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Doing away with Extra Attack

Xeviat

Explorer
One of my projects has been tweaking D&D to be my perfect game. Trouble is, I love the 5E player side and I love the 4E monster side. I really liked 4E, but the amount of changes I'd need to do make it very difficult. So I've been looking at making some adjustments to 5E characters (such as putting many long rest resources onto a short rest counter).

One thing that I keep coming back to, especially with all the discussions about two-weapon fighting, is what would removing Extra Attack do to the game?

I'd like to see weapon attacks scale with character level just like cantrips do. Instead of extra attack going to most of the weapon using classes/subclasses, they'd instead get unique features to further scale their damage dealing.

Fighters could see a return of weapon specialization/mastery. Paladins could start getting their radiant damage earlier. Rangers could grow a baked in Hunter's Mark ability. Monks could keep their multiple attacks for unarmed attacks and just have a different way of scaling than the other classes. Valor Bards and Bladesinger Wizards could use a version of Warcaster. Barbarians could get a damage on miss effect.

Along with this, I would be adding in weapon maneuvers. These would be effects that you could give up weapon damage dice to perform. -1 die to attack two targets, or to add a save or slow or save or prone effect. The need for an attack roll, lower damage, and a save would balance them against basic maneuvers that are generally a single save or skill check for no damage.

But, who would rebel against not getting multiple attacks on standard characters?
 

Xaelvaen

Explorer
But, who would rebel against not getting multiple attacks on standard characters?
Being that Cleric is basically my favorite 5E class, I like how they get the damage bonus on weapon attack around level 8 a lot more than I like Extra Attack. Perhaps I'm a minority, but I rather enjoy the simplicity of one action, one roll, move on (when playing this kind of game). If I want attack-a-palooza, I'll play a different system.

With that in mind, taking Extra Attack from the classes that get it certainly would need some rebalancing, but I think it's a worthy endeavor. Giving those with Extra Attack some sort of more powerful version of their maneuvers might help. A cleave maneuver might be usable by everyone with a sword, but Fighters do it better - kind of approach.
 

Tony Vargas

Adventurer
One of my projects has been tweaking D&D to be my perfect game. Trouble is, I love the 5E player side and I love the 4E monster side.
Is the 5e monster side really /that/ different from 4e? You've got a fairly compact block, with abilities spelled out. The only thing you need to do is condense spell mechanics & choices (for monsters) enough to fit a caster-monster/NPC's spells into such a block. The main consequences being they'd be less versatile than their PC counterparts, and players might notice that some spells work differently when cast by monsters/NPCs.

One thing that I keep coming back to, especially with all the discussions about two-weapon fighting, is what would removing Extra Attack do to the game?
To the game? Nothing. To the Fighter? might as well rip it out of the book and burn it.

I'd like to see weapon attacks scale with character level just like cantrips do. Instead of extra attack going to most of the weapon using classes/subclasses, they'd instead get unique features to further scale their damage dealing.
The thing about extra-attack scaling (and TWFing, for that matter) vs damage-dice scaling, is that it multiplies any sort of modifier you can get your hands on - 5e has some magic weapons that pile a lot of damage on /per attack/, so much of the glory of a high level fighter comes from flailing away with such a weapon to insane DPR.

Fighters could see a return of weapon specialization/mastery. Paladins could start getting their radiant damage earlier. Rangers could grow a baked in Hunter's Mark ability. Monks could keep their multiple attacks for unarmed attacks and just have a different way of scaling than the other classes. Valor Bards and Bladesinger Wizards could use a version of Warcaster.
Weapon specialization has never done a whole lot - except of course, when it gave you accelerated attack/round progression - so I don't think that'd do it, alone.

Barbarians could get a damage on miss effect.
Lol. Sure, you're not M.Mearls, no one will burn you in effigy for that.

Along with this, I would be adding in weapon maneuvers. These would be effects that you could give up weapon damage dice to perform. -1 die to attack two targets, or to add a save or slow or save or prone effect. The need for an attack roll, lower damage, and a save would balance them against basic maneuvers that are generally a single save or skill check for no damage.
IIRC, they dipped their toe in that pool in the playtest and found it frigidly cold. The problem with giving up damage to do something cool, is that cool don't kill da monster - and DPR calculations are unforgiving. ;)

It's actually a fine idea. It just doesn't get the play it deserves because hps tend to degrade the game into a simple damage trading exercise, unless you add a fair bit of depth to combat.

But, who would rebel against not getting multiple attacks on standard characters?
Anyone playing a fighter, and hopping to someday get that second Extra attack. Anyone wanting others to complacently play the simple fighter, so they can dominate play as a Tier 1 caster. Anyone with Extra Attack and a nice per-attack damage boost. Anyone who wants your game to stay "really D&D."

That may be no one who matters, in your case.
 

DM Dave1

Present
One objection you might face: A fighter with Extra Attack is useful in a single round against a horde of minions. Not so much if all that Extra was funneled into just a single Attack.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
I can’t speak to new gamers, but I bet the sentiment against such a move would be strong with veteran D&D players. I know some who get annoyed with the lack of extra attacks in other systems.
 

Xaelvaen

Explorer
One objection you might face: A fighter with Extra Attack is useful in a single round against a horde of minions. Not so much if all that Extra was funneled into just a single Attack.
Absolutely, but @Xeviat mentioned maneuvers - I'm sure some sort of Cleave or Whirlwind effects would be involved for that very reason.

I would actually be rather interested in some of the things Nine Swords did right back in 3.5; turning a melee combatant into a sort of spellcaster. Shocking Grasp does 1d8, scaling with level, and some nifty little effect. If all melee attacks could work similarly, you'd have true equity in the classes.

I do find a considerable amount of my players going with Warlock/Wizard routes and taking the melee cantrips over more basic Fighter types, perhaps this has something to do with it.
 

TwoSix

Lover of things you hate
Along with this, I would be adding in weapon maneuvers. These would be effects that you could give up weapon damage dice to perform. -1 die to attack two targets, or to add a save or slow or save or prone effect. The need for an attack roll, lower damage, and a save would balance them against basic maneuvers that are generally a single save or skill check for no damage.
Like [MENTION=996]Tony Vargas[/MENTION] said, giving up damage to do X is basically a lost cause. (That's why Battle Master Manuevers are all "spend a die to do X AND add damage.)

If you're looking at more broad systemic changes, something like allowing advantage and disadvantage to stack could be relevant in a battle maneuver system. Every time you gain an advantage or disadvantage, you gain +1 d20 to the roll. Advantages and disadvantages cancel out. If you have 2 advantages and 1 disadvantage, that's a total of 1 advantage, so you roll 2d20, keep highest. (I'm stealing this idea from Shadow of the Demon Lord's boon/bane system).

To make this relevant to a battle maneuver system, you change Extra Attack to "You gain one advantage whenever you make a weapon attack." Then you design maneuvers like "Your next attack does damage equal to your weapon damage + attack modifier, but you gain one disadvantage." For every class that has Extra Attack, you design a small list of class-relevant maneuvers. You make the fighter list somewhat broader, because you turn Extra Attack (2) and Extra Attack (3) into "You gain 2 advantages" and "You gain 3 advantages", respectively, so they'll need more maneuvers for variety.

But in general, I think getting rid of Extra Attack is a good idea. It's one of those problematic design concepts that surveys well, which means it'll be around forever. But if Twin Strike shenanigans didn't show that multi-attack plus extra damage per attack is a bad idea, what will? :)
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
Maybe do something like in the 13th Age?

1 attack, but with stat bonus multiplier at specific levels.

Fighter
lvl 1 Weapon+stat mod
lvl 5 (Weapon expertise) 2x Weapon+ 2x stat mod
lvl 11 (Weapon mastery) 3x Weapon + 3x stat mod. Can take -5 to attack to gain +10 damage.
lvl 20 (weapon grandmastery) 4x Weapon + 4x stat mod

paladin
lvl 1 Weapon + stat mod
lvl 5 (divine smite) 2x weapon + stat mod +1d8 radiant
lvl 11(Improved divine smite) smite damage dice are now d10s

Barbarian
lvl 1 weapon + stat mod
lvl 5 (Cleave) 2x Weapon + mod + Enemies within 5' take half damage dealt after a hit
lvl 11 (Carnage) half-damage on miss

Ranger
lvl 1 weapon+ stat mod
lvl 5 2xweapon +2x mod, 1x weapon + mod against another target in range for free. Die increase 1 size against favored foe
lvl 11 Roll max damage against favored foe

Bladesinger/valor bard/thirsting blade = 2x weapon + 2x mod at level 6
 
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Blue

Orcus on a bad day
13th Age and 5e D&D share a lot of DNA and design philosophy. Let em tell you how they did it, with some context, so we can work how it could be implemented in 5e.

13th Age had no general extra attack. There was a few class talent that let you sometimes get a second attack, but they were the exception.

Instead weapon damage increase by level and tier. 13th Age is a 10 level game with 3 tiers of play. You would roll [lvl]dX, adding in your STR or DEX once per tier.

So a 2nd level (tier 1) character with a d8 weapon did 2d8+STR. The same character at 8th (tier 3) would do 8d8+(3*STR).

Two handed weapons were usually d10s, since the bigger die would get multiplied more.
Two weapon fighting without a feature to support it was literally "if you rolled a natural 2, you got an attack with your off hand". This base option didn't have any requirement of using "light" weapons so there was no damage penalty for using it, just not carrying a shield (which was only +1 AC in 13th Age).
WITH a class feature, it was that you could drop your damage die by 1 (so -Level damage on average), and get a second attack if you natural attack roll was even. 13th Age did a lot with Natural Attack rolls instead of rolling a separate die, this was pretty standard for that game.

Damage (from all sources) and HPs are both higher in 13th Age than 5e, so you couldn't add this directly even if it wasn't for the difference in number of levels.

Let's think about this with 5e. One part that can't be forgotton is that 5e, like many D&D editions, that bonuses are a significant part of the total damage, not just a small add. Ability score will be able the same as your base die, and there all all sorts of adds - dueling style, barbarian rage, hex/hunter's mark, etc. So just multiplying the dice - say adding another die when you would get extra attack - won't keep up. Also because some of these are dice and some are static we can't even have dice increase on Extra Attack and bonuses increase by tier.

5e also introduces the issue of once per turn damage, with Sneak Attack being the most obvious but the Cleric also gets it at 8th. Removing chances to hit from taking out multiple attacks would also make a big difference in those that we would need to address.

Hmm, this looks like 5e has too many exceptions and complexities hung off hitting to be able to cleanly do it like 13th Age does. I'll leave this here in case it inspires someone.
 

doctorbadwolf

Explorer
I can’t speak to new gamers, but I bet the sentiment against such a move would be strong with veteran D&D players. I know some who get annoyed with the lack of extra attacks in other systems.
It's not just veteran players. I never actually liked the system of DnD until 4e, I just liked the worlds and character concepts, and no one I knew played anything else that was the same kind of fantasy.

But even back in the day, I didn't like not being able to make a character who attacked more frequently than other characters, even if at a loss of damage per attack.
 

Flamestrike

Registered User
If extra attack (and every iteration for fighters) instead added [+weapon dice] damage to melee weapon attacks you'd probably be roughly in the sweet spot.

Shift Extra attack to 17th level for Fighters and give them a new capstone.

You deal slightly less damage on average, but it removes the problems with GWF, Sharpshooter and smites (only useable now once per round - and with 1 attack missing due to the -5 sucks more) but things like reaction attacks hit a lot harder to make up for it (making Fighters stickier).

TWF instead adds the damage dice of the off hand weapon to your main hand weapon damage as a bonus action maybe?

Ballpark.
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
If extra attack (and every iteration for fighters) instead added [+weapon dice] damage to melee weapon attacks you'd probably be roughly in the sweet spot.

Shift Extra attack to 17th level for Fighters and give them a new capstone.

You deal slightly less damage on average, but it removes the problems with GWF, Sharpshooter and smites (only useable now once per round - and with 1 attack missing due to the -5 sucks more) but things like reaction attacks hit a lot harder to make up for it (making Fighters stickier).

TWF instead adds the damage dice of the off hand weapon to your main hand weapon damage as a bonus action maybe?

Ballpark.
But wouldnt it be a little unfair for martial since cantrip auto-scale to 4dX? Your classes with only 1 extra attack would still be dealing 2dX + mod at level 17 when the casters will be slinging 4d10 firebolt.

I dont do math, maybe its still in favor of martial? When you factor things like Rage, Improved Smite and Hunter's Mark/HUnter's Multiattacks?
 

Cap'n Kobold

Explorer
If extra attack (and every iteration for fighters) instead added [+weapon dice] damage to melee weapon attacks you'd probably be roughly in the sweet spot.

Shift Extra attack to 17th level for Fighters and give them a new capstone.

You deal slightly less damage on average, but it removes the problems with GWF, Sharpshooter and smites (only useable now once per round - and with 1 attack missing due to the -5 sucks more) but things like reaction attacks hit a lot harder to make up for it (making Fighters stickier).

TWF instead adds the damage dice of the off hand weapon to your main hand weapon damage as a bonus action maybe?

Ballpark.
You would need much higher scaling than that to even approach the ballpark.

Remember that Extra Attack is not designed to keep up with casters when they are throwing cantrips. It is designed to exceed the damage (at the cost of utility) of casters over the course of the day including when they are throwing fireballs instead of cantrips.

Look at Rogues: They have inbuilt scaling that is several times higher than your suggestion, and they are considerably less combat-focused than Fighters are.
Adding a flat +d6 damage/level for fighters in exchange for Extra attack might be closer to a ballpark figure. (If not perhaps practical.)
 

Tony Vargas

Adventurer
Remember that Extra Attack is not designed to keep up with casters when they are throwing cantrips. It is designed to exceed the damage (at the cost of utility) of casters over the course of the day including when they are throwing fireballs instead of cantrips.
Approximately. The idea is that Extra Attack will be /better/ than cantrips, but not as good as spells, in terms of overall damage throughput (not exactly DPR, but close enough). So, in a long enough 'day' with long enough combats (in rounds), there will be enough rounds where the caster resorts to cantrips, that his overall contribution for the day comes down to - and eventually, if the day is even longer - falls behind, that of the Extra-Attacker.

Assuming an Extra Attacker who doesn't also cast spells, or have a limited-use resource like Rage or CS dice or Ki or whatever...

...so Prettymuch just the Champion.
 

TwoSix

Lover of things you hate
But wouldnt it be a little unfair for martial since cantrip auto-scale to 4dX? Your classes with only 1 extra attack would still be dealing 2dX + mod at level 17 when the casters will be slinging 4d10 firebolt.

I dont do math, maybe its still in favor of martial? When you factor things like Rage, Improved Smite and Hunter's Mark/HUnter's Multiattacks?
I'm not sure if they're still ahead, but they definitely lose a decent amount of damage. The paladins loses 1d8+stat at 11, and the barbarian loses 3+stat, and the fighter loses 2xstat. Making GWM/SS and smites be less valuable is probably a good thing from a game design perspective, but it's still a solid nerf to martial attacks.

You'd probably want to nerf cantrips, and especially Eldritch Blast in such a paradigm.
 

Xeviat

Explorer
So, to make it clear, weapon attacks would scale like cantrips, AND the weapon classes would get class abilities at their extra attack points to keep their damage on par. Giving the fighter some extra to hit and damage makes it easy to keep them up with their damage. The paladin works out if you start giving them 1d8 radiant damage at 5th and again at 11th.

But, the talk about people feeling less willing to give up damage to do riders is something I'm hearing. I figured it would be that way a bit, but that's just to add spice. Dealing less damage to one target in order to target multiple targets is how extra attack works now, and my scaling would be more favorable, so I think that would be a net gain.

I don't have my docs with me, but what I was looking at was something like a 5th level character is doing 2[w]+stat+class riders. There is a basic extra attack maneuver that reduces that by 1W, but now you can target to targets. It would be a net gain.

Just, you wouldn't rain down multiple attacks against a single target. Magic items would need to be adjusted.
 

DM Dave1

Present
So, to make it clear, weapon attacks would scale like cantrips...
This got me thinking of spells that have multiple attacks: Eldritch blast (at lvl 5 & higher), Magic Missile, Jim's Magic Missile, Scorching Ray. [MOVIE TRAILER VOICE]In a world where high level fighters only get 1 attack per round [/MOVIE TRAILER VOICE], would these spells also need to be transformed to match that paradigm?
 

Xeviat

Explorer
This got me thinking of spells that have multiple attacks: Eldritch blast (at lvl 5 & higher), Magic Missile, Jim's Magic Missile, Scorching Ray. [MOVIE TRAILER VOICE]In a world where high level fighters only get 1 attack per round [/MOVIE TRAILER VOICE], would these spells also need to be transformed to match that paradigm?

Eldritch Blast definitely. Hex/Hunters mark may get changes and deal more dice at higher levels to compensate for the lost extra attacks. Not sure about Scorching Ray. Magic missile doesn't have attack rolls so I'd leave it as is. Not sure how Darkmagic's magic missile differs.
 

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