Ask Wizards Stumpers
The Unanswerable Questions
One year ago (on March 28th, to be exact), we debuted our Ask Wizards feature, soliciting your questions about the game. Since then we've received close to 10,000 questions on everything from fortification vs. vorpal weapons, the best prestige classes to choose, and all manner of uses for the monkey grip feat.
Let me be clear about one thing: we absolutely love your questions. We love receiving them, we read them all... and we wish we had the ability to answer every one. Unfortunately, there are far, far more questions than we have the opportunity to answer-but that said, please keep sending them in! We'll answer as many as we can, organized each week by topic.
With so many questions pouring in, however, there are bound to be a few that simply defy easy answers... or any answers at all, for that matter. We've collected a few of our favorites throughout this past year to share-these are the questions that made us smile, laugh, or just plain shake our heads in confusion, whether from their sheer outrageousness, or our vision of the in-game events taking place that would lead to these questions ever being asked. Read on, and perhaps you'll understand why!
Sometimes players notice certain elements of the game that defy explanation. From these, there are the rhetorical questions-and while there are no answers for them, they're still fun to ask:
- Kevin asks: Do the power word spells really take up spell level + 1 pages in a spellbook? After all, if they're just one word...
- Ramiro asks: Is it possible, in terms of flavor, to have a PC be an atheist? I mean, with divine magic and religion dominating most campaign settings, it seems almost unlikely...
Things That Shouldn't Be
Sometimes questions do have an answer, and that answer is just plain "no". A few cases in point:
- Gilbert asks: It states in the Player's Handbook that a monk's fists can do up to 2d8 damage. Can one dismember the fists and use them as improvised weapons for the same damage?
- Kyle asks: How much damage can a vorpal longbow do?
The House Rules
Other questions have no answer in large part because of their nature as strange (but amusing) corner-cases, thought experiments, and the like. What's possible is always up to your DM, so house rules would do well to address the following:
- Brian asks: Would a two (or more) headed creature be more easily affected by a gaze attack? After all, they have more eyes.
- Joe asks: How far below my party's usual CR should they be if they're stripped of all their gear?
- Ludovic asks: If I cast persistent image to look like a creature, and move it into flanking position with a PC, does the PC get the flanking bonus?
An interesting debate followed this question, where it was generally thought that if the foe believed in the illusion and thus had to compensate for it in combat, than it would provide a flanking bonus. For support of this, take a look at Spell Compendium's phantom foe (p.156) which essentially recreates this effect.
- Comyn asks: With no wizard around to detect invisible foes, throwing flour is one solution, but what are the rules for this? How long would it take the invisible foe to dust the flour off?
- Joshua asks: Lycanthropy is said to be a disease spread through biting. Does that mean that the disease is carried in the lycanthrope's saliva? If so, could one become inflicted simply by kissing a lycanthrope?
And a follow-up question on lycanthropy (we assume that the mule did not kiss the rat):
- Alexander asks: Our party bought a mule named "Bill". The mule was bitten by a wererat and failed its Fortitude save vs. lycanthropy. What happens to Bill now?
- Mikie asks: Do owlbears regurgitate "owlbear" pellets like owls? Do they simply leave droppings like bears? This could be important for rangers/druids tracking owlbears.
- Tom asks: Do the rules for drowning apply if the PC is submerged in, let's say, a tank of healing potion without access to air?
- Danny asks: Can an invisible stalker see other invisible stalkers?
- Jorge asks: If someone wearing a ring of invisibility dies, will she stay invisible forever?
- Joe asks: Can a water elemental surround a vampire and prevent it from moving? I already know a vampire cannot strike it, for that would make it mad and a vampire cannot cross running water.
- Brian asks: Let's say a wizard bought a few hundred head of cattle and polymorphed them into stone blocks to build his castle. If some adventurers invaded his castle, and the wizard then cast chained dispel magics while the adventurers were inside, how much damage would the adventurers take when the cattle changed back?
- Shawn asks: Could a lich's phylactery be contained in a golem, or even be a golem?
For this last one, we have to answer: why not? After all, a greater iron golem served as a drow lich's phylactery in our very first Creature Competition.
Of Mounts, Familiars and Monstrous Forms
A paladin's warhorse and sorcerer's familiar are intrinsic and personal elements to those characters. So of course many players look beyond the standard choices in order to find something truly unique. The following questions we'd subtitle "Pimp My Mount":
- Brian asks: What would be a suitable mount for an illithid Paladin of Tyranny?
- Morgan asks: I have a unicorn with class levels in paladin. Since a unicorn is already equine, what should I do with its ability to gain a paladin's mount? Would it be a horse/etc., that simply follows him around?
- Morgan asks: If I have a player character who is a humanoid spellcaster, and another who is an intelligent animal spellcaster (for example, a tressym wizard), is it possible for the humanoid to use the Improved Familiar feat to take the animal on as a familiar, and then for both characters to gain the benefits of a master-familiar relationship while still remaining normal player characters?
- Wes asks: I have a druid who took the shifter substitution from PHB II. My character has a limitation of only shaping into primates. However, at 5th level he also gains flight-how can I use this while still keeping the primate theme?
- Devin asks: Let's say my master of many forms PC turns into an ooze. My PC is then hit by a slashing or electricity attack. What happens? Do I now have two characters? Or could he be squeezed back together again?
- Steven asks: Can a centaur: climb a wall, climb a rope, climb a ladder? Are there skill modifiers that would apply? Would they get a bonus to climb a slope?
The above question was answered by Dave Noonan in Podcast Episode 4 , where we quizzed him on the D&D Hotseat with many of these more esoteric queries. Follow-up questions soon appeared:
- Ribusprissin asks: David Noonan stated that a horse cannot climb. What is the determining factor as to whether a creature can or cannot climb slopes, walls, or trees? It seems a bariaur would be able to climb all of these, but how about a sphinx? A centaur? A tauric elf-rhino with one pair of weak arms and a heavy body?
A few questions were simple too epic in nature to accept mere mortal answers:
- Shane asks: If Demogorgon and Asmodeus were to have an all-out fight, who would win?
- Bill asks: One thing I have never heard of is eating dragon meat. I was wondering if this is because dragons are inedible, poisonous, extremely difficult to chew, or otherwise unfit for human consumption? Also, would each different color dragon have a different flavor?
- Alex asks: My party is very close to becoming epic. Can I hire several hundred 1st-level mages, keep them inside multiple bags of holding (with bottles of air, of course) and use them as participants in a ritual spell?
- Joey asks: I have a campaign that is extremely epic, and I have been looking everywhere for this but can't find the answer. What would be the break DC of a planet?
Speaking of epic: one of our first questions addressed the tarrasque--specifically, what would happen if the tarrasque met another tarrasque. The official answer was that it's the tarrasque for a reason; being unique, it need never face itself in combat. Yet still the question was posed, along with myriad clever, fiendish and downright cruel ways to defeat everyone's favorite epic creature.
- CJ asks: You've stated that you could not contemplate a tarrasque vs. tarrasque fight, because there is only one tarrasque. However, what if some wizard traveled through time and returned with a tarrasque, by whatever means. Then how would the fight work? Will you contemplate it now?
- Ulrich asks: My group and I have been talking about the limitations of the wish spells contained in a ring of three wishes. Our discussion came to a standstill when the tarrasque was mentioned. One of my players said it was possible to: 1) wish the tarrasque had a discernable gender; 2) wish there was another tarrasque of the opposite gender; and 3) wished they would mate. Is this possible within the limitations of a ring of three wishes?
- Derek asks: The tarrasque: it's female, right?
- Benjamin asks: As a daring warforged artificer, I've been delving into every aspect of the items in the game's source books, and found an interesting method for killing a tarrasque that I wanted your opinion on:
Using a rod of rulership (DMG p.236), at least 100 vials of icy sheets (Frostburn p.112), and a wish spell, the comparatively stupid monster has no way to resist your commands, eat the vials, then take the 6d6 damage per vial-easily enough to put it down for a final blow. Is there any way that I'm the first to see this? Especially given that players far under epic levels could easily create variants of this idea for much less money, with little to nothing for the unsuspecting DM to say on the matter but, "Aww, shoot."
- Graeme asks: Here's another entry in the age-old "how can I kill the tarrasque" encyclopedia. Its regeneration ability does not state that it works differently from any other regeneration, and therefore will not regenerate hit points lost to starvation or suffocation. Does this mean a competent wizard could simply seal the thing in a cube of six walls of force and let its air run out?
- Christian asks: Could a sphere of annihilation permanently kill a tarrasque? I know they regenerate even after being disintegrated, but according to the rules for said artifact, "Any matter that comes in contact with a sphere is instantly sucked into the void, gone, and utterly destroyed. Only the direct intervention of a deity can restore an annihilated character."
- Lee asks: The 2nd edition Monstrous Manual entry for the tarrasque ends with the sentence: "Note: Creatures with a minus THAC0 can only be hit on a 1." This makes no sense, as a monster's THAC0 can't possibly modify what something else needs to roll to hit them. I always thought it should have read that the tarrasque can only miss an attack by rolling a "1". My anal-retentive friends, however, will only acquiesce to an official ruling on this subject. Can you help me out?
Ah, the tarrasque--a suitable topic to end this set of questions. Lee, that is indeed a truly bizarre statement from the Monstrous Manual, which defies both mechanical and thematic logic.
To start with, for those who hadn't played past editions of the game, packing on defenses previously lowered a character's armor class instead of raising it. A normal, unarmored character started with an AC of 10, while a character adding on platemail, shield, and dexterity bonuses, for example, could "lower" their AC to 0 (or lower still, with magical bonuses, etc... Asmodeus, for instance, once had an AC of -7, while Demogorgon had an AC of -8, thus giving the Prince of Demons an edge in Shane's proposed duel).
THAC0, as defined by the 2nd edition PHB, was the number a character needed to roll in order to hit AC 0. The THAC0 number could then be used to calculate the number needed to hit any Armor Class. This definition ends with the somewhat dubious statement that "using THAC0 speeds the play of combat greatly."
The 2nd edition tarrasque had an AC of -3. Thus, a 1st-level warrior would need a 23 to hit it, a 5th-level warrior an 18, a 10-level warrior a 13, and so on. Nowhere-except for that bizarre statement in the Monstrous Manual-is it ever implied that a 1 is needed to hit a negative THAC0. Just another mystery of the tarrasque, seemingly.
Well folks, our thanks again for your questions, and we hope you don't mind our sharing them! Anyone who would like to propose answers to any of the above, please feel free to submit your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Author
Robert Wiese has been playing D&D since 1978 after he watched a game played in the car on the way home from a Boy Scouts meeting. He was fascinated, and delved into this strange world of dragons and magic and sourcebooks. Years later, he was hired to edit tournaments for the RPGA Network, and from there progressed to running the network after his boss was assassinated in the great Christmas purge of 1996. Times were tough, but he persevered and brought the RPGA into a shining new era. Eventually he met a girl who liked to play D&D too, and he left Renton for the warmth and casinos of Reno, Nevada. Now, he works in the Pharmacology department of UNR studying mouse foot muscles and the effects of RF emissions on same. He spends as much time as possible with his wife Rhonda and year-old son Owen.
Over the course of his career, he wrote over sixty tournament adventures for the RPGA, and he continues to inflict his creativity on you through this website. He hopes that you find his little creations useful, or at least amusing.