Allowing for "one big attack" builds by giving free vital strike?


Homebrew and House Rules


So, I recently found myself rereading some old threads, plenty of which were bemoaning how the only real viable way to deal combat damage is by attacking a lot of times, hence making Pounce vital and making it really hard to accomplish a lot of character concepts and actually be viable...

Anyway, it got me wondering how terrible of an idea this rule would be as a way to potentially re-level the playing field.

When your BAB reaches +6, you can choose to either go for quick attacks or powerful attacks.
Quick attacks work as they do now, where you take a full round to make a number of attacks based on your BAB, etc.
If you choose powerful attacks, though, when you take a standard action to attack, instead of making a number of attacks, you instead roll damage for a single attack that many times (so at BAB +6 you roll damage twice, +11 you roll three times, etc.). However, when you crit, it only adds on one additional damage roll (for a x2 weapon, more for higher crit modifiers).

However, it's only one or the other. So, you can choose to be a mobile warrior, running around the battlefield dealing powerful blows that are very likely to hit (but not devastating on a crit) or be stationary on the battlefield and attacking a ton of times, each of which could crit.

So... yeah. How unbalanced would it be to let players choose between vital strikes or full attacks?


Seems like that idea makes vital strike TOO powerful. Now, to deal damage, all you have to do is make one big attack (presumably at your highest bab) and dump all of your damage at once. If the attack misses, your turn is wasted (but it's unlikely to miss), and if it hits, you'll outpace everyone else.

Crits already, more or less, add another damage roll. I don't see how your option makes them less effective.

I'm exhausted both mentally and physically right now. Maybe I'm missing something.

Grand Lodge

I mean if you do the math the damage from your 'quick attacks' will still be greater than the 'powerful attacks' option.

But I actually really like this idea. Crit fishing builds, TWF, Flurry, and ranged attacks would all want to have what is already in place, which you've named quick attacks.

But a martial with an earthbreaker? A Sword and Board build (that isn't TWFing)? having this Powerful Attack option makes those builds much more attractive in that way.

Here's how I'd balance it:

I'd let powerful attack builds gain extra attacks on a full-attack action through effects such as Haste or a Champion Medium's sudden attack ability, but those extra attacks do not benefit from added dice (just use regular damage dice+str mod and such)

Using a Powerful Attack still requires a full-attack action, and while Powerful Attack is usually only one attack, all attacks made with this action are at a -4 penalty. This way Powerful Attack builds aren't at a huge advantage being able to use standard action attacks while a Quick Attack build must still use a full-attack action. It also prevents characters from abusing mechanics like Gorum's divine fighting technique or other means to use vital strike with other types of actions. The -4 is to ensure that the one attack isn't a guarantee hit all the time. A Quick Attack build has to roll and hit multiple times to keep up in damage output, so the chances of all their attacks landing can get slim. On the other hand, a single attack with a Powerful attack build at full power is much more likely to deal significant damage.


Okay, thanks for the feedback so far.

Overall, part of my goal with this option is to reduce the number of full attacks that need to be made. By making a Powerful attack a full round again, you end up with the same problem all over again. That's why I was leaning towards the standard action. To get extra attacks from Haste and the like (which would only be normal damage), they would have to take the full round, but ideally this would allow combat to be more mobile.

-4 seems a bit hefty, but I'll need to do some math to figure out exactly what penalty there should be associated with it to get the averages balance out.

Essentially, I'd like to try and find a way to present two more or less equally viable options: make a ton of attacks, each of which could crit and could be directed at different targets and can be used for different things, but are unlikely to all hit, at the cost of movement; or make one big attack that's really likely to hit and stay mobile.

Think of the difference between an archer and a kineticist, for example. Both can pretty reliably decimate a level-appropriate enemy if given the chance, but the archer does it with a hail of arrows, and can mow down tons of foes in a single round, but doesn't always hit. Meanwhile, the kineticist will almost always hit, but you can only make an enemy so dead.

Grand Lodge

So I spend more time than I'm willing to admit doing some math regarding vital strike and yeah I am changing my mind a bit on requiring a full-attack action, particularly if there's only going to be one attack.

Through the math I did at the level 6 tier for a full-bab class, most martial characters should be able to hit 75-85% of the time vs the average AC of a CR 6 encounter without needing any assistance outside of their own feats, abilities, and equipment and maybe a flank buddy. But that same martial with a TWF build will only be hitting *all* of their attacks at a rate of roughly 55-65% of the time. Which are still good odds, given that the potential damage output of making 4 attacks can up to double the potential damage output of a specialized vital strike build (I used fighters and slayers; the butchering axe vital strike slayer was doing about 3/5s the damage a twf kukri slayer was doing)

The advantage of the vital strike build is that the damage is significantly more consistent as you're much less likely to miss any individual attack. That same TWF slayer dealt less than the damage a vital strike slayer did when they missed the two iterative attacks.

The issue you'll find is that your players will all want to make Quick Attack builds rather than Powerful Attack builds unless you change how much bonus damage they get, because otherwise Quick Attack builds will outdamage Powerful Attack builds.


I think the solution is to just make the vital strike feat chains work the same way they do for the heritor knight.

Heritor knight, Mighty strike ability wrote:
Whenever the heritor knight makes a melee attack as a standard action, she can apply the effects of Improved Vital Strike to that attack. If she has Greater Vital Strike, she can apply that feat’s effects instead.

This lets it be used with other abilities, deadly strike, cleave, iomedae's combat style, move and swing,surprise round charge, double strike, a handful of fighter archetype abilities etc etc.

It makes vital strike a 4 feat chain for relevance (the 3 vital strikes and devastating strike) Plus incentivizes all those abilities that are "make an attack as a standard action gain buff or apply debuff"


Dαedαlus wrote:
To get extra attacks from Haste and the like (which would only be normal damage), they would have to take the full round, but ideally this would allow combat to be more mobile.

So, bonus attacks can still be used in either style? If that's the case, no one will ever select "quick attacks". The kinda-reduced critical strike damage is more than off-put by basically losing the iterative attack penalty. Seriously, "powerful attacks" would be strictly better for practically every character (and the ones that would want to pick quick attacks, e.g. crit fishing builds, wouldn't be able to compete).

About equal damage between the two would be archieved by a -2 penalty for each iterative attack you'd have gained (-2 at BAB +6, -4 at BAB +11, -6 at BAB +16), but of course that still vasty favors the single attack, because it can be made more often. For actual balance, you would need a higher penalty still.

Something to be wary about are also other things that interact with the standard attack action, like Greater Weapon of the Chosen and double-barreled firearms.

Ryan Freire wrote:
I think the solution is to just make the vital strike feat chains work the same way they do for the heritor knight.

It's not nearly enough, though - once Haste (or any ohter bonus attacks) get involved, the already exiting gap because just way too big. You would see a bit more standard action based martials, but the overwhelming majority would go on as before.


If you haven't already looked at them, Path of War and Spheres of Might both individually do a great job of remedying "stand still and full-attack". Spheres of Might in particular leads to some spectacularly dynamic martial combat when everyone's using it, without breaking the game over its knee.


Derklord wrote:


Ryan Freire wrote:
I think the solution is to just make the vital strike feat chains work the same way they do for the heritor knight.
It's not nearly enough, though - once Haste (or any ohter bonus attacks) get involved, the already exiting gap because just way too big. You would see a bit more standard action based martials, but the overwhelming majority would go on as before.

I'm not sure i agree with this. Different combat styles don't need to actually be roughly equivalent to the bleeding edge best choices. They just need to be "good enough" to feel effective and not be an obvious drain on party effectiveness.

I'm not convinced that the vital strike chain, given some of the newer options out there now, isn't doable as is.

Lets take an example, granted one that is optimized pretty heavily toward this build. defaulting to level 11 because its my baseline for "this build needs to be almost complete and running on all pistons"

Abyssal bloodrager. (auto enlarge at level 4, and large weapon sizes are important for a vital strike build)

Butchers axe. (3d6 damage at medium size, 4d6 when enlarged, 6d6 if you get an impact weapon)

Improved vital strike (all buffed makes it 18d6 base damage dice)

Starting stat 18 +4 from enhancement + 6 from bloodrage +2 from enlarge person +2 from leveling = 32 str or +11 X1.5 damage = +16

Power attack -3 to hit +9 to damage

+1 weapon, yeah its light but a +3 at 11 is right under 25% of total wealth, expecting a +4 is a bit much.

Devastating strike +4 more damage at this level.

So you're looking at roughly +20 to hit, and 18d6+30 damage.

Now, furious finish is 138 damage, flat. Unless its a dragon, you're probably leaving a cr 11 monster at 10-15 hp.

Thats not insignificant and really its not any more feats than just about any other martial style.


So basically, some people think each way is better than the other? Personally, that seems like it’s more or less balanced against itself. I may also make it so Powerful attack users don’t take a penalty to attack, but also can’t make full attacks with Haste and the like.

Thanks!


Dαedαlus wrote:

So basically, some people think each way is better than the other? Personally, that seems like it’s more or less balanced against itself. I may also make it so Powerful attack users don’t take a penalty to attack, but also can’t make full attacks with Haste and the like.

Thanks!

I'm not saying its better, im saying its good enough that built well and planned out you aren't any more of a drain on the party than any melee martial.


Dαedαlus wrote:
So basically, some people think each way is better than the other? Personally, that seems like it’s more or less balanced against itself.

I'm very sure that Syries had an error in his math.

I can simplify the math for you: The basica principles are that A) For most characters, a critical hit is basically as if you hit another time (or twice/thrice for x3/x4 weapons). So critting one attack and missing the second is the same as hitting both. B) The highest base crit chance is 28.5% (18-20 weapon with keen/improved critical and 95% chance to confirm). C) Unless your attack roll bonus is way too high, iterative attacks have a notably lower chance to hit.

Let's say you're making two attacks, using a keen greatsword. The first has a 95% chance to hit, the second has 75% (which means we're wasting 1 of the attack bonus on the first attack, I'm deliberately stacking the deck against my case a bit). The damage of the first attack is unchanged. The second attack using "quick attacks" has 75% chance to hit and a 15% chance to crit, the end result is average damage of 90% times your damage roll (60% chance for single damage, 15% chance for double damage, 25% chance for no damage). Using "powerful attack", the attack has 95% chance to hit (95% chance for single damage, 5% chance for no damage), and even though it can't crit, that's obviously better.

Now, with a 15-20 weapon, "quick attacks" would be slightly ahead, likewise if we're wasting even more attack roll bonus. On the other hand, you shouldn't be over-hitcapped at that point (because Power Attack), and if you aren't, "powerful attacks" is better than even a 15-20 weapon (for pure damage, obviously), dito for anything with non-critable bonus damage.

Remember that all was comparing the situation where the enemy is in full-attack range. It should be fairly obvious that if the two are roughtly even under that circumstance, the way more reliable powerful attacks is vastly ahead overall.

Dαedαlus wrote:
I may also make it so Powerful attack users don’t take a penalty to attack, but also can’t make full attacks with Haste and the like.

That changes things a lot, it does create an actual choice (for many classes at least). In effect, your change would only benefit some classes/builds, everything with bonus attacks (Monk, Brawler, Ninja, Medium, ranged, TWF) would be left out. Classes gaining access to pounce later, e.g. Barbarian, would get to choose between being stronger at mid levels, or at late levels. Haste might lose a lot of value, depending on the martial's choices (and can lead to the weird situation of stopping to profit from Haste when levelling up).

I'll do some more math later, but that should be a relatively balanced approach.


Okay, thanks for the math! That really helps. The idea is to allow for actual variation in combat style. At the moment, the only real viable option is to get lots of attacks, hence why natural attacks are so good, why Pounce is so viable, and why archers dominate. Essentially, you are a good martial if you make a lot of attacks, and the martial classes that are good are the ones that facilitate that the most attacks/round.

What I'm hoping to do with this is to provide another option, one that allows for more variation in attack patterns, and provides a legitimate choice when it comes to tactics. That's the core of any good game, after all, isn't it? That each option provided is essentially balanced and could make a viable build?

Some builds, of course, do want to make lots and lots of attacks, and potentially crit a ton of times. Other builds might want to make the one big attack, but so long as the criteria for success isn't straight "check how many attacks you can make", it's an improvement in my book.

And yes, I do know about Spheres. However, I'm more trying to find a quick, simple way to provide for alternate tactics in combat, rather than a whole new subsystem to teach my players.

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