Tactics, Tactics, and More Tactics!

Now before I begin, I know that a LOT of folks reading this play 3rd edition rules, which I believe that these tactics are considered common knowledge. (insert aged-weathered cough here) Back in my day, we didn’t have no such things as tactics! We were all just sitting around, throwing dice when somebody said, “HEY! Does this tavern have a staircase?” and the DM says that it does, so the player hops right onto it and declares that he now has the high ground, and demands that he gets special treatment.

I’ve played with some number-crunchers! There was this guy named Lee in our group, and the man could hit a Lich with a first level fighter armed with a stick of gum. He was a legend among gamers! An inspiration to players everywhere. Seriously, he’d get fan mail from Underground D&D fight clubs in London! Okay, so perhaps I exaggerate a tad, but the guy was good at pulling modifiers out of his unmentionables! He’d sit there and add them up like it was payday!

I really don’t recommend doing that, thank god that Lee could add fast. But folks like Lee are professionals, us mere mortals should never try that kind of stuff on our own. It leads to impressing geeks but your sex life is going to suffer and we all got to have our priorities firmly established.

For the rest of us! There is TACTICS!!!!

Again, this isn’t war gaming, the things that we’ll be doing today is not used for cute little figures that we spent endless Saturday nights painting. I’ve been wanting to get into playing with miniatures, but I’ve never done it before, and I honestly don’t know enough about those rules to use them to butcher my stories!

Lets begin, shall we!

We already talked about how we should allow characters to retreat without getting blasted in the back and killed. Lets talk about some stuff that isn’t in the PHB or the DMG that we can use to make the game more challenging and entertaining. TACTICS!!!!

Now I would love if somebody could take the time and really put out a whole encyclopedia of these things, seriously! It would be awesome! Fortunately I don’t think that that is my calling in life, I have children and it would interfere with my plans to rid the world of Snicker’s candy, one tasty bar at a time if that’s what it takes. If anybody wants to hop on board the Tactics bandwagon, why I’d be pleased to put them on the blog!


The charge is a running attack, you do need to be the first one there, and it really isn’t wise to charge an opponent with a larger weapon then you got, as you’ll get stuck before you can land your blow. Charging has two benefits: first it gives you a +2 to Attack, and if it is a charging weapon (such as a lance or a spear) a successful blow gives you double damage! Secondly, if you are a fighter, it enables you to inspire others (I’ll talk about that a bit latter). Charging however does have some drawbacks, what you gain in attack, you lose in AC. You suffer a +2 penalty to your Armor Class, and you also sacrifice any AC bonuses that you get from high DEX. To make things even worse, if the enemy who you are charging happens to be Guarding, then he gets to attack first, regardless of initiative.

A Mounted Charge is much more lethal, as is the charge of a creature that is larger then the victim, as he might be able to knock the victim down, inflict damage by weapon, and possibly trample the poor sap! Another good time to use a charge is if you think that you can get him while he is surprised, if he is, then he can’t take advantage of your shoddy AC.


Folks that are guarding are set for a charge, and get to ignore the initiative that was rolled. Their weapon is drawn and they are waiting where they stand for the enemy to come to them, like a total badass! Of course weapon length will be a factor, if Billy Bad Butt is guarding and standing his ground with a sword, and the badguy is armed with a polearm, then the polearm is going to attack first. If somebody is charging him, and he’s got a good guarding weapon (polearm or a spear) then not only does he get to take advantage of the chargers AC penalty, but he also inflicts double damage! But for the most part, the person guarding always gets to attack first.

Knock Down

Knockdowns come in two different forms, but pretty much always follow the same rules. It happens when a larger monster or person using a large weapon attacks a smaller character. If the character is on guard, then it is much harder to get it done. The basic crunch of the attack is that the character on the receiving end has to make a saving throw vs. breath weapon. If the save is failed, then that character is on his ass.

There are two different kinds of knockdowns. The first is on purpose, it is a none lethal shove, one character pushing another, this one can be done with strength checks instead of the breath weapon save, especially if the characters are roughly the same size. First do the strength check, and if the number for the attacker is higher, then he at least pushes him backwards, and the victim has to make a save vs. breath weapon else fall down. Of course if the person is pushed and there isn’t any ground left for him to stand on, then he fell off of a cliff or whatever and everybody else gets to laugh.

The Second knockdown is simply physics. If a large character slaps you with a large club, chances are pretty good that you are going to be flat on your ass. A dwarf or a gnome who gets hit by a human wielding a two-handed broadsword may very well be knocked off of his feet.

There are always modifiers, which I’m not going to get involved with here, the best part about 2e is that it takes a strong DM to do his thing. A guarding character should get a +5 to his saving throw, however if he’s on loose rocks or the slippery deck of a ship some negative numbers can be applied.

A person on horseback is at least a Large creature now, and does gain the automatic knockdown check. Even if the victim does pass it, he’ll still be subject to being trampled.

The effects of being knocked down is totally sucky! Not only are you on your ass, but you now have to make another Saving Throw, this time versus death, and if you fail this one, then you’ve been knocked prone. You’ve let go of your weapon and whatever other stuff that you were carrying, and you’ve got a terrible AC. Also, regardless if you did get knocked prone or not, if you lost initiative then you just lost your attack, because now you have to stand up.

There should be some modifiers by class to stop this from happening. The easiest method is just going by what die the class roles for hit points. Thus a character rolling to avoid a knockdown applies a +10 to the roll if he is a warrior, to as low as +4 bonus for wizards who are much easier to knock down.


Covering usually applies to ranged missile fire only, he’s got the weapon cocked and loaded and aimed at a specific target. He gets to ignore the initiative role, and gains a +2 bonus to hit. Now, he can either cover a object, like a door. If it opens then he gets to fire the first shot; or a general area, such as a hallway where the first enemy that runs into the hallway will find an arrow sticking out of him.

Another kind of covering, is against a specific person. If the dude has been knocked down prone, then a sword or other melee weapon can be used to cover him, normally followed by some cool dialog about what’ll happen if he so much as twitches a nose hair.

A character who is covering another character at close range with a melee weapon has two choices, he can either get an automatic hit, or gamble an attack and cause double damage (if he rolls a 20, it would double THAT damage) Again, he goes first . . . Unless it is a really fast monster, but even then, if the character who is covering is specialized in the melee weapon that he’s covering with, then he still goes first.

There is some problems with covering, characters who are covering are ignoring the rest of the battlefield, if an attack comes from behind them, they are going to suffer no DEX bonus and a +2 to their AC. Also, this character cannot attack unless the event that he is waiting for happens. If a character tries to change targets after covering, then he loses all bonus’s and suffers a -4 to hit the new target. If his party wins their Initiative, then he’ll probably have to forfeit his attack, he’ll let his turn go right by him to continue the cover. If the object of the cover happens before it is his natural turn, then he gets to fire first, and, say his party lost initiative, he gets to fire his weapon again normally.


Now we all know that it is assumed in 2e rules, that everyone is parrying, however when you chose to really parry, that is all you are doing. You aren’t attacking, you are spending the entire round protecting your happy ass from attacks! The bonus of this tactic, is that you improve your AC immensely!

Non-fighter classed character who chose to parry instead of attack gain a bonus to their AC that is equivalent to half their level. No spells can be cast while your parrying, the only thing you are doing is fending blows. A fighter class character drops his AC to half of his level, plus 1! We always round up when dealing with odd levels.

A Parrying character may be able to lead attackers around, for instance, if you want to head towards the stairs, you can do this while parrying, but the trick is, that you always have to go backwards, so it could take a couple of rounds; one round to maneuver your back to the stairs, and one round to actually get to the stairs where you can take advantage of the high ground.


The block is a hard parry and costs an attack. Again, it has to be called before the action of the round starts. The block can stop one attack per attacks spent, thus if you have 3 attacks, you can use 2 to block and 1 to actually attack. A block is rolled at the same time that the enemy is looking to lay his blow on you. He rolls against your AC, and you (the blocker) roll against an AC of 4, if both were successful, then the highest roll wins. A character with a melee weapon that is designed to block attacks, such as the Main-gauche, in their off hand can block one attack with it without spending any of their own attacks, thus, if he is fighting a character with only one attack, he can block that attack and then take his own.


There are TWO different kinds of disarming attacks; Offensive, and Defensive. Both kinds are counted as attacks, and works the same as a block except the person attempting the disarm rolls against AC 0, and the intended victim rolls against AC 4, highest roll wins. Defensive Disarms are done BEFORE the victim rolls to hit, the Offensive is rolled during your regular turn.

There are some rules to make things a bit difficult, if the victim is using a two-handed weapon, he gains an AC bonus of 4, which would make his AC -4, a character who wants to show off and do an expert disarm (hit the weapon out of his enemy‘s hand, and catching it in his hand, rolls against AC -10, but it can‘t be done against a two-handed weapon, and it is absolutely impossible to disarm a weapon that is two sizes larger then your own . . . Well, I guess that you could try but you still can’t do it.

Attack Armor

Some weapons are insidiously intended to hook armor and destroy it! With a successful attack against armor, he can drop the AC value by a level, making him easier to hit. The Attack Armor tactic is rolled against the normal AC, success means that the opponent is hooked, and both characters roll a STR check, if both are successful then the highest roll wins. A victim who wins is able to decide if he wants the armor to be compromised, or he has the option to take the damage himself by excepting the loss to his hp, which the attacker would then roll for damages. If the victim chooses to let the armor get compromised, he is able to minimize the damage and will only suffer a +1 to his AC. If the attack was a success, the AC raises +1 plus any bonuses that the character possess for damage. An Armor that loses half of its AC is destroyed.

If it is Magical Armor that we are talking about, then a saving throw could be in order, a successful save may destroy a non enchanted weapon, but I’ll leave THAT mess up to you to decide how to handle it, cause I’m a prick.

Shield Attacks

Now, officially you need to be proficient in shield use to do this attack, so anybody else would have the normal penalty for using a weapon that they ain’t used to, there are two forms of Shield Attacks, the Shield Punch, and the Shield Rush.

The Shield Punch can be handled either 1 of 2 ways, that is up to the player. The first way is to sacrifice the AC bonus that you’d get from the shield, and treat it like a normal secondary weapon attack, the primary weapon (the sword usually) would suffer a -2 to attack, and the shield punch gets a -4 to attack as well, but this can be offset by high Dex bonuses if the character gets them. OR, the character can just chose to simply pop the other guy with the shield for his attack, which would make it unmodified. Now the damage caused by this is up to the DM, normally I give 1d3 for small shields, 1d4 for Medium sized, and 1d6 for large shields. A successful Shield Punch can also be used to knock somebody out (if they don‘t expect it), or at least knock them down.

Shield Rushs is a charge, but the intent is to knock a character down. The attack is rolled normally for a charging attack, but if the blow is connected, both characters involved roll a strength check, if both characters fail the check, then both are knocked down, but if both are successful the highest roll wins with a knock down only occurring to the victim if he loses. The attacker also has some modifiers to the Strength roll:

4 point bonus/penalty for each size difference of the attacker vs. the defender.
+3 if the defender is unaware of the shield rush
-2 if the defender has got four or more legs.

Now, the funny part is if the Shield Rush attack fails, then the attacker runs right past them and has to make a Dex check else land on his face. See, FUNNY STUFF!!!! A successful hit also gets damage as described for the shield punch.

Seek High Ground

I spoke before of a character taking the high ground, for example a table or a steep slope. The effects of being on high ground is a +1 to attack. This one has to be watched though, because it can be abused. Giants can’t gain it, nor can it be used against smaller sized creatures. If you are on a mount you don’t get it either, but quit your whining, because you already get a bonus for fighting from horseback.

Fighting from Mount

If you are up on your high horse (or whatever you use as a mount) and you are attacking folks who aren’t, you get a +1 to attack, and they, the miserable walking bastards, suffer a -1 penalty to attack you . . . However, there is no penalty if they chose to attack your mount.


We all know that a good blackjack can take an unsuspecting character out, but in the movies, we see badasses using their sword hilts to do it. COOL!!!! Rules for that is easy, Attackers suffer a -2 to hit (or up to -8 if a helmet is worn), and get a 5% chance per hp of damage caused to knock the victim out. Of course the victim can’t be aware of this attack to gain the knockout. Thieves gain their backstab bonus, all other classes probably got to try to surprise the enemy. Sword hilts don’t have the same damage as their blades, they do 1d3 of damage, respectfully.


Now this one is a house rule of mine, and can only be employed by Fighter classes. If the fighter does something awesome, or if he makes a saving throw, he can inspire other people that are with him. The effects of inspiring gives him 2 pluses, plus 1 for every three levels of experience that he can give to other characters as he sees fit. Thus, a 5th level fighter survives a medusa’s attempt to turn him to stone, he now gets 3 inspiration points that he can divvy out to his party, say if the Wizard is rolling crappy this game, he can give him +2 to his Saving throw, and the thief might need some help too, so he gives him a +1, spending all of his inspire points, then it is time for the rest of the party to roll their saves vs. turning to stone. The + modifiers can also go to Attacks. He can’t use them on himself, but he can improve another characters odds to hit. It is up to you if you want the fighter to divvy out the points before, or after the rolls are made. Inspiration points cannot be saved or collected when they aren’t used, they must be used during that same round.

Angry Blow

Clearly all of these tactics aren’t going to work on all monsters. If you hit a Wolf-were with a shield punch, it isn’t going to knock him down, it’s simply going to make him very angry.

An Angry blow you can see coming a mile away, thus it has a -4 to the attack roll, however, if it does make contact, then the damage will be doubled (or critical if you use such things) A character can gain an angry blow too, at the DM’s option, if a fighter has 3 attacks, and both of the previous attacks hit, he can gain a angry blow on the 3rd attack which would also qualify for knock down rules and maybe even a knockout!

A Quick Word About Called Shots

2nd Edition rules state that a called shot applies a -4 to attack roll, but a DM really has to be careful about players who abuse them. A called shot should NEVER be fatal in and of itself. It’s cool to call a shot to pin a thieves sleeve to the table, but it isn’t cool to get away with chucking a spear into a Red Dragon’s eyeball. In my book, that is called CHEATING! I encourage all DM’s to kick out all instantly fatal tactics with the exception of established magical weapons, like the Vorpal kind.

Other Tactics

PC’s try lots of crazy stuff, and the DMG says that we should apply a percentile roll to see if they succeeded or not, but clearly, applying some modifiers to attack rolls and AC is a better way to handle it. The general rule is that the opponent should get a saving throw of some kind, or a dual of character stats that may be modified in or against the attackers favor. A cool tactic should be written down, and recorded for prosperity reasons, however nothing needs be set in stone. As long as the Player and the DM agree on a system of discovering the results before the dice are thrown, then you are good to go!

General Tactic rules are that the tactic has to be called before Initiative is rolled. Nobody can have a AC worse then 10, or better then -10. A naturally rolled 20 is always a hit, and a natural 1 is always a miss. Other then that, everything else if fair game! Not all of it will be great for your game, but all of this is better then always saying, “I swing my sword at him.” every time the dice is rolled. HAPPY BASHING!!!


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