Home DM Tips Is This Feat Combination Broken?

Is This Feat Combination Broken?

by Jae
broken combos 5e

Recently we’ve seen a very interesting type of question pop up routinely. These questions follow a formula that munchkin style players use all the time:

“Is ‘x’ plus ‘y’ broken?”

You can substitute any two rules from DnD for x and y and find someone asking this online.

Let’s look at a real world example with a real question we answered this week.

Is a Character with the Polearm Master and Sentinel Feats Unbeatable in a Duel?

The rule compatibility is strong and the feats synergize, so we can understand the person’s perspective. Their line of thinking goes something like this:

From Polearm Master (PHB pg 168):

“While you are wielding a glaive, halberd, pike, or quarterstaff, other creatures provoke an opportunity attack from you when they enter the reach you have with that weapon.”

From Sentinel (PHB pg. 169–170): 

“When you hit a creature with an opportunity attack, the creature’s speed becomes 0 for the rest of the turn.”

The Synergy:

An opponent who approaches you, when entering your melee range, would invoke an attack of opportunity. If you hit them them their speed drops to 0, ending their movement and leaving them too far away to attack you. On your turn you attack once, then take a 5ft step back. Rinse and repeat until your opponent is dead.


Why This is Not an Unbeatable Combo

There are a million ways to counter this if your opponent has any remote intelligence or just a bit a dumb luck. Here are just a few:

  • Your opponent doesn’t approach you.
  • You miss your opportunity attack.
  • They have/use ranged attacks or spells.
  • They have a reach weapon as well.
  • Or, if the duel has a ring out condition, you can’t back up forever.

Combos like this are always beatable. DnD, especially 5E, is well balanced. When something seems broken, it’s usually one of two things: setting up the combination is likely super ridiculous and would only be effective on the rare occasion, or most likely, the rules have been misinterpreted.

Broken DnD Combos and the DM’s Role

Trying to build or create broken combos in DnD has some appeal, but that’s not really the point of DnD. The game has rules that are meant to aid your collaborative story telling. A great deal of the game’s fun is derived from its tension, challenge, and uncertainty. Players trying to abuse rules or overcome challenges on technicalities destroy this tension.

If you see players trying to become ‘unbeatable’, make it a struggle. Show them there is no certain rule that can’t be overcome.

If you get a rules lawyer in your group, explain the situation to them. You don’t have to bend, break, or even alter rules to prevent this kind of munchkin game play. You just need to fairly interpret the rules and adjust your mechanics to match.

There is nothing wrong with a player trying to play their character optimally, but they should never try to abuse the rules for some cheap trick. It’s your job as the DM to reign in this behavior and make sure everyone in the group is able to have fun.

Players Don’t Let Players Munchkin

Have you seen anyone try any “unstoppable combos” in your games? We’d love to hear about them! We’re working hard to answer more reader questions and create frank discussions on the interactions and interpretation of rules. If you have thoughts, comments, or questions of your own, reach out.

And remember, there’s no unbeatable combo.

Happy Adventuring!

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