Combat in 4th edition bears a great many similarities to combat in 3rd edition. The two biggest differences are first, that you will be doing the majority of your attacking through powers, rather than basic attacks; second, instead of having a Fortitude save, Reflex save, and Will save, you instead have Fortitude, Reflex, and Will as static defenses. Some attacks will target these defenses rather than AC, and to hit with them you roll a regular attack roll and resolve it like you would an attack against AC. A combat round is still 6 seconds, a square still represents 5 feet (although powers and movement in the book are measured in squares rather than 5’ increments).

It is worth noting that this is not a thorough rundown of the combat rules; it is more of a general summary of the largest changes. Generally speaking, if it’s something uncommon enough that we’d have to look up the rules for (still!) in 3rd edition, I won’t be reprinting it here. Besides, we’ll have at least 1 (2 if Ike brings his) copy of the Player’s handbook to look this stuff up as we need it.

The Combat Turn

Each turn, your character gets three actions to spend; a standard action, a move action, and a minor action. You also get a number of free actions limited only by bartender fiat – that is, when the DM tells you ’You’ve had enough.’

If you wish, you can trade a standard action for a move action (making your turn 2 moves and a minor action) or a minor action (making your turn one move and 2 minor actions). Also, a move action can be traded for a minor action (which would make your turn a standard action and 2 minor actions). You could, if you chose, use all three on minor actions, though the situations where that would be tactically sound are few and far between.

There are also three types of triggered actions – opportunity action, immediate interrupt, and immediate reaction. You don’t normally get these actions – the occur as a result of some outside force (the movement or other action of an opponent, for example).

Opportunity actions function more or less the same as attacks of opportunity do in 3rd edition – they are in response to an enemy letting their guard down. The only reason they are called this instead of just ‘attacks of opportunity’ is because there are a handful of powers you are able to use instead, if you have the power and choose to. If you have no powers like that, attacks of opportunity are basic attacks triggered by the same actions that triggered them in 3rd edition. Opportunity actions can be taken no more than once per enemy’s turn. These actions interrupt the action that trigger them – however, that action then resumes when the opportunity action is resolved.

Immediate actions are nearly always powers, and their triggering action is defined in the power’s description (the main exception is readied actions, which work the same way as 3rd edition). Immediate interrupts occur before the triggering action is resolved; for instance, if you have a power that specifies that it is an immediate interrupt that lets you move away when an enemy attacks you, you move away before the attack roll is made and the opponent’s action is wasted. Immediate reactions take place after the triggering action; using the power before as an example but making it an immediate reaction, you would move away after the attack roll, and possibly damage, has been resolved. You may only have 1 immediate action per round, regardless of whether it is an interrupt or reaction.

A power’s description will say what kind of action the power requires you to use. Here is a rundown of what else you can do with your actions each round, besides using powers.

Standard Action

Make a basic attack

You can make a basic melee or ranged attack if you don’t want to use a power to do so. They work just like they did in 3rd edition – for melee attacks, you make an attack roll, add your bonuses, and see if you meet or exceed the opponent’s armor class, dealing your weapon plus strength modifier damage on a hit (at 21st level and higher it becomes twice your weapon, plus your strength modifier damage). Ranged works the same way, except using dexterity as a bonus to hit and damage.

Aid Another (Skill Check)

Choose an adjacent creature (typically an ally). Make a skill check with a DC of 10 + 1/2 the target’s level. A success grants the target a +2 bonus to that skill either until it’s next use or the end of the target’s next turn, whichever comes first. A failure causes the target to take a -1 penalty to that skill, with the same duration. Up to four players may use this action to aid another creature’s skill check, with the bonuses and penalties being cumulative. The DM, however, may rule in some situations that there are ‘too many hands in the kitchen’ – for instance, it’s hard to envision 4 characters usefully helping the party thief pick a lock.

Aid Another (Combat)

To aid in an ally’s defense, choose an ally adjacent to you and one opponent (does not have to be adjacent to you). You grant your ally +2 to all their defenses against the next attack from the chosen opponent. This bonus ends either after resolving the next attack the chosen opponent makes against your ally, or the end of the chosen opponent’s next turn, whichever comes first.

To aid an ally’s attack, choose an ally (does not have to be adjacent to you) and one opponent that is adjacent to you. You grant your ally +2 to their next attack roll against the chosen opponent. The bonus ends either after your ally makes their next attack roll against the chosen opponent, or the end of your (the aiding character’s) next turn, whichever comes first.

In both cases, up to 4 characters may participate in the aid attempt.

Bull Rush

You can bull rush a creature that is smaller than you, the same size as you, or up to 1 size category larger than you. Make a strength based attack roll vs. Fortitude – don’t add any modifiers for the weapon you use. If you succeed, you push the target 1 square, and shift into the vacated square.


Move up to your speed (but at least 2 squares) and finish with either a melee basic attack or a bull rush attempt. Either way, you gain a +1 bonus to your attack roll. Each move in the charge must bring you closer to your opponent. Charging provokes opportunity attacks, and after you charge you may not take any other actions besides free actions on your turn.

Coup de Grace

You can coup de grace a helpless target using either a melee basic attack or any attack power you have. A successful hit is treated as a critical hit. If you deal more damage than the target’s bloodied value (see Bloodied, below in status effects) the target dies outright.

Administer a Potion

Administering a potion to an unconscious creature is a standard action.

Equip or Stow a Shield

Exactly what it sounds like. Standard action.


You can attempt to grab a creature. You must have at least one hand free to do so. You can grab a creature that is smaller than you, the same size as you, or one size category larger than you. Make a strength attack vs. Reflex. Do not add any weapon modifiers to your roll. If you succeed, the enemy is immobilized until you end the grab or they escape the grab. You can sustain a grab as a minor action, and end a grab as a free action. (As long as you’re the grabber, of course.) If you are affected by a condition that prevents you from taking opportunity actions, the grab automatically ends. If you are pulled or pushed away from the creature you’ve grabbed, the grab ends.

Move a Grabbed Opponent

Make a strength attack vs. Fortitude. Do not add any weapon modifiers. If you succeed, you move half your speed, pulling the target with you. During movement, the target does not provoke attacks of opportunity if you drag them through a threatened square. You, however, do provoke attacks of opportunity if you move through a threatened square.

Ready an Action

Works almost exactly like in 3rd edition. The differences are that readying an action requires a standard action, regardless of whether you are readying a standard, move, or minor action. Second, it resets your position in the initiative order to immediately before that of the creature that triggers your action.

Second Wind

As a standard action you spend a healing surge (see healing). In addition to the hit points gained, you gain a +2 to all your defenses until the beginning of your next turn. You can only use your second wind once in an encounter; some powers allow you to spend healing surges, but they don’t use up your second wind.

Total Defense

Grants you +2 to all your defenses until the start of your next turn.

Move Action


Duh. Move your speed. If you trade your standard action to perform 2 move actions in a row, treat it as moving once at twice your speed, for the purposes of hindering terrain (which are harder to move across) or jumping a long chasm (since, according to the rules, ending your movement while still over the pit means you fall) or some such.


If you are prone (and you can drop prone as a minor action) you may crawl as a move action. You move at one half your speed, and provoke opportunity attacks as you move from threatened squares.


To escape from a grab, or other effect that has immobilized you that specifies you can escape from it, you may, as you choose, roll either an Acrobatics check vs. Reflex or an Athletics check vs. Fortitude. If you succeed, you are no longer grabbed or immobilized, and you may shift 1 square.


Move up to your speed 2. You take a -5 penalty to attack rolls until the start of your next turn, you grant combat advantage (2 bonus to their attack rolls against you) to all enemies until the start of your next turn, and you provoke opportunity actions if you move through threatened squares.


You move one square. This movement does not provoke opportunity actions – it’s the exact equivalent of 3rd edition’s 5 foot step. You may not shift onto difficult terrain unless you have a power or ability that either lets you ignore difficult terrain or allows you to shift extra squares. You may not shift using a movement mode that requires a skill check – such as swimming or climbing when you lack a swim or climb speed, respectively.


Allows you to squeeze through an area you couldn’t normally fit, at least during combat – for player characters, that means an area less than 5’ wide. You move at half speed, you take a -5 penalty to attack rolls until you return to your normal space, and you grant combat advantage until you return to your normal space. If squeezing causes any part of your body to leave a square threatened by an enemy, it grants an opportunity action.

Stand Up

Standing up is a move action. If the square you are in is occupied only by you, you may simply stand up. If your square is occupied by another creature, you may shift 1 square as part of standing up. If your square, and every square adjacent to you is occupied, you may not stand up.

Minor Action

Drop Prone

Not much to describe here. You intentionally fall down.

Retrieve a Stored Potion

Again, that pretty much describes exactly what it does. For potions that require a minor action to consume (the item description will say so), that minor action does not include retrieving it, making the entire act of retrieving and consuming a potion a total of two minor actions.

Free Action

Free actions remain much the same as they were in 3rd edition – dropping an item is a free action, saying a few sentences is a free action, etc. There are only two limits written into free actions in the rules, and only one of them is a hard limit. You may only use a free action to use an attack power once per turn. (For instance, some powers grant you a basic melee attack as a free action. If more than one of these powers triggers in a round, you may only make one of the attacks.) The second limit is, as said earlier, if the DM says you’ve had enough free actions this round.

It is a free action to spend an action point; unless you have an ability that allows otherwise, you may only spend one action point per encounter.

Combat Advantage

Combat advantage is a catch all term for when, as the name says, you have an advantage in combat. Attack rolls made against creatures granting combat advantage get a +2 bonus. Here is a list of some of the situations in which a creatures grants combat advantage: when the defending creature is balancing, blinded, climbing, dazed, flanked, helpless, prone (combat advantage for melee attacks only), restrained, running, squeezing, stunned, surprised, unable to see the attacker, unaware of their attacker, or unconscious.

List of Conditions

✦ You grant combat advantage.
✦ You can’t see any target (your targets have total concealment).
✦ You take a –10 penalty to Perception checks.
✦ You can’t flank an enemy.


This is one of two you will be dealing with most often. A creature becomes bloodied when it drops below half of their hit points (rounded down). Bloodied does not have any effects in and of itself, beyond letting the attacker know that you’ve lost more than half your hit points; however, there are a number of powers and abilities that require either you or an opponent to be bloodied to function. A bloodied creature can be intimidated into surrendering, though it is up to the DM to adjudicate this (for instance, it is not unreasonable to rule that mindless undead or constructs can’t be intimidated in this way).

✦ You grant combat advantage.
✦ You can take either a standard action, a move action, or a minor action on your turn (you can also take free actions). You can’t take immediate actions or opportunity actions.
✦ You can’t flank an enemy.

✦ You can’t hear anything.
✦ You take a –10 penalty to Perception checks.

✦ You can’t take actions. Instead, the dominator chooses a single action for you to take on your turn: a standard, a move, a minor, or a free action. The only powers and other game features that the dominator can make you use are ones that can be used at will, such as at-will powers. For example, anything that is limited to being used only once per encounter or once per day does not qualify.
✦ You grant combat advantage.
✦ You can’t flank.

✦ You’re unconscious.
✦ You’re at 0 or negative hit points.
✦ You make a death saving throw every round.

✦ You grant combat advantage.
✦ You can be the target of a coup de grace.

✦ You can’t move from your space, although you can teleport and can be forced to move by a pull, a push, or a slide.

✦ You take a –2 penalty to attack rolls for any attack that doesn’t target the creature that marked you.
✦ You can be subjected to only one mark at a time, and a new mark supersedes an old one.
✦ A mark ends immediately when its creator dies or falls unconscious.
(This is the second one you will be dealing with most often, as marking opponents is one of the primary functions of defender classes.)

✦ You are unconscious.
✦ You have resist 20 to all damage.
✦ You don’t age.

✦ You grant combat advantage to enemies making melee attacks against you.
✦ You get a +2 bonus to all defenses against ranged attacks from nonadjacent enemies.
✦ You’re lying on the ground. (If you’re flying, you safely descend a distance equal to your fly speed. If you don’t reach the ground, you fall.)
✦ You take a –2 penalty to attack rolls.
✦ You can drop prone as a minor action.

✦ You can’t move, unless you teleport. You can’t even be pulled, pushed, or slid.
✦ You take a –2 penalty to attack rolls.
✦ You grant combat advantage.

✦ Your speed becomes 2. This speed applies to all your movement modes, but it does not apply to teleportation or to a pull, a push, or a slide. You can’t increase your speed above 2, and your speed doesn’t increase if it was lower than 2. If you’re slowed while moving, stop moving if you have already moved 2 or more squares.
✦ You cannot benefit from bonuses to speed, although you can use powers and take actions, such as the run action, that allow you to move farther than your speed.

✦ You grant combat advantage.
✦ You can’t take actions.
✦ You can’t flank an enemy.
✦ You fall if you are flying, unless you can hover.

✦ You grant combat advantage.
✦ You can’t take actions.
✦ You can’t flank an enemy.

✦ You’re helpless.
✦ You take a –5 penalty to all defenses.
✦ You can’t take actions.
✦ You fall prone, if possible.
✦ You can’t flank an enemy.
✦ You are unaware of your surroundings.

✦ Your attacks deal half damage. However, two kinds of damage that you deal are not affected: ongoing damage and damage that isn’t generated by an attack roll.

Miscellaneous Combat Information


Initiative has not changed at all from 3rd edition, unless you count the fact that high level characters will invariably have high initiative modifiers.

Critical Hits

Most weapons and powers critical on a natural 20. Some weapons have extended critical ranges, and some powers and abilities extend your critical range. If you roll a critical hit, you don’t roll damage – you simply automatically do the maximum possible amount. If you have a magic weapon that grants bonus damage on a critical hit (usually +1d6 for each point of magical enhancement) you do your maximum normal damage, and then roll the bonus damage.

Saving Throws

If you are subject to a condition that a saving throw can end, then at the end of your turn (after you have used your actions) you roll a d20. On a result of 10 or higher, the roll is successful and the condition ends. This roll is usually unmodified; however, there are some racial traits, feats, and powers that can affect the roll.


You take 1d10 damage for every 10 feet you fall, or 25 damage for every 50 feet you fall +1d10 for every 10 feet you fall beyond that (for example, falling 120 feet would deal 2d10 + 50 damage). You land prone unless you take no damage from the fall. If a power or bull rush forces you over the edge of a precipice, you can make a saving throw to catch yourself. If the saving throw is successful, you fall prone at the edge, in the last square you were in before you were nearly pushed over.

Action Points

You start each day with one action point. Every time during that day that you reach a milestone – defined as completing two encounters without stopping for an extended rest – you gain another action point. If you begin an extended rest with unspent action points, you lose them all, though you still start the next day with 1 action point. Most of the time, action points are spent to gain one extra standard, move, or minor action during your turn. Later on in the game, there are some class features that require you to spend an action point to activate. Unless you have a class feature that allows otherwise, you may not spend more than one action point in an encounter.

Death and Dying

When your hit points drop to 0 or lower, you fall unconscious and are dying. At the end of your turn each round as long as your HP is still 0 or lower you make a death saving throw. On a result of 10 or higher you remain stable. On a roll of 20 you may spend a healing surge to put you at 0 HP. You regain consciousness and remain prone. If you roll below 10 three times before you take a rest, you die.

If your HP reaches your negative bloodied value, you die.

Knocking Unconscious

4th doesn’t muck about with subdual damage. Rather, when you reduce an enemy to 0 HP or fewer, you can choose to knock them unconscious rather than kill them. Until it regains hit points, the creature is unconscious but not dying. Any healing makes the creature conscious. If the creature doesn’t receive any healing, it is restored to 1 hit point and becomes conscious after a short rest.


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