Tabletop Game / Dungeons & Dragons

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Roll for initiative.

The original Tabletop RPG, Dungeons & Dragons was first published in 1974 by TSR (Tactical Studies Rules). TSR founder Gary Gygax based the system of the game on TSR's miniatures combat system, Chainmail. The game revolves around the now-classic set-up of a Game Master (known in official D&D terms as the Dungeon Master), who controls all the non-player characters, and the players, who each control a Player Character and deal with the challenges provided by the Dungeon Master.

The history of D&D is more than a little complicated. It started as a companion book to a miniature-based tabletop wargame called Chainmail.note  Due to Creative Differences between the creators, the original game became split into Basic Dungeons & Dragons aimed at beginning players, and the more complex (and ultimately more popular) Advanced Dungeons & Dragons in 1977.

In the mid-1980's a corporate power struggle inside TSR caused Gary Gygax to be ousted from the company. In 1989, the group left behind codified the official rules tweaks and unofficial suggestions that had accumulated in the mean time into Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition. It continued in popularity for a time, but by the late 90s, mismanagement of the company led TSR into bankruptcy.

After TSR was bought by Wizards of the Coast (makers of Magic: The Gathering, and now a subsidiary of Hasbro), they published Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition using the d20 System. A major overhaul of the entire rules set, 3rd edition cleared off the crust that had accumulated around 2nd and unified a scattered assortment of rules and procedures into something more coherent. It was a huge hit and revitalized the game, leading to new players aplenty. Then came an incremental edition known as "v3.5", which was largely concerned with fixing a few very obvious Game Breakers and Spoony Bards in 3rd Edition.

In 2008, Fourth Edition was released. It created quite a big amount of discussion, with haters, lovers, people who don't care and everything in between. The changes from 3.5 were many; overall, its rules had a much greater emphasis on mechanical balance and action than any previous edition. Common criticisms of the edition is that it plays too much like a MMORPG, and/or a tabletop miniatures war game. Indeed, the assumption that players use miniatures on a map is even expressed throughout the core rules, such as movement being described in squares, not feet. Though it sold well at first, fan discontentment with the changes led to many people abandoning the edition, with many switching to Pathfinder (itself a D&D derivative based on the v3.5 rules) leading to decline of the D&D brand.

A fifth edition of D&D was released in 2014, as Wizards of the Coast seeks to revitalize the brand. In an effort to try and heal the divisions in the player community, they actively solicited players for ideas about the new edition, with an open playtest (which began in 2012 under the production alias of "D&D Next" and ran through the end of 2013). It combines elements from all previous editions – extremely simplified classes and combat rules (making "theater of the mind" gameplay feasible once again) close to 1st and 2nd edition; the magic rules combine a lower-powered version of 3rd's slot system with 4th's ritual casting system; and while skills and feats are still present, they are much less prominent than before to the point of being technically optional.note 

The core rule books contain no "official" background setting material. Dungeon Masters are invited to either make up their own setting or use one of a number of published campaign settings. Of course, stuff from some settings leaked in anyway — after all, one cannot roleplay in a vacuum. Advanced D&D has elements of Gygax's own Greyhawk as the implied setting (the wizards whose names attached to spells of the core list are classical Greyhawk characters), 3rd Edition even included the top of Greyhawk's pantheon and 4th Edition books' assumptions unofficially form a vaguely defined setting called the "Nentir Vale".

Dungeons & Dragons is one of the Trope Codifiers of the modern era, having single-handedly mashed swords and sorcery and epic high fantasy into the fantasy genre as we know it today, and having been the source of more than a few of the Roleplaying Game Terms and RPG Elements that the influential computer RPG genre was founded on. Many, many excellent computer games (especially RPGs) have also been made directly off the D&D license.

Though a number of D&D-based MUDs and other online games existed prior, most notably the original Neverwinter Nights, in 2006, Wizards of the Coast and Atari released the MMORPG Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stormreach, set on the fictional continent of Xen'drik in the campaign world of Eberron. The game has since been renamed Dungeons & Dragons Online: Eberron Unlimited, and uses a free-to-play model with optional microtransactions. It later added a Forgotten Realms expansion. Temple of Elemental Evil received a computer game adaptation via the late Troika Games, and is notable for being the only "proper" use of the 3.5 rules (fully turn based, all special options, bar grapple and counter spell, intact), Knights Of The Chalice is an unofficial indie successor to this adaptation built by using the OGL license, with a sequel coming eventually.

Two companion magazines — Dragon and Dungeon — have been published since 1976 and 1986 respectively, offering additional content, articles and resources for D&D. Since 2007, the magazines have ceased paper publication and can now be found in digital format on the Wizards Of The Coast website. AD&D has its "Core Rules" toolset sold on CD. With the release of 4E, a set of virtual tabletop software called D&D Insider was set to be released that would have given gamers a official way to play D&D over the Internet, but now the idea seems dead, as Fifth Edition is in publication. In 2015, Dragon magazine made a reappearance as Dragon+, a free app released for iOS and Android, with new issues of the e-magazine being released every two months.

Whole libraries of novels have been published with D&D tie-ins, most of them linked to specific game settings such as the Forgotten Realms. While writing quality is inconsistent at best, sheer quantity testifies to these novel lines' profitability. The best known novels are R.A. Salvatore's Legend of Drizz't series. In addition, IDW Publishing, famous for their Transformers and G.I. Joe comics, have obtained the license to an ongoing series based on D&D - which have been well-received, mainly due to being written by the writer for DC Comics' Blue Beetle.

For the animated series based on the game, see Dungeons & Dragons. For the Bally pinball game, see Dungeons & Dragons. There are also three movies. The first (Dungeons & Dragons) is In-Name-Only. The second (Wrath of the Dragon God) is a lot better, despite being made on a low budget. The third, Dungeons & Dragons: The Book of Vile Darkness, was a made-for-cable-TV affair that premiered on Syfy in November 2012. A reboot of the Dungeons and Dragons film franchise is currently planned by Warner Brothers.

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Please note that, since this is a very open-ended game, with millions of people playing it in one form or another, you can and will find any trope if you look hard enough.


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     Individual Campaign Settings 
  • Birthright: The game on a larger scale: international politics run by demigods. Player characters are encouraged to be the scions of ancient gods who now rule domains through divine right, dealing with courtly politics in between dungeon crawls. The main enemies are the Awnsheighlien, or Blood Abominations, the twisted scions of the gods of evil.
  • Blackmoor, a.k.a. The First Fantasy Campaign: The very first campaign setting, originating from Dave Arneson's wargaming days, the result of a slow weekend in October 1970 consisting of '50s monster movies, "fantasy hero" novels, a slump during his most recent wargame session, and the thought of "I can do better than this". So he drew one dungeon floor layout, then five more, then created a castle and town from a Sicilian castle model he had lying around. The new setting was a huge hit amongst his fellow Braunstein players and when he showed the game to Gygax in 1972, the rest, as they say, was history. Your typical Good-vs-Evil setting, with the various duchies vying for power while the mysterious Egg of Coot pulls the strings from the shadows. While the "canon" version was a released in 1977 as gazetteer by Judges Guild, alternate versions appeared in both Greyhawk (as an archbarony near the Land of Black Ice) and Mystara (as a kingdom from the world's distant past that rose to great heights and quickly fell, changing the world in the process). The setting only had four adventure modules released for it during it's D&D days: Adventures in Blackmoor, Temple of the Frog, City of the Gods, and The Duchy of Ten. While officially discontinued during the TSR days, Arneson was able to keep the rights for the setting and worked with Zeitgiest Games to release setting books for 3.5 and 4th Editions. Blackmoor proudly has the honor of being one of the longest continuously played fantasy role playing campaigns in existence, even spawning a renowned play-by-post game called The Last Fantasy Campaign, which ran from 2005 to 2015.
  • Council of Wyrms: Dragons plus politics. Set in an island chain called Io's Blood Isles, the dragon residents have a loose democratic government and must work together on issues affecting dragon welfare. They retain Character Alignment inclinations, but those are less important than matters of honor and politics. If the Council send a party with a Gold dragon as a substitute of paladin and a Black dragon as a substitute of thief on a mission, they'll fly. There are no native humans in the setting; any humans that appear are dragon slaying adventurers. invoked
  • Dark Sun: Desert Punk, Psychic Powers, and Black Magic After the End by way of Dune. A world ravaged by misuse of magic, Athas is now a vast desert wasteland. Psionics are extremely common, while wizardry is outlawed. The world is ruled by a cabal of evil god-kings, each of whom controls their own city-state with an iron fist.
  • Dragonlance: The purest High Fantasy setting of them all and hews closest to J. R. R. Tolkien's works, arguably. The most major difference would probably be Tolkien preferred to imply the influence of Providence, while in Dragonlance the intervention of deities tends to be much more explicit. More popular for its series of novels, which have come out non-stop for years, than for its sporadically-published game products.
  • Eberron: Magitek and Dungeon Punk. Magic is a part of everyday life, to the point that airships and magic-powered locomotives are a common sight. A world war has devastated the globe, and an uneasy peace reigns — for now. The world is in the grips of an age of exploration, with new treasures to be found around every corner.
    • Supposedly, the creator of the setting and others who have worked on it specifically deny that magic was supposed to replace technology in this way. You can imagine the response of some people to this...
    • The Eberron setting puts a unique spin on the concept of alignment as well. There are no Always Chaotic Evil races; any intelligent creature (including sentient undead) can be of any alignment, and even clerics don't necessarily have to be of the same alignment as the god(s) they worship... or don't, since divine magic in Eberron isn't actually tied to any specific deity. There are "angels" in the setting, and that's what a cleric gets if he casts a spell like Commune. However, if pressed, the angels will admit that even they haven't ever actually seen any deities.
      • About the closest the world comes to Always Chaotic Evil is the aberrations. Changelings aren't, but are treated as such by most other humanoid races.
  • Forgotten Realms: A world of Fantasy Counterpart Cultures, partially shanghaied from Earth, prominent features are constant conflicts between numerous and very active deities, the world being one big Gambit Pileup between dozens of factions, and scads of high-powered Non Player Characters (mostly the stars of the setting's popular novel lines) running around. The most popular and most developed setting, although some feel that due to this the setting is overused. note 
    • Arcane Age: The same, but thousands of years in the past, with a lot of Magitek on top.
    • Al-Qadim: Arabian Nights style fantasy mixed with Muslim Arab culture. Genies, magic carpets, Evil Viziers, secret societies, haggling and fame. Peculiar magic (tied to genies, astrology, magical weaving, and so on). Play occurred in the land of Zakhara.
    • Kara-Tur: Oriental adventures — martial arts and all. Peculiar magic (based on the Oriental five elements, of course).
    • Maztica: Central & South American style setting. Very peculiar magic (feather vs. fang).
  • Gamma World: While technically a different game line, uses identical mechanics and is often seen as a subset of vanilla D&D, to the point that the AD&D 1st Edition Dungeon Master's Guide even had sections for converting AD&D characters to Gamma World characters and vice-versa. Scavenger World After the End inhabited by Mutants constantly trying to win the Super Power Lottery and usually either Cursed with Awesome or Blessed with Suck.
  • Ghostwalk: The first campaign setting created for 3rd Edition, and ironically the one which almost nobody remembers. It is a setting where the underworld is a real, physical place, and the ghosts of the dead walk the earth on the way to their final journey, and the main villain race is the Yuan-Ti. It mostly focuses on the city of Manifest, which resides near the entrance to the underworld.
  • Greyhawk: Your basic Medieval European Fantasy, Greyhawk was the second created campaign setting and the base setting for 1st and 3rd editions. A high-fantasy sword-and-sorcery world ravaged by war, where the forces of evil are stronger than in other settings. The Free City of Greyhawk stands at the center of the world, its gates always open for adventure. Features strong forces of active neutrality. Notable for having two versions of the same setting:
    • The first version was the original home campaign, created after Gygax played a game of Blackmoor in 1972. While it ran from 1972 to 1979, games set there completely ceased in 1985 right after Gygax was ousted from TSR, while the setting itself was "destroyed" in 1988 in the last Gord the Rogue novel note . Due to the number of games played each week, Gygax didn't have the time to make a world map completely from scratch and simply used a blank map of North America, filling it in as the campaign went on. Despite the name, the 1975 Supplement I: Greyhawk digest wasn't a Greyhawk setting book, but a rulebook which helped eliminate the game's dependence on Chainmail, setting the groundwork for what would become Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. Not much is known about the home campaign version, apart from what is presented in the Gnome Cache novella from the first issues of Dragon magazine and the Gord the Rogue novel series. After years of talks about releasing the original Castle Greyhawk dungeon/campaign, the project was finally greenlit as Castle Zagyg in 2003, although it's immensely troubled production ended with just two of the proposed seven books and a small number of adventure modules being released.note 
    • The second version was released as the main setting for 1st Edition Advanced D&D. Surprised by the sheer popularity of the setting, Gygax spent a number of years recreating and fleshing out the setting, with a 32-page folio released in 1980 and the full boxed set released in 1983. Mainly covers the Flanaess region of the continent of Oerik, but was eventually supposed to cover the rest of Oerik and eventually the whole of Oerth. Discontinued after 3.x Edition, although it did receive a Grand Finale of sorts with the Living Greyhawk campaign that spanned the entire 3.x Edition production time (2000-2008). Semi-revived in 5th Edition, albeit as reference material.
  • Kingdoms of Kalamar: A third-party setting from Kenzer & Co. officially first released for 2nd Edition and endorsed by Wizards during the 3rd Edition era. A standard high-fantasy style setting that sells itself on its depth and verisimilitude. Though no longer an official setting, Kenzer released an updated version for 4th Edition.
  • Mystara, originally The Known World: The third internal campaign setting and the first officially released under the D&D brand as the setting for Basic D&D. Wooden Ships and Iron Men on the surface of a Hollow World full of lost worlds inside of it. Notable for the Immortals, incredibly powerful beings which stand in for gods in this setting, and which player characters could become if they got to the highest levels. The default setting of BECMI/Rules Cyclopedia-era D&D (and the setting of the Capcom Beat 'em Up games). Lots of cool airships — from a floating city carrying a fleet of WWI style planes powered by gnomish Magitek to big wooden birds of prey kept in the air by sacred relics and armed with long-range Disintegrator Rays to a flying icosahedron (i.e. d20) plated with one-side mirrors.
    • Red Steel: A sub-setting of Mystara released for 2nd Edition AD&D. The campaign book has "Power has a price!" printed right on the cover. Set in the Savage Coast region of Mystara. The land is dyed red by the Red Curse: "vermeil", a dust that grants those who ingest it extraordinary power at the expense of crippling deformities. Those affected by the Red Curse must wear jewelry crafted from "cinnabryl" to stave off it's effects.
  • Nentir Vale: Default pseudo-setting for 4th edition. The great empires of mortals were destroyed in a magic war, leaving behind scattered remnants of civilization in small pockets (described as "points of light") surrounded by dangerous monsters and abandoned and forgotten magic and technology.
  • Pelinore: A little-known setting created by TSR's UK branch for AD&D 1st Edition and published in Imagine magazine, which ran from 1983-1985. Set in what is presumably a Flat World, at the supposed center lies the rumored Worldheart, the nexus of harmony and peace, with the lands extending beyond it becoming more chaotic until it reaches The Rim, the edge of the world where chaos reigns. However, most gameplay was set in a section of the Country of Cerwyn known as the City League, and it was left to the DM to expand the world outside of Cerwyn as they saw fit.
  • Planescape: Walking The Multiverse in a setting where belief and philosophy can reshape the very cosmos. All built around a decadent, gothic city in the center of everything that's filled with portals that connect to everywhere. Everything else exists within its framework. All Myths Are True, as far as possible, even if many are stretched.
  • Ravenloft: Gothic fantasy and Hammer Horror in a maybe-sentient demiplane called the "Domains of Dread" that seems to exist solely to inflict The Punishment on its inhabitants. Initially a one-off module (the classic "weekend in hell"), it was popular enough to become its own campaign setting. Fifth Edition brought it full circle by releasing an updated and expanded version of the original Ravenloft module, titled The Curse of Strahd.
    • Masque of the Red Death: The same setting concept, but transplanted to a low-magic version of Victorian-era Earth ("Gothic Earth").
  • Rokugan: Jidai Geki style fantasy. Licensed from the makers of the Legend of the Five Rings card game.
  • Spelljammer: Dungeons and Dragons IN SPACE! Prominently featured the extended solar systems of Dragonlance, Greyhawk, and Forgotten Realms. All Cosmologies Are True... at least, somewhere. Most relatively normal  are accessible this way. Spelljammer and Planescape are stitched together well enough, but don't cross much, being alternate ways to handle transit between worlds: Spaceflight and Jules Verne-ish exploration, or magical portals with linking worlds.
  • Wilderlands of High Fantasy: The first officially licensed and published third-party campaign setting for "Original" D&D, created by Judges Guild after the success of their City State of the Invincible Overlord city setting and released in a collection of 4 32-page booklets. In 2002, Judges Guild ended up working together with Necromancer Games to release a boxed version for 3.5 Edition. The earliest sandbox-style campaign setting, and it shows: 18 maps that altogether cover an area about 780 miles wide by 1080 miles long, roughly the size of the Mediterranean. Each individual map contained a number of pre-established points-of-interest, with the accompanying books containing entry upon entry for every bastion of civilization, set of ruins, and monster lair within the region. Touted as "First Edition feel", the Wilderlands sticks to the old-school Sword & Sorcery origins of D&D, a time when the lines between sci-fi and fantasy were very murky and Schizo Tech was everywhere. Meaning you could have people who's greatest technological achievement is the wheel potentially meet people who's greatest technological achievement is calculus, then have them potentially happen upon a crashed alien spaceship from an age long before recorded history.
  • Plus all the Homebrew settings that DMs create!

    Editions 
  • "Original" Dungeons & Dragons (OD&D) - 1974-1976: Also known as "The Original Game". Co-written by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson and published by TSR in 1974 as a boxed set consisting of three digest-sized books (the "little brown books" a.k.a. lbb): Men & Magic, Monsters & Treasure, The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures. There were three original classes (Fighting-Man, Cleric and Magic User) and only three alignments (Law, Neutrality, Chaos). Humans could choose between all three classes and advance in their chosen class without limit, while non-human races were severely restricted. note  Hit Points, damage, and initiative were all rolled using a d6. Spell levels were limited to 6th level spells for Magic Users and 5th level spells for Clerics. Received numerous supplements, both officially released and from magazine articles.
    • Supplement I: Greyhawk - 1975: Introduced the Thief class, the Paladin as a Fighing-Man subclass, Half-Elves as a playable race, and more monsters. Amended the level and class restrictions for Dwarves, Elves, and Halflings to account for the Thief class. note  Magic Users had access to 7th-9th level spells, but only if their Intelligence score was high enough, while Clerics had access to 6th and 7th level spells. Contained new and additional rules in order to distance itself from Chainmail.
    • Supplement II: Blackmoor - 1975: Introduced the Monk as a Cleric subclass, the Assassin as a Thief subclass, a system for diseases, a "hit location" system, rules for underwater adventures, and even more monsters. Also contains the very first published adventure module: The Temple of the Frog for Blackmoor.
    • Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry - 1976: Introduced the Druid as a Cleric subclass, the option for human psionics (restricted to Fighting-Men, Magic Users, Clerics, and Thieves). Marks the first appearances of the Demon Princes Orcus and Demogorgon, while introducing the lich-turned-deity Vecna.
    • Supplement IV: Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes - 1976: The last official supplement. Introduced deities, demi-gods, and legendary heroes from mythology and religions both real (Egyptian, Celtic, Norse) and fictional (Hyborean and Melnibonéan) for two purposes: 1) as a means of integrating pre-established mythologies into campaigns, and 2) a last ditch effort for reaching the "Monty Hall" style DMs who ran giveaway campaigns and to show the absurdity of 40+ level characters by giving them opponents that could wipe the floor with them. Unfortunately started the concept of "if you stat it, they will kill it".
    • Swords & Spells - 1976: An unnumbered fifth supplement written by Gygax. Essentially the "grandson" of Chainmail, this sourcebook introduced rules for upscaling the combat in order to portray large scale battles. Was not included in the 40th Anniversary White Box.
  • Basic Dungeons & Dragons - 1977-1991: Originally introduced in 1977, and edited by brain surgeon John Eric Holmes.note  Originally this was a starter set for new players to more easily learn the game (which was considered rather difficult to learn from the original set). The first release only covered levels 1-3, and players were intended to move on to Advanced Dungeons & Dragons after this. The revision published in 1981, edited by Tom Moldvay, simplified the game further, making it a distinct game system and product line. The most notable simplification is that Dwarf, Elf and Halfling are counted as classes, not races that could choose a class separately the way humans did; so only humans could play anything but a standard version of their species – i.e. classes are archetype-based. An Expert Set expansion edited by David "Zeb" Cook accompanying the 1981 version (which combined are known as the "B/X" version) let players keep with these simpler rules. The next revision was the BECMI series of boxed sets by Frank Metzner (Basic, Expert, Companion, Master and Immortal, respectively), begun in 1983, which extended the game up to epic levels while turning the first set into a tutorial. The rules from the first four of the BECMI series were later compiled in 1991 into the Rules Cyclopedia written by Aaron Allston, which is still considered a classic; this was accompanied by the last version of the Basic Set, now covering levels 1-5.
  • Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (1st edition) - 1977-1979: The more complete rules, including more character classes, and the enshrinement of the classic Dungeons & Dragons alignment system. More or less completely compatible with the simpler Dungeons & Dragons, and many gamers mixed and matched at will. As well, Character Class System was unified but some classes are human-only, others forbidden to certain races.note 
    • Unearthed Arcana - 1985: A codification of many of the new rules and options introduced in various magazines up to that point. Added 3 classes: Cavalier, Barbarian, and Thief-Acrobat — which were also the same 3 classes that appeared in the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon show that didn't already exist in the Player's Handbook. While thief-acrobat was just a specialization of thief, and barbarian was another fighter subclass, cavalier was a whole new top-level class category in its own right; paladins were now subclasses of cavaliers instead of subclasses of fighters, which meant that some previously legitimate paladin characters no longer had high enough stats to be paladins any more. Also added a boatload of new spells and magic items. Clarified some rules, but also had several misprints and introduced as many new problemsnote  as it solved.
    • Oriental Adventures - 1985: A supplement designed to play Dungeons and Dragons campaigns set in the Far East rather than Medieval European Fantasy. While it came with a brief setting description (which eventually became Kara-Tur, mentioned above) the rules were very much designed to create a generic oriental setting. The ninja class allowed you to take levels in it without having to "switch away" from your main class, a notion that 3rd Edition would later codify as a Prestige Class.
  • Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (2nd edition) - 1989: The first full-scale revamp. Renamed all demons, devils and the like to avoid the Satanic Panic idiocy that hit the game in the 80s, tweaked the combat system, threw out material they thought parents might object to, like half-orcs and assassins (who returned with Satyrs and Bandits in Complete Humanoids and Complete Thief respectively), and other smallish changes.
    • Player's Options and Dungeon Master Option - 1995-1996: Higly detailed set of rules intended to expand and customize AD&D 2nd edition (which was re-released with new covers and artwork at the time). Included new interesting rules, mainly customization via character points system allowing to easily build variants of basic classesnote  and guidelines on creating new kits, combat options averting Padded Sumo Gameplay and even Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards trend,note  re-integration with Chainmail battle rules and new material.note  However, fatal flaws in its central part Skills & Powers due to noticeable lack of proper coordination and playtestingnote  made it barely usable "as is", which demoted PO from the new generation to one more cherry-picked set of sourcebooks.
  • Dungeons & Dragons (3rd edition) - 2000: 3rd edition made major simplifications to the rules by using the d20 System (which was originally created specifically for D&D 3.0) based on roll-over used in Gamma World long ago. The simplification was comprehensive enough to mean that nearly all character actions will fall into one of three areas - combat, skills and magic. This means that 3rd edition is also more flexible than 2nd; skills and abilities are more universal, with every class being able to attempt actions like "bluff" or "hide", where as only specific classes had access to them before. This time the Character Class System dominates the weaker race system and for powerful and unusual creatures what was racial HD is treated as "class". The standard level limit was set at 20 (higher levels were covered in the Epic Level Handbook), again without racial restrictions of any kind, although each race had a "favored class" that factored into multiclassing. The previous, crufty system of "weapon proficiency slots" was revamped into a somewhat-less-crufty system of Feats. Overall, the game became a lot simpler to use without losing very much of its depth. In addition, much of the material thrown out in 2nd edition - half-orcs, monks, battles with demons, and so on, were added back in (some in the core rulebooks, others in supplements). The most obvious flaws: indecisive unification note , skill rank inflation, feats handled separately without any common meaning to themnote  and Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards on steroids.
    • Dungeons & Dragons (3.5 edition) - 2003: Rebalancing and fixing up of 3rd edition. Lots of little fixes. However, the gradual shift from attempts to model the game world to an abstract "chess rules balance" approach becomes rather obvious. Individual settings are routinely treated much more invasively at this point, starting with "how to shoehorn this into X" advice on everything.
  • Dungeons & Dragons (4th edition) - 2008: A major overhaul that changed a lot of the mechanics, making it easier for new players to get used to the basic D&D concepts. Its setting and rules are a lot less varied than 3.5 - there's no more crafting system, most magic and attacks are made into "powers" that vary by each class, and magic items have been slimmed down - and there's more pluses in the game rather than minuses (i.e. most races get two + 2 to abilities, rather than the usual 3.5 one of +2 to one, -2 to one). To this end, the game is more fitting (and clearly designed) for a heroic campaign that is combat-heavy and very fantasy-oriented, with very few guidelines on the role-playing portion. Combat itself has been highly revised so that each class is equally capable, but in different roles: Wizards have area-attack spells and debuffs, fighters draw attention and punish enemies who don't attack them, rangers do heavy damage with an assortment of multi-attack powers, etc., and all of these are presented in a standardized format to keep classes more or less balanced. The main problems that scared fans away included concerns that it plays too much like a MMORPG, and/or a tabletop miniatures war game. Indeed, the assumption that players use miniatures on a map is even expressed throughout the core rules, such as movement being described in squares, not feet. Fans were also unhappy with changes to published settings from the time period as well.
    • Dungeons & Dragons Essentials (4th) - 2010: A new line of products launched in 2010, compatible with 4th edition rules. Essentials had the stated intent of offering new players a means of introduction to the game. It is, for the most part, a simplified 4E. There are some differences (for example, fighters and thieves have scaling class features that modify their basic attacks, instead of special attack powers) but nevertheless uses all the same core mechanics from 4E. It's a set of ten products (the new Red Box, dice, three tile sets, and a few extra books). The reintroduction of certain game elements removed from the making of 4th edition, and the confirmation that these changes will become standard from the end of 2010 on, has already led many players to calling it "4.5" edition. Naturally, the already-fragmented base was broken further over this.
  • Dungeons & Dragons (5th Edition) - 2014: Developed under the title D&D Next and officially launched in 2014, 5th edition was an attempt by Wizards to recapture and unite some of the fractured fanbase. The basic mechanics resemble a mixture of 2nd and 3rd editions with some influences by 4th edition. The overall power levels have been reduced: the max level cap is 20 period, magic items are much more rare and do not scale in levels, and the bonuses/penalties to an action seldom break double digits. Stacking modifiers have been replaced with a simple advantage/disadvantage system where the character with the advantage/disadvantage rolls two dice for the action and picks the higher/lower die. Magic spells with durations are now 'concentration' type, meaning a magic user can ever only have one such spell active at any time. Most major, world-altering magics are rituals that take minutes if not hours and days to cast. Each class is now firmly wedded to a single character concept, with class archetypes and character backgrounds (representing social class and upbringing) chosen at creation being used to hybridize characters. Most post-creation exclusives are gone, but multiclassing has been returned to 3rd edition standards. Roleplaying and flavor have been increased in importance, with the old 2nd edition alignment system restored and canonical D&D characters from related media being used as examples of their respective classes, alignments and backgrounds. Pinning down the primary world for Fifth Edition is a bit dodgy: while the core books are written in a multiverse view and are near-completely adaptable to any setting, all of the official Adventurer's League material for organized play is primarily set in the Forgotten Realms.note  Fan response has been mostly positive, with some praising the return to a more roleplaying-based system based on in-universe-justified abilities, while others bemoan a lack of character options on release and argue that the game has returned to Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards.
    • In an effort to get the game in as many hands as possible, Wizards has released "Basic Rules" PDFs containing a fully functional subset of the full rules for free via their website. The idea is that one can use them to play basic games using the four archetypical races (Dwarf, Elf, Halfling, and Human) and classes (Cleric, Fighter, Rogue and Wizard), while the full array of character options, monsters, and variant mechanics are available in the core rule books. It has been praised as a good marketing move.
    • Unearthed Arcana made a return in February 2015, now as a monthly R&D Workshop article instead of it's own supplement book. Just like the "Basic Rules", the Unearthed Arcana articles are available for free on the Wizards website. The articles are explicitly stated to be "written in pencil, not ink", meaning that the contents are still works in progress until they're officially released in sourcebooks.
    • In an effort to keep things "fresh", WotC is releasing two storyline-based adventure modules each year, commissioning third party publishers such as Kobold Press, Sasquatch Game Studio, and Green Ronin to help out.
    • As a show of good faith to the digital distribution market and the Open-Gaming License, WotC started their own storefront, the Dungeon Masters Guild, which allows the fans to self-publish their own material and WotC to publish both PDFs of all the past TSR/WotC releases from the "Original" Edition through 4th Edition and new Adventurers League content.

Pathfinder is a continuation of 3.5 mechanics updated and rebalanced a little more (it basically does to 3.5 what 3.5 did to 3.0 and is sometimes dubbed 3.75) with its own campaign setting, produced by Paizo - the former publishers of Dragon and Dungeon magazines before those properties were reassumed by Wizards of the Coast. Pathfinder started out as just a campaign setting in the late days of 3.5, but was published as a separate game to keep the system going after the publication of D&D 4th edition. It surpassed 4th edition in sales, and retains a strong following, though the launch of D&D 5th edition has swung fans back to the D&D brand. See the article for more details.

13th Age is a d20-based fantasy game written by Jonathan Tweet (one of the lead designers on 3rd edition) and Rob Heinsoo (lead designer for 4th edition). It's essentially an alternate take on a D&D featuring story game inspired house rules from those two designers and high production values.

In addition to all this, some die-hard gamers have elected to go back to the roots of D&D, launching an "Old School Renaissance" that consists of playing and writing new adventures for the older editions and using the OGL to provide "retro-clone" games that do their best to recreate the feel of the out-of-print older editions for the gaming audience of today.

  • Basic Fantasy: A retro-clone of the B/X Basic D&D, this one takes the tack of having the player choose races and classes like in AD&D while keeping things as simple as in OD&D. It also uses ascending AC.
  • Castles & Crusades: Published by Troll Lord Games. Not strictly a retro-clone as it doesn't mimic a specific prior version, but goes for an old-school feel, as outright emulation wasn't considered legally possible at the time (it predates the other retro-clones). The general idea was to keep the updated mechanics from 3rd edition that players liked, while bringing back the more rules-light mechanics 1st edition classes (by leaving out the skill points and stacking bonuses of feats), and keeping paperwork to minimum – skill checks and saving throws are simple d20 + Ability modifier checks, with only a bonus if it's a prime attribute. Also, Gary Gygax approved it, which in itself is a good resume for many old-time players. StarSiege is its sci-fi counterpart on the same SIEGE engine. Quickstart version is downloadable from Troll Lord Games site.
  • Dark Dungeons: Named after the infamous Jack Chick tract, this is a very faithful retroclone of the BECMI / Rules Cyclopedia version of basic D&D, that covers all five boxed sets (including the Immortals rules, although from RC's Wrath of the Immortals supplement rather than the BECMI box) in one book, merging in the optional rules from the later sets directly into the core rules and including a Spelljammer inspired cosmology.
  • Labyrinth Lord: Another retroclone based on old-school D&D, this one uses the B/X version of Basic D&D as its base. There are also two supplements which recreate Original D&D (Original Edition Characters) and AD&D (Advanced Edition Companion). Goblinoid Games, the publisher, uses a modified version of the rules of this game for their post-apocalypse game called Mutant Future, a close-as-you-can-get-it homage to Gamma World.
  • OSRIC: One of the first "retro-clone" games, this game is a faithful recreation of the first edition of AD&D with a few (extremely minor) differences. It still got all the characteristic traits, from time segments to alignment languages, though the names of Greyhawk NPCs are stripped from spells. Freely downloadable from the developers' site.
  • Swords and Wizardry: Created by Mythmere Games. One of the more well-known retroclones, this game goes all the way back to the original D&D, with the Cleric, the Fighter and the Magic-User, taking inspiration from sword and sorcery. Notable for having only one saving throw as opposed to the five used in regular old-school D&D, although it includes the option to use the original five. You get to choose whether you want to play with original AC or ascending AC. There are four versions of this game, all of which are free to download:
    • The WhiteBox Rules, which closely emulates the rules of the core box of OD&D.
    • The Core Rules, which also incorporate the Greyhawk supplement (most notably adding the Thief class).
    • The Complete Rulebook, which incorporates all five supplements, resulting in something of a middle-road between BD&D and AD&D that is quite easily compatible with much of the contents for both.
    • Swords & Wizardry: Light, an upcoming version created by Erik "Tenkar" Stiene of Tenkar's Tavern, officially endorsed by Mythmere Games and to be published by Frog God Games. Essentially what Basic D&D was to AD&D: an easier to play version to help people learn the system. The idea is to strip the original 122 page WhiteBox Rules book down to a series of print-and-play 4 page pamphlets. Like BD&D, it's supposed to run from 1st level to 3rd level, with players converting to one of the three official versions at 4th level, although one of Tenkar's long-term ideas is to create an "Extra" Light rule set for advancing to 7th level.
  • Crypts & Things: Created by D101 Games. A variant based on Swords & Wizardry that goes deeper into Sword & Sorcery than any other system. Humans are the only playable race, while elves, dwarves, and halflings only appear as NPCs, if at all. There are only four classes: barbarian, fighter, thief, and magician. Clerics don't exist in the system, meaning that turning undead isn't a thing. Barbarians function as a mix of battle-raging berserkers and rangers. Fighters get optional fighting styles to give them flavor. Thieves are more martial-based, similar to the Gray Mouser. Magicians function as a combination of cleric and magic-user. Magic is limited to 6th level spells, and is divided into White Magic, Gray Magic, and Black Magic. White Magic consists of healing, detection, and protective spells and can be cast without penalty. Gray Magic consists of illusions and mind-altering charms, costing the caster some HP. Black Magic consists of offensive spells, often requiring a sacrifice of some sort and a loss of sanity. Hit Points gauge the PC's mental faculties (such as shock, pain, loss of the will to fight) rather than their physical health; once their HP is gone, they take Constitution damage until death. As such, healing magic and potions only heal Constitution, not HP. Magic items carry a hefty penalty more often than not and are very rare. Characters get a Life Path, which dictates their background and grants them specific bonuses.

Tropes in this System:

    Items 
  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: Vorpal weapons and the swords of sharpness.
  • All Beer Is Ale: Nearly every mention of beer lists it as "ale". Pretty much the only drinks available in most games are ale and wine.
  • All Swords Are the Same: Played to different extents in different editions. The original rules started with sets of weapons given to the classes and ended with much the same. In the pre-Advanced-D&D blue book edition, all weapons — big or small, slow or fast — did 1d6 damage. 1st and 2nd edition AD&D generally avert the trope, with large numbers of different weapons all of which require proficiency. 3rd edition restores it to some extent, only requiring proficiency for exotic weapons and drawing less of a distinction between different sorts of swords.
  • Bag of Holding: The Trope Namer.
  • BFS: Shows up here and there, particularly in 3rd edition, where it was possible for a character to wield swords created for creatures much bigger (a human wielding a sword designed to be used two-handed by giants, for example). 3rd and 4th edition has the "Fullblade", which is explicitly an even bigger greatsword, ala Berserk and Final Fantasy VII.
  • Bigger on the Inside: The Bag of Holding and Portable Hole, Baba Yaga's hut and the Tent of Luxury.
  • Blade on a Stick: The original writers had a thing for polearms. A stock Overly Long Gag is simply listing them.
  • Blow Gun: The 1984 Dungeons & Dragons Companion Set introduced the blowgun as a 6"-4' tube. Darts don't do damage, but are instead poisonous. AD&D supplement Unearthed Arcana introduces the blowgun, where needle only does one Hit Point of damage, and is therefore only effective if poisoned.
  • Breakable Weapons: Four Shield Weapons were introduced in Dungeons & Dragons Master Set. The three larger shields have multiple blades that break during combat.
  • Cold Flames:
    • Module I4 Oasis of the White Palm. In the Temple of Set the PCs can find a brazier filled with violet flames. The flames don't give off heat and don't burn wood. However, if they touch living flesh, they burn it, causing serious damage.
    • The Continual Flame spell creates a permanent fire that doesn't burn or use oxygen and is used to make Everlasting Torches.
  • Dangerous Phlebotinum Interaction: Putting a portable hole into a Bag of Holding causes very bad things to happen, although precisely what effect results depends on which is put into which. Putting the bag into the hole sucks both into the Astral Plane and renders both items Lost Forever. Putting the hole into the bag opens a dimensional breach into the Astral Plane, destroying both hole and bag and sucking anything in a ten foot radius into space.
  • Destroyable Items: In AD&D, items get applicable saving throw when their carrier's saving throw fails. In the third edition, getting a critical hit on a creature with a spell also critically hits an item the creature was carrying. This can lead to valuable items being destroyed without the PCs knowing they were there. And of course, if you just wanna take a smack at someone's sword, shield, or armour, you can.
  • Draw Sword, Draw Blood: The 3E Dungeon Master's Guide offers this as a potential quality of intelligent weapons.
  • Elemental Crafting
  • Elemental Weapon:
    • Tales of the Lance. A Frostreaver is a heavy battle axe made of ice gathered from a secret location on Icewall Glacier. One full day of above freezing temperature or 1-6 hours at warm temperatures (50 degrees Fahrenheit) causes the Frostreaver to melt.
    • Module Rary the Traitor. Lord Robilar wields the Blade of Black Ice, which was created by the demigod Iuz himself out of ice.
    • Legends & Lore.
      • The avatar of the Japanese deity Ho Masubi has a sword made of fire. It does 10 extra Hit Points of fire damage per hit and if the target is wearing armor, the armor must save vs. magical fire or be destroyed.
      • The avatar of the Hindu deity Brihaspati carries a bow that fires arrows of brilliant light that can render the target blind for 1-10 days.
      • The avatar of the Hindu deity Indra has a bow that fires lightning bolts that do 2dl0 points of damage and have a range of 1,000 yards.
    • Deities & Demigods Cyclopedia. The Native American deity Hastsezini has a lance made of fire and a bow that can shoot arrows made of fire.
    • Dragon magazine #127. The bow Ice Fang can create and fire arrows of ice out of water vapor in the air. The arrows do double damage against creatures that use or dwell in fire. In temperatures of 120 degrees Fahrenheit or higher the arrows have half normal range.
    • Gods, Demigods, & Heroes. The Norse Mythology deity Valis had a shortbow that could fire an arrow of lightning.
  • Fantastic Fragility: Destroying artifacts, which require extensive research. In Dungeons & Dragons Master Set, you can try bashing it directly, but it is highly resistant to attacks (taking only minimum damage), and it gets recalled by the immortal rather than being destroyed.
  • Fantastic Nuke: Several, with the Sphere of Annihilation and Staff of the Magi being amongst the most blatant.
  • Flaming Sword: One of the most common weapon enchantments, though Freezing Swords, Electric Swords, Holy Swords and others are also common.
  • Flying Weapon: Multiple examples, starting with the sword of dancing in 1st Edition.
  • Gender Bender: The Girdle of Femininity/Masculinity is a cursed item which permanently switches the gender of the wearer the moment it's put on. The only way to change back is to use a (very powerful) wish spell, or find another Girdle of Femininity/Masculinity. Worse, 10% of these remove all sex from the wearer.
  • Glass-Shattering Sound: The "shatter" spell, from AD&D 1st Edition on.
    • The Warlock utility power Ruinous Phrase is flavored as uttering some words, followed by the shattering destruction of a non-magic item with 20 hit points or fewer (25+level, if the Warlock is Infernal pact).
  • Glowing Gem: Certain magic items, gems with Continual Light cast on them, and the Star Stones in I5 Lost Tomb of Martek.
  • Gorgeous Garment Generation: In 1st Edition the Rod of Splendor could garb the wielder in magical noble's clothing - the finest fabrics, plus adornments of furs and jewels, worth 7,000-10,000 gold pieces.
    • Third Edition has an item that does the same thing, but with a variety of other effects.
  • Hand-Hiding Sleeves: In The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun module, the PCs can find robes with very long sleeves. The robes and their oversized sleeves are useful later in an extremely cold underground area the party must explore, because if their hands are exposed, they'll get frostbite.
  • Hand of Glory: The Hand of Glory from the 3.5 edition can be worn around the neck (presumably not alight). It provides an extra place to wear a magic ring along with being able to cast a few spells.
  • Hologram: The Judges Guild supplement Wilderlands of the Magic Realm had an artifact that projected a laser hologram of an elven princess.
    • The wizard spell Project Image.
  • Homing Projectile: Ranged weapons with the "seeking" enchantment.
  • Instant Armor: Tessellated armor from earlier editions.
  • Interdimensional Travel Device: Many, many examples, including the Amulet of the Planes and the Cubic Gate.
  • Item Amplifier:
    • The 2nd Edition chronomancer spell Item Supercharger could increase the number of times a magic item could be used per day and the duration of the item's effect(s).
    • In the Dragon magazine #56 article "Singing a New Tune", bards were given the class ability to increase the effects and duration of several magical musical instruments.
  • Kukris Are Kool: And have a hideously wide critical hit range.
  • Legendary Weapon: The game has had many of these, from the Axe of the Dwarvish Lords and Sword of Kas in the 1st Edition Dungeons Master's Guide to the swords of the Forgotten Realms as described by Ed Greenwood (Adjatha, Albruin, Demonbane, etc.).
  • Lucky Rabbit's Foot: The supplement Book of Marvelous Magic has a magical Rabbit's Foot gave a +1 bonus to all saving throws. However, all herbivores seeing it took an instant dislike to the wearer (−2 reaction penalty).
  • Made of Indestructium: Artifacts and relics.
    • In first edition, they qualified due to them only being able to be destroyed in a very specific manner. Even if you did damage them with conventional weapons, they were recalled to the immortal that created them. (Not sure what happens if the immortal no longer exists...)
    • In the second, it's either disenchantment by an uber-mage with great risk, or an unique method of destruction. Melted down in one specific volcano, crushed under the heel of one specific god, submerged in the tears of a hundred elven princesses and left to dissolve for the next 1001 years — that sort of thing.
    • Ditto with 3rd Edition Major Artifacts. At this point they say if you destroy one, you also attract the attention of whatever created it. They are probably not happy you destroyed their Magnum Opus. And are many levels higher than you if not a god. If you're lucky, they may be dead, but something powerful enough to create a major artifact tends to not just die...
  • Magic Cauldron: There are a number of magical cauldrons, including the Armor Bath (armors body parts immersed in the water), Ambrosia (produces a delicious wine), Archdruid (has powers of many other magical cauldrons), Blindness (any food placed in it causes blindness when eaten), of Creatures (allows owner to voluntarily shapeshift), of Doom (animates a corpse into a zombie), and Foretelling (allows the user to cast an extra Augury spell per day).
  • Magic Compass:
    • 2nd Edition Tome of Magic: The Elemental Compass glows yellow when its owner is headed in the direction of a planar portal or planar boundary the owner is seeking.
    • The Arrow of Direction could be thrown in the air and commanded to point toward the nearest example of one of eight things: stairway (up/down), sloping passage (up/down), dungeon exit/entrance, cave, cavern. When it fell to the ground it would be pointing the correct way.
    • Al-Qadim setting spells
      • The Wind Compass spell allows the caster to know when he's facing in a particular compass direction (south, north by northwest, etc.).
      • The True Bearing spell allows the caster to know the direction in which a specific landmark or geographical site (city, town, significant land feature etc.) lies. It only works if the caster has been there before and the location is on the same plane of existence.
  • Magic Map:
    • Dragon magazine #125 had the following magical maps.
      • Map of Illusion: Detects and shows any illusions within range.
      • Map of Magic: Magical auras are highlighted in pulsating red.
      • Map of Secret Doors: Secret doors appear as yellow dots on the map.
      • Map of Traps: Detects and shows any traps within line of sight.
    • Kingdom of Nithia: The artifact map Master Plan shows the current position of all burrowers in the Hollow World who have been paralyzed by the Spell of Preservation.
  • The Magic Touch: Many items, such as "The Helm of Brilliance" work this way.
  • Magical Accessory: Many hundreds, if not thousands, spread out across the books. Popular ones are girdles and bracers of giant strength.
  • Miracle Food: Magic users in all editions of D&D have spells that can conjure food and water. Some magic items can do this as well, and most deities have it as one of their basic powers.
  • Mirror Morality Machine: The Mirror of Opposition, which creates an opposite alignment clone of you to do battle with. Helm of Opposite Alignment does it to the wearer.
  • Mithril: Spelled "mithral" to avoid potential lawsuits from the Tolkien estate. In 1st Edition, all +4 weapons and armor were supposedly made out of mithral-alloyed steel.
  • Moody Mount: The Obsidian Steed animates into one of these. If the rider is good-aligned, they must roll to control the beast or it goes to the Lower Planes and dumps them there.
  • Mundangerous: Marbles are mundane items that don't even cost a single gold piece, rolling on from The Complete Thief's Handbook. They are quite effective against anything with legs not noted for amazing agility. Instead of a saving throw (automatically going up as you level up), victims fall down, becoming vulnerable and losing time to get up, unless they made a Dexterity check (AD&D 2nd Edition) or a DC 15 balance check (D&D 3rd Edition; with balance being a skill most classes can't practically invest in) — and even if they make it they are "flatfooted" (as they are trying to balance) and can be hit by sneak attacks.
    • On a similar vein is soap. At a mere 5sp/lb, is one of the most useful mundane items. It's flammable (there's about a million ways to use fire), slippery (and so can be used much like marbles in any place that's damp), and you can clean with it. Always buy at least 10 pounds.
  • Naginatas Are Feminine: In Oriental Adventures (1985), the description of the naginata said it "is often the preferred weapon of women."
  • Orbiting Particle Shield: Animated Shields fit.
  • Pelts of the Barbarian: The game often includes this as armor options for characters, whether or not they chose the barbarian character class (which in this game is part vocation and part culture).
  • Pimped-Out Cape: Several items, including the "cloak of lordliness".
  • Plunger Detonator: Could be found in the Masque of the Red Death campaign setting.
  • Precision-Guided Boomerang: A number of magical and mundane items. Specifically, melee weapons with the throwing and returning properties.
  • Rapid Hair Growth: First noted appearance is in module EX1 Dungeonland. A fountain's water turns into randomly determined potions. One of them is Hairiness: if drunk, the drinker's hair immediately grows longer and thicker.
    • Also appears in the 1st Edition supplement Unearthed Arcana. The Hairy cantrip caused a creature's hair to immediately grow 2-12 inches.
  • Requisite Royal Regalia: Loads of magic items can be imbued on cool crowns, ermine capes, scepters, and rings.
  • Ring of Power: Too many to list.
  • Rock of Limitless Water: There is a magical decanter that one can purchase or craft. Though not the cheapest or most common of items, wizards can craft them without too much difficulty.
  • Sacred Bow and Arrows: Deities & Demigods Cyclopedia has game stats for various deities’ bow weapons.
    • The Native American deity Heng has a bow that shoots lightning bolts that do 6-60 Hit Points of damage and have a range of 30 miles.
    • Chinese Mythos
      • The deity Chih-Chiang Fyu-Ya has a magical bow that can hit any target within sight and causes any weapon thrown at him to return and hit its user. If anyone else attempts to use his bow the arrows from it will hit the user.
      • The deity Tou Mu has a magic bow that never misses a target within 100 yards.
    • Greek Mythology
      • The god Apollo has a bow with a range up to his line of sight.
      • The goddess Artemis’ bow has a range of 1,000 yards.
      • The bow of the demigod Heracles can only be wielded by him. It can hit targets up to a mile away and cannot miss at a range of 1/2 mile or less.
    • Hindu Mythology
      • The god Indra has a bow made of rainbows that can fire 2 lightning bolts per minute up to 1,000 yards away that each do 3-30 Hit Points of damage.
      • The deity Rudra has a magical black bow that can fire arrows that inflict a rotting disease in any creature hit.
      • Vishnu’s avatar Rama is identified by the bow he wields.
    • Elven deities
      • Correlon Larethian’s bow fires arrows that never miss.
      • Arrows fired from Rillifane Rallathil’s bow always kill their target.
    • Norse Mythology deities
      • Odin has a plus 3 bow that can fire 10 arrows per minute.
      • Uller’s bow is plus 5. Arrows from it can hit any target he can see with no penalties for range and he automatically hits at a range of 200 yards or less.
    • Greyhawk campaign setting. The goddess Ehlonna has a bow that never misses its target even when fired at maximum range. Half of her arrows have a plus 3 bonus and the rest are Arrows of Slaying for various Evil woodland creatures.
  • Self-Guarding Phlebotinum:
    • Adventure C2 The Ghost Tower of Inverness. The Soul Gem is surrounded by an invisible force sphere which must be broken by the PCs if they want to retrieve it.
  • Scarab Power: Many artifacts, creatures or magic involve or are named after Scarabs. A few examples are the Scarab of Protection (a medallion that absorbs energy-draining attacks), the Golembane Scarab (a pin that allows the detection of Golems, and ignoring of their damage resistance) and the Scarab of Death (a cursed pin that will kill anyone holding it for more than one round).
    • Particularly notorious are the Hoard Scarabs. A hoard scarab is an eyeless, beetlelike creature that hides in piles of treasure. Thanks to its size and its silver or golden shell, it looks much like a coin when dormant (though close observation reveals its nature). A swarm resembles a pile of gold and silver pieces. If it bites a character, that character makes a reflex save. If the reflex save under 11 (14 if a swarm) it burrows into the character. When it's burrowed in a character that character takes 1d2 (2d4 for a swarm) points of Constitution damage per round. It stays inside until remove disease or heal is cast upon the afflicted character.
  • Set Bonus: Various magic items and artifacts:
    • The Hammer of Thunderbolts. This is nominally a +3 weapon. But if the wielder is also wearing Gauntlets of Ogre Power and a Girdle of Giant Strength, it becomes +5, automatically kills any giant it hits, and (in early editions) was the only case in which the to-hit and damage bonuses from the Gauntlets and Girdle would stack together.
  • Silver Has Mystic Powers: Silver makes a good ingredient for so many magical items. There are also many creatures who take substantially reduced damage from any weapon that isn't silver.
  • Skeleton Key: Several exist in the game, including the Key of Opening, the Silver Key of Portals and Skeleton Keys (I and II).
  • Snake Charmer: The Complete Adventurer book has a magical item called "Flute of the Snake", which can be used both to control and summon snakes.
  • Socketed Equipment: "Augment Crystals" and similar magical items are arguably somewhere between Socketed Equipment and Power Crystals.
  • Soul-Cutting Blade: The Nine Lives Stealer. The Silver Sword.
  • Spell Blade: Many spells exist solely to power up other items.
    • The shillelag spell causes a club to become (temporarily) magical. Flame arrow can set arrows on fire. Flame blade doesn't really count, though, because it conjures up the weapon ex nihilo.
    • Also, the actual spell storing magic weapon property.
    • In 4E Forgotten Realms, the Swordmage class qualifies. A High-AC class proficient with both swords and magic, and who uses magic to power up his own attacks.
  • Spell Book: The hallmark of the Magic-User/Mage/Wizard.
    • Additionally, the wu jen (from 1E, 2E, and 3E). The archivist (from 3E) uses divine magic (the kind clerics and druids use) this way.
  • Sphere of Power: The Prismatic Sphere.
  • Stepping-Stone Sword: Climbing daggers, as introduced by The Complete Thief's Handbook.
  • Stock Ninja Weaponry: The 1985 Oriental Adventures stats out a bunch of ninja weapons.
  • Stuck Items: Cursed magical items in general are examples of these, as they will return to you and force you to use them even if they have been physically destroyed. It takes specific spells or combinations of spells to get rid of them.
  • Supernatural Repellent:
    • Mirrors, garlic and holy symbols (and other holy relics) repel vampires.
    • Clerics can turn the undead, which causes them to retreat from the cleric.
    • The 1st Edition Advanced D&D supplement Deities and Demigods mentions that objects covered in dung are reputedly unable to be touched by the undead.
    • 1st Edition Advanced D&D supplement Oriental Adventures. Magic items called "Noisome Spirit Chasers" are firecrackers that, when detonated, cause nearby spirits to leave the area.
  • Sword Cane: Several examples
  • Truth Serums: Multiple examples
  • Unholy Nuke: The Talisman of Ultimate Evil. In the hands of an Evil High Priest, it could be used to open a flaming crack at the feet of a Good priest and send him or her to the center of the planet.
  • Unique Items: In early editions, most magic items were generic and you could find any number of them.
    • Artifacts and relics were unique: only one of each of them existed in a game universe. Thus there could be only one Eye of Vecna, Codex of the Infinite Planes or Ring of Gaxx.
    • Some magic items of less power than artifacts and relics were also one of a kind. For example, in the Forgotten Realms there was only one Albruin (sword), Reptar's Wall (shield) and Mierest's Starlit Sphere.
  • Weapon of Choice:
    • In 1st Edition Unearthed Arcana with fighters and rangers, and in 2nd Edition with just fighters, a character could choose one type of weapon to specialize in. This cost one or more Proficiency slots, but allowed greater accuracy, extra damage, and even more attacks in a melee round.
    • In 1st Edition Unearthed Arcana, Cavaliers and Paladins got a "weapons of choice" at 3rd level, and another at 5th level. Attacks made with this weapon gain greater and greater accuracy bonuses as the cavalier/paladin gained in level, and (like fighter/ranger weapon specialization) allowed extra attacks per melee round.
    • 3rd Edition has feats like "weapon focus" and "weapon specialization", which only work with one specific type of weapon.
    • In 4th Edition, many fighter powers offer a bonus when used with a particular weapon type, encouraging fighters to pick their powers based on their favored weapon type.
  • Zombify the Living: The 3.5 Edition supplement Sandstorm has the Dead Throne, an Artifact of Doom that brought the desert warlord Ten-Ap back from the dead and gave him the ability to turn the living into mummies.

    Gaming 
  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: Multiple examples in adventures.
  • Adjective Animal Alehouse: Multiple examples, especially in the Forgotten Realms.
  • After-Action Patch-Up: Healing is generally concentrated after the battle.
  • Apocalyptic Log: Multiple examples.
  • Arboreal Abode: In Dragon magazine #73, The Horde boxed set and module UK1 Beyond the Crystal Cavern.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: A few examples across editions:
    • This was the ultimate goal in the last version of BECMI/Rules Cyclopedia-era D&D, complete with a ruleset for those that ascended. To ascend further, an ascended entity needs to max out his ascended level at 36, reincarnate himself as a level 1 character, ascend once again, max out the ascended level again, and proceed to ascend past some great barrier. The result is a character that cannot be contained by a D&D rulebook.
    • In 4th edition, when your characters reach max level (30) the rulebooks encourage them to do this so you can start new characters.
    • Sort of averted in 3/3.5 edition. Standard class progression stops at level 20, but the Epic Level Handbook contains rules for advancing beyond that, with no actual cap. The easy multiclassing in that edition also meant that you could simply add new classes and prestige classes pretty much forever. However, by this point game balance is pretty much non-existent so few games ever hit epic levels, and even those that do rarely go very far into them. Deities and Demigods allows your character to engage in this trope rather than just advance forever.
  • As Lethal as It Needs to Be: The game usually does this with its abstract combat system, varying the method with each edition. In 4th edition, the final attack is supposed to declare whether it was meant to be lethal or nonlethal.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The 3.X monk. On paper, you've got a monster ninja who can move faster than anything, run up walls, teleport, jump so far he can effectively fly, become completely immune to poison and disease, block and catch enemies, grapple and trip forever, stun or kill enemies with a single blow, punch through castles, and talk to animals. In practice, he can't hit anything, and is squishier than the wizard (Who gets lots of good buffs to avert that).
    • 3.X metamagic feats raised the power of spells but treated them as higher level, essentially making them more expensive to use. With very few exceptions, the result was actually slightly less powerful than just using a higher level spell. Several feats and classes reduce the cost of metamagic (Arcane Thesis, notably), making it capable of dealing several thousand damage per round with ease.
  • Beat Still, My Heart: Multiple examples.
  • Biomanipulation: Biomancers from v3.5 have exactly this ability.
  • Blood Brothers: Played straight in a barbarian ritual in CM1 "Test of the Warlords" and a Vistani ritual in the Ravenloft supplement Van Richten's Guide to the Vistani. However, it becomes slightly dangerous in DA3 City of the Gods, where doing it with the sand folk is slightly poisonous to the player characters.
  • Boring Yet Practical: Several, especially in Complete Arcane, which (among other things) details how to counter casters. For example, the best defense against an invisible intruder? A dog.
    • Of all the crazy stuff Gestalt can allow you to do, just adding Warblade or Factotum on the other half a typical Wizard build allows you to run almost anything off your intelligence.
    • Of all the new tricks you can learn with a feat, Improved Initiative is still a great choice for anything, because moving first lets you use those tricks before you die in rocket tag.
  • Boxed Crook: Almost all of the pre-generated characters for the tournament module C2 The Ghost Tower of Inverness are released from prison to take on the mission.
  • Cave Behind the Falls: Module UK1 Beyond the Crystal Cave. In the title cave one wall has a waterfall that magically falls in slow motion. Behind the waterfall is a hidden observation room carved out of the rock.
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: Every character with a few levels under his belt who does not use magic or obviously supernatural abilities. Having a 10 in all stats is defined as the human average in an ability score, and 18 as the strongest on earth. Since you can get an 18 in a stat at character creation if you're lucky, characters can go far and above the maximum human potential through leveling up.
    • Pretty much the entire point of Epic Levels (i.e. level 21 and higher) in 3rd and 4th edition. By training long enough and defeating enough monsters, any fighter or rogue or barbarian can attain a balance check high enough to walk safely upon clouds, or a tumble check high enough to survive re-entry into the atmosphere, or gain the ability to turn invisible while standing in the open under broad daylight. They're just that good.
  • Combat Medic: Certain cleric or fighter/cleric builds could be like this; most Leader classes in 4th Edition function as Combat Medics by default.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: The Beholder Mage and Illithid Savant Prestige Classes in 3.5 were intended to be used only by the DM to make monsters able to stand a chance against 4 PCs with their 4 times as many actions. Naturally Munchkins have figured out ways to get into them without taking the large amount of racial hit dice that Beholders and Mind Flayers have.
  • Concealing Canvas: Multiple examples
  • Crazy-Prepared
    • In 3.5E, there were two major instances of this trope:
      • The wizard had effectively unlimited access to spells, provided it was willing to pay for the scrolls and wands. Lower-level spells and scrolls were cheaper than higher-level ones, meaning any given wizard would probably have the majority of his collection of spells known, wands, and scrolls, in the lower level region. Now, when your budget is measured in values like 18,000 gold, is it really a problem to spend 12.5 gold to have odd, corner-case spells available like Tenser's Floating Disk? The practical upshot of it is that a wizard will typically be walking around with a veritable library of spells that have no practical purpose except to make him look like Batman. This means the Wizard can spend the rest of his time and money on having those really hugely powerful spells that turn the rest of the party into his personal audience.
      • The funny part was that the balance was supposed to be that you could only prepare a certain amount of spells per day, and you had to do it in advance. Unfortunately, they kind of broke this by allowing a single spell to be prepared in an empty slot in 15 minutes. Sure, you need your combat spells in advance, but leaving a slot open at strategic levels for "something without a time constraint" could give you access to something like 3/4 of it all at once.
      • Also, in rules supplements like the Arms And Equipment Guide you'd find a variety of little bits-and-pieces items, like a stick of chalk, a hacksaw blade, extremely long pieces of string, a piece of ebony wood, and a bag of marbles. Each of them individual items that had shown up in a variety of different other modules by one lone, clever writer, and since they were mundane items they were remarkably cheap (some not even breaking a single gold piece). It only takes a player willing to comb through the book and dedicate maybe a hundred gold of his budget (which, again, represents thousands and thousands of gold) to always have the right tool for an obscure job.
    • The 4E Artificer is essentially Batman plus magic. His style of healing spell is one of two potions that heals allies through different mechanisms. As for which potion he has prepared at the moment? The player gets to decide that...retroactively.
  • Damage Over Time:
    • Module T1-4 The Temple of Elemental Evil. A PC in one of the four Nodes of Elemental Evil took 1-4 Hit Points of environmental damage per turn.
    • According to the Manual of the Planes (1987), the same thing happened on some of the Inner Planes.
    • Characters in the Elemental Plane of Earth took 1-2 Hit Points of damage per turn (from the pressure of the surrounding rock).
    • PCs on the Paraelemental Plane of Ice took 1-6 Hit Points of cold damage per round.
    • Fourth edition also features "Ongoing Damage", which is calculated at the start of each turn.
  • Death Is Cheap: Potentially, as of 4e it's considerably harder to die but relatively cheap to come back from the dead. That is until you hit epic levels, when it become free to most characters via "Once per day, when you die..." powers.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Deicide is a common practice in epic-level games. In 1st, 3rd and 4th Edition, gods even have combat stats just like any other monster, and are fully punchable. At least in 3rd and 4th, they can't be killed except by extraordinary circumstances, not to mention 3rd edition deities typically had 20 levels in three different class with another 20 outsider hit dice (and each of these gets the max amount, rather than the 1/2 or random most get). For those not in the know, that means they can take a lot of punishment and resist a lot of effects even without their divine immunities and powers. A Call of Cthulhu d20 book not only gave Cthulhu stats, but had a sidebar addressing why Cthulhu might have a suit of +3 chainmail lying around.
  • Difficult but Awesome: Controllers in 4E. Poorly played, they're a liability due to their squishiness and lack of damage output. Played by a good tactician, their ability to debuff and mez everything to the point of complete ineffectiveness will make the DM cry.
  • Empty Levels: The earlier editions had this problem. While spellcasters got new spells every few levels, fighters and thieves were mainly limited to the advancement in Hit Dice and to-hit that all characters got upon leveling up, in addition to skill percentages if you were a thief and being able to cut down another 1 HD or less mook per round if you were a fighter. Combine this with the increasingly horrifying supernatural enemies that players encountered at higher levels, against which sharp-sword-swinging was a decreasingly recommendable tactic, and it was no wonder that Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards set in.
  • Endless Winter: Several examples:
    • The epic spell "Ice Age" lasts until it is dispelled.
    • In It's Cold Outside, there is an item you can make called "Iceheart, Major" that creates winter.
      Thus, the mere presence of a major iceheart generates a 15-mile-radius zone of eternal winter; the majority of frostfell regions that appear in temperate or tropical climates are the result of the introduction of a major iceheart into the region.
    • The D&D spell Fimbulwinter does this, much like the Norse equivalent.
    • The supplement Elder Evils has the Killing Frost of Ghulurak, which is meant to end the world by freezing it in an eternal ice age.
  • Escape Battle Technique:
    • The Deck of Many Things. One of the cards was Fates, which allowed you to avoid any situation, once.
    • There were also items like Teleport rings or the Helm of Teleportation that could send you to another location.
  • The Face: The game (and by extension, all other RPGs) refers to this character role as The Face (also called "the party face"). This is the character that handles the public relations for the party. They have skills in Diplomacy and Bluff, and only rarely in Insight.
  • Failed a Spot Check: The Trope Namer.
  • Flamethrower Backfire:
    • Dragon magazine #67 article "Modern Monsters". A hit by a firearm on a flamethrower's fuel canister will cause an explosion doing 8d8 Hit Points of damage (with a saving throw for half damage) to all within 10 yards.
    • The Necklace of Fireballs is the magic equivalent of a bandoleer of grenades. If both the wearer and necklace fail their saves against a magic fire attack, all remaining fireballs activate immediately.
  • Fresh Clue: Module CM1 Test of the Warlords, adventure "The Ruins of Alinor". The PCs find a cave filled with the bodies of dead giants and wolves and a fire with venison cooking over it. From the condition of the bodies and the roasting meat, the PCs can deduce that the attack occurred within the last half hour and that the perpetrators are probably nearby.
  • Friend to All Living Things: People who use Charm Person and Charm Monster a lot. Or the people who Min Max their diplomacy skill, forgoing most combat ability in favor of talking their way out of any fight you can name.
  • Heroic Ambidexterity: In 2e and 3.0e, Ambidexterity is a feat that allows you to Dual Wield weapons much more efficiently than otherwise, even if you're already trained for it.
  • Holy Hand Grenade: Clerics and Paladins can mess up the undead.
  • Hostile Weather: Multiple examples.
  • Invisible Writing:
    • The Book of Marvelous Magic has Inkwell of Concealment, which is an Everfull Inkwell, but after a hour everything written with its ink vanishes and can be read only via effects allowing to see invisible objects.
    • Tolkien's version above was thrown in when sourcebook Player's Options: Spells & Magic introduced 'Moon Rune' spell that displays letters when its triggering condition is met, including moonlight in the proper phase or presence of creatures (set by species).
    • the spell Arcane Mark can functionally be an invisible ink. The campaign setting Eberron notices this, and uses it on documents to increase the difficulty of forging.
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: The nursery rhymes about the oni in fifth edition certainly qualify.
  • Killing Your Alternate Self: If the clone created by a Clone spell and the original exist at the same time, they are both aware of each other's existence and will try to kill each other, because the thought of having an alter ego is unbearable to both of them. So says the rulebook.
  • Knockout Ambush: Module A3 Assault on the Aerie of the Slave Lords. If the PCs will be playing in module A4, at the end of A3 the entire PC party will rendered unconscious by a green gas and captured by the Slave Lords.
  • Knockout Gas: Modules A3 Assault on the Aerie of the Slave Lords and S1 Tomb of Horrors both feature sleeping gasses.
  • The Law of Power Proportionate to Effort: This trope is the difference between Wizards and Sorcerers.
    • A wizard is a scholar of arcane arts and uses spellbooks and carefully-crafted rituals to cast spells and perform feats.
    • A sorcerer is born with an innate talent for magic, and they don't have to prepare or study spells. However, they generally can't learn new spells and the ones they can use are typically weaker than those wizards earn through study. This, however, means that sorcerers can master weapon skills that Wizards cannot, because they can train rather than study.
  • Let's Split Up, Gang: Module I10 Ravenloft II: The House on Gryphon Hill. If any of the NPCs at the Weathermay estate have been trans-possessed by an undead they will suggest splitting up the PC party and NPCs to search the grounds more quickly.
  • Magikarp Power: Wizards in 3.x, due to Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards.
  • Make Them Rot
    • Necrotic/negative energy damage, which overlaps with Casting a Shadow.
    • If a Violet Fungi monster hit a living creature with one of its branches, the creature had to make a saving throw vs. poison or have its flesh rot and its body decompose.
  • Mass Resurrection:
    • 2nd Edition supplement Book of Artifacts. The silver Orb of Dragonkind could resurrect 20-200 bodies once per year.
    • Module T1-4 Temple of Elemental Evil. If the deity St. Cuthbert is summoned, he will Raise all slain PCs from the dead with a gesture.
    • In early editions of the game, the Wish spell was able to resurrect a group of characters.
  • Mind Rape: The "psychic" damage type in 4E is implied to be exactly this. It can kill people.
  • Mundane Utility: Cantrips. Especially prestidigitation, which can be used to color your hair, flavor your food, or clean up around the house a bit.
    • Subverted with smart players. You can pull the Big Bad's cape up with Prestidigitation to get a bonus or use Mage Hand to retrieve a very useful item that has fallen down the volcano.
    • Light is also very useful.
  • Never Found the Body: Used in the original Dragonlance campaign and module I6 Ravenloft.
  • No-Gear Level: Stripping gear tends to occur if you get captured or contained. The impact varies based on edition: Basic has fighting-classes hit hard, 1e and 2e also impact spells that require somantic components, 3e also has unarmed attacks provoke attacks of opportunity (unless you have a feat), and 4e allows all weapon or implement powers to work (unless the power explicitly requires one) with no special penalty (beyond lack of proficiency bonus.)
  • Only Shop in Town: In the modules Dark Tower (Judges Guild), I6 Ravenloft and O2 Blade of Vengeance.
  • Outside-the-Box Tactic: Casting Remove Blindness/Deafness on an Eye of Gruumsh (a one-eyed, mad orc fighter) restores its other eye and negates its magical abilities as well. As well as countless other DM-annoying examples.
  • Platform Hell: A bunch of the original modules written by Gary Gygax, the most infamous module being the Tomb of Horrors (see trope page). You will die before even getting into the damn dungeon if you don't know what to do. Have fun.
  • Proverbial Wisdom: In module OA5 Mad Monkey vs. Dragon Claw, the martial arts trainer Hu Sen often makes statements the module calls "fortune cookie philosophy", sayings that may or may not make sense.
  • Rainbow Motif: Multiple examples.
  • Random Transportation: Basic D&D module DA1 Adventures in Blackmoor. When characters trapped in the Inn Between the Worlds passed through the Gate in the cellar they ended up back in the Inn but at a random different time, either before or after they entered (possibly long before or after).
  • Retirony: Masque of the Red Death, adventure "Red Tide". A sailor about to propose marriage to his girlfriend is killed by a vampire.
  • Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies: A few modules are hilariously lethal. Also, Dragonlance and later Forgotten Realms settings were hammered apart so thoroughly that instead of dealing with the future additions, fans switched to playing either classical versions or their own timelines.
  • A Round of Drinks for the House: In the 1st Edition Dungeons Master's Guide, buying a round of drinks for the house was part of the cost for "Frequenting Inns and Taverns", one of the techniques for finding potential henchmen.
  • Rule of Fun: The job of the DM is supposed to be this, to the point that the Dungeon Master's Guide even recommends fudging rolls if the result might cause undue frustration, such as a character being killed of unceremoniously by a series of bad luck rolls. Of course, some DMs enjoy inflicting suffering on their players...
  • Shields Are Useless: A commonly held opinion about shields in 3e due to what they give you (a linear increase to AC compared to extra attacks or double Power Attack damage), the fact that most magic attacks ignore your shield bonus, and the existence of animated shields.
    • Mostly averted in 4E — except for some fighters. A fighter who uses two-handed weapons and focuses on regeneration and self-healing powers instead of boosting his AC is a fearsome enemy. And also one who defends better, because ignoring him means you're in a world of pain and in 4E anything you'd want to avoid getting hit from will hit you anyway, because of bosses' ridiculously high to-hit values. So he is usually stickier than the classical sword-and-board fighter. Shields don't even get a magical enhancement bonus. They do, however add their bonus to the character's reflex defense as well as to Armor Class.
    • Played straight in 1st and 2nd Edition AD&D. A nonmagical shield improved your armor class by only one (1) step, and then only if the attack comes from the front or front-flank and the shield-user isn't stunned or knocked prone. A fighter, paladin, or ranger was always far more effective with a weapon in his off-hand than he was with a shield in it. Since clerics and assassins could use shields, but couldn't wield two weapons at the same time and didn't have many two-handed weapons to choose from, they wouldn't have anything to lose by equipping a shield, but the gain was still minimal.
  • Shoot the Mage First: 1st Edition Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting boxed set booklet Cyclopedia of the Realms, section "Pirate Isles of the Inner Sea". On pirate ships it was a standard procedure for archers to make anyone who was appearing to cast a spell their first target.
  • Sorting Algorithm of Evil: The challenge rating system is designed for this.
  • Spell Levels: Probably the Trope Codifier. In Original D&D, both arcane (wizard) and divine (cleric) spells were split into six and five tiers, respectively, with characters of certain level getting only so many spells of certain levels to memorize. The Greyhawk supplement increased them to nine tiers for arcane spells and seven tiers for divine spells.
    • In 3rd Edition clerics, druids, sorcerers, and wizards had ten spell levels (0-9); bards had seven (0-6), and paladins and rangers had four (1-4).
    • 4th Edition did away with the concept, instead simply listing the minimum class level to gain a "power" in the description.
    • 5th Edition brought back the concept. Wizards, sorcerers, clerics, and druids still have ten spell levels (cantrips and 1-9). Bards now have access to spell levels 7-9. The eldritch knight and arcane trickster archetypes have cantrips and spell levels 1-4. Paladins and rangers now have five spell levels (1-5). Warlocks have cantrips and spell levels 1-5, with four "Mystic Arcanum" spells - one spell each from spell levels 6-9 that can only cast once per long rest.
  • Spontaneous Weapon Creation: A number of spells and psionic abilities do this.
  • Spoony Bard: Some base classes, many prestige classes (though many seemed better for NPCs than PCs)
  • Supernormal Bindings:
    • Basic D&D adventure IM2 The Wrath of Olympus. A group of Immortals (minor deities) illegally interferes on the Prime Plane. The forces of Entropy capture them and secure them with chains that not only render them helpless but drain their internal power (Life Energy) as well.
    • Basic D&D supplement The Book of Marvelous Magic. Irons are magical confinement devices combining manacles (wrists) and shackles (ankles). The Irons of Imprisonment can only be broken by a Wish spell or a blow from a plus 4 or better weapon.
  • Trojan Horse: In the modules X12 "Skarda's Mirror" and OA2 Night of the Seven Swords.
  • Unholy Ground:
    • Unhallowed ground can be created with the spell unhallow. This strengthens undead against turning and provides bonuses against good creatures in general.
    • The 1st Edition Dungeon Master's Guide mentions "Evil Areas", places where Evil has created a special power base that reduce the chance for clerics to turn (repel) undead. They can only be destroyed by purifying them in some way, such as pouring holy water or casting a Bless and/or Prayer spell.
  • Weapons-Grade Vocabulary: Fourth Edition introduced an at-will "spell" for bards called Vicious Mockery, which inflicts damage and status effects. Some bard players will use insult generators every time they use this attack. 'Vicious Mockery' made a return in Fifth Edition as a bard-exclusive cantrip.
  • When The Clock Strikes Twelve: Multiple examples
  • Windbag Politician: Ronin Challenge: During the opening ceremonies of the Kumite tournament the contestants march onto a field and take martial arts stances. A series of long-winded dignitaries then begin to give lengthy welcoming speeches. This is actually a Secret Test: the authorities are trying to weed out unqualified participants. Any of the contestants who moves even slightly during the speeches is immediately disqualified.
  • Wizarding School: Multiple examples

    Meta 
  • Adaptation Distillation: Capcom managed to apply the rather complex D&D system into two very competent Dungeons & Dragons arcade BeatEm Up games that no company has ever been able to do right since.
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: All over the place as far as sourcebooks go. Heck, look at the name of the game!
    • In source books: Dungeons & Dragons, Monster Manual, Deities and Demigods, Creature Catalogue, Monster Mythology, Elder Evils, Fiend Folio, Heroes of Horror, Savage Species, Primal Power? The Will and the Way, Gold and Glory, Elminster's Ecologies?
    • Also, spells: Melf's Minute Meteors, Mordenkainen's Magnificient Mansion, Waethra's Warm Welcome, Elminster's Effulgent Epuration, Ruby Ray of Reversal, Fallion's Fabulous Fireball, Geirdorn's Grappling Grasp, Samprey's Sensible Sea Sphere, Fistandantilus's Firequench, Flamsterd's Flamestrike, Nulathoe's Ninemen...
    • And Sepia Snake Sigil.
  • Another Story for Another Time: The DA1 module Adventures in Blackmoor has a DM background section written like a narrative, which uses this.
  • Ascended Meme: The "green flame" Running Gag from the Acquisitions Incorporated games has become popular enough that the 5th Edition Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide includes a cantrip called 'Greenflame Blade'.
  • Character Tiers: A unique variant, the classes are tiered not on their power, but on their versatility (and thus ability to solve traps, social encounters, and other non-combat stuff given by the DM), then broken up into how well they can do that. Thus a fighter is low tier not because he is bad in combat (though he may be), but because he is complete dead weight outside of combat (He may rarely get usage out of intimidate), while Rogue is higher because he may work at social encounters, traps and combat, but he isn't fantastic at them. invoked
  • Creator Thumbprint: Gary Gygax had several, including mushrooms, various shades of the color purple, H.P. Lovecraft, his extensive vocabulary and polearms. On the unfortunate side, problems with ranged weapons from slings to wheel-locks.
    • ...and only in 3.x Edition his fascination with polearms was finally dropped... to be replaced with some new developer's spiked chain fetish. These things wormed their way everywhere, even underground.
      • On the note of 3.x Edition, former Wizards of the Coast employee Monte Cook enforced Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards much more than in previous editions. Martial classes were either ridiculously imbalanced (monks), ridiculously generic (fighters), or straight up shit (3.5 samurai, which was a straight port of the 3.0 samurai without any reworking). Caster classes were overpowered as fuck due to both the number of overpowered spells they could get and the introduction of metamagic feats. Wizards in particular were the worst about it, being Crazy-Prepared due to the fact that since they're limited to what is in their spellbook, they can "shop around" for the "proper" spells required to any given situation.
  • Everything's Better with Rainbows: Lots of "Chromatic/Color/Prismatic Blank" spells, up to Prismatic Sphere and Prismatic Wall that raise barriers so dangerous an avatar would hesitate to cross one.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Some encounters consist solely of fighting a dragon in a dungeon.
  • Gender-Neutral Writing: Uses Take a Third Option to this trope. Instead of awkwardly avoiding pronouns or always using one gender or the other, each class has an example character, and the classes description uses pronouns that reference them.
  • I, Noun: There's an AD&D sourcebook about beholders called I, Tyrant.
  • Idealized Sex: According to the Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 module "Book Of Vile Darkness", only evil people can have a sadomasochistic sexuality. Also, all sadomasochists have evil superpowers — sexual masochism and sadism are evil superpowers in this setting, and sexual masochism is defined as being the same thing as the trope Combat Sadomasochist.
  • Lava Adds Awesome: Invoked by a number of spells and magic items, such as "Vulcan Bomb," which hits a target with a stream of lava.
  • Licensed Pinball Table: Released by Bally in 1987. Click here for details.
  • No Campaign for the Wicked
    • The new edition lists the good and neutral deities up front in the character creation section, while setting the evil gods firmly in the 'know your enemy' part of the book. This, of course, has no effect on some players and DMs, who create all-evil campaigns frequently and with panache.
    • The D&D based RTS game Dragonshard, has a campaign for the humans and the lizardfolk, but not for the Umbragen.
    • BECMI (Basic/Expert/Companion/Master/Immortal) D&D, Immortals boxed set (1986). Player controlled PC Immortals are forbidden to be from the Sphere of Entropy, because creatures from that Sphere are all evil. All Entropy Sphere Immortals are NPCs.
    • The author of a Dragon article on the "Death Master", a necromancy-themed Non-Player Character class for 1st Edition AD&D, introduced it by stressing, thusly, that it was designed for NPC villains only:
      "If I ever run into a player character Death Master at a gaming convention, I may turn Evil myself."
    • Planescape Monstrous Compendium Appendix II. Incantifers are creatures that used to be human beings. They were changed by magic so that they can absorb magic and don't need to eat, breathe or sleep (among other powers). They have evil tendencies and Dungeon Masters are warned not to allow PCs to undergo the incantifer-creation process.
  • Painting the Medium: AD&D 1st edition, Monster Manual. The Leprechauns on page 60 play around with the page headings. They also ride the giant leech to their left as well.
  • Purple Prose: All D&D books are written in a somewhat formal and archaic style, but 1st edition was probably the worst about it.
  • Retcon: Fourth Edition recently had a relatively minor one concerning the war between the Gods and Primordials.
  • Retraux: An "old school renaissance" has sprung up recently, with a number of retro-clones (OSRIC, Swords & Wizardry, Labyrinth Lord, Basic Fantasy, and others) based on Basic, Original and First Edition D&D.
  • Rule 34: Both the "Book of Erotic Fantasy" and "Encyclopaedia Arcane - Nymphology" (third-party and unofficial as hell, but still) codifies this. Fairly tactfully, thankfully. Before this, it was "The Complete Guide To AD&D Unlawful Carnal Knowledge". As a netbook, it got stuff from "quite in-character in a normal game" (blow-a-kiss-with-effects spells may be a must-have for a love goddess' church, finding out how long it takes to blow your money on the hookers part of booze and hookers is also usable) to "where'd I put my Brain Bleach again?".
  • Scunthorpe Problem: During editing, one book had a search-and-replace run to change "mage" to "wizard." Unfortunately, it also changed "damage" and "image" to "dawizard" and "iwizard."
  • Sdrawkcab Name: Multiple examples.
  • Sequel Number Snarl: The various editions are titled Dungeons & Dragons, Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2nd Edition (originally on the book cover, though later printings left it off), Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition, Dungeons & Dragons v3.5 (also referred to as "3rd Edition Revised"), Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition, and Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition.
  • Seven Year Rule: Every time a new edition comes out, it is the worst thing ever. People also completely forget that the current edition, which you would be led to believe is almost perfect by the standards of everyone, was ridiculed just as badly. People also neglect the difference between the amount of content a newly released edition has and the amount of content the current edition with over a decade of supplemental material has, often complaining about the lack of options. The internet has naturally multiplied this effect.
  • Shout Out: Way too many to list here.
  • Single-Use Shield:
    • The stoneskin spell in older editions of Dungeons & Dragons.
    • Module C1 The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan. A fighter can receive a scroll that gives him a Death Servant. At any time thereafter, if the fighter is about to be killed, the Death Servant will push the fighter to safety and accept the attack that would have killed the fighter. It will only do this once.
  • Tutorial Failure: Many examples given are flat out wrong.
    • One notable instance is an article with explanations of some of the harder rules, the page states everyone is proficient with splash weapons, then describes an example with a character taking a non-proficiency penalty when using a splash weapon.
    • One 3.5 Prestige Class that fits this trope would be the Abjurant Champion; a Magic Knight class that grants a character bonuses to Abjuration spells (such as Shield). It mentions Mage Armour as being another such spell, seemingly disregarding the fact that Mage Armour is placed in conjuration.
      • 'Armor' has this bug back from AD&D1 even though other school assignments were fixed by AD&D2. Most DMs, if asked will allow the spell as either an Abjuration as a "protective barriers" and/or Evocation (Force subschool) as one more force field; either one fits better than "create/call stuff".
    • Any time the flavour department decide to try writing about 'realistic' stuff, it falls prey to being Wonkish. You'll see a piece that realistically describes military tactics as they'd be changed by the presence of things like Ogres and Werebears, then go on to completely forget about things like supply lines and waste disposal.
    • Complete Psionics includes feats that make a character a descendant of the Mind Flayers. This completely ignores the process Mind Flayers reproduce by note .
    • The "Apostle of Peace" class is required to take the crippling "Vow of Poverty" which disallows the character from owning almost any wealth. The picture of the class has quite a few magic items (which are very expensive) in it. May be justified if the character has an immediate need for the items, for whatever reason, but the expectation is that as soon as the need is gone the item would be sold and the gold donated or given to one's god. That being said, its actually a truer example of how many players actually play such characters.
    • The Ruby Knight Vindicator example character worships Saint Cuthbert, but the class requires Wee Jas worship (It suggests DMs should make versions for other deities the deity requirement, but it's officially just a suggestion).
    • In 3E, The Epic Level Handbook has a creature it claims even the gods can't stand against, but that seems questionable when that creature's stats are compared with some of the gods' stats in Deities and Demigods. Judging from the Deities and Demigods stats and the stats of the titular creatures of the book Elder Evils, the gods could easily crush the elder evils even though the latter's book's intro describes them as so powerful that even the gods would think twice before fighting them.
      • Although it's less the creature's combat abilities and more their existence that makes the gods nervous. Most of the Elder Evils are highly resistant or even immune to divine effect and one elder evil specifically mentions that it's greatest powers only work on gods (since he was defeated by Asmodeus who is not a deity) so it's most likely that the Elder Evils have other effects that do not show up in the books because they would not affect a PC in any meaningful way.
  • Writing Around Trademarks: The earliest printings of the original boxed set call the race of little people hobbits, as one might expect from such a Lord of the Rings influenced game. Grumblings from the Tolkien estate led this to be changed to halflings (along with a couple of monster names, such as "Ents" becoming "Treants" and "Balrogs" becoming "Balors". This despite Tolkien himself taking the term "hobbit" from folklore, and "halfling" actually being a term he coined, apparently.
    • Conversely, when a third-party publisher puts out a D&D-compatible book or derivative game, they'll use something along the lines of "compatible with/based on the world's oldest fantasy roleplaying game" to indicate D&D without using the trademarked name.
  • You All Meet in an Inn: Generally thought of as the inventor of this trope.
  • Your Magic's No Good Here:
    • Advanced D&D and 3.X edition: When creatures from the Prime Material Plane travel to other planes of existence they find that magic (spellcasting and items) don't work the same way they do on the Prime. Some spells/items have different effects, some don't work at all and some backfire. On rare occasions it's possible to use magic that can't be used on the Prime.
    • BD&D Immortals set. Some planes (such as triplanes - no, not the airplane) lack the extra dimensions that are necessary for magic, thus preventing anyone - including visitors from other dimensions - from using magic while in them.
    • Module I12 Egg of the Phoenix. In one of the mini-adventures the PCs go back in time several hundred million years to the time of the dinosaurs. Magic was much more potent then, so spells have double normal effect.
    • Sometimes it doesn't even take leaving one's own home plane. Magic works differently in Mystara's Hollow World setting than it does on the outside of the very same planet, courtesy of the Immortals using the inside as a "nature preserve" of sorts for cultures that would have gone extinct in the outside world and using their own magic to prevent certain mortal tricks that could upset their pet project from working.
    • Also, dungeons in which specific types of magic — such as teleportation spells, say — simply wouldn't work (or at least not work right) rather obviously for the sole purpose of keeping the game challenging for the players weren't exactly unknown especially in the early days of the game.


Disclaimer: Wizards of the Coast is not responsible for the consequences of splitting up the party, sticking appendages in the mouth of a leering green devil face, accepting a dinner invitation from bugbears, storming the feast hall of a hill giant steading, angering a dragon of any variety, or saying yes when the DM asks, "Are you really sure?"

Alternative Title(s): Dungeons And Dragons, Advanced Dungeons And Dragons

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