Homebrew: 4e Unarmed and grapple rules
I'm currently running a PbP campaign in a custom 4e setting. Although 4.0e is (to me) much more balanced than 3.5 the lack of combat options bothers me. I was always a fan of the combat maneuvers in 3.5 and pathfinder and as such am trying to find ways to implement things like trip, unarmed attacks, bull-rushing, and overrun into 4e in interesting and useful ways. So far I've come up with these however they cause a few issues.
Originally I wanted grappling and other combat actions to be skill checks vs saves. This caused people to be way to good at it at level 1, as some chars can have as high as +9 or +12 to a skill with a feat. So currently it's just a flat attribute check with +1/2 level. This however makes it to underpowered because saves of most enemies are inflated due to being(usually) 1-3 levels higher than the players most encounters. This is also exacerbated by the fact that in 4e alot of the melee classes can get nothing from either dex or str(pallys for example) which makes them able to be manhandled by almost any creature.
What I'm looking for is an alternative way to account for attacks and defenses. Hopefully through already existing attributes. I have nothing against creating something like the CBM check in pathfinder but in PbP games this would be a hassle for players to track themselves as sheets are not made for it.
Also ideas for any additions, changes, feats, or class options are not only accepted but appreciated.
If people want to dedicatedly play a grappling fighter or multiclass into fighting for grappling I'd like to point you at Martial Power 2.
Unarmed Combat. You could always allow people access to the monk(and/or fighter) feat that advances their unarmed strike damage by a single die type (from d4 to d6, from d6 to d8 and so on). Aswell as allow them to use Ki focuses to act as enchancement bonuses for unarmed attacks.
As far as Defences, what's in line with the Athletics vs Fort, Acrobatics vs Reflex for escaping a grab and making a melee basic unarmed strike against their AC for a normal grapple is pretty much all you need. Trip could be a strength + 1/2 vs Reflex attack that trips the opponent and Bull Rush is already in.
Also, if your going to be saying 4.0e, I must say that everything released from Essentials on is D&D 4.5e.
I'm a fan of using existing mechanical structures rather than (what I see as) reinventing the wheel. So what I'd do is elaborate on the existing Bull Rush, Grab and Escape rather than creating entirely new systems, and I wouldn't rush to create new modifier types.
The existing Grab from the PHB is a standard action Str vs Ref attack. That shouldn't be underpowered for someone with appropriate Strength - it's not a weapon attack so they don't get any proficiency bonus, but Fort/Ref/Will are typically a bit lower than AC, so on the whole it should be just as accurate as a normal attack.
You're right that Cha-based paladins and the like are poor at grabbing, in the same way that they're poor at opportunity attacks and everything else that uses basic attacks. Consider the feat Melee Training, which changes the ability score that basic attacks key off. Either create a feat like that for grabs, or simply rule that Melee Training applies to grabs too.
I didn't like that grappling in 3.5e provoked an opportunity attack, and I don't like it now. It discourages people from bothering.
Your approach, initiating a grapple as a minor action but requiring that weapons be sheathed first, is interesting but I suspect it doesn't quite work. Anyone who doesn't need a weapon to attack is unhindered by that demand, so for example, a monk or a Str-based cleric can still try to initiate a grapple and then make an attack anyway if they fail. (Or even a wizard, if they use Weapon Training to use their Int!) Besides, why do you need to be weaponless? A rogue grappling with a knife makes sense to me. (The original grab mechanics only require one hand free, so you can still hold something in the other hand.) So, I'd keep it as a standard action.
I'd also keep the original escape mechanic (move action, Acrobatics vs Ref or Athletics vs Fort). There's no real need to replace it. And after all, there are powers and magic items that improve your ability to make escape attempts, and those ought to apply to grapples as easily as grabs. In the same vein, if someone would gain a bonus to a grab or would be allowed to start a grab (some powers allow this), let it apply to grapples too. That's another reason I'd prefer to keep a grapple system based in grabbing - so that those bonuses carry across easily.
Of course, grabbing and grappling aren't exactly the same thing, because grappling is a two-way condition. So, changes you've suggested which make sense to me: the ability to use Fort instead of Ref as the defense (because hulking barbarians ought to be able to shrug off grapple attempts); grappling characters grant combat advantage; grappling characters can't do certain things.
On that subject - 4e's mechanics don't have any concept of "magic", let alone "stressful magic"; they simply rule that ranged or area attacks (of any type) provoke opportunity attacks, and melee and close attacks don't. Nevertheless, that works fairly well for what you wanted it to do. A grappling wizard shouldn't keep slinging Magic Missiles and Fireballs around, but he can still explode with fiery wrath by casting Burning Hands. And you can't keep firing your bow while you wrestle with someone.
You also banned the use of weapon powers. Sure, you shouldn't be able to swing around a greataxe or longsword. But like I hinted at above - if it were me, I'd let them use a weapon with the off-hand property (not a double weapon), like daggers, katars, and light war picks. I think that would work well for the most part. Although it would make sense to ban close attacks (rogue's Blinding Barrage, fighter's Sweeping Blow, etc.) even with those weapons. Personally I'd still allow melee attacks like Cleave, though.
So the actions that I'd ban while grappling: all ranged and area attacks, and weapon attacks except for melee attacks with weapons with the off-hand property. For this purpose, unarmed attacks have the off-hand property, and double weapons don't.
One thing I wouldn't keep from the original grab is the minor action to sustain it. Unlike grabbing, grappling is two-way. You don't want someone to escape a grapple for free by neglecting to sustain it. A grapple doesn't need to be sustained; it lasts until someone escapes.
What happens if a bystander inflicts forced movement on someone in a grapple?
I haven't yet looked in detail at the effects you're allowing grapple to have. I'll just post this now before I get ninja'd too much. And then I guess I'll spend the next hour editing, as is my wont.
What happens if a bystander inflicts forced movement on someone in a grapple?
I see no reason to change the rules for forced movement in a grab: it ends.
Whoops. Good points.
Didn't notice that grab rule; since it's there, no reason not to port it over. And I forgot all about Brawler Fighters. With them in mind, and simply thinking more generously about how weapons can be used (a longsword doesn't suddenly lose its cutting edge in close combat, you just might have to use it differently), I'd drop the weapon rule entirely. Ranged and area attacks are still out, and still you need at least one hand free, so no bows or greataxes. I think that's reasonable.
Yeah, I was trying to find a way to give players more options, especially early in the game than just spamming level 1 at-wills. Maybe allowing melee basic attacks with light weapons or a free hand.
And my need for being unarmed was more a side-effect of trying to enforce action economy balance than for any logical reason. I wanted players to be able to make a grapple attempt for leverage or escape AND be able to make an unarmed attack(thinking a knee or headbutt) in the same turn. That would mean that either the grapple or the attack would need to be a minor action. THAT in turn meant that I needed a way to limit players to only attempting one grapple check per turn. So I figured making you store your weapon would cost another minor thus making you unable to attempt two grapples.
In hindsight it would make more since to just to have put a "Can only attempt once per round" rider than trying to do it the other way. I'll edit that out, and allow attacks with light weapons.
You still forgetting about grapple fighters though. Your system, especially if you allow only light weapons to be used during a grab, seriously reduces their damage potential.
What I would do if you want to change it;
At-Will Martial, Melee, Unarmed attack
Target: One creature
Strength or Dexterity modifier vs Reflex
Hit: You grab the target. You can not move further away from the target then you have in squares of reach.
Sustain Minor: You sustain the grab
Note: As with all attacks, bull rushes and
tripsGrappling applys the Fighters Mark if you are a fighter.
Special: This attack does not gain any benifites from any impliment, ki focus or enchantment on or for your weapon.
Special: As a minor action you may make a single unarmed or improvised weapon strike as a minor action.
Special: You may make an attack with a light weapon at full bonus, and with a one handed or versitile weapon at a
-1 penalty. while grabbing.
Ignore this as you will, I didn't adress two-handed weapons because you need a free hand to attempt a grapple anyways.
I don't think allowing a weapon attack as a minor action is a good idea. Brawler Fighters need some sort of benefit with their powers over other characters. It's their schtick; their powers allow the attack AND the grab all at once. Allowing non-Brawlers to attack in the same turn without spending an action point - even if that attack is limited to an MBA under limited circumstances - treads all over this.
Most peoples unarmed attacks sucks, only Fighters, Barbarians, Paladins, Clerics, Rangers and Runepriests have strengths as a primary ability score and you automattically get a -4 to the attack roll for improvised weapons. *shrugs* And even then, only monks and fighters get feats (or class skills) too increase their unarmed strike damage, an extra +X to attack and 1d4+str damage ins't game breaking and allows for a little extra tactical thinking, in my opinion.
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