DFRPG resource: Questions and answers!

I read and play the Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game . . . and I have questions! Riddles in the dark! (Fine, more like “riddles of the dork,” if you must.)

DFRPG dishes up its rules with admirable clarity and completeness. Still, its text covers a lot of exploits, powers, monsters, and more, and the inevitable uncertainties arise.

This page is an ongoing record of questions I’ve posed (generally on the DFRPG forum) and the answers I’ve received. The focus is on official rulings and clarifications (i.e., answers from line manager Kromm), but I’ll also be listing answers from other sources, as well as questions that remain unanswered.

This will be a slowly growing resource. Visit often to learn what the oracles have newly divined!

Questions with official answers

Where by “official” I mean the answer was found in a DFRPG or appropriate GURPS book, or was proffered by Kromm, or was otherwise put forth by an “official” SJG source.

Does Cowardice lower resistance to Intimidation?

Question: Does Cowardice reduce resistance to Intimidation? (Source: Forum thread)

Answer: No.

From Kromm: “Cowardice works just as it does in GURPS: It is about physical danger, mainly fighting, and doesn’t have a social danger facet. Intimidation is social (even if it can have physical overtones), so it has no interaction with Cowardice. Fearfulness is the trait of being a general fraidy cat.” (Source: Forum thread)

Does encumbrance affect Acrobatics?

Question: Does encumbrance affect Acrobatics? (In Adventurers, neither the section on encumbrance nor the Acrobatics skill entry suggest so, but the description of thieves’ armor (p. 110) does.) (Source: Forum thread)

Answer: It depends on the specific task.

From Kromm: “In general, no – as in GURPS. Encumbrance has no effect when you use Acrobatics to pounce (Exploits, p. 40), dodge (Exploits, p. 48), deal with knockback (Exploits, p. 53), attempt the tricks in Speed Is Armor! (Exploits, p. 58), or break a fall (Exploits, p. 67). But for the specific tasks under Dungeon Parkour (Exploits, pp. 20-21), yes. You’ll note that Adventurers, p. 12 speaks of “all uses” for Climbing, Stealth, and Swimming, but not for Acrobatics; this is why.” (Source: Forum thread)

Commentary: The above makes the official ruling very clear. (That said, I’ve always penalized any use of Acrobatics for encumbrance, and will continue doing so as a house rule. No need to remember specifics that way! : )

How long does it take to poison a weapon?

Question: Exploits p. 58 says poisoning a weapon is a long action, and refers the reader to p. 32, which lists times for long actions – but not weapon poisoning. How long does it take? (Source: Forum thread)

Answer: Several minutes (i.e., it’s definitely an out-of-combat task).

From Kromm: It takes “so long that you have to do it ‘before combat’ – say, several minutes, so it makes no sense to try to do it when counting seconds.” (Source: Forum thread)

Commentary: Sounds good to me.  If it ever matters, I suppose I’ll say something like “5 minutes plus 1 minute per extra dose” – with more hurried application possible at considerable risk to the poisoner, through the usual rules for rushing tasks.

How exactly do Esoteric Medicine rolls work with and without a healer’s kit?

Question: Notes for Esoteric Medicine (Druid) in Adventurers and medical treatment rules in Exploits state that a healer’s kit is needed to use Esoteric Medicine – a pretty big consideration that’s confirmed on Adventurers p. 114, tucked away in the kit description. The kit also gives +1 to skill. So, it would appear that one never rolls against straight skill for a practical application of Esoteric Medicine; you either roll at +1 for the kit, or you can’t use the skill at all. Is this a correct understanding? (Source: Forum thread)

Answer: It depends on the specific task.

From Kromm: “All forms of Esoteric Medicine require a kit when you treat injury – so yes, this skill is nearly always used at a bonus in that context. Many uses don’t mention the kit, though; e.g., weird treatments (Exploits, p. 63), dealing with swallowed acid (Exploits, p. 65), and counteracting a heart attack (Exploits, p. 66). That is, when the skill stands in for ‘general medical knowledge.'” (Source: Forum thread)

Commentary: Sounds fine. But I’m actually left with a bunch of unanswered fiddly follow-up questions about healing and kits. Until I add them to the list, see this forum post.

Is Esoteric Medicine (Druid) affected by Nature’s Strength?

Question: Is Esoteric Medicine (Druid) affected by Nature’s Strength? (Source: Forum thread)

Answer: No.

From Kromm: “No. Druids use the roots and berries in their kits, so even when Nature is in a bad way around them, they have access to that. Clerics . . . mostly, they pray and hope for the best, so their situation isn’t the same.” (Source: Forum thread)

Does natural DR protect a Wounded disadvantage wound?

Question: With the Wounded disadvantage, regular armor over the old wound protects it normally. Does natural armor (such as Tough Skin) do so as well? (Source: Forum thread)

Answer: Yes.

From Kromm: “. . . all DR protects against blows. Armor DR goes outside the wound, while natural DR reflects general toughness (i.e., you are injured and bleed but don’t lose as many HP as somebody else). The missing link is under Tough Skin (Adventurers, p. 16), which is quite explicit: “It’s also flesh, so it won’t stop anything that requires a scratch (e.g., poison) or skin contact (e.g., electrical shock) if the attack carrying it does damage equal to or greater than the DR of any armor.”

“Thus, if you have Wounded and natural DR, the DR will subtract from damage from blows; otherwise, Wounded would reduce the cost of or forbid Tough Skin! However, natural DR won’t help you against “poison that merely gets on your wound,” because with Wounded, that’s always something that requires skin contact.” (Source: Forum thread)

Is it kosher to build a team in which one rich PC finances the rest of the PCs?

Question: Say a team wants to maximize its character point pool by appointing one “moneybags” PC with either Very Wealthy [30] (automatic 100% sell value) or Wealthy [20] and high social traits (almost always 100% sell value). The rest of the PCs avoid spending on high Wealth, or even gain points by taking low Wealth. The rich PC finances the group initially, and continues to do so with a steady stream of high income. Is this kosher? (Source: Forum thread)

Answer: Yes.

This question spawned a lot of discussion, but the short answer is: sure, PCs could do that, so let ’em. It’s not terribly different from the way everyone benefits from the cleric’s investment in healing powers, the barbarian’s purchase of portcullis-lifting prowess, and so on.

Just note that there will be consequences. The team is relying heavily one one PC, who’s sacrificed other abilities to become Mr. Moneybags; the team’s awesome selling power is shattered if that PC is killed, taken out of action, or just gets tired of the arrangement. A sneaky GM could have the town thieves eventually take note of the fact that huge sums of gold constantly pass through the hands of one PC (who, again, didn’t spend lots of points of thief-fightin’ ability). Also keep in mind that selling loot is just part of the “get rich” equation; buying stuff cheap is important too, and that calls for a different and varied set of abilities.

From Kromm: “If somebody thinks it’s fun to play fantasy Reuben Tishkoff, why not? If they want to give up 20-30 points of delving abilities to have Wealth and/or high social traits, that’s their chosen role in the group – and more power to them! It isn’t any more “bad” or “broken” than somebody playing the cleric who shells out for Power Investiture 5 and lots of Energy Reserve to Bless people all the time and walk around at -1 to spells, or the knight-defender type who gets Rallying Cry, Sacrificial Block, Sacrificial Parry, Shield-Wall Training, and trades quirk points for more Leadership and Tactics so he can use “Onward to Victory!” (Exploits, p. 57).”

Lots more is said on the topic, including little considerations that might escape schemers’ attention (like the inability of Dead Broke characters to start with Signature Gear or Weapon Bond; you can’t just have Mr. Moneybags give you those items), and GM responses to players who insist on elaborate ways to abuse inter-PC financing. Give the thread a read to catch it all. (Source: Forum thread)

Does a corpse golem get +2 to Intimidation for two knife-hands?

Question: Being less than serious here: One Hand gives +1 to Intimidation if the hand is replaced with a knife, etc. Does a Corpse Golem get +2 for two knife-hands? (Less-than-serious rules lawyer response: “No; the book says the bonus is for One Hand; the Corpse Golem has no hands, so gets no bonus.”) (Source: Forum thread)

Answer: Meh, why not.

From Kromm: “They’ll be terrible at Intimidation due to low Will (a mere 8) and the Automaton trait (which gives -3). Starting at default Will-5, they’ll have skill 0; with the equivalent of 1 or 2 points, they’ll have skill 4-5. So I say go ahead and give them +2 because they need the help!”

“Of course, no official monster has Intimidation at all because it isn’t very worthwhile against PCs . . .” (Source: Forum thread)

Questions with unofficial answers

Where by “unofficial answers”, I mean “someone on the forum suggested a thing” or “I’ll assume this thing for now”. Use with care.

Does a bard actually need a musical instrument?

Question: Adventurers and Spells seem to make clear that Bard-Song requires singing or playing an instrument, while bardic spellcasting always requires singing. Other than as a backup against loss of voice, does a bard actually need an instrument for any magical abilities? (Source: Forum thread)

Answer: Adventurers p. 17 says “Since a bard needs a costly blade and a musical instrument . . . “, but the actual mechanics of Bard-Song and bardic spellcasting don’t appear to set any actual need for a musical instrument (and the accompanying skill) when singing will do.

That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if I’ve overlooked some individual power or spell that does specify an instrument, though, so I’d advise bards to read up on their abilities before deciding to forego that lute. (Source: Forum thread)

How much stuff is affected by a casting of Affect Spirits ?

Question: The writeup for Affect Spirits (Spells p. 59) discusses its effects on a target’s body, on armor, and on weapons. Does a single casting on a PC charge one of these things, or all at once? If it does affect a PC and his gear, is there some limit – e.g., can the PC hold everyone’s weapons, receive the spell, then hand out spirit-affecting weapons to his pals? (Source: Forum thread)

Answer: Comments from forum members note that the spell cast on a person explicitly does not affect gear. The text further mentions the case of “a weapon”, suggesting that a casting can instead affect a single weapon; and mentions “armor”, with no explanation of whether this automatically affects all of the subject’s armor. (Even if so, would a shield be included in armor, or would it require its own casting like a weapon?)

Commenters further suggest that, assuming a casting on a weapon affects only that one weapon, the question of who wields it isn’t important; we can assume that anyone can wield the spirit-affecting weapon as long as the spell is in effect. Likewise, in the absence of an official note, I’ll assume that a spirit-affecting suit of armor can be transferred from one PC to another, or even split up among several (breastplate to one, helmet to another, etc.).

In short: Until I hear something else official, I’ll assume one casting for the person, one casting for all armor worn (with a shield tossed in to be nice), and one casting per weapon. (Maybe I could be talked into allowing one casting to affect multiple weapons totaling, say, 2 lbs. or less – that would nicely handle things like a pouch or quiver of ammo.) (Source: Forum thread)

What’s the cost to cast Command Spirit when the target’s power is unknown?

Question: The cost for Command Spirit (Spells p. 60) varies with the toughness of the foe. Does the caster know before casting whether the spirit is fodder, worthy, or boss? (The example of the Entrap Spirits spell suggests that the caster would find out at time of casting, and could choose to let spell fail for 1 FP instead of paying cost, if the cost would be too high.) (Source: Forum thread)

Answer: Comments from the forum suggest using Entrap Spirits as a guide, per the question. Until I hear something official,  I’ll assume it works as I suggested: the caster learns the cost at the time of casting, and can abort (cost: 1 FP) if the cost would be too high. (Source: Forum thread)

How do tent poles work as weapons?

Question: Adventurers‘ gear list has 6′ and 10’ poles for pitching tents and poking at stuff. What happens if you need to fight with one of these?

Answer: Following some short discussion in the forum, and in the absence of an official answer, I’ll go with these ideas:

6′ pole: Treat as a quarterstaff at -1 damage (because it’s 3 lbs. instead of 4 lbs.) and +1 to break (because it’s cheaper and presumably not made for fighting). Min ST is still 7 (because there’s no open space between Quarterstaff at ST 7 and Jo at ST 6).

10′ pole: Treat as a long staff at unchanged damage (because it’s the same 5 lbs.) but +1 to break (because it’s cheaper).

I’ll also assume you can cut a 5-lb. long staff at the right spot to get both a 4-lb. quarterstaff and a 1-lb. short staff; or cut a 5-lb. 10′ pole to get a 3-lb. 6′ pole and a 2-lb. jo. Or whatever other combination of poles and jos and batons and short staffs seems right. (Just don’t expect the moneys to add up!)

Questions remaining

Additional questions about Esoteric Medicine and kits

Should kit-based Esoteric Medicine rolls be allowed at -10 for no equipment? Or -5 for improvised equipment? Again, this is a matter of how strictly to take that word “required” in the kit description. If kit-less attempts are possible, I’d think that a simple first-aid kit, the wrong specialty of healer’s kit, or surgical instruments would count as improvised equipment; does that sound sensible?)
Keeping in mind that the general first-aid kit is already good-quality (if I understand correctly), is there a theoretical fine-quality first-aid kit ($200, 8 lbs.)?
Is there a theoretical good-quality healer’s kit ($1000, 50 lbs.)? Fine-quality ($4000, 200 lbs.)? And if a basic healer’s kit functions as a good-quality first-aid kit for a +1 bonus (for those tasks allowing First Aid or Esoteric Medicine), should a good-quality or better healer’s kit function as a fine-quality first-aid kit for a +2 bonus?
I assume that good-quality and fine-quality surgical instruments ($1500, 75 lbs, +1 bonus / $6000, 300 lbs., +2 bonus, respectively) are perfectly allowable; any objections? (Source: Forum thread)

Other kit questions

Are there kits that are required for, or kits that can optionally aid, the following skills?

  • Diagnosis
  • Herb Lore*
  • Pharmacy*
  • Poisons*
  • Veterinary

*For analyzing, brewing, etc. (Source: Forum thread)

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