I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man's. I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.

- William Blake

Friday, January 11, 2019

Speed, initiative, bonus actions and the action economy...

Happy new year!

These year I'll write about monsters, weapons, yadda yadda, let us skip this stuff for now.

So, here is a brief idea after a long hiatus. Hopefully, I'll get back to blogging soon enough.

TL;DR: I'm considering allowing PCs to trade half their move (or their main action) for an additional bonus action.

I like the whole "action economy" of 5e. I think they've got it (mostly) nailed with actions, bonus actions and reactions, with a few exceptions - two weapon fighting, Beastmaster Rangers, etc.

However, Mike Mearls himself has suggested that it might be a good idea to get rid of bonus actions.

I often wonder about the same topic.

The most obvious solution would be trading some MOVEMENT for special actions - dodge, disengage, hide, etc. Use "half your movement" as a baseline. Not too different from getting up if you're prone, for example, or how disengage worked in B/X.

Other simple actions could be "part of your attack". Drawing a knife or arrow, for example. Drawing a zweihander might cost you some movement, so an unprepared warrior with a heavy weapon would be less mobile. Nice!

Other things - like rage, for example - might be better portrayed as reactions. I like the barbarians' rage triggering in response to some event, at least in the first few levels.

What about bonus action spells? Well, I'm not the greatest fan TBH. Most of them seem to be created to allow you to create a special weapon and attack with it. So, just add hat to the spell's description.

In short... bonus action serves as an abbreviation, a shortcut to the idea that you can do this "thing" and still get your main action, but you cannot do two of these "things" in the same round. Which is not always a good thing - rangers, for example, have too much stuff competing for their actions.

In short, the whole "bonus action" concept isn't necessary... but a good enough shortcut. Because of that, I am not sure if getting rid of them would make the game any simpler.

If I were to make a "realistic" system from that, I'd probably give each character a few TOKENS representing their movement. Say, one blue token for each 5 feet of movement (these can be used for various kinds of movement). Then one red token for each attack or spell (a fighter with four attacks gains four tokens). Whoever surprises the other side, rolls high enough for initiative, has some rogue-like reflexes, etc., gains a few green tokens that cannot be used, only held until the end of the round.

The creature with the most tokens acts first, spending some of their tokens - maybe from one to three, at most.

So, the fighter with four attacks can probably pull a knife and stab a CR 1 monster three times before it reacts... But if he has a battleaxe, he might have to spend a couple of blue tokens to draw it before attacking, which might be enough to let you attack back, unless you're surprised, etc.

This would lead to more "organic" battles, as I intended here.

These lead to endless permutations, of course. Tokens for reactions - why not? Additional tokens for critical hits of misses, maybe depending on weapon speed, etc.

Probably too much work for little effect. But something I would definitely use for a more "tactical" version of D&D in line with 4e, etc.

For now, I might just allow PCs to trade half their move (or their main action) for an additional bonus action. Maybe fighters get one additional bonus action for extra attack, provided they use it for TWF, etc.

Next: maybe a(nother) simple yet detailed "fix" for two-weapon fighting or weapon speed, based on this post.


  1. Good to see you back.

    I'll be putting my project on 'Build your own weapon" table to the back burner. I may do a smaller write up of the idea at some point, but life is really busy now, so I may not get around to that.

    The general idea though is to group properties together in a way so that a person picking from the group would only pick one property. Then you decide if you what modifier such a property has to weapon speed, damage die size, and any other property.

    The one thing I did do to resolve some issues was add 3 new physical damage types: Hacking, Crushing, and Skewering. These are for either your Heavy weapons: Maul, Great Axe/Sword, Lance, Great-bow (if you are doing that), and any large scale damage that add the Heavy weapon Property to your weapon, and Two-Handed. These weapons have an effect upon critical hit (I like the idea of certain creatures are vulnerable and resistant to critical hits from the weapon, but that might be too fiddly). This boosts your Great-Axe, Maul, and Lance up to 1d12. The Greatsword can be bumped up to 2d6 if it just does regular crit damage. I would still allow a Great sword wielder to switch to Murder-stroke (hilt bash) or half swording for 1d8 damage (a bit better than resistance against a creature).

    So in summary: Group all weapon tags from Range/Melee/Thrown, Simple/Martial, damage type, etc. such that you have a series of pick one property from the group, with some properties (like Heavy) requiring another property to be applied, which counts against the allowed number of properties. I guess you could allow Versatile to be added to a weapon with the Two Handed weapon, which means that the weapon gains a 1-handed damage die 1 step below the original damage die.

    This makes the Morning Star a 1d8/1d10 crushing weapon that is slow to wield, but really freaking hurts. Plus has a really nasty critical hit feature (I like the idea that crushing blows slow an opponent down or knocks them prone. Maybe have the blow reduce movement to 0 so that someone with a Fell Handed like ability can knock an Opponent down and have them stay down if they get a critical hit.

    Anyways, that's all from me for now. Looking forward to what you write next.

    1. Thanks! Yeah, I like the idea. Two-handed weapons deserve the boost (especially the great axe).

    2. A property I forgot to mention is a Reach property, which require a versatile or Two Handed weapon. It's basically allows the gradation of Close/Medium/Far that I have mentioned before fore Polearm class weapons.