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D&D 5E Cloner's Corner: I'm thinking of going two attacks per action at level 1.

Alright, so with today's unexpectedly generous Creative Commons SRD announcement, I am now full gear building a 5e clone (name as yet to be determined). I'm sure I'm not the only one around here. But one core question of class (and monster and everything) design and balance is how many attacks PCs should get and when. Standard 5e's answer is, of course, 1 per action (with various special exceptions) then 2 per action for martial characters at level 5 and for a few subclasses at level 6.

I think my answer is two per action at level 1 for everyone, with the martially-oriented characters getting a third one at level 5. The principle reason for this is simply that rolling a single die, missing, and being done with a turn is boring, and that unlike many of the ways we make low levels boring as the cost of simplifying things for new players, making two attacks really isn't any more complicated. I like almost everything else about 5e's low level experience (simple, deadly, somewhat grounded, money and mundane equipment actually matters), but all the "one roll" turns (especially since, for more legitimate reasons of simplicity, most uses for bonus actions haven't come online yet) really makes it feel like the training wheels levels that I just want to see over and done.

Other points in favor of change 1) Two attacks in a six second turn seems more realistic than one for even an untrained attacker (except with a crossbow, which is a whole different matter). It's still not "realistic' on any level but it's less obviously silly and a fair compromise in a system where 30 feet of movement in that turn does not limit your number of attacks. 2) It makes all the various ways to work an additional attack in at low levels (by feat, two weapon fighting, etc) less unbalancing if they are only increasing your damage output by 50% rather than doubling it. 3) Similarly the power jump at level 5, or whenever some people get yet another attack, would be less abrupt. 4) It would allow the introduction of more low level enemies with multiattack without players crying foul. 5) a simple "everyone has two attacks on the attack action at level one and additional attacks build on that" rule preserves compatibility with other 5e products better than any other way I might re-jigger the progression of attacks (you throw an official WotC Fighter in my game and it's an obvious DM call to say they just get a third attack at level 5 like martial characters in this system would). I'm looking at building my game around 12 level classes instead of 20 level classes.

The most salient points against that I see are 1) It gravitates towards monsters tending towards large bags of hit points even more than they already are. 2) It potentially necessitates rebalancing a lot of a lot in terms of class and monsters, which aside from being work lessens the degree to which I can design around building on the things 5e does right, which is one of the other reasons to clone an existing game rather than build from scratch. 3) Following on point two, it drastically undermines intercompatibility with other people's 5e products in subtle, and hard to adapt for ways.

An ambiguous point is that it lessens the value of cantrips (assuming cantrips still use the standard 5e cantrip scheme). I have mixed feelings about the roll of cantrips, and the overall impact that that has on the balance of martials v. casters (the latter of whom would also get the option of two mundane attacks on their action, which doesn't fit some people's vision of their wizard, but, you know, Gandalf was awful fond of his sword). Another ambiguous point is it lowers the zero-to-hero factor of progression, and the degree to which we look forward to higher levels. I like the feeling of accomplishment with getting a character to a high level, but I also want to appreciate the journey at the low levels and not have dreaming of tomorrow's levels get in the way of the experience being good now.

I think my current rules approach is that all PCs, and humanoid npcs, can take two attacks per action as the default. Two somewhat mitigate the effects of this, I will give a +1 bonus to the AC of anyone holding weapon, thus making attacks marginally less effective, avoid power attack abilities that currently unbalance attacks in general, and two-weapon fighting (something generally requiring great skill to do effectively in real life) will be more limited as a default (something like a light offhand weapon adds an additional +1 to AC and gets advantage when used for attacks of opportunity, or offhand weapon damage can be added to advantaged attacks, or whatever) with special abilities to enable people's various double dagger rogue or whatever fantasies if they want to build towards them.

Any thoughts or comments are appreciated, especially if they touch on issues or considerations I haven't mentioned yet.

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Rules Tinkerer and Freelance Writer
If you're adding multiple attacks, give cantrips two "Casts" as well. And at levels 5, 10, and 15, let the caster decide which of the two attacks/saves the added damage hits.

So, like... level 10 has 4 dice total. Can do 2 and 2, or 3 and 1.

And then add -more- low-AC low-Damage enemies to eat up the extra attacks. Could even go full 4e with Minions.

I think it's a good start honestly, if you're sticking with D&D's "nothing happens on a miss" approach. I'm not sure whether I'd stick with that myself, but it'd be easier to be roughly D&D compatible and sort out the math and stuff if one did so.

Personally I'm not sure about the +1 AC if holding a weapon, it makes complete sense but realistically it'd be incredibly rare for it not to be the case to the point where you might be better off just increasing the base AC to 11 for humanoids or something (also you don't want to penalize skilled unarmed attackers or people using natural weapons - they're bad enough as it is!).


This is actually a very good change.
You see martial have a slight math issue in the game as written, their power is essentially about 1 spell level behind casters at all time in terms of raw damage. This is because before the launch of the game, 5e actually buffed the power of spell casters by about one die(you can see the old damage table still in the DMG), they did this because playtest feedback felt casters were more than a little weak, because they were spending limited resources to do only "slightly" more damage than martials, this proved to be a bit of a mistake, as it meant martials, in general, are behind a die in what they are supposed to be good at while casters are at their strongest spell slot, and even more so on even spell levels, where casters are designed to pull ahead due to a limited but powerful resource in their even spell levels.

Giving them an outright extra attack solves a lot of these issues.

Pair this with more ways to spend their power budget into other meaningful effects like casters, and you got a winning adjustment.


I'd flip it. Give everyone 12 Action Points. An Attack costs 5 pts at Lvl-1. Every Extra Attack feat reduces the cost by one action point. Thus for a Fighter, at Lvl-5 an attack costs 4AP, at Lvl-11 3AP, and Lvl-20 2 AP.
Similarly, a Cantrip costs 6AP to cast and a Spell 12AP at Lvl-1. If they take a battle magic type feat, then you can reduce that cost or make it a level advance.
Movement can also be similarly costed to account for Monks and "Bonus Actions" can simply disappear as they become low cost action.

Base-12 makes it easier to balance the cost for actions by their number of uses because of the number of common factors possible: 1,2,3,4,6,12.

The other option is to fix costs, but increase the action points per level or proficiency increase, but that needs more thinking on the maths than this hot take.

Li Shenron

I think my answer is two per action at level 1 for everyone, with the martially-oriented characters getting a third one at level 5.
So it's been 4 months now, have you tested out your idea? How did it work at the gaming table?

I'm curious to hear whether your players really find it less "boring", because IMXP multiple attacks are more interesting than single attacks when something changes between them (either the target, or applying a different special ability), otherwise it's just two rolls for the same thing, while at the same time it can be actually more boring having to wait twice as long for your turn while everyone else rolls twice.

Otherwise, from a balance point of view, I would not be that worried. Clearly something needs to shift in the game as a whole... perhaps spellcasters will start choosing weapon attacks over combat cantrips more often, or will choose higher-level spells over cantrips, perhaps the fighter-type PCs will shine twice as much as other PCs in combat, meaning that the DM will have to compensate by featuring other challenges to rewards non-fighter-type PCs, perhaps combats will be shorter and faster and feel less important in the game, or the DM will need to use higher-CR monsters to keep them interesting. All of these frankly are not problems but rather opportunities to put a spin on the game.

Yeah i like 2 attacks in a 5e clone as a balancing mechanism against magic.

Magic excels at control and martials IMO should exceed casters in damage output.

2 attacks (and 3 at level 5) also makes martials better at dealing with larger crowds, something they've historically been worse at.

I've run shadow of the demon lord for a number of years, where martials almost always do more damage and casters deal with crowd control and debuffing better. It works really well, everyone feels useful and no one feels underpowered.

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