Tactics and Tips03/14/2006

Fightin' Dirty (Part 4)
A Focused Look at Alternative Combat Tactics

In the final part of the Fightin' Dirty series, we take a look at two more special attacks that you can use against your opponents: overrun and the trip special attack. Think about adding two great ways to knock 'em down to your next combat!

Overrun (Player's Handbook, page 157)

Overrun is very similar to bull rush, but instead of pushing someone where you want, you knock them prone to get past them. This extremely direct approach can be very handy if you want your opponent on the ground, but you run the risk of getting knocked prone yourself if you fail the Strength check. Many of the same warnings and dangers that apply to bull rush are just as true with overrun.

When and Why You Should Overrun: Overrun isn't a common tactic and usually comes into play only when you absolutely have to get past an opponent and there's no other path than straight through them. The main advantage to this tactic is that it just requires movement and isn't considered an attack. Like bull rush, being larger than your target helps immensely, so enlarge person can be very handy. Conversely, if you're protecting an area that you don't want someone to get through, place the dwarf in your group at the choke point, since this race gains a +4 bonus to prevent getting knocked over (the same also applies to bull rush). If you're confident that you can successfully overrun a foe, and if you have an ally adjacent or nearby, do so to get on the other side of your opponent, thus setting up a potential flank attack on a now-prone target.

House Rule Alert!: If you and the ally behind you attempt an overrun against an opponent, I grant a +4 circumstance bonus on the attempt, since you're dealing with the mass and inertia of two bodies rather than one, in most cases making you and your ally a single, Large creature for the purposes of the overrun. However, both characters are potential targets for attacks of opportunity and the person in the rear cannot make an attack of opportunity while performing this tactic.

Trip (Player's Handbook, page 158)

On top of just humiliating someone to no end, trip attacks are great for keeping your opponent in one spot, as well as completely occupied with both getting up and keeping from getting hit while they are down. Several weapons grant a bonus to trip attacks: all flails, guisarmes, halberds, hooked hammers, kamas, sickles, spiked chains, and whips. If you're intending on using this technique often, pick up the Improved Trip feat as quickly as possible to avoid attacks of opportunity and to add a nice +4 bonus to your Strength check on trip attacks. Polearms, spiked chains, and whips are ideal, since they have reach, thus allowing you to stay clear from your opponent when you trip her, then hitting them again when she is down.

For more information on trip attacks, be sure to consult the recent Rules of the Game and Tactics & Tips: Sibling Rivalry for more onthe topic.

When and Why You Should Use the Trip Attack: With a few exceptions, a combatant on the ground isn't much of a threat. If you can knock your foe off his feet, you'll force him to waste valuable time getting back up again. In addition, his Armor Class is reduced by -4 while prone (see Table 8-6: Armor Class Modifiers in the Player's Handbook). A particularly deadly combo includes first making a feint attack against your opponent, then tripping him. That way, he's suffering both the penalty to his AC for being prone and denied his Dexterity bonus! If you can follow this up with a devastating Power Attack, you're virtually guaranteed dishing out a ton of damage.

Tripping an opponent also forces him to waste time getting back up. If you succeed and don't want to attack him while he's down, take a double move next turn and get out of the way, allowing your allies to hit him with ranged attacks or spells (and that way they don't have to worry about having Precise Shot or catching you in the area of a spell or effect).

Now You Have Options. Go Get 'Em!

This concludes our series of special attacks. The goal of these articles is to remind you, as players, that you have a lot more options in combat than you realize. You may not end up using all of these options during a game, but keep them in mind the next time you get into combat. In addition to these abilities being very handy in keeping your character alive, they can also be extremely fun. Watch the expression on your DM's face when you decide to trip the Big Bad Guy or sunder the orc chieftain's battleaxe, especially if he doesn't use the same tactics on the members of your adventuring group! Mix and match these tactics to best advantage -- a feint combined with a trip attack or a shield bash combined with a disarm attempt. If you keep your opponent confused with these tactics, they just might fall for a regular attack when they least expect it.

And, as mentioned previously in these articles, if you plan on using these tactics on a regular basis, make sure that you do the math ahead of time and have your bonuses written down in order to make game play go smoothly. Keep a bookmark on page 155 of the Player's Handbook, just to be prepared.

Game Resources: To use the material in this article to its fullest, check out the following resources: Dungeon Master's Guide, Monster Manual, Player's Handbook.

About the Author

Eric Cagle cut his teeth at Wizards of the Coast, but now lives the extravagant freelancer lifestyle. Look for his name on D&D, d20 Modern, and Star Wars books. Recent credits include d20 Apocalypse, Races of Destiny, and Monster Manual III. He is also a contributor to the Game Mechanics, Green Ronin Publishing, Dragon Magazine, and this lovely website. Eric lives in Seattle where the coffee is dark and bitter like his goddesses.

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