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I just started playing AD&D 1E, and I am trying to understand how the Sleep spell works.

I'm confused by the table and the DM's advice:

  • HD/ Number Affected
    • up to 1/ 4d4
    • 1+1 to 2/ 2d4
    • 2+1 to 3/ 1d4
    • 3+1 to 4/ 1d2
    • 4+1 to 4+4/ 1d2-1

DM's Advice: In a mixed group, the spell affects the lowest HD or levels first.

I know the area is 3" diameter within range (which is 30-foot diameter in 3.5 (24 squares), correct(according to this answer)?

So how many total enemies can be affected? (I have no clue what 1+1, 2+1, 3+1, 4+1, and 4+4 means for the HD)

  • 16 up to 1
  • 8 1+1 to 2
  • 4 2+1 to 3
  • etc.
  • up to 24?

Or did I miss something? What does the advice to the DM suggest?

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1 Answer 1

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  • The first row of the table means that if you are affecting creatures with exactly one hit die or less (kobolds, for example, had only half a standard hit die) then you roll 4d4 to determine the number affected.

  • The second row of the table means that if you are affecting creatures with anything more than one hit die (technically, "one hit die plus one hit point") up to exactly two hit dice, then you roll 2d4 to determine the number affected.

  • ...

  • The last row of the table means that if you are affecting creatures with anything from 4 HD + 1 HP up to 4 HD + 4 HP, you might get one, you might get none.

It is reasonable at this point to ask, "But what if I cast it on a group of mixed creatures that are in different categories?" No guidance is given; 1e was not that well thought through. (Likely, so close to the era of tabletop war gaming, the assumption was that creatures would be organized in groups by type anyway.) While I don't ever recall seeing one address the topic, it's possible that a Sage Advice column from Dragon Magazine or similar might have dealt with this.

But reasonable house rules can be inferred. The "DM's Advice" seems to be saying that in a mixed group, the weakest creatures should be affected first, then the next strongest, etc, but does not discuss how many in those groups are affected. The way the table is structured, rolling 4d4 (once) to find the total number of hit dice affected, counting the first row of the table as 1 HD creatures, the second row as 2 HD creatures, etc, would be a decent guess. in almost any reasonable situation, you'd run out of creatures before the last row anyway.

But that is still a houserule. My copy of the text does not contain that DM advice.

Also, elsewhere in the PHB under "Distance" you will see that the 10 feet/10 yard applies to the range of the spell, but not the area of effect. The area of effect always considers 1" to be 10 feet. (This would have been a fantastic thing to note under the spells section, too.) There are three feet in a yard. For metric equivalents, a yard is slightly less than 1 m, and a foot is very nearly 30 cm.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think a ruling on that was anything left over was divided by 2 (round down) and then applied to the next level. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 6, 2020 at 16:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MichaelRichardson that's certainly one way to houserule. And I just realized that I neglected the "DM's advice" part of the question. \$\endgroup\$
    – Novak
    Feb 6, 2020 at 17:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Novak: Your houserule was independently invented by at least two groups that I knew of back in those days. Doing that kind of interpretation was necessary at the time. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 6, 2020 at 20:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JohnDallman I have no doubt. I wouldn't really even call it "my" houserule-- it's a distant memory of what we did back in the day, and we probably picked it up from someone else even back then. \$\endgroup\$
    – Novak
    Feb 6, 2020 at 20:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ thanks I believe the answer would be complete if you just add a line ''Sidenote'' with the houseroule mentionned by @MichaelRichardson (and giving him credit), do so (please) and I'll chose it as the answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – Maxpire
    Feb 7, 2020 at 5:47

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