I wrote about the subject before, but here is a different take, even simpler, and without using anything resembling dice pools, like I did the first time.
The thing is: I like my simple martial maneuvers in BD&D. They really make the fighter more interesting without adding much complication, feats, etc. The Rules Cyclopedia has a few interesting options, such as smash, parry and disarm. Modern interpretations of the classic rules, such as the elegant rules in LotFP and this cool compilation by Randall Stukey, make things simpler when compared to the RC.
Still, I wish for something both simpler and more flexible, and more suited for my group.
The problem with the original rules for martial maneuvers in the RC, as I see, is threefold:
- Combat maneuvers can get too complicated (too many numbers to remember).
- There is little decision involved - you either use it all the time, or never use it.
- They involve needless class/level restrictions (only fighters, etc).
Let's take a look at "Smash" for example:
This is a Fighter Combat Option maneuver, first available at 9th level to fighters and mystics, and at other experience point totals to demihumans (see their experience tables). With this hand-to-hand maneuver, the character automatically loses initiative and takes a - 5 penalty to the attack roll (he still gets his Strength and magic adjustments to his attack roll).
If attack hits, the character adds his Strength bonus, magic bonuses, and his entire Strength score to his weapon's normal damage.
For example, a Strength 17 fighter ( + 2 to attack and damage) using a sword +2 ( + 2 to attack, 1d8 + 2 damage) would perform a smash this way: He rolls to hit with a net penalty of -1 ( + 2 + 2-5). If he hits, he rolls ld8 + 2 (17+ 2+ 2) for damage!
Smash is an important maneuver in the RC, making Fighters way more powerful than they would be without it. But is is easy to see that:
- It is needlessly complicated (unless you're used to the RC, of course) - just see the last paragraph. Also, why a -5 penalty in Smash and a -4 penalty to enemies while using Parry?
- It is too powerful when compared to a normal attack - after level 9, a Fighter will Smash most of the time against every monster with a couple of HD or more.
- It depends on class and level, so a Fighter doesn't get most of the maneuvers until level 9, and some classes get no maneuvers at all - which some people like, but goes against my "D&D Unleashed" philosophy.
This is easy to fix, of course:
With this hand-to-hand maneuver, the character automatically gets -5 to initiative and to the attack roll, and a +10 bonus to damage.
But let me propose an alternative that replaces Smash, Parry, Cleave, Dual Wielding and multiple attacks.
Take your BAB (or Fighter level, etc - for this purpose, I would use BAB=Fighter level+STR or DEX, not 2/3 level like the RC uses IIRC). Do whatever you want with it, as long as you split it evenly, round down, and creates no bonuses smaller than +2 ("no bonus smaller than +2" is a general rule in my games because... granularity).
Your choices are limited only by the weapons you're using (or "how you narrate your attack" if that is what you're into).
For example, say you are a 12th level Fighter with a +12 bonus. You can:
* Attack with +6 and deal +6 damage if you have a two-handed weapon.
* Attack twice (+6/+6) if you have an weapon in each hand, although you probably have some disadvantage in the second attack unless you're ambidextrous.
* Attack with +6 and get a +6[-6] bonus to AC if you have a shield or parrying weapon (although they may break etc). You can probably do the same with a dodge but you lose your attack, or use up your movement, etc. Bear in mind that this is quite powerful without restrictions.
* Trip, disarm, ensnare, etc: +6 to attack and if you hit roll 1d6+6, and if this result is greater than 10% of your opponents' HP, you achieve the intended effect (or allow a saving throw with -6, or use the rules for subduing dragons, etc).
* Maybe do any of that with a quarterstaff? Here is a good reason to have a two-handed weapon with low damage.
* If you like weapon proficiency, you may require that to use each maneuver (I am not a big fan, to be honest).
And so on.
I am tempted to say you can use this against multiple opponents, instead of using multiple attacks or Cleave. If you have an adequate weapon, you can attack four opponents in the same action (+3/+3/+3/+3), by swinging at them, for example.
I would advise against allowing multiple attacks against the same foe under normal circumstances, or this would turn into a math exercise to see how to deal more damage. Well, maybe a "combo" would work with some kinds os weapons: do the first attack as normal, and the defender gets some advantage while defending (or just keep attacking until your first miss).
Most of other problems (using a inadequate weapon, etc) can be resolved using advantage and disadvantage from 5e.
There are lots of system for martial maneuvers out there; I hope you enjoy this one!