why are the cleave feats a trap?


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

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Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

Tabernero has it exactly.

Feat Tax.

Pay the tax, get better stuff. If you stop at the entry feat, get something not that exciting. It doesn't matter what feat chain you do that with.

If I were to look at my martials, I'm sure I'd find a LOT MORE "Weapon Focus" than Cleave. I don't like it. That doesn't mean I haven't seen it be useful, in someways, Cleave is like a Teamwork feat - if the rest of the party cooperates and maneuvers tactically, it can be made to be more useful.

I'm just expressing that WF and Dodge are, like Tabernero says, overrated, by themselves. I'd rather have Vital Strike than Cleave, and Vital Strike, by itself isn't exciting either.

Right now I'm running 2 campaigns - one of which is going to end around 7th - 8th level, it is featuring lots of size medium opponents, often in good sized numbers. In that campaign, Cleave wouldn't be a terrible choice in that game.

The other is a RotRL game, Cleave would be a much less exciting choice.


the Lorax wrote:

Tabernero has it exactly.

Feat Tax.

...

Right now I'm running 2 campaigns - one of which is going to end around 7th - 8th level, it is featuring lots of size medium opponents, often in good sized numbers. In that campaign, Cleave wouldn't be a terrible choice in that game.

Is there anything that discusses this? Normally when I see info about optimization and builds, it assumes a complete 1-20 progression. But depending on the campaign, where it likely starts and ends, different choices look better. Are there any dsicussions about better choices for campaigns that will stay, say, below 10th level? Lower?


Tabernero wrote:
Chess Pwn wrote:

dodge and WF giving a +5% by themselves isn't a huge change. But this game is built up by a +1 here and +1 there.

Why upgrade your armor? it's only relevant 1/20 attacks right?
Why upgrade your weapon? it's only relevant 1/20 attacks right?
Why upgrade your strength? it's only relevant 1/20 attacks right?

It's that attacking and being attacked is something that happens a lot. Sure you can say that your dodge feat did nothing and it was your +1 dex that was the reason the 19 missed your 21AC. But if you want to look at it and say that +1 AC isn't useful against every attack that comes at you why would you ever increase it?

To be fair... Gold is a lower investment than feats.

All the more reason to avoid cleave then, as it will be effective even less of the time than weapon focus.


Envall wrote:
Coriat wrote:


Since a world run on Pathfinder rules enormously incentivizes loose-order tactics whether or not there is a wizard with fireball or a barbarian with Cleave around, forming close-order formations out of habit is unrealistic.

Except since Troop exists, there is now exists a twilight zone kind of situation for infantry cohesion.

Say you got 16 Foot Soldier, lvl 1 warriors. If you put them shoulder to shoulder with each other, they are going to fit nicely under the fireball umbrella. So they all get smoked, poof, turned into dust by even CL 5 fireball.

Now you do a magic trick and throw the troop template on them. Same 16 Warriors, we can even say 20 for a round number, still the same space taken. Now suddenly we are dealing with a swarm of warriors with, I dunno, something like 50+ HP as a whole, or what is the CR of 16 1/3 CR enemies again? God I always get these wrong. Correct me. Now we know some of them die, but the survival rate went from "all dead" to "only a few dead" or such manner.

So fireballs can only kill you if you refuse to revoke your individuality as a token and resist melting into the troop blob that is very nasty indeed. Either spread out so there is good 20 feet between you and your friends and SQUEEEEZE together into a gelatinous soldier cube.

And we don't even have to talk about trained humans here. Same applies to troop of zombies.

CR 5 or maybe 6, suggesting 55 hp or 70 at the more generous CR. Note though that it has vulnerability to area effects, so your fireball will deal extra damage. Even if they were not vulnerable, a dispersed set of individual soldiers is more fireball-resilient than a troop.

I grant your point such as it is, but I don't think there is much to it that is relevant. The troop subtype is largely irrelevant to discussions of whether a Pathfinder world does or doesn't promote close-order combat, since the number of creatures in any given troop is unspecified (one could just as easily make a troop of 6 creatures as 16) and the subtype includes no attempt to model formations. It is also largely irrelevant to the topic of this thread more specifically, since putting foes into a troop makes them immune to Cleave and most other martial mook-clearing abilities (though more vulnerable to magical ones).

A few more caveats have occurred to me while I've been writing, though:

First, the troop effect is, mechanically, somewhat two-edged with regard to AOEs. Sure, you get to aggregate your hit points, but it also means that the troop takes full (plus vulnerable) AOE damage from as little as one square actually in the damage area.

Second, a troop is somewhat similar to a large monster in its tactical role, and as such, the best way to combat it using ordinary (non-troop) low-level soldiers is wide dispersal and ranged weapons. Even more so than an ordinary large monster, in fact, since while a large monster has limited attacks, a troop deals damage automatically to every creature in melee with it and thus makes it suicidal for grunts with individual statblocks to try to team up in melee against it. Troop rules thus suggest another incentive for dispersal for those not using troop rules.

So... I don't think troop rules would drive the close-order tactical evolution you are looking for. And even if they did, the more troops feature in the world IC, the less useful cleaving becomes.

(this last is obviously counterintuitive and is down to the very bare-bones state of the troop rules and a problematic interface with the ordinary combat rules)

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Hey, where did the OP go?


Gorbacz wrote:
Hey, where did the OP go?

He fell into a trap and was cleaved in half...

I know I should be sorry but I'm not. :P


Lemartes wrote:

As I said above, what about cleave and great cleave with lunge?

Does this combo mitigate some of the failings of cleave(and great cleave) enough to make them worth it?

Absolutely not.

Cleave spreads damage around to multiple enemies, which past level 6 is not a good thing, at the cost of 2 AC.

Great Cleave spreads damage to even more enemies, for the cost of another feat.

Lunge extends reach by 5 feet at the cost of 2 AC.

Lunge has a prerequisite of +6 BAB making this a minimum level 6 build.

So for a build of three feats, that would be from 75% to 38% of available feats depending on class/race, you get a VERY situational set up.

IF you are lucky enough to get 2 enemies next to each other, you can use cleave to hit both.

IF you get REALLY lucky and get 3 enemies next to each other you can use
Great Cleave.

IF you get REALLY lucky and get three enemies next to each other, but they are for some reason just outside your reach, and you CAN'T move to them, you can use Lunge to use Great Cleave.

That is a bunch of IFs. One trick ponies are frowned upon; one trick ponies that are super situational are even more so.

A level six fighter is going to do around 22 points of damage per hit. This will kill SOME CR 3, FEWER CR 4, and really NOT ONE CR 5+. This only gets worse as the levels get higher.

Is cleave useful? Yes, at low levels it is super useful. It just does not scale well. As the levels get higher, it becomes less and less useful until it becomes a wasted line on your character sheet, and you forget you have it.

Yes, Weapon Focus and Dodge are underwhelming, but a +1 to Attack and AC is ALWAYS a +1 to Attack and AC. Yes they become less meaningful as the levels progress, but when you third attack hits the BBEG EXACTLY, confirming the critical that brings him down, or the disintegrate misses you by one, keeping you from turning to dust, you will be thankful you had it.

When you hit those two giants for 45 points of damage at the beginning of the fight since they had not had their turn to flank you yet, you will not be thankful you had Cleave. At best, you will be thankful you finally got to use that feat you took at first level and haven't had the opportunity to use for six levels.

That is the difference between a decent (not good DECENT) Feat and a bad Feat. A decent feat you are thankful you had at some point in time. A bad Feat makes you thankful that a SITUATION came up that allowed you to use the feat.

Good Feats are used all the time
Decent Feats are either used all the time but do not make an impact most of the time or they are useful most of the time
Bad Feats are useful only in certain situations
Terrible Feats are either useless or make you worse at something


Thanks for the response Andarion.

I can't really disagree with anything you've said or at least not to any great degree.

However, I will state that this combo seemed to work well in some games I played. In hindsight I can't say with 100% certainty why that was so.

Luck? Bad tactics by the DM? DM catering to that player's build, AP/module with tight spaces and numerous enemies etc.

My system mastery was significantly lower when that was going on and my eye not as critical.

I think the next time I play I'm going to count up the times any player could have used cleave(& great cleave/lunge) effectively just for some empirical data.


Great Cleave might have been okay if it actually upgraded Cleave. That it only removes the target cap makes it pretty terrible, since actually finding enough targets to use it becomes increasingly niche. In fact given how hard it is to find 3 or 4 enemies actually adjacent to each other and inside your reach it seems like Cleave should have just scaled automatically with BAB.

Part of it though I think is the fault of Pathfinder's design. Great Cleave is designed to hack through swaths of enemies and the game is fairly bad at modeling large groups of baddies attacking the PCs because of the way stats scale.

They either tend to be too weak to actually threaten the PCs or too strong to effectively flood the battlefield with.

Almost makes me miss 4e's minions and 5e's weird scaling.


Coriat wrote:


So... I don't think troop rules would drive the close-order tactical evolution you are looking for. And even if they did, the more troops feature in the world IC, the less useful cleaving becomes.

The 1.5x vulnerability was already taken into account in my thinking. I did not even mention that as the troop gets more and more bodies to it, it climbs in CR and its reflex save also scales along. Also troops are specified to be 12-30 creatures large, and CR obviously increases with how many creatures there are. And since they are a single token now, pretty much all martials have "cleave" against them in form of full attack.

And to me, this point, is not about cleave as a feat. We have been discussing using the rules to explain the fluff, which obviously does not work as you analyze the situation more and more. "Everyone avoids being close to each other in fluff because rules are like that" is just false because the rules are in conflict over that statement.


Almost miss minions...almost...

What's the best cleaver we can make? For fun.

Maybe:

Dwarven Corsair fighter with lunge and all the special dwarf cleave related feats.

Including greater cleaving finish.

Would this build get a lot of cleaves?


Lemartes wrote:

Almost miss minions...almost...

What's the best cleaver we can make? For fun.

Maybe:

Dwarven Corsair fighter with lunge and all the special dwarf cleave related feats.

Including greater cleaving finish.

Would this build get a lot of cleaves?

Dwarven Aberrant Bloodrager with the Lunge & Dwarf Cleave chain of Feats, coupled with Long Arm and Enlarge Person and a reach weapon.

Reach weapon +5'.
Abnormal Reach from bloodline +5'.
Long Arm +5'.
Enlarge Person +5'.
Lunge +5'.

Character would have 25' reach, and would be able to keep swinging at any targets Huge or lower on successful Cleaves.


Reach weapon doubles your reach, so enlarge + reach alone would get you a 20 foot reach. Long Arm, Abnormal and Lunge bump that up to 35 feet.

Swap the reach weapon for a whip (and improved whip mastery) and it bumps your giant killer range down to 30 feet but your regular cleave range up to 45.

Still run into the issue of struggling to find encounters with enough enemies to leverage all of that though.


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Cleave is great now that you can train it out for little gold as per the Ultimate Campaign rules. Used to be only fighters could swap out feat ever 4 levels so if you find it not be useful get rid of it.

Still it's useful though situational but a situation that comes up a lot. At least it does in my games. I find single bad guys die too fast due to lack of action economy. So most fights have lots lower CR monster ganging up and in doing so they become adjacent. So cleave it quite useful in my games as is great cleave.


What I was trying to get at was that even the greatest cleave build is still going to have issues getting a lot of cleaves according to people who are knowledgeable.(Ignoring the absurd feat tax.) Therefore a lesser cleave build would have even greater difficulty and thus likely not be of much use.

That generally hasn't been my experience(watching other pcs with cleave etc.) but it makes enough sense that I doubt I will try a cleave build anytime soon.

Thanks guys. :)


voska66 wrote:

Cleave is great now that you can train it out for little gold as per the Ultimate Campaign rules. Used to be only fighters could swap out feat ever 4 levels so if you find it not be useful get rid of it.

Still it's useful though situational but a situation that comes up a lot. At least it does in my games. I find single bad guys die too fast due to lack of action economy. So most fights have lots lower CR monster ganging up and in doing so they become adjacent. So cleave it quite useful in my games as is great cleave.

Exactly.

Look, sure there are better feats, and in some campaigns cleave wont be very useful. In others, it will be useful.

Thereby it isnt a "trap feat" of which there are quite few.

Personally I dont care that much for cleave, but it's worth considering.


Lemartes wrote:
What I was trying to get at was that even the greatest cleave build is still going to have issues getting a lot of cleaves according to people who are knowledgeable.

Well, the other obvious problem is that spreading damage isn't very good. Two orcs at half health are going to do double the damage of one living orc and one dead orc.

Still can be fun if you're willing to pour the feats into stacking various modifiers.


If the enemies are all played as tactical genius' then wouldn't that make all combat feats feat traps? My GM plays that way no mater what and in overwhelming forces. i have given up on that feat that gives you extra AoO because he has all his guys run up to you stop then 5' step into range till they can hit you. i am just trying to find a solution that wont take forever to get up and running or be taken away by the DM.


Squiggit wrote:
Lemartes wrote:
What I was trying to get at was that even the greatest cleave build is still going to have issues getting a lot of cleaves according to people who are knowledgeable.

Well, the other obvious problem is that spreading damage isn't very good. Two orcs at half health are going to do double the damage of one living orc and one dead orc.

Still can be fun if you're willing to pour the feats into stacking various modifiers.

Yeah I think the main use is for when you don't have a full attack.


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zainale wrote:
If the enemies are all played as tactical genius' then wouldn't that make all combat feats feat traps?

No.

Quote:


My GM plays that way no mater what and in overwhelming forces. i have given up on that feat that gives you extra AoO because he has all his guys run up to you stop then 5' step into range till they can hit you.

That's great! -- from your perspective. It gives you an extra round of attacks on him (especially if you took Lunge), as well as giving you the option to five foot step forward into his range and get a full attack on him. Really, going first is such a huge advantage in this game that any tactic that keeps the baddies further away for longer is probably a bad tactic for the baddies to use.


zainale wrote:
If the enemies are all played as tactical genius' then wouldn't that make all combat feats feat traps? My GM plays that way no mater what and in overwhelming forces. i have given up on that feat that gives you extra AoO because he has all his guys run up to you stop then 5' step into range till they can hit you. i am just trying to find a solution that wont take forever to get up and running or be taken away by the DM.

Reach weapon. Loads of trip, so they have to stand up next to you. Lots of flanking, so they don't have a choice.

Just a few ideas for this particular case.


zainale wrote:
If the enemies are all played as tactical genius' then wouldn't that make all combat feats feat traps? My GM plays that way no mater what and in overwhelming forces. i have given up on that feat that gives you extra AoO because he has all his guys run up to you stop then 5' step into range till they can hit you. i am just trying to find a solution that wont take forever to get up and running or be taken away by the DM.

Off the top my head.

Combat patrol

Or a reach weapon and lunge along with a one level dip in swashbuckler to get swashbuckler's dodge. Spring attack. Step up.

You should be able to make them come to you then hop out of range.

That might give him some fits. Maybe I don't know I didn't put too much thought into it. :)


Squiggit wrote:

Reach weapon doubles your reach, so enlarge + reach alone would get you a 20 foot reach. Long Arm, Abnormal and Lunge bump that up to 35 feet.

Swap the reach weapon for a whip (and improved whip mastery) and it bumps your giant killer range down to 30 feet but your regular cleave range up to 45.

Still run into the issue of struggling to find encounters with enough enemies to leverage all of that though.

Weapon Trick (Two Handed) lets you (regular/improved) vital strike when you cleave, so you can actually do some damage if you have a weapon with some good dice.

Play a dwarf warpriest with the cleave and vital strike feats with a level of titan fighter, and you can get to 18d6+(stats/magic/buffs/stuff) damage per cleave.

Full attack still wins, but you can move, and/or ready an action for it.

If you can get flyby attack in there, it becomes pretty nifty.


When I run home games I do some basic modifications to NPC. I use a level one human warrior, str 15, Weapon Focus, and Out flank. 6 of them is only a CR 4 encounter. 16 of them is a CR 7 encounter. They have +4 to attack +8 when in flank. Have a few of the them use aid other actions and I can throw a lot of enemies at my players and they still have meaning. When I have that many of them on the board there many of them that are next to each other.

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