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Roll for initiative.


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

D&D has been through many huge rule changes, provoking some variety of fan outrage at every turn.

The newest edition is known as 5E (Fifth), replacing 4e and 3.x. Free versions of 3.5 and 5.0 mechanics are available at The Hypertext d20 SRD site.

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 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 a bit twisty. It started as a companion book to a miniature-based tabletop wargame called Chainmail. Then 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, Chainmail reborn as an expansion of its own grown-up derivative.

By 1989, enough official rules tweaks and unofficial suggestions had been made to re-codify them all as Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2nd Edition, which was intended to be less complicated and more flexible, but still managed to include things like the THAC0 system (lower THAC0 makes it easier to hit in combat, but other bonuses are positive, meaning higher is better), less than straight skill checks, not even trying 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 for material accumulated (in settings and "Complete X" handbooks) by AD&D2 and lessen the power discrepancy. It has a plain structure and included a good compilation/rewrite of earlier options, house rules 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, and not only as optional (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, added much more customizability in the form of the feat system and Prestige Classes (including making them a named and common mechanic), dropped the racial restrictions, and made it easier to get into the game from a novice player's level. 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.

4e 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), and much much more.

The fifth edition of D&D was made 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 were actively soliciting players for ideas about the new edition, with plans for an open playtest (the problem here is that the crowd dissatisfied with 4e mostly long have left the 4e oriented areas, so it's an attempt to bring it back relying on it already somehow being back... not only they didn't exactly tried to meet it halfway, but rather removed more and more bits of the web community support). In its current state, it brings back the old Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards effect by removing Powers. Fans of 4E's (mostly successful) attempts to make playing Fighters, Monks and Rogues worthwhile were not pleased, as were fans of Clerics - not only could Wizards do everything, including healing, better than Clerics, fighters and rogues received massive Nerfs. It turned out to be mostly 3e with bits of 4e and certain fixes from Castles & Crusades.

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 and 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 Role Playing Game Terms and RPG Elements that the influential computer RPG genre was founded on. Many, many excellent computer games (especially RPGs) have also been made directly off the D&D license.

Though a number of D&D-based MUDs and other online games existed prior, most notably the original Neverwinter Nights, in 2006, Wizards of the Coast and Atari released the MMORPG Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stormreach, set on the fictional continent of Xen'drik in the campaign world of Eberron. The game has since been renamed Dungeons & Dragons Online: Eberron Unlimited, and uses a free-to-play model with optional microtransactions. 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, and Executive Meddling is incessant, 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 And Dragons. There are also three movies. The first (see |here) is D&D In Name Only, while the second (Wrath of the Dragon God) is a lot better, despite being made on a low budget. The third was a direct to video movie in 2012 named Dungeons and Dragons: The Book of Vile Darkness and got a 31% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

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.

Dungeons & Dragons is the Trope Namer for:
Dungeons and Dragons is the partial Trope Namer for:

The game is also the subject of the Filk musical Tripod Versus the Dragon.

Dungeons and Dragons Settings and Products:

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 setting. Later tied to both Greyhawk and Mystara. It's complicated. (See here for more.) Dave Arneson's original campaign setting.
  • 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.
  • Dark Sun: Desert Punk by way of Dune, but with primitive weapons, Psychic Powers, and Black Magic. A world ravaged by misuse of magic, Athas is now a vast desert wasteland (mostly). Psionics are extremely common, while wizardry is outlawed. The world is ruled by a cabal of evil god-kings, each of whom controls their own city-state with an iron fist.
  • Dragonlance: The purest High Fantasy setting of them all and hews closest to JRR Tolkien's works, arguably. The most major difference would probably be Tolkien preferred to imply the influence of Providence, while in Dragonlance the intervention of deities tends to be much more explicit. More popular for its series of novels, which have come out non-stop for years, than for its sporadically-published game products.
  • Eberron: Magitek and Dungeon Punk. Magic is a part of everyday life, to the point that airships and magic-powered locomotives are a common sight. A world war has devastated the globe, and an uneasy peace reigns—for now. The world is in the grips of an age of exploration, with new treasures to be found around every corner.
    • Supposedly, the creator of the setting and others who have worked on it specifically deny that magic was supposed to replace technology in this way. You can imagine the response of some people to this...
  • Forgotten Realms: A world of many Fantasy Counterpart Cultures, partially shanghaied from Earth, prominent features are constant (if often covert) conflicts between numerous and very active deities, the world being one big Gambit Pileup between dozens of mortal factions, and scads of high-powered NPCs (mostly the stars of the setting's popular novel lines) running around[1]. The most popular setting, and the most developed. Also got several subsetting - some integral part of FR, some developed as extensions, and some glued to it as an afterthought:
    • Arcane Age: The same, but half a thousand to several thousands of years before "contemporary" version, with a lot of Magitek on top.
    • Al-Qadim: Arabian Nights style fantasy mixed with slightly tweaked[2] Muslim Arab culture. Genies, magic carpets, Evil Viziers, secret societies, Sacred Hospitality, haggling and fame. Peculiar magic (tied to genies, astrology, magical weaving, and so on - Complete Sha'ir's Handbook is a whole sourcebook dedicated to variants of magic and practitioners thereof). The Land of Fate is placed on the continent Zakhara.
    • Kara-Tur / Oriental Adventures - martial arts and all. Peculiar magic (based on oriental five elements, of course).
    • Living City: Ravens Bluff, city-state on the north-east side of the Sea of Fallen Stars, just shy of becoming a new nascent civilization, built on the place riddled with planar portals (mostly closed), above two long abandoned (for good reasons) underground settlements. One of RPGA campaign settings. Later published in a series of FR sourcebooks.
    • Living Jungle: a little Lost World area somewhere closer to Kara-Tur. One of RPGA campaign settings.
    • Maztica: Central & South American style setting. Very peculiar magic (feather vs. fang), utility- and artifice- oriented; Magic Knights for both.
    • The Sea of Fallen Stars (Serōs): Described mostly in the sourcebooks Sea of Fallen Stars and Pirates of the Fallen Stars and trilogy The Threat from the Sea.
  • Gamma World: While technically a different game line, uses identical mechanics and is often seen as a subset of vanilla DD. Scavenger World After the End inhabited by Mutants constantly trying to win the Superpower Lottery and usually either Cursed with Awesome or Blessed with Suck.
  • Ghostwalk: Souls have to physically walk to the afterlife, which allowed players to exist as a ghost and still do stuff in-setting after death. The first campaign setting released for 3e. Nobody gave a crap about it, despite some experimental features, likely because it came juuuuuust before 3.5th edition came.
  • Greyhawk: Your basic Medieval European Fantasy, the base Dungeons and 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.
    • Tomes series: related to ancient Oerth; AD&D1.
  • Historical Reference: The Earth of myths and legends. Was done as one-off series for AD&D2, with some elements reused elsewhere. Focused on culture of the involved peoples - including mythology, of course - and adaptation of rules to particular mythology.
    • 1: Vikings: Also covers rune magic (which later was adapted and reused elsewhere, at least up to 3.x).
    • 2: Charlemagne's Paladins: Middle Ages.
    • 3: Celts Campaign Sourcebook
    • 4: A Mighty Fortress: Elizabethan age.
    • 5: The Glory of Rome
    • 6: Age of Heroes: Ancient Greeks.
    • 7: The Crusades
  • Jakandor: two clashing peoples with vastly different culture - Charonti wizards vs. Knorr barbarians. With Grey and Gray Morality in that both had their good sides, but "believed they were the epitome of humanity" and gone a bit over the top, thus both were equally playable. Jakandor being an island, the setting is a self-contained "campaign arena". It had some interesting developments, and one of the books won an award, but the novel got buried and this line didn't restart. "A small world which hoped to be so much more".
  • Mystara/The Known World: Wooden Ships and Iron Men on the surface of a Hollow World full of lost worlds inside of it. Notable for the Immortals, incredibly powerful beings which stand in for gods in this setting, and which player characters could become if they got to the highest levels. The default setting of BECMI/Rules Cyclopedia-era D&D (and the setting of the Capcom Beat'Em Up games). Lots of airships ranging from a floating island/city carrying a fleet of WWI style planes powered by gnomish Magitek to big wooden birds of prey kept in the air by sacred relics and armed with long-range Disintegrator Rays to a flying icosahedron (i.e. d20) plated with one-side mirrors.
  • Planescape: Walking The Multiverse in a setting where belief and philosophy can reshape the very cosmos. Everything else exists within its framework. All Myths Are True, as far as possible, even if many are stretched a lot.
  • Points of Light: Default setting for 4th edition. The great empires of mortals were destroyed in a magic war, leaving behind scattered remnants of civilization in small pockets surrounded by dangerous monsters and abandoned and forgotten magic and technology.
  • Ravenloft: Gothic fantasy and Hammer Horror in a maybe-sentient demiplane that seems to exist solely to inflict The Punishment on its inhabitants. Easy shortcuts like "Detect Evil" are disabled (the whole place is evil). Details on magical nastiness, curses and splatbooks on specific types of monsters and other elements. Rules for horror/madness/attention of Dark Powers.[3]
    • Masque of the Red Death: The same setting concept, but transplanted to Victorian-era Earth ("Gothic Earth").
      • Living Death: RPGA campaign.
  • 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 worlds [4] 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.)

Third Party Settings

(existing outside TSR/WotC/Hasbro, whether pre-existing, licensed to them or independent)

  • Arduin, of Arduin Grimoire. Using expansion and partial overhaul of D&D rules (not standalone), and quite "hardcore" - or, in the words of Jeff Grub, "was D&D on drugs. Really, really good drugs."
  • Black Flags: Piracy in the Caribbean: 18th Century pirates and privateers in the Caribbean by Avalanche Press. Fantasy / Pulp - arr right, it got the archetypical Buxom Wench With Flintlock right on the cover, so you know what to expect, mateys. d20
  • Conan: In the setting of Conan the Barbarian.
  • Dying Earth. Yes, people still actually play in the 'verse of Jack Vance's books that gave us "Vancian Magic". It got a fan site and even magazine (The Excellent Prismatic Spray).
  • 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.
  • Lankhmar, City Of Adventure/Nehwon: The setting of Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and The Gray Mouser. Low-magical.
  • 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.
  • Rokugan: Jidai Geki style fantasy. Licensed from the makers of the Legend of the Five Rings card game.
  • Mythic Vistas: The Earth of lands of myths, alternate history and other stylizations, by Green Ronin. Includes thoroughly reworked magic system(s), classes etc, as appropriate for each setting.
    • The Black Company: The game mechanical support for the world of Black Company. d20 3.5
    • Damnation Decade: The Masquerade in 1970-s. Aliens, Cryptids and so on. Apocalypsis is near! d20 Modern
    • Egyptian Adventures: Hamunaptra: Ancient Egypt style. d20 3.5
    • Eternal Rome: Rome from its founding to the fall. d20 3.5
    • Medieval Player's Manual: Saints and alchemists and whatnot. d20 3.5
    • Mindshadows: Jungles, psionics (somewhat fixed) and martial arts. d20 3.0
    • The Red Star Campaign Setting: Totally not Command & Conquer: Red Alert... but mostly because it's about a struggle between internal factions. d20 Modern
    • Sidewinder: Recoiled: Wild West. An unique system, but still in the series, thus listed for completeness.
    • Skull & Bones: Swashbuckling/horror in the age of Caribbean piracy. Fencing, walking dead, plunder and Voodoo. d20 3.5
    • SpirosBlaak: Grimdark with lycanthropes and black powder (of course). d20 3.5
    • Testament: Biblical times, Biblical places (Israel, Egypt, Babylon, Canaan and Mesopotamia). d20 3.0
    • The Trojan War: Bronze Age - the Homeric World. d20 3.5
  • Thieves' World: The 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, rules for injury [5] and curses; it doesn't use an universal psionics model for abilities of Bandaran Adepts, S'Danzo Seers and northern barbarians.[6]
    • Interestingly, essay On Thud and Blunder by Poul Anderson was reprinted as a part of the Chaosium 1981 sourcebook, to point out the setting's difference in style from Heroic Fantasy and Hack&Slash.


  • "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 was 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 (wich 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 the like counted as classes, so only humans could play anything but a standard version of their species.[7] 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 round and 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. Also, has excessive amount of tables for everything and game elements heavily entangled with "generic" setting.
The round is divided - now the true time quantum is 6 sec. segment, initiative is adjusted by segments (carrying over into the next round if needed).
    • 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.
  • Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (2nd edition) - 1989: The first full-scale revamp. Tweaked the combat system, threw out material they thought parents might object to, like half-orcs and assassins,[8] and stripping out renaming "demons", "devils" and the like [9] and other smallish changes.
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 many new interesting rules, including character points system that allows to easily customize variants of basic classes [10] and guidelines on creating new kits, somewhat bloodier combat options averting Padded Sumo Gameplay and even Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards trend,[11] re-integration with Chainmail battle rules and new material.[12] However, fatal flaws in the Skills & Powers due to noticeable lack of proper coordination and playtesting [13] made it barely usable "as is", which demoted PO from the new generation to a cherry-picked set of sourcebooks.
The 10-15 sec. round is split into initiative phases, initiative adjustments such as weapon "speed factor" are 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: for powerful and unusual creatures what was racial HD is now treated as "class". 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 standard level limit was set at 20 (higher levels were covered in the Epic Level Handbook), again without racial restrictions of any kind. 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: skill point inflation, indecisive unification [14] and Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards on steroids.
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.
  • 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. Combat itself has been highly revised so that each class has powers that help them in their field. Wizards have area-attack spells, fighters can punish enemies who don't attack them, rangers can shoot two arrows in a turn, but all of these are presented in a standardized format.
  • 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 (Fighters work a bit differently, etc.) but for the most part it is 4E mechanics. It's a set of ten products (the new Red Box, dice, three tile sets, and a few extra books). The reintroduction of certain game elements removed from the making of 4th edition, and the confirmation that these changes will become standard from the end of 2010 on, has already led many players to calling it "4.5" edition. Naturally, the already-fragmented base was broken further over this.
  • Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition: - 2014 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. Only time will tell if they are successful. Going by the free "Basic Rules" document, it's 3.x with a few changes. Humans are given a bump (2 arbitrary stats +1), as well as low-HP classes (Wizard's HD 1d6, Rogue's 1d8). Feats are de-emphasized and made optional - choose either a feat or Ability Score Improvement, at points fixed in class advancement (2-4 levels). A few drops of features from 4e (surges, powers-per day) seeped in. Known cantrips are cast at will without preparation, and cantrips are 3e style, with options to beef them up even more. Some spells have an optional ritual casting option.[15] Saving throws are ability based (like in C&C). Secondary spellcasters still use Charisma. Perception is still glued onto Wisdom. Death's door rules are different - unconditional death is at negative full HP, but every round gives roll 10+/d20, with death on 3 failures (natural 1 counts as 2x) and stabilization on 3 successes, i.e. without outside interference it's always resolved in 2-5 rounds.
Round is officially 6 seconds, initiative is plain Dexterity roll.
  • 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 anf 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 dedicated article for more details.

Also worth mentioning is Hackmaster, an officially licensed parody of 1st edition, Defictionalized 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: A 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.
  • Blood and Treasure: Has F/R/W, but roll-under saving throws and level titles and "AL: Chaotic (LE)".
  • Castles & Crusades: A retroclone from Troll Lord Games and SmiteWorks. The general idea was to have mostly AD&D 2 with straight roll-over checks of d20, lesser unified attribute adjustments, but without d20 specific elements, though 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 (e.g. 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.
    • AD&D 3: Streamlined overhaul of AD&D1 based on Castles & Crusades, by Chris Perkins.
  • 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) 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).
    • Its publisher Goblinoid Games 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 - and the "second edition" of Starships & Spacemen (1978) compatible with both, while they're at it.
  • Microlite 20: A free, extremely streamlined and rules-lite version of the d20 system, designed to be compatible with existing d20 monsters and adventure modules.
  • OSRIC: One of the first "retro-clone" games, this game is a faithful recreation of the first edition of AD&D.
  • 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's also a White Box edition that simplifies things even further.
  • Renegade : a streamlined (roll-over checks, simple and useful skills) AD&D1 retroclone by David Morrison (published by Thistle Games).
  • Grit & Glory: a partial conversion of 5e/Castles & Crusades to d100 system mechanics, but it does not take advantages of the latter beyond zero-centered ability bonuses.

Tropes used in Dungeons & Dragons include:

There is a page for the game's various classes and the tropes they embody.


  • 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 upto 5 dimensional planes, giving rules for how they work. They also describe that mortals exist in three dimensions, immortals existing in four, and Old Ones existing 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.
  • Black Magic: Several individual examples:
    • Warlocks in 3E and 4E, but see also Dark Is Not Evil.
    • AD&D2 era has some (non-core) spells marked as "Evil act" and some even castable only by Evil characters.
    • Many 3rd Edition spells have a self-explanatory [Evil] descriptor. Necromancy magic in general plays this role in the Ravenloft campaign setting.
    • Defilers in the Dark Sun setting practice Black Magic that turned most of their world into desert.
  • 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.
  • Cain and Abel: The sibling gods Heironeous and Hextor function as pretty much this on a divine scale.
  • Curse Escape Clause: In the Ravenloft setting, curses that have escape clauses are more likely to become active than ones that don't.
  • Dark World: The Plane of Shadow in 1st and 3rd Edition; the Feywild and the Shadowfell from Fourth Edition.
  • Dungeon Punk: Eberron.
  • Eldritch Location: There are at least 3. One is known as the Far Realm. 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. The other one is an "older multiverse in which the rules were very different." This place is no longer around, its only legacy being some aberrations. The last one is a plane similar to the Far Realm located in the Eberron campaign setting. This plane is called Xoriat.
  • Elves vs. Dwarves: Alternately played straight, subverted, or averted altogether depending on the setting.
  • Entropy and Chaos Magic: Several forms occur in several different editions.
    • 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.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink: The standard Monster Manual includes entries for vampires, fairies, dinosaurs, zombies, genies, angels, demons, plant creatures... 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.
  • Fungus Humongous: Multiple examples
  • Genericist Government: Complex political intrigue is seldom a priority in this game.
  • 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. Unattended inanimate non-magical items explode in fireworks instantly.
  • Grave Clouds: They happen in Ravenloft.
  • 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 Seeker: The Fiendish Codex sourcebooks for 3.5 claim that many evil characters make deals with devils on the assumption that, after they die, they'll rocket to the top of Hell's hierarchy. "None ever look at a lemure [the bottom of Hell's food chain] and think that will be their eternity."
  • Improbable Species Compatibility: 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".
  • 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.
  • Interspecies Romance: With all the Half Human Hybrids and other crossbreeds running around in your typical D&D world, one can only say that this happens a lot. So much so, in fact, that it has its own page.
    • There's even a 3rd-party 3.5 sourcebook of half-breeds Bastards & Bloodlines... covering everything from the slightly unusual (human/merfolk) to the completely bizarre (elf/giant eagle).
  • I See Dead People: The "speak with dead" spell which partially resurrects corpses for conversation.
    • Don't forget the spells that let you interact with the Ethereal Plane, where ghosts "live".
  • Level Drain: As D&D made the Class and Level System, so also did it make this. Undead such as wraiths had the power to take your levels away, often forcing you to gain them back the hard way.
  • Made of Magic: The planes and their inhabitants.
  • Made of Phlebotinum: To greater and lesser extents, all Dungeons and Dragons settings fit this trope. Planescape and Spelljammer especially, but even a place like Forgotten Realms is mildly Made of Phlebotinum.
  • Magic Missile: The Trope Namer.
  • Magic Pants
  • Malevolent Architecture: Tomb of Horrors is a prime example of the trope, and something of a Trope Codifier for RPGs in general.
  • Matriarchy: The Drow are ruled by one of the Sexy variety.
  • The Middle Ages: The default campaign setting.
  • 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. Then Things Got Worse. 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.
  • Planet of Hats
  • Planimal: The 3.5E Manual of the Planes describes an optional "Elemental Plane of Wood", complete with animals (and other creatures) made out of wood, sticks and leaves.
    • Any living creature can be one of these with the "Greenbound" template from Lost Empires of Faerun
  • Psychic Powers: Originating as substitution powers in Eldritch Wizardry of all places.
    • In 2nd edition, the psionicist class and a chance of possessing a wild talent for characters of any class. Except Dark Sun where everyone has at least a wild talent.
    • 3rd edition has the psion, psychic warrior, soulknife, wilder, ardent, divine mind, lurk, and erudite all as base classes. If you go to third-party books, even more exist.
    • 4th has introduced psionics as a power source in the Player's Handbook 3. The psionic classes (thus far) are the Psion, Monk, Ardent, and Battlemind.
  • 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.
    • A lot of the illustrations in 4E PHB 2 & 3, specifically Divine and Psionic characters.
  • Perpetual Motion Monster: Undead and constructs, which don't need food or sustenance of any kind. Most outsiders (angels, demons, etc.) also fit.
  • Recycled in Space: Spelljammer is Dungeons and Dragons IN SPACE, d20Modern is D&D In The Modern Day, etc., etc.
  • Religion of Evil: Most of the evil-aligned gods have churches like this, which may end up being a stock opponent for the PCs.
  • Resurrection Sickness: 4ed.
  • Reverse Shrapnel: The magic missile spell.
  • Saintly Church: Many of the good-aligned deities (such as Pelor and Heironeous) have clergy like this. The god St. Cuthbert (who is a neutral god) also fits.
  • Sand Is Water: The Sea of Dust from Greyhawk, the bulette ("landshark"), the Abyss's River of Salt, and Spelljammer's sand merfolk. Dark Sun is better than that, though: there's the Silt Sea.
  • Scooby-Doo Hoax: 1st Edition module U1 The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh.
  • 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.
  • Start My Own: It's no secret that in this twice-devoured company Executive Meddling varied from excessively stupid during the early editions to stupidly excessive during the later. So many authors ran or if they had contractual obligations, started side projects.
    • Bruce R. Cordell (the designer whose name is printed on the covers of all three 3.x psionic books) also wrote a 3rd-party rulebook, Mindscapes (2003). You know, to have something actually useful. And later, with a co-author, Hyperconscious (2004). Later he left Wizards.
    • The authors of Dragonlance eventually fed up with Executive Meddling and left. Margaret Weis now owns two RPG publishing houses.
    • Ed Greenwood is still on contract, but he worked on Pathfinder materials and started several settings elsewhere - Castlemourn and Stormtalons.
  • The Nth Doctor: Reincarnate spell
  • Vancian Magic: A hallmark of virtually every version of the game except for 4th edition.
  • We Are as Mayflies
    • Orcs have this even more than humans. A half-orc cannot possibly live to be older than 80, with their fullblooded cousins living only 40 years.
    • Goblinoids are typically just as bad as orcs.
    • Dragonborn in 4e may be a subversion: They live as long as humans, but they prefer to go out in a blaze of glory, with few getting older than 70.
  • 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...
  • Weird Trade Union: Thieves' Guild, and Adventurers' Guilds, and Explorers' Guilds, and Wizards' Guilds, and...
  • World Half Empty:
    • Ravenloft, Dark Sun, the Lower Planes in Planescape (which are literally Hell).
    • Other settings often border on this, thanks to overabundance of megalomaniacal supervillains, as well as Exclusively Evil monsters and Eldritch Abominations, eager to eat your face. And the fact that Balance Between Good and Evil makes any lasting improvement nigh impossible to achieve. And the fact that even the supposed good guys often are portrayed as total jerks. Some settings avoid this trope mostly because their villains only rarely succeed in anything - Status Quo is often God there.
    • In 4E there is no longer such a thing as an Always Lawful Good race, but there are tons of Exclusively 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.)


  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: Vorpal weapons and the swords of sharpness.
  • 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. 1st and 2nd edition AD&D generally avert the trope, with large numbers of different weapons all of which require proficiency. 3rd edition restores it to some extent, only requiring proficiency for exotic weapons and drawing less of a distinction between different sorts of swords.
  • Bag of Holding: The Trope Namer.
  • BFS: Shows up here and there, particularly in 3rd edition, where it was possible for a character to wield swords created for creatures much bigger (a human wielding a sword designed to be used two-handed by giants for example). 3rd and 4th edition has the "Fullblade", which is explicitly an even bigger greatsword, ala Berserk and Final Fantasy VII.
  • Blade on a Stick: The original writers had a thing for polearms. A stock Overly Long Gag is simply listing them.
  • Blow Gun: The 1984 Dungeons & Dragons Companion Set' introduced the blowgun as a 6"-4' tube. Darts don't do damage, but are instead poisonous. AD&D supplement Unearthed Arcana introduces the blowgun, where needle only does one Hit Point of damage, and is therefore only effective if poisoned.
  • Breakable Weapons: Four Shield Weapons weer introduced in Dungeons & Dragons Master Set. The three larger shields have multiple blades that break during combat.
  • Cheap Gold Coins:
    • A simple dagger costs two gold pieces. According to the Player's Handbook v.3.5 gold pieces are a third of an ounce. The current price of gold is over $1600 per ounce, which means that a simple dagger is worth about a grand.
    • It was worse in 1st Edition, wherein a gold piece weighed a tenth of a pound (about 1.5 Troy ounces). And a simple dagger still cost two gold pieces.
    • In 1st Edition the widespread use of gold coins was explained in the Dungeon Master's Guide as being a result of "gold rush" economics. Adventurers were constantly going out and raiding lost tombs and monster hoards, bringing back the gold they found and spending it. This led to serious inflation and a significant decrease in the value of gold.
    • Previews for the fifth edition have claimed it will avert this, basing prices in silver instead of gold.
  • 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.
  • Elemental Crafting
  • 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. In later editions, it's simply One Ring grade invulnerability with no more than a handful of loopholes.
  • 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.
  • Gender Bender: The Girdle of Femininity/Masculinity is a cursed item which permanently switches the gender of the wearer the moment it's put on. The only way to change back is to use a (very powerful) wish spell, or find another Girdle of Femininity/Masculinity. Worse, 10% of these remove all sex from the wearer.
  • Glass-Shattering Sound: The "shatter" spell, from AD&D2 and on.
  • 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.
  • Hologram: The Judges Guild supplement Wilderlands of the Magic Realm had an artifact that projected a laser hologram of an elven princess.
    • Wizard spell Project Image.
  • Homing Projectile: Ranged weapons with the "seeking" enchantment.
  • Insanity Immunity: 1st Edition AD&D. Insane creatures were immune to psionic attack.
  • Instant Armor: Tessellated armor from earlier editions.
  • Interdimensional Travel Device: Many, many examples, including the Amulet of the Planes and the Cubic Gate.
  • Lucky Rabbit's Foot: The supplement Book of Marvelous Magic has a magical Rabbit's Foot gave a +1 bonus to all saving throws. However, all herbivores seeing it took an instant dislike to the wearer (−2 reaction penalty).
  • Made of Indestructium: Artifacts and relics.
    • In first edition, they qualified due to them only being able to be destroyed in a very specific manner. Even if you did damage them with conventional weapons, they were recalled to the immortal that created them. (Not sure what happens if the immortal no longer exists...)
    • In the second, it's either disenchantment by an uber-mage with great risk, or an unique method of destruction. Melted down in one specific volcano, crushed under the heel of one specific god, submerged in the tears of a hundred elven princesses and left to dissolve for the next 1001 years—that sort of thing.
    • Ditto with 3rd Edition Major Artifacts. At this point they say if you destroy one, you also attract the attention of whatever created it. They are probably not happy you destroyed their Magnum Opus. And are many levels higher than you if not a god. If you're lucky, they may be dead, but something powerful enough to create a major artifact tends to not just die...
  • The Magic Touch: Many items such as "The Helm of Brilliance" work this way.
  • 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
  • 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), you can clean with it, and as it's made from animal fat can be used as emergency rations. Always buy at least 10 pounds.
      • Nix the emergency rations use. Unless eating that much lye (and/or other chemicals) is somehow good for you...
  • Orbiting Particle Shield: Animated Shields fit.
  • Pimped-Out Cape: Several items, including the "cloak of lordliness".
  • Precision-Guided Boomerang: A number of magical and mundane items. Specifically, melee weapons with the throwing and returning properties.
  • Rapid Aging: If someone drank a Potion of Longevity and rolled badly, the effect of any previous such potions they had drunk would be reversed and they would quickly become very old.
  • Requisite Royal Regalia: Loads of magic items can be made from crowns, ermine capes, scepters, and rings.
  • Ring of Power: Too many to list.
  • Rock of Limitless Water: There is a magical decanter that one can purchase or craft. Though not the cheapest or most common of items, wizards can craft them without too much difficulty.
  • Silver Has Mystic Powers: Silver makes a good ingredient for so many magical items.
  • Skeleton Key: Several exist in the game, including the Key of Opening, the Silver Key of Portals and Skeleton Keys (I and II).
  • Socketed Equipment: "Augment Crystals" and similar magical items are arguably somewhere between Socketed Equipment and Power Crystals.
  • Soul Cutting Blade: The Nine Lives Stealer. The Silver Sword.
  • Spell Blade: Many spells exist solely to power up other items.
    • Also, the actual spell storing magic weapon property.
    • In 4E Forgotten Realms, the Swordmage class qualifies. A High-AC class proficient with both swords and magic, and who uses magic to power up his own attacks.
  • Spell Book: The hallmark of the Magic-User/Mage/Wizard.
    • Additionally, the wu jen (from 1E, 2E, and 3E). The archivist (from 3E) uses divine magic (the kind clerics and druids use) this way.
  • Sphere of Power: The Prismatic Sphere.
  • Stepping Stone Sword: Climbing daggers, as introduced by The Complete Thief's Handbook.
  • Stock Ninja Weaponry: The 1985 Oriental Adventures stats out a bunch of ninja weapons.
  • Stuck Items: Cursed magical items in general are examples of these, as they will return to you and force you to use them even if they have been physically destroyed. It takes specific spells or combinations of spells to get rid of them.
  • Truth Serums: Multiple examples
  • Unholy Nuke: The Talisman of Ultimate Evil. In the hands of an Evil High Priest it could be used to open a flaming crack at the feet of a Good priest and send him or her to the center of the planet.
  • Weapon of Choice: Fighters are partially defined by their choice of melee weapon. Emphasized in 4th Edition, since 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.


  • 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.
  • Alien Hair: Genesi and shardmind can have crystals instead of hair, Wilden have spikes.
  • All Genes Are Codominant: How Half Human Hybrids often get handled.
    • 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.
  • All Webbed Up: Captured NPCs in the Basic D&D module M5 Talons of Night.
  • Exclusively 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".
  • Animal Eye Spy: Familiars.
  • Acquired Poison Immunity: Multiple examples
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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 materiel 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 Biology: A lot of monsters. Sometimes they've Shown Their Work, sometimes it's Art Major Biology, and with Functional Magic, those two categories aren't mutually exclusive.
  • The Blank: Mujina from the Basic D&D Known World and Ad&D Mystara settings.
  • Blood Knight: The Astral Stalkers are an entire race of Blood Knights.
  • Booze Flamethrower: In 3E, a sufficiently drunk Drunken Master can do this.
  • Bow and Sword in Accord: The ranger class.
  • Breath Weapon: A very popular, 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.
  • Catfolk: Anumber 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 and 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. An article in Dragon magazine featured a vast array of rakasta subraces, from alley cats to ocelots and lions to smilodons.
    • While Pathfinder doesn't have a straight-up "cat race" as of yet, it does have maftets, a race descended from Sphinxes.
    • The tabaxi are a race of leopard people who live in tropical jungles. The Forgotten Realms Spin-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.
    • The Tibbit race, which are Small humanoids with cat ears and markings as if their skin were fur; they can also turn into a full cats in the manner of a Were Cat.
  • 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. An 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 over Demons (besides Dagon). He used to be an Archdevil.
  • 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 exponential psion. Mental Pinnacle can be good if (and only if) you fight someone that dumped charisma, the others... not so much.
  • The Corrupter: Pazuzu's specialty. Who said a Chaotic Evil obyrith can't be smart?
  • 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.
  • Council of Angels: the Celestial Paragons introduced in Book of Exalted Deeds
  • Creepy Centipedes
  • Cthulhumanoid: Mind Flayers (AKA Illithids). They even provide the page image.
  • Daddy's Little Villain: Grazzit's relation with his children are half this, half The Starscream.
    • Glasya, Asmodeus' daughter also qualifies, as well as Fierna, the daughter of Belial (who embodies this in a decidedly squickier fashion).
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Several examples.
    • 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 race,[16] 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. 2 ed. 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.
  • Day Hurts Dark-Adjusted Eyes: Drow, Kuo-Toa and Sahuagin
  • Defeat Equals Explosion: Killing a Balor for good in the Abyss results in a quite-dangerous explosion.
  • Defector From Decadence: This is the assumed background for most orc, goblin, dark elf, etc. player characters.
  • Demihuman: Trope Namer, though the phrase fell out of use after 2nd Edition. Typically referred specifically to elves, half-elves, dwarves, gnomes, halflings, and sometimes half-orcs and half-ogres.
  • Demon Lords and Archdevils: quite a few, possibly the Trope Namer
  • Departure Means Death: Dryads can't stray too far from their trees.
  • 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.
    • One Epic Destiny actually has a future version of your character appear to protect his past self.
  • Disposable Vagrant: Several adventures and supplements have examples of monsters that use this technique.
  • Eat Dirt Cheap: A number of monsters have some form of this; gold dragons eat jewels, xorn eat rare minerals, and so on.
  • Elemental Shapeshifter
    • 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.
  • Emotion Eater: Multiple examples
  • Enthralling Siren: Interestingly, the harpy is closest to the original meaning of siren—bird women with a voice that draws victims closer. A siren is humanoid, and her voice charms hostiles.
  • Equivalent Exchange: The Defilers in Dark Sun.
  • 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.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: "There is no hope for you if you exist in this world. Nothing can be trusted. If the game master wants to kill you, you're dead."
  • Everything's Even Worse with Sharks: 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."
  • Evil Counterpart: The game makes much use of this trope. Most prominently, the drow are a species of Evil Counterparts to the other elves. Other examples include...
    • Duergar and derro dwarves 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 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). In 4th Edition they stopped bothering and now paladins are divinely empowered warriors who serve good or evil depending on their god.
    • In Basic D&D (of the "Red Box"/Rules Cyclopedia ilk), there were Avengers, who were the Chaotic counterparts of Paladins.
    • The Greyhawk gods, step-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.
    • Bahamut and Tiamat. He's a Lawful Good champion of justice, she's a Lawful Evil queen of greed. They're gods. And siblings. There's disturbing implications of Brother-Sister Incest. Endorsed by their father, no less.
    • 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
    • The spell Unholy Blight is the evil counterpart of the spell Holy Smite
    • The spell Protection From Good is the evil counterpart of the spell Protection From Evil, and the spell Dispel Good is the evil counterpart of the spell Dispel Evil.
    • Pretty much any spell in 3.5 that has "Good" or "Evil" in its name has a counterpart with the other one. Often, it even extends to "Law"/"Lawful" and "Chaos"/"Chaotic"
  • Eye Beams: Lots of monsters, including classic, like basilisk and medusa and less classic, like beholders and bodaks.
  • False Innocence Trick: A common attack strategy of many monsters such as the Mimic and Doppleganger.
  • 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.
  • Finger-Snap Lighter: Most artwork with arcane casters.
  • Fog Feet: Angels as well as water and air archons in 4th edition.
  • For the Evulz: The third edition Monster Manual says hags sometimes appear to "do evil for its own sake".
  • Gaia's Vengeance: The Primal Spirits.
  • Genetic Memory:
    • The underground sea-dwelling Starfish Aliens known as Aboleths exhibit this in Dungeons and 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.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: In the 1st Edition Monster Manual 2, Glasya - the fiendishly beautiful Princess of Hell - has 69 hp. Very funny, Mr. Gygax.
  • Giant Enemy Crab: Many examples.
  • Giant Flyer: Dragons, wyverns, pterosaurs, giant eagles, giant owls, etc.
  • God Guise: Multiple examples
  • The Goomba: Goblins and kobolds typically fill this role, though if their strengths (sneaking and trapmaking, respectively) are played up, they can easily challenge more powerful adventurers.
  • Gorgeous Gorgon: Many medusae are quite beautiful, but one look into their eyes will turn you to stone.
  • Guile Hero: Older metallic dragons.
  • Harmless Freezing: Multiple examples
  • The Hat Makes the Man: Many examples of headgear that alters the wearer's personality or alignment.
  • Hat of Power: Many, many examples.
  • Heroic Dolphins: Some editions have depicted dolphins as sentient Good-aligned creatures with their own patron goddess.
  • 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.
  • Horn Attack: Multiple examples
  • Horny Devils: Succubi, and a few other types of demons qualify as this.
  • Hybrid Monster: Lots and lots. Half-Elf-Half-Demon was a possible creature. They became one of Evil factions in Forgotten Realms in late AD&D2 days, later the main villains in Icewind Dale.
  • An Ice Person: Racial variants of the cold elemental variety, plus Uldras.
  • Inhumanly Beautiful Race: Quite a few species are described as this. The most notable are the nymphs, described as being so beautiful that they can make characters go blind just from seeing them.
  • Insane Troll Logic: In 4E, this is a Slaad's way of thinking thanks to being made of chaos.
  • Just Eat Him: Anything with the "Swallow Whole" ability. Most notorious example: The Purple Worm. They call him "purple people eater" for a reason...
  • Jobber: Regdar, the iconic 3rd Edition Human Fighter, infamously has pictures in almost every splat book of him getting or having been beat up. 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.
  • Kill and Replace: Multiple examples, including doppelgangers.
  • Kill It with Fire: Several monsters, notably trolls, hydra, and some undead. As a general rule of thumb, if it regenerates and you can't drown it in acid, Kill It with Fire. As an even more general rule of thumb, don't rely on fire, because a lot of creatures resist it and the rest can use equipment or spells to resist it.
  • 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.
  • Light Is Not Good: A few examples:
    • 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 half in 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.
  • Living Memory: Phantoms.
  • Load-Bearing Boss: The lich Pnessutt in the Judges Guild adventure Dark Tower.
    • 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.)
  • Loads and Loads of Races: Aside of possible NPCs from anything in any Monstrous Manual and specified in settings, ready playable races are added in sourcebooks like The Complete Book of Humanoids and in PO: Skills & Powers. In D&D 3 and later it's possible to use any monster with statistics as a PC race, albeit not without inconveniences, since the system is centered on humans (average stats 9-10, ECL 0).
  • Luke Nounverber: Many, many characters. Especially dwarves.
  • Made of Iron: Any high-level character. Many monsters, including the literal Made of Iron Iron Golem.
  • 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.
  • Magic Music: Bards, who fight orcs with their magic-infused music.
  • The Minion Master: You can use a summon spell for lots of little monsters instead of one big one, for example.
  • Missing Mom: Bensozia and Naome to Glasya and Fierna.
  • Monster Misogyny: Red dragons, being based on traditional European dragons, prefer to eat female human (and elf) virgins. Apparently, it's because they taste better.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: All over the place, many borrowed from various myths. One original to the game is the Owlbear, which many players subsequently joke about.
  • Mooks Ate My Equipment: Oozes and Rust Monsters.
  • 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.
  • Multi-Armed and Dangerous: Multiple examples
  • Multiple-Tailed Beast: The demon lord Demogorgon has two tails. The Warped Beasts also have multiple, flail-like tails.
  • Mushroom Man: Myconids.
  • My Species Doth Protest Too Much: Happens with every monster race that is usable by players.
  • Never Sleep Again: Night hags and dream larvae both have this effect.
  • Noble Demon: Narzugon Devils, which arguably become Antivillains in 4th Edition.
  • Won't Work On Me: Each monster has a cornucopia of various immunities. Some of them, very many.
  • Non-Human Undead: Tons. Dracoliches may be the most archetypical example, but 3E lets you apply the various undead templates to pretty much any monster you feel like.
  • Non-Mammal Mammaries: All over the place. Sometimes It Makes Sense in Context since they're magical hybrids, like the Yuan-ti, Medusas and Gynosphinxes. Sometimes, there doesn't seem to be any explanation other than Most Writers Are Human or Most Writers Are Male, as is the case with the crystalline Shardminds. Averted by the Warforged, who are androgynous by default.
    • To be fair, Shardminds do have a reason to have them, if only superficially. They explicitly take forms based on humanoid creatures, which explains why they may appear male or female. Note, they do not actually HAVE genders at all, much like the Warforged, but since their appearance is inspired by humanoid creatures they often adopt forms explicitly masculine or feminine in appearance.
  • Oculothorax: Beholders being the Trope Codifier for these monsters in fantasy games.
  • 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.
  • 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,[17] 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.
    • Our Centaurs Are Different: Quite a few.
    • Our Demons Are Different: There are three main races of the fiends who generally hate each other:
      • Demons, Chaotic Evil and from the Abyss, who want to destroy everything. (In 4E, they are corrupted elementals.)
      • Devils, Lawful Evil and from Hell, and want to control everything. (In 4E, they are fallen angels.)
      • Daemons (called "Yugoloths" in 2nd and 3rd edition), Neutral Evil and from Hades, who just want to spread suffering. They are also greedy, and often act as mercenaries in the Forever War between the above two, or are hired as guardians by mortal spellcasters. (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 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.
      • Efreet, Affably Evil slavers who command the mercantile empire of the City of Brass. Generally the most likely for an Enemy Mine situation, especially given that they're honorable and prefer indentured servitude to capital punishment, but still ruthless and without pity. According to Al-Qadim materials, most Efreet are neutral... but have quite a temper.
      • The Dao are like the Efreet, but worse; they're slavers, but have no honor. They are in servitude of the Faceless God - apparently after their lord gambled too much, and this involves working for his followers (the yak-men), but specific details are not known to mortals.
      • 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 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 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.
    • Medusas.
    • Our Gargoyles Rock: Ambush predators passing off as stone statues until unwary adventurers draw near.
    • 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 and 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.
    • Snake People: Come in a lot of flavors.
      • Nagas are just snakes with humanoid heads.
      • Yuan-Ti vary in form, from full snakes to snake body and human torso, to made out of smaller snakes, to mostly human.
      • Salamanders have a human torso, snake tail, and snake head. They are also On Fire.
      • Mariliths are demons that have a snake body, female human torso, and 6 arms.
      • Lillends have a snake tail, human upper body, with wings.
    • 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 innacurately) lycanthorpes. 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.
    • Our Monsters Are Weird... OK, honestly some of them are kindastupid (MONKEY BEES!). But it wouldn't be D&D without them.

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.

  • Outside Man, Inside Man: Used in 4th edition's alignment system. Good characters prefer to overthrow corrupt governments while Lawful Good characters prefer to change things from within.
  • People of Hair Color: Much more prevalent for other races than for humans, actually.
  • Partial Transformation: Most werecreatures in 3E.
  • People Puppets: What Dominate Person and Dominate Monster created.
  • Petting Zoo People: Hoo boy.
  • Plaguemaster: The Cancer Mage from the Book of Vile Darkness is Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
  • Plant Person: Dryads
  • Poison Is Corrosive: Several monsters secrete acidic poison for use against their opponents/victims.
  • The Power of Acting: The Bard class.
  • The Power of Rock: Entire concept of the Bard class, when you think about it.
  • Power Tattoo: Multiple examples
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: Orcs, half-orcs, dragonborn, hobgoblins, most dwarves, some elves.
  • Puny Humans: Averted in 3rd and 4th editions; in 1st and 2nd, however, 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, creating 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. An option for slowing the advancement instead was present, but rarely used.
  • Pure Awesomeness: Some classes and powers affect other creatures through their sheer awesomeness. Examples abound in 3.5 and 4E, ranging from the Warblade's (3.5) ability to put out the sun to the Bard's (4E) ability to kill enemies by insulting them.
  • Quicksand Sucks: In several adventures.
  • Really Seven Hundred Years Old: The Seven Sisters, Elminster Aumar and Halaster Blackcloak (among others) in the Forgotten Realms.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Many monsters.
  • Riddle Me This: Quite a few. For example, in the adventure "White Plume Mountain":
    • The party must answer a riddle (asked by an actual sphinx) to get past a Wall of Force.
    • The PCs must figure out which of five numbers (5, 7, 9, 11 and 13) didn't belong with the others 9, which isn't a prime number or be attacked by flesh golems.
  • Riddling Sphinx:
    • There are multiple subspecies of sphynx, of which the gynosphinx is the most like the Greek one. One supplement lists potential riddles for her to use. One riddle, which she uses when she's too hungry to play fair, has the answer "Kill me."
    • Module I3 Pharaoh. Inside the tomb of Amun-re the PCs can encounter an androsphinx who offers to play a Riddle Me This game with them. If they can answer one of his riddles he will answer a question from them about the tomb. Riddles he can ask include the Riddle of the Sphinx or a Knights and Knaves (Group A always tells the truth and Group B always lies) logic puzzle.
  • Sand Worm: Multiple examples
  • Sapient Cetaceans: See Heroic Dolphins entry.
  • Scary Scorpions: Multiple examples
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Several evil deities/demon lords.
  • Selkies and Wereseals: Selkies are a Monster Manual staple; some editions also have (separate) wereseals.
  • Smash Mook: The ogre is the Trope Maker.
  • Spike Shooter: Plenty of monsters can fire spikes, quills, spines and needles at their opponents/victims.
  • Spikes of Villainy: Multiple examples
  • 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.
  • Stronger with Age: The older a creature is, odds are the bigger and stronger it is.
  • Super Reflexes: Available as several of the class abilities.
  • Tactile Script: Illithiad (Monstrous Arcana) introduced Qualith script, made for the illithid way of thinking and hard to understand for creatures that don't have practice with telepathic communication. It usually consists of 4 striated lines that can be followed with tentacles, though certain standalone symbols (Creed identifiers) use 6 lines. They also have the striator - a pen that translates thoughts into this script, even if used by a creature who can't read it.
  • Take Up My Sword: A ridiculously common backstory for unoriginal characters. (Orphans are still more common, though.)
  • Taste the Rainbow: Elves, Dragons, Dwarves, Trolls, Fiends, Spellcasters, Deities, incredibly niche Prestige Classes, alternatively aligned Paladin spinoffs...
  • To Be Lawful or Good: This is arguably where the debate started up. Lawful Good characters—ESPECIALLY paladins—run into these right, left and centre.
  • Token Evil Teammate: Frequently used either in troupes or as NPCs.
  • Too Many Halves: This can happen in 3E via abuse of the "half-x" templates.
  • Too Many Mouths: the Gibbering Mouther.
  • The Undead: And an entire subschool of magic devoted to the art of death, namely necromancy.
  • Turned Against Their Masters: Gith peoples vs. Illithids, Chitins vs. Drow.
  • Turn Undead: Clerics and Paladins can do this. Some alternate class features bump this up to destroying the undead outright.
  • Vampiric Draining: The Cerebral Parasite and Brain Mole, vampires and wights, the 3rd Editions Death Knell spell, etc.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Changelings are able to shapeshift into other humanoids, while Druids can adopt a number of animal forms.
  • The Walls Have Eyes: The Book of Vile Darkness provides a squicktastic example in the spell "Wall of Eyes" - if you try to force your way through it, it will dissolve and absorb you, your eyes added to the wall.
  • Weakened by the Light: Multiple examples
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: The core version of Bane (god of conquest and tyranny) seems to be like this, especially after his article in Dragon came out.
  • Wreathed in Flames - Several creatures. Some spells let you do this.
  • You Cannot Grasp the True Form: All the Obyriths, especially Pale Night.
  • 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.


  • 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.
  • Artificial Gravity: The starship's technology in the 1st Edition module S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks.
  • Attack Reflector: Multiple examples
  • Blade Spam (standard-type): This is the default mode of attack for high-level Weapon Masters (a warrior Prestige Class kit) in Dungeons and Dragons. Able to fight equally good with both hands and using the attack/round tables of a Bare-Fisted Monk, a level 16 Weapons Master gets 6 strikes per round (6 seconds) with a single weapon, 12 when Dual-Wielding, and you do not want to get in her way when she's buffed with Haste.
  • 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.
  • Character Customization: If not the maker, then the Trope Codifier.
  • Character Level: Again, if it didn't create it, then it codified it.
  • Class and Level System: The original.
  • Compelling Voice: The spell Suggestion.
  • 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.
  • Damage Increasing Debuff: There are various powers that allow you to cause your enemies to take extra damage from attacks.
  • 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.
  • Force Field Door: The Force Cage spell.
  • Full Set Bonus: Various magic items and artifacts.
  • 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.
  • Hollywood Darkness: Generally averted, but played straight if your character happens to have low-light vision.
  • I Know Your True Name: Several examples
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: A whole homebrew, online Sourcebook based around races and classes with spider-based powers. Their power source? Archane.
  • 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.
  • Kevlard: There is a feat aptly called 'Obese' in the Book Of Vile Darkness. It increases constitution by 2 at the expense of dexterity, thus increasing your endurance.
  • Knockback: In Player's Opions version.
    • Exists as a feat by the same name in 3.5, and a couple of others intended for large monsters in 3.0.
  • 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 edition 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.
    • 3rd Edition in particular stands out by virtue of having numerous subsystems (such as Psionics, Invocations, Binding, Blade Magic, and Incarnum).
  • Luck Manipulation Mechanic: Dungeons & Dragons has numerous examples of this:
    • 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 Dark Sun campaign setting in 4th edition suggests an optional rule that allows a player the choice to re-roll the D20 attack roll whenever they originally roll a "1" (indicating a "critical miss"). The new die roll must be accepted, however, and if the result is a 5 or less the character's weapon breaks.
    • 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 and 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.
  • 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.
  • One-Handed Zweihander: 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.
  • 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.
  • Public Secret Message: The 3E skill "Innuendo" serves this exact purpose. It was removed in 3.5E (turned into a part of the "Bluff" skill), presumably because it was too specific to be worth spending skill points on.
  • Rapid-Fire Fisticuffs: Explicitly the way most 4E Monk powers work (when not engaging in outright Ki Attacks) if specced to use the "Monk Unarmed Strike" rather than a weapon, usually with flavor text that includes everything from Deadly Dodging to Offhand Backhand.
  • 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.)
  • Siege Engines: Rules were included for the use of siege engines. From the start - see Chainmail above. Eventually invented a few new ones.
  • Sliding Scale of Turn Realism: Round by Round.
  • 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.
  • Summon to Hand: There are many powers which can achieve this effect, and many weapons with it as an implicit power.
  • Surprise Slide Staircase: Multiple examples
  • Talking Is a Free Action: The Trope Namer
  • 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.
  • Time Travel: Here. A few psionic powers as well, such as Time Hop and Time Regression and a gamebreaker build that allows you to make a savestate you can load.
  • Transformation Is a Free Action: No, seriously it is, check the spell description for Shapechange.
  • Unblockable Attack
  • A Year and a Day: Multiple examples
  • 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.


  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: Multiple examples in adventures.
  • After-Action Patchup: Healing is generally concentrated after the battle.
  • Apocalyptic Log: Multiple examples
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: A few examples across editions:
    • This was the ultimate goal in the last version of BECMI/Rules Cyclopedia-era D&D, complete with a ruleset for those that ascended. To ascend further, an ascended entity needs to max out his ascended level at 36, reincarnate himself as a level 1 character, ascend once again, max out the ascended level again, and proceed to ascend past some great barrier. The result is a character that cannot be contained by a D&D rulebook.
    • In 4th edition, when your characters reach max level (30) the rulebooks encourage them to do this so you can start new characters.
    • Sort of averted in 3/3.5 edition. Standard class progression stops at level 20, but the Epic Level Handbook contains rules for 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.
  • Awesome but Impractical: The 3.X monk. On paper, you've got a monster ninja who can move faster than anything, run up walls, teleport, jump so far he can effectively fly, become completely immune to poison and disease, block and catch enemies, grapple and trip forever, stun or kill enemies with a single blow, punch through castles, and talk to animals. In practice, he can't hit anything, and is squishier than the wizard (Who gets lots of good buffs to avert that).
    • Monks have excellent defenses against magic. They are inaccurate against hard targets but can deal extreme damage to soft ones, and have excellent mobility to strike vulnerable rear line targets. Certain players just mistake them for a front line melee class.
      • Nah, they're still hopeless. The defenses against magic consist of spell resistance (against which wizards don't care due to no-SR spells) and good base saves (which meet no save spells). Wizards can fly, so that takes care of mobility. The end result consists of a class which is not competent to melee melee opponents and incapable of fighting spellcasters. Only good thing they do is possibly being a glass stunlocker. Maybe.
    • 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.
  • Beat Still My Heart: Multiple examples
  • Beyond the Impossible: Pretty much the entire point of Epic Levels (i.e. level 21 and higher) in third edition. By training long enough and defeating enough monsters, any fighter or rogue or barbarians 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.
  • 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 Intitive is still a great choice for anything, because moving first lets you use those tricks before you die in rocket tag.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Crazy Prepared
    • In 3.5E, there were two major instances of this trope:
      • The wizard had effectively unlimited access to spells, provided it was willing to pay for the scrolls and wands. Lower-level spells and scrolls were cheaper than higher-level ones, meaning any given wizard would probably have the majority of his collection of spells known, wands, and scrolls, in the lower level region. Now, when your budget is measured in values like 18,000 gold, is it really a problem to spend 12.5 gold to have odd, corner-case spells available like Tenser's Floating Disk? The practical upshot of it is that a wizard will typically be walking around with a veritable library of spells that have no practical purpose except to make him look like Batman. Of course, 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.
      • Also, in rules supplements like the Arms And Equipment Guide you'd find a variety of little bits-and-pieces items, like a stick of chalk, a hacksaw blade, extremely long pieces of string, a piece of ebony wood, and a bag of marbles. Each of them individual items that had shown up in a variety of different other modules by one lone, clever writer, and since they were mundane items they were remarkably cheap (some not even breaking a single gold piece). It only takes a player willing to comb through the book and dedicate maybe a hundred gold of his budget (which, again, represents thousands and thousands of gold) to always have the right tool for an obscure job.
    • The 4E Artificer is essentially Batman plus magic. His style of healing spell is one of two potions that heals allies through different mechanisms. As for which potion he has prepared at the moment? The player gets to decide that...retroactively.
  • Damage Over Time:
    • Module T1-4 The Temple of Elemental Evil. A PC in one of the four Nodes of Elemental Evil took 1-4 Hit Points of environmental damage per turn.
    • According to the Manual of the Planes (1987), the same thing happened on some of the Inner Planes.
    • Characters in the Elemental Plane of Earth took 1-2 Hit Points of damage per turn (from the pressure of the surrounding rock).
    • PCs on the Paraelemental Plane of Ice took 1-6 Hit Points of cold damage per round.
    • Fourth edition also features "Ongoing Damage", which is calculated at the start of each turn.
  • Death Is Cheap: Potentially, as of 4e it's considerably harder to die but relatively cheap to come back from the dead. That is until you hit epic levels, when it become free to most characters via "Once per day, when you die..." powers.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Deicide is a common practice in epic-level games. In 1st, 3rd and 4th Edition, gods even have combat stats just like any other monster, and are fully punchable. At least in 3rd and 4th, they can't be killed except by extraordinary circumstances, not to mention 3rd edition deities typically had 20 levels in three different class with another 20 outsider hit dice (and each of these gets the max amount, rather than the 1/2 or random most get). For those not in the know, that means they can take a lot of punishment and resist a lot of effects even without their divine immunities and powers. A Call of Cthulhu d20 book not only statted out Cthulhu, but had a sidebar addressing why Cthulhu might have a suit of +3 chainmail lying around.
  • Difficult but Awesome: Controllers in 4E. Poorly played, they're a liability due to their squishiness and lack of damage output. Played by a good tactician, their ability to debuff and mez everything to the point of complete ineffectiveness will make the DM cry.
  • Empty Levels: The earlier editions had this problem. While spellcasters got new spells every few levels, fighters and thieves were mainly limited to the advancement in Hit Dice and to-hit that all characters got upon leveling up, in addition to skill percentages if you were a thief and being able to cut down another 1 HD or less mook per round if you were a fighter. Combine this with the increasingly horrifying supernatural enemies that players encountered at higher levels, against which sharp-sword-swinging was a decreasingly recommendable tactic, and it was no wonder that Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards set in.
  • Failed a Spot Check: The Trope Namer.
  • The Face: The game (and by extension, all other RPGs) this character role is known 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.
  • 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.
  • Holy Hand Grenade: Clerics and Paladins can mess up the undead.
  • Hostile Weather: Multiple examples
  • Magikarp Power: Wizards in 3.x, due to Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards.
  • Mind Rape: The "psychic" damage type in 4E is implied to be exactly this. It can kill people.
  • Mundane Utility: Cantrips. Especially prestidigitation, which can be used to color your hair, flavor your food, or clean up around the house a bit.
  • Never Found the Body: Used in the original Dragonlance campaign and module I6 Ravenloft.
  • 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.
  • Rainbow Motif: Multiple examples
  • Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies: A few modules are hilariously lethal. Also, Dragonlance and later Forgotten Realms settings were hammered apart so thoroughly that instead of dealing with the future additions, fans switched to playing either classical versions or their own timelines.
  • 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.
    • Completely averted in 4E.
      • Some fighters would beg to differ. 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.
  • Sorting Algorithm of Evil: The challenge rating system is designed for this
  • Spontaneous Weapon Creation: A number of spells and psionic abilities do this.
  • Spoony Bard: Some base classes, many prestige classes (though many seemed better for NPCs than PCs)
  • Weapons Grade Vocabulary: In the Fourth Edition of Dungeons and 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.


  • Adaptation Distillation: Capcom managed to apply the rather complex D&D system into two very competent BeatEm Ups that no company has ever been able to do right since.
  • Alliteration: All over the place as far as sourcebooks go. Heck, look at the name of the game!
    • In source books: Dungeons and Dragons, Monster Manual, Deities and Demigods, Creature Catalogue, Monster Mythology, Elder Evils, Fiend Folio, Heroes of Horror, Savage Species, Primal Power? The Will and the Way, Gold and Glory, Elminster's Ecologies?
    • Also, spells: Melf's Minute Meteors, Mordenkainen's Magnificient Mansion, Waethra's Warm Welcome, Elminster's Effulgent Epuration, Ruby Ray of Reversal, Fallion's Fabulous Fireball, Geirdorn's Grappling Grasp, Samprey's Sensible Sea Sphere, Fistandantilus's Firequench, Flamsterd's Flamestrike, Nulathoe's Ninemen...
    • And Sepia Snake Sigil.
  • 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.
  • Creator Thumbprint: Gary Gygax had several, including mushrooms, various shades of the color purple, H.P. Lovecraft, his extensive vocabulary and polearms - and really bizarre ideas about ballistics. In 3e era someone evidently has fetish for spiked chains and word "eldritch".[18]
  • Did Not Do Research
    • 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.
      • Though most DMs will allow it as Abjuration if asked: it's an obvious bug. "Armor" stays in Conjuration from its first appearance (AD&D1 Dragon article by Gygax), even after most dubious school assignments were fixed in AD&D2. "Create force field of armor" [19] fits better in either Abjuration (with protective barriers) or Evocation [Force] (with other forcefield spells like Shield) than "create/call stuff". It's all the weirder given that it never was fixed even though more powerful similar spell Invisible Mail (The Complete Wizard's Handbook) was designated Evocation+Abjuration and a few shaped forcefield spells (e.g. Gauntlet from Seven Sisters) were Evocation+Alteration.
    • 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.
    • 3e Complete Psionics includes feats that make a character a descendant of the Mind Flayers. This completely ignores the process Mind Flayers reproduce by.[20] There is a reason why this book has the nickname Complete Crud.
      • 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.** 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 Dieties 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.
      • To be fair, some of the Elder Evils are so powerful they simply don't have stats. If they actually surface it's game over automatically. So your quest is to battle their spawn and stop the phenomena and rituals that would awaken the true being.
    • Also manifests asTutorial Failure: lots of "examples" given are flat out wrong.
      • One notable instance is an article with explanations of some of the harder rules, the page states everyone is proficient with splash weapons, then describes an example with a character taking a non-proficiency penalty when using a splash weapon.
      • "in 3.5e, there were a number of cases of Pelor's followers using evil-aligned divine power (which should be impossible, since divine power from a good deity cannot generate power for evil spells)", leading to the fan theory of Pelor, the Burning Hate
      • In Book of Exalted Deeds 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.
      • In Tome of Battle 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 its officially just a suggestion).
  • Everything's Better with Rainbows: Lots of "Chromatic/Color/Prismatic Blank" spells, up to Prismatic Sphere and Prismatic Wall that raise barriers so dangerous an avatar would hesitate to cross one.
  • Lava Adds Awesome: Invoked by a number of spells and magic items, such as "Vulcan Bomb," which hits a target with a stream of lava.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Some encounters consist solely of fighting a dragon in a dungeon.
  • Follow the Leader: Inspired many, many other tabletop games and video games.
  • 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.
  • Genre Popularizer: For pencil-and-paper roleplaying games.
  • Hollywood Masochism: According to the Dungeons and 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.
  • I, Noun: There's an AD&D sourcebook about beholders called I, Tyrant.
  • Painting the Fourth Wall: 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.
  • 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 missing must-have feature for a love goddess' church; finding out how long it takes to blow your money on the booze and hookers is also usable) to "where'd I put my Brain Bleach again?".
  • Screwed by the Network: Hoo boy. Between 2e AD&D and 4e, there are too many incidents of the game being screwed over by Lorraine Williams and its other publishers to fit here. A somewhat-comprehensive list appears on the trope page.
  • 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.
  • Shout-Out: The 3.5 Sourcebook Tome of Magic introduces the Binder class. The class gets its powers by binding various vestiges with seals. While the source of inspiration is obvious many of the vestiges are taken directly from the Ars Goetia, including their appearance, names and seals.
  • Signature Device: The setting involves trinkets in this role - Some of them are magical, others not.
    • Holy symbols. However they're never exclusive for the clergy - Laymen don them to show their devotion. - But anyone that sees you wearing it will think you're part of some deity, a priest, or belonging to the church's hierarchy.
    • Drow nobles get the House Insignia - An amulet that holds some magical powers, besides being a heraldic device, it functions as a utility mostly. They are also use as "keys" for magical security for their estate(s0, obedience enchantments on mounts, and so on - And are booby-trapped, so a non-family member that steals it will be cursed.
  • You All Meet in An Inn: Generally thought of as the inventor of this trope.
  1. it is an intended feature, as introduction of Shaan the Serpent Queen to the Company of Crazed adventurers in Ed's home campaign shows; among the other things, together with fog of war it makes throwing much weight around too risky — and caution among those who could stabilizes the state of affairs
  2. Such as the limitation to 4 spouses is explained by the first Sha'ir having 4 genie wives - one per element.
  3. not quite like Cthulhu Mythos, but the idea is the same
  4. Athas is abnormal plane-wise and Demiplane of Dread by definition isn't a Prime world at all.
  5. albeit not splattered as far and wide as PO:C&T
  6. probably because corresponding rules in core d20 are nearly unusable for most settings
  7. 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
  8. who returned with Satyrs and Bandits in The Complete Book of Humanoids and The Complete Thief's Handbook respectively
  9. in a token attempt to avoid the Satanic Panic idiocy that hit the game in the 80s, but this ended up steering development from Crystal Dragon Jesus stuff and toward more creative directions
  10. E.g. you want a guerilla style fighter? Sharpshooter kit, Increased movement, Move Silently, specialization (some ranged weapon), proficiencies (Camouflage, Endurance, Running); talent (Steady Hand) to make really good one. Fencing wizard? Swashbuckler kit, proficiency group crossover (warrior), Armor (cast freely in studded leather), weapon selection (rapier), Combat bonus (attack like priest), weapon specialization (rapier), Extended spell duration, proficiency (rapier, main-gauche, fighting style--two-weapon fencing; talent (Ambidexterity)) and maybe a fanciful magic taboo. And so on.
  11. Damage Typing, Critical Damage, Knockback, maneuvers more advanced than "hit it again"
  12. lots of spells, skills and equipment
  13. late changes in subabilities, the new psionics system changed to Padded Sumo Gameplay and thought out so poorly that in a telepathic combat the attacker lost more than the target in a successful attack
  14. Such as class feature "skill works differently" - e.g. out-of-table Rogue abilities to deal with difficult and magic traps. Or prestige classes referring to the base class roundabout way - like "+1 to existing spellcasting class" which makes short stats ambiguous, or "we don't say Druid, we say requires Wild Shape... which has nothing to do with this class".
  15. doesn't expend slots, casting time +10 min flat, for wizards any known spell, otherwise any prepared
  16. 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
  17. and now also from third-party products due to d20 open license
  18. The latter may or may not have anything to do with the cover of OD&D book Eldritch Wizardry
  19. reinterpreting it as a corporeal object would open "wizards in armor" can of worms
  20. they're sexless egg-layers. The only way illithid hybrids are created is "plug a larva into host other than Medium humanoid"