5e tactical combat is lacking a little bit. The big thing I find myself wishing it had more of was stuff to do with my movement. Sure I can ask my DM to come up with stuff on the fly, but that doesn’t really count. Instead, I can kind of run up to people, and stand there until one of us dies or is magically moved. Maybe a withdraw now and again. These rules will make your combats chaotic, with people running all over.
The simple rules below add another element of tactical depth to size and movement, that the DM can adjudicate on the fly, without having to generate a whole slew of stat modifications to every monster or player. If a player, you may find it handy to track a “virtual size” stat on your character sheet, if you invest in multiple items and feats centered around it. There are many ways to increase your size category for interactions with the new rules, and the intent is for them to stack, but for most DMs, you can just read the new rules and start playing in maybe 15 min at most.
It should be noted that at higher levels, these rules work against the players, but in my experience vanilla 5e is a bit of a cakewalk at the top ends anyway.
The new rules are Natural Pushback and Bull Rush. Natural Pushback is the trigger condition that can lead to a Bull Rush attempt. It’s important to remember, unlike in older editions, movement is not an action. This means if a fighter with multiple attacks is fighting goblins, they can slash one, throw it back, and slash another. Or they slash one, throw it back, and run up to slash it again, and throw it further.
- Natural Pushback: When a creature successfully hits with a melee attack against a creature smaller than it, it can choose to Bull Rush.
- Bull Rush: For each point of strength modifier you possess, the creature is thrown back 5ft. If this would cause the creature to fall off of something, they can make a dexterity saving throw (DC 15) to grab the ledge and hold on, halting movement. This movement is always in a straight line as drawn from the attackers square to the defenders, and never provokes an attack of opportunity, or counts against the creature’s movement speed this round.
- Throw your Weight Around: You gain +1 Str or Con. You count as one size category larger than normal for determining the effects of Natural Pushback.
- Duck and Weave: +1 Dex or Wis. When subjected to a Bull Rush, you can make a dexterity saving throw to ignore the movement (DC 20) or reduce it by half (DC 10).
- Suppressing Fire: +1 Dex or Int. You can initiate a Bull Rush when you hit with a ranged attack. If you do, the distance moved is 5ft, instead of the normal distance.
New Racial Trait
Any “Big” race that is underpowered should gain the following racial trait. You may also consider adding its benefits to the Powerful Build trait. Fight with your DM for clarity.
- Big Boned: You count as one size larger than normal for the effects of Natural Pushback.
New Class Options
Barbarian: Blazing Phoenix Path
- Level 3: Rising Sun. While raging, you can choose to self immolate, becoming wreathed in flames. You are considered Ablaze. You gain resistance to fire, and creatures who are adjacent to you take 1d6 fire damage, regardless of how long they are next to you. (Running past a line of enemies will burn them all) This fire will ignite unattended objects.
- Level 3: Heat Wave. If you are ablaze, enemies have disadvantage on attacks of opportunity against you.
- Level 6: Meteor Throw. While ablaze, if you succeed on a Bull Rush attempt, the target is also lit ablaze. When lit ablaze, they take 1d6 fire damage, and any creature they pass during their movement takes 1d6 fire damage as well. The target makes a dexterity saving throw (DC 10) or they remain on fire. At the beginning of each of their turns, they can make a DC 10 saving throw to extinguish the flames. They do not continue to deal damage to adjacent creatures on future turns.
- Level 10: Searing Wounds. You are immune to fire damage while ablaze. Instead, you regain a number of hit points equal to 1/4 the damage that would have been dealt.
- Level 14: Immolation. When you reach 0HP (or less) while ablaze, your body erupts into a geyser of flames dealing 6d6 fire damage to everyone within a 30ft radius (Dex save DC 8 + Charisma modifier + proficiency bonus for half). You are slain outright, and do not need death saving throws. The DM rolls 2d6 in secret. After that many rounds, a second eruption of flames triggers centered on your corpse, dealing another 6d6 fire in a 30ft radius damage (same save). You gain 2 levels of exhaustion, and return to life with a number of hit points equal to the combined 12d6 from the fire explosion, standing next to an ash pile where your corpse was.
Monk: Way of Fluid Water
- Level 3: Be Like Water. If you miss with all attacks during your flurry of blows, you can initiate a Bull Rush anyway. You do not need to be eligible for Natural Pushback to use this ability.
- Level 3: Shapeless. If an enemy whose Natural Pushback qualifies them for a Bull Rush against you chooses not to, you can choose to trigger one anyway by spending a ki point.
- Level 6: Feed the River. For every 10ft of distance moved in the current round (not turn), you gain +1d6 damage to the first attack roll you make that hits. Teleportation does not count as movement for this ability.
- Level 11: Ride the Wave. When subject to a Bull Rush, you can choose the direction of your movement, although it does still need to be in a straight line.
- Level 17: Crashing Down. If you move adjacent to a creature, you can make a melee attack against them as a reaction. Movement from Bull Rushes specifically counts, as do any other forms of movement.
Monk: Path of the Yokozuna
- Level 3: Fujiyama . When determining Natural Pushback, your size is increased by 1.
- Level 3: Oicho Nage. When you make a Bull Rush, you can pick the direction the target moves. It must be a straight line, but it can be any direction you choose. If you choose “down” the target is knocked prone. “up” often deals falling damage.
- Level 6: Shikofumi. As an action, once per short rest, you can forgo a melee attack roll with an unarmed strike, and instead treat the attack as a critical hit. Bull Rush distance is doubled for this attack. This ability cannot be used with extra attack as it is an action, or flurry of blows, as it is not “the attack action”.
- Level 11: Hyakkan Otoshi. Once per short rest, as a reaction when you execute a Bull Rush, you can choose to take a dash action. If you end this movement adjacent to the original Bull Rush recipient, you can make an unarmed attack against them. This does not count against normal movement for the turn.
- Level 17: Orochi Breaker. Whenever you Bull Rush a creature, they take damage equal to the distance traveled. They can make a constitution saving throw DC 8+ str mod + proficiency bonus for half.
FAQ: Ride the Wave is a level 11 ability, and Oicho Nage is a level 3. Ride the Wave overrules Oicho Nage.
- Anchor Talisman: Wondrous Item. Rare (requires attunement). You are counted as one size category larger for the purposes of resisting Natural Pushback.
- Bashing Weapon: Weapon (any two-handed melee). Very Rare (requires attunement). When you strike with this weapon, you can initiate a Bull Rush, even if you do not meet the normal size requirements for Natural Pushback.
- Matador’s Cloak: Wondrous Item. Rare (requires attunement). Once per short rest, as a reaction, when you would be Bull Rushed, you can activate the cloak. The attack is instead a miss, and you take no damage. All who observe, see you become incorporeal, as the attack appears to phase right through you.
- Spring-heeled Shoes: Wondrous Item. Rare (requires attunement). Once per short rest, after being Bull Rushed, as a reaction, you can choose to propel yourself even further using the momentum. After all movement is resolved from the Bull Rush, you can move up to the distance you were just moved. This movement must be in a straight line from your new location, but you do not need to return to your point of origin.
- Ghost Grabber Gloves: Wondrous Item. Very Rare (requires attunement). When interacting with Etherealness, you can choose to function as though you are on the material or ethereal plane at your discretion (Both, either, or neither). This decision is made prior to any interaction.