For as long as I’ve played D&D, mundane combat has always seemed ridiculously shallow. After you’ve chosen what you want to fight with and your general style of fighting, everything seems to quickly fall into a highly predictable pattern. Rogues TWF everything that moves, Fighters ubercharge/tripper-lock, Samurai work an obscure infinite intimidate lock, and members of every “mundane” base class are forced to abandon their class like the sinking ships that they are. No variety. No real depth beyond your equipment. Just an option (or two, if you’re lucky) that happens to really work on a good day. While all of this this may be a bit of an exaggeration (I’ve known folks to go from fighter 1 to 20 without complaints), the lack of depth that I observe kind of disappoints me. To help remedy this lack of depth, I present you with.What are Combat Techniques?
In some senses, Combat Techniques were invented to serve as a realistic middle ground between Tome of Battle maneuvers and normal combat maneuvers that anyone can perform like Withdraw, Overrun, and Total Defense.
Like maneuvers from ToB, not just anyone can use every combat technique. You gain access to them and gain more use out of them as you level up. Compared with ToB, however, everything here is simplified. There aren’t any “disciplines” to deal with, there are only 20 abilities in total and there only four levels of power rather than a full nine. The abilities are named descriptively rather than decoratively, don’t require you to recharge, and are pretty much usable at will like normal combat options.
Also, there is one more very important difference between Combat Techniques and ToB maneuvers, a difference also present between it and many attempts to fix mundane combat(ants). Namely, combat techniques are intended as a core mechanic of gameplay, rather than the class feature of yet another fighter fix. Everyone from Ogres to Commoners to Samurai to Fighters to Wizards can and likely will take advantage of Combat Techniques, though front-line combatants get the most use out of it.How Does One Gain Combat Techniques?
Implementing Combat Techniques as a core mechanic, I tied it into another core mechanic that most front-line combatants have in abundance: Base Attack Bonus. As the Base Attack Bonus of a creature or character increases, they gain more combat techniques and those they have are empowered as displayed on the table below:
The Other Big Change: Attacks of Opportunity:
Combat Technique (Ex):
|Base Attack Bonus||Benefits|
|+5||Advancement, Combat Technique|
|+9||Advancement, Combat Technique|
|+13||Advancement, Combat Technique|
|+17||Advancement, Combat Technique|
|+19||Master of Combat|
You may select one Combat Technique and gain access to it at least mastery.Advancement (Ex):
Whenever you gain this benefit, all Combat Techniques you possess (including the one gained at the same level) increase to the next degree of mastery. In order for a Combat Technique to reach its next degree of mastery, at least half of your HD (including both racial HD and class HD), must meet certain prerequisites depending on the degree to be attained. If this is not the case when this ability is gained, that opportunity is forever lost.
|Lesser Mastery||at least 3/4 Base Attack Bonus progression|
|Greater Mastery||full Base Attack Bonus or HD gained through levels in associated classes.|
|True Mastery||HD gained through fighter levels or through levels in associated classes|
If you should later gain additional HD such that you know longer meet these prerequisites, you do not
lose access to your techniques and their degree is not lowered.Master of Combat (Ex):
When your Base Attack Bonus reaches +19, you gain a choice between two options. You can either gain access to ten combat techniques of your choice
at least mastery or you could increase the degree of your combat techniques again as though through Advancement (above).
Using Combat Techniques, one other change of note must be made to the core rules, involving attacks of opportunity. Each creature and character gain a number of attacks of opportunity each round equal to half of its Base Attack Bonus (minimum 1). Combat Reflexes adds more to this number as normal. Quite a few combat techniques that I’ve made use attacks of opportunity as a form of round-by-round currency to spend on abilities.NOTE: COMBAT TECHNIQUES AND MAGIC:
If a spell, ability, or magic item temporarily or permanently increases your base attack bonus, you do not
advance beyond your actual base attack bonus on the table above. If your base attack bonus is permanently reduced, however (such as through negative levels or revival resulting in level loss), you go back down the chart as normal.
THE COMBAT TECHNIQUES:Adapt:
When you take a few moments to ready yourself, you can prepare for almost any battleAssociated Classes:
Assess the Battlefield:
Least Mastery : At the start of each encounter, you may choose not to act in the first round of combat, instead seeing what happens and adapting to the situation. For 5 rounds, you lose the benefit of any feat you possess that is not acting as a prerequisite for a prestige class or another feat you possess. In its place, you gain the benefits of a bonus fighter feat of your choice, so long as you meet its prerequisites.
Lesser Mastery : When you Adapt yourself to a battle, you may switch a second feat. One temporary feat may be used as a prerequisite for another. Furthermore, you need not immediately swap feats after skipping the first round of combat. Instead, you may choose to swap the feats at any time during the encounter as a swift action.
Greater Mastery : When you Adapt yourself to a battle, you may switch a third feat. Furthermore, you may choose at the start of any round to skip your action, reverting back to your normal feat selection but allowing you to swap out feats once more in the future. This can be done even if you did not skip the first round of combat.
True Mastery : Instead of swapping out feats, you instead simply gain an equal number of temporary bonus feats. In addition, you gain a fourth such bonus feat.
Notes and Explanation : Getting down to business, let's rip the metaphorical bandage off and start with what is likely the most powerful/versatile technique here. If this looks too overpowered, the rest of them aren't this bad and feel free to suggest a fix. If it got your hopes up that everything would be this powerful, sorry to disappoint you.
Looking out over the battlefield, you can see everything as it occurs and judge how best to proceed.Associated Classes:
Bard, Marshall, Paladin, Scout
Least Mastery : As a Full-Round action, you can mentally step back and observe the course of a battle, allowing you to see the big picture. For the next three rounds after you use this ability, you gain a +1 Insight bonus to your AC, Attack Rolls, Will Saves, Listen Checks, and Spot Checks.
Lesser Mastery : The bonuses from this ability increase by +1. By calling out to allies, you can help them out from afar. All allies who can see, hear, and understand you can’t be flanked by opponents visible to the both of you if you call out to them in this way.
Greater Mastery : The bonuses from this ability increase by +1. Furthermore, your observations of the battlefield allow you to notice things that don’t belong. When you use this ability you gain a Will save to disbelieve each illusion with which you possess a line of sight that permits a will save to disbelieve (even if normally only allowed when interacted with).
True Mastery : The bonuses from this ability increase by +1. By piecing together your enemy’s plan of battle, you can see where foes are and, more importantly, where they should be and apparently aren’t. Though you still can’t see them (and thus suffer total concealment against them), you pinpoint the location of all hidden and invisible creatures within your line of sight.
Whether slashing or shooting, stabbing or throwing, you are quite adept at fighting on the move.Associated Classes:
Monk, Scout, Swashbuckler
Least Mastery : As a full round action, you can move up to your full speed and make a single attack at any point during your movement. This ability can be used while walking, swimming, flying, climbing, burrowing, or jumping. For the purpose of prerequisites, this combat technique counts as the Spring Attack feat.
Lesser Mastery : When Blitzing, you can make an additional attack at your full Base Attack bonus. Furthermore, any creature whom you successfully damage with a blitz can’t make an attack of opportunity against you for your movement this round. Each time beyond the first that you target a specific enemy with an attack while blitzing, the attack roll takes a cumulative -2 penalty.
Greater Mastery : When blitzing, you can make a full attack (in addition to the extra attack) in combination with moving up to your speed.
True Mastery : When blitzing, you can choose to make a single attack at your second-highest attack bonus against all creatures that pass within your reach (if using a melee weapon) or that come within 10 feet of you (if using ranged weaponry) in place of your normal attacks. If a ranged weapon requires any action to reload or otherwise prepare for another attack beyond a free action, it can’t be used in this way. While making attacks in this way, your movement can only include a single turn of up to 90 degrees.
Notes and Explanation : I, for one, don’t see any problem at all with spring attack at first level. Most things requiring it also require either a base attack bonus or another feat with a base attack bonus so things should work out okay. This allows for mobile players to go out there and act like a dervish. In case it isn’t clear, the -2 penalty for repeated attacks was placed to keep this ability from becoming “Full Attack +”. Also, I know that this will cause some confusion with the Scout’s skirmish ability but I really can’t think of anything else to name it. Any suggestions?
You can attempt to block the worst of attacks using a shield.Associated Classes:
Least Mastery : Whenever you would be hit by a melee physical attack and you are carrying a shield, you may spend an attack of opportunity to block the blow. Doing so reduces the damage taken by the AC bonus that the shield provides but gives you a stacking -1 penalty to AC until the end of your next action. This reduction of damage stacks with all forms of damage reduction. You may not block an attack while flanked or flat-footed.
Lesser Mastery : You may block ranged physical attacks, though doing so gives a stacking -2 penalty to AC instead of a -1 penalty. Whenever you block the melee attack of a creature, you can create an opening for yourself, giving a stacking +1 bonus to attack rolls for that creature for 1 round.
Greater Mastery : You may now block melee and ranged magical attacks that do hit point damage, though doing so gives a stacking -4 penalty to AC instead of a -1 or -2 penalty. Furthermore, you may block any attack directed at a creature within your reach instead of merely blocking attacks and spells directed at you.
True Mastery : Whenever you block an attack, you may sacrifice any number of additional attacks of opportunity. For each additional attack of opportunity sacrificed, the reduction to damage is increased by -1 and the first 2 points of damage taken is converted to nonlethal damage.
The wounds you inflict are deep and painful, taking a long time to heal on their own.Associated Classes:
Ninja, Ranger, Rogue, Scout
Least Mastery : Whenever you make an attack roll against a living foe, you can declare your desire to cripple your opponent with the attempt. If the attack is successful, it deals only half damage but that damage is hard to recover. Damage dealt in this way can’t be healed through fast healing, regeneration (though regeneration can still make it nonlethal), or through any other means apart from natural healing. Forms of physical damage that don’t require attack rolls, such as rend or constrict, can also be made to cripple opponents.
Lesser Mastery : Whenever you attempt to cripple a foe, you may take a -5 penalty to your attack roll to ensure great pain in your target. If you take this penalty and your attack succeeds, that opponent takes a stacking -1 penalty to Attack rolls, AC, Fortitude saves, and Reflex Saves. These penalties last for 1 hour (even if the wounds are somehow healed beforehand). Forms of physical damage that don’t require attack rolls can’t benefit from this ability.
Greater Mastery : Whenever you successfully cripple a foe twice or more in a single round, that opponent must make a Fortitude save (DC 10 + BAB) or become staggered and have its speed halved for 1 round. This effect does not stack with itself.
True Mastery : Whenever you at least halve a target’s remaining hit points when crippling them, they must make a Fortitude save (DC 10 + BAB) or fall unconscious as though lowered to -1 hit points (creatures that can remain conscious at negative hit points are immune to this effect). Furthermore, whenever you successfully cripple an opponent, the first five points of damage that you deal a foe after applying damage reduction and energy resistance can’t be healed by any means until the target receives the benefits of a Wish or Miracle.
You can sacrifice offense for unparalleled mobility on the battlefield.Associated Classes:
Barbarian, Monk, Scout
Least Mastery : As a standard action, you may move up to twice your speed + 10 feet.
Lesser Mastery : While dashing, you ignore nonmagical difficult terrain. You may sacrifice any number of attacks of opportunity when you dash. For each attack sacrificed, negate the first attack of opportunity that your movement would provoke.
Greater Mastery : While dashing, you can swim, climb, balance, and tumble at greater speeds while halving the penalties to the appropriate skill check (round down) and the maximum distance you can move is increased by +10 feet.
True Mastery : While dashing, you may ignore magical and supernatural area effects that would immobilize, entangle, or slow you down (other than barriers such as anti-life shell or wall of force) and the act of dashing instantly frees you from such effects.
Beyond simply causing damage, you know how to mess up an opponent with your attacks.Associated Classes:
Ninja, Rogue, Spellthief, Swashbuckler
Least Mastery : In place of or in combination with normal attacks, you can make a special attack that disrupts a target in other ways. While such an attack deals normal damage, it also inflicts one of the following conditions upon the target for 1d4+1 rounds if it succeeds by at least 5 points. This condition can be negated with a successful Fortitude save (DC 10 + your BAB). For each attack you make using Dirty Fighting, you must spend a single attack of opportunity. The conditions that you can inflict are: Blinded, Deafened, Entangled, Fatigued, and Sickened.
Lesser Mastery : When using Dirty Fighting, you can increase the DC of the Fortitude save by +1 for every -2 penalty you willingly take to your attack roll (you may not lower your attack bonus below +0 in this way). Whenever you score a critical hit while using Dirty Fighting, the DC increases by +2 and the condition lasts until the end of the encounter if the target fails its saving throw.
Greater Mastery : By spending two attacks of opportunity per such attack, you may use one of the following conditions if the attack succeeds by at least 10 points: Exhausted, Immobilized, Nauseated, or Stunned. If the attack succeeds by fewer than 10 but more than 5 points, you may still select one of the lesser conditions to apply.
True Mastery : When using Dirty Fighting against a creature already affected by your Dirty Fighting, you gain a +10 bonus to the attack roll. Furthermore, flat-footed creatures take a -10 penalty to saving throws against your Dirty Fighting.
While others weigh themselves down with encumbering armor, you prefer to simply dodge attacks.Associated Classes:
Barbarian, Monk, Ninja, Rogue, Scout, Swashbuckler
Least Mastery : Whenever you are attacked, you may use an attack of opportunity for the round (if you have any remaining) to move 5 feet. Doing so doesn’t let you avoid an attack altogether (even if you move beyond its reach or out of its path) but grants you a dodge bonus to your AC equal to your Dexterity modifier or +2 against the attack, whichever is higher. This movement does not provoke attacks of opportunity from the attacker and prevents the attacker from initiating a grapple if you move beyond the attacker’s reach. This combat technique can’t be used while wearing armor, carrying more than a light load, or while flat-footed or helpless. this ability counts as the dodge feat for the purpose of meeting prerequisites.
Lesser Mastery : The Dodge bonus you are granted increases by +1 and when you move using this ability, you do not provoke attacks of opportunity from others. Furthermore, you may spend an extra attack of opportunity when you dodge (if you can) to gain a 20% miss chance against the attack.
Greater Mastery : The Dodge bonus you are granted increases by +1 and the distance that you can travel with each use of this ability increases to 10 feet. When you would end up in an area effect, you may spend two attacks of opportunity (if you can) to use this ability as though you were attacked so long as you use the movement to leave the area’s range, gaining a 20% chance of ignoring it.
True Mastery : The Dodge bonus you are granted increases by +1. If you would be hit by an attack or suffer damage from an area effect even after using this ability, you can sacrifice all of your remaining attacks of opportunity for the round (minimum 1) to make a Reflex save and subtract the result from any damage that you take from the attack (secondary effects like poison, however, still occur).
Notes and Explanation : And now, something for those who don’t want to go around in armor. While most iterations of this ability that I’ve seen allow characters so simply auto-dodge anything by moving out of the way, this has always struck me as a bit cheap and so I’m going with an AC boost and an eventual miss chance. I do realize that this ability stops a lot of full-attacking but there are at least two other combat techniques detailed below that would prevent this from happening (see Engage and Pursue) and allowing things to even out a bit.
You can keep enemies busy dealing with you. If they ignore your threat, they will live to regret it.Associated Classes:
Barbarian, Hexblade, Knight, Paladin
Least Mastery : As a swift action, you can spend any number of attacks of opportunity and choose an equal number of creatures within your reach (whether or not you threaten that area). Until the start of your next round, you are engaged with those creatures. Whenever a creature that you are engaged with attacks a target other than yourself, you may make an attack of opportunity against them.
Lesser Mastery : Foes that you have engaged with gain no benefit from flanking you and can’t use the aid-another tactic on one-another. As a full-round action, you can make a single attack against each creature that you are engaged with. If making these attacks with ranged weaponry, you don’t provoke attacks of opportunity from those creatures. This combat technique now counts as whirlwind attack for the purposes of meeting prerequisites.
Greater Mastery : Whenever a foe you are engaged with attempts to move beyond your reach, you may spend an attack of opportunity to force them to make a Will save (DC 10 + your BAB). If the Will save fails, that foe can’t move beyond your reach. This does not prevent involuntary movement or teleportation effects.
True Mastery : Whenever a foe you are engaged with makes an attack against you, you may expend two attacks of opportunity. If you do, that attack is made both against you and against another creature you are engaged with of your choice as you trick the attacker into attacking their ally.
When caught in mid-air, you can move yourself with the grace of a flyer.Associated Classes:
Least Mastery : Whenever falling from any height, you can spend a move action to move yourself 5 feet in any direction for every 20 feet you would fall (moving upwards effectively slows your fall). If on a world with low gravity or using a makeshift parachute or similar device, you may instead move 5 feet for every 10 feet you fall. Slowing your fall in this way doesn’t reduce the amount of falling damage you take in this way. Whenever you glide, you gain a +2 dodge bonus to your AC against ranged attacks.
Lesser Mastery : Whenever you glide, each successful attack you make against another airborne creature for 1 round allows you to expend a single attack of opportunity (if able) to move them 5 feet in any direction. Furthermore, when you glide, you can ignore the effects of winds of up to windstorm force on the course of your travel (such winds fail to blow you around, though other effects like ranged weaponry apply normally).
Greater Mastery : Whenever you glide and use the extra movement to move downwards (effectively diving faster), all melee attacks you make until the start of your next action gain a +1 bonus to damage rolls for every 10 feet dived in this way. Furthermore, your dodge bonus against ranged attacks increases to +4.
True Mastery : When you glide, you can ignore the effects of all wind on the course of your travel. whenever movement taken as a result of gliding would result in provoking an attack of opportunity from an airborne creature, you may make an attack of opportunity against that creature as well.
With a well-placed strike, you can ruin a creature’s ability to fly.Associated Classes:
Least Mastery : As a full-round action, you can make a single attack against a creature at your full base attack bonus. If you successfully hit, the target takes damage as normal and its maneuverability when flying is reduced by one degree until it next receives natural or magical healing. This effect stacks with itself and if a creature is already at clumsy maneuverability, it loses the ability to fly and, if already flying, starts spiraling towards the ground at a rate of 60 feet per round before landing with no damage (unless it would prefer to fall as normal). This combat technique has no effect on creatures flying without the use of wings or similar appendages.
Lesser Mastery : Each time you successfully use this ability, the target’s fly speed is also reduced by 10 feet for an equal duration. This effect stacks with itself and the target starts plummeting as described above if its fly speed is reduced to 0 ft. in this way.
Greater Mastery : Instead of using this ability as a full-round action, you may use it once per round as part of a full attack in place of two attacks, using the higher of the two attack bonuses. Furthermore, the penalties remain in place until the target is next restored to full hit points.
True Mastery : While a creature is spiraling downwards, it is treated as being flat-footed. Furthermore, whenever you would reduce a target’s fly speed to 0 ft. or maneuverability below clumsy, you may choose to have them simply fall instead, taking damage as appropriate.
You have mastered the art of striking at others and vanishing back into your environment.Associated Classes:
Ranger, Ninja, Rogue, Scout, Spellthief
Least Mastery : At the end of any action in which you have attacked, if you possess cover or concealment, you can make a hide check with a -10 penalty. If you do so, you cannot make or spend attacks of opportunity for 1 round.
Lesser Mastery : When using Guerilla Warfare, you may move up to 5 feet before making your hide check as a free action so long as this movement ends with you possessing cover or concealment. The hide check you make only suffers a -5 penalty.
Greater Mastery : If you succeed on your hide check against a foe you have damaged within the same round while using Guerilla Warfare, that foe is treated as flat-footed by all other attackers for 1 round and that target takes a -5 penalty to all opposed spot checks made against others during this time.
True Mastery : When using Guerilla Warfare, you may move up to 10 feet before making your hide check as a free action so long as this movement ends with you possessing cover or concealment. You no longer take a penalty to your Hide check when using this ability.
Notes and Explanation : Though obviously intended for snipers, this ability also allows for games of melee “hide-and-seek” in dense forests, abandoned ruins, thick fog, and crowded streets. Not much to explain.
You intimidate those around you in combat, breaking their will to continue the fight.Associated Classes:
Barbarian, Hexblade, Marshall, Ninja, Rogue, Samurai
Least Mastery : Whenever you hit a creature with an attack during your action, you may immediately end your action and submit the target of your attack to a Will save (DC 10 + your BAB). Alternately, you may spend a full-round action to select a creature up to 100 feet away. If that creature can see and hear you, it makes a Will save against the same DC. Either way, creatures who fail their will save are shaken for 1d4+1 rounds and those who succeed can’t be affected by this ability when used by you for 24 hours. This is a mind-affecting fear effect.
Lesser Mastery : Whenever you Inspire Fear upon scoring a critical hit, the target of your attack takes a -5 penalty to its Will save. Whenever you spend a full-round action to Inspire Fear, you may select a number of targets up to your Base Attack Bonus. Lastly, any creature who fails on its saving throw by 5 or more points is frightened instead of shaken.
Greater Mastery : You Inspire Fear upon making an attack that knocks a creature to 0 or fewer hit points, forcing all creatures within your reach (or within 10 feet if using a ranged weapon) to make Will saves against fear. When you spend a full-round action to Inspire Fear, there is no maximum range for your targets so long as they can see and hear you. Lastly, any creature who fails on its saving throw by 10 or more points is panicked instead of frightened.
True Mastery : If you Inspire Fear within 1 round of delivering a killing blow to one or more creatures, any target with HD up to half of your Base Attack Bonus who witnessed the killing blow and who fails their saving throw is Panicked instead of Shaken. If they failed their saving throw by 5 points or more, they instead cower in fear for the normal duration.
When in the midst of a grapple, you can use your partner as a humanoid shield.Associated Classes:
Least Mastery : While an opponent is pinned in a grapple, you may spend a move action to begin interposing that target between you and harm like a shield. While using this combat technique, you regain your Dexterity bonus to AC and gain an additional +2 shield bonus to AC. You may not use this combat technique on targets of the largest size category you can successfully grapple. You must continue spending a move action each round to continue this combat technique, lest the situation degrade into a normal pin. You cannot use this combat technique if three or more individuals are involved in a grapple, though enemies can’t join a grapple while you are interposing a foe.
Lesser Mastery : While using this combat technique, you threaten the area around you normally and can draw and use light or natural weaponry (or unarmed strikes). Furthermore, any successful attack against you possesses a 20% chance of hitting your target instead.
Greater Mastery : While using this combat technique, you may move at your full speed whenever you succeed on a grapple check made to move, though you can’t charge, run, or perform similar actions. If the target wears magical armor, you may add its enhancement bonus to the shield bonus your target grants you.
True Mastery : While using this combat technique, any successful attack against you possesses a 50% chance of hitting your target instead. You may make whatever attacks of opportunity you would make against your target, regardless of who provoked such attacks.
You are so familiar with the tools of war that you can utilize them with the greatest of skill.Associated Classes:
Least Mastery : As a swift action, you may spend a single attack of opportunity and select one shield, suit of armor, or weapon you possess. That item is considered masterwork until the start of your next round if not already and you gain a +4 bonus on opposed rolls against sunder and disarm attempts made against that item for 1 round. In addition, if you are not proficient with the targeted item, you halve the penalty to attack rolls for 1 round. If a shield is targeted in this way, it is affected either as a weapon or as a shield (not both).
Lesser Mastery : When you activate this ability, you may sacrifice a total number of attacks of opportunity up to one-fourth of your base attack bonus. If the selected item has a lower enhancement bonus than the number of attacks surrendered in this way, it gains that enhancement bonus for 1 round. An item isn't affected if it would gain a total enhancement bonus of over +10 in this way. This enhancement bonus is nonmagical in nature, though it allows you to bypass magical damage reduction.
Greater Mastery : When you activate this ability, the next sunder or disarm attempt against the item that would otherwise succeed this round fails and you suffer no penalty for lacking proficiency with the item for the duration of the ability. Furthermore, if it's total enhancement bonus is less than +10, increase the threat range of any weapon targeted in this way or decrease the armor check penalty of any shield or armor targeted in this way by 2.
True Mastery : Whenever you activate this ability, you may gain a specific boon depending on the nature of the item. If the item's total enhancement bonus is less than +8, you either add half of your base attack bonus to your next successful attack roll made with the selected weapon within the next round or reduce the next source of damage you would take by an equal amount if you select a shield or armor. These effects don't stack with armor and weapon qualities such as fire resistance, invulnerability, flaming, or holy.
Notes and Explanation : Generally speaking, it sucks in D&D trying to play as anything resembling a weapons master. Unless you get a single weapon that takes on multiple forms, each weapon you want to be relevant is going to take a huge drain on your wealth. This combat technique allows you to actually play the role of weapons master and makes the loss of your weapon and armor less scary without making such equipment pointless.
When properly mounted, you and your mount can control the way in which others move.Associated Classes:
Knight, Paladin, Scout
Least Mastery : While mounted on a trained creature with a speed faster than your own, you can spend a move action to attempt to outmaneuver enemies for 1 round. Your mount gains a +10 foot bonus to its speed for 1 round and you can command it to make a bull rush or overrun attempt during this time as a free action (to you). Lastly, any square that your mount passes through within the next round is treated as difficult terrain until the start of your next action.
Lesser Mastery : While Outmaneuvering others on a mount, you may utilize combat techniques that would move you (such as dodge) and move your mount along with you. Furthermore, overrun attempts that your mount makes can’t be avoided and neither bull rush nor overrun attempts that your mount makes provoke attacks of opportunity. Lastly, both you and your mount gain a +1 dodge bonus to AC.
Greater Mastery : While Outmaneuvering others on a mount, any square that your mount passes through within the next round can’t be passed through by others unless they make a successful reflex save (DC 10 + your BAB). Also, your mount receives an additional +10 foot bonus to its speed.
True Mastery: : While Outmaneuvering others on a mount, neither of you nor your mount provoke attacks of opportunity for the mount’s movement. When making an overrun or bull rush attempt, your mount counts as one size category larger. Lastly, the dodge bonus you and your mount receive increases by +1.
Whether through timing or brute force, you have a gift for deflecting one attack with another.Associated Classes:
Least Mastery : Whenever a melee attack is made against you, you may spend an attack of opportunity to make an opposed attack roll against the one made against you. For every size category smaller than the attacker that you are, you take a -4 penalty to this attack roll. If your attack roll is successful, the attack misses you. You cannot parry while flat-footed or helpless. You only parry physical attacks in this way (not rays).
Lesser Mastery : By taking a -5 penalty to your attack roll, you can either parry a ranged weapon or parry an attack using a ranged weapon (you may do both by taking a -10 penalty to the roll).
Greater Mastery : By taking a -5 penalty to your attack roll, you can parry a magical or supernatural ray aimed at you (this stacks with the -5 penalty for parrying a ranged attack).
True Mastery : Whenever you successfully counter an attack, you may spend another attack of opportunity for the round (if you possess any) to use the result of your attack roll as an attack of opportunity against your attacker. The attacker must be within your reach (if using a melee weapon) or within 1 range increment (if using a thrown or ranged weapon).
Notes and Explanation : Yup, that’s right. With this ability, you can finally parry an opponent’s blade like a warblade with wall of blades. It isn’t easy, mind you, but it is finally an option on the table and the penalties don’t seem too insurmountably huge in most cases. If they still seem too unreasonably large, I’ll reduce all of the penalties to -2.
Using the full power of your weapon, you can make a shot that keeps travelling after hitting its target.Associated Classes:
Ranger, Rogue, Scout
Least Mastery : As a full-round action, you may make a single ranged attack. In a way, this attack is treated as a line effect out to the outermost reach of your weapon. You make your attack roll against the nearest enemy falling on this line. If the attack hits, the same attack roll result -2 is used as another attack against the next enemy to fall on this line. A natural 20 only guarantees that the first attack hits and additional penalties may be applied depending on range increments and other normal factors. No more than two targets can be hit at a time with this ability.
Lesser Mastery : When you loose a Penetrating Shot, you target all enemies along the line within the first two range increments of your weapon. For each successful attack made in this way, the attack roll result takes another -2 penalty against the next target. A single missed attack roll stops the attack from travelling further down the line. If there are two or fewer targets within the first two range increments of your weapon, this ability instead functions as normal with least mastery.
Greater Mastery : When you loose a Penetrating Shot, you treat all attack rolls made with the shot as touch attacks. Furthermore, for every point by which you exceed a target’s AC with this shot, you ignore one point of any damage reduction that they may have. Lastly, you can be a bit more precise and discerning with your Penetrating Shots. The initial target of the shot need not be the closest enemy to you on the line and though later targets must be further down the line, you can “skip” attacking any number of foes.
True Mastery : When you loose a Penetrating Shot, you can target any or all enemies along the line, regardless of how far they are from you or one another. Each target must still be further down the line than the last, however, and a single missed attack ends the series of attacks.
You can prepare yourself to follow after opponents as soon as they flee, never letting them escape.Associated Classes:
Barbarian, Monk, Paladin, Ranger, Swashbuckler
Least Mastery : As a move action, you may prepare to pursue any creature in your threatened area. If that creature moves out of your threatened area within the next round, you can instantly move up to your speed if doing so would keep the creature in your threatened area. You may pursue a creature who endures involuntary movement such as a bull rush and even after teleportation (though you do not teleport yourself). You may only ready a pursuit against one creature at a time.
Lesser Mastery : When you prepare to pursue a creature, you need not spend further move actions in future rounds to continue pursuing the creature. Your pursuit ends if you decide not to pursue a target when it moves, if you are unable to pursue a target when it moves, or when you start pursuing another target. If either you or the target are killed or knocked unconscious, the pursuit similarly ends.
Greater Mastery : While prepared to pursue a creature, that creature provokes attacks of opportunity from you for using the Tumble skill, for withdrawing, and for taking 5-foot steps. Other forms of movement that wouldn’t normally provoke attacks of opportunity function normally against you. Your speed increases by +10 feet for the purpose of pursuing targets.
True Mastery : Whenever a creature you are pursuing attempts to teleport or use extradimensional travel, you may make an attack of opportunity against that target. If the attack is successful, the target can only use this ability if it is capable of taking you along as well (such as teleport or planeshift), otherwise failing entirely.
With the right words, you can rally your allies and bring out new strength within them.Associated Classes:
Bard, Dragon Shaman, Marshall, Paladin, Samurai
Least Mastery : As a full-round action, you can attempt to rally your allies, rousing them to action and greatness. Allies within 30 feet gain immunity to the Shaken condition, can’t be demoralized though the Intimidate skill, and gain a +1 bonus to one saving throw of your choice for as long as you continue rallying the forces. Though starting a rally requires a full-round action, only a move action is required to continue it each round unless you want to change what saving throw is chosen.
Lesser Mastery : Your attempts to Rally affect all allies within 100 feet of yourself. So long as you continue rallying, allies can continue fighting at negative hit points as though they possessed the diehard feat. The bonus granted by this ability increase by +1.
Greater Mastery : So long as you continue Rallying, your allies gain a +3 bonus to either attack rolls, damage rolls, or to AC (your choice). It requires a full-round action to change which bonus is affected in this way, at which time you can also change which saving throw receives a bonus. The bonus granted to saving throws increases by +1.
True Mastery : So long as you continue Rallying, it becomes incredibly hard to kill allies in range through damage. Even knocked below -10 hit points, your allies can continue functioning. Death effects and abilities that destroy one’s body (such as implosion), however, still function normally. A creature can only remain below -10 hit points for up to 3 rounds at a time, however, dying at the end of that period if their hit points haven’t been raised to at least -9. You do not gain this benefit. Furthermore, the bonuses granted by this ability increase by +1.
Notes and Explanation : Before anyone else says it, I know that this should probably grant a morale bonus. There is a reason that it doesn’t, however. This ability is supposed to stack with bardic music, marshal auras, and the like.
Given a moment to catch your breath, you can prepare yourself to enter the fray once more.Associated Classes:
Barbarian, Hexblade, Knight, Monk, Paladin, Samurai
Shrug it Off:
Least Mastery : If at half of your total hit points or less, you can spend a standard action to heal hit points equal to your Base Attack Bonus.
Lesser Mastery : If you recuperate and haven’t been harmed within the last round, you instead heal hit points equal to twice your Base Attack Bonus.
Greater Mastery : Whenever you recuperate, you gain temporary hit points equal to your Base Attack Bonus (or twice as many if you haven’t been harmed within the last round) that last for 1 hour.
True Mastery : You may recuperate as a move action. Temporary hit points gained through multiple uses of this ability used within a single round stack with themselves.
Notes and Explanation : This is here as a relatively low-power and low-cost means of healing. At +20 BAB, you could potentially gain 80 HP and 80 temporary HP in a round, which is pretty darn good for a non-caster. If you don’t want to carry a heal-bot around, recuperate is a decent second-choice for those who can get it.
Through sheer grit and willpower, you can force yourself to power through most forms of ailment.Associated Classes:
Barbarian, Hexblade, Knight, Monk, Paladin, Samurai
Least Mastery : Whenever you would be afflicted with one of the following conditions, you can instantly negate that condition. In exchange, you lose your next action and move up one place in initiative on future rounds (if already first in initiative, you instead move to last in initiative and may thus act again in the round). The conditions you can negate in this way are entangled, dazed, fascinated, fatigued, shaken, and sickened. Once you have used this ability, you can’t do so again until you have missed your next action.
Lesser Mastery : The following conditions can be negated through this ability: ability damage, confusion, exhausted, frightened, immobilized, nauseated, poisoned, and stunned.
Greater Mastery : The following conditions can be negated through this ability: ability drain, blinded, charm effects, deafened, diseased, feebleminded.
True Mastery : The following conditions can be negated through this ability: compulsion effects, death effects, energy drain, and effects that would alter your form against your will (such as baleful polymorph or flesh to stone).
Notes and Explanation : And now for a fundamental “mundane” class feature that I’ve seen on far too many fighter fixes to count, cancelling out “status effects” through pure grit. Unlike the much-famed Iron Heart surge, this combat technique is reasonable and fairly sane. The initiative-cycling is there so that if a creature spams you with an annoying condition every round, you will eventually heal it and get an action to kill it or escape before it can do so again.
Despite being sane, though, this ability does carry lots of implications in its own right. Even a lowly fighter 1 can shake off fatigue, level 5 combatants need not worry about poison or ability damage of any source, and the dreaded dust of coughing and sneezing may well create a 1 turn delay per use rather than acting as an insta-kill. This ability puts a pretty epic amount of resilience into a player’s hands so be aware of how that affects the world. At the same time, not everyone in the world will have this specific ability so such status effects need not become worthless to PCs
With a single word and gesture, you can sic your ally on those who stand in your way.Associated Classes:
Least Mastery : As a standard action, you can have an adjacent wild ally who can hear and see you make a natural attack of your choice against a target of your choice within its reach. A wild ally is defined as any friendly or helpful animal or magical beast (including most mounts). You can’t, however, sic wild allies with CR greater than your BAB on anyone.
Lesser Mastery : For 1 round after siccing a wild ally on a target, you may spend two attacks of opportunity to force the wild ally to make an attack of opportunity in your place (if the target is within its reach) in addition to its normal attack of opportunity (if any). You can’t force a wild ally to exceed its own limit of attacks of opportunity per round in this way. Furthermore, you can sic up to two wild allies on enemies (they need not have the same target) as a standard action
Greater Mastery : You can command a wild ally to sic a creature from any distance, so long as they can see and hear you. As a move action, you can grant a move action to a wild ally who can hear and see you (though you can’t direct where it goes). Lastly, you gain cover so long as you remain adjacent to a wild ally that you have sicced on another within the last round.
True Mastery : As a full-round action, you can sic yourself and up to four wild allies on enemies, having them make a total of four attacks divide any way amongst them and yourself that you choose against targets of your choice. You can’t make a wild ally make more attacks in this way than a full attack would allow in this way.
Notes and Explanation : Yup, even a combat technique for wild-men. Not sure if I like this one as much as I like some others, though I can't figure out why. If someone has an idea for this thing, feel free to let me know.
With the proper threatening gesture or distracting movement you can stop spellcasters in their tracks.Associated Classes:
Hexblade, Monk, Spellthief
Least Mastery : Whenever a spellcaster within your reach (or within 10 feet if using a ranged weapon) starts casting a spell or spell-like ability, you may spend an attack of opportunity to roll damage against the spellcaster as though you had hit them with an attack of opportunity (even if they successfully cast defensively). Though the spellcaster’s hit points aren’t lowered, they must make a Concentration check to focus on their spell as though they had taken the damage. This “damage” does not stack with damage from an attack of opportunity you may make (though such an attack may force an additional Concentration check).
Lesser Mastery : Whenever you hit a spellcaster with an attack, you may spend two attacks of opportunity. If you do so, the next spell or spell-like ability that the target attempts to cast within the next round is subjected to your Spell Disruption at no further cost to you as pain from the attack distracts them. This occurs regardless of distance between you and the caster at the time of casting and regardless of whether you are aware of the casting. Roll the same damage for Spell Disruption as was rolled for the attack that hit. Multiple uses of this ability on a single caster don’t stack.
Greater Mastery : Whenever you use Spell Disruption on a spellcaster, it’s effects extend to all spells and spell-like abilities that spellcaster attempts to cast until the end of its next action, forcing it to make a new Concentration check against the same DC each time it attempts to cast a spell. If you use Spell Disruption again on the same caster during this time, use only the highest of all Concentration DCs achieved in this way.
True Mastery : Whenever you would use Spell Disruption on a spellcaster, you may pay all of your remaining attacks of opportunity (minimum 2) to simply cause that spell or spell-like ability to fail, wasting the spell slot/prepared spell/daily use with no effect. Likewise, when you hit a spellcaster with an attack, you may pay all of your remaining attacks of opportunity (minimum 2) to cause the next spell or spell-like ability that the spellcaster attempts cast to fail in an identical manner (the spellcaster is unaware of this effect). This effect does not extend past the single spell stopped in this way.
With a bit of time and patience, you can prepare a highly accurate strike against an opponent.Associated Classes:
Ranger, Rogue, Scout
Least Mastery : At the beginning of your action, you may select a creature with which you possess a line of sight and spend any number of attacks of opportunity. If you don’t take any aggressive actions until the start of your next action, your next ranged attack roll against that target before the end of your next action gains a bonus of equal size. If you lose line of sight with your target at any point before making the attack, this bonus is lost. Multiple bonuses gained in this way do not stack.
Lesser Mastery : If the target of an aimed attack is flat-footed or otherwise doesn’t receive its Dexterity bonus to its AC (whether or not it has one), you receive a bonus to your damage roll equal to your attack roll bonus from aiming. Furthermore, if the target would leave your line of sight for any reason, you may make an attack of opportunity against them (if you have any remaining), though this attack gains no bonus from having aimed.
Greater Mastery : After making an aimed attack against an opponent, you may instantly spend any number of attacks of opportunity to aim another attack against the same target (even though you have taken an aggressive action this round). Furthermore, losing line of sight with your target doesn’t cause you to lose the benefits of aiming so long as you regain line of sight before the start of your next round.
True Mastery : The benefits of aiming an attack at a foe extend to all ranged attacks you make at that foe in the following round. Furthermore, if you attack using constructed weaponry, the threat range for your attacks is increased by half of the attack bonus gained for aiming.
Working together with another, the two of you can fight together as a single unit.Associated Classes:
Dragon Shaman, Knight, Marshall, Paladin, Rogue, Swashbuckler
FAQs and Other Notes:What Combat Techniques Do:
Least Mastery : As a full-round action, you can grant any ally that can hear and see you a move action and can team up with them if they are willing. If the ally doesn’t already possess this combat technique, they must temporarily replace one of their techniques with this one (at the same degree) to accept the Team Up until the end of the encounter, until either you of dissolve the team up as a move action, or until you Team Up with another ally. If the ally doesn’t have any combat techniques, they are granted this one at least mastery. You gain a +5 bonus to Aid Another checks made to help your partner in a Team Up and may make such a check as a swift action.
Lesser Mastery : If you are Teamed Up and your partner would take hit point damage from any source while within your reach, you may spend two attacks of opportunity (if able) to take half of all damage that your partner would take. You gain a +1 bonus to AC and Saving Throws while adjacent to your partner.
Greater Mastery : Whenever you Team Up, you may select one combat technique of your partner and replace one of your other techniques with it for the duration of the Team Up, gained at a degree equal to that of the replaced technique or that of the technique being copied, whichever is less.
True Mastery : If you are Teamed Up and your partner successfully attacks a foe, you may spend two attacks of opportunity to make an attack against them as well. If the attack hits, it automatically threatens a critical hit.
What Combat Techniques are Not:
If you're wondering why it is worth using combat techniques in the first place, I consider them capable of...
- allowing for some more complex and meaningful actions: The old days of "I hit it with my sword" can be replaced with more interesting actions that have some tactical bearing on the battle beyond taking an opponent's hit points (of which it only really needs one to keep fighting unfazed).
- making some traditional and iconic actions in combat possible: Parrying and dodging attacks, rallying your allies, shrugging off harmful effects, and other such effects can be duplicated through combat techniques (and without needing to spend one or more precious feats to do so).
- allowing play of less powerful classes: With Combat Techniques to help pick up the slack, many of the more maligned 3.5 classes (such as the Paladin, Ranger, Hexblade, Soulborn, Swashbuckler, and even the CW Samurai) gain at least some degree of playability. While they'll never never be the optimal choice, Combat Techniques allow for players of such classes to still contribute meaningfully.
- creating variety among a race of monsters: Typically, if a DM wants to run an encounter against many creatures of a given race, every combatant is pretty much identical and even switching feats rarely does more than shuffle a few numbers. With Combat Techniques, however, a group of 5 ogres can become 2 Ogrish Wardancers with dodge and skirmish, two Ogrish Warriors with Engage and Recuperate, and an Ogre warchief with Assess Battlefield and Rally.
Wait, what about Tome of Battle?
While my combat techniques can serve a variety of different purposes, they are not here to...
- Even the battleground between casters and noncasters: as far as I'm concerned, nothing beyond an epic nerf of spellcasting would accomplish this.
- Give each player a wide array of options in combat: seeing as each combat technique makes a new action possible, it may look exactly like this was my purpose. In reality, however, I acknowledge that most users of this system would still probably focus around their character's Plan A rather than build a Plan B. An archer, for example, might take aim and let loose a penetrating shot set to cripple enemies and blind them through dirty fighting before using guerilla warfare to hide back in the bushes as regularly and predictably as Fighter 4 swings a sword every round. More complex and deep strategies, perhaps, but more varied somehow doesn't seem likely.
- Create balance between Gishes/ToB classes and other mundane fighters: This is not my goal for these techniques and never was. Though I do explore the possibility of only granting these techniques to the "other mundane fighters" below, I created these techniques to be granted to everyone, including warblades and duskblades. While these techniques give a bit of "wiggle-room" to play with weaker classes and still participate meaningfully and have fun, those weaker classes are still weaker classes.
Introducing Combat Techniques: Whole or Piecemeal?
Looking at my claims at the start of this very post, you may wonder how I could view the contents of the ToB to not be complex and deep combat.
My answer, unsurprisingly, is that I don't believe that. Tome of Battle is a very deep book. The Crusader/Swordsage/Warblade were all very lucky. What about everyone else? Though Maneuvers make up a very nice "mundane magic system", it only applies to the three classes in the book that can use it. Combining them with the Duskblade and Psychic Warrior, we might have something like 5 halfway decent frontline fighters out of about 20 classes designed to do front-line fighting.
What Tome of Battle seemed to do, at least from my perspective, is shout out "Hey, guys. You can have all of the deep, meaningful, and tactical combat that you could have ever wished for... so long as said combat is performed with one of three classes."
Instead of writing up fixes for every martial base class and incorporating maneuvers into each one, I created a core mechanic that effects everyone equally without need for revisions.
Instead of writing up specialty disciplines of maneuvers that allow for almost any technique that any archetype of any martial class would want, I wrote up twenty fairly generic abilities that cover a decently wide range of what mundane attackers could hope to accomplish.
I'm not trying to put down all of those fine folks who've gone through the trouble of writing up dozens of disciplines and initiator base classes, mind you. I'm honestly in awe at the sheer amount of work that is available. This is just an attempt to see what a simpler "shortcut" would look like.
Associated Classes and Homebrew:
When I was first making these techniques, I was wondering how it would be incorporated into a campaign. I discuss it being used as a universal mechanic but I can see merits in not doing so for various reasons. I personally suggest using it as a more universal concept but here are the other arguments I can think up of, if that doesn't sound inviting:
Gish and Initiators: For one thing, I could easily see the argument that initiators already have maneuvers to work with and that (functional) gish classes like the duskblade have spells. I somehow doubt that sprinkling Combat Techniques on top of them will push them over any lines of "broken-dom" that they haven't already crossed. On the other hand, only granting them to other classes (weaker ones, mostly), might make a bit of sense.
Monsters: If applying Combat Techniques to monsters would take too much time or if the players are already likely to have problems in battle, I could understand not giving monsters Combat Techniques. Conversely, if the players need no assistance but the monsters need a hand jsut to put of a fight, I could see an argument for only using Combat Techniques on Monsters.
As a homebrew creator myself, I know well the joy of creating or finding interesting character options and the desire to use them to the fullest. Of course, making these techniques, Amechra and myself naturally can't anticipate every homebrew class out there so here is a handy shortcut. For any homebrewed base class, you may select two related base classes (whether related by flavor and/or their role). From the combat techniques available to those two classes, you may select up to four (if the class possesses a medium BAB) or six (if the class possesses high BAB) to treat that class as an associated class. Homebrew classes with less than medium BAB aren't associated with any combat techniques and those with untraditional BAB advancement above medium BAB are treated as possessing high BAB for this purpose.Last Note:
Please forgive any mistakes in my spelling/grammar/formatting for the moment. I (of course) chose to post all of this up on the internet pretty late at night when my last-minute-editing skills are pretty darn bad.