Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Throw Down! [House Rule]

Back in April, Chris at the Aspiring Lich blog wrote about a Save vs Awesome option for use in old-school games. I liked it.

His option started me thinking (uh-oh!) about other ways to inject awesomeness into combats a little more frequently, and I came up with this little idea: the Throw Down.

Basically, the Throw Down is used when you (or a referee's big NPC baddie) want to single-out an opponent and gain a bonus against that opponent. Think of it like the proverbial "throwing down the gauntlet" and calling out a foe. It's also meant as a means to encourage roleplaying and add drama to a combat encounter.

While thinking about it, I recalled that 4th edition D&D had a fighter class feature called mark or challenge (or something like that). Throw Down works along those lines, but provides you the bonus; it does not impose a penalty on your foe.

Eowyn throws down against the Witch King!
You single out a foe with a clever insult, flash of steel, guttural roar, or some act of derring-do. You choose one of your ability scores (appropriate to the way you call out your foe) and roll a contest against your foe, who must use the same ability score. (Depending on the game system you are using, this could be a d20 + ability modifier contest or a "roll under" ability score contest. Either way the result is the same.)

If you beat your foe on the contest roll, you gain a +1 bonus to attack rolls, damage rolls, saving throws, and ability checks directly involving that foe for the rest of the encounter. If you attack or try to harm any other foe (other than casting an area spell which includes the designated foe) after you have won a throw down, you immediately lose your bonus.

If you lose the contest roll, nothing good or bad happens to you. You throw down but your foe has better moxie.

The foe you thrown down against must have equal or greater hit dice than you. It's not very heroic to throw down against an inferior foe! There is no limit to the number of times you can throw down in an encounter, but you can only ever have one throw down bonus active and an ally cannot attack (or otherwise harm) or throw down against the same foe while your throw down is active. If an ally does either, you immediately lose your throw down bonus.

Plenty of Options: The throw down bonus doesn't need to be a simple +1 to numerous rolls. A referee might allow an extra damage die on attacks, maximized spell effects, an improved initiative bonus, temporary hit points, or other similar benefits.