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    Default Attacks of Opportunity [Combat Reformation]

    Attacks of opportunity are unnecessarily complicated. They serve a useful purpose; you don't want some archer firing a bow in melee like it's a sword. But it's too difficult to tell what provokes an attack of opportunity. Quick - does drawing a weapon provoke? How about sheathing a weapon? Why does sundering provoke, but attacking an object doesn't? The problem here is that attacks of opportunity don't have a consistent definition. There is no simple rule you can apply to determine what provokes; every action has to explicitly state if it provokes.

    I propose the following rule:

    Provoking Attacks of Opportunity
    You can provoke attacks of opportunity by movement, or leaving an opening.

    Leaving an Opening: To defend yourself, you must be wielding a melee weapon or shield you are proficient with. If you are unable to defend yourself at the start of your turn, or at any other point during your turn, you provoke an attack of opportunity. You can only provoke once per round from any individual creature, regardless of the number of times you become unable to defend yourself.

    Becoming unable to defend yourself can happen for several reasons. Some examples are given below.
    • If you are unarmed, you provoke.
    • If you can't use your weapon or shield (such as if you are trying to wield a heavy weapon in one hand), you provoke.
    • If you are busy doing something else (such as casting a spell), you provoke.
    • If you can do nothing at all (such as if you are helpless), you provoke.

    This rule makes it crystal clear what provokes and what doesn't. Does sheathing a weapon provoke? If that was your only weapon, yes, because after you sheathe your weapon, you can't defend yourself. Does drawing a weapon provoke? Not if you have a weapon or shield in your other hand. As far as I can tell, this rule works for anything in the system. It also implies several important changes:

    • Combat maneuvers (bull rush, disarm, trip, etc.) become easier to perform, since they don't provoke unless they leave you unable to defend yourself. That means performing a maneuver with a weapon, such as disarming and sundering, never provokes. Performing a maneuver that requires a free hand, such as a bull rush or grapple, provokes if it means you can't defend yourself. Note that some maneuvers, like disarm and grapple, already have built-in consequences for failure which are separate from the attack of opportunity.
    • Two-handed fighting becomes more balanced compared to the other styles. Before, two-handed fighters could freely take any action requiring a free hand, which set them apart from other dual-wielders or "sword and board". Now, they risk provoking when they try to get tricky.
    • Wielding a single one-handed weapon actually has a purpose. It is the only style that lets you freely take actions requiring a free hand, so maneuver-heavy characters may consider using that style.


    I would suggest that all of these changes are good for the game as a whole.

    There is one problem: this rule doesn't deal with movement at all, and we still want to discourage people from running will-nilly through combat. That will be addressed separately. This rule is designed to replace all attacks of opportunity not provoked by movement.

    Note about the "Combat Reformation":
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    The Combat Reformation is a series of fixes and adjustments I will be making to D&D's core combat system. Based on feedback from the Spell Reformation, each change will be designed to be modular, so you can use any one of the changes without using the others.
    Other elements of the Combat Reformation:



    Changelog:
    3/31: Wording changed to be (hopefully) more clear.
    3/31: The weapon has to be a melee weapon. Thanks, Composer99!
    Last edited by Vadskye; 2014-04-01 at 01:12 AM.

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    Default Re: Attacks of Opportunity [Combat Reformation]

    In my opinion, you don't need to include "passive" triggers for opportunity attacks (e.g. being helpless). The very language used to describe triggering an opportunity attack - provoke - requires action. You provoke an opportunity attack by doing something - at least, in my opinion.

    Also, how would being helpless provoke opportunity attacks? Would they all just happen at the start of your turn, each turn while you're helpless? Being helpless in combat is bad enough already without giving people action economy abuse (just imagine, at low levels, someone with Combat Reflexes wandering into the middle of a pile of enemies who have been disabled with sleep).

    Also, what does "You can only provoke in this way once per turn." mean? Does that mean each thing you do that provokes an opportunity attack can provoke up to one such attack, no matter how many creatures who are within reach could take a poke at you? Or does it mean that you provoke opportunity attacks against you up to once per turn, regardless of how often you do things that would provoke an opportunity attack?

    Since the OP only brings up opportunity attacks resulting from actions (or the lack thereof) while not wielding a weapon or shield, perhaps a simpler way to word the proposed change to the rule might go as follows.

    The original text from the SRD:
    Provoking an Attack of OpportunityTwo kinds of actions can provoke attacks of opportunity: moving out of a threatened square and performing an action within a threatened square.

    Moving
    Moving out of a threatened square usually provokes an attack of opportunity from the threatening opponent. There are two common methods of avoiding such an attack—the 5-foot step and the withdraw action.

    Performing a Distracting Act
    Some actions, when performed in a threatened square, provoke attacks of opportunity as you divert your attention from the battle. Actions in Combat notes many of the actions that provoke attacks of opportunity.

    Remember that even actions that normally provoke attacks of opportunity may have exceptions to this rule.

    [Emphasis original.]
    Suggested change (to the action portion):
    You can provoke attacks of opportunity whenever you take any action that would leave you unable to defend yourself with a melee weapon or shield, either because all your hands are used in the action or because you have to let down your guard. For example, casting a spell with somatic components, firing a bow, starting a grapple, or drinking a potion would all provoke attacks of opportunity from nearby enemies.

    It's nearly 1 AM here so I may not have come up with a coherent re-wording.
    ~ Composer99

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    Default Re: Attacks of Opportunity [Combat Reformation]

    I agree with the first point that Composer has - well, I agree with all of them, but especially that first one. It seems really weird that not being able to do anything provokes. What's the point when it provokes? Could an enemy just attack you with an attack of opportunity, even in someone else entirely's turn, when you're unconscious? As long as that rule is in place it's going to end up opening PCs to being killed passively simply by being unconscious while the baddie would otherwise be occupied with more threatening attackers.
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    Default Re: Attacks of Opportunity [Combat Reformation]

    Quote Originally Posted by Composer99 View Post
    In my opinion, you don't need to include "passive" triggers for opportunity attacks (e.g. being helpless). The very language used to describe triggering an opportunity attack - provoke - requires action. You provoke an opportunity attack by doing something - at least, in my opinion.
    At first glance, that seems to make sense. But think about it. Which of the following is easier to attack:
    • A foe standing completely still
    • A foe trying to punch you, sheathing a sword, or otherwise actually moving in any way.

    Seems to me that the first one should be just as easy to hit, if not easier! An attack of opportunity happens for one reason: you have an opportunity. Surely, if a fully armed warrior sheathing his sword counts as an opportunity, some numbnut lying asleep on the ground doing nothing an even more obvious opportunity? Though you may be right that "provoking" is slightly misleading language. I'll have to think about that.

    Also, how would being helpless provoke opportunity attacks? Would they all just happen at the start of your turn, each turn while you're helpless? Being helpless in combat is bad enough already without giving people action economy abuse (just imagine, at low levels, someone with Combat Reflexes wandering into the middle of a pile of enemies who have been disabled with sleep).
    I'm not sure that "people who are asleep are easy to kill" is a problem. They're already really easy to kill in the current system, and you're wasting your opportunity to coup de grace them.

    Also, what does "You can only provoke in this way once per turn." mean? Does that mean each thing you do that provokes an opportunity attack can provoke up to one such attack, no matter how many creatures who are within reach could take a poke at you? Or does it mean that you provoke opportunity attacks against you up to once per turn, regardless of how often you do things that would provoke an opportunity attack?
    Hm. That might need a better wording. The basic concept is simple: someone standing still and doing nothing should not be less vulnerable than someone taking actions, even if the person taking actions technically becomes vulnerable twice in the same turn. I decided for balance/sanity reasons that someone standing still doing nothing should only provoke once (at the start of their turn, as you guessed). As a result, provoking once needs to be the cap for people actually doing useful things, too.

    Since the OP only brings up opportunity attacks resulting from actions (or the lack thereof) while not wielding a weapon or shield, perhaps a simpler way to word the proposed change to the rule might go as follows.

    You can provoke attacks of opportunity whenever you take any action that would leave you unable to defend yourself with a melee weapon or shield, either because all your hands are used in the action or because you have to let down your guard. For example, casting a spell with somatic components, firing a bow, starting a grapple, or drinking a potion would all provoke attacks of opportunity from nearby enemies.

    It's nearly 1 AM here so I may not have come up with a coherent re-wording.
    That's closer to the original wording, and I'd say that it's also better than the original. However, it still has the problem that a person doing literally nothing is harder to hit than a person doing something. Which makes no sense.

    I changed the wording in the OP to be a bit more clear.
    Last edited by Vadskye; 2014-04-01 at 01:09 AM.

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    Default Re: Attacks of Opportunity [Combat Reformation]

    I was working on a detailed response, and then my computer crashed.

    Anyway, I'll try and boil down what I think AoO represent, conceptually.

    Basically, AoO represent the combination of a combatant who is paying attention to the actions of its foes, and potential targets who let down their guard enough for the attacker to get in a quick shot (subject to the 6-second length of a round). It's a reactive process.

    So there are basically three categories of potential targets, as far as I can see:

    Helpless Creatures
    A potential target who is helpless is not worth spending cognitive resources on (*), unless their foes specifically mean to dispose of them. They can't do things that people react to.

    So, in my view, they don't provoke AoO. And it's not the case that they're harder to hit in combat - quite the opposite, in fact: they are treated as having a Dexterity score of 0, attackers get +4 to attack rolls against them, and IIRC they lose their dodge bonuses to AC (they ought to, anyway).

    (This category would also include, say, pinned creatures or creatures who are partially impeded defensively and whose actions are similarly restricted.)

    (*) Intuitively, who are you going to pay attention to in a fight? The foe who is paralyzed and unable to act? Or the one who is still up and trying to do you in? IMO, the paralyzed foe isn't worth paying attention to unless you're setting out to finish it off deliberately. If you win there's time to finish them off at leisure.

    Also, how many creatures do you think someone can coup-de-grace (that is, perfectly bash in their skull, or put a blade through their ribcage just so) in some fraction of a 6-second unit of time?

    Creatures that don't let their guard down
    Combatants, especially in melee, who aren't acting aren't standing around with their arms at their sides. They're bobbing, weaving, ducking, maybe blocking or parrying, and generally just trying to avoid getting hit.

    So a creature who doesn't do anything that forces it to let down its guard doesn't provoke - there's no opportunity to react to, so no opportunity attack.

    Creatures that let their guard down
    The combatants who do provoke AoO are the ones who do something that either diverts their attention from potential attackers (pulling a potion out and drinking it, say), or that leaves them open to attack (trying to make a ranged attack when there's an adjacent enemy, say) or that forces them to not make an effort at avoiding blows (casting a spell with somatic components, say).


    So bottom line, IMO:
    - characters who aren't letting down their guard, or who don't require paying attention to in combat, don't provoke AoO
    - characters who do require paying attention to and let down their guard, do

    Hopefully that makes it a bit clearer where I'm coming from.

    (Parenthetically, I would say that coup de graçe actions don't need to be full-round actions - they could be standard actions.)
    ~ Composer99

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    Default Re: Attacks of Opportunity [Combat Reformation]

    Quote Originally Posted by Composer99 View Post
    I was working on a detailed response, and then my computer crashed.
    If this is a non-detailed response, I shudder to think of a detailed response. (P.S. consider writing detailed responses in a text editor!)

    Anyway, I'll try and boil down what I think AoO represent, conceptually.

    Basically, AoO represent the combination of a combatant who is paying attention to the actions of its foes, and potential targets who let down their guard enough for the attacker to get in a quick shot (subject to the 6-second length of a round). It's a reactive process.

    So there are basically three categories of potential targets, as far as I can see:

    Helpless Creatures
    A potential target who is helpless is not worth spending cognitive resources on (*), unless their foes specifically mean to dispose of them. They can't do things that people react to.

    (*) Intuitively, who are you going to pay attention to in a fight? The foe who is paralyzed and unable to act? Or the one who is still up and trying to do you in? IMO, the paralyzed foe isn't worth paying attention to unless you're setting out to finish it off deliberately. If you win there's time to finish them off at leisure.
    Thank you. This is an explanation that for why helpless creatures don't provoke that makes some sense. It did bug me that they provoked - it seems strange - but I couldn't figure out how to make the system make sense otherwise.

    Also, how many creatures do you think someone can coup-de-grace (that is, perfectly bash in their skull, or put a blade through their ribcage just so) in some fraction of a 6-second unit of time?
    Oh, only one. But generally if people are magically asleep, you can coup de grace all of them one after another, whereas hitting them all once would just wake them up.

    Creatures that don't let their guard down
    Combatants, especially in melee, who aren't acting aren't standing around with their arms at their sides. They're bobbing, weaving, ducking, maybe blocking or parrying, and generally just trying to avoid getting hit.

    So a creature who doesn't do anything that forces it to let down its guard doesn't provoke - there's no opportunity to react to, so no opportunity attack.
    This is the default answer, but I'm not convinced it makes sense. Consider the following situations:
    • A creature totally unaware that the combat exists around him (maybe he's deaf and blind).
    • A creature carrying some heavy object that requires both his hands and his full attention.
    • A creature reading a book. He's holding it in both hands.

    Technically, none of these are "actions", so they don't provoke. However, none of these characters are able to defend themselves in any meaningful way.

    This proposed system says that all of those creatures should provoke attacks of opportunity. I think that makes more sense. The character with the book is an interesting case; I think he should provoke attacks of opportunity, since he's leaving an opening. The fact that he can still try to dodge blows just means that he retains his Dexterity and dodge bonuses to AC, which is a separate concept.

    Creatures that let their guard down
    The combatants who do provoke AoO are the ones who do something that either diverts their attention from potential attackers (pulling a potion out and drinking it, say), or that leaves them open to attack (trying to make a ranged attack when there's an adjacent enemy, say) or that forces them to not make an effort at avoiding blows (casting a spell with somatic components, say).
    Here's a question: Suppose I attack with a bow four times in a round. Do I provoke four attacks of opportunity? In what meaningful sense am I four times more vulnerable when firing that bow than I would be while casting a spell, loading a crossbow, or locking my locking gauntlet? I'm not convinced that any action-based provoking system will be able to resolve these dilemmas.

    Minor point: all spells provoke, not just those with somatic components. Including spell-like abilities, which have no components by definition. This means that merely concentrating on something is enough to provoke attacks of opportunity. (Except that it isn't, since concentrating on an active spell doesn't provoke? Internal consistency was never one of D&D's strong points.)
    So bottom line, IMO:
    - characters who aren't letting down their guard, or who don't require paying attention to in combat, don't provoke AoO
    - characters who do require paying attention to and let down their guard, do

    Hopefully that makes it a bit clearer where I'm coming from.
    It does make it more clear, and I think your proposal is better than core D&D. But I'm not convinced that it actually solves the weirdness of AoOs. A lot of the issues I'm talking about have been a part of D&D for so long that I think we've all internalized them as assumptions, whether or not they make sense.

    (Parenthetically, I would say that coup de graçe actions don't need to be full-round actions - they could be standard actions.)
    I think a coup de grace should take the same action as a full attack. A separate entry in the Combat Reformation will implement standard action full attacks, which would make a coup de grace also be a standard action.

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    Default Re: Attacks of Opportunity [Combat Reformation]

    One minor wording suggestion: I would change "You can only provoke once per round from any individual creature, regardless of the number of times you become unable to defend yourself" to "A creature can only take one attack of opportunity against you per round, regardless of the number of times you might provoke one." As it stands, you technically only provoke with the first provoking action each round and not with any others whether or not someone attacks you, so a caster could move through someone's space (provoking an AoO) before casting a spell so that creature couldn't AoO him while he casts and possibly disrupt the spell. It's a minor semantic distinction, but an important one.

    Quote Originally Posted by Vadskye View Post
    This is the default answer, but I'm not convinced it makes sense. Consider the following situations:
    • A creature totally unaware that the combat exists around him (maybe he's deaf and blind).
    • A creature carrying some heavy object that requires both his hands and his full attention.
    • A creature reading a book. He's holding it in both hands.

    Technically, none of these are "actions", so they don't provoke. However, none of these characters are able to defend themselves in any meaningful way.

    This proposed system says that all of those creatures should provoke attacks of opportunity. I think that makes more sense. The character with the book is an interesting case; I think he should provoke attacks of opportunity, since he's leaving an opening. The fact that he can still try to dodge blows just means that he retains his Dexterity and dodge bonuses to AC, which is a separate concept.
    The bolded text isn't necessarily true. As a DM, if a creature in one of my games were reading a book in the middle of combat and not paying attention to anything (or even trying to split his attention between the book and the combat), I'd definitely rule that he's lost his Dex bonus to AC by virtue of being very distracted.

    Which provides another way to simplify the trigger conditions for things like this: instead of having "can't do anything" provoke, say that losing one's Dex bonus to AC provokes. Someone who is blind and deaf, carrying a heavy object, reading a book, or unconscious loses their Dex bonus to AC and thus provoke, but someone just standing around doesn't and thus will not provoke. That should hopefully solve the "weirdness" involved, since framing it as "Would person X lose their Dex bonus to AC against an attack by person Y?" makes it a lot easier to adjudicate than "Is this creature paying enough attention?"
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    Default Re: Attacks of Opportunity [Combat Reformation]

    Quote Originally Posted by PairO'Dice Lost View Post
    One minor wording suggestion: I would change "You can only provoke once per round from any individual creature, regardless of the number of times you become unable to defend yourself" to "A creature can only take one attack of opportunity against you per round, regardless of the number of times you might provoke one." As it stands, you technically only provoke with the first provoking action each round and not with any others whether or not someone attacks you, so a caster could move through someone's space (provoking an AoO) before casting a spell so that creature couldn't AoO him while he casts and possibly disrupt the spell. It's a minor semantic distinction, but an important one.
    That's a good change, thanks!

    The bolded text isn't necessarily true. As a DM, if a creature in one of my games were reading a book in the middle of combat and not paying attention to anything (or even trying to split his attention between the book and the combat), I'd definitely rule that he's lost his Dex bonus to AC by virtue of being very distracted.
    You're right, reading a book was a bad example.

    Which provides another way to simplify the trigger conditions for things like this: instead of having "can't do anything" provoke, say that losing one's Dex bonus to AC provokes. Someone who is blind and deaf, carrying a heavy object, reading a book, or unconscious loses their Dex bonus to AC and thus provoke, but someone just standing around doesn't and thus will not provoke. That should hopefully solve the "weirdness" involved, since framing it as "Would person X lose their Dex bonus to AC against an attack by person Y?" makes it a lot easier to adjudicate than "Is this creature paying enough attention?"
    I don't think that's an adequate replacement; drinking a potion, retrieving a stored item, and firing a bow don't make you flat-footed. Even if you changed some of those abilities so they did make you flat-footed (and I don't think firing a bow should make you flat-footed), you're still back at the old problem where the only reliable way to tell whether an action provokes is to look at the definition of the action. Plus, that has weird interactions with a variety of existing mechanics built around losing (or not losing) Dex to AC.

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    Default Re: Attacks of Opportunity [Combat Reformation]

    Quote Originally Posted by Vadskye View Post
    I don't think that's an adequate replacement; drinking a potion, retrieving a stored item, and firing a bow don't make you flat-footed.
    I'm not saying to make that the only trigger condition, I'm saying you can resolve the debate with Composer99 regarding unaware combatants by changing the trigger conditions list from "unarmed, can't use your weapon, busy with other things, doing nothing" to "unarmed, can't use your weapon, busy with other things, lost Dex to AC" because that's better defined mechanically than a vague sense of "letting your guard down" while not limiting it just to creatures that are actually helpless.
    Last edited by PairO'Dice Lost; 2014-04-02 at 04:45 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by abadguy View Post
    Darn you PoDL for making me care about a bunch of NPC Commoners!
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    Default Re: Attacks of Opportunity [Combat Reformation]

    Trying to sum up the gist of my position in one sentence, I suppose it would be fair to describe it as:
    You don't get to make attacks of opportunity unless someone does something that triggers them.
    This is, I think, fairly close to the RAW.

    So it's a fairly restrictive criteria, and might explain why I'm reflexively suspicious of what appears to be automatic triggering of AoO, e.g. by a creature who has been blinded/deafened, or who is paralyzed, etc.

    Would it be fair to say, Vadskye, that you have a much broader view? Would the following be a fair/mostly accurate one-sentence description of your position?
    You get to make attacks of opportunity, unless your targets have the physical means to prevent them (e.g. a melee/natural weapon or shield in hand), the ability to use those means (e.g. not helpless or impaired), and are not doing anything that deprives them of the ability to ward off attacks of opportunity (e.g. casting a spell, drinking a potion, etc.).
    Last edited by Composer99; 2014-04-02 at 09:40 AM.
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    Default Re: Attacks of Opportunity [Combat Reformation]

    Quote Originally Posted by PairO'Dice Lost View Post
    I'm not saying to make that the only trigger condition, I'm saying you can resolve the debate with Composer99 regarding unaware combatants by changing the trigger conditions list from "unarmed, can't use your weapon, busy with other things, doing nothing" to "unarmed, can't use your weapon, busy with other things, lost Dex to AC" because that's better defined mechanically than a vague sense of "letting your guard down" while not limiting it just to creatures that are actually helpless.
    Ah, that makes perfect sense, sorry.

    Quote Originally Posted by Composer99 View Post
    Trying to sum up the gist of my position in one sentence, I suppose it would be fair to describe it as:

    This is, I think, fairly close to the RAW.

    So it's a fairly restrictive criteria, and might explain why I'm reflexively suspicious of what appears to be automatic triggering of AoO, e.g. by a creature who has been blinded/deafened, or who is paralyzed, etc.
    Yup, that's RAW. I understand where you're coming from.

    Would it be fair to say, Vadskye, that you have a much broader view? Would the following be a fair/mostly accurate one-sentence description of your position?
    That's pretty accurate. To be somewhat more clear, there are two main things that this changes. First, I'm changing the definition of which actions provoke; we seem to agree on that front. Second, and more drastically, I'm changing the definition of how provoking works. If I were to sum up my idea in a single sentence, it would be:

    If your foe has the opportunity to attack you while you are unable to defend yourself, you provoke an attack of opportunity.

    That's much broader than the RAW, but not much more complicated conceptually. Does that make sense?
    Last edited by Vadskye; 2014-04-02 at 02:30 PM.

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    Default Re: Attacks of Opportunity [Combat Reformation]

    Quote Originally Posted by Vadskye View Post
    That's pretty accurate. To be somewhat more clear, there are two main things that this changes. First, I'm changing the definition of which actions provoke; we seem to agree on that front. Second, and more drastically, I'm changing the definition of how provoking works. If I were to sum up my idea in a single sentence, it would be:

    If your foe has the opportunity to attack you while you are unable to defend yourself, you provoke an attack of opportunity.

    That's much broader than the RAW, but not much more complicated conceptually. Does that make sense?
    It's very clear, but I can't say it makes sense. The whole reason combat goes by turns in the first place is because characters generally don't have the opportunity to do anything. You have the opportunity to act on your turn, and otherwise you are occupied by avoiding foes and otherwise keeping yourself alive and in the fight. An attack of opportunity (which in a more ambitiously balanced system might be an action of opportunity) is something special; that's why someone usually has to do something to provoke it. Under your formulation, you've dropped the "opportunity" part, as I see it.
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