What's the reason behind the decision to make Combat Maneuver Defense so outrageously difficult to hit?


Rules Questions

Sczarni

I have a player who is pissed because he made a melee grappling character with 18 STR, Combat Maneuver Focus (Grapple), and +1 BAB. He has a +9 to grapple opponents. With ncs having and average 22 combat maneuver defense, he has to roll a 14 or higher to grapple. Thats a 30% chance to succeed when he spent a feat to be the best at this. That's so silly. I was mad for him.

The CMD and CMB system in Pathfinder worked way better than this. What is the reasoning for such a ridiculous DC?

Scarab Sages

Because grappling was a very strong option in Pathfinder. I mean, if you had your Ubermage with stoneskin and shield and Mage armor up, any old character could still saunter up and completely shut them down with a grapple. And even super grapplers basically couldn’t beat giants and other super strong guys. It just makes it so that halfling technomancers stand half a chance of not being grabbed.


Brofessor X wrote:

I have a player who is pissed because he made a melee grappling character with 18 STR, Combat Maneuver Focus (Grapple), and +1 BAB. He has a +9 to grapple opponents. With ncs having and average 22 combat maneuver defense, he has to roll a 14 or higher to grapple. Thats a 30% chance to succeed when he spent a feat to be the best at this. That's so silly. I was mad for him.

The CMD and CMB system in Pathfinder worked way better than this. What is the reasoning for such a ridiculous DC?

If NPCs have CMAC 22 and he has a +9, the average die roll needs to be 13, not 14. That's a 40% chance to succeed, and not much worse than just taking a whack with a large stick.

If he were a skittermander, he'd have a 50% chance to succeed. It's all about synergizing races, feats, and class bonuses.


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Well, let's see...

The character has 18 STR, combat maneuver focus (grapple) and +1 BAB. I'll assume he's level 1. His grapple bonus is +9.
Grapple AC on CR 1/3 to CR 2 creatures ranges from 18 (CR 1/2 caster) to 23 (CR 2 Combatant). Typically Combatants will be roughly AC CR+2, Experts CR+1, and Spellcasters CR+0.

To grapple a CR 1/2 caster he'll need to roll a 9, meaning he succeeds 55% of the time.
To grapple a CR 2 combatant he needs to roll a 14, meaning he succeeds 35% of the time.
These modifiers can be affected by external factors. Flanked, prone, entangled, fatigued or flat-footed targets are all considerably easier to grapple. He could also consider picking a race with a +2 grapple modifier, like Skittermanders.

If you're up against a caster, go to town. Pin him and steal his lunch money. If you're up against something big and burly that seems just as eager as you to get into melee, odds are you shouldn't try to grab him.

So grappling is situational. That's fine. The main thing (for me) is that the character has only spent one feat on grappling. He's still got 18 STR and full BAB progression. In those situations where grappling isn't a feasible option, he can still whip out a longsword or a doshko and be a perfectly viable melee combatant. Grappling is a useful tool in his work kit, but it's not the only tool there.

Sczarni

VampByDay wrote:
Because grappling was a very strong option in Pathfinder. I mean, if you had your Ubermage with stoneskin and shield and Mage armor up, any old character could still saunter up and completely shut them down with a grapple. And even super grapplers basically couldn’t beat giants and other super strong guys. It just makes it so that halfling technomancers stand half a chance of not being grabbed.

Since Starfinder did away with somantic components to spells, a grappled caster can still cast spells all day.


Brofessor X wrote:
Since Starfinder did away with somantic components to spells, a grappled caster can still cast spells all day.

Except the caster is by definition in melee range of at least one person, and possibly their friends, and will suffer an AoO that might prevent the spell. They don't have the usual option of simply walking away first (taking the AoO before they even begin casting) and then cast in a safe square. They are also considered entangled, improving the odds of that AoO hitting. If it hits, the spell is lost. I presume the grapple focused character is carrying around a 1-handed melee weapon so they can use their free hand. Or is a Kasatha.

Admittedly some spells don't cause AoOs, and those tend to be melee touch spells. That kinda makes sense given other characters would be able to make direct melee attacks as well with one hand. However, it does mean escape spells are not likely to work, nor are ranged attacks. And they suffer a -2 to hit due to being entangled still.

Actually, the best thing you can do to a caster is trip and then grapple an opponent with two characters on the same initiative. They target can't move on their turn, so they can't stand up, and thus the grappler gets an extra +4 to hit on their melee attacks for them being prone, in addition to the target's -2 for entangling, for an always there +6 to hit bonus on the AoO. If they've got an EAC 1-handed weapon, that will typically only miss on a natural 1 or so.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Reminder, don't AoOs only fire off after the triggering action? So, mage would get one spell before being thwacked, assuming it didn't require more than a single action to cast.

Anyway, the reason for the change is because most combat maneuvers are really, really nasty to be on the receiving end of. They might not quite be "fight over, you lose", but a lot of times they are pretty close, especially against single powerful foes vs a party. Think of it like this: if a single feat meant you could do a Disarm or Trip against normal AC, would you ever *not* do such?


Casting While Threatened

Casting a spell takes a significant amount of concentration, forcing you to lower your defenses briefly. When you cast a spell, it gives targets threatening you in melee a chance to make an attack of opportunity against you (see Attack of Opportunity), unless the spell specifies otherwise—normally only the case for a few spells with a range of touch. If this attack of opportunity hits and damages you, you fail to cast the spell and lose the spell slot.

I think you might be thinking about readied actions? Don't the offensive ones trigger after, and the defensive ones before, the triggering action?


Brofessor X wrote:

I have a player who is pissed because he made a melee grappling character with 18 STR, Combat Maneuver Focus (Grapple), and +1 BAB. He has a +9 to grapple opponents. With ncs having and average 22 combat maneuver defense, he has to roll a 14 or higher to grapple. Thats a 30% chance to succeed when he spent a feat to be the best at this. That's so silly. I was mad for him.

The CMD and CMB system in Pathfinder worked way better than this. What is the reasoning for such a ridiculous DC?

With a Grapple weapon and the feat, its only a +2 bonus over an ordinary attack.

The main issue right now would be limited grapple weapons.


Pantshandshake wrote:

Casting While Threatened

Casting a spell takes a significant amount of concentration, forcing you to lower your defenses briefly. When you cast a spell, it gives targets threatening you in melee a chance to make an attack of opportunity against you (see Attack of Opportunity), unless the spell specifies otherwise—normally only the case for a few spells with a range of touch. If this attack of opportunity hits and damages you, you fail to cast the spell and lose the spell slot.

I think you might be thinking about readied actions? Don't the offensive ones trigger after, and the defensive ones before, the triggering action?

1. AoO definitely disrupt spells if you trigger them.

2.A. The magic rules also imply that a readied action can disrupt a spell.
2.B. However, the general combat rules on readied actions state, as you note, that an offensive readied action occurs after the trigger.

It's not clear how 2A and 2B interact and whether they are in conflict. What is a legitimate trigger related to spell casting? If "starts to cast a spell" is a trigger, maybe you shoot after they start but before they complete, disrupting the spell. If the trigger has to be "casts a spell," then the combat rules imply you can't actually disrupt the spell, making the reference in the magic rules nonsensical.

I vaguely recall a developer statement (can't remember if it was a Starfinder dev or Mark Seifter on loan) stating around release time that the intent was not to allow disruption of spells after some playtesting, but if that's the case they forgot to change the line in the magic rules implying you can in fact do that, and despite lots of questions about this it hasn't yet been resolved via FAQ.

I may have forgotten or overlooked some more official-ish developer comment resolving this. It really should be FAQ'd.


Brofessor X wrote:

I have a player who is pissed because he made a melee grappling character with 18 STR, Combat Maneuver Focus (Grapple), and +1 BAB. He has a +9 to grapple opponents. With ncs having and average 22 combat maneuver defense, he has to roll a 14 or higher to grapple. Thats a 30% chance to succeed when he spent a feat to be the best at this. That's so silly. I was mad for him.

The CMD and CMB system in Pathfinder worked way better than this. What is the reasoning for such a ridiculous DC?

I recommend changing CMD from KAC +8 to KAC +5.


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Instead, I recommend people stop making characters based on something that is ill-supported in Starfinder and then getting mad that it doesn't work as well as in Pathfinder. Remember the 'I made a character that only heals' posts?


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Ciaran Barnes wrote:
Brofessor X wrote:

I have a player who is pissed because he made a melee grappling character with 18 STR, Combat Maneuver Focus (Grapple), and +1 BAB. He has a +9 to grapple opponents. With ncs having and average 22 combat maneuver defense, he has to roll a 14 or higher to grapple. Thats a 30% chance to succeed when he spent a feat to be the best at this. That's so silly. I was mad for him.

The CMD and CMB system in Pathfinder worked way better than this. What is the reasoning for such a ridiculous DC?

I recommend changing CMD from KAC +8 to KAC +5.

So that a skittermander with a feat and a grapple weapon can grapple at KAC-3?


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Torbyne wrote:


So that a skittermander with a feat and a grapple weapon can grapple at KAC-3?

Skittermanders give the best hugs. It is known.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Yeah, but what works fine as a joke, works less so as a PC build that suddenly trivializes all adventure content. And if Skittermanders can grapple at KAC-3, expect to see a non-stop parade of Skittermander wrestlers who choke out every single major enemy ever.


As someone else noted, if you want to be "super" at grappling you need not only the feat, but also a grappling weapon. At that point your grapple attack is vs an AC only 2 higher. So it would have only a 10% chance less to hit.

It's important to have context for how often characters hit with their attacks in general. Remember for the cost of a feat and using a grappling weapon your now only 10% behind. If they're having too much trouble successfully grappling and they've really invested, they're probably rolling poorly.

Rolls below 10 in Starfinder are generally just going to be failures. Starfinder readjusted the math, and success rates on PC actions are much lower than they used to be.


Question: Are there any size modifiers or limits on grappling? My quick breeze through those rules didn't turn up anything and it seems silly for a child sized critter to pin a whale with a good roll.


Telok wrote:
Question: Are there any size modifiers or limits on grappling? My quick breeze through those rules didn't turn up anything and it seems silly for a child sized critter to pin a whale with a good roll.

No restrictions or modifiers. In fact, the best PC grappler is small.


I suppose the main reason from my perspective that grappling is more difficult in Starfinder than in Pathfinder is that it is less useful in terms of the setting, both genre- and world-wise.

I can't help but think of the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indiana Jones just shoots the guy who came up to him flourishing a sword very skillfully.

Combat in the Starfinder setting is considerably different from combat in the (standard) Pathfinder setting. Whereas in Pathfinder you might see a small battlefield consisting of a couple rear-line casters, supports, and ranged attackers with a couple of group melee skirmishes in between, most of the combat in Starfinder is focused on the "backline."

In Starfinder, in most situations, there are generally a great many alternatives to grappling in a given situation that would be equally or more reliable or useful. Literally every class has basic melee weapon, small arm, and light armor proficiency, and weapon specialization is handed out very early. Operative weapons are basically automatically free finesse weapons, and the range of small-arms means that you never really need to invest in extra proficiencies to ensure you have level-appropriate damage options every level, modulo how much money you have on hand. The prevalence of ranged weapons means that unless you are building exclusively towards close-range combat domination, combat maneuvers aren't useful for everyone since most fighting takes place at range rather than in close-quarters. That isn't to say grappling doesn't have its uses, but it isn't as flexible an option in the Starfinder setting as it is in Pathfinder (since there are far fewer martial options, no real benefit to grappling spellcasters without somatic components, and a higher chance of just getting shot at while grappling), there may very well be better feats to take than Improved Combat Maneuver (Grappling).

Basically, my take is that if grappling were easier to do, more people would be tempted to do it, and the fact that it is more niche than in Pathfinder due to setting constraints means that the payoff would be minimal in general.


Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
johnlocke90 wrote:
Brofessor X wrote:

I have a player who is pissed because he made a melee grappling character with 18 STR, Combat Maneuver Focus (Grapple), and +1 BAB. He has a +9 to grapple opponents. With ncs having and average 22 combat maneuver defense, he has to roll a 14 or higher to grapple. Thats a 30% chance to succeed when he spent a feat to be the best at this. That's so silly. I was mad for him.

The CMD and CMB system in Pathfinder worked way better than this. What is the reasoning for such a ridiculous DC?

With a Grapple weapon and the feat, its only a +2 bonus over an ordinary attack.

The main issue right now would be limited grapple weapons.

Where are these Grapple weapons? I can't find any mention of them.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32

The reason for making combat maneuvers hard is that while they are cool occasionally, they begin to be lame if they happen all the time. Disarming the BBEG once? Awesome! Disarming every single BBEG until the GM starts rebuilding encounters to account for the fact that no one ever gets to keep their weapon? Boring. Same thing with tripping, grappling, and so forth. Eventually it stops being a creative response to a tough situation and instead becomes the routine tactic. So you don't want it to be too reliable. Trust me, I've GMed for PCs that trip or grapple Every. Single. Foe. and it gets old fast.


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ryric wrote:
Trust me, I've GMed for PCs that trip or grapple Every. Single. Foe. and it gets old fast.

What? One trick ponies that essentially end combat aren't fun to deal with for the GM or other players? Are you sure? That doesn't sound right.


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I get that highly specialized characters that avoid the normal flow of combat are a problem. But isn't that an argument for removing the ability to specialize and making the base maneuver more feasible, rather than the reverse?

At the moment, if the PCs cleverly trick Mr. Hooded Lightning Fingers to the edge of an infinitely deep pit, when they try to push him in, the rules will state they can't really, because they didn't specialize in pushing people into pits.

The solution to one-trick ponies isn't to nerf anyone so only the one-trick ponies have a chance of succeeding. It's eliminating their avenues of approach and making the base rules something manageable.

The Exchange

That said, Skittermander stole the Goblin's trick of grapple into bites.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Kitsch Zero wrote:

I get that highly specialized characters that avoid the normal flow of combat are a problem. But isn't that an argument for removing the ability to specialize and making the base maneuver more feasible, rather than the reverse?

At the moment, if the PCs cleverly trick Mr. Hooded Lightning Fingers to the edge of an infinitely deep pit, when they try to push him in, the rules will state they can't really, because they didn't specialize in pushing people into pits.

The solution to one-trick ponies isn't to nerf anyone so only the one-trick ponies have a chance of succeeding. It's eliminating their avenues of approach and making the base rules something manageable.

Thing is, this situation is exactly why they make the maneuvers so difficult: because most of the combat maneuvers can come pretty close to ending an encounter in one move. If pushing people is easy, than any encounter with an environmental hazard turns into "And, the PCs one-shot everyone by pushing them off the edge into the pit".


Currently I am playing in a home game where we are all Skittermanders. I made a Mystic Geneturge (Augmented Archtype) at level 1 I took Mystic Strike and at 3rd Improved Combat Manuever (Grapple). (Str 12) At 3rd level thats a Grapple at +2(Skitter)+2(BaB)+4(Imp Com Man) +1(str)+2(weapon garrote) for a total of at least +11 to hit base AC (KAC+8).

Now the Mystic Strike is not even in play for those numbers, I have that question out on another thread. Garrote is a basic weapon so I am specialized with it even though it's an operative weapon. I am wondering if a third feat such as Weapon Focus might be beneficial later but for now its a neat flavor for the game. I haven't equiped any ranged weapons, to give him the flavor of a Mystic Warrior.(not because I couldn't but I make a flaw with any character my future ranged weapons will probably be augments)

Now this might seem pointless, but with mystic strike I can grapple ghosts and hold them in place. I only need an empty hand to threaten squares and make an opportunity melee attack with say a venom spur (which I got at 2nd level for half price Augmented Archetype) on anyone. This makes him very helpful in a combat situation, he's not a star but in a team environment he can be deadly. It's a character that encourages team cooperation.

The point is if you dedicated to making a Grappler or any specialized Manuever character you can overcome the obstacles (replace the Skittermander bonus with weapon focus). Grapple is a basic attack and falls under basic weapons. Everyone gets to be a specialist in basic weapons at 3rd level which adds damage. Feats such as weapon Focus now are with a specific class of weapons not a specific weapon type. The fact that it's more challenging makes for better gaming in my opinion.

(Now I have had a GM rule in organized play that's it's more difficult due to the archaic/ technological reason ie the -5 to damage. However that was before the Armoury came out.)

None the less you could be mad for your player, or if they really made just a grappler give them more experience for overcoming a greater challenge. I mean if they are taking prisoners and all that. If they just kill em and don't accept a surrender then no reason to award anything extra for choosing the harder route.


johnlocke90 wrote:
Telok wrote:
Question: Are there any size modifiers or limits on grappling? My quick breeze through those rules didn't turn up anything and it seems silly for a child sized critter to pin a whale with a good roll.
No restrictions or modifiers. In fact, the best PC grappler is small.

The general lack of size modifiers for things like grappling, carry capacity, etc. really hurts immersion imo.

I would be glad of those get readded to the game somehow, but I doubt they will.


Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
Venti5 wrote:

Currently I am playing in a home game where we are all Skittermanders. I made a Mystic Geneturge (Augmented Archtype) at level 1 I took Mystic Strike and at 3rd Improved Combat Manuever (Grapple). (Str 12) At 3rd level thats a Grapple at +2(Skitter)+2(BaB)+4(Imp Com Man) +1(str)+2(weapon garrote) for a total of at least +11 to hit base AC (KAC+8).

Now the Mystic Strike is not even in play for those numbers, I have that question out on another thread. Garrote is a basic weapon so I am specialized with it even though it's an operative weapon. I am wondering if a third feat such as Weapon Focus might be beneficial later but for now its a neat flavor for the game. I haven't equiped any ranged weapons, to give him the flavor of a Mystic Warrior.(not because I couldn't but I make a flaw with any character my future ranged weapons will probably be augments)

Now this might seem pointless, but with mystic strike I can grapple ghosts and hold them in place. I only need an empty hand to threaten squares and make an opportunity melee attack with say a venom spur (which I got at 2nd level for half price Augmented Archetype) on anyone. This makes him very helpful in a combat situation, he's not a star but in a team environment he can be deadly. It's a character that encourages team cooperation.

The point is if you dedicated to making a Grappler or any specialized Manuever character you can overcome the obstacles (replace the Skittermander bonus with weapon focus). Grapple is a basic attack and falls under basic weapons. Everyone gets to be a specialist in basic weapons at 3rd level which adds damage. Feats such as weapon Focus now are with a specific class of weapons not a specific weapon type. The fact that it's more challenging makes for better gaming in my opinion.

(Now I have had a GM rule in organized play that's it's more difficult due to the archaic/ technological reason ie the -5 to damage. However that was before the Armoury came out.)

None the less you could be mad for your player, or if they really...

I'm afraid mystic strike does not allow for grappling ghosts. Even a vanguard applying the force property to a garrotte can't grapple incorporeal creatures by RAW.

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