In preparation for the pre-alpha playtest document, I’ve been thinking about some special combat options (like disarm), weapons with the ability to perform unusual actions (such as whips), and spending boosts to do that.
In an earlier blog, I had described how in some cases learning a combat feat is the routine version of a special attack (like Power Attack), and spending a boost on one of those feats is like executing the perfect version of that special attack–everything that you and your opponent did lined up just perfectly, allowing you to accomplish that attack in an exceptional way (such as Power Attack without the attack roll penalty, or with even more damage beyond that of a normal use of Power Attack). This lets me design and balance the game around the assumption that characters have an at-will version of that attack, and a limited-use (based on the 5 boosts per day) increased version of it.
Someone replied to one of my other blog posts and asked whether or not there would be a success-based recharge mechanic in the game like PF’s gunslinger grit mechanic (which is, “confirming a crit or killing with a firearm against a suitable foe restores 1 grit”). In general, I’m not a fan of that sort of mechanic, for two reasons:
1) It’s highly variable, and someone who tends to roll poorly is going to fare even worse with that mechanic than someone who tends to roll well.
2) It’s pretty easy to “game the system” by carefully choosing targets who you’re more likely to crit or kill. For example, if you’re a gunslinger in a fight with a wounded, low-AC creature and an unharmed, high-AC creature, it’s advantageous for the player to choose to shoot at the wounded creature because a kill (and grit recharge) is more likely, and also more likely to shoot at the low-AC creature because a hit and crit (and grit recharge) is more likely. It’s even possible for a character to end a battle with more grit than they started with.
That said, it would be nice to open up some ways to use the boost mechanic to accomplish unusual tasks, but not limit the character to just 5 of those tasks per day. For example, Indiana Jones is really good with a whip, and he can disarm people with it, use it to grab a tree branch and swing on it, and so on, and he’s not limited to doing that 5 times per day.
So what if there was a refresh mechanic for some boosted effects, and it was tied to attempting to use that boosted effect, and if you were successful, you regained the boost you just spent?
In other words, what if there was a rule like this:
Rechargeable Boost Rule: If an ability’s boosted effect is rechargeable, and you succeed at the boosted effect, unspend the boost you spent to activate that boosted effect (as if you hadn’t spent the boost at all, but still get the boosted effect).
Then the Improved Disarm feat could be worded like this (just spitballing on some example mechanics):
Improved Disarm (maneuver): When you try to disarm an opponent, add +5 to your disarm roll. When someone tries to disarm you, add +5 to your opposed disarm roll.
- Boost: If you disarm your opponent, you also hit them with the weapon you used to disarm them (rechargeable).
- Boost: If you disarm your opponent, the disarmed weapon lands 5–15 feet away in a random direction (rechargeable).
- Boost: If you disarm your opponent and have a hand free, you catch their weapon and are now holding or wielding it (rechargeable).
With this setup, a character who has studied disarming can try spending a boost to get one of these boosted effects. If the disarm is successful, the character doesn’t expend the boost and isn’t any worse off for trying.
This basically means that someone who is good at disarming can keep getting boosted disarm effects over and over during the day (instead of being limited to 5/day), but it’s not possible for them to end up with more boosts than they started with (which would really bother me if they were able to go from 1 boost left to 5 boosts left, and then spend those boosts on other abilities unrelated to the thing that gave them those boosts back).
In effect, some of these rechargeable boosted effects become an aspect of the character’s at-will version of that ability–you’re not just “the disarm-focused warrior,” you’re the “disarm-focused warrior who usually knocks your weapon out of reach.”
You could do the same sort of thing for certain weapons (even nonmagical weapons) that you want to have special abilities, like this:
Greathammer: This heavy hammer is so huge, you have to wield it with two hands.
- Boost: If you crit your opponent, you may try a free push against them (rechargeable).
- Boost: If you crit your opponent, you may try a free trip against them (rechargeable).
You could have a similar mechanic for a parrying dagger, using a whip to disarm, using a shield to block (or against a breath weapon), and so on.
Thoughts on this recharge mechanic, and whether to add it to feats, equipment, or both?
 Now, I’m all for encouraging success and good tactics, and one of the parameters of the Five Moons RPG is that it’s easier to hit with a “basic” attack than it is in 3E (which is why the baseline attack bonus is higher and the baseline ACs are a little lower). But I don’t want to create a situation that encourages the player to use metagaming to come out ahead compared to a player who doesn’t. And in many cases, shooting at the low-AC or more-wounded creature is actually the better tactical option for the character, I just don’t want to set up situations where player knowledge encourages choices that are better from a rules standpoint than an in-game standpoint.
 I might want to have each rechargeable aspect something the character must learn separately (not a big deal, as in Five Moons RPG you can keep learning feats just like you can keep learning wizard spells, without hitting a max known limit), which would prevent this from becoming instantly super-versatile. So you’d learn “how to make the disarm-hit a rechargeable boosted effect” as a combat ability, and “how to make the disarm-send-it-flying a rechargeable boosted effect,” and so on).