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You are here: Home --> DM's Corner

Small Rules

The Luck Roll: There are times in a game when something requires an element of pure luck. Not just the luck of the die, but the quality of luck that can't be planned into the game, yet adds to the flavour of the game. For Example: Bob breaks his sword in combat. Desperate for a weapon, he remembers that one of the orcs he just slew had a long sword. Now the DM knows which orc has the weapon, but doesn't necessarily know where it landed when the orc died. By some luck did it end up near our hero, Bob? The luck roll is very simple. Roll 2d6, and if the player gets seven or eleven as a total, he is lucky. Otherwise, his luck "craps" out. Special thanks to Craig Steward, who originally developed the luck roll.

Initiative: When rolling initiative, I work on low rolls, just like it says in the DMG (2nd edition). Remembering that there are 10 segments in a round, the roll of the die becomes the segment in which the character gets their chance to attack. So if Bob rolls a 7, modified by a 17 (+2 Reaction becomes a -2) dexterity, he attacks in the 5th segment of the round. Any roll modified less than 1, automatically becomes a 1st segment attack and anything over a 10 is a 10th segment attack. In the case of a tie, use a d6 to determine what second of the segment they get their chance.

The Seven/Three Rule of Spell: Casting Spell casting in combat can be quite difficult. If you are attacked while casting the spell, you lose the spell. Depending on the DM, spell casters can or can not cast more than one spell per round. A strict reading of the rules certainly says they can not, but who works on a strict reading of the rules? All examples in this article are based on the "Rule of One" being only one action per round. If you play differently, you can see the added benefit to the spellcaster of this system. The 7/3 rule is that a spellcaster can begin preparing his spell before the end of a combat round, thus getting the jump on an enemy. A spellcaster completes a spell (the first spell must be rolled for with initiative) and wishes to cast another spell immediately. The mage may take his last initiative roll then add 3 segments if the spell has no material components or 7 if it does require materials. That total (-10) becomes their initiative roll for the next roll. If the total is less than ten, the spell goes off first in the next round (unless you don't play with the rule of one). For Example: Mitch the Mage decides to cast a magic missile, rolls initiative, and gets a 2. With casting time his initiative becomes 3. After the spell Mitch casts a Hypnotic pattern using the 7/3 rule he would take his initiative of 3 add 3 for no components and add 2 for casting time. This would give him 8, but since he cannot cast two spells in a round, his spell goes off in the first segment of the next round. Had Mitch choose a fireball, then he would have added 7 then 3 giving him an initiative of 3 the next round. Important note: A spellcaster using the 7/3 rule does not get his dexterity bonus if he is attacked during the round. However, if he is hit on a segment when he is not casting a spell, including the period of time when he is preparing the materials and his thoughts, he does not lose the spell. For Example In the 9th segment of the round, a troll attacks Mitch. He is hit because he cannot dodge effectively and maintain his spell, but he doesn't lose the spell. Had the troll attacked in the 7th segment Mitch would have lost the spell he was in the middle of casting. This is why wizards like to surround themselves with fighters. A spellcaster can choose not to use the 7/3 rule and roll initiative every round. This method allows them to keep their dexterity bonus and still cast spells, although not as fast. Special thanks to John Morton and Carsten Fuchs who originally developed this concept back in high school.

Declaration: Bob loses initiative badly (8) but he plans to attack the troll. In the first segment, Calvin the Cavalier is clobbered by the Troll and is bleeding badly. Bob changes his action and states "I will heal Calvin with my Potion of healing". In the second segment, an evil wizard-troll steps out from hiding and starts a spell. Bob screams out "I will take out the wizard-troll before he toasts the entire party". In the third segment, Terry the Thief fumbles her dagger throw and accidentally "criticals" herself to 0 hit points. "I will bind her wounds" shouts Bob. We as DM's, all have had them, the player who changes their actions a few times within a combat round. The character sheet says they are "Chaotic Good" but really they are "Chaotic Everywhere".

By using a Declaration of actions before a round, you can control the flow of combat and cut down of the chaos. A declaration is a statement of what action the player would like to accomplish in the following round. It is done before initiative so that the order of combat doesn't influence the decision. The declaration can be simple as "I attack the troll" or "I cast a fireball at the troll" to more complex such as "I run as far away and fast as I can because this idiot is casting a fireball!" In a round a character may perform one action.

This action can be (but not exclusively):

1) Attack (up to the max # of attack allowed to character)
2) Cast a spell. (if casting time is one round or less)
3) Drink a potion
4) Light a torch
5) Use a magic item
6) Move to the Limit of their maximum movement rate
7) Attempt to open a lock or a door
8) Bind another character's wounds
9) Search a Body 1
10) Recover a Dropped Weapon (Yes this chart is directly out of the DMG. I'd say, "so sue me" but they might. However, they don't print the DMG 2nd edition anymore.)

When declaring, you must remember that you can only do one action, not an action for every # of attack. You may change your declaration in mid-round with a cumulative penalty of -1 for every time you change your declaration. Upon changing the action, you must decide what the penalty is against -- your attack or your next initiative. Once you choose the form of penalty, all other penalties that round accumulate to the same form. In the example above: Bob changes his action once (Attack to save Calvin) and chooses initiative. When he changes again (save Calvin to Attack) he is up to -2 initiative. Then he changes a third time (Attack to bind wounds) he now goes to -3 initiative. Had Bob choose Attack he'd be -3 on his attack which would not affect him this round (he didn't attack) so he'd be -3 attack next round. The idea behind this penalty is that to change what you are focusing on in a single round takes away from your concentration. You must sacrifice something to change an action, be it the edge on your attack or your ability to quickly recover the next round.

The exception of this rule is if the "object" of the players action is taken out of the combat, then there is no penalty for changing declaration. If a player declares he is attacking a troll and the troll dies before he gets there, then he can switch his declaration to attacking the Wizard-troll without penalty. If you are in combat and you wish to hold your action to see what the enemy will do, you may declare that you are "holding" or "hanging back". This means that you do not roll initiative, you are assigned the "next" segment after the enemy attacks and you then act as you wish at that time, without penalty. A risky move at the best of time, for if the enemy hits you while you hang back, your declaration might easily become "I will lie down and bleed for awhile." Digg Technorati Blinklist Furlreddit
Thanks to Roger (Alacrity) Briant for this contribution!


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