Fighter Combat Tricks

First off, Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there. This is my first Father’s Day and I’ll be gaming as part of the celebration. Being married to a fellow gamer can work out nicely at times.

Anyway, on to the main topic. In this post, I’ll go over some ideas for adding special combat tricks and abilities to future fighters. Some of these draw on my previous post on combat pacing.

Stunt Mastery

If you’ve got a strong system for combat stunts in place, it’s an easy enough matter to make fighters especially practiced in these stunts.

A simple but flexible way to do this is let the character pick a stunt effect. When using that effect as part of a weapon attack, the character could reduce the accuracy cost by a certain amount.

Combo Maneuvers

The next step up is combining a specific set of stunt effects and trade-offs into a standardized combat maneuvers.

As with basic stunt effect, any character could attempt these maneuvers. However, a character that’s mastered them can do so at a reduced accuracy cost and thus pull them off more reliably.

These reduction could also get stronger at higher levels, allowing for more potent maneuvers and combos.

These maneuvers can act much like “at will” powers in 4E as most of them will grant minor special effects at minimal cost.


Another option is to use “stances” that the character can switch between as needed. Each stance would have it’s own set of perks and drawbacks. Ideally this would make each one better in certain situation, which in turn may make deciding which one to use into an interesting strategic choice.

Reactive Expertise

Another area the fighter could excel in is interrupting or reacting to enemy actions. The 4E fighter already has a trick like this where they can make an attack if a marked target takes certain actions. This could be adapted to things like using charges to interrupt certain attacks or knock enemies out of the way they move near allies.

One way this could be done is by expanded on readied actions. Perhaps the fighter could prepare conditional attacks without surrendering their primary attack for the round. Alternately, they might be able to get a secondary perk if the conditional perk isn’t triggered. These options would give the fighter some tools for encouraging enemies to do what they want, increasing their ability to control the battlefield.

Superior Hits

Another trick we can add is expanding on the critical hit mechanic. The idea is to insert random spikes in the character’s performance to make combat a little less predictable.

Let’s say a properly trained character can get a “superior hit” on an unmodified roll of 16+. That way roughly 1 out of every 4 rounds will have one of the special hits.

Alternately, we can have them triggered when the character hits by a certain margin. That approach does use a little more match, but it also makes the fighter even better against low level enemies.

When one of these hits is triggered, we can give the character free use of minor stunt effect or a more potent stunt effect as part of a trade off. As the character become more experienced, they can gain more options to use when superior hits occur.

Heroic Surges

While critical and superior hits cover random chance, a skilled fighter may be able to make his own opportunities.

On way of handling this is giving the fighter a resource that can be used once per encounter to turn a normal hit into a superior one. As the fighter gets more skilled, they may learn other uses for these resources such as turning a superior hit into a critical hit, taking certain extra actions, and shaking off wounds or other negative effects.

Additional uses of these resources could also be gained though certain actions or events. For example, a given fighter might become more dangerous when bloodied or when his allies are wounded.

Wrapping Up

This gives us a good number of options to choose from, though we’ll want to prune this down a bit for starting fighters.

One thing to keep in mind when adding these tricks is that’s it’s probably a good idea to favor breadth over depth. In short, it’s probably better for the fighter to have a wide variety of good options instead of one superior option. With one great option you run into the situation often seen in 3E where the Fighter would just have on specialized trick they repeat every round.

By the same token, weapon specialization should also be watched carefully. While there are warriors who mastered one weapon, there’s a similar amount of support for the idea of the fighter as a master of all weapons. Balancing the two approaches can be tricky.

Next time I’ll take look at combat roles. Until then, keep those dice a rolling.

Published in: on June 20, 2010 at 8:40 am  Leave a Comment  
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