD total, whichever is higher, which means that as the master levels, their HD total increases. Animal Companions already get all these as they add HD, but then they do add real HD, as opposed to Familiars which only add “pseudo-HD” and then have HP equal to half master’s. Also note that if they do gain these, they get more than Animal Companions, since the Familiar HD total is equal to master’s, whereas Animal Companion HD total is ~2/3’s master (gain 2HD per 3 master levels), but Animal Companions get more STR and DEX so can make better use of combat related Feats. This one’s for you, Miithi!—dylanryan

A10: I would generally say that “effects related to number of Hit Dice” does NOT include benefits associated with leveling. Instead, I believe it refers to effect such as Sleep, which can only affect a certain number of HD worth of characters.Ethan


Q11: Do we want to try and make carrying capacity for animals make any logical sense? Looking at the rules, an Eagle can carry 24.75 pounds and still fly, which is double their average body weight (and real carrying capacity, thank you google). Make that eagle a level 20 druid’s animal companion who buffed strength with ability score increases, and throw in some spells, and it can carry over 600 pounds (Fawkes from Chamber of Secrets much!). How about Griffons? How does having 4 legs let them carry more weight in flight than an equal strength bipedal creature such as a Giant Eagle?

A11: I’ve noticed that there seem to be a bunch of rules and numbers that are a little off if you actually think about it. They seem numerous enough that in general, I say that we go with the rules and alter the game-world physics to fit, rather than making the rules conform exactly to real physics. I think the intent is that the game-world approximates the real world in many respects, but isn’t constrained by the real world (for example, wizards and dragons). Maybe there’s something about the world that makes flying easier – traces of mithril in bones, perhaps, or some sort of high-energy food source that makes flapping much easier. After all, dragons and griffins probably couldn’t fly very effectively in the real world…—Ethan (copied form private message)

It seems the general mantra is “just don’t think about it too hard,” which is something I have trouble with :)—dylanryan

No, it’s just “the real world is too complicated to model perfectly”. In those cases, there might be a perfectly logical in-game explanation that makes no sense in real-world terms. Oh, and also add “school makes the DM slow to respond” ;). —Ethan

House Rules Q And A

Wings of Redemption dylanryan