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View Full Version : [D&D Tactics] When is it worth fighting defensively?



clarkvalentine
2007-01-27, 10:23 AM
I'm a fairly experienced D&Der, but I've never been a great tactical analyst. Here's a question I've never had a good handle on.

When is it worth accepting the -4 to attack to get the +2 AC? Ever?

Combat Expertise doesn't seem worth it except as a route to Improved Trip - is it ever worth bothering with using it for what it's intended?

Essentially, from a tactical point of view, is it ever worth giving up the "kill the bad guy as fast as possible" philosophy in favor of being harder to hit? In my experience, it's almost never worth bothering, especially if you have the HP to burn, but I'm interested in other folks' opinions.

- Clark

Rigeld2
2007-01-27, 10:31 AM
People like making "unkillable" builds and claiming theyre helping the party out with thier massive AC. I disagree. Sure, you have a huge AC. Youre not getting hit. What are you actually contributing in the fight? Its been said over, and over, and over... killing the opponent faster is better than preventing/healing more damage. If your uberAC build cant also do competitive damage with the rest of the melees, the bad guys will ignore you, making your uberAC build worthless.
Tanking your AB to raise AC (which is what most AC builds I've seen do) doesnt help the party unless theres a 5' hallway you can stand in. Even then, the bad guys can attempt to tumble past, only eating an AoO or two doing it.

ImperiousLeader
2007-01-27, 10:58 AM
By itself, rarely. Maybe if your fighting a foe that hits hard but has a poor attack bonus, but as it's been said, better to kill them.

However, a lot of the tactical feats out there offer some neat options when you do fight defensively. They might make it worthwhile.

Indon
2007-01-27, 10:59 AM
If you're an offensive caster, the only thing fighting defensively negatively impacts is your touch and ray spells. Cone or burst spells would work just fine, and if you can't otherwise get out of combat, well, you need all the AC you can get.

Similarly, it's good for a meleer, if, say, they're getting low on health and in danger of going unconscious. Worst case scenario, things stop fighting him and he's not taking damage anymore.

illyrus
2007-01-27, 11:07 AM
It depends, I've found combat expertise to be situationally very useful at low to mid levels. In an open field, it is next to useless, but in a dungeon with small hallways it can become very useful. Add in an enlarge person and/or a polymorph spell (which can often be done before a fight starts) and you can handle a much bigger space. Annis hag was one of our favorite polymorphs a few levels ago (high strength and very high natural armor). Make sure your character has power attack and a weapon that can be 1 or 2 handed (longsword, bastard sword, etc) and you're set for defensive or offensive damage.

We've used it to go thru EL+3 encounters before with using maybe 5% of our resources. Which means on the big encounters later in the day we can really unleash ourselves.

I'm not trying to say it's the best choice in the whole wide world, it's either not very useful or extremely useful. Keep in mind that the group I play with, we all share buffs so every character is well buffed up for the bigger fights.

It requires a different playstyle to be effective, people have to work together and use teamwork. If you play in an "every man for himself" group or a "everyone has to be the superstar every fight" group then don't bother.

Ikkitosen
2007-01-27, 11:18 AM
It's a situational thing. Say you meet a generic Big Bad Demon (BBD). YOur fighter charges, and finds his weapon barely hurts the thing. The sorc tries to banish the thing but fails the SR check. Then BBD full attacks the fighter and takes 70% of his HP.

Now, anything that gets you AC as the fighter is worthwhile. You are likely going to be the target of the BBD's next attacks, and if you do nothing different you're going to get shredded, then BBD's going to eat your sorc in short order. You dump your (useless) offence for some defence and manage to survive BBD's next attack, and your sorc manages to eventually banish him. Win!

There are lots of times when defence is more important than offence, but you need to keep flexibility to change your tactics based on the situation at hand.

Shhalahr Windrider
2007-01-27, 11:22 AM
I think clericwithnogod summed up my view fairly well in a post in the Save or Lose thread.

Sometimes it's just not enough to "do it quickly" just because the other side is able to take you out more quickly unless you take the time to play defensively.

Orzel
2007-01-27, 11:25 AM
When you can't damage/kill a target but your party members can AND the target can't get past you.

When you are low on health and running/casting is a bad idea.

When you are not using your AB any time soon (spells, psionics).

Any other time, it's not useful.

clericwithnogod
2007-01-27, 11:36 AM
It can be OK for characters who can't be effective against the current monster such as a rogue against an undead creature or construct that can spend the turn in a flanking postion using the aid another action - giving the fighter a +2 flanking and +2 aid bonus to his attack roll, which he can use to boost his power attack to further bypass DR or ensure a hit if the thing has an exceptionally high AC. Taking a -4 to hit that AC of 10 required to succeed in aid another is pretty much getting +2 to AC for nothing. It's not something that you really want to reduce the rogue doing all the time though.

I've noticed that a lot of 2nd edition veterans cling to the "attack sponge/damage soaker" role because it was so standard pre-3.x and combat expertise is one step in trying to get to that. In a lot of cases, it works because they're playing with a 2e veteran DM who creates encounters that use and require 2e tactics - often house ruling the game to make those tactics optimal.

EDIT: And, rogues almost always have 5 ranks in tumble, making their AC bonus +3 when fighting defensively.

dungeon_munky
2007-01-27, 12:18 PM
There are times when it's better to fight defensively, particularly in lower level campaigns where it makes the difference. I'd assume its never better on the offensive, but used more when you are holding off an overpowering foe while your comrades lower the drawbridge or while you wait for the ship to come close enough to the docks to jump aboard; however, total defense is probably better in these instances.

Thomas
2007-01-27, 12:20 PM
It's worth it if you're using TWD (preferrably GTWD), for +2 to +6 extra AC (so +8 or +9, if you have 5 ranks in Tumble, for -4 to attacks), or if you're a duelist (again, you get better than 1:1 returns for it).

You combine it with Robilar's Gambit or Elusive Target, and trip opponents by provoking AoOs, or get a huge number of AoOs when they try in vain to hit you. Precise strike and a good weapon and build (Power Attack, even) let you deal decent damage, too (AoOs are made at the highest attack bonus, after all).

Generally, I'd say it's only smart against generally human-sized and -shaped opponents. Against big or flying monsters, it's not a lot of good - with those, you have to take the fight to them and bring the pain, rather than avoid the pain.

Balesirion
2007-01-27, 12:49 PM
The best time to fight defensively is when you're being chased by a lynch mob that you don't actually want to kill, but are after you're blood for being a reformed kyton. This happened not to me, but to someone in my party, in our session last week.

jono
2007-01-27, 01:35 PM
Its already been said, but when you're forced toe to toe with an enemy that you have sweet Fanny Adams chance of hitting, or doing any damage to. Better to sit there and go on the defensive and let someone with a hope in hell do the buisness.

Then there's defensive casting. I always thought that was a broken concept. So basically you cast the spell, they get no attack of oppurtunity against you, and you take some penalty on an attack roll that in most cases you don't even have to make!?

oriong
2007-01-27, 01:42 PM
I think you're mixing Casting Defensively and Fighting Defensively. They're not the same move. Casting Defensively is just using a concentration check to avoid an attack of opportunity for casting the spell when threatened. It does not give an AC boost.

You may only choose to fight defensively when attacking, either as part of a standard or full round action. So you cannot use it to cast a spell and get an AC boost.

Thomas
2007-01-27, 01:44 PM
Then there's defensive casting. I always thought that was a broken concept. So basically you cast the spell, they get no attack of oppurtunity against you, and you take some penalty on an attack roll that in most cases you don't even have to make!?

Come again?

If you can cast the spell as a Move Action or a Free Action, sure. Then you could take the standard action effectively required to fight defensively. You can't fight defensively if you don't attack.


Fighting Defensively as a Standard Action: You can choose to fight defensively when attacking. If you do so, you take a 4 penalty on all attacks in a round to gain a +2 dodge bonus to AC for the same round.


Fighting Defensively as a Full-Round Action: You can choose to fight defensively when taking a full attack action. If you do so, you take a 4 penalty on all attacks in a round to gain a +2 dodge bonus to AC for the same round.

Merlin the Tuna
2007-01-27, 01:49 PM
Playing an Elven Rogue/Thief-Acrobat (10 Con) for a year taught me that Combat Expertise and Fighting Defensively definitely have their place in a game. The fact that I was so entirely squishable meant that I ended up using Combat Expertise pretty frequently. Pretty much whenever I got a bonus to attacks (Bless, Flanking, occasionally Inspire Courage, etc.) I tended to funnel the attack bonus into Combat Expertise in an (often futile) attempt to not get completely crushed the subsequent round in melee.

That particular build also had a few bonuses towards CE/FD. Ranks in Tumble turned Fighting Defensively from -4/+2 to -4/+3, and a Thief-Acrobat ability kicked that up to -4/+4. Granted, it sometimes felt a little redundant to have Combat Expertise, but I assure you there were certainly times when I needed to distract foes by getting in the way and thrashing about with -9 to hit (aka pray-for-a-20) and +9 AC.

Dervag
2007-01-27, 03:24 PM
I've noticed that a lot of 2nd edition veterans cling to the "attack sponge/damage soaker" role because it was so standard pre-3.x and combat expertise is one step in trying to get to that. In a lot of cases, it works because they're playing with a 2e veteran DM who creates encounters that use and require 2e tactics - often house ruling the game to make those tactics optimal.Like how?

I'm not at all disagreeing, I'd just like to know how they go about it.

Kantolin
2007-01-27, 03:37 PM
It (meaning a mostly-AC-focused build) can actually sort of work, with a good battlefield control build.

Worst-case scenario that happens, your party members start dancing around within your threat radius, and any opponents who attempt to shift around get your multiple AOOs.

The PHB2 helps this considerably; Robilar's gambit can also help prompt people incentive to note you, as can overwhelming assault.

But eh. I want to say that focusing on high-AC, while not the best option, can actually be done with fair efficiency.

Especially while you have wizards who are flying invisibly way over there, in which your only job really is to basically be present. :P But that's an argument for another day.

Matthew
2007-01-27, 04:20 PM
Like how?

I'm not at all disagreeing, I'd just like to know how they go about it.

I have to admit I am not familiar with this phenomonen either.

Best use of Defensive Fighting is generally at low levels, when a PC is low on hit points, facing multiple enemies and where the gap between Player Character AC and AB is much greater than that of the enemies they face.

For example:

Fighter 1 AB 4, AC 18,

versus

Kobold 1 AB 1, AC 15,

...or something like that.

Dhavaer
2007-01-27, 04:44 PM
When it makes you more likely to hit. I actually had a rogue who couldn't hit without fighting defensively.

When you haven't beaten probability bloody and unconscious, however, fighting defensively is normally only good when you're being attacked a lot more than you're attacking. For example, when you're entirely surrounded by, say, ogres, and taking enormous amounts of attacks.

artaxerxes
2007-01-27, 04:50 PM
Defensive builds as noted above, which capitalise on some method of gaining AoOs. Add in a sword of wounding, paired with a sword of defence you could make a distinctive warrior.

clericwithnogod
2007-01-27, 07:08 PM
Like how?

I'm not at all disagreeing, I'd just like to know how they go about it.

Put people in the situations that have been mentioned elsewhere in this thread as being worth fighting defensively.

You use high AC, high DR opponents, preferably immune or resistant to crits somehow. Find ways to limit movement (terrain for example) to keep opportunities for charges and flanking to a minimum. Limiting movement also keeps the party bunched to take AE damage from opponents. Use high damage opponents, but with an attack bonus that allows a higher AC to be effective in negating most, but not all, of the attacks. Try to start encounters at close range to get the mobs hitting hard early. Things like rend are always good to pump up the mob damage - making it important to have a high AC to limit the number of times two claw attacks are successful to trigger the rend.

Now, with the enemy so resistant to physical attacks, the fighter is relegated to meat shield, the cleric has to heal to keep the fighter from falling to the high damage attacks that get through, the rogue can't do anything, and the wizard kills the enemy with his spells.

It takes a little work because the game is balanced toward doing damage rather than taking it, but it's easier than you'd think.

Or, you can take the easy way out and label anyone who creates a melee character that does high damage or a cleric that does something other than heal a munchkin, cheap, powergamer or whatever. You don't even need to do this directly, just drop hints about it with the other players and let peer pressure do the work.

Matthew
2007-01-27, 07:49 PM
That doesn't sound much like my experience of Second Edition at all. Just sounds like an odd way of playing the game and one easy enough to break.

clericwithnogod
2007-01-27, 07:58 PM
Not hard to break, but that's when the house rules come out...

For what it's worth, It's not the way I played the game either. But there are people convinced that it's the one, true way to play DND.

EDIT: It may be more prevalent with groups that not only played 2nd edition, but also versions further back, where there were far fewer options. For a lot of people back then, anyone with one 18 was a munchkin and real roleplayers had no stat above a 12. Playing a demihuman was powergaming and if you multiclassed, you obviously had the maturity of a six-year old...

Hadrian_Emrys
2007-01-27, 08:26 PM
Don't forget my favorite feat combo for bodyguard type front liners: Expertise, Improved Expertise, and Allied Defense. You can't hit inanimate objects but you and everyone next to you gets your class level as a dodge bonus to AC.

Mike_G
2007-01-27, 10:13 PM
It's a decent option when fighting enemy who aren't very hard to hit, so your penalty doesn't mean you can't hit, but who have a special damage attack, such as Energy Drain, poison, etc.

It's also good as a delaying tactic to let another character get something done, particualry if you block a door or passageway and fight defensively.
It's good to help you provide a flank bonus to another when your attacks aren't very good against a given opponent.

So, yeah, it's a nice trick to keep in the back of your mind for the right situation. Mostly, you are better off to kill the enemy quickly, but real encounters often defy the mathematical proofs of what's a better spell/feat/class etc.

ken-do-nim
2007-01-27, 11:42 PM
I don't know why no one has said it yet, but fighting defensively/combat expertise is an excellent tactic against low ac high damage foes.

Girallons are a good example. Man do they do a ton of damage! You need to raise your armor class as high as possible to avoid their rend capability. But their armor class is only 16. Tanking your attack bonus will probably still allow you to hit every time.

My rule of thumb is that you fight defensively when the opponent is large-sized (which generally means it has high damage potential) but has an armor class 20 or under (animals, some elementals, some magical beasts).

Remember that the motto "kill them quick so they don't get chances to damage you" only applies to small numbers of foes.

Talya
2007-01-28, 12:11 AM
Lots of reasons to fight defensively.

In no particular order:

-High damage, low AC opponent
-You are trying to buy time...sometimes you have no hope of winning without the cavalry arriving, and you just need to hold out until then
-You can't really damage your target, someone else in the party can, but the target seems intent on killing you anyway


just for examples.

clockwork warrior
2007-01-28, 12:15 AM
i didn't see any mention of this, so i will say it

if someone else beat me to the punch, then take this as an "i agree" statement

the bonus is considered a dodge bonus, so it can be useful against casters who rely on touch spells, cause fighters are going to have bad touch ac anyways, so this will help a little bit, and the -4 isnt bad cause *generally* casters ACs are fairly low (at least arcanists are)

so it has its uses

tbarrie
2007-01-28, 12:26 AM
One point nobody seems to have mentioned about Combat Expertise: it amplifies the advantage held by the superior fighter.

Suppose you're in a one-on-one fight where you need to roll a 14 to hit your opponent and he needs to roll a 16 to hit you. You're going to hit 1.4 times as often as your opponent; nice, but if he has more hp or does more damage you could still be in trouble. Use Combat Expertise for 4, though, and now you're hitting fully three times as often as he is. Unless you're completely outclassed in terms of hp or damage, that's a fight you're almost certainly going to win. (Of course, it'll take a while.:))

Aximili
2007-01-28, 12:37 AM
I like using combat expertise against 2weapon opponents. They already have penalties to their attacks, so it's good to increase your AC. And they don't usually have tons of AC, so a little penalty is worth the extra AC.

Darkshade
2007-01-28, 12:43 AM
People like making "unkillable" builds and claiming theyre helping the party out with thier massive AC. I disagree. Sure, you have a huge AC. Youre not getting hit. What are you actually contributing in the fight? Its been said over, and over, and over... killing the opponent faster is better than preventing/healing more damage. If your uberAC build cant also do competitive damage with the rest of the melees, the bad guys will ignore you, making your uberAC build worthless.
Tanking your AB to raise AC (which is what most AC builds I've seen do) doesnt help the party unless theres a 5' hallway you can stand in. Even then, the bad guys can attempt to tumble past, only eating an AoO or two doing it.

hey now I made an unkillable build that worked quite well!
of course he had three levels of devoted defender too so the enemy kinda got stuck attacking him a lot, plus a spiked chain and improved Trip, he sure was a nuisance.
Tank Strongbeard LN Male Dwarf (Fighter 6/ Survivor 5/ Devoted Defender 3/ Dwarven Defender 27)

Behold_the_Void
2007-01-28, 05:53 AM
Defensive Fighting and Combat Expertise, as I recall, are dodge bonuses. It's a good way to try to plough through the enemy fighters and not get hit by their wizard pal's Ray of Enfeeblement or any other of the myriad crippling ranged touch attacks.

Were-Sandwich
2007-01-28, 07:33 AM
For the Uber-AC builds, either be a Knight, or pick up Goad, then they HAVE to attack you.

Saph
2007-01-28, 08:00 AM
There are so, so many situations you want to fight defensively I couldn't begin to list them all. Fight defensively when:

- One hit will kill you and retreat isn't an option.
- You just need to hold an enemy off.
- You're fighting someone you don't want to kill, and just need to wound/stall them.
- You want to give the enemy a reason to attack someone else instead of you.
- You're in a situation where you could survive a single attack, but a full attack hitting would kill you.

Finally, there's the best reason of all to fight defensively - any situation where you can raise your AC 20 points above the highest enemy attack bonus. Suddenly he can only hit you on a natural 20. Sounds good to me!

Fight defensively whenever it's more important for you not to get hit than it is for you to hit the enemy.

- Saph

Rigeld2
2007-01-28, 06:03 PM
For the Uber-AC builds, either be a Knight, or pick up Goad, then they HAVE to attack you.
One creature has to attack you. If it failes its will save (granted, thats likely). And if its a melee fighter - Goad doesnt effect Ranged or Spell attacks.

As for the Devoted Defender, its S&F which is 3.0, and I got rid of all my 3.0 stuff... any clue as to what made everyone attack you? That, and any level 41 build should be nigh-unkillable anyway.

Low AC/High Damage opponents - I still havnt seen a time when it would be better to make the combat longer and still risk getting hit than it would to just do what you can to end it. Girallons, for example, arent that tough for a CR6 encounter - no ranged ability, no immunities... and a +5 Will save means that casters will have a field day with them.

Blocking a hallway? Opponents can attempt to Tumble past you, or jump over you (depending on a lot of things). AC also means little against a spellcaster, unless you can get your Touch AC up there to (lots and lots and lots of builds overlook that).

Your table may fight battles differently, and in a way that Expertise is actually useful... but I would bet that almost every encounter could be made shorter and less resource intensive if people didnt look at defense as much.

oriong
2007-01-28, 06:16 PM
Low AC/High Damage opponents - I still havnt seen a time when it would be better to make the combat longer and still risk getting hit than it would to just do what you can to end it. Girallons, for example, arent that tough for a CR6 encounter - no ranged ability, no immunities... and a +5 Will save means that casters will have a field day with them.

I think you're misunderstanding the point. The point isn't to extend the fight, it's that you aren't extending the fight appreciably since your hit chance is already high. The fight is just as long, you're just less likely to take damage.


Blocking a hallway? Opponents can attempt to Tumble past you, or jump over you (depending on a lot of things). AC also means little against a spellcaster, unless you can get your Touch AC up there to (lots and lots and lots of builds overlook that).

These are bad examples. How many monsters get tumble? They're few and far between, and only two classes get it as a class skill (core classes at least), and it's rarely that good an idea to use it (since those classes are actually some of the best at resisting the 'hanging back' spellcasters).

What's more, it's pretty much impossible to jump over someone unless you're a high level character. To clear a 6 foot tall PC takes a DC 25 roll with a 20 foot running start, and it requires you have sufficient clearance above them to pull this off in the first place. I can't think of any situation where jumping is a valid tactic (or at least better than 'going around)

What's more, Monsters, which make up the majority of 'standard' enemies very commonly are Large or Bigger, which means that their 'area' is above a 5x5 square, making it much harder for them to get past fighters and the like without Overruning or something similar.

Rigeld2
2007-01-28, 06:17 PM
- One hit will kill you and retreat isn't an option.
If one hit will kill you, likely even fighting defensively wont give you enough AC to survive.

- You just need to hold an enemy off.
Possibly the only situation id ever use it.

- You're fighting someone you don't want to kill, and just need to wound/stall them.
Non-Lethal damage. All of my fighters carry a Sap for this purpose.

- You want to give the enemy a reason to attack someone else instead of you.
Theres an idea... make the bad guy chase after the dress wearing wizard who likely has fewer HPs and lower AC than you. Great party dynamic there!

- You're in a situation where you could survive a single attack, but a full attack hitting would kill you.
And what kind of shape is the bad guy in? Similar? So tanknig your offense is a good idea?


Finally, there's the best reason of all to fight defensively - any situation where you can raise your AC 20 points above the highest enemy attack bonus. Suddenly he can only hit you on a natural 20. Sounds good to me!
Maybe you fight low BAB mooks a lot. I dont. Balors and Dragons AB is 20 over my AC usually, not the other way around.


Fight defensively whenever it's more important for you not to get hit than it is for you to hit the enemy.
I find that instance rarely exists.

Rigeld2
2007-01-28, 06:21 PM
I think you're misunderstanding the point. The point isn't to extend the fight, it's that you aren't extending the fight appreciably since your hit chance is already high. The fight is just as long, you're just less likely to take damage.
The simple fact that youre trying to take less damage is going to extend the fight. That, and you are going to be doing less damge.


These are bad examples. *snip*
True. I also left out that if theres a conga line of death going on, the smart thing would be to Bull Rush the blocker until the baddies in back can make it around. No amount of AC in the word helps with a Bull Rush.

Saph
2007-01-28, 06:36 PM
(snip lots of individual replies which can all be summarised as:)

I find that instance rarely exists.

I don't. But games and GMs differ.

All I can say is that I've been in and seen many situations where fighting defensively was a good idea from a tactical and percentage angle. Perhaps your GMs rarely or never put you in these situations, but mine do, and I've done the same for PCs in my games.

- Saph

Sir_Banjo
2007-01-28, 08:37 PM
In general, I tend to agree that offense is better but there are certain situations where fighting defensively would be worth the effort. The fighter buying time for his comrades to kill a beastie that he can't touch is one particular instance. A rogue attempting to withdraw when he stumbles into trouble is another. A wizard (who lacks BaB bonus to make Combat Expertise worthwhile) will also benefit from fighting defensively, provided it is used to cover a retreat. So in short, you use it to buy time against foes who would otherwise take you down; yes it's heavily situational but it is feasible.

Edit: One other thing, Combat Expertise opens up a whole bunch of neat feats like spring attack and improved trip (especially improved trip).

Darkshade
2007-01-28, 09:49 PM
One creature has to attack you. If it failes its will save (granted, thats likely). And if its a melee fighter - Goad doesnt effect Ranged or Spell attacks.

As for the Devoted Defender, its S&F which is 3.0, and I got rid of all my 3.0 stuff... any clue as to what made everyone attack you? That, and any level 41 build should be nigh-unkillable anyway.

yeah but not every level 41 build has energy immunity all, DR 39/- Fast Healing 27 and over 1200 hp.

devoted Defender doesnt make the enemy attack you, its lets you declare one person at the start of any combat whi is your "charge" as long as you are within 5 feet of that person anytime they are attacked you can switch places with them and take the attack, over and over and over again.

the_tick_rules
2007-01-28, 11:23 PM
well with tumble ranks the ac bonus goes up. it's handy for spellcasters, especially healers who don't attack as much. but overall i found it minimally useful myself.

Deepblue706
2007-01-29, 12:07 AM
I think if D&D games are more dangerous all around, and death was more feared, more players would make use of defensive abilities.

Diggorian
2007-01-29, 12:11 AM
I think if D&D games are more dangerous all around, and death was more feared, more players would make use of defensive abilities.

Very true. My group uses the Vitality/Wounds system in place of HP, so a crit can take you out of the fight instantly if not permanently at any time. I used to be the party's only meleer, so Combat Expertise was a must. The only support I had were a couple of spiritual weapons that cant even flank.

Our group picked up two new players, they made a paladin and a dwarven fighter. I picked up Expertise based feats like Defensive strike and 5 Tumble ranks from Warblade. The paladin is a bit chicken, but the dwarf is scrappy.

I go in first with total defense for +6 AC, intentionally provoking AoOs putting the target between me and the party. If they miss, Defensive Strike gives me a +4 to hit those that miss me next round. :smallsmile:

Dwarf fighteress charges into flank (+4 hit) and power attacks for that much two handed. Baddie turns to hit her, who just stung him bad, but she's got tons of HP.

My next turn, I Expertise for +2 AC to counter the -2 AC from Punishing Stance then full attack twice with +4 to hit and +1d6 damage each; or power attack with Mountain Hammer for the rest and do damage +3d6+8 that ignores DR and Hardness. :smallbiggrin:

Eela6
2007-01-29, 12:52 AM
When is it worth fighting defensively?

... when they miss and you hit.

If an enemy misses you on a fifteen (or higher) and you hit them on a seven (or better) and up, then it's time to break out the old Combat Expertise for +4/-4.

It cuts their chance to hit to up to a fifth of the original, and only reduces your chance to hit by 20%. It's a hurt, but the RNG works so that those last few numbers can be really killer. Remember, hitting on a 19 or 20 does more than twice the damage(assuming a x2 critical modifier, average damage is (Dicex.1050) than hitting only a 20 (Average damage dicex.0525).

clericwithnogod
2007-01-29, 08:26 AM
I think if D&D games are more dangerous all around, and death was more feared, more players would make use of defensive abilities.

Some D&D games are more dangerous... And in those campaigns, defensive abilities are more valued. Not always enough to make them an optimal choice on their own, but more than enough to take the sting out of needing to take Iron Will and Dodge as a prerequisite for Dragonslayer or True Believer as a prerequisite for Pious Templar. Those feats, and Mettle, Aura of Courage, the Travel domain free action ability and even the Celerity domain 10' move, have been the difference between survival and death (or action and inaction) for not only my character, but for the party as well.

Thomas
2007-01-29, 08:40 AM
EDIT: It may be more prevalent with groups that not only played 2nd edition, but also versions further back, where there were far fewer options. For a lot of people back then, anyone with one 18 was a munchkin and real roleplayers had no stat above a 12. Playing a demihuman was powergaming and if you multiclassed, you obviously had the maturity of a six-year old...

This sounds more like some sort of personal grudge than anything describing the previous editions of the game. :smallconfused:

random11
2007-01-29, 08:47 AM
I'm a fairly experienced D&Der, but I've never been a great tactical analyst. Here's a question I've never had a good handle on.

When is it worth accepting the -4 to attack to get the +2 AC? Ever?

Combat Expertise doesn't seem worth it except as a route to Improved Trip - is it ever worth bothering with using it for what it's intended?

Essentially, from a tactical point of view, is it ever worth giving up the "kill the bad guy as fast as possible" philosophy in favor of being harder to hit? In my experience, it's almost never worth bothering, especially if you have the HP to burn, but I'm interested in other folks' opinions.

- Clark


1) Facing a really strong enemy.
If only 20 will hit, you might as well defend yourself. This might also be effective for very low hit rates for you vs. very high hit rates for him.

2) Your weapon is not (very) effective against that type of enemy.
Of course that's good only if there are others to back you up.

3) For some reason you want to delay the enemy. An enchantment on you or the enemy, temporary loss of attack in this currect round that will probably make you miss the current attack.

4) Low hp. It can happend, even in D&D.

clericwithnogod
2007-01-29, 09:18 AM
This sounds more like some sort of personal grudge than anything describing the previous editions of the game. :smallconfused:

Nope, just one of the many things that happened over the history of the game.

There have always been people that thought that their one way of playing the game was better than anyone else's. And, while not every early version DM was a petty little tyrant, there were more than a few. Limiting options for the players provides the DM with greater control. Forcing the PCs into limited, pre-defined roles and keeping them weak lets the DM better ensure that the actions of the players don't disrupt the DM's story.

The wealth-by-level guidelines went a long way toward removing the "a +2 sword is a weapon for the gods" mentality that was forced upon a lot of players. Having a ruleset that removed a lot of the DM's arbitrary power (and is freely available) makes it easier for players to see that that one person's way of playing the game isn't the only way. There were a lot of people turned off to the game because the first time they tried it they encountered a DM that wouldn't let them do anything, let alone do anything well.

silvermesh
2007-01-29, 10:01 AM
Maybe you fight low BAB mooks a lot. I dont. Balors and Dragons AB is 20 over my AC usually, not the other way around.

A Balor has an attack bonus, after all calculations, of +33 with his primary attack, and thats dropped 2 points if he attacks with both weapons.
I feel very sorry for a fighter of any level with an AC of 13, let alone one high enough level to be going up against a Balor. A dragon of similar CR is still only gonna have about 10 more points of attack bonus than the balor. a low level fighter without a single piece of magical equipment can obtain 24 AC, higher than the amount you exaggerated in your example. most monsters actually very much DON'T have as high an attack bonus as you.

when is expertise useful? when you actually know how to build a fighter well. a fighters attack bonus should be high enough that he can hit pretty much everything with a challenge rating on par with his level, really often. basically unless you are fighting a particularly tough monster, you can spare a few points of to-hit to gain a few AC, which makes you LAST longer, meaning more encounters before you need to be healed(consuming more party resources). This doesn't affect your hit consistency (thus, your damage) significantly, but most monsters will have more trouble hitting you. I realize some DMs allow their casters to just rest up whenever they run out of spells, but some of us DMs aren't so kind as to let that happen in the middle of a dungeon crawl. Basically, unless your DM allows you access to unlimited resources it's a good idea to get a little extra AC.

basically the jist is this: expertise means "Play smart, not hard". Playing hard means you will get through most encounters fairly easily, you are going to get your ass handed to you by certain mobs. people who play fighters rarely actually think through different tactics for different enemies, and their hit point pools and reliance on other party members can often get them through, but the smart fighter doesn't even need a party.

Thomas
2007-01-29, 11:16 AM
Nope, just one of the many things that happened over the history of the game.

There have always been people that thought that their one way of playing the game was better than anyone else's. And, while not every early version DM was a petty little tyrant, there were more than a few. Limiting options for the players provides the DM with greater control. Forcing the PCs into limited, pre-defined roles and keeping them weak lets the DM better ensure that the actions of the players don't disrupt the DM's story.

So do you honestly think this doesn't apply equally to... every RPG ever made in the history of the world ? D&D, AD&D, AD&D 2E, D&D 3E, RQ, Traveller, Cyberpunk, GURPS, Vampire, whatever else.

kensai
2007-01-29, 12:07 PM
I wonder about defensive fighting in tandem with attack of opportunity. Fellow party members stay near you, enjoying whatever area of effect defenses you have that center on you. Feats such as those contribute to their AC, and if someone attacks them anyhow, they end up moving inside your reach, so you get free attacks against them. A spiked chain would be a rather effective weapon for that trick.

If the main way to defeat someone fighting defensively is not to fight him, then there should be something to make not fighting him a bad idea.

Matthew
2007-01-29, 12:54 PM
Nope, just one of the many things that happened over the history of the game.

There have always been people that thought that their one way of playing the game was better than anyone else's. And, while not every early version DM was a petty little tyrant, there were more than a few. Limiting options for the players provides the DM with greater control. Forcing the PCs into limited, pre-defined roles and keeping them weak lets the DM better ensure that the actions of the players don't disrupt the DM's story.

The wealth-by-level guidelines went a long way toward removing the "a +2 sword is a weapon for the gods" mentality that was forced upon a lot of players. Having a ruleset that removed a lot of the DM's arbitrary power (and is freely available) makes it easier for players to see that that one person's way of playing the game isn't the only way. There were a lot of people turned off to the game because the first time they tried it they encountered a DM that wouldn't let them do anything, let alone do anything well.

This does sound more and more like a personal grudge, mishap or bad experience. It sounds a lot like the way you wanted to play the game clashed with how some previous DMs did and that you have generalised that experience negatively. Are you sure this applies in general?

clericwithnogod
2007-01-29, 10:22 PM
This does sound more and more like a personal grudge, mishap or bad experience. It sounds a lot like the way you wanted to play the game clashed with how some previous DMs did and that you have generalised that experience negatively. Are you sure this applies in general?

It has been as much of a phenomenon as actual munchkinism or monty haul gaming. I have no reason to have a personal grudge about it as I've never been in the position to have to put up with it. I have however a great deal of distaste for it, because I've talked to people that were turned off from the game by it. It's one thing to say, this is how we play or how I DM and if you aren't enjoying it you could probably find another DMs game you enjoy. It's another to tell new players that this is the only way to play the game right and anyone that plays any other way is a munchkin or monty haul player. It's just an observation of a behavior that I feel is bad for the hobby as a whole.

Raum
2007-01-30, 10:24 AM
It has been as much of a phenomenon as actual munchkinism or monty haul gaming. I have no reason to have a personal grudge about it as I've never been in the position to have to put up with it. I have however a great deal of distaste for it, because I've talked to people that were turned off from the game by it. It's one thing to say, this is how we play or how I DM and if you aren't enjoying it you could probably find another DMs game you enjoy. It's another to tell new players that this is the only way to play the game right and anyone that plays any other way is a munchkin or monty haul player. It's just an observation of a behavior that I feel is bad for the hobby as a whole.I agree, some DMs have control issues. I'm automatically leery of any DM using the phrase "It's my game."

However, I don't believe that has anything to do with the mechanics of the game. Those issues occur in any game. It's the equivalent of the kid who brought the bat and ball to the schoolyard baseball game threatening to take his bat & ball and go home.

clarkvalentine
2007-01-30, 10:36 AM
Thanks for the great response to my question. Fascinating discussion, everyone. Some real good stuff here. I'll just continue watching from the bleachers.

barawn
2007-01-30, 01:48 PM
First, point 1: if you're going to use fighting defensively, take ranks in Tumble. Then it's +3 AC (and +6! for total defense). +3 for -4 isn't so bad anymore.


People like making "unkillable" builds and claiming theyre helping the party out with thier massive AC. I disagree. Sure, you have a huge AC. Youre not getting hit. What are you actually contributing in the fight?

Flanking.

Or you could always cast True Strike, then fight defensively. Oh no, now it's only a +16. Darn.

It's of somewhat limited usefulness, though - if you're just going to be a "huge AC" character, just do total defense if you're not planning on hitting the guy. If the party needs occasional hits, then the True Strike/fighting defensively pair isn't a bad idea.

Of course, Combat Expertise is a bit more useful, but with ranks in Tumble, it's not that much different. And it doesn't take a feat.

clericwithnogod
2007-01-30, 04:22 PM
I agree, some DMs have control issues. I'm automatically leery of any DM using the phrase "It's my game."

However, I don't believe that has anything to do with the mechanics of the game. Those issues occur in any game. It's the equivalent of the kid who brought the bat and ball to the schoolyard baseball game threatening to take his bat & ball and go home.

I agree about it happening in all games. Champions 4th Edition had a great two pages of campaign tips on pages 265-266 of the 4th Edition book. A big part of it was 10 Ways to Ruin a Campaign:

#1 Never Let Your Characters be the Best at Anything
#2 Make Sure the Plot and NPCs are More Important than the PCs
#3 Force Your PCs into Roles Your Players Hate
(snipped to stay within fair use)
#10 Ignore Complaints

They probably wouldn't have bothered if they hadn't seen any problems (and Champions had a real do-anything mechanic). There's also a nice little section on things that don't translate well from comics to RPGs (which seem to apply equally well to fantasy novels/films to RPGs).

As far as tyrannical DMing having to do with the mechanics of the game, the earlier, more arbitrary mechanics made it easier to exercise control. It didn't help that the DM was usually the only person that had all the books (or in some cases the only person with any of the books). I can't speak for everywhere, but in the places I was gaming in the 80s and 90s, tyrant campaigns were as common as monty haul campaigns. But, the number of tyrant campaigns seems to have dropped during the existence of 3.x - and I guess the web deserves credit at well as the less-arbitrary mechanic and better availability of the rules (though there were a lot of gamers online early, so I don't think the web can take all the credit). But of those tyrant campaigns remaining, the ones I've seen or heard talked about had a DM that had been that way back to previous editions. Going back to the forcing of specific roles and tactics on players where I started this with an ill-advised EDIT that would have been better off as it's own thread :smallredface: , those DMs have been the most likely in my experience to do that, followed at a distance by players of MMOs that had that type of Healer/Blaster/Tank architecture (though in those cases it seems both DM and players share that background and like it that way).

EDIT: Note that "role" as used in the Champions ways to ruin your campaign list, differs from "role" as blaster/healer/tank. Role is as bad as level sometimes.

Jayabalard
2007-01-30, 05:32 PM
Very true. My group uses the Vitality/Wounds system in place of HP, so a crit can take you out of the fight instantly if not permanently at any time. I used to be the party's only meleer, so Combat Expertise was a must. The only support I had were a couple of spiritual weapons that cant even flank.

Our group picked up two new players, they made a paladin and a dwarven fighter. I picked up Expertise based feats like Defensive strike and 5 Tumble ranks from Warblade. The paladin is a bit chicken, but the dwarf is scrappy.

I go in first with total defense for +6 AC, intentionally provoking AoOs putting the target between me and the party. If they miss, Defensive Strike gives me a +4 to hit those that miss me next round. :smallsmile:

Dwarf fighteress charges into flank (+4 hit) and power attacks for that much two handed. Baddie turns to hit her, who just stung him bad, but she's got tons of HP.

My next turn, I Expertise for +2 AC to counter the -2 AC from Punishing Stance then full attack twice with +4 to hit and +1d6 damage each; or power attack with Mountain Hammer for the rest and do damage +3d6+8 that ignores DR and Hardness. :smallbiggrin:

That does seem to sum it up: Fighting defensively isn't effective in D&D because of the hp/damage/healing mechanics; there's no lasting repercussions for wounds, or even being beat within an inch of your life, and at high levels everyone has enough hp so they can afford to go all offense without adding any appreciable risk.

To be more realistic, most people (PC and NPC alike) should highly concerned with avoiding injury and staying alive: fighting defensively as often as not, using sword and board rather than leaping power attacks with 2 handed weapons, using terrain to your advantage, etc.

But it really requires quite a bit of house ruling or just a different RPG system to make it work.

Raum
2007-01-30, 08:25 PM
I'm not a fan of the current fighting defensively rules simply because it seems a worse choice than full offense. It simply isn't effective enough. Unless you take the PrCs / feats necessary to get your trade off to at least 1:1 ratio, you're probably better off putting extra AB points into damage via Power Attack.

Yes, you can argue that Power Attack is too good, but it's still going to be something most melee characters have. Fighting defensively just doesn't benefit as much as using AB in other ways.

----------------------------

I agree about it happening in all games. Interesting quote from Champions. I'll have to see if I still have my old book to look at the whole thing. One point I should have made clearer earlier, tyranny in games is endemic to all games involving three or more humans interacting. I didn't mean to limit my comments to RPGs.

As for how (or even if) game mechanics affect such tyrannical play, I don't agree with your conclusions.

barawn
2007-01-30, 09:03 PM
Yes, you can argue that Power Attack is too good, but it's still going to be something most melee characters have. Fighting defensively just doesn't benefit as much as using AB in other ways.


What about non-melee characters, though? The fighting defensively/True Strike mix is a perfectly fine mix.

I definitely agree for melee characters that "just kill it" is better.

It would also be a heckuva lot more useful if you could Fight Defensively while Aiding Another.

Raum
2007-01-30, 10:09 PM
What about non-melee characters, though? Frankly, non-melee characters shouldn't be in melee and should avoid even being the target of attacks when possible. An archer probably does benefit from fighting defensively more than any other character role. Spellcasters can't use it while casting spells taking longer than a swift action, so it won't work with the True Strike combo you postulate.

Mike_G
2007-01-30, 10:42 PM
Frankly, non-melee characters shouldn't be in melee and should avoid even being the target of attacks when possible. An archer probably does benefit from fighting defensively more than any other character role.

But they could wind up being the target of attacks, however hard they try to avoid it. Defensive fighting gives them a better chance to survive those times that they are attacked. A flanking Rogue who is targeted may well opt for this tactic.

Even for melee characters, it's not something I'd use often, but it has its uses.



Spellcasters can't use it while casting spells taking longer than a swift action, so it won't work with the True Strike combo you postulate.

It will work on their next attack, even if that's next round.

Shhalahr Windrider
2007-01-30, 10:55 PM
But they could wind up being the target of attacks, however hard they try to avoid it.
Right. If the bad guys can't put the non-melee characters in danger at least once every other adventure arc, the DM's not trying. :smallamused:

barawn
2007-01-30, 11:21 PM
Frankly, non-melee characters shouldn't be in melee and should avoid even being the target of attacks when possible.

Bah. To be honest, being in combat is frequently safer than being far from combat at times. The 'lone wizard' far from combat might as well have a big bullseye. It's relatively simple for spellcasters to heavily boost their AC, and once you've burned out of spells, it's useful to be helpful in combat as well.

And, as was noted, True Strike will work. It applies to next action, not your current. True Strike + fighting defensively is actually really convenient. Combat Expertise is a bit more useful, but, it burns a feat.

My last build was a rogue/wizard that had a tendency to flip into melee once he was out of spells (or didn't want to burn any more). Armor, plus dex, plus natural armor, plus shield, plus bits from fighting defensively, and he was basically untouchable. So he just flitted about combat, flanking like mad, burning True Strike in the rounds when he wasn't surrounded (wand), and moving in and happily fighting defensively. Would've been even more deadly if the enemies weren't freaking undead and immune to sneak attack damage.

That, coupled with Fade Into Violence to get the hell out of there if he was ever in real danger. Works pretty well.

Raum
2007-01-30, 11:37 PM
Bah. To be honest, being in combat is frequently safer than being far from combat at times. The 'lone wizard' far from combat might as well have a big bullseye. It's relatively simple for spellcasters to heavily boost their AC, and once you've burned out of spells, it's useful to be helpful in combat as well.There are better ways of avoiding being a target than simple distance...invisibility, various illusions or transformations, etherealness, or even simply staying behind your big friendly barbarian.


And, as was noted, True Strike will work. It applies to next action, not your current. True Strike + fighting defensively is actually really convenient. Combat Expertise is a bit more useful, but, it burns a feat.It does work...as long as your next action is a melee or ranged attack. Even then it is only working every other round unless all your True Strikes are quickened. It doesn't work if your next action is casting a non-swift spell such as a ray.


My last build was a rogue/wizard that had a tendency to flip into melee once he was out of spells (or didn't want to burn any more). Armor, plus dex, plus natural armor, plus shield, plus bits from fighting defensively, and he was basically untouchable. So he just flitted about combat, flanking like mad, burning True Strike in the rounds when he wasn't surrounded (wand), and moving in and happily fighting defensively. Sure, and it sounds fun. But your rogue wizard is arguably built for melee. Certainly moreso than a pure wizard.

Maybe it's just my playing experiences, but I haven't had a wizard rich enough to burn True Strikes on anything other than touch attack spells (ranged or not). I burn too much gold on shiny new spells to cast! :)

barawn
2007-01-31, 12:08 AM
It does work...as long as your next action is a melee or ranged attack. Even then it is only working every other round unless all your True Strikes are quickened. It doesn't work if your next action is casting a non-swift spell such as a ray.

Sure, but he was only doing that when he was out of spells, or unwilling to burn more on the combat.


Sure, and it sounds fun. But your rogue wizard is arguably built for melee. Certainly moreso than a pure wizard.

He's built to be present in melee, if needed. But he can't do damage with melee. His base attack bonus is +2. For a 6th level character. Hitting every other round is a lot better than he can do normally.

And it's not like it was peanuts damage - because of the ridiculous AC and ranks in tumble, he was basically always flanking, which - if they hadn't been undead - meant weapon damage plus sneak attack damage.


Maybe it's just my playing experiences, but I haven't had a wizard rich enough to burn True Strikes on anything other than touch attack spells (ranged or not). I burn too much gold on shiny new spells to cast! :)

Oh, he was very limited in terms of spells available, that's definitely true. In a "realistic" setting for the character he was, he would've been gaining spells through other caster's spellbooks, rather than actually paying for them. In not-so-legal means.

Anyway, the point was that fighting defensively is fairly useful if you've got a character that can be in combat, but isn't likely to actually hit an opponent on anything less than a 20 anyway. There are plenty of times when a character like that comes up.

DSCrankshaw
2007-04-22, 12:58 AM
Okay, I'm coming into this discussion awfully late, but I thought I'd add my two cents.

When should you fight defensively?

1. When you're low on HP and in the midst of melee.

This really applies to anyone, but the perfect example is the melee rogue. You're separated from your fighter buddy for the flank and surrounded by enemies, you're not going to be able to survive even one hit from that ogre mage's greatsword, and you get a +2 flanking bonus that you don't really need since you're just flanking for the sneak attack damage. And you've got Combat Expertise anyway because it's a pre-req for Improved Feint. Go ahead and spend that +2 on your AC instead, and maybe you'll be around to sneak attack next round.

2. When you're drawing the enemies' attacks.

Sometimes this means standing in the way of a foe. Sometimes this means moving through a crowded battlefield and attempting to draw every foe's single Attack of Opportunity so your wizard friend can follow without those attacks laying him low. There are plenty of times when you can make an enemy attack you rather than an ally, and that's more important than you getting in an attack this round. Use full defense in this case.

3. You have the Deadly Defense feat from Complete Scoundrel.

This is a no brainer, and I have a sneaking suspicion that this feat is over powered. -2 to Attack (with Combat Expertise), but +2 to AC and 1d6 to damage? This feat's perfect for a melee rogue, since it works against things he can't sneak attack. The only downside is that it only works with finessable weapons, which isn't such a downside for the melee rogue after all.

There are others, of course, although most of them have been mentioned already. There are times when you simply can't attack some round, or it doesn't do much good if you do, so you might as well use that standard action for full defense. Other times it's better not to get hit than it is to hit.

argentsaber
2007-04-22, 01:14 AM
Two things i can think of just off the top of my head. one is TWF rogues. they may get in the first hit, but every little bit of ac helps prevent those iterative attacks from landing. The same principle can be used is fighting an opponent that is using power attack. Also, Black pearl of doubt in tome of battle greatly benefits from every point of ac.

BardicDuelist
2007-04-22, 12:49 PM
For characters like bards it is very useful. Also, with feats like Defensive Strike, Deadly Defense, and Combat Expertise, it can be extremely useful.

I play a Seeker of Song, where he will fight defensively and boost his AC while he gives mad boosts to his allies. When he isn't threatened he just blasts things with the other aspects of his music.

If you Allied Defense, you fighting defensively (using combat expertise), can boost your allies AC.

If you are severely outclassed in combat (say if playing a mid level rogue), you can fight defensively until the heavy hitter (generally the barbarian in our games) can come in and not only beat the opponent to death with power attack, but flank the opponent as well.

Waiting for the spellcaster to either buff you, heal you, or blast the opponent is annother good time (if you are near the brink of death).

Basically, unless you are a buff specialist with low combat ability, it's something to do when you are about to lose and your allies can help within a few rounds.

Expertise basically nerfs a charging, power attacking, raging barbarian.

Using it to delay until any buffs the BBEG has on him run out works as well.

Lolzords
2007-04-22, 01:09 PM
Everyone loves a bit of AC, I'm currently playing a ranger and I'm focususing on stupidly high armour class with him. (I haven't been hit once in the campaign yet.) =)

asqwasqw
2007-04-22, 03:23 PM
knight+combat expertise=nobody can hurt your casters.

PlatinumJester
2007-04-22, 04:11 PM
In the end it comes down to who kill can kill who first. If you never hit anything than eventually you will be killed. The only time when fighting defensivly is helpful is when a barbarian is level 11 and in rage. He has the same AC and BAB as before but gets the +3 will and +6 con.

psychoticbarber
2007-04-22, 04:20 PM
Just so I don't get leaped on by the people who are much more skilled at optimizing in 3.X Ed., I should warn you that I only really use the core books (Occasionally the Complete X set).

I think that, and I'm aware that I'm reiterating, most of the time, the reason nobody fights defensively is that the DM doesn't make it worthwhile.

The mechanic is there, but if your characters are rarely or never placed in a situation when it will be useful, it won't be used: seems to be common sense to me.

Now, I'm getting away from D&D as I age, pretty much because of issues like this. I'm currently using the Hero System (5th Ed, if anybody plays), and I find that it's easy (ok, once you've familiarized yourself with the system, which can take a long time.) to create characters who are more defensive in nature, because it's a point-buy system. More points to defense means less points elsewhere, balancing the character. In the same way, you can use the point system to develop characters who would be weak against high defense characters (huge offense, no defense).

The system thing is a personal preference: There's no reason it can't be done in D&D. I think the onus is on the DM to introduce some variance in encounters, so that the players learn (even if it takes a long time) that tactics is more than "I Cleave!"

[Funny story, had a fighter in a campaign once who said that every time I asked her what her character was doing. It was my fault for not creating a scenario where that wouldn't work.]

My only advice is to take it slowly. D&D sort of hardwires "I Cleave!" into a lot of players, and it can take a long time for them to get over their frustration when it stops working all the time.

Great topic, by the by.

Ulzgoroth
2007-04-22, 04:40 PM
Tripping is touch attacks and strength checks. Touch attacks are trivial on many opponents, and strength checks aren't effected by AB. They can't hit you (at least, less than they would otherwise), they can't get away from you, and you keep getting extra swings at them for successful trips.

Shhalahr Windrider
2007-04-22, 04:52 PM
In the end it comes down to who kill can kill who first. If you never hit anything than eventually you will be killed.
Conversely, if your opponent never hits you, your opponent will be killed (by either you or your fellow party members).

Annarrkkii
2007-04-22, 10:59 PM
When you're flanked by low-AB foes, it can help to pop a pair of AB points into AC via Combat Expertise, to offset there bonus.

In general, Combat Expertise and Power Attack both have their place in an open-field battle, toe-to-toe with more numerous foes who have low AC to AB ratios, especially if they have multiple attacks. Picture your 6th-level fighter standing toe-to-toe with a hulking Chimera. The thing has already zapped you with its (admittedly feeble) breath weapon, and is now looming over you. It has a mere 19 AC, and you have a pair of attacks, at +12/+7, but it has three attacks at +12 and two at +10, and each one deals a minimum of 5 damage, all the way up to 16 for three of them. A full attack from that thing could really tear up your 24 AC. Power Attacking for 4 points makes you 20% less likely to hit with both attacks, reducing your first attack to a 45% chance to hit, and your second to a 20%. However, it also means the Chimera now is only hitting on a 16 for its first 3 and a 18 on its second 2. This gives you the time to put in a few hits back, while the rest of your mage slings spells and your rogue flanks, increasing your chance to hit on each attack by 10%. Granted, such metagaming is unavailable, but the strategy remains relevant.

Talya
2007-04-23, 01:49 AM
If your target has a low armor class so you can hit him easily even with the penalty, and lots of damage potential, and you have Combat Expertise (which changes defensive fighting to 1-for-1 up to +5 armor, -5 to hit), and you are using a class with the "Elaborate parry" ability...(+4 more to AC when fighting defensively)...suddenly for 5 attack power you're gaining 9 armor class.

Jayabalard
2007-04-23, 09:53 AM
Yes, you can argue that Power Attack is too good, but it's still going to be something most melee characters have. That does seem to say pretty clearly that power attack is too good, doesn't it?

Diggorian
2007-04-23, 11:08 AM
My meleer has no plans to take Power Attack, although it's a good feat. Our low-magic party demonstrates why.

Over six fighter levels and three warblade as a sword-n-boarder, every feat My PC takes either boosts his focused weapons or gives AC bonuses. Combat expertise lets him switch the former to the latter, so I can still hit well and get the equivalent of a tower shield to deflect the backlash.

Our paladin is the opposite, 2 hander with power attack and cleavey. His falchion crits often and nicely when smiting with power attack. But, with his Dex penalty, he's got an AC 17 at level 8. He's still got more HP than me.

Against early in the evening ego-boosting minions, he'll kill more than me handily. Pally will even lay hands his own minor cuts. I'm not touched.

Against session climax monsters, both our clerics are pushing his guts back in. I'm holding the front line alone, hitting like an ordinary meleer of my level with much more AC. Once pally is back up, on the line, and gets easily grappled again, I can cut loose with full melee might and finish it.

AC for attack bonus or feat slot, it's worth it to me. The houserules for Resurrection are murder. :biggrin:

Runolfr
2007-04-23, 11:20 AM
It's a tanking skill. Use Combat Expertise when you're trying to keep a lot of monsters busy, but someone else is doing the damage. CE let's you be in the line of a lot of attacks without taking a lot of hits.

Matthew
2007-04-23, 03:02 PM
That does seem to say pretty clearly that power attack is too good, doesn't it?
Oh, it's definitely too good, but not compared to what Spell casters do, sadly...

Raum
2007-04-23, 03:37 PM
That does seem to say pretty clearly that power attack is too good, doesn't it?Compared to what? Other melee feats? Probably. A barbarian's rage ability? Probably not. Personally, I think the Power Attack ability should have been a Fighter class ability. As it is, it's one of the few feats which actually scale with level. That makes it useful throughout the life of the character. It doesn't make it overpowered.

The other feats are simply underpowered. They need to scale with level.

Matthew
2007-04-23, 06:28 PM
It depends what you measure this stuff against. Back when Power Attack was 1:1 for all weapons, I think it was on par with most other Feats. Still, I certainly wouldn't advocate lowering its potency in isloation from other changes to 3.5. I guess it goes back to Justin's point about 'calibrating your expectations.'

MaxMahem
2007-04-24, 12:16 AM
One thing I haven't seen listed here that one of my players does frequently is to fight defensively while moving into a critical position for a sneak attack. For example, my PC's were recently facing a rather nasty enlarged were-baboon barbarian wielding a glaive with the haft half feat (read lots of threatened area). The rogue, with his non-silvered d4 dagger could not hope to hurt the thing except on a critical hit except with his sneak attack. However to move into flanking position he had to move through several threatened squares and provoke at least one (and possibly several) attacks of opportunity. Large strong raging creature wielding a two handed weapon = much hurt for poor rouge if hit.

Since fighting totally defensively is a full round action the rouge couldn't fight if doing that (and IIRC there were some assistant baboons preventing
him from simply tumbling all the way there) his best option was to go ahead and take a probably futile swing while using his move action to get into "attack position" as it were. The were-baboon barbarian is also another good example of a (relatively) easy to hit monster that could do much damage if it hit you back.

To me combat expertise (along with the feats that spring from it, like improved trip) all seem much more appropriate for "expert" type characters like rogues who are more likely to have the int score necessary to use it than you're average fighter.

So fighting defensively can be worth it when attempting to maneuver into a better tactical position (like flanking for a sneak attack).

Diggorian
2007-04-24, 02:05 AM
One thing I haven't seen listed here that one of my players does frequently is to fight defensively while moving into a critical position for a sneak attack.

We do a team combo similar to that rogue, post #45. (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=32975&page=2)

Combat expertise can be right up a Rogues alley, but I put a 14 into Int instead of Con just to qualify for it. Less HP but I get hit less. :smallwink:

Wehrkind
2007-04-24, 02:14 AM
I always got the feeling Defensive Fighting and Combat Expertise were sort of aborted attemptes at creating a combat system of opposed rolls and a swashbuckling sort of fighter, respectively. Since without defensive fighting a naked 20th level fighter is just as easy to hit as a naked 1st level fighter, and that doesn't make sense, they tossed in an ability to let you trade, if ineffectively. Since without an AB->AC trade ability a light, clever fighter who out skills his opponant instead of sucking up hits (a lot like the previous sentance) can't really exist, they made an intelligence based feat for fighters to be better at defending.

Then they made a class that just gets straight Int bonus to AC for the latter, and sort of ignored the former such that it is less than exciting.
As such, I can see players using the former, and definitely the latter, to size up opponant's offense and defense before going to town, but in many cases it just is not as exciting as one might hope.

Jayabalard
2007-04-24, 09:15 AM
In the end it comes down to who kill can kill who first. Unless you're not trying to kill anyone. Not all situations are "kill or be killed" some are just "be killed or not be killed". In the latter, fighting defensively may well be worth it.

Indon
2007-04-24, 09:40 AM
Hmm. A question.

You can use Power Attack for up to your BAB. You can use Combat Expertise for up to your BAB. You can theoretically use both at once.

Can you use both Power Attack and Combat Expertise for your full BAB? Sure, you'd only hit on a 20, but if you can get to the point where your enemy can't hit you easy, either, you'll probably hit them harder.

Zincorium
2007-04-24, 09:51 AM
Unless you're not trying to kill anyone. Not all situations are "kill or be killed" some are just "be killed or not be killed". In the latter, fighting defensively may well be worth it.

Generally, I've only seen those situations arise when the melee fighting is tangential to what else is going on, and it doesn't matter if you even hit the enemy because the wizard is readying a cloudkill spell/someone's getting the object you need and they just need a few more seconds/whatever.

In those cases, there is nothing preventing any character from fighting defensively or taking the full defense action. Doesn't require a feat or 13 intelligence. You just state it and it's the case. It's not nearly as efficient in terms of trade off in attack bonus, and it doesn't scale very well. If you're of a mind to prepare in advance for those situations, get a freaking tower shield. Total cover means they can't even attack, so you're doing a 100% negation.

However, in any situation where killing your foes is a desired result, it's best to just deal as much damage as quickly as possible. In D&D, people don't get tired, it's rare to get an opening that will allow you to kill your opponent in one blow (critical hits), and no matter how high your AC is, you'll still get hit a small portion of the time, and it adds up.

And of course the old chestnut about them attacking other people that really pose a threat.

Edit: to avoid a double post.


Hmm. A question.

You can use Power Attack for up to your BAB. You can use Combat Expertise for up to your BAB. You can theoretically use both at once.

Can you use both Power Attack and Combat Expertise for your full BAB? Sure, you'd only hit on a 20, but if you can get to the point where your enemy can't hit you easy, either, you'll probably hit them harder.

Only if your BAB is five or less. Combat expertise only goes up that far. However, if you have improved combat expertise, yeah, there's nothing stopping you mechanically. You'll have to be inventive to have a description of what you're doing that people can wrap their heads around, though.

Jayabalard
2007-04-24, 10:01 AM
Generally, I've only seen those situations arise when the melee fighting is tangential to what else is going on, and it doesn't matter if you even hit the enemy because the wizard is readying a cloudkill spell/someone's getting the object you need and they just need a few more seconds/whatever.That depends entirely on the style game you play, doesn't it?

The point is, unless your games are always straight forward kill-or-be-killed-situations, it doesn't always come down to who can kill who first...and in those cases, fighting defensively is a worthwhile strategy.

Talya
2007-04-24, 10:04 AM
When you are out of your element, tanking something you have no hope of beating, all alone and waiting for help...when you can't do much damage in melee anyway, others can do the work of killing it, and if you're not careful it will rip you a new one...when one extra hit can kill you and your own damage is irrelevant (or unlikely to be affected significantly by defensive fighting) feel free to fight defensively.

Truwar
2007-04-24, 11:06 AM
AC increases in value in relation to the number of attacks made on you in a round as well. That +2 AC can come in pretty handy when you are being attacked by a carrion crawler.

Indon
2007-04-24, 11:52 AM
Only if your BAB is five or less. Combat expertise only goes up that far. However, if you have improved combat expertise, yeah, there's nothing stopping you mechanically. You'll have to be inventive to have a description of what you're doing that people can wrap their heads around, though.

Oh, yeah, I keep forgetting about Improved combat expertise.

Hmm. Flailing around so wildly that nobody wants to get near to me, perhaps? Heh.

LotharBot
2007-04-24, 01:42 PM
It's worth fighting defensively if you're the sort of character who thrives on making a large number of attacks, like a TWF rogue or ranger. In the first round, when you move into position and only get to make one attack (at your highest bonus) anyway, it's often worthwhile to take a penalty on that attack to make yourself less vulnerable. Then the next round, when you can full attack, go fully offensive and lay into the guy for 60d6+24+12 strength drain or whatever.

MaxMahem
2007-04-24, 03:52 PM
Another thing that occurred to me is that there are lots of times when you might tactically want to try and outlast a foe. Like for example the barbarian in my last example, his rage is not going to last forever and afterwards he will be at a serious disadvantage when facing you, being fatigued. Likewise when facing opponents under the effect of other boosting spells that last rnd/lvl like haste.


It's worth fighting defensively if you're the sort of character who thrives on making a large number of attacks, like a TWF rogue or ranger. In the first round, when you move into position and only get to make one attack (at your highest bonus) anyway, it's often worthwhile to take a penalty on that attack to make yourself less vulnerable.

This is another good one as well. The disparity in damage between a single attack and a full attack when twf is great enough to make such tactics worthwhile. Likewise when using whirlwind attack or flurry of blows, or virtually any other full round attack option. Many times move+defensive fighting are your best options for tactical positioning. Not all fighters are dependent on charge, and charging isn't alway possible anyways.