Monday, March 18, 2013

Free-Form Combat Maneuvers

"Fighting Combat Alchemist" by
Florian Stitz
One of my favorite changes that Paizo made when creating Pathfinder was the addition of the Combat Maneuver mechanics. Like many people, I found the Grapple mechanics in 3e/3.5 to be incredibly annoying and hated dealing with them. So, folding the different maneuvers that one could attempt while in combat (Bull Rush, Grapple, Trip, etc.) into a simple d20 roll modified by a "Combat Maneuver Bonus" versus an opponent's "Combat Maneuver Defense" was a smart move in my mind and made pulling off those maneuvers a little bit easier and less headache-inducing.

However, I have noticed something about the Combat Maneuver mechanics that bothers me. You see, one of the things that I hate to see in roleplaying games is unnecessary restrictions. For a game that is supposed to allow you to do whatever you want, having something be restricted for no other reason than "because I said so" is really annoying to me.

 Those unnecessary restrictions managed to find their way into the Combat Maneuver mechanic. Instead of allowing you to perform any maneuver you want, you are limited to specific number of maneuvers that you can use. For me, this limitation actually weakens the mechanic and hampers the creative ways a player or GM could use it.

So, I've decided to just throw out the limiting list and use the mechanic in a more "free-form" way. For example, a player could as me if he could reach up and grab a cultist's hood and pull it down over it's head, causing him to not be able to see for a short time. I'd then reply, "Make a Combat Maneuver check." If he succeeds, he pulls off the maneuver and I would rule the cultist is blind until his next turn where he can spend a move action to fix his hood. I believe this more free-formed version of the Combat Maneuver mechanics will allow players to be a little more creative in combat and in turn make combat more entertaining.