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absolution (part one: immunities) | sermon

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Revised Fighter Class

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Absolutes: Part 4

Absolutes: Part 3

Absolutes: Part 2

Absolutes: Part 1

Absolution (Absolutes in d20)

Part One: Immunities

I should first give the nod to Sean K. Reynolds whose fantastic article on absolutes, here, was revelatory for me. I had been working on a method to remove a number of absolutes (anti-magic, critical hits and saving throws), but until I read his article it just never dawned upon me how much damage absolutes can do to gaming, in particular epic/immortal gaming. A quick glance towards Deities & Demigods (3rd Edition) reveals an almost unbelievable amount of immunities (ie. absolutes) as standard:

  • Anti-Magic (as per the Players Handbook)
  • Transmutation
  • Energy Drain
  • Ability Drain, Ability Damage
  • Mind Affecting Effects
  • Acid, Cold, Electricity (even to deities of a higher rank) - Basically this means Zeus thunderbolts are useless against all ofther gods. Any storm related powers of Mjolnir would be similarly useless.
  • Disease and Poison
  • Sleep, Stunning, Paralysis
  • Death Effects
  • Disintigration
  • Banishment, binding, dimensional anchor, dismissal, imprisonment, repulsion, soul bind, temporal stasis, trap the soul, turning and rebuking (Divine Rank 6 or above)
  • Prismatic Effects (after we factor in Fire Resistance 20 + Divine Rank, the deity, by virtue of all the above immunities, becomes invulnerable to all colours of a prismatic spell effect.)

So lets say you are a DM who wants to run an immortal campaign using Deities & Demigods as a basis. Virtually every avenue of threat is closed off to you! Even for epic monsters almost every special ability is rendered obsolete in the face of so many immunities. This is going to choke the life from any such campaign, and the more immunities and absolutes (say from magic items or salient divine abilities) you add, the more you paint yourself into a corner as the number of poignant options dwindle.

Fire Immunity

Just to clarify what is meant by an 'absolute', its a power or ability which always trumps another regardless of how powerful the second ability is.

eg. A Fire Giant is immune to fire, regardless of how hot that fire is. So even a god of fire harnessing the power of the entire plane of elemental fire couldn't burn the giant, nor would the giant be scorched by dropping him into the sun.

Most absolutes are impractical and unbalanced. They also promote the unhealthy idea of 'one-upmanship'.

For something like energy immunity I suggest a tripartite solution:

Revised Energy Immunity: Table One
Type of Immunity
Energy Resistance
Bearded Devil
[Energy] Sub-type
Fire Giant, Red Dragon
Composed of [Energy]
Fire Elemental

So if something was previously immune to fire (for example) but has no special reason to be immune to fire, give it fire resistance 50. If it previously has the fire immunity and the fire sub-type, then give it fire resistance 100. If the being is composed from fire itself, give the creature fire resistance 150.

Going off on a tangent here, but it looks like every point of fire resistance covers an increase of 10 degrees Celsius (with the initial safe zone between about 1-30 degrees Celsius). So Fire Resistance 10 should protect you against a splash of boiling water.

The following table presents over twenty different types of heat and details their temperature; damage dealt (determined by taking the heat in Celsius, subtracting 30 and then dividing the remainder by 60 to find the d6 damage); and the amount of fire resistance needed to be totally unaffected by temperature of that magnitude.

A Closer Look at Temperature: Table Two
Type of Heat
Temperature (Celsius)
Planck Temperature
1.4E32 (approx)
Cosmic Rays
10,000,000,000 (approx.)
Fusion Reactor
100,000,000 (approx.)
Sun's Core
10,000,000 (approx.)
Sun's Corona
1,000,000 (approx.)
30,000 (approx.)
Surface of Sun
2000 (approx.)
Plane of Fire
330 (approx.)
Boiling Point
Extreme Heat
Severe Heat
1d4/10 minutes
Very Hot Weather
Safe Conditions
Very Cold Weather
-1d4 Str & Dex/hour
Severe Cold
-1d4 Str & Dex/10 mins.
Extreme Cold
-1d6 Str & Dex/minute
Plane of Ice
-1d6 Str & Dex/round
Cone of Cold
-2d6 Str & Dex/round
Liquid Nitrogen
-3d6 Str & Dex/round
Absolute Zero
-4d6 Str & Dex/round


Okay, a few things about the above table. Planck Temperature is the postulated temperature that occured a split second after the big bang, so consider that your unofficial upper limit.

A Fireball blast will wash over you in a fraction of a second (1/331st of a second, approximately 1/2000th of a round). So a fireball spell is probably 1/15th as hot as lightning (approx. 30,000 degrees Celsius), meaning it would be about 2000 degrees Celsius. The base damage dealt by a Fireball is 5d6, for every 1d6 damage increase assume the temperature increases by 400 degrees Celsius.

The viscous nature of Lava means it will deal half damage for 1d3 rounds after the initial exposure.


You are probably thinking "what is he on about, Lightning 500d6, is he mad!" However it should be noted that lightning only impacts for 1/5000th of a second (1/30,000th of a round). So the time you are actually exposed to lightning is very brief. If I hold my hand above the flame of a candle I'm going to get burnt, but if I pass my hand through the flame quickly enough I won't sustain any injury. So the above figure of 500d6/round represents someone bathed in lightning for a full round (6 seconds). A Lightning Bolt will deal a base 5d6 damage, for every 1d6 increase in the damage assume the temperature increases by 6000 degrees Celsius.

Cold (Optional Idea)

In the opposite end of the table we can see that cold is limited by the absolute zero temperature. A white dragon's breath weapon cannot be colder than absolute zero, if indeed it would be even close to that. If we just apply the above damage merely to hit points, it seems as if cold is pretty feeble. So instead I suggest making cold inflict a penalty to Strength and Dexterity instead. The secondary effects of cold: Hypothermia, Frostbite, Freezing and Crystalisation are also addressed below.

Effects of Cold: Table Three
Secondary Effect
Occurs When...
Total (Str + Dex) ability penalty exceeds Wisdom score
Any ability penalty less than half original score forces a Fort Save
Any ability reduced to 0
Any ability reduced to 0 from a single attack
  • Hypothermia: Target is confused.
  • Frostbite: Any ability penalty that reduces a targets abilities to less than half the original score force the target to make a Fortitude save treated as permanent ability damage.
  • Freezing: Target is frozen.
  • Crystallisation: Target is crystallised (treat as frozen except the target also gains the Fragile Sub-type (See Part Two: Critical Hits for details).

Converting Cold Spells

Spells which deal cold damage could be changed to instead give a penalty of 1 point of Strength and Dexterity for every three Caster Levels.

eg. Cone of Cold (Caster Level 12th) could instead inflict a penalty of -4 points of strength and dexterity, saving throw for half-effect.

Converting Cold Breath Weapons

The breath weapon of certain creatures (such as dragons) could deal 1 point of strength and dexterity damage for every 3 Hit Dice of the creature, saving throw for half-effect.

eg. A character with Dexterity 14 is breathed upon by a Great Wyrm White Dragon (36 HD). The character fails its save and suffers a penalties of -12 points to Strength and Dexterity Damage.

Converting Cold Weapons

  • Frost: Now inflicts a penalty of -1 points of Str Damage and 1 point of Dex upon scoring a critical hit. This effect is not multiplied upon scoring the critical hit though. Market Price still +1 bonus.
  • Icy Burst: Now inflicts a penalty of -1 points of Str and Dex per hit. This effect is not multiplied upon scoring a critical hit. Market Price now +3 bonus.
  • Icy Blast: Now inflicts a penalty of -1 points of Str and Dex per hit. This effect is multiplied upon a successful critical hit by the weapons critical damage multiplier. Market Price still +6 bonus.

Resisting the Cold

10 points of Cold Resistance should convert to 3 points of Strength and Dexterity damage Resistance. Therefore possessing Cold Resistance 24 (formerly Cold Resistance 80) would gird you against absolute zero temperature meaning you could survive the coldness of space. It should be noted that Cold Resistance does not protect you from strength or dexterity damage or drain from other sources.

Unless stated otherwise, all content © 2001-2007 Craig Cochrane. All rights reserved.