5 House Rules that can make combat more interesting.

Posted: January 30, 2016 in Uncategorized
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Pathfinder Unchained released a bunch of houserules some welcome some not so welcome.  Many of these rules are huge systems that can change how the game plays in many different ways.

Not all hosuerules have to be like this.  So in this post we’ll be going over some relatively simple ones that incentivize new strategies and open up parts of the combat system largely ignored.

The idea behind this is to provide the biggest and most intriguing impacts on the tactics and thought process of players without changing many things about the rules.  Adding new elements and variables into combat in such a way as to shake things up without a whole lot of rules juggling on the part of the GM.

1. Untrained Combat Maneuvers do not provoke AoO’s.

Normal: Combat maneuvers provoke an AoO unless you have the Improved feat that allows you to do it without provoking.

The Impact: There are two big reasons why combat maneuvers are never used.  First, Combat Maneuver Defense tends to be prohibitively high. Second, they’re basically a feat tax to use at all.

This house rule eliminates the second problem.  Combat maneuvers, and your ability to do them well, becomes a function of BAB rather than feats.  Feats, instead, become about specialization and focus on one set of capabilities your cahracter already has rather than specializing in a focus your character should already be able to do.

This allows combat to become more interesting.  Full BAB characters become much more threatening as their combat options increase dramatically with a simple lifting of limitations.  CMD becomes a very important stat for 3/4 BAB characters to keep high since they’re not safe anymore from getting combat maneuvered to death. Ultimately this is a buff to martial characters in general and potentially gives much needed variety to a fairly straight forward combat system.

Variations: Obviously with this house rule the Improved feats for combat maneuvers lose some of their use so rolling them into their greater versions is certainly an option.  Alternatively you can include them under feats like Power Attack and Combat Expertise to subsequently increase the value of those feats and create a bit of build versatility.

2. When a character is dropped below 0 hitpoints there is a 50% chance they remain conscious but with the disabled condition. Every time a disabled character loses hp in anyway there is a 50% chance they fall unconscious until brought above 0 hit points again.

Normal: When you drop below 0 hitpoints you go unconscious.

The Impact: The thing about biology is that it can be rather funny about what kills you immediately and what kills you slightly after.  A person stabbed right in the head might keep going for a tiny bit before dropping dead.  A man impaled on a spear isn’t always going to go into shock.  This rule emulates that a bit.

This helps eliminate the problem of players and enemies dropping immediately after focused fire without having to give them Diehard and allows combat to build a bit of tension as players and enemies can be granted a potentially broader window in which to remain acting.  It’s not perfect or even something to rely on so Diehard and other such effects are still useful and it makes constitution an even more important score since it can grant a potentially larger action window for characters.

It’s also a clear indicator when an enemy is  horribly injured but not dead yet giving some potentially good roleplaying opportunities not always possible for mere piles of corpses.

Variations: I’d allow endurance to increase the chance to 75% in order to segue much more naturally into Diehard.  Beyond that theirs not much you can do to change it.

3. When you miss an opponent with an attack by more than 5 + your Dex and Wis modifier you provoke an attack of opportunity from that opponent. This attack of opportunity cannot provoke an attack of opportunity in turn if it misses in the same way.

Normal: When you miss you miss. Even when you critically miss.

The Impact: This sadly punishes characters with low attack.  But rewards characters with high defense.  Combat Reflexes becomes incredibly powerful and a staple for defensive characters. Defensive abilities in general become quite useful.  Full attacks in general become less powerful and more thoughtful as simply rolling dice at something until it dies can end badly against a high dexterity character.

Ultimately this adds a “counter” element to the game.  If a character over extends or gets caught up on a shield they open themselves up to damage.  Accuracy becomes a defensive necessity, defense becomes an offensive boon. It opens up a lot of builds and makes many builds much more viable.  You can call it a slight debuff to feats like power attack and what not but ultimately those feats are still valuable as high defenses are not necessarily universal and high damage is still a reward for good accuracy.

You can call the stat this rule generates Combat Sense.

Variations: This is my favorite house rule made for this blog and definitely something worth building off of and exploring.  So, I encourage you to do so.  Try different scores for different classes for combat sense.  Maybe have some classes go off of three or four scores or some combat weak classes go off of only one. Perhaps have some classes have additional effects should they trigger or have triggered a counter.

4.  Flanking, higher ground, and charging allow you to roll twice on your attack and take the highest roll in addition to normal bonuses.

Normal: When flanking, on higher ground, or charging you typically only get a numerical bonus to the action they are doing.

The Impact: Generally speaking while most players understand the disadvantages of a flank this rule enforces the idea that having poor positioning is awful.  It also gives quite a bit of power to characters that rely on charges or flanks to set up their offense.  It’s a massive offensive boost to the game in general that gives a strong incentive to go for those positional advantages.  Simultaneously it requires your players to take better care of their positioning as enemies can get those advantages as well.

Variations: This rule is lifted straight from 5th ed. where pounces are rare to impossible for players to get.  However, in pathfinder the ability to move and full attack is getting increasingly common.  This rule would make rocket tag happen at an earlier level.  The solution is to simply not allow the rule to trigger with full attacks on a charge.

5.  CMD adds either Dex or Str modifier (whichever is highest) not both.

Normal: CMD adds your Dex mod + Str mod + BAB +10.

The Impact: The trouble with the math between CMD and CMB is that CMB favors only one stat and BAB while CMD favors Strength, Dex and BAB.  Ultimately that means as creatures get bigger, less humanoid, and have massive stats and hit dice CMD gets into ludicrous ranges while CMB suffers a lot.

By dropping the CMD at least a bit we see more combat maneuvers getting used and thus grant a bit more variety to the possibilities by both enemies and players.

Variations: In addition to this you can also include the feat tax elimination rules one helpful blogger put together.  This, along with the earlier house rule can make a huge impact on how combat maneuvers can affect the game with remarkably little real effort.

  1. Fortuna Veritas says:

    >This rule is lifted straight from 5th ed. where pounces are rare to impossible for players to get.

    Charging doesn’t exist as part of the standard rules of 5e, but characters can just freely move their full movement and make all of their attacks no matter how much of their movement they’ve used.

    They can even do things like move 10 feet, make an attack, and then use up the rest of their move and make the rest of their attacks.

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