This section of the DMG covers some of the more common special attacks used in AD&D 2nd edition, namely Fighting via Charmed Proxy, Gaze Attacks, Spell-like abilities, and Breath Weapons.
The limitations to the Charmed Proxy fighting is fairly standard, no action will be performed if doing so is 100% sure to result in the charmed minion's destruction. So no walking into an inferno, but wearing dragon skin boots to a cranky dragon convention is still ok. By the book, only "characters"(as opposed to "monsters") have to verbalize(or make hand gestures) to get charmed minions to do their bidding. A vampire doesn't have to go all comic book villain and shriek out "KILL THE INTRUDERS!" to his harem of heavily armed slave girls or cadre of brutish thugs.
The gaze attack section talks mostly about how to fight creatures with gaze attacks, though it does mention that creatures with gaze attacks may turn off their powers at will. The options for fighting a gaze attack creature include
- Fight Normally. This is generally a bad idea as this automatically subjects you to the effects of the gaze(save allowed)
- Don't look directly at the creature: Slightly better idea, results in only a 1-in-5 chance of meeting the gaze.
- Close your eyes: This subjects the character to the standard penalties for fighting blind. 0% chance of gaze being met unless the creature is capable of cutting off your eyelids, or tearing your eyes from your head without killing you/rendering you blind.
- Use a Mirror: This requires light and a highly reflective surface. The character takes a -2 penalty to attack rolls and loses shield and Dex bonuses from AC.
The first part of special defenses talks about savings throws. In 2nd edition, there are 5 saving throw categories. I hear the d20-ers and 4e-ers often use this as an example for how screwed up/overly complicated 2nd edition is. It seems they've gotten it into their heads that Savings Throws represent character mettle in the same way as HP seems to represent meat points. I think the honest reason is that nobody has sat down and explained savings throws to them. I don't think I can really put it any better than the introduction to Savings Throws in the DMG, and I quote:
"More often than not, the saving throw represents an instinctive act on the part of the character - diving to the ground just as a fireball scorches the group; blanking the mind just as a mental battle begins; blocking the worst of an acid spray with a shield. The exact action is not important - DMs and players can think of lively and colorful explanations of why a saving throw succeeded or failed. Explanations tailored to the events of the moment enhance the excitement of the game."
I'll admit the descriptions of the individual saves don't really match up with that paragraph, but they do still fit. When you're making a save vs. poison, you're character hasn't taken the full dose of poison, he's been nicked or merely tasted the poisoned wine. A successful save means he flinched before he could be pumped full of a full dose of venom, or that he had sensitive enough taste buds to notice that the wine tasted a little funny. At some point once this article series is over, I'll post better descriptions for saves.
Additionally the very next page describes using Ability Checks as Savings throws. Avoiding the damage, or using your ultra-manly fortitude to resist the full effects of your blunder seems to fit better here. And the best part is, in 2nd edition this stuff is core.
the last part of special defenses is Magic Resistance. This is pretty standard, and I've never known anybody to make any house rules to this part.
Next time: Turning Undead, Weapon Immunity, and possibly Morale.