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    Default Unifying the mechanics behind Natural/Manufactured Weapons

    So, natural weapons have their own rules for how they behave (Natural/Secondary, 1 Attack per weapon), and Manufactured Weapons/Unarmed Strikes have their own way of behaving (Number of attacks dependent on BAB).

    Has anyone ever thought about modifying the weapon sub-system so that both types of weapons behave consistently? If not, how would you go about it? Just a thought experiment. Want to see if its possible to simplify and add consistency without breaking too much. Might wanna eventually add it as a house rule for my games in the future if so.

    Edit: For simplicity's sake, We should probably look at incorporating or building off of the quick & dirty house rules that I came up for reworking unarmed strikes with a couple months ago...

    It might make a good starting point.
    Last edited by Durzan; 2019-06-03 at 12:39 PM.
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    Default Re: Unifying the mechanics behind Natural/Manufactured Weapons

    I have, and took it a step further, attempting to unify natural, manufactured, and attack roll based spells together into a coherent system of weapon templates. I have some tables that don't account for misses, but made it easy to tune all the weapons within a certain range of each other at each level's appropriate +0~5 modifier. That said, I still don't have enough play data to actually fine tune them, so... still heavily WIP.

    I haven't updated the thread in a while, since it's for a bigger picture system overhaul and I've been working on skills and core D20 framework changes, but I need to get back to it. It also has armors, and I've changed those a bit on my local copy since then to help address Lv 1 Mortality Problems.
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    Default Re: Unifying the mechanics behind Natural/Manufactured Weapons

    The trouble with unifying them is that there are motives for each subsystem operating the way it does. The natural attack progression is designed to model a creature hitting once with each natural weapon, giving reason for having all of them rather than having them as the good one that gets used all the time and a bunch of pointless ones that never get used. The manufactured weapon subsystem gives iterative attacks in order to model getting better and faster with your weapon strikes.

    5e approaches this by mostly having only one attack per action. Some classes get extra ones. Some monsters get a special trait called "multiattack" that lets them use a specified list of their individual natural attacks together. TWF lets you get one bonus action attack with your off-hand weapon. Presumably, one could use an "off-hand claw" or the like with a bonus action, as well.

    Any alteration in 3e would amount to a massive buff or nerf. As-is, having a natural weapon and a manufactured one lets you make iteratives with the manufactured one, plus treat all natural weapons as "secondary" and hit with them. This is amazingly powerful with the right build.

    One approach (this is a nerf) would be to make all attacks use iteratives. This would generally make a natural weapon routine be the best weapon over and over again. You could encourage switching it up by giving a +2 bonus to hit to each weapon that is different from the last one you attacked with. This would actually male Spetznaz a viable fighting style, as a side-effect, as quick-drawing and dropping weapons would be more accurate than hitting with the same weapon. You could combine this with allowing no more than one AoO with a given weapon, unless you have Combat Reflexes, in which case your "primary" weapon gets your Dex mod in AoOs. This is a buff, in that you have more AoOs than the base one (1) just by having an extra weapon in hand/more natural attacks.

    In the end, though, I think you create more problems than you solve by keeping them as-is.

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    Default Re: Unifying the mechanics behind Natural/Manufactured Weapons

    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    In the end, though, I think you create more problems than you solve by keeping them as-is.
    I'll have to reply to the rest later, since I'm stepping out and can't quite devote the headspace to parsing some of it, but... could you clarify what you mean by this? I'm reading it as "The system in 3.5 causes more problems than not, and should be changed", but I can read it as "any change causes more problems than it solves."
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    Default Re: Unifying the mechanics behind Natural/Manufactured Weapons

    Quote Originally Posted by Alent View Post
    I'll have to reply to the rest later, since I'm stepping out and can't quite devote the headspace to parsing some of it, but... could you clarify what you mean by this? I'm reading it as "The system in 3.5 causes more problems than not, and should be changed", but I can read it as "any change causes more problems than it solves."
    The latter is my intended reading. I do see why you would read it the other way, but what I meant was that you create more problems than you solve in attempting this than you would be keeping it as-is. My apologies for how unclear what I wrote was.



    In essence, the system is designed with what exists in mind. The reasons why natural and manufactured weapons have their own rules are both somewhat simulationist (you fight differently with a manufactured weapon than with claws and bites and tails) and somewhat based on intended play style with the different kinds of weapons (wolves are meant to bite and claw; fighters are meant to hit with the sword in multiple moves). Trying to unify it creates a lot of potential alteration to the current balance-point of damage, and interaction with a lot of the rest of the combat system if you're not careful.

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    Default Re: Unifying the mechanics behind Natural/Manufactured Weapons

    Any changes would have to be carefully planned out to compensate, of course.
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    Default Re: Unifying the mechanics behind Natural/Manufactured Weapons

    Quote Originally Posted by Durzan View Post
    Any changes would have to be carefully planned out to compensate, of course.
    I generally recommend against homebrew changes that require rewriting the (sub)system from the ground up, especially if the only perceived benefit to the change is an aesthetic symmetry to the rules.
    Last edited by Segev; 2019-06-04 at 09:43 AM.

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    Default Re: Unifying the mechanics behind Natural/Manufactured Weapons

    I've been thinking about the following houserule:

    All attacks you make during your turn are at your full BAB with a -N penalty to both your attack roll and damage where N equals'
    The total number of attacks your making after the first, plus
    The total number of manufactured/natural weapons you attack with after the first

    So, multiple attacks are more consistent and you are more likely to hit with each attack, but you deal less damage with each attack.


    What would be the ramifications of this?

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    Default Re: Unifying the mechanics behind Natural/Manufactured Weapons

    The reason critters use natural weapons is generally they get more attacks. Claw/claw/bite which if you relate it to BAB gets ridiculous. There is a reason normal animals donít advance much. This will truly mess up a party if the creatures also get rake and pounce attacks.

    You might have to adjust CR for this. For levels 6-9 this matters more as the attacks double. A full attack thus becomes a lot more likely to succeed as the creature can make a lot more attacks.

    The reason natural attacks are limited to number of limbs was done purposefully to hamstring monsters for verisimilitude. Otherwise all cats would be incredibly lethal to commoners.
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    Default Re: Unifying the mechanics behind Natural/Manufactured Weapons

    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    The latter is my intended reading. I do see why you would read it the other way, but what I meant was that you create more problems than you solve in attempting this than you would be keeping it as-is. My apologies for how unclear what I wrote was.

    In essence, the system is designed with what exists in mind. The reasons why natural and manufactured weapons have their own rules are both somewhat simulationist (you fight differently with a manufactured weapon than with claws and bites and tails) and somewhat based on intended play style with the different kinds of weapons (wolves are meant to bite and claw; fighters are meant to hit with the sword in multiple moves). Trying to unify it creates a lot of potential alteration to the current balance-point of damage, and interaction with a lot of the rest of the combat system if you're not careful.
    The clarity is appreciated. I had to think about how I wanted to reply to this, because the first reading- that the system hurts more if left as is- sums up my feelings on the subject... The issue I have is that the current system seems to have been a rushed "we're out of time, cut this idea loose" edit of a larger overhaul of all attacks. You can see a hint of this in how 3.0 Monk's unarmed strikes had a different progression that used +3 BAB instead of +5 BAB and how one or two early 3.0 based D20 products still featured the 2e style "grip of darts" for Shuriken and such.

    This framework seems like a great way to balance weapon damage closer to a semi-uniform baseline, I think it was a mistake to scrap it for a single +5 scale like they did. There were already rules in 2e for ranged weapons having different rates of fire, extending those rules to melee and making them balance out damage wise is reasonable. The present simulation rules say "These two types of weapon act differently" when they should be saying "every weapon acts differently, see each weapon description for details".

    I'll grant, this is work. I've already broken the ice on my own attempt at it, but I know I'm not done and there are some things I'll be incorporating in it from thinking about this reply, such as changing Animal natural attacks from discrete weapons to abstract concepts. "Unarmed Strike" and "Slam" are both abstract attacks, but Bites, Claws, Hoofs, Tails, etc. are left as discrete weapons when they should be packaged into an abstract bundle that describes how the creature attacks with its natural weapons.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ursus Spelaeus View Post
    I've been thinking about the following houserule:

    All attacks you make during your turn are at your full BAB with a -N penalty to both your attack roll and damage where N equals'
    The total number of attacks your making after the first, plus
    The total number of manufactured/natural weapons you attack with after the first

    So, multiple attacks are more consistent and you are more likely to hit with each attack, but you deal less damage with each attack.


    What would be the ramifications of this?
    Off the top of my head, I think it would produce interesting results when crossed with Rapid-shot/Multishot when used with a Swift Hunter build. I don't know enough about Dungeon Crashers to know for sure, but I'm half expecting this to generate some truly ridiculous damage tallies in that one Dungeon Crasher knockback build, too. This could be refined and made sensible as a feat, but I wouldn't make it baseline, it falls into the same crunchy hell that Power Attack resides in.
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    Default Re: Unifying the mechanics behind Natural/Manufactured Weapons

    Quote Originally Posted by Debihuman View Post
    The reason critters use natural weapons is generally they get more attacks. Claw/claw/bite which if you relate it to BAB gets ridiculous. There is a reason normal animals donít advance much. This will truly mess up a party if the creatures also get rake and pounce attacks.

    You might have to adjust CR for this. For levels 6-9 this matters more as the attacks double. A full attack thus becomes a lot more likely to succeed as the creature can make a lot more attacks.

    The reason natural attacks are limited to number of limbs was done purposefully to hamstring monsters for verisimilitude. Otherwise all cats would be incredibly lethal to commoners.
    and they are quite lethal.(3 attacks in dnd 3e)
    Last edited by noob; 2019-06-08 at 05:13 AM.

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    Default Re: Unifying the mechanics behind Natural/Manufactured Weapons

    Quote Originally Posted by Ursus Spelaeus View Post
    I've been thinking about the following houserule:

    All attacks you make during your turn are at your full BAB with a -N penalty to both your attack roll and damage where N equals'
    The total number of attacks your making after the first, plus
    The total number of manufactured/natural weapons you attack with after the first

    So, multiple attacks are more consistent and you are more likely to hit with each attack, but you deal less damage with each attack.


    What would be the ramifications of this?
    The -N will be less and less apparent as attack-bonuses and damage output increase.
    Multiplying attack penalties by 3 and damage penalties by 5 might actually count for something.

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    Default Re: Unifying the mechanics behind Natural/Manufactured Weapons

    The natural-weapons system (if you can call it that) has been confusing many newbies and some veterans coughguiltycough for ages, so yes, I'd love to unify the two systems. And with all 3.5 has to offer, I think it could be easily done. So the question is, why wasn't it done differently in the first place?

    IMO, this is one of those instance in 3.5 where the designers were weirdly adherent to formula. When someone realized that their existing system (attacks as a function of BAB which was a function of class and level) didn't work out great for monsters, rather than modifying it with any of the myriad of tools available to them, such as special abilities, feats, subtypes, etc, the only solution they could come up with was to reinvent the wheel with an entirely different formula.
    Obviously someone wanted the party to be very impressed that they were chosen to hunt down the man-eating tiger that was harassing the villagers at level 2, and then basically repeat this quest at level 15 except replace the tiger with a dragon (or hydra, or basilisk, or a pack of griffins or whatever) and not be constrained by the limits of BAB. But there are many MANY ways around that.

    To take a step back for a moment, one thing I've frequently considered is aligning natural weapons with certain types of manufactured weapons, in terms of feats and playstyle. For example, Bite and Gore attacks are like 2-handed attacks (fewer attacks but more damage), Claw and Slam are like one-handers, and things like Sting, Talon, Tentacle, etc are light attackes (for Dex-based builds). So it seems relatively easy to set up a chart with size as one axis and the type of weapon as the other and fix it on an appropriate level of damage, and then use that for all appropriate natural weapons. Combine that with a few SIMPLE special abilities, and there shouldn't be anything you can't stat out appropriately. Creatures with more different natural weapons simply have more options (which is worth maybe a +1/2 CR IMO).

    Lets try this as an example- suppose all Animal and Magical Beast type creatures, which are the most common creatures to have natural weapons (ignoring dragons for the moment) have a medium BAB (like a Rogue or Cleric). Then you say that all carnivores have a high BAB (like a fighter) and herbivores have a low BAB (like a wizard) and bam- that's one word you can add to a multi-paragraph creature description and significantly alter how it affects a creature. If you want a creature to have lots of little attacks (a Tiger, lets say), give it the special ability "multi-attack": whenever you could make 1 Claw attack, you can instead make 2 Claw attacks at -3 BAB. That's basically dual-wielding. Or give wolves Improved Critical on bite attacks. Give Gazelles and Elephants a charge-attack. Give a gorilla Improve Grapple or a special ability that stuns when they crit.etc etc etc
    If you things creatures should be weaker or stronger for reasons of versimilitude, move them a few HD up or down and adjust abilities as appropriate.

    Seriously, it's not that complicated give me any creature that you think would be imbalanced if natural weapons were directly linked to BAB-as-a-function-of-HD and I guarantee I can fix it in less than a paragraph*.


    *this post was written while eating dinner and may be editted later for flow and clarity
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    Default Re: Unifying the mechanics behind Natural/Manufactured Weapons

    Quote Originally Posted by nonsi View Post
    The -N will be less and less apparent as attack-bonuses and damage output increase.
    Multiplying attack penalties by 3 and damage penalties by 5 might actually count for something.
    If the purpose is to make the penalty more apparent as attack bonuses and damage output increases, what about dividing by N instead of subtracting? That makes it less crippling for low-level characters.
    Two attacks: Attack bonuses and damage are halved
    Three attacks: Attack bonuses and damage are divided by three
    And so on.

    *edit*
    My earlier idea supposed that the player would know the number of attacks they would make that turn and apply the same penalty evenly to all of them. There's a chance that a player might get to the end of their attack routine and remember they had another attack.
    To make this more user friendly, we could say that your attack bonus and damage are divided by the number of attacks you've made previously during the same turn plus one.
    So the first attack is made at your full bonus and damage.
    The second attack is half bonus and damage.
    The third attack is one-third bonus and damage.
    And so on.
    Last edited by Ursus Spelaeus; 2019-06-11 at 02:14 AM.

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    Default Re: Unifying the mechanics behind Natural/Manufactured Weapons

    Quote Originally Posted by Deepbluediver View Post
    The natural-weapons system (if you can call it that) has been confusing many newbies and some veterans coughguiltycough for ages, so yes, I'd love to unify the two systems. And with all 3.5 has to offer, I think it could be easily done. So the question is, why wasn't it done differently in the first place?

    IMO, this is one of those instance in 3.5 where the designers were weirdly adherent to formula. When someone realized that their existing system (attacks as a function of BAB which was a function of class and level) didn't work out great for monsters, rather than modifying it with any of the myriad of tools available to them, such as special abilities, feats, subtypes, etc, the only solution they could come up with was to reinvent the wheel with an entirely different formula.
    Obviously someone wanted the party to be very impressed that they were chosen to hunt down the man-eating tiger that was harassing the villagers at level 2, and then basically repeat this quest at level 15 except replace the tiger with a dragon (or hydra, or basilisk, or a pack of griffins or whatever) and not be constrained by the limits of BAB. But there are many MANY ways around that.

    To take a step back for a moment, one thing I've frequently considered is aligning natural weapons with certain types of manufactured weapons, in terms of feats and playstyle. For example, Bite and Gore attacks are like 2-handed attacks (fewer attacks but more damage), Claw and Slam are like one-handers, and things like Sting, Talon, Tentacle, etc are light attackes (for Dex-based builds). So it seems relatively easy to set up a chart with size as one axis and the type of weapon as the other and fix it on an appropriate level of damage, and then use that for all appropriate natural weapons. Combine that with a few SIMPLE special abilities, and there shouldn't be anything you can't stat out appropriately. Creatures with more different natural weapons simply have more options (which is worth maybe a +1/2 CR IMO).

    Lets try this as an example- suppose all Animal and Magical Beast type creatures, which are the most common creatures to have natural weapons (ignoring dragons for the moment) have a medium BAB (like a Rogue or Cleric). Then you say that all carnivores have a high BAB (like a fighter) and herbivores have a low BAB (like a wizard) and bam- that's one word you can add to a multi-paragraph creature description and significantly alter how it affects a creature. If you want a creature to have lots of little attacks (a Tiger, lets say), give it the special ability "multi-attack": whenever you could make 1 Claw attack, you can instead make 2 Claw attacks at -3 BAB. That's basically dual-wielding. Or give wolves Improved Critical on bite attacks. Give Gazelles and Elephants a charge-attack. Give a gorilla Improve Grapple or a special ability that stuns when they crit.etc etc etc
    If you things creatures should be weaker or stronger for reasons of versimilitude, move them a few HD up or down and adjust abilities as appropriate.

    Seriously, it's not that complicated give me any creature that you think would be imbalanced if natural weapons were directly linked to BAB-as-a-function-of-HD and I guarantee I can fix it in less than a paragraph*.


    *this post was written while eating dinner and may be editted later for flow and clarity
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    Default Re: Unifying the mechanics behind Natural/Manufactured Weapons

    Quote Originally Posted by Deepbluediver View Post
    To take a step back for a moment, one thing I've frequently considered is aligning natural weapons with certain types of manufactured weapons, in terms of feats and playstyle. For example, Bite and Gore attacks are like 2-handed attacks (fewer attacks but more damage), Claw and Slam are like one-handers, and things like Sting, Talon, Tentacle, etc are light attackes (for Dex-based builds). So it seems relatively easy to set up a chart with size as one axis and the type of weapon as the other and fix it on an appropriate level of damage, and then use that for all appropriate natural weapons. Combine that with a few SIMPLE special abilities, and there shouldn't be anything you can't stat out appropriately. Creatures with more different natural weapons simply have more options (which is worth maybe a +1/2 CR IMO).
    I did something basically like that in my last campaign, and it worked quite well. I was using a modular weapon setup based on weapon size, weapon group, and a proficiency system: every weapon has the same base stats, and then a number of slots (1 for simple, 2 for martial, 3 for exotic, which can be increased with class features, mundane item templates, and similar) for either fixed benefits/keywords like Finesse, Polearm, Massive, Aerodynamic, etc. or weapon groups like Axe, Maul, Flexible, Projectile, or the like which modified the base stats. Character proficiencies were keyed to weapon groups and to particular fighting styles, and were basically feat benefits that you didn't have to jump through all the hoops to get (e.g. Basic Dual Weapons is basically TWF, Expert Mauls gives you some free knockback, Master Projectiles increases the range increment, and so on).

    Then I just assigned properties to natural weapons, so for instance on a Large creature a tail is a Large Maul (Massive), claws are Medium Axes/Swords, wings are Huge Mauls (Sweeping), and so forth. You can even do more exotic things, like making a manticore's tail spikes Small Spear (Projectile, Volley) weapons, a kraken's tentacles Colossal Mauls/Flexible (Sweeping, Grabbing), and so on. Natural weapons were then used exactly like manufactured weapons, and the Multiattack and Improved Multiattack feats were changed to improve the attack bonuses of your last and second-to-last iterative and could be used by characters and monsters alike.

    Quote Originally Posted by Durzan View Post
    Challenge accepted: Great Wyrm Red Dragon.
    A Great Wyrm Red Dragon has a BAB of +40. Assuming we waive the 4-iteratives-max rule under this setup, that's a total of 8 attacks at +40/+35/+30/+25/+20/+15/+10/+5. A Colossal dragon currently has an attack routine of bite/claw/claw/wing/wing/tail slap, only 6 attacks, though at +40/+35/+35/+35/+35/+35. The dragon's weaker attacks are much less likely to hit foes around the same CR, but it can double or triple up on attacks if it wants to e.g. deal more damage with a tail slap or snatch more targets with its claws. Looks pretty good me.

    You might even consider the lower attack bonuses a good thing since a dragon getting the drop on a near-CR foe is less likely to instakill them but they're still scary against low-CR enemies. If not, one could adapt the same Multiattack houserule I mentioned above: Multiattack would change +40/+35/+30/+25/+20/+15/+10/+5 to +40/+35/+30/+25/+20/+15/+15/+15 (bumping up the last quarter of the attack routine), Improved Multiattack would bump it up to +40/+35/+30/+25/+25/+25/+25/+25 (last half), and a new Greater Multiattack could bring it up to +40/+35/+35/+35/+35/+35/+35/+35 (last three-quarters).
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    Default Re: Unifying the mechanics behind Natural/Manufactured Weapons

    Quote Originally Posted by Durzan View Post
    Challenge accepted: Great Wyrm Red Dragon.
    Let me qualify my previous statement by asking in what direction you think the problem lies, especially with something like a dragon which I've heard was notorious for being under-CR'd. So I'm not sure if you want a Great Wyrm Red Dragon that's actually CR 26, or if you want it to be an appropriate challenge for whatever it's actual CR is, or if you think it needs to keep the 40 HD because that's how much HP it needs and they attacks aren't aligned with that, or whatever else.
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    Default Re: Unifying the mechanics behind Natural/Manufactured Weapons

    Has anyone looked at unifying attacks the other direction? What if manufactured weapons operated under Primary/Secondary mechanics as well? It could come out fairly clean and changing one shared rule is easier than checking individual monster attack sequences.
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    Default Re: Unifying the mechanics behind Natural/Manufactured Weapons

    Quote Originally Posted by MoleMage View Post
    Has anyone looked at unifying attacks the other direction? What if manufactured weapons operated under Primary/Secondary mechanics as well? It could come out fairly clean and changing one shared rule is easier than checking individual monster attack sequences.
    I'm all for changing BAB so it's something more like +12/+7/+7 or whatever, but most players only use one type of weapon at a time so I'm not quite sure how that would work out.

    Quote Originally Posted by PairO'Dice Lost View Post
    I did something basically like that in my last campaign, and it worked quite well.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rater202 View Post
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    Default Re: Unifying the mechanics behind Natural/Manufactured Weapons

    Quote Originally Posted by Deepbluediver View Post
    I'm all for changing BAB so it's something more like +12/+7/+7 or whatever, but most players only use one type of weapon at a time so I'm not quite sure how that would work out.
    As I imagined it, you remove existing iterative rules completely. BAB is just a single value. Add the following rule:
    • A creature may have a number of primary and secondary attacks. Unless otherwise noted, a weapon wielded in a creatures main hand or wielded two-handed is a primary attack. All primary attacks are made using the creature's base attack bonus. All secondary attacks are made using the creature's base attack bonus minus 5.


    The following feat is received for free by any class with full BAB progression at level 6, and also by monks, rogues, and similar martial 2/3rd BAB classes at level 9. It can be taken as a general feat.

    Follow-Up
    Prerequisite: +6 Base Attack Bonus
    In addition to the Primary attack for wielding a weapon in your main hand or two-handed, you receive a Secondary attack with the same weapon.

    (Improved and Advanced Followup give an additional Secondary at +11 and +16 BAB, also given for free to martials and appropriate partials).

    Base Two Weapon fighting rules change to this:

    • When you wield a one-handed or light weapon in your off hand, you can use it to make a secondary attack. If you do, all of your attacks this turn take an additional -4 to their attack roll. If the weapon is light, this is reduced to -2.


    Two-Weapon Fighting Feat
    When you use two weapons, your off-hand attack improves to an additional primary attack instead of a secondary attack.
    (The rest of the tree give extra secondaries with wording like Follow-Up above).

    Flurry of Blows would give additional Primary attacks with the monk weapon/unarmed strike restriction and the same attack penalty progression.

    So it isn't exactly simpler, but moving everything over to Primary/Secondary has the advantage that it can reproduce highly similar characters while also supporting the intended Claw/Claw/Bite attack routines of monsters instead of Bite/Bite/Bite.

    Edit: Following the rabbit hole here, you could also use the primary/secondary split to make certain classes more unique in attack form. This is related to flurry of blows above.

    For example, you could make it so monks don't get Follow-Up. Instead they get what I will call Snap Kick (written here as a bonus feat, but could easily be made as a feature instead).

    Snap Kick
    Prerequisites: two or more Primary Attacks, Improved Unarmed Strike, BAB +6
    You gain an additional secondary attack, which is an unarmed strike. You do not need to have hands free to make this secondary attack.

    Special Monks receive this feat as a bonus feat at 6th level, even if they do not meet the prerequisites.

    Flying Kick
    Prerequisites: Snap Kick, BAB +10
    When you use a charge or make a standard attack, you can make use the secondary attack granted by Snap Kick in addition to the normal attack associated with that action. If you charge and use your Snap Kick, the Snap Kick does an additional die of damage.

    Special Monks may use their monk level instead of their BAB to qualify for this feat.
    Last edited by MoleMage; 2019-06-12 at 11:52 AM.

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