Playtest (A5E) Level Up Playtest Document #16: Combat Maneuvers

Welcome to the 16th Level Up playtest document.

Last year we released the first half of the combat maneuvers as part of the fighter class playtest. Now it’s time to show you the revised chapter.

This is a long document with about 170 maneuvers; combat maneuvers occupy the same conceptual space for martial characters that spells do for magical characters (although, of course, they are all non-magical).

We don’t expect you to evaluate every maneuver in this document. Maneuvers are divided into 11 Traditions and we ask that you pick one or more Traditions to focus on and then give us your feedback via the playtest survey.

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When you are ready, please fill out the combat maneuvers playtest survey.


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The overly purple prose titles still get me. I have to re-anaylze and develop what each of the traditions are every time I see this list. I have a very grandiloquent and churrigueresque vocabulary myself, but still have to scan the sections each time to remember what the theme of the tradition is. Even if "biting zephyr" can't be "ranged fighting style" it would still be easier if it was "sharp wind." I finally made the connection to Sanguine Knot, but "blood bound" seems like it would be easier to scan the list and know what it is than this hyper-vocabulary
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So to do a little character comparison, and see how restrictive how limited schools is, I decided to remake Daiygo as an Adept. Lets see how he does in comparison to my fighter version.

OG Daiygo

Daiygo the Song Sword
Raised in a temple with a single purpose, to serve his diety the Daimyo all his days. Daiygo says little with words, only his blade. He has no will of his own, but is a meer extension of his master's will. Daiygo is dangerous and mysterious, little is known about him, because those that try often meet a fatal end.

Human: Die-Hard Survivor (+4 to death saves), Determined (Paragon - +5 to attack, check, or save when at half health).
+1 skill
Culture: Religious Devotee (Adv vs Fear and Charm, Religion, 2 musical instruments)
Background: Solider (+1 str, +1 dex, Athletics, Intimidation, Shogi Set)
+4 dex
Fighter (10th level)
Fighting Style (TWF), Watchful Eye (+5 to Passive Perception to notice hidden threats), Evaluate Technique, Indomitable 1/day, Mysterious Reputation
Knacks: Burst of Strength, Extreme Leap, Nightwatch

HP: 74
AC: 17 (Studded Leather)
Skills: Athletics, Acrobatics, Intimidation, Perception, Insight, Religion, Singing, the Lute, Shogi
Str: 14
Dex: 20
Con: 12
Int: 10
Wis: 12
Cha: 8

Attack: Katana (flavored Rapier) +9x2, 1d8 + 5 damage
Off Hand Attack: Wakizashi (flavored short sword) +9, 1d6 + 5

Exertion: 10
DC: 17
Schools: All (this part is confusing, so I am assuming the Fighter document trumps the generic list).
Exertion cost in the ()

1st Tier (3)
Leading Throw (Mirror's Glint - 1): Reaction - Throw opponent who missed you.
Imposing Glare (T Iron - 1): Bonus Action, Charisma save or frightened until the end of your next turn.
Perplexing Flurry (Mist/Shade - 1): Technique - Enemy has disadvantage on attacks against you, if you use all attacks against them.

2nd Tier (2)
Deflect Strike (U Wheel - 1): Reaction - Reduce damage by 4d6.
Practiced Roll (R Edge - 1): Bonus Action, move 20 feet without OAs.

3rd Tier (2)
Instinctive Counterattack (Razor's Edge - 2): Reaction, gain an extra attack
Rake (Tooth and Claw - 1): Technique: +1d8 damage on all hits after the first.

Daiygo V2
: Die-Hard Survivor (+4 to death saves), Determined (Paragon - +5 to attack, check, or save when at half health).
+1 skill
Culture: Religious Devotee (Adv vs Fear and Charm, Religion, 2 musical instruments)
Background: Solider (+1 str, +1 con, Athletics, Intimidation, Shogi Set)
+4 strength
Adept (10th level) - Adroit Defense (Strength), Battlefield Ettiquette, Empty Mind
Focus Features: Weapon Skill (Longsword - aka "Katana"), Deflect Missiles, Stunning Blow (DC 13), Maneuver Rush, Stillness of Mind, Slow Fall, Purity of Body

Knacks: Adept Speed x3, Gale Walk, Hurricane Walk

HP: 63
Speed: 60
AC: 17 (Studded Leather)
Skills: Athletics, Acrobatics, Intimidation, Perception, Insight, Religion, Singing, the Lute, Shogi
Str: 20
Dex: 12
Con: 14
Int: 10
Wis: 12
Cha: 8

Attack: Katana (flavored longsword) +9x2, 1d10 + 5 damage (3 attacks with bonus action).

Exertion: 12
DC: 18
Schools: Mirror’s Glint, Rapid Current, Razor’s Edge, Unending Wheel
Exertion cost in the ()

1st Tier (2)
Knockdown Assault (M Glint - 1): Technique - Hits that do 8 or more damage, Dex save or prone.
Wary Stance (M Glint - 1): Stance - Gain expertise die on Insight, +3 passive insight

2nd Tier (2)
Deflect Strike (U Wheel - 2): Reaction - Reduce weapon attack by 4d6

3rd Tier (1)
Whirlwind Strike (R Current - 2): Technique (2 attack) - Make 4 attacks against different opponents within reach.

The Plan
So this Daiygo is stronger physically than the last, with a high strength and stronger direct attacks. He maintains the same AC but does have notable less HP. His go to move is using Knockdown Assault in combo with Flurry of blows (2 exertion total) to get 4 attacks, each with a chance to prone.

This guy's "super move" is using the Maneuver Rush ability to use Whirlwind Strike twice in one round + flurry of blows. So by spending 5 exertion (damn that's a lot!), he could attack 4 people near him twice, and then throw on two more attacks wherever they are needed.

While he does have stunning blow, with a low DC (13), he is only likely going to use that against spellcaster or people with notably low Con saves.

Mobility wise this guy boosts a 60 speed, and can dash as a bonus action. Oh and of course, this guy can fly when he needs to, because....yeah!

Creation Notes
So the Adept offered a different challenge compared to the fighter. I had to balance my focus features with my maneuvers to cover all my bases. In general I took focus features that used limited exertion, to allow for more on my maneuvers, and to remove condition effects.

One thing that is notable, is that the character both has more Exertion, but also has a strong base line attack even without exertion. So while I have the ability to blow through exertion quickly, I would argue this version of Daiygo is more self sufficient if he has 0 exertion.

Maneuver choosing was tough, I still haven't actually chosen another Tier 2 maneuver, because I honestly don't know what to pick. The issue I was having is that my bonus action is already spoken for a lot more with the Adept, and I already have a lot of condition removal so don't need more of that. Some of my other choices for mobility conflicted with Long step, and I think Deflect Weapon is so good that another reaction has to be pretty Hoss, or not conflict with getting hit by a weapon.

The +1 to maneuver DC is interesting, as it makes those more tempting for the adept. For this build I couldn't get high wisdom so mainly I used DCs through my maneuvers instead of focus features.
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  • sanguine knot, spirited steed, tempered iron, plus tooth & claw here
  • Mist & shade, rapid current, & razor's edge here
  • Basic Disarm: I'm going to echo @Faolyn & probably others that this is too easy & good not to spam for players & in return will force the gm to do "and he tries to disarm" There are a couple maneuvers with an exertion cost that are fine, but disarm will brypass high ac targets in how it forces a strength save to disarm & deals basic melee damage but the bigger concern is that it forces the gm to move towards monsters that can't be disamed (ie natural weapons & such) to avoid spamming it back & that kind of creature selection pressure will have implications on the kinds of plots & campaigns the gm can run. Even more strangely are things like heavy stance doing nothing for its strength saving throw due to it giving advantage on strength based athletics checks & I'm sure there are plenty of other bewildering collisions
  • Meditate: Spend a minute meditating or similar at the cost of burning a hit die is a nice option for those that will provide some extra room for attrition since at least in o5e you only get back half of those per long rest
  • The other basic maneuvers seem like great options for martials to add into their toolbox
One thing I notice with a ton of the 2 point first degree moves in the various .... styles(?) is that I could conceivably give players an awesome magic or seminot quite magic masterwork type weapon/armor that reduces the cost of one maneuver without affecting balance too much or making predicting my life as a gm too difficult if that's not the kind of thing we ultimately see with the new weapons & armor. In a lot of cases I could see it still being a great benefit even if the damage die/ac is less than the most optimal option for damage die/ac

  • Catch your breath: Assuming most people taking this are going to have decent to great con it works out to a nice reliable 10-15hp give or take depending on the variables & level. I can see this being popular among berserkers especially & look forward to it at my table
  • Cleaving Swing: This kind of thing is always a huge boon for martials & being able to do it as a reaction to succeeding on the first attack adds a lot of flexibility as well as allowing the first attacker to hit an unknown AC to decide the second bad guy assumed to be using the same statblock is worth the expenditure to also hit
  • Heavy stance: This one took me a minute to figure out & I'm not sure that everything works right for my guesses to avoid confusing almost good effects. First off it gives ignore first 5 feet of difficult terrain, between o5e a few maneuvers like grab n & striding swings it sounds like you get to stomp through opponents better. The strength(athletics) expertise die is confusing though because it doesn't apply to defending or initiating disarm overrun or even shove. I'm not getting a strong feel for what this is going for.
  • Lean into it: Prone can be a great debuff to toss on an opponent if you think your allies are going to be getting in some melee attacks
  • Reactive Knockdown: I like how this basically amounts to clubbing a mobile opponent in the back to maybe send them sprawling after you deal damage. It makes me go back to wondering if we will see an increased role for AoOs & maybe a return of the tactical grid stuff o5e stripped
  • Shrug it off: This is one I'm looking forward to putting a cost reduction to on armor :D Fear is pretty debilitating & fear auras can be worse so I can see this being popular in certain types of campaigns & prep
  • Warding Wield: at 1 point it's not too costly & represents a nice way to use a bonus action that might otherwise go unused & could even make things like a 1d6 heavy weapon that brings it down something worthy of consideration without worrying too much
  • Battering Strike: With all the strength saves these are really shaping up to make being near the big slab of muscle a very scary place for dexy types & having the weapon lamd in a random square 10 feet away with this makes it even moreso.
  • Crushing blow: At least in o5e paralyzed is a horiffic condition to find applied to you while in melee (or amazing if applied to a foe). I like that this is an action rather than reaction like cleaving swing was 7 feel like it makes for a great balance while avoiding the most obnoxious elements of o5e "does that hit?">"great it's a smite too"/"nat 20 & I'm going to make that a smite!" type silliness.
  • Unbreakable: To some degree this fristrates me since it suggests that being at 1hp is still going to absorb up to your max hp but it's a nice touch that it makes the footnote about being allowed even while incap since incap would otherwise prevent it
  • Bowling Blitz: Wow... this adds a whole new dimension to melee combat from level.... 12(?) on. Neeeat! I think the most interesting thing about the awesome maneuvers like this one is that they free up allowing spells to be awesome too without "but casters can do 'things'." type silliness
  • Stand tall stance: this is a straight buff for a lot of other maneuvers & maybe some other stuff so not much to say about it other thn that I've seen a few things that might make it great.
  • unstoppable: The ease that these effects can trigger an accidental TPK & death spiral makes them tools the gm is often hesitant to use so having a way to block them will be an interesting shift.
  • Wild Swing: Not sure how I'll feel about having to slow down for ""does tat hit?">"no ok I use my reaction to.." at the table but I think that the good & interesting elements outweigh the slowage to a good degree & like this given the cost.
  • Mighty melee: I might be off in my understanding of "2 attacks" mmeaning that it consumes two attacks to trigger this on the third & 4th attack of his turn. If that's the case +1d8 is almost certainly going to be less than even 1d4+5 . I hope my understanding is wrong.
  • World Shaking strike: even with the cost this will be a great tool in the toolbox to help with tearing down mooks when there is something actually dangerous on the field. Having them fall prone to help other melees clear them up faster is nice icing on the cake of an already good ability.
Adamant mountain's maneuvers do a great job of giving a heavy weapon wielding character a definate visceral feel to differentiate them from othersyles & I like that feel along with the party roles it brings in a fight
  • Covering Fire: The mechanics of ths suggest going back to a much more significant role for AoOs in combat than just O5e's exit reach without disengage or at least a sidebar & hook for 3.5x style more than 5 foot step or something. Depending on how significant that role is this cou;d range from a great tool that really enables the party down to an almost pointless waste.
  • Doubleshot: This brings up a lot of questions over the old one & I'm not sure how to answer them... What if it's a magical bow that deals +1/+2/+3 or +1d6 damage?... What if the weapon itself deals more than one die like a hypothetical bow that deals 2d4 rather than 1d8 or something? as written this will play wildly different from table to table based entirely on the dm call a dm will eventually be forced into making.
  • Farshot stance: This sounds a lot like ranged weapons will have ranged yoinked back towards the realm of sanity. I really hope tat will be the case As a gm who uses a VTT capable of handling truly absurd sized grid maps it's rageworthy that 5e shipped with ranged weapons of so trivially being able to exceed the size of a chessex mats as if this "double compound foot bow" was a normal bow & situation at all similar to even sniping a slowly patrolling guard

    Nathan is one of the coders forarkenforge
    If ranges are going down to ~30-60i range this will be great, If ranges are the same this won't even be noticed by anyone who might have a PC built for ranged combat to justify investing in it this much.
  • Point blank shot: Shifting the cost of this down from the crossbow expert feat(or whatever feat) to a bonus action "till the end of your next turn" that you can use in a pinch that might even give an AoO has a nice feel that could plug a frustration for ranged weapon users.
  • Countershot: I like the shift from missile to include from a ranged weapon attack for clearing up a lot of screwy edge cases with spells. & could see it being pretty useful.
  • Quickdraw: It took me a second to really get just how awesome it is to have a thing that lets a ranged weapon user draw & make an attack as a reaction to rolling initiative.
  • Trick shot: This is going to be as awesome or meh as the gm makes it but probably pretty good for someone who takes it & doesn't swap it out at the first chance
  • Blindshot: Being able to find target & normally attack a stealthed/invisible target is going to feel pretty awesome whenever the situation comes up
  • Missile Volley: within 10ft of a point makes a pretty good sized aoe so I can see this being quite popular
  • Ricochet: Depending on how often cover comes up this could be pretty nice
  • Distant shot: This is either situationally good or extremely frustrating for those of us who can't jut say bob/the target is off the mat & force a shift to totm dependng on what happens with the current drone warfare pilot level ranges with ranged weapons.
  • Dive for Cover: This is probably pretty neat when it works & the 3/4 cover bit mght give a nice feather to offset the iffy triggering needs.
  • Heartseeker: an on demand crit is an incredible boon for rogues & nearly anyone else.
  • Throw anything Stance: I'm not sure how useful this would actually be but guess there might be folks who consider it a good investment
  • Distant Death: this is really nice & sets a neat way of splitting heartseeker rogues with one attack from fighters & such with extra attack who decide to invest in bow use.
  • Hear the wind: there doesn't appear to be a duration on that blindsight & the maneuver doesn't mention if you keep having 20ft blindsight if you do something like dash cunning action dash etc. Other than that it's probably pretty neat
  • Horizon shot: Interesting but weapon ranges are still unknown
There are definately a lot of ways in biting zephyr to enable & assist allies in combat other than just damage along with some nifty ways of being awesome as a ranged attacker.
  • Knockdown assault: this is definitely weaker than the adamant mountain one that knocks people prone given the hit on attack> deal 8 r more damage> have them fail a save thing, but not needing a heavy weapon means that rogues & other dex builds can make use of it so I think it evens out into a solid choice for a maneuver given how interesting & varied some of the other mirror glint maneuvers are
  • Leading Throw: A 15 foot throw is significant & probably allows for some interesting things (especially if moving >5ft in threatened squares= provoke an AoO). As written there is no size differences mentioned though. A cr1/4 tiny pixie could force a gargantuan tarrasque ancient dragon warforged colossus or similar to make that save to avoid being thrown 15feet by a gnat
  • Warning strike: This kind of sentinel type stop is almost an anti-tactical element. Using that same pixie example, it could hit any of those collosal creatures & stop them dead in their tracks. It doesn't mention the disengagge action provoking an AoO or AoOa in general either so it can at least be chained
  • Wary Stance: This gives a bonus on passive insight & an expertise die on insight checks, but the only other time the word insight even comes up in the maneuvers is in the description for mirror's glint so I'm not sure what use bonuses to insight in combat provides
  • Assisted Roll: This is kind of a neat looking effect & I've seen a similarthing in other systems that reduced damage on a hit. At first I wasn't sure how useful this would be when it triggers on a reaction, but after thinking about it it's probably going to be useful in a lot of cases where you are fighting near an ally but don't yourself ever want to be called something terrifying like "crunchy" "tank" or worse "main tank"
  • Off-balancing strikes: In the grand scheme of things there probably aren't too many cases where half speed on a target after closing to melee range will be all that useful, but the disadvatage on ability checks & dex saves could be huge if you work with your group & there doesn't seem to be anything preventing you from using this with a reach weapon. This could enable some good teamwork options & even make a reach weapon really interesting
  • Take Weapon: This is probably pretty neat at times but again there are no qualifiers so a pixie could take a club from a collosal sized giant & beat them with it. Mechanically monster statblocks (ie drow inquisitor from mtof 184) don't always say what is adding extra dice & that could lead to some tough gm calls. The size is probably the big issue.It also doesn't say anything about the kind of weapon so an fire giant with that enormous 2handed sword or a half ogre;s 2 handed battleaxe could have it taken away by a level 4 dagger wielding fighter.
  • Flowing Form: This is really neat for a tank type or character who finds themselves getting ganged up on. I could see a plate & shield rogue being incredible with this since every one of those attacks could get sneak damage
  • Heightened reflexes: The wording on this is lacking mechanically. It takes a bonus action to use & in the process cots 1-3 exertion but you now need to guess how many reactions you might get things triggering. It should be 0 to activate then 1-3 depending on how many extra reactions you take beyond the first.
  • Redirect: Neat option to turn a foe on a different foe & bonus points for including something about size
  • Discerning strike: This is crazy useful for anyone & adds some nice breathing room for other characters to say "yea I didn't take that knowledge skill, instead i can do some other cool thing I wanted to take but can't like half of you take the maneuver that does it and removes a resist/immune?" if pressured.
  • Matching steps: This can probably get a bit barry allenish with a few monstrs & figure 4-6 players. Also it's pegged to actions not movement r something the player can identify without the gm.
  • Retributive Blow: With all the if an opponent misses you things in MG this could really be useful for cranking things up a notch
  • Strike the cracks: Crit fisher stance is awesome & it's great there is a note about getting the effect from multiple sources stacking
  • Blinding Strikes: blind is one of those things that makes almost any fight easier so this is bound to be popular for games that get high enough to use this.
  • Mirror shard Puzzle: I'm not sure about the usefulness of this given the fact that it takes 3 exertion to activate & you only get shards if an opponent misses you. Plus it only lasts till the end of your next turn.
  • Reflect attack: Being able to reflect an attack or even deciding to pop this after finding out that attack is a critical is a huge boon that could cement the course of a fight instantly.
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The overly purple prose titles still get me. I have to re-anaylze and develop what each of the traditions are every time I see this list. I have a very grandiloquent and churrigueresque vocabulary myself, but still have to scan the sections each time to remember what the theme of the tradition is. Even if "biting zephyr" can't be "ranged fighting style" it would still be easier if it was "sharp wind." I finally made the connection to Sanguine Knot, but "blood bound" seems like it would be easier to scan the list and know what it is than this hyper-vocabulary
Yes, I kind of agree with that.

Having fancy names looks great, but may not be intuitive.
I mean, every tradition has subtext to explain what it is about :p

biting zephyr could just be school of marksmanship or archery.


But that's not levelups stated design goal. If it was "rebalance the classes", then I'd be for it, but its designed with compatibility in mind. The same I see that is, if one person brought in a O5e class, and another brought in the LU version of the class, that both would have a different but roughly equal experience. You can't do that if one of them is a straight up better version of the class than the other.
You are correct on that one, however...

If you have any O5E full caster class or a O5E paladin in party, you might want something extra for your martials.

But, I do not have a feel that these classes are stronger when both variations are player by experienced player that will use the class to the max.

These classes just have more tools. slightly less powerful. You might just call these versions more versatile.


A5E Designer and third-party publisher
General Thoughts
Big question: how do these maneuvers stack with the Battlemaster archetype? Or is the Battlemaster defunct in LU?

Based on the news post about Archetypes a ways back, there will be the following archetypes for the fighter:
  • Brute
  • Knight
  • Gladiator
  • Sharpshooter
  • Swashbuckler/Duelist
EN Publishing won't be able to do anything with the Battlemaster because it's WotC IP and doesn't appear in the 5e SRD. However, a GM could allow it in home games if they so desired. The new class versions are designed to be backwards compatible with pre-existing subclasses/archetypes from both WotC and other third-party sources. There's even a note in the ranger about what to do about ranger subclasses that grant spells now that the ranger isn't a spellcaster any more.

Having fancy names looks great, but may not be intuitive.
I feel like all the names would be fine if they were explicit world-building, and the techniques lined up with real schools. But I imagine a lot of people would use these rules for homebrew settings or existing published worlds where those names have never been in use.

It's just a bit of a narrative disconnect for me. Like when briefly in 4e the plan was for wizard schools to be named things like Golden Griffon School. It sorta works for a new game, but it fits oddly for an upgrade to an existing one.

Stacie GmrGrl

So I read it as the following.

You roll with advantage, and one of the following scenarios occur:

1) Both rolls miss: You miss.
2) One roll hits/one misses: You hit as normal
3) Both rolls hit: You get a crit
4) One roll crits/one hits: You get a crit, and an additional damage die.
5) Both roll crits: You get a crit, and an additional damage die (aka the same as number 4).
If this is the case then they need to put this break down in the book just as you wrote it here. This I can follow.

This document is very confusingly worded.


Well, that was fun
Staff member
If this is the case then they need to put this break down in the book just as you wrote it here. This I can follow.

This document is very confusingly worded.
You have identified the precise purpose of playtest documents and surveys. Flag it up on the survey. :)

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