D&D 5E Interpreting Maneuvers (Battle Master)

Mercule

Adventurer
My question can pretty much be boiled down to: Are maneuvers (as applicable) bonus damage with a special effect or special effects with bonus damage?

I'll use Pushing Attack as an example. What the Fighter really wants is more damage. She really doesn't care about changing the location of her foe because she'll just have to move, next turn. Is it acceptable to say, "I push it 0 feet" and just apply the extra damage? The rules are worded in a way that implies the damage is applied even if the critter is too big to be pushed gives credit to the idea that the effect isn't required.

There are enough "outs" for various maneuvers ("Maneuvering strike? Nah, I'm fine where I'm at.") that I've been ruling that those maneuvers that have damage are bonus damage that happens to have a special effect. Since the fighter does, in fact, have maneuvering strike that the wizard can just routinely pass on, it plays fine. It just gnaws at me enough I thought I'd solicit opinions.
 

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Rod Staffwand

aka Ermlaspur Flormbator
I'd just let them add the extra damage sans effect. I would also let them do the effect without the extra damage if they so wanted. Why? I don't see any benefit in being rigid about this stuff. D&D 5E is much more about "ruling, not rules" so parsing the books as if they are legal documents doesn't get you anywhere you need to go. You end up with stupid stuff like:

Battlemaster: I do extra damage, but I don't want to push the orc back.
DM: No, the rules say you HAVE to push them up to 15 feet away.
Battlemaster: Fine. I push them 1/32 of an inch backwards...
 

Jaelommiss

First Post
Is an Open Hand monk's flurry of blows bonus damage with an effect, or an effect with bonus damage? What about a paladin's smite spells?

It'll entirely depend on the situation. When you need to put that dragon down NOW to stop it unleashing another breath weapon on the party, the damage is what matters. When you need to stop the max HP assassin getting away with the magic staff of quest completion, being able to knock him to the ground is far more important than an extra 1d8 damage.

I've started playing a spell-less ranger and I've already used maneuvers for both damage and effects in the first session. During an orc ambush at night I used a maneuver (I don't remember which one) for the extra damage to kill their leader. Later on we were walking carefully along a ledge over a deep pit. Darkmantles attacked us and surrounded us in magical darkness. I used a trip attack there to get rid of the thing so we could see again. The damage was unimportant compared to the effect of knocking it prone so it would fall into the pit away from us. (Incidentally, I missed. It then grabbed my head and pulled me into the pit and unconsciousness.)
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
My question can pretty much be boiled down to: Are maneuvers (as applicable) bonus damage with a special effect or special effects with bonus damage?

I'll use Pushing Attack as an example. What the Fighter really wants is more damage. She really doesn't care about changing the location of her foe because she'll just have to move, next turn. Is it acceptable to say, "I push it 0 feet" and just apply the extra damage? The rules are worded in a way that implies the damage is applied even if the critter is too big to be pushed gives credit to the idea that the effect isn't required.

There are enough "outs" for various maneuvers ("Maneuvering strike? Nah, I'm fine where I'm at.") that I've been ruling that those maneuvers that have damage are bonus damage that happens to have a special effect. Since the fighter does, in fact, have maneuvering strike that the wizard can just routinely pass on, it plays fine. It just gnaws at me enough I thought I'd solicit opinions.

Interesting post. The way I look at it is that fiction comes first (players describe what they want to do). Players aren't playing the Maneuvering Strike card and doing as much of that card as they like. Rather, they are stating what it is they want to do in the fiction and the DM is deciding what rules apply to that (if any), given their goal, approach, and intent.

In other words, the battle master's player might say "After getting past the knight's plate armor, I twist the blade to inflict more pain and call for the wizard to fall back to a more advantageous position." The DM then decides to apply the Maneuvering Strike mechanic to resolve the action (perhaps at the urging of the player) and narrates the results. "The knight cries out in pain as your sword tears him up, creating an opening for the wizard to safely fall back. You do extra damage - roll one superiority die - and Force Majeure moves up to half his speed as a reaction, provoking no opportunity attacks in the doing." If the player wasn't choosing to do extra damage and have the wizard fall back or the wizard wasn't interested in falling back, then this mechanic might not apply.

For example, let's say the battle master's player says this instead: "After getting past the knight's plate armor, I twist the blade to inflict more pain." Assuming the players intent in "inflicting more pain" meant "doing additional damage," how would you adjudicate it? Does the action succeed, fail, or are the rules invoked to resolve uncertainty? If the latter, which? My ruling might be that he or she can have some extra damage at the cost of a superiority die. The player doesn't need to try and play the Maneuvering Strike card in some circuitous effort to get bonus damage.

Now, what if said player wasn't playing a battle master fighter and was instead playing a champion fighter or a bard and just wanted to do extra damage on his or her attack by offering the same fiction? Same deal: I have to decide whether that succeeds, fails, or is uncertain. In this case, I might rule that, sure, you can do extra damage, but your weapon will be stuck in the knight's armor, effectively disarming you - wanna? If that's not a trade the player is willing to make, then the character twists the blade, the knight grimaces in pain, but suffers no extra damage.

This is how it would play out at my tables. Other DMs at other tables may look at it and rule differently.
 

You have to expect Maneuvers to get used just for the damage at times. Damage is pretty much always worth something, more situational riders, not so much. The player can always pick the Maneuver with a non-applicable rider or rider that can be used in a trivial way.

If you like, you could introduce a Maneuver that /just/ did the extra damage die, but added a little static damage, as well.
 

Iosue

Adventurer
"The knight cries out in pain as your sword tears him up, creating an opening for the wizard to safely fall back. You do extra damage - roll one superiority die - and Force Majeure moves up to half his speed as a reaction, provoking no opportunity attacks in the doing."

I believe that's Force Majere, Raistlin's lesser known cousin.
 


clearstream

(He, Him)
My question can pretty much be boiled down to: Are maneuvers (as applicable) bonus damage with a special effect or special effects with bonus damage?

I'll use Pushing Attack as an example. What the Fighter really wants is more damage. She really doesn't care about changing the location of her foe because she'll just have to move, next turn. Is it acceptable to say, "I push it 0 feet" and just apply the extra damage? The rules are worded in a way that implies the damage is applied even if the critter is too big to be pushed gives credit to the idea that the effect isn't required.

There are enough "outs" for various maneuvers ("Maneuvering strike? Nah, I'm fine where I'm at.") that I've been ruling that those maneuvers that have damage are bonus damage that happens to have a special effect. Since the fighter does, in fact, have maneuvering strike that the wizard can just routinely pass on, it plays fine. It just gnaws at me enough I thought I'd solicit opinions.
IMO broadly all these cases are ones of damage with an effect riding on them, that wherever scalable states it clearly. For instance, some use the language "up to" and that by tradition includes zero. So if you can "push up to 15'" you can push 0'. Othertimes the language states an effect that isn't scalable. If the text did say "push 15'" instead of "up to 15'" then you must push 15' and cannot choose 0' unless the wording "may" was also used - which would make it binary. As in "you may push 15'" means you can go with 15' or you can disapply the effect. Note that disapplication is different from choosing 0': the target isn't pushed 0' if you choose not to push, they're not pushed at all. That nuance can matter occasionally. Note of course the combined case "you may push up to 15'" meaning you can push any number from 0' to 15' inclusive and you can not push at all if you don't want to.

FWIW, you can't choose not to do the damage unless the wording states that in a similar way e.g. "you may do d6 damage" or whatever. My PHB is at home but IIRC the manoeuvers don't make it optional. That doesn't mean dealing damage is required to trigger the effect (unless stated). If something did have resistance against manoeuvers or something that could reduce damage to 0 or prevent it at all, that thing shouldn't be assumed to stop the effect unless expressly stated.

Caveat - it's your game: do what you want! I'm just commenting on what I believe the rules mean. But then, the reason we have rules is to create limits that make the game interesting because players have to figure out ways to work within them. Alleviating the limits diminishes interest, typically. If in your game the limits don't seem to make things more interesting then that can be a motive for tweaking the rules. I tend to think one should do some consciously with an ends in mind. Often it is better to introduce such tweaks via a medium that can be ended if need be, like a potion effect, spell or item. That's because often the playtest resources of the designers are greater than what we have around our own tables and so their conclusions can be the right ones and we just don't have all the cases in front of us to understand the reasons that is so. Contemporary game designers are always thinking about the experience of play and they have more opportunity to test permutations than one group is likely to ever enjoy.
 
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pemerton

Legend
The way I look at it is that fiction comes first (players describe what they want to do). Players aren't playing the Maneuvering Strike card and doing as much of that card as they like. Rather, they are stating what it is they want to do in the fiction and the DM is deciding what rules apply to that (if any), given their goal, approach, and intent.

In other words, the battle master's player might say "After getting past the knight's plate armor, I twist the blade to inflict more pain and call for the wizard to fall back to a more advantageous position." The DM then decides to apply the Maneuvering Strike mechanic to resolve the action (perhaps at the urging of the player) and narrates the results.
Do you apply the same approach to adjudicating spells? Or is using a spell part of the fiction, and so something under the control of the player rather than the GM?

If the answer to the latter question is Yes, could a player decide that the various manoeuvres are particular techniques that his/her PC learned at fighting school, and hence declare their use as part of the fiction also?
 

Celtavian

Dragon Lord
Nothing in the maneuver states the friend needs to move. I don't see a problem with the guy launching a maneuvering strike and you narrating it something like this:

Fighter hits enemy hooking his leg yelling to wizard, "He can't get you. Go ahead and move."

The wizard responding, "I'm fine. I'm staying put."

It's a type of hit, it doesn't require the ally use his reaction to move. It's an option. I don't see a problem with a Battlemaster using it solely for damage. I look at it more like doing a particular fighting maneuver. It doesn't need to always be done solely to maneuver another player. It's the warrior equivalent of learning an axe kick. You know how to hit someone in the right place tactically to cause more damage and hamstring their ability to attack your friend. That doesn't mean every time you use the maneuver, the friend must move.
 
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kalil

Explorer
Interesting post. The way I look at it is that fiction comes first (players describe what they want to do). Players aren't playing the Maneuvering Strike card and doing as much of that card as they like. Rather, they are stating what it is they want to do in the fiction and the DM is deciding what rules apply to that (if any), given their goal, approach, and intent.

In other words, the battle master's player might say "After getting past the knight's plate armor, I twist the blade to inflict more pain and call for the wizard to fall back to a more advantageous position." The DM then decides to apply the Maneuvering Strike mechanic to resolve the action (perhaps at the urging of the player) and narrates the results. "The knight cries out in pain as your sword tears him up, creating an opening for the wizard to safely fall back. You do extra damage - roll one superiority die - and Force Majeure moves up to half his speed as a reaction, provoking no opportunity attacks in the doing." If the player wasn't choosing to do extra damage and have the wizard fall back or the wizard wasn't interested in falling back, then this mechanic might not apply.

For example, let's say the battle master's player says this instead: "After getting past the knight's plate armor, I twist the blade to inflict more pain." Assuming the players intent in "inflicting more pain" meant "doing additional damage," how would you adjudicate it? Does the action succeed, fail, or are the rules invoked to resolve uncertainty? If the latter, which? My ruling might be that he or she can have some extra damage at the cost of a superiority die. The player doesn't need to try and play the Maneuvering Strike card in some circuitous effort to get bonus damage.

Now, what if said player wasn't playing a battle master fighter and was instead playing a champion fighter or a bard and just wanted to do extra damage on his or her attack by offering the same fiction? Same deal: I have to decide whether that succeeds, fails, or is uncertain. In this case, I might rule that, sure, you can do extra damage, but your weapon will be stuck in the knight's armor, effectively disarming you - wanna? If that's not a trade the player is willing to make, then the character twists the blade, the knight grimaces in pain, but suffers no extra damage.

This is how it would play out at my tables. Other DMs at other tables may look at it and rule differently.

Wow. That sounds almost infinitely annoying. Is the same applicable for raging barbrbarian (do they have to describe how and why the get super angry?) and wild shaping druid (do they have to described how they twist and bend their bodies to become a ferret?) or are you reserving the punishment of not being allowed to use the abilities on your character sheet for fighters?
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Do you apply the same approach to adjudicating spells?

Is the same applicable for raging barbrbarian... and wild shaping druid...

Yes. In practice, a player is describing what he or she is doing in the fiction, then suggesting a mechanic that applies. The DM then agrees or disagrees (most often the former) with the mechanic being used. For example, a player might say "Rosemary holds up three fingers and utters arcane incantations to create three glowing darts of magical force that she will hurl at the goblins. I'm casting magic missile." That's fiction first, and the DM will probably agree that the mechanics involved in the magic missile spell apply to resolve the action.

As it applies to the original post, the character is fictionally trying to do extra damage and nothing more. So it's not a Maneuvering Strike, but the DM feels obliged to "let" the player use that class feature like a power card and it "gnaws" at said DM. The method I suggest may ease this tension. In other words, don't say you're doing a Maneuvering Strike even though you're not actually maneuvering - this may come off as cheese. Just say you how you try to do extra damage in the fiction and then work out the mechanics with the DM to be spending a superiority die for that extra damage (or whatever). I provided several examples in my first post in this thread.
 

Celtavian

Dragon Lord
Yes. In practice, a player is describing what he or she is doing in the fiction, then suggesting a mechanic that applies. The DM then agrees or disagrees (most often the former) with the mechanic being used. For example, a player might say "Rosemary holds up three fingers and utters arcane incantations to create three glowing darts of magical force that she will hurl at the goblins. I'm casting magic missile." That's fiction first, and the DM will probably agree that the mechanics involved in the magic missile spell apply to resolve the action.

As it applies to the original post, the character is fictionally trying to do extra damage and nothing more. So it's not a Maneuvering Strike, but the DM feels obliged to "let" the player use that class feature like a power card and it "gnaws" at said DM. The method I suggest may ease this tension. In other words, don't say you're doing a Maneuvering Strike even though you're not actually maneuvering - this may come off as cheese. Just say you how you try to do extra damage in the fiction and then work out the mechanics with the DM to be spending a superiority die for that extra damage (or whatever). I provided several examples in my first post in this thread.

Wouldn't it be simpler for the DM to tell the player to call his maneuvering strike, "Meepo's Bait and Hook" blow and make it a trained maneuver that allows the player to do extra damage and the bonus effect. One doesn't necessarily need to come before the other does it?

Maneuvering Blow, Precise Strike, and the like are generic names that in the fiction a player might name something else. Wouldn't it be easier and better for the fiction to look at them as trained maneuvers similar to a side kick or hip throw in martial arts?\

To answer the original question, maneuvers are bonus damage and a special effect, neither one more important than the other. They do not require either to activate the maneuver. For example, you could do a leg sweep and fail to knock the person down, you would still do damage the lower the legs if you hit. Or a side kick is still powerful enough to knock someone back, but it doesn't make it any less powerful if you don't knock the individual down. The maneuver causes extra damage and the possibility of another effect. Neither one is dependent on the other.
 
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iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Wouldn't it be simpler for the DM to tell the player to call his maneuvering strike, "Meepo's Bait and Hook" blow and make it a trained maneuver that allows the player to do extra damage and the bonus effect. One doesn't necessarily need to come before the other does it?

Maneuvering Blow, Precise Strike, and the like are generic names that in the fiction a player might name something else. Wouldn't it be easier and better for the fiction to look at them as trained maneuvers similar to a side kick or hip throw in martial arts?

As I see it, the fictional action comes first and then mechanics come in, at the DM's discretion, to resolve the outcome. It's the same for every single thing that is done in the game. As I make no exception to this general rule, it's very easy to run the game and I have no need of creating additional maneuvers to ratify the player's will. I also see it as a means by which the group achieves the goals of play - having fun together and creating exciting, memorable stories by playing - because everyone is being descriptive when in the spotlight.

Of course, if the OP thinks that a new codified maneuver that only does additional damage and no other effect will cause this situation to no longer "gnaw" at him or her, then that's what the DM should do. I personally don't see the need.
 

Celtavian

Dragon Lord
As I see it, the fictional action comes first and then mechanics come in, at the DM's discretion, to resolve the outcome. It's the same for every single thing that is done in the game. As I make no exception to this general rule, it's very easy to run the game and I have no need of creating additional maneuvers to ratify the player's will. I also see it as a means by which the group achieves the goals of play - having fun together and creating exciting, memorable stories by playing - because everyone is being descriptive when in the spotlight.

Of course, if the OP thinks that a new codified maneuver that only does additional damage and no other effect will cause this situation to no longer "gnaw" at him or her, then that's what the DM should do. I personally don't see the need.

What I'm asking is why does the OP think the damage from the maneuver and the ability move a target are dependent on each other? There is no indication that one is dependent on the other. Both are merely equally available options, neither is required. Thus you don't need to do anything other than hit and spend the Superiority Dice to do the damage while not employing the maneuvering part of the strike.

They are independent effects. You can do both, the damage, or the maneuvering strike. None are required even within the fiction.

Naming the maneuvers something other than their mechanical name is purely to make the fiction more interesting. It would not produce a different mechanical effect.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
What I'm asking is why does the OP think the damage from the maneuver and the ability move a target are dependent on each other? There is no indication that one is dependent on the other. Both are merely equally available options, neither is required. Thus you don't need to anything to do the damage while not employing the maneuvering part of the strike.

They are independent effects. You can do both, the damage, or the maneuvering strike. None are required even within the fiction.

I can't say with certainty what the OP thinks, but I surmise that there is a disconnect in the player saying he or she is doing a Maneuvering Strike - which can be viewed as having certain fictional implications such as maneuvering - and the characters not actually doing any maneuvering. Since the DM seems to be fine with the player doing the extra damage at the cost of a superiority die, just change the fiction and see if that "gnawing" feeling goes away.

Player: After striking with my blade, I slice again as I withdraw and prepare to defend myself. I just want to do some extra damage here at the cost of a superiority die. Cool?
DM: Sure. Roll it and let's see what happens.
 

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