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Combat Speed Factors for 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons

For those that wish to add a little more "reality" to their combats, or for those who miss aspects of the 1st and 2nd editions, here is a "Weapon Speed" variant rule that also takes in other aspects of combat such as spell use and other combat oriented abilities. These rules are an approximate adjustment and DMs may wish to tailor the number's to reflect their individual experience with combat and Dungeons & Dragons.

The basic integration of this rule to combat is as follows: After rolling for initiative adjust each character/NPC's score by adding in the Speed Factor of the weapon that the character has in hand and the armor that the character is wearing. Due to the nature of 3rd edition's rules, dropping and drawing weapons, armor or other items and using spells that change a character's initiative work in the following ways;

  • 1: If a weapon, armor or other item is drawn, dropped or used or a spell is cast that will lower the character's initiative the change takes effect immediately. For example, a monk has been unarmed in combat with an initiative of 16. On her turn she draws out (a Move-Equivalent Action) a longsword (speed factor of -2) which reduces her initiative to 14. She now must wait for all combatants with initiative scores of 16 (those previously tied with her) and 15 until she can swing her longsword (on phase 14 of the turn).
  • 2: If a weapon, armor or other item is drawn, dropped or used or a spell is cast that will effectively raise the character's initiative the change takes effect at the beginning of the character's next round. For example, the monk above, after several rounds of fighting with her longsword chooses to drop her longsword (Free Action) and attack unarmed. Her initiative with the longsword was 14, but upon dropping the weapon she now reverts to her original initiative of 16 which does not take effect until her next turn. She does not loose her attacks on the turn that she drops the longsword but still fights at initiative of 14 on that turn.

Unless otherwise noted all Speed Factors stack.

Extraordinary Abilities
Magic Items
Spell-like Abilities
Supernatural Abilities
Weight & Load


As Armor is rarely discarded or donned during combat it is usually figured into a character's initiative score once, at the beginning of combat. However, donning and removing armor still causes the armor's speed factor to affect the character even if it is the first round in which the character has begun to dress or undress as the armor's speed factor is a representation of its awkwardness, bulk and how easily it can be manipulated. Armor Speed Factors stack with other Speed Factor modifiers.

Armor Speed Factor Table
Armor TypeSpeed FactorArmor TypeSpeed Factor
Padded0Full plate-4
Studded Leather0Sm Wooden Shield-1
Chain shirt-1Sm Steel Shield-1
Hide-3Lg Wooden Shield-1
Scale mail-2Lg Steel Shield-1
Chainmail-2Tower Shield-2
Brestplate-3Armor Spikes-1
Splint mail-4Gauntlet, Spiked0
Banded mail-3Shield Spikes0

Magical Armor
Armor TypeSpeed FactorArmor TypeSpeed Factor
Masterwork Armor *0Masterwork Shield *0
Armor: +1 bonus0Shield: +1 bonus0
Armor: +2 bonus+1Shield: +2 bonus0
Armor: +3 bonus+1Shield: +3 bonus0
Armor: +4 bonus+2Shield: +4 bonus+1
Armor: +5 bonus+2Shield: +5 bonus+1

* Non-Magical.

Extraordinary Abilities

Nearly every creatures' Extraordinary Abilities are "natural" extensions of the creature. Therefore, unless the DM rules otherwise based on a specific Extraordinary Ability, all Extraordinary Abilities have a Speed Factor of 0.

Magic Items

Magical Items have various types of activations. Below are listed the common types of activations. Usually activation of a magical item drops the character's initiative score on the round that he/she uses the item and on the character's next turn he/she returns to the original (modified by armor and other constant Speed Factors) initiative score.

Magical Item Speed Factors
Item TypeSpeed Factor
Mental Command *0
Somatic Command **-1
Staves & Wands0
Verbal Command0

* Such as Eyes of Charming.
** Such as pushing a button on a Rod of Lordly Might or using a Bracelet of Friends.

Spell-like Abilities

Spell-like Abilities have no Focus, Material, Somatic, Verbal or XP components and so have a Speed Factor of 0.


Spells have various modifiers to Speed Factor that usually lower the caster's initiative score. The time between the caster's original initiative score and the new, lower, score represents the time it takes to complete the spell. Once the caster's modified initiative score is reached the spell takes effect and the duration of the spell ends on the appropriate round at the modified initiative number and not at the caster's original initiative. Once the spell is cast the caster returns to his/her original initiative score on the next round. Unless otherwise noted Metamagic spell Speed Factors are treated as the original spell level. Unless some other magic is used, Speed Factors for Spells can never be positive.

Spell Speed Factors
Spell TypeSpeed FactorSpell TypeSpeed Factor
0 level09th level-2
1st level0Focus/Divine Focus-1
2nd level0Material Component-2
3rd level0Somatic Component-1
4th level-1Verbal Component0
5th level-1XP component-2
6th level-1Quickened Spell0 *
7th level-2Silent Spell+1 **
8th level-2Still Spell+1 ***

* Quickened spells are treated as having a Speed Factor of 0 regardless of level and components.
** Silent spells reduce the total Speed Factor penalty to a maximum of 0.
*** Still spells only negate the -1 penalty for Somatic Components.

Two spells bear special attention in regards to Speed Factor: 1: Expeditious Retreat increases a character's initiative by +1. This bonus takes affect on the round after the spell is cast. 2: Haste increases a character's initiative by +5. This bonus takes affect on the round after the spell is cast.

Supernatural Abilities

Most Supernatural Abilities have a Speed Factor of 0. Note below are a few exceptions that are subject to the DM's approval and can be changed to fit individual campaigns and play style.

Sample Supernatural Ability Speed Factors
AbilitySpeed Factor
Breath Weapon-2
Sonic Attacks-1


The bread and butter of an adventurer; Weapons, depending on their weight and size in relation to the wielder, can reduce a character's initiative score. The list below is assumed for Medium sized humanoid creatures. As a general rule of thumb decrease the Speed Factor of a weapon by -1 for each size category smaller than medium and increase the Speed Factor by +1, to a maximum of 0, for each size category larger than medium. If a weapon, especially an unarmed attack, has a Speed Factor of 0 use that base Speed Factor regardless of the creature's size. The Speed Factors below assume that the character is proficient with that weapon. Character's who are not proficient with the weapon should receive and additional -1 to -3 penalty depending on the weapon (typically -1 for Simple Weapons, -2 for Martial Weapons and -3 for Exotic Weapons).

Weapon Speed Factors
Weapon TypeSpeed FactorWeapon TypeSpeed Factor
Gauntlet0Flail, heavy-3
Unarmed Strike0Glaive-5
Dagger, punching0Greatclub-3
Spiked Gauntlet0Greatsword-3
Mace, light-1Guisarme-5
Mace, heavy-2Scythe-4
Quarterstaff-2/-3Shortbow, composite-1
Crossbow, light-3Longbow, composite-2
Dart0Kama, halfling0
Crossbow, heavy-4Nunchaku, halfling0
Javelin-1Siangham, halfling0
Axe, throwing-1Kama0
Hammer, light-1Nunchaku0
Lance, light-1Sword, bastard-3
Pick, light-1Waraxe, dwarven-4
Sap0Hammer, gnome hooked-1/-2
Sword, short-1Axe, orc double-4/-5
Battleaxe-3Chain, spiked-4
Flail, light-2Flail, dire-3/-4
Lance, heavy-2Sword, two-bladed-2/-3
Longsword-2Urgrosh, dwarven-4/-5
Pick, heavy-2Crossbow, hand-1
Trident-3Crossbow, Repeating-1/-3 *

Numbers after the slash are applied if the weapon is being used as a double weapon.
* For a repeating Crossbow the -1 Speed Factor is for firing the weapon while -3 penalty is for the round on which the crossbow is reloaded.

Magical Weapons
Weapon TypeSpeed Factor
Masterwork Weapon *+1
Weapon: +1 bonus+1
Weapon: +2 bonus+1
Weapon: +3 bonus+2
Weapon: +4 bonus+2
Weapon: +5 bonus+3
Weapon: Speed special ability+5

* Masterwork Weapon Speed Factor bonuses cannot raise a weapon's base Speed Factor above 0.

Weight & Load

A character's equipment can weigh her down and hamper movement. A character with a Medium load has a Speed Factor penalty of -2 while a Heavy load imparts a -4 penalty. A character at Maximum load has a -8 penalty while a character that is lifting or dragging things over their maximum load receive a -16 to their initiative.