Friday, May 30, 2008

DMG - Encounters


The full rules for combat typically appear in the Player's Handbook, but there seems to be that extra set of rules that only a DM needs, which get their own chapter in the Dungeon Master's Guide.

With Listen/Spot/Search being all tied into Perception, the start of an encounter, with surprise and the like, has been simplified. No more checking for Move Silently and Hide separately. It might take away a little from the "realism" of the game, but I don't think the abstraction hurts it -- those players that had to expend ranks on two types of Stealth now only have to do it for one.

I wasn't pleased with the section on Cover. Granted, the standard rules are the ones that will be in the Player's Handbook, but there's a page in the DMG dedicated to Cover that says "[i]f you want rules can let you determine cover more precisely, you can use these. They're the same rules that appear in the D&D Miniatures game." Again the Miniatures influence is shining through.

I may have given the impression that I don't like Miniatures. It's not true -- I think it's an interesting game, and while I suck at it, it's still fun. But it's not D&D, it's not a role-playing game, and never the twain shall meet. Or something. D&D has largely become Miniatures with role-playing tacked on, instead of role-playing with the possible use of figures on a battle map. But wait -- this is supposed to be about the DMG.

The forced movement and different types of terrain again have the scent of Miniatures influence, but I think that pushing, pulling and sliding opponents will add interesting possibilities to combat, which really only had the bull rush before.

Aquatic, mounted and flying combat is all covered in a few pages. I like that they extended the difficult/blocking/challenging/hindering terrain rules to air- and water- combat. They've also simplified the flying rules a bit, which were always a pain -- how many squares do I have to move before I can turn ... turn how much? These seem like they get the gist of aerial combat down to their basics. I'll have to re-read the rules on crashing, which say how long until you land, how you can try to recover, etc. They're a little more involved than before. There are also some new terms for flying creatures (to replace the various Clumsy/Good/Perfect flight types), such as Clumsy Flying and Clumsy Grounded, which say that the creature suffers if not on the ground or in the air, and Overland Flight, which means they can't fight at all in the air, even though they can fly. Hover is also its own ability, instead of implied by the flying description.

I really like the new disease system. I don't recall seeing anything about it in the sneak-peek articles. Instead of diseased and cured (and dead), you have a "disease track", and on each extended rest, you roll to see if you move along this track towards healthiness or the disease's final state (death, blindness, catatonia, etc.) This allows diseases that have weak effects and strong effects, and gives the character to feel a little better, to have a relapse... to really be affected by disease.

Poisons are less innovative, being similar enough to the older rules. They're still something I don't use nearly as often as I should.

As I mentioned at the start, the Player's Handbook will cover combat in more detail, but it was nice to see some of the extras here to get a sense of what else might be done beyond swinging a sword and casting a spell.

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