Author Topic: Defining Undefined D&D Terms  (Read 6008 times)

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JaronK

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Defining Undefined D&D Terms
« on: September 30, 2010, 09:10:27 PM »
Okay, this is a thread specifically for figuring out the definitions of terms regularly used in D&D that don't actually have listed rules definitions, or have definitions that don't agree with their usage.  The D&D writers have a nasty habit of just assuming you know what basic terms mean, even when those basic terms exist only within the game (and thus you can't use the dictionary to figure it out).  The idea here is not just to make stuff up out of the blue, but to use RAW sources and designer commentary (where available) to figure out exactly what the designers mean when they say something in a 3.5 book.  Just because I don't want to get into it here, I'm going to leave "True Dragon" off the list for now, but use it as a general example of how a definition can be valid or not.

  The goal here is to provide a reference when debates on this comes up.  As such, sources are necessary... random claims by some poster on the internet won't help, but showing where to find the evidence does help.

For clarity, I'm going to define definition first.  For something to be a valid definition, it must describe all members of a set, and not describe any members not of the set.  For example, the Monster Manual says that True Dragons are all Chromatic or Metallic and grow to being over 100 feet in length... but White Dragons in the same book don't grow that big, and most True Dragons (including Gem Dragons, Planar Dragons, and Lung Dragons) are neither Chromatic or Metallic.  So that's a bad definition, because it doesn't describe some (in fact most!) members of the set.  Another example of a bad definition comes from math... if we say that an even number is any number where the last digit is 0, 2, 4, 6, or 8.  That's a bad definition because while it does describe all even numbers, it also describes numbers like 5.2 which aren't even.  A good definition in math would be that even numbers are those numbers that, when divided by 2, result in an integer.  That's true for all even numbers, and false for all non even numbers.  This means that any counterexample will void a definition.

The terms that have recently come up as needing a definition that I've seen are:

Encounter
Monster
Creature
Race
Person
Standard Class
Base Class
Character Class
Spell Slot
Spell Level

That last one's in there because there's a listed definition which seems to be wrong.  It's actually any class found in the PHB, as per the definition in the DMG page 176.  But online sources claim otherwise... for example the website says that Factotums are a new base class.

  Anyway, if folks are interested I'd like to work out the specific definitions of all of these, using as many sources as possible (please cite your sources, any post without a source will be ignored for purposes of making definitions!).  When giving a source, note whether it's evidence of usage or a listed definition (for example, a book that refers to Warblades as a standard class gives usage evidence that Standard Class means what most people refer to as a base class, while a book that says "Standard Classes are ones without prerequisites" would be a listed definition).  I'll put down what I have so far, but if people want to improve the definitions go ahead!

As a final note, the goal is for the definitions to be as simple and as well supported as possible.  For example, I could make a more exhaustive definition of Standard Class, but it's not necessary... the listed one covers everything it should and nothing it shouldn't.

So, here's the start of the list so far:

Base Class:  Any Character Class that can be taken at level 1. (Definition: DMG 176 (altered by counterexamples).  Usage:  marshal, Heroes of horror, hexblade,  factotum)
Standard Class:   Any Base Class that does not use Alternate Class Features and is not itself an Alternate Class  (Usage: PHB II 4, 5, and 31; ToB 5 and 7, ToM 4 and 7; Dungeonscape 3, 8, and 14)
Creature:  Anything with hit dice (Usage:  All Monster Manuals)
Character Class:  Any class which is not a Savage Progression, Prestige Class, or Paragon Class ( Usage: Character Class List )

JaronK
« Last Edit: October 02, 2010, 03:20:14 AM by JaronK »

The_Mad_Linguist

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Re: Defining Undefined D&D Terms
« Reply #1 on: September 30, 2010, 09:16:56 PM »
What about the marshal, which is described as a "new base class"?

What about Heroes of horror
Quote
Players can develop heroes or antiheroes using new feats, new spells, new base classes and prestige classes,

Looks like the hexblade is a base class too.

And the factotum


Pretty sure your definition is full of holes.
« Last Edit: September 30, 2010, 09:22:14 PM by The_Mad_Linguist »
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JaronK

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Re: Defining Undefined D&D Terms
« Reply #2 on: September 30, 2010, 09:26:44 PM »
What about the marshal, which is described as a "new base class"?

What about Heroes of horror
Quote
Players can develop heroes or antiheroes using new feats, new spells, new base classes and prestige classes,

Looks like the hexblade is a base class too.

And the factotum


Pretty sure your definition is full of holes.

Ah, see this is why I was making this thread... to see if I'd missed any.  Okay, so the DMG definition is utter trash.  Interestingly enough though, in Dungeonscape Factotums are referred to as a Standard Class, not a Base Class.  I think it's pretty clear then that the issue here is some designers call them "base classes" and some call them "standard classes" and the DMG is just plain wrong.

But it's not my definition to be clear... I was quoting the DMG.

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The_Mad_Linguist

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Re: Defining Undefined D&D Terms
« Reply #3 on: September 30, 2010, 09:29:04 PM »
Well, there weren't any other base classes when the DMG was made.
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JaronK

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Re: Defining Undefined D&D Terms
« Reply #4 on: September 30, 2010, 09:30:18 PM »
Of course.  But it's still important to note when the listed definition somewhere is outright wrong (for example, I'm pretty sure there's a definition somewhere of Creature, and it says a Creature is anything that's not an object.  But Animated Objects are both Objects and Creatures).  Anyway, definition now fixed!

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muhammed

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Re: Defining Undefined D&D Terms
« Reply #5 on: September 30, 2010, 09:34:13 PM »
Couldn't you simple say that a Base Class is a Standard Class and a Standard Class is a Base class by defining them both as a Class with 20 levels?

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Re: Defining Undefined D&D Terms
« Reply #6 on: September 30, 2010, 09:39:24 PM »
Couldn't you simple say that a Base Class is a Standard Class and a Standard Class is a Base class by defining them both as a Class with 20 levels?
That's just screwing over the guys who use Tome. :p

I believe an encounter was defined as "1 minute" somewhere.
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bearsarebrown

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Re: Defining Undefined D&D Terms
« Reply #7 on: September 30, 2010, 09:39:37 PM »
Couldn't you simple say that a Base Class is a Standard Class and a Standard Class is a Base class by defining them both as a Class with 20 levels?
Although I think that is true(not positive about some epic PrCs), I feel like that's a haphazard definition.

muhammed

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Re: Defining Undefined D&D Terms
« Reply #8 on: September 30, 2010, 09:41:38 PM »
why haphazard (excluding epic prcs)?

JaronK

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Re: Defining Undefined D&D Terms
« Reply #9 on: September 30, 2010, 09:50:06 PM »
Couldn't you simple say that a Base Class is a Standard Class and a Standard Class is a Base class by defining them both as a Class with 20 levels?

20 levels would probably work (though note in D20 modern they're actually 10) so I could add that in, but "no prerequisites" is the closest to a given definition, because a Prestige Class is defined as being like a base class except it has prerequisites.  I'm also trying to avoid getting Paragons into the definition, but either 20 levels long or no prerequisites handles that.  

But are there any 20 level long PrCs?  I wasn't aware there were but I don't play Epic.

Meanwhile, I need to get together some solid definitions for Monster and Race.  Mostly I need sourcing, but a Monster is the same as a Creature except there's an implication that it's DM controlled, while a Race is the same as a Creature with the implication that it's an option for PCs to play.  For example, Kobolds are a Monster in the MM which is generally talking about how they'd be as NPC villians (with a sidebar indicating how they could be played if you were a PC) but a Kobold is a Race in Races of the Dragon (which is all about playing them as PCs).  This is not to say that PCs aren't Monsters... they are, as Dominate Monster works on them.  It's just implication.  But is there any case in the books where something that's not being described as PC playable is listed as a Race?

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« Last Edit: September 30, 2010, 09:53:55 PM by JaronK »

The_Mad_Linguist

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Re: Defining Undefined D&D Terms
« Reply #10 on: September 30, 2010, 09:59:09 PM »
Couldn't you simple say that a Base Class is a Standard Class and a Standard Class is a Base class by defining them both as a Class with 20 levels?
That's just screwing over the guys who use Tome. :p

I believe an encounter was defined as "1 minute" somewhere.
An encounter is anything with an EL.
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JaronK

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Re: Defining Undefined D&D Terms
« Reply #11 on: September 30, 2010, 10:09:38 PM »
I believe an encounter was defined as "1 minute" somewhere.
An encounter is anything with an EL.

TML, that doesn't fit with the FAQ on Factotums.  The goal of this thread is to figure out what the designers mean when they say things, and especially considering that same FAQ was written by the guy who wrote the Factotum, at least for that purpose "anything with an EL" won't cut it. 

Meanwhile, what's the source for this 1 minute thing?  I've never heard of it.

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The_Mad_Linguist

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Re: Defining Undefined D&D Terms
« Reply #12 on: September 30, 2010, 10:15:38 PM »
Traps have an EL. 
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JaronK

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Re: Defining Undefined D&D Terms
« Reply #13 on: September 30, 2010, 10:34:06 PM »
Traps have an EL.  

Yes but, from Dungeonscape, going through a crowd counts as an encounter.  It has no EL.  Likewise, "stopping to bash down a door" has no EL either, which is what I was referring to in the FAQ.  He also talks about "navigating a rickety bridge" which by itself has no EL either.  

Whatever the definition of Encounter is, having a minute or two to catch your breath and rest ends it, as per said FAQ (it's on page 17, for those interested).

I'm pretty sure that FAQ and the DMG have the primary definitions for "encounter" but maybe there's something else somewhere?  

As far as I can tell at this point, an encounter starts any time the PCs start interacting with their environment (not sure of any way to make this more specific given the FAQ and DMG), and stops any time they have a minute or two to catch your breath and rest.

JaronK
« Last Edit: September 30, 2010, 10:37:20 PM by JaronK »

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Re: Defining Undefined D&D Terms
« Reply #14 on: September 30, 2010, 11:02:04 PM »
Base Class:  Any class which has no prerequisites and is 20 levels long. 

How do you define prerequisite?  A character must meet alignment requirements to take certain base classes.  Are those not prerequisites? 

JaronK

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Re: Defining Undefined D&D Terms
« Reply #15 on: September 30, 2010, 11:03:08 PM »
Base Class:  Any class which has no prerequisites and is 20 levels long.  

How do you define prerequisite?  A character must meet alignment requirements to take certain base classes.  Are those not prerequisites?  

Ack!  Damnit, good point.  Man, the DMG definition of base classes and PrCs really sucks.  Stupid Paladins ruining everything.  Also Monks.  Monks and Paladins suck!

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Re: Defining Undefined D&D Terms
« Reply #16 on: September 30, 2010, 11:17:52 PM »
Why not say that a base class is any class that could be taken at level one?

Edit: special cases are those that must be taken at level one.
Note: classes that may be taken at level one may still have other perquisites that need to be filled.
« Last Edit: September 30, 2010, 11:20:55 PM by Paradox »

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Re: Defining Undefined D&D Terms
« Reply #17 on: September 30, 2010, 11:20:22 PM »
Why not say that a base class is any class that could be taken at level one?
Doesn't exclude racial paragons.

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Re: Defining Undefined D&D Terms
« Reply #18 on: September 30, 2010, 11:21:25 PM »
"A base class is any class that could be taken at level one by a member of any race."

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Re: Defining Undefined D&D Terms
« Reply #19 on: September 30, 2010, 11:21:53 PM »
I edited my post; also I don't think I excluded them.