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For an upcoming campaign I'm considering making a house rule saying that A creature can take a move action that doesn't provoke attacks of opportunity to stand up from prone. Alternatively, I'm considering a house rule saying that A creature can also take a standard action that doesn't provoke attacks of opportunity to stand up from prone.

However, I'm concerned about long-term unintended consequences and game balance. What effect will either house rule have on the typical campaign in a setting that's similar enough to Greyhawk in which a party of two primary combatants and two primary casters—all between tiers 2 and 3—are expected to advance from levels 1 to 20?


Note: It was kind of the last straw. Polgolb, the level 3 goblin barbarian chieftain, was tripped by the level 2 bard's 150 gp trained-for-war riding dog. As Polgolb tried to stand up from prone, a PC made an attack of opportunity, rolled a critical hit (first a natural 20 then confirmed due to Polgolb's −4 penalty to AC), dealt Polgolb 20 or so points of damage, and sent Polgolb to his eternity with Maglubiyet. And, once again—for what seems like the thousandth time—, I was reminded of the incredibly asymmetrical nature of trip attempts and of how very, very few ways are available for a creature to defend itself from them and of how there is, so far as I'm aware, absolutely no way for the typical prone creature to stand up from prone without provoking attacks of opportunity.

For comparison, in Dungeons and Dragons, Third Edition, the action stand up from prone did not provoke attacks of opportunity. In fact, Sword and Fist says that "it is quite possible to remain on your guard while standing up" (68). But the 3.5 revision quietly changed this, and my bad guys have been falling all over themselves ever since. I know that to defend themselves against trip attempts creatures could devote precious feats like the Dragon #323 feat Stalwart (96) or the Planar Handbook feat Earth Heritage (38–9) or skill points to the skill Balance, the skill Tumble, and skill tricks (assuming such skill points are available) or money to items like from the Magic Item Compendium the boots of agile leaping (76) or from Underdark the armor accessory stability weights (66), but tripping still seems to unfairly favor the PCs: a PC that devotes even a smattering of resources to making trip attempts will trip all but the biggest or most well-prepared monster. This is made especially egregious as monsters—because of their limited feats, ability scores, treasure, or whatever—are quite often unable to use this the tactic effectively themselves!

Frame challenges are welcome, but bear in mind that as a DM I find devoting some of an opponent's resources to defending against some of the PCs' better known tactics reasonable, but that devoting enough resources to make trip attempts outright fail isn't this DM's idea of fun. Also, I don't view simply throwing against the PCs creatures that themselves make trip attempts as solving the problem so much as exacerbating it. Finally, while making gentlemen's agreement saying that everyone will avoid trip attempts in most circumstances is a solution, I'd prefer any solution be mechanical in nature instead.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Keep in mind that most enemies in my experience either A) Are much bigger than the PC (which makes it hard to trip them), B) Have more than 2 legs (which makes it almost impossible to trip them), and/or C) have more units than the PC's party (which makes tripping 1 goblin out of 10 not that important). If you are sending lone, medium, humanoid enemies with low BAB against your party, you can't really expect them to not get clobbered. \$\endgroup\$ – GreySage Jun 1 '17 at 19:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GreySage That's some of my experience as well, although consistently fighting Huge or bigger creatures (the minimum size a creature must be to be immune to a Medium creature's trip attempts) isn't. And the bonus for 4 legs is only +4 therefore trivially countered by just the feat Improved Trip, for instance. And, because attacks of opportunity are outside the normal action economy, tripping a foe is never a bad thing if, as most are, the foe's crippled until it stands. Finally, base attack bonus is not a factor in making trip attempts. (Honest! These are things I've thought about!) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jun 1 '17 at 19:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ Suggestions for improvement welcome. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jun 1 '17 at 20:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ If it is constant trip attempts what is bothering you not the fact of provoking by standing up itself, consider removing Improved Trip giving bonus attack at the end of a successful trip attempt. It may be not something you are looking for, but in my wiew that bonus attack always was "unclear where it came from" one. \$\endgroup\$ – annoying imp Jun 1 '17 at 20:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ @annoyingimp The house rules' goal is to turn standing up from prone from the terrifying, pants-wetting experience it is now into something a little less provocative yet still make tripping a foe worthwhile (the act would remain a significant debuff and still forces the foe to sacrifice an action to eliminate that debuff). That is, the problem is less with getting knocked down (and, perhaps, also hit) than it is with getting back up (and getting hit by everyone). Thank you for making me articulate that. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jun 1 '17 at 22:53
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Trip would go from cheap to worthless

The long-term issue would be diminishing the value of tripping. At low levels, PC's have precious few resources, so making trip less valuable means that it will see less play. That riding dog is a threat in its own right at 2nd level, but it cost some of the bard's gold. By even 6th level, the same dog is nearly useless; it's relatively fragile, and it's relatively weak.

Recommended Solution

I suggest mirroring how the Withdraw action changes merely leaving a threatened space. Thus it could be named Defensive Stand, or whatever, and be a full-round action, unless the creature is limited to a standard action (as with withdrawl, a nauseated creature couldn't perform this action) to stand without provoking Attacks of Opportunity.

This way any creature can take a move-action to stand, risking an Attack of Opportunity, but by taking a Full-Round action to stand, being properly cautious, they provoke no Attack of Opportunity. That way trip retains most of its value for wasting actions, and some creatures (low-no intelligence, or very aggressive ones) will still stand faster and provoke the attacks.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Have you been the DM or player in a campaign that included a high-level PC that specialized in tripping so that you're speaking from experience or is this theorycrafting? (Note that there's nothing wrong with the latter, but my experience with the former has been quite different!) Also, I've read at least one account of a campaign wherein the DM ruled that going from prone to kneeling was a move action then from kneeling to standing was a move action, neither provoking. Would that be a decent third alternative? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jun 3 '17 at 0:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan If the PC specialized in tripping, then where's the fire? If it only took 1 feat (Imp. trip) then trade it out whenever possible for monsters with useless feats (Tarrasque), and start the Arms Race. And No, my high-level campaign (18th or so) had no Trip-Master/Monkey. Re: the kneeling, yes I just found a RotG article mentioning it. It's like what I recommended. Let the melee's have nice things, and use it more on monsters that it makes sense on. \$\endgroup\$ – Chemus Jun 3 '17 at 0:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ Does cheap in the header means inexpensive or unfair? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jun 3 '17 at 13:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan Yes. It was indeed intended to be tongue in cheek witb the double meaning. \$\endgroup\$ – Chemus Jun 3 '17 at 13:37
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I would think this falls under the purview of Tumble:

from the skill:

DC 15 Tumble at one-half speed as part of normal movement, provoking no attacks of opportunity while doing so. Failure means you provoke attacks of opportunity normally. Check separately for each opponent you move past, in the order in which you pass them (player’s choice of order in case of a tie). Each additional enemy after the first adds +2 to the Tumble DC.

Getting up from prone is part of the movement action, right? If your opponent had moved to be on top of you while you were prone, you would need a DC 25 check since you would need to move through their space.

I am treating "normal movement" as meaning not flying, swimming, or anything else -- just moving on the ground without special means.

Regardless, tripping and getting additional attacks of opportunity vs the opponent that manages to get tripped is hardly broken. Yes, your boss died. But what would have happened if the caster had simply slept him? In the end, tripping is only going to affect medium- and small-sized humanoids, and it is a decent boost in power for martial characters which are going to be completely out-shined by even a tier 2 caster by level 7. So I do not believe this is a larger problem than one encounter that wasn't as difficult as you had hoped. Nerfing the prone rules will just further separate your party's martial characters in power from the casters.

This is not intended to belittle your experience. This answer simply points out that martial characters need to win sometimes, and very soon your casters are going to win a lot more than the martial characters. It is not a bad thing that the player was able to land a trip, get AoO, crit, and manage to insta-gib the boss. There was a lot of rng involved in defeating your boss, as well as good planning by the character who spent resources on the dog. At later levels, monsters will be big, flying, formless, or all of the above. Trip is not broken, and neither are AoOs on characters standing up from prone. This answer was relating to the part of your question where you asked about the impact of changing these rules on your campaign, and to reiterate: Your martial characters will be made even weaker, and your caster characters will simultaneously be made even stronger (since they will reap the benefits of extra defense vs creatures in melee who use knockdowns). Ask yourself: Is the effect of this change to make fighters weaker and wizards stronger? Then don't do it.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Tumbling while prone is something the Sage suggests as a house rule in the Dragon #327 Sage Advice column “Official Answers to Your Questions” and the FAQ repeats the exchange. However, using the skill Tumble to stand up from prone as a free action is a DC 35 check and doing so according to Complete Scoundrel and the Rules Compendium still provokes attacks of opportunity! Finally far too few monsters have Tumble as a class skill or the skill points to make such an investment worthwhile. Sincerely, though, thank you. I'll take any help I can get! \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jun 1 '17 at 19:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ So instead of the house rules above—about which this answer offers no opinion—, a better solution would be to make the Tumble skill usable untrained (it normally isn't) and, perhaps, also make this new use of the Tumble skill usable even if the creature's speed is reduced by armor? (A creature wearing armor that reduces its speed also makes it impossible for the creature to use the Tumble skill.) Have I got that right? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jun 2 '17 at 23:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sorry I misremembered the tumble thing. I was thinking it was usable untrained. Apologies. \$\endgroup\$ – Wannabe Warlock Jun 2 '17 at 23:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't propose either house rule casually because of a lone evening's fortune, and I don't think minimizing my experience and concerns is useful. (Also, seriously, had Polgolb been the victim of a sleep spell, another creature could've taken a standard action to wake him up, then he still would have had to stand up from prone, provoking attacks of opportunity from those around him!) But, I suppose, a different perspective is important, even if that perspective hasn't had the same issue, so my thanks remain. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jun 2 '17 at 23:57
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The impact will be zero unless you have a bunch of people or monsters specialized in trip actions. Even then, in strategic combat where flanking and moving and having someone tank the enemy attack of opportunity, I've found the economy of burning your full movement is sufficient cost. For example, if you are a trip master, you can trip your opponent, who then has to burn their movement action to stand up, and then your buddy, the wizard can use an area effect spell like a cone that is still able to target the previously tripped victim. That they didn't suffer an attack of opportunity is not nearly as bad as being unable to use their round to escape the fireball or cone of cold. Burning through your movement also means you are unable to escape the range of touch attacks, which in the case of level draining, retains the power of trip even without the opportunity attack.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ So you've used a house rule saying that a creature can take a full-round action that doesn't provoke attacks of opportunity to stand up from prone yet creatures still found making trip attempts worthwhile? (Also, it doesn't take a bunch of PCs or monsters for this to have an impact—for instance, it only took one trained-for-war dog to remind me of this!) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jun 24 '17 at 21:18

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