Daily D&D Ramble: Verbal Pedantry

Okay, today was going to be the Angry Review, but then I had to spend all day doing research into another thing and, well, I decided I needed to rant about a few things. So here we go.

Today, we’re going to talk about one of the annoying things in Fifth Edition: Namely, there are a few terms that are poorly defined and when seen in conjunction with other rules and explanations on other pages, can cause a lot of confusion. Rules as Written, Rules as Intended, and Rules in Play can all conflict and it just makes it really annoying to try and decipher something that a DM would usually just toss a handwave houserule towards.

Let’s start with what annoyed me most today: Thrown weapons. Is a knife a ranged weapon? According to pedantic rule lawery people, no its not, even though it has the throwing attribute, even though it has a range listed on its weapon page. Its not technically a ranged weapon.

Actually, what is a knife? It is a one-handed weapon. It is a finesse weapon. It is a throwable weapon. It is a simple weapon. It is a melee weapon. And when you break it down like that, it seems a lot simpler, doesn’t it? Let’s do another one:

A light hammer is a melee weapon. It is throwable. It is a simple weapon.

See? Not so bad. I wish WotC had broken weapons down like this, as boring as that is. Instead, the went with presentation over clarity and I got to spend an hour doing research, trying to see if my  dwarven their could get sneak attack on his throwing hammers. (Turns out, I can’t. But I did it anyway, because I was sneaky in combat.)

This is the problem in 5e. Words have been overloaded to the point where things can get confusing. Is there a difference between a Melee Weapon Attack and an Attack With a Melee Weapon? Yes, slightly, technically. Because,  you see, the Monk’s Martial Arts would come into play for the first one, but it wouldn’t on the latter. And that’s an issue monks have a lot of problems with.

See, I don’t have a problem having to rule dive and make connections and beg the DM when I’m making a kitchy character. Silv3r, my Kobold Druid, is a great example of this, where I took careful effort in assembling the rules for mounted combat in 5e, then talked the DM into letting me carry a saddle as a pack and morph into the Paladin’s mount. It was fun, it was OP, and I was fine with all the finagling, as we were doing something in and by the rules that the rules never intended to cover.

A rogue trying to make a case for a deck of cards (a la Gambit), A fighter trying to throw shields (a la Captain America (which I totally did once within the rules in 4e!)), a Monk who wants to use a kuni with chain or something are all cases that should have been apparent to the designers and they should have carefully gone over their word choice with a fine tooth comb, making sure no one could misunderstand.

Ooh, can paladins use Smite with a thrown weapon, since it’s not a ranged weapon? Can a Paladin/Monk Multiclass use Smite on an unarmed attack? Those are important questions.

I also have a few other points of vague-word annoyance, but those are the biggest ones, honestly. I can let it go with that.

What they need to do is come out with the big book of Da Rules. Maybe a PDF, maybe just online, and they need to lay out things like this, just so. Kinda like the baseball rules, if you’ve ever seen those. So there is a distinct “In this situation, this means this and this and no more.”

But there’s no money in that, so I doubt that would happen.

Sorry for being such a downer.


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1 Comment

  1. There really should be a condensed place for errata and the like. It has been an annoyance to me to look around and hope that there is some tweet that clarifies a rule that involves my character. The justification that I often hear is that 5e is meant to put a lot of the power of interpretation on the DM’s shoulders. I don’t think that this is any excuse for poorly worded rules and terms.

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