Dungeons & Dragons: Online (DDO) attempts to bring D&D into the expanding realm of MMORPGs. In doing so, the developers at Turbine are trying to blend fast-paced computer game combat and an MMORPG game world with thousands of players with a rule system that tabletop gamers have enjoyed for over 30 years. For the most part, the translations are exact or very close, but as with just about any transition of tabletop game to computer game, numerous aspects have changed. Change is not a “bad thing,” since many of the changes are made to improve the way the computer game itself plays or are due to technical or balance issues on the development side of things. But veteran D&D players coming into D&D should be aware of these changes as they can significantly alter the way your character plays, feels, and fights.
This guide will attempt to introduce players already familiar with D&D version 3.5 rules to changes, additions, and deletions made by DDO. Think of this as the set of “house rules” DDO uses. At its central core, DDO is still D&D, but the changes in bulk can have a major impact on how your character plays, develops, does missions and fights.
DDO is set in Eberron, and as such its races are a bit different from those in the D&D Player’s Handbook. Also, DDO has intentionally left out some races at release due to development time restrictions. Currently, DDO’s five races are:
All but the Warforged are essentially identical to the core rules. Warforged are living, sentient magical constructs. DDO treats them as hybrids between constructs and living creatures. They are highly resistant, but entirely immune to, poison, can hold their breath much longer than normal creatures, and use arcane Repair magic as their primary healing source in combat (divine Cure spells have only half effect on a Warforged’s primarily inorganic body). Their bodies possess natural armored plating that can be improved using “docents,” as opposed to actual suits of armor, commonly found as treasure.
All races also possess their own unique sets of action point enhancements (see below) that all characters of that race gain access to as they level. They represent improvements and enhancements upon common racial traits, such as improving a halfling’s luck on saving throws or affinity for thrown weapons.
DDO uses the standard alignment system from D&D, with the exception that player characters can not be an evil alignment. (Monsters, of course, often are evilly aligned.) DDO does not enforce “roleplaying” of alignment. NPCs in Eberron are fairly neutral when it comes to dealing with player characters and aren’t much concerned with your alignment; they’re typically more interested in what you can do or have done to solve their problems than your philosophy on like. But certain magic items and spells are keyed to alignment. For example, Protection from Evil spells will grant you protection against evil creatures, and magic weapons and armor can be keyed to specific alignment types and thus give bonuses for/against appropriately aligned creatures.
First, all DDO characters start the game with 20 bonus hit points regardless of class. That is to make the game a bit more survivable for low level characters. In addition, you receive hit points each level proportional to what your class would receive in tabletop D&D. Barbarians get the most hit points per level, wizards and sorcerers get the least, etc.
Also, all spellcasters use a DDO unique spellpoint system as opposed to standard spell slots. At any rest point or tavern, casters memorize a list of different, distinct spells, one spell each on their list, and can cast any spell on that list at will. Casting a spell costs spellpoints proportional to the spell’s level, with a level 1 spell costing 10 points, a level 2 spell costing 15, etc. This effectively makes all casters work similar to D&D sorcerers in terms of being able to cast many different spells at will from a compiled list.
Because all casters in DDO are fairly flexible in memorizing spells, DDO sorcerers have been boosted to balance them out relatively. Sorcerers have 50% more base spellpoints than wizards, and their casting speed is faster than any class and quickens as they level, capping out at around twice the speed of wizards. So, in a way, DDO wizards play a bit like tabletop sorcerers, and DDO sorcerers play like a brand new, high spellpoint specialist caster.
All casters have a large number of spellpoints available per day, essentially enough to cover four or five days worth of casting in tabletop. The reason is that since individual encounters take only a minute or two real time, you can play through many encounters in DDO in the time it takes to play one encounter in a tabletop session. Thus, to avoid you having to “rest” every two or three minutes to regain your spells, they give you enough points to cast spells through about 10 minutes worth of encounters before running out. That allows you to only have to rest every 10-15 minutes of actual real time.
Other specific class differences include:
Clerics – DDO currently has no clerical domains. Also, because of the way DDO real time combat works, it was determined cleric spells and armor like healing and buffs had a slight advantage compared to arcane magic and casters. To balance this out, clerics get roughly 10% fewer base spellpoints per level than wizards. (In tabletop, clerics and wizards have identical spells per day).
Druids, Monks – Neither of these classes is available at release. The devs have specifically said they hope to add one or both of them eventually, but have given no specific time table.
Paladin – Because you fight many more encounters “per rest period” in DDO, and because of the +20 hit point bonus for all characters, Paladins have a sizable bonus on the amount of hitpoints their Lay on Hands ability cures.
Sorcerer – As mentioned above, they receive 50% more spellpoints and their casting speed improves up to twice as fast compared to wizards.
Wizard – As mentioned above, wizards cast spells from a flexible list using spellpoints. In addition, DDO currently has no specialist wizards and no familiars. The do still have the ability, however, to scribe any arcane spell in the game into their spellbook. (The spellbook isn’t actually a physical book in DDO, but is simply a record of all spells available for memorization.)
Prestige Classes – There are as yet no prestige classes in DDO, but they have not been ruled out as a possible expansion item.
Skills are bought with skill points and use skill checks pretty much following tabletop D&D rules. The main difference is that not all the D&D skills are in DDO. Also, there is no Take 10 or Take 20 in DDO, and no ability to “aid” another character in a skill check. DDO includes the following skills:
Balance – Used to see how long you stay on the ground after falling down.
Bluff – Used in combat to feint a target and make it vulnerable to a sneak attack, even if he is actively facing you.
Concentration – Rolled to see if damage interrupts casting. There is no “defensive casting” in DDO.
Diplomacy – Used in combat to trick opponents currently attacking you into attacking someone else.
Disable Device – Used to disarm traps. DDO does not currently support characters “setting up” traps.
Heal – Used during combat to stabilize and bring to one hit point an unconscious character other than a warforged. (Warforged use the Repair skill.) Also, if anyone in your party has the Heal skill, then the entire party gains extra hit points when resting at a shrine.
Hide – You must be in Stealth mode to hide and move silently. To activate Stealth mode, click and drag the Stealthy icon from your feat list and place it on your hotbar. Then click that hotbar icon to crouch down and become “stealthy.” While stealthy, you will automatically make Move Silently checks as you move. Whenever you are making enough noise for enemy creatures to hear, you will see small circles appear near your character’s feet to indicate he’s making noise. If an enemy is nearby when that happens, they will go into a stalking mode and walk over to investigate the noise. You also will see a stack of eyes next to your character, indicating the lighting he’s in. One eye means he is in shadows and hard to see, two eyes means a little light and easier to see, and so on up to four or five eyes, which means you are in plain sight regardless of your hide skill.
Intimidate – Used during combat to trick opponents into attacking you, hopefully diverting them from weaker party members.
Jump – Increases the height and distance your character jumps. Certain areas in missions might be hard or impossible to reach without good jumping ability
Listen – Grants you a warning indicator when unseen monsters are nearby. Can help you “see” hidden monsters in silhouette form that characters with poor Listen skill can’t see.
Move Silently – See Hide above.
Open Lock – Used to open locked doors and treasure chests.
Search – Used to find secret doors and control boxes for traps. This skill is not actually done as a die roll. Rather, a secret door has a specific Search skill required to find it. If your skill is high enough, you automatically find it when you use the search command. If your skill isn’t high enough, you will never find it no matter how much you try.
Spot – Gives you a warning indicator when you are close to a secret door or trap. You usually won’t know the exact location of the hidden object without an active search, but you will know that SOMETHING is nearby.
Swim – Determines how long you can hold your breath underwater. (This is slightly different from tabletop rules.) Wearing armor and being encumbered impose major penalties on your swim skill, and it is VERY dangerous to attempt lengthy underwater swims while wearing heavy armor. Always take your armor off before swimming, and try not to swim when you are at medium or higher encumbrance.
Tumble – Allows you to roll and cartwheel to the side, forward and back. Use shift-key plus the movement key in the direction you wish to tumble. Tumbling grants you an AC bonus of about +1 per 5 skill points while tumbling, and stealthy characters can tumble without penalty on their move silently and hide skill checks.
Use Magic Device – Allows you to use scrolls and wands and other items your character couldn’t normally use. In DDO, there is no die roll involved. Items have a listed minimum Use Magic Device skill you must have in order to use it if you can’t use it normally. For example, a wand of cure light wounds has a UMD rating of 6, meaning that if your UMD is 6 or higher you can use the wand regardless of class. (Tip: all level 1 spell wands require UMD of 6, so that’s a good bare minimum skill number to shoot for if you’re developing UMD.)
Characters receive the standard number of feats by race and character level in DDO. Many of D&D’s feats are in DDO either verbatim or with slight changes, and there are also some new feats unique to DDO. I will skip most of the minor differences and mention some specific feat changes and feats new to DDO below:
Adamantine Body: This is a Warforged only feat that can only be taken at character creation. It counts as Heavy Armor, +8 AC, with damage reduction 2/adamantine, -5 skill check penalty, 35% arcane spell failure, and +1 max dex bonus.
Bullheaded: +1 Will saves and +2 Intimidate checks.
Cast on the Run: Allows you to move slowly while casting spells.
Cleave: This is an activated combat ability in DDO. Place it on your hotbar and use it like other special attacks. It allows you to hit multiple enemies in a single frontal arc attack. Usable once per 5 seconds.
Combat Expertise: Place on your hotbar to use. When toggled on, you enter a defensive stance where you trade attack bonus for extra AC.
Discipline: +1 Will saves and +2 Concentration checks.
Empower Healing Spell: This is a toggled metamagic feat. When toggled on, your healing spells are more powerful but cost more spellpoints.
Empower Spell: Metamagic feat that while toggled on makes your spells do about 50% more damage at the cost of about double the normal spellpoints.
Enlarge Spell: While active spells have longer range at a cost of additional spellpoints.
Eschew Materials: While active, spells do not require normal material components but cost extra spellpoints.
Extend Spell: While active, most spells with durations last longer but cost more spellpoitns. (Some, like Summon Monster, are not effected).
Great Cleave: Similar to Cleave, this is an activated attack usable every 10 seconds that hits everything in a very wide arc.
Hamstring: Special attack usable every 15 seconds that reduces the target’s movement rate.
Heighten Spell: While active, spells have a higher save DC but cost more spellpoints.
Improved Cast on the Run: Increases the speed you can move while casting (Prereq: Cast on the Run).
Improved Damage Reduction: Warforged characters only. Improves their DR by one.
Improved Feint: Attack usable once per 8 seconds that is a combination Bluff check/sneak attack attempt.
Improved Fortification: Warforged only. Immunity to sneak attacks and critical hit damage, but you also can no longer be healed by Cure spells (must use Repair spells to heal in combat).
Improved Mental Toughness: Gives you 10 spellpoints plus 5 spellpoints per level after the first.
Improved Shield Bash: You keep your shield’s AC bonus while shield bashing.
Improved Sunder: Makes your Sunder attack’s AC penalty last longer.
Improved Trip: Makes enemies you Trip stay down longer.
Luck of the Heroes: +1 to all saves.
Manyshot: Usable once per 2 minutes. For 20 seconds you can fire multiple arrows simultaneously.
Maximize Spell: While active, spells do maximum damage but use four times normal spellpoints
Mithral Body: Warforged at character creation only. Counts as light armor, +5 AC, 15% spell failure, -2 skill check penalty and max dex bonus of +5.
Mithril Fluidity: Warforged with Mithral body required. Increases max dex bonus by one and reduces skill penalties by one.
Mobility: Adds +4 AC while tumbling.
Mobile Spellcasting: Able to move slowly while casting.
Power Attack: While active, trade attack bonus for extra damage on melee attacks.
Precision: While active, trade half your damage to gain +4 attack bonus.
Quicken Spell: While active, spells cast faster and can not be interrupted but cost more spellpoints.
Resilience: While active, trade half your damage and some attack bonus to gain a bonus on all your saves.
Sap: Special attack usable every 15 seconds that can stun opponents briefly. Opponents will reawaken if damaged while stunned.
Shield Mastery: Increases damage reduction of your shield by 3.
Shot on the Run: You can reload and fire while moving.
Slicing Blow: Usable every 15 seconds, special attack that can inflict additional bleeding damage.
Snake Blood: +2 poison saves and +1 reflex saves.
Spring Attack: Allows you to move and melee attack without penalty. (Normally, you are -4 to attack while moving.)
Stunning Blow: Special attack that can stun an opponent for a few seconds.
Sunder: Special attack that can reduce an opponent’s AC for a short period.
Toughness: +3 hitpoints at first level, +1 per level thereafter.
Trip: Special attack that can knock a bipedal opponent down. Other sorts of creatures are immune.
Two Handed Fighting: Increases the chance of getting glancing blows on nearby opponents when swinging a two handed weapon.
Two Weapon Blocking: Increases the damage reduction you get when actively blocking with two weapons.
Whirlwind Attack: Special attack usable once every 15 seconds that can hit everything in a full circle around you.
Many spells function very closely to their tabletop counterparts. Touch attack spells differ in that they do not actually make attack rolls, but are instead simply very short range targeted spells. Ray spells similarly do not require attack rolls but are targeted spells that can be blocked or hit intervening objects.
All spells that have a “free” material component in D&D require a “generic” material component in DDO. These generic material components are extremely cheap and sold by various merchants around the city. These components are divided by level and magic type. So wizards and sorcerers would buy “level 1 wizard/sorcerer components” for their level 1 spells, for example, while clerics would buy “level 3 cleric/paladin components” for their level 3 spells. A handful of powerful spells like Stoneskin have rarer, more expensive components that might require some more effort to collect.
Some specific spell differences:
Chill Touch – This spell changed dramatically in DDO. It is now a single very short range targeted spell that does about 1d6 + 7 damage per caster level negative energy damage against living creatures (eg at level 4, the spell does roughly 29-34 damage). Undead creatures take no damage but must make a will save or be panicked for a short time. Constructs are completely immune to the spell.
Summon Monster I – You summon a celestial dog that lasts for one minute. You can control up to two summoned monsters simultaneously. If you cast Summon Monster while you already have two summoned monsters out, the oldest of the two will vanish and be replaced by a new pet. (Tip: You can manually place your summoned pet wherever you point your cursor. However, your targeting orb MUST be empty, and your cursor must not have any creatures under it. If you are targeting anything or your cursor is pointing at a creature, your pet will automatically appear next to you instead of the spot you intended.)
Charm spells, including Command Undead, Charm Person, etc – There is no way to manually break a charm spell. While charmed, you can not attack your charmed “pet.” You must wait until the spell ends or the pet makes one of its periodic save attempts to attack it, should you wish to kill it.
Repair Damage – This line of spells acts like Cure Wound spells on warforged. For example, Repair Light Damage will heal a Warforged character the same way a Cure Light Wounds spell heals other races. Repair Damage spells are arcane magic (ie wizards and sorcerers).
Resist Energy– This is split into five separate spells that must be learned and memorized individually (Acid, Cold, Electricity, Fire, Sonic). This differs from tabletop where it is a single spell that allows you to choose the type of energy resisted at the time of casting.
Action Point Enhancements
Because it can take a while to reach each experience level in DDO, they added a system of Enhancements you can buy every ¼ of a level to give you a more fluid sense of advancement, and to give characters more of a feeling of customized abilities. Every race and class has access to a semi-unique set of enhancements. You can have up to four enhancements at once, and as you gain experience, you can replace your existing enhancements with upgrades or all-new enhancements you like better.
I list every single enhancement, but I will provide some examples of class and race specific enhancements:
– Halflings can buy enhancements that give them additional bonuses on their saving throws, bonuses to Hide and Move Silently, and bonus attack bonuses and damage with thrown weapons. These bonuses stack with normal racial bonuses and all feats.
– Humans can buy enhancements that give them a small bonus on all skills across the board, to increase their own recovery gain from healing effects, and interaction skills like Haggle.
– Sorcerers and Wizards can buy enhancements that increase their damage with specific types of spells, such as “+20% to all level 1 fire spells”. They also can buy enhancements to get more total spellpoints and improve their Concentration and other skills.
– Clerics can buy enhancements that increase their healing amounts or negative damage on inflict spells, buy enhancements that let them use Turn Undead attempts to instead recharge an ally’s spellpoint reserve, and gain bonuses on skills like Heal.
Enhancements are generally at least as powerful, if not more powerful, than feats. So you can think of this as all characters having four “bonus feats” that they can shuffle around and improve as they gain experience.
All equipment in the game can take damage during combat. Some creatures, like oozes and rust monsters, are particularly damaging on equipment. If a piece of equipment becomes too damaged, it is unusable until repaired. Any NPC merchant (except bartenders) can repair any item, at a price. The more damaged the item, the more the repair costs and the greater the chance the object will permanently lose a small amount of its maximum damage capacity. Eventually, over a very long period of time, objects that are continually damaged and repaired repeatedly can lose so much from their maximum damage potential as to be virtually unusable.
Magic items for the most part follow D&D rules, and the effects are described in-game when you zoom in and examine the item. (Target the item then type Z to open the zoom window to see its effects). Many magic items are sold by NPC merchants and pawn shops throughout the city, so it pays to explore and become familiar with the merchants as much as possible to learn who sells what.
Basic to-hit rolls and damage rolls are handled almost exactly like D&D rules. However, the real-time nature of combat in DDO changes a few key aspects that D&D players won’t be familiar with.
First, there’s no initiative checks. Everything is free-flow, so there’s no initiative rolls, and hence no “flat-footedness” due to having a low initiative.
Second, flanking is determined by who the target creature is attacking. If the monster you attack is attacking someone else, they you are considered “flanking.” For example, if your rogue sees a kobold attacking the party’s fighter, your rogue can walk up and hit the kobold and get sneak attacks by “flanking.”
There are no free attacks of opportunity or threatened areas in DDO. Instead, the game attempts to simulate the same sort of effect by making you easier to hit while moving, and giving you a penalty to hit while moving. While moving, your AC is -4 and you have a -4 to your attacks. The exceptions are that you suffer no penalties while Tumbling (although you can’t do attacks while tumbling), and that characters with the Spring Attack feat can freely move and attack simultaneously without penalty.
Also, by holding down the Shift key, your character goes into an active blocking stance. While actively blocking, you receive damage reduction equal to your “shield bonus” (listed next to your normal AC on your character sheet). Characters without a shield get a small AC bonus as well (shield users get a similar AC bonus passively, all the time). Blocking with a good shield generally gives higher damage reduction and AC bonuses than blocking with just weapons. Also, by holding down the shift key while right-clicking the mouse, you can do a Shield Bash attack. Normally, if you shield bash, you lose your blocking bonuses, but with the Improved Shield Bash feat you can retain those bonuses while shield bashing.
Monsters are generally very beefed up versions of their core rule counterparts. Kobolds, for example, have more hit points, better AC, and hit harder than kobolds in the core rules. This is to compensate for player characters being so powerful in DDO compared to normal rules due to having lots of magic items, action point enhancements, bonus hit points, and the ability to manually dodge and block attacks that might otherwise hit in a normal D&D game.
Otherwise, though, monsters generally follow their standard rules for their type. Undead are healed by Inflict spells, damaged by Cure spells, and can be turned by clerics, etc. Oozes split in two when hit by slashing and piercing weapons, have tremorsense, and are extremely hard to see before they attack. Bugbears and hobgoblins are typically very stealthy, wolves have good stealth and spot and listen skills, and so on. Typically if a monster can do something in D&D, expect it to do the same thing or something very similar in DDO.
As a rule of thumb, the majority of things in DDO work just like you’d expect. There are some differences in important areas, as outlined above, but normally if you see a spell or item or monster or feat, etc, it’s going to basically do what you expect if you’ve seen the same thing in D&D. Compared to your character, greatswords are really good, common kobolds are really bad, and ogres are really ugly. If you keep that in mind, along with some of the differences I mentioned, you’ll hopefully find the shift from tabletop to desktop/laptop an exciting one.