Brushing up on basic D&D rules


In my post on Saturday I mentioned that there were a whole lot of basic Dungeons & Dragons rules (mostly to do with combat) that I hadn’t been very clear on up until now. I’d kind of muddled along but been aware that I wasn’t being consistent. Knowing that I would be dungeon-mastering at Saturday’s event gave me a helpful deadline to get clear on the rules I wasn’t sure about. I thought I’d list the rules that I was unclear on and needed to brush up:

Armour class
See, I said these were basic rules! For some reason I had trouble remembering whether an attacker needed to roll equal to a target’s armour class in order to hit the target, or whether they needed to roll above the target’s armour class. So if a player was trying to hit a monster with an armour class of 12, and they rolled a 12 to hit, I wouldn’t be certain if they were successful or not. Now that I’ve brushed up on this rule, I know that it would hit. When you’re attacking, the number of the target’s armor class is the minimum number you can roll and still hit.
One of the things I like about 5th edition D&D is that the principle behind this rule is consistent throughout the game.

Grappling
I had a similar problem remembering how grappling works. If a player tries to grapple a target character and they both roll a 15, is the grapple successful or not? Do they use their strength or dexterity? Or do they use athletics or acrobatics? (Remembering the pervious rule about armour class also helps us understand grappling, because it draws on the same principle.)
To grapple a target, you need to make an athletics check against the target’s athletics or acrobatics check. (The target gets to choose whether they want to use their athletics or acrobatics.) The grappler needs to meet or exceed the target’s roll. If the target is successfully grappled, on their turn they can try to escape by making a athletics or acrobatics check against the grappler’s athletics check, and they will succeed if they meet or exceed the score for the grappler’s strength check.

Pushing
This is another rule I wasn’t sure about, but it uses the same principles as grappling. (Grappling and pushing are both classed as contests.) The character wanting to push another character can make an athletics check against that target’s athletics or acrobatics check. (Again, the target chooses between athletics and acrobatics.) The attacker must meet or exceed the target’s score in order to successfully push the target. If the attacker succeeds, they can either knock the target prone or push them back by five feet.

Stealth checks
Looking through the Player’s Handbook, I didn’t seem to be able to find a clear explanation of this rule. I think this article explains it though. If you have a character who is trying to hide from or sneak past another character, the sneaking one should roll a stealth check. Ordinarily, their stealth check should be compared to the other creatures passive perception, but if the other creature is actively looking for them it should be compared to their perception roll. If the stealth check is higher than the passive perception or perception of the other character, the sneaking one is successful at avoiding attention.

Short and long rests
The last important rule that I’ve had trouble remembering is what you recover when you have a short rest and what you recover when you have a long rest. When you have a short (one hour) rest, you can roll one or more of your available hit dice in order to recover hit points. If you take a long (eight hour) rest you regain all your hit points, as well as expended hit dice (up to half of your total hit dice). If your character is a spellcasting character, they’ll also recover spells after a long rest.
During Saturday’s game I realised a couple more basic rules I need to brush up on: rules around falling and drowning. I’d also like to get more familiar with the abilities of all the classes, particularly ones like fighter and barbarian, which I haven’t played myself.

Which D&D rules do you need to brush up on as a dungeon master or player?

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