Combat Maneuvers, Hero Points, Traits - Are they used ?


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion


Just picked up the Advanced Players Guide Pocket Edition & really enjoying reading through it.
The 6 new classes & all the archetypes are great !

But I'm slightly less keen on the 'new rules' chapter - mainly because it adds even more rules & moving parts to a game that already has loads.
I just wondered - of these, which are used pretty much as standard - ie which would most Pathfinder players expect to be in the game unless specifically ruled out ?


Combat Maneuvers are part of the core game. They are rarely used because it's often more efficient (both in terms of character build resources, and in combat actions) to just kill things with hit point damage. Also at higher levels against large creatures, their size bonus scales such that your odds of landing a combat maneuver are much lower than the odds of hitting with a regular attack. There are some specialized builds that make good use of maneuvers, but they always have some means of adding an extra bonus to CMB, and of performing the maneuvers without giving up damage.

Hero Points are rarely used in my experience.

Traits are almost always used in my experience, but they're a pet peeve of mine for several reasons:

- It's just another list of things to choose from, which is hundreds of entries long, of which only a relative few are even worth looking at.
- They are supposed to be worth half a feat (e.g. +2 Initiative for a trait vs +4 for a feat) but the good ones often give you effects that you can't get through any other means (e.g. Magical Lineage)
- They often attach generic mechanics to highly specific fluff, which can be a problem if your DM insists on using their specific flavor text (e.g. if you want +2 Initiative from a trait, you have to either be an Elf or have been "bullied often as a child, but never quite developed an offensive response" etc.)


Athaleon wrote:

Combat Maneuvers are part of the core game. They are rarely used because it's often more efficient (both in terms of character build resources, and in combat actions) to just kill things with hit point damage. Also at higher levels against large creatures, their size bonus scales such that your odds of landing a combat maneuver are much lower than the odds of hitting with a regular attack. There are some specialized builds that make good use of maneuvers, but they always have some means of adding an extra bonus to CMB, and of performing the maneuvers without giving up damage.

Hero Points are rarely used in my experience.

Traits are almost always used in my experience, but they're a pet peeve of mine for several reasons:

- It's just another list of things to choose from, which is hundreds of entries long, of which only a relative few are even worth looking at.
- They are supposed to be worth half a feat (e.g. +2 Initiative for a trait vs +4 for a feat) but the good ones often give you effects that you can't get through any other means (e.g. Magical Lineage)
- They often attach generic mechanics to highly specific fluff, which can be a problem if your DM insists on using their specific flavor text (e.g. if you want +2 Initiative from a trait, you have to either be an Elf or have been "bullied often as a child, but never quite developed an offensive response" etc.)

Thanks Athaleon - by Combat maneuvers, I meant the extra ones from the APG 'Dirty Trick', 'Steal' etc - I guess these are generally used in most Pathfinder games ?

I kind of feel the same as you about traits for similar reasons but equally if they are generally used, I don't mind following along.


Agreed on maneuvers with Athaleon, and maneuvers in APG (other than dirty trick) are even less useful than core ones.

We use hero points and they are useful if you don't want to kill people that much but don't also want to pull punches or fudge.

On traits, some should have been feats considering their strength, flavor can be a problem, but they are useful for rounding out characters even though they are slight power creep.


necromental wrote:

Agreed on maneuvers with Athaleon, and maneuvers in APG (other than dirty trick) are even less useful than core ones.

We use hero points and they are useful if you don't want to kill people that much but don't also want to pull punches or fudge.

On traits, some should have been feats considering their strength, flavor can be a problem, but they are useful for rounding out characters even though they are slight power creep.

That was kind of my feeling on Traits too - it feels like they should be a bonus & a penalty, instead of just a bonus. As it is, characters with traits are just straight up more powerful. Still, they are flavourful, so it's not the end of the world.


Just another bit I'd like to add re: Traits. I use them, and advocate other GM's utilize them in this fashion in their games, to help shape the backstory of a PC. To that end, the "fluff" that is included in the specific Trait need not be explicitly followed but provides a general guideline.

For example, Armor Expert:

quote=Armor Expert]You have worn armor as long as you can remember, either as part of your training to become a knight’s squire or simply because you were seeking to emulate a hero. Your childhood armor wasn’t the real thing as far as protection, but it did encumber you as much as real armor would have, and you’ve grown used to moving in such suits with relative grace.

Benefit: When you wear armor of any sort, reduce that suit’s armor check penalty by 1, to a minimum check penalty of 0.

This gives you a mechanical bonus of -1 to the Armor Check Penalty of armor worn. What if, for whatever reason, you wanted this on your level 1 Wizard? This not only mechanically allows your PC to wear Studded Leather armor with a 0 Armor Check Penalty but also helps shape the PC's backstory as you come up with a compelling reason why this young arcane caster spent his youth clad in heavy leather and padding.

If you follow the trait, you may have wanted to be a knight or served as a squire. It might also be though that you were trying to hide or obscure your appearance. Perhaps you were raised in a very dangerous environment or among mercenaries.

Also this trait can help you tie other disparate parts of your character together. Perhaps your PC is a Tengu Wizard, intending long term to become a cleric/wizard. With a high Dex you choose Weapon Finesse as your level 1 Feat. You know you'll eventually gain the feat to wear armor and rather than spend your spells on defense you want to focus on offense, planning on also going with Arcane Armor Training.

Tengus are racially trained with swords; your PC chooses a Short Sword for finesse and also takes it as their Arcane Bond. You add in the Armor Expert trait and perhaps the Religion Trait: Battlefield Caster and suddenly a picture begins to take shape.

Your Tengu Wizard was unnaturally intelligent for his race from a young age. Unlike most of his kinfolk he yearned for more than scrabbling and scavenging amid the refuse of the humans, squatting in the attics of tenements. He also found a calling to the faith of Pharasma; something about the ancient lore and promised peace of the eternal grave quieted his restless soul.

So your PC became the first Tengu inductee into a militant sect of Pharasmin dedicated to combating the occult horrors of this world. They use both blade and spellcraft to hold the malign forces at bay. From an early age this training included the donning of armor and the practice of casting one's spells at a moment's notice.

Now as a graduate of Sorrowind Akademie, this young Tengu wizard prepares to enter the clergy, no longer a mere novate but as a lay member on his way to becoming a full fledged Cleric of Pharasma, all the while keeping his sword, spells, and armor at the ready, ever vigilant against the encroaching evils of this world...


As necromental said, Hero Points are great to avoid killing off characters, which means the GM can throw tougher challenges at them. Some players carefully hoard two hero points for the Cheat Death option. My wife prefers to spend hers on an extra action or improved roll that lets her character avoid death actively.

Among my campaigns, I have seen two PCs who specialized in the trip combat maneuver and one who specialized in the Dirty Trick combat maneuver. I have also two PC spellcasters and one NPC spellcaster use spells for combat maneuvers, such as Chains of Perdition for reposition, without otherwise investing in combat maneuvers.

I offer two traits to my players at first level. Campaign traits are popular, so much that I allow them to take two campaign traits if they want. As for non-campaign traits, they are most often used to promote a skill to a class skill, a cheap +3 (or +4 if it also gives a trait bonus) to that skill check. I also find traits useful for when I stat out NPCs from the modules that lack stat blocks, because their backgrounds often don't fit standard low-level class abilities. Athaleon mentioned that traits often have highly specific fluff, but I am a lenient GM who ignores that, except when it mentions worshipping a specific god.

What I most liked about the Advanced Player's Guide was the ranger spells. Finally, a set of spells for the ranger that did not feel like hand-me-down druid spells. Also, Alchemist and Oracle are two of my favorite classes to play.


Well all three Things you mentioned are Things I use in almost every round I Play.

Combat Maneuvers are not very appreciated, though I wonder why. They are for martials what debuff builds are for casters. You don't see every pathfinder caster be a blaster for the same reason not every melee should go for dps only - because it's boring as hell.
Though I agree that the core maneuvers, especially trip, bullrush, disarm, grapple are the useful ones. From the new ones I think only Dirty Trick can match them with the right build.

Hero Points are nice to save your life. They saved mine for a few times already.

Traits, I second Mark Hoovers point. They make a great possibility to build your backstory around them. I usually pick the best mechanical wise and then see what it suggests. Often, they fill several years of Background that I build around one trait.


Thanks Peeps, it's great to hear everyone's thoughts on these subjects & actually it gives me more ideas for how to use this stuff.

It really feels like there's almost no spare fat in this book - almost everything is useful.


My group uses traits and hero points. Personally, I like both. Most of my group banks their points to avoid death but the extra standard action option is nice, particularly on casters (like a mini quickened spell). Haven’t seen much combat maneuver use (as others note, it’s often more effective to just attack).


Hero points put the fudging in the hands of the players, where it belongs. Always use them in my games.

Traits are always used as well, as they're best for people who want to play a particular class but also have a character-defining skill that's not a class skill, etc.

Combat maneuvers are great for a particular kind of game: something like Hell's Rebels, Curse of the Crimson Throne, Skull and Shackles, etc. where you're going to be facing a large number of humanoid opponents at all levels. Even better if you're trying not to kill your opponents, as you may very well be in more intrigue-based games.


I use Hero Points, and they're quite popular -- gives the PCs a bit of extra influence over things. I do also give them to antagonists, but only big-name recurring foes, as it makes them more recurring. Basically, Hero Points make fudging a more above-board and regulated things.

Traits are standard, Combat maneuvers are also standard.


So far, i start with a character concept and search for traits that fit the character. I like more rounded characters, so i try to play my characters as faulty people, but i've seen others opt for the 3 traits and a drawback setup, to get their faults built in mechanically. Im not against this but ive yet to find a drawback that seems to fit a character i have in mind. Campaign traits seem to be a good way to tie characters into the hook of an AP.


I love traits to round out my PCs, however I keep seeing players acquiring traits for the mechanical benefit first (only) and ignoring flavour text. Then traits become 'too powerful'.

Trapfinder is a easily better than a single feat, it alone removes the Rogue class from the game. However players and GMs ignore that it is a Campaign Trait and allow it in any game, which isn't the point of traits, IMO.

And practically every PC I have seen has had childhood bullying issues, which I guess explains the number of psychotic-murderhobos in games.

If players and GMs stick to the (my perception) original intent of traits as a nice bonus for coming up with a background for your PC rather than cherry-pick the 'best' then problems like 'traits are OP' are reduced.


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One thing I'll say about Combat Maneuvers: they are useful so long as the foes you're facing and the build you're using make them viable.

I'm playing through the Reign of Winter AP as a Halfling Warpriest, Divine Commander archetype, on a Wolf mount. My steed's Trip maneuver, free on every successful Bite attack, has come in super handy since a lot of our foes are humanoids. Now that I have hit level 7 and the Wolf is Large size he's got just that extra little longevity on the usefulness of the Maneuver.

The other players have even started to vibe off of the Trip. They hold actions to take advantage of the Prone condition and one PC with Combat Reflexes and Reach always positions themselves where they can AoO the standing foe if he's able.

Now I've only played this game through level 8 in the past, so I can't speak for the usefulness of ALL Combat Maneuvers at all levels, but I'll say that with the right build to take advantage of them, inflicting conditions like Blinded, Entangled, Grappled, or Prone can be a very nice buff to the entire party from level 1-8.


Pathfinder Companion, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

A large wolf animal companion in our Giantslayer campaign uses trip every time he hits, but only because it's a free action that doesn't provoke. Other than that, there are only a few BBEGs that use grapple here an there, with typically no real detriment to the party.

Traits are of course part of the build, and I allow the single drawback (warded against nature is not a drawback often) for a third trait.

Hero points aren't used very often in our Giantslayer campaign, but only because they've gotten so good at killing giants, they rarely need them. Book 6 will change that, IMO. For Emerald Spire (filler while we pause for life), hero points are a hot commodity. This is true for modules I run in general. First, I've gotten better at killing the party, at least, challenging them to the point they need to use them. Second, the modules I've been running have tended toward tougher encounters in general.


The maneuvers are used, and I use a variation of hero points I call "GM" points which are awarded for being awesome and allow you to break the rules in the name of creating an awesome narrative. Of course I also use the story cards that allow players a say in shaping the narrative.

I can't stand traits though, there are so many and I dislike making my players look through a list for them. Worse than feats, I just give out free stuff at character creation and allow people to get traits from the Additional traits feat if they really want them.


The best thing about traits, is they throw a bone at 2+Int skill classes that could really use the +3 that comes with a new class skill that many traits provide.


We use all three in my game, though the Hero Points are a problem now. Because we were using them prior to adopting the Mythic Rules, the players have both Hero Points and Mythic Surges. Yes, it makes things over powered, but I didn't want to take them away in the final quarter of our campaign. I don't let them use them both in the same round, however. But the next campaign, which will hopefully start in December, I'm giving them a choice; either Hero Points or Mythic Paths. They can't have both.


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My general impression about the APG is that it's essentially considered to be "Core II" in PFS and most home games, even those that don't use a lot of non-core books. That's certainly true of all the PF games I've played in or run so far.

In PFS, traits are the one non-Core rule that even Core play mode uses. (There's a free traits PDF available to facilitate this, with a somewhat shorter version of the APG list.) My home group likes them because they're a way to get a small, useful advantage, often in ways that that class features, skills, and favored class bonuses can't do. IMO, traits are rarely overpowered unless you have a player who's a really expert rules-exploiter, and even then the traits element of the build is usually overshadowed by their other twinks.

The new combat maneuvers haven't really come up in my home games yet, but I've seen some really effective builds using them in PFS (a brawler/rogue built around Dirty Trick, for one example). One of my wife's future PFS characters is a polearm master who will use Improved Reposition and Gang Up to set up as much flanking for her side as possible.

I haven't tried using Hero Points yet. (Action Points in v.3.5 worked very similarly, and my group tried them once, but the benefits were offset by the extra level of rules to remember.)


DungeonmasterCal wrote:
We use all three in my game, though the Hero Points are a problem now. Because we were using them prior to adopting the Mythic Rules, the players have both Hero Points and Mythic Surges. Yes, it makes things over powered, but I didn't want to take them away in the final quarter of our campaign.

You could even the odds a bit by giving key NPCs hero points. Getting 3 hero points just needs a single feat: Hero's Fortune. But APG is right that a GM shouldn't overdo it...


We use all of these.

Combat maneuvers require work on the player's part to be viable at higher levels. You pretty much have to invest in feats to make it work, and it's mostly only effective against humanoids. It's pretty cool when they work, though.

Traits are great, but as many people point out there are tons of options of which only a handful are viable, and a few which are ridiculously good. And, as has also been said, people ignore the flavor text and just take the trait. That flavor text is actually supposed to be a requirement, meaning part of your character's background. The GM should enforce that the trait makes sense for the PC. Players should weave traits into their backgrounds when creating their characters.

Hero Points are absolutely fantastic and I can't say enough good things about them. They let players take risks that they wouldn't normally attempt (due to the odds of failure or risk of injury/death) by letting them fudge the game in their favor within reasonable limits. The end result is that they add drama and excitement to the game, and that means more fun for everyone. The game is ultimately about having fun, so more fun is always a good thing.

You will get players that never use them, essentially banking them so they can cheat death. That's obviously less fun. But, if the GM encourages the use of them, and grants points as rewards (sparingly!) for particularly innovative or risky actions as recommended, then the players will get the hint. In our tabletop game, when a player spends a hero point, it's an event.


We use all three in our campaign. However, we have all played 20+ years with the exception of 1 or 2 players, and we have found them to be quite useful.

If you have a group of young players new to the game, it might be just extra information that may lead to info overdose.

My 2cp: Experienced players? yes. Newbies? no.


Yes. Yes. And yes. All three are used. Hero Points give players something to call on in the clutch and can give them something to pursue in terms of earning more through their "heroic" actions.

Dark Archive

Hero points are pretty fun yeah, after I started using them in my campaigns, my players started to use them in their own campaigns as well

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My groups use all three. The "new" combat maneuvers tend to be more circumstantial than the originals, but they still have utility, especially for a class like brawler than can grab the improved maneuver feats on the fly. I once played a fighter who had Improved reposition legitimately because we had a trap setting character in the same party. I took it to steer enemies into the traps.

We use hero points, but I will admit I've never seen anyone take any of the hero point feats or spells.

We just about consider traits a base part of the game, but we don't allow changing of flavor on traits, and in general we tend to pick traits based on flavor, not on the best bonuses available.


I play exclusively society; so traits are a constant, hero points are not used.

There is the rare case where the extra maneuvers are very relevant. Often where a good scenario has made the main objective something other than killing your enemies. They are also great for arbitrating non-typical stuff in combat.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I like and use hero points (house ruled) and would like to use combat maneuvers more than we do. So much so I've been debating removing the AOO penalty from them.


I just read about Hero points for the first time thanks to this thread and love it. I'm going to be adding them to my games.


Hero points are sometimes used. Whether or not they're a positive addition depends on if you enjoy the "could be killed at any moment" tension of standard play, or if you just find it stressful.

Traits are commonly allowed these days.

The new combat manoeuvers are a pretty harmless addition; if no-one wants to use them, they don't have to. Dirty Trick is pretty good; it's hard to use trip or sunder or disarm against a flying monster, but most creatures can be blinded.


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SheepishEidolon wrote:
DungeonmasterCal wrote:
We use all three in my game, though the Hero Points are a problem now. Because we were using them prior to adopting the Mythic Rules, the players have both Hero Points and Mythic Surges. Yes, it makes things over powered, but I didn't want to take them away in the final quarter of our campaign.
You could even the odds a bit by giving key NPCs hero points. Getting 3 hero points just needs a single feat: Hero's Fortune. But APG is right that a GM shouldn't overdo it...

The key NPCs do get hero points, as do the villains they fight. I've tried to balance it out. I don't always succeed, but most of the time it works out.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

We always use traits. I like them because they can provide a neat little themed bonus. Combat maneuvers aren't used as often unless someone actually builds a character for that. Just wrapped up a Hell's Rebels game with a grappling barbarian with Kraken Style. By the end of the campaign, he could grapple almost anything. But you do have to plan for it, I think, if you want to make a character like that.

As for hero points, the DM used them in our Jade Regent campaign, but no one really ended up using them, so we dropped it after awhile. (I think everyone was stockpiling them for eventual death that never ended up happening.)


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Still watching this thread - it's great to see all the responses.
I'm pretty much decided on using all 3 - Traits & the extra Combat maneuvers for definite, probably hero points too.

The impression I get is that CRB plus APG is the real base game. Got to say the more I get to understand Pathfinder, the more I appreciate how flexible & modular & gonzo it is.


Traits are used in the games I'm in. Hero points too. Maneuvers not so much till my current game.

See I'm running Shaman in Iron Gods AP. This..., isn't very good for me. Most the time I sat doing nothin in combat. That is until I did some reading.

Barbed Chains is a spell that does meh Damage but can cause shaken.or I can use it to trip. A wand of this gives me an option to do something vs the robots we face. And since most our foes have or are metal, hello Lightning Elemental with +10 bonus to Maneuvers. I don't have to kill, that's what the other 4 are for.


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Combat maneuvers, whether from the CRB or APG, can be really useful if you need to take someone alive. I have used a disarm to get a cursed sword out of the hands of a NPC we wated to save and used a bull rush to knock a pickpocket into the river in preference to just cleaving him in half with a falchion.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

we use pretty much all of this in our campaigns. Hero points are very useful and a regular part of our games and I see my players using them for all of their uses most of the time. In the begining they hoarded them to survive lower lvls but as things went on they got more used to using them. My campaign they are currently on however is a very epic save the realm / you are chosen by your deity to do xyz though so they make a lot of sense for our campaign. The power is seen as coming / granted by the players various chosen deity.


Current campaign is a PBP. We all have traits and hero points. Like many things, traits are variable in use. I have one that hasn't come up, but the other (a save booster) has already made the difference between making and failing a save. We have hero points, which we use to variable degrees. I am maxed out right now because I don't tend to use them till I see that big payoff, but my partners in the game use theirs a smidge more. Combat maneuvers don't see much use due to the investment required, but they're on the table if we want them.

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