Tactical Narrative Combat Modules in D&D Next

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First Post
Im glad they are thinking about it and thats about as complex as I wanted to see it.

I do however have a problem with it. Its the use of AC. AC is how hard you are to hit, and by this system, a target would be harder to knockdown because he has heavy plate armor. Even harder again if he has a large shield.

Thats really weird to me. I could, if I stretched my mind, find explanations why this would be, but really they just end up really weak in my mind. In fact, I would imagine someone weighed down by plate and a shield might even be more vulnerable to knockdowns.

Its not only weird in terms of my ability to believe the result, it also misses the chance for a cool dynamic. If I put in the most heavily armor dude you can imagine against the players and they just cant hit him, I like that there is alternate approachs players can take to tackle him, e.g. "lets knock him to the ground and hold him down, then stick dirks into the joint in his armor" (actual medieval battle technique) but by linking special maneavours to AC the knockdown is just as unlikely (moreso apparently) than a standard attack. This leaves players with little option for handling heavily armored targets and therefore heavily armored targets are a no-go for adventure design. Me = sad panda.

I never played PF, have read the manuals though and I remember being impressed the Combat Maneavour Bonus which was used for these non-standard attacks. Far more impressed with that than what I read hear. Not so much pathfinders specific implementation (will leave other to comment on its effectiveness as a game mechanic) but that they recognised this and moved special maneavours into a different design space than where armor resided.

This system sounds fine to me, though obviously the math needs to work. What I don't get is, how is this "narrative combat?"

I get the impression he means narrative as opposed to mapped/gridded - the maneuvers being mentioned are just stuff the player says he will do, takes the penalty, bam special attack. - if you take it to the extremes it could just be a sample list of possible specials, and anything the characters come up with can be tried - the "Yeah you can do it at a -10 " school of tactics.

So it can be used in TotM (hence narrative) but it adding complexity, and tactical options by knocking people down, or back, or such - so narrative tactical module.


If they are going to do some sort of "Called Shot" or "Raise" system in combat and keep scaling damage while flattening attack and defense then the bid process has to be Damage Based rather than Attack Penalty Based. Status-effect maneuvers will need to have their bids scale up with enemy Hit Dice (it's harder to trip an experienced Gladiator than it is to trip a 1st level character, even if the Gladiator has worse AC).

If you miss, you miss.
If your damage penalty from the maneuver bid reduces your damage to 0 or less the maneuver fails.

- Marty Lund

I'd have to say that this makes more sense to me...have to playtest the damage limits, etc.


Id like to see advantage used for these tricks ... Instead of rolling an extra die you can do the following.... (list)

So tricks require multiple advantage dice, meaning two or more other pcs in melee must also sacrifice a dice to the trick ....


Hell, it could be as simple as:
Player: When I attack, I want to knock him down.
DM: Okay, roll your attack and damage, and roll a Strength Contest.
Player: *roll*
DM: Hit. *roll* And your Strength Contest beats the Orc's, so he's now prone as well.
Mike Mearls has already said this will be an option:
People clearly want more choice in combat, particularly for the fighter. We're going to address that by introducing a maneuver system that players can access by using themes. We're also revising the core rules to include more guidance on using the contest mechanic to resolve improvised actions and stunts.

In addition, we have a narrative combat module and a tactical combat module in the works.

The tactical module takes many traditional elements of miniatures gaming and introduces them to D&D. Facing, terrain, knockback, and so on all get a full treatment here, along with rules for morale and generic maneuvers such as grappling, trip, disarm, and so on. You can think of this as a fusion of the 3E combat rules written with 4E's approach to streamlining things.

The narrative rules module allows a player to pick a few effects that he or she would like to incorporate into an attack and translate that into a modifier to a character's basic attack. For example, you might accept an attack penalty in order to knock someone prone as part of your attack. These rules are still in their earliest phases, but the idea is to create a more player-driven system of stunts.
So that's five options:

  1. Pure DM fiat (Classic style)
  2. Simple maneuvers based on taking a penalty to hit and adding a rider effect (2e style)
  3. Generic maneuvers based on tactical grid combat (3e style)
  4. "Trained" maneuvers you can opt into via themes (4e style)
  5. Improvised maneuvers based on ability contests (5e style?)
If that's not enough options to satisfy everyone, I don't know what is.
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First Post
I don't know about the -5 penalty, if we're talking about single attacks. But if a fighter surrounded by four goblins says they want to make a sweeping blow, and attack all of them, I can see a -5 penalty to make 4 attacks. For single attack effects, -5 penalty seems a bit much, I can see a -2, depending on how the rest of the math is working out for the system. I feel it is currently too early to tell, not knowing the math behind attack bonus and monster defenses, and how multiple attacks will work at high levels.

If the play test spelled out that I had the option to take a -5 penalty to knock an enemy prone, I'd probably laugh, and never use that option. The cost verses benefit is just not there.


Registered Ninja
While reading I could not help but think of the stunt system in Dragon Age. It has a similar effect, but in Dragon Age you have randomness as to when you can use it with no penalty.


First Post
While reading I could not help but think of the stunt system in Dragon Age. It has a similar effect, but in Dragon Age you have randomness as to when you can use it with no penalty.

DA's system is "if your roll is of a certain nature (i.e. good enough) go an pick some stunts to add on". That was using its 3d6 with one dice as dragon dice approach. If there was any equivalent in D&D what would it be? Near as I can tell, its close to a critical (I cringe saying that though, cause it aint quite). But in theory its the "if the roll is of a certain nature, you can add on a stunt".

What you might find is alot of people would want a greater element of control over tactical capability, that they can dictate the time and place that a stunt is going to happen. (Not me personally, I prefer chaotic combat to highly controlled combat, but thats just me).

Lord Zardoz

The problem with designing this kind of subsystem is that the desired effects are generally going to be 'incomparable' to the basic elements of attack bonus and damage.

A bonus to hit and a bonus to damage are generally comparable. You can run some calculations to determine that +X to hit amounts to an extra +Y to damage, and based on that, you can quickly determine if a +4 to damage is worth a -2 on the attack roll.

An attack meant to inflict various conditions like Stunned, Dazed, Prone, Immobilized, Blind, Disarmed, or that grants certain movement related abilities like Spring Attack, Goblin Tactics (goblins shift on a missed attack roll), or being able to shift if an opponent move adjacent as an interrupt, are generally incomparable to raw damage output. There are a number of reasons for this.

- Some are highly situational. Disarm can be murderous if your DM likes to use humanoid enemies that attack with weapons. It is much less effective if he tends to only use monsters that attack with tooth or claw.
- Not all opponents are affected equally. An immobilized melee attacker vs an archer is basically a pincushion if it cannot overcome the affect. A stun effect against 1 of 15 minions means nothing. A stun effect against a solo means a hell of a lot of pain.
- Unforseen synergies can lead to cheesy abuse. Being knocked Prone is a minor inconvenience until you face highly mobile opponents. Being prone and Dazed means you may as well be immobilized.
- Each new incomparable added is going to be difficult to balance against older content. If anyone can perform these combat maneuvers, and new ones are periodically added, it can create a situation where the initial version of a monster is suddenly vulnerable to tactics that did not exist when it was written.

I will have to see what the finished product actually looks like, but I am going to be very curious about how balanced the add on modules are.


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