Mundane Design for “The D&D That Never Was”

Of all the things that D&D has done well over the years, providing mechanics to allow mundane characters to do interesting things hasn’t been one of them. In particular, mundane characters in combat have typically been limited to hitting things for damage as far as tactical choices go. To that end I am adding a “mini-game” for each Mundane class that gives them a toolbox to work with in combat that will let them feel a little more involved without being overwhelming.

As a secondary concern I tried to make these features distinctive for each Class but at this level of abstraction I don’t have enough of the rest of the game to work with to do a really solid job.

Stances, Gambits, Rages and Tactics

The four Classes I’m looking at are Fighters (Stances), Thieves (Gambits), Barbarians (Rages) and Rangers (Tactics). As I mentioned in my last D&D That Never Was post, Fighters and Thieves are designed for Dungeon settings while Barbarians and Rangers are designed for Wilderness/Woodlands settings (as the “Fighter” and “Thief” respectively). As you can see the “Fighter” mechanics focus on the character and the space around him while the “Thief” mechanics focus on the target of the attack.


A Stance reflects the way a Fighter can affect the battle-space around them outside of direct attacks. Each Fighter will have a set of Stances to choose from and be able to switch them at the start of his Turn.

General purpose stances will be applicable to all kinds of Fighters. Examples include:

  • Denial: Any enemy entering a square adjacent to the Fighter triggers an Opportunity Attack. If the Fighter hits with the Opportunity Attack, the enemy ends his movement there.
  • Assault: The Fighter cannot take Opportunity Attacks and gains a +2 to his applicable defense when targeted by them.
  • Guardian: Any enemy adjacent to the Fighter who attacks one of the Fighter’s allies without targeting the Fighter himself is subject to an Opportunity Attack. If the Fighter hits with that attack the enemy attacks with Disadvantage.
  • Disrupting: The Fighter cannot take Opportunity Attacks. Any enemy the Fighter hits with a melee attack can be moved 5′ or knocked Prone at the Fighter’s choice.

There will be other stances that only function with certain weapons or perhaps the basic stances will be modified by the weapon choice. For example, someone with the Paired Weapon Style (i.e. One-Hand and Light Weapon) might have a bonus to hit in the Guardian Stance while someone with a Hammer, Mace or Club might be able to knock people back 10′ with the Disrupting Stance.


A Gambit reflects the way a Thief can use his cunning to inflict extra misfortune on a sufficiently prepared opponent. Each Thief will have a set of Gambits to choose from and be able to switch then at the end of his Turn.

Gambits will be more specialized than Stances, and require greater coordination on the battlefield with his team-mates to work. Examples include:

  • Sneak Attack: If you hit an enemy that has Disadvantage towards you, you inflict double damage on that attack.
  • Topple Over: If you hit an enemy that is adjacent to a drop, push him over the edge in addition to dealing normal damage.
  • Knee Cap: If you hit an enemy that has moved in the last turn he is knocked Prone in addition to taking normal damage.
  • Sucker Punch: If you hit an enemy that has two or more of your allies adjacent to it, he is Dazed in addition to taking normal damage.

I don’t see as much scope for expansion for Gambits as Stances but I’m sure it will come apparent when the Classes are more nailed down.


Rages represent the way a Barbarian’s fighting style changes depending on his personal condition. Each Barbarian will have a set of Rages to choose from, but they can only be triggered when certain conditions are met. Rages end automatically when other conditions are met.

Rages will boost your damage, improve your defenses, grant Temporary HP, etc. Examples include:

  • Primal Dominance: You have Advantage on all melee attacks. Can be triggered when you have full HP; ends when you are Bloodied.
  • Savage Resurgence: You can gain CON modifier in Temporary HP whenever you hit with a melee attack. Can be triggered when you are Bloodied; ends when you are no longer Bloodied.
  • Thunderous Blows: You can push 5′ and knock Prone anyone you hit. Can be triggered when you hit with a melee attack; ends when you roll a natural 1 on a melee attack roll.

Rages are designed to keep the Barbarian aware of his own condition while adding the sense of reckless commitment that has always been part of the Barbarian’s style.


Tactics reflect the Ranger’s special training in dealing with the monsters of the wild. Each Ranger will have a set of Tactics that they can choose between at the start of the battle and switch whenever one of the enemies is incapacitated or at the cost of your Action for a Round.

Tactics are designed to neutralize enemy capabilities. Examples include:

  • Hunter of the Air: When you hit an enemy that is naturally flying you can cause then to fall Prone and hit the ground or fall 500′, whichever happens first.
  • Sure Wounds: When you hit an enemy that has Regeneration it cannot Regenerate until the end of your next Turn.
  • Defending the Herd: When you hit an enemy it cannot gain Advantage due to superior numbers or flanking until the end of your next Turn.
  • Dragon Drill: When you hit an enemy with a breath weapon, it cannot use its breath weapon until the end of your next Turn.

Tactics serve as a “leveler” in combat, removing special capabilities from the exotic monsters you expect to find in the Wilderness.



  1. Hmm, pretty interesting. I don’t have much to comment with just this bare info, though.

    At a glance, stance seems to be the most boring of the four mechanics. The other threes are require players to pay a lot attention to surrounding, or in the case of Barbarian, his own condition. It seems more dynamic.

    Other than gambit (or as part of gambit options) perhaps Rogue should have some kind of way to set up gambit condition by himself. Teamwork is good, but the class should no be over reliant. This way the rouge can also do some combo with their gambits.

    1. Actually, the Stance requires the Fighter to pay attention to the state of the battlefield. Does he need to hold a chokepoint? Assault the rear lines? Protect an endangered ally? Those are the sorts of questions that I intended the Fighter to consider when choosing stances.

      As far as “self-comboing” I’d like to move away from that in the case of The D&D That Never Was. As I mentioned in the previous post on “Pillars” D&D is about team combat and as a result I made the Class abilities reliant on the other party members. Admittedly there is a fine line between “teamwork” and “necessary classes” (which I do not want to have) but I intend several of the Classes to be able to set up the Thief’s Gambits. Admittedly this may require a little coordination in character creation but I’m not adverse to having that in a team game.

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