D&D General When to know a rule?


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J-H

Hero
I'm fine not knowing all the spells, although - how do you even keep track of 5,000 spells? I have to look PHB spells up on my phone sometimes while DMing!
"You're casting X? Cool, I've never seen it used before."
 

TiQuinn

Registered User
I'm fine not knowing all the spells, although - how do you even keep track of 5,000 spells? I have to look PHB spells up on my phone sometimes while DMing!
"You're casting X? Cool, I've never seen it used before."
5,000 spells does seem like an wild amount - either lots of repeats with slight variations or copies of spells from previous editions of the game.
 

TiQuinn

Registered User
I don't think that seeing one goblin cast Goblin Glue once should take away all the unknown mystery fun of a spell. The handful of players are quick to say that "they the players" just want to know the rules....."the spell". And they agree to act out and pretend their character does not. I'm not a fan of this at all....very few players ever do this....most do the soft exploit of "oh my character does not know what the spell description says, but will just randomly guess the exact right thing...".
So let’s poke at this scenario a bit.

Your goblin casts Goblin Glue. My character wants to counter spell it. Do I get to know what level spell Goblin Glue is at least so I know if I’m burning the right spell slot to effectively counter it?
 

Hussar

Legend
I don't think that seeing one goblin cast Goblin Glue once should take away all the unknown mystery fun of a spell. The handful of players are quick to say that "they the players" just want to know the rules....."the spell". And they agree to act out and pretend their character does not. I'm not a fan of this at all....very few players ever do this....most do the soft exploit of "oh my character does not know what the spell description says, but will just randomly guess the exact right thing...".
There is another point to think about here. You've created this tome of spells. Fair enough. Perhaps the players would like to double check your math? After all, it's not unreasonable to think that the DM may not have a great grasp on the math of the game. Look at all that Homebrewery and stuff on Reddit and you see lots of stuff that isn't exactly stellar when it comes to game design.

So, considering that the DM would instantly veto any player who tried to do the same thing - "I'm creating a new spell, but, you cannot see it because it will ruin the game for you", there might be a lack of trust for all this homebrew material.
 

I see no problem making endless variation on actual spells.
Goblin glue can only be a Nth variant of Web or Entangle, more or less powerful.
Just make sure that new spell mechanics and effects are easily understood by those affected by it.
Adding new conditions, or bizarre effects can be funny sometime or be lame.
The « lexical curse spell« cast on a wizard that make him force to use only spell with name that begin by G,O,T,C,H,A may feel some a kind of bullying!

There is enough spells in the PHB and supplement to sustain all players need. It can be fun to access new spells you create but I don’t feel it’s mandatory.
 

aco175

Legend
I do not have problems with spells kept from players. They are something that the PC would not know. I like to have spells that only certain organizations or churches have that others cannot learn, or may be hunted down to keep the secret if they do learn it. They are a plot device as well as a kind of magic item(ish) in that they are a special reward to PCs.

Your goblin casts Goblin Glue. My character wants to counter spell it. Do I get to know what level spell Goblin Glue is at least so I know if I’m burning the right spell slot to effectively counter it?
I tend to see the PHB spells as the common spells that casters worldwide has knowledge to and new spells that are created have not grown in popularity to the common knowledge. PCs can create a spell and suddenly all the bad guys will not automatically know it, so the bad guys can have spells that the PCs do not know anything about as well. A lot of spells overlap and have similarities of other spells, such as making a fireball deal lightning damage and calling it a lightningball.

This new spell might allow something like a arcana check to know something about it if trying to counter, but part of the reason of using new spells is to keep the game fun and exciting. Players might get to add the new spell to their book or figure out how to create it themselves and DMs get to surprise the players that know all the spells by heart.
 

TiQuinn

Registered User
This new spell might allow something like a arcana check to know something about it if trying to counter, but part of the reason of using new spells is to keep the game fun and exciting.
I believe that’s the Xanathar guide rule and that’s perfectly fine IMO. My point is ultimately that lack of total knowledge about the spell shouldn’t become a nerf to abilities the PC has.
 


ezo

Where is that Singe?
First off, I'll admit the title was not what I was expecting. We have "newer" players who have been around for months up to a couple years and still don't know the "rules." Do I add proficiency bonus to damage? If I can do this as a bonus action, can I use my action to do it? My CON is 15, that's a +3 modifier, right? How much ki do I have again? And so on...

So, if I had players who actually knew the rules, I'd be thrilled!

But, I digress...
So, I my game I add lots of spells beyond what is in the couple of adventure books. Roughly 5,000 spells and counting.
That is A LOT of spells... Frankly, I think 5E already has way too many and well over half of them never get used. It is fine wanting more "themed" magic of course, but IME reskinning and narrative take care of that.

So.....enter a small handful of players. They say that they should know all the "rules" before we start playing the game. They note they know all the published spells. So they say if the DM adds spells to the game, they should get the full spell write ups before the game. The players must have all the game rules.

I'm not so sure we count things like spells, magic items, monsters, equipment, and other such things in the game...as "rules"?
No, they don't. Regardless, if a player does know something of a spell, or magic item, or whatever, how does their CHARACTER know? Metagaming is a big issue for me and something I take very seriously. As DM, I have infinite latitude in what I do when I run the game. So, the last thing I want is for a player to say, "Hey, I know that, it doesn't work that way!"

For example, in a high level champaign I ran the PCs were off to kill a red dragon who had slain the local "protector" silver dragon. I dropped hints along the way, but they were shocked after all their preparation and planning when the "red" dragon breathed COLD on them! There is a story reason why, and the hints should have made them suspect something odd was going on, but they chose to ignore them because (as players) they thought they knew better.

"Rules" are mechanics and features. If a player's 5th-level sorcerer can cast fireball, then yes they know about it and might even know about other 3rd level spells. But if they are hit with cloudkill, the PC probably doesn't. They certainly can't cast it even if they did. Now, knowing how to do the mechanics of the game as a player, knowing what the features of your PC can do, what your spells can do, is what players should know.

It isn't fair to change how a mechanic works unless the players understand that beforehand. For example, if you wanted a gritty, lethal game, and allowed only one death save instead of three, or changed the DC from 10 to 15, players have to know those things before hand as those are basically your houserules.

The players don't know about a spell for a single encounter, then just "remember" and become experts on the spell?
But knowing how a spell works that they've never encountered and seen for the first time? No, absolutely not. That is metagaming at its worst!

So....do things like spells count for "knowing all the game rules"?
Again, absolutely not. Knowing if you cast a bonus action spell, you can only cast a cantrip on your turn, is a rule. Knowing what "Wernak's Waterfall" does, what level, etc. is NOT a rule.

How does "lore" and "game rules" mix? The lore of a spell can give you a lot of information about the spell....but the "lore" does cross over with the "stats" of the spell. Things like spell range, targets, damage type, effects, duration are al "lore" information, that is also "stats/game rule information". The Stats give you the spell lore for free.

Is it "too much" of a "burden" to force players to use Downtime to learn new spells?
A PC can never learn a spell simply by encountering it, or even know all the parameters:

"My PC saw that warlock cast Eldritch Blast from 60 feet away, but I know he could have hit us from 150 ft!"

Why would they know that? They saw the spell at 60 feet, so as far as the PC is concerned, the range is at least 60 feet, it might be more, or maybe that was the maximum range, especially if the warlock moved forward before casting it.

The parameters of a spell, the stats of a monster, etc. are lore, but unless the PC has somehow learned it, they don't know it, and the player doesn't have to know it either.

Now, for many things concerning lore I like to use ability checks. There are many things a PC might have encountered or heard of at some point prior to adventuring. Spellcasters who have a spell in their spell list can make a spellcasting ability check against a DC of 8 + double the spell level. If the spell isn't on your list, or you are not a spellcaster, I use different skills for the ability checks: Arcana, Nature, and Religion.

For magical items, I use the same skills, but also some tool proficiencies, like Smiths' tools for magical armor and weapons. The DC depends on the rarity of the magic item.

Common: 10
Uncommon: 15
Rare: 20
Very Rare: 25
Unique: 30

Otherwise, the PCs can research about an item or use magic like identify. Research takes downtime and gold, but can reduce the above DCs by 5 to 10.

Again, PCs can have knowledge about creatures before they encounter them. So, for creatures, I use the following skills:
  • Arcana: aberrations, constructs, dragons, fey, monstrosities
  • History: humanoids, giants
  • Nature: beasts, elementals, oozes, plants
  • Religion: celestials, fiends, undead
The DC depends on the detail and obscurity of the information, but mostly follows the DCs for magical items above.
  • Common (DC 10) includes name, type, size, primary attacks methods
  • Uncommon (DC 15) includes AC (+/-1), hit points (within 5-10), speeds, resistances, senses, skills, languages, secondary attacks or spell use, and CR (+/-1)
  • Rare (DC 20) includes ability scores (+/-1 modifier), immunities, saves (not the value, just proficiency or not), features, special actions
  • Very Rare (DC 25) is legendary actions

Now, although some things might fall under special actions, like Breath Weapons, if it is seriously common knowledge then there is no check--like dragons having breath weapons and what they likely are.
 

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