09 September 2012

Protection from what?

...or “Would that technically be rules lawyering?”

From the D&D Basic Set c. 1981...

Protection from Evil

Range: 0 (caster only)
Duration: 12 turns

This spell circles the cleric with a magic barrier. This barrier will move with the caster. The spell serves as some protection from “evil” attacks (attacks by monsters of some alignment other than the cleric’s alignment) by adding 1 to the cleric’s saving throws, and subtracting 1 from the “to hit” die roll of these opponents. The spell will also keep out hand-to-hand attacks from enchanted (summoned or created) monsters (such as living statues), but not missile fire attacks from these creatures (see COMBAT). The cleric may break this protection by attacking the monster in hand-to-hand combat, but still gains the bonus “to hit” and saves.

I’ve read this spell many times, but I didn’t notice something that was noticed Saturday. The last sentence says that by attacking the monster, the caster breaks the spell.

Well, that’s how I’d read it before. First, we’ll note that the cleric can freely make missile attacks against the monster. Secondly, we’ll note that a qualifying attack doesn’t break the spell, because the “bonus ‘to hit’ and saves”† remains.

But then what is lost? OK, let’s look closer. The spell grants...

  1. A +1 to the cleric’s saving throws against attacks by monsters of an alignment different than the cleric’s.
  2. A -1 “to hit” when a monster of an alignment different than the cleric’s attacks the cleric.
  3. Prevention of hand-to-hand attacks on the cleric from enchanted (summoned or created) monsters.

So, the cleric making a hand-to-hand attack against a monster only negates 3. Note also that the specification of monsters for 1 and 2 is different from the specification in 3.

This spell turns out to be surprisingly complicated. Was it intended to be that complex or was it worded poorly?

As a recovering rules lawyer, this whole discussion made me a bit uneasy. Though this is certainly a far cry from the rules lawyering I participated in with AD&D or Wizards’ D&D.

†But no “to hit” bonus is given. Only a penalty to the monsters. Presumably it is called a bonus here since it is in the caster’s favor.

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