5
\$\begingroup\$

Inspired by this question on World Building, I'm curious if the bonus stacking rules from various editions of D&D have ever had an in-world justification published.

From what I've found, there's basically been two types of rules:

  • Bonuses of the same type don't stack (except for some edition-specific named exceptions): D&D 3e,3.5,4e; PF 1e,2e
  • Everything stacks, unless the source specifically specifies otherwise (and many things specify otherwise): OD&D, AD&D, D&D 5e

There's generally good mechanical reasons for the first kind, and thematic reasons for the second, but I've never actually seen an in-world justification for any of it. Has any official rules source (not author commentary) ever explained what characters think about why bracers of defense/armor don't stack with mundane armor, but a ring of protection does? Or why three different spells have overlapping but not stacking effects? Or do they just say "it's magic, it doesn't have to make sense"?

In lieu of an official rules publication addressing it, an answer from official D&D-based fiction (such as the Forgotten Realms or Dragonlance novel series) could also work here. Since those are written from an in-world viewpoint, it would be an example of how at least one character understood it. (It's plausible that the in-world justification is different across different settings, but I would be surprised if it came up enough that there'd actually be a difference.)

\$\endgroup\$
5
  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ I’m voting to close this question because which is chosen is a Designer Intent question in disguise. In World justifications would be Idea Generation and Opinion based. As a result: This is Off Topic. \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Aug 18 at 15:59
  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ @Trish If this question is asking specifically about whether the rules, modules, magazines, and the like have ever given in-universe explanations or in-universe conceptualizations of the stacking rules, this question is on-topic. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 18 at 16:08
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ @Trish My edit should put away any suspicion that this might be an off optic developer intent question. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 18 at 16:14
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for cleaning that up, @ThomasMarkov. I wouldn't say "no" to a designer's commentary on it, but I understand why unofficial and/or speculative sources like that aren't valid here. I did add novelizations as another option, though, since that seems like another reasonable, published source of thematic information. \$\endgroup\$
    – Bobson
    Aug 18 at 17:21
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ In general, I would say that the "in-world" justification is simply verisimilitude. And I wrote an answer expanding on that, but on further consideration it's probably off-topic here, since I know of no published sources to cite for it. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 19 at 11:25
8
\$\begingroup\$

Stacking itself is a part of mechanics, not a in-world thing

I've never seen in-world explanations of (not) stacking in the rules, and I don't think there can be any. Stacking is adding together things like AC, DC, modifiers, and other numbers which nave pure mechanical meaning - hence stacking itself is a part of game mechanics.

AC doesn't exist in-world. It is just an abstraction for a vague concept that armor can protect you. It doesn't actually simulate any in-world properties of armor. It isn't meant to be realistic.

The same is true for stacking. It is just an oversimplified abstraction for a broader principle that some things can have synergy. It isn't meant to be realistic or have any in-world explanation.

\$\endgroup\$
12
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure this really addresses it. Sure, the numeric values and such aren't something that characters are aware of, but "I put this on and the magic doesn't work for me because I also have a chain shirt" seems like something they'd be aware of. \$\endgroup\$
    – Bobson
    Aug 18 at 17:05
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ @Bobson I think this does answer the question, or at least come as close as is likely possible. There's a good chance that they aren't aware that a specific ring isn't providing a noticeable benefit because of their chain shirt because in the real world such things are hard to tease apart. Sometimes in the real world an arrow might pierce chainmail and sometimes it wouldn't due to a whole plethora of factors. To the extent the in world characters are aware of it, they would be aware of it in a much more complex system of what has synergy and what doesn't meaning there will be no one answer. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 18 at 17:54
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Bobson This answer is a fine example of challenging the frame of the question, or to put it differently, highlighting the erroneous assumptions embedded in the question. More commentary on that can be found here \$\endgroup\$ Aug 18 at 17:58
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @enkryptor I think two chain shirts is a bad example. AC is not just about how hard to penetrate the single armor piece is, but how hard to penetrate the overall defense is. A chain shirt has its AC from protecting a limited region of the body well, while leaving the rest unprotected. Protecting the same region with another chain shirt really shouldn't increase AC (if anything, it should make unprotected areas easier to hit due to constricted movement). So it's not comparable to the question why a magic ring and s chain shirt don't stack. \$\endgroup\$
    – RHS
    Aug 19 at 10:59
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @enkryptor My point is that an obvious example such as this doesn't give any insights on why something like a chain shirt plus a magic ring shouldn't stack. \$\endgroup\$
    – RHS
    Aug 19 at 13:16

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .