Dungeons and Dragons has been around since 1974 thanks to the creative minds of Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. The fantasy tabletop role-playing game has given birth to both controversy and notoriety making it thrive in certain social circles and misunderstood in others. With notable public figures speaking out on their experiences playing Dungeons and Dragons and live shows like Critical Role, the popularity of the game has grown over the years while the "moral panic" surrounding it has dwindled down.
The basic game mechanics are simple. Players create characters who adventure within the world created by a Dungeon Master, or DM for short. These characters have different skills and abilities to help them through quests and battles against fantasy creatures. It is heavily focused on storytelling as both the players and the DM weave the story of each campaign.
Given the fantasy setting of the game, it is recommended to keep an open mind about how most of the game mechanics work. But there are some rules (past and present) that just don't make a whole lot of sense no matter how you look at it, and even some that break the game itself. He's our list of them.
20 Cats Don't Have Dark Vision (5E)
With certain abilities, players can channel their inner Disney princess and have an animal companion. Rangers who take the path of Beastmaster can have one that helps in a fight. And magic users like Wizards can have animal companions with special abilities.
Every animal has its own stats with believable abilities, except cats. While cats in the real world can see in the dark, in D&D they don't as they aren't given Dark Vision.
19 Clerics Couldn't Use Swords (3E)
Every class in D&D has a certain skill set that could be of use to players as they embark on their campaign. Some classes focus on strength, stealth, or agility and there are several classes that dabble in the power of the arcane. Clerics are one of those, the healers of the party powered by the divine beings they follow. And it was because of this divine power that the earlier editions of D&D didn't allow clerics to use any sort of bladed weapon.
18 Material Components
Wizards are a pretty fun class to play... if one isn't opposed to carrying around an inventory full of strange things. In order for Wizards to cast magic, they have to have the right material components for their spells to work. Things like bat guano and cocoons must be present in a wizard's pocket if they want to cast spells like Fire Ball or Polymorph. They also need tons of paper and ink to get new spells. Tons of it.
17 Encumbrance Penalties
Encumbrance is something that most players are annoyed by and something all players wished they could ignore. It's one of those elements to the game that brings some "realism" to it that isn't wanted. Encumbrance determines how much a character's armor and equipment will slow them down. Even the beefiest character has limits as to how heavy their armor can be and how much stuff they can carry before it affects their speed and even some of their ability checks, attack rolls and saving throws.
16 Commoners Have Low Hit Points
Adventures will run into quite a few Commoners played by the DM. Commoners are most NPCs that fill in the positions of shopkeepers, innkeepers, and all the background roles that make the settings in D&D more lifelike. But despite being in a fantasy world full of powerful people and creatures, Commoners are pretty weak. Most Commoners only have a 1d4 worth of hit points, so even a creature as small as a cat could really do some damage to one if a player tried.
15 Multi-classing (1E)
In the earlier editions of D&D, there was a lot to consider when it came to picking a race as it came with some pretty steep advantages and disadvantages. Humans had the ability to dual-class, meaning they could switch the character class they were in and start in a new one at the first level. However, they lost all of the abilities of the previous class and couldn't regain them until they reached the same level in their new class as their old one.
14 Arbitrary Limits To Classes And Races (2E)
In a fantasy world like D&D, players have the ability to become anything they want, except not really. In the second edition of the game, there were restrictions to female strength (they could only have 18/50 strength), and certain races couldn't be certain classes or had a cap at how far they could level up in certain classes. For examples, gnomes and elves couldn't be bards and dwarves couldn't be paladins even though each of those races would be naturally suited said classes.
13 Flat Bonuses (4E)
In D&D, just about everything is determined with the roll of the dice. When it comes to battle, there will be certain situations that can give a player advantage or disadvantage on their rolls and they can roll 2d20 and take the higher or lower of the rolls, depending on the situation. Before there was that game mechanic there were flat bonuses, where Combat Advantage or Disadvantage added a +2 or -2 at the end of a player's roll. This mechanic made things a little confusing.
12 Wild Magic
Why is Wild Magic on this list again? Because of how 'wild' it is! We briefly touched on how the chaotic nature of this variant of Sorcerer can be advantageous to a player. But there are a lot of Surge Effects that put the player at a disadvantage.
Some are just funny like growing a beard a feather or turning blue. Others can make players unable to move or take an action. And the worst can make players attack themselves with spells like Fireball.
11 Alignment Restrictions
Even people who haven't played D&D are probably familiar with Alignments. Lawful Good, Chaotic Neutral, etc. These alignments are used as a way to express a character's ethical and moral perspective. In older versions of the game, Alignments played a big role in what classes characters could take, restricting them from certain classes. The 5th edition of D&D doesn't have any of the past Alignment restrictions, allowing players to create characters like Chaotic Paladins and Lawful Barbarians.
10 All Fall Damage Is The Same (3E)
Any number of things could happen to an adventurer to end their life, from drowning to starvation. They could even get sick and take enough poison damage to completely deplete their Hit Points. Falling from a very tall height is another way that players could end up making another character sheet if they aren't careful enough. Though, in the 3rd edition of the game, fall damage had a cap of 60 points of damage, regardless of how high of a height the character was falling from.
9 Cavalier Class (Unearthed Arcana)
Unearthed Arcana was first released in 1985 to expand upon the rules of the first edition of D&D. It provided brand new content at the time, like new additions to races and classes. Among the new classes was the Cavalier class, mounted knights from the noble class that had some pretty strong abilities but one pretty big character flaw. Cavaliers were honor-bound to charge right into battle, heading straight for the strongest enemy on the field, regardless of whether they could handle them or not.
8 Prices For Traps
Some of the best ways for DMs to keep their players on their toes is by putting in traps to catch the adventuring party off guard. Depending on what kind of trap it is, it'll have certain ways to trigger, disarm, and detect them. Players with characters with the Craft skill can even make traps for their own uses, though the average price of making some of the most simple traps in the game is hefty and the gold could be spent on other things.
7 Holy Word
For a Cleric, one of the most powerful spells is Holy Word. Holy Word is a 7th level spell that allows Clerics to do some serious damage to Evil aligned creatures. It destroys non-good characters below level 4 and inflicts other effects like Paralyzes, Stun and Deafen on higher level characters. The problem with this spell is that it affects all "non-good" characters within the radius of the spell. A Cleric could unintentionally hurt their friends and allies if they aren't careful with this spell.
6 Blade Cascade (4E)
Encounters are when players engage in combat with enemies. The higher in level a character gets, the stronger they and their abilities get and the more damage they can potentially do in a round. And in the 4th edition, there was an ability called Blade Cascade that level 15 Rangers could do that allowed them to keep attacking until they missed against an enemy. With the right abilities to increase a player's accuracy, this spell made it possible to make an infinite number of attacks in one round.
5 Harm Spell (3E)
Clerics, despite being well known as healers, can dish out some pretty heavy damage to enemies, especially as they level up. The 6th level spell Harm in the 3rd edition of D&D is an example of that. It allowed Clerics to reduce an enemy's total hit points to 4 by simply touching them. In the 3.5 edition Harm was changed to have a little less of a devastating effect and there was a Constitution saving throw added to lessen the damage an enemy could take.
4 Hold Person (3E)
One of the best ways to take down a powerful enemy is to keep them from even moving at all, and one spell that does that is Hold Person. In the 3rd edition, Hold Person was extra powerful as it froze an opponent in place and left them unable to do anything for at least three rounds. The updated version of Hold Person allows the target to make a Wisdom saving throw at the end of each of its turns to break the paralysis.
3 1st Level Ranger Spells (3E)
In the 3rd edition, the Ranger class wasn't what it is today, with levels that felt a little empty as characters didn't gain any new abilities as they leveled up. But, considering how many abilities were granted to a player at the 1st level, there wasn't any need (or desire) to level up. 1st level Rangers got several different Feats like the Ambidextrous/Two-Weapon Fighting and Track feats. And with no real incentive to stay in the Ranger class, players would jump to another one.
2 Summon Monster (3E)
In the 3rd edition of D&D, there were nine Summon Monster spells that allowed players to choose from a list of creatures to summon on the field. Players used this to their advantage by summoning larger and tougher creatures to act as shields or use as bludgeoning weapons. The 3.5 edition added the specification that the spell would only work if the creature summoned was supported by the environment of the field, for example, a player couldn't summon a large water creature in an environment with no water.
1 Half-Elves And Dilettante (4E)
According to the website dndbeyond.com, under Half-elves, they "combine.. the best qualities of their elf and human parents". And that rings true as they get racial traits from both groups like Fey Ancestry from Elves and a bonus to ability scores from their Human sides. And in the 4th edition, they had the racial trait known as Dilettante that allowed the player to pick any at-will attack power within a different class. It was later specified that it had to a 1st level at-will attack power.