Combat Expertise is Redundant


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

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So, I was looking over the Aldori Sword Lord online guide the other day, when something struck me. Combat Expertise as it currently exists really serves no purpose other than a feat tax for certain combat maneuver builds.

Reason being that we have Fighting Defensively, which anyone can do without spending a feat. Both Combat Expertise and Fighting Defensively offer the same benefit; trading accuracy for AC for a combat round.

Why does Combat Expertise exist then, if you can get basically the same bonus without having to spend a feat on it?

Dark Archive

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You nailed it in one: because it's a feat tax.


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Dodge bonuses to AC stack. You can use both.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Ventnor wrote:

So, I was looking over the Aldori Sword Lord online guide the other day, when something struck me. Combat Expertise as it currently exists really serves no purpose other than a feat tax for certain combat maneuver builds.

Reason being that we have Fighting Defensively, which anyone can do without spending a feat. Both Combat Expertise and Fighting Defensively offer the same benefit; trading accuracy for AC for a combat round.

Why does Combat Expertise exist then, if you can get basically the same bonus without having to spend a feat on it?

Because originally you could choose the degree to which you used Combat Expertise. Also the return rate vs. Fighting Defensively is better, rather than 1 for 2 you get a zero sum.


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Well, for one thing, the two stack. Using Combat Expertise doesn't preclude you from fighting defensively. Second, the bonus from Combat Expertise grows as your BAB goes up while the bonus from defensive fighting remains generally static (you can increase it by 50% with 3 ranks in Acrobatics). Lastly, Combat Expertise is a 1 to 1 ratio; lose 1 accuracy for 1 dodge; fighting defensively is -4 accuracy for only +2 dodge (+3 with sufficient Acrobatics). Make sense now?


Kazaan wrote:
Well, for one thing, the two stack. Using Combat Expertise doesn't preclude you from fighting defensively. Second, the bonus from Combat Expertise grows as your BAB goes up while the bonus from defensive fighting remains generally static (you can increase it by 50% with 3 ranks in Acrobatics). Lastly, Combat Expertise is a 1 to 1 ratio; lose 1 accuracy for 1 dodge; fighting defensively is -4 accuracy for only +2 dodge (+3 with sufficient Acrobatics). Make sense now?

Well, you could be a Style user, Crane style makes it -1 hit/+6 Dodge.


Yes, it's merely a feat tax nowadays. I really think that PF nerfed the feat to an unnecessary degree. It's not like it was a 'must have' feat in 3.x or anything. Heck, Power Attack got a major boost, but this one got kicked in the yarbles.


I honestly thought it was a feat tax too, but then I didn't realize it stacks with Fighting Defensively.

With that in mind I REALLY want to build a Duelist who uses Crane & Combat Experise now...


Most of the things that have Combat Expertise as a prerequisite don't work well with Combat Expertise. Combat maneuver builds don't usually want to trade to-hit for AC due to the way CMD scales, but Combat Expertise is required to take Improved Trip or Improved Disarm. It doesn't work with Improved Steal at all, since steal is its own special standard action and not an attack, but is still required for it because screw you rogues.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8

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Personally? I wish it was akin to power attack in there being a way to add to the defence bonus. It would be a lot more attractive if it was say "+1/-1 or +2/-1 if used with a shield." Or (I'd prefer) "+2/-1 if used with a one handed weapon and no shield or weapon in the off hand."

The Exchange

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

The real kicker is the INT requirement. I can see why Imp Trip, Imp Disarm, and the other, more finesse-driven maneuvers would not be tied to Power Attack as a pre-req, but INT? Shouldn't they be DEX?

Perhaps the fact that Trip, Disarm, Steal, etc. are frankly very good maneuvers made them think that tying it to a non-physical stat would keep folks from having Power Attacking, Sundering, Tripping, Disarmers.

How many builds take both Power Attack and Combat Expertise? I am toying with one at the moment, and it looks like fun, but the hidden powergamer in me rankles mightily at the fact that I had to buy up INT for a fighter to take it.

Two-weapon fighters get to use DEX.
Two-handed fighters get to use STR.

Maneuver guys get hosed and have to go to INT.

Heck, WIS makes more sense to me, giving the whole idea a sort of battlefield-awareness feel. You are highly perceptive, enabling you to sense where the the next attack is coming from and slip out of the way, or suss out the pattern in your foe's movements to tip his weapon out of his hands. I could totally buy into that description, but INT?

Perhaps it goes back to the whole idea that fencing schools and whatnot were a sort of education.

Princess Bride:
Inigo Montoya: Naturally, you must suspect me to attack with Capa Ferro?
Man in Black: Naturally... but I find that Thibault cancels out Capa Ferro. Don't you?
Inigo Montoya: Unless the enemy has studied his Agrippa... which I have.

Combat Expertise as a pre-req. for the maneuver feats doesn't bother me. INT 13 as a pre-req. drives me nuts.


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The Int requirement wouldn't even be so bad if they actually printed abilities other than "be an arcane caster" that let you use Int in combat. The few abilities that exist are horribly weak (Kirin Strike has several taxes and can't be used until turn 3 or later and even then still only boosts damage on one attack per round; Focused Shot is murdered by just being a standard action and has no upgraded version). Even the Fighter archetypes Tactician and Lore Warden, which theoretically are supposed to fill exactly this role, don't get any decent way of using their Int in combat until 15th level, by which point the campaign has basically ended. The Duelist prestige class gradually getting Int to AC is just about the only option, but it's otherwise way too weak.

The same is true of Cha, with which all you can really do in combat as a fighter is qualify for the Eldritch Heritage chain. At least paladins are allowed to fight with it, though.

Pathfinder doesn't really support the "cunning tactician" or "inspiring commander" character archetypes because just about any effect you can think of that they'd want to use would get people whining about how it's unthematic boardgame 4e MMO nonsense, also I cast time stop.


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Duelist also has a very tough +6 BAB entry. I often want to build duelists, but unless I start at lvl 7-8 (to take a few levels of bard, rogue, or monk that fit nicely with the concept), it's a looong time having a stat that isn't very useful to you :(.

Only Magus Kensai can get some use from INT until you hit the high +6 BAB for duelists.

I Kinda wonder why on hell they put such a big BAB bonus for a prestige class that *should* be easy entry for rogues and bards.

There should be more feats and class properties that allow you to use INT, WIS or CHA in combat. Canny dodge, monk-like armor, etc. There are few, and those are quite lackluster. Smart fighters are dumb (?)


I wonder... maybe Combat Expertise, instead of being its own action in combat, should instead improve fighting defensively in some way.

Assistant Software Developer

I removed an excessively fighty post.


Pathfinder Maps Subscriber
drbuzzard wrote:
...this one got kicked in the yarbles.

I need new glasses, I originally read this as "kicked in the VARIABLES."


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I really hate this feat. I can not trip/disarm becue I am only 10% smarter than the average, pfff.

It is one of the most obnoxious feat tax in the game.


Roberta Yang wrote:
It doesn't work with Improved Steal at all, since steal is its own special standard action and not an attack, but is still required for it because screw you rogues.

u.u


Zandari wrote:


Combat Expertise as a pre-req. for the maneuver feats doesn't bother me. INT 13 as a pre-req. drives me nuts.

Curiously I think the opposite. If CE were not a feat tax I would not mind the 13 int cause I would never take the feat.


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Nicos wrote:

I really hate this feat. I can not trip/disarm becue I am only 10% smarter than the average, pfff.

It is one of the most obnoxious feat tax in the game.

Who said you can't trip or disarm without being a little bit more intelligent than a dimwit? Trip and disarm and perform whatever combat maneuvers you want to your heart's delight. But if you want to execute them in such a way that the target can't effectively retaliate, you need a little more than shock-absorbent padding between your ears.


Kazaan wrote:
Nicos wrote:

I really hate this feat. I can not trip/disarm becue I am only 10% smarter than the average, pfff.

It is one of the most obnoxious feat tax in the game.

Who said you can't trip or disarm without being a little bit more intelligent than a dimwit? Trip and disarm and perform whatever combat maneuvers you want to your heart's delight. But if you want to execute them in such a way that the target can't effectively retaliate, you need a little more than shock-absorbent padding between your ears.

yes, you need training. that is why there are combat maneuver feats, sadly those feast do not benefis from 13 INT much less form comba expertise.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16

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You mean, like a wolf has?

or a monk?

==Aelryinth


Yeah, there are a few problems here that have always rankled me.

The 13 Int requirement generally means you will be worse at performing your combat maneuvers, since it is taking away from your Str and Dex (probably), and therefore also worse at defending against maneuvers.

The Int doesn't actually do anything for you at all, even if you really, really want to find a way to use it.

Combat Expertise doesn't actually provide any benefit whatsoever to using its associated combat maneuvers, and, if used together, generally makes you worse at performing them. Bull Rush (and some of the other Power Attack-dependent maneuvers) at least has abilities that benefit from using their prerequisite.

Bonuses to AC are often less worthwhile than bonuses to your offense. A bonus to AC at the cost of penalizing your offense is rarely worthwhile, and even less so without things that also work off of your greater defense <see: Crane Wing/Riposte>.

PF made Power Attack (slightly) better, and largely did so to remove the incessant calculating, referring to charts, and discussion when using PA in D&D 3.5, when you were trying to figure out the best penalty you could afford to take against a particular AC. Combat Expertise never really suffered from that since it A) was already limited to -5/+5 at max, and B) it's much more difficult to peg a monster's attack bonus than it is its AC as a player.


What I'd LIKE to see CE get changed to:

First, the combat maneuvers that require CE and Int 13 lose those requirements, and gain some different prerequisites. Remember that these maneuvers still require Str to perform (though some can be used with Dex), and their prerequisites should reflect this.

Combat Expertise changes to allowing you to add your Int to your AC as a dodge bonus when fighting defensively. Maybe have this tack on a penalty on attack rolls equal to 1/2 the bonus you're getting (an Int of 12 would be -0/+1, while an Int of 14 would be a -1/+2).

OR, change the feat to work as it does currently, but double the bonus when fighting defensively, using a shield, or fighting without a weapon in your off-hand (maybe requiring a weapon in one hand to disallow unarmed fighting from gaining this bonus if that seems necessary--it doesn't to me).

OR, change CE to add your Int to your CMB and CMD when being used. That is, when you have CE active, you ALSO add your Int to CMB and CMD, which (may) at least balance out the penalty you'd normally be taking, giving you SOME benefit from using them together.

Add a new feat line that extends out of CE gets added that allows you to add your Int to other statistics <see: Warblade from Tome of Battle: Book of 9 Swords, D&D 3.5, where they gain Int to Initiative, confirm critical hits, damage while flanking, and a few other places>.

Make a low-prerequisite Combat feat that allows you to make Knowledge checks for bonuses, with Combat Expertise as a prerequisite.

Change Insightful Shot (or whatever it's called) to simply allow you to use your Int for ranged attacks without the standard action garbage so it's actually useful. If there is a concern over allowing wizards to use their Int for combat in this way (honestly, they have better things to be doing), give it a BAB requirement of +3 or +4.

Move the Lore Warden and Tactician Int-related abilities from level 15ish down to level 5ish.


Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Or...this is a shocker...

Allow Combat Expertise to be used in reverse as well; that is, allow the character to sacrifice AC for a bonus to attacks.

I'd use that feat.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Combat Expertise, as written, has saved my characters' lives more times than I can count.


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Roberta Yang wrote:
The Int requirement wouldn't even be so bad if they actually printed abilities other than "be an arcane caster" that let you use Int in combat.

Maybe Combat Expertise should also allow you to add your Int mod to Disarm, etc.


Serisan wrote:

Or...this is a shocker...

Allow Combat Expertise to be used in reverse as well; that is, allow the character to sacrifice AC for a bonus to attacks.

I'd use that feat.

I... Sorta like it. Does that make me a bad person?


Serisan wrote:

Or...this is a shocker...

Allow Combat Expertise to be used in reverse as well; that is, allow the character to sacrifice AC for a bonus to attacks.

I'd use that feat.

Of course you would, because Reckless Abandon is a rather excellent rage power that most people take, or deeply regret not being able to take.

Shadow Lodge

Yeah, this one is pretty high on the list of things that Pathfinder should have fixed from D&D.

Plenty of good ideas in this thread about what could've changed.


Ravingdork wrote:
Combat Expertise, as written, has saved my characters' lives more times than I can count.

I really can't think of any time where a few AC was the difference between life or real death for my character when the situation wasn't already screwed from poor choices to begin with.


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Matthew Morris wrote:
Personally? I wish it was akin to power attack in there being a way to add to the defence bonus. It would be a lot more attractive if it was say "+1/-1 or +2/-1 if used with a shield." Or (I'd prefer) "+2/-1 if used with a one handed weapon and no shield or weapon in the off hand."

i like this idea. but the math isn't there. the difference between adding %50 and %100 percent is the decision you are forced into. -1/+2, -2/+4, -3/+6... seems to be too much.

and -1/+2, -2/+3, -3/+5... seems a little wonky.

Serisan wrote:

Or...this is a shocker...

Allow Combat Expertise to be used in reverse as well; that is, allow the character to sacrifice AC for a bonus to attacks.

I'd use that feat.

interesting. this could justify an investment in Intelligence. hmm:

Combat Expertise (Combat)

Prerequisite: Int 13.
Benefit: You can choose to take a –1 penalty on melee attack rolls and combat maneuver checks to gain a +1 dodge bonus to your Armor Class. Alternatively, you can choose to take a -1 penalty to your Armor Class to gain a +1 competence bonus on melee attack rolls and combat maneuver checks. When your base attack bonus reaches +4, and every +4 thereafter, the penalty increases by –1 and the bonus increases by +1. You can only choose to use this feat when you declare that you are making an attack or a full-attack action with a melee weapon. The effects of this feat last until your next turn. Finally, this feat may not be used in conjunction with the Power Attack feat.

fighter boost is +1/+2/+3/+4/+5/+6 at 1/4/8/12/16/20, rogue boost is +1/+2/+3/+4 at 1/6/11/16... this would help with sneak attack...

Grand Lodge

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Trust me From Real experience Higher AC is very inefficient as you can always be hit on a 20 and most NPC's have much higher to hit than you do. but if you have a few other tricks up your sleeve it can be incredibly effective. try making them re-roll those 20's for example...

I digress. I have found Combat expertise very useful but widely misunderstood. the biggest problem is when they DM or other players get upset with you for having a high AC that they cant hit on a roll of a 19 then classify you a power-gamer merely because you wanted improved steal or something like that.


Ravingdork wrote:
Combat Expertise, as written, has saved my characters' lives more times than I can count.

Since Fighting Defensively grants a higher bonus; wouldn't it have saved your life more?

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8

Starbuck_II wrote:
Ravingdork wrote:
Combat Expertise, as written, has saved my characters' lives more times than I can count.
Since Fighting Defensively grants a higher bonus; wouldn't it have saved your life more?

Situational.

To use last night as an example (in lieu of RD providing one) We were fighting fire elementals. Our cavalier was out, with both him and his mount on fire. Talyn was basically mano-e-mano with the elemental. Twice, it missed by one. Or it would have hit without Combat Expertise. If I'd been fighting defensively, a couple of my hits would have missed. So that simple plus one kept the fire elemental on me, and kept me from doing my Human Torch impersonation.


rainzax wrote:

...

interesting. this could justify an investment in Intelligence. hmm:

Combat Expertise (Combat)

Prerequisite: Int 13.
Benefit: You can choose to take a –1 penalty on melee attack rolls and combat maneuver checks to gain a +1 dodge bonus to your Armor Class. Alternatively, you can choose to take a -1 penalty to your Armor Class to gain a +1 competence bonus on melee attack rolls and combat maneuver checks. When your base attack bonus reaches +4, and every +4 thereafter, the penalty increases by –1 and the bonus increases by +1. You can only choose to use this feat when you declare that you are making an attack or a full-attack action with a melee weapon. The effects of this feat last until your next turn. Finally, this feat may not be used in conjunction with the Power Attack feat.

fighter boost is +1/+2/+3/+4/+5/+6 at 1/4/8/12/16/20, rogue boost is +1/+2/+3/+4 at 1/6/11/16... this would help with sneak attack...

I might steal this... Although, this could encourage players to accuse the GM of "unfairly targeting their character" if they ever get attacked while using it...


Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
yeti1069 wrote:
Serisan wrote:

Or...this is a shocker...

Allow Combat Expertise to be used in reverse as well; that is, allow the character to sacrifice AC for a bonus to attacks.

I'd use that feat.

Of course you would, because Reckless Abandon is a rather excellent rage power that most people take, or deeply regret not being able to take.

And Reckless Abandon would still be available to those who want to play characters with 7 INT. You save an additional 7 build points and a feat by choosing to go Barbarian, in this case.


Starbuck_II wrote:
Ravingdork wrote:
Combat Expertise, as written, has saved my characters' lives more times than I can count.
Since Fighting Defensively grants a higher bonus; wouldn't it have saved your life more?

Fighting defensivley only grants a higher bonus for the first few levels. The bonus is equivalent by level 4, and your attack bonus doesn't take as big a hit so you are more likely to be doing damage in return as well.

The two things are NOT equivalent, they are merely similar.


Most people don't realize that a Dodge bonus to AC also applies to your CMD. So Combat Expertise actually raises your AC and CMD, it's just not printed within the feat's text. Likewise, fighting defensively and taking a full defense also raises your CMD. I really wish this was something that Paizo made more apparent and widely known though.

Combat Maneuvers wrote:
Combat Maneuver Defense: A creature can also add any circumstance, deflection, dodge, insight, luck, morale, profane, and sacred bonuses to AC to its CMD. Any penalties to a creature's AC also apply to its CMD. A flat-footed creature does not add its Dexterity bonus to its CMD.


Sellsword2587 wrote:

Most people don't realize that a Dodge bonus to AC also applies to your CMD. So Combat Expertise actually raises your AC and CMD, it's just not printed within the feat's text. Likewise, fighting defensively and taking a full defense also raises your CMD. I really wish this was something that Paizo made more apparent and widely known though.

Combat Maneuvers wrote:
Combat Maneuver Defense: A creature can also add any circumstance, deflection, dodge, insight, luck, morale, profane, and sacred bonuses to AC to its CMD. Any penalties to a creature's AC also apply to its CMD. A flat-footed creature does not add its Dexterity bonus to its CMD.

Doesn't change the fact that CE is a crap feat, that prevents players from using a few fun feats.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16

If you want to make CE a fight about being an expert Combatant, simplify it.

Combat Expertise, Int 13
You may take a -1 to hit for a +2 Bonus to your CMD, CMB and AC.
If you are a fighter, you gain a number of extra combat feats equal to your Intelligence modifier. This cannot exceed your bonus feats from fighter class levels.

And there you go. Skill with special manuvers, stacking defense, and a bonus to intelligent fighters.

==Aelryinth


Personally in any of the rogues I have ever played I have never used CE or fighting defensively. I have always gone by the addage that the best defense is a good offense and the faster you bring the enemy down the less potential damage it can do. And if I am not potentially doing more damage that it in a round I will generally attack ranged unless I can benefit someone else in a flank, etc. Let me also state that one of my rogues has ever died and rarely dropped below 0 HP at least not since 1E. For me at least there are better feats to take.

Scarab Sages

Aelryinth wrote:
If you are a fighter, you gain a number of extra combat feats equal to your Intelligence modifier. This cannot exceed your bonus feats from fighter class levels.

You just blocked classes that count as having fighter levels from gaining the secondary benefit.

I would also restrict the feat selection to feats using combat expertise as a prereq.

Perhaps something like:

The character gains a number of extra feats equal to his fighter level/2, not to exceed his intelligence modifier. The extra feats must have combat expertise as a prerequisite.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8

rainzax wrote:
Matthew Morris wrote:
Personally? I wish it was akin to power attack in there being a way to add to the defence bonus. It would be a lot more attractive if it was say "+1/-1 or +2/-1 if used with a shield." Or (I'd prefer) "+2/-1 if used with a one handed weapon and no shield or weapon in the off hand."

i like this idea. but the math isn't there. the difference between adding %50 and %100 percent is the decision you are forced into. -1/+2, -2/+4, -3/+6... seems to be too much.

and -1/+2, -2/+3, -3/+5... seems a little wonky.

I don't think it's too much for a one hander.

If it's +2 right off the bat, it's making it equal to a fighter using the feat and a light shield.

+4 is same fighter using heavy shield.

+6 is same fighter using a light shield +2 or heavy shield +1 A little better in some cases since it's a dodge bonus, a little worse since it shuts down when you're flat footed/denied dex bonus, and at least the shield still works.

If you use both hands (TWF, using the one weapon in both hands) you go back to the +1/+2/+3. It would make the one hander more effective, without having to 'default' to the archtype.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Starbuck_II wrote:
Ravingdork wrote:
Combat Expertise, as written, has saved my characters' lives more times than I can count.
Since Fighting Defensively grants a higher bonus; wouldn't it have saved your life more?

Everybody in the party who fought defensively DIED. I used Combat Expertise and Fighting Defensively and LIVED.

I need know not more than that.


Ravingdork wrote:
Starbuck_II wrote:
Ravingdork wrote:
Combat Expertise, as written, has saved my characters' lives more times than I can count.
Since Fighting Defensively grants a higher bonus; wouldn't it have saved your life more?

Everybody in the party who fought defensively DIED. I used Combat Expertise and Fighting Defensively and LIVED.

I need know not more than that.

Have you considered the idea that if all of you had been hitting at your full attack bonus instead of taking negatives for defense, you might have been able to kick its teeth in before it started putting people to negative con score? Overwhelming force is a very valuable defensive tool ;p


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
chaoseffect wrote:
Have you considered the idea that if all of you had been hitting at your full attack bonus instead of taking negatives for defense, you might have been able to kick its teeth in before it started putting people to negative con score? Overwhelming force is a very valuable defensive tool ;p

That's how it started (it's also our usual strategy--not that it's ever done us much good). We were losing and losing badly. By the time we sounded the retreat the beast wasn't so much as looking winded. Had we kept fighting at full force, we would have died that much more quickly.


Perhaps you should have fled more swiftly then, in which case fighting defensively would still be counter productive to that goal, unless of course you were valiantly laying down your lives to let the others escape :O

...in which case I still wouldn't waste a feat on that being a possible contingency.

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