Roll-to-Hit Plus

Wednesday, October 31st, 2018

Fighters don’t get to do a whole lot of fun tactical things, or even just showy extra things, for being the main combatants and damage-dealers in D&D. Roll-to-hit and add your strength, roll damage if you hit…and that’s really all the fighter can do. Now, that “just one thing” is important, since an adventuring party relies on the fighter to keep everyone else alive. But it can also get boring quickly when wizards and clerics can throw spells around to cause neat effects, and rogues can pull off various beneficial tricks like hiding and safely running away screaming.

But Fighters have the best hit dice and the widest access to weapons and armor in the game, which seems like a decent trade-off for being weapon-swinging robots. Except that gaming isn’t all about the numbers, and fighters need a tiny bit of jazz added. So I did.

When I first heard about the idea, I liked 4th Edition’s ‘martial powers’ for Fighters, which to my understanding were various melee-type actions a Fighter could take in a round or a battle. I haven’t actually read 4E’s rules, so I want to read up on it more to see if it sparks any additional ideas, but for now that (pseudo)understanding led to me design a series of skills and tricks Fighters can learn which either make them more effective, or change combat up a bit. And I give them fancy names.

At 2nd level, Fighters pick a style and a trick. The three styles are Offensive, Defensive, and Tactical. Each provides a small permanent bonus to hit, damage, or movement. Each style also has a few tricks that let you do something special on your first attack, or when disengaging from an opponent, or during the surprise check, or so on. You only pick one of those tricks from your chosen style. The choice of style and trick are permanent, you can’t change them later or swap them out.

Note: we use a 10′ battle-map grid instead of the more common 5′ and the design of the various skills and tricks is tied to that. Similarly, we roll for surprise on a d6. A “1” means your side gains surprise on their opponent, which means a free round of actions.


The Defensive style grants a +1 AC and one of the following three tricks:

  • Retreat: when you disengage from an opponent, you can move an extra 10′ that round
  • Block: when you close with a new opponent, you gain an extra +1 AC the first round
  • Stance: you can only be flanked by three or more opponents

The Offensive style grants a +1 to hit and one of the following three tricks:

  • Charge: when you close with a new opponent, your first strike gains a +1 to hit
  • Thrust: when you attack a new opponent, your first successful hit gains a +1 to damage
  • Push: when you successfully hit a new opponent, you can move them 10′ in a chosen direction

The Tactical style grants a +10′ movement in combat and one of the following three tricks:

  • Reflex: when an enemy surprises the party, you alone act during the enemy’s surprise round
  • Sense: when the party rolls for surprise, you (alone) get a surprise round on a 2
  • Command: when you are flanking an opponent, you gain an additional +1 to hit

Next, at every third level (3rd, 6th, 9th, etc.) Fighters get to pick a Martial Skill. This is a pretty important bump to some aspect of their character, and there are a bunch of options like increasing their damage output, increasing their bow range, striking multiple targets, re-rolling failed saves, and surviving terrible injuries–among others. Some choices can be harrowing, but are game-changing. Berserking, for example, lets you keep fighting even when you have swords and arrows sticking out of your soft places; however, you might simply drop dead when combat is over. Most of the Martial Skills come with similar limits: not just “you get a bonus”, instead “you get a bonus when…” You can pick a Martial Skill that provides numerical bonuses more than once–the numerical bonuses stack, but any other modifiers do not.


  • Acrobat : you know how to move such that you are almost too quick to catch; in light or medium armor, if you take a full movement action, you cannot be hit by ranged or melee weapons except by a critical roll
  • Archer : you are a master of striking from a distance; when using one kind of ranged weapon (chosen when this skill is learned) you gain a +2 bonus to hit
  • Armorer : you have learned to use and to optimize your armor; one specific form of armor (chosen when this skill is learned) or a shield grants you an additional +1 AC; your shield can be sacrificed one additional time before being destroyed
  • Avenger : you do not quietly suffer your enemy’s depredations; gain a +1 to hit and a +2 to damage against any target who has struck and injured you at any time in the past; however, you have a -10 reaction bonus towards them
  • Berserker : you can draw upon a wild spirit of rage in battle; even if reduced to 0 hp, you keep fighting until the battle is done, but require a short rest before you can fight again (if you did not die on your feet) [1]
  • Butterfly : you have learned to successfully fight with a melee weapon in each hand; when using two specific one-handed weapons (chosen when this skill is learned) you gain a +1 to hit and +1 damage and +1 to AC; you do not gain a second attack or doubled damaged simply from using two weapons, etc; roll damage using the highest damage die weapon
  • Controller : you know how to drive your opponents into disadvantageous positions; on any critical strike, or once per round after a successful attack, you may push an opponent 10′ in a direction you choose without needing to roll*
  • Commander : you know how to organize and inspire those who accept you as a leader; once per round, before rolling initiative, pick one of your companions to receive a +2 to a single roll if they follow your orders
  • Duelist : there are few as deadly with their weapon as you; when using one specific type of melee weapon (chosen when the skill is learned) you gain +2 damage
  • Indomitable : few others have developed their inner reserves as you have; once each battle, you may roll another die when you have a failed save against any type of damage or undesirable effect and use the higher result
  • Lucky : blessed by the gods; once per battle, you can choose to roll another die for either a hit or damage roll and use the higher result**
  • Master : your strikes and tactics drive the enemy to their knees; on any critical strike, or once per battle on a successful attack, you may also choose to knock an opponent prone without needing to roll**
  • Opportunist : when you see an opening, you take it; once per battle, you may take an additional movement or attack action as part of your turn**
  • Paladin : defender of the nation and the holy faith; against enemies of your kingdom or your faith you gain a +2 to hit and damage; your hit die becomes d4 and you can turn undead and cast cleric spells [2]
  • Protector : you are adept at positioning yourself to defend your allies; once per round, you may provide a nearby ally a +2 bonus to their AC against one attack
  • Ranger : you know everything about your enemy; gain a +2 to hit and damage against one broad type of creature (chosen when this skill is learned); your hit die becomes d4, you gain Hunter as an additional Profession, and bonuses to Perception, Stealth, and Traps as a rogue [3]
  • Reflex : the art of combat is the art of timing; on any critical failure to hit you, or once per battle when an opponent has attacked you and missed, you may immediately make a free attack against them
  • Shield Master : you are highly adept with a shield; gain an additional +1 to AC while using a shield, and once per battle you can take a free action with a +2 to hit to use your shield to push, trip, or disarm an opponent**
  • Sniper : you are the master of the long-shot; gain a +1 to hit and +1 to damage with, and double the ranges of, a specific type of ranged weapon (chosen when this skill is learned)
  • Surgeon : you know where to strike and how; gain a critical success if your unmodified attack roll is an 18, 19, or 20
  • Training : you have adhered to a strict regimen of intensive study and physical training; improve one ability score by 2, or two scores by 1
  • Unmoving : you hold the line; before initiative is rolled, choose to forego your movement action for the round and take a -2 penalty to AC in order to make one additional attack
  • Weapon Master : your training is unmatched; when using one specific type of melee weapon (chosen when the skill is learned) you gain +2 to hit
  • Whirlwind : your attacks and movements flow one into the next; once per round, when your attack brings an opponent to 0 hp, you may immediately roll to attack one nearby enemy**
  • Witch-Knight : you made promises to the old gods in return for power; you gain +2 to hit and damage against supernatural and magic-using opponents; your hit die becomes d4, you can cast magic-user spells, and you gain one free arcane skill [4]


* as appropriate, some skill’s effects may occur on anyone’s unmodified attack roll of 20
** if taken again, increase the number of times per battle by one

[1] once at 0 hp, any successful hit immediately forces a Constitution check as if bleeding out, three failures result in immediate, unpreventable death when the battle ends; complete or near-complete physical destruction also ends the berserk effect

[2] gain one level of spellcasting and turning ability as a cleric each time you level up (starting as if 1st level when you take this skill); you cannot trade for holy powers

[3] gain one level of the listed rogue skills each time you level up (starting as if 1st level when you take this skill); you may pick a rogue skill instead of a fighter skill thereafter

[4] gain one level of spellcasting ability as a magic-user each time you level up (starting as if 1st level when you take this skill); you do not know bonus spells based on your Intelligence, do not automatically know Read Magic, and do not automatically learn a new spell each level; you must learn new spells from found scrolls or spellbooks (once able to read them), or from another magic-user willing to teach you, or from the old gods in return for undertaking a difficult task; you cannot trade for arcane skills

I actually ended up liking the idea of class-based skills/tricks so much that I expanded the idea to the other three classes, which will each be detailed in later posts.

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