The Munchkin's Guide to 3rd Edition Dungeons and Dragons | by Kris Havlak
My two most recent acquisitions in the gaming industry have been a naughty little book from Steve Jackson Games called the Munchkin's Guide to Power Gaming, and, less surprisingly, the 3rd Edition D&D Player's Handbook. The first of these provides power-hungry twinks with limitless means of making game masters' and other playersí lives miserable. Unfortunately, while the Munchkin's Guide to Power Gaming's authors, James "Grim" Desborough and Steve Mortimer, had the best intentions of providing the munchkin everything he needs to know to abuse Dungeons and Dragons, the D&D game is only specifically mentioned six times. To make matters worse, many of the references to D&D are outdated with the arrival of 3rd Edition. But never fear! Here is the spankin' new guide on how to turn your 3rd Edition weenies into full-fledged combat monsters. This guide will primarily focus on the creation of 3rd Edition characters, chapter by chapter, as most of the actual playing aspect is covered sufficiently in the Munchkin's Guide to Power Gaming.
Chapter 1: Abilities (a.k.a. Min-Maxing, part 1) Dungeons and Dragons uses, of course, the infamous random number character generation system. As the Munchkin's Guide to Power Gaming points out, this type of system is ripe for abuse. This is even truer with the advent of third edition. No longer does the player have to beg the DM to allow the best method of character creation-- it is now standard. Even so, attempt to roll up your stats without the DM present, and cheat. It is always statistically possible to roll six 18's, and it's even more likely with the new system of rolling 4d6 and dropping the worst. Seriously though, your DM will never believe you if you try to pull this one. Aiming for all 16's or higher should be a good goal.
Whether or not you manage to end up with a decent six-pack of raw numbers, one of the most important tactics of 3rd Edition is to convince your DM to let you alter these numbers by decreasing an ability by one point and increasing another by a point. This may not seem like a very munchkin thing to do at first, which is a fact you should use to your advantage. The reason for using this strategy is that someone decided that characters should get ability modifiers with a stat as lousy as a 12. However, to prevent the ability bonuses for high scores such as 17 or 18 from being ridiculously high, they made it so the bonus would only go up at every other increment. What this means is that a score of 12 is as good as a 13, a 14 as good as a 15, and a 16 as good as a 17. In fact, with the advent of the new d20 system, a 17 is only better than a 16 if you are a spell-caster with the 17 in your relevant attribute. What all this means is that if you can convince your DM to allow you to alter your abilities slightly by dropping a point there and adding a point here, you can end up with a character with no 13's, 15's, or 17's. This will significantly increase your total ability modifiers. Hopefully your DM will not notice this bug in the system, but if she does, refer to the section on "Bribing and Corrupting the GM" in the Munchkin's Guide to Power Gaming. To decide how to arrange your attributes, see the section on abilities in the Playerís Handbook for the class you want to play. In general, charisma, intelligence, and wisdom are all bad, unless you are playing a spellcaster that relies on one of them. No need to crank up dexterity to more than 12 or 14, as when you are wearing heavy armor this won't do you any good.
Chapter 2: Races (or how to create a monster) The release of 3rd Edition brought good news for munchkins: the unveiling of a new standard race, the half-orc. Other than this edition, the guidelines set by the Munchkin's Guide to Power Gaming hold pretty well, with a few slight exceptions and additions.
Dwarves remain a very munchkin race. Their high constitution will give them extra hit points and toughness, while a loss of 2 points of charisma gives you a better chance of getting into fights. In addition, they retain their cool combat bonuses against big nasty humanoids. Their favorite class is the fighter, which is certainly not a bad choice for a munchkin. Finally, dwarves are given a bonus to skills related to metals (and stone). Quickly pounding out a new masterwork Dwarven waraxe is almost as munchkin as killing its former owner and stealing it.
Elves remain total nancies incapable of true munchkinism. In addition, their favorite class is that of wizard, binding them to the bulky spell system of previous editions of D&D. Their near-munchkin levels of dexterity require light armor to take advantage of, and their inherent frailties makes them ill-suited for combat.
Humans, although not overly munchkin, have the cool advantage of getting an extra feat at fist level. Sticking this on a combat-related feat like an extra weapon focus helps to max. out your combat skill.
Halflings have always been utterly worthless, but with their slimming up in 3rd Edition they have lost their few creative uses. While a 200 lb. halfling catapulted at deadly speeds could be a useful weapon, a 35 lb. halfling? And, assuming that since halflings have been shrunk to a fraction of their previous mass they no longer have ravenous appetites, how are you supposed to lure them into danger? Itís possible that tying one to a ten foot pole still works well for springing traps, but not for distracting hungry monsters.
Gnomes are not quite as useless as halflings, but definitely not munchkin material. While they get the extra bonus to constitution, the fact that this is balanced by strength does not look good for gnomes. Furthermore, they've lost their munchkin levels of intelligence, making them lousy at their favored class. And besides, they're still scrawnier than elves.
The Half-Orc is the new munchkin race. While they unfortunately have two ability penalties to balance only one ability bonus, both intelligence and charisma are useless while having a high strength is paramount. Half-orcs are big, ugly, and they look really cool when scantily clad. Of course, they look better in 50 lb. of full plate.
Of course, even with a little min-maxing, you still may not be able to get a powerful enough character, especially if your DM insists that you start at first level. What you really want here is a hybrid race, say a half-orc/half-dwarf, with strength AND constitution bonuses and a double dose of butt-kicking coolness. The new DMG provides rules for all types of munchkin races being used as player characters. If your DM seems reluctant to let you play one of these abominations, it's always handy to try to convince the DM that it's all for role-playing's sake. If you donít yet have a copy of the DMG, check out the Monster Mayhem section on the official Dungeons & Dragons page-- it has rules for playing the super-munchkin half-dragon.
Chapter 3: Classes (or why mommy always wanted you to go to med. school)
There are many different ways to cause munchkin mischief in a game such as Dungeons and Dragons. These different methods of madness are known as classes. Each class has a varying level of munchkin potential, based on 1, how well it can kill things, and 2, how many things it can kill. It is important to choose a sufficiently munchkin class to begin with. However, you can always switch classes later without losing any power thanks to the new multi-class rules. Below are the benefits and hindrances of every class when viewed from the eyes of a power-gamer.
Barbarians are a new breed of munchkins. They value strength and toughness over intelligence and subtlety, which gives them very munchkin mind-sets. And they look cool. Advantages: Barbarian Rage, use big weapons, take less damage, wear cool bones on their scantily clad bodies, extra hit points Disadvantages: Wear light armor Munchkin Potential: 10/10
Bards are jacks-of-all-trades, however, they aren't good at anything except amusing a crowd. A true munchkin will not be a bard, unless forced to be one at gunpoint, in which case the munchkin probably still wouldn't be a bard because whoever was holding a gun to the munchkin's head would end up in the morgue. Advantages: Can do a little of everything. Disadvantages: The only thing they do well is sing. Munchkin Potential: 2/10
A Cleric's level of munchkinism depends mostly on what deity you pick. It is important to pick a deity with domains such as war and destruction, as these will give you the most power. Good ones are Hextor, Erythnul, and, if forced to worship a good god, Heironeous. Gods like Ehlonna and Olidammara are for pansies. Advantages: Can wear heavy armor, always has a god on his side, can heal himself to give himself more time to kill things. Disadvantages: Pansy weapons, no good offensive spells Munchkin Potential: 0/10 to 9/10 depending on deity.
Druids are nature's nancies. All of their skills are related to communing with nature, not killing stuff. Although turning into a ferocious animal can have its benefits, you're much better off with a high-level warrior. Advantages: Can change into ferocious beasts. Disadvantages: No weapons, no armor, dumb spells, dumb abilities. Munchkin Potential: -4/10
Fighters are the original munchkins, and remain a good class to play. They wear tons of armor, wield really big weapons, and generally kick butt. Advantages: Use all armor, use all weapons, bonus feats for additional munchkinism Disadvantages: None Munchkin Potential: 9/10
Monks seem like wimps to the untrained munchkin, but with a little practice they can tear apart well-armed opponents with nothing but their bare hands (and maybe a set of munchkin statistics). Advantages: Kill things with their bare hands, tough, make cool noises when fighting Disadvantages: Can't wear armor or use weapons, dumb clothing Munchkin Potential: 6/10
Paladins range from the ultra goody-goodies to the Hitler youth. They have the most munchkin powers of any class, but the least munchkin attitude. However, if you can justify killing things (come on, the orc babies were going to grow up to be EVIL!) then you just might get away with playing a paladin. Advantages: Good at fighting, wastes on evil and undead, can use holy swords Disadvantages: Must be lawful good, spells are crummy Munchkin Potential: -10/10 to 8/10, depending on role-playing ability
Rangers are a more subtle yet still very munchkin class. They have a range of special abilities almost as big as that of the paladin, and in 3rd Edition they don't have to have godlike ability scores (although you should have these anyway) or to be good. Advantages: Good at fighting, can use two weapons to kill things, can kill certain things extremely well, can track things down and kill them Disadvantages: Wear light armor Munchkin Potential: 8/10
Rogues are a useless class. Who needs to sneak into a castle when you can use a catapult to break your way in? No need to pick locks, just break them. And what good are halflings if you don't need them to trigger traps? Perhaps you can get your little halfling buddies to play rogues, because that way they won't have any way of resisting you when you try to tie them on to your 10-foot pole. Advantages: Can do sneak attacks. Disadvantages: Can't survive a decent fight Munchkin Potential: 0/10
Sorcerers are the knew spell-casting munchkins. They don't have to prepare their spells, and they get a lot of them. Thus, they are the best class to choose if you want to continuously hurl fireballs at your opponents. Advantages: Good spells, and lots of them. Disadvantages: Scrawny, can't wear much armor, doesn't know many spells Munchkin Potential: 7/10
Wizards are an outdated class. Although they have the biggest selection of spells, they have to prepare them slowly and don't get as many as sorcerers. And besides, who needs more than a few high-damaging spells? Advantages: Can learn lots of good spells Disadvantages: Has to prepare spells, doesn't get as many spells as a sorcerer, even a sorcerer is better at combat Munchkin Potential: 5/10
Chapter 4: Skills (Or what not to get) Skills replace the non-weapon proficiencies of 2nd Edition, and thus most of them are pretty useless. Take whatever will help you fight the longest, fight the most, or cast the most/best spells. See the following list of good and bad skills.
|Alchemy||Can make dangerous substances|
|Concentration||Cast spells even when getting beat on|
|Craft (Armorer)||Can make yourself good armor|
|Craft (Weaponsmith)||Can make yourself good weapons|
|Craft (Bowmaking)||Can make yourself good weapons|
|Forgery||If caught, a reason to kill things|
|Jump||Cool way of attacking things|
|Ride||Make mounted charges|
|Search||In case you kill the bad guy before he tells you where he hid the treasure.|
|Spot||Can gain you a surprise bonus in combat|
|Swim||Save your life when you fall in with 40 lb. of armor|
|Use Magical Device||Zap your opponents instead of yourself|
|Use Rope||Make nooses to hang dead bodies of opponents|
|Animal Empathy||Prevents a fight|
|Appraise||If they don't pay you what you want, they die anyway|
|Balance||Only pansies walk on tight-ropes|
|Bluff||Intimidate has same effect|
|Climb||The best way out is through|
|Craft (Weaving)||Come on!|
|Diplomacy||Prevents a fight|
|Disable device||Renders halflings useless|
|Disguise||Are you ashamed of your appearance?|
|Escape Artist||Like you're going to be taken alive.|
|Gather Information||Intimidation has same effect|
|Handle Animal||If it doesn't behave, eat it for dinner|
|Heal||What are clerics for?|
|Innuendo||What secret message? Kill things!|
|Intuit Direction||Are you saying I'm lost?!?!|
|Knowledge||Intimidation has same effect|
|Listen||Why bother? You're just going to kill it|
|Open Lock||Useless- you didn't bring along your axe +3 for nothing|
|Perform||The only way you need to do this is by killing things|
|Pick Pocket||Intimidation has same effect|
|Profession||Why make money legally, when you can do it so easily illegally|
|Read Lips||This isn't espionage. Kill it!|
|Sense Motive||Your opponents won't need this either (Kill things!)|
|Speak Language||If you don't understand them, they're probably evil.|
|Spellcraft||You should kill your opponents before they cast spells|
|Tumble||How will you fight if you're tumbling?|
|Wilderness Lore||If you have enough hit points, who needs survival?|
Chapter 5: Feats (More ways to kill things) Most advantages and weapon proficiencies have been replaced by cool abilities called feats. Fighters get the most, but all classes will get at least a few. If you can't cast spells, make sure you concentrate solely on combat feats. A few Metamagic feats can do wonders to spellcasters, as can Item Creation Feats. A few feats require additional notes.
Ambidexterity and Two-Weapon Fighting: In 3rd Edition, fighting with 2 weapons is completely worthless unless you are of a very high level and your opponents of very low level. One of the least-munchkin changes made to the game. Armor Proficiency: Get at least one level of this if you're a sorcerer or wizard by the time you reach 8th level. Dodge: Not worth taking. Get an offensive one instead. Empower Spell and Maximize Spell: Extra Damage Fireballs! Due to high cost, only use on damaging spells. Exotic Weapon Proficiency: Lets you use munchkin weapons like the bastard sword. Run: Chase down fleeing opponents Still Spell: Cast Wizard/Sorcerer Spells while wearing full armor! Sunder: Excuse me? Attack your opponent, not his weapons. Toughness: Good for low-level spellcasters. Track: Hunt stuff down and kill it. Weapon Finesse: Your dexterity is higher than your strength? Go back to chapter 1. Weapon Focus and Specialization: Kill stuff (good).
Chapter 6: Description (All that boring stuff) Your character is almost complete, but before you're done, you have to make up some additional information about her so that it looks like you're role-playing and not roll-playing. The first thing you have to do is choose an alignment. Although the Munchkin's Guide to Power Gaming contains all you need to know about the alignments of D&D, the author of this article doesn't quite agree with Grim and Mortimer and thus will briefly go over the 9 alignments once again.
Lawful Good: This alignment is generally reserved for those honest and kindly people that munchkins generally shy away from, except when they feel the urge to kill... which is always. The only time a munchkin should be of this alignment is when playing a paladin, since this is the only way to gain the paladin's god-like abilities. Remember that anything that either breaks a law or commits an evil act violates all that is good and true, and therefore must be slaughtered. Munchkin Potential: -1/10 to 8/10, depending on how it's done
Neutral Good: This alignment, also known as True Good, is plain old good. You don't mind laws, as long as they're good. You don't mind hurting things, as long as they're evil. Can get pretty boring pretty fast, but as long as there is a steady stream of evil things to kill, it's OK. Munchkin Potential: 4/10
Chaotic Good: According to the Munchkin's Guide to Power Gaming, chaotic good characters "will happily break the law, steal, and even murder people to serve the higher purpose." This is how you want to play Chaotic Good characters. The 3rd Edition Player's Handbook tries to emphasize the fact that chaotic good characters have a good heart, but you want to emphasize the fact that they have a chaotic one. Munchkin Potential: 6/10
Lawful Neutral: Lawful Neutral characters can be fair and just individuals or the generic pleeb who ekes out a miserable existence. However, they can also be the Nazi Policemen who severely punish anyone who breaks the slightest law. Munchkin Potential: 0/10 to 6/10, depending on type
Neutral: Neutral characters don't care much about greater causes, which can be a boon if played properly. It means you act naturally, which in the case of a munchkin means you kill stuff because that's the way it is. You aren't evil, you just kill because its how you are. However, some neutral characters are what was referred to by 2nd Edition as "true neutral." These characters are bad because they keep changing their minds in order to preserve "the balance." The only thing you want balanced is your pocketbook. Munchkin Potential: 6/10 for "Undecided," 2/10 for "True Neutral"
Chaotic Neutral: This type of character believes only in chaos. You do whatever suits you, whether or not it breaks the law, whether or not its good or evil. Generally you have a few chemical imbalances, but that's normal for a munchkin. You have the most freedom of anyone, and thus can do as you choose. Munchkin Potential: 7/10
Lawful Evil: Lawful evil characters are dominators. They want complete order and it better be for their own good. The Player's Handbook says that "Lawful evil is the most dangerous alignment because it represents methodical, intentional, and frequently successful evil." In the case of a munchkin, "most dangerous" means "best." Munchkin Potential: 7/10
Neutral Evil: Neutral evil characters believe only in evil. They do what's best for them, and them alone. May not get anywhere without the help of lawful or chaotic evil characters for guidance, but generally very munchkin. Munchkin Potential: 8/10
Chaotic Evil: Although it may be difficult to convince your DM to let you play this type of character, it is by far the best type because your actions are bent on both chaos AND evil. You don't necessarily act randomly, but you hope to create as much death, destruction, confusion, and general mayhem as possible, while benefiting yourself as well. Munchkin Potential: 20/10
After you choose an alignment, you'll have to choose a deity as well. This choice isn't too important unless you're a cleric, and you may want to ignore it all together. If you absolutely must pick one, follow the advice given earlier and pick one with a domain of war.
Height, weight, skin color, eye color, and hair color don't matter too much. The goal behind these is to make your character look as deadly as possible. Tall and heavy is good. Dark skin and hair and glowing red eyes help when trying to intimidate people. Ignore the parts on personality and background, unless you need to make up some excuses for bending the rules earlier, or for playing a chaotic evil character.
Chapter 7: Equipment (Goody Goody Goody!) Now it's time to arm your munchkin with some weapons and armor. Because there really aren't that many statistics that matter, it really isn't too hard to pick the best weapons and armor out there. If you can afford to take the exotic weapon proficiency feat, Dwarven waraxes and bastard swords are the best weapons for combat-oriented munchkins. Otherwise you may want to sacrifice a shield for greatsword or better yet a greataxe. Note that, while cool, changes to the two-weapon fighting rules make double-ended weapons a bad idea. The key here is to balance coolness with munchkin statistics, and double-ended weapons just plain fall short on the latter. For ranged weapons, go with a mighty composite longbow as soon as you can afford it. Sorcerers and other characters without the martial weapons proficiency should strap a dozen or so loaded crossbows to their back, but make sure the DM doesn't force you to use the encumbrance rules. The narrow selection of armor makes the choice easy. If you have a good dexterity bonus (+3 or better) then the best armor to go with is breastplate, although it is a really stupid type of armor that even real life soldiers discarded by the dark ages. If you have a high dexterity, wearing breastplate armor will give you a better AC than wearing splint or banded mail. If you have a lesser dexterity modifier, you want to go with full plate armor as soon as you can afford it or steal a set. Light armor should only be worn by sorcerers and wizards to lessen the chance of spell failure, but once the still spell feat is learned these spellcasters should be in the same armor as the warriors. Rangers may want to wear light armor so they can use their special abilities, although they are generally better off getting a heavy armor proficiency and wearing heavy armor. If you can use a shield, get a large one that's metal. These will last longer than wooded shields. Attach shield spikes on to your shield and also get some armor spikes for your armor. These look cool and do bonus damage when grappling. Locked gauntlets are useful if you aren't a spellcaster, and assuming your opponents are dumb enough to attack your weapon, and not you. As for other equipment, make sure you stock up on useful stuff like caltrops, rope, acid, alchemist's fire, thunderstones, smokesticks, and spyglasses. A mount can let you do spiffy charges with lances that will do extra damage. Make sure to pick up a spellbook if you're a wizard and a spell component pouch if you're a spellcaster. If you have halflings in your group, pick up a 10-foot pole and some extra rope. A portable ram is a handy thing to add on to the end of your equipment list, as long as the DM isn't enforcing encumbrance rules. The best set of clothing to get is the explorer's outfit, as it comes with the most bang for the buck and allows you to add additional accouterments for added flair and style.
Miscellaneous Notes: Spells and Tricks By now you're munchkin character should be done, and you should be ready to head off and kick some butt. However, there are a few final tricks you'll need to know before heading out into the wild.
Spells: One of the most frustrating aspects of 2nd Edition was its clunky, annoying, non-munchkin spell system. A high level character would have to spend days pouring over her spellbooks just to memorize her full array of spells. While this problem has been fixed to some extent for wizards and clerics, the best way to get around this problem is to play a sorcerer. Sorcerers don't have to prepare their spells, and thus can launch practically anything they want at their enemies. However, sorcerers have a small selection of spells, and thus you will want to choose wisely. Below is a list of good spells to choose.
0th Level: Ray of Frost (hurts things) Detect Magic (find magical items) Mage Hand (chuck rocks at opponents)
1st Level Shield (Keeps you alive) Mage Armor (Keeps you alive) Summon Monster (Helps you fight) Charm Person (Enemy kills enemy) Magic Missile (hurts things) Shocking Grasp (hurts things)
2nd Level Melf's Acid Arrow (hurts things) Summon Monster Endurance (more hit points)
3rd Level Dispel Magic (stop evil spellcasters) Flame Arrow (hurts things) Summon Monster Hold Person (allows you to kill them) Fireball Lightning Bolt
4th Level Summon Monster Wall of Fire (On top of opponents) Polymorph Other (Ha! Be a frog!) Ice Storm Phantasmal Killer
5th Level Cloudkill (kills stuff) Cone of Cold Stone Shape (make stone smoosh them) Permanency (make them dead for good)
6th Level Globe of Invulnerability (handy) Summon Monster Chain Lightning Circle of Death Tenser's Transformation (you kill stuff)
7th Level Summon Monster Delayed Blast Fireball Prismatic Spray (ouch) Finger of Death (that milk was rotten!) Limited Wish
8th Level Incendiary Cloud Summon Monster Mass Charm (to make armies) Polymorph any Object
9th Level Prismatic Sphere (can you say invincible?) Power Word, Kill Bigby's Crushing Hand (my friend says otherwise) Meteor Swarm Wish
Because sorcerers are the only class limited in the number of spells they can learn at each level, this is the only list of good spells that will be given. It is assumed that if another character accidentally learns a crummy spell the next time they will learn a good one. Sorcerers don't get a second chance. However, no matter what type of spellcaster you are, always ask yourself the following questions before picking a spell:
1) Does it do the most damage? 2) Does it cause the most destruction? 3) Does it keep you from dying?
If you can not answer "yes" to at least one of these questions, the spell is not worth preparing. This even applies to cleric spells, as they will generally be able to fulfill number 3 when failing the other two.
Multiclassing can be a handy way to extending the lifespan of your spellcasters. Since spellcasters have little use at low levels, begin by gaining a level or two in a warrior class such as a fighter or barbarian. After you have enough hit points to survive a melee encounter, start gaining levels in sorcerer. It will slow your advancement a little, but it will keep you alive a lot longer. Adding a level of fighter to any class can be handy, as it gives you all the weapon and armor proficiencies you need as well as a bonus feat. Gaining a level of cleric will allow you to take advantage of your domains' granted powers, even at first level. Gaining a level of ranger will give you two-weapon and tracking abilities, as well as a slight bonus to hit a certain type of monster and good combat abilities.
For High-Level Characters, bringing along one or two first level characters can drastically increase the amount of experience you get. If you have a pair of 20th level characters who are having trouble gaining experience under the new XP system, consider the following.
Two 20th level characters that defeat a CR 20 monster will each receive 3000 experience each. If the two characters bring along a single 1st level character, the amount each character receives will jump up to 11,200, because the average level of the characters will be dropped to 14.
It works even at lower levels:
Two 10th level characters defeat a CR 10 monster, and gain 1500 XP each. When they bring along their 1st level buddy, this jumps up to 2100 each. Not as big a gain, but it still helps. And having an extra companion for cannon-fodder never hurts.