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I’m working on a homebrew class that receives benefits for holding one position. These benefits end if they move 5 feet or more, or if they’re knocked prone. Since so much of the class revolves around these, I wanted to make sure they had strong defenses against things that would force them to do so. But this becomes very tricky to word because there are a lot of possibilities to cover:

  • Both movement and being knocked prone need protection

  • You may be resisting with an ability check (e.g. Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) vs. a shove) or with a saving throw (e.g. Strength saving throw vs. gust of wind)—I want to protect against both

  • You may be pushed, or you may be compelled to move yourself—I want to protect against both

  • An effect may not immediately move you, but move you later (e.g. grappling, dominate person)—I don’t want to protect against all grappling or compulsion, but I do want to protect against it if it would cause you to move

The wording very rapidly becomes very cumbersome when trying to cover all of these possibilities. For example, my own attempts have gone through the following iterations:

  1. You gain advantage on saving throws to resist effects that would move you or knock you prone.

  2. You gain advantage on checks and saving throws to resist effects that would move you or knock you prone.

  3. You gain advantage on checks and saving throws to resist effects that would move you or knock you prone, or compel you to move or drop prone.

  4. Each time an effect would cause your ~ to end, you may make a new check or saving throw against that effect.

    (Where ~ is the ability that grants benefits for not moving, and which establishes that it lasts as long as you maintain position and remain standing.)

You can see the dramatic revision in iteration 4, as trying to add yet more details to iteration 3, to cover “delayed” movement, became far too unwieldy. As it is, it’s not terribly long or convoluted, so that’s a big improvement. But now I’m not sure it covers everything—does this let you make a check where the effect originally allowed only a save? Does this let you make a save where the effect didn’t originally allow anything at all? What if a successful saving throw wouldn’t actually prevent the movement anyway—do you get to make another save? (Should you?) What about effects that do immediately move you—is it clear that you get the normal save against the effect, and then failing that, immediately get a second save? Do I need to spell out all of these things? I feel like I could write a full page of examples trying to cover them.

But fundamentally, I feel like what I’m actually going for is simple: before your ~ involuntarily ends because of forced or compelled movement or dropping to the floor, you get to save twice. It’s kind of like “delayed advantage” maybe. (In many cases, e.g. gust of wind, it’s not even delayed.) I just don’t know if there’s a clear way to explain it within the rules.

Various examples of how I want things to work:

  • Enemy attempts to shove you.

    Two opportunities, back-to-back, to make a Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check to prevent being moved. Effectively identical to advantage.

  • Enemy attempts to grapple you.

    No benefit against the initial grapple.

  • Enemy grappling you attempts to move with you.

    Immediate new Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check to try to end the grapple and avoid being moved.

  • Start turn within gust of wind.

    Two opportunities, back-to-back, to make a Strength saving throw to prevent being moved. Effectively identical to advantage.

  • Enemy casts dominate person on you.

    No benefit on the initial saving throw.

  • Enemy that has dominated you commands you to drop prone.

    Immediate new Wisdom saving throw to try and end dominate person and avoid dropping prone. Similar to dominate person’s own rule for when the target takes damage, except it happens before the movement does, and it has to be written from the perspective of an ability the target has, rather than a feature of the spell itself.

  • Enemy casts command on you with the “flee” command.

    You get two Wisdom saving throws against this. Whether that’s one when the spell is first cast on you and another on your turn when you would be forced to actually do the fleeing, or just two immediately back-to-back when the spell is cast, wouldn’t matter to me, so a wording that achieves either result is fine with me on this point.

  • Enemy uses the Crusher feat to force you to move 5 feet.

    No benefit, since Crusher doesn’t provide any opportunity to make a check or save to prevent the movement.

  • Enemy uses “something” (I’m not familiar with any effect like this) that allows a check or saving throw, and moves you, but succeeding on the check or saving throw doesn’t prevent the movement (maybe it reduces the movement, maybe it does something else).

    I don’t honestly know what I want to happen in this case. I’d lean towards still getting to roll again even though it won’t help with ~ ending, but this is a corner case that I’m happy to ignore, so whatever result we get from this situation isn’t going to make or break the wording.

These complications are enough to make me reconsider the ability, and have it not end on forced movement, but I like the idea of that being a potential vulnerability—I just don’t want it to be too serious a vulnerability. And it makes sense that a class that is all about holding a position would be good at holding a position even when the enemy tries to move them.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm curious how this would ideally interact with flying, since a lot of PCs will have that at higher levels. Would a paralyzing spell of some sort have two saving throws to resist? Or would falling be a secondary consequence, not a direct effect of the spell, and thus not grant another saving throw? \$\endgroup\$
    – Phoenices
    Jul 19 at 14:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Phoenices Excellent question. I would not assume that someone with magical flight would fall if paralyzed, though I don’t know if there are any rules that explicitly touch on that and say I’m wrong. (Nor can I guarantee DMs wouldn’t rule that way in the absence of explicit rules.) My inclination would be to include that, but I’d accept it as a limitation on the ability and not cover it. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jul 19 at 14:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ It seems possibly overly broad, even without involving flight. What if I'm being hit by a fireball, and I'm on my last few HP, so failing would result in me falling unconscious and dropping prone, do I get another saving throw? \$\endgroup\$
    – Aetol
    Jul 20 at 0:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Aetol A good point, though it’s looking pretty clear that some mention of the DM deciding that the ability cannot work in a certain situation (where it is impossible to maintain that position) is going to be necessary either way. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jul 20 at 0:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ @illustro That’s movement, so I would want protection against it. I think this would be clearer in context, where the class gains benefits as long as they stay within the space where they first used the ability—teleportation obviously moves them out of it. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jul 20 at 11:50

3 Answers 3

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Have the feature use the character's statistics only.

Your diverse list of situations where the ability should apply presents a challenge for wording the feature. There are both ability checks and saving throws involved from different sources, with different DCs, using different abilities and skills. It is impossible to neatly word the feature in a way that respects all of these different sources; you would have to just make list of all the situations and how the feature is supposed to deal with them.

Instead, I would propose making the feature function off of the character's statistics only. I've borrowed this idea from the Giant Snapping Turtle stat block (Large beast, published in Tomb of Annihilation):

Stable. Whenever an effect knocks the turtle prone, it can make a DC 10 Constitution saving throw to avoid being knocked prone.

The turtle doesn't care what is knocking it prone, it gets a DC 10 save to avoid it. So we adapt this for what you are looking for:

Resolve

Your flavor text has strengthened your resolve. Whenever an effect would cause you to be moved or knocked prone, you may make a DC X Resolve check. On a success, you are not moved or knocked prone.

Then in the front matter for your class, just as spellcasting classes define Spell Attack Modifier, define the modifier for the Resolve check:

Resolve modifier = your proficiency bonus + your [Ability] modifier

My idea behind this is in keeping with the design philosophy of reducing the bookkeeping overhead of features. You don't have to keep track of what caused you to be moved and how the feature responds differently to the details of the triggering effect. If you are going to be moved, you just roll your resolve check to see if you are moved. You can adjust the DC X as desired, but I recommend keeping it fixed like for the snapping turtle, as the odds of success scale with character advancement as your proficiency bonus and attendant ability modifier increase.

So to illustrate how it plays out in the different scenarios you've described:

  • Enemy attempts to shove you

Here, you would first make the contested check as usual, then, on a failure, you would have an opportunity to make the Resolve check.

  • Grappling enemy tries to move you

Here, when the enemy attempts to move you, you make the Resolve check. On a failure, you are moved, on a success, you are not moved.

  • Start turn within gust of wind

Strength saving throw per gust of wind, on a failure make a Resolve check.

  • Enemy that has dominated you commands you to drop prone.

Make a Resolve check. On a success, you do not drop prone.

It should be mentioned that there may be some circumstances that force movement where it won't make sense for the character to resist it, such as the ground suddenly being taken out from under you or getting hit by a train. To account for this, I would simply add a line to the feature description like so:

Your flavor text has strengthened your resolve. Whenever an effect would cause you to be moved or knocked prone, you may make a DC X Resolve check. On a success, you are not moved or knocked prone. The DM may determine that a particular circumstance does not permit a Resolve check.

Having the feature end spells and effects is too hard to neatly express, and may be too strong anyway.

Now, what I have not written into the feature yet is ending the triggering effect, because I don't think there is a good way to do that that isn't ambiguous. In particular, the trouble comes from knowing which spells the feature can end and which it cannot. Both dominate person and gust of wind can trigger the feature, but in the examples you provide, only dominate person is ended by the feature. I can't come up with any way to make this distinction, though you may be able to, as you know better than I why one should end and not the other.

However, I would consider that having the feature end effects outright may be too good mechanically, and misses the theme somewhat. The possibilities with dominate person are endless, and the things you can command a creature to do with it go well beyond things involving movement. I can buy into a feature that allows you to stand your ground no matter what, but having it also be able to end spells outright just seems too strong. It makes more sense to me for the caster of dominate person to first fail once or twice to get you to run away or drop to your knees before figuring out that whatever they tell you to do, you aren't going to go anywhere to do it. This is more on theme to me - nothing about this gives me leverage over powerful arcana, you just can't make me move. Thinking about how it applies to grappling, the idea works even less for me. I try to move you, I can't, so what compels me to release the grapple? Nothing, I should think. I just can't move you anywhere.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I did have the same thought, but was leery of making it a flat DC, or of using the character’s stats against them. Still, precedent is nice, and it certainly is cleaner. I just wish there was some way to make it harder to resist when your enemy is stronger (in some relevant way). (+1, to be clear, I’m just disappointed if this is the best that can be done.) \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jul 19 at 14:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan For spells specifically, you could easily enough scale the DC with spell level like in dispel magic. Append something like, "If the effect is a spell, the DC increases by 1 for each spell level above {1,2,3, ..., 8}". But then we're making things more complicated and we might as well just keep going with making it complicated :P \$\endgroup\$ Jul 19 at 14:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ "Your flavor text has strengthened your resolve." I nearly spit out my water. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 19 at 15:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ The only oddness I notice here is large-scale object movement - e.g. moving walls, or trapdoors. Probably a DM discretion thing there, maybe depending on the situation - a character with Resolve refusing to be moved would have been an interesting trash compactor scene. \$\endgroup\$
    – Phoenices
    Jul 19 at 15:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan the effect already accounts for the enemy being stronger in the initial roll before the Resolve check. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    Jul 19 at 23:48
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We don't need to overcomplicate this too much. I think @ThomasMarkov's answer had the guts of the text you need, but lacked the variability for different circumstances the character might face. It's a bit wordier for the ability itself, but doesn't require the introduction of a resolve mechanic into the game.

Whenever an effect would cause you to be moved or knocked prone, you may make a Strength or Dexterity Saving Throw (your choice). The DC for this Saving Throw is determined by the effect you are trying to resist:

  • A creature trying to physically affect you: 10 + the creature's Athletics modifier
  • A spell or magical effect: 10 + the spell slot level (or equivalent as determined by the DM)
  • Any other reasonable effect at the discretion of the DM: 10

On a success, you are not moved or knocked prone. Additionally, on a success, if an ongoing spell or magical effect initiated this saving throw it is ended for you.

If this is the defining feature of your class, you could have it step up in effect as the character levels up. In this case I would also recommend adding in proficiency for the Saving Throws that this ability uses. For example:

Level 1: Steadfast.

Level 6: Immoveable.

Level 15: Irresistible Force

So your level 1 feature would become:

Steadfast. You are proficient in Strength and Dexterity Saving Throws.

Whenever an effect would cause you to be moved or knocked prone, you may make a Strength or Dexterity Saving Throw (your choice). The DC for this Saving Throw is determined by the effect you are trying to resist:

  • A creature trying to physically affect you: 10 + the creature's Athletics modifier
  • A spell or magical effect: 10 + the spell slot level (or equivalent as determined by the DM)
  • Any other reasonable effect at the discretion of the DM: 10

On a success, you are not moved or knocked prone.

Your level 6 feature would be

Immoveable.

Attempts to teleport you against your will also trigger your Steadfast feature.

And the level 15 feature would be

Irresistible Force.

When you succeed in being Steadfast, if an ongoing spell or magical effect initiated this saving throw it is ended for you.

Questions:

  1. Why use saving throws?
    • Thematically, you are attempting to innately resist something, as opposed to actively do something. This fits thematically with a Saving Throw as opposed to a skill check.
  2. Why allow Strength or Dexterity Saving Throws?
    • This is (primarily) about physical movement, for which Stregnth and Dexterity are the primary abilities to use. Giving the choice means the player has options in their character build and storytelling with the class. For example are you immoveable because your physical presence prevents it, or because you use fancy footwork to dodge the effect or impede the enemy from moving you.
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  • \$\begingroup\$ I think youre missing something after that bullet. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 20 at 10:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov I was, had to switch from phone to computer but didn't want to lose what I wrote so just saved and immedately started editing on the computer \$\endgroup\$
    – illustro
    Jul 20 at 10:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ Anyway, I think this a pretty good take. I prefer the simplicity of my solution, but I think the complexity you introduce here is probably still manageable. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 20 at 10:45
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Unbreakable bulkwalk. You gain advantage on any roll to stop being moved, which includes your position being changed or being made prone. In the event that an effect doesn't offer you a chance to stop being moved or uses mind control to prevent you from resisting being moved you make a strength or dexterity (athletics) roll to resist being moved as your muscle memory resists the movement, and upon success are not moved.

Simple effect, covers all cases.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "In the event that an effect doesn't offer you a chance to stop being moved or uses mind control to prevent you from resisting being moved you make a strength or dexterity (athletics) roll to resist being moved as your muscle memory resists the movement, and upon success are not moved." What are the parameters for success here? \$\endgroup\$ Jul 19 at 15:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ That is up to the dungeon master, based on how hard they think the check is. Resisting an elder dragon pushing you may be harder than resisting an orc chieftain pushing you. \$\endgroup\$
    – Nepene Nep
    Jul 19 at 16:31

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