Can I use Battle Master maneuvers to force a second save after I have seen the target succeed on the first one?

Situation 1

My Moon Druid has 3 levels of Battle Master fighter, and he can use Trip Attack in elephant1 form to trigger Trampling Charge.

Can he wait to use Trip Attack to see if the target failed its save against Trampling Charge?

Situation 2

My Open Hand Monk wants to knock an enemy prone. With Open Hand Technique, I can use Flurry of Blows and force the enemy to make a Dex saving throw; if it fails the save, it is knocked prone. Can I wait and see the result of this save before spending a superiority die to force a Str save?

1 or lion or allosaurus, the exact form does not matter

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    I don't think the new title is good, as it is too narrow – András Aug 10 at 11:22
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    I think a broader title would be fine, as long as it matches the question you're actually asking in the body of your post. However, "Timing of maneuvers" simply seemed too vague to be useful. – V2Blast Aug 10 at 12:23
  • Wild Shape is not the focus of this question, the "timing of maneuvers" is – András Aug 10 at 21:19
  • You might want to limit this question to maneuvers that apply "on a hit" (since some maneuvers apply to circumstances other than a hit with an attack). – V2Blast Aug 10 at 21:30

Yes, the stomp attack is available after the trip

The text says simply "if the target is prone" (MM p. 322); it's not conditional upon the target being knocked prone by the gore attack at the end of trampling charge. All that the battlemaster-druid needs to do is hit with a weapon attack (PHB p. 74) which the gore attack is.

Gore: melee weapon attack. (MM. p. 322)

Let's test this against another case: your ally knocked the target prone.

  1. Your ally uses an action to shove/knock prone.

  2. Your elephant attacks with gore. (and / or) ...

  3. Your elephant attacks with stomp.

Stomp: Melee Weapon Attack. +8 to hit, 5' reach; one prone creature. Hit 21(3d10+5) bludgeoning damage.

Both attacks work since the target creature is present and prone. The druid didn't need to use the gore attack to unlock the stomp; "something else" knocked the target prone.

Does timing of the saving throw(s) matter? No.

The targeted creature is dealing with two different problems: (1) the trampling charge+gore attack and (2) that "thing battlemasters do" which trips on a hit. The rules don't constrain the battlemaster in this case. The battlemaster gets to choose, and makes this choice contingent upon a hit. A key subclass ability here is the player's choice to expend a superiority die, or not to.

  • Regarding simultaneous effects, this is addressed in Xanathar's Guide to Everything (p. 77):

    If two or more things happen at the same time on a character or monster’s turn, the person at the game table — whether player or DM — who controls that creature decides the order in which those things happen. For example, if two effects occur at the end of a player character’s turn, the player decides which of the two effects happens first.

  • To get down in the weeds a little bit, inside the battlemaster-druid's head is a decision tree made at combat speed; I hit 'em; still standing? OK, do "this cool thing I do" and to knock 'em prone! The save or failed save from the trampling charge gore attack would be evident at impact if we are going for versimilitude here.
    Besides that, combat maneuvers are what makes the Battlemaster cool and unique as a subclass; using them comes at a cost (see below).

The six second combat round has "a lot of things going on at once." The elephant-druid-battlemaster's turn isn't over if someone else failed a save. The trip attack isn't conditional on anything but a hit.

"... you can expend one superiority die to attempt to knock the target down." (PHB 74).

No timing is specified other than "hit" the target; what the target is doing (saving or not) isn't a constraint.

  • What does the first save represent? Ideally, it happens as the trampling attack+gore hit occurs; the "did it or didn't it get knocked prone" result happens as close to the gore as can be imagined. The trip attack is "something else" that happens during the course of the druid-battlemaster's turn that (potentially) knocks the opponent down.

An argument against

The trip attack isn't a bonus action, but is triggered "when the attack happens;" a DM could rule that the player must wait for the next round since the results of the trampling charge+gore attack, and a save against it, have already taken place.

  • That is an overly restrictive ruling.

    • This superiority die is a limited resource (BM's use them up during the course of combat during the adventure day).
    • The text doesn't constrain trip attack's use beyond "when hit with a weapon attack."
    • The Battlemaster gets to choose to use it or not in any case.
    • The trip attack is a "something else" separate from the trampling charge+gore attack; it can be if the gore attack hits.
    • "Something else" knocked the creature prone so stomping can now happen.
    • The trip attack is not precluded from being applied/expended regardless of the initial save result based on what another creature saved against during a round of combat.

Yes, this is a nice nova. The example case isn't available until 11th level. (Moon Druid 8 wild shaping into a CR 4 creature + 3 levels of BM).

A price was paid for this!

The player in the example case has given up on one 4th, two 5th and one 6th level druid spells, to get four opportunities per short rest to do "a cool thing!" which can fail, since monsters can make saves as well as miss them. The druid has also given up, for the time being, Elemental Wild Shape which arrives at 10th level druid.

Druid spell slot progression

  • at 8: 4/3/3/2

  • at 11: 4/3/3/3/2/1

    What kinds of druid spells were foregone for this?

    • Another Conjure Woodland Beings (4) ; 2 from Reincarnate / Wall of Stone / Planar Binding (5); a Heal / Wind Walk / Sunbeam / Heroes' Feast (6).
    • For the Allosaurus case (4/3 druid/BM) three 3rd level and one 4th level spell slots are given up.
  • To support the claim that "The battlemaster gets to choose", since both effects are triggered by a hit, you may want to reference the rule on simultaneous effects from Xanathar's p. 77: " If two or more things happen at the same time on a character or monster’s turn, the person [...] who controls that creature decides the order in which those things happen. For example, if two effects occur at the end of a player character’s turn, the player decides which of the two effects happens first." – V2Blast Aug 10 at 12:16
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    @V2Blast OK, thanks for that. Done. – KorvinStarmast Aug 10 at 12:20
  • While doesn't negate the "paid for this" part keep in mind an elephant is not the only creature that has something like this. Elks for example (CR 1/4) have the same mechanic, allowing this to be done on lower levels. Especially if the druid in question grabs the Martial Adept feat instead of going fighter for 3 levels. – FenrirG Aug 10 at 12:24
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    @FenrirG I am aware of that. That's a separate issue. And martial adept is also A Price Paid. ASI foregone. Monsters make saves. The Elk DC is 13. At lower levels, the Druid is giving up even more significant spell slots. – KorvinStarmast Aug 10 at 12:29
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    @KorvinStarmast Just pointing out that you don't need min level 11 to achieve this as you suggested and also with the feat instead of multiclassing a druid can do this without losing any spells or spell slots. Worth noting so the decision isn't made based only on the high level requirements or the price of spell slots. – FenrirG Aug 10 at 12:38

Target rolls a save against DC12 to see if it falls prone

If it succeeds, the Druid uses Trip Attack

By R.A.W. you're allowed to wait to see if the attack hits, before rolling the trip superiority dice.

  • But, there's no ruling which demands that the DM roll the save against the gore before you add in your trip attack. They do have to resolve it, but the order of resolution is a bit up in the air. Many DMs might respond by forcing you to roll the trip and the gore together if you want to try for both, potentially wasting your superiority dice on redundancy. I looked everywhere I could for a ruling which said they can't do this to you, but since these are all within the same attack (not even separated by different attack actions via extra attack) it's iffy.
  • Frankly it's the same issue with having killed your opponent with your attack, and then ending up wasting your superiority dice on trip despite the fact that the opponent was dead, because the DM refused to resolve the round until after you were done acting.

No: thematically

This reeks of meta-gaming to me.

I am not looking to rules lawyer the RAW interpretation for this one, but the idea of a 'trip attack' is that the Battlemaster aims the attack in such a way as so knock the opponent down. You decide how to aim the attack during the resolution of the attack, not based on the effects.

As a DM I resolve the process of the attack, then the effects of the attack.

I would be saying 'you charge into the creature goring him in the chest' the sheer force of the blow almost knocks him off his feet but he steadies himself in a display of sheer strength.

For you to then decide that actually the attack aimed at the legs and you were trying to trip him would play against immersion.

On the same kind of theme I would not allow a Paladin to select Divine Smite based on if the melee attack kills the target or not.

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    When you hit a creature. This happens after the hit. If hitting the legs were described first before rolling and you missed you'd waste a trip attack. Making this work depends on your imagination. For regular weapon attacks, "I slash his ugly face." "He takes the hit his face is messed up but he is standing." "I'll use my dice for a trip attack, as part of my slash I'll swipe his legs." done. Gore into his chest, attack hit but he is standing? "Raise my head after the impact to his chest to raise him in the air, drop him suddenly to trip attack. – FenrirG Aug 10 at 12:44
  • You are right about missing, but missing is part of making the attack. It is resolved as a single action and counts as 'when' you hit a creature. The creature possibly falling prone happens afterwards. – SeriousBri Aug 10 at 14:23
  • Following on from FenrirG's point, a single attack doesn't have to be a single sword swing or whatever from a narrative perspective, simply that only one amount of damage is dealt, so where you say "For you to then decide that actually the attack aimed at the legs and you were trying to trip him would play against immersion", this would not necessarily ruin immersion if narrated properly; the PC expends their resources as per game rules, and how that makes sense in the narrative is separate to that. – NathanS Aug 10 at 15:13

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