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December 15, 2011 / Wythe

P.D. explains how Pathfinder combat maneuvers work

Okay, so maybe that subject line is a little misleading, cause this email is just more stuff about PF. So I’m going back through the combat section of the handbook and and trying to wrap my head around what we were talking about before. Combat now has…

  1. My Attack Bonus
  2. My AC
  3. My CMB (combat maneuver bonus)
  4. My CMD (combat maneuver defense)


Except I’m looking at it and it says…

Combat Maneuver Bonus: Each character and creature has a Combat Maneuver Bonus (or CMB) that represents its skill at performing combat maneuvers. A creature’s CMB is determined using the following formula:

CMB = Base attack bonus + Strength modifier + special size modifier

The special size modifier for a creature’s Combat Maneuver Bonus is as follows:

Fine –8, Diminutive –4, Tiny –2, Small –1, Medium +0, Large +1, Huge +2, Gargantuan +4, Colossal +8

This means that for all medium things (which is let’s face it 90% of stuff we care about) that your CMB is base attack bonus, +STR. So to do a Combat Maneuver… I roll a d20 and then add my Combat Bonus, and then add my STR… wait a minute…

To make a melee attack, normal style, I roll a d20, then add my combat bonus, then my STR modifier. THATS THE SAME FRIGGIN’ THING.

Yes, the answer is, combat maneuvers ARE THE SAME ROLL for the attacker. #goodtoknow

The only difference SEEMS to be that for a melee attack you roll against AC—which is: 10 + Armor Rating + Dex Bonus + Misc.

So how do combat maneuvers work, for them the VERY SAME ROLL is instead checked against: 10 + Str Bonus + Dex Bonus + Size (which prolly don’t matter)

Okay… well that sounds weird, but when you think about it, you’re just substituting STR for ARMOR. OK. Not that bad. And it kinda makes sense too. If I’m not trying to do damage to you, but rather knock you down or knock your weapon from your hand, the thickness of armor doesn’t matter, but how strong you are does. Cool.

The only really important thing is this. By default, combat maneuvers provoke attacks of opportunity (AoO). YIKES. (there are some feats that eliminate this. also some maneuvers which don’t provoke). And according to PF, if you take damage from this AoO then the damage you take is also subtracted from your Combat Maneuver Attack roll. Meaning, if you try to disarm, and the dude stabs you odds are you are not getting the knife away from him. SO. Seems pretty risky/dangerous to perform a maneuver.


Tha’s how it works.

I found this super helpful. Thanks, P.


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