I think it's ok if Sweeping attack is a net bump in power to fighting types, especially higher level fighter types who tend to lag behind mages at higher levels. The question is: is making a sweeping attack a decision at all?
For example: if a level 5 fighter is engaged with 5 lower level opponents (orcs, let's say) are they ALWAYS going to want to sweep attack? Will there ever be a situation where they decide to do things the old fashioned way and kill them one at a time, cleaving only for as long as they can score kills, or is sweep attack just a new thing that you always get to do when engaged against multiple foes? I think the possibility of losing your attack if everyone withdraws is where the balance comes in.
No. He can only cleave onto those opponents who did not withdraw. Once he has killed or forced back his opponents, he can then either advance 5' or move away in a fighting withdrawal.
this is somewhat confusing, although I now see what you're saying, compared to this block:
> The attacking combatant may cleave off sweeping attacks against those opponents that did not withdraw, but his total number of attacks may not exceed the usual maximum (e.g. his attack routine plus his level in cleaves).
so to go back to the example, let me see if i can illustrate this:
A level 5 fighter faces off against 4 orcs and 1 orc champion and performs a sweeping attack in a wide open room. 3 orcs step 5' away from the fighter, but the champion and 1 orc remain. The fighter begins by attacking the orc champion. He hits the champion, and does damage but does not kill him. He takes his 2nd attack against the normal orc, hits and slays him. At this point he has threatened 5 foes with sweeping attack, of whom 3 have withdrawn and are therefore not vulnerable to either the sweeping attack OR subsequent cleaves. So the question is:
1) does the fighter have cleaves left? the wording implies that he can because he has only taken 2 attacks and his usual maximum is 1+level (5) = 6.
2) When he slays the normal orc, can he step 5' as is normally allowed when cleaving? (from ACKs core: "If engaged in melee, the attacker may move 5' between each
attack, subject to his maximum combat movement per round. "). This may allow him to close distance to the orcs who withdrew.
3) if he can cleave, and effectively hit the orc captain a 2nd time, can he 5' step again? It sounds like "no" because even though he is in range to attack the 3 withdrawn orcs, they are not valid targets, having withdrawn, and because there is no last attack to move between, he can't move 5' while cleaving a 2nd time but...
4) assuming he can only move 5' from cleaving between the two brave fools who died, he could nonetheless potentially be engaged with the orcs who withdrew. can he take an additional 5' from the conclusion of the sweeping attack and be in the thick of the withdrawing orcs?
Sorry to be such a rules lawyer. I actually like the idea of the ability quite a bit, I'm just trying to make sure I understand it or at least the intent. It may be worthwhile to lay on some of that sweet prosaic language to sort of convey the kind of heroics this is trying to emulate so that individual judges can intepret things they are unsure about through the lens of "how well does this model the heroic situation this ability is supposed to allow".