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D&D 5E – The Attack Action

attack_action

The Attack Action

With all of the different class features that allow multiple attacks, I am seeing a lot of confusion as to how many and what types of attacks a character can get on his turn.

“Attack” and “Attack Action” are two different things.

On your turn, you can move and take one action. A special ability, spell, or other feature of the game may allow you to also take a bonus action, and/or take a reaction. You may also interact with one object and do other simple activities. What is important here is that you can only take one action. One possible action you can take is called the Attack action. None of the other combat actions are an Attack action (Cast a Spell, Dash, Disengage, Dodge, Help, Use an object, Hide, Search, Readied action, Improvised action).

Attack action: “With this action, you make one melee or ranged attack… Certain features, such as the Extra Attack feature of the fighter, allow you to make more than one attack with this action.” PHB, p192.

This rule sounds fairly straight forward but combined with other rules, features, and options it can become a bit confusing. In certain situations, you make a melee or ranged attack when you Cast a Spell, take a Bonus action, or take a Reaction. In other situations when you take the Attack action you don’t make a melee or ranged attack. And, just because an action is called an “attack” doesn’t mean that you can perform that action when you use the “Attack action”.

Confused yet?

This confusion could have been lessened a bit if the “Attack action” had a different name. Perhaps they could have called it the “Offensive action” or something. I am not going to do that here. However, it is important to know that when you read something in the Player’s Handbook, the Dungeon Master’s Guide or the Monster Manuel the wording is important. See if it says “Attack action” or just “attack”.

Partial list of things that you can do with an Attack action:

  • Make a weapon attack with a melee weapon, ranged weapon, or improvised weapon. This includes drawing ammunition for use with a ranged weapon.
  • Make an unarmed strike.
  • Grapple a creature.
  • Shove a creature.
  • Two weapon fighting – When you use the Attack action to attack with a light melee weapon that you’re holding in one hand, the second attack, with a light weapon in your other hand, is a bonus action and not part of the Attack action.
  • “Extra attack” – With many weapon-using classes you can gain the ability to attack multiple times, instead of just once. This feature can only be used when you take the Attack action.
  • (Monks) “Flurry of Blows” can only be used (as a bonus action)  after taking the Attack action.
  • (Druid – while in beast form) Your weapon attacks, where the “weapon” might be a manufactured item or a natural weapon, can only be used when you take the Attack action.
  • (Druid – while in beast form) If the creature has the Multiattack action, you may make the listed attacks rather than, or in place of, an Attack action.

Partial list of actions you CANNOT do as an Attack action:

  • Cast a spell – even if that spell has you make a “range attack” or “melee attack” or “”spell attack”.
  • Dash, disengage, dodge, help, use an object, hide, search, ready an action, or perform an improvised action.
  • Make an opportunity attack. (This is done as a “reaction”)

The Attack action is not the only way you can attack. Some spell examples:

If you cast Eldritch Blast (with the Cast a Spell action), you make a ranged spell attack against a creature. This is an attack, but you’ve used the Cast a Spell action, not the Attack action to do so. As a result, abilities such as Extra Attack and Flurry of Blows won’t trigger.

If you cast Shocking Grasp (with the Cast a Spell action) you make a melee spell attack against a creature. Once again, you’ve used the Cast a Spell action, not the Attack action, so extra attack doesn’t apply.

Not all spells work that way, however. If you cast Shilleagh (as a Bonus action), you don’t immediately attack. Instead, it modifies how you attack (with the Attack action) for the duration of the spell, instead of using your Strength as the modifier for your attacks, you use your spellcasting ability score (normally Wisdom for druids).

Another wrinkle are the spells which have an ongoing effect. Vampiric Touch is one such spell – it allows you to make a melee spell attack when you cast it (with the Cast a Spell action), but the spell persists for up to a minute. Its text reads “Until the spell ends, you can make the attack again on each of your turns as an action”. Is this an Attack action? No, it isn’t. It’s a brand new type of action you get to use. Call it “Vampiric Touch action” if you like. These new actions allow you to attack, but they don’t use the Attack action. The trick to identifying them is that they read “as an action” or “use your action” to describe how they work. A few require the use of your bonus action instead.

Attack Terminology

All attacks are described in terms such as ranged spell attack or melee weapon attack. Each word means something.

“Ranged” attacks suffer disadvantage if you’re adjacent to an opponent, “melee” attacks do not. “Melee” attacks can be against any creature within your reach (generally 5 feet), while ranged attacks can be made against any creature within the stated range of the attack. In some cases, an attack form has two ranges; attacks at the longer range are made at a disadvantage.

If the wording says “melee weapon attack” you can do an unarmed strike. You add your strength modifier and your proficiency modifier (you are proficient with unarmed strikes) to your attack roll and it does damage equal to 1+ your strength modifier. But an unarmed strike is not a weapon. This means that any rule that applies to a “weapon attack” will apply to unarmed strikes but ones that apply specifically to a “weapon” do not.

“Spell” attacks use your spellcasting ability modifier, while “weapon” attacks use Strength (melee weapon) or Dexterity (ranged weapon). There are exceptions to this depending on the spell or type of weapon.

The word “attack” indicates that it is an attack roll, one of the three types of d20 roll in D&D. (The others are saving throw and ability check.) Attack rolls are different because a natural 1 is an automatic miss, while a natural 20 is an automatic hit and a critical hit. Both saving throws and ability checks don’t have special things happen on 1s or 20s.

Action Surge

One of the special cases is the fighter ability Action Surge. This allows you to take one additional action during your turn. If you use this to take the Attack action, you get as many attacks as you would if you took it for your first action. So, a 20th level fighter can get 8 attacks in a turn – four from the first Attack action and four from the second Attack action. You could then use your bonus action to attack with your off-hand weapon (Two-Weapon Fighting). Note that Action Surge does not give you an additional bonus action or move; only an additional action.

Haste

Another special case is the spell Haste. It allows an affected character to take an additional action each turn (not all actions are allowed). However, if you took the Attack action, you can only gain one additional attack with it – the Extra Attacks you might have don’t count.

Interestingly, this doesn’t stop you using Flurry of Blows or Two-Weapon Fighting, as both are part of bonus actions. You could use your first action to cast a spell, then your additional action from haste to make a single weapon attack with the Attack Action, then use your bonus action to make an off-hand attack with Two-Weapon Fighting since you’ve used the Attack Action during the turn.

Conclusion

Most of the rules and power descriptions use quite specific wording, but because the terms can be quite similar, it’s easy to get confused. “Attack action”, “As an action” and “Attack” mean three separate things, as do “When you make an attack” and “When you take the Attack action”. As long as you keep the differences in mind, you should be fine.

(Special thanks to Merric’s Musings for his April 21, 2015, post on this topic, which I have heavily plagiarized.)

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D&D 5e – Combat Reference Sheet

CombatReference

2 sided Combat Reference Sheet

Download your free copy  HERE.

Many thanks to Jennifer Brahm for sharing her one page (printed front and back) cheat sheet. Using my Quick Reference Combat post as a basis, she created a wonderful game table reference sheet. I simply made a few corrections and cleaned it up a bit.

D&D 5E – Mass Combat Rules

Wars_Book_Cover

Rules for conducting massive battles in D&D.

You can download a free copy here: D&D Wars 5E.pdf

This is a complete re-write of the rules I published before (3.5 version here) (Next version here). In keeping with the spirit of 5e, these are simpler and play faster than any of my previous attempts.

D&D Wars is a supplement to fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons that provides a set of mass combat rules for conducting battles with units as small as one to armies numbering in the thousands. D&D Wars are not simply armies making battle with each other. It is armies intermixed with monsters and NPCs. Added to this mix is a group of PC heroes doing what they can to change the tide of the war.

– The rules are compatible with Dungeons and Dragons version 5E.

– There are rules for creating armies comprised of units of various sizes and compositions.

– It has consistent rules for scaling the battle from a small group of villagers with torches and pitchforks all the way up to epic battles with thousands of soldiers on both sides.

– The rules accommodate individual monsters wandering across the battlefield as well as other NPCs and PCs that are not part of the units.

– It uses standard combat rules without modification as far as possible.

Enjoy!

D&D 5E – Stealth and Hiding

sneaky

PCs being sneaky. Clarification of Stealth and Hiding Rules.

In the new 5th edition Player’s Handbook, the rules for Hiding/Sneaking are a bit unclear. In my attempt to make sense out of rules for hiding, I finally realized that the rules for stealth and for hiding are one in the same.

The rulebooks never give a precise definition of hiding. There is no “hidden condition”. After searching through the rulebooks, the best definition of “being hidden” that I could come up with is this: “Your opponent either doesn’t know that you are there, doesn’t pay any attention to you, or doesn’t know where exactly you are located”. Using this broad definition works well with all of the rules as presented. It also means that you could be hidden even if all your foe had to do is to look in your direction to see you. When he did, you would no longer be hidden. It also means that when you are successful at being stealthy, it has the same effect as being hidden.

The main rule in the Player’s Handbook for hiding is: “You can’t hide from a creature that can see you.” This sounds like it is saying that you must either be in a heavily obscured area or have total cover to even attempt to hide. I contend that this is not correct. It only means that whoever you are attempting to hide from is not looking in your direction (the DM has the final say on this).

“Being stealthy” is trying to remain undetected which is the same as trying to hide. Examples abound in the Player’s Handbook to support this idea. In the section on surprise, the terms “be stealthy” and “hiding” are used to mean the same thing. In the section on noticing threats “hidden threats” obviously includes “a stealthy creature following the group”. On the section on stealth – traveling at a slow pace, it says to refer to the rules on hiding when trying to “surprise or sneak by other creatures.” In the section on perception “hear monsters moving stealthily in the forest,” “orcs lying in ambush on a road,” and “thugs hiding in the shadows of an alley” are all examples of creatures that your Wisdom (Perception) check lets you detect. And in the section on stealth “Make a Dexterity (Stealth) check when you attempt to conceal yourself from enemies, slink past guards, slip away without being noticed, or sneak up on someone without being seen or heard.” Which are all examples of being hidden.

So when can I attempt to hide?

You can attempt to hide whenever the creature or creatures you are attempting to hide from can’t see you. You could be invisible. (Being hidden is different from the “Invisible” condition in that you can be invisible and still not be hidden if your opponent can tell where you are by hearing you or by some other means.) Or you could be on the opposite side of anything that provides total cover, or in a heavily obscured area (such as darkness if your foe doesn’t have darkvision), or your foe could be distracted (if the DM agrees). You can also attempt to hide if you are in a lightly obscured area if you have the Skulker feat.

With the wood elf’s “Mask of the Wild” ability you can attempt to hide even when you are only lightly obscured by foliage, heavy rain, falling snow, mist, and other natural phenomena. From the wording, I take it to mean that you can’t use this ability to attempt to hide in dim lighting (although your DM might allow it), but you can in the area of effect of an insect plague.

With the lightfoot halfling’s “Naturally Stealthy” ability you can attempt to hide even when you are obscured only by a creature that is at least one size larger than you. You would have to first move to a position that placed that creature between you and the creature you are hiding from.

The Rogue’s “Cunning Action” that allows him to take a hide action as a bonus action each round, does not release him from the need to meet at least one of the above requirements before attempting to hide.

How do I hide?

As a hide action in combat, or any time you attempt to hide, you make a Dexterity (Stealth) check and write down that number. As long as you remain in hiding, if any creature has a chance to detect your presence, your check must beat their Passive Wisdom (Perception) score. I would rule that if you are hiding and cannot be seen and are silent the creatures would normally have no chance to detect you. If a creature is actively trying to locate you, compare your check to a Wisdom (Perception) check that the creature makes at that time. If you cannot be seen, or if you are in an area that is lightly obscured, they have disadvantage on the check.

What benefits do I receive from being hidden?

If you are hidden before the first round of combat you can surprise your opponents and get a free round to attack them before they can react. (You are no longer hidden after you attack.)

On all attacks against you, the attacker must first identify where he thinks you are located. The attack will automatically miss if you are not in that 5 foot area. If you are in that area, the attack is made with disadvantage on the attack roll. The DM should require a roll with disadvantage, even if you are not in the targeted area and simply tell the attacker that his attack missed.

If you are hidden you make attacks with advantage. However, you will no longer be hidden if the attack hits or misses.

When am I no longer hidden?

You can come out of hiding at any time of your choosing. You are no longer hidden if you attack someone even if the attack misses (exception: if you have the Skulker feat, attacking with a ranged weapon and missing doesn’t reveal your position).

If you move to a location where your opponent can see you, or if your opponent moves into a position where he can see you, or if the object or creature that was providing your total cover moves or is no longer providing cover for some reason, if you make a noise, or do anything that could give away your position, the creature you are hiding from can make another Wisdom (Perception) check to attempt to detect you.

If you move from a heavily obscured area to a lightly obscured area you can try to continue to hide but the creatures you are hiding from get a Wisdom (Perception) check to detect you.

Once you are no longer hidden your opponents will know where you are so they no longer have to guess where to attack. But if you can still not be seen (if you are invisible, for example), attack rolls against you have disadvantage, and your attack rolls still have advantage.

If I am hiding behind a tree, can I stand out and attack with my ranged weapon with advantage and then return to hiding on my round of combat?

It depends. If you are doing this during a fight, it is assumed that all the creatures in the fight are alert and aware their surroundings, so they get a Wisdom (Perception) check to spot you when you move out from behind total cover. If they succeed you are no longer hiding so you don’t get advantage to the attack. However, if the fight hasn’t started yet, you have a chance to surprise them as long as they aren’t looking in your direction. In that case you an attack with advantage, but you will no longer be hidden as soon as you attack. If you are a 2nd level or higher rogue you can use a bonus action to attempt to hide again. But remember, if they see you duck behind a tree, they have a good guess at where you are hiding. In that case, when you stuck your head out I would give them advantage on their perception check – or give them an automatic success, depending on the circumstances.

Be a good DM and have the players describe what their characters are doing. If it makes logical sense, go for it. Don’t let the players use the rules to turn “hide” into a magical condition.

D&D 5E – Uses for a shield

Pal_Shield

What is the best use of a Shield and Longsword combo?

I received this inquiry the other day: “I like to play a Paladin that often uses a Shield and Long Sword combo. However, I have noticed that there is no shield bash in 5E. I have been using the shove instead as an action between a Trip and Shield bash. Are you aware of any attack that tries to leverage a Shield in 5E? I would really like to stress a shield proficiency for my build if possible.”

Here are my thoughts:

A shield is an improvised weapon dealing 1d4 bludgeoning damage.

Paladins are proficient with shields. Whether said proficiency extends to it being used as an improvised weapon is not specified, but there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be.

Note that shields aren’t light weapons, and thus can’t be used for normal two-weapon fighting.

If your Paladin adopts the “protection” fighting style at 2nd level:

“When a creature you can see attacks a target other than you that is within 5 feet of you, you can use your reaction to impose disadvantage on the attack roll. You must be wielding a shield.”

If your group is using feats (I think most are) there is the “Shield Master” feat:

You use shields not just for protection but also for offense. You gain the following benefits while you are wielding a shield:

If you take the Attack action on your turn, you can use a bonus action to try to shove a creature within 5 feet of you with your shield. (If I was DMing the game, I would allow the use of this bonus action to either shove a creature or to attack it with the shield as an improvised weapon.)

If you aren’t incapacitated, you can add your shield’s AC bonus to any Dexterity saving throw you make against a spell or other harmful effect that targets only you.

If you are subjected to an effect that allows you to make a Dexterity saving throw to take only half damage, you can use your reaction to take no damage if you succeed on the saving throw, interposing your shield between yourself and the source of the effect.

And the “War Master” feat will allow you to cast spells while holding both your shield and sword.

I would like to hear if anyone has any other thoughts on this matter.

Mass Combat Rules – for D&D Next

Download a free copy of D&D Wsrs for D&D Next here [D&D Wars Next].

This is a complete re-write of the D&D Wars supplement to third edition Dungeons & Dragons that I published here[D&D Wars] in 2012. This re-write simplifies those rules and brings them in line with D&D Next (the current playtest version of v5.0). You can use these rules with v3.5 with little or no adjustments.

Consider this an interim version of these rules. I will make any needed tweaks to them and re-publish them when the official v5.0 rules are published.

As always, all comments are welcome.

Enjoy!

Addendum: On page 13, it says” For every 10 points healed, a counter is added back to the unit.” That should instead say “A counter is added back to the unit every time the number of hit points healed is equal to the maximum number of hit points in one counter.”

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D&D Wars – Mass Combat Rules

War_book_cover

D&D Wars – Front Cover

[There is an updated version of these rules available here: D&D Wars ]

Download these mass combat rules here (free): WAR

D&D Wars is a supplement to third edition Dungeons & Dragons that provides a set of mass combat rules for conducting battles with units as small as one to armies numbering in the thousands. D&D Wars are not simply armies making battle with each other. It is armies intermixed with monsters and NPCs. Added to this mix is a group of PC heroes doing what they can to change the tide of the war.

–My goals in creating these rules —

– The rules must be compatible with Dungeons and Dragons version 3.5.

– There must be rules for creating armies comprised of units of various sizes and compositions.

– It must have consistent rules for scaling the battle from a small group of villagers with torches and pitchforks all the way up to epic battles with thousands of soldiers on both sides.

– The rules must accommodate individual monsters wandering across the battlefield as well as other NPCs and PCs that are not part of the units.

– It must use standard combat rules without modification as far as possible.

– To this end:

  • It uses a standard 6 second combat round.
  • Creatures occupy the standard amount of space. The size represented by a 1” square is larger than the standard 5 ft (15 ft. being typical). Thus accommodating larger size armies.
  • Movement, Armor Class, Hit Points and Attacks/Damage for individual creatures that are not a part of a unit remain unchanged.
  • Movement, Armor Class, Hit Points and Attacks/Damage for one counter (representing several creatures that cover 1 square as part of a unit) will be the same as for a single standard creature. That way when counters of one unit attack counters of another unit, standard combat rules apply with very few exceptions.
  • Individual creatures that are not in a unit can attack, and be attacked by, the creatures in a unit. In either case it will be creatures attacking creatures. A simple conversion is done to calculate the amount of damage.
  • To speed up play, because of the potentially large number of units, monsters, NPCs, siege weapons, and PCs involved, each of them is restricted to only one action (move, attack or defense) each round. Also creatures with multiple attacks each round (except for PCs) will get only one attack action.
  • Then of course there must be special morale rules and rules for how to handle magic spells cast by or against units.
  • Throw in some rules for siege engines and I’m done.

Before creating these rules, I tried to find out if someone else had already done this, and I found several who had.

First, there are several excellent wargame systems. A mass combat system for an RPG and a wargame are not the same thing. Excellent wargames don’t necessarily deliver as RPG mass combat systems so I passed on them.

Second, I found several homebrew systems. Most of these are of the “treat a unit as a really large monster” variety. These all work for their games, of course, but most fall short of what I was looking for.

Third, there are a few serious, published attempts at creating RPG mass combat rules.

The best of these are described below in no particular order.

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Adamant Entertainment’s “Warpath

This is a Pathfinder supplement.

Even though it is not specifically for v3.5 it is close enough with only minor adjustments.

What I like:

It is an excellent, well thought out system. It uses a clever idea of making each 1” square represent 10 feet and each unit be represented by a 3”x6” index card.

It also contains information on the upkeep of an army, mustering armies, supplying an army and siege warfare. There is an alternate way to quickly resolve mass combat in only a few rolls of the dice.

It uses a standard 6 second combat round.

It is well presented and I got a lot of good information from here.

Why I didn’t use it:

It assumes that the PCs are commanders of the army, or at least unit leaders. There are no good rules to allow a PC to act independently from the unit (other than being a solo unit).

There are no rules to deal with units in combat against individual monsters or heroes.

It doesn’t scale well for different size battles. The rules for larger battles are unsatisfactory. It simply recommends that you use larger unit cards and to “be sure you have the space available” for all of the additional space it will take up on the battle matt.

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Mongoose Publishing’s “Mass Combat

This is a supplement to Conan The Roleplaying Game which is v3.5 compatible.

What I like:

This is one of the best set of rules that I found. It does a good job of integrating v3.5 rules into a set of mass combat rules.

They have good rules for resolving magic use against units and for war machines.

It treats units as a group of counters, with each counter representing a number of individuals.

It uses a standard 6 second combat round.

Why I didn’t use it:

It relies heavily on unit formations, unit faces and a special “surge” attack. I wanted to avoid having facing rules. D&D 3.5 has no facing rules for creatures, so I didn’t want to introduce this into my mass combat system.

It is a little vague on how much space a counter covers.

Units do not make saving throws, but always take the average amount of damage they would have received if each individual had made a separate saving throw.

There are no rules to deal with units in combat against individual monsters or heroes.

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Wizards of the Coast’s “Complete Warrior

This official D&D accessory contains a chapter on Fantasy Warfare.

What I like:

It has a very good overview of how one can integrate warfare into a standard D&D campaign.

It has a good list of ways PCs can tern the tide of battle, with a table of possible missions and mission complications.

It would be good to use if the war is simply going on around the PCs.

Why I didn’t use it:

It doesn’t have any mass combat rules.

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Udo’s D20 Mass Combat

This is a small (5 pages) document that attempts to bring mass combat to d20 games.

What I like:

It scales up nicely. One 1 inch square can represent a 5, 25 or 100 ft. square.

It uses standard rules for the most part.

Why I didn’t use it:

It uses a 0-10 scale for health and attack damage, rather than standard hit points.

Any monster or character would have to be converted to the 0-10 FSP (Force Strength Points) system for both hit points and attack damage.

The system, although workable, is a little too rules light for my taste.

__________________________________________________________

Races of War’s Mass Combat Minigame

A 3.5e Sourcebook

“It’s a mini-game inside regular 3.5e that has been designed for simplicity and a minimum of bookkeeping.”

What I like:

It introduces a morale score (similar to Hit Points). When the unit’s morale score reaches 0, the unit flees form the battlefield.

Why I didn’t use it:

It uses squares that represent 50’ x 50’. This is workable, but I wanted more flexibility for larger or smaller armies.

It doesn’t use a simple initiative order, but each army acts in an order depending on its position and type of attack.

The rules for attacking a unit with spells (other than damage causing spells) are turned into damage causing spells or have no effect.

It has no rules for anything other than units or PCs (No rules for monsters or siege weapons for example).

Replacing Attacks of Opportunity

Wizards of the Coast admits on their website that “Arguments about attacks of opportunity happen frequently.” I seriously considered eliminating them altogether, but that creates problems of its on. For instance, in D&D v3.5 there is nothing other than attacks of opportunity (AoO) that would prevent a hero from walking past a row of armed guards to get to the wizard they are protecting. My proposal to eliminate AoO and to simplify combat is this: Don’t allow anyone to pass through a threatened square. Also, don’t allow anyone to perform non-attack actions within a threatened square. That is too simple, of course, so we will allow you to do any of these things if you make a successful ability check – what I call a “heroic action.” Below is from my Dungeons and Dragons Lite house rules.

There are no Attacks of Opportunity. Ignore all references in the PHB to Attacks of Opportunity and use this rule instead.

Definition of a threatened square: A creature threatens all squares into which it can make an armed melee attack.

In a combat round your character can enter or exit a threatened square, but you must use a heroic action to enter and then exit (pass through) one or more threatened squares. (Refer to my previous Heroic Actions post.)

While within a threatened square the only thing you are allowed to do is attack with a melee weapon you have in your hand. Anything else you may want to attempt will require a successful heroic action check.

WITHIN A THREATENED SQUARE
Some of the things that require a heroic action to accomplish while within a threatened square are:

  • Attack with (or load or prepare to attack with) a ranged weapon, including splash weapons
  • Cast a spell, read a scroll, drink a potion or apply an oil
  • Pick up, retrieve, draw or store an item (including weapons)
  • Deliver a coup de grace
  • Escape from a net or any other entanglement
  • Light a torch or perform any other non-combat activity other than speaking

MODIFIER: Dex modifier
DC MODIFIER: +5
SUCCESS: You can attempt the desired action.
FAILURE: You loose your turn.

MOVING THROUGH THREATENED SQUARES (a move action)
As part of your move action, you enter into a threatened square and proceed out the other side. You may want to use this to get past armed guards to reach the magic user they are guarding, or to attack someone armed with a reach weapon.
MODIFIER: Tumble modifier
DC MODIFIER: +5, +2 for each additional opponent after the first one
SUCCESS: You tumble through the threatened squares. Your move rate for your entire move is 1/2 your normal move rate.
OPTIONS: Add +2 to the DC to move at your normal move rate.
FAILURE: Failure results in your move ending inside the first threatened square you enter.

Note regarding reach weapons: When your opponent is using a reach weapon, you must use a heroic action to pass through a threatened square in order to attack him. Otherwise, your move must end when you enter the threatened square.

These rules apply only to squares that are threatened by your opponents. There are no restrictions on your activity within squares that are only threatened by your allies.

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
DC MODIFIER: +5
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.
SPECIAL RULES FOR GRAPPLING LARGER CREATURES:
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.

 

Combat Basics

I have found that the rules for Dungeons and Dragons v3.5 regarding combat are not presented in a way that is easy for a beginner to understand. Below is my attempt to make the combat rules easer to understand.

Each round represents 6 seconds in the game world.

In a round, you can do one of the following things:

  • Attack and move
  • Move and attack
  • Move and move again
  • Perform a full-round action

-You may also perform any number of free actions (within reason) and take a 5 foot step (if you haven’t moved otherwise).

Attack

You can make an attack, cast a spell, or perform an equivalent action – also called a standard action. Some standard actions are: Aid another, Bull rush, Drink a potion, Feint, Overrun and Read a scroll. Refer to Attack Basics below.

Move

A move action lets you move your speed in a round or perform an equivalent action that takes a similar amount of time. Equivalent actions include climbing, drawing or loading a weapon, opening a door, and picking up an item. Refer to Move Basics below.

Full-Round Actions

A full-round action consumes all of your effort in a round. Attacking more than once (if you are of sufficient level to do so), Charge, Load a heavy or repeating crossbow, Light a torch, Run, or Withdraw are all considered full-round actions.

Free Actions

Free actions don’t take any time at all, though there may be limits to the number of free actions you can perform in a turn. Free actions include dropping an Item and speaking.

Five foot step

In any round when you don’t perform any other kind of movement, you can take a 5-foot step before, during, or after your other actions in the round.

—-Move Basics—-

Speed

Your speed tells you how far you can move in a round and still do something, such as attack or cast a spell.

Humans, Elves, Half-elves, and Half-orcs

Speed wearing no armor or light armor: 30 ft. (6 spaces)
Speed wearing medium or heavy armor: 20 ft.(4 spaces)

Gnomes and Halflings

Speed wearing no armor or light armor: 20 ft. (4 spaces)
Speed wearing medium or heavy armor: 15 ft. (3 spaces)

Dwarves

Speed: 20 ft. (4 spaces)
(Dwarves have no speed penalty for wearing armor.)

Moving

Tactical Movement
We use a battle grid to help keep track of where everybody is during combat. It is divided into 1 inch squares. One space on the grid represents 5 feet. Your character can move up to his speed rating in spaces (20 feet = 4 spaces) each round. Count every second square moved diagonally as 2 spaces. He may move through, but not stop in, a space occupied by a friend. Either before or after moving he may also attempt one standard action, usually an attack.
Double Move
If your character doesn’t do anything else in this round, he can move up to twice his speed. He is assumed to be on alert for potential threats, dodging arrows, avoiding blows from hand held weapons, and the like.
Charge
He can move up to twice his speed in a straight line up to an opponent and attack him. You get to add a +2 bonus to your attack roll because of the charge. This will be all that your character can do in this round so it is called a “full round action”.
Run
If your character doesn’t do anything else in this round, he can move up to 4 x his normal speed (or 3 x if wearing heavy armor). He is moving as fast as he can so he is not taking the time to avoid being hit from attacks the way he is if you just take a double move. Because of this, he looses his dexterity bonus (if any) to his armor class for the entire round.
Other Move Actions
There are rules for other forms of movement during a fight such as moving while balancing, moving silently, moving while attempting to hide, tumbling, climbing, swimming or crawling. Your character normally can’t use his full speed while moving in any of these ways and there may be other penalties as well.

—-Attack Basics—-

Making an Attack Roll:

Roll 1d20 and add the bonus listed for the weapon your character is using. If the result is equal to or greater than his opponent’s armor class, he hits. Then you can roll damage.

Making a Damage Roll:

Roll the type of die indicated for the weapon used and add its bonus (if any). Damage reduces your opponent’s hit points.

Critical Hits:

If you make your attack roll and it comes up 20 before any bonuses are added, this is called a “natural” 20. A natural 20 is always a hit. In most cases it is also a potentially critical hit. You then roll a second time and if the results of the second roll is also a hit then it is a critical hit. You then roll the damage twice. Whenever a you roll a natural 20 to hit and a natural 20 to confirm the critical, the resultant hit does maximum critical damage.

Some weapons will threaten critical damage on a natural 18 or 19. And with some weapons a critical hit may do 3 or 4 times normal damage.

Full Attack

Attacking more than once (if you are of sufficient level to do so) consumes all of your effort in a round. You must make the attacks in order from highest bonus to lowest. You can take no move actions or other actions this round except for free actions (such as speaking) and taking a 5 foot step. You can take a 5 foot step at any point during your round – before, during or after your attacks. All of the attacks don’t have to be against a single opponent. Melee attacks can be against anyone within reach or who comes within reach as a result of your 5 foot step.