Combat Realism - General Combat Considerations (5e Variant Rule)
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Combat Realism - General Combat Considerations
This is the final article in the series on Combat Realism options for Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition. It focuses on a range of general combat events and proposes new options for how to handle these in a realistic way. Each option is independent from the others - feel free to pick-and-choose the ones that fit best to your group.
In the standard rules, an Opportunity Attack is awarded when an opponent leaves your range without using the Disengage action. This is very sensible but should perhaps be expanded to all situations where an opponent is in range of a combatant but exposes themselves to attack by ignoring the combatant, turning away, or fleeing. Note this rule also matches Option 8 of the Being Outnumbered options and would cover both with a single rule. At the DM’s discretion, the Opportunity Attack can also be at Advantage if the exposed combatant would not be able to defend themselves properly (e.g. deliberately ignoring their opponent).
There are a number of situations where an individual cannot defend themselves to their full ability. Standard 5e rules cover being Paralyzed, Restrained, Stunned or Prone under the standard combat system. If using a Defense combat system, some small adjustments are worth considering:
Defender unable to use weapon/shield (e.g. arms bound or grappled): Standard rules apply Advantage to the attacker. If using a Defense combat system, also remove any magic bonus from weapon/shield and remove Proficiency Bonus (unless has unarmed proficiency) from Defense.
Defender unable to move freely (e.g. legs bound): Standard rules apply Advantage to the attacker. If using a Defense combat system, also remove any (positive) DEX bonus from Defense.
Defender unable to move body / react (e.g. restrained or stunned): Both of the above apply.
Defender fully immobilise (e.g. paralyzed or unconscious): Both of the above apply plus automatic Critical Hit at range <5’.
Ranged Attack Into Melee
This is a common situation in many adventuring parties (for ranged weapons or for magic) but is of course both tricky and risky. There are 2 options to deal with this:
Simple 5e variant: Simply apply disadvantage to attack when firing into any melee in which any allies are involved (unless clearly on the opposite side of the melee from those allies). Optional: if the ranged attack misses, re-roll as an attack on one of the allies (select at random).
Detailed variant: Apply cover to the target. If the allies are smaller in size or in number than the opponents, apply ½ cover (+2 to target’s AC/Defense). If the allies are at least the same size as the opponents, and are not outnumbered by them, then apply ¾ cover (+5 to target’s AC/Defense). Optional: if the ranged attack misses, re-roll as an attack on one of the allies (select at random).
Note that this is already integrated into Option 5 of Combat Realism - Defense and Armor Options. The additional damage of a Critical Hit should happen more than 5% (roll of 20 on a d20) of the time if the attacker significantly out-classes the defender (a nod here to swashbuckling rules to a vague memory of a very old edition of Dragon Magazine). Or if the defender is immobilised (see above). Consider using the below to expand critical hits:
- Always hit on a 20
- If success by >=5 (need not be a 20) or if 20 and success by >=1: then 2x damage dice
- If success by >=10 (need not be a 20) or if 20 and success by >=5: then 2x damage dice and maximum damage (or bypass Armor Damage Reduction if using a Damage Reduction combat system
- If success by >=15 (need not be a 20) or if 20 and success by >=5: then 2x damage dice, maximum damage and bypass Armor Damage Reduction if applicable
A very common house rule is to have some consequence from rolling a 1 (critical miss) on an Attack Roll. Here are 2 simple and sensible options that reflect the impact of a stumble or a badly off-balance strike:
- Option 1: Opponents get an Opportunity Attack against the roller
- Option 2: Opponents get Advantage on next melee attack against the roller
Scraping the Barrel with Spell Slots
Perhaps this optional rule does not entirely fit this article but the situation is most likely to occur in combat and it feels only right to include something for our magic users in this series. Spell Points are an official 5e option and add significant flexibility to spell casting, but for some this is too much flexibility (or too big a departure from Vancian magic). Instead, consider this option for converting spell slot levels in desperation:
- Using a higher slot: This is already a standard option. If you have an available spell slot but at a higher level, you can spend that. It is inefficient but ultimately fair.
- Using lower slots: You can exchange 2 spell slots at given level to gain 1 slot at the level above. Note this new slot can also be combined with an existing slot at that level, so you can e.g. exchange two 1st level slots and a 2nd level slot to gain a 3rd level slot. The caster can still only cast a spell from their existing repertoire (i.e. this does not allow access to new spells or levels). Again, this is inefficient but ultimately fair.
See Combat Realism - Defense and Armor Options for core rules to increase combat realism. _RM_