When Dungeons & Dragons was first created, it existed as a wargame that used small units made up of fantasy characters, rather than large armies based on real-life conflicts. As the game grew in scope, the designers now had to come up with rules for everything that could possibly happen.
These included rules for drowning, falling, tripping, starvation, impressing people in social situations, construction times, and how fast a boat can move in a day. They had to tie all of these rules to dice rolls and make them balanced. However, it doesn’t matter to most players if these rules make sense or not.
There have been many times when the designers of games like Dungeons & Dragons have had to throw common sense out of the window in order to make the game balanced. There have also been plenty of times when rules were written just to screw with the players and make sure that they suffer as much as possible.
We are here today to look at the most baffling and insane rule choices that were made official in Dungeons & Dragons– from the possibility of surviving being thrown out of a spaceship to the most expensive trap in the history of fiction (that you could make with a shovel and some leaves in real life).
Here are the 15 Dungeons & Dragons Rules That Make No Sense!
15. Falling From A Tower Deals The Same Amount Of Damage As Falling From Orbit
Falling to your death is a common hazard for an adventurer. This is due to the sheer amount of pit traps that they will stumble into. This is to say nothing of the tall structures they will often need to climb during adventures, which include things like towers, statues, mountains, trees, and really big monsters.
In the 3rd/3.5 editions of Dungeon & Dragons, it turns out that falling isn’t that deadly after all. This is because there is a cap on the amount of damage you can take from falling. The maximum amount of damage you can take is 20d6, which is what happens after you fall two hundred feet.
This damage cap means that you could theoretically survive a free-fall from orbit. The average amount of damage you would take is around sixty hit points, which is very survivable for a mid-level character.
14. The Darkness Spell Can Brighten Up A Room
A Dungeons & Dragons adventure will often force the players to travel to locations that are shrouded in darkness. This means that they will need to find light sources in order to be able to see, which can include spells or hiring a guy to hold a torch.
It’s possible to use magic to quench light and cover an area in darkness. The most popular spell for doing this is Darkness, which causes an object to shed a magical darkness that envelops a twenty-foot area.
The Darkness spell is actually brighter than an area with no light sources. This is because the spell description describes it as giving off “shadowy illumination” which is one step brighter than total darkness. You can still technically see people within the range of a Darkness spell, while you wouldn’t in an area of natural darkness.
13. Gaining Levels Can Make You Weaker
Many of the rules mentioned in this article are from the older editions of Dungeons & Dragons. The current iteration of the game is the fifth edition, which has been very well-received by fans. The latest edition of Dungeons & Dragons has combined the best elements of the third and fourth editions into something that is a lot of fun to play.
With that being said, the designers screwed up the rules for gaining new hit points when you level up. The third edition of Dungeons & Dragons had a rule that stated that you always gained at least one hit point when you leveled up. This prevented characters with a low Constitution score from losing health.
12. New Career Memory Loss
One of the advantages of playing a demihuman in the 2nd edition of Dungeons & Dragons was that they had lots of options when it came to multiclassing. This meant that they could reap the benefits of having multiple classes, but they gained experience points at a much slower rate, as they had to split it between them.
Humans had the ability to dual-class, which meant that they could abandon their current character class and start at level 1 as a new class. If they did this, then they lost all of the abilities of their previous class until their new class matched the level of the old one.
This means that a powerful wizard would instantly forget how to use magic if they decided to pick up a sword and become a warrior. However, they would suddenly remember how to use magic after a few years of fighting battles.
11. Cats Can Kill Commoners
Anyone who has ever owned a cat has likely earned a few scratches in their time. This is because cats will occasionally go into attack mode and try and murder your ankles for no apparent reason.
You should be thankful that you don’t live in one of the Dungeons & Dragons settings, though, as a cat can kill you pretty quickly in the lands of Faerun, Krynn, or Oerth.
The stats for a common housecat give it three attacks per turn (two claws and a bite) which do a minimum of one point of damage each. Your average commoner (person without a character class) has 1d4 hit points and no stat bonuses to improve their hit points.
10. It’s Harder To Stick & Move Than It Is To Cast Spells
In Dungeons & Dragons, the ability to become a wizard is tied to your Intelligence stat. In order to be able to cast a spell, your Intelligence score needs to be 10 + the level of the spell. This means that you need to have an Intelligence score of 11 to be able to cast first-level spells and an Intelligence score of 12 to be able to cast second-level spells.
The martial classes generally don’t need the Intelligence stat as much as wizards do. The exception to this comes in the form of certain feats.
The Combat Expertise feat allows you to take a penalty to your attack roles in exchange for a bonus to your armor class. You need an Intelligence score of 13 to be able to take it. This means that it’s harder to fight defensively than it is to cast the first two levels of magic.
9. Holy Word Isn’t So Holy
One of the most powerful cleric spells in Dungeons & Dragons is called Holy Word. This is a spell that allows you to speak a single word in the language of the heavens that is so powerful that it can physically harm beings of evil.
A single Holy Word has the power to banish demons and devils back to their home plane, while outright killing evil beings of a lower character level than the cleric.
You need to be incredibly careful where and when you actually cast Holy Word. This is because it affects all “nongood” creatures. The average person in a Dungeons & Dragons world is classed as being neutral, as they aren’t paragons or justice or evil schemers: they are just people trying to live their lives, so Holy Word would affect them.
8. Only Heretics Use Swords (But Blunt Trauma Is Approved By God)
Clerics are considered primary spellcasters in the same way that wizards are, yet they lack a lot of the flashier spells of their arcane cousins. Clerics generally don’t have many attack spells and what few they do get tend to be limited to only working on demons or undead.
In order to make clerics seem more impressive, they were given the ability to wear whatever kind of armor that they want without it affecting their spells. Wizards are stuck wearing flimsy robes, as anything heavier can affect their ability to use magic.
The most bizarre requirement for playing a cleric that endured throughout the earlier editions of Dungeons & Dragons was the fact that they could only use blunt weapons. This was tied to an explanation about not being able to draw blood. Beating your opponent’s skull in with a hammer was fine, though– go nuts.
7. The Xenophobic Class Rules
The demihuman races of Dungeons & Dragons tend to live for a lot longer than their human cousins. Dwarves, Elves, and Gnomes can live for centuries before they will pass away of natural causes. This raised the question of why the world wasn’t ruled by high-level demihumans, as they had all the time in the world to gain levels and acquire treasure.
The second edition of Dungeons & Dragons tried to answer this by enforcing strict limits on the classes that demihumans could pick and giving them level caps that were lower than humans.
This created a lot of weird rules that didn’t make sense. Elves and Gnomes couldn’t become bards, despite the fact that they are described as being the most magical and music-minded of the races, while Dwarves couldn’t become paladins, even though they are obsessed with honor and the rule of law.
6. A Lady Did It With A Tornado/Tidal Wave/Inferno/The Thing
It’s possible for almost any combination of races to breed and create hybrid offspring in Dungeons & Dragons. The most basic example of these are half-elves and half-0rcs.
Things get a lot crazier when you realize that humans can breed with dragons, fairies, giant eagles, demons, devils, angels, merfolk, dryads, and mephits. The human species sure does get around.
The most bizarre example of a hybrid offspring are the half-elementals. The elementals are creatures formed from one of the four classic elements (air, earth, fire, and water) that you can summon into battle.
Through some unknown magical means, it is possible for a woman to have relations with a creature that is essentially a giant tornado, a raging inferno, a tidal wave, or a hunk of rock in the shape of a man, and get impregnated by them.
5. The “Nice” Poison
The use of deadly poison in Dungeons & Dragons is considered to be cowardly and evil. The ability to apply poison to a weapon without accidentally harming yourself is one of the earliest features acquired by the two most evil classes in the Dungeon Master’s Guide: the assassin and the blackguard.
There was once a book released for the 3rd edition of Dungeons & Dragons called The Book of Exalted Deeds. This book dealt with a lot of the higher moral questions that players ignore. It also contained a section on “Ravages” which is essentially poison… but nicer.
Ravages are created from holy items and can be applied to weapons in the same way that poison can. They deal slow and painful damage to the enemy when used. Ravages won’t affect your alignment, because they technically aren’t poison, even though they work in the exact same way.
4. The Cavalier Class Is Made Up Of Leeroy Jenkins
The original version of Unearthed Arcana that was released for the first edition of Dungeons & Dragons added some new classes that were either hilariously bad or incredibly overpowered.
One of the new classes introduced in Unearthed Arcana was the cavalier. These were meant to be heavily-armored knights from the noble class, who were considered to be haughty and honorable to a fault.
The cavalier class had some powerful abilities, but they were useless in the face of one of the rules that they had to abide by. Cavaliers always had to ride into battle, no matter how powerful the enemy was or how badly outnumbered they were.
Cavaliers were honor-bound to charge straight at the biggest and nastiest monster on the field, no matter how slim their chance of survival was. This included running down innocent civilians if they got in the way.
3. The Wagon Wielders
Magical weapons are a common sight in a Dungeons & Dragons campaign. It won’t take long for players to find signature weapons of their own that they use in battle.
It’s possible to use an improvised weapon in combat, such as a bottle or a chair, but the damage is usually pretty low. The book called Complete Warrior gave a table that increased the damage an improvised weapon could deal, depending on the item’s weight. If you sharpened the item beforehand, then you halved the weight without lowering the damage.
Going off this table, it’s possible for a character with 15 Strength (or higher) to sharpen a wagon and use it effectively in battle. You would take a penalty to your chances of hitting, which was offset by the 5d6 + Strength modifier damage that you would deal with each hit.
2. Armies Are Cheaper Than Alchemy
One of the complaints about the 3rd edition of Dungeons & Dragons is that spellcasters quickly run out of magic at low levels. This means that they have to hide while the real warriors do the fighting.
There are certain items created by alchemy that spellcasters can use to keep themselves effective longer in combat. These include things like alchemist’s fire, which deals 1d6 burning damage and can start a fire, or the tanglefoot bag, which sprays a glue-like substance everywhere that can trip up enemies.
The problem with these items is their price: alchemist’s fire costs twenty gold pieces while a tanglefoot bag costs fifty gold pieces. It’s actually cheaper to hire trained soldiers than it is to buy one of these items, as they cost three silver pieces a day. One tanglefoot bag is considered to be worth the same as one-hundred and fifty soldiers.
1. A Pit Covered In Leaves Costs More Than A Castle
A member of the rogue class is one of the most important party members to have in a Dungeons & Dragons party, as they have the ability to detect and deactivate traps. Your average dungeon is likely to be filled with traps that range from poison gas, bombs, hidden crossbows, giant boulders, and spiked pits.
It seems that the architects of these ancient dungeons must have been as rich as Bill Gates. If you go on the prices of the traps in the official 3rd edition Dungeons & Dragons books, then it seems like all of the kings of old had to take out multiple mortgages just to pay for the traps.
The most absurd price given for a trap is for the Camouflaged Pit Trap. This is a hole that is covered with a net and some leaves. A Camouflaged Pit Trap will set you back 1,8oo gold pieces. You could build a small castle or a palace for that kind of money.
If your playing Dungeons & Dragons and need to make some quick money, then buy a shovel and offer your character out as pit-maker to the nearest dark lord. You’ll soon be raking in the dough.
Can you think of any other Dungeons & Dragons rules that make no sense? Let us know in the comments!
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