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Unusual Muse
2012-04-06, 02:22 PM
Initiative: How important is it? While this question arose in context of a build I'm working on, I thought the discussion of it could also be interesting and useful in a more general context as well.

Obviously, certain builds benefit more from (or even rely upon) winning initiative, and people can chime in on the value of a high initiative modifier from either a general perspective, or in terms of its value relative to other boosts in context of categories of builds.

As for my specific situation, I'm trying to weigh the comparative merits of Improved Initiative (+4 init), which is the leading contender (contingent upon the outcome of this thread!), Deft Opportunist (+4 to hit on AoO's), and Backstab (foe you flank who attacks someone else provokes an AoO from you).

The build is a sneaky guisarme-wielding melee flanker with power attack and sneak attack (there are a lot of ACFs involved!), with the feats Shorten Grip, Vexing Flanker, and Adaptable flanker, so there will be a fair amount of AoO's and Sneak Attack damage happening concurrently due to all the flanking going on, both solo via reach+Adaptable Flanker and in teamwork. The build will also involve Improved Combat Reflexes (each time you make an AoO you may make a second at -5), so that plays into the decision. All the feats are set in stone, so it really comes down to trying to decide between the three listed above. I'm strongly inclined to go Improved Init, but since that's a roll you only make 1-3 times per gaming session, it really got me thinking about Initiative.

OK, GO! :smallsmile:

Kansaschaser
2012-04-06, 02:25 PM
I think it all depends on your build. I had a friend that made a Cleric that was focused on healing. Anytime he won initiative, he would hold his actions until later in the round so he could heal anyone that was injured. He prefered rolling low for initiative.

INoKnowNames
2012-04-06, 02:26 PM
I'm not nearly skilled enough to even remotely touch that build, but I will say this: If two people are strong enough to incapacitate/kill eachother instantly, the one that can go first wins. Simple easy to understand logic. And with plenty of builds having people slaughter things with hp 10x their own, it's easy to build someone strong enough to kill. Initiative is the one roll that will -always- be made in combat.

Aharon
2012-04-06, 03:10 PM
While less apparent, winning initiative is also important if you don't get first-turn kills. You're always going first, so effectively, you have one more set of actions to act than your opponent. Where you get one, he might get zero, where you get two, he might only get one, and so on.
The advantage diminishes the longer a fight takes, but it is always there.

Flickerdart
2012-04-06, 03:13 PM
The first turn in a fight is always the easiest - your opponent won't have any short duration buffs up, will possibly be flat-footed, and might not be positioned the way they would like to be. Even if you don't immediately take them out of the fight, they'll be playing catch-up.

Mari01
2012-04-06, 03:28 PM
I saw the words sneak attack and initiative. Anyone who hasn't acted in combat yet is considered flat footed. For all your flanking maneuvers, wining that first round initative can mean you sneak attack AND get to move into a good flanking position.

TroubleBrewing
2012-04-06, 03:29 PM
Going first is the best defense. Hence, the Celerity line.

Keep in mind, however, that devoting all of your resources to going first is a terribad idea: If you don't have anything to do after winning initiative, what's the point?

Cruiser1
2012-04-06, 03:31 PM
Initiative: How important is it?
Winning initiative isn't important in itself. What's important is going first. Sure, the easiest way to go first is to win initiative at the start of combat, but with magic there are other ways to go first (which can allow you to dump initiative if you want):


Celerity: Let your opponent go first, and when he starts his turn cast [Greater] Celerity to interrupt it before he actually does anything, and kill him. This shows the power of Celerity, to offensively effectively steal initiative from your opponent, or to defensively cast yourself if your opponent casts it, to steal initiative back.
Contingency: Contingent spells (such as through a casting of Contingency or through the Craft Contingent Spell feat) can cast spells (such as Celerity) for you for free without even needing to expend an immediate action. Again the important thing isn't initiative, but rather action economy.
Shapechange: Shapechange into a Dire Tortoise (Sandstorm), to get a free surprise round at the start of combat, regardless of whether you're noticed. This is one of the many ways to (ab)use Shapechange.

eggs
2012-04-06, 04:11 PM
Going first is the most important thing. D&D is rocket tag at any level.

Fighting Orcs at level 1, if you land your Color Spray before they can act, they are out of the fight, the party mops them up, you go on with no casualties. If the Orcs win initiative, there's a good chance one of them will land a hit on one of your party members; and if they do, there's a good chance that character will die.

In mid-levels, Initiative is what lets you drop a Black Tentacles or Solid Fog to isolate a target or two (essentially, giving your party control and allowing you to play aggressively) instead of reacting to the opponents' spells, and spending actions just trying to get around the Wall of Stone and summoned monsters that cropped up before you could act.

And at very high levels, going first is the difference between starting Enervated, Disjunctioned and Dimension Anchored inside a Maw of Chaos inside a Prismatic Sphere while being eyed by an Evil Wizard who's Shapechanged into a Balor, and taking that Evil Wizard's place.

There are times when you might want to coordinate and rearrange initiatives within your group (letting the Wizard soak the area in a debuff before running in with your Warblade, etc.), but dropping behind the oppositions' initiative is almost always bad tactics.

EDIT:


Celerity: Let your opponent go first, and when he starts his turn cast [Greater] Celerity to interrupt it before he actually does anything, and kill him. This shows the power of Celerity, to offensively effectively steal initiative from your opponent, or to defensively cast yourself if your opponent casts it, to steal initiative back.
Is there an easy way to get Celerity off while flatfooted?

Answerer
2012-04-06, 04:20 PM
There used to be a arena game here called Test of Spite. It had a very-extensive list of houserules to limit gamebreaking ability (some 83-pages worth when fully compiled, which lead directly to the creation of Legend by those who ran it).

Despite the extensive list of heavily tested houserules, and the fact that the combatants were frequently among the most talented optimizers out there... he who won initiative almost always won the fight.

Make of that what you will.

Unusual Muse
2012-04-06, 04:28 PM
How about looking at things based on roles in the party?

So far most of the illustrations of why winning initiative rocks have to do with casting, so "He who casts first, wins" makes lots of sense. How about for a) tanks, and b) secondary types (rogues, bards, etc.)?

Does it make any sense to "rank" the importance of winning initiative in terms of Casters > Fighters > Support?

Answerer
2012-04-06, 04:30 PM
Well... 3.5 doesn't really do roles very well. There are those who are limited to one thing (almost all of them are physical-based damage-dealers), and those who are not limited (all of whom are casters).

Whatever you're doing, you want to do it first.

Unusual Muse
2012-04-06, 04:33 PM
Well... 3.5 doesn't really do roles very well. There are those who are limited to one thing (almost all of them are physical-based damage-dealers), and those who are not limited (all of whom are casters).

Whatever you're doing, you want to do it first.

Agreed... however, when it comes down to picking what to put in that last feat slot, Improved Init or something else, how do you then weigh that decision?

onemorelurker
2012-04-06, 04:38 PM
Whatever you're doing, you want to do it first.

I think this is true in most cases, but not every case. If you're a mid-to-lop-op melee damage dealer (as in, not generally able to kill CR-appropriate things in one turn), letting your caster buddy lay down some battlefield control or debuffs before you go running into combat probably makes your job a heck of a lot easier.

Malachei
2012-04-06, 04:59 PM
. he who won initiative almost always won the fight.

Make of that what you will.

A quick look at the matches listed in the Test of Spite thread, and it is about 50%.

ericgrau
2012-04-06, 05:03 PM
No one will deny that going before someone else is useful, the question is how much of that are you really getting out of a +4? Assuming an even spread of initiatives from roughly 2 to 22, you're basically getting an extra 1/5th of a round at the very beginning when it matters most. I'd give up an entire round for a +4 or +5, so I'd say it's worth a little bit less than a +1 on whatever you use most. I'd get an extra attack (worth a lot more than +1) or +1 to hit or +1 to spell save DCs first, but after I've done all I can there I'd get improved initiative. Rogues also benefit more than normal because it gives them more flat-footed options for their sneak attack.

In duels it's worth a bit more than 1/5th round for math reasons I won't get into, but most campaigns aren't duels.

Gnaeus
2012-04-06, 05:46 PM
Quote from Optimizer's Guide to Combat


3. Understand the Elements of Combat.

I am sure that there are lots of different ways to phrase these concepts. No doubt someone who has been through military training knows these under different terms. I got my tactical training through chess, and in chess, we learned there are 4 elements. They are Time, Space, Material, and Position.

Position refers to the ability to meet tactical objectives.....

Material is the most obvious element. In chess it refers to having more, or more valuable pieces than your opponent. ....

Space in chess refers to controlling more of the board than your opponent. On the forums, the element of space is usually referred to as Battlefield Control. ....

Time is the last, and probably most important of the elements for optimization purposes. Time in most RPGs is measured in rounds, or some variation thereof, in which every participant gets a certain number of actions (often one). A time advantage is also referred to as an action advantage. There are generally 3 basic ways to secure a time advantage.

1. Actions before combat.
Anything that you would normally do in a fight, that you can do BEFORE it starts, is a huge advantage. When people talk about the brokenness of Divine Metamagic, they are talking about a time advantage. It isnít that it makes the affected spells more powerful, it just keeps them from taking rounds to activate. Summons, buffs, use of potions or items, if it happens before you kick open the door it is much better than after.

2. Initiative
Rocket Tag refers to the phenomenon in some games wherein the first person to hit the enemy wins. This is underscored by the importance initiative has in many arena fights. Simply put, going first gives you an extra action, and as long as turns alternate back and forth and you donít waste a turn, you will always have (on your turn) one more action than the enemy has had so far in that combat. Keeping a high initiative modifier is almost always a good idea.

3. Actions per round
This is HUGE. All else being equal, the guy who goes more often wins, or at least gets away. You have at least 3 different combat strategies, right? How awesome is it to use them all in a round to see which one works? Time Stop, Celerity (spell or vampiric power), Augmented Reflexes. It doesnít matter what they call it. If it lets you take extra turns, GET IT. Items or powers that let you take actions without using up your turn (like swift or immediate actions in 3.5) are almost as good.

So what can we pull away from this? Positional advantages are situational. You have to analyze them as you go. Material advantages are static. You canít usually pick your level or how many PCs are in your group, and the DM will usually adjust for it if you do. Bonus points if you have powers that give you extra guys, but not always possible. Time and Space are the elements you can best optimize for in most games. Go first. Go more often. Maintain control of the combat.

Unusual Muse
2012-04-06, 06:07 PM
No one will deny that going before someone else is useful, the question is how much of that are you really getting out of a +4? Assuming an even spread of initiatives from roughly 2 to 22, you're basically getting an extra 1/5th of a round at the very beginning when it matters most. I'd give up an entire round for a +4 or +5, so I'd say it's worth a little bit less than a +1 on whatever you use most. I'd get an extra attack (worth a lot more than +1) or +1 to hit or +1 to spell save DCs first, but after I've done all I can there I'd get improved initiative. Rogues also benefit more than normal because it gives them more flat-footed options for their sneak attack.

Nicely broken down... thanks!


3. Understand the Elements of Combat.

Never seen that! Great resource.

Great discussion... thanks all! :smallsmile:

Unusual Muse
2012-04-06, 06:09 PM
Quote from Optimizer's Guide to Combat

BTW, can you link that?

Unusual Muse
2012-04-06, 06:25 PM
BTW, can you link that?

Never mind... found it!

http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=157266

EDIT: Failed my spot check at the end of your post; thought it was a sig!:smallredface:

GoodbyeSoberDay
2012-04-06, 06:41 PM
I find that higher-op builds like initiative more, since actions become more and more dangerous in those circumstances. In general it depends on the build. A wizard who can lay down battlefield control and deny enemy actions before they even have a chance to do anything really wants to go first. A charger who can kill foes in one round wants to take as many out as he can before they do any number of things to ruin his shtick. On the other hand, a healbot cleric will probably end up delaying until someone gets hurt anyway, and a low-op meleer actually likes the enemy moving up to him so he can full attack on round 1.

As far as your specific build goes, I'd say it depends on your party's initiative, how fragile you are if you're the only one out there, and how much sneak attack you have. If your party's initiative is high, you don't need to worry as much about being the only one attacking the enemies in melee right as the enemies act. If you're fragile, you'll either end up wasting some high initiatives waiting for allies to enter the fray or you'll end up bloody and on the ground. If you do lots of sneak attack damage, acting first is a great way to murderize an opponent, especially if you got a surprise round as well.

Unusual Muse
2012-04-06, 07:14 PM
As far as your specific build goes, I'd say it depends on your party's initiative, how fragile you are if you're the only one out there, and how much sneak attack you have. If your party's initiative is high, you don't need to worry as much about being the only one attacking the enemies in melee right as the enemies act. If you're fragile, you'll either end up wasting some high initiatives waiting for allies to enter the fray or you'll end up bloody and on the ground. If you do lots of sneak attack damage, acting first is a great way to murderize an opponent, especially if you got a surprise round as well.

Not fragile... full BAB and fighter HP for levels 1-5. Sneak attack damage is not huge (1d6 until level 6), but Craven and Power Attack will also be in effect so additional damage will be respectable, and with flanking (solo via Adaptable Flanker or with allies) it will be triggered often.

EDIT: I should add, there are two other melee guys in the party, one a reach tripper and one a monk tripper.

Sutremaine
2012-04-06, 08:47 PM
mid-to-lop-op melee damage dealer (as in, not generally able to kill CR-appropriate things in one turn)
Is that the optimisation standard these days? I would think that if you can kill it in one turn, either it isn't a CR-appropriate encounter or CR is so broken that it shouldn't be used as a reference point.

If it can kill you in one turn, it's not a fair fight. If it can't one-shot you but you can one-shot it, that's not a fair fight either.

Gnaeus
2012-04-06, 08:53 PM
I would think that if you can kill it in one turn, either it isn't a CR-appropriate encounter or CR is so broken that it shouldn't be used as a reference point.

Bolded for agreement


If it can kill you in one turn, it's not a fair fight.

Why not? If either one of you can kill the other in one turn, thats the definition of a fair fight. Maybe not a fun game....

Sutremaine
2012-04-06, 09:37 PM
More the second than the first, yes. Each individual battle is technically fair, since the modifiers work equally for all combatants, but it's not much fun when the player needs to win every one of these checks and the DM only needs to win one. Probably not very fair when you consider the game as a whole, given that the odds are against the players and decided by cold hard dice rolls. At least when you're doing Diplomacy the DM still has control over what happens at each level of friendliness.

TroubleBrewing
2012-04-07, 03:53 AM
EDIT:Is there an easy way to get Celerity off while flatfooted?

This came up a while ago, and has gone unanswered AFAICT.

The usual way is to Shapechange into a Dire Tortoise, unless I'm mistaken.

Hirax
2012-04-07, 04:00 AM
If you can get shapechange to last all day then you can probably have foresight active all day too, if not both. I was thinking about it the other day, even though it doesn't say it explicitly, it seems like foresight would also make you always act in the surprise round, if there is one. That makes dire tortoise redundant, meaning you can be a chronotyryn instead, and get 2 creature's worth of actions in the surprise round.

Gavinfoxx
2012-04-07, 04:06 AM
How does a Wizard get spells with a verbal component off as a Dire Tortoise?

Malachei
2012-04-07, 04:31 AM
As for my specific situation, I'm trying to weigh the comparative merits of Improved Initiative (+4 init), which is the leading contender (contingent upon the outcome of this thread!), Deft Opportunist (+4 to hit on AoO's), and Backstab (foe you flank who attacks someone else provokes an AoO from you).

The build is a sneaky guisarme-wielding melee flanker with power attack and sneak attack (there are a lot of ACFs involved!), with the feats Shorten Grip, Vexing Flanker, and Adaptable flanker, so there will be a fair amount of AoO's and Sneak Attack damage happening concurrently due to all the flanking going on, both solo via reach+Adaptable Flanker and in teamwork. The build will also involve Improved Combat Reflexes (each time you make an AoO you may make a second at -5), so that plays into the decision. All the feats are set in stone, so it really comes down to trying to decide between the three listed above. I'm strongly inclined to go Improved Init, but since that's a roll you only make 1-3 times per gaming session, it really got me thinking about Initiative.

OK, GO! :smallsmile:

Reagrding your situation, as your build (and AoO builds in general) is feat-intense, I'd go for Deft Opportunist. It is a wonderful feat, and nicely supports any method of AoO generation you might have (Reach) or pick up (Thicket of Blades, Karmic Strike, Robilar's Gambit).

Addressing the above posts: If reliably winning initiative is about an extra action, then a reliable method of generating AoOs is about getting multiple extra actions, possibly each round.

Fearan
2012-04-07, 04:39 AM
This came up a while ago, and has gone unanswered AFAICT.

The usual way is to Shapechange into a Dire Tortoise, unless I'm mistaken.

You also have foresight, but both ways include 9th lvl spells

Oh, ninja-d.

TroubleBrewing
2012-04-07, 05:29 AM
How does a Wizard get spells with a verbal component off as a Dire Tortoise?

The 600gp Pearl of Speech.

If a Wizard with access to 9th level spells can't eat 600gp a day, he's doing it wrong.

tyckspoon
2012-04-07, 12:39 PM
The 600gp Pearl of Speech.

If a Wizard with access to 9th level spells can't eat 600gp a day, he's doing it wrong.

Or just turn back into a casting-capable form once you've secured your initiative advantage; Shapechange lets you do it 1/turn as a free action.

Zaq
2012-04-07, 01:44 PM
In practical terms, it basically depends on what you can do after you've won initiative.

If you can prevent the enemy from taking an action they otherwise would have taken, winning initiative should be a high priority for you. You might accomplish this by using hard lockdown (e.g., Solid Fog), by outright killing them, by heavily debuffing them (e.g., Glitterdust), or by parking a lockdown-style melee dude (with some really threatening AoOs, for instance) in their grills, just as a few examples. In a case like that, it's often worth it to invest in initiative as much as you can.

If you're just a beatstick, but you're not at the point where you can pulp an enemy per round (either because you're not sufficiently optimized, because you're too low level, or because you're just choosing to hold back because that's the kind of campaign you're in), initiative can be a good thing or a bad thing. If you're trying to make yourself a big target (and play "the tank," insofar as 3.5 makes that possible), going first and taking a massive chunk out of an enemy is a good way of encouraging the enemies to focus their actions on you. If, on the other hand, you're meant to be a skirmishing kind of guy who can't really take a punch, unless you have a way to get out of Dodge, you might not want to draw attention to yourself immediately unless you're SURE that your allies can back you up before too much of Team Monster gets to beat on you.

Yes, this does put the Rogue in a sticky spotóhe wants to go first to get SA, but if he's not enough of a blender to neutralize the threats immediately, going first makes him a target. For this reason, I think many Rogues would do well to encourage their parties to also boost initiative.

Targeting also comes into play. If you like using big AoE powers that don't discriminate between friend and foe, initiative is critical for you. The fact that a lot of these abilities are nice lockdown spells (Solid Fog, Glitterdust, Web, Black Tentacles, Entangle, and so on) should illustrate just how important it is for most magely-types to pump initiative. Even if you're that most scorned of mages, the blaster, you still don't want to catch your buddies in that Fireball, and that's easier to do before melee engages. That said, if you're using friendly AoE effects (or if your allies can ignore your effects somehow), whether you need to go first depends on your GM. Some GMs start with monsters clumped up and have them spread out, while some start with them more spread out and end up clumping them together once melee starts. Some don't do either. The point is that you have to know your GM to know if you'll catch more of Team Monster in your bursts before or after they've had a chance to position themselves.

On a similar targeting note, if you like charging, you want to go ASAP, since either your allies OR your enemies might ruin your charge if they go first. If the enemy gets too close to you, you can't charge, and if your ally moves to engage your enemy and blocks your precious straight line, you also can't charge.

Buffers, of course, benefit from going before their allies, but if they're strictly buffers, they don't care whether they go before their enemies. In other words, if your idea of a good time is to sling around Hastes and Inspire Courages and Righteous Wraths of the Faithful and whatever, you'll need to optimize your initiative if your allies are speed demons, but you can probably just pay it a bit of lip service if they're all content to just roll 1d20 + DEX. Obviously, going sooner is better pretty much no matter what (if nothing else, it lets you delay and CHOOSE to go exactly when you want), but since you've got limited build resources, it's a matter of when it's the best use of your feats/gold/etc. compared to everything else.

If you're intentionally playing a combat healer, you probably don't care THAT much about initiative, but once again, rolling well will at least let you choose when to go. Of course, playing a combat healer isn't the greatest idea out there in the first place, but there you go.

Interestingly, if you're in a low/mid-op campaign (where neither Team Monster nor Team Hero is likely to squish the other in a single round) and you're playing a melee dude, you just might want to let your opponents go first. If you go first and come to them, you'll have to close the distance, meaning that you're either pouncing (which you might not have, in a low-op campaign) or making a single swing, while they get to immediately return with a full attack. However, if they come to you, the reverse is true. In a higher-op campaign where either of you can likely pulp the other immediately, you want to make sure they don't get even a single swing in that you can prevent, but if you're likely to be able to take a punch or two without putting yourself in immediate reach of Ė10, you might let the enemies do the movement for you while you just focus on full attacks. Not a strategy that's appropriate for every game, and it does rely on you being tough enough to take whatever they can dish out (and initially positioned such that they want to get in melee with YOU, not anyone else, even before you've attacked and proven to be a threat), but it's there.

Gnaeus
2012-04-07, 01:53 PM
If you're just a beatstick, but you're not at the point where you can pulp an enemy per round (either because you're not sufficiently optimized, because you're too low level, or because you're just choosing to hold back because that's the kind of campaign you're in), initiative can be a good thing or a bad thing.

If you're intentionally playing a combat healer, you probably don't care THAT much about initiative, but once again, rolling well will at least let you choose when to go. Of course, playing a combat healer isn't the greatest idea out there in the first place, but there you go.


Going first is NEVER a bad thing. Never.

If you are a beatstick and you don't want to attack yet, you use your initiative to drink a potion. If you are too low level to have cheap potions, you ready an action to hit an approaching enemy, which is still better than just being last in initiative.

Unless your combat healer is actually a Healer (the class) you can use your initiative to toss out a defensive buff which will save you heals later on.

Curmudgeon
2012-04-07, 02:15 PM
I saw the words sneak attack and initiative. Anyone who hasn't acted in combat yet is considered flat footed. For all your flanking maneuvers, wining that first round initative can mean you sneak attack AND get to move into a good flanking position.
I don't see the appeal of going first if you want to get into a flanking position. You won't be able to sneak attack if you get there first, so waiting until after your flanking buddy moves is always better.

There are two important things if you want to exercise sneak attack.

Not be surprised, so you'll be able to attack in the surprise round. Maximize those perception skills!
Use a missile weapon. You'll be able to attack for a full round of sneak attacks against any enemy within 30' who hasn't acted yet. With DEX being an important skill for Rogues, someone will have worse initiative. Squandering sneak attack opportunities and moving into melee position instead is just a ridiculously bad waste of the class's main strength.


Going first is NEVER a bad thing. Never.
With flanking to enable sneak attack? Going first (before your flanking buddy moves into position) is always a bad thing. Improved Initiative means you'll just exercise the Delay option frequently.

Zaq
2012-04-07, 02:16 PM
Going first is NEVER a bad thing. Never.

If you are a beatstick and you don't want to attack yet, you use your initiative to drink a potion. If you are too low level to have cheap potions, you ready an action to hit an approaching enemy, which is still better than just being last in initiative.

Unless your combat healer is actually a Healer (the class) you can use your initiative to toss out a defensive buff which will save you heals later on.

It's not a matter of going first being actively disadvantageous. It's a matter of resources invested in your initiative being better invested elsewhere, because your chosen strategy gains proportionally less from it than from what you might buy with those resources instead.

Everyone wants a high initiative. Not everyone can afford to invest in a high initiative.

(And there IS a capital-H Healer in my current group, so I'm referring either to a capital-H Healer, or to a low-op character who actually thinks that combat healing is fun.)

Gnaeus
2012-04-07, 03:10 PM
It's not a matter of going first being actively disadvantageous. It's a matter of resources invested in your initiative being better invested elsewhere, because your chosen strategy gains proportionally less from it than from what you might buy with those resources instead.

Everyone wants a high initiative. Not everyone can afford to invest in a high initiative.

There is opportunity cost, sure. But you can get a decent initiative pretty cheaply. A wand of Sign (for anyone with a level of cleric or UMD) is super cheap. A belt of battle is expensive, but its +2 initiative bonus is really just a side bonus to the rest of its awesome, likewise with bracers of Blinding strike. A +2 dex item helps most characters by way of AC and reflex saves. A single feat can give either +4, or +1 or more to the entire party (draconic Aura). A wand or eternal wand of heroics will take the place of improved initiative feat. A +1 warning weapon is also an option. So for 6-10k, anyone can get a pretty good initiative. Thats a great deal.


(And there IS a capital-H Healer in my current group, so I'm referring either to a capital-H Healer, or to a low-op character who actually thinks that combat healing is fun.)

A Low-op character who thinks combat healing is fun can still have a buff spell to cast before he has a chance to heal anyone. Most low op healers do have buff spells on their lists. A Cleric or Druid who can ONLY heal is so aggressively anti-optimization that a discussion about whether initiative is good or bad is kind of irrelevant.

Even a capital H healer, while 3 steps behind from the start, is not without options. He could, for example, throw a tanglefoot bag at a nearby enemy, thereby helping his party tank. As a class with a secondary need for charisma, he could pump UMD (even if it isn't a class skill) and use a cheap wand. He could cast sanctuary, or drink a potion of invisibility, so that he can more easily help his friends later. He can make a diplomacy check (at a high penalty) and try to head off the fight. Anyone who is just standing around waiting for someone to be hurt gets no sympathy from me at any optimization level.



With flanking to enable sneak attack? Going first (before your flanking buddy moves into position) is always a bad thing. Improved Initiative means you'll just exercise the Delay option frequently.

You know better than that curmudgeon. If it is optimal for a rogue to move to flank AFTER his flanking buddy moves in, then the rogue who goes first has an extra round to UMD a buff wand (conveniently located in a wand chamber in his weapon). And of course, he is just as likely to be able to deliver sneak attack without a flanking buddy if he goes first in the first round of combat.

Curmudgeon
2012-04-07, 04:35 PM
You know better than that curmudgeon. If it is optimal for a rogue to move to flank AFTER his flanking buddy moves in, then the rogue who goes first has an extra round to UMD a buff wand (conveniently located in a wand chamber in his weapon).
Spending a round triggering a wand (or anything else which isn't attacking and dealing sneak attack damage) while enemies are still flat-footed is ineffective, so clearly I don't "know better".

And of course, he is just as likely to be able to deliver sneak attack without a flanking buddy if he goes first in the first round of combat.
With a missile weapon the Rogue typically has multiple foes who haven't acted yet to choose among in the first round of combat. A higher initiative may give a small statistical increase to that number (i.e., occasionally all enemies within sneak attack distance will have acted before the Rogue's turn comes around). Excepting special circumstances (where enemies get within 5' in the surprise round, or flanking is required to deliver sneak attack damage as with Lightbringer Penetrating Strike), switching to melee combat should be reserved for the second regular round of combat. The cost (a precious feat) of Improved Initiative for that small statistical improvement is not worthwhile for a Rogue.

Unusual Muse
2012-04-07, 06:03 PM
I don't see the appeal of going first if you want to get into a flanking position. You won't be able to sneak attack if you get there first, so waiting until after your flanking buddy moves is always better.

Ordinarily yes, but in this case Adaptable Flanker + reach weapon lets me get flanking solo as long as I'm adjacent, and thus sneak attack. :smallsmile:

Curmudgeon
2012-04-07, 06:48 PM
Ordinarily yes, but in this case Adaptable Flanker + reach weapon lets me get flanking solo as long as I'm adjacent, and thus sneak attack. :smallsmile:
I'm afraid it really doesn't; you can't qualify for flanking by yourself. From the definition (http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/glossary&term=Glossary_dnd_flank&alpha=F):
flank

To be directly on the other side of a character who is being threatened by another character. A flanking attacker gains a +2 flanking bonus on attack rolls against the defender. A rogue can sneak attack a defender that she is flanking. No matter how many spaces you qualify as occupying, you're still never another character than yourself.

MukkTB
2012-04-07, 06:58 PM
Going first is ALWAYS better. There is no disadvantage to winning initiative (Just say that your character waits if you really don't want to do anything.) and many advantages. Now is the feat improved initiative worth taking? My take is this.

#1 Never take improved initiative if it delays your build from 'coming online.' Take improved initiative after you come online or when you have an extra feat that isn't required to come online. Being able to do something useful is the most important thing. Going first just so you can pick your nose sucks.

#2 Improved initiative is more important at lower levels. If you can celerity from dire tortoise form improved initiative is useless. If your enemies can do that thing improved initiative is useless. A bunch of magic items will make that +4 seem pretty flimsy. Ect. On the other hand low levels have very few ways to buff or grab initiative.

#3 Spot/Listen/Perception >>> Initiative. If you don't see the enemy coming initiative is useless. You get to sit there stupidly in the surprise round and get hammered. You have to be able to make the check to know there is going to be a fight. You have to be able to see through invisibility or other deceptions before worrying about winning initiative.

#4 If you're being swarmed its hard to win initiative. 10 bad guys all rolling their own initiative can be a pain. If you want to fireball the whole group you have to beat every single one of them on initiative. Improved initiative on its own wont guarantee that. However the DM is going to set up 10 to 1 odds only if the 10 guys are weak or he wants you dead. When you're swarmed by weak enemies its better to be tougher and stronger than they are than trying to be faster. A little more ac may mean that most of them miss. A little more speed probably means that you get to go before 1 or 2 of them.
#4a If you're fighting a single unsupported boss monster its better to go first. Rocket tag and all that.

Gnaeus
2012-04-07, 06:58 PM
Spending a round triggering a wand (or anything else which isn't attacking and dealing sneak attack damage) while enemies are still flat-footed is ineffective, so clearly I don't "know better".

With a missile weapon the Rogue typically has multiple foes who haven't acted yet to choose among in the first round of combat. A higher initiative may give a small statistical increase to that number (i.e., occasionally all enemies within sneak attack distance will have acted before the Rogue's turn comes around). Excepting special circumstances (where enemies get within 5' in the surprise round, or flanking is required to deliver sneak attack damage as with Lightbringer Penetrating Strike), switching to melee combat should be reserved for the second regular round of combat. The cost (a precious feat) of Improved Initiative for that small statistical improvement is not worthwhile for a Rogue.

:smallfrown:

You can't have it both ways. If the enemies are flat footed, and you can sneak attack, you are better going first so you can sneak attack them.

If the enemies aren't flat footed, (like because they had a surprise round or uncanny dodge), and you need to move and attack after your friend, then you are STILL better off going first, because you can use that action self buffing, then go after your friend goes at the top of the next round's order.

Either way, not wanting to have the better initiative is a losing proposition.

And as mentioned, the cost of improved initiative is not a "Precious feat" it is at most the cost of an eternal wand of Heroics.

Curmudgeon
2012-04-07, 08:00 PM
If the enemies are flat footed, and you can sneak attack, you are better going first so you can sneak attack them.
That doesn't follow. If some enemies are flat-footed, you attack those who haven't acted yet with your bow. Going a bit earlier might give you higher initiative than 1-2 additional enemies, but you'll rarely have lower initiative than all of the enemies. Improved Initiative gives you +4, but the d20 roll will vary initiative by up to 19 counts so the feat is no guarantee of going first. It does guarantee you didn't get to pick a more useful feat. :smallannoyed: The same goes for magic items that boost initiative: buying them guarantees you didn't get to purchase other items that are helpful consistently rather than just sometimes.

If the enemies aren't flat footed, (like because they had a surprise round or uncanny dodge), and you need to move and attack after your friend, then you are STILL better off going first, because you can use that action self buffing, then go after your friend goes at the top of the next round's order.
If you're surprised and all the enemies aren't, it's probably your fault for not maximizing your Spot and/or Listen skills, and maybe for not keeping away from your noisy companions and using Move Silently. Uncanny Dodge doesn't keep enemies from being flat-footed ─ and since there's no way to detect that class feature, it can't affect your decisions. But the real problem with your suggestion is that waiting a full round to get into flanking position leaves all your enemies a full round to act, while going as soon as possible after your ally gets into flanking position means that one enemy will be removed from the enemy ranks sooner. Remember, an enemy with just a few HP attacks just as well as an uninjured foe.

Phaederkiel
2012-04-08, 09:58 AM
now this is a very interesting thread...

I have some ideas, on which I will write something further down, but first:

@unusual muse: could you provide some more information on the character?

from what you have written,I assume you are a human lvl 5 fighter, lvl 1 rogue. I assume your feats are:

Power attack
combat reflexes
adabtable flanker
vexing flanker
Shorten Grip (which i did not find)
craven

and the one you have not chosen yet.


Am i right? I hope that you put the rogue level first for the boni, and you can probably skip the fifth fighter lvl, which really doesnt do anything except giving bab, but the rest is right, yes?

So i want to ask: what is your dex? what is your power? what the heck is shorten grip?


then I want to ask everybody: Is he adjacent to an enemy even with an reach weapon?



now, on to your feats: All three are good, without a doubt. Winning ini is always nice, but i have to go with malachei and MukkTB here: it is not as important as having a working character. I have a character in a game right now whose ini is -3, and she rocks hard. Ini is quite easily pumped, too.

There is, alas, the question if you have some combat modes (like combat expertise, or karmic strike, or robilars, or such). If you have to switch them on each combat, Ini becomes much more important.


Now, to evaluate the other two feats: Deft opportunist is golden. I have seen it in play, used by the aforementioned ini -3 karmic striker, and she never ever misses AoOs. But you will have any enemy you AoO on at -4 Ac already by the flank. so while it is good, it is not as vital as it might be for other builds.

Backstab is difficult to judge. How often are enemies going to atack someone else than you? you know your party and your dm, only you can answer that.
If they don't attack other guys regularly, this is a worthless feat. If you have a meatshield in front of you and he soaks up while you strike back, it is quite great.

The other question is again: how high is your dex? It is limiting the amount of AoOs you can take. By my experience, a normal AoObased Char has a Dex between 14 and 16, can therefore AoO 3 to 4 times per round. If you have less, or already a heap of enablers, another AoOenabler might be not that useful.


Alltogether, I think Hitting once more per round is probabyl a little better than striking everytime with plus 4 (with a difference between 9 and 13 on ecl6), so I'd go with Backstab. and take Deft opportunist at the next fighter level, if you want to go that route. Imp ini I would try to get later via items.

Malachei
2012-04-08, 11:20 AM
what the heck is shorten grip?

A feat from Dragon Compendium that let's you use a reach weapon against adjacent opponents. I'm not sure if it is 3.0 or 3.5.

Similar, in general, to Short Haft (but requires no action).


I'm playing a Karmic Striker with Deft Opportunist and Combat Reflexes (negating Karmic's AC issue), and it is just wonderful. Adding Robilar's makes it even better.

Of course, there is Jack B Quick, doing it with two weapons, including Double Hit and High Sword, Low Axe for free trips.

Phaederkiel
2012-04-08, 11:26 AM
yes, the knight in my campaign does that, too...

but since he is a flanker rather than a counterstriker, I think that backstab could take priority over opportunist. Not by a wide margin, but still.

Malachei
2012-04-08, 11:33 AM
Some counterstriking can be a good way to question whether you spend too much on trying to go first.

In a way, being or facing a counterstriker alleviates the importance of going first somewhat (for melee, of course).

Riverdance
2012-04-08, 05:37 PM
Winning initiative isn't important in itself. What's important is going first. Sure, the easiest way to go first is to win initiative at the start of combat, but with magic there are other ways to go first (which can allow you to dump initiative if you want):


Celerity: Let your opponent go first, and when he starts his turn cast [Greater] Celerity to interrupt it before he actually does anything, and kill him. This shows the power of Celerity, to offensively effectively steal initiative from your opponent, or to defensively cast yourself if your opponent casts it, to steal initiative back.
Contingency: Contingent spells (such as through a casting of Contingency or through the Craft Contingent Spell feat) can cast spells (such as Celerity) for you for free without even needing to expend an immediate action. Again the important thing isn't initiative, but rather action economy.
Shapechange: Shapechange into a Dire Tortoise (Sandstorm), to get a free surprise round at the start of combat, regardless of whether you're noticed. This is one of the many ways to (ab)use Shapechange.


I have had entire combats ended before they began by a smug celerity-wielding wizard more times than I can remember.

brujon
2012-04-08, 05:57 PM
Let's just say there's a reason why they call high level D&D rocket tag... He who goes first gets to shoot their rockets first. And since high level D&D has so many rockets with no chance of failure... But in every case, surprise is one of the major elements of any warfare, even single combat, in fantasy and otherwise. If you can get even a single action before your opponent, you can ready a lance against a charge, or you can get a protection from fire effect against a red dragon, or shut down one opponent, or turn tail and flee... In the myriad of variables that determine who lives and who dies, going first is the first and foremost of those variables. By it's very definition, it's the first thing that happens, and it influences everything from that point onwards. In D&D especially, 5% chance is the difference between a failed save and a successful save, it's the difference between life or death. So even if you get a single buff on, it means you're ahead. D&D is a game of action economy... Getting one action more, means you're ahead by that much. Initiative is one of those things, dual actions are another, Turn Undead Swift Action abuse with RKV another, then there's Haste to get another attack, and the 3.0 haste Swiftblade gets to get another Standard Action, or the burning of inspiration points of the Factotum to get more standard actions, Genesis time trait abuse to multiply subjective time and get 10x worth of actions, or the reason the Planar Shepard is the most broken Druid PRC (The Planar Bubble effect with Quor, getting more actions)...

If you will, review all the broken combo's and see what they have in common - all of them involve cramming the most in the fewest actions. The most damage, the most number of actions, the most effect out of a single spell... Initiative is the reason why Heavy Armor is frowned upon in CharOP - Dex is better, unless you can cram enough special materials/enchantment to make the armor have a high enough Max Dex Bonus. Initiative is the reason why you always have to have a Wand of Nerveskitter, the reason why you need to have Eager & Warning armor spikes, and an Eager & Warning shield spike, and an Eager & Warning Dagger. It's the reason why Celerity is a staple of CharOP, and the reason why Immunity to Daze is so important. It's also the reason why Stunning/Dazing/Cowering/Panicking/Immobilizing an opponent is so devastating - it means they are losing actions. It's the reason why if you can get them, Action Points are very good, and one of the reasons why the Familiar and Animal Companion and Leadership are such powerful feats/class features, and why White Raven CAN'T be neglected as a discipline in ToB, the reason why Zombies suck ass, etc....

There are hundreds of reasons why, but this is known to CharOP since the dawn of time in D&D - You HAVE to try and go first. If you can, you need to try and get the SURPRISE ROUND too. If you have more actions, it's MUCH more likely that you will win. Initiative gives you that. It gives you much more than that. It gives you a WHOLE TURNS ADVANTAGE.

unundindur
2012-04-08, 06:16 PM
This came up a while ago, and has gone unanswered AFAICT.

The usual way is to Shapechange into a Dire Tortoise, unless I'm mistaken.

Why was that unanswered? As far as I can read from Contingency "The conditions needed to bring the spell into effect must be clear, although they can be general." (Source: SRD)

As far as i can see "When caught flat-footed" must be the very definition of a clear condition. :smallsmile:

Sutremaine
2012-04-08, 06:34 PM
I think it'd be hilarious if a particular game got to the point where PCs and enemies alike all had Improved Initiative and the same items with the same Initiative-boosting enchantments, ultimately doing nothing but wasting feats and gold for all involved.

Arbane
2012-04-08, 11:45 PM
I think it'd be hilarious if a particular game got to the point where PCs and enemies alike all had Improved Initiative and the same items with the same Initiative-boosting enchantments, ultimately doing nothing but wasting feats and gold for all involved.

This is the very definition of an arms race.

Phaederkiel
2012-04-09, 06:46 AM
Dear Brujon,

your list has a really high percentage of Stuff That No Sane Dm Allows.
It starts with celerity banned in most games, goes on with the fact that wands RAW, are activated as a standard, which makes nerveskitterwands totally ineffective, and ends beautifully with the planar sheperd.

A far as I know, Punpun is very strong. Still, you will hopefully never be pitted against one.

Not everyone wants to break the game, some want to play it.


and to top it off:
What part of Lvl6 fighter/rogue is


high level D&D

to you?

I am pretty sure that the op could easily play a wizard with dragon magazine feats, he chose not to. He chose a fighter. So for his gaming culture, most of this "rocket tag with rockets that never miss" seems not to apply.

For your gaming culture and powerlevel, and chosen lvl to play on, all you said might be correct. For his? I rather doubt it.

Elric VIII
2012-04-09, 07:00 AM
It starts with celerity banned in most games, goes on with the fact that wands RAW, are activated as a standard, which makes nerveskitterwands totally ineffective...

This is actually wrong. As per the Rules Compendium, wands use the casting time of the spell contained within.

Malachei
2012-04-09, 07:04 AM
This is the very definition of an arms race.

Yes. Theoretical optimization, especially when coming in the disguise of Practical Optimization, bores me.

Especially since most problems are repeated every few weeks, with all the same or different posters throwing in their special buzzword (pun-pun, or whatever else the favorite may be).

Those looking for really optimized builds will hopefully be able to conduct a search with their favorite search engine.

DarkEternal
2012-04-09, 07:11 AM
For casters, it's pretty important. I managed to get my initiative pretty high up with my Malconvoker-sorcerer by getting Sandals of the Vagabond(+2 to Initiative), Dexterity is 14(another 2), and Primal Instinict, a spell from..,.I think it's Races of the Dragon, which gives you +5 to Initiative for 24 hours. So, that's +9 to Initiative without wasting feats on Improved Initiative and that is pretty good for me.

Gnaeus
2012-04-09, 09:45 AM
That doesn't follow. If some enemies are flat-footed, you attack those who haven't acted yet with your bow. Going a bit earlier might give you higher initiative than 1-2 additional enemies, but you'll rarely have lower initiative than all of the enemies. Improved Initiative gives you +4, but the d20 roll will vary initiative by up to 19 counts so the feat is no guarantee of going first. It does guarantee you didn't get to pick a more useful feat. ..

This assumes that you fight big groups of enemies most of the time, and that they all roll separate initiative. Both assumptions are usually false in my experience. Most of the DMs I have played with have a reasonable percent of encounters with one or two large enemies. So you either go first, or you don't. Even in larger fights, It is a pretty common practice to roll groups of enemies with the same initiative to make the DM's job easier. The scenario you invision is the exception, not a typical fight.



The same goes for magic items that boost initiative: buying them guarantees you didn't get to purchase other items that are helpful consistently rather than just sometimes..

Yeah. Items like a Belt of Battle, Bracers of Blinding Strike, + Dex item or a wand of Heroics. Useless junk. Heck, people won't even buy a Belt of Battle, because it is so worthless. I just have to throw them in the trash. Or a wand of Sign or Quickskitter that costs 750 gp (or much less, partially charged), for a chance at an extra action in a combat.


Uncanny Dodge doesn't keep enemies from being flat-footed ─ and since there's no way to detect that class feature, it can't affect your decisions. .

Your nit-picking isn't helpful. It does do what I said it does, which is to prevent sneak attack from going first. And your second suggestion is inane. If you watch enemy barbarians rage, or you are attacking a rogues guild, you may not be able to detect their uncanny dodge, but you can feel pretty confident that they have it.


But the real problem with your suggestion is that waiting a full round to get into flanking position leaves all your enemies a full round to act, while going as soon as possible after your ally gets into flanking position means that one enemy will be removed from the enemy ranks sooner. Remember, an enemy with just a few HP attacks just as well as an uninjured foe.

And the real problem with your suggestion is your false belief that not having a good initiative is the best way to ensure that you go exactly when you want to go. In fact, the opposite is true.

If I understand your argument, you are saying that you may not want to go first, because you may need your flanking buddy. And you may not want to go last, you want to go exactly in the middle, and that having a high initiative makes you delay.

If you want to go as soon as possible after your ally goes, THE WAY TO MAKE THAT HAPPEN IS TO GO FIRST, then delay. Having a crummy initiative does not guarantee that you can go when you want. Having a crummy initiative makes it less likely that you will catch enemies flat-footed. Having a good initiative DOES guarantee that you can go when you want. Having a good initiative DOES make it more likely that you can catch enemies flat footed.

brujon
2012-04-09, 11:13 AM
I didn't post anything a "sane" DM wouldn't allow. Turn Undead for Swift Actions is a class feature of the RKV, Standard Action generation with Inspiration Point is ditto for Factotum, enchanting of armor spikes too. Wand chamber for Wands of Nerveskitter is basic. None of the suggestions involved anything more than practical optimization, maybe excepting the genesis time trait abuse. And my post illustrates beautifully why casters are strictly superior to meleers. They win action economy. OP's question is about how important initiative is, and i addressed it in my post. The problem is when some of the players know their rulebooks and actually use all that is given them, and some don't, and that creates a disparity in the level of power of the players in a given table. Of course you don't need to always create the most optimal builds, otherwise you'd just end up playing a Wizard/Cleric/Druid/Archivist/Psion every game... But the guidelines to basic character optimization dictates that action economy is the first and foremost concern you need to address. If your character always go in last, then it's much more likely that by the time your character gets to act he's either dead, his teammates resolved the encounter, or you got hit by something nasty that prevents you from acting or hampers your ability to act.

I think everyone here that has played sometime has encountered themselves in that situation... You roll bad initiative, the bad guy goes first and hits you with a Hold Person, and you just sit there and watch your teammates resolve everything while you struggle with the dice trying to pass that will save... That's *not* fun. But it *is* fun when it's YOU that go first and hit that bad guy with the Hold Person and then HE gets to just sit and take the punishment, and you can go on adventuring with MINIMAL resource expenditure... That's what i meant by rocket tag.

This exists in all of the level ranges in D&D... Even Meleer's get Grapple, which is an encounter ending if you can build to make it viable. You have hold person, glitterdust, sleep, entangle, Blindness/Deafness, etc... for casters. Rogues get that massive Sneak Attack that if they can land in the surprise round, and then again in the first turn, will more than likely drop the Bad Guy.

Just bear with me, what would happen if the DM pitted you against a Hydra, a CR 4, 5 headed one, for starters, and the Hydra got to go first and dropped 5 attacks in? Every one is 1d10 + 3 damage... The potential for a teammate dropped in the first attack is there. It's a staple, CORE monster... Your best defense against that onslaught is getting the DROP on the Hydra. This is a feasible threat for the OP's 6th level fighter...

High AC, High Saves, etc... They are all there as a second line of defense, for when you don't get to drop the baddie before he gets a pass at you. If you can get the drop on the baddie and end him before he gets a pass at you, then you don't really need High AC or High Saves. By the way, the Hydra is an example of why Action Economy is really powerful - They get multiple attacks in as a Standard Action. So they can charge you and get 5 attacks in, and every AOO makes it attack 5 times again. PC's would kill for that ability... And Wizards can *polymorph* into one.

There are many monsters that are a bigger threat than a hydra, and a bigger threat at lower levels, too. A sadistic DM can cherry pick under CR'd monsters and bully the party, getting things such as Shadows, Aboleths and what not. Initiative is so good in that it protects you against everything, in a way that Saves and AC can never hope to achieve, and simply because it gets you a headstart on the action economy. You can always choose to flee if you go first, but you don't always have that option if you go in last.

Unusual Muse
2012-04-09, 12:36 PM
For those interested in the specific situation that gave rise to the larger question, here's a little more about the current build I'm working on. The idea was to make a melee character that could also provide the "stealth factor" for the party, since they didn't have a rogue or a tank. For fun I decided to try to use as many ACFs as possible, with goals being to have the character be as playable as possible at all levels and to make it as "DM-friendly" as possible in terms of trying to avoid abilities or tactics that have questionable interpretations (Curmudgeon made a point about Adaptable Flanker that may de-optimize the build for solo situations, but I'll have to discuss that with my group).

Mechanics-wise, in my game the following are banned: psionics, Duskblade, classes from ToB and ToM, skill tricks, any feat or spell that lets you crit/SA things immune to them, and anything from OA that is not explicitly Chinese (i.e., no ninjas, alas!). The campaign is set in Mystara, BTW. :smallsmile:

The following ACFs were used in the build:

RANGER ACFs:
Arcane Hunter = Arcanists as favored enemy; any creature capable of casting arcane spells or invocations.
Skilled City Dweller = trade ride with tumble as class skill
Trap Expert = trade track for trapfinding
Spiritual Connection = Speak w/ Animals or Speak w/ Plants, CL= ranger lvl, 3x/day
Solitary Hunter = Favored Enemy bonus applies to both attacks and damage
Strongarm Combat Style = Power Attack instead of Rapid Shot
FIGHTER ACFs:
Hit-and-Run = Can't have heavy armor or tower shield prof; +2 to init; add DEX mod to damage vs. flat-footed opponents w/in 30'.
BARBARIAN ACFs:
Ferocity = immed act., can use tumble, +4 STR, +4 DEX
Wolf Spirit Totem: additional +2 to flanking bonus

The build also uses the Unseelie Fey template from Dragon Compendium.

1: Ranger 1 (Trapfinding, Tumble & DD class skills, Favored Enemy(Arcanist), Solitary Hunter, Spiritual Connection (Speak w/ Animals or Plants 3x/day); Able Learner, Combat Reflexes, Vexing Flanker, Shorten Grip, Poor Reflexes flaw, Vulnerable flaw;
Template: Summer's Caress (Protection of Nature), Darkvision 60', Iron Vulnerability, +4 to Intimidate
2: SA Thug 1 (+1d6 SA)
3: Ranger 2 (Combat Style=Power Attack); feat = Craven
4: Fighter 1 +1 INT; (bonus feat=Adaptable Flanker; Hit-and-Run ACF); Template: DR 5/cold iron
5: Barb 1 (+2 to flank bonus, Ferocity)
6: Fighter 2 (bonus feat=Improved Combat Reflexes); feat = ??? Backstab or Cleave?
7: Conjurer 1 (Abrupt Jaunt, fighter bonus feat = ??? Backstab or Cleave?)
8: Assassin X

So, (assuming the character survives that painful +1d6 of damage from iron/steel weapons before the DR kicks in at 4th level), we have a solid melee fighter with full BAB and (essentially) fighter HP for 6 levels, who can flank with a reach weapon for a total of +6 to hit, adding damage from two-handed power attack. SA dice are humble (until those Assassin levels come in), but with Craven they add an average of HD+3.5 damage fairly often via flanking and AoOs. Tumble is maxed for tactical movement, as are Hide, MS, and Disable Device for rogue-like utility.

The larger question about the value of initiative arose initially from the quandary over what to do with those feat slots at levels 6 & 7. Apart from Improved Initiative, Deft Opportunist was under consideration, but after reading all of the fine ideas in this thread I'm inclined to weight extra attacks over that +4 to hit on AoOs (even though Deft Opportunist synergizes oh-so-nicely with Improved Combat Reflexes!).

Initiative will matter slightly more when the Assassin levels come in; Darkstalker will no doubt be appropriate at higher levels, and I'm considering Obtain Familiar for the Hummingbird (+4 init) once Assassin caster level is 3.

EDIT: Stats are:
STR: 16
DEX: 16
CON: 14
INT: 14
WIS: 12
CHA: 11

Malachei
2012-04-09, 01:13 PM
You have 16 Dex, Combat Reflexes and ( potentially) a reach weapon and choose +4 Ini over +4 to hit on each AoO?

*wonders*
*shrugs*

nedz
2012-04-09, 01:42 PM
How Important is Winning Initiative?

It depends upon the game style.

In many games: where combat devolves routinely into rocket tag, then its crucial.

In other games where combat often opens without the players having full information, then it is less important. Basically if you are normally trying to work out, at the beginning of combat: What an earth is happening ? What are we facing ? Where are the enemy ? Is this all of them ? etc., then initiative is useful, but not to the point of spending a feat on it.

Phaederkiel
2012-04-09, 03:58 PM
okay, that build looks weird...

I find interesting that you chose not to take Lion totem. Your chosing of wolf totem shifts deft opportunist still down in priority, yet I believe it is still more important than Imp Ini.

I would advise against an hummingbird. A) it is, if i recall right, Dragon material,
b) you need to stand in the frontline, which means that your familiar is easier attacked. A killed Familiar comes directly before a killed character, at best it is a Risk I would not take.


Wherefrom is Hit and Run? It looks delicious.

To what end do you have the unseelie fey thrown in there?


And then, there is cleave. It is, in my opinion, far less interesting than backstab. It is, due to its very conditional nature, even worse than Imp ini.
If you consider Imp Ini, throw cleave out.

Last but not least: what for do you need shorten grip? Buy a spiked gauntlet.
Since you do not seem to use your weapon for any specialties but for its reach, don't spend a feat on something you can have in a 400 gp Item.



@brujon

the thing your post "illustrates beautifully" is that you play a different game than me. 7/8 of what you listed would not fly at any table i play at.

Unusual Muse
2012-04-09, 04:31 PM
I find interesting that you chose not to take Lion totem. Your chosing of wolf totem shifts deft opportunist still down in priority, yet I believe it is still more important than Imp Ini.

It didn't seem to make sense to focus on charging with a build that's mainly focused on flanking and nonlinear tactical movement, especially when it would require even more feats to really optimize Pounce.


I would advise against an hummingbird. A) it is, if i recall right, Dragon material, b) you need to stand in the frontline, which means that your familiar is easier attacked. A killed Familiar comes directly before a killed character, at best it is a Risk I would not take.

Well, considering this build's HP, it won't be as fragile as many... and it's a bird, so it's not like it's going to be in melee with me. Plus, I like the idea of using Benign Transposition with the familiar for tactical purposes... :smallsmile:


Wherefrom is Hit and Run? It looks delicious.

Drow of the Underdark.


To what end do you have the unseelie fey thrown in there?

Partly because it's a sweet template for this type of character (Darkvision, DR, and AC/save boost from Summer's Caress), and partly for RP purposes in context of this particular party's situation. And partly because I really like fey stuff. :smallsmile:


And then, there is cleave. It is, in my opinion, far less interesting than backstab. It is, due to its very conditional nature, even worse than Imp ini. If you consider Imp Ini, throw cleave out.

I am also considering Cleave. Backstab is also conditional in nature insofar as it requires you to be flanking. Both feats net you an extra attack; Cleave is useful when you aren't able to flank and/or when you have multiple opponents.


Last but not least: what for do you need shorten grip? Buy a spiked gauntlet. Since you do not seem to use your weapon for any specialties but for its reach, don't spend a feat on something you can have in a 400 gp Item.

I don't want to hijack my own thread so I won't go into details, but suffice to say that I considered this option. After EXTENSIVE Googling and reading through many, many threads, errata, FAQs, and whathaveyou, I ultimately discovered that this does not work with a two-handed weapon. [Hint: It has to do with wielding, but that's the last I'll speak of it here.] I'd rather not get into that discussion on this thread, since there are so many on that topic and this thread is about the merits of initiative. :smallsmile: Whether you take my word for it or not, in my group it doesn't fly. I'm sure there are some groups who have houseruled it otherwise, but ultimately that's what it comes down to.

Shorten Grip gets the job done with my tripping reach weapon, and only costs me a -2 to hit (counted against my +6 flanking bonus) when I do end up adjacent to foes, a tactical position that is often worth the -2.

Malachei
2012-04-09, 04:48 PM
Why are we here?

Because we are soooooo curious.

If you're not willing to give it away in this thread, please start another. I'm all eyes.

Unusual Muse
2012-04-09, 04:50 PM
Why are we here?

Because we are soooooo curious.

If you're not willing to give it away in this thread, please start another. I'm all eyes.

True enough! I just didn't want to invoke the wrath of the mods. :smallsmile:

I'll look around and see if I can dig up what I came across as the definitive word, and link it here.

brujon
2012-04-09, 10:39 PM
@brujon

the thing your post "illustrates beautifully" is that you play a different game than me. 7/8 of what you listed would not fly at any table i play at.

Right... But apart from the genesis time trait, none of that is theoretical optimization, and there's no RAW abuse. I mention 2 classe's class features, 2 weapon enchantment, 3 spells, and one broken class. I wouldn't allow Planar Sheperd, either, but that's on principle, because it's just too borken.

Eager/Warning armor spikes are legal, because armor spikes count as a manufactured weapon and can be made masterwork, and as such can be enchanted. Dungeonscape gives us the Wand Chamber, which can hold us a wand of Nerveskitter, that due to the casting time, let's us cast it prior to the initiative (As per rules Compendium), all the while permitting you to carry a weapon in the same hand as the wand. You can actually get armor spikes on a shield, too, and enchant them as Defending. So long as you wield the shield you will count as armed and wielding the spikes and receive the +2 AC - It's one of the optimization tricks you use for maximizing the AC bonus.

The celerity line of spells is only really broken if you can get immunity to daze, and there's precious few ways to get immunity to daze...

RKV is not readily abusable without Nightstick abuse, and Factotum is not readily abusable without Font of Inspiration stacking madness.

The other things i mention are pretty fine, too. A Necromancer Cleric with an army of the dead, or just a few really powerful ones comes way ahead on the Action Economy arms race, but it is perfectly supported by the chassis. Actually, you can make one CORE. A Dinosaur Riding Druid only really needs the MM2 for the dinosaurs, and the rest is just gravy... Ashbound/Greenbound if you must, and some summoning boosting feats, and some items to boost your Animal Companion to ride forth and destroy the opposition. Malconvoker is a really flavorful and awesome class that involves using Demons to do good, but that also gets double-Planar Binding at a caster level bonus - pretty nice.

At no point i mention the *really* nasty combos that completely obliterate action economy, like Synchronicity + Linked Power + Schism... And, for realz, you get the whole combo right there on the SRD. Rules as Written and no really abuse of the RaW, just some fun interactions. Share it with your Psicrystal for double fun, and get started on Bestow Power shenanigans for gaining Infinite PP... It's just right there, on the SRD...

Course, that *really* pushes it too far, and that's why i haven't mentioned it. But the vanilla things i mentioned? I see no reason to ban it at my tables. I know the tricks, if they use it, i can use them too. NPC's get wealth, too, and plus, there's other tricks DM's can use that players can't.

Oh, so the players are getting initiative all the time? That's fine and dandy, i'll just throw in a bunch of very sneaky Tucker Kobolds, or just get some nasty (Or clever) traps in the way to chip away at their Hit Points to make it challenging again. No party is without it's weak links, and when you can get, say, a member of the party dominated, you can really get some fun roleplaying possibilities. Maybe throw in a cursed item or two, or a Wizard that can polymorph into a Dire Tortoise, as was already mentioned here, so he gets surprise no matter what... Or get some enemies that are harder to hit, or that is a perfect counter to 1 or 2 members of the party, and maybe alternate that somewhat so every one gets their time in the spotlight...

If the caster's are shining too much, have a foe charge the wizard while wielding an Antimagic Torc. Fun times. Wizards think they're normally so invincible, they don't even plan for when they don't have their magic anymore. Ever had a player bluff a Druid to wear a metal armor? Well, i have. He totally convinced the Druid that it was a armor made of the chitinous plates of a Steel Beetle, and it was so much like Steel that it even felt cold to the touch, but it was not. Well, the Druid totally bought it, and became powerless... But the DM has access to that trick, too... And the players will never ever expect it.

I say, why ban stuff that is just right there, and there's no abuse involved? Why ban a fun, balanced class, just because it has the *potential* to be abused? Curbstomp the abuse, i say, and let the guy play the class. Let the guy build the character however he wants, i don't think limiting the possibilities makes for a game that's any more fun. I don't care much for that, no. I like high level D&D - not saying that i spurn low levels, no, low levels can be *even* more fun, because everything is so deadly and you have precious few ways of avoiding, or even detecting danger. Every step is death. It's really fun, always being on edge, or making the players always be on edge.