House Rules: Why Can’t I Fight Recklessly?

Something’s always bothered me. In Pathfinder, you can fight defensively and you can take the total defence action. Both options are jolly useful to the tactically astute player, but why can’t I fight recklessly?


Of course, any combatant can charge into battle. Doing so, bestows a +2 on an attack, but a -2 to AC until the start of the combatant’s next turn. That’s cool, if I’ve got enough room to actually charge, but often there isn’t (or melee is already ongoing).

The barbarian has a mechanic that could be viewed as fighting recklessly—rage. However—obviously—that’s a class specific ability. It seems, no one else can fight recklessly! That seems odd and I wonder why such an option wasn’t included in the core rules. It wouldn’t take up a lot of space—fighting defensively is covered in 50 words or so.

I can only assume one of four reasons is responsible for the lack of a fight recklessly mechanic:

  1. The designers didn’t think of it.
  2. The designers didn’t think anyone would use it.
  3. For some reason the option was seen as unbalanced. Perhaps they were worried players would use it too much.
  4. The designers didn’t want to encroach on the barbarian’s rage class ability.

My Proposed Rule

Here’s my proposed rule. As you can see, it’s quick and simple:

You can choose to fight recklessly, when attacking. If you do so, you take a -4 penalty to your AC, but gain a +2 bonus on all attacks, until the start of your next turn.

What Do You Think?

Does Pathfinder need this option? Got a theory for why it wasn’t included in the rules? Let me know, in the comments below.

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Creighton is the publisher at Raging Swan Press and the designer of the award winning adventure Madness at Gardmore Abbey. He has designed many critically acclaimed modules such as Retribution and Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands and worked with Wizards of the Coast, Paizo, Expeditious Retreat Press, Rite Publishing and Kobold Press.

12 thoughts on “House Rules: Why Can’t I Fight Recklessly?”

  1. I believe that is identical to the Lamentations of the Flame Princess ability “Press”. They have a “Parry” and “defensively” too if I remember right. If Fighters parry they get no attacks that round but+4 to armor class, all other classes get +2 to armor class. Defensively is +2 to armor class and -4 to hit I believe? I probably have that wrong, otherwise only fighters would parry.
    The reckless or press option is awesome!

  2. Reckless is acting “without thinking or caring about the consequences of an action.” you don’t need rules to do that, people already fight recklessly. When they don’t wait for someone to finish speaking, they don’t take the terrain into account, they disregard the agreed upon battle strategy to go punch it in the face, thus starting initiative before everyone is in place, etc so there’s no need for it to be broken down in the rules because it’s more about the RP.

    1. Then you’re disputing a name. What if someone takes a reasoned risk to let guard down in order to improve chances to hit? What would you call that?

      1. Taking boxing for instance, dropping your guard does not increase your chance to hit. Throwing more punches might increase the chance of landing a blow but it also increases the chance of being knocked out by a single shot that you did not see, and it is extremely taxing on your stamina. See the term “He punched himself out”. If I was going to allow a rule like this in my game I would penalize the player for every strike over their standard attack/round and it would have to be a full round action. For instance -1 AC for each strike in a round, They could only continue the action equal to their CON, they actually suffer a -1 Attack for each strike (cumulative), -1 dmg every 3 strikes (cumulative), the opponent gets to take an attack of opportunity when he feels it would be the right time (so he could wait till 4 or 5 strikes then “counter”. I would also impose a critical confirmation bonus for the opponent based on the amount of attacks the player took. In boxing you see this all the time even brawlers no better than to go full ham against another fighter because in order to do so you are not defending yourself and are subject to a one shot KO.

        1. Know better* sorry its early here. anyway final thought I personally wouldn’t put a rule like this into effect.

  3. I’ve always thought of Power Attack as kind of a reckless fighting feat. You basically throw accuracy out the window (unless you have Furious Focus) for more damage. I do see your point about making an AC for attack trade off. Maybe a feat, like reverse Combat Expertise?

  4. Tendering a potential reason for an exclusion of such a mechanic:
    Over-correction whilst attempting to cull the behaviour incentivised by (read: abuse of) the feat “Shock Trooper” in DnD 3.5, whereby players can substitute AC for Attack for where the penalty applied from Power Attack is directed.

    I like this idea, though, and would honestly use it a lot. It makes for a good boost to 3.4 BAB classes, and I tend to only have decent Touch AC as a Monk, anyway.
    … And things hitting for Touch tend to have lower bonuses to their roll, so it’s not so vital to keep it high.

  5. I have thought this, too, man; but for 2nd Edition mechanics. Thanks for addressing this, Creighton. A great article, as usual!

  6. Pathfinder has something similar, but only for ranged PCs and barbarians. They’re called Reckless Aim and Reckless Abandon. You could just make the latter into a feat. Or make it free. Like other things Pathfinder, the bonuses and penalties increase over time.

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