[D&D Next] Fighters: Freedom to Improvise

I’ve been paying attention to some of the internet chatter with regards to D&D Next as of late, and I’m puzzled by all this talk of the Fighters getting the short end of the stick. From what I can tell, a lot of this stems from the fact that there isn’t a laundry list of powers / maneuvers in the rules that cater specifically to the Fighter class. Oddly, I find the lack of maneuvers liberating, as it gives Players and GMs the opportunity to get fighters to try all sorts of things without consulting a list of powers and losing the tempo of the game.

That said, if you’re looking for a laundry list of powers, look no further than the Conditions listing in the How To Play document for a slew of interesting things you can do in a fight, aside from, “I attack it.”

Seriously, a fighter can inflict a surprising number of Conditions on their opponents without needing to resort to powers to do so. All it takes is a little imagination and a willingness of both the player to spruce up his combat descriptions a bit, and some adaptation by the GM. Let’s explore the possibilities a little, shall we?

  • Blinded – “I reach down and grab a handful of dust/dirt/ash/sawdust and fling it towards his eyes!” Contested DEX check, with the target creature suffering the Blinded condition if he fails. The target creature can spend an action to clear his vision to remove the Blinded condition on his turn.
  • Deafened “I clap both hands on either side of his head to deliver a painful blow to his ears!” standard unarmed Melee attack roll, but rather than deal damage, the target creature is Deafened for a number of rounds equal to the Fighter’s STR mod (with a minimum of 1 round).
  • Frightened“I let out a mighty war cry and brandish my weapon, making it clear that they’re not getting out of this fight alive!” Contested STR (or CHA) vs. Target’s WILL check, with the target suffering the Frightened condition if he fails.
  • Prone“I sweep his legs out from under him!” Contested STR (or DEX) vs. Target’s DEX check, with the target creature suffering the Prone condition.
  • Restrained“I grab him in a mighty bear hug and lift him off his feet!” Contested STR vs STR check, with the target creature suffering the Restrained condition. The target creature can spend its next action trying to break free with another Contested STR vs STR check for as long as it is Restrained.

And these are just all using the empty room scenario. Add interesting terrain like the sort you find in dungeons and you can multiply the number of things you can do with using the Improvise action on just about any situation. You can pick someone up and hurl them into a pit trap with a Contested STR vs. STR. roll, with the smaller character suffering a Disadvantage. Tipping over a heavy barrel and sending it tumbling down a narrow staircase into a group of monsters could force them all to make checks or else end up Prone. Heck, if you have a particularly suave Fighter, you could even try to seduce that Necromancer that has that Goth thing going on that you’re up against with a CHA vs Will contest and get her to side with you guys.

The funny thing about this is that nobody needs to tell you that your character can do X, Y and Z. This sort of freedom in play is something we’ve been doing as kids when we play “Let’s Pretend.” That’s what puzzles me about this insistence on seeing a specific list of maneuvers for fighters. We already have something much better than a list, all we have to do is be brave enough to take it out of our heads and put it into play.

Note that I am quite aware that any and all of the things I’ve described can be performed by various other character Classes as well. Still, I think a Fighter gains the most benefit from the kind of freedom that they have at the moment. Not everyone can dead lift a fully armored orc and toss it down a ravine after all.

36 thoughts on “[D&D Next] Fighters: Freedom to Improvise

  1. I prefer to deadlift and toss halflings. They complain less than dwarves, and they carry sharp knives as they sail towards their destination.

    I believe that it’s all about Trust & Security. There are just people who can’t live without rules and rubrics. Nor can they trust other people to work within the same parameters that they are familiar with.

  2. Guess what. I’m your DM. I say “no,” and you can only “I attack it.” You have no other options but to swing your sword or not play anymore; there’s no tacit assumption I will or even should let you accomplish any of this.

    Compare the wizard. The wizard’s player gets to show up with the full expectation that every spell they have on their sheet works as written and they are able to cast them all just as the game rules dictate. There is both explicit and tacit basis for being able to cast all those spells.

    1. Hi there!

      That’s an excellent argument towards giving fighters a list of things that they can or cannot do, and I think I’m beginning to understand the thought process that led to the simple fighter complaint better than I did when I posted.

      I honestly think we’re working towards the same goal: having a game experience that we consider fun. You feel that rules should expressly state everything and cover all situations in order to avoid bad experiences from GMs that prefer to run in the manner of your example, and I can respect that. Maybe you’ve had bad experiences from GMs who are more than happy to piss on your fun with the whole “no tacit assumption that I will or even should let you” argument one too many times in your career as a D&D player.

      However, I feel that my preferred play style is no less valid than yours. I come from a more permissive philosophy of play that feels that all participants (GM and Players alike) should be free to come up with interesting and fun things that contribute positively to the session. As a GM, I tend to be permissive… just because it isn’t expressly written doesn’t mean that it’s expressly forbidden either. I’m going to go and use a term that you might hate here, so forgive me, but I do tend to adhere to the Rule of Cool, where interesting trumps rules as written.

      Thanks for sharing your insight. I feel like I understand your position better, but I hope that you are willing to admit that my philosophy of play is an equally valid means of having fun as well.

    2. I come from a human philosophy where my characters would be able to take a bath without having to take a skill for it. 🙂

      And guess what, I get the advantage of actually looking fresh in front of a shopkeeper, and or, the king’s daughter.

    3. The problem with your example above is outside the realm of any particular game system. My 20+ years of gaming would lead me to the opinion that any DM with that attitude sucks and I would probably either leave the game or offer to run the next session if possible. With all of the gaming possibilities online now no player should be stuck with a bad DM or group. I have a friend in our group that is a horrible GM for anything but Shadowrun so I tend to either steer him toward that or run something myself.

      Why does a DM like that suck? Because if they aren’t willing to allow you to improvise these kinds of things within reason they either
      A) have some problem with you enjoying your fighter and is a DM that has issues with the players having fun.
      B) Don’t have the DMing skills to let you do these things without breaking their game.

      Looking at it from a rules standpoint the Improvise rules listed under Actions in Combat would give you a good argument to be allowed to do any of the above. IMHO a good DM would interpret Improvise in such a way as to allow players to do what they want within reason and have fun. If something is ludicrous then the DM should not allow it. Judgement calls. A DM should be able to make them.

    4. If you behave that way as a DM, and you refuse to negotiate as a reasonable adult, I simply stop playing with you. I don’t get why so many players have a hate on for their DMs. If you don’t trust the person behind the screen to be a fair and impartial judge of the things going on around you then you shouldn’t play with them. No one (well, most no one) continues to invite back the guy that throws a tantrum every time he rolls a one, eats all the food and makes gaming miserable for the other players, so why oh why do we keep rewarding bad DMs by coming back to their games?

  3. It appears someone brought up the point already, but I think one of the major reasons for the complaint is this idea that DMs are all a bunch of bastards waiting to deny you everything. Any kind of improvisation has to clear the DM, whereas a list of powers (theoretically) can be used regardless of their permission.

    I see this line of thinking from people who have unfortunately had crappy groups in the past, or who didn’t play D&D prior to 3rd Edition. It’s extremely easy to internalize even if you lack any experience with it; hell I played 2nd Edition and had tons of fun, yet through the years even I’ve managed to adapt these sorts of thoughts in certain ways.

    Wanting rules is fine. I think one of the reasons the backlash is so harsh is D&D Next promises to be everything for everyone, and 4th Edition is a wholly different game in almost every way from prior editions.

    For my part, having the playtest reminded me of all the reasons I actually did have fun with earlier editions of the game, and has broken me out of the mould I’ve constructed for my games over the past several years. I’m interested to see where it goes.

    In any case, don’t game with jerks. I’ve had to forgo several gaming opportunities for this reason, but it’s been better in the end.

  4. In our first playtest game, the elf wizard used ray of frost on an elite kobold, which happened to be beside the fighter. The fighter then asked me if he can use the kobold as a weapon against the chieftain. So alright, I called for a str contest with the elite kobold at a disadvantage (he was, after all, frozen in place).

    The fighter naturally won, and I let him attack with the kobold as a two-handed improvised weapon, dealing 1d10 + 4 (1d10 improvised, +2 weapon focus, +2 mysterious fighter math bonus) damage to both the elite kobold and the chieftain on a hit.

    It’s like hitting two birds with one…. bird. >.>

    But yeah! Fighters in Next are fun!

  5. I think the rulebook needs such examples for improvisaiton, and really emphasized to be examples. I don’t know how it will go in Next, but in my 4E games everyone was just looking at their powers so no-one even thought of improvising or using the stunt option table I had advertised early in the game, and I forgot it as well. But stunts shouldn’t even need a table…

    Furthermore, everyone insisted on following the rules and so started I too as a GM, and only in the later sessions I started to force reality checks & some reason to rigid rules. Currently I’m running Savage Worlds and love how improvisation is encouraged in it despite solid system, and I like how Next seems to be going towards same direction.

    Anyway, if a list of combat options is listed in Next, ‘Stunt’ should be listed there to make it ‘official’ in both players’ and GM’s eyes, and mentioning that DM decides used abilities.

  6. Damn the new D&D fighters sound like fun. Now maybe… I’ve been dreaming about this for years… I can FINALLY have my fighter dislocate jaws when something bits him.


    Kobald bite my fighters bicep. Fighter with Str 20 decides to flex his bicep…. Contested STR roll. If I win, the fighters bicep flexes to twice its current size and snaps the kobald’s jaw!

    Kidding aside it looks like the new rules can allow God of War awesomeness which you could only do in Exalted.

    1. I thought you could already do that? In lieu of an unarmed attack.

      Or, maybe I’m just too non-conventional to think of something like simply palette-swapping abilities. 😀

      I guess we don’t need specific rules to dictate what we can or cannot do, eh. 😉

      God of War awesomeness can be achieved with More Leaping!

  7. “Note that I am quite aware that any and all of the things I’ve described can be performed by various other character Classes as well. Still, I think a Fighter gains the most benefit from the kind of freedom that they have at the moment. Not everyone can dead lift a fully armored orc and toss it down a ravine after all.”

    And that’s the thing: a STR WIS Cleric *can* dead lift a fully armored orc and toss it down a ravine OR he can simply command the creature to jumping into the ravine head-first. The Wizard could use Mage Hand to sweep the enemy off his feet OR he can cause the enemy and a couple of his friends to crumple in either a burnt heap or in a deep coma, where he can tie them up and slit their throats.

    Yes the DM can say “no”, but that applies to every edition and every system… except in 4E the DM doesn’t *have* to say “no” because most of the time the players will be using things that are, in some ways, vastly inferior to improvised play, but at the same time keep (most?) players happy anyway.

    I would consider 4E martial powers as systematized/standardized shortcuts to improvised actions, with limits as artificial as Vancian spell slots to avoid abuse. For instance, do you want to want to swing your weapon in continuous circles to decimate enemies all around you? I’ll give you a choice: you can do nothing else but that and make Constitution checks or gain disadvantage for each attack, or let’s just utilize Rain of Steel, which is only once per day but you’ll have no problem using?

    In any case, again there are at least 3 reasons why the spellcasters in general are considered overpowered/broken relative to the non-casters:
    1. The spellcasters have magic on their side, reducing or removing the need to explain the logic of things in a mundane setting. “I throw sand in your eyes” would likely not work in a sand-less environment, but “i cast light on your eyelashes” would only work if you don’t have eyelashes, and unless you as the DM counter that magical light defies the logic of normal light, the luminescence of that light spell will almost always blind the opponent. No save.

    2. The spellcasters have more material to work with. Connected to #1, mundane folk have only the “real” world to work with, whereas spellcasters have both the “real” world AND magic as well. In some ways you might say “but the fighter can do it better!”… but might I point out the Cleric of Moradin, who is 100% Fighter (defender fighter I might add), and yet has full Cleric spells on top of that.

    3. Spellcaster limitations tend to be trivial at best. Low HP? Either the DM doesn’t attack them, or they find ways to negate that disadvantage (invisibility, flying, stoneskin, etc.). Low AC? We see the Cleric of Moradin having even more AC than the Fighter, although we can assume that the fighter could gain that AC too, which as I said makes the Cleric of Moradin a Fighter WITH SPELLS. Number of spells per day? Check their spells per day at higher levels, and count the number of scenarios/encounters where they actually *have* to use them.

    This is, of course, completely ignoring the Linear Fighters, Quadratic Wizards and Exponential Clerics and Druids (which they solved somewhat), the fact that in the long run spellcasters gain enough spell slots to remove their inherent limitation (# of spells/day), and other issues that, to cut things short, made the “freedom to improvise” a VERY lame way to justify the fighter’s lack of plot power.

    1. If the developers of D&D Next really dislike 4E Fighters that much, they should at least consider the Warblade of D&D 3.5 -> http://WWW.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/ex/20060802a&page=2 (maneuver cards are in http://WWW.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/we/20061225a ). That way, those who want their simple fighters can keep them, and those like myself who want fighters to actually be the group’s rock stars so to speak can play warblades instead.

    2. (So, pointyman asked me to repost this here, since the same discussion was cross-posted on D&D Philippines on Facebook. Here it is!)

      Wait, why am I tagged here? 😛

      Well, anyway, I guess I should respond. And the basic gist of my response is, you have good points. Spellcasters definitely can do the things that were suggested for the fighter to do. And given the nature of magic, there may be cases where they can improvise better than the fighter. Finally, I will concede that the current version of the cleric is basically a defender fighter with spells. (Although I will point out that the current fighter is basically a slayer with +4 damage. I wish there was power strike. >.>)

      I am personally not saying that the other classes can’t do the things that I think the fighter is encouraged to do. It’s actually closer to that story where a rich dad buys his child an expensive toy Ferrari that he can ride, but the son ends up playing with the box more. Having simpler bits to fiddle with, the box was simply more enjoyable as a toy to the kid because it can be a car, a spaceship, or even a transmogrifier:

      In contrast, the toy car was just a toy car.

      Now, I’m not saying that the box school-of-thought is strictly better than the toy car school-of-thought: I happen to think that, had I been the kid in that situation, I’d freakin’ love the toy Ferrari. I can drive around the yard, picking up chicks and whatnot, or be that cool rich cop in Bad Boys as I drive around, or have it be a toy spaceship on any given day.

      Does it really have to be one or the other, though? IMO, what WotC needs to do is to be the dad that lets the kid keep both the box and the toy car.

      Should a fighter have the chance to get more options? Absolutely. I myself am a fan of the Book of 9 Swords – I still have it on my shelf and read it occasionally for ideas.

      I just think that, of all the classes, the fighter is the one whose basic form is a cardboard box. Clerics and wizards on the basic level can’t be as simple because they have magic, and it needs to be defined first. Fighters, while their strength could be Herculean and magical, does things that is more readily acceptable as “badass normal.” So the basic form is as it is.

    3. Hasn’t fighters always been overshadowed by magic-users in all editions?

      I believe ‘Freedom to Improvise’ is just a catch-all ability or tag that encompasses a Player’s ability to come up with interesting ways to fully utilize a person’s creativity.

      Unlike with “Magic”, where the system is the only one that knows its own limits. So the responsibility of informing the Players on the limits and rules of Magic in the setting falls upon the rules and creators. Unlike with Fighting skills, where attempting to quantify and list a person’s ability and maneuverability might appear to be patronizing to a person’s own knowledge of his own physiology and creativity.

      As for Magic-users trumping Fighters — well, they can create something out of nothing. That alone is a poignant enough fact that shows they have an advantage over swordies.

      I like my Barbs stupid & angry. I know he can be pwned by a well-placed Fireball, but I’d still play one. (And, I’d be sure to chuck my battleaxe at a robe-wearing cultist, before he begins chanting.)

  8. What’s weird (and this may be a miscommunication, where people are using fighter as a stand in for all non spell casters), I never hear people complain about under powers barbarians, rangers, or monks, just fighters. And given the problem that A) having magic logically and automatically makes you “better” than “mere fighters”, and B) that other physical classes have stolen the unique bits from the fighter, I’ve started seriously thinking that perhaps WotC should drop the fighter completely. Build up the more specific physical classes and just send the fighter packing. I’ve got a post up at my place with more thoughts on the matter.

    1. I suppose the Fighter has to be defined as “one who fights”, and thus his abilities should reflect the complexity of what a fight should be comprised of. If your fights are summarily “I attack” and “I improvise”, then there’s not much else to do, leaving you with the “simple” fighter. But if your fights are more dynamic, more bar-brawl or wushu or king of fighters style, or anything else that allows the fighter to be more “active” without having to resort to improvisation.

      I’m not against Fighters being able to improvise or casters being able to improvise, I’m against *requiring* improvisation in order for a character to have options and be interesting. Those who want to improvise and have a barebones system with the fighter being Mr. Damage Machine can play it their way, while those who want to improvise and have an additional set of abilities with the fighter being Mr. Ultimate Warrior (strong, smart, skilled AND deadly) should also be able to play their way.

      1. The entire point of the original post is to show that even the simple fighter isn’t restrained to merely “I attack it” as an option, as demonstrated by the examples given. I’m not certain where the impression of a “simple” fighter being incapable of being strong, smart, skilled AND deadly is coming from, however. If anything, it takes a certain amount of imagination, mixed with tactical acumen to actually pull off interesting (and beneficial) stunts without having to resort to looking it up from a menu of powers.

        That said, I think we’re driving down the road towards One True Way-ism here. I haven’t seen anything in the Playtest material that the Fighter as we see it now, is the end state of Fighter development. If anything, they already stated up front that this packet will look very different from the finished product. Think of it as a Fighter in its most basic form. Certainly it’s a form I’m very happy with, in the same sense that a child is happy with basic LEGO blocks, but that doesn’t mean that WotC is not actually developing the more complex LEGO TECHNIC sets that you seem to enjoy more. Give it time, the options they might provide could end up making you very happy.

        I hope you don’t come off with the wrong impression. I’m certainly not saying that the fighters that you find fun to play are bad or wrong or shouldn’t exist in D&D Next. I’m simply saying that I personally enjoy the fighters that are presented at this point in time and the improvisation that they inspire.

        Ultimately there’s more than enough room for both kinds of play styles to exist within D&D Next without excluding each other, and that’s why I’m excited to see where the rest of the Open Development process takes us.

  9. The Bastard DM isn’t the only issue with improvisation. Some players will find a way to abuse anything you allow. For example, looking at the blinding you mentioned. This immediately made me think of a character who has high dex and a bunch of pouches of sand. This could easily become the go-to tactic for everything that’s not more dextrous than the sand-thrower. With one action you blind them, granting everybody else advantage and the bad guy either loses and action or has disadvantage.

    If the players are all like this, then it’s hard not to become a Bastard DM.

    1. So what? Not much different from the 4e rouge who takes artful dodger and dances around the combat getting CA every round. If the player’s going to be carrying around pouches of sand, they better be tracking that inventory then. Not every fighting local will have loose sand handy. And in a worse case scenario, you sit down with the player like a reasonable adult and work out a limit to the usage, build your own power out of it.

      1. I’m in agreement with iDungeonCrawl here, sometimes the best way to play games like these is for both the GMs and the Players to sit down and work out a happy medium. That said, there’s always the idea of having the sand-carrying character fight on a sinking ship or while swimming :p

      2. There is a significant difference: the 4E Rogue doesn’t *have* to
        – ask for DM permission for it to work (less time spent in game and out talking about said tactic)
        – worry about the DM balancing the ability (less time spent by the DM on mechanics that aren’t related to his story)

        Personally I *don’t* want to think up of ways to prevent a player from doing what he wants, I *don’t* want the game to end up to be a DM-vs.-player competition wherein the DM has to think of ways to “one up” his players while his players think of ways to overcome those attempts to neuter what they might believe to be “hard earned” benefits.

        Unless it’s REALLY part of the story AND the player doesn’t mind it.

        Also, people apparently are forgetting the bigger picture, hence one of my bigger complaints with a DM-ruled improvised gameplay: the more improvisation comes out, the more the DM has to take into consideration when building his campaigns and setting his scenarios. What if the campaign calls for quadrupeds, how does it affect tripping? How does throwing sand at a Beholder affect its vision? do undead get blinded by sand, and if so, what are the characteristics of the undead that allow it to be blinded? How does sweat, oil, ooze, skin temperature and other factors affect restraining or grabbing an opponent? How does grabbing an opponent at the arm differ from grabbing at the waist? How does fire affect a Gelatinous Cube, given its gelatinous nature? How about oil? Would a Gelatinous Cube be set ablaze if one player pours oil on it and another throws in a lighted match (during the same turn, so the cube wouldn’t have time to react)? Why would wielding a kobold — arguably a two-handed improvised weapon — do more damage than a longsword? What sort of weapon would you consider iron nails to be if you stab with it, and how much damage would it be doing? How about if you use it as part of a trap, what damage would you be dealing with it? Would finding a particular herb in the forests allow me to inflict a specific condition instead of damage, and if so what are the restrictions regarding its manufacture and use?

        That’s a lot to sort through, even in 4E, and unless you want certain things to be simply reflavoring of existing mechanics, you’re likely going to end up with a LOT of notes on how each and every improvised ruling was made, which then goes into your Houserules for easier reference. Houserules that, unsurprisingly, would resemble power pools — complete with AEDU or similarly resource-based limitations.

        And take note, these are just hastily drawn up questions regarding improvised actions. How much more when you have to face situations like a PC getting hold of some Medusa snake venom (which you ruled as enforcing a Constitution save to avoid being petrified), you forgetting that the PC has such a poison, then the PC uses it in future, killing either the BBEG, or worse the king of the land, in such a way that you have to spend a LOT more time changing your story to cope with your PC’s newly-found power.

        1. It should come as no surprise to you that you and I have very differing views on this. I would rather deal with each of those individual questions (both as a player and a DM) when they come up, and preferably on the fly, rather than either A) Memorizing a text book of rules or B) Stoping battle in the middle of things to go flipping through said text book. Now you might say “If you don’t remember the rule, just make a quick ruling and look it up later”, but I would argue then that’s no real difference from making a ruling in the first place, and changing it later if it turns out to be game breaking.

          Some of your questions are also very system dependent. For example, in D&D editions where initiative is by group rather than by individual, pouring oil on and lighting a gelatinous cube is a perfectly reasonable thing to occur (and something I would certainly allow, even if there were no specific rules covering it).

          As for the Medusa poison, well, first of all, no story I have is going to be so tightly wound that I need to spend a lot of time rewriting it if they kill a “major” NPC. Second if it were, I’d be much more careful about the things that I allow in my story as per Rule #pi of DMing: “If you put something in your game, you must consider the ramifications of your PCs gaining control of that something.” I prefer to run things loosely, and if my players skip, kill or lose some plot thread, I don’t usually care. At most I have 1 or 2 sessions planned out in advance, with a general overarching “world story”. The PC’s remembering that they have some obscure treasure that suddenly makes the BBEG not so BB is part of what makes for great gaming. Anything I *really* want my players to interact with can always be moved, modified or reskined into something else. Of course, for this to work, you have to be using a simple enough system. One that doesn’t require hours of careful balancing and planning to design a simple encounter, and one that doesn’t require hours of mathematical figuring to ensure that something you add into the game doesn’t upset the balance.

          1. True, there are lots of perfectly valid opinions here. From my experience, GM’s that “get” the 4e or 3e rules set generally remember the rules that are used commonly. They also use those rules as a framework for judging stunts that go beyond them. Sure, they have to look stuff up once in a while, but it’s generally once every few game sessions. Not a big issue.

            Also from personal experience, once you’re familiar with the rules set, the balances is pretty easy. It’s much easier than trying to have a balanced encounter with other rules sets. In 4e we’ve had death, even death of multiple characters, but never a TPK.

            As for the memory issue, if a DM is ruling on the fly because they don’t want to memorize a body of rules, then that raises a red flag to me. One of my personal issues (and I realize that it is a personal issue) is consistency. If there’s a ruling in a situation, then I’m going to make my future actions based on that ruling not changing. It might be modifier based on different conditions, but the basics will be the same. The rules are the physical laws of the universe and if they change all the time then that’s going to confuse and frustrate both the player and the character. Naturally, unless you only run one-shots, this is going to end up being a huge body of rulings. In a long campaign this is going to be more than any rules system out there. I’m not saying it’s not going to be a good game for the right person, but I’m going to end up pissed off and dropping the game.

            Lastly, I can replace any NPC or element in the game. Worst case, I might call the game early and figure out what to do for next session. (Improvising big things is not one of my strong suits as a DM) However, if the NPC expects to be hurt, they’ll take some precautions, depending on what they expect and what their resources are. If the players overcome those, more power to them.

  10. Whilst I am the sort of DM that would love to permit such varied and innovative tactics, the thing that would potentially hold me back would be not knowing the relative “power level” of the different conditions: is suffering a Prone condition really equivalent to being made Frightened? It wouldn’t seem so, but apart from basing them on different skills, they effectively are in your examples.

    Perhaps if in the rules there was a chart of the conditions of how frequently each should be possible to apply using improvised actions at a given level, how long they should be allowed to last for, etc.

    1. Hi Craggle!

      Balance is always a tricky issue in things like these, to be honest. If you’re uncomfortable with the idea that players might end up repeating the same thing over and over in the same combat, you can either apply a Disadvantage onto a player who tries the same trick twice or more in a given fight as the monsters have gotten wise to the tactic. Your suggestion of having a limit of how many times it can be used might work to.

      The beauty of improvisation on the GM side is that you can tailor-fit it to what you and your group finds fun. 🙂

      1. Well, it would be useful to have something to compare it to status effects of spells I think; if the big, flashy spell at second level for the wizard is a chance to blind an opponent for a round, there’s little point in the spell if it is a trivial matter to blind an opponent using an improvised attack. If so, even wizards are going to carry around bags of sand instead of bothering with the magic option.

        1. Hi Craggle!

          Good point, another option you might want to explore is to stick to keeping Improvise Actions as something that by it’s very nature, can’t be prepared ahead of time. This makes them effectively into Encounter Powers of a sort, that have the added complication of having to have the necessary items somewhere in the scene that they can use, and Wizards don’t have to worry about being upstaged by a Fighter.

          Again, I’d calibrate it according to what you and your gaming group feels is right and fun. 🙂

  11. It’s pointless to denigrate magic for being “limited” when the upper threshold of what can be accomplished as a caster is, in all of the editions that are best beloved and old school, essentially god-like potence. A fighter improvising, no matter how much pleading, cap-in-hand-on-my-knees begging ‘please sir can I do something cool?’, is never going to be on par with Wish, or Fireball, or Colour Spray.

    Saying ‘don’t play with jerks’ is facile. I played AD&D2e with best friends and had great times despite playing an edition that let me accomplish nothing beyond swinging a long sword and disincentived any creative thought on my part. Any non-codified action meant inconsistent difficulty or possibility.

    100% of the time, a magic missile hits its target every time.

    The same cannot be said of improvisation. My ability to perform these improvisations has even less reliance upon my personal creativity as it does upon my ability to both convince my group that someone could actually do these things, but also that they could perform them at a threshold of difficulty that is within my character’s ability to perform.

    And really, if everyone can do this .. . why does it get less page count than a wizard’s spell, which are the exclusive province of the wizard? Surely something every actor in the game can do deserves more than some “remember the golden rule!” single sentence never again raised.

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