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CMB Questions!


Playtest Reports


So, before I get into things here, I understand that what is mentioned here wont affect the book (being at the printer and whatnot), I just thought this would be the best place to get playtest opinions on what I may or may not houserule about CMB.

Now then, I've been running some sessions in our latest campaign using PF RPG rules, and boy, do we love em. But, they don't seem to be completely sold on the aspect of CMBs. They enjoy the streamlined nature of it, but (like most people I've heard from) think that a 15+CMB is too high. Unlike most people, half of them seem to be in favor of returning to opposed rolls (while still using CMB), the other half doesn't mind either way. What do you guys think of this?

Also, I have a level 3 Dex Fighter (going into the Duelist prestige class), who is trying to become adept at disarming his foes. In the most recent fight, he successfully disarmed one of the four foes, and failed the three other times he tried it. Though by no means was he furious about this, he was a little frustrated that he couldn't do what he tried to, even when he had built his character towards it (Improved Disarm, using weapons that give disarm bonuses, etc). It surely wasn't due to rolling poorly either, he just couldn't match his foe's CMB.

Since I allow characters to choose upon creation whether or not they use Dex or Str for their attack (it can't be changed after chosen), he asked why he couldn't simply use Dex for his CMB instead of Str, being a Dex Fighter and all. Personally speaking, this seems reasonable to me. Has anyone else done this or have any precautions I should know of? I understand that the level of power goes up a tad, but I'm okay with that.

And finally, I informed my players of the fact that Disarm and Sunder can be done as part of an attack action in a round. I presume this to mean that a character with three attacks can choose to attack normally on the first attack, and then use his other two attacks to disarm a foe. I thought that was cool, as did my players. But, one of them pointed out that wouldn't it be smarter to, should a character have four available attacks, attack with the first one at the highest bonus, and then spend his next attacks sundering or disarming foes (since his BAB will be lower on those attacks, but his CMB will stay the same). He wondered if that was, well, overpowered is far from the word I'm looking for, but you know what I mean.

EDIT: I actually have one last request: Would it be overpowered to allow a player to use his weapons enhancement bonus on Disarm checks? Personally, my guess is yes, but I would like to see others input.

Thanks for any help!


The Weave05 wrote:
Since I allow characters to choose upon creation whether or not they use Dex or Str for their attack (it can't be changed after chosen), he asked why he couldn't simply use Dex for his CMB instead of Str, being a Dex Fighter and all. Personally speaking, this seems reasonable to me. Has anyone else done this or have any precautions I should know of? I understand that the level of power goes up a tad, but I'm okay with that.

There is a feat, Agile Maneuvers, that allows you to do just that. So, since you basically allow Weapon Finesse for free at first level, I don't inherently see a problem with that. Although, you might need to put a bit of a level requirement there. (Giving all characters a chance at two free feats at first level, without actually assigning two free feats seems a bit off to me. But your group may not have a problem with it.)

The Weave05 wrote:
And finally, I informed my players of the fact that Disarm and Sunder can be done as part of an attack action in a round. I presume this to mean that a character with three attacks can choose to attack normally on the first attack, and then use his other two attacks to disarm a foe. I thought that was cool, as did my players. But, one of them pointed out that wouldn't it be smarter to, should a character have four available attacks, attack with the first one at the highest bonus, and then spend his next attacks sundering or disarming foes (since his BAB will be lower on those attacks, but his CMB will stay the same). He wondered if that was, well, overpowered is far from the word I'm looking for, but you know what I mean.

Well... I may very well be wrong, but I don't think Disarm and Sunder were intended to be an attack action, for the very same reasons your players mentioned. But, since CMB is based on BAB, I would suspect the characters CMB would be reduced by 5 for each iterative attack.

The Weave05 wrote:
EDIT: I actually have one last request: Would it be overpowered to allow a player to use his weapons enhancement bonus on Disarm checks? Personally, my guess is yes, but I would like to see others input.

That is a bit iffy... From a metgame perspective, how does an enhancement bonus help disarm?

But as a concept, I don't see a big problem with that. But do keep an eye out for the player trying to get the characters CMB too high. The 15 + CMB DC was supposed to be a challenge, don't let the player remove that challenge.


The Weave05 wrote:
I've been running some sessions in our latest campaign using PF RPG rules, and boy, do we love em. But, they don't seem to be completely sold on the aspect of CMBs. They enjoy the streamlined nature of it, but (like most people I've heard from) think that a 15+CMB is too high. Unlike most people, half of them seem to be in favor of returning to opposed rolls (while still using CMB), the other half doesn't mind either way. What do you guys think of this?

When you think about it, using opposed rolls (attacker rolls d20+CMB vs. defender's d20+CMB) is essentially just lowering the DC to 10.5 (the average on a d2) and adding a whole lot of randomness.

Me, I'm not in favor of it for my game.

While it only takes a few seconds longer for the defender to whip out a d20 and substitue the value rolled on that d20 in place of the flat 15 in the CMB formula, it adds an aspect of active defense that is not really part of the d20 system.

It would be similar to saying we won't have AC be 10 + all that other stuff, but instead, we'll roll a d20 and add it to all that other stuff each time you get attacked.

While both active defenses would work, neither seems to be the idea that the d20 system is pushing for.

I like the way that Pathfinder basically gave combat maneuvers their own "AC" mechanic.

The Weave05 wrote:
Also, I have a level 3 Dex Fighter (going into the Duelist prestige class), who is trying to become adept at disarming his foes. In the most recent fight, he successfully disarmed one of the four foes, and failed the three other times he tried it. Though by no means was he furious about this, he was a little frustrated that he couldn't do what he tried to, even when he had built his character towards it (Improved Disarm, using weapons that give disarm bonuses, etc). It surely wasn't due to rolling poorly either, he just couldn't match his foe's CMB.

Maybe the CMB DC is too high.

On the other hand, if you set it down to, say 5+CMB, then most combat maneuvers would work.

This might be really fun.

However, combats would suddenly become grueling CMB-fests, as everyone is tripping, disarming, sundering, grapping, overruning, and bull rushing all over the battlefield.

Nobody could move, since everyone would be grappling everyone else.

It would look like a big UFC free-for-all cage match.

So, maybe 5+CMB is too low.

So we would start playing in the gray area. Try 7+CMB. Still too low. Try 13+ CMB. Still awfully difficult. Etc.

Until we settle on a number. Maybe 10+CMB. Maybe 12+CMB.

Once we settle on this number, we've presumably struck a balance where ordinary fighters, taking on ordinary orcs, can pull off a CMB some of the time, but not all of the time.

Still, along comes someone specialized in it, and he looks like the only UFC champion in a cage full of boxers. He's throwing people left and right, grappling them, disarming them, whatever he wants practically at will, but his enemies can't do it back to him.

Maybe 15+CMB is, after all, the way to go.

At least here, the average orc won't be sundering the fighter's new masterwork sword.

The average goblin won't be bullrishing the PCs around the battlefield.

And the PC won't be spending half their rounds retriving their disarmed weapons from the ground.

All of this is just theory, and maybe dead wrong. I haven't ground out the playtest effort myself.

The Weave05 wrote:
Since I allow characters to choose upon creation whether or not they use Dex or Str for their attack (it can't be changed after chosen),

Ohhh, bonus Weapon Finesse feat for free? Even better than the feat, because someone with high DEX could use his DEX with a greatsword? Are you adding DEX to damage too? If so, it's way way better than little old Weapon Finesse.

The Weave05 wrote:
he asked why he couldn't simply use Dex for his CMB instead of Str, being a Dex Fighter and all. Personally speaking, this seems reasonable to me.

I don't see why not.

You're already houseruling to give DEX-based combatants a chance to succeed in a STR-dominated combat system. I see no reason, in light of that, not to extend this houserule to allow DEX-based CMBs too, although I might suggest ruling on a case by case basis. Using DEX to disarm (or avoid being disarmed) makes sense, but using DEX to bullrush doesn't make much sense (it might be OK for avoiding a bullrush, though).

The Weave05 wrote:
Has anyone else done this or have any precautions I should know of? I understand that the level of power goes up a tad, but I'm okay with that.

Never tried it myself.

I'm curious though, with this houserule allowing for DEX-based fighters right from the start without even asking them to take fetas for it, especially if you allow DEX to apply to +Hit, +Damage, and CMB, will anyone ever make a STR-based fighter?

The Weave05 wrote:
And finally, I informed my players of the fact that Disarm and Sunder can be done as part of an attack action in a round.

This is true, per RAW. The other CMB actions require a standard action, except Charge which requires a full-round action.

The Weave05 wrote:
I presume this to mean that a character with three attacks can choose to attack normally on the first attack, and then use his other two attacks to disarm a foe. I thought that was cool, as did my players. But, one of them pointed out that wouldn't it be smarter to, should a character have four available attacks, attack with the first one at the highest bonus, and then spend his next attacks sundering or disarming foes (since his BAB will be lower on those attacks, but his CMB will stay the same). He wondered if that was, well, overpowered is far from the word I'm looking for, but you know what I mean.

This is also correct, and it is a flaw in the CMB system that was brought up months ago during playtesting.

I don't recall if anyone official offered a ruling on it, but I think the consensus among the player community was that the same iterative step-down should be applied to CMB, if only for game balance.

The Weave05 wrote:
EDIT: I actually have one last request: Would it be overpowered to allow a player to use his weapons enhancement bonus on Disarm checks? Personally, my guess is yes, but I would like to see others input.

What about Weapon Focus, should that be allowed? I mean, hey, he's trained with his weapon so much, he ought to be better and disarming with it, shouldn't he?

What bout the Fighter's Weapon Training abilities? Same as with Weapon Focus, right?

What about Favored Enemy, or Smite Evil? Hey, the extra STR from Rage automatically increases your chance to disarm, so why not from these class abilities too?

What about the bonus for attacking from high ground, or invisible, or flanking? Those bonuses all give you an advantage in melee, so shouldn't they give the same advantage to disarming?

What about AC penalties, such as an opponent who is cowering, or blind, or kneeling, sitting, prone, or who is stunned, etc.? All these conditions make them less likely to hold onto their weapon when we try to disarm them, right?

And what about True Strike? Now there's a perfect way to ensure your opponent's weapon is well and truly disarmed.

Every one of these questions make sense, and it's easy to see how each of them should be applied.

But, per RAW, none of them matter, including the enhancement bonus of the magical weapon (which might be the least useful of all these factors in disarming, but maybe the most useful in sundering).

I can see DMs allowing these modifiers, and I can see DMs sticking to RAW.

As a final consideration, think about this.

Up above, I theorized that maybe a DC 15+CMB is a little too high, but maybe in the end, it's not too high after all.

So, would 15 be the perfect DC value if we did allow all this other stuff?

This would certainly make combat more interesting as combatants sought higher ground, flanking, etc., not just so they can make their opponents bleed, but also becaue they can more easily disarm, grapple, bullrush, etc.

In fact, given the seemingly too-high DC for combat maneuvers, it is easily argued that allowing these modifiers makes them even more valuable if you're attempting a maneuver than they are if you're attempting a mere attack.


Disenchanter wrote:
Well... I may very well be wrong, but I don't think Disarm and Sunder were intended to be an attack action, for the very same reasons your players mentioned. But, since CMB is based on BAB, I would suspect the characters CMB would be reduced by 5 for each iterative attack.

It's hard to argue the intent of these actions when they state their intent in black and white.

Pathfinder Beta, Disarm wrote:
You can attempt to disarm your opponent as part of an attack action in place of a melee attack.
Pathfinder Beta, Sunder wrote:
You can attempt to sunder an item held or worn by your opponent as part of an attack action in place of a melee attack.

I imagine the author of these two rules intended this to be used as written.

However, I'm not sure the author of these rules considered the implications of replacing the weak attacks at the lower iterative BAB values with potentially powerful combat manuevers that use the full CMB values.

It seems an oversight to me.


DM_Blake wrote:
Disenchanter wrote:
Well... I may very well be wrong, but I don't think Disarm and Sunder were intended to be an attack action, for the very same reasons your players mentioned. But, since CMB is based on BAB, I would suspect the characters CMB would be reduced by 5 for each iterative attack.

It's hard to argue the intent of these actions when they state their intent in black and white.

Pathfinder Beta, Disarm wrote:
You can attempt to disarm your opponent as part of an attack action in place of a melee attack.
Pathfinder Beta, Sunder wrote:
You can attempt to sunder an item held or worn by your opponent as part of an attack action in place of a melee attack.

I imagine the author of these two rules intended this to be used as written.

However, I'm not sure the author of these rules considered the implications of replacing the weak attacks at the lower iterative BAB values with potentially powerful combat manuevers that use the full CMB values.

It seems an oversight to me.

It is easy to argue the intent. Did the author (intentionally or accidentally) mean to use attack action to differentiate from a full-attack action? (Yes, standard action should be used in that instance... But there are other "brain farts" throughout publishing history.)

Was the author of these two Maneuvers under the impression, correct or incorrect, that CMB would be adjusted for iterative attacks since BAB (which CMB is based on) is adjusted?

No one here really knows, and if they do, they aren't telling. (Probably because they hope it will all be ironed out in the final.)


DM_Blake wrote:

The free "weapon finesse" still only applies to the "weapon finesse-able" weapons in my campaign, and I don't allow DEX to damage. Otherwise, like you said, why play a STR based fighter?

I'm very sorry if I'm wrong, but (it being the internet and all) are you trying to mock my choice in allowing weapon finesse for free? I'm very open to any critique of it, and would love to hear others' opinions on the matter.

But I digress.

The point was made that I would be allowing two free feats at level one, which I hadn't taken into consideration until now. I'll most likely try to tinker with that before anything. Good observation.

Also, I'll probably enforce the ruling that with each iterative "CMB attack" the BAB lowers accordingly. Thanks for the suggestions.

Also, in regards to my edit: I probably wont go through with it, I really just wanted to throw it out there to get some immediate reactions.


The Weave05 wrote:


Now then, I've been running some sessions in our latest campaign using PF RPG rules, and boy, do we love em. But, they don't seem to be completely sold on the aspect of CMBs. They enjoy the streamlined nature of it, but (like most people I've heard from) think that a 15+CMB is too high. Unlike most people, half of them seem to be in favor of returning to opposed rolls (while still using CMB), the other half doesn't mind either way. What do you guys think of this?

Also, I have a level 3 Dex Fighter (going into the Duelist prestige class), who is trying to become adept at disarming his foes. In the most recent fight, he successfully disarmed one of the four foes, and failed the three other times he tried it. Though by no means was he furious about this, he was a little frustrated that he couldn't do what he tried to, even when he had built his character towards it (Improved Disarm, using weapons that give disarm bonuses, etc). It surely wasn't due to rolling poorly either, he just couldn't match his foe's CMB.

I think the best way to avoid these is to lower the CMB defense a bit. It is faster than rolling opposed rolls. Also letting weapon finesse use Dex in CMB is reasonable, and Dex makes a lot more sense in some of them.

For using weapon enhancement bonus for CMB I would consider making it a special ability equivalent of a +1 bonus (such as defending). Granted, it is rather weak compared to many other special abilities, but for the CMB oriented character it should still be worthwhile.


It is possible that the use of lower iterative attacks to make CMB checks was intentional. It might help explain the higher base DC. If your iterative attacks have little chance of hitting the opponents AC it encourages you to take the risk of trying to disarm, sunder, etc with an attack that might otherwise be useless.

Seems to me that being able to use lower iteratives for CMB checks encourages CMB checks despite the high base difficulty.


We calculate CMB as STR+DEX+BAB. This has balanced the dex builds with the strength builds and evened the playing field for everyone. Our group pretty much decided that a feat tax for being an agile fighter as opposed to a strong one was unfair and quite frankly dumb.


The Weave05 wrote:
DM_Blake wrote:

The free "weapon finesse" still only applies to the "weapon finesse-able" weapons in my campaign, and I don't allow DEX to damage. Otherwise, like you said, why play a STR based fighter?

I'm very sorry if I'm wrong, but (it being the internet and all) are you trying to mock my choice in allowing weapon finesse for free? I'm very open to any critique of it, and would love to hear others' opinions on the matter.

But I digress.

The point was made that I would be allowing two free feats at level one, which I hadn't taken into consideration until now. I'll most likely try to tinker with that before anything. Good observation.

Also, I'll probably enforce the ruling that with each iterative "CMB attack" the BAB lowers accordingly. Thanks for the suggestions.

Also, in regards to my edit: I probably wont go through with it, I really just wanted to throw it out there to get some immediate reactions.

I'm actually starting to be in the camp of Weapon Finesse weapons ALWAYS use dex...and eliminate the Weapon Finesse feat. So if a STR fighter is wielding a rapier, sorry you use DEX to hit, since they're prolly just trying to get lots high high dmg easy to hit critical.

I'm also leaning toward DEX+STR+BAB for CMB.

Then you can take the feat Powerful Maneuvers to drop the dex bonus and get 1.5x your STR bonus to BAB.

Agile Maneuvers would change from DEX bonus replacing STR to using 1.5x DEX.

Size matters not! Would change size penalties to size bonuses.

Human 16 STR/10 DEX FTR 1. CMB:+4
Human 10 STR/16 DEX FTR 1. CMB:+4
Human 14 STR/14 DEX FTR 1. CMB:+5
Elven 10 STR/18 DEX FTR 1. CMB:+5
Half-Orc 18 Str/10Dex FTR 1. CMB:+5
gnome 10 str/16 dex FTR1 CMB: +3
Powerful Builds
Human 16 STR/10 DEX FTR 1. CMB:+5
Human 14 STR/14 DEX FTR 1. CMB:+4 bad choice
Half-Orc 18 Str/10Dex FTR 1. CMB:+7
Agile Builds
Elven 10 STR/18 DEX FTR 1. CMB:+7
Human 10 STR/16 DEX FTR 1. CMB:+5
Size Matters Not!
gnome 10 str/16 dex FTR1 CMB: +5


The Weave05 wrote:
I'm very sorry if I'm wrong, but (it being the internet and all) are you trying to mock my choice in allowing weapon finesse for free? I'm very open to any critique of it, and would love to hear others' opinions on the matter.

Nope, not at all.

It's not a bad idea, really.

D&D has always rewarded high STR more than it has rewarded high DEX. It's always been easier to make Conan than d'Artagnan.

Which is too bad.

I've houseruled it myself from time to time, over the years, though I'm currently in the camp of just letting the nimble guys take Weapon Finesse like the RAW says they're supposed to. Those high crit ranges are compensation enough for the cost of the feat.

I might suggest that, rather than making a 1-time decision that "can't be changed", why not just make it a case-by-case basis.

If a strong body-builder guy picks up a rapier, chances are he'll try to drive it through his foe's defenses by brute force (STR). But if a quick nimble guy picks up the same rapier, chances are he'll try to dance through his foe's defenses and jab him through the chinks in his armor (DEX).

But, suppose the quick nimble guy finds himself a fancy belt thta adds a ton of STR, and now he's stronger than he is nimble. He just might decide to use his rapier like a pointy battering ram and bash through his next foe's defenses by brute force, despite having defined his earlier career as a quick nimble guy.

Or, if you don't like letting the character decide on the fly, then maybe even make it a per-weapon rule. Rapiers never use STR, greatswords never use DEX, etc. Although, maybe some weapons in the middle might be rough, like shortswords or hand axes, etc., and the characters might still decide how they want to wield them.

But that's just me.


DM_Blake wrote:
The Weave05 wrote:
I'm very sorry if I'm wrong, but (it being the internet and all) are you trying to mock my choice in allowing weapon finesse for free? I'm very open to any critique of it, and would love to hear others' opinions on the matter.

I might suggest that, rather than making a 1-time decision that "can't be changed", why not just make it a case-by-case basis.

If a strong body-builder guy picks up a rapier, chances are he'll try to drive it through his foe's defenses by brute force (STR). But if a quick nimble guy picks up the same rapier, chances are he'll try to dance through his foe's defenses and jab him through the chinks in his armor (DEX).

But, suppose the quick nimble guy finds himself a fancy belt thta adds a ton of STR, and now he's stronger than he is nimble. He just might decide to use his rapier like a pointy battering ram and bash through his next foe's defenses by brute force, despite having defined his earlier career as a quick nimble guy.

Or, if you don't like letting the character decide on the fly, then maybe even make it a per-weapon rule. Rapiers never use STR, greatswords never use DEX, etc. Although, maybe some weapons in the middle might be rough, like shortswords or hand axes, etc., and the characters might still decide how they want to wield them.

But that's just me.

That brute that picks up the rapier, will likely make mad swings with it, trying to take his opponents head off...(DEX to hit) now, when he contacts, he'll add his STR to dmg. (Think Rob Roy duel scene.)


Arne Schmidt wrote:

It is possible that the use of lower iterative attacks to make CMB checks was intentional. It might help explain the higher base DC. If your iterative attacks have little chance of hitting the opponents AC it encourages you to take the risk of trying to disarm, sunder, etc with an attack that might otherwise be useless

Seems to me that being able to use lower iteratives for CMB checks encourages CMB checks despite the high base difficulty..

I don't think this is the right way to look at it. If, and I am inclined to agree with it, CMB has too high a base difficulty, then the right fix wouldn't be to encourage the use of only two of the Manuevers. Then something should be changed to make all of them more likely to get used.

Xaaon of Korvosa wrote:


Size matters not! Would change size penalties to size bonuses.

I'm sorry to break it too you, but size does matter;-)

Seriously, I don't think size should be negated what so ever. Surely it matters whether you are a giant or a halfling, when you attempt to bullrush or overrun. I doesn't make that much sense that they giant is as effective at overrunning a human. Granted the rule of only one size category larger than you offer some limitation but not enough, some of these effect depend on sheer mass.
Instead I prefer some of these manuevers being replaced with an attack roll. This is more appropriate for disarm, sunder and initiating a grapple. It isn't more complicated since it is only one roll (and it would matter which of your attack you use). Bull rush and overrun makes sense as a str+size roll. Trip is a bit difficult, since different consideration could be made. But I won't. For now anyway.

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