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

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

10 fighting styles that are missing from D&D 5e (and how to find them)

We have analyzed 5e fighting styles. Let us try improving it.

Here is a list of 10 fighting styles that are popular in fiction, real life or older editions, etc. but useless, nonexistent or clearly sub-optimal in 5e D&D:

1. Melee spears (e.g.: hoplite, phalanx, finesse, Oberyn Martell).
2. Dual wielding that works for fighters.
3. Double weapons (e.g.: quarterstaves, "double axes", Darth Maul).
4. Thrown weapons.
5. Ranged weapons for high-Strenght characters.
6. Parrying blades (e.g.: niten ichi-ryū, main gauche).
7. Bucklers and capes.
8. Two handed finesse (e.g.: "kung fu" spears and staves for non-monks)
9. Weapon grappling (e.g.: trip, disarm).
10. Big shields (e.g.: shield wall, pavise, scutum).

Before saying that 5e D&D doesn't need all these fighting styles please consider that, as I've said before, holding a quarterstaff or lance in each hand is a viable tactic in 5e, while sword and main-gauche is not.

It's been a while since the PHB was released, and there is no clear sign that there will ever be an official hoplite in 5e - except for the Weapon Feats in the Unearthed Arcana.

So, if these styles ever come into play, it will be trough feats - and after we get another 200 new spells, since apparently there aren't enough spells already. If anything, the feats we already have indicate that there will be NO new weapons - instead of a d8 "heavy spear" we get a feat that causes a spear to deal 1d8 damage, for example.

Fortunately, some of this stuff is easy to fix, and some of it has enough precedent in Pathfinder and other games (although Pathfinder is far from "easy" IMO). There might also be an an easy solution to ALL these problems at once - inspired by the Rules Cyclopedia and even 4e. But I'll tackle this after I've analysed all missing fighting styles.

I'll try to explain each style separately and make them work in 5e with homebrew feats and equipment (and comment on the UA feats we already have) - for now, I've added some "tags" after each style to give you an idea about what I'm talking about.

I will leave "useless" weapons (such as the mace or trident) for a later post.

I'm seriously considering making no alterations to the rules, only additions, but that remains to be seem.

Are there other styles that you'd like to see in 5e? If I missed anything, let me know in the comments.

All images copyright of Wizards of the coast.


  1. Tangley trippy weapons (net, rope, kusarigama)
    Stunny weapons (sap, sandbag)
    Nasty stealthy chokey weapons (garrotte)

    1. Thanks for the suggestions!
      Yeah, I'll do "trippy" weapons - I call this "weapon grappling".
      I will try my hand at "stealthy" weapons too now that you've mentioned it.

  2. I know this is an old post, but I am currently procrastinating. A rough idea for my thoughts on this for a framework.

    - all weapon specialisations are either general (Power attack for - up to proficiency to add to damage for 1 handed, double for two handed), or are Fighting styles.

    -instead of bonuses, I would just do 1d4 for a "lesser advantage" that adds to attack, or if you hit without the 1d4 roll, you add that roll to damage, and it does not double on a critical hit. This is inspired by the +2/hit from Archery, and the +2 to damage from Dueling. While writing this out, I wonder about allowing a melee fighter to parry by giving up their specialisation die for their next attack to subtract 1d4 from the roll.

    -Since 5e deals with weapon categories vs. specific weapon proficiencies, I would make the Weapon Master feat grant a Fighting Style upgrade your weapon proficiency by one step (Limited Simple Weapons (Wizards)-> All Simple Weapons -> Limited Martial Weapons -> All Martial Weapons). Perhaps make a division for Ranged vs. Melee in there as well. Yes it does away with multiclassing, but I call that a feature, not a bug. Maybe allow for Weapon Master to be a Half Feat if you possess a complete proficiency (+1 Str/Dex). This does allow Fighter to acquire more Fighting Styles, but I also am not sure if this isn't also a feature instead of a bug.

    1. Now to go down your list:

      1) Melee Spears: I think this is done by making a "Martial Spear" as a weapon that is designed specifically for war (compare a battle axe to a wood axe for what I am going for specifically designed for war). I would make spear tactics such as set against charge as general maneuvers for piercing weapons you can brace. While this matters more for spears, as a general maneuver it can be a useful trick for players to have. For spears specifically, perhaps a spear fighting style allows a player to make adjacent squares difficult terrain. I would probably just make things easier and fold all spears, polearms, and quarterstaves into this style. To jump ahead to double weapons, I would say that polearms with true reach can only haft strike a different enemy due to the swing of the weapons, but spears and quarter staves can do both actions provided that you are two handing the weapon. Other double weapons work just the same as two weapon fighting does now.

      2) Speaking of Two Weapon Fighting, I would have that in general, a melee character has proficiency to both attacks, but can only use light weapons, must spend a bonus action, and does not add ability modifier to damage on the bonus action attack. A melee character with the Fighting Style can make an attack with both weapons as part of their extra attack as well as the 1 bonus action attack, and can use one non light 1 handed weapon.

      4) Thrown Weapons should just be folded into Ranged Weaponry in my opinion. They have less range, using Strength instead of Dex ("weaker stat"). If the Vikings could throw two Javalins at a target and put them both in the bullseye for fun, than it counts for Sharp Shooter for all I care.

      5) Range for High Str: While I am in Favour of "Great Bow" concept (I would say minimum Dex and Strength to use, then just have STR to Hit & dam), another idea is a staff sling and spear thrower that adds a large range boost to the weapon. Plus, I like the idea of a Half-Orc Wizard with rune carved staff for a focus, that also has a staff sling for those out of range of cantrip. Although, you may want to boost the damage die on the staff sling bullets, because the pictures I am finding make my teeth hurt just looking at them.

    2. 6) Parrying Weapons/Bucklers (shields): I would make these +1 AC, and you can also strike with them for 1d4 damage as a bonus action. This could be used as part of Two Weapon Fighting, as I do not have the +1 AC in this write up, so to get the closest to the old Fighting Style, you use a rapier and buckler for +1AC and two attacks with your main attack adding ability mod to damage.

      7) Obscuration (Bucklers, Cloaks): I would make the obscuration a Slight of Hand check against Insight to give advantage on an attack. To parallel TWF, lets make this a bonus action. Str based weapon attacks use shoves to either stagger or knock prone opponents. The idea of stagger is just to give advantage on next attack against the opponent, and may be if you beat them by 1 or 2. This may be too much hassle, but it's to mimic the pushing for an opening that doesn't result with people on the ground all the time.

      8) Two handed finesse spears: Seems reasonable. Might involve looking at making the war spear either finesse/versatile, or perhaps the regular spear is 1d6 (1d8) finesse, versatile with the War Spear being Versatile 1d8 (1d10) STR.

      9) Weapon Grappling: Weapons that specifically designed to disarm, trip, stun, etc. should perhaps be 1d4 damage + mod damage, but add the roll to your grapple check. If you specialise in weapon grappling (fighting style), you get advantage on such tricks plus your specialisation die. I do not know if it's worth it to fold in garrotes and saps into the same category, since they are relatively non lethal (not saying you cannot kill someone with them, but there is a difference between a dagger and a whip in terms of lethality.)

      10) Big shields/shield walls: I would say that shield walls and tower shields provide quarter cover in melee, but are mobile full cover against ranged attacks, and grant half cover against range if you are caught outside of full cover. The only problem I see with this is that it causes problems with Protection Fighting Style, but a group of fighters that use protection and shield wall tactics should make good targets for Fireball and other AOE effects.

      Anyways, if you make it this far, thanks for reading! Hope it serves as inspiration if you haven't gotten anything better in it's place already.

    3. Some very interesting ideas.

      1 and 8: Agree with all the stuff about spears. I think we should have many kinds of spears, for all purposes - like swords, really. Not sure about difficult terrain, maybe including spears in PAM is enough.

      2 and 4 are good too.

      5: love the idea of spear thrower/atlatl and staff slings.

      6 and 10: I have many, many ideas for shields, and these are good ones. Small shields would either be what you describe or "wrist shields that allow you top hold material componentes at the same time - probably both kinds. Tower shield formations are awesomely flavorful

      7 and 9: hum, a bit fiddly, but I rather like it. I might just give a flat +2 bonus for grappling with an adequate weapon.

      Thanks for the comments!

    4. I rather like the +1d4 to hit and damage, BTW. Reminds me of DCC and at the same time suits 5e because it is similar to "bless". Probably giving +1d4 damage AND to hit is too powerful - maybe one or the other, or a 1d4 bonus to grappling.

    5. To be clear, the idea is that you use it to hit or damage. If you would hit with your regular roll (+ Bless or other buffs), you instead add your 1d4 roll to damage. Since the dice is rolled when determining if you hit, you are just adding a static number to damage, which doesn't double on a crit.

    6. I will give that shields are fiddly, but I like the idea of bucklers, parrying daggers, cloaks, giving +1 to AC, with bucklers and cloaks allowing you to give a bonus action to try and give advantage on your main attack. If it feels fiddly, the general idea is to integrate with Two Weapon Fighting well.

    7. Oh yeah, 1d4 to hit OR damage is a great idea! About the different kind of shields... I love them too! And integrating them with TWF is awesome, since the fighting styles are wells-suited (cloak and dagger, rapier and dagger, rapier and buckler, etc).