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"Oh! Yes... you are also deaf until you save".
"What?" .
"You are deaf until you save!"
"What?" Giggles.

In 4th edition the deafened condition is not really a tough one: a penalty to Perception checks. The most significant drawback is that you can't hear your comrades and thus you'd miss some benefit from leaders' features, while back in 3.X editions deafened caused at least a little thrill to casters.

  • Am I wrong in judging the seriousness of this condition? Am I missing something?
  • Do you ever found useless the deafening rider effect of some attacks (both PC's and monster's)?
  • Did this condition ever caused your party some percievable trouble/advantage?
  • If not, did you ever feel the urge to make this condition more fearful? If yes, how did you manage it?

Thank you.

Edit: I previously stated that being deaf imposes a penalty to initiative checks. That is wrong (I messed up with 3.X edition rules).

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Should this question marked as Community Wiki? Should it be removed because of its subjectivity? – Erik Burigo Dec 21 '10 at 14:19
The wording is quite slightly subjective (definitions of "serious" may vary) but I think it's a fairly valid question. And no, this probably isn't a good candidate for Community Wiki. – Iszi Dec 21 '10 at 14:28
We're really trying to get away from Community Wiki, and this certainly isn't an candidate. – C. Ross Dec 21 '10 at 14:58
up vote 7 down vote accepted

Deafened reads:


• You can’t hear anything.

• You take a -10 penalty to Perception checks

Thus, from a purely rules standpoint, rogues in combat love deafened. A sniper build (half-elf scout+seeker+darkstrider) is seriously enhanced from a screaming bow:

Property: When you use this weapon to hit an enemy with an attack power that doesn’t have a damage type, the attack deals thunder damage, and the enemy is deafened until the end of your next turn.

People the sniper is hiding from will not find her if she hits with her bow. Beyond that, there are tactical implications for interrupting communications on some battlefields. While mindless beasts will still charge, ask your DM to note that complex enemy tactics may require some communication. There are also a few monsters that have sound based powers.

From a DM perspective, lurkers love inflicting deafened. Then attacked party members have no perception to speak of. And the DM should rightfully ban table-talk. By removing perception and the coordination that communications brings, it is a truly vicious power against high-functioning parties.

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+1 for suggesting "No Tabletalk" as houserule for Deafened parties. – F. Randall Farmer Dec 22 '10 at 6:49

Well I guess all sound based spells and powers (both negative and positive) will no longer work. I can imagine edge conditions where this can become a challenge, but on average this seems to be limited.

You could set up an encounter where a sneak based attack is combined by a deafening based attack. That could be pretty lethal..

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Do you mean that deafened creatures may not use sound-based spells and powers, or that they are immune to others' use? I don't understand the former (deafened doesn't mean mute) and I'm afraid the latter sounds like turning a bane (deafened) into a boon (immunity to sound-based effects). – F. Randall Farmer Dec 22 '10 at 6:55
I meant the latter. Eg: Shadow Hound's Baying: deafened creatures are immune – Boris Callens Dec 22 '10 at 8:03

To your fourth bullet consider this: The warlords inspiring word- perhaps even the effects of bards.. would not affect you enough to help you. You couldn't hear them, and thus couldn't benefit. This doesn't have to be a houserule- just write it into the conditions of an encounter: "characters deafened by the whatsit's deafening attack cannot benefit from the following effects.."

Many of the team-powers (paladin, bard, and warlord) suggest that the recipient must hear them, but they don't make a ruling either way.

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If sound-based boons were prevented, wouldn't that also make a deafened creature immune to sound-based attacks/penalties? I can see some player-abuse in this sort of interpretation. – F. Randall Farmer Dec 22 '10 at 6:51
Well, yes and no. I don't see that as abuse really if a player suddenly says "Hey, I shouldn't be affected by the harpy song.. I just got deafened!".. that seems fine to me as a DM. As always, DMs have the ability to step in and overrule when necessary..but as a DM I try not to simply negate any clever moves on the part of the players. Complicate them, yes, but not negate them. – Peter Seckler Dec 22 '10 at 12:43
I meant something different. Could/Should players intentionally deafen themselves in order to avoid combat effects of sound-based attacks? Hmm. On second thought, given the -10 to perception and other limitations, I've changed my mind. The bane effects are worse than just about any boon possible... – F. Randall Farmer Dec 22 '10 at 16:25
I really don't see why not. Have you ever heard the tale of Odysseus versus the Sirens? The sailors intentionally deafen themselves. If this were AD&D we wouldn't give it a second thought, so why should we work so hard to negate it in 4th Edition? In the end, DMs still get to decide whether something is allowed or not.. I would allow it, personally. I have to chuckle. Not a single upvote! – Peter Seckler Dec 22 '10 at 17:03

Being deafened has some very interesting side effects in addition to 'not hearing things'. Take for example a creature that is invisible. Normally you get a minus to hit but you can still sense where it is, but being deafened means you have lost the 2 most used senses you haven for tracking said invisible creature. I would rule that the invisible creature is now hidden or at least another -2 to hit on top of normal mods. Boris is right with whole sneak attack thing too.

You also spend a lot of time 'listening' to your self talk and doing automatic adjustments to volume, pitch, intonation, and phonetics. Imagine what would happen to a spell caster trying to cast a spell without being able to hear themselves? A warlords voice is their key weapon, so too, a cleric is dependent on words.

Just the simple act of walking becomes very stressful, as you use your ears far more than you think when judging distance, especially for things coming up from the side. You also modify your stride when the sound of your foot steps change, oops there goes the thief's sneak ability. And so on.

In short being deafened is very detrimental all the way around. I always try to find ways to 'hinder' the players beyond what the rules imply.

If you really want fear - deafen the party, or at least the controllers, turn out the lights and make everything invisible that is attacking them. Give them uneven terrain and a lot of corners to deal with and never attack them from the front always from the side. Can you say T.P.K.?

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