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Back in Black
Soon enough, though, everyone goes up in levels, and most of them receive extra powers and abilities, or improve on the ones they already have: magic-users and clerics get better spells, thieves pick locks and hide in shadows and backstab better, etc. Fighters (and, to a lesser extent, paladins and rangers) get…well, not much more than additional weapon proficiencies. Unless they get a hold of some GAMF* magic items (Hammer of Thunderbolts + Gauntlets of Ogre Power + Girdle of Giant Strength, for instance), the fighters can seem pedestrian next to other classes. At high levels, magic-users destroy hordes of orcs with a single Fireball; clerics bring people back from the dead; thieves disarm the nastiest traps, sneak up on almost everyone, and never get caught—and fighters keep on rolling “to hit,” chopping up one bad guy at a time, just like they did since 1st level.
*God Almighty Mother Fu—well, you know
While fighter-types are supposed to be better than other classes at low levels and not as awesome at higher levels, there’s still no reason for them to be dull. To remedy this appalling situation, I introduced “Fighting Feats” into my campaign. Fighters, paladins, and rangers (referred to hereafter as “fighters”) may gain and use them as described below. The words are mine, but some of the ideas are from other sources, such as 3.0 D&D, Eldar Exarch powers from 40K, fiction, and movies (I got the idea for “Hordeslayer” while watching the end of The Fellowship of the Ring).
Berserker: Once per day, for a number of rounds equal to the fighter’s Constitution divided by 3, the fighter may add +2 to their Strength; this may increase Strength scores above racial maximums. If the +2 bonus would increase Strength above 18, it moves the Strength score into the next highest percentile group. Thus, a fighter with 16 Strength would be treated as having 18 Strength; a fighter with a 17 Strength would be considered to have 18/01-50 Strength; a fighter with 18/01-50 Strength would have 18/51-74 Strength, and so on, up to 18/00 (maximum).
The fighter is then required to go into Full Attack mode in combat (double number of attacks; +2 “to hit,” no AC bonuses for shield or high Dexterity, and an additional penalty of 2 to AC) for the same amount of time. The Berserker Fighting Feat may not be used with missile weapons, or with the following Fighting Feats: Defender, Missile Deflection, Weapon-Breaker/Armor-Smasher, and Whirlwind.
Brawler: The fighter is skilled in weaponless combat, doing double the typical damage (not counting Strength and/or specialization bonuses) when using no weapons or glove/gauntlet-type weapons such as cesti.
Defender: Once per day, the fighter may, at the start of the melee round, intervene in combat between enemies and a single comrade within 10' of the fighter. Thereafter, for a number of rounds equal to the fighter’s level, any weapon attacks that enemies would like to make on the comrade go against the fighter instead, using the fighter’s Armor Class. Any attacks that succeed wound the fighter instead of the defended comrade.
This ability is not effective against magical attacks that do not need a roll “to hit” (such as Magic Missile) or against attacks with an area effect (such as Fireball), but would work against, say, a “touch” spell like Cause Serious Wounds. Defender may not be used in Full Attack mode or with the Whirlwind Fighting Feat, but may be combined with Full Defense.
Fast Shot: When using a missile weapon, the fighter increases the weapon’s rate of fire by 1. Thus, for example, a fighter can fire three arrows per round (more if the fighter is specialized) or one heavy crossbow bolt per round (normally limited to one shot every other round). Fast Shot may be combined with the Lightning Strike Fighting Feat.
Hordeslayer: The fighter’s level is considered double when determining the number of melee attacks the fighter may make when engaged in combat against creatures of less than one hit die: thus, a 4th level fighter who was a Hordeslayer could make eight attacks against goblins (specialization, the use of two weapons, and other factors could increase this).
In addition, when facing opponents of 1 HD, the fighter may either make their regular number of attacks, or may make one attack on each opponent, up to the level of the fighter: thus, the same 4th level fighter could attack up to 4 orcs in a round. Specialization, using two weapons, etc., may increase the number of attacks made.
Because extra attacks against creatures of low hit dice are only granted in melee combat, Hordeslayer may not be applied when using missile weapons.
Horseman: The fighter is a master of mounted combat, receiving a +2 bonus “to hit” (instead of the usual +1) with any weapon when fighting mounted against opponents on foot. In addition, the fighter gains +1 damage/level when using a lance or spear on horseback, OR may fire missile weapons without penalty even when moving at top speed.
Lightning Strike: Once per day, for a number of rounds equal to his/her level, the fighter may consider his weapon(s) Speed Factor as 1. Lightning Strike cannot be combined with or Haste or a similar ability, nor can it mitigate the effects of a Slow spell. It may, however, be used with missile weapons, as well as the Fast Shot Fighting Feat.
Missile Deflection: The fighter may attempt a Dexterity check to avoid normal missiles (arrows, bolts, thrown daggers, etc.) fired at him or her, dodging them or swatting them aside. Each time a missile is fired, the fighter’s player may roll a d20 and compare it to his or her character’s Dexterity score: rolls of equal or less than the fighter’s Dexterity mean that the missile automatically misses. If the roll is higher than the fighter’s Dexterity, then the missile might still miss if the enemy’s “to hit” roll cannot best the fighter’s Armor Class.
This Fighting Feat may not be used when the fighter is surprised or already in melee with opponents; against large missiles, such as boulders thrown by giants or hurled by catapults; against magical attacks that do not require a “to hit” roll (such as Magic Missile); in conjunction with the Berserker Fighting Feat or Full Attack combat mode; or if the fighter is under a Hold Person, caught in a giant spider web, wrapped in chains, or otherwise unable to move freely. It can, however, be used with Full Defense.
Monsterslayer: The fighter is skilled at battling certain types of creatures, doing +1 hit points/level extra damage against them, similarly to how a ranger does more damage against giant-class opponents. If a character is to be a “monsterslayer,” the player choose one (and only one) category from the list below: the fighter will do extra damage to every creature in that category:
Two-Fisted Fighter: The fighter is a master of fighting double-handed, provided he/she is proficient with the weapons in question and that they can each be used in a single hand (one cannot wield two halberds at the same time). The fighter suffers no penalties “to hit” for either weapon when using them at the same time, regardless of the fighter’s Dexterity score.
Weapon-Breaker/Armor-Smasher: Once per day, the fighter may make a mighty attack against either an opponent’s weapon or armor (or shield), with the intent of breaking it and rendering useless in combat. When the player declares that they are using this Feat, the fighter automatically hits the weapon or armor; the item must save vs. Crushing Blow at -1/level of the fighter or be immediately destroyed. If the item is a weapon, it is no longer usable as such; if the item is a shield or suit of armor, the wearer suffers no damage, but the item no longer provides protection, potentially leaving its user with AC 10!
The blow is staggering and has detrimental effects on the enemy even if the attempt to break the weapon/armor/shield fails. If the fighter attempted to break a weapon, the enemy cannot strike that round if they have not already attacked; if they have already attacked that round, they may not attack in the next round: assume that the opponent had their arms momentarily numbed by the force of the blow, is trying to keep their grip on their weapon, etc. If the fighter attempted to break a shield or suit of armor, the user/wearer is stunned for the rest of the round (if they have not already attacked that round) or for the next round (if they have already attacked that round).
If the fighter is able to make multiple attacks in a round, this Fighting Feat may be used in place of one: thus, a fighter could crack open his enemy’s plate armor with his first attack, then strike at AC 10 for his next attack. This Fighting Feat may not be used with missile weapons, in Full Attack mode, or with the Berserker Fighting Feat.
Whirlwind: Once per day, for a number of rounds equal to his or her level, the fighter spins, twists, twirls, dodges, and tumbles in combat, presenting no easy target for adversaries. During this time, all attacks made against the fighter are considered to be from the front (not rear or flank) and the fighter’s shield (if any) can be counted against all attacks (normally, shields protect against a certain number of attacks). This Fighting Feat may not be used during Full Attack mode, with the Berserker Fighting Feat, or the Defender Fighting Feat (all that twisting and leaping about exposes the “defended” comrade to harm). It may, however, be used in Full Defense mode.
Gaining More Feats
Fighting Feats and the Campaign
Fighting Feats have made fighter-types more powerful, of course, but as a DM, I’ve easily dealt with that by throwing more monsters at them, and, when appropriate for the monsters in question, using the tactics I’ve learned from many years of playing 40K. And, of course, certain bad guys (NPC fighter-types, humanoid leaders, etc.) can also take Feats: the party was rather shocked to run into some githyanki who used Lightning Strike and Missile Deflection against them.
Up until now in the series, I’ve
talked about why I wanted to play and changes I made to the game. From
now on, I’d like to discuss the campaign. Next time, let me tell you how
a party of three 1st-level PCs—two of them played by role-playing neophytes—survived
Tomb of Horrors,
the ultimate “killer dungeon.” See you next
More Black in Black
Posted October 2010
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