Bull Rush, Drag and Reposition

Go to the Pathfinder: The New Deal index

Most of the combat manoeuvres presented in the Pathfinder game don’t need any modification to use without a grid. As long as we’re using the established guidelines for tactical combat that I’ve pontificated at length on in the last few posts, then there’s really no problem with them. However, Bull Rush, Drag and Reposition do require a little extra clarification.

Bull Rush

See p199 of the Core Rules (2009), and also the Pathfinder PRD.

The text of the combat manoeuvre doesn’t actually present any problems. My issue is with the Greater Bull Rush feat (Core Rules p125). Normally I wouldn’t go into individual feats, but I think the feat chains for combat manoeuvres are fairly important to the integrity of the combat system, and I want to make sure they work.

When you bull rush you push an opponent back a number of feet depending on your d20+CMB result. Your foe’s movement doesn’t provoke an attack of opportunity unless you have the Greater Bull Rush feat. If you do, then if you bull rush your foe through the area threatened by any of your allies then that ally can make an attack of opportunity on the foe.

Under the rules we’re using you don’t automatically threaten an area around you, and therefore movement doesn’t provoke an attack of opportunity. So what do we do instead?

We could leave it as it is. Greater Bull Rush still gives you an extra +2 to hit. It could just be one of those feats that is less attractive in a gridless combat system.

Or we could to replicate the spirit of the feat. We could say something like: “If the target you bull rush passes with the mêlée reach of an ally, then that ally can make an attack of opportunity on the target.”

The rewording is subtle but palatable. However, I’m more concerned about how such a rule would work in practice. The reason I’ve removed threatened squares from the game is because they are practically impossible to adjudicate without a grid. Greater Bull Rush isn’t any easy.

Logically I think we should take the first option and say that Greater Bull Rush doesn’t have any effect other than the +2 to bull rush attempts. That might mean no-one ever takes it, but that’s going to be the same with plenty of other Combat feats as well.


See p321 of the Advanced Player’s Guide (2010) and the Pathfinder PRD.

Drag is the mirror-universe twin of Bull Rush. Drag does everything that Bull Rush does, but does it backwards. Instead of making a CMB check to push a foe back, you make a CMB check to drag a foe forwards. And as because it’s so similar, my issues with it are exactly the same. Have a look at the Greater Drag feat (Advanced Player’s Guide p161).

So same problem as Greater Bull Rush. Do we leave it how it is? Do we modify it? Let me know!


See p322 of the Advanced Player’s Guide (2010) and the Pathfinder PRD.

I think this is a combat manoeuvre that we’ll have to drop from the game completely. I’m always loathed to throw stuff out, but I can’t see any way around it. Have a look at the text of the manoeuvre and see what you think.

Basically you make a CMB check to move an enemy five feet or more in any direction as long as the enemy stays within your mêlée reach. There’s an Improved Reposition and a Greater Reposition feat that makes the attempt more useful, but you can never move your enemy into a location that is intrinsically dangerous – so you can’t reposition them off a cliff or into a wall of fire.

In a grid-based system that uses the rules as written for flanking and attacks of opportunity, I can absolutely see how Reposition could be useful. Without the grid it’s utterly pointless. By and large it doesn’t matter where within your reach a foe is standing, all that matters is whether you can hit him.

So I say that we draw a line under this as a combat option and move on. Who’s with me?

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3 thoughts on “Bull Rush, Drag and Reposition

  1. Re: Reposition

    As a combat feat, repositioning an enemy into a dangerous place would be fantastic – it’s far more dramatic if we see ourselves, or our enemy, being pushed into precarious situations.

    I’d want to make it a challenge skill – almost like the love system in tennis – gain the advantage to place them there, hold it to defeat them. But it could be reversible … Battles according to terrain, traps and other threats could be stepped up. It’s certainly one I’d like to use.

    I can see an issue of disproportionality arising as a result of this, so a GM ruling on the exact effect would be required to prevent a complete unbalancing of the game. Even so, I would love to be in a game where this mechanic actually made a difference; it has the biggest potential for a feat to bring actual role-play and strategy into combat of any I have seen.

  2. Hi Malcolm. I completely agree with what you say about changing the position of your foe can be an aid to roleplaying in combat. Rather than just stand and hack away at the bad guy, you can push him into a fire, or over a cliff, or force him into the jaws of a nasty monster.

    The thing is the Reposition combat manoeuvre doesn’t really do that: at least not as its written. Each medium-sized character occupies one square on the combat grid, which means each character is also surrounded by eight other squares. When you’re in mêlée with an opponent that opponent is occupying one of eight squares that surround you. Reposition allows you to move that foe to a different one of those surrounding squares. It’s useful in terms of flanking and other exact elements of combat that can’t easily be adjudicated without a grid. All joy is drained from the maneouvre as it clearly states that it’s not intended to place your enemy anywhere that’s inherently dangerous.

    It’s not that I don’t want you to be able to swing enemies around, it’s just that Reposition isn’t a good way for us to do it. However, there are other combat maneouvres that do do this, and that also work in the same manner as you suggest: an attack roll against the target’s general defence (his Combat Maneouver Defence) is required.

    You can use the Bull Rush maneouvre to push a foe into danger. You can use Grapple to successfully grab a foe and then carry him wherever you want. You can use Drag to pull someone through a briar patch. You can use the Trip maeouvre to knock someone to the ground.

    So there are rules that can do this. Reposition is a very specific tactic that seems (to me) to be entirely dependent on the combat grid. I think we can do everything you suggest with other rules.

  3. I think you missed an important point to some characters concepts:
    “If your attack is successful, you may move your target 5 feet to a new location. For every 5 by which your attack exceeds your opponent’s CMD, you can move the target an additional 5 feet. The target must remain within your reach at all times during this movement, except for the final 5 feet of movement, which can be to a space adjacent to your reach.”
    That means you can actually get that opponent out of your reach. Which can be pretty good if, say, you’re larger than him (enlarge person or simply a smaller foe) and play on your attacks of opportunity.
    It’s also worthwhile to mention that “Greater reposition” creates AoO with your foe’s forced movement. I’m not sure it’s worth a 3 feat investment though…

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