Pathfinder 1E House Rule : Defensive Reaction

Hello all,

I wanted to know if any of you use a similar house rule in your games, or if you have any comments on the house rule below.

Context : Because of its cyclical nature, RPG combat sometimes does not well represent some cinematic aspects of fantasy combat. One example would be an evil wizard casting a fireball and the target wizard raising a protective ward of some sort to block the effects of the attack. Another example would be of a warrior going in a defensive stance as his opponent launches a barrage of attacks against him.

Other context : No one in my group has ever used the Counterspell action. I have no idea if players in other groups use this action.

House Rule - Defensive Reaction
Basically, this rule lets a character sacrifice his next Standard Action (as long as he is aware of the attack, not flat-footed and that his next Standard Action has not been sacrificed yet) to perform a defensive maneuver as an Immediate Action. This looks a lot like Readying an Action, without the need for declaring the trigger beforehand. When the character's turn comes, he still hase his Move and Swift actions. At the end of his turn, he "regains" his Standard Action so that he may sacrifice it again, or use it to make an attack on his following turn.

The action used as a Defensive Reaction cannot take more time than a Standard Action. The initiative count of the character attempting a Defensive Reaction remains unchanged.

For example, two warriors are facing a huge beast. On the beast's turn, when it decides to attack one of the warriors, said warrior could declare a defensive reaction to sacrifice his next Standard Action to go into Total Defense mode. On his turn he remains in Total Defense and has a Move action to spare.

Another example would be to Counterspell. You may, as a free action, make a Spellcraft check to identify a spell being cast. After said check, a spellcasting character could decide to make a Defensive Reaction to attempt to Counterspell the incoming spell by the usual methods.

A final example would be to cast a defensive spell in response to an offensive one. The difficulty would be to determine which spells are defensive spells. As well, I would wish to limit this Reaction so that it may not be used as an offensive maneuver (one example that comes to mind would be to cast Wall of Force in front of the wizard who just cast Fireball so that it explodes in his face).

Have you ever tried something like this?

Do you have any suggestions to improve it?

Thanks in advance,


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The biggest problem that I see is when one side of the combat has a clear numerical advantage, this rule would shift the balance further in favor of that side.

Imagine you have one ogre against a party of four humans. The ogre can potentially drop a human in one hit, but going on the defensive will make it much less likely to do so. Under normal gameplay rules, the ogre can see who is defending, and target the one who isn't defending. With your variant, all of the humans are free to attack in the first round, and the only one who loses a turn is the one that the ogre actually attacks.

Given how Pathfinder already works with the action economy, and how combat already favors the side with greater numbers, I'm not sure that your rule would help the situation.

For the record, I've never seen anyone use the Counterspell option either, but I think that's just because it's too hard to use. It's virtually impossible to guess which spell someone is going to cast in the next round, and even if you could, it's unlikely that you have that spell available to do so.

Improved Counterspell and Dispel Magic are both unreliable since, if the published adventure paths are any indication, it is unlikely that you will have higher level spell slots or a higher caster level than anyone you would want to counter.

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