DFRPG resource: Questions and answers!

I read and play the Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game . . . and I have questions! Riddles in the dark! (Fine, “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!

Latest update: 2020-10-06

Other Q&A resources

Before jumping into the below, note these other available resources:

GURPS Fourth Edition Frequently Asked Questions – If your question involves general rules about characters and combat, chances are things work the same in DFRPG as in GURPS.

(Unofficial) FAQ of the GURPS Fora – Again, the questions address GURPS but generally apply to DFRPG. Peruse these items, and you’ll be quite the GURPS guru.

Index to DFRPG Resources: Questions and answers!

Questions with official answers

Questions with unofficial answers

Questions remaining

Supplemental glossary

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.

What’s the story behind DFRPG‘s somewhat unusual book dimensions?

Question: This (now closed) thread notes that DFRPG‘s unusual book size (8″x10″ instead of 8.5″x11″) entailed considerable extra cost and labor. Why was that size chosen? (Source: Forum thread)

Answer: Industry reasons. From Kromm:

Because it’s the largest size that fits into the box that’s considered standard for boxed sets at games shops. Bigger and smaller boxes exist, but those are harder to shelve and not well-liked. Bigger and smaller books exist, too, but 8″ × 10″ is the biggest one that fits in that box, and we went for the biggest because that’s easiest to read. The unboxed add-on books are the same size for consistency, mainly.

(Source: Forum thread)

Commentary: I like DFRPG‘s book size, for no reason that I can explain in particular, but it is different from other games I have. Interesting to hear that box size was the reason.

Why does a Fright Check always fail on a roll of 14 or higher?

Question: A Fright Check is a modified Will roll that works like any other, with one unusual difference: a “cap” of 13 on the character’s resistance to fear, meaning that any roll of 14 or higher always fails. Is there a game balance-related or other particular reason for this small complication? (Source: Forum thread)

Answer: See the thread for Kromm’s detailed responses. My summary of these: a) It’s a carry-over from how GURPS games Fright Checks; b) the causes of a Fright Check in DFRPG are generally supernatural or other overwhelming sources of terror, not mundane causes, justifying the change in procedure; and c) the cap ensures that monsters’ Terror ability has some chance of working even against delvers who often have ridiculously high resistance to fear (even the nerdy scholarly types who get that high resistance simply from high IQ, with its included Will). (Source: Forum thread)

Commentary: As expected, there are reasons for the cap, and they’re solid enough. I don’t expect GMs using the rule as written to run into any problems.

That said, I can’t stop giving the cap some side-eye. I’m not sure about this idea that Normal Norm, who settles for a modified Will of 13, and Fearless Frieda, who spends a ton of points on modified Will of 14 or even far higher (from Will, Fearlessness, etc.), both fail a Fright Check on the same 14+ roll (especially when the rules would happily let Frieda off the fright hook entirely if she just buys Unfazeable instead). A distinction between the two PCs does appear when Fright Checks involve big penalties (as they often do!), but situations in which penalties reduce both PCs’ modified Will to 13 or lower are situations in which the cap isn’t relevant anyway. Also, it seems particularly unfair to Frieda to fail on a roll of 14+ when circumstances grant Fright Check bonuses that allow even NPC scrubs a modified Will of 13+. Finally, regarding the idea that the cap injects the fun chance that even a stalwart like Frieda will occasionally freak out, I’ll note that the normal critical failure rules already handle this.

These are minor objections, though. I think the objection involving Fright Checks at a bonus is the strongest, but DFRPG doesn’t bother itself with these (such as Fright Checks for “mundane” stuff like dead bodies). Furthermore, “fair” to Frieda or not, having a lot of randomly-dictated Fright Check failures can be fun. And, while the Fright Check cap does make for a rules complication (which is what spurred my original question), it’s a very small one – far smaller than miscellaneous other rules complications that I happily accept or even invent. All in all, the designers’ thoughts behind the cap are well taken.

Is DFRPG‘s use of SM as a TH modifier in melee combat a rules change from GURPS?

Question: Both GURPS and DFRPG set a target’s SM as a TH mod to hit the target with a ranged attack, but only DFRPG clearly states that this applies to melee attacks as well. Is this a change from GURPS? (Source: Forum thread)

Answer: No. Whether you knew it or not, SM acts a TH mod for melee attacks in DFRPG and in GURPS. From Kromm:

That isn’t so much a big change as a place where we must admit that the Basic Set dropped the ball by forgetting to list SM on p. B547. There are several places where the Basic Set implies SM applies to all attack rolls (e.g., “It is a modifier to rolls to hit you in combat,” p. B19 – no mention of “ranged” – and there are others), but not the one place where it’s most important. In short, the DFRPG makes something clear that’s supposed to be true in GURPS as well.

(Source: Forum thread)

Commentary: Well, I’ll be. I’d been “house-ruling” SM as a TH mod for melee attacks in GURPS all along; I never knew (until the above response) that it’s no house rule at all!

In either DFRPG or GURPS Dungeon Fantasy, using SM as a TH mod vs both ranged and melee attacks makes the SM -1 or -2 of a gnome or halfling a powerful combat advantage. (Point that out to players if nobody seems interested in choosing these races.)

A side note: I actually treat the difference in attacker SM and target SM as a TH mod in melee combat, a rules tweak called “relative SM” by some. If you’ve an interest in the how and why of that, see my article GURPS Unified Theory of Hitting Stuff (GUTHS). It’s for GURPS but applies equally to DFRPG, if you want to dive into nerdery like that.

Does a cleric need a holy symbol for anything besides Turning?

Question: A blessed or high holy symbol gives a cleric a bonus on rolls for Exorcism, Turning, and “other tests of faith”, but does a cleric need a holy symbol for anything besides Turning? (Source: Forum thread)

Answer: Nope. From Kromm:

To be blunt: The combat application of divine interdiction (Turning) requires a prop that can be dropped or knocked away in combat. Noncombat uses (like Exorcism) do not.

(Source: Forum thread)

Does Power Investiture add to holy skills in the way that Chi Talent adds to chi skills?

Question: Chi Talent adds to what are called chi skills, including Esoteric Medicine (Chi). Does Power Investiture add to holy skills (Esoteric Medicine (Holy) and Exorcism) or druidic skills (Esoteric Medicine (Druidic) and Herb Lore) in the same way? (Source: Forum thread)

Answer: No. From Kromm:

In essence, a martial artist’s special skills work not unlike a cleric or druid’s spells. Thus, they get a bonus from the profession’s special Talent, and some even require concentration and/or cost FP – see the pattern? A cleric or druid’s special skills are distinct from their spells, and represent mundane teachings as opposed to magical powers, so that they’re unaffected by sanctity or Nature’s strength.

(Source: Forum thread)

Commentary: I didn’t ask, but from the above I’m certain the same holds for a holy warrior’s Holiness: no, Holiness doesn’t boost holy skills.

Can a martial artist combine Tiger Sprint and Uninterrupted Flurry for ridiculous Move?

Question: Can a martial artist use Tiger Sprint to double Move, then use Uninterrupted Flurry to take two Move actions every turn, achieving a ridiculous “cheetah sprint” of 4x normal Move? (Source: Forum thread)

Answer: Sure! (Source: Forum thread)

Commentary: Glad to hear it. I really want to see this happen in play!

Is the radius of light sources stated in the same manner as the area of spells?

Question: Descriptions of light sources and Area spells both speak of “radius” in discussing effect. Is radius measured the same for both? (Source: Forum thread)

Answer: No.

For an Area spell, a radius of 1 means the spell fills one hex; a radius of 2 means the spell fills that one hex, plus the surrounding six hexes; and so on. 

For a light source, a radius of 2 doesn’t mean the holder’s hex and the six hexes around it, but rather the holder’s hex and up to 2 more hexes out (i.e., what would be a radius of 3 in Area spell terms).

Kromm adds:

Use “distance from the source” for point sources like candles, Light spells, lanterns, and torches; these are not meant to be true areas of effect, but semicircles in front of the bearer out to the listed range. For area sources, use the rules for Area spells.

(Source: Forum thread)

Commentary: The game’s text is clear enough on this, and counting out distance to measure a light source’s range is easy. All the same, it’s worth taking a moment to fix the difference in mind.

What does a karkadann look like?

Question: What sort of hybrid is the karkadann is supposed to be – a lion head on horse, or a horse head on lion, or what? (Source: Forum thread)

Answer: You can check the illustration in Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 1, to find an all-round blend of horse and lion. Or you can do a little online research to find a legendary creature inspired by the rhinoceros. From Kromm:

As long as it has four legs, sharp teeth, claws, and a horn, it’s fine. There might be some variation in the amount of “horse” and “lion,” but you’ll be okay as long as you think “murder unicorn.” Or “rhino.”

(Source: Forum thread)

How does a vial of acid’s low damage defeat armor?

Question: Corrosion (Exploits p. 53) reduces DR by 1 per full 5 points of basic damage. A vial of acid deals only 1d-3 damage, meaning that a standard vial can’t injure a target with DR 3 or higher, and doesn’t reduce DR either. How, then, can it defeat tough armor? (Source: Forum thread)

Answer: Acid damage accumulates in its effects on DR. From Kromm:

. . . keep track: If three acid vials do 1, 3, and 1 damage (1 being the minimum for a corrosion attack), that’s a full 5 points and reduces DR by 1. If the target had DR 3, it now has DR 2, making future acid vials more dangerous.

(Source: Forum thread)

Commentary: Sounds good. After a combat, lax GMs might ignore a dangling 1 to 4 points of corrosion damage that have gone partway toward dissolving away the next point of DR, but fussier GMs will want to make note of this damage.

The reminder that acid deals a minimum 1 point of corrosion damage is also good to keep in mind.

Can a $10 vial of acid really defeat any mundane lock?

Question: Good non-magical locks can cost thousands of $, yet are automatically defeated (in 3d minutes) by a $10 vial of liquid (Adventurers p. 114). Is this correct? (Source: Forum thread)

Answer: By the rules, yes. From Kromm:

Nobody said fancy machinery was worth the price – I can wreck a $40,000 SUV with a free rock. 🙂 But don’t overlook “these things may be difficult to find in shops.” Ordinary burglars don’t have acid; delvers do. On the flipside, ordinary orcs don’t have acid, either, but delvers may have padlocks to protect their stash.

(Source: Forum thread)

Commentary: Fair enough. Poking at mechanics, I’d welcome some simple tweak that has lock quality vary the time required to dissolve a lock – or better, a tweak that simply applies acid damage to lock DR and HP, letting lock size and quality, strength of acid, etc. come into play, and possibly requiring multiple vials of acid (at 3d minutes each) to defeat a tough lock. (The relevant damage could be higher than the 1d-3 used for a combat splash, as the acid is being carefully applied. And I can imagine a damage boost for smart application from Lockpicking or Forced Entry skill.)

Whatever the mechanics, if locks can be defeated with a relatively cheap substance, one wonders whether Town and dungeons would even bother using them. Kromm’s point here is well-taken: the setting assumes that acid isn’t commonly available, and that even burglars don’t necessarily have it on hand.

I’d imagine, too, that if thieves did go wild melting locks and robbing merchants blind, the Town would take action, restricting whom alchemists can sell acid to, and locking up people who carry it without good reason. (Even locksmiths wouldn’t want to see this sort of crime run rampant. It wouldn’t mean replacement sales; it’d mean people giving up on locks altogether.)

I’ll assume that lock-melting happens once in a while in Town, but for the most part, looters who love the sizzle of a Gnomemaster 5000 dissolving into goo are smart enough to restrict the activity to the dungeons.

Does the temple offer healing to Excommunicated characters?

Question: Does the temple heal Excommunicated PCs? (I would assume the official response is, “My child, the temple turns away no purse . . . er, person, right, no person in need.”) (Source: Forum thread)

Answer: Yes. From Kromm:

The temple heals anybody who can pay. It uses “mundane skills, healing waters, spells, and prayer,” so it has ways to work around a mere -3. It isn’t subject to penalties for multiple healings per person per day, either. In fact, the temple – like God – does not play dice.

(Source: Forum thread)

Does a mere -1 penalty for low Nature’s Strength halve protection from Nature’s Shield?

Question: Nature’s Strength reduces the potency of druidic abilities by 10% per -1. This would mean that even the generic -1 penalty for dungeons halves DR from the Nature’s Shield ability, from 2 to 1 (due to rounding down). Is this right? (Source: Forum thread)

Answer: Yes. From Kromm:

DR 2 becomes DR 1.8, which rounds to DR 1; DR 4 becomes DR 3.6, which rounds to DR 3. Druids are mostly meant for outdoor adventures . . . where the GM can reward them with Nature’s strength at +1 to +5.

(Source: Forum thread)

Commentary: Clear enough. Rounding means that even a small Nature’s Strength penalty is harsh on Nature’s Shield, but I’ll note that the dangers stopped by Nature’s Shield are less likely to pop up in the dungeons anyway.

How is a gnome built?

Question: Dwarves: short, stocky, we know the look. What’s up with gnomes, though? (Source: Forum thread)

Answer: Both dwarves and gnomes are chonky boiz. The heights and weights given in Adventurers make that clear, but Kromm really paints the picture in this thread. In short (heh), both races sport human-sized heads and arms, really squat and thick legs, and unusually beefy torsos.

Commentary: This isn’t a question of my own; I’ve parsed it from the forum thread out of interest. Kromm’s comment makes clear that the game’s image of dwarves and gnomes is decidedly different from human form. (Maybe that’s why these fantasy games always have half-elves, but rarely half-dwarves/half-gnomes?)

The image of dwarves in fantasy is pretty widely fixed, but if you’d like more variety in your DFRPG races, you’re of course free to tweak the appearance of gnomes. If you prefer them as the skinny (but still large-headed), smallish people depicted in some fantasy games, go ahead and make it so. Lower weight becomes a must (perhaps half human weight); ST should be lowered as well. A racial -2 ST, for example, would set racial cost to a neat 0 points, on par with halflings (while leaving gnomes with just enough ST to push those halflings around).

Do the Terror advantage and the Phobia disadvantage combine in any notable way?

Question: If a creature has the Terror advantage and is also the subject of a target’s Phobia, does the combination of twin fear-makers bring any special rules or effects into play? (Source: Forum thread)

Answer: No. Handle each separately, using normal rules: Make a self-control roll for the Phobia and make a Will roll (capped at 13) for the Terror. If either or both fail, make a Fright Check effects roll, adding the total margin of failure to 3d. (Source: Kromm, same thread)

Do the Terror advantage and the Terror spell work somewhat differently?

Question: Monsters’ Terror advantage invokes a straight Fright Check: you meet the monster, you immediately roll vs Will (or 13, whichever is lower), and, if you fail, you suffer stun for at least as many seconds as your margin of failure, and then roll 3d + margin of failure on the Fright Check table for more fun effects.

The Terror spell, meanwhile, runs like this: You meet the wizard and he casts Terror, which you resist with your Will. This isn’t the actual Fright Check, so your Will isn’t capped at 13, but the Rule of 16 does come into play: the caster’s Terror spell is capped at 16 or your Will, whichever is higher.

Margin of success or failure doesn’t matter in this Contest of Terror vs Will; there’s just win or lose. If you win, the spell has no effect; if you lose, you go immediately to a Fright Check as described for monsters’ Terror, but at a -3. (This means you’re more likely to fail, and will suffer up to 3 more initial turns of stunning, and up to 3 points’ worse results on the Fright Check table, than you would have suffered from monster Terror.)

So, it would seem that the Terror spell is less harsh than monster Terror on one hand, as there’s that initial chance to completely resist the spell – but if it’s not resisted, the spell hits harder than monster Terror does. Is this understanding correct? (Source: Forum thread)

Answer: The understanding is correct; the two work somewhat differently. From Kromm:

Just as in GURPS, if you don’t resist the Terror spell, you have a difficult Fright Check to attempt. This Fright Check isn’t meant to be affected by the resistance roll vs. magic, and the Terror spell and Terror advantage don’t work quite the same way.

(Source: Forum thread)

What exactly is a throwing dart?

Question: Just what is this thing? A half-length javelin? Is it a real-world weapon, an RPG invention, or what? (Source: Forum thread)

Answer: Picture the Roman plumbata. From Kromm:

The dart looks like a plumbata. Think of an arrow with a lead weight behind the head so that it comes down point-first on the enemy. Yes, a “war lawn dart.” It was a real thing.

(Source: Forum thread)

Commentary: This question of mine really goes all the way back to D&D (which, for reasons I’m not aware of, made darts one of the limited weapon choices for magic-users). I’m glad to see the weapon represented in DFRPG, though Thrown Weapon (Dart) doesn’t seem a terribly popular choice among players. To make the skill more versatile, check out my suggestions for hurled arrows, bolts, and heavy darts, too.

Can a PC use Tactics skill only to advise others, not aid his own combat rolls?

Question: On Exploits p. 57, a character can use Tactics skill to aid an ally’s attack and defense rolls by shouting advice. By the rules, then, a PC knight with Tactics-18 gains no such bonuses from her own amazing skill, yet she can benefit from advice shouted by the party thief who has lowly Tactics-11. Is this right? (Source: Forum thread)

Answer: Yes. It’s a benefit of an “outside observer” providing a second brain, in effect. Moreover, the observer is unable to do anything but advise, a factor that prevents the above knight from “advising” herself while fighting.

From Kromm:

Tactics only helps real-time combat rolls when the person using it takes a whole turn for a Do Nothing maneuver while the person benefiting from it takes their usual maneuver. In effect, it’s the result of having two brains working on the problem of not losing a fight. If you can somehow rig things so that you have two brains, go ahead and use Tactics to help yourself.

(Source: Forum thread)

Commentary: The end effect, in a case like my knight example above, doesn’t strike me as realistic – but I’m all for this exploit as a cinematic and fun way for characters on the sidelines of a battle to do something useful. Have at it, combat coaches!

Where does the 4-pt. cost of Animal Companion come from?

Question: Is the Animal Companion advantage (from Companion 2) built from GURPS‘ Allies advantage? (Source: Forum thread)

Answer: Yes. The animals are built as lowest-level allies (25% Point Total, which means 62-point or lower characters in DFRPG), with a frequency of appearance of Constantly (x4 cost), for a total of 4 points.

In the same thread, Kromm also confirms that the animals are not necessarily optimized; the cat, for example, is built on only 34 points, not 62. The companions are meant to represent realistic (if clever) animals, not powerful familiars or warrior beasts. (Source: Forum thread)

Commentary: Given that DFRPG cheerfully encourages optimization of PC abilities to wring the most bang out of character points, I wouldn’t object at all to Animal Companion designs tricked out to their full 62 points. But the text never promises or even mentions this point total (from the DFRPG perspective, that’s Hidden Lore (GURPS) stuff!), and I have no beef with the advantage’s intent and design.

If a kindly GM does want to boost the designs to their full 62 points, I’d go very light on added physical or mental traits, or tons of extra skills, that break the “normal animal” concept. Instead, I’d focus on traits like Luck or even Extra Life, defined not as supernatural abilities but as “plot armor” devices. (In fiction, even “normal” protagonist pets somehow get through the most unlikely scrapes!)

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 “2 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 have the kit and roll at +1, or you don’t have the kit and 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 (Druidic) affected by Nature’s Strength?

Question: Is Esoteric Medicine (Druidic) 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)

Commentary: While druids typically play second fiddle to clerics in healing accomplishments, their roots and berries will be awfully welcome in no-sanctity areas that shut down clerics’ healing magic and their faith-based brand of Esoteric Medicine.

Let’s take a moment to summarize the skill differences: Esoteric Medicine (Holy) is affected by ambient power, but is not boosted by its core requirement (Power Investiture). Esoteric Medicine (Druidic) is not affected by ambient power, and is not boosted by its core requirement (Power Investiture (Druidic)). Esoteric Medicine (Chi) doesn’t rely on any ambient power, but is boosted by its core requirement (Chi Talent).

You could view all that as unfortunate complication that demands keeping track of which Esoteric Medicine variant is affected by what. Or you could view the details as interesting differences that keep the three skills from being cookie-cutter variants of the same thing!

Does natural DR protect a Wounded disadvantage wound?

Question: With the Wounded disadvantage, regular armor protects the old wound 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 collective character points 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 nab 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 on 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 riff-raff 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 on thief-thwarting 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).

(Source: Forum thread)

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.

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)

Shouldn’t Social Stigma (Savage) be worth more points than Social Stigma (Minority Group)?

Question: Social Stigma (Minority Group) [-10] says “You get -2 on all reaction rolls made by anyone except others of your minority.”

Social Stigma (Savage) [-10] says “. . . you have penalties when negotiating in or out of the dungeon: -2 to reaction rolls and -4 to skill rolls,” with an added chance of being outright barred from entering town.

The two have the same point value, yet isn’t the latter a more severe disadvantage? (Source: Forum thread)

Answer: The equivalent point values are valid. From Kromm:

Social Stigma (Minority Group): -2 on reaction rolls for all purposes from everybody but those in your minority group.

Social Stigma (Savage): -2 on reaction rolls and -4 on skill rolls for negotiations from everybody but those of your kind, and 6 or less chance of being barred from town.

The key is “for all purposes” vs. “for negotiations.” Savage is “not civilized, so not trusted to enter town and do business,” while Minority Group is “not well-liked in the game world (but still civilized, so people will do business with you because your money is good).” They don’t have the same impact. Minority Group is roughly equivalent to No Sense of Humor or a severe Odious Personal Habit, and means people find you unpleasant; Savage is similar in effect to losing a level of Wealth, as it makes it hard to negotiate for good prices, quest backing, quest rewards, etc.

(Source: Forum thread)

In short, my misunderstanding was reading the Social Stigma (Savage) drawbacks as “-2 on reaction rolls and (-4 on skill rolls for negotiations)“; the correct reading is “(-2 on reaction rolls and -4 on skill rolls) for negotiations”. So, Social Stigma (Savage) burdens a PC with a reaction penalty and skill penalties, but only during certain activities.

By contrast, Social Stigma (Minority Group) burdens a PC with reaction penalties only, but these penalties are largely “always on”; they’re not limited to negotiation-related activities. The point cost equivalency seems fair.

Does DFRPG convert dice adds to dice?

Question: Say your maul delivers 3d+7 damage. Does that remain 3d+7, or can it convert to 5d? (Source: Forum thread)

Answer: It stays 3d+7; there’s no official option for converting the adds to dice. From Kromm:

The Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game doesn’t talk about that option, as it’s a little too math-geeky.

Aside: Even in GURPS, you always convert final damage after all adds – flat or per-die. You never convert adds to dice and then add per-die adds to the new number of dice. This is one reason why the mechanic is a little cumbersome: You have to retain, for instance, 3d+7 somewhere, because +1 per die makes that 3d+10 (and then 5d+3, or 6d-1 if you prefer); if you choose to list 3d+7 as 5d, +1 per die doesn’t suddenly make it 5d+5. This is most concisely presented on p. B269:

If a modifier is given “per die of damage,” apply it per die of basic thrusting or swinging damage, before you convert adds to dice.

(Source: Forum thread)

Commentary: Easy enough – and the added aside preempts another potential question about the base for per-die bonuses. Kromm continues with a wonderfully clarifying example:

The prohibition against converting adds to dice and then adding per-die adds to the new number of dice is for definiteness, not for stinginess! Suppose I have ST 21 (damage 2d/4d-1) and I use a maul (swing+5), for 4d+4 damage. I’m also a Weapon Master with that maul, and get +2 per die for that. And I’m making an All-Out Attack (Strong), and get +1 per die for that. Is my damage:

1. 4d+4, with the per-die adds making it 4d+16, converted to 8d+2?

2. 4d+4, converted to 5d, with all the per-die adds making it 5d+15, further converted to 9d+1?

3. 4d+4, with the per-die adds for Weapon Master making it 4d+12, converted to 7d+1, then the per-die adds for All-Out Attack making it 7d+8, finally converted to 9d+1?

4. 4d+4, with the per-die adds for All-Out Attack making it 4d+8, converted to 6d+1, then the per-die adds for Weapon Master making it 6d+13, finally converted to 9d+2?

5. 4d+4, converted to 5d, with the per-die adds for All-Out Attack making it 5d+5, converted to 6d+1, then the per-die adds for Weapon Master making it 6d+13, finally converted to 9d+2?

6. 4d+4, converted to 5d, with the per-die adds for Weapon Master making it 5d+10, converted to 7d+3, then the per-die adds for All-Out Attack making it 7d+10, finally converted to 9d+3?

7. Something else I forgot about?

This rule makes 1 the right answer – and, as you can see, the simplest and most intuitive one.

What does a split Move stat mean for a monster?

Question: Some monsters have a split Move stat, like “6/12”. What does this mean? (Source: Forum thread)

Answer: The second number is Move using the Enhanced Move trait. This Move replaces the standard “+1 Move” used when sprinting. (Source: Forum thread)

Commentary: Simple questions with easily looked up answers aren’t worth noting on this page, but the answer to this question might be hard for a newcomer to locate. It’s not given in the “Reading Monster Stats” boxes in Monsters, Monsters 2, or Companion 2; it’s noted only in the Enhanced Move writeup on Monsters p. 10.

How is centaurs’ Bulky disadvantage priced in Companion 2?

Question: Companion 2 offers centaurs as a PC race. The write-up includes a Bulky [-35] disadvantage that combines various effects of the race’s large size. How exactly was the cost worked out? (Source: Forum thread)

Answer: Kromm answers this in detail:

“All the other stuff that makes a centaur adds up to 135 points, and I’d prefer an even 100 points,” more or less. A lot of one-off racial traits in the DFRPG are notbuilt using strict GURPS rules. I suppose that if you speak GURPS, you could roughly emulate it as:

* ST+3 (Size, -10%) [27], not ST+3 [30], for -3 points

* HP+8 (Size, -10%) [15], not HP+8 [16], for -1 point

* Lifting ST 8 (Size, -10%) [22], not Lifting ST 8 [24], for -2 points

* Striking ST 8 (Lower Body Only, -60%; Size, -10%) [12], not Striking ST 8 (Lower Body Only, -60%) [16], for -4 points

* Gigantism [0] without the free Basic Move+1, for -5 points

* Increased Consumption 2* [-20]

-3 + -1 + -2 + -4 + -5 + -20 = -35

* Technically, this would mean 4× consumption while a centaur has 5×, but I felt 5× was easier to work with and probably fairer in a world with magical workarounds.

That is, a 15-point rebate for the fact that the DFRPG neither offers the Size limitation nor gives a Basic Move bonus to cancel the downsides of SM +1, plus the disadvantage of having to buy and carry lots of rations (very relevant to the DFRPG). All the mean stuff the GM could do to you because you’re big – charge more for armor, have bridges break, etc. – is why Size is a limitation. That is, it’s built into the rebate, not a separate thing.

(And yeah, there’s the dangling question of not applying Size to later ST, HP, etc. My feeling there is that someone who buys another 10 levels of ST won’t much feel the effects of carrying extra rations, essentially wiping out the Increased Consumption . . . so they’ll actually come out ahead.)

(Source: Forum thread)

What counts as a stick for purposes of the Balanced weapon mod?

Question: The Balanced weapon mod is off-limits for sticks. Does this mean baton, short baton, short staff, jo, and quarterstaff? Do spear and boomerang (a throwing stick in the game, not a returning airfoil) count as sticks for this purpose? (Source: Forum thread)

Answer: Adventurers p. 106 has the answer: “Any atlatl, baton, boomerang, club, jo, staff, stake, or woomera.”

Commentary: Thanks to Dalin in the linked forum thread for providing the answer.

From the text, it appears that a spear can take Balanced for +4 CF, but the other items that Adventurers and I note above cannot. Personally, I’d like to see an option letting those remaining weapons enjoy some finely-crafted balance – and if you agree, you’ll find an option in Pyramid 3/89, which lets sticks take Balanced for +14 CF. That works for me!

Are there some good examples showing exactly how to game slams and shield rushes?

Question: Slams and shield rushes work somewhat differently than they do in GURPS. Are there some good examples that crunch the numbers? (Source: Paraphrased from this forum thread)

Answer: Why, yes. In the linked thread, Kromm provides very detailed examples of slams and shield rushes involving complications such as movement speed, All-Out Attack, and shield spikes.

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.

Is Balm of Regeneration a salve or a drink?

Question: The name Balm of Regeneration (Adventurers p. 116) suggests some sort of ointment to me; the description further describes it as a salve. Shouldn’t this be labeled “Utility”, not “Drinkable”? (Source: Forum thread)

Answer: “Drinkable” could be a simple error, but one forum poster suggests that the concoction may be a salve that can be applied with a single combat action (instead of requiring the long action normally required for a salve), making it “Drinkable” for purposes of time required to use. (Looking more closely at the book’s text, the added note “Salve, not a potion” strongly suggests the same: “yeah, we know it says ‘Drinkable’, but it’s not a drink.”) In the absence of official clarification, I’ll assume that’s the answer!

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 mechanics of Bard-Song and bardic spellcasting don’t appear to set any actual need for a musical instrument (and its 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, 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? (Source: Forum thread)

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!)

Note: I’ve written up these poles and many more weapons in GURPS/DFRPG resource: New weapons.

What are appropriate weapon stats for a thrown arrow?

Question: What are appropriate damage, range, etc. for a thrown arrow or bolt? (Source: Forum thread)

Answer: There’s nothing official. If a house rule will do, again, check out my suggestions for hurled arrows, bolts, and heavy darts, along with many more new and improvised weapons.

How are Plant Control and Animal spells used on plant-class monsters?

Question: The Plant Control spell notes, “Controls the actions of one large plant . . . A key spell for “green druids” – knowing it lets you use Beast Possession, Rider, Rider Within, and similar Animal spells on plant-class monsters!”

How exactly does this work? To cast Beast Possession on a triffid, do I first cast Plant Control at the usual time and cost, then cast Beast Possession at the usual time and cost, and then – if both succeeded – start roaming around in my mobile cabbage? (Source: Forum thread)

Answer: A forum respondent suggests that Plant Control essentially acts as a prerequisite for the task – that is, simply knowing Plant Control allows the use of the noted Animal spells on plant-class monsters. I can see playing it that way, though use of the spell as a static prerequisite means the druid doesn’t actually roll versus the spell, and thus skill level doesn’t matter . . .

As of now, I’m not sure how this is intended to work.

Questions remaining

Is the heavy sling meant for hurling grenades as well as big rocks?

DFRPG doesn’t state whether you can use a sling to deliver nasty concoctions long-distance. Turning to GURPS for an answer, I was under the impression that Low-Tech expressly notes the use of Molotov cocktails (and presumably other grenades) with the heavy sling, as well as the ability of the regular sling to hurl such heavy objects at reduced range, as I spelled out in this forum thread.

But what Low-Tech actually says differs from what I thought it said. I’m going to assume that DFRPG characters can happily use the heavy sling, at its listed stats, to hurl grenades and 1-lb. rocks alike (with the house rule proviso that the impact damage from a breaking grenade is only half that of a rock; the fun comes from the grenade content). But other sling questions remain. See a discussion here.

How long does it take to benefit from a manual or tome in the field?

Is there a guideline somewhere for how much reading time is required to gain the benefits of a manual or tome in the field? I don’t see an answer in DFRPG or DF 4. (This can be a vital matter when time is tight, and thus a reason for learning Speed-Reading.) (Source: Forum thread)

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? (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)

Is Defending Weapon/Shield enchantment a really bad deal compared to a Deflect enchantment?

The Magic Weapons and Armor Table on Adventurers p. 118 says a $2000 Deflect enchantment provides a +1 Defense Bonus, which I understand would aid any defense. Meanwhile, a $10,000 Defending Weapon/Shield enchantment also gives a +1 bonus, but to Parry or Block alone. Unless I’m missing something, the latter enchantment is a bad deal. Make sure you go for Deflect first . . . (Source: Forum thread)

Can a character use Fast-Draw to instantly ready a weapon to parry an incoming attack?

GURPS and DFRPG are clear on the use of Fast-Draw to instantly ready a weapon for attacking, but not for defending. Can a character undergoing a sudden attack use Fast-Draw to instantly ready a weapon for parrying?

In the absence of an official answer, I’ll assume yes. The quick Fast-Draw simply becomes a zero-time part of an attempted Parry defense, just like Fast-Draw before an attack becomes a zero-time part of an attempted attack. If the defensive Fast-Draw roll succeeds, the weapon is instantly readied and can attempt a normal Parry.

If the defensive Fast-Draw roll fails, the would-be Parry naturally fails as well, probably leaving the target defenseless (unless he had been on All-Out Defense (Double Defense), in which case he can try a second defense). If the hapless target wishes to return the attack on his own turn, I’d let him try that Fast-Draw roll again, with the usual effects (no time taken on a success, a Ready maneuver on a failure).

This all seems sensible to me and adds more value to Fast-Draw, which is really quite expensive (especially in the +4 pts./level range) for a single physical motion. (Source: Forum thread)

When an attacker inflicts knockback on a target, can the attacker choose the target’s direction?

As far as I can tell, a target hit for knockback always flies away in a straight line away from the attacker. Does either GURPS or DFRPG allow for the attacker to choose a different reasonable direction? (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)

Supplemental glossary

Simple notes on word meanings and pronunciations.


This is the potion that restores energy lost to spell use (Adventurers p. 116). The question: How is this pronounced?

Forum commenters suggest different pronunciations, including “pah-oot”, “powt” (same as word “pout”), or “pawt” (rhymes with “thought”), along with the note that the word comes to us from ancient Egyptian. Perhaps only mummies know the true pronunciation (but keep it under wrap). (Source: Forum thread. See also this thread.)

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