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We're playing an AD&D 1e campaign and this came up over the weekend: are you immune to fear after your first successful save against it? In the end I capitulated to 3E precedents suggested by the players, but in hindsight I think I was wrong to do so.

I'm referring to fear as a spell-like effect, as generated by particularly terrifying creatures.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Just to make sure - is this spell the fear you talking about? \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Nov 25, 2014 at 12:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes you need to be more specific about where the fear is coming from. AD&D doesn't have a system of defined terms like later editions. Any ruling on fear effects has to be based on the text of what generating the fear. \$\endgroup\$
    – RS Conley
    Nov 25, 2014 at 19:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'll amend the question. \$\endgroup\$
    – Neil B
    Nov 25, 2014 at 22:42

2 Answers 2

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As Nagora mentioned in his answer, this is a grey area that will require DM interpretation. Here are a few possible approaches to this problem:

  1. A single save vs. fear that lasts the entire encounter
  2. A save vs. fear whenever the creature does specific actions
  3. A save vs. fear each round as long as the encounter lasts
  4. A save vs. fear once every set number of rounds

Now any of those options is defensible -- the first lessens the workload of running the encounter, the second seems to fit the RAW text best, while the last two make these creatures extra fearsome -- so you should feel free to do what works best for your group and campaign. Just be sure to inform your players ahead of time if you're making a change (i.e., before they commit to a strategy based on your previous ruling) and enforce your choice consistently going forward.

Addendum about dragon fear in the RAW: The best evidence from the core 1e books we have to adjudicate this comes from the MM on pages 29-30, which says the following about dragons:

"At adult age and older they radiate a powerful aura which causes a fear reaction, when a dragon flies overhead or charges, as follows ... [specific rules for different hit dice characters/creatures]"

This suggests that the fear reaction occurs each time the dragon does one of two things: charges the characters or flies over them. If running the rules as close to the RAW as possible matters to you, I would suggest the second method from the above list.

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If it's the spell, then you must save each time the spell is cast on you, just like any other spell. Likewise, wands and spell-like powers. There's a grey area with some monsters, such as dragons, which cause fear simply by flying overhead or charging. Personally, in that and similar cases I would allow a single save to count for the whole of an encounter or battle.

To focus in on the edited question: if it's a spell-like ability then you save against it each time, just as you would a lightning bolt or other spell-like effect. The fear is actually a magical effect rather than being a simple morale failure or something similar which could perhaps be argued as wearing off.

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