Gambits, a quick way to spice 5e combat

I like exciting pulp-action combat, but standard 5e D&D combat can grow stale quick. So here is my simple combat rules “plug-in” to spice up the game for everyone.

These are codified from a few years DMing with these rules in an informal way. But I finally codified them now, and call them Gambits. Feel free to use this concept wholesale or just steal the core concepts and run with your own. The goal is to make combat more fun and exciting without bogging down in too many rules. 

Semantically a gambit is when someone sacrifices a resource or an opportunity to achieve a potential upper hand in a conflict.

Using Tactical Gambits

In nutshell gambits are small tactical choices you can take in exchange for taking disadvantage on the attack. It’s basically a gamble. You can only use one gambit per turn, AND only when you don’t already have disadvantage. Thanks to the trade-off they balance out with vanilla combat, and newer players won’t be losing out just because they are simply swinging their sword. It’s an opt-in/opt-out rule set that anyone can decide to use or not use at any time.

The design prerogative of gambits is to not change the balance of the game; and they are not meant to replace or invalidate any core rules like fighting styles, feats, existing combat actions, or classes like the battle master and their maneuvers. This works because the gambits allow a player to trade advantage or to take disadvantage on their attack roll for potential tactical benefits. This means that gambit benefits are curbed by the choice of taking a gamble. Thus both a player that actively embraces gambits, and a player that prefers to play it safe will be roughly equal in combat.

Links:
PDF, on google drive, version 1.0
GMBinder source, constantly updated

Like all my brews on this blog, this is a carefully balanced, peer reviewed and playtested brew of the finest malt!
As always I’m glad to hear feedback and about any experiences using this brew for PCs or NPCs.

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