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March 19 2010


D&D rules lawyering: cover and stealth

I was recently reading up on the stealth and cover mechanics, and even though I was fairly certain about what is and what is not possible, I found out that one edge case isn’t particularly well-documented.

The rules, to be exact the Stealth rules correction from Player’s Handbook 2, state:

Becoming Hidden: You can make a Stealth check against an enemy only if you have superior cover or total concealment against the enemy or if you’re outside the enemy’s line of sight. Outside combat, the DM can allow you to make a Stealth check against a distracted enemy, even if you don’t have superior cover or total concealment and aren’t outside the enemy’s line of sight. The distracted enemy might be focused on something in a different direction, allowing you to sneak up.

So, what it especially says is that “superior cover” works as a basis to get hidden behind. According to the Dungeon Master’s Guide on determining cover for ranged attacks:

Choose a Corner: The attacker chooses one corner of a square he occupies, and draws imaginary lines from that corner to every corner of any one square the defender occupies. If none of those lines are blocked by a solid object or an enemy creature, the attacker has a clear shot. The defender doesn’t have cover. (A line that runs parallel right along a wall isn’t blocked.)
Superior Cover: The defender has superior cover if no matter which corner in your space you choose and no matter which square of the target’s space you choose, three or four lines are blocked. If four lines are blocked from every corner, you can’t target the defender.

So, in theory, if you’d have a situation where you’d have superior cover from an enemy, e.g.

you’d be able to stealth yourself and gain combat advantage.

The only thing that really denies this possibility are, again, the Stealth updates from Player’s Handbook 2, this time the “Remaining Hidden” section [emphasis mine]:

Keep Out of Sight: If you no longer have any cover or concealment against an enemy, you don’t remain hidden from that enemy. You don’t need superior cover, total concealment, or to stay outside line of sight, but you do need some degree of cover or concealment to remain hidden. You can’t use another creature as cover to remain hidden.

Many thanks to @Milambus for looking up that passage. [And making me feel stupid for not having found it myself, by the way.]

And that’s the only problem. So, you could gain stealth moving behind enemies, but immediately lose stealth status again by being only behind a creature.

In a sense, this is balanced, since your rogue strikers could then just continue to camp behind your own fighters and shoot sneak attacks at enemies from just behind their buddies (since they don’t block for the player), which would make combat encounters quick enough, but also a bit boring.

Then again, as my player rogue pointed out, when there’s two huge dragonborn warriors pounding away at an enemy, how are they not supposed to be able to hide behind them? They aren’t 5′ wide, surely, but certainly bigger than a half-elf in every other dimension.

I just think that with a further update (yuck), we might be able to get a bit of clarification on the fact how allies grant cover, but cannot grant superior cover.

March 18 2010


D&D Characters: Shamorn Fallenheart, Tiefling Bard

As a bit of a side occupation, I like to engage in some character design for role-playing games, as it just comes as a natural extension of being a hobby-ish writer person.

Thus, I present: Shamorn Fallenheart, a tiefling bard from High Imaskar.

Birth — and over misgivings

Shamorn was born in Gheldaneth, the fading Mulanian metropolis of High Imaskar, and his parents believed in the prophecies stating Shamorn to bring forth better times for the tiefling folk of the Gheldaneth slums. Being raised in a community of hired hands to accompany adventurers on dangerous treasure hunts through the depths of the sunken city, hopes were laid on him, and him alone, to liberate them from this life of unofficial slavery.

Early life

Our young tiefling was always a bit pampered. The male role models of the community were often too busy getting killed on a foolish quest, as was Shamorn’s own father — shortly before his fourth birthday. As it were, there was none of the usual goading and testing a tiefling endures as part of growing up. The consequences of this, as well as the pampering he received by his mother and other “faithfuls”, would be dire indeed.

Thus Shamorn grew to be a young adult, helping out everywhere in the community, without ever taking up a real job. He had many on and off teachers, versing him in skills as and the heritage of the tiefling race, training him in the use of weapons and telling stories of heroic deeds throughout time.

Constantly surrounded by an appreciation for life, for heroism, the history and culture of his people and a will to bring good to them, it came as a great surprise to many that Shamorn Fallenheart, Prophesied Saviour of the Gheldaneth Tieflings, came to start training to be…

a bard.

There was a wandering Elven Bard in Gheldaneth at the time, and Shamorn choose to apprentice himself to him, believing that becoming a bard, a herald of their people, would be worth much more than simply slaughtering any would-be oppressors or being a leader to guide the people to their Promised Land.

As was to be expected, his decision did not sit well with some, if not most, of his elders. His mother came just short of disinheriting him, and he was forever branded as a wimp by most others. Still, there were some people who still believed in him, and he managed to stay in the community, even though everyone tried to forget about any kind of prophesy laid upon him.

The turning point

His apprenticeship was going well, all things considered. But his teacher, unbeknowest to him, was a bit of a braggart and ignorant, that is to say: not a very good bard. Still, Shamorn managed to master his natural graps of the Arcane under his tutorship, even though the social values might have been slightly distorted.

Sadly, this distortion and the infusion of heroic tales led to an unfortunate incident. A rough band of treasure hunters, with a fierce reputation for their harsh effectiveness and rumours of a brutal and unrelenting manner towards opposition, sought out their enclave to hire some of their men for help. So, after a few minutes of shouting, waving of weapons and dragging people out of their hovels, Shamorn thought it was time to act.

Bravely stepping forward, he confronted the leader of the scavengers, demanding of him to cease these despicable acts and appealing to his good sense, as a man, to respect his people’s wishes.

The screams as the leader’s minions started slaughtering the women and children are still stuck in Shamorn’s head. He still only has vague memories of that moment, but there is one thing he is quite confident of:

As his mother’s lifeless body was thrown in front of him, crumpled up in a heap, he snapped. Shamorn went into a rage, slamming into the minions and fighting them fiercely. It seemed the demon in him had taken control, for he was full of laughter at the slaughter he was causing, taunting his enemies as he smashed their faces in with his or embedded his daggers into their hearts, even just ripping into them with his claws and biting as he went along.

It did not take long for him to cut through the minions, emerging bathed in blood, eldritch powers abound and flames crackling around his body. His Elven master bard was astonished at the display, and recognized the potential of a warlock in him should he have even been trained thusly. As it was, the teacher preferred to cower in fear and observe what happened next.

Shamorn confronted the leader of the scavengers who was just standing there, shocked to his core.

“This is what happens when you try to compel my folk, human!” the bard stated in an almost neutral voice, only a hint of a burning darkfire noticable in the voice. And with that, he slew the leader of the group that brought death to his kin.

And as if by miracle, Shamorn immediately calmed down to his usual, naive self. The only hint at his monstrosity was the fact that he surveyed the slaughter he had caused without fear, shame or disgust. Looking around him, he found few people left alive. Some were cowering inside their hovels, either hiding their faces or staring out at him with fear. Others seem to have run a way, and it was eerily silent.

Shamorn cleared his throat. “My master, I will be leaving now. Do you wish to accompany me?”

His master, still shaking slightly, replied “No, my apprentice. I do not think that you need me any further. Consider your training complete.”

And with these short words, the recently orphaned Shamorn Fallenheart set out into the Realms, venturing forth to herald his people — and to leave this blighted home which has been cursed by his deeds.

The character statistics will follow as soon as I have access to the relevant documents again. I might also write a short story or two detailing the background or later adventures.

February 01 2010


D&D item: Martyr’s Collar

Seeing how everyone else is currently creating interesting items, I thought that I should throw one of my ideas into the mix. And after a bit of tinkering with how it should work, I present:

Martyr’s Collar Level 5

Resting tight against the throat, the wearer is always reminded of the price of sacrifice.

Lv 5   1.000 gp

Item slot:
This item can mean instant death for the character. To wield it, the character must succeed at a hard willpower check. After three failures, the character needs to take an extended rest before trying again.
Power (At-Will ♦ Necrotic):
Standard action. A conscious and willing character may activate the collar while it is around their throat. The collar magically constricts, severing the user’s head from their body. The user’s life energy serves as a power source for the collar and sends every attuned ally in range (burst 10) to the point defined by the attuning process.
Being able to survive the decapitation does not save the user, as all of their life energy is used up to power the collar’s magic.
The allies do not need to be willing, conscious, or even alive. If, for whatever reason, the destination is not reachable, the collar will not activate. After the teleportation, the collar expands to its normal proportions and loses any attunement.
Power (Daily):
Standard action. Every willing ally in a burst 5 are attuned to the collar, and the item itself is attuned to the location. When the at-will power is used, all allies attuned and in range are transported back to the current location. The collar does not need to be worn to be attuned; any character touching the item can initiate the process. When passing between owners, the item does not lose connection to any attuned user or the attuned location.

Nobody really knows how these devices ever came to be, but they seem to have been used by devout and loyal warriors throughout time to save comrades from certain death by using their own life to shield them. The ultimate heroic sacrifice, most souls sacrificing their bodies this way ascend to the Astral Sea.

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