D&D Homebrew: Unit Tactics

Time for another Dungeons & Dragons post. My group is starting a new campaign tomorrow, and I’m super excited to run this one. Partly, because we’re bringing a new person into the hobby. Partly, because I’ve got an idea that I hope will add to the engagement during combat and make the group feel like the elites their characters are supposed to be.

So, we all know D&D is a power fantasy where you get to play big heroes who do extraordinary things. However, it becomes difficult to see your characters as special, because every Battlemaster Fighter has the same “move set” as every other Battlemaster Fighter (with minimal variation based upon maneuvers and feats chosen). And while I can say, “my fighter was part of an elite squad of special forces troops,” there really isn’t anything mechanically that allows me to demonstrate elite training.

Enter my idea: Unit Tactics.

How will this work? I’m not entirely certain, as I’m playing it by ear. But the idea is to give the party, as they are all members of an elite squad of special forces, a set of actions that function similar to a monster’s Legendary Actions that will allow them to show off unit coordination, elite knowledge and skills, and special abilities in ways that the normal mechanics really don’t embrace.

Again, this isn’t finalized, because Session Zero is tomorrow, and I’ll finalize it before Session One. But here’s a rough sketch of how I see the mechanic working:

Unit Tactics: As members of an elite special forces unit, you have learned to work together to accomplish tasks beyond that which normal heroes and adventurers can perform. Your party has 8 (eight) Tactic Points. These points refill at the end of a Short or Long Rest. During combat, you may expend points to perform the following tasks:

1 Tactic Point

Move: You may move an additional 10 feet when you take the movement action.

Toss Potion: As a bonus action, you may toss a potion to a squad member who is within 10 feet of you, and they do not have to make a Dexterity (Acrobatics) check to catch it.

Skill: You may perform a skill check as a bonus action if you are proficient in that skill.

2 Tactic Points

Disengage: You may take the Disengage action as a bonus action.

Slam: When making a successful melee weapon or unarmed attack, you force the target to make a DC13 Strength (Athletics) check or be knocked prone.

Precision Shot: If you do not use your Move action this turn and next turn, you gain advantage on ranged weapon attacks and directed spell attacks for this turn.

3 Tactic Points

Tandem Attack: You can direct a squad member to use their reaction to make a single melee or ranged weapon attack on your turn in addition to your melee or ranged weapon attack. Both must attack the same target. If both attacks hit, each attack does an additional 1d6 points of damage.

Joined Casting You can direct a squad member to use their reaction to cast a cantrip that requires a spell attack roll when you attack with a directed spell attack on your turn. Both must attack the same target. If both spells hit, each spell deals an additional 1d6 points of damage.

Combat Medic: When using a Healer’s Kit to stabilize a downed party member, you may expend one use of the kit to grant the target 1d4+1 hit points. If you have the Healer feat, the squad member receives these hit points in addition to those granted by the feat.

4 Tactic Points

Rally the Troops: You expend your action giving a rousing speech to your squad mates. Your entire squad gains temporary hit points equal to your Proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier. You also grant 1d4-1 (min. 1) squad members (not yourself) advantage on their next attack roll or saving throw.

5 Tactic Points

Tactical Retreat: Your entire squad disengages and flees the battlefield. As you called the retreat, you must succeed on a Survival check with a DC equal to (8 + Proficiency Bonus + [Avg. Party Wisdom Mod.]) to successfully avoid pursuit. You may expend an additional 2 Tactic Points to decrease the DC by 1.

At Higher Levels: When the average party level reaches 5 and 17, you gain 1 additional Tactic Point. When the average party level reaches 11, the die rolled for extra damage or healing increases by one level (d4 becomes d6, d6 becomes d8, etc.).

Will this unbalance normal encounters in the party’s favor? Probably. Does that upset me? No. I want them to feel like they’re the elite soldiers their characters are supposed to be. I want them to feel powerful, to feel heroic.

Besides, the moment they find the battle turning against them after they’ve expended too many points to flee, will be a moment of adrenaline, terror, and panic. And should they survive, they will feel powerful. But, any casualties suffered will hit harder.

I think it’ll be interesting.