Monday, November 25, 2019

Death to the Tyranny of Bonus Actions

Bonus actions in 5e? Not a fan. 

Mike Mearls now sees them as "fairly hacky," and I agree. But since removing them entirely won't happen until a new edition, how do we live with them in the meantime?

This is my most radical house rule for 5e D&D:

Bonus Actions
You can take more than one bonus action on your turn, but those bonus actions cannot be granted by the same feature, trait, feat, or spell, and they do not allow you to “stack” the same effect. 

Examples of What This House Rules DOESN'T Let You Do:

  • You cannot use more than one of the bonus actions listed under the Monk’s Ki ability on your turn because they are all granted by the same class feature. You can't use Flurry of Blows, Step of the Wind, and Patient Defense all on one turn, even if you're willing to spend the ki points, because they all come from the same source: the Ki feature of the monk class.
  • If multiple features grant you additional attacks as a bonus action, you may only only use one of them on your turn. So, if you are a monk you could use a bonus action to make an attack using two-weapon fighting or use a bonus action to make a martial arts attack, but you can't do both because that would be stacking the same effect: using a bonus action to get more attacks.
  • You cannot cast unlimited bonus action spells. Those stack the same effect (casting a spell) and the rules about how many spells you can cast per turn aren't circumvented by this house rule anyway.
Examples of What This House Rule DOES Let You Do:
  • If you are a barbarian who wields two hand axes, you can use a bonus action to enter a rage and still use a bonus action on that turn to make an attack with your off-hand axe. 
  • If you are a Monster Slay ranger who wields two shortswords, you can use a bonus action to cast hunter's mark on a foe, use a bonus action to designate that foe as your Slayer's Prey, and use a bonus action to attack them with the shortsword in your off-hand.
  • If you are a rogue, you can use a bonus action to use Cunning Action and attack with a weapon in your off-hand.
  • If you are a monk, you can make an attack with your Martial Arts feature and spend a ki point to use Step of the Wind, granting your foes disadvantage on their attacks that target you.
  • If you are a fighter who uses two-weapon fighting, you could make an off-hand attack on your normal turn and your extra turn if you use your Action Surge feature.

As you can see from the examples above, this house rule benefits characters who wield two weapons because it actually lets them use the style of fighting they have invested in, instead of making that choice feel like a mistake. Now using two weapons is a flavorful choice in-line with other options rather than a penalty because the bonus actions it requires are no longer competing against your other features that use your bonus action. 

It is also beneficial to rangers especially because it corrects a continual mistake I see on the D&D team's end in making everything a ranger might want to do dependent on bonus actions, such as their iconic fighting style, the hunter's mark spell, several subclass's 3rd level features, etc. (I regard that as, frankly, terrible design work. If a ranger's features are meant to be used, it's ridiculous that a Monster Slayer ranger can't get their whole routine in action until the third round of combat, particularly since combat tends to end in three or four rounds. Oh, and that's only if they don't need to use a bonus action to move hunter's mark or Slayer's Prey to another target. Good luck with that.)

This rule also gives a slight benefit to the monk that feels right to me. With only d8 hit dice, a lack of defensive boosts to AC, and the assumption that your role is as a melee combat, the ability to get all of your attacks in and still spend a ki point for extra help not getting hit feels very much like the sort of thing a monk should be able to do.

I've been playing with this one for a while now; as far as I can see it breaks nothing in my game.