Wish List: Folding AoO's into robust Immediate Action Rules

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The designers have made it clear that they want to streamline and optimize the new ruleset, so I thought I'd talk about something I consider a clunky bit: Attacks of Opportunity, especially compared with Immediate Actions. AoO's are strange; they're clearly important for balance and tactics, there has to be a tradeoff for doing weird things on the battlefield, but they have the strange distinction of both being fairly weak in general and quite strong in certain situations. In my limited experience, some characters will be able to go weeks without ever using an AoO, and only be subject to a handful, while others make a significant use of them almost all the time. Are the ones who aren't getting AoO's wasting a resource they could be using? That's not a totally fair question, but it's part of why the mechanic seems a little strange to me.

There's also a lot of overlap with the new "immediate action" rule, which i like. ToB in particular has a great deal of interesting uses of immediate actions, with counters, and the rules for quickened spells work better with the distinction between free, immediate, and swift actions laid out clearly.

So, to get to the point, I think AoO's should be folded into a more strategic use of immediate actions. Characters could start with four basic options for immediate actions (or they could just be called "reactions"):

1: Attack of Opportunity: As in 3.5, a single attack against an enemy that leaves itself open in any of the usual ways.

2: Block/Parry: a defensive reaction, that can be applied to any single attack targeting the player. This represents using a shield to block the attack or a weapon to parry it. I haven't run the numbers, but my thought is that this would add the character's Strength bonus, plus a modifier from class levels, plus a size bonus for the size of the shield or weapon used, to the character's AC for only that attack. (The size modifier is just to give more benefit to blocking with a tower shield than parrying with a dagger - the former is much more likely to succeed than the latter, assuming equal skill.)

3: Dodge: As with Block, but this would also consume a 5-foot step. The character would get out of the way of the incoming attack altogether. I think a Reflex save vs. the attack roll, again perhaps with a bonus from class levels, that would allow the character to take a 5-foot step and avoid the attack entirely. Of course, this would still provoke AoO's from any other threatening enemies, and might need to be balanced in some other way to prevent cheese (for instance, the step must be taken directly away from the attacker, instead of a free choice of any space)

4: Perform a Readied Action.

I freely admit that Block and Dodge need careful numerical balancing, and that's not my strong suit, but my underlying point is, these would present meaningful options to a character, especially a melee fighter. Reactions would be another resource to manage. For instance, a defender might have to carefully consider using a reaction to block a nasty incoming attack, or save it to use on an AoO, so that no enemies can get past him to the caster.

Additionally, this would model the sort of "Active defense" a lot of people seem to want from classes, with things like Defense bonus or whatnot. Generally speaking, classes with good BAB would be good at parrying, classes with good Reflex saves would be good at dodging, and classes with neither should stay out of melee.

I also would expect characters to be able to spend feats or talents on extra Reactions per round, as well as better actions to use their Reactions on- the counters in ToB are a good example, and I could imagine something like "Riposte", that would be both a parry and an attack against the source of the attack parried.

I think the potential of this concept is in the real, intuitive combat choices it would model. For instance, it would enhance the current flanking rules by the simple fact that a character fighting two foes can't use Parry against them both, and so is vulnerable. Similarly, Feint would be a whole new ball-game if it were a way to make a foe waste their immediate action Parrying an attack that never materializes.

So, with this system it's possible to imagine a swashbuckler-type who fights without armor, but has a feat-build for multiple reactions and very good bonuses to both parry and dodge, or an armored knight who blocks attacks with a shield to be even more resistant to damage, or a greatsword-swinging barbarian who allows himself to be hit more often in order to concentrate on doing maximum damage with AoO's or other aggressive maneuvers, and yet any of them can choose to use their reactions differently in a situation that demands it rather than being tied down to a static class feature.

Anyway, just my thoughts. I know it would benefit from a concrete example or two, but I don't feel confident in pulling balanced numbers out of my butt, so I just want to focus on the basic concept. What are your reactions?