Combat Maneuvers, why the AOO?


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion


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So, I want to bring up a question that I've had a for a long time regarding Combat Maneuvers in Pathfinder, which is why do they provoke Attacks of Opportunity when used? This does little besides counter-act whatever incentive a character has for actually using the combat maneuver, and makes it so that each character needs a half a feat (the various Improved maneuvers chain) to make a single combat maneuver as viable as hitting someone with a sword.

Also, it makes no sense from a fluff perspective as well. Why should hitting someone with a sword not provoke an AOO, but shoulder bashing them, aiming at their weapon instead of them, trying to trip with your leg, throwing sand in their eyes, ramming them, using a free hand to grab a body part or something they have on them somehow does provoke one.

So, why do Combat Maneuvers have an AOO then?


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Honestly there is no good reason. D&D 3.X and Pathfinder punish creativity, and Feat-Tax actions characters should be able to take for free. If Attacks of Opportunity weren't so deeply imbedded into the system, I would abolish them entirely.


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Pathfinder Maps, Starfinder Maps Subscriber

Assuming you mean Combat Maneuvers with a weapon. An unarmed trip against someone with a sword is pretty obvious.

Performing a Combat Maneuver requires limiting the attacker's options. If I want to disarm you, I can't wait for any good opening, I need to manufacture an opening to hit your weapon just so. Without special training (a feat), it requires me to take more risks, thus exposing myself.

The same thought process applies to all CMs. If I want to bullrush a guy swinging a mace, I need to pass through the danger zone of that mace to get my shoulder into him.

It really does make sense. It's also an important balance consideration. If disarming was as easy as hitting, the first to act always disarms his opponent. It would be foolish to do anything else. That turns the entire combat into an initiative roll-off. That's not the game I'm looking to play.

Shadow Lodge

The AOO abstractly represents the combatant not being trained or an expert in the maneuver...think of the difference between a bar fight where one guy tries to trip another versus a trained judoka attempting the same move.

Also, and I leave this to folks with more knowledge with 3.0 history, I wouldn't be surprised if it's a legacy issue with 3.0 overvaluing feats and the prowess of the Fighter class.


GinoA wrote:

Assuming you mean Combat Maneuvers with a weapon. An unarmed trip against someone with a sword is pretty obvious.

Performing a Combat Maneuver requires limiting the attacker's options. If I want to disarm you, I can't wait for any good opening, I need to manufacture an opening to hit your weapon just so. Without special training (a feat), it requires me to take more risks, thus exposing myself.

The same thought process applies to all CMs. If I want to bullrush a guy swinging a mace, I need to pass through the danger zone of that mace to get my shoulder into him.

It really does make sense. It's also an important balance consideration. If disarming was as easy as hitting, the first to act always disarms his opponent. It would be foolish to do anything else. That turns the entire combat into an initiative roll-off. That's not the game I'm looking to play.

Waiting for an opening to disarm versus manufacturing it doesn't work as an argument because Pathfinder only gives one option to disarm anyway. And it can be argued that doing an attack is manufacturing an opening vs waiting for one as well.

If I want so swing my sword at my target, I give him an opening to hit me back with the same mace.

And having Disarm is not as simple of a choice as your making it out to be. A lot of threats that you fight in Pathfinder have plenty of ways to hurt you besides basic attacks using manufactered weapons. Spells, SLA, multiple weapons, and natural weapons are not affected by Disarm

Sammy T wrote:
The AOO abstractly represents the combatant not being trained or an expert in the maneuver...think of the difference between a bar fight where one guy tries to trip another versus a trained judoka attempting the same move.

But these aren't really martial arts moves. Disarming and Sundering is something I imagine would be included in weapon training. It doesn't take much skill to throw sand into someone eyes or bash them with your shoulder or to ram them.

Liberty's Edge

Cantriped wrote:
Honestly there is no good reason. D&D 3.X and Pathfinder punish creativity, and Feat-Tax actions characters should be able to take for free. If Attacks of Opportunity weren't so deeply imbedded into the system, I would abolish them entirely.

Agreed and seconded completely. Its the same way many weapons are classified as Exotic Weapons without any real goid reason.

Shadow Lodge

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We are actually working on a set of Pathfinder-lite rules that will go along with our upcoming campaign setting. One of the things that I addressed is exactly this. Why punish heroic action on the battlefield?

Let your players perform any action they want. If they fail by 5 or more though, then consider allowing attacks of opportunity or counter-maneuvers. Everyone wins and it's still balanced.


This along is more than enough reason for me to put Feat Tax into any PF games I run at all. Size category changes and the fact that CMD is scaled of rolling a 15 for CMD under the older D&D rules makes Combat Maneuvers hard enough already.


I feel like the AoO is more obvious for some maneuvers than others. Like a grapple or a steal maneuver, it makes sense that someone will get to whack you before you bear hug them or steal their necklace.

The ones you do with your weapon are pretty hard to see though.

Dark Archive

IRL: Maneuvers take more time to execute, Require more attention.

Game wise: I think it's built in to discourage Maneuvers. since they seem to slow the combats way down.

Liberty's Edge

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Because martials can't have anything interesting that isn't gated behind several feats.

Caster feats mostly serve to give or boost abilities. Martials have to spend half their feats getting around limitations imposed by the base system and system math (ranged combat, maneuver AOOs, CMD scaling).


Certain weapons are designed to be able to trip/disarm/whatever and those shouldn't provide AoO (citation needed).

If you have a sword and just attempt to slam the broadside of it against an attackers leg you leave yourself far more open to an attack than just a normal attack would.

Saithor wrote:
Sammy T wrote:
The AOO abstractly represents the combatant not being trained or an expert in the maneuver...think of the difference between a bar fight where one guy tries to trip another versus a trained judoka attempting the same move.
But these aren't really martial arts moves. Disarming and Sundering is something I imagine would be included in weapon training. It doesn't take much skill to throw sand into someone eyes or bash them with your shoulder or to ram them.

The problem comes from you reaching down and grabbing dirt and not letting your opponent see you are looking away to pick up dirt.

There is some training, which is why you are able to do it, but you aren't able to do it well. It isn't about waiting for an opening, it is about knowing how to do it without leaving yourself open in the midst.

If you disarm, a free attack would be slicing your hand as you reach out to grab their weapon. Bullrush would the enemy bracing their weapon some way against you charging at them with hands outstretched to try and push them rather than attack them. You have to think about timing differently. The AoO and the combat maneuver happen at the same time, not one after the other.


It's all about how in the inception of pathfinder, probably 3.5 I never played it. From what I understand tons of what's in the core rulebook was in the interest of backwards compatibility. People picking up pathfinder from 3.5 didn't need to learn a new game.

Back than to make sure the fighter was special they had anything to do with feats require feat taxes. Paladin's and barbarians didn't get bonus feats. Ranger got to ignore them. Monks got stuff specifically for them, but instead of making them class features they made them feats that people could sink every feat they had into almost accomplishing.

Then what the fighter got was feats. In 3.5 the fighter <only> got feats. Weapon and armor training was invented by paizo. So if the fighter wanted combat maneuvers he could get the greater version by level 3 while everyone else had to wait till level 7.

That's why now they make stuff like the dirty fighting feat, and give almost all new classes bonus feats. To get rid of some of the 3.5 garbage that in many people opinion impedes fun. Tripping is fun. Getting a feat you'll never use to do it is not.

Edit addition: I think the reason they can't just put out a feat like "maneuver combat, combat maneuvers don't provoke, this feat counts as the imoved version of every combat maneuvers feat and combat expertise for the purpose of prerequisites"
Is because by this point it's so ingrained in the system that it would cause unknown and incalculable Ballance issues. They'd probably have to reevaluate the CR of most monsters.


SorrySleeping wrote:

Certain weapons are designed to be able to trip/disarm/whatever and those shouldn't provide AoO (citation needed).

If you have a sword and just attempt to slam the broadside of it against an attackers leg you leave yourself far more open to an attack than just a normal attack would.

Saithor wrote:
Sammy T wrote:
The AOO abstractly represents the combatant not being trained or an expert in the maneuver...think of the difference between a bar fight where one guy tries to trip another versus a trained judoka attempting the same move.
But these aren't really martial arts moves. Disarming and Sundering is something I imagine would be included in weapon training. It doesn't take much skill to throw sand into someone eyes or bash them with your shoulder or to ram them.

The problem comes from you reaching down and grabbing dirt and not letting your opponent see you are looking away to pick up dirt.

There is some training, which is why you are able to do it, but you aren't able to do it well. It isn't about waiting for an opening, it is about knowing how to do it without leaving yourself open in the midst.

If you disarm, a free attack would be slicing your hand as you reach out to grab their weapon. Bullrush would the enemy bracing their weapon some way against you charging at them with hands outstretched to try and push them rather than attack them. You have to think about timing differently. The AoO and the combat maneuver happen at the same time, not one after the other.

Frankly if it's going to be like that then it'd make more sense if a combat maneuver provoked an AoO on a failed attempt. You want to rush someone down? If you do it well they can't react in time. If you don't you get hit. If you train, you know how to cover yourself even if things don't go as planned but you're also better at doing it in the first place.

This also greatly reduces the "**** you for even trying something you didn't invest two feats in, buddy," problem the game sometimes has. Pathfinder seems to really hate it when players improvise.


Blackwaltzomega wrote:
SorrySleeping wrote:
*omitted*

Frankly if it's going to be like that then it'd make more sense if a combat maneuver provoked an AoO on a failed attempt. You want to rush someone down? If you do it well they can't react in time. If you don't you get hit. If you train, you know how to cover yourself even if things don't go as planned but you're also better at doing it in the first place.

This also greatly reduces the "**** you for even trying something you didn't invest two feats in, buddy,"...

That's an awesome idea. I'd definitely rather get the feat "you provoke anfter a combat maneuvers and only prevoke on a failed attempt, this counts as combat expertise" than dirty fighting. I find flanking to be clunky, and a little bit harder to work with for groups who don't want to use battle maps every fight.


James Gibbons wrote:
Blackwaltzomega wrote:
SorrySleeping wrote:
*omitted*

Frankly if it's going to be like that then it'd make more sense if a combat maneuver provoked an AoO on a failed attempt. You want to rush someone down? If you do it well they can't react in time. If you don't you get hit. If you train, you know how to cover yourself even if things don't go as planned but you're also better at doing it in the first place.

This also greatly reduces the "**** you for even trying something you didn't invest two feats in, buddy,"...

That's an awesome idea. I'd definitely rather get the feat "you provoke anfter a combat maneuvers and only prevoke on a failed attempt, this counts as combat expertise" than dirty fighting. I find flanking to be clunky, and a little bit harder to work with for groups who don't want to use battle maps every fight.

I don't even think it needs to be a feat. My group houserules that combat maneuvers just plain don't provoke unless you fail, and if you take the improved feats they don't provoke period. The result is that people that aren't brawlers can actually use more than one combat maneuver in battle.

Pathfinder's got too many feat taxes as it is, in my opinion. Feats need to be consolidated more than expanded, which has the nice side effect of making the fighter much better because he can master multiple fighting styles that way and become a truly versatile combatant.


Blackwaltzomega wrote:
James Gibbons wrote:
Blackwaltzomega wrote:
SorrySleeping wrote:
*omitted*

Frankly if it's going to be like that then it'd make more sense if a combat maneuver provoked an AoO on a failed attempt. You want to rush someone down? If you do it well they can't react in time. If you don't you get hit. If you train, you know how to cover yourself even if things don't go as planned but you're also better at doing it in the first place.

This also greatly reduces the "**** you for even trying something you didn't invest two feats in, buddy,"...

That's an awesome idea. I'd definitely rather get the feat "you provoke anfter a combat maneuvers and only prevoke on a failed attempt, this counts as combat expertise" than dirty fighting. I find flanking to be clunky, and a little bit harder to work with for groups who don't want to use battle maps every fight.

I don't even think it needs to be a feat. My group houserules that combat maneuvers just plain don't provoke unless you fail, and if you take the improved feats they don't provoke period. The result is that people that aren't brawlers can actually use more than one combat maneuver in battle.

Pathfinder's got too many feat taxes as it is, in my opinion. Feats need to be consolidated more than expanded, which has the nice side effect of making the fighter much better because he can master multiple fighting styles that way and become a truly versatile combatant.

Houserullingbut it that way is good, I personally wouldn't create that homebrew feat.

Edited grammar of first paragraph: houserulling it that way would be good. I'd house rule that everyone could do it rather than making it a feat like I preposed above. As for the feat,

I would want that to be a published feat though. I wouldn't want it to be put in some optional rules section. I'd prefer it to be something official that anyone could take.


Something no one else has mentioned was that before Dirty Fighting you required 13 Intelligence in order to even qualify for most of the maneuver feats.

I do like Dirty Fighting as a feat, because it alleviates the "fluff" problem. Instead of having elite training in a maneuver you instead rely on your ally to cover your attempt.

Frankly, if I were going to homebrew anything here it would be to just give martial characters Dirty Fighting for free, sort of like giving fighters Stamina feats. It is easier than having some crazy custom rules.

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