RPG Evolution: The Superman Problem

Immunity to a form of damage in D&D has serious implications.

Immunity to a form of damage in D&D has serious implications.

superhero-4868103_1280.jpg

Picture courtesy of Pixabay.​

Monsters have a host of vulnerabilities, resistances, and immunities, but the in-world implications for player characters with those same resistances are tremendous.

Fire Immunities​

Probably the most obvious application to a creature immune or resistant to fire is that flames are no longer a threat. Fire was a serious concern for many reasons in medieval-era villages, but a character immune to fire might not consider them. There's an open question if immunity means inability to sense heat -- does an immune character care about how hot their morning coffee is?

Fire immunity might also mean not comprehending how dangerous flames really are. A smith immune to fire might happily reach into forges to manage their tools, but the forge would be so hot no one else could go near it. And characters who need to dry off could simply stand in the middle of a blazing campfire.

Fire immunity includes heat, from the sun and elsewhere. A character might walk fully-clothed in the desert under steaming armor; unless you rule that fire immunity doesn't free you from sweating. And you probably can't ever get a tan.

Cold Immunities​

If fire is an ever-present threat for villages, cold is just as much of a concern. Much work goes into preparing for the coming cold (farming cycles revolve around it), but characters immune to it could simply work round the clock during the winter. Their productivity could potentially be enormous -- assuming there are plants or animals to harvest during that time.

Similarly, cold beings might not even consider needing a roof on their homes. Like questions around fire, freezing cold water might not even be uncomfortable.

The other cold threat is hypothermia from freezing cold water. A cold-immune character could theoretically swim as long as their endurance allows, unconcerned about being in the water for hours on end.

Poison Immunity​

After fire and cold, poison is the next most common concern in nature. A character immune to poison might be happy to eat poisonous animals and even consider them a delicacy. If alcohol is considered a poison, they have no upper limit on potential intoxication. And they may not spare a second thought to eating spoiled food.

The Superman Immunities​

Immunity to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage (usually only circumvented by magical items or adamantine) poses all the same challenges that Superman faces. Can he even shave if he's immune to slashing damage? Does he feel anything if he bumps into a wall? What about falls from a great height?

All these changes make for a character who is dangerously out of touch with what normal humans care about. Does that make him clumsier than his peers? And would physical violence be more or less of an option when you know most things can't hurt you?

The Other Immunities​

The other remaining immunities are rare, magical, or both. Lightning and thunder likely don't come up that often in fantasy campaigns, but could in more modern campaigns where devices are powered by electricity. Force and radiant damage seem to be squarely in the "magical" camp unless you categorize force as a telekinetic form of pressure and radiant as a laser, in which case it bestows significant advantages against certain kinds of attacks.

Immunity to necrotic damage rests largely with the game master's perspective on how the damage is represented. If it represents decay, creatures immune to it might be immortal. Necrotic damage is sometimes represented as serious wounds, in which case the risk of infection wouldn't be a concern.

Similarly, psychic immunity implies a sort of mental protection and clarity of focus. Creatures immune to psychic damage might never lose their concentration, reading books for hours; or maybe it makes them so utterly focused that they cannot be dissuaded from any task, or accept any criticism.

More Human Than Human​

There's a good reason most characters aren't immune to damage. It makes them less relatable to their players. The more immunities a creature has, the more alien it becomes. That's what makes Superman so interesting: he is immune to almost all of the above damage types (except maybe force) and yet tries to act like a normal human. If PCs accumulate enough resistances and immunities, they may find themselves in the same boat.

Your Turn: How do you deal with immunities in a character's daily life?
 

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Michael Tresca

Michael Tresca

payn

I don't believe in the no-win scenario
I dont mind immunity on creatures and monsters as long as there are not multiple immunities. I dont like them at all for PCs, I prefer spells and magic items to give a short burst of resistance/immunity but wears off. I usually avoid high level play so its not an issue for me.
 

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Vaalingrade

Legend
Not to mention all the time you now have to waste recouping the items that you need to be competent but the game swears up and down you don't.
 

Stormonu

Legend
I dont mind immunity on creatures and monsters as long as there are not multiple immunities. I dont like them at all for PCs, I prefer spells and magic items to give a short burst of resistance/immunity but wears off. I usually avoid high level play so its not an issue for me.
There's PHB races that have natural resistances (Tiefling, Dragonborn) and the classic Elf immunity to sleep - do you use those (as is) or make any changes?
 

payn

I don't believe in the no-win scenario
There's PHB races that have natural resistances (Tiefling, Dragonborn) and the classic Elf immunity to sleep - do you use those (as is) or make any changes?
As is. Sleep immunity not a huge deal, and I'm cool with resistances over immunities. If it grows to immunity at upper levels whatever. Just hope it doesn't provide multiple immunities.
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
Your Turn: How do you deal with immunities in a character's daily life?
The tiefling (now more "double cambion") character in my DW game is immune to being surprised. (The specific text is, "You cannot be caught by surprise. If an enemy should get the drop on you, you act first instead.") Mostly, this cashes out as something like Spider Sense; the character simply has a preternatural sense for when something might catch them off guard, and they react.

My main way of limiting this is, more or less, that the player must spell out a premeditated plan in advance if they want to do something particularly complex in this "counter-surprise" moment. Otherwise, the char must do something that would make sense as semi-instinctive, e.g. drawing a sword and lunging, shouting a simple magic word, changing their form (hat of disguise + minor Druid shapechanging), throwing an alchemical or magical grenade, etc.

Likewise, another player has a move that means that, when an opponent is expecting him to make a move, he knows what that opponent expects him to do. The limitation here is, knowing "what" is not the same as knowing "why." In a highly focused example (the text references Westley's "duel of wits" with Vizzini), where there's only two options, the "why" may be obvious and so I won't quibble about it in that context. But in more general situations, where there are lots of valid reasons why someone might expect you to do something, knowing what they expect is useful but not a slam-dunk.

Overall, I do my best to give players chances for their immunity to be helpful, while also taking chances to show that it has downsides (as per DW Principles.)
 

mamba

Legend
The Superman Problem' actually gets Superman and how the 'problem' is actually a problem for him and what actually makes him relatable?
Well, it is a problem for him in the comics, and it it limited to being relatable. In D&D superman is a problem for everyone, unless you play in a superhero universe

I deal with it the way @payn does, the fewer immunities in the party, the better. Resistances are ok.
 
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Are there really people playing that immunity to a type of damage implies inability to sense the cause of the damage (e.g., immune to fire damage -> can't sense heat)? Is that suggested by some rule or writing?
 

Incenjucar

Legend
I favor DR that grants a specific amount of damage immunity AND resistance, with full immunity being very specific, such as a fire elemental being immune to fire, while an efreet might have resist 20 fire plus 10 extra fire resist/rd plus 1/2 damage from anything that slips through.
 

aco175

Legend
I favor DR that grants a specific amount of damage immunity AND resistance, with full immunity being very specific, such as a fire elemental being immune to fire, while an efreet might have resist 20 fire plus 10 extra fire resist/rd plus 1/2 damage from anything that slips through.
I like the resist 10 or 20 myself, but find the 5e half damage to be easier.
 

Shadowdweller00

Adventurer
I favor DR that grants a specific amount of damage immunity AND resistance, with full immunity being very specific, such as a fire elemental being immune to fire, while an efreet might have resist 20 fire plus 10 extra fire resist/rd plus 1/2 damage from anything that slips through.
I've got to admit this is one of the things I miss from earlier editions. Less (AND fewer 😝) credulity holes than having heat-adapted creatures wade through lava with impunity.
 

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