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 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. Basic D&D and AD&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), 3.0 even included the top of Greyhawk's pantheon and 4th edition books' assumptions unofficially form a vague setting called "Points Of Light".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 The miniatures gaming influence can still be seen today, in the Armor Class system. Instead of armor reducing the damage from a successful blow, armor in D&D reduces the odds of a blow landing in the first place (but if the blow does land, it does full damage). This is a little odd from a reality-modelling standpoint, but works beautifully in a mass-combat system where a unit is either alive or dead with no hit points to track. Due to Creative Differences between the creators, the original game became split into Basic Dungeons and Dragons and the ultimately more popular (and more complex) Advanced Dungeons and Dragons in 1981. Then Battlesystem was added — a mass combat supplement for both D&D and AD&D. That is, it's Chainmail reborn as an expansion of its own grown-up derivative.
In the early 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 was intended to be less complicated and more flexible than 1st Edition, but still managed to include things like the THAC0 system note (your THAC0 is the target number, and your opponent's armor class is the roll modifier, meaning low THAC0 and AC are good... but bonuses are expressed as positive numbers)note However, all that said, most players regarded THAC0 as a major simplification of the system it replaced, because it could be looked up once and used for an entire session of play, instead of checking every roll against one of four different combat tables ... the results were exactly equivalent, but the THAC0 concept presented it in a simplified way, wildly imbalanced nonweapon proficiencies (an early attempt at a skill system), zero attempts to make the level advancement smoother (eg, level 10 rangers suddenly have hordes of bears◊ following them around) and leaks of the default setting into the core rules (such as druid organisations appearing in game mechanics and tied to levels in-world).Optional core rules Dungeon Master Option and Player's Options (1995) were an attempt to unify the system and lessen the power discrepancy. It has a plain structure and included a good compilation/rewrite of earlier options, house rules, Gamma World and Battlesystem elements alike. Sadly, not only were many basic problems (like checks) not fixed, but the central part (Skills & Powers) was obviously rushed, thus including plain bad and/or non-tested elements (e.g. new psionics), hasty changes in dubious directions (e.g. some subabilities), and editing problems (that's how we know about changed subabilities). Accordingly, "AD&D 2.5" books one-by-one attracted the interest their promising novelties deserved, but this new set of rules wasn't fully usable as a coherent whole and failed to become the new standard.After TSR was bought by Wizards of the Coast (makers of Magic: The Gathering, and a subsidiary of Hasbro), they published Dungeons and 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. Characters are at their most customizable thanks to the feat system and a standardized skill system, a loose multiclassing system with Prestige Classes (including making them a named and common mechanic), and the dropping of racial restrictions. It became easier to get into the game from a novice player's level, and added in the idea of "iconic characters" for the first time. Then came an incremental edition known as "3.5", which was largely concerned with fixing a few very obvious Game Breakers and Spoony Bards in 3rd Edition.The newest edition is known as 4E, short for Fourth Edition, which has created quite a big amount of discussion, with haters, lovers, people who don't care and everything in between. The changes are many, from the inclusion of dragonborn (draconic humanoids from a 3.5 splatbook), the mainstreaming of tieflings (humans with distant fiendish ancestry), the replacement of three classes with two new classes (and the reinstatement of those three classes in a second Player's Handbook), stripping down the alignment system, and much much more. Overall, its rules have a much greater emphasis on mechanical balance and action than any previous edition: all classes are equally useful and viable in combat, all characters could perform impressive feats regardless of whether the source of their power was mundane or magical, and threats could be easily scaled to the players' level.A fifth edition of D&D is now on the horizon, under the production alias of "D&D Next", as Wizards of the Coast seeks to revitalize the brand. In an effort to try and heal the divisions in the player community, they are actively soliciting players for ideas about the new edition, with an open playtest (which began in 2012 and ran through the end of 2013). At present, it combines elements from all previous editions - extremely simplified classes and combat rules (making "theater of the mind" gameplay feasible once again) is closest to 1st and 2nd edition, the magic rules combine a low-powered version of 3rd's slot system with 4th's ritual casting system, and skills and feats are still present, but are much less prominent than before to the point of technically being optional. The two-axis alignment system is back, and while fans of 4th's Powers system were not pleased to learn that it has been left out of this edition, the absence of its skill challenges has been welcomed.Issues with wildly different editions prompted the development of third-party adaptations. E.g. Castles & Crusades as D&D 2.99 without D&D 3 specific elements, or Pathfinder as "D&D 3.75".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 MMORPGDungeons & 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 "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 will give gamers a official way to play D&D over the Internet, but now the idea seems dead, as a new edition is in the works.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 Ballypinball 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 the SyFy channel in November 2012. A reboot of the Dungeons and Dragons film franchise is currently planned by Warner Brothers.Now has a Referenced by page.Please note that, since this is a very open-ended game, with millions of people playing it in one form or another, you can 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.
The original rules and setting were created for 2nd edition. AEG created a 3rd edition sourcebook, "Empire", that updated/reprinted a large amount of the rules (but not the setting).
Blackmoor: The first campaign setting. Later tied to both Greyhawk and Mystara. It's complicated. (See here for more.)
Council of Wyrms: Dragons are feudals ruling everyone else. 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. Dragon slayers (created by Io to punish his errant offspring) don't see much difference either.
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 Dragon Lance 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, Eberron divine magic being not 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.
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 oriental five elements, of course).
Ghostwalk- The first campaign setting for 3e, 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, the base Dungeons & Dragons setting for 1st and 3rd Edition. A high-fantasy world ravaged by war, where the forces of evil are stronger than in other settings. The City of Greyhawk stands at the center of the world, its gates always open for adventure. Features strong forces of active neutrality.
Historical Reference: The Time of Myths of "our world" — divine quests, fairy folk in the hills, and so on. "Vikings", "Charlemagne's Paladins", "Celts", "A Mighty Fortress" (1500-1660, "Elizabethan age"), "The Glory of Rome", "Age of Heroes" (Ancient Greece), "The Crusades". Did introduce, improve, or polish some game mechanics elements for the themes emphasized at settings in question, which could (and occasionally were) used elsewhere — such as Rune Magic for Viking setting, fencing styles and duel rules, Rhetoric proficiency, etc.
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 has released an updated version for 4th Edition.
Midnight by Fantasy Flight Games is a darker (but not necessarily edgier) setting. It basically asks the question "What would happen to Middle Earth if Sauron had WON the War of the Ring?" The player characters are agents for The Rebellion against the Big Bad and his evil orcish minions. Spellcasters are rare because the bad guys actively hunt them.
Mythic Vistas: D&D 3.5 based series by Green Ronin. Includes The Black Company adaptation, Damnation Decade (the world of The Seventies' movies for d20 Modern), Mindshadows (Dark Sun x Hungry Jungle and Yuan-ti x D&D3.5 Psionics Handbook), The Red Star Campaign Setting (adaptation of The Red Star comics for d20 Modern), Sidewinder: Recoiled (The Wild West, an original system) SpirosBlaak (survival mixed with Birthright influences). Also includes what amounts to a remake and expansion of Historical Reference for D&D3.5 mechanics: Egyptian Adventures: Hamunaptra, Eternal Rome, Medieval Player's Manual, Skull & Bones (the golden age of piracynote unfortunately, despite having a chapter named "Of ships and Sea", the used vessel model is even less detailed than in AD&D2 sourcebook of this name), Testament (Biblical times), The Trojan War. It introduces advanced models for things like politicking and chariot driving, formal dispute mechanics note Al-Qadim did this, but simply as opposed proficiency checks; here you have attack rolls and specific bonuses from theoretical studies and luck; variant magic modified and expanded to different flavours — e.g. Voodoo, Medieval Catholic, Ancient Egyptian, etc.
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 Athas explicitly said to be abnormal plane-wise and Demiplane of Dread by definition isn't a Prime world at all 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.)
Thieves' World: The adaptation of a book setting much grittier than most. Has early adaptations for different systems. Later d20-isation from Green Ronin has its own magic model including rituals and mana levels present in the novels. Has rules for injury (though not splattered as far and wide as PO:C&T) and curses (Ravenloft -like approach), but doesn't use an universal psionics model for abilities of Bandaran Adepts, S'Danzo Seers and northern barbarians (probably because corresponding rules in core d20 are nearly unusable for most settings).
Plus all the Homebrew settings that DMs create!
"Original" Dungeons & Dragons (OD&D) - 1974-1976: The original set was written by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, and was published by TSR in 1974 as a digest-sized boxed set including 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 Hit points and damage were all rolled with 6 siders. This first set went through many printings and was supplemented with several official additions, including Greyhawk (which introduced the Thief and Paladin) and Blackmoor in 1975, Eldritch Wizardry, Gods, Demi-gods & Heroes, and Swords & Spells in 1976.
Basic Dungeons and Dragons - 1977-1989: Of note is that Dwarf, Elf and Halfling 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 note Every elf can only advance in the elf class; every dwarf could only advance in dwarf, no such thing as an "elven wizard" or a dwarven "fighting man" — i.e. classes are archetype-based rather than usual character development lines. The first release only covered levels 1-3, players were intended to move on to Advanced Dungeons and Dragons after this, though an expansion in 1981 let players keep with these simpler rules. Various editions after that expanded the setting, and compiled the rules into easier-to-use booklets, with minor additions. The last version of this particular incarnation was the BECMI series of boxed sets (Basic, Expert, Companion, Master and Immortal, respectively) by Frank Mentzer, the rules from the first four of which were later compiled in 1991 into the Rules Cyclopedia written by Aaron Allston, which is still considered a classic.
The Elf class was the closest these rules came to the notion of multi-classing: Elves posessed all the abilities of a magic-user and all the abilities of a fighting man, at the cost of slower experience progression.
One "turn" lasts 10 minutes, with each melee round lasting 10 secondsnote Page 9 of the blue cover pre-Basic rulebook states: "Each turn is ten minutes except during combat where there are ten melee rounds per turn, each round lasting ten seconds," which implies that turns only last a minute and 40 seconds in combat. The later Basic rulebook resolved this conundrum by stating that there were 60 rounds in a turn. Resolving a round and determining initiative is simple, split into phases by the resolved action.
Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (1st edition) - 1977-1979: The more complete rules, including more character classes, the first appearance of the classic Dungeons and Dragons alignment system. More or less completely compatible with the simpler Dungeons and Dragons, and many gamers mixed and matched at will. As well, Character Class System was unified — non-human races can now select class (so you CAN have a dwarven fighter, and no "fighting man" anymore) — but some classes are human-only, others forbidden to certain races.
Multi-classing came in two flavors: True multi-classed characters, which could not be human, and "characters with two classes", which had to be human. The latter had to gain levels in one class and then, at some point, give up all further development in that class and start gaining levels in a new classnote And until the second class became higher level than the first, the first class's abilities could not be used without voiding all experience gains for the entire adventure. Bards — an optional class described in an appendix — were characters with three classesnote You had to start as a fighter, then switch to thief some time between fighter levels 5 and 8, then switch to the true bard class some time between thief levels 5 and 9. Bards could be half-elves, an exception to the humans-only rule for characters with two classes.
The round lasts a full minute and is divided — now the true time quantum is the 6 sec. segment; initiative is adjusted by segments (carrying over into the next round if needed), unless one or more of the combatants is entitled to 2 or more attack routines in a melee round, in which case arguments ensue.
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 Especially when it added to the haystack of non-uniform rules, like plate armor damage absorption! 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 and Dragons (2nd edition) - 1989: The first full-scale revamp. Stripped out 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.
The multi-class vs. dual-class system from 1st Edition was continued in 2nd Edition, with the exception that a dual-classed human character could change classes any number of times. Bards were now a ground-floor class in their own right and no longer required any kind of multi-classing or dual-classing. Unfortunately, they were now closer to what would eventually become the Spoony Bard trope, although extremely rapid level progression helped them somewhat.
The 1 min. round is monolithic, initiative adjustments affect only the sequence in a round.
Advanced Dungeons and Dragons "2.5" (Optional Core Rules) - 1995-1996: ("Player's Options", "Dungeon Master Option"): Unified and highly detailed set of rules intended to expand AD&D 2. Included new interesting rules, mainly customization via character points system allowing to easily build variants of basic classes note Want a guerilla style fighter? Sharpshooter kit, Increased movement, Move Silently, specialization. Fencing wizard? Swashbuckler kit, proficiency group crossover, Armor, weapon selection, Combat bonus, weapon specialization, Extended spell duration, proficiency ( and maybe a fanciful magic taboo. And so on. and guidelines on creating new kits, combat options averting Padded Sumo Gameplay and even Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards trend note Damage Typing, Critical Damage, Knockback, maneuvers more advanced than "hit it more", re-integration with Chainmail battle rules and new material note lots of spells, skills and equipment. However, fatal flaws in its central part Skills & Powers due to noticeable lack of proper coordination and playtestingnote late changes in subabilities, the new psionics system aping linear Hit Points and thought out so poorly that in a successful telepathic attack the attacker lost more than the target made it barely usable "as is", which demoted PO from the new generation to one more cherry-picked set of sourcebooks.
The 10-15 sec. round is split into initiative phases, initiative adjustments converted into phase selectors.
Dungeons and Dragons (3rd edition) - 2000: Arguably this, and the revised 3.5 edition, are currently the best known by all but the oldest gamers. 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 Character Class System dominates 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. 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 Such as class feature "skill works differently" — e.g. out-of-table Rogue abilities to deal with difficult and magic traps. Or prestige classes awkwardly referring to the base class — like with "+1 to existing spellcasting class" or "we don't say Druid, we say requires Wild Shape... which has nothing to do with the class"., skill rank inflation, feats handled separately without any common meaning to themnote Complete Scoundrel later tried to abate two latter problems at once with "skill tricks" mechanics. and Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards on steroids.
The old dichotomy between multi-classing and dual-classing was unified into a single system. Every character starts out at level 1 in a single class. Whenever you gain a character level, you can choose to gain a "class level" in any class, including not only your existing classes but also any classes you had never been before. You can multiclass without any racial restrictions, but any time classes not "favored" by your race get more than a level apart, you suffer XP penalties.
The 6 sec. round is not phased, the actions as such are classified by duration and/or effort required. For example, "free" actions took little effort and almost negligible time, while "full-round" actions required that you stood in one spot and did only that one thing (such as making several attacks at once or casting certain spells).
Dungeons and 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.
d20 Modern: Official adaptation of Dungeons and Dragons 3.0/3.5 for settings in the modern day. Not considered entirely successful - the classes are a bit weird, and not very well balanced (the base classes are... based on and named after individual stats, like Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, and so on, making a game mechanic into the entire basis for your character. Eventually, you get access to advanced classes... some of which are just bizarre: for instance, is it possible to take the Superstar, a class where you are a famous rock singer, in a game about fighting magical threats to the modern earth, and not instantly have a Mary Sue?
Star Wars Saga Edition is based on a highly improved version of d20 Modern, and is considered to be of high quality and reasonably successful.
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. See the article for more details.
Dungeons and Dragons (4th edition) - 2008: A major adaptation 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 scaring fans away included intrusiveness to existing settings, an "MMO" feel to combat and class power mechanics that some felt were an oversimplification, and plain weird elements clashing with believability in new ways note E.g. see "Bear Lore" and "Durr *CLANG*" on memes page.
Initially, 4th Edition abandoned the notion of multi-classing, except in an extremely limited way (you could take so-called "Multiclass feats" at level 10, and thereby gain a few abilities that normally belonged to a different class in lieu of pursuing a paragon path in your own class). When Player's Handbook 3 was added, though, true multiclassing (called "Hybrid characters") was reintroduced. In either case, you are still limited to combining the abilities of at most 2 different classes in a single character; three-class combinations like cleric/fighter/thief are not allowed.
Dungeons and Dragons Essentials (4th) - 2010: A new line of products launched in 2010, compatible with 4th edition rules. Essentials has 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:A new edition has been announced. Tying to recapture and unite some of the fractured fanbase, Wizards claims the new edition will strive to be more inclusive, and is running an open playtest starting Spring 2012, concluding at the start of 2014. Only time will tell if they are successful.
Also worth mentioning is Hackmaster, an officially licensed parody of 1st edition, De Fictionalized from the popular comic strip Knights of the Dinner Table. From Kenzer & Company. 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 writing new adventures for the older games and using the OGL to provide "retro-clone" games that do their best to recreate the feel of the original games for the gaming audience of today.
Basic Fantasy: Another first-edition retroclone, 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: A retroclone from Troll Lord Games and SmiteWorks. The general idea was to have mostly AD&D2 with straight roll-over checks of d20, lesser unified attribute adjustments, but without d20 specific elements, while compatible enough to import such materials. Its fans consider these goals achieved as well as enough of both customization (to avoid typical pre-AD&D2 problems) and unification (to avoid typical pre-PO problems) and keeping paperwork to minimum — saving throws are as simple "defender's attribute vs. attacker's level" checks. 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 edition of classic 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 Moldvay/Cook edition of D&D as its base, which introduces the Thief, turns the Elf into a fighter/mage, and uses different-sized hit dice for classes. There are also two supplements which recreate White Box 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: 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. You get to choose whether you want to play with original AC or ascending AC. There is three version of this game:
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 the 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.
Microlite20: A free, extremely streamlined and rules-lite version of the d20 system, designed to be compatible with existing d20 monsters and adventure modules.
Acid Trip Dimension: Limbo, a chaotic realm where the terrain and even the physics changes randomly or at the will of those present.
Adventure-Friendly World: Many of the most popular original settings fit this trope to a "T". Mystara, Greyhawk, and Forgotten Realms are Trope Codifiers. Past the Magitek, so is Eberron (which has several ancient ruined civilizations and just came out of a continent-spanning war).
Alien Geometries: The most significant example is found in Basic D&D's Immortal Set. The game describes up to 5 dimensional planes, giving rules for how they work. They also describe that mortals exist in three dimensions, immortals exist in four, and Old Ones exist in five. In addition, normal mortals exist in dimensions 1, 2, and 3 while mortals from the nightmare plane exist in dimensions 3, 4, and 5.
Barred from the Afterlife: Module I3 Pharaoh. The pharaoh Amun-re sacrifices the wealth and well being of his people to build himself a magnificent pyramid tomb.When he's threatened by an angry mob, he lays a curse that will cause the land to dry up if he is killed. A member of the mob kills him anyway, and the god Osiris is forced to carry out the curse. However, he punishes Amun-re by condemning his spirit to wander the land until someone steals his treasure from his tomb.
Behemoth Battle: The module WG7 Castle Greyhawk. On Level 5 there's a battle between an Apparatus of Kwalish and an iron golem piloted by an orc. It's a parody of FASA's BattleTech game (the orc is even named "Fahzah").
Many 3rd Edition spells have a self-explanatory [Evil] descriptor. Necromancy magic in general plays this role in the Ravenloft campaign setting.
Arcane casters in the Dark Sun setting can choose to be "Defilers", which allows them to reroll the results for any spell they cast at the cost of further desertifying the world, or at least the portion of it they're in. This makes them about as popular as witches were in 17th century Salem, MA.
Bloody Bowels of Hell: Layer six of the Nine Hells of Baator is Malbolge, formerly a boring place of boulders rolling down an eternal slope, ruled by the Hag Countess, who wasn't even a real devil. Then came the Fiendish Codex II, when the Countess was replaced by Glasya (daughter of Asmodeus himself), who did some remodeling. Now Malbolge is largely made up of its former ruler and sports distinctly fleshy terrain, with tall oily hairs instead of forests, lakes of bile and viscera, and ivory towers that used to be fingers or ribs. Special mention must also be made of a great mound at the layer's center called the Birthing Pit.
Bloody Horror: module X2 Castle Amber. One of the castle's features is the Blood-Stained Arch. A steady patter of blood flows from the underside of the arch, with no apparent source. The blood is in atonement for all of the bloody crimes committed by the Amber family.
Body Horror: Pretty much the entire point of the "Book of Vile Darkness" and especially the "Libris Mortis." A fair number of psionic abilities in 3.5e invoke this as well - including one which causes the target's skin to grow into a single solid membrane, effectively immobilizing it.
Let's not forget Lords of Madness (with many "eldritch horror" elements), Fiendish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss (with some truly foul concepts for demons), and Elder Evils (with some lovely beings such as a world which is actually the undead fetus of a god and an enormous 1-mile wide bloated mass of corrupt proto-life that tries to mutate all life on a world to be like itself). One admires the creativity shown in these books... and questions the minds that came up with these ideas.
What happened to the hag countess, Also what usually happens to those who die on the 6th layer of hell. Their body fuses with the layer, their souls however stay where their body is. Its such a painful fate that those unfortunate enough to suffer it tend to go mad in a matter of hours.
Cain and Abel: The sibling gods Heironeous and Hextor function as pretty much this on a divine scale.
Circling Vultures: Module B8 Journey to the Rock. When the PCs reach the Cave of Sanctuary they will see sinister vultures circling lazily overhead: they're about to snack on the body of a recently killed gnome.
Clever Crows: Ravens are commonly found as wizards' and sorcerers' Familiars. Raven familiars always have the ability to speak.
Clip Its Wings: 1st Edition Dungeon Master's Guide. Flying creatures with wings will be unable to fly if they take too much damage, due to their wings being a prime target for enemy attack.
Clone by Conversion: Third edition introduces the psionic power "Mind Seed" which, after a week-long incubation, turns the target into a mental duplicate of the psion (though eight levels lower than the psion when s/he infected the target).
The Far Realm contains an infinite number of layers, these layers range from inches thick to miles, and it is often possible to perceive multiple layers simultaneously. These layers can grow, spawn further layers, breathe and possibly die. It has toxic natural laws and the laws of most of the regular settings are in turn toxic to most of the residents of the Far Realm. The Far Realm is literally outside of reality as mortals understand it.
An "older multiverse in which the rules were very different." This place is no longer around, its only legacy being some aberrations.
Xoriat is a plane similar to the Far Realm located in the Eberron campaign setting.
The Abyss appears in several of the campaign settings as the home dimension of demons. It is divided into so many 'layers' (regions) that mortals have never counted them all, although legend claims that there are 666, each larger than a planet. In addition to some fairly standard fire-and-brimstone regions there are sections of the Abyss infested with flesh-devouring mold, one region that is nothing but an utterly bottomless void, and some where the ambient evil instantly reduces mortals to husk-like undead known as bodaks.
Elemental Plane: There are many of these. The "inner planes" include planes of Air, Earth, Fire, and Water, as well as the planes of "Positive Energy" and "Negative Energy".
In the Planescape setting, the "outer planes" include a plane representing each of the Character Alignments, and the "inner planes" also include "quasielemental" or "paraelemental" planes such as "the Plane of Dust", "the Plane of Lightning", etc.
Module WG7 Castle Greyhawk. The Queen of the Honeybee Hive on level 7 opened a gate to the Demi-Plane of Flowers, a gigantic plain covered with every imaginable type of flower and plant.
4th Edition takes the elemental planes and mixes them into one plane, the Elemental Chaos.
Elves VS Dwarves: Alternately played straight, subverted, or averted altogether depending on the setting.
The most prominent examples that span those editions are the clerics of gods who are patrons of forces such as entropy and chaos. Unsurprisingly, almost all of these gods (and their clerics) are some flavor of evil.
In 1st Edition, the psionic science Dimension Walk was used to move through various dimensions and end up back in the Prime Material Plane a considerable distance from where you started. Using this power allowed travel at a rate of 21 miles per ten minutes (126 miles per hour).
In 1st and 2nd Edition a character could enter the Ethereal Plane, move at tremendous speed to another location corresponding to a particular place on the Prime Material Plane, then leave the Ethereal Plane at that place.
1st/2nd Edition Greyhawk Adventures supplement. The deity Istus could use her Spindle of Fate to cast a Web of Stars, which sent the targets to another plane of existence. Once there, a creature that knew the way could travel the Web and arrive at any desired location.
2nd Edition Forgotten Realms Adventures supplement. After reaching level 10, specialty priests of the deity Bhaal could use the ability Plane Skipping. This involved traveling to Bhaal's home plane of Gehenna, moving an appropriate distance on Gehenna and then returning to the priest's original plane. Each 10 feet the priest moved on Gehenna caused them to return 1 mile away from where they started from. The entire trip took about 20 minutes plus the time necessary to move the distance on Gehenna.
The 2nd Edition spell Shadow Walk allowed the caster and any creatures he/she touched to partially enter the Plane of Shadow. This allowed them to move at a speed of 7 miles per 10 minutes (42 miles per hour) with regard to the Prime Material Plane. When the journey was completed, they could return to the Prime Material Plane at the desired location.
The "Dimension Door" spell is a line-of-sight teleportation spell whose name suggests that it works this way. And one version of the fluff text for teleportation in general states that all such spells work by jumping in and out of the Astral Plane.
Fantasy Kitchen Sink: The standard Monster Manual includes entries for vampires, fairies, dinosaurs, zombies, genies, angels, demons, plant creatures, Frankenstein's Monster (in the form of flesh golems)... and that's not even getting into all the supplements. Of course, Dungeon Masters can selectively choose which creatures to include in their campaigns.
Taken to a new level in 3E and 4E with templates that can be added to several creatures. Yes, that means you could, in theory, have a fiendish half-dragon vampiric dark elf.
Field Power Effect: Various spells that boost and nerf groups of characters, such as Bless, Hallow and Unhallow.
Going to Give It More Energy: In most editions, anyone on the Positive Material Plane heals a set number of hit points per round. This can even raise the amount above the normal maximum... but if said creature reaches twice its HP total, it immediately bursts into energy and is destroyed.
Actually, it has to fail a Fortitude save to explode. But since a natural 1 is an automatic failure, even the sturdiest creature will fail its save sooner or later...
Gold Silver Copper Standard: D&D is one of the early trope codifiers. Prices are usually listed in g.p., unless they're small prices, in which case they're listed in s.p. or c.p.. The exchange rates were as follows:
A Handful for an Eye: In the Dark Sun/World of Athas setting, gladiators are trained to use dirty tricks in combat, such as throwing sand in an enemy's eyes.
Hellfire: Made by Devils, and can burn creatures that are made of fire.
Hell Invades Heaven: If the Blood War between the demons and the devils ever ends, the Upper Planes can look forward to a full-scale war with the fiends as they launch an invasion. When the Blood War did end in the Forgotten Realms setting...this didn't end up happening.
Holy Is Not Safe: The Positive Energy Plane serves as the power source behind "holy" damage spells and abilities that Turn Undead, but any living being who tries to enter the plane without appropriate protection will find their bodies being overloaded with life energy and risk being vaporized if they spend too long there. Ironically, according to 3.5E Rules as Written, undead that travel to the plane simply gain (temporary) hit points, and are immune to all the downsides.
Hot Skitty-on-Wailord Action: Several species in Dungeons & Dragons are quite capable of breeding with just about anything. In 2nd Edition, goblinoid species were specifically cited for fecundity and adaptable with most other races, while elves were specifically noted to choose whether or not they could reproduce with any given partner in The Complete Book of Elves. 3rd Edition carried this further; dragons were capable of offspring with nearly anything alive, while aasimar and tieflings all have celestial or infernal ancestry, respectively (it helps that shape-changing abilities are common amongst the respective parentage). Further parentage was possible; the number of templates for half-parentage is astounding. The Book of Erotic Fantasy actually has a table for this kind of thing. It once appeared on /tg/, with big red arrows pointing to the part where one-inch-tall tall sprites and twenty-foot-tall cloud giants could interbreed, bearing the tactful message "WAT".
There's even a 3.5 sourcebook of half-breeds based around this trope... covering everything from the slightly unusual (human/merfolk) to the completely bizarre (elf/giant eagle).
Human Sacrifice: A tradition among the evil religions, though some have it in a less formal manner. Gruumsh, the god of slaughter and pillaging, gets his sacrifices through said slaughter and pillaging, so not so much of the high priest hacking off some virgin's head.
Magic Missile Storm: Magic missile is the obvious example and the Trope Namer, but there are many other spells consisting of a barrage of magical projectiles or beams. For so basic a spell (it can be learned by 1st level arcane spellcasters) magic missile is an extremely versatile weapon (due in large part to being incapable of missing, but also because it does force damage which is effective against incorporeal beings), and there's a number of builds that are designed around maximizing its potential. Flavor Text from the D&D Wiki article for one of them, Magic Missile Stormer, provides the page quote.
Monster Munch: Basic supplement GAZ1 The Grand Duchy of Karameikos, adventure "Toys of the Madman". The PCs and a few NPCs are kidnapped and placed in a dungeon. Some of the NPCs are there to be killed and eaten by monsters to show the PCs what they're up against.
Mystical High Collar: A lot of art shows wizards, witches, and other supernatural characters wearing high collars.
Mystical Plague: In 2E, the wizard spell Contagion from Player's Handbook infects one subject with non-virulent disease, and the cleric spell Breath of Death (reversed Breath of Life) from Tome of Magic affects an entire community. Anyone who fails a saving throw vs. death magic is infected with a disease that is fatal in 1-6 weeks.
In 3E, Contagion remains a core spell and is given to clerics as well.
National Weapon: Many deities have a preferred weapon that their followers tend to use. For example, the holy symbol for Kurbag is a double - bladed axe. In 3E, the Spiritual Weapon spell summons a weapon made of pure force that is described as taking the form of the user's deity's favored weapon (or a form specific to alignment for characters without a deity).
No Conservation of Energy: Though surprisingly averted in first edition, this trope is played straight in the Mystara setting: The Radiance, which is a major source of magic for a small secret cabal in the Principalities of Glantri, gradually and permanently drains the magic of the entire world each time it is used. This is because all the Immortals decided it would be too dangerous to the balance among the Spheres to allow such an easy path to Immortality in the sphere of Energy, so they altered the Nucleus of the Spheres, the device which generates the Radiance, to draw power from the Sphere of Energy, thereby giving the Immortals of that Sphere a strong incentive to regulate its use. It didn't last.
The shadow elves' version of the Radiance is kept secret, and averts this trope — its only negative effect is crippling newly born babies in the future.
Power Glows: Magic weapons will often glow without any modification to their base price. There are also a few notable examples:
Although optional in previous editions, several 4th edition paragon paths actually have glowing weapons as paragon path features.
Angelic Avengers take it further; their entire bodies can light up.
An entire series of cleric spells and psionic powers in 3.5 allow you to charge up power in your body and then shoot it as laser beams. As long as you haven't exhausted your stock of energy blasts, you actually function as a 60-foot light source, the color of the light being determined by how powerful the spell is you're using.
Also the Nimbus Of Light feat and its improved version from Book of Exalted Deeds.
Paladins in Pathfinder can imbue their weapon with a divine spirit, granting it magical properties depending on level and causing it to light up like a torch.
Religion of Evil: Most of the evil-aligned gods have churches like this, which may end up being a stock opponent for the PCs.
Rerouted From Heaven: In the module A Paladin In Hell, during the funeral of a powerful paladin, the entire temple hosting the service is dragged into hell to claim his soul. The players have to travel to hell, find the temple and free his soul. Oh, and the module was close to Tomb of Horrors in terms of unfair difficulty.
Renegade Splinter Faction: In the 2nd Edition supplement The Complete Druid's Handbook has the The Shadow Circle. A secret society within another druidic order, the Circle use evil methods to enforce their radical beliefs.
In early editions, there was a potion that could make clouds it was poured onto solid.
Module WG7 Castle Greyhawk, Level 4 "There's No Place Like Up". If the PCs climb up a magical rope, they can walk on solid clouds floating high in the air.
Deities And Demigods Cyclopedia
The Chinese mythos deity Chih Sung-Tzu rides a storm cloud that can support up to ten beings of any size.
The Japanese mythos deity Susanowo can often be found riding a storm cloud.
In the Sumerian mythos, all of the deities have clouds that they can ride on. The clouds can teleport to any place that has clouds in the sky, are immune to all attacks and can carry anything the controlling deity wishes.
Standard Fantasy Setting: The main guides present the setting like this. People can design their own campaigns however they wish, so a basic template is handy. The official campaign worlds all diverge from it to a greater or lesser extent.
Whatevermancy: Notably, the core rules from 1st to 3rd edition only uses this form for the school of Necromancy. But if you look around, you'll also see an abundance of references to pyromancy, cryomancy, geomancy, chronomancy, cerebromancy...
In 4E, there is no longer such a thing as an Always Lawful Good race, but there are tons of Always Chaotic Evil. Metallic dragons and other good creatures are now Unaligned (neutral), and many formerly neutral ones are now mostly evil. Good is a very, very rare individual choice. (Although any creature can make that choice now; almost nothing in 4E is "genetically" evil.)
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.
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.
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 weer introduced in Dungeons & Dragons Master Set. The three larger shields have multiple blades that break during combat.
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 appliable 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.
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.
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.
Hologram: The Judges Guild supplement Wilderlands of the Magic Realm had an artifact that projected a laser hologram of an elven princess.
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).
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...
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.
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 Edtition, 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 throws (automatically going up as you level up), victims fall down, becoming vulnerable and losing time to get up, unless they made in AD&D2 a Dexterity check, in D&D3 a DC 15 balance check (the balance is 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."
Precision-Guided Boomerang: A number of magical and mundane items. Specifically, melee weapons with the throwing and returning properties.
Rapid Hair Growth: Dungeons & Dragons 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.
Dungeons & Dragons, 1st Edition supplement Unearthed Arcana. The Hairy cantrip caused a creature's hair to immediately grow 2-12 inches.
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).
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.
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.
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 3.5E 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.
Affably Evil: Several examples can be found across numerous sourcebooks. Particular examples include a few of the Lords of Hell (Dispater, Belial, Fierna, Glasya, and Asmodeus), a very few demon lords (Grazz't, Dagon, Malcanthet), some gods, and a smattering of various beings.
A God Am I: The Forsaken, a race of humanoids who seek to gain immortality by devouring divine power sources, whether they be artifacts or living creatures.
Alien Hair: Genesi and shardmind can have crystals instead of hair, Wilden have spikes.
All Animals Are Dogs: To a lesser extent than most examples: a few of the tricks one can teach an animal using the Handle Animal skill, such as "fetch" and "heel", are generally associated with domestic dogs in the real world.
Surprisingly averted in the Dark Sun setting with Muls (half-dwarves), which are larger than either parent (much like real-life ligers). The sourcebook even lampshades it by noting that one might expect a half-dwarf to be exactly between a dwarf and a human in size.
Always Chaotic Evil: Trope Namer. Lots of Creatures have destructive Alignments hard coded into their being (though mostly just dragons, werewolves, and demons). Many monstrous races have reputations of this, but reading the stat blocks, they are simply listed as "Usually Chaotic Evil".
Antlion Monster: The giant ant lion first appeared in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons in the Monster Manual II. It was Large (larger than human) size and acted just like the Real Life version — digging a pit and waiting for victims to fall in. Once they did so it burst out and grabbed them with its huge mandibles, crushing them until they died.
Ascended Demon: This "can" happen (a notable example on the Wizards site is a succubus who fell in love with an angel and is fighting her inner nature to be a Paladin), but it's very difficult for fiends — beings whose very being is composed of Evil — to fight against that nature to take upon a Good alignment.
Attack Its Weak Point: 1st Edition Deities and Demigods Cyclopedia. In the Melnibonean Mythos section the demon lord Pyaray can't be killed until the diamond-hard pulsing blue gem in his head is crushed.
Badass Normal: Most martial characters in 4th edition, and high-level fighters, rogues, barbarians and so forth in earlier editions, are able to function pretty well despite being basically muscular individuals with absolutely no magical abilities.
The boggart is the immature form of a will-o'-wisp. It is a Shape Shifter that can change its form between that of a small demihuman/humanoid and that of a will-o'-wisp (ball of light).
The Coure Eladrins, fairy-like outsiders from the Chaotic Good planes, can take the shape of an incorporeal ball of light at will. They can also change the amount of light shed, and thus stay discreet if need be.
The Tulanis, another variety of Eladrin, can also turn into an incorporeal sphere of rainbow-hued light.
Bedouin Rescue Service: Mayfair Games' Role Aids supplement ''Lizardmen'. After Will and Hisspak are treacherously abandoned in the desert, they are rescued by a group of Desert Rider lizardmen.
Berserk Button: The Darfellan from Stormwrack go nuts in the presence of a sahuagin (the race that nearly drove them to extinction).
There is also one way to stop Githyanki and Githzerai from attacking each other on sight: Have them both see an Illithid nearby. (If they can kill it, they will return to fighting each other.)
Big Bad: Asmodeus for the Devils. Demogorgon, Orcus, and Graz'zt for the Demons. In 4th edition, the dark god Tharizdun shows signs of being the ultimate Big Bad due to being opposed by literally every other god, being directly responsible for the creation of the Abyss, and the Player's Handbook 3 hints that he's also responsible for the Far Realm's incursion into the material world.
Elder Evils was basically a book that detailed several of these, and how to play them out over the course of an entire 20-level campaign; the campaign was basically capped off by confronting said evil.
Bizarre Alien Psychology: Beholders have two brains. For some reason they process their data through the emotional part before transferring it to the logical part. Which means, if something is against a beholder's beliefs (which, through genetic memory always amount to Always Chaotic Evil racist monster) it won't ever get far enough to apply to its logic.
In early editions, many monsters had infravision (seeing in infrared), such as bugbears, dragons, dwarves, elves, gnolls, gnomes, goblins, Stout halflings, imps, orcs, quasits and trolls.
Much more rarely, some monsters had ultravision (seeing in ultraviolet), such as bone devils and ice devils.
Later editions simplified these two vision-types to 'darkvision' and 'low-light vision'. Carried to an unfortunate extreme in 3rd Edition, where humans were one of only three species that did not have one of these two vision types.note The other two were halflings and lizardfolk.
Other D&D senses include Blindsense (several forms) and Tremorsense.
Breath Weapon: A very popular technique, and a number of creature variants consist of that creature but with the ability to breathe fire. Not that they don't get a bit creative, as most dragons have a different type of breath weapon, and there are a lot of dragon varieties. Apart from the standard Fire, Ice, Lightning and various varieties of poisonous gas, some of the more unusual ones that have appeared are magnetism, hot sand, thorns, dismissal (they breathe a spell effect that dispels summoned creatures), "antithetical energy" (turns things it touches inside out), shrinking, and spitting a purple "lozenge" that then explodes.
Cat Folk: A number of examples, including the Trope Namer Catfolk, a nomadic Beast Man species reminiscent of lions, found in the Races of the Wild rule book.
Another nomadic leonine Dungeons & Dragons species are called the Wemic. They are centauroid lions. Wemics are excellent hunters and fighters. They do not make settled homes, but generally follow the herds they hunt for food, in the manner of a lion pride.
The rakasta from the Mystara setting are another anthropomorphic cat-people in D&D, the most known subrace resembling domestic cats with very un-domestic personalities. A Dragon Magazinearticle featured a vast array of rakasta subraces, from alley cats to ocelots and lions to smilodons.
Pathfinder has a straight-up "cat race" actually called "Catfolk", and it also has the maftets, a race descended from Sphinxes.
The tabaxi are a race of leopard people who live in tropical jungles. The Forgotten RealmsSpin-Off setting Maztica featured a race of jaguar people also called tabaxi; it explained that the name of the leopard-tabaxi from the Realms was pronounced "ta-bax-ee" while that of the Maztican jaguar-tabaxi was pronounced "ta-bash-ee", but no justification was given to how two different species of cat-people on opposite ends of the world could have the same name.
4th Edition's Player Handbook 2 includes the decidedly feline-looking Razorclaw Shifter, descended from weretigers.
Actually, Shifters were introduced in the Eberron setting. They were brought into basic 4E because they were surprisingly (Or unsurprisingly) popular.
The Tibbit race, which are Small humanoids with cat ears and markings as if their skin were fur; they can also turn into full cats in the manner of a werecat.
Charm Person: The Trope Namer. There is a spell of that name that does exactly that. It used to work for up to a month per casting, depending on the intelligence of the person who was charmed.
There are improvements, like Mass Charm. And if that's not enough, Forgotten Realms has Virus Charm spreading by touch from the primary target to several secondary targets, thus beguiling people too well guarded to be charmed directly.
The Chessmaster: A frequent villain type. Notable examples include Vecna, who is quite literally the god of this trope, Lolth, who rules an entire race of this trope, and Graz'zt, who manages to be this trope while also being a demon, which is a bit like being a nuclear physicist while constantly high on paint fumes.
4th Edition gives a possible explanation for why Graz'zt is much more sane and more of a chessmaster than most other Demons (besides Dagon). He used to be an Archdevil.
Circling Vultures: These appear in module B8 Journey to the Rock.
Clipped Wing Angel: Nightstalker's transformation, Tenser's transformation and Mental Pinnacle. Exchange all of your quadratic wizard powers for a few of those of a lower level linear rogue/warrior or psion. Mental Pinnacle can be good if (and only if) you fight someone that dumped charisma, the others... not so much.
Mental pinnacle is also useful if you're a cerebremancer, letting you turn one spell slot into a whole bucket of power points.
Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Dragons, some Sub-races, Gear, etc. This is a pretty common trope overall in this system. Even the planes of existence have this. Generally, planes with nice alignments have pretty colours; less pleasant planes tend to be black or blood-red. 4th Edition and Eberron decided that made the game too easy, so they did away with it.
The Court of Stars, leaders of the in-universe Chaotic Good eladrins (not to be confused with 4th edition eladrin, which are a PC race and can be of any alignment). They're more like fairy lords than angels, but embody Chaotic Good all the same.
Warlocks have powers often derived from evil beings, but can use them for good.
Tieflings even more so: horns, fangs, reddish skin, Glowing Eyes of Doom, and a taste for spikes and red leather (plus some sort of infernal ancestor in the family tree) - yet they're a playable race just like any other racenote The fact that they are random throwbacks that can occur in any child that has some fiendish blood, thus not needing a developed culture/civilization/etc. and the fact that one version has stats that may be worth taking over humans makes them more playable in some ways, and have no fundamental bias towards a particular alignment. To the point where the Tiefling who was Actually Good was a bit of a cliche in the latter days of 3.5. 2E. Planescape had tiefling Rhys — being the high-up of Transcendent Order, she's as close to the embodiment of neutrality as a mortal can get.
The 4E Assassin taps into the Shadow power source, and despite having a legacy of being a back-stabbing dirt-bag, the Assassin welcomes PCs of any alignment. The Shadowfell, from whence they draw power isn't evil per se, just creepy. The Plane Of Shadow, one part of its inspiration from previous editions, is both explicitly not evil and somewhat less creepy. The Plane of Negative Energy, the other half of the Shadowfell's "parentage", less so. Not only is it the source behind all undead in The Multiverse and stated to cause them to be "Always Evil," being there while being alive and devoid of protection means the life gets sucked out of you in a matter of minutes.
Several 3e prestige classes, such as the Malconvoker and Gray Guard, were created specifically around the concept of using dark powers for good. Played semi-straight with fiendbinders, who couldn't be good but could cheerfully be neutral.
The Shadar-Kai are demihumans who changed to their current state after emigrating to the Shadow Plane. In 3E, they were typically evil, but they were The Fair Folk who accidentally disconnected themselves from the natural world and forcibly bound their souls to the Plane of Shadow, meaning that they were slowly fading away into nothing. In 4E, they still have a thing for black leather, spikes, and extreme sensations (pain or pleasure — starting to sound familiar yet?), but they are not inherently evil, and in fact the neutral deity of death is their racial patron.
Pretty much every one of the Heroes of Shadow from D&D Essentials embodies this trope. You can even play as one of the undead — the revenant, one of the races, is someone Back from the Dead to do the will of the Raven Queen, and the vampire, one of the classes, is exactly what it sounds like — a creature of the night, normally one of the most evil creatures in a D&D world, who has managed to free themselves from the control of their sire and retain some form of their humanity, and now seeks to do at least some good in the world.
In all editions there are characters and monsters who can fight while at negative hit points, but it came up more frequently with 3rd's feats and prestige classes. 4th edition gives most Epic Destinies (and thus most level 20+ characters) a means to cheat death daily, either with instant healing, a sudden transformation (like into a platinum dragon or a spell-slinging spirit), or a simple self-resurrection seconds later.
One Epic Destiny actually has a future version of your character appear to protect his past self.
Disney Villain Death: 1st Edition module I10 Ravenloft II: The House on Gryphon Hill. At the climax of the adventure the evil Creature and the Alchemist Strahd topple over the edge of a cliff and fall to their deaths below.
Disposable Vagrant: Several adventures and supplements have examples of monsters that use this technique.
Draconic Humanoid: Named after the "humanoid (draconic)" creature type from Fourth Edition ("humanoid [dragonblood]" in earlier editions), which includes Half-Dragons and Dragonborns, the latter of whom gives us the page picture. 3.5E devoted an entire sourcebook to these, Races of the Dragon, giving massive amounts of detail on creatures ranging from the Dragonborn of Bahamut (not the same thing as the 4E dragonborn race) to the humble kobold. It also introduced the dragonwrought kobold, one born with more draconic features than usual (functional wings, for instance).
Dragon Hoard: All dragons have hoards, although their content varies from species to species. This is reflected by the rules giving them a much larger amount of loot.
Dragon Rider: The cover of Basic D&D's Master Player's Book shows a majestic king riding a gold dragon. He holds on by the hair on the back, and has a sword drawn, ready to fly into battle. While that installment of Basic D&D doesn't give explicit rules for a dragon-based mount in the core rulebooks, it does include stronger versions of dragons that would require much more effort to subdue, thus making it only an artwork depiction.
Eat Dirt Cheap: A number of monsters have some form of this; gold dragons eat jewels, xorn eat rare minerals, and so on.
Genies. Djinni can change into gaseous form and Marids can change into liquid form.
Elemental Grues. Harginn can change into fire and Varrdig can change into water.
Emo Teen: The Maenads (stop giggling), a race introduced in the Expanded Psionics Handbook. They're pale-skinned, black-haired and were wronged aeons ago by their parents the gods. Their stoic, intense exterior belies their boiling internal rage, which they release by screaming. Also, they sparkle.
Even Evil Has Standards: The Drow, for all their depravities, are utterly disgusted by the unthinkably insane Derro, and slaughter them whenever they can. As compared to Illithids and Duergar, canonically trade partners when not at war. Evil dragons usually stick to draconic codes of honour. Also, the Demon Lord Kostchichie is said to be so evil even the other demon lords hate him
Evil Counterpart: The game makes much use of this trope. Most prominently, the drow are to other elves. Other examples include:
Duergar and derro are evil counterparts of the rest of the dwarves.
Githyanki are the evil counterparts of githzerai (though the githzerai aren't all that nice, themselves).
Paladins' evil counterparts anti-paladins, first introduced in Dragon Magazine for 1st Edition. In 3rd Edition, they're a prestige class called blackguards (though Dragon also ran an article offering wildly different "holy" or "unholy" warriors for all nine alignments, including anti-paladins for Chaotic Evil — and a character can be both an anti-paladin and a blackguard at the same time). 4th Edition (and its reduced emphasis on alignment) didn't bother anymore, with paladins being divinely empowered warriors that could serve any god or faith, though the Essentials books went back to the previous mold with two paladin subtypes: cavaliers that had to be good and blackguards that had to be not good.
Basic D&D (of the "Red Box"/Rules Cyclopedia ilk) introduced the paladin and its counterpart together - at high level, a lawful fighter could become a paladin, and a chaotic one could become an avenger. 5th Edition's core rules are set to do something similar, with paladins being lawful, but also having three subtypes roughly across the good-evil axis - cavaliers, wardens, and blackguards.
The Greyhawk gods and half-brothers Heironeous and Hextor (Hextor is the evil counterpart).
The svirfneblin, or deep gnomes, seem designed to make players think they're Evil Counterparts for the friendly surface-dwelling rock gnomes, but they're actually very shy and retiring.
Red and gold dragons, in 3rd Edition especially, were the strongest of the core chromatic and metallic dragons respectively and viciously opposed to one another.
Red and silver more so: same CR, live in the same area, one's a chaotic evil fire dragon, the other is a lawful good ice dragon. The 3rd edition Draconomicon also says they have similar silhouettes from below.
Stronmaus, god of storm giants and good cloud giants is the brother of his evil counterpart Memnor, god of evil cloud giants.
The magic item called the Book of Vile Darkness is the evil counterpart of the magic item called the Book of Exalted Deeds, and the game also has rulebooks with the same names about everything evil and good (respectively) in the game's universe
Pretty much any spell in 3.5 that has the "Good" or "Evil" descriptor has a counterpart with the other one. Often, it even extends to "Law" and "Chaos."
Fauns and Satyrs: The satyrs, who are a combination of the fauns and satyrs of Greek Mythology. And also there are ibixians, a race of goat-men best known for their... teamwork? Huh?
Fearless Undead: The undead in many editions are immune to all fear spells, and if morale is a factor in a game, the undead are near the top of the heap. The only thing that really scares undead is holy power, such as that unleashed by the Cleric's Turn Undead ability.
1st Edition supplement Deities & Demigods Cyclopedia, Greek Mythology section. When Zeus takes damage and his blood spills on the ground, the blood changes into a powerful random monster that is under his control until it dies or 48 hours elapse, whichever comes first. This can occur each round of combat.
Several versions of the default pantheon include the tale that elves and orcs first sprang forth from the blood of their respective patron deities, who'd fought a vicious duel that scattered it across many worlds.
3.5 has a spell that burns a corpse in a special way so that there is a 50% chance even the most powerful (at least non-epic) resurrection spell won't bring it back.
If a person is killed by a corporeal undead creature, they may become an undead of the same type a certain amount of time later. One way to prevent this from happening is to burn their body to ashes before the deadline.
And of course, trolls, which will eventually regenerate from any damage, even apparent death, unless burned with fire or acid.
Fog Feet: Angels as well as water and air archons in 4th edition.
For the Evulz: Surprisingly rare; even demons and devils frequently have motives one can understand, if not exactly sympathize with. However, does get played straight on occasion - for example, the third edition Monster Manual says hags sometimes appear to "do evil for its own sake".
From Nobody to Nightmare: According to the fluff, fiendwurms, enormous serpentine beings with extremely dangerous magic abilities, are created by applying demonic magic to... an ordinary earthworm. Yes. In the blink of an eye, one can transform common vermin from a gross, if strangely adorable annelid into a train-sized killing machine.
The underground sea-dwelling Starfish Aliens known as Aboleths exhibit this in Dungeons & Dragons (3rd edition, anyway). Each of them inherits every single memory from its parent, resulting in a staggering amount of information being in their head at birth, and allowing two Aboleths to see how they're related based on how far back their memories diverge. What's really creepy is that these memories go back farther than the creation of the world...
Aboleths gain the memories of creatures they eat. And, like the Goa'uld, have genetic memory that reaches back eons. They remember a time when they ruled the world. They are understandably bitter about the current state of affairs.
They in fact can remember a time before gods came along and created the world.
Multi-Armed and Dangerous insectoids Thri-Kreen ("mantis warriors") have racial memory which isn't readily available, but is awakened by some reminders, piece-by-piece. Includes necessary skills like their language (spoken and written), how to make construction material from saliva, typical designs based on this material (like throwing weapon) and other interesting things.
Dragons basically are able to pass along edited instincts through their genes — so yes, if a dragon researches some new spell, its children can learn it automatically. Or, if some evil empire nearly kills the parent (before the eggs are created, obviously), the children will know to avoid that kind of thing without being told. Given that most dragons are probably not great parents this is one possible way they know things like language, that or magic.
Genius Bruiser: Baphomet, one of the myriad Dimension Lords of the Abyss, has a body that is exactly what you would expect from someone who calls himself the "Demon Prince of Beasts"... and has the brain of a Chessmaster, preferring to destroy society from within before attempting to raze it to the ground.
Heroic Dolphins: Some editions have depicted dolphins as sentient Good-aligned creatures with their own patron goddess.
Hear Me The Money: In the Complete Book of Villains, a 2E supplement, a dragon is presented as an archetypical villain representing greed. When its minions bring it tribute, it listens to the coins being poured out onto its hoard, and immediately detects from the sound that one of them has cheated it.
He Who Must Not Be Named: He Who Was, the god Asmodeus slew to fuel his apotheosis, is a literal case, as he now has no name. The Devils literally erased all knowledge of the god's name from existance, as simply saying it would be enough to resurrect him.
Honest John's Dealership: One of TSR's add-on books for 2nd edition AD&D had an Underdark merchant playable class. As a class perk, this character is not only expected but required to moderately cheat any customers. If the character does a completely honest transaction, underdark NPC's such as Drow assume it's a ruse for something even worse and automatically attack.
Horror Hunger: Libris Mortis: The Book of Undead goes over what undead suffer from this and what it is like.
The drow deity Lolth can take the form of a giant spider. She has complete command over all types of spiders and usually has a variety of spiders and spider-like beings attending her.
Module WG7 Castle Greyhawk, level 7 "Queen of the Honeybee Hive". The Big Bad of the level is Aunt Bee. She was originally a human being, but was turned into a giant queen bee by her addiction to royal jelly. She rules over all of the bee (and bee-like) monsters in the level.
Jobber: Regdar, the iconic 3rd Edition Human Fighter, infamously has pictures in almost every splat book of him getting or having been beat up, including at least two where he's been killed (albeit both show him about to be raised, which is relatively easy in D&D). Monte Cook has claimed it was a Writer Revolt over demands to not only make the iconic Fighter a white human male but to make him prominent in art as well.
Just Eat Him: Anything with the "Swallow Whole" ability. Most notorious example: The Purple Worm. They call him "purple people eater" for a reason...
Kill It with Fire: Several monsters, notably trolls, most hydras, and some undead. As a general rule of thumb, if it regenerates and you can't drown it in acid, Kill It with Fire. On the other hand, often subverted in that fire is the most common magical attack form for monsters to be immune or resistant to, and there are also fairly common spells for taking much of its sting away.
Knight in Shining Armor: Paladins in general. The sourcebook Book of Exalted Deeds is designed to help players create characters who fit this trope.
Kryptonite Factor: Trolls can regenerate from any wound except those inflicted with acid or fire. The same for most regenerators. Specific weaknesses like silver and Holy Water, if any, frequently do this too.
While aasimar, the celestial counterpart to tieflings, can have features like glowing eyes, radiant skin, and possibly even angelic wings, they're capable of being evil just like tieflings are capable of being good — and even if they're not, can be a Knight Templar.
Also, in 4E, there's the Radiant keyword, a light based energy from the Astral Sea, which is commonly used by clerics and paladins (regardless of their actual alignment, so even evil clerics have radiant powers). Also, it's a common keyword for Star Pact Invocations, which are gained from the strange eldritch entities from beyond. Somewhat averted in the 4e Dungeon Master's Guide which suggests that divine characters dedicated to evil gods are more likely to do necrotic damage and have divine NPC characters replace the radiant keyword with necrotic. Though it's not advised that PCs be evil in alignment, so for a player to do the same thing requires DM intervention.
Pazuzu has the title of Angel of the Five Winds and is often a patron of good-aligned people. He's also an obyrith, which in 4E means he's partially responsible for the creation of the Abyss, and for his current modus operandi, well...
Literal Split Personality: Bahamut and Tiamat in 4e. According to the Monster Manual, a deity named Io, who created the dragons, went up against a primordial named Erek-Hus. The primordial cut Io in halfin one swing; the left half regenerated into Bahamut and the right into Tiamat, who managed to kill Erek-Hus. Tiamat got Io's hubris and arrogance, and Bahamut got Io's protective nature and his fairness.
Demogorgon is another example. During a battle with a god of justice, Demogorgon was cleaved from skull to collarbone, but the net result that each half of his head reformed into two whole heads, each with its own name and personality. Oh, and they plot against each other.
This is also played around with in module S1 Tomb of Horrors, as the fake lich, once destroyed, causes the room and dungeon to appear to collapse. Gary Gygax nearly explicitly encourages Dungeon Masters to be sadistic in describing the collapse and ruthless in enforcing a countdown. To those who leave, Gary suggests the DM ask "was that too hard for you?" or words to that effect, while those who stay are NOT crushed. (One almost wonders if early drafts had instructions on how to get tar and feathers out of clothes and hair.)
Made of Plasticine: Monsters marked as "Minions" in the 4E Monster Manual never have more than 1HP, despite their level (but can't be injured on a "miss".) The intent is to simulate Mooks.
Magic Knight: Many fighter/mage classes (or "Gish", as they're known in fan circles); including the duskblade, hexblade, and swordmage(from 4th Edition). On the divine side, there's the Paladin and certain cleric builds.
Mama Bear: Mother dragons and cheetahs and female lizardmen in 1st Edition, and Grey Renders.
Mark of the Supernatural: According to the 3E Races of Faerun, aasimar, humans with a good-aligned extraplanar creature in their ancestry, can range from quite humanlike to obviously supernatural, but even the humanlike ones generally have at least one identifying mark that belies this. An aasimar descended from a solar frequently has vestigial feather patches at the shoulder blades, and one descended from a celestial serving a deity may have a birthmark in the shape of that god's holy symbol.
Mechanical Lifeforms: The Modrons and Inevitables are classic examples, as they're the examplars of Order (Read: Lawful Neutral).
The Warforged are a more recent example. Originally hailing from Eberron, these Magitek androids became incredibly popular - they've even managed to migrate to the base setting of 4E with another Darkhorse, the Shifters.
The Minion Master: You can use a summon spell for lots of little monsters instead of one big one, for example.
For casters, they have to watch out for Arcane Oozes and Disenchanters.
Mugging the Monster: Back in editions where metallic dragons were good, one of their favorite tactics was deliberate usage of this trope via shape shifting (something all metallic dragons have upon birth). They shape shift into something weak and defenseless and wait for some evil aligned idiot to take the bait. You get one guess as to how that turns out.
Warforged are explicitly genderless and cannot reproduce. A warforged who decides it's "female" could, if it wanted (and could find a women's Big and Tall shop), dress the part. Or it could decide to not change its appearance in any way and simply insist that its name is "Glenda". Arguing with it is probably not a good idea; they're called warforged for a reason.
No Sell: Each monster has a cornucopia of various immunities. Some of them, very many.
At later levels, it becomes possible to ignore immunity to some extent.
One to Million to One: In 4E, the crystalline beings known as the Shardmind have an ability that lets them separate into individual pieces and reform a short distance away after being successfully attacked.
Dragon magazine #34 "Choir Practice at the First Church of Lawful Evil (Orthodox): The ramifications of alignment". Several deities fit this trope: Cyrullia, who appears as a beautiful hemaphrodite, Slarsken Obel who appears as a man most of the time but as a women in matriarchal societies, and Demyuritas, who appears as a stunningly beautiful youth who can be either male or female.
1st Edition Dragon Lance Adventures supplement. The section "Gender and the Gods" says that it's not entirely clear which gender each of the deities is because legends speak of them appearing as either gender at different times. For example, Takhisis is said to appear as the female Dark Temptress or the male Dark Warrior.
Role Aids supplement Witches. The Powers worshipped by Faerie witches can appear as either male or female. In their true form they are neither.
Our Monsters Are Different: Given D&D's long history, there's several books of Monster Manuals plus a lot in add-ons, they change a little with each new edition note and now also from third-party products due to d20 open license, and it's inevitable that straight examples, subversions, and aversions of every monster trope imaginable has cropped up in at least one sourcebook or magazine article over the last 30+ years.
All Trolls Are Different: Practically all trolls in D&D are actually pretty consistent in their large size, low intelligence, savage demeanor, regenerative powers, and distinctive spindly noses. There are a few variations on the theme, though, from the huge mountain trolls to the small forest trolls to the sea trolls.
The Fair Folk: Some fey are the happy, helpful little fairies of modern pop culture (atomies, pixies, flitterlings), others are murderous little blighters (redcaps, gremlins, quicklings), and others are the genuinely terrifying godlike beings of ancient lore (Ravenloft's Gwydion, the Wild Hunt, the Primordials).
Hobbits: How closely halflings have stuck to the traditional Tolkienesque model has varied over the years, generally less so as time goes by. There's also the kender, but they've been different from the start. Eberron gives them velociraptors.
invokedDaemons (called "Yugoloths" in 2nd and 3rd edition), Neutral Evil and from Hades, who just want to spread suffering. (Have officially become demons in 4E, although there's implied to be something different about them.)
The Planescape setting has always had many more, including but not limited to the gehreleths, night hags, barghests, rakshasas, baatorians, kytons, baernaloths, hordlings, avari, and diakka, all of which have numerous variants themselves. Let's just say there's a whole lot of evil outsiders available in D&D.
Our Dragons Are Different: Holy mackerel, are they ever. With just core rulebooks you've got your basic metallic dragons (usually good-aligned) and chromatic dragons (usually evil). With add-ons it gets fairly ridiculous, to the point where there are entire supplements written solely about dragons and draconic races.
Our Dwarves Are All the Same: Hill and mountain dwarves fit the trope to a "T" (not only are they the same as dwarves in other stories/games/etc., but they are even mechanically identical to each other) but many divergent dwarf subraces exist: The degenerate gully dwarves of Dragonlance, the bald and (gasp) beardless dwarves of Dark Sun, the polar glacier- and jungle-dwelling wild dwarves of The Forgotten Realms, the evil half-human derro of Greyhawk (and their all-dwarf, but equally deformed and evil Dragonlance counterparts, the Theiwar), the equally evil deep dwarves known as duergar, and so on.
Our Elves Are Better: Possibly subverted as of 3rd Edition; in most cases, a Human character (or many, many other races) is more effective than the standard elf. Completely in force in First and Second Edition if you refused to play with caps on non-human levels (as most players did). Also quite present in supplemental materials; elves are impossibly good at making various textiles and music, for example. Played straight and averted in 4th edition with the eladrin (in keeping with the Arthurian-mythology-tinged fey origin of their race) and the elves (their wilder, less inscrutable cousins), respectively.
Our Gargoyles Rock: Ambush predators passing off as stone statues until unwary adventurers draw near.
Our Genies Are Different: For four elements, Efreet, Djinn, Marid, and Dao, then their nobles in case you need the same boosted Up to Eleven. Ruler of any genie kind has power second only to respective Elemental Lord. Plus "composite" Jann which are mostly like humans, only more powerful. All genies are extremely self-important and unpredictable; it's a good idea to avoid even the good-aligned ones.
The Dao are like the Efreet, but worse; they're slavers, but have no honor.
Djinn are the most likely to aid player characters since they hate evil, but they're still dangerously fickle.
Marid are the most unpredictable of the genie races. They're fickle, hedonistic, and incredibly egotistical, living only for themselves and caring little for the consequences of their actions.
Our Gnomes Are Weirder: Early on, the gnomish race was hardly more than a strange dwarf/halfling cultural hybrid that could talk to burrowing mammals and had a penchant for illusion magic. Then came Dragonlance and its tinker gnomes, an entire RACE of Bungling Inventors with Overly Long Names, and even non-tinker gnomes became practical joke-loving comic relief (with the exception of the aforementioned svirfneblin). In 4E, though, gnomish insanity has been dialed back and the core race appears to have settled closer to the svirfneblin concept of reclusive underground dwellers with mysterious fey-like powers.
Our Giants Are Bigger: Dungeons & Dragons has a wide variety of giants, including the stereotypically brutish Hill Giants, shy and reclusive Stone Giants, the Fire Giants (who look like gigantic evil dwarves), and the Norse-inspired Frost Giants. Storm Giants lean more toward the Gentle Giant side of the archetype.
Also quite literally bigger. Giants range from Large-sized (about twice as tall as an average human) to Colossal-sized (about 16 times larger than a human).
Our Ogres Are Hungrier: Simple minded, short-tempered, and always hungry. Ogre Magi also exist, based on the Japanese Oni (and, appropriately enough, are called Japanese Ogres). 4e decided there was no point hiding the truth and removed Ogre Magi in favor of an outright Oni monster category. While there are several types, such as the Night Haunter and Spirit Master, they are all explicitly described as evil creatures with a vaguely ogre-like appearance and invariably some form of shapeshifting or illusion type power they used to deceive humanoids.
Our Vampires Are Different: Vampires in D&D hew pretty closely to tradition, though they vary in temperament from savage brutes to dignified killers◊ depending on the individual. The horror-themed Ravenloft setting, though, introduced numerous variants, such as the elven vampire, which can only survive in the day and is killed by exposure to moonlight!
Our Werebeasts Are Different: Werebeasts are collectively (and inaccurately) lycanthropes. In addition to werewolves, there werebears, werecats, wererats, wearboars, weretigers, dire wereboars (hill giants that turn into dire boars), and jackleweres, just to name a few. The 3.5 edition Monster Manual has rules for the use of any type of animal as template for a werebeast.
The rabbit is not just sitting there. The rabbit is part of the monster. So you're looking at an evil tree stump that has a cute bunny on the end of its tentacles so that it can lure people or other animals near it. While I understand the parallel to animals in the real world, I'm still stuck here looking at a googly-eyed tree stump with a rabbit glued to its head. Wow.
A number of adventures have included guards who can summon reinforcements.
T1 The Village of Hommlet. When one group of guards is encountered, they make a low hooting sound that brings more guards. If they're being defeated they start howling, which summons all of the remaining opponents.
T1-4 The Temple of Elemental Evil. A group of hobgoblins will strike a gong to alert other nearby guards and bring them to attack.
Dragon magazine #132 article "With All the Trappings": a guard in the Grey Griffon Inn can pound on a gong with a mallet and arouse the entire inn.
Dragon magazine #64 article "The Assassins' Run". In the Forgotten Realms campaign setting, the Shadow Thieves use the title obstacle course for training purposes. In one of the rooms, trainees must prevent two guards from striking an alarm gong or they will fail the course.
Puny Humans: In the early editions, humans had dead-average stat spreads and none of the special abilities (night vision, bonus weapon proficiencies, etc.) of every non-human race. Humans were "balanced" by their ability to reach higher character levels than other races, a poorly-thought-out rule which most players ignored (and by so doing, created this Trope), and by their access to character classes that no other race could qualify for. The predictable result: humans were played only for access to those classes.
This becomes averted in later editions by taking a similar concept and giving more immediate and tangible benefits for it. Humans in 3rd and 4th edition reflect their diversity and commitment to their trade by gaining an extra starting feat and skill (and a third at-will attack in 4th), and though they have only one ability score bonus instead of two, they can put that one into any ability they wish. The current playtest of 5th takes this in a different direction, reflecting the semi-optional importance of skills and feats - humans just get straight-up bonuses to all ability scores, being a broadly-talented race.
Recycled INSPACE: or, more commonly, UNDERWATER! Nearly every land monster has an "aquatic" or "sea" version, which sometimes makes one wonder if the publishers aren't just trying to pad out the page count of the Monster Manuals.
The Xorn and Xaren, two related stone-like creatures that eat minerals and metals.
The Crysmal, a hexapedal crystalline creature about three feet high. They eat crystals and are preyed upon by Xorn.
Earth elementals were large humanoids made of stone and rock.
The 1st Edition supplement Manual of the Planes populated the Elemental Plane of Earth with creatures that appeared identical to Prime Material Plane creatures (such as bears, jackals and pegasi) but were made of rock and stone.
Creatures from the Quasi-Elemental Plane of Mineral:
Dragon magazine #174. The Dragon's Bestiary had four creatures made of crystal: Glomus, Shard, Trilling Crysmal and Crystalle the Ruler of the Plane of Mineral and Prince of Mineral Quasi-Elementals
The Bowler, which looks like a small-to-medium sized boulder. It rolls over other creatures and crushes them, then eats them.
The Galeb Duhr was a large boulder-like creature which had arms and legs and could use earth-related spells.
Stone Trolls (Dragon magazine #199) had rocky skin that they got from eating rocks, stones and gems.
Construct (created) monsters
The Caryatid Column, which animated and attacked intruders.
Gargoyles. In 2nd Edition they were magically animated sculptures. Dragon magazine #223 had four variant stone gargoyles.
The Stone Guardian, a golem-like creature used to protect specific areas.
Gem Vars in Dragon magazine #56. They were small humanoids made out of diamond or ruby.
Basic D&D had Living Statues, one of which was the Rock version. It had an outer crust of stone and was filled with magma (lava), which it could squirt out of its fingers.
2nd Edition had the three gemstone golems (Diamond, Emerald, and Ruby).
Sacred Scripture: The vast majority of the rather large number of gods have a holy book attached to their faith.
Satanic Archetype: Although for obvious reasons post-Gygax TSR and later Wizards of the Coast were extremely wary of allowing anything that could be even remotely used to put the charges of Satan-worship at their doorstep, there have been a few uses of Satan-like characters in D&D:
Asmodeus, Beelzebub (under the alias "Baalzebul"), Pazuzu and other fixtures in Christian demonolgy are used as villains often in the various D&D worlds, particularly in 1st Edition and 3rd Edition (for most of 2nd, devils and demons were banned or renamed).
Satan himself was statted up in a fan-penned article in an early issue of The Dragon, long before the "D&D=Satanism" panic took off. As a injoke, Satan had exactly 333 hit points.
At this point, Asmodeus, the ruler of the Nine Hells, has become the single most direct Satan analogue in D&D, to the point of being Old Scratch in all but name.
Shared Life Meter: Basic game. Sabreclaw monsters are created in "wings" of 2d10 members. Each sabreclaw contributes 25 Hit Points to a pool shared by the entire wing. For example, a wing of 10 sabreclaws would have a total of 250 Hit Points. Any damage inflicted on a sabreclaw is divided up among all of the members of its wing. Once an amount of damage equal to the wing's pool is inflicted on it, all of the sabreclaws in the wing die.
The third edition creates a system for general swarms. The swarm remains at full strength until it's hit points is reduced to zero, where it is either destroyed or scattered (depending on damage type.)
The Sleepless: In 3e, elves do not need to sleep, instead opting for a four hours-minimum period of meditation (dubbed "trance").
Silicon-Based Life: Dark Sun Crystal spiders, Planescape creatures native or related to the Elemental Plane of Earth and Quasielemental Plane of Mineral, the Shardmind from 4th Edition and the Sandling and Storoper in the 1st Edition Monster Manual II.
Early editions had a variety of giant spiders, all of whom appeared in packs. The maximum number varied by type, including Huge spiders (up to 12) and Large (up to 20).
Literal swarms of spiders (as well as other insects and small animals) are often encountered - they occupy a ten foot square area, and do damage by being in the same square as their prey. Often they are not easily damaged by conventional means, making them the bane of many a low-level party.
Spike Shooter: Plenty of monsters can fire spikes, quills, spines and needles at their opponents/victims.
Squishy Wizard: D&D is one of the pioneers of this, though not the original by far.
Stalker Without A Crush: In the 1st Edition Oriental Adventures (1985) supplement, if an application to study with a martial arts master fails, the prospective student may begin courting the master, trying to gain his favor (e.g. by giving a small gift or offering). The hopeful student may continue until either they are accepted or they offend the master.
Threatening Shark: Quoth the Dungeonscape book: "When a dungeon builder needs a deterrent, the only thing better than a giant pit of acid is a giant pit of acid with a shark in it."
Tiered by Name: There's various templates that can be applied to a single creature to modify its stats (size, ancestry, and other traits), which are then reflected in its name. Usually a good indicator of a Mary Sue / Min Maxer if applied to a PC.
Touch Telepathy: The adventure OA6 Ronin Challenge. In "Episode 2: Kera Valley" the PCs discover the Diuku, red baboons with legs like a giant frog. A Diuku communicates telepathically by touching its head to the head of another creature and thinking two word sentences like "Friend now" and "Share food".
In 2nd edition AD&D, products of elf/human interbreeding with claim to 50% or more elven blood always had the characteristics of half-elves, while those with less than 50% elvish ancestry were functionally human.
The various types of Planetouched are individuals that are mostly a mundane species (human, elf, orc, etc.) but have some blood from an ancestor at least one generation removed who was of extraplanar origin.
Tieflings are mostly human, but have a fiend somewhere in their ancestry. Aasimar are the celestial equivalent of Tieflings. Genasi have an elemental grandparent instead.
Fey'ri are majority-elf, minority-demon crosses.
Tanarukks are Orcs with fiendish blood.
In some versions of fluff, sorcerers get their inherent magical powers from a distant ancestor (usually draconic).
The 3.5E supplement Planar Handbook introduced heritage feats that allowed characters to have a tinge of extraplanar blood, granting various bonuses.
Vampiric Draining: The Cerebral Parasite and Brain Mole, vampires and wights, Vampiric Touch spell, the 3rd Editions Death Knell spell, etc.
Variable-Length Chain: Kytons, also known as Chain Devils, can increase a chains length by 15 feet as part of a super natural ability.
Voluntary Shapeshifting: Changelings are able to shapeshift into other humanoids, while Druids can adopt a number of animal forms.
Also the backstory behind the Dragonborn race in 3.5E. To show their devotion to the Platinum Dragon/Bahamut, some people voluntarily entered into a ritual and took on draconic traits. This was later changed to simply being another race in 4E.
Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: The Fallen Angel Avamerin from Elder Evils. He served the gods faithfully and dutifully for literally millions of years, only for the gods he dedicated his life to to casually toss him aside like garbage after he made one mistake. The feelings of rage and betrayal ultimately led to him becoming the willing mortal host for the dark god Serthos.
You Have to Burn the Web: The web spell (or any spideresque webbing) combined with a handy flame can be the low-level party's first introduction to nigh-unavoidable blast attacks.
You Kill It, You Bought It: Goblins in 3rd Edition. Because they're Lawful Evil, their government is rulership by the strong. If the goblin king is killed, the killer usually takes his place.
Zombify The Living: The Son of Kyussappearances 1E Fiend Folio, 2E Monstrous Compendium Greyhawk Appendix, 3E Living Greyhawk Journal #1 is an animated corpse that has fat green worms crawling in and out of its skull orifices. Once per round a worm will jump onto an opponent in melee combat with the Son and try to infect the victim. If it succeeds, the target will immediately become a Son of Kyuss.
Basic D&D. In the Holmes (1977), Moldvay (1981) and Mentzer (1983) Basic sets and the Rules Cyclopedia (1991), magic users could not wear armor.
In 1st and 2nd Edition Advanced D&D, magic users/wizards were simply forbidden to wear armor under the standard rules. There were exceptions made in later supplements, such as 2nd Edition kits which allowed a wizard with that kit to wear armor.
In 3.X Edition arcane casters can wear armor if they take a proficiency feat, but if they do they risk a percentage chance that the spell will fail to cast, justified as the armor interfering with the gestures involved in spellcasting. Bards and the add-on classes warmage and warlock can wear light armor without hitting this restriction, and can take a feat, "Armored Caster", to be able to wear medium armor without risking spell failure. Of course, a wizard with skill in the schools of transmutation and abjuration doesn't necessarily need armor since they can protect themselves quite well with their spells.
Also from 3.X Edition, druids are only allowed to wear armor (and other equipment) made from "natural" materials (wood, hides, stone, etc.) or else their powers are unusable. With just the core rulebooks (Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, and Monster Manual) this restricts druids to wearing light armor or the weakest type of medium armor, but add-on books added some esoteric materials that are classified as natural and can be forged into heavier armors.
In 4th Edition, there's no such thing as arcane spell failure, but wizards still have the worst armor proficiency. They simply don't care about proficiency because (as of Player's Handbook III) they can take a feat to have AC equivalent to leather and still wear those wonderful magic robes made specifically for them.
Artificial Gravity: The starship's technology in the 1st Edition module S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks.
Attack! Attack! Attack!: Most "striker" classes have a smattering of Utility abilities, or heavy reliance on stealth, that make them well-rounded. Essentials, or just someone well on their way to Munchkin land, usually focus on their basic attack, buffing it to high hell and/or getting out multiple attacks a turn, to the detriment of other abilities and feats. One good warlord and a party of 3-4 Essentials characters can get in the vicinity of fifteen to twenty attacks in a single round.
In all editions, shields add to your Armor Class score, and the higher one's AC score, the harder they were to hit.
2nd Edition Player Option: Combat & Tactics supplement. If successful, the Block combat option would prevent a melee attack from hitting the character using it.
Cannot Cross Running Water: In 1st and 2nd Edition, vampires could cross running water, but if they were immersed in it for 3 minutes, they were destroyed. In 3E, they could no longer pass over running water on their own, but could be carried over it in a container. Also, they were not destroyed by immersion in running water if they have a swim speed before becoming a vampire.
In editions before 4th edition, spellcasting was a liability in early levels and grew to engulf the entire game by the time you reached higher levels. Early on, your hit points are very low and even the fighter can go down to a single lucky critical hit from a tough opponent, making heavy armor and good hit dice a real boon. By the time you reach mid-game, however, your spellcasters will have obtained a stockpile of very useful spells that let them pull their weight, and by endgame a caster's buffing capabilities combined with their hundreds of spell slots filled with powerful, reality-altering spells have completely changed the game.
In 3.x Dungeons and Dragons, AC (Armor Class) is important and low-to-mid levels because it allows you to avoid taking damage from enemy attacks. At higher levels, everybody has such high attack bonuses that AC becomes meaningless. Even if you have +5 Full Plate Armor most enemy attacks are going to hit you.
The changing gameplay priorities are actually built right in to 4th edition in the form of tiers. Every 10 levels, your characters get a pretty significant growth in power plus new capabilities, such as flight, teleportation or, in the final tier, the ability to cheat death and resurrect themselves at least once per day. There are some pretty dramatic differences between the capabilities and priorities of a heroic-tier party, where resources are scarce and powers need to be carefully rationed, and an epic-tier party, who won't flinch for anything short of a mad god and who can fight regular enemies for days straight without resting.
Character Alignment: The Trope Namer. Its variant is so ubiquitous that the system from the second and third editions of D&D is described in detail on the trope page. This is simplified in the 4th Edition from the nine-point axis to an alignment line of five alignments: Lawful Good, Good, Unaligned, Evil, and Chaotic Evil. "Neutral Good" and "Chaotic Good" have been compressed into simply "Good," and likewise "Lawful Evil" and "Neutral Evil" are now "Evil." Most ordinary people in a setting are presumed to be unaligned. The old alignment system has been spread through Memetic Mutation, however, so that it's not unusual to see nine-point alignment charts of, say Scrubs characters.
Class Change Level Reset: In early editions, humans (and only humans) could "dual-class", losing most of the abilities of their first class and leveling up in the second. Once they reached the same level in the second class, they got the abilities of the first class back.
Continuing Is Painful: In early editions, resurrection magic was expensive, a permanent drain on your Constitution, and had a chance for failure that would result in Final Death. 3rd edition lightened up a bit by allowing a character to lose a level (which is easier to regain than lost Constitution), and 4th averts this mostly by scaling the cost for raise dead spells and inflicting only a temporary penalty to die rolls.
2nd Edition, Forgotten Realms setting. The spellstrike spell can negate an opponent's spell as it is being cast.
3rd Edition has a Counterspell mechanic. A prepared spell may be cast to nullify another caster's attempt to use the same spell. For example, a fireball can counter another fireball (but not delayed blast fireball, which is a different spell). Some spells are specifically opposed to and counter other spells (haste and slow may counter each other as well as themselves). Finally, dispel magic can be used as a universal counterspell but requires a unique "dispel check" to make the attempt.
The Thief (1st and 2nd Edition) and Assassin (1E) classes were this. The thief could do up to 5 times normal damage with a backstab, and the Assassin could kill an opponent in 1 hit by performing an assassination attack. Neither class was as good as a fighter in normal combat, due to armor restrictions and a lower chance to hit.
Third edition had weapons with an increased critical hit range (chance to make a critical hit), due either to their physical nature or magical enhancements. There were spells (like keen edge) and feats that did likewise (e.g. "Improved Critical"). A character could concentrate on gaining as large a critical hit range as possible (though most of the time, different critical range improvements do not stack).
In D&D 4th Edition, many players who play Avengers will choose weapons and feats to take advantage of the fact that Avengers roll twice for every attack and pick the highest roll in order to maximize the chance for a crit and maximize crit damage.
Crowning Moment Of Awesome: [invoked] Individual instances are subjective. However, if the Game Master or majority of the players are convinced that you performed one during a D&D Encounters session, you are awarded a "Moment of Greatness" and receive extra renown points (which are used to provide rewards.) The official requirement to obtain this reward is to do "something inventive, daring, or just plain cool during a session of play", with die-roll luck having no bearing on the action.
Damage Discrimination: Some creatures are immune or resistant to certain types of attacks. This can lead to tactics were an one guy uses an attack that covers an area his allies are in but his allies are unharmed (at least in comparison with the enemy) due to said allys being immune (or at least resistant) to the attack. In the Blood War devils have sometimes spam fire attacks without regard friendly fire because devils are immune to fire (Unless perhaps the fire attack is hellfire, which no one is completely immune to).
Damage-Increasing Debuff: There are various powers that allow you to cause your enemies to take extra damage from attacks.
Dangerous Phlebotinum Interaction: 1st Edition had the Potion Miscibility Table, which had a variety of results when someone drank two magic potions. The bad results ranged from mild poison to lethal poison to an explosion inside the victim.
Determinator: In all editions, there are characters and monsters who can fight while at negative hit points, but it came up more frequently with 3rd's feats and prestige classes. 4th edition gives most Epic Destinies (and thus most level 20+ characters) a means to cheat death daily, either with instant healing, a sudden transformation (like into a platinum dragon or a spell-slinging spirit), or a simple self-resurrection seconds later.
Diagonal Speed Boost: In 4th edition. To simplify the movement rules, moving one square diagonally counts as one square, and one square only, leading to the speed boost. Most of the earlier editions have a slight diagonal speed penalty, in that moving one square diagonally counts as 1.5 squares.
Dump Stat: Basic D&D permitted a limited means to reduce one stat to raise another, but only allowed reducing strength, intelligence, and wisdom. Of those stats, strength increased melee damage, intelligence gives additional languages, and wisdom affects saving throws against spells. Stat dump is safe with early characters, but additional rules (e.g. ability checks, skills, etc.) change this.
Evil Makes You Monstrous: The optional 3rd edition book Heroes of Horror presents a system that implements this trope. In this, you don't even have to commit evil acts. Evil is practically a hazardous material, and turns you monstrous either physically (called corruption) or morally (called depravity), depending on the circumstances, if you don't take adequate protective measures or make your saving throws if you are around it.
Exploited Immunity: Any PC that is or acquires an immunity to a type of attack can be expected to exploit this (and a cunning DM will use it all the time):
Intelligent, spell using undead (such as liches) can use spells that produce persistent effects over a large area (such as Cloudkill, Sleep, Stinking Cloud, etc) without worrying about being caught in the area of effect, as undead are immune to these effects.
Elven forces with mages can use Sleep spells with impunity, as they are mostly immune to them.
A mage under a Minor Globe of Invulnerability spell (which blocks 3rd level and lower spells) can use a staff which casts third level area effect spells at point blank range.
Game-Favored Gender: The earliest versions of the game gave female characters a strength penalty. Not the case in later editions, which make gender differences purely aesthetic.
Geas: The geas spell forces the player to fulfill a certain condition.
Grappling with Grappling Rules: 1st Edition suffered from this the most, but only 4e has escaped the curse, and then only by completely removing all grappling in the core rules except for a single maneuver. Though there's now an entire fighter subtype whose attacks revolve primarily around grappling.
High Voltage Death: 1st Edition module S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. In Level II (Service Deck 5) there are areas that contain electrical equipment such as generators and transformers. If a PC decides to touch these devices with metal objects (e.g. weapons), there's a 10% chance that the character will be electrocuted and killed.
Hijacking Cthulhu: A character may attempt to control a Sphere of Annihilation with her will (Willpower check). Doing so successfully results in her temporarily controlling a tear in the reality that is capable of destroying pretty much anything in the universe on touch, No Saving Throw allowed.
From the same (and its derivative Pathfinder), Dominate Monster. Provided you succeed, you now have complete control over whatever's in front of you, which can be anything from a true dragon to a Hekatonkheires.
Hiroshima as a Unit of Measure: In 1st Edition, weights were listed not in pounds, but in gold pieces. 1 gold piece weighed 1/10 of a pound, thereby severely limiting the amount of money a party could haul out of a dungeon.
Hollywood Darkness: Generally averted, but played straight if your character happens to have low-light vision.
Home Field Advantage: Most creatures not native to the material plane exist on a plane that corresponds to their alignment. As such, the plane will give them an advantage over those that don't have the plane's alignment when they fight on said plane.
Instant Death Radius: A big problem in the 3rd Edition games was certain monsters being absolutely painful to approach via long melee reach and the Attacks of Opportunity provoked from trying to get close enough to melee them, which would usually hit for heinous amounts of damage due to their high Strength, such as any monster that was larger than you. The five-foot step rule of 3E, known as "shifting" in 4E, exists because of this.
Invisibility With Drawbacks: Most forms of invisibility available to P Cs have some drawbacks to prevent abuse. The basic invisibility spell ends right after you make an attack or target someone with a spell, and items you pick up remain visible unless you can fit them in a pocket or bag. Improved invisibility is less volatile, but leaves a telltale that lets enemies know what square you're standing in.
Invisible Means Undodgeable: Attack spells such as Charm Person, Sleep and Power Word Stun are invisible and cannot be dodged or deflected with weapons.
Kevlard: There is a feat aptly called 'Obese' in the Book of Vile Darkness supplement. It increases constitution by 2 at the expense of dexterity, thus increasing your endurance.
Exists as a feat by the same name in 3.5, and a couple of others intended for large monsters in 3.0.
Laughing Mad: The Hideous Laughter spell inflicts a temporary form of this.
Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards: First to third editions, averted in fourth. It was, at least in gaming, the trope creator, and many games based on or inspired by D&D suffered from the same issue. It was at its worst in 3rd/3.5 editionnote although in terms of sheer power level, 1st Edition magic users were probably the most overblown. Prior to 2nd Edition, a fireball did 1d6 damage per level of the caster, with no upper limit. due to significantly lowered character mortality and rules specifically for starting higher level campaigns, leading to far more characters achieving high levels and thus encountering the issue.
Loads and Loads of Rules: While this applies to pretty much every published RPG ever, the rules for early editions of D&D are rather lengthy. Worse still, most of these rules are poorly organized.
To give some perspective, the rules for grappling run a whole two pages in the 3rd edition Rules Compendium. The rules for magic items weigh in at 5, and the rules for movement are covered by ten whole pages. And then you have Polymorphing rules, which have been changed so frequently that you need to check the errata instead of the most recently printed book just to make sure you are up to date.
In the Forgotten Realms setting during 2nd Edition, certain clerics of Tymora, the goddess of luck, have the granted power to re-roll a die once per day. Similarly, some clerics of Beshaba, goddess of misfortune, have the ability to force enemies to re-roll their dice.
Dnd 3.5 had the Fate Spinner Prestige Class, where you could shift around god and bad luck, as well as the Fortune's Friend, where having supernatural good luck and unlikely events is a class feature. Neither are very powerful, but they are hella fun to use.
The Elf race in 4th edition has an innate power that allows the player to re-roll a single attack roll during an encounter, though they must accept the second result.
Most leader-type classes in Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition have powers that allows one to do this, such as the Bard's Unluck which allows him to swap an enemy good roll for a bad one and a friendly bad roll for a good one. Halflings have the power to force an enemy to re-roll a hit.
In 4th Edition Eberron, the Dragonmark of Detection allows one to roll twice on perception checks and pick the best result.
Dragon magazine #118 had an article on "Hero Points", which could be used to improve the chance of succeeding on a specific roll.
The d20 system had "Action Points", which could be spent to increase the chance of succeeding on a roll.
Some attacks deal "ability damage" that reduces the target's stats but heals when the character rests and "ability drain" which can only be healed magically. Constitution drain is essentially this trope, because a character's maximum hitpoints are calculated from it. A dead first level character who's resurrected (most resurrections cost the resurrected character at least one Character Level to avert Death Is a Slap on the Wrist) also permanently loses a point of constitution.
The Vargouille monster could do this. If the victim of its attack failed a saving throw vs. poison, the Hit Points of damage inflicted were lost permanently and could only be recovered by using a Wish spell. No form of healing magic would bring them back.
Epic Level Handbook: The Lavawight and Shape of Fire have the blazefire ability which does exactly that.
The Book Of Exalted Deeds has the Vassal of Bahamut Prestige Class, which uses bonus dice to deal permanent hit point damage to evil dragons.
The psion, in any edition, is basically a wizard but with the gimmick of spell points instead of memorization. The sorcerer, in third edition, is a wizard but with spontaneous casting instea of memorization.
In Fourth Edition of Dungeons & Dragons, where most of the earlier classes represent a particular fantasy archetype, most of the later classes mainly exist because of a certain mechanical gimmick, and share archetypes with an earlier class. For instance, the avenger (gimmick: roll twice for each attack, same archetype as paladin), psion (as above), runepriest (gimmick: switch between offensive and defensive mode at will, same archetype as cleric), and the fact that there are two different classes named 'assassin' both with a different gimmick.
In some early editions, the thief class itself as the only one with explicit (percentile-based) skills would fit the bill.
Morale Mechanic: The game had a Morale score for each monster or NPC enemy, as well as Resist Fear saving throws. Failing the latter caused the monster to panic and run away. There were, however, fearless monsters, such as the basic undead that lack self-preservation instinct. It also had spells like Fear, which caused the same effects as regular panic attacks and could be resisted in the same way (albeit at a penalty).
Mundangerous: In 3rd edition, being on any surface (marbles most prominently) that requires something to balance without 5 ranks in the "balance" skill (which is otherwise not gotten as it's a rare class skill and most times you need to balance you can just fly), will result in being "flatfooted", a fairly big disadvantage, and it effects any land based foe without the balance ranks.
Non-Combat EXP: The game has various rules for GMs to give out EXP for completing tasks outside combat, such as talking one's way out of a fight or for superb roleplaying. Also, long before there were official rules for it, this was a very popular house rule.
One-Handed Zweihänder: There's a feat in 3rd ed. Dungeons & Dragons called Monkey Grip that allows a character to use two handed weapons as one handed weapons. As the system is one of the bigger cases of Shields Are Useless, and there is an inherit damage boost to two handed weapon use and even with the feat you suffer a penalty, it's common to see comments on how bad it is.
Open Says Me: In 1st and 2nd Edition AD&D, even opening an unlocked door required a character to roll against his Strength. The chance for an average-strength person to open an unlocked door was 2 in 6. You might have to bang yourself against the door several times before it'll open. Forcing opening a locked door could only be accomplished by someone super-strong (18/91 strength or higher), and even then the chance of success was quite small — and if you failed you could never try to force open that same door again.
Out of Continues: AD&D had a limit to the number of times a player can be raised, in addition to a chance that the raise attempt fails.
Padded Sumo Gameplay: 4E combat is often called "Padded Sumo" by its detractors, as damage outstrips health, and many powers focus on moving enemies around.
Paying In Coins: * In 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons a gold piece was worth 200 copper pieces. Many monster treasures had thousands of almost worthless copper pieces. Since moneychangers often charged a significant fee (e.g. 10%) for changing copper pieces into higher denomination coins, a PC might decide to pay for a purchase with bags full of coppers.
A module for Edition 3.5 has an example where doing this is to your advantage. You run across some barbarian halflings who use a barter system—which means 1 gold piece (weighing about 1 third of an ounce, or 7.5 grams) is not much use to to them. However, the equivalent in copper pieces (100cp = 1 gp in this edition) means 2 pounds of metal they can melt down and use.
Spell scrolls can usually only be activated by characters who can also access the spell through their class spell list (e.g. only a wizard or sorcerer can use a scroll of magic missile, only a cleric or druid can use one of flame strike, et cetera). This restriction can be overcome with a Use Magic Device check. Use Magic Device also lets you overcome several other restrictions, most of which fall under Level-Locked Loot.
Downplayed example: The Holy Avenger longsword is ordinarily "just" a +2 cold iron longsword. In the hands of a paladin it becomes a +5 holy cold iron longsword that also provides spell resistance to the wielder and anyone adjacent to them, as well as allowing them to cast greater dispel magic once per turn.
Random Encounters: The Wandering Monsters tables from this game laid the groundwork for this trope.
Ranged Emergency Weapon: In pre-4E D&D, almost every melee character needed to carry one of these. (In 4th edition, you often have powers that let you make ranged attacks with your "melee" weapon anyway.)
Regenerating Mana: In 1st Edition psionics worked this way. Using psionic powers used up the character's psionic strength points. Over time the strength points were gradually recovered. The speed of recovery was based on how much the psionic exerted himself, from zero points/hour for hard exertion to 24 points/hour while sleeping.
Songs in the Key of Lock: The 3rd Edition DMG mentioned a note played on a lute as a possible key to open a magical door.
Sourcebook: Popularized the concept. Recurring titles include Manual of the Planes, Deities & Demigods, Draconomicon, etc.
Square Race, Round Class: Earlier editions put restrictions on race and class combinations, whether by disallowing, putting a level limit on them, or requiring minimum attributes. This was removed in third edition, with those combinations being hard but possible. Forth edition removed all barriers, at worst giving no +2 bonus to the primary attribute.
Straight for the Commander: In the 1st Edition supplement Unearthed Arcana. In battle, cavaliers would automatically charge toward and attack enemy leaders in an attempt to gain glory by defeating them. The charge would be made at full speed, regardless of army cohesion, intervening friendly troops, or any other consideration.
Summon to Hand: There are many powers which can achieve this effect, and many weapons with it as an implicit power.
Tap on the Head: 1E had the Monk class and the sap, and some d20 games also had a blackjack/sap.
Teleport Interdiction: Older editions have spells that prevented teleportation into an area, such as 'Forbiddance', 'Teleport Block' and 'Wall with No Doors'. 'Teleport Ward' (fiendish spell from Dragon Magazine) allowed to better block the intruders with high magic resistance. 'Translocation Shift' (Dragon Magazine) redirected incoming teleporters to a different location. 'Dimensional Anchor' (PO Spells & Magic) to block the effected being from being moved by any forms of teleporting and planeshifting. Anticipate Telportation (D&D 3.5 Complete Arcane) while not blocking it, delayed teleporters' arrival to allow ambushing them.
Every edition has the blink dog, a monster who teleport spams as a free action.
In 3.5, the totemist's blink shirt soulmeld gives teleportation every round of every day. Lots of teleportation spells and abilities could be combined with the Telflammar Shadowlord, who gets a full attack every time he teleports. All of this is brought to its apotheosis with the Chrono-Legionnaire build.
4E has the swordmage, whose Aegis of Assault teleports him to a monster who tried to attack his allies; the eladrin knight, who can teleport every time he hits something; the warlock, who has the at-will Ethereal Sidestep and the paragon path Evermeet Warlock to make himself invisible to anyone he teleports away from and bring his allies with him; and the bard, who can specialize in teleporting his allies and enemies. Warlock and bard are often combined to form what is known as the Bard Taxi.
Read magic is one of the most basic spells available to any caster, and can be used to identify the spells contained in scrolls. The catch is that only an arcane spellcaster (bard, sorcerer, wizard) can use arcane scrolls; same goes for divine casters (cleric, druid, paladin, ranger) and divine scrolls.
Detect magic is another common, low-level spell, and combined with the Spellcraft skill a player can analyze the aura of a magic item to infer some of its properties.
Identify is a 1st-level spell usable by wizards, sorcerers, bards, and clerics with the Magic domain. It identifies all properties of a single magic item. And yes, you can scribe a scroll of the spell with the proper item creation feat. Another option is to use a Knowledge skill check to deduce the item's properties.
For more mundane treasures like gemstones and art objects, the Appraise skill lets a player estimate monetary values.
The rulebooks suggest that a character who frequently uses potions can learn to identify them by sampling the contents; just enough to taste but not enough to activate the magic.
In 4th edition, item identification is safely performed during a short rest, with only rare or obscure items requiring an arcana check.
Your Mind Makes It Real for some spells, usually illusion spells with the shadow sub school. Although illusion spells with the shadow sub school still hurt you if you don't believe in them, just not as much, under normal conditions. Certain builds in 3.5, however, could make shadow duplicates of spells that were 160% real.
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 advacing 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-existant 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 farhe 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).
3.0/5 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.
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 levelling 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 /Mind Flayers have.
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.
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 statted out Cthulhu, but had a sidebar addressing why Cthulhu might have a suit of +3 chainmail lying around.
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.
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.
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.
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 bandolier of grenades. If both the wearer and necklace fail their saves against a magic fire attack, all remaining fireballs activate immediately.
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.
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.
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 transposessed by an undead they will suggest splitting up the PC party and NPCs to search the grounds more quickly.
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.)
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: The entire point of the Tomb of Horrors (see trope page), Dungeon and Dragons' most infamous module. You will die before even getting into the damn dungeon if you don't know what to do. Have fun.
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.
Which was basically a simple misconception, caused by not reading the rules. Out of the basic player handbook, you could take feats that allowed you to fight with two weapons. That includes bashing things with your shield Using another feat thatlet you keep your shield bonus while doing this turned them into a fairly effective build.
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 (and, to be honest, in 4E anything you'd want to avoid getting hit from will hit you anyway, because of bosses ridiculously high to-hit values) is a fearsome enemy. And also one who _defends_ better, because ignoring him means you're in a world of pain. So he is usually stickier than the classical sword-and-board fighter. Shields don't even get a magical enhancement bonus.
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.
Spell Levels: Probably the Trope Codifier. Both arcane (wizard) and divine (cleric) spells were split into nine and seven tiers, respectively, with characters of certain level getting only so many spells of certain levels to memorize.
In 3rd Edition clerics, druids, sorcerers, and wizards had ten spell levels (0-9); bards had six, and paladins and rangers had four.
4th Edition did away with the concept, instead simply listing the minimum class level to gain a "power" in the description.
Basic D&D adventure IM 2The 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 OA 2Night of the Seven Swords.
Weapons-Grade Vocabulary: In the Fourth Edition of Dungeons & Dragons, bards have an at-will "spell" called Vicious Mockery, which inflicts damage and status effects. Some bard players will use insult generators every time they use this attack.
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.
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?
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 wheellocks.
...and only in D&D3 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.
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.
Hollywood Masochism: 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.
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: 4ed 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: The Book of Erotic Fantasy (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."
Sequel Number Snarl: * The various Dungeons and Dragons editions are titled Dungeons and Dragons, The Dungeons and Dragons Basic Set, Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, Basic Dungeons and Dragons, Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (with Second Edition inside the book), Dungeons and Dragons 3rd Edition, Dungeons and Dragons v3.5 (also referred to as 3rd Edition Revised by the fans), Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition, Dungeons and Dragons Essentials, and the upcoming D&D Next, whose unofficial title is Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition, despite actually being the 10th version of the game.
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. The internet has naturally multiplied this effect.
Stoneskin 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.
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 they're sexless egg-layers. The only way illithid hybrids are created is "Face Full of Alien Wing-Wong plug a larva into host other than Medium humanoid".
Then again, they could be descended from the failed ceremorphosis of humanoids where the tadpole did not inject enough of a certain chemical into the host body and wound up resembling a normal humanoid but with the brain and diet of an illithid.
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.
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 Dieties 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.
It's less the creature's combat abilities and more their existance 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.