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 Dracolich's Breath Weapon Attack

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DM Jon
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PostSubject: Dracolich's Breath Weapon Attack   Thu Dec 31, 2015 6:45 pm

Here's a rules question I'd like to see how different people answer.  If you have RC references (or other official references) to support your answer, please post them as well.

A character that has resist 10 necrotic is hit by a dracolich's breath weapon attack.

Breath Weapon (standard, recharge )  Necrotic
The dracolich breathes a coruscating blast of necrotic energy;
close blast 9; +21 vs Reflex; 2d8+7 necrotic damage, and the target is stunned until the end of the dracolich's next turn.
Miss: Half damage, and the target is not stunned.
Hit or Miss: The target loses any necrotic resistance it has (save ends).


Let's assume the attack deals 15 necrotic damage.  How much damage does the character actually take?

I'd rule that the character takes all 15 necrotic damage, is stunned and has lost his necrotic resistance (save ends).

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PostSubject: Re: Dracolich's Breath Weapon Attack   Fri Jan 01, 2016 5:32 pm

In this case, I would rule that you only suffer 5 - the effect being after the hit line usually means that the effect takes place "after" : in the rare cases where the effect was to be applied before the hit, it was usually clearly indicated by being placed above the hit (or attack, or whatever) line.

There's a rogue power that comes to mind here, but I forget it's name...
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PostSubject: Re: Dracolich's Breath Weapon Attack   Sat Jan 02, 2016 5:42 pm

Normally I would agree with MoutonRustique - if it's not specified, I would always apply extra stuff after the damage. However, the fact that it's listed as "Hit or Miss" instead of "Effect" does make me think maybe if it's intended to be the other way around in this case. If it's supposed to happen after the damage, is there any reason it shouldn't just be an Effect instead?

I can certainly see why it's ambiguous - I couldn't fault any given GM for interpreting it one way or another.

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PostSubject: Re: Dracolich's Breath Weapon Attack   Sat Jan 02, 2016 11:17 pm

Thanks MoutonRustique and Fox Lee for responding.  I really appreciate it!

I can see where you're coming from but can you support your rulings with RC references?

I'll try to explain how I arrived at mine...

First, on page 214 of the RC under "Making Attacks" it states:

5. When an attack hits, it usually deals damage, and many attacks produce some other effect, such as forced movement or a condition. An attack power’s description specifies what happens on a hit. Most attack powers do nothing on a miss, but some specify an effect, such as half damage, on a miss.

I haven't read anything in the rules about ordering damage and effects.  In the rule above it clearly states "when an attack hits, it usually deals damage, and many attacks produce some other effect, such as forced movement or a condition.  For me, the "and" is key here (it doesn't say something like "then").

Then, on page 29 under the "Two Principles to Keep in Mind" section it states:
1. Specific Beats General
Powers, class features, racial traits, feats, magic items, monster abilities, and other game statistics usually include some element that breaks the general rules in some way. The element creates an exception to how the rest of the game works. Remember this: If a specific rule contradicts a general rule, the specific rule wins.


So, since we're not given any directions regarding the order in which damage and effects are supposed to happen, I concluded that they must all happen "simultaneously".  If I put all the effects in a chain I get this:

[resist 10 necrotic] AND [15 necrotic damage] AND [stunned] AND [target loses necrotic resistance]

The [resist 10 necrotic] is canceled by the [target loses necrotic resistance] leaving the [15 necrotic damage] AND [stunned]

For some reason this just makes sense to me but I have nothing more than the RC references above for support.

Last night I was reading the entry for the Ancient Red Dragon and it's Breath Weapon states this:

Close blast 5; +35 vs Reflex; 4d12+10 fire damage, and the red dragon makes a secondary attack against the same target.
Secondary Attack +33 vs Fortitude; the target's fire resistance is negated until the end of the encounter.
Miss: Half damage, and no secondary attack.


It's clear the designers of this power didn't want a character's fire resistance to be lost on the first hit but there was a possibility it would be lost as a result of the hit.  I wondered if the designers wanted the Dracolich's power to function this way, they could have added this:

Secondary Attack automatic hit; the target loses any necrotic resistance it has (save ends).
Miss: Half damage, and no secondary attack.


Please don't think I'm claiming I'm correct because I can see your logic as well.

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PostSubject: Re: Dracolich's Breath Weapon Attack   Mon Jan 04, 2016 6:30 pm

One of the things that I always try to keep in mind is that some powers use different ways of describing their intention. And earlier powers weren't as clearly written as power that were written later along in 4E.

Like was said earlier, I couldn't fault a DM for playing this either way. I would want it to be consistent, of course.

One thing to consider is that the Dracolich in question is an 18th level enemy. So, a difference of 10 hit points of damage for this one attack (which is a recharge attack, so may not come up that often) shouldn't be that big of a swing in the battle. And the loss of Necro resistance is Save Ends, so odds are that it will only linger around for another round or two.

I think you'd be fine with the more damaging way. It will make your players panic a bit and work harder to win!

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PostSubject: Re: Dracolich's Breath Weapon Attack   Tue Jan 05, 2016 7:16 am

I think you need to ask yourself what the goal/purpose is in taking anyway the resistance before applying the damage. If you are trying to invoke an "oh sh*t, this is serious" moment for the player(s), that's cool. If you are trying to trivialize the players abilities/traits/powers, I'm not really down with that. Playing to the characters weaknesses or eliminating their strengths isn't really fun most of the time for the players.
I think I would tend to side with the players in most cases. Just losing their resistance after the attack might be enough, but if you think your players will win either way but you want to up the tension (or force them to use more resources) eliminate the resistance first. As skwyd said, 10 hp damage either way is not much.
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PostSubject: Re: Dracolich's Breath Weapon Attack   Tue Jan 17, 2017 9:01 am

Definitely feels like an after effect to me.

DM: "The Dracolich breathes a coruscating blast of necrotic energy at you. It hits you for *rolls dice* 15 necrotic dama..."
Player: "Yeah, hold on, I've got 10 necrotic resist"
DM: "Ahhh. Okay. The breath does 5 damage and the protective energies that warded you from necroticism are extinguished, they fade to nothing, save ends"
Player: "Motherfu..."
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PostSubject: Re: Dracolich's Breath Weapon Attack   Thu Jan 19, 2017 9:48 am

The PHB1 text is no more informative than the RC. Both use the same construction, a single step in which damage and effects are resolved, no indication of any order. I'd note only that its damage first AND effects in all cases, as if you should calculate the damage received before other things, but if they'd really wanted that to be explicit they could have made them separate steps, and they never did, nor did they ever clarify this.

RAW just doesn't help you here. I suppose if we still had access to the CS threads we could see how CS ruled on this, but I don't think those exist anywhere.

Instinctively I favor damage and THEN effects. I see nothing in the rules that even faintly suggests the other order, plus it seems to me that the guy with 10 necrotic resistance should be a LITTLE better off than the guy with none at all, shouldn't he? OTOH, as it is a save ends effect, I can see the point of doing it the other way, at least the effect does SOMETHING, whereas it might otherwise never even come into play.

I think overall I'd vote for the guy takes 5 damage, but I don't think this is something you can say is RAW, or even RAI, its just DM preference. I always thought this section of 4e's combat rules was poorly written, and this is not even the worst problem with PHB1 p269, its description of making an attack is completely borked.
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PostSubject: Re: Dracolich's Breath Weapon Attack   Thu Jan 19, 2017 10:59 am

I believe the 3.x rules did have an order in which things were to be applied as far as resistances, vulnerabilities, and so on. You could see if that system could be applied as a house rule (or a variant of it) just so the players and DM have an agreed system for consistency purposes.

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PostSubject: Re: Dracolich's Breath Weapon Attack   Sat Jan 21, 2017 6:16 pm

skwyd42 wrote:
I believe the 3.x rules did have an order in which things were to be applied as far as resistances, vulnerabilities, and so on. You could see if that system could be applied as a house rule (or a variant of it) just so the players and DM have an agreed system for consistency purposes.

As I recall, the problem is that various powers were written as if it worked different ways, and don't function properly if you adopt one specific way, which is why WotC never clarified this (same for a number of other ambiguities, in the few cases they DID clarify them, like the speed of free actions in RC, it broke a lot of stuff). So, you can't just houserule one thing, you have to also houserule powers that break. Of course you may never run into any, as it is surely a small subset of the vast array of all powers. So its probably a viable choice at the table, but it wasn't really an option for WotC since they'd have had to track down all the inconsistencies and fix those too.
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PostSubject: Re: Dracolich's Breath Weapon Attack   Mon Jan 23, 2017 10:30 am

AbdulAlhazred wrote:
skwyd42 wrote:
I believe the 3.x rules did have an order in which things were to be applied as far as resistances, vulnerabilities, and so on. You could see if that system could be applied as a house rule (or a variant of it) just so the players and DM have an agreed system for consistency purposes.

As I recall, the problem is that various powers were written as if it worked different ways, and don't function properly if you adopt one specific way, which is why WotC never clarified this (same for a number of other ambiguities, in the few cases they DID clarify them, like the speed of free actions in RC, it broke a lot of stuff). So, you can't just houserule one thing, you have to also houserule powers that break. Of course you may never run into any, as it is surely a small subset of the vast array of all powers. So its probably a viable choice at the table, but it wasn't really an option for WotC since they'd have had to track down all the inconsistencies and fix those too.

Yeah, I haven't looked too deeply into it as I've not run across issues, really. And that's one of the things I love about 4E. Issues like this tend to be few. I thought that there was a general approach listed somewhere about what to apply first (resistances or vulnerabilities or whatever), but I may be mistaken. In any case, I don't know if it would hurt to try to apply something like this and then as individual situations arise that appear broken, address them one by one.

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PostSubject: Re: Dracolich's Breath Weapon Attack   Mon Jan 23, 2017 5:39 pm

skwyd42 wrote:
AbdulAlhazred wrote:
skwyd42 wrote:
I believe the 3.x rules did have an order in which things were to be applied as far as resistances, vulnerabilities, and so on. You could see if that system could be applied as a house rule (or a variant of it) just so the players and DM have an agreed system for consistency purposes.

As I recall, the problem is that various powers were written as if it worked different ways, and don't function properly if you adopt one specific way, which is why WotC never clarified this (same for a number of other ambiguities, in the few cases they DID clarify them, like the speed of free actions in RC, it broke a lot of stuff). So, you can't just houserule one thing, you have to also houserule powers that break. Of course you may never run into any, as it is surely a small subset of the vast array of all powers. So its probably a viable choice at the table, but it wasn't really an option for WotC since they'd have had to track down all the inconsistencies and fix those too.

Yeah, I haven't looked too deeply into it as I've not run across issues, really. And that's one of the things I love about 4E. Issues like this tend to be few. I thought that there was a general approach listed somewhere about what to apply first (resistances or vulnerabilities or whatever), but I may be mistaken. In any case, I don't know if it would hurt to try to apply something like this and then as individual situations arise that appear broken, address them one by one.

Yeah, it will work out fine. Its ambiguous by RAW, but there are some things that clearly are true, such as that resistance and vuln apply (after immunity I guess) but clearly before/during the damage determination step.
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