Tactics 101 (Action Advantage)


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In optimization discussion there is generally a discussion about numbers. How big your attack is, how big your damage is, how you can best use those numbers to their fulest advantage.

Today that's what I want to discuss using numbers.

Now in pathfinder that is done through actions. Actions being things that you can do from free actions, swift/immediate actions, standard, move, full round actions. Basically this is a finite yet renewable resource you get every round which allows you to put those numbers on your sheet to use. Without them you can do nothing. And the more you have the more you can do. Action advantage is the point where your group can accomplish more than the other group by dint of having more actions. By understanding action advantage we can better understand how certain spells, abilities, and feats are good while others are not. Further it lets us think about how our own actions affect the group as a whole and determine victors in any given encounter.

If we take our average party of four 1st level people we can determine how many actions our party will get every round.

In this case it's easy; 4 actions.

However this is not a solid number. If, say, one of these characters has an animal companion you need to add one to that number.

So 5 actions.

But then combat begins and the party seems to be fighting 8 zombies. 8 actions right? Not really. Remember zombies fight staggered meaning they only get a move or a standard action. So let's count that as more like half an action.

4 actions.

In this example even though the group is outnumbered action advantage belongs to the pc's since they have 5 people with full actions to use. IT's not much of an advantage but that can change.

So in the first round of combat our party fighter drops a zombie while the druid summons in a birdy to help. Nice huh?

So zombies have effectively three actions. Pc's have 6.

So action advantage, like the numbers, is dynamic. It's a constantly changing force based upon what you do with your actions.

BUT bear in mind that simply having action advantage is not enough to win a combat.

Let's switch out our 8 zombies with 10 goblins.

Pc's still have 5 actions to start.

But goblins have 10. That's a lot of actions. To make it worse it will only take about two or three successful attacks from them to drop one of the players so should one manage to surround and cut off one they will be eliminated in short order. So how to counter this?

Mainly by reducing their action advantage.

Let's throw in a terrain feature, let's say their a doorway that the pc's can fall back through to only let one goblin at a time effectively move through and do anything.

PCs: 5 actions.
Goblins: Effectively 1.

BEcause the goblins cannot effectively use their action advantage each turn they do get is wonderfully negated by the 5 actions of the players. IT gets even better if they have methods of crowd control which allow them the ability to make the encounter go faster.

But let's take the concept further. We know higher numbers of bodies effectively gives us more actions, thus action advantage. However as our goblin example demosntrated action advantage can be gained in other ways.

The first way is simple. Killing the other guy. Each guy you kill reduces the effective amount of actions they have. Therefore as a fight progresses you can gain action advantage naturally.

The second way is less straightforward and that is denying them any sort of effective actions. That is actions that singificantly affect the way the fight is going (damaging you, laying down spells, moving into superior positions etc.). You can generally do this with battlefiel control spells, summoning things to control portions of the battlefield, good positioning, or generally any way you can prevent the enemy from doing anything to harm you.

Third way is even less straight forward and involves a bit of planning. That is increasing ones personal actions or making actions more efficient. The game is rather good at giving us few if any real means to truly have more actions. But there are ways that we can give ourselves more thigns to do with our actions.

This is why optimizers tend to find feats like combat reflexes rather good and continue to drool over spells like haste and blessing of fervor . These sorts of things give extra opportunities to make use of the numbers that they've worked to get.

There are other ways to go about it. Order of the Dragon cavaliers for example can trade a standard action to grant a move action to all of their allies while time stop is a powerful spell that gives arcane casters a number of extra actions for their turn.

Ultimately a lot of combat comes down to building or destroying action advantage through the use of any number of methods which are beyond the scope of this post to discuss.

So how does this help a new or experienced player understand the game better? IT helps them understand what advantages and disadvantages their group actually has. Yes, the dragon has higher numbers than all of your party and enough melee attacks to slaughter your fighter twice over in just a couple of rounds. But, the dragon is still limited by the simple rules of actions you do so while the dragon can have some very very effective actions indeed when we look at the numbers of actions you have versus the ones he has the math is very simple.

You: 4+
Him: 1

Knowing this, and knowing how to make it where his actions equal 0 is knowing how to kill the dragon, steal his loot, and bang the prince. This is how you win even the toughest encounters. And you know what even if an encounter looks more like:

200 of them
4 of you

It can still be one if you understand how to deny them their action advantage and work towards reducing their advantage into nothing.

That being said action advantage still isn't everything. None of this really detracts from the importance of having good numbers or from getting good positioning. Actions merely allow you to take advantage of what you have and give you more opportunities to use them effectively.

Next time I think I want to go into the the importance of non-combat stuff to combat related stuff. That might make for an interesting write up.


This is a good start to a tactical guide. Good job.

Sczarni

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Very well done.

However, I would like to point out that your enemies will attempt to reduce your combat actions using the same sorts of tactics.

Choose your battleground wisely, or you may be the one with the terrain disadvantage.

"Know when to fight and when not to fight."

I'm looking forward to see exactly what you mean by "the importance of non-combat stuff to combat related stuff".


I like this. A lot. More people should see this. And we should expand on this and provide more examples of how to create action advantages.


Arni Carni wrote:

Very well done.

However, I would like to point out that your enemies will attempt to reduce your combat actions using the same sorts of tactics.

Welllll yes and no.

We can assume that your group will at least make some kind of attempt to work together in some sort of tactical and meaningful way.

However depending on the enemy and its goals it might not necessarily work out that way.

That being said you should of course always endeavor not to suffer any kind of action disadvantage if it can be helped. Additionally you should try to avoid too many wasted or purely ineffective actions. An ineffective action may as well be a nonexistent action in most cases. Sometimes it can't be helped due to random factors (rolling a 1 on an attack roll for example).

I good analogue for this concept would be familiar to card game players. Card advantage. Simply having more cards in hand and on the table means you have more to do. This is the same with your group. The more actions you have the more you can do things that bring you closer to victory. Simple.


Are you looking for examples of increasing the party's actions and decreasing the opponents' actions?


ParagonDireRaccoon wrote:
Are you looking for examples of increasing the party's actions and decreasing the opponents' actions?

People are welcome to psot them if they find them but this is one of those instances where it should be fairly easy with just a bit of thought.

Sczarni

TarkXT wrote:
Arni Carni wrote:

Very well done.

However, I would like to point out that your enemies will attempt to reduce your combat actions using the same sorts of tactics.

Welllll yes and no.

We can assume that your group will at least make some kind of attempt to work together in some sort of tactical and meaningful way.

No, actually you have to assume that without the kind of instruction that you are providing here, that most characters will run around in random directions doing counter-productive things. This especially applies to noobs.

But I digress, and so do you.

You have 2 other options on where to go with this:

  • Expand on methods for increasing your combat action budget
  • Present "the importance of non-combat stuff to combat related stuff".

The current interest in the audience seems to be leaning towards talking combat action budgets.

So, by the numbers, give us an organized list of ways of "increasing ones personal actions or making actions more efficient".

You have already mentioned:

  • combat reflexes
  • haste
  • blessing of fervor
  • Order of the Dragon cavaliers

After you get the list together, we can discuss the relative merits of each method in detail, or we can move on to situational positioning and bottle-necking of opponent's action options through effective use of terrain, spells, or other factors.

Shadow Lodge

Also - I'd love to include this on the Guide to the Guides, but I want to make sure all the information is in the right place. How about making a Google Doc that you'll update, in addition to responding on this thread?

Shadow Lodge

Telling this kind of thing to new players, I think you need to work out a way to say it in 25 words or less.


Arni Carni wrote:
<snip>So, by the numbers, give us an organized list of ways of "increasing ones personal actions or making actions more efficient". <snip>
While the "list" of increasing actions or increasing the effectiveness of actions is relatively short the opposite of decreasing the foes actions or reducing their effectiveness is, I suspect, a much longer list if made as equally specific (particularly spells). Perhaps something more by method, for example:
  • increasing AC
  • reducing foe To Hit
  • granting concealment or miss chance
  • preventing action(s)
  • impeding movement
  • granting DR

This could even get restated as a single list to include for both sides of the equation; increasing numbers and effectiveness of actions for self and allies as well as decreasing the number and effectiveness of the foes actions. I can't off the top of my head think of any 'category' of method that doesn't have both ways to increase as well as decrease the method.


Kayerloth wrote:
Arni Carni wrote:
<snip>So, by the numbers, give us an organized list of ways of "increasing ones personal actions or making actions more efficient". <snip>
While the "list" of increasing actions or increasing the effectiveness of actions is relatively short the opposite of decreasing the foes actions or reducing their effectiveness is, I suspect, a much longer list if made as equally specific (particularly spells). Perhaps something more by method, for example:
  • increasing AC
  • reducing foe To Hit
  • granting concealment or miss chance
  • preventing action(s)
  • impeding movement
  • granting DR

This could even get restated as a single list to include for both sides of the equation; increasing numbers and effectiveness of actions for self and allies as well as decreasing the number and effectiveness of the foes actions. I can't off the top of my head think of any 'category' of method that doesn't have both ways to increase as well as decrease the method.

For now I'd rather focus on getting more actions (or reducing theirs) rather than worrying about effectiveness. Effective actions has mroe to do with system mastery and numbers while the scope of the post merely wants to focus on the actual number of actions.

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

Avatar-1 wrote:
Telling this kind of thing to new players, I think you need to work out a way to say it in 25 words or less.

There's an advantage thee, for new players with very short attention spans. But I think it's more important to explain reasons and techniques. A 25-word aphorism is of less use than a tactic that a new player understands.

At least, that would apply to me, back when I was a new player. And I don't think I'm all that much smarter than today's new players.

Dark Archive

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Pathfinder Companion, Rulebook Subscriber

I know you are looking mostly at adding actions, and some of them are included here. But I am also including other tactics that you can pull into additional tactics threads.

  • Delaying: I have seen way too many (usually melee based) players get jumpy when they win initiative. It's not as much of a big deal at the lower levels before iterative attacks or full round sequences. At the higher levels however, it's usually a bad idea to charge ahead to the enemy getting your single attack to just be in range for them to full round attack you. Additionally, if you let the creature move towards you, it may allow multiple people to get full round attacks on it.
  • Readying: This is a combination of getting more actions and increasing effectiveness. Notes about it include:
    -One benefit can include allowing you to get a flanking bonus if you ready for when your flank buddy gets into position
    -Useful when dealing with people who aren't as tactics-savy as a way to guide them towards an action (e.g. I ready an attack for when Bruce the Monk trips the target)
    -Useful for shutting down casters and for protecting squishies (ready to hit if they cast, or trip/grapple/etc if they try to move past)
    -Initiative order gets moved to before the triggering person. This usually isn't a huge drawback, but it could move your attack to be after the enemy
    -Depending on the GM, some GMs might metagame to prevent readied actions from going off. I am trying to use index cards to write down my triggering condition and putting it down in front of me. That way, the GM will know that I am readying, but not what the trigger is. Some GMs can objectively act how the creatures "should" act. Some have troubles if given the knowledge. I have seen too many GMs change their actions in order to not make the trigger go off.
    -Note that if your trigger is too specific and does not ever "go off", you lose your action for that round.
  • Cleave is a feat that gets nay-sayed too much. It does have the pain of positioning whereas two enemies need to be adjacent to each other. However, it is a good way to get "multiple attacks" at levels before iteratives (or without two weapon fighting). Additionally, even at higher levels there are many times where you are denied a full round attack and cleave is only a standard action, allowing you to move and cleave.
  • Reach: These grant you more opportunities for full round attacks and for AoOs (can be very effective with Combat Reflexes).
  • Melee threatening weapon: Going along with reach, if you only have a reach attack then you have a "dead zone" adjacent to you. Getting a cestus, armor spikes or spiked gauntlet ensures that people can't move in next to you and have freedom to do anything.
  • Spring-loaded wrist sheath: Turn a move action retrieve object to a swift action (only useful for certain types of objects).
  • Charge lanes: Discuss beforehand who your martial fighters are and try to keep a clear path from their positions to the enemies when possible so that they can charge. Usually your fighters are in medium/heavy armor so their movement is only 20'. Allowing them to charge lets them move 40' and get an attack in (and gives them a +2 to hit).
  • Soft cover: Similar to charge lanes, ensure you know who your ranged attackers are. Many ranged builds can throw out a ton of damage (as long as they can hit). They have the ability to full round attack much more often than their melee counterparts, however they can suffer from up to -8 on their to-hit (if firing into melee and through a friendly target). Precise shot will remove the -4 for firing into melee, but not for soft cover. If you can, move to the sides and flanks in order to remove that other -4. Be aware though, that this might give the enemy the opportunity to charge away from you and towards that "archer".
  • Combat maneuvers: Be aware that manufactured armor and natural armor do not increase a targets CMD. Sometimes if you don't have a real high attack bonus (and are having trouble hitting regular AC), it is easier to just trip the opponent. If you don't have improved trip (or generally reach), this could mean you have to eat an AoO, but many times this can be worth it. A successful trip gives you (and any other melee attackers) a much better chance of hitting the target (-4 AC). Also, he either has to get up (AoO for each of you), or attack from prone (-4 to hit). Grapples against casters (who generally have low CMDs and not very harmful AoOs) can shut them down pretty hard.
  • Baiting the AoO: If you have higher AC or hitpoints, performing an action that draws the AoO from the enemy can allow your (squishier) allies to move/cast/etc without fear of getting pummeled. Many creatures don't have combat reflexes, but be aware of the ones who do. Also, make sure that your ally who is in need of the freedom will act between your action and the enemies, otherwise his AoO will reset. Sometimes this requires delaying on one or both of your parts.

Liberty's Edge

While reading the OP, it appeared very clearly to me that you want to kill the enemy caster as fast as possible.

This way the opposing party lose an action because there is one less member. AND the caster cannot use his abilities to increase his party's number of actions (by casting Haste or Blessings of Fervor, or Summoning such and such).

Come to think of it, I feel that only casters get to increase their party's number of actions during combat.


The black raven wrote:


Come to think of it, I feel that only casters get to increase their party's number of actions during combat.

Trippers can do it, too. Trip the BBEG, he stands up, everyone gets an attack of opportunity. Similarly, anyone who can move someone around on the map can provide additional chances of AoEs as the BBEG needs to move through a threatened area to get back into position, or alternatively, as the BBEG is moved into full-attack range of the fighter's iteratives.

And, of course, anyone can use a magic item like a Horn of Valhalla or Bag of Tricks.

Shadow Lodge

Chris Mortika wrote:
Avatar-1 wrote:
Telling this kind of thing to new players, I think you need to work out a way to say it in 25 words or less.

There's an advantage thee, for new players with very short attention spans. But I think it's more important to explain reasons and techniques. A 25-word aphorism is of less use than a tactic that a new player understands.

At least, that would apply to me, back when I was a new player. And I don't think I'm all that much smarter than today's new players.

Both are important, really.

Sczarni

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All of this is good stuff, but this is "Tactics 101" and like Avatar-1 said it needs to be "in 25 words or less". That doesn't necessarily mean you need to condense it past usefulness. However, if it's hard to read, it won't get read.

Also, as the OP, TarkXT, said, there needs to be some focus. So we can't get off track of the current topic, which is "improving a single character's no. of actions", even if your making a good point about increasing a group's actions.

Just to show the need for this kind of instruction:

I played with some people last night who still didn't comprehend the number of possible actions per round, much less how to get more. These people have been playing for at least 2 months, and even something that basic needs to be broken down into action sequences that a new player can understand and apply effectively.

And now I'm getting a bit of topic, but "Tactics 101" sounds like the kind of forum where these kind of people can go to see how to get the most actions out of a combat round.

From the looks of the lists already provided here, it looks like there are 5 main ways for an individual character to get more actions:

Class special abilities:
  • Quick Reflexes
  • Flurry of Blows

Spells:
[list]
  • Haste
  • Blessing of Fervor

  • Feats:
    • Combat Reflexes
    • Cleave
    • Two-weapon Fighting

    Combat Manuevers:
    • Charge
    • Trip
    • Delaying or Readying an action

    Equipment:
  • Range weapons
  • Reach weapons
  • Spring-loaded wrist sheathes[/list]
  • Kayerlith's list is too generic, and more strategy than tactics, by which I mean they are more about the things you want to do, and less about how you do them. Still lots of good ideas, so don't take this as negative.

    Criik is pretty much on target with the ways and means. However, it's a bit difficult to read, and starting to get a bit ahead of us with the positional tactics.

    Black Raven is also giving strategic advice. Again good advice, but how do you go about taking out the caster?

    Orfamay, Magic items are good if you can get them, but how many low level characters have a Horn of Valhalla? Tripping is tactics, moving creatures and chracters around is positional tactics. More stuff like tripping, save positional tactics for later.

    Arni Carni, you talk too much, and tend to come across as overly pendantic. Also you're taking over TarkXT's forum. Maybe you should ask permission?

    Looks at TarlXT

    What do you say boss? Is this where you want to go with this topic?


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    Adding onto the lists of "How to increase ones actions"

    Class special abilities:

    • Quick Reflexes
    • Flurry of Blows
    • Opportunist
    • Arcane Bond-Familiar
    • Nature Bond-Animal Companion
    Spells:
    • Haste
    • Blessing of Fervor
    • A variety of spells belonging to the Transmutation(polymorph) school
    • Transformation
    • Mage's Sword
    • Spiritual Weapon
    • Interposing Hand (and the similarly themed and named spells)
    • Time Stop
    Feats:
    • Combat Reflexes
    • Cleave and Great Cleave
    • Two-weapon Fighting(feat tree)
    • Rapid Shot
    • Whirlwind Attack
    • Quickdraw
    • Rapid Reload
    • Quicken Spell
    • Snatch Arrow
    • Greater Trip
    Combat Maneuvers:
    • Charge
    • Trip
    • Delaying or Readying an action
    Equipment:
    • Range weapons
    • Reach weapons
    • Spring-loaded wrist sheathes

    Should point out that the feat Two Weapon Fighting doesn't actually increase ones actions it increases the effectiveness of fighting with two (lessens the penalty for fighting with two weapons). The rest of the tree (Improved and Greater) do in fact grant additional actions. Similarly Rapid Reload and Quickdraw don't increase actions but enhance the effectiveness of an existing one.

    Probably quite a few more especially since I stuck primarily to the CRB, but someone else can take a turn at adding to the lists as I'm getting rather sleepy.

    EDIT: Heh, my mind keeps going ... added a couple more.

    Sovereign Court

    I think Criik's advice is actually among the best. I've seen a lot of times that mediocre melee fighters will hog the flanking positions (leaving no spot for the rogue to get SA), block the charging lanes (delaying the fighter from joining the melee for another round) and place themselves so that the wizard's AoE spell would hit them.

    When you're talking about getting action advantage, I think that avoiding such mistakes is a crucial step.

    Coaching people to understand how Delay and Ready work is crucial. I've seen people get all panicky at the thought of lowering their initiative order, because they think it's a huge disadvantage. Understanding that you're giving up just a little bit of speed to maybe get a much better position, let other people get out of the way, or to receive a buff, is really worth waiting for.

    Getting more actions through haste is obvious. Getting it through teamwork is trickier but more important; you can profit from it 4 levels sooner!


    Ascalaphus wrote:
    I think Criik's advice is actually among the best. I've seen a lot of times that mediocre melee fighters will hog the flanking positions (leaving no spot for the rogue to get SA), block the charging lanes (delaying the fighter from joining the melee for another round) and place themselves so that the wizard's AoE spell would hit them.

    It's very good advice, but perhaps it deserves Tactics 102 (or 201).

    I think there's actually a very good three-article series, or maybe a three-part article.

    Tactics 101 -- Me and My Orc. Getting action advantage for yourself.
    Tactics 102 -- Me and My Posse. Getting action advantage for your buddies.
    Tactics 103 or 201 -- Me and the Keystone Kops. Making sure you don't cost your buddies actions.

    E.g., Trip goes in 101; I trip you, giving up one of my attacks, and beat you into snail snot with the rest of my attacks. You stand up (triggering the AoE to replace the attack I used to trip) and get one attack instead of a full attack. Next round, same as the first, a little more painful and a whole lot worse.

    In 102, we can talk about how my buds get AoEs on you as well. It's a game the whole family can play.

    In 103, we can talk about how we want to time my trip to make sure everyone gets to play properly, although I don't think that this particular tactic has a lot of timing nuances.


    As a part of this guide I hope to see a breakdown of how best to use the different *types* of actions. How to get the best utility out of immediate/ swift/ 5' step or move/ standard or full actions. (I love creating more work for other people!)

    Example 1:
    We've got a noob cleric in one of our parties. She doesn't seem to get that she can cast AND move. And the tactics of doing it without provoking. (when a 5' step would do, she does a full-round withdraw and waits until the following turn to cast.) I try to be helpful, but she's getting defensive, so I'm backing off. If there was a nice tactics guide I could point her to....

    Example 2:
    Maybe this isn't a 101 question but.
    In a 8th level party I play a TWF ninja. Very happy. Doing lots of damage. Then my flanking buddy barbarian left the game. Suddenly I'm alone in the frontlines and I can't get in more than a standard attack. Yeep! Time for a change of strategy. How do I get the best action economy?

    Tactic 1: Round 1- Move 30', 1 standard attack vs. usually flatfooted foe, swift action Vanish. Round 2- Attack 4 times, but only first is sneak attack. (I miss my flanking buddy)

    Tactic 2: Round 1- Delay action until Mage casts Greater Invisibility on me, then move 30', sneak attack 1x. Round 2- sneak attack 3-4x. This is fabulous for me- but the mage could have been casting fireball in Round 1 instead of buffing me. So is this overall the best action economy for the group?

    Tactic 3: Round 1- Flurry of Stars 4x. Swift Action + Full Attack. They all count as sneak attack vs flat-footed opponent. Wait for foe to close with me. Round 2- Vanish as a swift action. Full attack 3x, 1st one is sneak attack.

    Tactic 4: ?

    You can help me or not with situation above (help me, please). But getting back on topic, it's not just a matter of attacking faster, its also the issue of getting the most out of swift actions and move actions.


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    My thoughts on combat maneuvers:

    TRIPPING THE LIGHT FANTASTIC: THE ACTION ECONOMY FOR MARTIALS

    As was pointed out by TarkXT, understanding the action economy is critical for tactics, and in particular, getting an advantage in the action economy is a key way of getting an advantage in combat generally. Every round, you get a standard action, a move action, a swift action, and possibly a 5' step and some free actions. Your opponent gets the same. So how can you get an advantage?

    Your friend the caster has it easy. He spends two actions (a full-round action, equivalent to standard+move) summoning a monster and -- BAMF! -- he's got two sets of actions each round. You have to earn your advantage the hard way, through blood, sweat, tears, and die rolling.

    Two key insights will help you here.
    1) All actions are not created equal, and
    2) AoEs are golden.

    It should be obvious that some actions are 'better' than others. With a standard action, you can do anything you could do as a move action, or you could attack. If you use a free action to do something, it costs you nothing. But this means that if you can trade your actions up (use a move action to cost your opponent his standard action, for instance), you gain the advantage.

    How can you do this? Well, if you have a speed advantage on your opponent, retreat. If you attack as a standard action, then move backwards your full speed, your opponent will have to double-move to get back in range. Other examples will be shown later.

    Secondly, AoE are golden, because they are basically standard actions you get as free actions. They're like dining out on your ex's credit card (except without the possibility of fraud charges): you get something nice out of it, someone else suffers, and you don't pay a cent for it.

    Me and My Orc
    So let's look at some easy ways that we can use combat maneuvers to make this kind of a tradeoff, in an assumed 1-1 combat with an ordinary humanoid. Remember first that standard > move > swift > free.

    There's also a special kind of action, "in place of one of your attacks" that I will term an "attack action." This is an action equivalent to a single attack, which I believe is less than a move, but more than a swift action. For instance, a full-round action (attack+move) can get a high level fighter an unbelievable number of attacks. If I can use a single attack to deprive the fighter of his move action, he only gets a single attack. But you don't need to be a high-level fighter to get multiple attacks. Even a first-level commoner can pick up a dagger in his off hand and start slashing wildly.

    How can I do this? Trip. Trip knocks the opponent prone, which gives you a bonus to the rest of your attacks (good), and forces him to spend a move action getting up (even better!). Best of all, trip only takes an attack action. So you get all-your-attacks-less-one (plus an AoE we'll discuss later) and the bad guy only gets one.

    Let's look more generally at the combat maneuvers, focusing specifically on how they impact the action economy.

    Bull Rush: Spend a standard action to push someone back five feet (you do not have to follow them). If you succeed by five, you push them back ten feet, which will force them to spend a move action to get back into position. Spend a standard to cost them a move,... not a good trade.

    Dirty Trick (APG): Use a standard action to impose a status on someone for one round; they can either accept the penalty or use a move action to remove it. Again, you're trading a standard action for a move action, but if you have the Greater Dirty Trick feat, it becomes a standard action to remove, which puts this trade in your favor.

    Disarm: "In place of a melee attack" you may attempt to disarm your opponent. Drawing a replacement weapon is a move action that does not provoke AoEs, so you're trading an attack for a move, a good deal. If the opponent doesn't have a handy replacement weapon, he either needs to pick it up off the ground (a move actions that does provoke) or use a sub-standard weapon (goodbye Weapon Specialization). Even better.

    Drag (APG): Move yourself and your foe as a standard action. At best, he can just move back to where he wanted to be as a move action, and at worst, he simply whacks you from his new position, losing nothing.

    Feint: Not really a combat maneuver, but printed on the same pages. Spend a standard action to cost your opponent AC. Not good from the action economy standpoint, although the rogue loves the bonuses it gives.

    Grapple: Grapple as a standard action (move action if you have Rapid Grapple) to impose a hefty status penalty on your opponent, and in particular, restrict his actions. Unfortunately, he doesn't actually lose actions. So grappling can be great but not from an action economy perspective.

    Reposition (APG): Like drag or bull rush, spend a standard action to move someone around. You can't move him far enough to make him burn actions, so it's a poor trade.

    Steal (APG): Take an object as a standard action. If he has a spare, he can retrieve it as a move action, otherwise, he'll just have to do without. Can be great at restricting actions ("got your quiver! Go ahead and use your bow!") but not useful to affect the action economy.

    Sunder: Like Steal or Disarm, it removes something. Unlike Steal, it only takes an attack action to do, but unlike Disarm, it may not be successful even if you make the roll. If you can pull it off, you're trading an attack action for a move action, a good trade.

    Trip: Finally, the good stuff. Trip as a melee attack, forcing the opponent to spend a move action (that provokes attacks of opportunities) to get up. An unqualified win.

    Upgrades, or "How do I pay for it?"
    There are two major problems with the tactics listed above. First, they all require a successful roll, which means that you can only pull them off about half the time, depending upon your scores and abilities. Second, unless you have an appropriate Improved <X> feat, they will automatically provoke an attack of opportunity from your opponent when you try. This won't necessarily stop you (at worst you will take damage, which will become a penalty to your roll), but it will make it more difficult and painful.

    The most effective and least situational way to prevent this is to take the appropriate Improved Feat. These all have feat prerequisites. Human fighters get four bonus feats in their first two levels, so it's not unreasonable to have both Combat Expertise, Improved Disarm and Improved Trip (the two best feats in the list above) fairly soon. More burdensome can be the stat requirements; the Int 13 may well make you smarter than the party cleric, all for the privilege of dunking some goblin on his kiester.

    If you're willing to go big, though, the rewards can be substantial. All of the maneuvers have associated feat trees that make the tradeoffs substantially better. For example, Bull Rush was described as a poor trade, a standard action for a move action. But with Quick Bull Rush, it's only an attack action for you to Bull Rush someone, which puts the trade in your favor. With Greater Bull Rush, the movement itself will provoke attacks of opportunity from everyone around, something that could create six or more standard actions for your party out of thin air. Quick Dirty Trick lets you trade an attack action (to pull off the trick) for a move action, a good trade -- Greater Dirty Trick makes it even better.

    Opportunity Knocks But Once (Unless You Have Combat Reflexes)
    So let's talk more about attacks of opportunity. AoE are one of the key factors in controlling the action economy. Basically, they're a free action equivalent to a standard action (a single extra melee attack).

    The three most important things to remember about AoEs are:
    * You want them
    * You don't want the bad guys to get them
    * You probably only get one per round.

    Especially if you are trading off a melee attack (as with Disarm or Trip) for an AoE, it ends up being more-or-less a cost-free trade, as you get the attack back. More importantly, your close friends (within 5') do, to. So, for example, if you and four friends are all surrounding a single orc champion, (Greater) Bull Rushing him as a standard action will create five standard action attacks against him. Possibly more, if he moves back to his original spot (taking a move action to do so), and provokes more attacks of opportunity. But remember that you only get one AoE per round (barring special abilities), so you probably won't get a second one, and many of your friends won't either.

    Attacks of Opportunity are the primary way for martials to create action buffs for the party. Greater Trip, for example, creates an attack of opportunity for everyone nearby both as the opponent falls down and as he stands up again. In the right environment, such a trip can be lethal.

    The Keystone Kavaliers

    Unfortunately, this kind of teamwork only happens if you're prepared to work together. The art of tactics-and-teamwork in Pathfinder could be an article into itself. But as a very superficial look, the best thing to do is to think about creating (ahem) "opportunities" for your teammates, and leaving it to them to (ab)use those opportunities.

    Your best friend as far as AoEs go is a dexterity fighter with a reach weapon and Combat Reflexes. (If the caster can Enlarge her, so much the better.) Any time someone does something stupid (like fall down) anywhere on the map within range of her dwarven longhammer, she hits him like a soft 13. With reach and multiple AoEs (but only one per opponent per round) you and everyone else in the party can separate and control the entire battlefield.

    Your second best friend is your wingman, who can stand next to you and take AoEs when you give them to him. Essentially, you're feeding him free standard actions. But this also means that the two of you are standing side-by-side, saying "please fireball me" to any caster who happens by, and the enemy skirmishers can run around you to get to the clothies in the back.

    Your worst enemy is yourself, because if you play badly, you will actually keep your friends from using their attacks well. For example, did you know that reach weapons use the rules for ranged combat to determine cover? This means that if you're directly between the tripped orc and the dwarven longhammer, the orc gets a +4 to his AC due to "soft cover." The soft cover, in this case, being a Big Stupid Fighter who can't move his fat rump out of the way. Similarly, it doesn't do much to trip two orc in front of your wingman if he doesn't have combat reflexes, because he can only take one AoE per round; you'd probably be better off using a straightforward melee attack and see if you could take some hit points off one of them.


    Apocalypso wrote:

    As a part of this guide I hope to see a breakdown of how best to use the different *types* of actions. How to get the best utility out of immediate/ swift/ 5' step or move/ standard or full actions. (I love creating more work for other people!)

    [...]

    In a 8th level party I play a TWF ninja. Very happy. Doing lots of damage. Then my flanking buddy barbarian left the game. Suddenly I'm alone in the frontlines and I can't get in more than a standard attack. Yeep! Time for a change of strategy. How do I get the best action economy?

    Use your swift action Vanish to set up a flanking buddy with whoever's handy. If you're invisible, you can basically double-move anywhere on the map without provoking AoEs. Once you're flanking the biggest, baddest-assed guy on the map, decloak and take all four of your attacks with SA damage, then re-Vanish and GTFO.

    So you basically trade round 1 attacks for three additional sneak attacks in round 2.


    Unseen Servant is also worth considering for this list since it is essentially a reserve action every round, be it to pick up a dropped item, open a door, or any number of other tasks requiring move actions to perform. Damn good spell from an Action Economy standpoint.


    Orfamay Quest wrote:

    Use your swift action Vanish to set up a flanking buddy with whoever's handy. If you're invisible, you can basically double-move anywhere on the map without provoking AoEs. Once you're flanking the biggest, baddest-assed guy on the map, decloak and take all four of your attacks with SA damage, then re-Vanish and GTFO.

    So you basically trade round 1 attacks for three additional sneak attacks in round 2.

    Oh, thanks Orfamay. It's just that I no longer have any flanking buddies. At all. With the departure of our Barbarian I am the only melee character left in our game. Frontlining while flanking with my barbarian buddy was the awesome. Frontlining by myself is... much less awesome.


    Apocalypso wrote:
    Orfamay Quest wrote:

    Use your swift action Vanish to set up a flanking buddy with whoever's handy. If you're invisible, you can basically double-move anywhere on the map without provoking AoEs. Once you're flanking the biggest, baddest-assed guy on the map, decloak and take all four of your attacks with SA damage, then re-Vanish and GTFO.

    So you basically trade round 1 attacks for three additional sneak attacks in round 2.

    Oh, thanks Orfamay. It's just that I no longer have any flanking buddies. At all. With the departure of our Barbarian I am the only melee character left in our game. Frontlining while flanking with my barbarian buddy was the awesome. Frontlining by myself is... much less awesome.

    Hire one. Have the wizard summon one. Or, literally, flank with anyone at all (which will quickly persuade the sorcerer that you need to hire a meatshield). You're probably better off in terms of total effective damage letting the archer cleric front-line for a round while you set up your flank, then taking out the baddie, then you are simply playing paladin.

    Sovereign Court

    I think we're overlooking an interesting concept here. For those who've played Magic the Gathering, this should sound more familiar. Let's start with a basic formula for success:

    [our # of actions] X [effectiveness of our actions] > [their # of actions] X [effectiveness of their actions]

    Altering any of these variables in your favor will improve the overall result; not just increasing our own action count.

    Now, the various Magic colors would each tend to fiddle with different variables in this equation;

    * "Red" would be increasing your action count; Hasting the barbarian to attack more often.
    * "Green" would tend to improve your action quality; casting Bull's Strength on the barbarian to make him hit harder.

    But there's also the "unsportsmanlike" approach:

    * "Black" debuffs enemies and makes them weaker with for example Enervation, reducing all of an enemy's attack rolls.
    * "Blue" reduces the enemies' action count, such as with a Slow spell.

    Since the topic of the thread is on action advantage, I'll focus on the Blue stratagem. Rather than focussing on adding more actions to your own, instead try to reduce their actions or making their actions less useful.

    An example would be to try kiting; if your (mounted) archer moves fast enough to evade enemies with a single move, he could move and shoot every round while enemies rarely get to make an attack. This is quite different from the conventional strategy where the whole party engages in all-out assault; it may take ten times as many combat rounds, but at a lower risk and at a lower resource rate. The big issue with this stratagem is that all PCs and players need to be on board with it; a barbarian going full-frontal doesn't do this all that well. It might be a way for rogues to do much better though, if they can spend minutes or hours harrying an opponent, making surprise sneak attacks every time one of the opponents steps out of formation, after which the rogue hides again.

    More conventionally, tripping is a good example; it'll break an opponent's full attack routine unless he's willing to stay on the ground. It'll certainly slow his speed.

    ===

    @Orfamay: while I agree with most of your comments, I think you don't give Bull Rush enough credit. It's hard to know beforehand how you'll be using it, but in dungeons with pits, lava flows, narrow ledges, rope bridges and all that, or Create Pit, Stinking Cloud and Black Tentacle spells, it's got all sorts of ad-hoc applications. I think that Bull Rush is one of those maneuvers you're often wishing you had during the actual game, but when making a character you can't foresee those circumstances.


    Ascalaphus wrote:


    @Orfamay: while I agree with most of your comments, I think you don't give Bull Rush enough credit. It's hard to know beforehand how you'll be using it, but in dungeons with pits, lava flows, narrow ledges, rope bridges and all that, or Create Pit, Stinking Cloud and Black Tentacle spells, it's got all sorts of ad-hoc applications. I think that Bull Rush is one of those maneuvers you're often wishing you had during the actual game, but when making a character you can't foresee those circumstances.

    Oh, I definitely stiff Bull Rush. I'm talking about it strictly from the point of view of the action economy. Any combat maneuver is situational (what good is Disarming a dragon, or Tripping an ooze), and Bull Rush rarely does anything useful for the action economy specifically unless it turns into a completely situational save-or-suck (The coyote holds up a sign saying "not this again....").

    But I agree with Arni and TarkXT that there's a place for understanding the action economy specifically as it underpins tactics, and therefore for focusing specifically on this.

    I think many (too many) novice players understand (to use your terms) Green tactics much better than Red ones, and Black tactics better than Blue ones. Bull Rush is often (pushing the BBEG into a Stinking Cloud or a Wall of Fire?) a Black tactic instead of a Blue one.


    Bull rush is rarely useful enough to invest in with one notable exception. Weapon/Shield TWF fighters who invest in shield slam and greater bull rush can manufacture attacks of opportunity pretty liberally. For them bull rush feats are worth the tax.


    EWHM wrote:
    Bull rush is rarely useful enough to invest in with one notable exception. Weapon/Shield TWF fighters who invest in shield slam and greater bull rush can manufacture attacks of opportunity pretty liberally. For them bull rush feats are worth the tax.

    Only if they're fighters. Given all the feats you invest just for TWF/Shield bashing stuff going down a whole other chain (power attack, imp. bull rush, etc.) is just too much for anyone else.

    In other news: GAH! so much to read over now. This thread has definitely picked up pace since the initial posts.


    Sorry about the length, here....

    EWHM wrote:
    Bull rush is rarely useful enough to invest in with one notable exception. Weapon/Shield TWF fighters who invest in shield slam and greater bull rush can manufacture attacks of opportunity pretty liberally. For them bull rush feats are worth the tax.

    I think we need to distinguish between Bull Rush, the tactic, versus Bull Rush, the feat tree. You don't need to "invest" in Bull Rush to be able to use it when the situation arises.

    Something to remember -- this is supposed to be a discussion of tactics, not of charop. While character design can certainly support tactics, an optimized character won't help if you don't know how to use it, and part of the mark of a good tactician is being able to do something that's out of the design parameters.

    And, of course, I'm still trying to focus on tactics-of-the-action-economy. Bull Rush is much better for positional tactics than for action tactics, although, frankly, I still think it's pretty weak sauce. Even as a positional tactic, it either requires a huge number of feats to pull off (by which point everything you face will be immune to it by virtue of size) or is really situational (how often are you fighting on tightropes over lava pits?). Dirty Trick at least is useful against anything.

    But even there,... Dirty Trick is useful primarily as a debuff, not as an action economy measure. (It's a "Black" tactic, not a "Blue" one.) The only thing I can really do to eff up someone's action economy with a Dirty Trick is the entangled condition, which slows movement by half but doesn't actually prevent him from taking move actions. Blind is an awesome condition, but I can still fire as many arrows blind as I can sighted. (I just can't hit for toffee.) So if this were a Treantmonk-style guide, I'd give Dirty Trick three stars as a combat maneuver generally, but only one star and a nasty red color as an action economy tactic.


    TarXT,
    Yes, fighters are the only ones I've seen use that build. TWF tree plus greater bullrush just barely fits in a human fighter's 'envelope'. It's a good trick though. It's especially nice when you're indoors and have walls and other solid objects to bounce the guys you slammed so as to make them prone.

    Sczarni

    I updated the lists, using lots of good material provided by Kayerloth and Orfamay. I also took a lot of stuff out of Orfamay's list, because I want a fairly comprehensive list before we get into the nitty-gritty detials of how each thing works. I really liked the details, but I think they need to be put in later. Mainly because I have to figure out how to embed other formatting inside the spoiler buttons.

    Orfamay wrote:

    Tactics 101 -- Me and My Orc. Getting action advantage for yourself.

    Tactics 102 -- Me and My Posse. Getting action advantage for your buddies.
    Tactics 103 or 201 -- Me and the Keystone Kops. Making sure you don't cost your buddies actions.

    I think that is precsiely the structure we need.

    Ascalaphus wrote:

    * "Red" would be increasing your action count; Hasting the barbarian to attack more often.

    * "Green" would tend to improve your action quality; casting Bull's Strength on the barbarian to make him hit harder.

    But there's also the "unsportsmanlike" approach:

    * "Black" debuffs enemies and makes them weaker with for example Enervation, reducing all of an enemy's attack rolls.
    * "Blue" reduces the enemies' action count, such as with a Slow spell.

    which is another thing we have to weave into the structure.

    But Ascalaphus, please complete the analogy, I think that the "White" perspective on action economy may also be important. Please figure this out in the same vein as the others, because I'm not sure that I can.

    I think that Feint can be considered a Combat Manuever and I would also include AoOs (Attacks of Opportunty) in the category of Combat Manuevers as well.

    Class Special Abilities:
    • Quick Reflexes
    • Flurry of Blows
    • Opportunist
    • Arcane Bond-Familiar
    • Nature Bond-Animal Companion

    Spells:
    • Haste
    • Blessing of Fervor
    • A variety of spells belonging to the Transmutation(polymorph) school
    • Transformation
    • Mage's Sword
    • Spiritual Weapon
    • Interposing Hand (and the similarly themed and named spells)
    • Time Stop

    Feats:
    • Combat Reflexes
    • Cleave and Great Cleave
    • Two-weapon Fighting(feat tree)
    • Rapid Shot
    • Whirlwind Attack
    • Quickdraw
    • Rapid Reload
    • Quicken Spell
    • Snatch Arrow
    • Greater Trip
    • Improved Bull Rush

    Combat Manuevers:
    • Charge
    • Delaying or Readying an action
    • Two Weapon Fighting
    • Bull Rush
    • Dirty Trick (APG)
    • Disarm
    • Drag (APG)
    • Feint
    • Grapple
    • Reposition (APG)
    • Steal (APG)
    • Sunder
    • Trip
    • Attacks of Opportunity

    Equipment:
    • Range weapons
    • Reach weapons
    • Spring-loaded wrist sheathes

    The equipment list didn't grow any. There should be other kinds of equipment that might give you some benefit in terms of additional actions, or reducing a standard action to a move action, or a move action to a free action.

    Next thing to do is to make these lists more comprehensive. We have a real good start, and action advantages given by Class Special Abilities looks like a good place to start.


    In the analogy I would make white be healer/ condition handlers. They help insure the longevity of the actions being taken, so that you not only make a lot of high quality actions often, but that it lasts for a long time over the course of many more rounds. It lasting a long time is their job, due to healing/ condition removal and so forth.

    Items for action improvement:
    -quick runners shirt-1/day swift action to move your land speed.
    -boots of striding and springing: increase movement to lower actions used to get to target.


    You need to gain ways to use all actions in a round :
    Swift aid and felling smash, are good to use swift actions .
    Improve feint if needed
    Enforcer to debuff shaken for many rounds and with an attack for free.


    Arni Carni wrote:

    Ascalaphus wrote:

    * "Red" would be increasing your action count; Hasting the barbarian to attack more often.

    * "Green" would tend to improve your action quality; casting Bull's Strength on the barbarian to make him hit harder.

    But there's also the "unsportsmanlike" approach:

    * "Black" debuffs enemies and makes them weaker with for example Enervation, reducing all of an enemy's attack rolls.
    * "Blue" reduces the enemies' action count, such as with a Slow spell.

    which is another thing we have to weave into the structure.

    But Ascalaphus, please complete the analogy, I think that the "White" perspective on action economy may also be important. Please figure this out in the same vein as the others, because I'm not sure that I can.

    Well, it's A.'s analogy, of course, not mine. But there are actually two more colors representing two more aspects of the battle, attrition and healing.

    There's no color associated with attrition, but that's what actually wins the battle. No one died from being entangled, blind, sickened, staggered, and dazzled. At some point you need to actually do damage to them. (Actually, this is what I associate with the color "red" in MtG, but I admit to not being a MtG theorist). And white heals the attrition or removes status ailments.
    ---

    Oh, for your list: Any feat listed as "Rapid" or "Quick" is probably action-economy relevant. Being able to use Dirty Trick as an attack action instead of a standard action makes it much better, as you can use an attack to cost your opponent his move.


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    Arni Carni wrote:
    I updated the lists, using lots of good material provided by Kayerloth and Orfamay. I also took a lot of stuff out of Orfamay's list, because I want a fairly comprehensive list before we get into the nitty-gritty detials of how each thing works. I really liked the details, but I think they need to be put in later. Mainly because I have to figure out how to embed other formatting inside the spoiler buttons

    Maybe it's time to start making the Googledocs version? If this guide is worthwhile, it will probably end up as a Googledoc anyway.... And then you can format it however you like.


    So, going to have a longish post here to go over some of this stuff as well as discuss what I'll put in the final doc for this particular section.

    As a note mainly I want to keep it simple. So let me read on through the noise and see what needs to be said.

    Sczarni

    I don't really have time to update anything tonight, and probably won't be back to post again before Saturday.

    I'm going to try to do the Class Special Ability list on Saturday, and maybe compile some of the other stuff that gets posted in the meantime.

    Meanwhile, long lists with references (rulebook acronyms in parenthesis are all that's necessary) are easier to deal with than one or two suggestions at a time. You can provide commentary, but I'm not going to promise it gets put in the first cut.

    Googledocs is above my current skill level, and probably not in my budget either, whether you're talking time or money.

    Not sure how to make a link to Googledocs from here, and this whole "course" on tactics is going to be pretty worthless if the beginner's can't find it easy.

    Anybody know how to petition to make this thread sticky? Or what we have to do to get the finished product put in the Guide to Class Guides, if that's where it belongs.


    White is the smaller benefits over a larger group. Good Hope vs Greater Heroism.

    Various debuffs would definitely be blue. Not lethal in their own right, but constantly confounding the enemy and swinging things in your favor.

    Sovereign Court

    MtG colors each have multiple things in their portfolio, and there's some overlap or outright stealing from other colours *coughbluecough*, so any attempt at a precise analogy is doomed. That being said;

    I would describe white as "damage control": stopping and preventing status effects that would hinder your action economy. This is mostly a clerical job, with both healing (which prevents being disabled by hit point loss), Freedom of Movement (not moving is baaaaaad for your action economy) and by curing conditions such as Blinded that would make most of your actions worthless.

    Another aspect of White might me making your PCs immune to certain things the enemies might do, therefore reducing the scope of useful actions they can choose from. Resist Energy and Death Ward can turn a hard encounter into an easy one; some creatures have only one attack available. But having a really high AC also fits here.


    Not going to lie, I immediately thought of several MTG articles when I first read this. While I understand what you're saying and I suspect that many pathfinder players do on an intuitive level it typically doesn't matter as much. When it does it seems to lead to what is a dreaded term on these forums sometimes - 'optimization'.

    The main difference in Pathfinder is you aren't (usually) going head to head with other players in a situation where you need to eek out every minor advantage you can.


    Hawktitan wrote:
    Not going to lie, I immediately thought of several MTG articles when I first read this. While I understand what you're saying and I suspect that many pathfinder players do on an intuitive level it typically doesn't matter as much. When it does it seems to lead to what is a dreaded term on these forums sometimes - 'optimization'.

    Probably. As does everything else in life.

    Do you have a job? If so, how do you get to work? Do you walk? Drive? Bike? Take a bus?

    What? You mean you don't strap two hundred ducks to your body and hope that they fly you to the right place by 8:30? You nasty "optimizer," you.


    I find this to be a very interesting topic, but can I point out two caveats before we go too overboard with this MtG analogy? 1) Some of us have never played that game and this color analogy means nothing to us, 2) Tying colors to things this way can be a little confusing if you're already used to colors from optimization guides like Treantmonk's (as it is I'm already getting whiplash mentally converting color codes as they were used by guide writers for 4e :) ).

    That said, I am definitely enjoying this thread and finding it quite insightful.

    Red


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    Redblade8 wrote:
    I find this to be a very interesting topic, but can I point out two caveats before we go too overboard with this MtG analogy? 1) Some of us have never played that game and this color analogy means nothing to us, 2) Tying colors to things this way can be a little confusing if you're already used to colors from optimization guides like Treantmonk's (as it is I'm already getting whiplash mentally converting color codes as they were used by guide writers for 4e :) ).

    It's an analogy, nothing more. I agree that we shouldn't hang too much weight on an imperfect analogy to a game that much of the readership hasn't played. I've not played MtG in years myself.

    But there's nevertheless an important structure that it illustrates.

    99% of all combats will be decided by attrition, mostly hit point attrition. The way you "win" is by keeping your hit points, while all around you are losing theirs and blaming it on you. (Apologies, Mr. Kipling.) This raises two very important tactics that almost everyone understands already.

    * Make the bad guy lose hit points.
    * Keep the bad guy from making you lose hit points.

    Implicit "d'uh."

    If I want to call point 2 above "white," it may or may not help.

    The way you do anything in Pathfinder, of course, is through actions. This raises four more strategies.

    * Make the bad guy take fewer actions.
    * Make the bad guy take less effective actions
    * Make the good guy take more actions
    * Make the good guy take more effective actions

    which are not quite as obviously "d'uh" as the previous tactics. We can color them as well if it will help label things. There's also (implicitly) four more (defensive) strategies, the duals of the previous.

    * Keep the bad guy from making the good guy take fewer actions
    * Keep the bad guy from making the good guy take less effective actions.
    * Keep the bad guy from preventing the good guy taking more actions.
    * Keep the bad guy from preventing the good guy taking more effective actions.

    ... but at this point I don't think it makes much sense to keep expanding the number of boxes we need to fill, and definitely calling them 'puce," "aquamarine," "coral," and "sand" wouldn't help.

    Most gamers intuitively understand adjusting action effectiveness -- I use a +2 sword, my +3 shield makes your attacks less effective, and my Strength buff adds to attacks and damage.

    I think that the OP is right in that a lot of gamers don't understand adjusting action quantity nearly as well.

    That is the key point that needs to be explained. "By spending an action, buying a piece of equipment, taking a feat, et cetera, I don't necessarily make myself more effective. But I make myself have more opportunities to be effective."

    Yeah, this is where "optimization" comes into it. But the simple fact is that a hell of a lot of readers of this board (and presumably even more of the casual players) simply don't know that the base die of damage of a weapon isn't a good measure of its overall usefulness. But the studies done by the grognards in the DPR Olympics make it very clear that if you want to kill something quickly, you're almost always better off with a 1d3 weapon with a 15-20/x4 critical multiplier than a 1d12 weapon that only crits on a 20 for x2. It's human nature; one gets seduced by big numbers on the sheet not realizing how to make small numbers can add up even larger.

    In a sense, this could even be a guide to counter-optimization. It answer the question "how can I make a playable fighter without using Int as a dump stat?"

    Now, does using the MtG analogy help or hinder that explanation? I think to some extent that will depending on the actual explanation text itself. I think that the breakdown by tactic type, though, is an important insight and should be part of the guide, even if we opt not to use designer colors for it.

    But, alternatively, this doesn't need to be a Treantmonk-style guide. We don't necessarily need to rate different options against each other, esp. since a lot of them, the combat maneuvers in particular, are always available. I can use Dirty Trick to set up a Trip and a Sunder, all in the same round. The question the guide should address is not "should I Trip or should I Sunder?" but "Why would I want to Sunder in the first place and break my phat lootz?"

    This guide needs to address the following:

    * What are my options?
    * How do they work?
    * Why would I want to use them?

    ... and I think we can do that with or without Treantmonk's coloring. And with or without MtG's, for that matter. Everything suggested so far is good, and I don't think anything is "better" without situational information we don't have.


    Hawktitan wrote:

    Not going to lie, I immediately thought of several MTG articles when I first read this. While I understand what you're saying and I suspect that many pathfinder players do on an intuitive level it typically doesn't matter as much. When it does it seems to lead to what is a dreaded term on these forums sometimes - 'optimization'.

    If a GM is getting upset that his players are using actual strategy and tactics in their game full of combat they should seriously reconsider being the GM.

    Discussing strategy and tactics allows players to better understand the game and succeed without having to resort to heavy optimization just to survive.

    To me if everyone understood what the game required, what a good group composition looks like, and what spells, abilities, and tactics would work in their given situation then optimization of the sort that's apparently dreaded would never be required outside of significantly hardcore games.

    When I wrote the forge of combat I laid out base requirements for each particular role that would be needed in the group. I kept the standards relatively low knowing full well that each person in that role would be relying on the others to do their job as well and not opening the door to stupid class arguments about X being better than Y.

    Even here when I discuss action advantage I do so from the perspective of the group working together rather than an individual optimizing up to their necks. This is a theme that's going to keep as I go through the series.


    Alrighty so let's go through the mess and cut the chafe.

    Criik wrote:

    I know you are looking mostly at adding actions, and some of them are included here. But I am also including other tactics that you can pull into additional tactics threads.

    • Delaying: I have seen way too many (usually melee based) players get jumpy when they win initiative. It's not as much of a big deal at the lower levels before iterative attacks or full round sequences. At the higher levels however, it's usually a bad idea to charge ahead to the enemy getting your single attack to just be in range for them to full round attack you. Additionally, if you let the creature move towards you, it may allow multiple people to get full round attacks on it.
    • Readying: This is a combination of getting more actions and increasing effectiveness. Notes about it include:
      -One benefit can include allowing you to get a flanking bonus if you ready for when your flank buddy gets into position
      -Useful when dealing with people who aren't as tactics-savy as a way to guide them towards an action (e.g. I ready an attack for when Bruce the Monk trips the target)
      -Useful for shutting down casters and for protecting squishies (ready to hit if they cast, or trip/grapple/etc if they try to move past)
      -Initiative order gets moved to before the triggering person. This usually isn't a huge drawback, but it could move your attack to be after the enemy
      -Depending on the GM, some GMs might metagame to prevent readied actions from going off. I am trying to use index cards to write down my triggering condition and putting it down in front of me. That way, the GM will know that I am readying, but not what the trigger is. Some GMs can objectively act how the creatures "should" act. Some have troubles if given the knowledge. I have seen too many GMs change their actions in order to not make the trigger go off.
      -Note that if your trigger is too specific and does not ever "go off", you lose your action for that round.
    • Cleave is a feat that gets nay-sayed too much. It does have the pain of positioning
    ...

    Things like this work. I'll add them to the doc when I make it.

    Ultiamtely I think making lists are pointless without explaining the WHY of it. That being said such a list for a game this size might be gigantic if you take the time to go over each adn every option.

    Instead let's stick to corebook options (With slight asides for APG stuff) by listing and then explainign we open the door for people to make informed decisions about the rest of the current and future options they may have.

    Orfamay Quest wrote:

    My thoughts on combat maneuvers:

    TRIPPING THE LIGHT FANTASTIC: THE ACTION ECONOMY FOR MARTIALS

    As was pointed out by TarkXT, understanding the action economy is critical for tactics, and in particular, getting an advantage in the action economy is a key way of getting an advantage in combat generally. Every round, you get a standard action, a move action, a swift action, and possibly a 5' step and some free actions. Your opponent gets the same. So how can you get an advantage?

    Your friend the caster has it easy. He spends two actions (a full-round action, equivalent to standard+move) summoning a monster and -- BAMF! -- he's got two sets of actions each round. You have to earn your advantage the hard way, through blood, sweat, tears, and die rolling.

    Two key insights will help you here.
    1) All actions are not created equal, and
    2) AoEs are golden.

    It should be obvious that some actions are 'better' than others. With a standard action, you can do anything you could do as a move action, or you could attack. If you use a free action to do something, it costs you nothing. But this means that if you can trade your actions up (use a move action to cost your opponent his standard action, for instance), you gain the advantage.

    How can you do this? Well, if you have a speed advantage on your opponent, retreat. If you attack as a standard action, then move backwards your full speed, your opponent will have to double-move to get back in range. Other examples will be shown later.

    Secondly, AoE are golden, because they are basically standard actions you get as free actions. They're like dining out on your ex's credit card (except without the possibility of fraud charges): you get something nice out of it, someone else suffers, and you don't pay a cent for it.

    Me and My Orc
    So let's look at some easy ways that we can use combat maneuvers to make this kind of a tradeoff, in an assumed 1-1 combat with an ordinary humanoid. Remember first that standard >...

    This may make na interesting side bit to add to the main doc.

    Ascalaphus wrote:

    I think we're overlooking an interesting concept here. For those who've played Magic the Gathering, this should sound more familiar. Let's start with a basic formula for success:

    [our # of actions] X [effectiveness of our actions] > [their # of actions] X [effectiveness of their actions]

    Altering any of these variables in your favor will improve the overall result; not just increasing our own action count.

    Now, the various Magic colors would each tend to fiddle with different variables in this equation;

    * "Red" would be increasing your action count; Hasting the barbarian to attack more often.
    * "Green" would tend to improve your action quality; casting Bull's Strength on the barbarian to make him hit harder.

    But there's also the "unsportsmanlike" approach:

    * "Black" debuffs enemies and makes them weaker with for example Enervation, reducing all of an enemy's attack rolls.
    * "Blue" reduces the enemies' action count, such as with a Slow spell.

    Since the topic of the thread is on action advantage, I'll focus on the Blue stratagem. Rather than focussing on adding more actions to your own, instead try to reduce their actions or making their actions less useful.

    An example would be to try kiting; if your (mounted) archer moves fast enough to evade enemies with a single move, he could move and shoot every round while enemies rarely get to make an attack. This is quite different from the conventional strategy where the whole party engages in all-out assault; it may take ten times as many combat rounds, but at a lower risk and at a lower resource rate. The big issue with this stratagem is that all PCs and players need to be on board with it; a barbarian going full-frontal doesn't do this all that well. It might be a way for rogues to do much better though, if they can spend minutes or hours harrying an opponent, making surprise sneak attacks every time one of the opponents steps out of formation, after which the rogue hides again.

    More conventionally, tripping is a good example; it'll break...

    I think we're overcomplicating a simple concept here. There's no need ot divide this into categories and such wen the math is easy but the actual though behind it can be hard.

    @Arni Carni: Again, lists have limited use. Try explaining WHY it is good for action economy for each option.

    And the last bit....

    Orfamay Quest wrote:


    It's an analogy, nothing more. I agree that we shouldn't hang too much weight on an imperfect analogy to a game that much of the readership hasn't played. I've not played MtG in years myself.

    But there's nevertheless an important structure that it illustrates.

    99% of all combats will be decided by attrition, mostly hit point attrition. The way you "win" is by keeping your hit points, while all around you are losing theirs and blaming it on you. (Apologies, Mr. Kipling.) This raises two very important tactics that almost everyone understands already.

    * Make the bad guy lose hit points.
    * Keep the bad guy from making you lose hit points.

    Implicit "d'uh."

    If I want to call point 2 above "white," it may or may not help.

    The way you do anything in Pathfinder, of course, is through actions. This raises four more strategies.

    * Make the bad guy take fewer actions.
    * Make the bad guy take less effective actions
    * Make the good guy take more actions
    * Make the good guy take more effective actions

    which are not quite as obviously "d'uh" as the previous tactics. We can color them as well if it will help label things. There's also (implicitly) four more (defensive) strategies, the duals of the previous.

    * Keep the bad guy from making the good guy take fewer actions
    * Keep the bad guy from making the good guy take less effective actions.
    * Keep the bad guy from preventing the good guy taking more actions.
    * Keep the bad guy from preventing the good guy taking more effective...

    This is a nice breakdown of basic tactics in combat and will likely be added to the final doc.


    Very nice work on this thread.

    However, there is one issue with the approach being taken here, and that has to do with the interest level and attention span of the players you may be attempting to reach.

    While an exhaustive list of tactical options can be helpful to someone who has a solid understanding of basic tactics but may be overlooking a few possible options just due to the sheer number of options, that same list is not very useful to a player who lacks the most fundamental understanding of tactical decision making.

    What most players need isn't a 200 page tome on tactical options, what most players need is a one paragraph explanation of what tactics ARE and how they should approach making tactical decisions in the first place.

    The biggest issue I've seen with most players playing this game is not that they choose sub-optimal tactical options, but that they fundamentally don't understand tactical decision making in the first place.

    So... before you can teach someone which fly is the best fly to use for a specific hatch on the Firhole river, you have to teach them how to fish. We need more "how to fish" guides more than we need more flies.


    Adamantine Dragon wrote:

    Very nice work on this thread.

    However, there is one issue with the approach being taken here, and that has to do with the interest level and attention span of the players you may be attempting to reach.

    While an exhaustive list of tactical options can be helpful to someone who has a solid understanding of basic tactics but may be overlooking a few possible options just due to the sheer number of options, that same list is not very useful to a player who lacks the most fundamental understanding of tactical decision making.

    What most players need isn't a 200 page tome on tactical options, what most players need is a one paragraph explanation of what tactics ARE and how they should approach making tactical decisions in the first place.

    The biggest issue I've seen with most players playing this game is not that they choose sub-optimal tactical options, but that they fundamentally don't understand tactical decision making in the first place.

    So... before you can teach someone which fly is the best fly to use for a specific hatch on the Firhole river, you have to teach them how to fish. We need more "how to fish" guides more than we need more flies.

    Though I usually agree with what you say AD this in particular was a good post. I was looking for a way to say something similar without being long-winded about it.

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