Opportunity Attacks

During the last eight years of running third edition, I have come to the conclusion that opportunity attacks are pain in the neck. Adjudicating them is a nightmare – in fact you can’t adjudicate them fairly and consistantly without resorting to a battle grid and counters. In a freeform combat system, the GM and the player continually argue about whether a certain action will provoke an attack. Even if the disagreement is amicable, it’s still annoying. As a result, these rules generally just get ignored by everyone concerned.

If fourth edition had not been released, I would have spent some considerable time over the next year modifying third edition. Attacks of Opportunity would have been one of the things what were changed beyond all recognition. In looking at the 4e rules, I have come to the conclusion that a radical solution is needed to this perennial problem.

Drumroll please…

Proposed Rule Change:
Remove Opportunity Attacks

The way I see it, if we can’t adjudicate a rule fairly then why bother having it at all? It just bogs everything down. I’ve never liked the mechanic, so let’s just ditch it. Is this too extreme? Is there a solution within the rules that I am not seeing? If you can think of a way around the problem then tell me, we’ll discuss it.

I know what you’re thinking: opportunity attacks are fundamental to the game.  Remove them and the house of cards that is D&D 4e begins to totter. Literally dozens of powers, features, feats and other abilities rely on the Opportunity Attack mechanic. Removing opportunity attacks invalidates those abilities – so I am faced with the prospect of either excising those abilities from the game, or modifying them so they are thematically similar, but no longer reference opportunity attacks. This is the problem we face with any major change to the rules. Start picking at one thing, and suddenly you are unravelling a whole range of seemingly unrelated rules. The question is whether the work we need to do to remove opportunity attacks is worth it.

However, for the purposes of this post I am going to assume that we have decided to remove opportunity attacks. I will investigate the ramifications of this, and list suggested fixes for the problem powers, traits and feats in the core rules. Please feel free to comment on all or any of this. It’s what the blog is for.

Opportunity Attack vs Opportunity Action

Opportunity actions are free actions that a character can take at any point in a combat round. Opportunity actions require a triggering condition, and there is no limit to the number of opportunity actions a character can take in one round. Opportunity Attacks are merely a type of opportunity action. Even if we get rid of opportunity attacks, we cannot get rid of opportunity actions. They are still important to the game. This may not sound like a big deal, but I can assure that it is important for the wider coherence of 4e.

Opportunity Attacks Transformed

At present there are a number of tactics and move-related actions that provoke opportunity attacks. Additionally, there are feats, powers, racial traits, monster abilities, magic items and more than reference opportunity attacks in some way. In removing opportunity attacks I have to be consistant, therefore all of these rules will be altered in one (or more) of three ways:

  1. If you are granted a modifier to hit or defence against opportunity attacks, then this modifier may apply instead to all attacks or actions in the Surprise Round.
  2. Alternatively, if you are granted a modifier to hit or defence against opportunity attacks, then this modifier may apply instead to all attacks or actions when you grant (or have) Combat Advantage.
  3. Where the positions of the characters are completely unambiguous, and an opportunity attack would have normally been provoked, then the attacker can instead have a “free attack as an opportunity action”.

Now, generally all problems powers, feats etc. can be adapted to the new system with option #3 above. But, because this “free attack as an opportunity action” is likely to come up less often then the printed rules intend opportunity attacks to come up, some feats and powers would feel underpowered if option #3 was all I did that. So options #1 and #2 will appear in certain cases. This is not an exact science and you should feel free to disagree with me.

What Changes without Opportunity Attacks?

I have gone through the three core rule books and identified all the things we would have to change if we excised opportunity attacks. I present them below. I have also proposed possible fixes to these necessitated changes. Take a look and see what you think. Some of the fixes come from d20 games that don’t use attacks of opportunity (such as d20 Call of Cthulhu). Some of them are inspired by second edition.

The Fundamentals

You do not threaten the area around you. Creatures passing you and within your reach (or your “threatening” reach if you’re a nasty monster) do not provoke an attack. That one change completely revolutionises combat, and makes it so much easier to run a fight without a battle grid. However, free attacks are still regularly provoked on two occassions:

Retreating from Mêlée: Fleeing from mêlée allows your foe to make a free attack as an opportunity action against you. You can avoid this by using the Shift action. Shift is a move action, and allows you to step five feet safely and without provoking any attacks against you. You must shift beyond the threatening reach of the foe. For 95% of foes their threatening reach is 5 feet regardless of what weapon they are wielding, so a normal Shift will get you out of trouble. Some monsters have Threatening Reach, that allows them to threaten out to 10 feet or even 15 feet. In these cases, you might find that you shift but still provoke an attack when you turn to run for the hills. Some powers allow you to shift more than 5 feet, or to shift as a free action (or part of another action). Unless you have a power that allows it, you cannot shift in difficult terrain. You can imagine how annoying that might be.

Using a Ranged or Area Attack: If you are engaged in mêlée combat and you try to use a Ranged or an Area attack, then your foe can make a free attack against you as an opportunity action. You could Shift out of reach and then use your Ranged or Area attack if you want (or if you can), but if you try and put an arrow in the face of the gnoll barbarian from six inches, he is going to force his tomahawk into your ear canal.

Any free attack you take as an opportunity action follows the same rules and limitations that governed opportunity attacks. It must be a basic mêlée attack. You can only take one during any combatant’s turn. It takes place before the action that triggered it (so before your foe runs away, or before your foe fires his ranged weapon). You must be able to make a basic mêlée attack – so you cannot be Dominated, Dying, Helpless, Petrified, Stunned, Surprised or Unconscious. You must be able to see the target, so you can’t be Blinded, fighting in total darkness or facing an invisible foe.

Okay, so that’s the fundamentals out of the way. Let’s get onto the specifics:

Racial Traits

Nimble Reaction (PHB1 p44): All halflings get a +2 racial bonus to AC against opportunity attacks. Proposed Fix: Halflings get a +2 racial bonus to AC against all “free attacks as opportunity actions” as defined in the fundamentals above. Additionally, they gain a +2 racial bonus to AC during the surprise round.

Class Features

Arcane Riposte (PHB1 p169) Class feature of the Battle Mage paragon path, gained at 11th level. When making opportunity attacks you can use your hands to deliver 1d8 + Intelligence Modifier in cold, fire, force or lightning damage. Proposed fix: You can imbue any basic mêlée attack with cold, fire, force or lightning damage. Your attack inflicts 1d8 + Int modifier damage. Increase to 2d8 + Int modifier damage at 21st level.

Artful Dodger (PHB1 p117): One of the two options open to Rogue characters. They are granted their Charisma modier as a bonus to AC against opportunity attacks. Proposed fix: The Rogue gains a bonus to his AC equal to his Charisma modifier in the Surprise Round, and against all “free attacks as opportunity actions” as defined in the fundamentals above.

Battle Surge (PHB1 p113): This is the 16th level class feature of the Battlefield Archer paragon path. When you spend an action point to gain an extra action, you also gain a +5 bonus to AC against opportunity attacks until the end of the encounter. Proposed fix: The Battlefield Archer gains a +5 bonus to AC against all attacks made by the target of their Hunter’s Quarry for the duration of the encounter. Note, that Hunter’s Quarry is a class feature of the ranger that all Battlefield Archers will have access to.

Blade Storm (PHB1 p115): This is the 11th level class feature of the Stormwarden paragon path. It only works if you are able to make opportunity attacks. See Force the Battle below for the fix.

Combat Superiority (PHB1 p76): This is a fundamental feature of the Fighter class. When making opportunity attacks, fighters gain a bonus to hit equal to the Wisdom modifier. An enemy struck by the opportunity attack stops moving, if a move provoked the attack. This is fundamental because 4e fighters are designed to protect their companions. They hold the line, and none may pass. By allowing their opportunity attacks to stop running or charging foes fighters are able to blunt attacks, and stop enemy mêlée monsters from getting to the soft and squidy wizards. Something like this has to remain in the game. The proposed fix still depends on gauging which enemies pass within a fighter’s reach, which could still prove problematic. I’m not satisfied with this fix, so please have a think on it.

The fighter may add his Wisdom modifier as a bonus to all “free attacks as opportunity actions” as defined in the fundamentals above. Additionally, he is granted a free basic mêlée attack as an opportunity action against all foes who attempt to move past him without directly engaging him in mêlée combat. The foes must pass within five feet of the fighter (or within range of the fighter’s reach if the fighter possesses the Threatening Reach ability or is using a reach weapon like a polearm). The attack is an oppotunity action and takes place on an opponent’s turn at the moment the opponent leaves the fighter’s threatened area. If the fighter successfully hits a foe, then that foe must stop moving. If the foe still has actions remaining, he may use them to start moving again.

In Defence of Order (PHB1 p100): Class feature of the Champion of Order paragon path. If you are adjacent to the target of your Divine Challenge, then the target provokes an attack of opportunity from you if it makes an attack that doesn’t include you. Proposed fix: Nice and easy. The paladin gains a free basic mêlée attack as an opportunity action against the target of its Divine Challenge if the paladin is in mêlée combat with the target, and the target makes an attack that doesn’t include the paladin. We can keep the mechanic because in order to make a basic mêlée attack the paladin has to be right in the face of his target… and therefore everyone’s positions should be obvious.

Press of Arms (PHB1 p155): Class feature of the Knight Commander paragon path, gained at 16th level. All allies within 3 squares gain a bonus on damage rolls when making opportunity attacks equal to your Charisma modifier. Proposed fix: All allies within 15 feet gain a bonus on damage rolls equal to your Charisma modifier when they have combat advantage.

Twin-Blade Storm (PHB1 p115): This is the 16th level class feature of the Stormwarden paragon path. It only works if you are able to make opportunity attacks. See Force the Battle below for the fix.

Warpriest’s Challenge (PHB1 p74): This is the 16th level feature of the Warpriest paragon path. When a warpriest hits an enemy with an at-will mêlée attack then the target is marked until the end of the encounter; the next time the creature shifts or attacks someone other than the warpriest it provokes an attack of opportunity from the warpriest. Proposed fix: Becasuse the circumstances under which the opportunity attack is triggered are so specific, we can keep much of the flavour. We can rule that if the marked creature steps away from the warpriest or attacks anyone who is not the warpriest, then the warpriest can make free mêlée basic attack as an opportunity action.

Powers

Angel of the Eleven Winds (PHB1 p70): This cleric prayer (level 22 utility) grants one target with range the ability to fly and a +4 power bonus to AC against opportunity attacks. Proposed fix: The power grants a +4 power bonus to AC against all attacks. Well, it is 22nd level.

Astral Defenders (PHB1 p66): This cleric prayer (level 9 attack) conjures two ghostly soldiers. They don’t attack foes proactively, they can only deliver opportunity attacks. The cleric positions them on the battle grid to make maximum use of this ability. This is a really tricky one, as the whole power is built on the opportunity attack mechanic. This is my proposed fix to the effect of the spell:

You conjure two soldiers, each occupying the space of a medium-sized creature. Once per round on the caster’s turn, each the soldier makes a Wisdom vs. Reflex attack on all foes within a 5 ft radius (this a Close Burst 1 in 4e-speak). On a hit, the attack deals 1d10 + Wisdom modifier radiant damage.  You can move one soldier or both a total 15 feet as a move action. Allies can move through the soldiers as if they weren’t there. The soldiers last until the end of the encounter. 

Banish to the Void (PHB1 p139): This level 27 warlock attack power can be used once per encounter. In addition to blasting the target to another dimension, upon return the target is treated as an enemy (with respect to provoking opportunity attacks) by everyone and then makes opportunity attacks against all his friends. Bascially, the power deals damage and then has the effect of Bewitching Whispers (see below). Proposed fix: After returning from the void, the target is compelled to make make a free basic mêlée attack against all creatures in a 5 ft radius. Each free attack is an opportunity action.

Bewitching Whispers (PHB1 p136): This level 13 warlock attack power can be used once per encounter. It makes a target treat everyone in range as enemies for the purposes of attacks of opportunity, and the target must make every attack of opportunity possible. Proposed fix: The target makes a free basic mêlée attack against all creatures in a 5 ft radius. Each free attack is an opportunity action.

Bloody Path (PHB1 p123): This level 15 rogue attack power can be used once per day. It is also hilarious. I love this power. The rogue moves his speed through combat. Every foe who can make an opportunity attack on the rogue must make one. However, rather than attacking the rogue each enemy actually winds up attacking himself as wild swings go awry. Fabulous, but how do we play this in the a system without opportunity attacks? I also have a problem with the nature of the power itself. One has to think – what if it was used on a PC? How would a PC react to being told to damage himself without so much as an attack roll being made against him? My fix is below. Much of the power has been rewritten:

Standard Action – Close Burst (radius = half character’s speed)
Target: Each enemy in burst you can see
Attack: Dexterity vs. Will

You run across the battlefield, deliberately inviting wild attacks from your enemies. All enemies affected by the power, must make a basic mêlée attack against themselves. You trick them into attacking you, but they actually hit themselves. You stop moving at any point within the area of effect of the power, including the point where you started. Using this power does not grant your enemy combat advantage.

Cause Fear (PHB1 p63): The movement induced by this cleric prayer provokes attacks of opportunity. Propose fix: none. The opportuntiy attacks are secondary, the power is all about getting the enemy further away from you or an ally.

Close Quarters (PHB1 p122): This is a level 10 Rogue utility power that can be used once per day. The rogue moves into the space of an adjacent larger creature (of at least Large size) and gains various combat bonuses. However, stepping into the space provokes an opportunity attack. Provoking this attack is the risk the rogue takes in order to pull off some pretty stylish footwork. My fix retains this aspect of the power. Here is the rewrite of the “effect” section of the power:

You dart between the legs of a creature larger than you and at least Large size. As an immediate interrupt, the creature can make a basic mêlée attack against you. Once under the creature’s legs you gain combat advantage, and the creature takes a -4 on attack rolls to hit you. When the creature moves, you can choose to move along with it – retaining the advantage gained by your position. On its turn, the creature can try to kick or fling you out. It makes a Strength or Dexterity vs. Reflex attack (as a standard action, but without the -4 penalty). If it succeeds you are thrown five feet from the creature and the effect of this power ends.

Close Quarters Shot (PHB1 p108): This is a level 9 Ranger Attack power that can be used once per day. It allows you to make a potent close range shot with a ranged weapon (you fire a long bow within 5 feet of the target). The weapon does quadruple damage, and the attack doesn’t provoke an attack of opportunity. Using a bow in mêlée was a big thing in third edition, there were very few ways that you could imitate Legolas from the Lord of the Rings films. The ability to do this and not provoke an opportunity attack should be seen as a fundamental part of the power. Proposed fix: none. The power allows you to fire the bow at a mêlée target without provoking a free attack as an opportunity action. The mechanics are unchanged.

Defy Death (PHB1 p152): This is a level 29 warlord attack power than can be used once per day. The warlord sees an ally about to be attacked and charges to the rescue, he moves up to double his speed (without provoking opportunity attacks), lands a blow on the foe that does septupal damage, and the ally can spend a healing surge as an immediate reaction. Proposed fix: None. The fact that it ignores opportunity attacks is irrelevent in light of the general kick-ass nature of the power. Using this power would allow the warlord to avoid the effects of a fighter’s Combat Superiority class feature (or anything else in the game that mimicked it), and any other “free attacks as opportunity actions” as defined in the fundamentals above.

Exalted Retribution (PHB1 p98): This level 25 Paladin Attack is a daily power with a potent benefit. For the duration of the encounter, the target provokes an opportunity attack from you whenever it attacks. These attacks do not need to be directed at you. Proposed fix: I think we can keep the true flavour of this one. The paladin gets a free basic mêlée attack as an opportunity action (as modified by the power’s effect) against the target, every time the target makes an attack. Obviously, the paladin needs to be in mêlée range to take advantage of this.

Force the Battle (PHB1 p86): This level 29 Fighter Attack only works if you are able to make opportunity attacks. Proposed fix: None needed. Saying that a power “only works if you can make opportunity attacks” is just a short-hand way of saying that you cannot use this power if your foe is invisible, or if you are blinded, dazed, dominated, dying, helpless, stunned, surprised, unconscious or any other common-sense condition.

Frenzied Skirmish (PHB1 p107): This level 5 Ranger Attack allows you to attack two foes, moving a distance of up to your speed between them. This movement does not provoke an attack of opportunity. Proposed fix: None. The power is all about attacking two targets at opposite ends of the battlefield. Allowing the ranger to avoid opportunity attacks has only been put in to make the power worth taking. Removing it doesn’t lessen the power’s usefulness in my view.

Hit and Run (PHB1 p105): This level 1 Ranger Attack Power can be used at-will. If the ranger moves in the same turn after attacking an opponent, leaving the first square adjacent to the target does not provoke an opportunity attack from the target. Proposed fix: None is needed. The first five feet of the ranger’s movement is considered a shift for the purposes of avoiding free attacks made against him.  Nothing has really changed.

Precision Cut (PHB1 p88): This level 11 attack power of the Swordmaster paragon path can be used once per encounter. It is a Strength vs Reflex attack that inflicts triple weapon damage + Strength Modifier. The text states that it can be used as an opportunity attack. Proposed fix: Precision Cut can be used whenever the character can make a free attack as an opportunity action. Granted this will be less often than an opportunity attack in the published rules, but it is still a worthy advantage.

Rain of Steel (PHB1 p79): This level 5 Fighter Attack only works if you are able to make opportunity attacks. See Force the Battle above for the fix.

Reaper’s Stance (PHB1 p85): This level 25 Fighter Attack only works if you are able to make opportunity attacks. See Force the Battle above for the fix.

Unbalancing Attack (PHB1 p123): This is a level 13 Rogue attack usable once per encounter. You attack for triple damage, and the target cannot shift until the end of your next turn. A Shift is a five foot step that doesn’t provoke an opportunity attack and is usually used for retreating safely from an active combat. If the target does shift then the rogue gets a bonus to subsequent opportunity attacks. My proposed fix is below, it replaces the “Hit” section of the power description.

3[W] + Dexterity modifier damage, and the target is knocked completely off balance. The target is unable to retreat safely from this combat. If it tries to shift away from you before the end of your next turn you can have a free basic mêlée attack as an opportunity action against the target. You gain a bonus to the attack roll and the damage roll equal to your Strength modifier, and you knock the target prone on a hit.

Unyielding Avalanche (PHB1 p82): This Level 15 Fighter Attack only works if you are able to make opportunity attacks. See Force the Battle above for the fix.

Viper’s Strike (PHB1 p145): This one of the warlord’s level one at-will powers. After a successful hit, if the target shifts before the start of the warlord’s next turn then it provokes an opportunity attack from an ally of the warlord’s choice. Proposed fix: After a successful attack with this power, the warlord has manoeuvred the enemy into a tactically disadvantageous position. If the target shifts away from mêlée combat with the warlord before the beginning of the warlord’s next turn, then the warlord can nominate one of his allies to make a basic mêlée attack against the target as an opportunity action. If no allies are in a position to make such an attack, then the power has no effect.

Feats

Blade Opportunist (PHB1 p194): Heroic tier feat. Grants a +2 bonus to opportunity attack rolls when using a heavy blade or a light blade. Proposed fix: Grants a +2 bonus to attack rolls when using a heavy blade or a light blade and delivering “free attacks as opportunity actions” as defined in the fundamentals above. The bonus also applies in the surprise round of combat.

Blind Fight (PHB1 p206): Paragon tier feat. Adjacent creatures don’t gain the benefit of concealment or invisibility against you. This means you can make opportunity attacks against creatures you cannot see. Proposed fix: Invisible opponents gain combat advantage over their targets. If you have the Blind Fight feat then invisible or concealed opponents within mêlée range do not gain combat advantage. Additionally you not suffer the -5 penalty to hit a totally concealed foe, if you attack an invisible opponent in mêlée. Also any power that states that it only works if you are able to make opportunity attacks, will work against opponents you cannot see.

Combat Reflexes (PHB1 p194): Heroic tier feat. Grants a +1 bonus to hit with all opportunity attacks. Proposed fix: Grants a +1 bonus to attack rolls delivering “free attacks as opportunity actions” as defined in the fundamentals above. The bonus also applies during the surpise round of combat.

Defensive Mobility (PHB1 p194): Heroic tier feat. Gain a +2 bonus to AC against all Opportunity Attacks. Proposed fix: Gain a +2 bonus to AC against any “free attacks as opportunity actions” as defined in the fundamentals above. The bonus to AC also applies against foes that have combat advantage over you. Note your foes still have +2 to hit you, so the net result is 0. This feat doesn’t help against the other effects of granting combat advantage – rogues still get their sneak attack damage against you, for example.

Flanking Manoeuvre (PHB1 p207): Paragon tier feat. You can move diagonally even if a wall corner normally blocks such movement. You can move through enemies’ spaces. You provoke opportunity attacks for this movement as normal. You can’t end your move in an enemies’ space. Proposed fix: This feat is unusable for several reasons, and not only because it mentions opportunity attacks. Frankly, I don’t even know why moving diagonally is so important that it even merits a paragon tier feat. This feat needs a complete rewrite. I have borrowed the solution from the Vexing Flanker feat, from the third edition Player’s Handbook II:

Prerequisites: Dex 17, trained in Acrobatics
Benefit: You use your natural acrobatics to harry and distract a foe, making it more vulnerable to the attacks of your companions. When you are flanking a foe, any of your allies who are also flanking the same foe get +4 to hit the target instead of the normal +2.

Heavy Blade Opportunity (PHB1 p203): Paragon tier feat. When making an opportunity attack with a heavy blade, you can use an at-will attack power that has the weapon keyword instead on a basic attack. Proposed fix: When you are granted a free attack as an opportunity action, while wielding a heavy blade, you may substitute an at-will power that has the weapon keyword.

Polearm Gamble (PHB1 p204): Paragon tier feat. When a nonadjacent enemy enters a square adjacent to you, you can make an opportunity attack against him, but you grant combat advantage to all foes until the end of the enemy’s turn. Proposed fix: On your turn, make a free basic mêlée attack against any one foe within 10 feet. Whether you succeed or fail, you grant combat advantage to all enemies until the end of the enemy’s turn. You must be wielding a polearm to use this feat.

Two-Weapon Flurry (PHB1 p207): Paragon tier feat. If you make a successful opportunity attack with your primary weapon, you can also attack with your secondary weapon at a -2 penalty. Proposed fix: When you are granted a free attack as an opportunity action and you hit the target, you can also attack with your secondary weapon at a -2 penalty.

Underfoot (PHB1 p206): Paragon tier feat (halfling only). You can move through the space of a creature two sizes larger than you (minimum Large size) without provoking an attack of opportunity. Proposed fix: There’s a bit of lateral thinking required here. I propose that this feat grant a halfling a +2 bonus to armour class against foes of Large size or larger. This is completely different to what the feat actually does, but certainly in keeping with the halfling – especially as they were described in third edition.

Templates

Clever Escape (DMG1 p178): The power granted by the demagogue template allows the character to move twice its speed as a move action without provoking any opportunity attacks as long as it is moving away from its foes. Proposed fix: The demagogue can shift up to twice its speed away from its enemies as a move action.

Monster Powers and Abilities

AC Bonus (MM1 p161): The Wild Hunt hound gains a +2 bonus to AC against opportunity attacks. The Quickling Runner (p215) gain a +4 bonus. These can be handed like the halfling’s Nimble Reaction ability. Proposed fix: The Wild Hunt Hound and the Quickling Runner gain a +2 and +4 bonus to AC respectively against “free attacks as opportunity actions” as defined in the fundamentals above. These bonuses also apply durig the surprise round.

Bonus to hit vs Opportunity Attacks (MM1 p165): Primordial hydras and nightmares gets +2 to hit with its opportunity attacks. Proposed fix: The creature gets +2 to hit when delivering “free attacks as opportunity actions” as defined in the fundamentals above. The bonus also applies during the surprise round.

Breath Weapon (MM1 p78): The signature of ability of all dragons doesn’t provoke opportunity attacks. There’s nothing to change here.

Bullette Bite (MM1 p38): Bullettes (and dire bullettes) can make a standing long jump as a free action, followed by by a bite that does not provoke opportunity attacks. Proposed fix: None. The benefit of the power is in the free jump.

Cover Retreat (MM1 p149): An ally adjacent to a Battle Guardian does not provoke opportunity attacks when moving. Proposed fix: As long as you remain adjacent to a Battle Guardian, you do not provoke a free attack by withdrawing from mêlée combat.

Dark Step (MM1 p49): A power of Dark Ones, the dark step enables such creatures to move up to four squares (20 feet) as a Move action, gain a +4 bonus to AC against attacks of opportunity, and then gain combat advantage against any foe that it ends its move adjacent to. Proposed fix: This a nifty and distrubing power that I feel compelled to retain. I would keep this unchanged, except that the bonus to armour class applies to all attacks, not just opportunity attacks, and lasts until the end of the dark one’s turn.

Divine Retribution (MM1 p101): The eidolon’s power to strike a foe with divine radiance when it is attacked, does not provoke opportunity attacks. There’s nothing to change here.

Eye Rays (MM1 p32): The eye rays of monsters like the beholder and the gibbering orb do not provoke opportunity attacks when used despite being ranged attacks. I think the beholder has enough going for it to leave this unchanged.

Fey Beguiling (MM1 p257): This power of the unicorn affects a single target. That target cannot attack the unicorn and must make opportunity attacks at +2 against any creature within reach that attacks the unicorn (save ends). Proposed fix: The creature affected by the power must spend its three actions per round to defend the unicorn; he will attack anyone attacking the unicorn with mêlée or ranged weapons (whichever is most advantageous). The affected creature will not use powers or action points, so each attack will be a basic one. This isn’t quite the intent of the power as worded, but it doesn’t make too much sense otherwise. A save still ends the effect.

Fiery Swoop (MM1 p27): Fire bats can shift up to four squares, attacking up to four characters in those four squares and without provoking opportunity attacks. Proposed fix: None. The main benefit of the power is in making multiple attacks as part of a move action. If four targets are standing next to one another then the fire bat can attack them all.

Flyby Attack (MM1 p27): A common ability possessed by Shadowhunter bats, Vrocks, Green Dragons, Spiretop Drakes, Pseudodragons, Gargoyles, Hippogriffs, Rimefire Griffons, Crownwings Wyverns and Fell Wyverns. This power allows the monster to fly a certain number of squares and attack at any point during the movement without provoking an opportunity attack from the target it attacked. Proposed fix: None. The ability to attack during a movement (as opposed to the beginning or the end of it) should be benefit enough. It was good enough in third edition after all.

Gladiator’s Strike (MM1 p86): When a dragonborn galdiator hits a foe with a successful opportunity attack it automatically knocks the target prone. Proposed fix: This power works in the same way as the Combat Superiority feature of the fighter. The dragonborn gladiator is granted a free basic mêlée attack as an opportunity action against all foes who attempt to move past him without directly engaging him in mêlée combat. The foes must pass within five feet of the gladiator (or within range of the gladiator’s reach if the gladiator is using a reach weapon like a polearm). The attack is an oppotunity action and takes place on an opponent’s turn at the moment the opponent leaves the gladiator’s threatened area. If the gladiator successfully hits a foe, then that foe is knocked prone.

Golem Rampage (MM1 p142): Both flesh and stone golems can run amok, moving up to their speed +2 and attacking all targets whose space they pass over. They provoke opportunity attacks normally when doing this. Proposed fix: A golem rampage works like a close burst, and not a normal mêlée attack. The golem makes a single slam attack against all foes in a radius equal to half its speed +1 (5 foot). This translates to a twenty foot radius for both flesh and stone golems. It doesn’t provoke an opportunity attack when doing this.

Hobgoblin Spear Attack (MM1 p140): If the hobgoblin commander makes a successful opportunity attack with his spear then he shifts one square. Proposed fix: When the Hobgoblin Commander makes a successful attack with his spear he may shift five feet.

Burning Mobility (MM1 p182): Anyone attacking a magma strider with an opportunity attack takes an ongoing 5 points of fire damage (save ends). Proposed fix: Anyone making a mêlée attack against the magma strider takes an ongoing 5 points of fire damage (save ends). This makes the ability more powerful, but it seems appropriate if you’re fighting a giant chunk of ambulatory magma.

Mangler’s Mobility (MM1 p112): This ability of the Foulspawn Mangler grants it +5 to AC against opportunity attacks provoked by movement. Proposed Fix: The foulspawn mangler gains +5 to AC against any free attacks made against it as opportunity actions when it withdraws from mêlée combat, attacks from a Fighter using his Combat Superiority class feature, or any other free attack as an opprtunity action that is dependent upon movement. This captures the spirit of the power, but makes it slightly more complicated.

Mesmirising Glare (MM1 p72): The power of the dracolich to stun opponents that attack it. The rules make a point of stating that the use of the power doesn’t provoke opportunity attacks. Proposed fix: None.

Mobile Mêlée Attack (MM1 p14): A common power available to Angels of Battle, Blackspawn Gloomwebs, Gnoll Claw Fighters, Halfling Thieves and Wild Hunt Hounds. These creatures can move half their speed and make one mêlée attack at any point during the move; they don’t provoke an opportunity attack when moving away from a foe as part of this manoeuvre. Proposed fix: This works exactly the same as flyby attack (see above) except the creature can only travel half its speed, and it gains the benefits while flying or walking. As with flyby attack, I rule to leave the power unchanged aside from the lack of opportunity attacks in my version of the game.

Mobile Ranged Attack (MM1 p137: A power available to Goblin Warriors. The creature moves half its speed. At any point during the movement it can make one ranged attack without provoking an opportunity attack. Proposed fix: This is the same as Mobile Mêlée Attack (and the third edition feat, Shot on the Run). We’ll leave this power unchanged.

Mocking Eye (MM1 p47): The power of the Cyclops Rambler. Any foe in the aura of the eye (effectively within a fifty foot radius of the cyclops) takes a -5 penalty to all opportunity attacks as long as they remain in the aura. Proposed fix: All enemies within the aura take a -5 penalty to all attacks against AC or Reflex defence. This makes the Mocking Eye much more powerful. Is it too powerful? Any alternatives to this?

Pursue and Attack (MM1 p156): The Iron Defender can shift 1 square either before or after an opportunity attack as a free action. Proposed fix: The Iron Defender can shift five feet before or after any attack it makes.

Ravenous Frenzy (MM1 p208): Dorsain the Ghoul King, Exarch of Orcus, can move up to 8 squares without provoking opportunity attacks, and make a ‘cloak of mouths’ attack against each creature he moves adjacent to during the move. Proposed fix: Dorsain can move up to 40 feet attacking as many as eight medium-sized creatures during his move with his ‘cloak of mouths’ ability. He doesn’t provoke any free attacks as opportunity actions from any source while he does this (be they from a fighter’s combat superiortity, a warlord’s Viper Strike or so on).

Relentless Opportunist (MM1 p37): A power of the Boneclaw; if the monster scores an opportunity attack against a foe then it may immediately make another opportunity attack agains the same target. Proposed fix: This is very similar to the feat, Two-Weapon Flurry. When you are granted a free attack as an opportunity action you may make two such attacks.

Short Sword Riposte (MM1 p233): Power of the razorclaw stalker (a type of shifter). When an enemy makes an opportunity attack against the razorclaw stalker, it can automatically make a short sword attack against the enemy as a free action. Proposed fix: The shifter can use Whirling Riposte against any foe that attacks him in mêlée. However, instead of it being a free action it is an Immediate Reaction, so the shifter can only do it once per round.

Stab of the Entangling Blade (MM1 p102): This powerful mêlée attack of the eladrin fey knight can be used as an opportunity attack as well as a standard action. Proposed fix: This works like the Heavy Blade Opportunity feat. When you are granted an free attack as an opportunity action then you may substitute Stab of the Entangling Blade as long as it is recharged.

Speed of the Dead (MM1 p234): Skeletons get a +2 bonus to hit and deal +1d6 damage when they make opportunity attacks. Proposed fix: Skeletons get +2 to hit and +1d6 damage when they deliver “free attacks as opportunity actions” as defined in the fundamentals above. These bonuses also apply during the surprise round of combat.

Swarms (MM1 p283): A swarm can enter a character’s space without provoking an opportunity attack. If a character that enters the space occupied by a swarm provokes an opportunity attack. Proposed Fix: If you enter a swarm then the swarm gets a free basic attack on you as an opportunity action.

Tactical Step (MM1 p155): When the Helmed Horror hits with an opportunity attack it can shift 2 squares as a free action. The Greater Helmed Horror can shift three squares. Proposed fix: After a successful mêlée attack the Helmed Horror can shift 10 feet as a free action (the greater helmed horror can shift 15 feet). Basically, this means that the Helmed Horror steps outside the range of mêlée weapons and must force his opponent to come to him.

Tentacle Net (MM1 p43): Chuuls (and chuul juggernauts) attack with two claws each round. If both hit the same target, then the target is immobilised until they make a saving throw. If a target is hit by one of the chuul’s opportunity attacks then it is immobilised until the end of the chuul’s next turn. Proposed fix: Getting hit by one of the chuul’s claws immobilises you until the end of the chuul’s next turn. Getting hit by both claws will immobilise the target until they make a successful saving throw.

Threatening Reach (MM1 p28): Plenty of monsters get threatening reach, including the Battlebriar, Boneclaw, Enormous Carrion Crawlers, Displacer Beasts, Fen Hydras, Mordant Hydras, Primordial Hydras, Salamader Nobles and War Trolls. A creature with threatening reach can make attacks of opportunity against any one within its reach, not just within five feet. Proposed fix: See the fundamentals above. Threatening Reach is still useful when it comes to making free attacks as opportunity actions.

Trample (MM1 p13): The trample ability is possessed of many monsters including the Tarrasque, Earthrage Battlebriar, Iron Gorgon, Storm Gorgon, Warhorse, Celestial Charger and the Yuan-ti Anathema. Basically, trampling provokes opportunity attacks. Proposed fix: The targets of a trample gain a free attack as an opportunity action against the trampler.

Twin Scimitar Strike (MM1 p235): The Skeletal Tomb Guardian can make two attacks with the scimitar as long as it attacks the same target – this is true for opportunity attacks as well as standard attacks. Proposed Fix: The skeletal tomb guardian may also make two attacks when granted a free attack as an opportunity action.

Vicious Opportunist (MM1 p249): The opportunity attacks of the swordwing inflict an additional 2d6 damage. Proposed fix: The swordwing deals an additional 2d6 damage when it has combat advantage.

Whirling Riposte (MM1 p95): A power of the drow blademaster. When a blademaster’s movement provokes an opportunity attack, the drow can make a free attack against his attacker. This is an at-will power. Propsed fix: The drow can use Whirling Riposte against any foe that attacks him in mêlée. However, instead of it being a free action it is an Immediate Reaction, so the drow can only do it once per round.

Whirlwind Dash (MM1 p104): This is the power of a Firelasher (a type of fire elemental). These creatures can move up to twice their speed without provoking an attack of opportunity. They pass through their targets, damaging all within range of their movement. Proposed fix: The firelasher moves twice its speed. Any enemy in its path takes 10 points of fire damage. The Firelasher doesn’t provoke a free attack by withdrawing from mêlée by using this power. The GM will have to adjudicate this one on the fly, to work out out who could be affected. The GM knows that the Firelasher can cover 80 feet in any direction as long as it doesn’t double back on itself. Assuming a medium sized creature takes up the five-foot space the rules indicate, then up to sixteen medium-sized creatures can be targeted by the creature. By using those two facts as a guide the GM should be able to fairly judge each situation.

White Dragon Bite (MM1 p84): White dragons inflict additional cold damage from their bite on a successful opportunity attack. Proposed fix: The extra listed damage for the dragon bite is added (rolled normally) to each successful hit when the white dragon has combat advantage.

Wingclap (MM1 p79): Ancient blue dragons can fly fifty feet as a move action, and then clap their wings together catching everyone in a twenty foot radius with a sonic boom. It doesn’t provoke an attack of opportunity in the printed rules, and there’s nothing for us to change about it either.

Items

Dancing Weapon (PHB1 p233): Among its many powers, it is stated that a dancing weapon cannot make attacks of opportunity. Proposed fix: None. It can’t take free attacks as an opportunity action.

Sunleaf Armour (PHB1 p231): When an enemy hits you with an opportunity attack, you can deal the attacker radiant damage as a free action. The power is usable once per day. Proposed fix: When an enemy hits you in combat with a mêlée attack, you can deal the attacker radiant damage as a free action. The power is usable once per day.

Other Rules and Conditions

Dazed (PHB1 p277): You cannot take opportunity attacks if dazed. Propsed fix: None. Dazed carries plenty of other penalties that still make it valid in the game.

Flight (DMG1 p47-48): Flying creatures provoke attacks of opportunity normally in the game, but they cannot make opportunity attacks themselves unless they can Hover. I will keep this rule. If you can fly, and you gain a “free attack as an opportunity action” then you cannot take that attack while you are flying (unless you have the ability to Hover).

Mounts (DMG1 p46): If the movement of a mount provokes an opportunity attack, then the attacker can choose to attack either the mount or the rider. If the opportunity attack is provoked by the rider alone (e.g. the rider uses a ranged attack), then the subsequent opportunity attack must be directed at the rider. Proposed fix: As there are no opportunity attacks, most of the above does not apply. However, if a character is granted a “free attack as an opportunity action” against a mounted foe, then he can direct that free attack as described in the printed rules.

Grab (PHB1 p290): The simple fourth edition version of Grapple states that any action that prevents you from taking opportunity actions, also prevents you from sustaining a grapple. This is just a short hand form of reference and doesn’t have anything to do with opportunity actions per se. Basically if you are dazed, stunned, surprised, unconscious etc. you cannot maintain a grab and you must let go of the target. See Force the Battle above.

Invisible (PHB1 p281): If you are invisible, you do not provoke opportunity attacks from enemies that cannot see you. Proposed fix: None. Again, invisibility is its own reward.

Shift (PHB1 p289): I think I’ve already covered Shift pretty thoroughly in this post. There’s going to be more on it in the next article on Movement and Position.

Over to You

This isn’t a review or an editorial. I’d like some feedback on this please. After having read through my arguments and my proposed changes, what are your thoughts? Here are a few points to direct the discussion:

  • Do you agree that we need to remove opportunity attacks from the game?
  • If you don’t agree, then do you have an alternative solution that makes them playable?
  • Removing opportunities attacks means changing lots of other rules, as listed above. Is this too much work? Are there too many changes? This is only the core rules, I would have to look at every sourcebook that is released for the edition.
  • If you think it is worth making these changes, then have I got the changes right? Are there any of these powers, feats etc that you would modify differently? And if so, how?

Let’s get this show on the road!

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17 thoughts on “Opportunity Attacks

  1. Hi Neil,

    I’ve always hated attacks of opportunity. Ditch ’em
    having been involved in a few LRP sword fights, the Idea of trying to get a maningful hit on someone running past me with opening myself up completely to the foe I’m actually fighting seems preposterous.

    It’s all a bit cock….
    on the other hand – I beleive there should be a mechanic for getting a free attack on a combatant who is just turning tail and legging it. Beyond this situation I cannot see how you could “in 6 seconds” keep your eyes focused on your “target” to stop them burying their war-axe in your skull and also focus your eyes on someone else coming through your 5ft – identify that they are in fact an opponent and attack them with them being able to fend you off…..

    also – why doesn’t your original opponent get a flanking bonus for his next attack – effectively your concentration has been split amogst multiple opponents in this “6 seconds” – Nah – don’t get it. It’s RUBBISH.

    BIN the bugger and live a happy and argument free life.

    Jon.

    Jon.

  2. hi,

    first, you have done a great job finding all the above! I am quite impressed with your thorough look through the books! :)

    now, I might be a bit outnumbered here, but I don’t mind AOOs/OAs at all. I was a little shocked that they changed how many you could make (from one each round to one per enemy each round), but then I realised this was a good way of negating the metagame idea of “friend A runs in and provokes AOO, so everyone else can run past safely”

    Personally, I also have to play with a map. I am too much of a visual person to be able to grasp things without some drawing, and my group does tend a little bit more towards the ‘tactical miniatures’ game than you. But, as long as we are all having fun, that’s the main thing, right? :D

    Anyway, I guess from my point, I have no problem with OAs, and so don’t see a need to change. From what I read above, I have the feel that you are changing so much, but overall the change is rather little, so why go to the effort? My suggestion might be “try playing with OAs as written first, and see if there’s a problem”. If there definitely is, then try playing without them at all. If there’s still the problem, then try your changes above. Again, I don’t see anything wrong with them, just they seem like a lot of work for little effect.

    Sorry that there’s not much real feedback :p Maybe its because I don’t understand fully where you are coming from, with the playing-without-minis.

    -hvg3

  3. Thank you for your support Jon! I have left the door open for a free attack against a foe that turns tail and runs from melee combat. If you scroll down the post to the “Fundamentals” section, you’ll find it there (it’s a long post, you’re a busy man – I understand).

    hvg3 –

    I started playing D&D back in 1992 with a first edition PHB and a second edition DMG. Playing that, and Cthulhu and Shadowrun and all the other various games over the years I’ve never used miniatures. Therefore it’s never really occurred to me to use them.

    My style of GMing lends itself more to characterisation, complex plots, politics and mystery than it is does to combat. I’ve only run two true dungeon crawls in the last 16 years, and my parties usually only get into combat about twice every three sessions (that sound about right, guys?)

    Anyway – the thought of having to break the flow of narrative to lay down a battle grid, count movement in squares and also having to invest in miniatures or counters or whatever leaves me a bit cold. I’ve played miniature skirmish games and they’re fun, but they’re not really roleplaying games – at least not to me.

    You’re right of course: it’s all about what’s fun, and if miniatures float your boat then that’s great. Visual aids are sometimes useful, but I find a quick scribble on a white board is enough to get everyone on the same page.

    As for opportunity attacks, I’m of the opinion that the 4e versions are so similar to the third edition ones that feel as though I have been playing with them for the last eight years. While I don’t mind taking free attacks on foes fleeing combat, or using ranged weapons in melee, the whole business of taking a swipe at anyone running past you is just a nightmare to adjudicate. Getting rid of them entirely is an option, but then I’m cutting out a long list of powers, feats and abilities (you can see how long!) that reference opportunity attacks. I don’t really want to curtail the player’s options if I can avoid it.

    My approach is a half-way house. It was a fair amount of work, but it has had the benefit of making me far more familiar with the new rules than I otherwise would be. I don’t have too much of a problem with spending the time to do it again with the splat books and PHB series – if, of course, we decide to implement these changes.

  4. Oh yeah, I can totally see where you are coming from :) I wasn’t ever saying that I thought you should play with minis :p Rather, I was trying to warn how different “my” games were to “yours”, so that my view of AOOs would not necessarily match yours :)

    (Personally, I would love to find out what’s in these games that have less fighting-encounters than sessions! I’m not sure I could manage to run a game without one or two fights a session…)

    I guess what I was trying to say was “how are OAs hard to adjudicate?” Asking in a sense of not really understanding your without-minis game, and trying to understand. I would imagine that aside from the OAs from ranged-weapons-in-melee, or running-away-from-melee, there wouldn’t be much to bother with. (Especially with 4E diagonals no longer being 1 1/2 squares) if there’s enough room (outside, in a large cavern, etc), just run around the opponent. If it’s a small tunnel / corridor, then they won’t get past without an attack.

    So – I’m not trying to be argumentative, but rather, I am trying to see what is prompting these changes you are offering up :) And why it would not be simpler to just say “The DM will work out what does and doesn’t merit OAs”.

    -hvg3

  5. I suppose what I’m trying to do is be as fair as possible to my players. Sometimes the situation provoking an opportunity attack is completely unambiguous: you used a ranged weapon in melee, you run away without shifting, you’re using a power that says you can make an OA if your opponent does such-and-such.

    But often the situation is completely ambiguous. This enemy can move thirty feet in one round. He wants to get around the fighter to reach the wizard. Does that provoke an OA? Does he have enough Speed to go around the fighter’s threat range without taking a Run action, or having to double move?

    Now, I could just make the call every time this comes up (which is what I have been doing since I started running 3rd ed), but the trouble is that the players might not agree with that decision. They may think I’m being completely arbitrary – which, of course, I am.

    Inevitably, this can lead to disagreement, and disagreement can slow down play. And as 4e has finally made combat quick and fun (in my limited experience of two sessions) it seems a shame to do anything that would slow it down.

    What I hope these house rules will do is make the position with Opportunity Attacks (or “free attacks as opportunity actions”) completely clear and consistant. Everyone should know where they stand, all the time without a battle grid. Hopefully, they also make feats like Combat Reflexes and Defensive Mobility worth taking, as they might actually get some use.

  6. Ah, fair enough! :) Actually, playing without any sort of diagrams (ranging from minis on a table, to electronic maps, to scribbles on a page) is such a foreign method to me, that I am not even sure how I would have done it in 3e.

    I think that I would either have to sit and watch / partake of a game with you, or have a long chat over a few drinks, before I gathered exactly how you ran the game without a map :p

    As it is, I cannot help but ask so many more questions (How do you adjudicate how far the 30ft move goes? What about blasts? Who is inside the fireball? Who gets hit by that cone attack? Who has cover?…) whilst trying to grasp how you play without a map. (Yes, as I said, I am a visual person).

    So – as far as the OA rules go, I will refrain from any more comments ;) I do not feel I have a good (any?) grasp on how you would run the game, so I don’t know that I would be able to say that the changes were adequate or fitting. But, best of luck with them! :D

    – hvg3

  7. You know, I’ve never really give it a great deal of thought. Coming from second edition D&D where there were no rules to support maps, battle grid or measurement (until Combat and Tactics in 1995) I’ve always run a game without worrying too closely about that sort of thing.

    I’m going to try and lay down some clearer guidelines in a post of Movement and Position (which should be the next blog post if we’re lucky). Basically, freeform combat places a great responsibility on the GM to properly define and explain exactly where everyone is and what is happening. I’ll inform players of the distance to targets (in feet!) so they know if the foes are in range of their area effect weapons. As for movement, well that’s all relative.

    Simple example: If a character who moves at thirty feet is being chased by one that moves at forty feet, I know he’s going to be caught in three rounds. I don’t actually have to know where they are in absolute terms, I only have to know where they are in relation to one another.

    It’s third edition. A bunch of orcs are standing 200 feet away. The PCs see them and have initiative. The fighters charge the foes. In round one they move 120 feet (four times their move). The wizard casts a fireball at the orcs. I know that the orcs are in range, and that the fighters can’t be caught in the area of effect. Then the orcs charge, they close with the fighters during the round. In round two, the orcs and the fighters are engaged in melee 120 feet from the wizard. He can’t drop another fireball unless he wants to get his friends.

    As to who can be engulfed by a blast, or a cone or a burst – well, it’s generally up to the GM decide. As long as he’s being fair and consistant for the duration of the encounter, then there’s not usually any dissention from the table. Normally, I would rule that you cannot aim an area effect spell at an opponent engaged in melee combat with an ally, without also catching the ally.

    Of course, none of the above excludes using a visual aid. For complicated fights with multiple foes attacking multiple PCs, I would probably start with a brief sketch on a white board, so the players have something to refer to as well as my descriptions. It doesn’t have to be accurate, it doesn’t have to be in scale, and it might well be abandoned by round three, but it helps nonetheless.

  8. Hi Neil

    Personally I am not adverse to using minatures and maps/battlegrids if necessary, I don’t think they spoil a rpg or stop decent roleplay/character interaction. Particularly in games such as yours where combat is sparse and not the emphasis of the game. Since 4e is based around using a battlegrid why try and give yourself a major headache by removing it, just role with it and try it out and then see if you feel it spoils the game. Many years ago (god over 20!) when I first started roleplaying the GM who ran the game always used figures in order to make combat clearer, he like you was not combat happy and most of my memories of those old games are of roleplay moments not combat ones.
    I can’t help feeling that you are making life very difficult for yourself attempting to alter 4e too much.

  9. I definitely hear what you’re saying. I think I may have gone overboard on the post for Opportunity Attacks to be honest. I think the house rules could have just been three paragraphs of guidance.

    Maybe I’m just old and set in my ways, but I really have issues with miniatures in roleplaying games. Practically, I don’t have any miniatures, or tiles, or grids (or even counters) so using them would require a modest investment that I don’t really want to make. I have a comic habit to keep up. More importantly, I think miniatures stifle creativity, limit options and generally give the GM more work.

    I’m happy to invent as I go when I GM, and for the adventures to evolve organically based on player choice. I know the back story, the major events, I know the personalities of the NPCs and how they will react in a given situation – but everything else depends on how the PCs interact with those knowns. It’s very hard to have that level of flexibility if every combat, or potential combat, has to have tangible preparation in the form of a battle mat.

    Perhaps I’m just lazy. However, I will say that with or without these copious amendments, the 4e game works surprisingly well without a grid and miniatures. Hopefully, you’ll see that at Marc’s game next Tuesday.

    I’m really trying not to alter 4e that much. I guess that’s not coming across, eh?

  10. OK we’ll see how it goes, but if you are worried about the investing of funds into the purchase of grids and figures I would be happy to chip in, some of the others may also be happy to (£5 -£10 each?) I don’t know how much that stuff costs having not looked at figures in years but if I remember correctly havn’t they moved away from metal to plastic which makes things a fair bit cheaper than in the old days when i used to have to spend hours painting using a special stand and magnifying glass! It’s just an idea, can put it on the back burner for now.

  11. The D&D miniatures are all randomly packed, like stickers for Panini football albums. That makes them more collectable, you see? Because of this, the chances of getting hold of the miniature for a specific monster would be pretty slim. Getting hold of a grid and generic counters wouldn’t be that hard, I suppose.

    It might be interesting to see how it would work. I’m sure it could be fun as a skirmish game, I just can see me wanting to integrate it into a roleplaying session. Happy to give it a go, though.

  12. Yeah, I have steered clear of the DnD Minis because of this. I have minis from Warhammer, Hero’s Quest, and more recently, Lord of the Rings. Not that I play that, I just enjoy collecting and painting.

    If you were to go there, it would be far easier on the DM to get the players to find themselves a mini, and use whatever you had to represent the baddies. They are there for the short term, who cares if they are a couple of spare coins? :p

    Anyway, a question for your 3E example above, Neil – how would you determine how many of the orcs were caught in the fireball? How tightly packed / loosely formed they were? If any of them had cover?

    Then there’s the big question, were they really exactly 200ft away? Does this allow the PCs to compute how far they should move to make sure they are the ones that charge? (I typically just place minis, not state distances, so the players have a general feel, but unless they start counting (which I discourage), they won’t know exactly until they move close together.)

  13. As I said in the post on position – distance is all relative. No PC is going to get a tape measure out in the middle of combat and work out how far away those orcs are. All the player really needs to know is: are they close enough for me to use my ranged powers?

    As the GM, you simply make the call. How easy do you want to make this fight? Can the PCs rain down death from a distance? Do they need to sneak closer? Do they need to charge? Explaining distance to the PCs in feet in as a good way for the players to understand what’s going on, but from a character’s perspective it’s nothing so complicated as “Can I hit him from here?”

    As to how closely bunched the foes are… well, that’s up to the GM as well. Who are these opponents? Are they savvy to fireball attacks? Do they deliberately spread out to make them a less optimal choice for their foe? Are they wild berserkers who don’t think about that sort of thing? Are they all huddled under a shield wall, and approaching like a giant tortoise?

    The GM knows the enemies, knows the motivations of the enemies and knows how good they are at what they do. That will inform the tactics the NPCs employ, and that will determine what opportunities the PCs have to attack – not a precise measurement on a battlegrid.

  14. I love the idea of getting rid of OA. As the first comment said, having no OA is just as realistic (and perhaps more so) than having one. Since they add complexity (with or without miniatures), then why not just remove them completely?

    I’m leaning towards a more radical approach of just banishing them completely. For those who have powers that are related to OA, those powers just go away. Tough luck. OA are a minor part of the game, but their implementation is a major pain in the ass. Result: few will miss them and realism is hardly sacrificed.

    I never understood why firing a crossbow opens you up to an attack any more than firing one from 50 feet away. How about drinking a potion while in the middle of a fight? Does that provoke an OS? It should, if anything does.

    Has anyone experimented with removing OS from the system completely?

    FT

    • I wrote the above post when I was still trying to retain as much of the mechanical content of fourth edition as possible. Just ditching all the powers and feats that refer to OAs would certainly be easier. If you’ve gone on to read the rest of the blog, you’ll know that we’ve decided to move on from fourth edition and create our own Hybrid D&D. At the moment, everything is on the table for discussion – including whether we keep opportunity attacks in any form.

      I remember running second edition AD&D. That didn’t have opportunity attacks, and their absence passed unnoticed. The only thing in second edition that even vaguely ressembled OAs was the free attack you got on an opponent if they ran away from melee combat. I adopted attacks of opportunity with third edition, but never really applied them consistently – probably to the benefit of my players.

      In the fourth edition campaign I’m runnning at the moment, I’ve boiled down opportunity attacks so that they only apply in two circumstances:

      1) If you withdraw from melee combat without using a Shift action then you provoke opportunity attacks from those who are actively engaging you in melee combat (no one else).
      2) If you use a ranged or area effect/power while in melee combat you provoke an opportunity attacks from those who are actively engaging you in melee combat.

      That seems to work, and is a quick and easy way to deal with them. Movement and position are less important, but then if you’re not using miniatures then they are less important. I may keep opportunity attacks in HD&D, but keep it so they only apply in these circumstances. I may not. It’s a debate we’re yet to have, which you’re welcome to participate in, of course.

  15. as far as figuring out who else is in or out of a fireball doesn’t it get trickier when the intelligent wizard is aiming at a square behind the baddy that is engaged with his buddy the fighter(meat shield) specifically to include the baddy but have the meat shield be exactly outside of it?

  16. Well, that can be tricky. The way I always handled it in third edition was to ask the wizard to make an attack roll. It’s set a DC depending on the difficulty of the shot rather than the opponent’s AC. If the attack roll hit, then the fireball landed where the wizard wanted. If the attack roll failed, then he flash-fried his buddy as well as the bad-guy.

    Generally, I used the same approach when I ran 4e. And I will do the same again once I decide which version of D&D to use going forward.

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