Friday, March 9, 2012

Multiple Attacks

I realized as I read Evil_Reverend's post on multiple attacks, with a slight surprise, that I was actually of mixed-opinion about them. I had always thought that I was someone in favour of them, because they did much as he stated: kept the fighter effective at later levels when faced with armies of enemies. But as I read, I realized that as a DM, and less so as a player, I really did have a deep-seated dislike for how they were implemented.

I had forgotten about the 3/2 system of multiple attacks in the early D&D versions, and since I didn't play fighters back then, I'm not surprised. The 3rd edition system, though, is still fresh in my mind...

The issue that Evil_Reverend brings up was one most of our group had noticed -- that at higher levels, when fighters (and the other classes) had multiple attacks, they really weren't worth bothering with. Sure, there was always a chance of rolling a 20, and yes, if you paid attention, you could save your weaker attacks for weaker opponents that were within reach. But everyone knew they were just rolling those dice to go through the motions, and that the third and fourth attacks weren't contributing to combat. But it wasn't the ineffectiveness of them that bothered me the most. It was the problem of using them, and here, the monk's flurry of blows also comes into play.

On the other end of the timeline, 4e did indeed have ways for the fighter to have his or her multiple attacks, which wasn't bad. However, I did like the 3rd edition idea of every class, not mainly fighters, eventually getting multiple attacks -- some just faster than others. I liked adding together these progressions on multiclassed characters, to nicely represent how the hybrid character is advancing with his or her mixed training and their individual contributions to melee combat. However, this isn't a "requirement" for me, in a new version of D&D; if the fighter (or fighter-types) are the sole owners of multiple attacks, I can accept that in the name of design or balance.

But, 3rd edition, bless it's heart, had the whole Full Action and Standard Action setup. System. Fiasco. How many times did a monk have to struggle with whether they were doing a flurry or not? Or how many times did any character with multiple attacks have to stop and wonder if some special attack was a Standard Action that they could do as part of a multiple attack set, or a Full Action that they now realize they couldn't do as a second attack? How many times have players realized that they should have five-foot-stepped before starting their multi-attack (when they don't have a feat that allows it), after felling the one opponent within reach with the first roll?

I realize that the reason for Full Action/Standard Action was to ensure that very powerful actions were capped out at one per turn, or that they represented extra effort to perform. I understand that the monk had to decide ahead of time whether he was taking that -2 penalty for every attack, even though it sucked when it was revealed that, had the monk just hit with his best shot, he would have delivered that final blow six rounds ago. I understand that it was largely because of balance.

But it interfered with gameplay. And while this is contrary to much of what I say about D&D: balance be damned. If the rules that exist for the sake of balance are causing players and DMs to curse while stumbling through them, they don't belong there. It goes back to why we're there.

It's too bad that the Wizards' post was focused on the fighter class, instead of discussing the 3rd edition's way of allowing them for everyone, or the monk... I get the sense that at that time, fighters were what they were working on that week. I was non-committal on the polls; I think balance comes into play again, and that it makes sense for the fighter to have multiple attacks done this way or that way, if it's to ensure that they're not too over- or under-powered. But even if they keep multi-attack solely in the realm of the fighter, I feel, as I think the designers do, that they're a required feature for that class: when a thousand orcs come along, it's the fighter that's going to wade through them, not some little ranger.

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