D&D Archives05/02/2007


Ask Wizards Stumpers
The Questions Answered



On April Fool’s Day this year, we put forward our first set of “Ask Wizards Stumpers” – questions that defied easy answer… or any answer at all. While we feared to delve too deeply into these questions, we challenged the DMs, sages, and rules lawyers extraordinaire within the community to put forward your own answers.

And so, following are the solutions you provided. Our thanks to everyone participating (and especially to Robert and Sam, who tackled not one but virtually every question). And be sure to keep your questions coming!

  • 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...

    Yes, power word spells take up that much space, because the utterance of the same word by a non-mage would do nothing. It's the focusing of arcane might (and thus a spell slot) that does it, and just knowing the word is useless.
    --Sam

    Words that powerful have to be written very big.
    --Paul
  • Kyle asks: How much damage can a vorpal longbow do?

    It seems to me this would make an interesting weapon, if all you did was rename the property from "Vorpal" to something akin to "Heart Rending", and allowed any arrow fired from the longbow to automatically pierce the heart for a killing shot when the proper critical roll was made (assuming the creature had a heart, of course).
    --Scott
  • Brian asks: Would a two (or more) headed creature be more easily affected by a gaze attack? After all, they have more eyes.

    Creatures with multiple heads still operate on the same will, and thus avert their gaze at the same time. No change to gaze attack rules.
    --Sam

    Should they? Probably, but in the same sense, any creature that has more than two eyes should be more affected, and any creature with a single eye should be less affected, but the rules would get really tedious if you worked out the math for every monster in the book. I'd draw the line at multiple eyes, but there's no reason an ettin shouldn't be forced to make two checks. They are two independent minds after all.
    --Robert
  • Joe asks: How far below my party's usual CR should they be if they're stripped of all their gear?

    That depends on if their class abilities rely on their equipment. From experience, if you take away a cleric's holy symbol, a wizard's spellbook, a bard's instrument or a fighter's weapons, they probably aren't going to have much luck fighting anything with a Challenge Rating more than their level minus 2. If they don't depend too much on equipment (like a monk, barbarian, rogue or sorcerer), or if their high level characters are being forced to use mundane equipment, then a challenge rating one less than their level should be fine. Personally, if I were running the game, I wouldn't lower the CR any. Making sure you're not separated from your equipment is all part of the game.
    --Robert
  • 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?

    Persistent image, I'd give the opponent a save. If they believe it's there, it probably produces a flanking bonus. This is similar in action to low-level spells in the books that are "Will save or be considered flanked". Illusions are potent.
    --Sam

    If you go strictly by the rules, then no, because an illusion can't threaten a square. However, if the target is reacting to the illusion as if it were a threat, then I'd probably allow it, as it makes sense. You could, of course, just as easily summon a monster to the same effect, and get actual real attacks against the target as well. If, however, the wizard made conjuration one of their prohibited schools... what the heck's wrong with them?! It's the most useful school in the game! Still, if they felt they had to, they can use shadow conjuration to the same effect.
    --Robert
  • 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?

    To restate the question entirely: How useful is casting flour on an invisible foe? Far less than you'd expect. The flour that lands on the invisible creature becomes invisible as well, just as any unattended item picked up by an invisible creature does (if items upon the character didn't disappear, they'd have to run around naked in order to be invisible). True, if there was flour in the air you might be able to see him, but the flour would have to literally fill the air, and even then it'd be difficult to see the hole in the drifting flour for the same reason it's difficult to see through fog. Plus, your vision is partially blocked by the flour itself. Instead, I'd either dump paint in the area, and look for the footprints, or if you want something re-usable, have someone turn on a decanter of endless water (which is useful on its own anyway) and look for the splashes and empty spaces on the floor.
    --Robert

    Update: Actually, looking at the invisibility spell, it reads: "Items picked up disappear if tucked into the clothing or pouches worn by the creature." I think we can safely assume that this means that items picked up don’t disappear if they aren't tucked into the clothing and pouches worn by the creature.
    --Sam
  • 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?

    Lycanthropy is a curse, not a disease. You can only get the curse of lycanthropy through a bite. Kissing that wererat probably will get you filth fever, though.
    --Robert
  • 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?

    Nothing, lycanthropy only affects humanoids and giants.
    --Robert
  • 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.

    That's a tricky one, but I'd say that owlbears are far more similar to bears than owls, especially the part of their body that houses their digestive system, so I'd say they excrete like a bear. If you want more proof, we can look at the world's only real life bird/mammal hybrid, the duck billed platypus, and they excrete like mammals, not birds.
    --Robert
  • 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?

    The rules for drowning do apply in a healing potion, because just about all damage taken from environmental effects cannot be healed until the effect goes away. You don't stop starving until you eat, you don't stop dying of thirst until you drink, and you don't stop drowning until you breathe.
    --Sam

    Who the heck keeps vats full of healing potions? Anyway, you most certainly can. Drowning is an effect that replaces your hit points, regardless of any healing or modifiers (such as rage or aid), so healing potions won't help. Healing does not interrupt or reset the three round drowning process, which is 0, -1, and then dead.
    --Robert
  • Danny asks: Can an invisible stalker see other invisible stalkers?

    Invisible stalkers cannot be seen by anything because they have no physical body. Now on the Astral Plane, however...
    --Billy

    No, I guess they can't. They certainly would need a special ability to do so. The hilarious possibilities are endless! Just imagine a group of player characters summoning two invisible stalkers to defend them from monsters. They come into existence, win initiative, and then suddenly a loud thud and crash erupts in the center of the dungeon, as the two stalkers run into each other and topple to the floor. That's enough to scar a player for life.
    --Robert
  • Jorge asks: If someone wearing a ring of invisibility dies, will she stay invisible forever?

    A corpse is an inanimate object. By the same token you can't put the ring around the hilt of your sword to make it invisible.
    --Paul

    A person with a ring of invisibility would stay invisible until someone tripped over the corpse and pulled off the ring. Great method to distribute it as treasure, really.
    --Sam

    Who said that wearing a ring of invisibility makes you permanently invisible? A ring of invisibility has to be activated in order to gain the benefits from it, and then you receive the benefits as per the spell, which is 1 minute of invisibility per level of the caster, which is 3rd, so activating a ring of invisibility only makes you invisible for 3 minutes.

    Afterwards, you'd have to activate the ring again. If you read the description of magic rings, all magic rings are either use activated or continuous, not both. It becomes a little uncertain as to whether the invisibility stops immediately upon death or if it lasts the full 3 minutes, but I'd say it stops immediately. Even though objects, like dead bodies, can be effected by the spell invisibility, the ring only works for its 'wearer' -- and a corpse, from a technical standpoint, can't wear anything, so the effect ceases as soon as the dead body stops 'wearing' the object. If you continued to gain the effect of invisibility even after the ring was taken off, then you could split a single ring between an entire group, or use the ring, take it off and replace it with another one and still get the benefit of invisibility for three minutes. The game would be imbalanced if you could gain the benefit of a use activated magic ring without actually wearing it.
    --Robert

    You state in the DMG that the body has a certain flow of energy which is why only a certain number of magical items can be used. It has to do with the flow of magical items on the body. This would imply that there is energy in the body when a person is alive. A modern day explanation would be that this as an aura or measurable electricity flowing through the body. You could explain it as magical items needing that energy to operate. Therefore, when a person dies, that energy no longer flows, and the magical effects of any item become inert. Undead could use them again, because there is an unholy energy flowing through the body. This would also apply to all magical items that have an effect on the body. For example, a periapt of wisdom would cease to function. (Although if it was truly functioning, the adventurer would likely have had the wisdom not to get themselves killed, but that’s beside the point.)
    --John
  • 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.

    A water elemental is not running water.
    --Sam

    Yes, but not because they count as running water. Vampires can't pass through water elementals because nothing can normally pass through a water elemental. They're solid. If a water elemental wasn't a solid, cohesive object, then you wouldn't be able to hurt them with weapons, and they'd immediately fall apart and die. Elementals are made from the elements, but that doesn't mean they aren't solid, in their own fashion. Think of it this way: human beings are about 98% water. Can we be used to put fires out? Would a vampire be stopped by a running group of people (who are essentially made of water)? Of course not. Just because a water elemental is created from water, doesn't mean it's the same thing as water.
    --Robert

    I was reading the stumpers, and decided to ask a question myself. Our DM loves undead and we think we may have found a solution. Summon a water elemental. Then have the party cleric cast bless water on it. Would this work? Extra holy water damage to each attack? We think it's brilliant. But, we don't wish to ask the DM for fear of him foiling our strategy. After all, players aren't the only ones at the table who metagame...
    --cogit9
  • 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?

    The cow-stones would last three hours with polymorph any object. No castle is going to be built in three hours.
    --Sam

    The only way you could change cows into stone is either through the spell flesh to stone, or polymorph any object. Flesh to stone can't be dispelled, as it's an instantaneous effect, so those cows would have to be turned back one at a time with the stone to flesh spell, giving everyone plenty of time to escape. Going by the chart in the book, if you use polymorph any object, then they'd only be turned into rocks for 20 minutes, nowhere long enough to build them into a castle. Isn't there an easier way to kill these guys?

    Couldn't you just like, poison them or something? If you must, what I'd do is use polymorph any object to change giant round boulders into perfectly square boulders, so when they're dispelled, they'll all slip off each other and crash down on everyone inside. If your heart is set on using cows, then I'd make a variation on the theme and polymorph the cows into mice/cats/rabbits/birds or a similar tiny animal (you can even use baleful polymorph for that) lure your enemies into the room, shut the door behind them and then cast dispel through a small opening in the door. The resulting cow expansion should be more than enough to do in the troublesome party. As for damage, I'm either calculate it by weight, listed through the telekinesis spell, or consider it the equivalent of a giant falling block trap, 20d6.
    --Robert

  • Shawn asks: Could a lich's phylactery be contained in a golem, or even be a golem?

    A lich's phylactery can be stowed wherever they want, including inside an iron golem, tarrasque, or wherever they don't mind keeping it.
    --Sam

    Of course! I've even had lich phylacteries hidden inside the bodies of living bodyguards of the lich. If you want to be mean, you could even hide it deep inside the body of a helpless good person or creature (like a small gold dragon) and then set them loose. The heroes want to destroy the phylactery? They're going to have to cut open that good person/creature to get it.
    --Robert
  • Brian asks: What would be a suitable mount for an illithid Paladin of Tyranny?

    Mind flayers enslave just about everything, so the sky's pretty much the limit, but if you wanted something appropriate to the underdark, then giant lizards are usually the mount of choice down there.
    --Robert
  • 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?

    Unicorns usually don't progress in class level, but in Hit dice instead. Still, if a unicorn did manage to progress in the class of paladin, I'd imagine they'd summon a standard warhorse (or its equivalent for the environment that the unicorn is in), but that mount is going to be really confused when they arrive. There's no chance of the unicorn riding it, but it would be a devoted companion to the unicorn, much like a cohort. In fact, it'd be a mount in all regards except for the fact that the unicorn wouldn't be riding it.
    --Robert
  • 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?

    A familiar is a normal animal that gains new powers and becomes a magical beast when summoned to service by a sorcerer or wizard.
    --Sam

    There are no intelligent animals. By definition, an animal cannot have an Intelligence above 2, is not capable of language, reasoning, morality or complex thought. By becoming intelligent, they no longer qualify as animals. Even if they somehow could, only unmodified animals can become familiars.
    --Robert
  • 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?

    Why are you getting flight as a feature, if you can only do primates? That isn't part of the original class benefits, so you should talk to the DM.
    --Sam

    Ever seen Wizard of Oz?
    --Paul

    Flying monkeys. It's a fantasy world, make it up.
    --Robert
  • 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?

    Do your class features let you possess extraordinary abilities? If so, you split. When you stop shifting, you no longer have that trait, so you merge back together.
    --Sam

    You control one and the other is your evil twin.
    --Paul

    Well, either they split or they don't. If the DM decides they can't split because that'd be forcing their mind to be in two places at once, then that's the end of that. If they do, then I'd assume it falls under the characteristics of the spell polymorph any object, which states that damage taken by the new form that can result in injury, or change through physical force, can result in injury or death of the polymorphed creature. So if their body is split in two while in that alternate form, then their normal body is split in two as well. An ooze can survive while split in two. A person cannot. They're dead.

    (My sister, Amber, would like to offer her counter idea, where the transformed person becomes two smaller people, each with half of the original person's mass and experience. And that's where halflings came from. That cracked me up.)
    --Robert
  • 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?

    Centaurs would have massive penalties to do anything a horse would have trouble with. Circumstance penalties take care of this.
    --Sam

    He can if it can support his weight. Be forewarned though. It's going to look stupid.
    --Paul

    Centaurs don't make much sense in general, I'm afraid. They're Large, but their human half is Medium-sized. They have incredible Strength, but logically that Strength is in the horse half, that isn't used for swinging weapons. Going back to the question, there's no reason they couldn't climb up a sheer wall or cliff, it'd just be very, very hard.

    They probably could use their front legs to help them climb, as if they were normal human legs (if a satyr can do it, a centaur should be able to as well), but the rear half of their body would simply hang off, pulling them downwards. Personally, I'd take their weight, subtract the average human weight for their relative height/gender, and force them to consider themselves encumbered with that much extra weight upon themselves.
    --Robert
  • Shane asks: If Demogorgon and Asmodeus were to have an all-out fight, who would win?

    Demogorgon. He has a cooler illustration.
    --Paul
  • 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?

    The 2nd edition Draconomicon addresses a number of concerns about dragon meat, including flavor, edibility, and suggested/required methods of preparation. It also provides information on uses for various other dragon body parts and reasons why information on dragon meat is not as common as one would think. Each color of dragon tastes different.
    --Matt

    Humans eat everything they possibly can in order to survive. It's not poisonous or else it'd be listed as a poison. More likely, it's just indigestible, like mud. Of course white chocolate is indigestible and people eat that, so it's probably both inedible and revolting to boot. (Let's face it, you don't see many real world recipes for cooking lizard.)
    --Robert

    People don't eat dragons because dragons usually eat them.
    --Sam

    In 2nd edition, it is specified that the flesh of the mercury dragon is lethally toxic. Since this is specified, one must assume that the other dragons were, to some extent, edible back in 2nd edition.
    --Kasper
  • 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?

    The mages are on another plane, and thus not close enough to provide any benefits to a ritual.
    --Sam

    Possibly, but how would you ever convince them to go along with it? This goes far beyond the normal call of spell fees, and I could see them each charging at least 50-100 gold for every day carted around like that. Even then, the cost of all the bags of holding and bottles of air would be tremendous, and even if all that worked, how are you going to keep them alive? 1st level characters tend not to last long in epic situations. Still, it's most likely possible, just not practical.
    --Robert
  • 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?

    The planet is not an object that can be targeted, but even if you managed to shatter it, it would just pull back into the same place because of the sun's gravitational pull. If you were large and powerful enough to circumvent gravity and treat the planet as a single object... then that would require an entirely new rule system to facilitate.
    --Robert

    Update: Ugh, never trust D&D players about astrophysics. The sun's gravitational pull is not what keeps planets in one piece, the sun's gravitational pull does nothing but pull the mass of the planet toward the sun, the planet's own gravitational force would pull it back together. Sundering a planet is like putting a bit crack in a solid ball. The ball doesn't explode, it simply has a crack in it now. And yes, I realize that I just gave information on astrophysics despite my warning. You probably shouldn't trust my information either...
    --Sam
  • 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?

    Tarrasque vs. Tarrasque: They'd fight to a stalemate, as they have no abilities to counterract their own, except maybe DR.
    --Sam

    Time travel isn't possible. Even spells like time stop merely slow down time to the point that it appears that time isn't moving. I imagine if it were possible, there would be a lot of the traditional time travel problems (killing your ancient ancestors, spreading diseases, becoming your own grandparent, stepping on butterflies, etc, etc.). In a best case scenario, I think the two tarrasques would just beat each other until they got bored, or until one fell unconscious and the other left.
    --Robert

    There is only one tarrasque, so if you plucked him from the past, he would cease to exist in the present -- as there would still be only one.
    --Mark
  • 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?

    I would give the PCs exactly what they want. Breeding tarrasques? Okay, but who knew they gave birth to 100 live tarrasques?
    --Benjamin

    Wishes are mostly up to the discretion of the DM, but let's face it, if you could wish a tarrasque into existence, then every epic wizard would have a tarrasque army following them! I doubt that even the spell wish could permanently change the tarrasque, but it isn't completely unreasonable to assume you could use a wish to give the tarrasque a gender and get it to mate, but to create a copy of a legendary monster out of thin air with a single wish is just ridiculous. Besides, if you could create a tarrasque out of thin air with a wish, you wouldn't need to get them to mate. You'd just need wishes.
    --Robert
  • Derek asks: The tarrasque: it's female, right?

    The tarrasque has no gender. In fact, it fits under absolutely no other category than tarrasque.
    --Robert
  • 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."

    Rod of rulership is an interesting idea. However, if my sovereign told me to eat something that would kill me, I'd rebel.
    --Sam

    The rod of rulership doesn't give you complete control of the target, it just makes them completely devoted to you, unless you give them a command that is contrary to their nature. The tarrasque's nature is to kill everything around it. The first time you order it not to kill you, the spell will be broken. It might be possible to direct its killing with a rod of rulership (kill them first, then get to me later), but if you want to drop it with icy sheets (which is a very good idea), I'd instead have all the icy sheets carried by a target (an animal, or a brave adventurer who's been promised a resurrection) and trick the tarrasque into swallowing that target whole. That'd do it.
    --Robert
  • 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?

    The tarrasque would indeed die, bringing it to -10. It still gets back up if you let the air in, though.
    --Sam
  • 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."

    The tarrasque, by the words in the Monster Manual, is immune to all death effects and permanent injuries. Although it doesn't list every single thing it's immune to, it's quite clear that it's immune to effects that immediately cause death, or permanent injuries. The Monster Manual makes it very clear that the tarrasque cannot be killed or permanently altered in any way, save for a wish spell when it's driven into unconsciousness. This means that the tarrasque is immune to all effects that cause instant death, including orb of annihilation, suffocation and starvation. If that isn't enough to satisfy you, then face facts: if any of those things could have killed the tarrasque, then they would have done so already. The tarrasque is a legendary unkillable monster, fought throughout time, and there are relatively low level spells, and much easier monsters, that cause suffocation upon targets. If suffocation could drop the tarrasque to unconsciousness then it would have done so, and the same goes for starvation, and even powerful magic effects. The tarrasque is immune to all death effects, and anything that causes death for any reason besides damage is a death effect. Still, the tarrasque isn't immune to teleportation or mind control, so what I'd do is cast polymorph any object on him to turn him into a small rock or something (it'll take several tries and only last 20 minutes, but it'll be worth it), put the rock in a bag of holding, and then stab the bag. The bag will be destroyed, but all the contents will be lost forever (as per the item description). Goodbye tarrasque. Or better yet, gate or plane shift with the small rock to the plane you like least, drop it on the ground and plane shift back/gate back. That plane will officially have a new hobby in about twenty minutes or so.
    --Robert
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