I have what might seem like a weird question, let me explain. I'm playing with a DM I've never played with before. In his game, a character has no idea what is in the next room until they are in that room. They can't look into the room to see, even through an open doorway, the character has to physically be in the room to see inside of it. This causes problems for me, because I almost exclusively play wizards. He also loves to fill the room with baddies once you are inside, forcing me into hand to hand.

Also, a character isn't allowed to step out of the room, unless they want to lose all chance of getting XP. In the scenario last night, I wanted to take a 5 foot step into the previous room to cast Shield, so that I might have a chance of surviving the room full of monsters that we couldn't see until we were inside and surrounded. If I did so, I would be "leaving the fight" and not gain anything.

Basically his restrictions on having a "room by room" dungeon completely nix any form of ranged strategy or defensive manoeuvres. Is there anything in the base rules to back up how he runs his dungeons? He claims to run, "by the core rules". I've been playing for years, and have never played that way.

He similarly ran an AD&D game with the same "room by room" restrictions, and even when the party stepped out of the room to heal, when we returned the room "reset" and the monsters were back in their original positions at full health. Is there any rule in AD&D to run a dungeon like that?

Follow up

I took YogoZuno's and Pulsehead's advice, and talked to the GM between sessions. Apparently this was a year's old house rule that he implemented to stop a problem player (explanation in a moment), that he basically forgot was a house rule and thought it was a core rule. He explained to me that 3.5 isn't his usual go-to system.

Apparently he had a player who thought they had a brilliant idea. If they stepped into a room, threw a dagger the first round, and then immediately left to hide in Full Defence, they would receive the full XP for the fight because they "participated". He invented this rule to force them to at least be in the fight.

This is a perfect example of discussing a problem with a GM, instead of just leaving the game. Thanks for the tips and rules clarifications if the discussion turned South.


5 Answers 5


In short, no, there are no such rules. Ask him to show you where this is in the rulebooks...

  • 16
    \$\begingroup\$ But for the love of all that's Holy, do NOT ask for this clarification in the middle of combat! Call the guy and get together a few minutes before game in another room/away from the other players. Ask him to show you the rules or explain the context. This may be a narrative tweak. Dreamworld? Magical contstruct? Capricious gods? \$\endgroup\$
    – Pulsehead
    Aug 15, 2012 at 12:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ Is there are good time or place to ask him about it? Should he just shout that in the middle of a session? This answer, while correct, lacks substance. \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Aug 15, 2012 at 18:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ I went and talked to the GM, follow up edited into question. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 15, 2012 at 21:17

No, there are no such rules. He's basically turned D&D into a computer game. Y'all need to have someone else DM for a while to show him how it's supposed to be done. I personally would immediately pull out of any game this guy was running.

  • 8
    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, this kind of mechanic within a dungeon or section of a dungeon as a mechanic specific to that dungeon is fine. This kind of thing on a continual basis is just blech (and I'm a 4e player :P) \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Aug 15, 2012 at 13:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ Should this not be a comment on the answer by YogoZuno as both are saying the same thing? \$\endgroup\$
    – Chuck Dee
    Aug 15, 2012 at 14:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think it's the same as Yogo's answer--the key difference being that you shouldn't confront the DM, you should leave or choose a new DM. This DM is obviously interested in setting up turn-based combat challenges concentrating on strategy--it's a valid choice, but many players don't really want to play that way when they sit down to a P&P game. \$\endgroup\$
    – Bill K
    Aug 15, 2012 at 16:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Except that Mr DM was claiming what he was doing was in the rules...I'd be asking him to back up that claim. If it isn't in the rules, and he still wants to do it that way, then fine. But at least allow an informed decision. \$\endgroup\$
    – YogoZuno
    Aug 16, 2012 at 0:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ "It's in the rules" is the scoundrel's excuse for doing something stupid. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Aug 16, 2012 at 0:26

There's an underlying problem here that isn't just about doorways and line of sight, but is about group communication and the right to play a game you enjoy (or leave). The game is not what is in the books, but what all players and the DM want. The best way to spoil a session or a group is to strictly stick to the rules contrary to what everyone enjoys. A DM that spoils the players' fun isn't doing a very good job as DM.

It's conceivable that it's part of the fictional situation: a strange curse, magical place, or a god's test of the PCs. If you just up and leave the game without talking to the DM about your problem with their game, you will never know. Sometimes it doesn't matter why though, if you're not enjoying the game. If a DM or a group doesn't fit my style of playing, I'd rather leave than grind through potentially hours of not-fun "play". Sometimes your only recourse when a DM has it in their head that everyone must play a certain way is to leave.

He similarly ran an AD&D game with the same "room by room" restrictions, and even when the party stepped out of the room to heal, when we returned the room "reset" and the monsters were back in their original positions at full health. Is there any rule in AD&D to run a dungeon like that?

Again, it's conceivable that there's a reason within the dungeon for this – AD&D gives the DM a lot of latitude to create the game reality as they see fit without being bound by rules on what they can and can't create – but if you haven't overlooked an invisible enemy with capabilities of mass resurrection (which is a stretch), mass-respawns like this aren't normal in D&D and yes, there is something in the rules against it: who's dead is dead! A DM trying to pull off such an in-game reason for something that so fundamentally alters the way the game plays out has to start with a good reserve of trustworthiness. If they haven't earned the group's trust already (which is sounds like isn't the case if this argument has come up before), then they're simply not in a position to run a game like that. There's no reason to keep entrusting a DM with the responsibilities and privileges of being the DM, who doesn't fulfill their responsibility to respect that their friends are playing by choice.

If I was in this game, I'd just say it's ridiculous and be done with this DM. In the end, it's normal and OK to have a playstyle mismatch with someone. People have different tastes, and this DM has a taste for set-piece combats that are invariant, like a test room in Portal. If you don't share that taste, you don't have to play. Playing doesn't make much sense if the players' and DM's styles differ too much.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Fantastic answer. I would never play in a game that was only set-piece battles, but I am sure there are plenty of people who would. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 15, 2012 at 21:45

If you decide to stay with this DM and he doesn't want to change his style, might I suggest a few ways to:

Exploit the "Rules"

This isn't really a "rules" issue, it is a play-style issue. The participants will either adapt to each other, or the game will end. Here's some tricks to leverage these new game mechanics:

  • Turn the rules back on him: Have the party open the door and not enter the room at all. Make a lot of noise and see if the monsters come to you.

    • The Monsters may come into your area through a choke point (win!)
    • He refuses for the monsters to come through, so you discuss the reasons for your actions.
    • Or do one of the following...
  • All step into the room, get the lay of the land, and all step out, buff up, and head back in. It's a stupid extra step, but will make the point. As you stated the rules, you should all get your XP. If you don't, his campaign will fail soon as you all refuse to trade XP for fun.

  • Respec for Melee. If you encounter GM resistance, explain that when you built your character(s) you were playing a different game, one where people could look (and fire) through doors and windows.

  • Enter a room, and when presented with the option of losing all XP for exiting the fight, and character death (and resulting TPK), choose the latter. "2hp but i can't give up the XP so I'll risk staying!"

    • If you want to keep playing under this GM's rules, build a bunch of fighters/paladins/clerics.
    • Or rotate out your GM.

I think you get the idea - challenge the rules by showing how absurd they are by adapting to them in the extreme. Imagine it's a broken MMO and you're going to exploit it.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ I like your approach for remembering that your character's life isn't some sacrosanct holy thing, and sometimes you can use it to accomplish a goal if you feel like it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kzqai
    Aug 15, 2012 at 23:17

There are no explicit rules that require this style of play, and there is a substantial body of rules that are implicitly contradictory. (There's nothing explicitly against it because it's so contrary to the history of how roleplaying games are played that no designer has ever needed to say "don't do this." There is also a lack of rules about not eating the books, for similar reasons.)

What follows is merely a modest sample of the rules from 3.5 and both editions of AD&D that would be incompatible with or nonsensical in the context of not being able to see through doors as the default, "core rules" way of playing.

D&D 3.5 Player's Handbook

Because the designers assumed they'd never have to explain the concept of "seeing", there are no explicity "what can I see rules". We can extrapolate their assumptions that you can see what makes sense to see from how other rules take this for granted.

Surprise: Determining Awareness (p. 137)
Some example situations:

  • The party comes to a door in a dungeon. The DM knows that the displacer beasts beyond the door hear the party. Lidda listens at the door, hears gutteral snarling, and warns the rest of the party. Tordek breaks the door open. Both sides are aware; neither is surprised. The characters and displacer beasts make initiative checks, and the battle begins.

Note that the game assumes that PCs can gain awareness of creatures beyond a door via their senses. It would be nonsensical to say that you can only hear the enemy through a closed door, but can't see them through an open one.

Line of Sight (p. 139)

The only explanation of line of sight is by a diagram. The diagram shows that only solid objects such as walls prevent something from being visible to the PCs. An open doorway is not a wall. The fact that such a crucial part of the combat rules is not given an technical definition means that the common English meaning of the words "line of sight" is in force. (Unless we are going to discard thousands of years of how language works, which would be silly in a game that's mostly reading and talking.)

Concealment (p. 152)
Besides cover, another way to avoid attacks is to make it hard for opponents to know where you are. Concealment encompasses all circumstances where nothing physically blocks a blow or shot

(Emphasis mine.) We all know that an open doorway isn't a physical barrier (as required for concealment to apply), which would be nonsense if you couldn't see an opponent through a doorway.

Tactical Movement: Hampered Movement (p. 163)
… poor visibility can hamper movement. When movement is hampered, each square moved into usually counts as two squares.

Open doors don't hamper movement in any way, so it doesn't make sense for them to limit visibility either, let alone completely block visibility.

Exploration: Vision and Light (p. 164)
In an area of bright light, all characters can see clearly. A creature can't hide in an area of bright light unless it is invisible or has cover.

This section is the entirety of the rules on visibility when cover and invisibility aren't relevant. Therefore given light and an open door, PCs can see into a room. No rule exists in the section (or elsewhere in the game) that says open doors have a special "can't see through" property.


One of the options explicitly listed as a possible action the party can take if they win initiative is (DMG p. 61):

Avoid engagement (flee, slam door, use magic to escape, etc.) if possible.

Slamming the door to avoid engagement would be nonsensical if they couldn't see through the open door. Furthermore, it indicates that "combat" has already begun (initiative has been rolled) before the party enters the room.

The following quote is in the context of the distance at which encounters begin.

Line of sight (DMG p. 62)
If this is unobstructed and light is involved, the distance possible for determination of another party present is virtually infinite. It could likewise be sharply restricted due to obstructions.

An open door doesn't count as an obstruction for any other rule, and there is no indication that vision is a special case. None of the other factors that go into determining encounter distance include "stepping through the door", though the text is otherwise exhaustive, mentioning various magics such as teleportation and invisibility, lighting, surprise, tight spaces, and noise. One would think that Gary would have mentioned the power of door thresholds if it were indeed part of the game as-intended.

AD&D 2nd Edition

The only limitations on vision in the Player's Handbook are distance (Limits of Vision, p. 117) and lighting conditions (Light, p. 118). Doors aren't mentioned, but as when open they block neither distance (that would be an interesting space-time trick) nor light, it follows that they don't limit visibility.

Chapter 13: "Vision and Light" of the Dungeon Master's Guide is dedicated to, naturally, vision and light. It begins with (emphasis mine):

The ability of your player characters to see something and their ability to be seen are important to the play of the AD&D® game. Characters unable to see monsters have a nasty tendency to be surprised. Characters stomping through the woods waving torches tend to give away their position, making it hard to surprise others. For these and other reasons, you should always be conscious of visibility and light sources when running an adventure.

Nothing that follows mentions that open doors prevent this "important to play" ability. The second emphasised phrase also places the limitations of sight within the scope of "visibility and light sources", neither of which are impeded by open doors in the rules or in common sense.

In summary, these samplings of rules draw a very neat, clear trend line that says open doors don't block line of sight – and is in fact incompatible with many of the actual rules – in any edition of (A)D&D your DM has said they play "by the core rules." I'd suggest throwing the book at them, in the figurative sense, or just leaving the group. A DM that has no players (and who is unlikely to get new ones, at this rate) is more likely to consider "why", and is in the meantime not doing any harm to the limited leisure time of their former players.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I doubt that a rule-referencing is the right approach here, but +1 for the research. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kzqai
    Aug 15, 2012 at 23:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Tchalvak It sounds like the DM is still preventing sight through open doors (see question comments), and the OP did ask "Is there any rule in AD&D to run a dungeon like that?" to which the short answer is "no" and the long answer is above. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 16, 2012 at 3:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ I really appreciate the research. It gave me the tools I needed in case the discussion turn South. +1 for the hard work! \$\endgroup\$ Aug 16, 2012 at 11:24

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