Sunday, May 22, 2011

Chicken Infested

If you surf D&D boards long enough, you're likely to come upon a reference to the Chicken Infested feat from a long-ago April Fool's issue (specifically, #330) of Dragon magazine. It was one of several joke feats for the NPC-only Commoner class, but it was the only one that was actually funny. (Okay, maybe "Corpse" was a little funny, too.)

Chicken Infested
You’ve got chickens.
Effect: Whenever you draw a weapon or pull an item out of a container, you have a 50% chance of drawing a live chicken instead. No, we don't know where the chickens come from; it's your character.

This is an excellent and hilarious flaw (I picture the person with this flaw is simply followed around by a bunch of chickens at all times, and they sometimes get into his equipment; maybe it's a curse that we can build into a campaign hook), but it's commonly mentioned as being, supposedly, blatantly abusable. How could we render it un-abusable?


Most abuses hinge on the supposed ability to produce an infinite number of chickens as a free action, which hinge on two of three things:

1.) It's a free action to drop a held object;
2.) If you have Quick Draw, it's a free action to draw a weapon. If you have n weapons on you, you can, as a free action, draw approximately n chickens (draw weapons until you run out of weapons, and there's a 50% chance each weapon will be a chicken);
3.) It's a free action to draw a spell component from a spell component pouch, and spell component pouches contain an indefinite amount of spell components (this is also the trick behind the "infinite bat poop as a free action" trick).

It seems to miss most people that a chicken is neither a weapon nor a spell component, so drawing one will never be a free action, and you still use up one of your move actions every time you draw one, so you can still only draw at most two chickens per round. Though a case could be made that a chicken could be a weapon, particularly if you took Exotic Weapon Proficiency (Chicken), so let's just add a clause to the flaw that "Drawing a chicken is always a move action" to clear up any confusion.


It's still possible to produce n chickens, it just takes at least n/2 rounds (you can produce 20 chickens a minute). However, unless you kill or otherwise keep track of them, it should be noted, most of these chickens should just be cycling in from the crowd of chickens around you. You draw a chicken, drop it, and the next round it finds its way back into your pack, as chickens do. So at any given time, you should only really have a few chickens, rather than an indefinite number. But if you kill each chicken as you draw it, where do the new chickens come from? A good question, with no good answer, on the same lines as "where do all my socks go when they vanish from the dryer?"


At this point, let's take a slight digression and determine the exact stats of the chickens.

Well, the monster entry for the raven says "The statistics presented here can describe most nonpredatory birds of similar size." The chicken is indeed a nonpredatory bird of similar size to the raven, although chickens cannot fly.

That's easy enough to fix: let's treat chickens as ravens, but replace Fly 40 with Glide 20 (so a chicken never takes falling damage, and it can travel 20 feet sideways for every 10 feet it falls).


Other possible abuses:

Infinite food. This is not a problem if you've got a 5th level cleric, which, to be fair, you probably shouldn't. It's not really a problem in any other game, either, unless you're really paying attention to resource management.

Infinite cash, if you sell the chickens. But the law of supply and demand means you'll swiftly get diminishing returns on your chickens, and eventually will be unable to find anyone to take your chickens.

Things which deal damage to creatures in a radius and which give you a corresponding buff for each one. This is, yes, a little problematic, though in combat you'll only be able to get the benefit from 2 chickens per round, which is hardly an effective use of your action economy at the level you get that ability.

Things which animate all corpses in a radius. Particularly combined with the former. In combat, you'll still only be able to produce 2 chicken skeletons a round, which, again, hardly an effective use of your actions. Out of combat, given some time to prepare, you can freely produce chicken skeletons up to your maximum number of HD of undead controlled. You can then turn them all into bombs. At this point, you're getting into so much effort that I'm willing to just allow it. (Especially as I'm disinclined to allow the sort of Divine Metamagic abuse that makes it feasible.)

These can all be solved with a blanket clause: If you pull too many chickens in an attempt to abuse your curse, some of them may be more powerful, hostile chickens. I'm thinking some combination of Titanic, Monster of Legend, and Fiendish.


And the one which I don't think I've ever seen mentioned, but which is still of concern: you could simply kill the chickens for experience. They're not summoned or conjured or created or any of the other standard terms, they're just there, so none of the limits on XP for summoned creatures apply. The whole party could automatically level up to level 8 (especially with the above tricks like automatic damage in a radius), at which point you abruptly stop getting experience from the CR1/6 chickens.

This is easily solved: add a clause specifying that these chickens are worth no experience points.

No comments:

Post a Comment