April 10, 2017
So we have a bit of a basis for understanding the Combat Economy. We know the limitations of a single character in the abstract (Move, Act, Fast Act, Say Something), and we have a way to discuss the outcomes of a character (Damage Per Round, Healing Per Round, Action Efficiency). So we can now start talking about actual abilities that characters have because they use this framework…and sometimes exploit it.
Exploitation, in fact, is the theme of the Fighter’s abilities. We’re calling them Stratagems, the kinds of combat strategy that lets Fighters exploit their enemies’ actions, placement, and decisions in the thick of combat.
So what is a Stratagem?
Wiktionary defines it as “A tactic or artifice designed to gain the upper hand, especially one involving underhanded dealings or deception“. While we’re not talking about “underhanded dealings”, we are talking about a class who specializes in winning in combat. Combat is, ideally, an equal contest between two honorable combatants…who use their skill and guile to win a contest of arms. A strong part of being a good warrior is outsmarting your opponents.
Stratagem for us, mechanically, is a Fighter’s suite of Class Abilities that lets them operate more effectively and efficiently in combat. Lets look at three basic Stratagems available at first level to the Fighter;
The Distracted Opponent – First Level Stratagem
An opponent focused on one of your Allies is even easier to strike than one focused on you, as their defenses are not as strong. When an enemy attempts to strike an ally while in melee range of you, you may make a Strike against that foe. This foe also gains Disadvantage on their next attack against anyone but you.
The Overwhelming Attack – First Level Stratagem
Some foes hide behind massive shields, powerful armor, hard furniture, or convenient walls. These things, however, are merely inconveniences to your mighty strength. When you Strike, you may invoke this Stratagem. When you do, your attack lowers their Physical Avoidance by your level for the next attack (however, this does not affect this attack). On a successful Strike, you also grant Advantage to your next Ally that attacks this foe.
Punishing the Arrogant – First Level Stratagem
Those who face you in combat are arrogant and foolish to think that you will stand there and be struck without retribution being visited upon them. When a foe attacks you and misses, you may make a Strike against them.
Now, there’s a few words here used in ways that imply importance, nominally Ally and Strike. Strike is the term I’m going to use for a basic attack, as it’s a category that can be changed over time (in earlier editions, a “basic attack” was an unmodified attack with your melee weapon but there will be options for some classes to make different kinds of “basic attacks” that are denoted as Strikes). Ally is anyone who isn’t, well, a foe. It’s usually the people in your adventuring party but it can also be NPCs who are assisting your party or minions that serve your party.
An example for the Fighter is the following;
Archer’s Defense – First Level Strike
The Fighter is the master of every weapon, in every condition. While the Fighter may focus primarily on loosing arrows at their enemies, if an enemy comes near them they don’t have to rely on just their bow – they normally have a side arm in easy reach. The Fighter may substitute any one handed weapon for their bow when making a melee Strike against any opponent rather than having to draw and sheath either their melee weapon or bow as an action.
The Fighter gets a number of these at each level, starting at 2 Stratagems and 1 Strike at first level. As you can see, the Fighter is all about exploiting their enemies for either their own benefit or the benefit of their party.
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