16
\$\begingroup\$

So I am running a 9th-level 3.5e campaign for a mix of new and old players. Since not everyone has a handbook, I've been keeping generally to the SRD rule base, since all my players can look them up. I have one exception; I've included legacy weapons in my campaign, since several of my heavier-RP players love the idea.

I have a new player who joined on as a lizardfolk fighter. This character is one of the champion fighters of the lizardfolk tribes in my setting, and is heavily based on a gladiator style of fighter. This lizardfolk has high strength and dexterity, and wields javelins, a trident, and a net, throwing in natural attacks when he feels particularly feral. As a lizardfolk, his feats, saves, and skills are kinda sucky, compared to the other 9th level player characters. The only things he really excels at are swimming and hitting things (duh, it comes with the scales). My player was set on running with the net-and-trident theme, so to keep things from bogging down every time he would have to get new nets when the trolls and ogres and whatnot break his nets, I gave him a magic, self-repairing net (part of a legacy pair, along with the trident). It turns out he's far more attached to this net than to his javelins, which is fair. I've given him plenty of leeway, since 3.5 nets are pretty abysmal.

Anyway in an earlier campaign, the group picked a fight with a couple of trolls in a deep-water swamp (think bayou). This lizardfolk won initiative. He was a little ways ahead of the party, nearby one of the trolls. In a fit of creativity, the player asked to do a Shot On The Run. His reasoning was that since a net throw is a ranged attack, and a creature entangled in a net can only move within the range of the rope, as long as he beats a strength check, he would net the troll, and drag the troll back to the party. I thought it was pretty clever, so I allowed it. He managed to overpower the troll and drag it back to the party. This turned an ambush into a troll-stomping party, and let his character have a pretty nice spotlight.

Now I thought this was a neat, clever little thing, until he used the tactic again with devastating efficacy against a big NPC bossman. This time, he dragged the guy through the party, provoking attacks of opportunity from everyone (one or two of whom have Combat Reflexes), and triggered about 70–80 points of damage. Then the rest of the party took their action, surrounded the guy, and kicked his face in. Needless to say, the encounter ended very quickly.

This was a nifty in-character way of tackling some big enemies, and I rewarded it as such, but I can see some horribly exploitative interactions with this on the horizon. For instance, I noticed most of my players are suddenly considering taking up Combat Reflexes... so, I'm revisiting the idea.

Does anyone think this is an inappropriate interaction between Shot On The Run and nets? Is there any precedent for this? Did my player just make a new meta? Do I need to break out the banhammer? Am I missing something completely? I mean, this character is by no means overpowered; his skills, saves, BAB, and ranged options are pretty trashy, his strength is by no means unmatchable, and this tactic only works on one single, corporeal enemy of large to small size every few rounds.

For clarity on my previous stance, I ruled that this character can drag an enemy with a net (including during Shot On The Run), so long as the enemy does not surpass the character's drag limit (which is high, considering his strength is great and he gets buffed regularly), and he beats the strength check of the target.

[Edit:] The lizardfolk's self-repairing net does indeed re-arm itself as well. The net's other ability is to rearm itself on command as a move action, allowing him to re-net every turn, unless the net breaks (it takes one full round to repair). My complete ruling on the bag-and-tag mechanic, as it stands, is:

After successfully entangling an opponent with a net attack, if the wielder of the net decides to move away from the netted target, the two make opposed strength checks. If the netted target succeeds or ties the check, the wielder of the net fails to drag the target, but may continue to hold on to the net. The wielder may continue to move, but remain within 10ft of the netted target if they wish to continue holding on to the net. If the wielder of the net wins the opposed roll, the defending target falls prone, and may be dragged by the wielder. Forced movement from dragging triggers attacks of opportunity as if the target moved through the offending squares. Here, dragging encumbrance rules apply, so the speed the wielder of the net may move depends on the surface the target is being dragged over. Additionally, The net wielder can only drag a weight within their pushing/dragging limit

(in the case of the troll swamp ambush, it was a lot of difficult terrain, so he didn't go too far).

[Edit 2:] This is a 9th level, low-magic, low(ish)-power campaign (mostly tier 4s and 5s) off of a 30-point buy. Originally, this setting was for a group of martial-only characters (namely monk, paladins, and rogue), so I crafted a low-magic setting where these classes could shine. Some of the players really hit it off there, so we've been continuing the setting. Magic (both from players and NPCs) tends to be rare, and the availability of magic items is kinda scarce. The best magic weapon the party has at the moment is a +2 ghost touch short sword, and the best armor set is a +1 slick plate mail. Potions are a fair bit more common, so the party tends to stock up on their bull's strengths and their cure seriouses. I've taken a number of steps to reign in the power of casters compared to martials within my setting, and the strongest caster this party has ever had was a level 6 sorcerer (sadly, he left for personal reasons). Perhaps the single strongest spell-caster this team has fought was, in fact, an adept 10 (although he did moonlight as an ogre). This squad has always been very RP-heavy, which is why legacy weapons showed up. Even though they're not very powerful, this party has definitely enjoyed unlocking the hidden strengths and histories of discovered items, but I've never been satisfied with the stat penalties associated with legacy progression. (I've even considered removing the stat penalties altogether--I mean, aren't they already paying enough?) The current teamcomp is this:

  • Human monk 9 (old player)
  • Half-orc paladin 9 (old player)
  • Lizardfolk fighter 7 (new player) (I let him wave the level adjustment)
  • Human ranger 9 (new player)
  • Human cleric 9 (returning player, first try at cleric)

The cleric is a pretty worrisome disturbance to the party balance, but it looks like the player tends to only pack status-purging spells and healing, something this party has been suffering without. Up to this point, it's mostly been potions, lay on hands, and lucky saves.

[Update:] As it turns out, I was missing something completely. The way we have been playing so far, I've been ruling that moving through multiple threatened squares provokes multiple attacks of opportunity for a character with combat reflexes, but I can see now that that ruling is... misguided (Thank you, Dan B and KRyan!). Moving forward, I'm going to reverse that ruling and fix the Combat Refxploitation. I think that, and adding size modifiers (bull rush style) to the opposed strength checks takes care of balance.

\$\endgroup\$
  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site! Take the tour! Although the story is great (and thank you for it!), it seems the question is Is this house rule balanced? (Like the title says.) However, the question doesn't actually formally write up the house rule as it's used in your campaign. Have you codified this house rule? Can you now and include it with the question? (I'm especially curious if you ruled that dragging someone also renders the victim prone!) Thank you for participating and have fun! \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan May 7 '18 at 23:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan Thank you for your help! Post updated to include a write-up of the house rule (which did, in fact, feature the victim falling prone while being dragged) \$\endgroup\$ – dudemanmcdm May 8 '18 at 4:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not a rules guru but my first thought was that you don't get opportunity attacks at all against someone being dragged along. Only things the character does provokes opportunity attacks. He didn't move, he was dragged. Can someone more knowledgeable than me confirm or deny that? \$\endgroup\$ – Odalrick May 8 '18 at 12:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Odalrick A bull rush is the most traditional way of forcing a defender to move, and defender and attacker both provoke attacks of opportunity for the movement, albeit not from each other. When a grappler successfully takes the If You're Grappling option move, the grappler's movement is halved, but he takes everyone in the grapple ball with him; this DM has always assumed everyone in the grapple ball provokes in such a case rather than just the grappler that picked that option, but that situation may warrant its own question. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan May 8 '18 at 18:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is the question I remembered: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/120959/… I noticed it's for a different edition, so I don't know if it applies. \$\endgroup\$ – Odalrick May 9 '18 at 7:38
16
\$\begingroup\$

Even with Combat Reflexes, a given event provokes at most one attack of opportunity from each character

That is, if someone takes an attack of opportunity for someone moving in their threatened area, they don’t get to make any more attacks of opportunity for moving around in the threatened area even if the target continues moving. See the rules for attacks of opportunity:

Moving out of more than one square threatened by the same opponent in the same round doesn’t count as more than one opportunity for that opponent.

So you should have limited how much damage the boss took from attacks of opportunity from this maneuver. You should implement this rule in the future, as it has pretty substantial ramifications well beyond this one trick.

Other than that, please don’t take anything away from this character

They are facing an incredibly uphill battle for relevance here. Their character has managed to fall into many of the system’s traps all at once, and the game here isn’t doing them any favors. Ultimately, system-design issues are things that can be problems, and aren’t always going to necessarily be in every game. But there is a high risk, for this character, of some or all of the following to be serious issues:

  • Level adjustment is often crippling, and racial hit dice aren’t much better. Level adjustment represents totally dead levels, where you don’t even get basic things like hp, skills, increases in skill point maximums, BAB, and saving throw bonuses. RHD at least get those things, but lack actual class features. We don’t have a question directly on this subject to my knowledge, but it’s come up numerous times; my favorite explanation of the problem is this one. There are a very few races and templates that are worth their LA and RHD; lizardfolk isn’t one of them.

  • Fighters are on the weaker end of 3.5e tiers, making it hard for a fighter, especially a core fighter, to contribute in a magical group. Even in a mostly core-only game, many players feel that fighter is at best a 2-level class, since everything it does can be done better by barbarian or ranger or (later) a prestige class. This is especially true in core, since there are limited feats available that are worth taking; eventually fighters tend to just “run out” of good choices.

  • This neat trick the player has discovered with nets has zero feat-support; you can’t take any feats to get better at it, the way you can with, for example, trip or bull rush. That’s going to make it really hard to keep using it as things get bigger and stronger.

  • One-handed weapons are lackluster, especially when you aren’t using two-weapon fighting to apply bonus damage like sneak attack over and over. The bonuses that two-handed weapons get (1½ Str to damage, 2-for-1 bonuses from Power Attack, etc.) are just insurmountable. Relying on a trident wielded in one hand means that this lizardfolk has very little opportunity to increase his damage.

  • Even a magic, self-repairing net is very difficult to use continuously, unless it also folds itself. Folding a net takes 2 rounds; it’s not plausible in combat. That means that this character gets one toss of their net, total, for an entire fight in all likelihood. (There is a good chance that I wouldn’t bother with the magic net at all, favoring just having a large stack of expendable nets I can throw.)

  • I’m sorry to say this, considering your enthusiasm for it, but Weapons of Legacy is one of the worst-written books in 3.5e. Not that it’s a bad idea by any means! It’s certainly cool. But, as is often the case, the devil’s in the details: the specific rules used by Weapons of Legacy are really problematic. Legacy weapons generally hurt their users more than they help. We have a question about the best uses of legacy weapons (spoiler: not much), and another question about why the weapons are so problematic.

  • You are playing at a point where the systemic problems with 3.5e are getting difficult to control, and this character is an extremely mundane one. While spellcasters always tend to dominate the game, 4th-level spells tend to be the point where mundanes just cannot compete with magic. You’re playing at 9th, so there are not only 4th-level spells but also 5th-level spells. Meanwhile, many people strongly recommend just stopping level-ups after 6th, and using a variant system that offers bonus feats for continued character growth.

All of these factors work strongly against this lizardfolk; the player is to be commended for coming up with such a creative approach to working around them! And it is a creative approach: nets are often overlooked, warriors tend to try for damage as much as possible, and ultimately, this drag maneuver isn’t really spelled out in the rules. Warriors have a hard time finding their way into a support role, but supporting is an excellent way for weaker characters to make a difference: if your endeavors add to what other characters are doing, you are improving the group even if your relative addition is somehow “less.” This is a far better approach than trying to, say, deal damage, and finding yourself unable to hit, or finding foes one-hit killed by your allies regardless of the little bit you added.

So really, things are going well here. Don’t take the fruits of their endeavors away from the player! Unfortunately, they’re likely to need it. In fact, they’re likely to need more, so you should...

Consider how this character could use more help

Frankly, all of the problems above are serious, systemic problems, that are probably worth addressing anyway. They only represent a risk of a problem at a given table, so any fix has to be balanced against potential disruption, but overall they are issues that will only become more pronounced/greater risks as the characters level. And the fact that this character is running into all of these may well lead to the character struggling a good deal more than he should be. He’s found a great trick for now, but it’s going to get harder and harder to continue to use, as creatures get bigger, stronger, and more likely to have options like flight or teleportation or freedom of movement, that just nullify his one trick. And really, doesn’t everyone at the table want characters to be able to do more than one thing? This will allow you to use more varied encounters without worrying about sidelining this character, and it will make the loss of the “all the AoOs” trick more palatable.

So I have some suggestions, some simple, some more complicated and probably not worth implementing at this point but included for completeness. They more-or-less mirror the list above.

  • First, the only “negative” suggestion I have for the character: you really should implement the single-AoO rule.

  • On the subject of LA and RHD, in my games, I don’t allow them for PCs at all. If a player wants to play something that would otherwise have an LA or RHD, I try to adapt it to work as LA +0 and 0 RHD. The lizardfolk, in particular, really isn’t all that special: three natural weapons is a bit better than most ECL 0 races, but only a bit; plenty of them have claws without a bite, for example. A +5 natural armor bonus is rather high, but then natural armor is only so useful; armored AC is the worst defense in the game. The net +2 ability score modifiers are probably the most significant thing about them.

    I would allow a PC lizardfolk to have +2 Strength or +2 Constitution, −2 Intelligence, and then either the claws or the bite. The natural armor bonus I would drop to... +2, probably. And then eliminate the RHD and LA. I think if you offered this to the player, they’d likely be very happy to have three more class levels over +3 natural armor and natural weapons they aren’t using, and the race I just described is only ok, certainly not especially good (compared to, say, dwarf or gnome, to say nothing of human).

  • I would encourage this character to multiclass. A feat per level is decent; a feat every other level is poor. In fact, I would recommend considering the horizon tripper build for inspiration; it’s a core-only approach to mostly-mundane support and lockdown, and could reasonably be adapted for nets instead of tripping.

  • Adding an Improved Netting feat that grants a +4 bonus to the Strength check to control creatures with nets would be immensely beneficial. In fact, I might consider just treating the check as a trip check, and allowing everything that benefits tripping to also benefit the net trick. That would give it a lot of support that it really could use.

  • As long as support for the netting trick remains available, the damage issue is probably OK.

  • Having the net grow into being able to fold itself instantly would be a big improvement. Later on, making it so the net can “split” so multiple targets can be netted at once might be interesting as a higher-level feature.

  • I agree with you that the idea of Weapons of Legacy is very cool, but unfortunately that particular book is poorly executed. I strongly recommend you replace those legacy weapons with something similar to the Ancestral Relic feat from Book of Exalted Deeds (itself a notoriously-poor book, but Ancestral Relic is one of the best things in it). The kensai prestige class from Complete Warrior may also provide inspiration. Or just make legacy weapons a matter of fluff; using the personal drawbacks system from Weapons of Legacy is just very problematic.

  • Changing the game now to use E6 would be an unreasonable disruption, but there may be issues to keep an eye on, and it may be desirable to go with, say, E11 rather than continue to 12th and higher. Or just a thing to keep in mind for future games.

I would implement any and all of these, personally, but I want to emphasize that this list is here for you to pick those that sound good to you, and leave out what doesn’t work. Clearly, things are kind of working out mostly OK so far, so you may not want to rock the boat too much over somewhat theoretical problems. But I hope these will be useful for you.

\$\endgroup\$
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for your response! Thankfully, in this setting there are not many magic-users the lizardfolk's competing with, so it's mostly him vs my other martials. I'm gonna watch him as he plays this next campaign. If he gets into the rhythm of bagging and dragging key enemies out of position, I think I will open up some homebrew feat support for the tactic, like you mentioned. \$\endgroup\$ – dudemanmcdm May 8 '18 at 5:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @dudemanmcdm While that does help (if you are also being very careful about the challenges they face; plenty of non-magical monsters demand magical responses from humanoid characters), many of these problems definitely still apply even in that situation. In particular, I consider especially RHD+LA, Weapons of Legacy personal costs, and the lack of core support for mid-to-high-level single-classed fighters to be rather severe problems. So I do personally, but strongly, think that addressing those issues would improve your game. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan May 8 '18 at 14:00
7
\$\begingroup\$

This is not a powerful ability, given the necessary investment

Shot on the Run requires Dodge, Mobility, and Point Blank Shot. That means your player is sinking 4 feats into this trick, plus probably another one for Exotic Weapon Proficiency with the net. Even as a 6th level fighter, this PC has only 7 feats. That's a huge feat tax.

Moving opponents with a net is better than most other things a 6th level mundane character trying to participate in a 9th level party can do, but it's hardly powerful or even frequently relevant; in order to work the opposition needs to be non-flying non-burrowing creatures between small and large size that the lizardfolk can beat in a strength check and which the party benefits from making attacks of opportunity against and which the PC has sufficient movement to drag past the party after advancing to close with said creature.

Of the CR 9 monsters in the SRD, this appears to be potentially useful against Frost Giants and (90% of) Stone Giant Elders. All other CR 9 monsters in the SRD are too large, or can fly or burrow, or can cast spells/spell-like-abilities that enable them to fly or burrow. Even those giants can be expected to sometimes use their boulder-throwing ranged attacks from a safe distance rather than closing. So the situations in which this is useful are likely few and far between, barring endless waves of humanoid-with-class-level opponents.

\$\endgroup\$
5
\$\begingroup\$

First, note that Combat Reflexes does not help in this situation. From here:

Moving out of more than one square threatened by the same opponent in the same round doesn’t count as more than one opportunity for that opponent.

Having established that: we can compare your "net drag" move more-or-less directly to Bull Rush. That combat move says:

If you beat the defender’s Strength check result, you push him back 5 feet. If you wish to move with the defender, you can push him back an additional 5 feet for each 5 points by which your check result is greater than the defender’s check result. You can’t, however, exceed your normal movement limit.

Bull Rush also includes modifiers for size, which might penalize your lizardman further. On the other hand, Bull Rush allows for taking a feat to get +4 to the roll, whereas your lizardman has spent several feats just to use the move at all.


If this is becoming a problem, you can fix it by importing the above rule from Bull Rush. That will prevent the lizardman from pulling an opponent long distances, but it won't stop him from moving the opponent five feet to give his allies an attack of opportunity. And that seems pretty fair.

\$\endgroup\$
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you so much for your input! I clearly missed that rule on Combat Reflexes, and will update my post to reflect that. Additionally, that is a very sensible way for me to balance this bag-and-drag approach, should it ever become problematic. +1 \$\endgroup\$ – dudemanmcdm May 8 '18 at 4:12

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.