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Tag Archives: combat rules
March 19, 2020Posted by on
How to Play on a 1 inch = 10 feet square grid.
I am the DM for a table top “Storm King’s Thunder” campaign. The final battle map is drawn in the book with one square = 10 feet. I usually draw the map on my battlemat with each 1 inch square = 5 feet. But this is such a large playing field that it won’t fit on my table at that scale so I am drawing it with 1 inch = 10 feet. I have occasionally done this before, but adjusting movements and attacks have always been a hassle. In anticipation of a large complicated battle I came up with this set of house rules.
To play with miniatures on a square grid where each square on the grid represents 10 feet:
Start with the rules in Variant: Playing on a Grid (PHB, page 192). Change “Each square on the grid represents 5 feet” to “Each (one inch) square on the grid represents 10 feet.”
For game purposes, creature sizes and speeds don’t change and if they have a 5 ft. reach they can attack creatures in adjacent squares even though creatures in adjacent squares are considered to be 10 ft. apart for all other purposes.
– Gargantuan Creatures
These each occupy a 2 inch square (four 1 inch squares).
– Large or Huge Creatures
These each occupy a single 1 inch square.
– Medium and Small Creatures
You can have more than one medium or small creature in one square. (I recommend flat, one inch diameter, tokens rather than minis. If there is more than one creature in a square you can stack them.)
A medium or small creature occupies one 1 inch square. Up to 4 creatures of this size can occupy a single square, but they are each considered occupying the entire square. If there is more than one such creature in a square they are considered to be 5 feet apart from each other.
A single medium or small creature can not be attacked by more than 8 medium or small creatures (or 4 large or larger creatures) with 5 ft. melee attacks.
– Tiny Creatures
You can stack 16 tiny creatures in one square. They are considered to be 2 1/2 ft. apart. You can have a combination of tiny and medium or small creatures. There can be a maximum of: 1 medium or small and 12 tiny, 2 medium or small and 8 tiny, or 3 medium or small and 4 tiny.
Speed and movement doesn’t change, but you can’t move into a square if you don’t have enough movement left (10 feet).
Example: If your move rate is 25 feet, you can only move 2 squares (25 ft. rounded down = 20 ft.), but if you dash you can move 5 squares (25 ft. x 2 = 50 ft.).
Medium or small creatures can move through, but not stop in, a square occupied by a Gargantuan or Huge creature but it can’t move through a square occupied by a Large creature.
Medium or small creatures can move through, or stop in if they choose to, a square occupied by fewer than 4 medium or small creatures, regardless if the occupying creatures are hostile or not. If it is occupied by 4 non-hostile creatures you can move through it but you can not stop in it.
Ranges and areas of effect:
All ranges and areas of effect are rounded down to a multiple of 10 feet (minimum of 10 feet).
Some examples: All melee attacks with a range of 5 feet will have a range of 10 ft. (or, rather, they are treated as if they were actually only 5 ft. away.) So you can attack a creature in an adjacent square with your short sword, or you could attack it with your long bow without disadvantage because, for everything other than 5 ft. melee attacks, it is 10 ft. away. For the same reason an attack on a prone creature in an adjacent square is with advantage if you make a 5 ft. melee attack (it’s 5 ft. away), but it is with a disadvantage if it is made with range weapon (it’s 10 ft. away). A blowgun’s range changes from (25/100) to (20/100). The spell Word of Recall‘s range changes from 5 ft. to 10 ft. The spell Lightning Bolt will form a line 10 ft. wide instead of 5 ft. The Gust of Wind spell will push a creature 10 ft. instead of 15 ft.
Your 5 ft. reach becomes 10 ft. in regard to creatures in adjacent squares. So if a hostile creature moves out of an adjacent 10 ft. square you can make an opportunity attack against it. But if it moves from within the same square you are in to an adjacent square you can not (because it will still be within range).
November 4, 2017Posted by on
Attacking With A Shield
I have addressed the fifth edition rules for using a shield in a previous post (HERE). But I recently had a player ask if he could use a spiked shield. I couldn’t think of a good reason that he shouldn’t be allowed to do that, but the rules as written don’t specifically address the issue.
Time for a new house rule.
I soon realized that to do this I really needed to re-examine all of the rules for attacking with shields. What I came up with is a redefining of a normal shield – when it is used as a weapon – as well as spiked shields and a couple of other issues.
Simple weapon: Normal shields can be used as simple light melee weapons.
Damage: 1d4 + STR bonus (bashing).
Proficiency: You are only proficient with normal shields used as weapons if you are proficient with all simple weapons.
(This shield is constructed with a sharpened spike at its center.)
Martial weapon: A spiked shield is a light martial melee weapon.
Damage: 1d6 + STR bonus (piercing).
Cost: You can add a spike to a normal shield for an additional cost of 2 gp. (Adding more than one spike does not change the damage.)
Proficiency: You are only proficient with spiked shields used as weapons if you are proficient with all martial weapons.
If you lack proficiency:
They can still be used as an improvised weapons, doing 1d4 + STR bonus damage. The damage type will be bashing for normal shields, or piercing if it is a spiked shield.
Two weapon fighting:
When you take the Attack action and attack with a light melee weapon that you’re holding in one hand, you can use a bonus action to attack with a shield that you’re holding in the other hand, but only if you are proficient with using it as a weapon. You don’t add your ability modifier to the shield attack damage, unless that modifier is negative
Effect on armor class:
Using a shield to make an attack doesn’t deprive you of the +2 AC bonus.
Dual wielder feat:
You do not gain a +1 bonus to AC while you are wielding a shield (spiked or not).
December 13, 2016Posted by on
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
January 31, 2015Posted by on
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.
December 18, 2014Posted by on
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.
April 11, 2014Posted by on
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.
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.”
December 30, 2012Posted by on
[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.
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.
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.
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.
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).