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D&D 5E Deleting Bonus Actions

I have players I have gamed with for years who still forget that Action Surge doesn't take a bonus action, that the rogue can't disengage and dual strike the same round, that Lay on Hands is an Action, not a bonus action, that a dual-wielding Bard can use his Bardic Inspiration to apply extra damage to a target the same round he makes 3 attacks, but can't use it to inspire an ally, etc. From my standpoint, that's a design failure, not a player failure.

While walking around my neighborhood just now, waiting for my dog to deliver unto me his morning gift, it struck me that the only reason for the bonus action/cantrip rule seems to be so the Sorcerer can't dual-cast Fireball for the low, low cost of two sorcery points. Rather than my hackish casting time of "instantaneous," nearly all bonus action spells could have a casting time of 1 Reaction, with conditions in the spell itself. More often than not, the condition could simply be, "When you take your Action on your turn, as a Reaction, you may..." The fact that this allows the wizard to Misty Step and Fireball the same turn is fine.

The dual-fireball problem could simply be folded into the Quicken Spell description.
  • 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.
 

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ECMO3

Explorer
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:

Bonus action spells now receive a casting time of "instantaneous." We add the rule, "Once on your turn, you can cast a spell with instantaneous duration without an Action. If you cast such a spell, the only type of spell you can cast with your Action is a cantrip." Spells that have sustained bonus action abilities just have things you can mentally command, for free. It will be fine. The bonus action to slap Bigby's Hand, transfer your Hex, etc, is completely unnecessary and achieves nothing.

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

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

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

Rogue bonus actions: "Once on your turn, you may do one of..." Oh nooooo now dual-wielding rogues can stab-stab-disengage, I broke the gaaaaaaaaaame.

Channel Divinity, Warlock patron...channel...like...things: Make them spell-like abilities with instantaneous casting time.
So in a single turn my bladesinger-arcane trickster can cast booming blade, make a second attack with extra attack, ram someone with his flaming sphere, attack with an off hand weapon, have is mage hand Lergerdemain pull something out of someone's pack and use it, cast misty step, go into bladesong and finally use cunning action to hide? He can do all of that in one turn?

By eliminating the bonus action system you are actually making characters with bonus actions a LOT more powerful than characters without them because they can now do them for free and chain them all together on the same turn. If you don't allow these to be all done on the same turn, then you still have the bonus action system, you are just calling it something else and tweaking it.

I also don't think TWF Rangers are nerfed when you consider the damage bonuses available in many of the subclasses and hunters Mark.
 
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So in a turn my arcane trickster can cast booming blade, ram someone with his flaming sphere, attack with an offhand weapon, have is mage hand Lergerdemain pull something out of someone's pack, cast misty step and use cunning action to hide? He can do all of that in one turn?

For a nova attack that requires you to be at least 7th level to pull off, and can't even do twice per day until 13th level, that's not as extreme as it sounds. I might want to fold the off-hand attack into the Attack Action (since Tasha's fixed the Beast Master, probably the right idea). But yeah, I think it's entirely reasonable that you should be able to Misty Step somewhere and hide. In fact, it seems kind of silly that it's easier for the Rogue to hide if he walks somewhere than if he teleports there.

This nova required you to take a round to set up, since casting Flaming Sphere takes an Action, and used most of your 2nd-level slots to pull off. Now compare to what happens if a Fighter or Paladin of the same level churns through as many resources as he can in 2 rounds. I think you'll find that it's not nearly as great as you're thinking.

I also don't think TWF Rangers are nerfed when you consider the damage bonuses available in many of the subclasses and hunters Mark.

TWF Rangers only benefit from Hunter's Mark relative to other choices when the target doesn't die before their next turn. Since monsters typically die in 2-3 rounds, it's basically a trap option for the class...using a Rapier & Duelist going to be overall more effective.
 
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Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Eh.

Changing the action economy is great and all, but whether you call something a bonus action or not isn't really all that important. You could go PF2e on it and make everything an action, give your player 3 actions on their turn (With each component of spellcasting taking 1 action) and go to town.

Your mileage and preferences might vary, obviously, but bonus actions are fine as they are. Mearls doesn't like them, but his answer to fixing them is to completely change how the Attack action works and create a boatload of class-specific attack actions.

To me that feels like backsliding to 2e's attack speeds but ymmv, obviously.
 

77IM

Explorer!!!
Supporter
I have players I have gamed with for years who still forget that Action Surge doesn't take a bonus action, that the rogue can't disengage and dual strike the same round, that Lay on Hands is an Action, not a bonus action, that a dual-wielding Bard can use his Bardic Inspiration to apply extra damage to a target the same round he makes 3 attacks, but can't use it to inspire an ally, etc. From my standpoint, that's a design failure, not a player failure.
This ^^. Bonus actions are confusing as naughty word.

While walking around my neighborhood just now, waiting for my dog to deliver unto me his morning gift, it struck me that the only reason for the bonus action/cantrip rule seems to be so the Sorcerer can't dual-cast Fireball for the low, low cost of two sorcery points. Rather than my hackish casting time of "instantaneous," nearly all bonus action spells could have a casting time of 1 Reaction, with conditions in the spell itself. More often than not, the condition could simply be, "When you take your Action on your turn, as a Reaction, you may..." The fact that this allows the wizard to Misty Step and Fireball the same turn is fine.
This is exactly how Shadow of the Demon Lord solves the problem, and that was designed entirely by Rob Schwalb, one of the designers of 5E. I've never tried it in play but it seems like it would work well.
 


ECMO3

Explorer
For a nova attack that requires you to be at least 7th level to pull off, and can't even do twice per day until 13th level, that's not as extreme as it sounds. I might want to fold the off-hand attack into the Attack Action (since Tasha's fixed the Beast Master, probably the right idea). But yeah, I think it's entirely reasonable that you should be able to Misty Step somewhere and hide. In fact, it seems kind of silly that it's easier for the Rogue to hide if he walks somewhere than if he teleports there.

This nova required you to take a round to set up, since casting Flaming Sphere takes an Action, and used most of your 2nd-level slots to pull off. Now compare to what happens if a Fighter or Paladin of the same level churns through as many resources as he can in 2 rounds. I think you'll find that it's not nearly as great as you're thinking.
You can do everything except the extra attack at 6th level (3AT, 3 BS), to include the extra attack (which I edited in after you quoted) you need to be 9th level (3AT, 6 BS).

As far as damage, it is not nova for two reasons. first, it is two spells out of 7-8 he can cast at 6th level or 11-13 at 9th level. This means at 9th level it is an average expenditure for a battle. Second I was not focused on damage, but using it as an example of how many things could be done in a single turn. If I was focused on damage I would have used a different spell. for example substituting shadowblade for misty step after the flaming sphere attack would up damage substantially:

You would cast shadow blade for free as a third level spell (instead of misty step). If you do that damage on this turn is is 2d6 Fire + 6d8 SB + 1d6 weapon + 2d6 SA + 1d8 booming blade plus 15 dex. That is 22-96 if everything hits/save. That is an average of 59 points this turn and it is 52 on average every turn after the first turn, and does not include the extra 2d8 booming blade damage for the enemy moving and there are no penalties to the attack roll (as a matter of fact in dim light a lot of it will be at advantage). That takes 1-3rd and 1-2nd level spell that was presumably cast ahead of time.

A fighter using action surge with GWF will do on average 53.3 for one turn using action surge and no penalties. After that turn he will average 27. That accounts for rerolling 1s and 2s. It does not account for feats like GWM, but those come with a penalty to attack, which substantially lowers the damage that will land.

In any case the point is not damage per round. On top of beating a fighter, such a character is also getting advantage on acrobatics and AC, running around doing things with his mage hand and hiding or disengaging and he starts those things on the first turn and has them on every turn thereafter. On the current system, even with the persistent abilities it would take multiple turns to set up things like SB and bladesong and get those things all going and you are being penalized during this time by not hiding, disengaging or TWF while you are doing it.

TWF Rangers only benefit from Hunter's Mark relative to other choices when the target doesn't die before their next turn. Since monsters typically die in 2-3 rounds, it's basically a trap option for the class...using a Rapier & Duelist going to be overall more effective.

Having an extra opportunity to land damage from things like collusus slayer, dreadful strike or gathered swarm will overcome this long term, especially since HM is limited by spell slots.
 
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Campbell

Legend
In my personal experience most of the interesting tactical decisions (assuming a somewhat interesting to play build) that martial characters get to make on a round to round basis revolve around bonus actions. Bonus actions do not suck. I love them.
 

So my arcane trickster monk character can cast a spell, move forward 2 sq, stab, stab, stab, stab, disengage, and move back 4 sq?
And if I drop a level of barbarian or fighter I could rage AND second wind at the same time?
 

Bayushi_seikuro

Adventurer
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 can see your point about a six second round feeling too long. I like GURPS where a round is a second, but it leads to weird situations where I had a sword master who could make two attacks and two parries in one round (literally, one second).
 

Quartz

Adventurer
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.

Try giving Fighters a second bonus action at 6th level instead of the feat.
 


loverdrive

Makin' cool stuff
Publisher
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.
And then everyone just does the same thing, ok, maybe a couple of things every turn, because all others are losing options.
 

NotAYakk

Legend
A simpler and less rewordy version of OP. We keep the bonus action name, but they become almost entirely unrestricted.

There are 3 big abuses - spamming one feature, spamming extra attacks, and spamming spells. So we add rules to cover exactly those 3.

Then remove all restrictions.

1. You can cast one spell with a level in a turn. Period.

2. You can only use a given bonus action feature once on your turn.

3. You can only use one bonus action attack feature per turn. No PAM+TWF, MA+Flurry, etc.

4. Bonus actions are otherwise unlimited.

1 is how half of the people play the spellcasting rules anyhow.

2. means rogues can dash or disengage, not both.

3. Blocks PAM TWF MA Quickened Booming Blade style BA stacking cheese.

And after that, screw tracking them.

You can channel divinity and healing word and sacred light on your turn. Go ahead.
 

ECMO3

Explorer
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.
I think the fighter should choose one or the other. I don't find this any different than saying a cleric wants to channel divinity and cast cure wounds on the same turn, or a wizard that wants to cast fireball and attack on the same turn.
 

You can do everything except the extra attack at 6th level (3AT, 3 BS), to include the extra attack (which I edited in after you quoted) you need to be 9th level (3AT, 6 BS).

As far as damage, it is not nova for two reasons. first, it is two spells out of 7-8 he can cast at 6th level or 11-13 at 9th level.

It was nova when you first wrote your post. I see that since I responded, you edited it to make it an MC'd Bladesinger-Arcane Trickster. Probably would have been nice for you to mention that.

This means at 9th level it is an average expenditure for a battle. Second I was not focused on damage, but using it as an example of how many things could be done in a single turn. If I was focused on damage I would have used a different spell. for example substituting shadowblade for misty step after the flaming sphere attack would up damage substantially:

Except your previous turn was basically wasted casting Flaming Sphere for a paltry 2d6 damage, and you immediately lose it when you cast Shadow Blade. This whole setup is a complete waste. It's literally less powerful than just casting Shadow Blade the first round at 3rd level and attacking with it every round, no exploits attempted whatsoever.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Mike Mearls is right. They suck.
So ... on my turn my cleric can cast Mass Healing Word, control my Spiritual Weapon to attack, trigger my Aura of Vitality, trigger my channel divinity and still have my action and move available? Say, to attack with on hand and off-hand light weapons?

And you say that this is there is no power creep and these remain the same power level as existing characters, including ones that have no bonus actions available?
 

NotAYakk

Legend
Ok, that is a good point. In theory, you could stack up a bunch of spells that each permit a bonus action.

3.5 You can only maintain one spell -- do one spell permitted bonus action -- on your turn.
 

cbwjm

Hero
This would be great for a two-weapon fighting barbarian to rage and make an off-hand attack during the same round, never liked the fact they could make that off-hand attack since they were too busy getting angry (even if bonus actions were kept, I think it should be something started with a bonus action or when you use the attack action). Also helps the two-weapon fighter dish out damage while getting a second wind.

If people have issues with some spells having effects that require a bonus action to use, you could always change them to a regular action (thinking heat metal needs this anyway...) and maybe up the damage slightly. Otherwise, I think bonus actions should be got rid of, I find they get in the way more often than not.
 

CubicsRube

Adventurer
Supporter
This ^^. Bonus actions are confusing as naughty word.


This is exactly how Shadow of the Demon Lord solves the problem, and that was designed entirely by Rob Schwalb, one of the designers of 5E. I've never tried it in play but it seems like it would work well.
I am running a Shadow campaign, and it does indeed work well.
 

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