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I'm considering adding the following homebrew bonus action. It's a general action, so it would be available for free to all players (not enemies):

Stride. You gain extra movement for the current turn. This increase is equal to X feet. If your speed is lower than X feet, the increase equals your speed instead.

What value of X would be balanced for this bonus action?


If it helps, the rationale for adding this homebrew are the following:

  • A few players have expressed some dissatisfaction that, for optimization purposes, you are "required" to build your character in a way that unlocks a reliable bonus action, for example through a subclass such as Rune Knight or a feat like Pole Arm Master. Having the Stride bonus action always available might alleviate this a bit.
  • There are some negative feelings at my table when a melee character moves all they can towards an enemy but can't quite make it. Taking the Dash action just to move 5 feet feels wasteful and attacking with thrown weapons when you are almost in reach doesn't really feel good.
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    \$\begingroup\$ Note that as a side effect, this will be a nerf to anything else that grants a regular dash as a bonus action, such as the rogue's Cunning Action, since the marginal benefit over this bonus action is less. This may or may not matter for your game. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 23 at 20:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ I guess I'm not clear on how this addresses bullet point 2. Doesn't a Stride just slightly increase the range at which the "argh can't quite get there" happens? \$\endgroup\$ Nov 23 at 20:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DarthPseudonym I believe the probability of running into an "argh can't quite get there" any given turn is a function of how much you can move divided by the characteristic length of the battle map. As an extreme, if the battle map is a 120-feet circle and your speed is 120 feet, you can always go anywhere from anywhere, so 0% probability (in practice this is complicated by obstacles, verticality, etc). Stride increases how much you can move (so decreases this probability), but with a cost to your action-economy. \$\endgroup\$
    – Totofofo
    Nov 23 at 21:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ There is already the charger feat or being a minotaur as options for players who care, not to mention mobile, race options with speed boosts, multi class options, spells, mounts and all sorts of things that really make me wonder how this is a real problem. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Nov 23 at 22:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ Why dont your players ready an action? When I am only 5ft away I get ready to attack or block or whatever and wait for the enemy to come my way. Sounds like your players arent really playing very strategically \$\endgroup\$
    – bibleblade
    Nov 24 at 12:31
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As an action available to everyone, without any investment whatsoever, and in competition to the Dash action (and particularly the Rogue's Cunning Action), your bonus-Dash should be weak.

I'd suggest a mere 5 feet of movement, if you're hell-bent on adding this bonus action. It's better than what the players have right now, it isn't a good alternative to any of the bonus actions available through other means (assuming the character is in a position to use any other bonus action), and it puts only a tiny dent in the Dash action's effectiveness. Those 5 feet are really just there for the frustrating case of an enemy being 35 feet away from a melee PC. (But now, of course, you'll get the same effect when the enemy is 40 feet away.)

Do keep in mind that this is a small nerf to ranged combatants: melee fighters now take slightly less time to cross an open plain.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Perhaps limited to not doing it 2 turns in a row? Or once or twice "per fight" might be a simple way to reduce bookkeeping for a houserule vs. per short rest. That would make it slightly less effective for chasing down someone making a fighting retreat or things like that, while still serving its purpose of letting people close distance as a one-off. (That unavoidably helps melee vs. range, since fights are short so only one use is enough). \$\endgroup\$ Nov 24 at 10:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PeterCordes I'm not sure that the extra bookkeeping of tracking "per fight" (a term that exists nowhere else in 5E) is useful. I'm not sure that the "exploit" is going to come up often enough to justify the bookkeeping effort. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 24 at 16:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm accepting this answer as the only one bold enough to actually engage with the question and offer a balance assessment instead of defaulting to just "it's a free buff, therefore unbalanced." \$\endgroup\$
    – Totofofo
    Nov 24 at 22:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PotatoEngineer: Yeah, agreed, if someone really wanted to do this, trying it without any limitations would make sense to start with because that's simplest. Only if it proved over-powered after playtesting would you want to start thinking about how to tone it down if you didn't want to get rid of it. In which case some of my random ideas might or might not be useful. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 24 at 23:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ @FerventHippo A CON save to move 5 more feet? That's a ridiculously high cost, and it takes table time to do the roll. Nah, the GM wants to make the players more powerful (and give a default option for bonus actions) without upsetting game balance too badly. A 5-foot step does that. GMs make rulings all the time -- some of them make the PCs more powerful, some rulings make PCs weaker. This one just happens to be in the players' favor. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 25 at 20:16
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I would strongly recommend against this

Your players are rejecting already balanced options - feats, multiclassing, spells, items, etc - but asking for a free option that does the same thing.

For something to be balanced there needs to be a give and take. In this situation players have no reliable bonus action so the bonus action cost isn't truly a cost. Similarly, if they are 5ft away then a bonus action dash is superior to an action dash. This means it will be inherently unbalanced, even if you only let them move 5ft.

There are a lot of options for your players already in the game, I would encourage them to pick one of those as they are already balanced. Here is a (non-exhaustive) list of bonus actions I saw on Reddit:

Barbarian

Enter or end Rage - Barbarian level 1 Rage feature.

Make a melee weapon attack while raging - Barbarian/Path of the Berserker level 3 Frenzy feature.

Dash - Barbarian/Path of the Totem Warrior level 3 Eagle Totem Spirit feature.

Knock a Large or smaller creature prone when you hit it in melee - Barbarian/Path of the Totem Warrior level 14 Wolf Totemic Attunement feature.

Bard

Give Bardic Inspiration to a creature - Bard level 1 Bardic Inspiration feature.

Make a weapon attack if you use your action to cast a Bard spell - Bard/College of Valor level 14 Battle Magic feature.

Cleric

Command creatures charmed by your Charm Animals and Plants feature - Cleric/Nature level 17 Master of Nature feature.

Move your illusion - Cleric/Trickery level 2 Invoke Duplicity feature

Move all of your illusions - Cleric/Trickery level 17 Improved Duplicity feature

Make one weapon attack when you take the Attack action - Cleric/War level 1 War Priest feature.

Druid

Revert to your normal form - Druid level 2 Wild Shape feature.

Use Wild Shape - Druid/Circle of the Moon level 2 Combat Wild Shape feature.

Regain HP by expending a spell slot while transformed - Druid/Circle of the Moon level 2 Combat Wild Shape feature.

Fighter

Second Wind - regain 1d10+CL HP - Fighter level 1 feature.

Commander’s Strike - give a friend a free attack as a reaction - Fighter/Battle Master maneuver.

Feinting Attack - get advantage on the next attack roll - Fighter/Battle Master maneuver.

Rally - add temporary HP to a friend - Fighter/Battle Master maneuver.

Summon a bonded weapon - Fighter/Eldritch Knight level 3 Weapon Bond feature.

Weapon attack when you cast a cantrip as your action - Fighter/Eldritch Knight level 7 War Magic feature

Weapon attack when you cast a spell as your action - Fighter/Eldritch Knight level 18 Improved War Magic feature

Monk

Unarmed Strike when you use the Attack action with an unarmed strike or monk weapon - Monk level 1 Martial Arts feature.

Flurry of Blows, Dodge, Disengage, Dash - Monk level 2 Ki feature.

Teleport up to 60ft - Monk/Way of Shadow level 6 Shadow Step feature.

Water Whip - Monk/Way of the Four Elements discipline.

Paladin

Cast a Paladin spell with a casting time of 1 action - Paladin/Oath of the Ancients level 20 Elder Champion feature.

Vow of Enmity - advantage on attack rolls against one creature - Paladin/Oath of Vengeance level 3 Channel Divinity feature.

Ranger

Hide - as the action - Ranger level 14 Vanish feature.

Command your companion to Dash, Disengage, Dodge, or Help - Ranger/Beast Master level 7 Exceptional Training feature.

Rogue

Dash, Disengage, Hide - as the same action - Rogue level 2 Cuning Action feature.

Dexterity (Sleight of Hand) check, use thieves' tools to disarm a trap or open a lock, Use an Object - Rogue/Thief level 3 Fast Hands feature.

Control a Mage Hand created by the cantrip - Rogue/Arcane Trickster level 3 Mage Hand Legerdemain feature.

Distract a target with your Mage Hand - gives you advantage on attack rolls - Rogue/Arcane Trickster level 13 Versatile Trickster feature.

Sorcerer

Convert between spell slots and sorcery points - Sorcerer level 2 Flexible Casting feature.

Cast a spell with casting time of 1 action - Sorcerer Quickened Spell metamagic.

Create or dismiss dragon wings - Sorcerer/Draconic Bloodline level 14 Dragon Wings feature.

Teleport up to 20ft - Wild Magic Surge effect.

Wizard

Make an illusory object real - Wizard/Illusion level 14 Illusory Reality feature.

Feats

Make a weapon attack or shove a creature when you use the Dash action

  • Charger feat.

Attack with a hand crossbow when you attack with a one-handed weapon - Crossbow Master feat.

Make a melee weapon attack when you crit or reduce a creature to 0 - Great Weapon Master feat.

Melee weapon attack with the opposite end of a weapon - Polearm Master feat.

Attempt a grapple when you hit with unarmed strike or improvised weapon - Tavern Brawler feat.

Spells with a casting time of a bonus action

Banishing Smite, Blinding Smite, Branding Smite, Compelled Duel, Divine Favor, Divine Word, Ensnaring Strike, Expeditious Retreat, Flame Blade, Grasping Vine, Hail of Thorns, Healing Word, Hex, Hunter's Mark, Lightning Arrow, Magic Weapon, Mass Healing Word, Misty Step, Sanctuary, Searing Smite, Shield of Faith, Shillelagh, Spiritual Weapon, Staggering Smite, Swift Quiver, Thunderous Smite, Wrathful Smite

Spells which allow you to do something as a bonus action

Animate Dead, Animate Objects, Create Undead, Dancing Lights, Flaming Sphere, Grasping Vine, Mordenkainen’s Sword, Spiritual Weapon, Unseen Servant - command summoned creatures or objects.

Arcane Gate - rotate the gate.

Aura of Vitality - heal one creature in range for 2d6 HP.

Bigby's Hand - move the hand or crush a grappled creature.

Compulsion - command targets to move in a direction of your choice.

Expeditious Retreat - Dash, as the action.

Flame Blade - resummon the blade if you dropped it.

Gust of Wind - change direction of the wind.

Heat Metal - cause the spell's damage again.

Hex - move the curse on another creature, if the cursed creature died.

Hunter's Mark - move the mark on another creature, if the marked creature died.

Mislead - switch between using your senses or those of your illusion.

Swift Quiver - make two attacks which use ammunition.

Other

Attack with an off-hand weapon - Two-weapon fighting.

And a (again, non-exhaustive) list of ways to increase move speed from Quora:

take two levels of rogue to gain cunning action.

take the scout subclass in rogue, so that you can spend a reaction to move half your speed if a creature ends its turn within 5ft if you.

Use the expeditious retreat spell-it’s a concentration effect, but it allows you to take the dash action as a bonus action.

take 2 levels in monk so you can spend ki points to dash as a bonus action.

if you’re talking about the latter, that’s generally harder to do, but here goes:

Play a monk-their movement speed increases with character level.

Play a wood elf-they get a 5ft bonus to move speed (or a half elf with wood elf ancestry from SCAG).

Take the squat nimbleness racial feat in xanathar’s-it gives a +5ft bonus to speed.

Take the mobile feat-it offers a +10ft bonus.

Use the Longstrider spell-it also offers a +10ft bonus.

Use a mount-their move speeds and move modes replace yours.

...

Wild elf gets a bump

Monk class, and barbarian classes get a bump

2nd level rogue gets a move as a bonus action

Ranger, hunter enclave, gets it later on

Mobility feat

Athletic feat gives you an effective climb speed

Various spells, long strider, expeditious retreat, teleportation magic

There are a lot of options that are completely within your players' power to explore. Encouage them to use their agency to solve their own problems rather than asking the DM to give them something for free.

If you do want to make this even knowing it's unbalaned and knowing your players already had ample choice to get themselves a BA, make it as weak as possible. 5ft is the practical limit. Again, I don't think it's a good idea, but that will have the least balance implications.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Despite the list, there aren't many ways to get a reliable BA (meaning, usable every round; e.g. rage isn't), once you fix a class, subclass and weapon. Players don't start character building from a choice of BA, but of character theme. If you want to play a bear totem barbarian with a two-handed weapon, which reliable bonus actions are available? Only PAM and Telekinetic feats. Also, a character without a reliable BA is suboptimal so giving them Stride is a buff, yes, but it's ok because they are suboptimal. A character with a reliable BA gains less from Stride than one without. \$\endgroup\$
    – Totofofo
    Nov 24 at 22:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Totofofo "Player's don't start [...] from a choice of BA". I would personally disagree with that. But I can't bring myself to view classes a more than mechanics so I may be an outlier. (I still agree with Potato's answer. Just want to highlight that I think the option of BA optimization is not that nequired) \$\endgroup\$
    – 3C273
    Nov 24 at 23:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Totofofo Players can build however they want, if they want a BA they need to make choices that give them one. Is a character suboptimal if they don't have access to a reliable BA? I would argue that it's not the right question, a level 20 wizard isn't inferior to a level 18 wizard / level 2 rogue because the later has a reliable BA. I think you know that, and your players do too, which is why they don't put the investment needed to gain a BA - it may not be worth it for them. It's not fair to make choices that don't give you a BA then complain you don't have one, right? \$\endgroup\$ Nov 24 at 23:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TelekeneticBarbarian: agreed, although with your Wizard example it would be a mistake for a lvl20 Wizard not to have something like Bigby's Hand they can activate on one round to give them something to do with their bonus action on later rounds while also casting non-cantrip nukes with their actions. (Unless concentrating on a buff or debuff or something else is more important.) Clerics have Spiritual Weapon which isn't even concentration to fill that role. It's going to depend on the fight details whether it's worth casting a spell like that in an early round, though. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 27 at 3:53
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I don't think adding a universal bonus action is a good idea.

Bonus actions aren't a resource you need to find ways to spend every turn lest you be sub-optimal. Rather, bonus actions are a way for the game to say "it's free, but limited".

Are some bonus actions powerful? Yes, but that's built into the system of the class that has it. A reliable, generally-useful bonus action is a class feature, so this seems a bit like saying a cleric is sub-optimal because it can't attack as many times as fighter or use sneak attack.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think this is a little naïve when talking about 'optimal'. Is a good bonus action needed to be effective? No. Is a good bonus action needed to be optimal? Almost certainly. Though most optimisation guides actually end up warning about too many bonus actions rather than too few, but they are still key and can have a huge action economy impact. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Nov 24 at 19:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ Not true in the slightest. A character that doesn't make use of their bonus action every turn is missing out on damage or utility compared to one that does. A Pole-Arm Master can use their bonus action every single turn to deal extra damage vs a Fighter who doesn't use their bonus action. Players who do the math will notice large Damage-Per-Round increases when building a character who makes use of things like G.W.M's bonus action, Pole-arm Master's bonus action, Sharpshooter's bonus action, Quickened Spell, Etc. It feels like those feats become mandatory due to the disparity. \$\endgroup\$
    – Toddleson
    Nov 24 at 21:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ Just want to say that "it's free, but limited" has been my experience with the game also and I upvoted for this alone. \$\endgroup\$
    – 3C273
    Nov 24 at 23:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Toddleson That's misleading, Pole-Arm Master requires an investment, a feat. If you compare a character with a feat and one without, of course the one with will deal more damage. The question is if Pole-Arm Master's BA is proportionally more effective than other feats. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 24 at 23:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ "it's free, but limited" is baked into it by name. It's called bonus for a reason. \$\endgroup\$
    – Caleth
    Nov 25 at 17:09
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I would recommend against it

TelekeneticBarbarian makes a strong argument about all the ways a character can gain extra movement through normal methods.

By adding this as a PC-only bump, you are really just tilting combat in favor of the PCs to make things easier on them, not making them more heroic or "optimal":

  • Squishy characters can now out-pace most pursuers
  • Fighters can run farther to get the BBEG in back
  • Ranged attackers can kite better as they will always be just out of range
  • Difficult terrain becomes less of an issue

However, if this feature is made free for everyone -- NPCs, beasts, oozes, and monstrosities alike -- then you run into a different issue.

Most enemies don't have a lot going on as bonus actions (mostly actions and Legendary Actions). So you'd just be making the cat and mouse game stretch a little further.

If a player feels like their character is always juuuust out of reach, then direct them to ranged attack weapons/spells. Or Boots of Speed. Or learn how to sneak in closer.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The question notes that this action would be available only to PCs. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 24 at 19:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RyanC.Thompson, I added a bit addressing this being a PC-only feature. Thanks for pointing that out. \$\endgroup\$
    – MivaScott
    Nov 25 at 10:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think a lot of the issues you point out could be solved by tying the ability to a melee attack, i.e. the extra move may only be used if it puts you in melee with the target of your next attack this turn. (Would need some work to get the wording right.) \$\endgroup\$ Nov 25 at 15:34
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To limit abuse, mimic Relentless Hex instead of Dash

As other answers have pointed out, the Stride ability as written effectively gives PCs a permanent movement buff, which has various exploits such as enabling them to close long distances more quickly and easily kite pursuers that nominally have the same speed as them. You can help limit Striding to your intended use by using a wording similar to that of the Warlock's Relentless Hex invocation, which says:

As a bonus action, you can magically teleport up to 30 feet to an unoccupied space you can see within 5 feet of the target [...]

Obviously Stride will not be a magical teleport, but the key here is that Relentless Hex requires the destination to be within 5 feet of an enemy, which means you can't just use it as 30 feet of free movement. Since your goal is to enable melee attackers to close the last bit of distance, you can use a similar wording:

Stride. As a bonus action, immediately before making the first melee attack of your turn, you may move up to X feet (or your speed, whichever is lower) to the nearest unoccupied space within 5 feet of the target of that attack. You lose any remaining movement.

For melee attackers who just want to close the last bit of distance to melee range on their turn so their attack action isn't wasted, this basically works identically to your original wording. But at the same time, it prevents players (both melee and ranged) from using it as a permanent +X to speed over open ground. The requirement for the nearest unoccupied space, combined with taking away any remaining movement, ensures that the ability can only be used to close the gap with an enemy after expending all their normal movement, not to run past them and cut off their escape.

If you add these limitations, you can consider raising X from the 5 feet recommended by PotatoEngineer's answer to 10 or 15 feet, with less risk of enabling unintended and unbalanced side effects. (In particular, making it at least 10 feet would allow PCs to Stride 5 feet even in difficult terrain, which may or may not be what you intend.) However, in general I agree with PotatoEngineer's assessment that this ability should be weaker than pretty much every other bonus action, such that it only gets used when there is not other good option.

Of course, if you find that Stride is still too powerful or too universally useful, you can take further steps to balance it, such as limiting uses to once per short rest, or N uses per day, where N is something like proficiency bonus or constitution modifier (for endurance). If you don't mind mixing 4e-isms into your 5e, you can also go with once per combat encounter.


Additional notes:

  1. I don't recommend making any adjustments to the "within 5 feet" requirement for reach weapons. That is, don't replace "5 feet" with "your weapon's reach" or anything like that. If they have a reach weapon, then that already gives them something similar to this action: an extra bit of range when closing the distance to an enemy.

  2. I'm cheating a bit with the wording of the ability, since it mentions moving toward the target of a melee attack, but implicitly allows you to select that target before you move within range of the attack. Hopefully the intent is still clear.

  3. As written, this ability is usable with melee spell attacks, as well as melee weapon attacks that don't involve the attack action, such as a hunter's Whirlwind Attack. This is probably what you want, but if it isn't, consider limiting it to melee weapon attacks, or limiting it to "when you take the attack action".

  4. Taking away all remaining movement when using this ability eliminates an exploit where you could stop moving X feet away from an enemy, then use Stride to close the gap, and then use your remaining movement to keep running past the enemy. (Note that as written, you could still use this ability and then take the dash action afterward to gain more movement, although this probably requires a 2nd action.)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This is a good alternative to my suggestion. The only thing I'd tweak is the "before the first attack of a turn" wording; just make it available anywhere within the turn, but still with the rest of your limitations. It's still within the intended use of "getting closer to enemies," and it's one less thing to worry about. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 25 at 20:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PotatoEngineer The idea of limiting it to the first attack is to make it even more specific to the "otherwise I don't get to attack at all this turn" cases. And I think it actually makes it simpler to use, because you don't have to worry about when during your turn to use it. There's only one time during your turn that you can use it, so it's just a yes/no decision. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 25 at 21:38

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