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Modifying the Trailblazer Fighter

First: I just picked up Trailblazer over the GM's Day Sale, and I'm really impressed! It's gotten me re-interested in 3.x roleplaying.

Now, I like the Trailblazer Fighter, but I want a little more of the 4e fighter's ability to tank mixed in. Basically, I'm keeping the Trailblazer Fighter exactly as-is, but instead of giving Expert Weapon Proficiency at levels 3 and 7, I'm substituting some tanking abilities:

3: Interrupting Strike: At level 3, any attack made in the Fighter's threatened area that does not include him provokes an AoO.

7: Stop-Hit: If a Punishing Strike is provoked by an opponent leaving the Fighter's threatened area, and the Punishing Strike hits, the opponent does not succeed in leaving the threatened area, and that movement action ends.

Are these too powerful? Would it be better to make them higher-level abilities? (Although I really want the Fighter to be a good tank from the start.) What if I made Punishing Strike give a +1 to hit with each +1d6 damage, instead of a flat +4 to start?

Does interrupting strike become too powerful if the party has two fighters in it? I don't think my gaming group would want two fighters, but I do see characters created for party tactics (rather than individual tactics) being a good thing.

Thanks, and I'm following the development of the monster book closely!

Ragnar
 

Wulf Ratbane

Villager
Now, I like the Trailblazer Fighter, but I want a little more of the 4e fighter's ability to tank mixed in.
Tanking, huh?

By which I assume you mean, "Taking and holding aggro."

Bleh.

I am not a big fan of 4e's various ways of forcing the DM's hand.

It's one thing to say, "If you do this, then I get to do this." Most AoO's fall into that category. But it at least preserves DM choice.

On the other hand, there's, "If you don't do this, then I get to do this."

Seems subtle, but it's not. It has a completely different (and way too Gamist) vibe.

Ultimately, this situation doesn't really change the "business end" of the fighter at all. You're ostensibly giving him "controlling" abilities-- or at least the ability to discourage certain actions from the DM-- but the "business end" of your function is still this: The fighter gets to do more damage.

He's still a hammer, and all problems are still nails. You haven't really altered his function.

Those objections out of the way...

It looks like you're at least on the right track, looking for ways to make Punishing Strike pay off.

Basically, I'm keeping the Trailblazer Fighter exactly as-is, but instead of giving Expert Weapon Proficiency at levels 3 and 7, I'm substituting some tanking abilities:
I certainly wouldn't remove Expert Weapon Proficiency. Your solution should integrate with the existing mechanics, not replace them.

3: Interrupting Strike: At level 3, any attack made in the Fighter's threatened area that does not include him provokes an AoO.
See above on my philosophical objection to this.

I also suspect this will slow down play at the table.

7: Stop-Hit: If a Punishing Strike is provoked by an opponent leaving the Fighter's threatened area, and the Punishing Strike hits, the opponent does not succeed in leaving the threatened area, and that movement action ends.
My preferred solution would just be to allow certain Combat Maneuvers as an AoO-- disarm, trip, grapple, and sunder would all work.

But it's very powerful.

I really want the Fighter to be a good tank from the start.
Maybe you need to explain more fully what "tank" means to you. What function, specifically, does the fighter need to perform that he can't perform now?

In my experience, a fighter draws plenty of "aggro" simply by dishing out a lot of damage and making himself too dangerous to ignore.

Keep in mind, computer games (like WoW) need mechanics like aggro and tanking because they don't have human intelligence and must rely on AI to make tactical decisions.

I don't really know what's gained by taking an AI that was designed to emulate human decision making (poorly, at that) and then, once that AI flowchart is in place, go back and try to force human intelligence to abide by it.

What if I made Punishing Strike give a +1 to hit with each +1d6 damage, instead of a flat +4 to start?
Then fighters will hit with it less often.
 

GlassJaw

Explorer
Ragnar, thanks for the post.

Wulf covered some of the biggies but I'll elaborate a little.

For off, I define being a "tank" or "tanking" two ways:

1. You're very difficult to hit and extremely resilient. This is fairly easy to accomplish as a fighter, regardless if you're using TB or just 3ed: full plate, tower shield, Combat Expertise, Dodge, Hold the Line, Toughness, even Diehard.

2. You compel opponents to attack you, i.e., you draw aggro. As Wulf mentioned, this is largely an MMO concept that 4ed has incorporated to some degree.

This is more difficult to accomplish in 3ed because, as Wulf mentioned, the best way for a fighter to draw aggro is to dish out a lot of damage. This is the same in MMOs. The "striker" draws a lot of aggro because they deal a ton of damage.

However, the job of the tank in an MMO isn't to dish out damage, it's to draw aggro away from the strikers (and hold it!). This role doesn't really exist in 3ed, at least from a rules/mechanics standpoint.

Reading your abilities, it sounds to me like you are attempting to model an MMO tank's ability to hold aggro, but not necessarily its ability to gain aggro. That's ok I guess. I think the TB fighter already does a good job of this since he has a lot of Combat Reactions, Punishing Strike, and lots of bonus feats for things like Imp Trip.

I do like the concept of the defensive-minded, heavily armored fighter that can hold the defenses for his allies but as Wulf said, I hesitate to introduce abilities that dictate the DM's actions. It's something I'd like to explore though. Perhaps in the Players' Option book...;)

Let's take a look at your specific abilities:

3: Interrupting Strike: At level 3, any attack made in the Fighter's threatened area that does not include him provokes an AoO.
This is similar the Agile Riposte feat, which I believe was from d20 Modern, although that was triggered when an opponent missed you in melee. That feat is less powerful than this and was usable only once per round.

So that would be the first thing I would do - make this usuable once per round - but overall, this is very easily abused. A reach weapon would make this very annoying, very quickly, and I'm not even throwing the spiked chain into the mix.

7: Stop-Hit: If a Punishing Strike is provoked by an opponent leaving the Fighter's threatened area, and the Punishing Strike hits, the opponent does not succeed in leaving the threatened area, and that movement action ends.
This is extremely powerful as written but as Wulf suggested, I think allowing the fighter to attempt a Combat Maneuver as an AoO is a decent idea. (Remember, TB doesn't allow you to attempt a maneuver as an AoO because they are all standard actions.)

It's still pretty powerful but it's cool and unique to the fighter so I would consider it. Again, maybe for the Players' Option book.
 
Thank you for your (very helpful) feedback!

Okay, let me clarify my experiences and how I understand "tank." A "tank" is a guard or bodyguard, someone who protects a weaker person by physically intervening between them and a threat.

Another definition of "tank," I guess, is "tough damage-dealer." This is a role the 3e fighter fills pretty well. When the wizard is out of spells and the rogue is lying on the ground in a pool of his own blood, the fighter is still standing toe-to-toe with Mr. Ugly. Rock on, fighter!

However, as the party advances in levels, the offensive power of the wiz/sorc increases rapidly, while their hit points increase much less rapidly. That makes taking down the wiz/sorc the #1 priority of intelligent opponents. The standard battle tactic we use in 3e to stop this is fix the line and concentrate fire. I always felt this tactic should work better than it actually did. Unless the combat takes place in a 10' wide corridor, there's very little way for the tougher PCs to really "fix the line" against a half-dozen opponents.

So an enemy takes an AoO of 1d10+5 damage while running past the fighter. That's, what, 10.5 average damage? Versus a 5d6 fireball (17.5 avg dam, over an area) the Wizard will throw next turn if they don't engage with him? If the bad guy has the hit points, he'll take the AoO. The 3e fighter cannot say "Over my dead body." He cannot physically interpose himself the way real guards, or, heck, football linemen do.

WoW deals with this (iirc) by having the computer AI keep track of how much damage a mob has received from each opponent, and having the mob attack the opponent that has done the most total damage. Tanks make the mobs think they have taken more damage from them (even if they haven't), drawing their attacks away from the weaker party members.

Fourth Ed took care of this by having the defenders threaten damage if they aren't engaged. The Paladin's Divine Challenge and Fighter's Combat Challenge also imposes a negative to-hit modifier if he isn't engaged. While I ultimately found 4e unsatisfying, I really did like these mechanics. I didn't like the "marks" - I understand they're there to prevent the "hammer-and-anvil" effect of two defenders using Challenge on the same target, but it was just one more thing to keep track of. That being said, let's take Interrupting Strike off the table for now and focus on Stop-Hit, since after defining "tank," I realize that this is the more important idea to the concept.

The idea about allowing a Combat Maneuver as an AoO is great. But I really don't need to give access to all the maneuvers . . . just one to keep the guy from getting away.

* * *
Blocking Move: If an AoO is provoked by an enemy leaving a fighter's threatened area, the fighter can attempt a bull rush (instead of a standard attack) to push/pull the enemy back into that square, ending that move action.
* * *

This revises the Stop-Hit. It still requires a roll, but a Combat Maneuver roll instead of an attack roll, and it does no damage, giving the fighter an interesting tactical decision. It would still receive the +4 to AoO that Punishing Strike gives, and would receive another +4 if the fighter had Improved Bull Rush.

Blocking Move is more flexible than Bull Rush, in that the fighter can pull as well as push, but that's a necessity since "threatened square" has been changed to "threatened area." You wouldn't want to push the guy closer to the wizard! (Maybe I should replace "to push/pull the enemy" with "to manhandle the enemy?")

It's powerful in that a Combat Reaction is used to cancel a movement action. At this point, if the movement action was the first action, the enemy could simply attack the fighter, which is what the fighter was probably hoping for, then take a withdraw action next round. Or, he could take a second movement action.

At any rate, a single fighter with Combat Reflexes and a +6 BAB should be able to hold a 15' wide corridor against three opponents *by himself*. Under 3.5 rules, a single fighter with Combat Reflexes and 14 Dex could only smack the little critters as they ran by to dog-pile the Wizard.

What would be a good level to put it at? Three? Five? Maybe make it a fighter-only bonus feat? Requiring Power Attack?
 

Wulf Ratbane

Villager
I'll be brief-- I think you are on the right track.

That makes taking down the wiz/sorc the #1 priority of intelligent opponents.
What's good for the goose and all... be prepared with opponents who will hold the line against the PCs trying to rush past to enemy wizards.

Also look at the Jump skill in TB. You can use a skill exploit to cross threatened squares-- this might enable monks and other physical adepts to get around whatever changes you are preparing to make for the fighter. (And I think that's a good thing-- layers and layers of counters.)

The standard battle tactic we use in 3e to stop this is fix the line and concentrate fire. I always felt this tactic should work better than it actually did. Unless the combat takes place in a 10' wide corridor, there's very little way for the tougher PCs to really "fix the line" against a half-dozen opponents.
Well, yeah. That's why quarterbacks get sacked.

The 3e fighter cannot physically interpose himself the way real guards, or, heck, football linemen do.
Look at WOTC's Devoted Defender prestige class. IIRC it might have some mechanics you could cannibalize-- including the ability to physically switch places with your ally (swap square to square, if you're adjacent).

The idea about allowing a Combat Maneuver as an AoO is great. But I really don't need to give access to all the maneuvers . . . just one to keep the guy from getting away.
Any time you can create or expand a system with options, rather than creating a one problem fix, I would lean towards the fix with more options. If you craft a single feat, or even a new Expert Weapon Proficiency "benefit" that allows the combat maneuver as a reaction, then you can let the player decide how he wants to use it. One guy might want Trip. Somebody else might think a reactive Sunder is pretty friggin' sweet. Grapple certainly does what a linebacker does. Build systems with options and let the players decide what they like.

It's powerful in that a Combat Reaction is used to cancel a movement action.
Uhh, yeah. That's a big problem. I'm dealing with the same thing with respect to counterspells as reactions. It sounds like a great deal when the PCs are the ones yanking around the monsters, but when the monsters turn this tactic onto the PCs, you'd be surprised how quickly it starts to feel "broken."

At any rate, a single fighter with Combat Reflexes and a +6 BAB should be able to hold a 15' wide corridor against three opponents *by himself*.
Why "should?" Is your argument for that based on realism or gamism?
 

IronWolf

blank
At any rate, a single fighter with Combat Reflexes and a +6 BAB should be able to hold a 15' wide corridor against three opponents *by himself*. Under 3.5 rules, a single fighter with Combat Reflexes and 14 Dex could only smack the little critters as they ran by to dog-pile the Wizard.
I don't think I agree with the "should" here. If the opponent is intent enough to suffer the possible hit(s) they will take when they run by, then I think little is going to stop them unless one strike kills them. 15' is relatively wide and in the course of battle if two opponents push to the left, that leaves the right clearer for the other to rush through.

Like Wulf mentioned, using modern day football as an example, there is a line of huge men, solid muscle and weight who are supposed to protect the quarterback, yet the other team often finds ways to make it through that line to the very person a blocking line is trying to protect.
 

Wulf Ratbane

Villager
If the tanks "should" be able to block, then there "should" be some category of attackers who can get past that. (Layers of counter-strategies.)

I'd say overall that the job of "harassing" the enemy caster belongs first to your own casters, then your ranged attackers, and then to highly mobile strikers like rogues and monks-- all of which "should" defeat any "wall" of fighters/tanks, because that's what their role is: to evade the wall.
 
Oh, let me clarify - when I said "should," I meant it descriptively, not prescriptively. That is, I meant, "I expect playtest to bear out the results of this rule change [i.e., Blocking Move] thusly," not, "the rules should be changed to bring about this goal."

And yes, I expect fighters to be standing there looking dumb while the monks and rogues vault over their heads - that's a significant part of the fun of playing monks and rogues!

I'll see if I can track down a copy of the Devoted Defender and take a look at it.

Thanks, everyone!
 

ValhallaGH

Villager
Devoted Defender first appeared in the 3.0 splat book "Sword & Fist". I really liked it, but it was weaker than going straight Fighter.
I'm not sure when / if it showed up in 3.5.
 

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