Special Maneuvers

Although they receive various benefits from levelling - such as increased proficiencies and a higher rate of attack - the single greatest asset of a high-level fighter is their THAC0. A high THAC0 can be used to do more than simply hit enemies; it can be used to attempt difficult and extravagant attacks. In combat with a skilled opponent, being able to disarm an enchanted blade can be more valuable than simply doing damage. While warriors can attempt whatever they please - subject to DM adjudication - this page contains rules for some of the standard feats of skill that can be attempted.

Generally speaking, special maneuvers such as blocking, grabbing or disarming take place instead of a normal attack. However, warriors who do not wield a two-handed weapon or a shield can use their off-hand to make a maneuver at the normal penalty for two-weapon fighting (-2 for the main hand, -4 for the off hand). An empty hand, for example, could be used to grab; a dagger in the off-hand can be used to parry attacks, as is common on the Sea of Pearls. Proficiency in two-weapon fighting would be valuable to a fighter who intends to fight in this way.


Blocking, also known as parrying, is simply the act of using a weapon to actively defend instead of attacking. Blocking can be announced even before initiative is rolled, so you don't need to win initiative to block an attack. In order to block, simply make an opposed attack roll against your opponent. In order to block successfully, you must hit AC 4 and beat your opponent's attack roll. If you decide to block and your opponent does not attack you, you can do something else with the attack.

If a parrying dagger is carried in an off-hand, it effectively gives a "free parry" each round; an ordinary dagger can be used for this purpose, but more specialised daggers exist which grant bonuses. The normal penalties for wielding two weapons apply, even if you only use the off-hand weapon for parrying.

Certain weapons grant bonuses to attempts to parry or disarm; see the unusual weapons page for more information.

Called Shot

A called shot is a catch-all for any specific attack or feat of skill - such as shooting a beholder's eye, aiming specifically for an enemy's leg to cripple them, or shooting a pot of oil into an open flame. Called shots increase weapon speed by 1 and usually impose a -4 penalty to-hit, although extreme cases might impose a -6 or a -8 penalty.


Attempting to disarm an enemy - using your weapon to knock theirs away - is similar to a block, but harder to pull off. If your initiative is higher than your opponent's, you can wait for them to attack before opposing their attack roll (a defensive disarm) - otherwise, you disarm on your initiative. Obviously a defensive disarm is better because your opponent wastes their attack, but it requires you to win initiative.

When attempting to disarm an opponent, you make an opposed attack roll: you need to hit AC 0 to qualify, while your opponent only needs to hit AC 4. If you don't hit AC 0, you fail to disarm, regardless of what you rolled. If your opponent doesn't hit AC 4, they are disarmed (as long as you hit AC 0). Otherwise, whoever hit the lower AC wins. When a weapon is successfully disarmed, it flies 1d10 feet in a random direction.

You can't disarm a weapon two sizes larger than your own - so a dagger can't be used to disarm a quarterstaff. Furthermore, 2-handed weapons are harder to disarm, and impose a -4 penalty on your attack roll. You can disarm anything, not just weapons - for example, you can try to knock a wand or spell component from a caster's hand. If your opponent isn't carrying a weapon, you get the usual +4 bonus to-hit for attacking an unarmed opponent.


Grabbing is not the same as grappling - it is the equivalent of disarming, but with an empty hand instead of a weapon. The advantage is that instead of knocking the item away, you can take possession of it. If you attempt to grab anything from an enemy who threatens you, they get an attack of opportunity. Apart from this, a grab is identical to a disarm - although the DM may impose a penalty of up to -8 for something really crazy like grabbing a ring from someone's finger.

Once you successfully grab an opponent's item, you must make an opposed Strength check to wrest control of it. If either party is only grabbing the item with one hand, their Strength is effectively reduced by 3 points. The item remains contested until one party lets go. While two people are playing tug of war over an item, they don't get any bonuses from shields or dexterity, and their AC is worsened by 1.


Grappling, also known as wrestling, is the process of grabbing an opponent - either to stop them from escaping, or to use brute strength to harm them. Grappling an armed enemy provokes an opportunity attack. In order to grapple an enemy, you must both an opposed attack roll vs. AC 10. Bonuses from Strength and Dexterity apply, as do the following modifiers:

If the attacker wins the attack roll, a hold is established. The defender takes 1d2 points of damage and cannot move until they break free.

While being grappled, you cannot move, and can only attack with small weapons such as daggers. If you score a critical hit while being grappled, you can opt to either deal double damage or force the attacker to release you. Otherwise, breaking free from a grapple is the same as trying to grapple in the first place - you both make an opposed attack roll vs. AC 10, and if you win then you escape.


If you have already grappled someone, you can attempt to progress this into a lock. This requires you to make another grapple attempt. If you both fail, nothing changes. If the defender wins, his position is improved by one step - if he was held, he is free, and if he was locked, he is held. If the defender gets a critical hit, you become locked instead. And if you succeed, you lock your opponent. Choose one of the locks from below.

Throw: You stop grappling and throw your opponent. They fly 5 to 10 feet in a direction of your choosing. Unless they land on a soft, yielding surface, they take 1d4 points of damage. If they land on a hard surface, such as stone, they take 1d4+1 damage. Any strength bonuses apply. You can throw them into hazardous areas or onto another creature if you wish; throwing a creature at another creature is equivalent to overbearing.

Takedown: You slam your opponent into the ground. They remain locked and take 1d3 damage; strength bonuses apply. You can keep on taking them down for 1d3 damage until they break free, but changing to a different kind of lock requires a new grapple check.

Slam: You hurl your opponent into the ground. The lock becomes a hold, and they take 1d8 damage; strength bonuses apply. If the surface is hard, they take 1d8+1 damage. Creatures 2 sizes larger than you cannot be slammed; treat it as a takedown.

Hammer: You slam the opponent into something. They take a flat 1d2 damage and must save vs. death or be knocked unconscious for 3d10 rounds. You can keep hammering them for as long as your opponent is locked, but changing to a different lock requires a new grapple check.

Press: You twist part of your opponent's body, dealing 1d6+1 points of damage; strength bonuses apply. You can keep on pressing for as long as your opponent is locked, but changing to a different lock requires a new grapple check. Every round you press, the damage increases by 2; 1d6+3, 1d6+5, and so on.

Manipulate: You manipulate the opponent, according to the DM's discretion. You can manacle a single hand, pry items from their grasp, or remove exposed equipment. If you are trying to remove something difficult, such as a helmet or a piece of armor, it requires a Bend Bars/Lift Gates roll. Every round of manipulation deals a flat 1d2 damage. You can keep on manipulating until the lock is broken, but switching to a different lock requires a new grapple check.

Carry: As long as your opponent's total weight is less than your Maximum Press, you can lift them up and make a normal move (their weight encumbers and possibly slows you). You can keep on carrying as long as they are locked, but changing to a different lock requires a new grapple check.

Nonlethal Attack

You can use a special kind of called shot to knock enemies out with a blunt weapon. As long as their head is unprotected, there is a -4 penalty to hit; if their head is protected by a soft layer, such as a leather cap or thick hat, this penalty increases to -8. If you hit, there is a 5% chance per point of damage that they are knocked out, to a maximum of 40%. If they are asleep, surprised, stunned, or restrained, the chance increases to 10% per point of damage, to a maximum of 80%. Unconscious characters remain that way for 3d10 rounds. If you use a special club (called a "sap" or "blackjack"), only nonlethal damage is dealt to the target.

Another kind of called shot is a "pulled punch", taken when you want to take an enemy alive and are worried about killing them by accident. This is a normal called shot, with a -4 penalty to hit. If you hit, roll damage normally. However, if this damage would kill your opponent, you may instead divide it in half. If this would still be enough to kill them, they are dead. If it would reduce them to negative hit points, it does so (and they will need immediate medical attention). If it would reduce them to positive hit points, they are instead reduced to 0 hp and fall unconscious.

Certain weapons are especially good at subduing enemies. When using a bludgeoning weapon made of wood, such as a quarterstaff or club, there is no chance of accidentally killing an opponent when pulling your punch. As long as you take the -4 penalty to hit, defeating them will knock them unconscious and leave them at 0 hp. This kind of weapon can also be used to knock an enemy out directly if their head is unprotected, of course.


Overbearing is the act of throwing yourself at an enemy to knock them over; it is often used by multiple weaker opponents to bring down lone enemies. Overbearing provokes an opportunity attack from the defender.

In order to overbear, make an unarmed attack with the THAC0 of the best attacker. The overbearing force get a +1 bonus to-hit for each member. The attack is made against the defender's natural AC, which is 10 for most humans, minus any bonuses from magic or Dexterity. If the attackers hit, they must make an opposed Strength check; use the Strength of the strongest attacker, and apply the following modifiers:

Monsters can be assumed to have a Strength of 3.5 per size category, plus their HD. If the attackers win, the defender is successfully overborne and knocked down. If they succeed in overbearing on subsequent rounds, they can pin and restrain him - rendering him helpless and immobile as long as they continue to successfully overbear.


Pulling or tripping an opponent requires a suitable weapon - a long staff, a whip, a net, a pick, a polearm, etc. Any weapon with a long or curved staff-like piece, a chain, or a rope can be used to pull or trip. In order to pull or trip, just make an attack roll. If you hit, make an opposed Strength check against the defender's Strength or Dex, whichever is higher. If you win, they are pulled or tripped.

The Dexterity score of a monster can be assumed to be equal to their movement speed; their Strength is equal to 3.5 per size category, plus their HD. Several other modifiers apply to the defender's Strength:

Shield Bash

Attacking with a shield is the same as dual-wielding; the shield grants no AC bonus, but can be used as a weapon. If you have the Weapon and Shield fighting style, you can shield bash without losing the AC bonus. If you don't have Two-Weapon Fighting, the penalty for shield bashing is -2 for the main hand, and -4 for the off-hand, as per usual.

Shield Speed Damage Knockdown
Small 2 1d3 1d6
Medium 6 1d4 1d8
Large 8 1d6 1d10

When charging, medium shields gain a +1 bonus to their knockdown die and large shields gain a +3 bonus. Furthermore, charging with a shield entitles you to an opposed Strength check to knock your opponent down, irrespective of the knockdown die.


A sweep is the opposite of overbearing - instead of multiple attackers combining their strength to bring down a larger foe, a large attacker makes a wide, clumsy swing at multiple smaller opponents. This could be an giant swiping at an adventuring party with his battleaxe or aiming a clumsy kick at a knot of soldiers, and so on. Creatures that already have special "sweep-style" rules, such as a dragon's tail slap, should use those instead.

A sweep can only be made against multiple opponents who are smaller than yourself. You can target a number of creatures equal to your size category with a sweep: medium creatures can target 2, large creatures can target 3, huge creatures can target 4. Gargantuan-sized creatures can target any number of creatures with a sweep, as long as they are close together. At the DM's discretion, certain creatures may be able to affect more or less creatures than normal with a sweep - for example, if they are using a tail. The targets of a sweep must be relatively close to each other - usually within 5 feet. Again, though, a weapon such as a long tail may alter this constraint.

When a sweep is made, the attacker makes an attack roll against each of the targets of the sweep. However, for each size category difference between the attacker and his victims, this attack roll is made with a -2 penalty to-hit. On a successful hit, normal damage is dealt. Creatures more than 1 size category smaller than the attacker, if they are struck be a sweep, must make a saving throw vs. petrification or be stunned for 1d4 rounds.

Sweeping as a maneuver should not be confused with the fighter ability that allows them to take a number of attacks equal to their level against enemies with less than 1 HD, or with 10 or more HD less than them.


A trap is identical to a disarm, and uses the same dice. However, instead of the knocking the enemy's weapon away, you pin it against your body or entangle it in your sword-haft, or similar. As long as a weapon is trapped, it cannot be used in combat. Similarly to the grab action, the trapped item remains contested until one party lets go for any reason. Neither party gets any bonuses from shields or dexterity while entangled together in this way, and their AC is worsened by 1. In order to break free from a trap, the defender must make a successful opposed Strength roll against the attacker on their initiative.

Certain types of weapons with entangling, strong protrusions - such as the sai or swordbreaker - can be used to break a trapped weapon. When one of these weapons is used to trap a weapon, the attacker can declare that they are trying to break it. The defender must roll a save vs. crushing blow, or his weapon breaks - for metal weapons you must roll a 7+ to pass the saving throw. If an attempt to break a trapped weapon fails, the weapon is no longer trapped.