Dungeon Master Assistance

A place to share thoughts and ideas about Dungeons and Dragons

Heroic actions

This is an excerpt from my D&D Lite rules. It is a house rule intended to simplify D&D v3.5 special combat rules.

Special attacks become “heroic actions” which are level checks. This one mechanic replaces the rules for: Bull rush, Disarm, Grappling, Overrun, Sunder, Trip and others. It allows for other special attacks and actions as well.

The reasons for this change:
1) To reduce the number of complex rules – making the game easier, faster and more fun. We don’t want to be looking up the rules all of the time. The last thing anyone wants is for someone to not use a special attack because they think that the rule makes it too difficult to use.
2) Combat is not all about running through a series of trained moves like an automaton. A successful warrior seizes every opportunity to give him an advantage and makes use of the environment to give him an edge. Heroic actions can be anything from throwing sand in an opponent’s eyes, swinging on a chandelier or pushing opponents back 10 feet and off a cliff. Any class can attempt a heroic action. Heroic actions do not do damage per se but rather do damage as dependent on environment or impact, so pushing someone over a cliff does damage… as does setting fire to them.

A heroic action check is a level check to which the character will add an ability or skill modifier. The DC is 10 + the creature’s Challenge Level + any additional modifiers that may apply.

To perform a heroic action check:
First name what you intend to do and the effect you want to achieve. The DM will determine and tell you the DC. You then roll 1d20 and add your character level. To this you can add certain modifiers. Examples of possible modifiers are given below. The Difficulty Class (DC) for heroic actions is 10 + the challenge level (CL) of your opponent + modifiers (if any).  If your total matches or exceeds the DC your heroic action succeeds.

The following rules apply to heroic actions:
1.    A heroic action may be a move action, an attack action, or a full round action.
2.    You may only attempt one heroic action per round.
3.    You must declare the heroic action before you roll.
4.    The heroic action must be within the reasonable ability of your character to perform, given the character’s level and the enemy’s size and power.
5.    You can not take 10, or take 20 on a heroic action check
6.    If you roll a natural 1 your attempt fails regardless of any bonuses.
7.    A roll of a natural 20 is always a success.

The guide-lines that follow are only a few examples of how heroic actions are to be resolved. Creative players will certainly come up with new heroic actions.

DISARM (an attack action)
Disarming attacks include called shots to the hand, shattering an opponent’s weapon, severing a spear shaft, entangling a sword arm, and using the flat of a blade to smack a weapon from an enemy’s hand.
MODIFIER: Dex modifier
DC MODIFIER: the defenders Dex modifier
SUCCESS: Your opponent drops his weapon. The weapon is knocked out of reach (but still within his 5 foot square) so he must move to retrieve it and cannot simultaneously attack on its next round (unless he chooses to fight unarmed or draw a new weapon).
OPTIONS: Add +2 to the DC to knock your opponent’s weapon 5 ft away. To retrieve it, he will have to use his entire next round. Add another +2 for each additional 5 ft.
FAILURE: Your opponent maintains a firm hold on his weapon.

PUSHBACK (an attack action)
Pushbacks include shield bashes, tackles, bull rushes, overruns, tables hurled into enemies, doors smashed into opponents on the other side, and so on. Generally speaking, any attempt to use brute strength to force-fully move an opponent is considered a pushback. Any attempt to shove creatures off a nearby cliff, through a railing, out a chapel’s stained-glass window, and so on will allow the creature a reflex save.
MODIFIER: Str Modifier
DC MODIFIER: the defenders Str modifier
SUCCESS: The opponent is pushed back a few feet – enough space to open access to a door or staircase the target was defending.
OPTIONS: Add +2 to the DC to push your opponent back 5 ft. Add an additional +2 for each additional 5 ft attempted.
FAILURE: Your actions do not result in moving the opponent from his position.

TRIP OR THROW (an attack action)
Trips and throws include any attempt to knock an enemy off its feet. Whether it’s hooking an enemy’s leg, stabbing a kneecap, knocking an opponent off-balance, sweeping an enemy’s legs, or some other maneuver, these heroic actions allow the warrior to knock an enemy prone, limit his movement, and potentially keep him down.
MODIFIER: Str modifier
DC MODIFIER: the larger of the defenders Str or Dex modifier
SUCCESS: The attacker can knock the defender off- balance. The defender is knocked prone and must spend its next move action standing up. Remember that melee attacks against a prone opponent receive a +4 bonus.
OPTIONS: Add +2 to the DC to knock the opponent down and throw him up to 5 feet away so he must spend its next round standing.
FAILURE: The opponent may stumble, but catches himself and doesn’t fall.

SPRING ATTACK (a full round action)
You move  both  before  and  after  the  attack, provided that your total distance  moved  is  not  greater  than your speed and you are attacking with a melee weapon. You may want to run past, swinging your sword as you pass. You may want to fly by (if you are able to fly), or swing past on a rope or chandelier, or jump over. If successful, you move at twice your normal move rate and may use a single melee attack against your foe as you pass.
MODIFIER: Dex modifier
SUCCESS: You run or swing past your opponent and deliver one melee attack.
OPTIONS: You can attempt to run past and attack more than one opponent (up to the maximum number of attacks you are allowed in one round) for a +2 to the DC for each additional opponent.
FAILURE: Your move ends in the first square adjacent to your foe. You may still attack but you receive a -4 circumstance penalty on your attack.

GRAPPLE (an attack action)
If you succeed the creature can pull free from the hold, on his turn, with an opposed strength check. While engaged in grapple both you and your opponent lose your Dex bonus to your AC.
MODIFIER: Str modifier
DC MODIFIER: the larger of the defenders Str or Dex modifier
SUCCESS: You grab and hold the creature. You do not damage the creature but the only actions he can take until he escapes are to try to pull free. In future rounds, you can release the creature and back away 5 feet with no penalty, or continue the hold from round to round until the creature pulls free.
OPTIONS: Add +2 to the DC to pin your opponent to the floor, or otherwise keep him immobile, or move with him at half of your normal move rate. The creature will get a -4 penalty on opposed strength checks until you release him.
FAILURE: You are pushed back and your opponent suffers no penalties on his next turn.
For an attacker to successfully grapple a creature one or more size categories larger than himself there must be multiple attackers. Until all successful opponents added together have roughly the same size/ mass as he does, the attacked creature doesn’t loose his Dex bonus, and he can make multiple opposed strength checks to remove the attackers as a free action on his turn. The grappled creature makes concentration checks at -2 for each opponent that is currently grappling him.
For grappling a creature with multiple limbs or other strange configuration the DM will decide on whether grappling is even possible, and if it is what the impacts are.


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