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D&D 5E Deleting Bonus Actions

Edit: I will be updating this post based on feedback down-thread.

Mike Mearls is right. They suck. 5e ended up having a pretty similar action economy to 4e, which results in obnoxious things like Rangers being gimped if they chose a two-weapon fighting style. Another thing I've noticed is that players without obvious bonus action choices will hunt through their character sheet to find something to do so they don't feel like they're wasting their action economy. I don't think it's really hard to remove bonus actions from 5e. They can all be fixed in a fairly straightforward way. With the exception of spells, most things could just be done, or "once on your turn." Here are my proposed fixes (which are really just here to argue about, nobody at WotC cares what I say):

Bonus action spells: I think the entire bonus action concept should be collapsed into a special case of instantaneous spells. So, I'd change the Casting Time section:

Instantaneous Casting: A spell with an instantaneous casting time is especially swift. You can cast the spell without using your action, provided that you haven't already cast an instantaneous spell this turn.

Quickened Spell. When you cast a spell that has a casting time of 1 action, you can spend 2 sorcery points to gain a second action. If you cast a spell with this second action, that spell must be a cantrip.

Two Weapon Fighting: Once on your turn, when you take the Attack Action and make an attack with a light melee weapon that you’re holding in one hand, you can make an additional attack with a different light melee weapon that you’re holding in the other hand.

Fighter Second Wind: The Fighter can just do this on his turn now.

Barbarian Rage: Yes, Barbarians can just get mad, they don't need a special action. "I'm mad now!" Congratulations!

Berzerker Frenzy Attack: Once on your turn, you may make a single additional melee weapon attack in addition to your normal Action.

Ranger Beast Master Commands: Just do them. You'll be fine.

Cunning Action (Rogue): "Once on each of your turns you may either Dash, Disengage, or Hide without using your Action."

Channel Divinity, Warlock patron...channel...like...things: Any of them that are bonus actions, you can now just do. You'll be fine.

Crossbow Expert: delete the extra attack, it was dumb anyway.

What about multiclass munchkinism: Genuinely don't care. Multiclassing is lame.
 
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Rabulias

Hero
Doesn't all that just keep bonus actions without calling them bonus actions? Characters with bonus actions can still do all those things (and as you point out, rogues can try twice for sneak attack damage and then dance away without consequence). Characters without bonus actions still get nothing. If players looking on their sheet for bonus actions is what bugs you, just say that looking at your sheet without describing something your character is doing for more than 20 seconds is code for "my turn is done." :devilish:
 

I agree with @Rabulias that your house rule just replaces one kind of bonus action with another.

In my own game, I added a Bonus Action Knowledge Check (kind of like in 4e). When a character doesn't have a good bonus action to take, the player often chooses a knowledge check.

I think Bonus Actions really differentiate the different classes. My 9th level Wizard has very few bonus actions, other than when he casts Expeditious Retreat. The Rogue, on the other hand, uses a Bonus Action every round. I think your players will get used to their Bonus Actions and stop hunting around.
 

The reason these house rules are better is they avoid most of the action economy annoyances.

Like if the Fighter wants to Second Wind and then do a Shield Bash with Shield Master, but forgets that Second Wind requires a bonus action.

It increases the learning curve to little real purpose as so many abilities are on some kind of rest economy anyway.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
Yeah, I too have to agree with Rabulias here. Unless you’re letting them d9 each one once per turn, you’re really just recreating the same basic mechanic.
That doesn’t mean, for example, that some things that are bonus actions couldn’t be folded into the main action. Attacking with a second weapon in the off hand comes to mind as an example of one that could be made part of the attack action.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
The reason these house rules are better is they avoid most of the action economy annoyances.

Like if the Fighter wants to Second Wind and then do a Shield Bash with Shield Master, but forgets that Second Wind requires a bonus action.
The only real annoyance here is trying to get two bonuses in a round above and beyond your normal action. Because a character can shove an opponent as part of their attack option without shield master - it just costs them an attack rather than a bonus action.
Frankly, I think the game should force characters to make choices, not just enable not having to make any.
 

Xeviat

Hero
You can also make bonus action abilities an action and then stipulate that you can also do something else at the same time.

Two-weapon fighting allows you to make your regular attacks and an extra offhand. Healing word allows you to heal someone and then take an action ... its the same thing but it smooths out the thoughts.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
From what I've seen talked about here in the past... it's merely having Two-Weapon Fighting take a Bonus action that has bunched everything up. So if you merely say your Attack action allows you to attack once with each weapon you have in each hand (not including extra attacks you gain from Extra Attack, Haste, etc.) rather than using a Bonus action for the off-hand attack... the rest of your Bonus action issues should fall away. Because there aren't a tremendous amount of other Bonus action actions out there.

As far as your characters searching through their sheets for Bonus actions to do... that's all just on your table to agree to write down on your character sheets any Bonus actions they have available. That way they don't have to hunt for anything. That's actually one of the nice things I've found about using D&D Beyond... they have tabs on the character sheet that separate out all the different actions: All / Attack / Action / Bonus Action / Reaction / Other. So if you want to know if you have any Bonus actions, you just click the tab and it'll show you any and all that your particular PC has coming to them-- and more often than not it'll just say 'Actions In Combat: Two Weapon Fighting'.
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
I think it would be a nice idea to try out.

I dont really mind classes being able to do many things in their turn.
A fighter wants to Second Wind then Shove with Shieldmaster? 1) its not ''too strong'' and 2) it already has a cost, so its not like this will lead to using 3-4 features every turn all day long.
 

People are going to fret over their "action economy" no matter what you call the choices. Bonus action, free action, whatever, it doesn't matter. Some players just be like that.

To really get rid of it, just allow one thing. One and only one damn thing on your turn. No bonus action, no free action, nothing. One thing and then your turn is over.
 

Doesn't all that just keep bonus actions without calling them bonus actions? Characters with bonus actions can still do all those things (and as you point out, rogues can try twice for sneak attack damage and then dance away without consequence). Characters without bonus actions still get nothing. If players looking on their sheet for bonus actions is what bugs you, just say that looking at your sheet without describing something your character is doing for more than 20 seconds is code for "my turn is done." :devilish:

Already, paladins, battle masters, Rogues, Whispers bards, and Swords bards can, for free, without consuming any points in an action economy, add special effects to their attacks. Sorcerers can spend sorcery points. Most wizard schools get a special thing they can just do. Eleven Accuracy and Lucky are things you can just do. Are these equivalent to bonus actions, since characters who have no such special features get nothing? Of course not.

I'm simply moving nearly all bonus actions to the "you can just do this" feature pile, with the exception of spells.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
People are going to fret over their "action economy" no matter what you call the choices. Bonus action, free action, whatever, it doesn't matter. Some players just be like that.

To really get rid of it, just allow one thing. One and only one damn thing on your turn. No bonus action, no free action, nothing. One thing and then your turn is over.
I think this kind of strategy gets better the more players end up at the table.

The more players you have, I think the faster each player can get through their turn will result in less boredom for everyone overall, even if it results in technically more rounds. One thing that takes 30 seconds each over two rounds is more engaging than two things in a single turn that takes 1 minute.

For a table of four players that each take 1 minute for their turn... it's 1 minute 'on' and then 4 minutes 'off' waiting for their turn to come back (3 other players and the DM). With eight players, you have 1 minute 'on' and 8 minutes 'off' waiting.

But if you only allow a single thing... then with 8 players you take 30 seconds, wait 4 minutes, take another 30 seconds, wait 4 minutes. That seems to me to be more tolerable overall.
 

Yeah, I too have to agree with Rabulias here. Unless you’re letting them d9 each one once per turn, you’re really just recreating the same basic mechanic.

A dual-wielding arcane trickster rogue could disengage, stab-stab, and use his Invisible Mage Hand every round. A multiclassed cleric-Fighter with a Spiritual Weapon up and the Shield Master feat could smack the hammer, do a Second Wind, shield bash, and cast Healing Word on the same round. A Berserker could Frenzy and make his additional attack on the same round. A Beast Master could direct his companion to attack on the same round that he casts Ensnaring Strike.

It's clearly not the same thing. Is it overpowered? Game-breaking? I would argue no. Some things become more powerful, but IMO stay within the typical 5e power band.
 

People are going to fret over their "action economy" no matter what you call the choices. Bonus action, free action, whatever, it doesn't matter. Some players just be like that.

To really get rid of it, just allow one thing. One and only one damn thing on your turn. No bonus action, no free action, nothing. One thing and then your turn is over.

This would involve deleting a lot of features & spells, to the point you've turned 5e into an OSR game.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
I think getting rid of bonus actions without a real clear plan as to how to divvy up every bonus action into either a "free action" pile or "restricted" pile could wreck some havoc into your game.

My biggest bugaboo with bonus actions are the conditional ones, the ones where you can only do Y if you do X with your action. The "Bonus action spell means you can only cast cantrips" is probably my least favorite rule in 5e, it just causes so much confusion. And two-weapon fighting should also be folded up into the main action, for sure.
 

From what I've seen talked about here in the past... it's merely having Two-Weapon Fighting take a Bonus action that has bunched everything up. So if you merely say your Attack action allows you to attack once with each weapon you have in each hand (not including extra attacks you gain from Extra Attack, Haste, etc.) rather than using a Bonus action for the off-hand attack... the rest of your Bonus action issues should fall away. Because there aren't a tremendous amount of other Bonus action actions out there.

There are three things that have motivated this:
  1. TWF sucks.
  2. Thematically disparate bonus actions often delay the game because players don't mentally map them together. The multiclassed Rogue-Warlock forgets he can't Hex and Disengage the same round, because those two things don't feel related. It makes little thematic sense that a Ranger can't cast Healing Word the same round that he ordered his Companion to Disengage, but he can cast Cure Wounds.
  3. The bonus action is part of the general action economy, and this creates a psychological effect of having wasted part of one's turn if one has no bonus action. I have seen this again and again over the years, even with every experienced players.
That last one is really noticeable to me. Nobody feels like they're being less effective by not being able to spend a Smite, a Sorcery Point, or a Lucky Die. They feel like not having a bonus action makes them less effective. Maybe the breaking point for me was a player who told me he really wanted to be a barbarian, but the class seemed weak because it didn't have a bonus action other than rage.

So IMO, just throwing 90% of bonus actions into the "you can just do this" feature pile and revising the spellcasting rules a bit seems to me to get rid of all three problems.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
For me the problem is not bonus actions or the "action economy" (shudder), but the attitude of every turn needing an opportunity to be optimal and doing the most things possible and that if it isn't like that, somehow something is wrong.
 
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Bonus actions are a quirk in 5E, as they hit the middle between the design of simplicity and rules balance. As is, bonus actions are mechanically balanced, forcing players to occasionally make choices between them. However, they don't quite fit into the otherwise simple rules 5E strives for. Because of this, people tend to overthink them.

There really aren't enough bonus actions to create an action economy issue like minor actions did in 4E. Minor actions in 4E were plentiful, and a significant part of the action economy, making it extremely desirable to use it every round. Most characters won't have a bonus action available every round, or even every combat. This means players really shouldn't fret about "wasting" their bonus action. All it really does is prevent a character from piling on a lot of "extras" every round, which both slows play an can create overpowered situations. My only real issue is that technically you should be able to perform a bonus action in place of an action, in those rare situations where you want to do so.

New players sometimes struggle with bonus actions, but that's true of a lot of things. DMs should help players avoid building characters that are bloated with bonus actions, just like they should with spellcasters and the concentration mechanic. Letting a new player take back a bonus action because they'd rather do a different one should normally be allowed. Players who insist on building characters with complicated bonus action interactions should learn the hard way on how they work, no matter how frustrating.
 

jgsugden

Legend
There is no perfect system, so noting the flaws is not inherently indicating we need a change. There are lots of reasons to keep - and to eliminate - the bonus actions.

Personally, I feel like the problems that people have with it are misplaced frustration. In reality, what I think people react to is the frustration of what they can fit in a round. That can be addressed by playing with the rules of what can go into a round, which as many people have noted can just result in relabeling things without actually changing them much, or they can be addressed by changing what a round represents.

I have always felt that 6 seconds is too much time for a round. If you think about fun cinematic movie elements, the different factions end up fighting a lot like we do in D&D in some ways, and very differently in other ways.

When you watch action flicks, you see one side pressing their attack, then a response by the other side. They go back and forth. That is just like D&D.

However, their action is often faster paced and more interactive.

Action beats are faster than 6 seconds. They're often between 1 and 3 seconds (with dramatic poses and speeches shoved between them). Yes, a back and forth between two sides may be six seconds - but it is just as often only a couple seconds as well.

Further, there is usually a response by the other side to the action before the other side does their offensive action. Captain America throws his shield - the Winter Soldier Catches it - and then throws it back. The Winter Soldier lands on the car - the Black Widow shoves people out of the line of incoming gunshots from the roof - they slam on the breaks and send the Winter Soldier flying. Attack, response, counterattack, response, etc...

I think that a superior combat system would: 1.) Create more responses to attacks, and 2.) Take place in a shorter round. I've built systems that used this approach (not for RPGs - for board games / card games) and was happy with them.
 

I think they could have done all abilities worth an action.
The bonus action timing make actual abilities sometime less shiny, « Channel divinity » it’s not meant to be a small part of your round.

For example entering rage may be special attack action,
controlling spell can produce effect that worth an action,
second wind can be designed as a more versatile defensive feature that worth an action.
 

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