Level Up (A5E) Maneuvers Again: RAW, RAI and Reasonable Rulings

seriphim84

Explorer
I don't want to necessarily hold up the maneuver system as a paragon of balance, but I'm not sure in what sense you mean unbalanced. You seem to be comparing inputs, instead of the actual resulting turns. Does it matter if the fighter takes the Dangerous Strikes action, then another attack action, or if instead dangerous strikes was written as a once per round free action that modified all attacks for the round?
It's not the exact interaction that makes it (in my opinion) unbalanced. It is what that interaction allows. A lot of abilities interact with the attack action, like two-weapon fighting, flurry of blows, Press the attack, shield focus, Daring charge, and Commanding Presence etc. The list just goes on. The list goes on. Other abilities interact with other actions some maneuvers use like do, like dodge and some shields. If the maneuvers have a self-contained action then these abilities don't trigger, but they use the actions as described which means they do. This creates all sorts of interactions that are either encounter ruining strong, or class dwarfingly powerful.

An active example from the game I am GMing. :
My fighter and my barbarian (double sword exotic weapon), have both realized that two weapon fighting is way, way more effective than every other option, not because of damage, though that is more too, but because of maneuvers that can force save after save until the boss fails and is effected. Even legendary creatures become stunned, or blind or something after 4-5 saves in one turn. Now the fighter, who has stunning assault has made being an adept unappealing because they can't keep up with his 5 stuns for 2 exertion (maneuver master). And both than move through the spaces of the enemies and attack the caster in the back with 4-5 attacks. Even my casters are struggling to keep up with mob control as they can usually affect only a few guys without risking affecting party members.

Edit: I suppose what I mean to say is that balance-wise, in my experience so far, maneuvers should be discrete abilities that don't interact with other abilities.
 
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thuter

Explorer
I think your example is more a statement of the power of Stunning Assault than it is of the wording of CM's being strange or maneuver balance in general being off. Maneuvers cost a certain action to take, and within they state what you do as that bonus action, action or reaction. Also, they either directly reference the Attack Action, or they don't, which seems clear to me. Attack Action or 'Make an attack' seems to be balanced around being able to multi-attack for the exertion cost and the added effect of the maneuver. Stunning Assault has the problem of being relatively low level (2nd degree), and especially with maneuver specialization, relatively cheap for such a potentially powerful effect (3 or 2 points) while being extremely effective with two-weapon fighting. Most of the time, PB will be either 3 or 4 for characters that have this maneuver available, which results in somewhere between 2 to 4 uses of this manuever per short rest. For reference, both blinding maneuvers that I could find are 4th and 5th degree, and they either cost 1 exertion per attempt (4th degree stance), or 3 points total (5th degree action), with the low-level Eye Slash only allowing for a single attack (and thus a single save).

Now is Stunning Assault problematically strong? Perhaps. Considering 4 attacks at level 5 and 60% chance to hit you can force a creature to roll a Con save against your DC 2.4 times a round, probably for two or three rounds (unless high PB and/or Fighter), increasing to 5 attacks (or 3 saves) at level 11 for Fighters.

Con saves have traditionally been the worst saves to target in DnD, as that is on average the highest save monsters have. Of course, you will have an educated guess of a monster's Con save (frail wizard or hulking demon), so it will not always be so random, but on average, Con is not a great save to target.

Going off of a 60% chance to land the stun, in most non-Fighter two-weapon fighting use cases you will be able to stun enemies for a total of 2 to 6 rounds (assuming you switch targets after landing a succesful stun). With Fighter that number increases a bit, because they have more exertion and cheaper maneuvers. Is that a lot? Perhaps. But compared to decently powerful spells like Hypnotic Pattern/Forcecage/Maze? I am not so sure.

While I think it is reasonable to limit Stunning Assault to either heavy weapons only (excludes most two-weapon fighting shenanigans), or to only grant the stun chance on the attacks during the attack action (not during bonus action attacks or OA's), I don't think stunning strike ruins campaigns per se, and here is why. I have played in an O5E campaign with some decently high-leveled monk in the party. Stunning strike is awesome, but only if it lands, and it will not always against everything. Second of all, you are burning through exertion/ki points doing this. Sure, the hypothetical 16th level Fighter can use this ability a whopping 7 turns, but a lvl 8 Berserker can only do so for 2 rounds. Is the wizard boss absolutely doomed? If he gets hit 5 times, probably yes if he has no legendary saves anymore. If he has any defensive spells like shield or mirror image, it becomes slightly more unlikely, and if he wins initiative, your 16th Fighter better be watching out, because two can play the game of save or die. Try it against a boss-level paladin, good luck getting through his +14 (or so) Con saves (speaking from experience here ^^").

By the way, if you are the DM in this case and you find that Stunning Assault or other maneuvers cause the game's fun to be reduced: You are basically the boss. Rules as written you have the final say. Feel free to talk with players, reducing the power of these maneuvers slightly by not letting them interact with TWF for example. Or give them some nasty encounters to chew on, they'd better be permastunning the dragon while the rest of the party deals with his spawn, because as soon as that dragonbreath goes off twice, it's game over. Play into their strengths by basically requiring them to use it to the best of their ability 'or else'. Or alternatively give them a fight where endless con saves vs. stuns will not help them all that much (plenty enemies with sky-high con saves or even straight up stun immunity). Have lackies cast Lesser Restoration (well, rather a spell that actually will end the Stunned condition). Have the wizard somewhere out of direct reach of the melee goons. Make them work a bit to get to him, clear the field, and then after round 2 or 3 give them the guilty satisfaction of horribly dominating the poor old man with stuns he will not escape from. Don't always punish them with immune enemies, but also don't always go easy on them and let them use their preferred strategy either (which I would say is good encounter design anyways).
 
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It's not the exact interaction that makes it (in my opinion) unbalanced. It is what that interaction allows.
But unbalanced with respect to what? The only form of balance that matters IMO is between effective PC's output (and fun).
I see a problem only if some players end up dominating the scene every time at the expense of the others, but otherwise it's an abstract comparison.
A lot of abilities interact with the attack action, like two-weapon fighting, flurry of blows, Press the attack, shield focus, Daring charge, and Commanding Presence etc. The list just goes on. The list goes on. Other abilities interact with other actions some maneuvers use like do, like dodge and some shields. If the maneuvers have a self-contained action then these abilities don't trigger, but they use the actions as described which means they do. This creates all sorts of interactions that are either encounter ruining strong, or class dwarfingly powerful.
I think this may come from a place of worry. Are you worried that some interactions may ruin the balance at your table, or will trivialize every encounter, or do you have specific examples?
Because as a community we can provide suggestions and advice on the latter, while the former is mostly a matter of mindset and experience with the ruleset.
I personally love all the possibilities for interactions and I'm always amazed when someone posts legitimate but powerful combinations. At the table I try to encourage my players to find them, so that I can challenge them even harder (without being antagonist)
An active example from the game I am GMing. :
My fighter and my barbarian (double sword exotic weapon), have both realized that two weapon fighting is way, way more effective than every other option, not because of damage, though that is more too, but because of maneuvers that can force save after save until the boss fails and is effected. Even legendary creatures become stunned, or blind or something after 4-5 saves in one turn. Now the fighter, who has stunning assault has made being an adept unappealing because they can't keep up with his 5 stuns for 2 exertion (maneuver master). And both than move through the spaces of the enemies and attack the caster in the back with 4-5 attacks. Even my casters are struggling to keep up with mob control as they can usually affect only a few guys without risking affecting party members.
Ok, this a specific example. Is this ruining the game at your table? If so, maybe you can stir up things a bit so that other classes don't feel useless. Specifically, ranged attackers could fit the bill nicely. Maybe there can be a way for your melee fighters to get there and then bring havoc, but the road there may be perilous (traps, lava, oozes, other nasty stuff). On the harsher side, flying enemies are the bane of melee fighters..
Edit: I suppose what I mean to say is that balance-wise, in my experience so far, maneuvers should be discrete abilities that don't interact with other abilities.
Well, it's your game in the end. You cannot suggest what maneuvers can be because the game has already been designed and published, but you can decide that you don't like how they work and tweak them.
 


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