Fighting unarmored foes and finesse attack

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Fighting unarmored foes and finesse attack

Postby slaughterj » Mon Dec 18, 2006 8:38 pm

If you are fighting unarmored foes and have a better DEX than STR, is there any reason you should not always attack them with finesse attacks rather than regular melee attacks? Nothing is coming to mind to me why one should not do this. The only drawback that I can think of to finesse attacks is that you get less AP (since your STR doesn't apply), but this doesn't matter since I'm asking about unarmored foes (maybe the small exception would be when fighting against the high level barbarian with DR, but that's a rare exception).
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Re: Fighting unarmored foes and finesse attack

Postby argo » Mon Dec 18, 2006 8:43 pm

slaughterj wrote:If you are fighting unarmored foes and have a better DEX than STR, is there any reason you should not always attack them with finesse attacks rather than regular melee attacks?
Nope.


Correction, there is one reason -> you don't have a finessable weapon (or, by extension, because you have a superior non-finessable weapon available, ie you have both an arming sword and a greatsword available).

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Postby urdinaran » Tue Dec 19, 2006 9:31 pm

When I was running my campaign, a few sessions into it the Thief realized that he should just stick to finessing.
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Postby slaughterj » Tue Dec 19, 2006 9:34 pm

urdinaran wrote:When I was running my campaign, a few sessions into it the Thief realized that he should just stick to finessing.
That was my reaction back when I first looked at 1e Conan RPG, but doing some character designs recently made me wonder if there was *some* situation in which it wouldn't be beneficial that I hadn't ever thought of.
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Postby Netherek » Tue Dec 19, 2006 10:05 pm

It's not feasible to finesse if the defender is highly skilled and wearing sufficient armor that makes success of bypassing armour improbable. On an unarmoured foe it doesn't matter, you would go with the best attack ability.

Some points though.

You can't finesse and Power Attack. I don't remember where I read this, but you couldn't fight defensively, use Combat Expertise, or finesse when Power Attack as they were literal opposites.
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Postby Sutek » Wed Dec 20, 2006 5:09 am

If opponents have no armor, making a Finesse attack is really no different than making a normal attack. Finesse attacks are rolled against the opponent's DV+DR of his armor. If he has no armor on, it's just his DV, so there's no benefit in terms of successfully avoiding armor DR altogether.

Using DEX to attack with instead of STR isn't the same as making a Finesse attack. Perhaps you have those two things confused?
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Postby jadrax » Wed Dec 20, 2006 9:15 am

Sutek wrote: Using DEX to attack with instead of STR isn't the same as making a Finesse attack. Perhaps you have those two things confused?
Erm are you sure, I thought using Dex rather then Str is exactly what a finesse attack is.
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Postby Oly » Wed Dec 20, 2006 9:26 am

Sutek wrote:If opponents have no armor, making a Finesse attack is really no different than making a normal attack. Finesse attacks are rolled against the opponent's DV+DR of his armor. If he has no armor on, it's just his DV, so there's no benefit in terms of successfully avoiding armor DR altogether.

Using DEX to attack with instead of STR isn't the same as making a Finesse attack. Perhaps you have those two things confused?
Really? The way I read it the only way to use your DEX instead of your STR for a melee attack is to make a Finesse attack.

Sure as you say above it doesn't make any real difference if the opponent has no armour on (aside from needing a finesse weapon) but it's still a finesse attack.
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Postby rgrove0172 » Wed Dec 20, 2006 2:26 pm

Erm are you sure, I thought using Dex rather then Str is exactly what a finesse attack is.
Ill echo this - against an unarmored opponant, there is no other difference that I can remember.
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Postby slaughterj » Wed Dec 20, 2006 2:51 pm

Netherek wrote:You can't finesse and Power Attack. I don't remember where I read this, but you couldn't fight defensively, use Combat Expertise, or finesse when Power Attack as they were literal opposites.
I haven't seen this, and until I do, I don't believe it. I understand what you mean, but look at it this way, you still get to add your STR to damage when you finesse attack, right? So clearly you are applying significant physical force in the process, even if you are fighting in a more "skilled" fashion. I have no problem with someone doing any of the aforementioned acts while using Power Attack. I can easily see someone trying a bit harder to stay out of their foes reach, but when they do thrust, they really put some force behind it (i.e., using combat expertise and/or fighting defensively together with power attack). I can easily see someone putting extra force into their blow once they get their blade thrust between the plates of the foes armor or simply jabbing straight into their open-helmed face (i.e., using power attack with finesse). I think the latter example is very telling, as one example from the book (p. 154) mentions that a finesse fighter "might simply attack the face of an opponent wearing an open-faced helmet such as a steel cap" - nothing I've seen in rules (maybe in the SRD?!) prevents you from adding in power attack in the process, and I see nothing wrong with it either.
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Postby Clovenhoof » Wed Dec 20, 2006 3:14 pm

I disagree, strongly.
Power Attack is pretty much _defined_ by "swinging madly at your opponent", swapping accuracy for raw muscle. That absolutely doesn't fit with a precise stab at a chink in the armour.
I don't know if and where it is written that you can't combine PA and Finesse, but as a GM I would only allow it the day that pigs can fly.
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Postby slaughterj » Wed Dec 20, 2006 4:50 pm

Clovenhoof wrote:I disagree, strongly.
Power Attack is pretty much _defined_ by "swinging madly at your opponent", swapping accuracy for raw muscle. That absolutely doesn't fit with a precise stab at a chink in the armour.
I don't know if and where it is written that you can't combine PA and Finesse, but as a GM I would only allow it the day that pigs can fly.
A few points to consider:
1. It does not appear to be against the rules, so anything otherwise would be your house rule, which of course is always your choice.
2. Most characters going the finesse route do not end up with the power attack feat, so it won't come up much anyway practically.
3. Most characters that choose to do a finesse attack often won't also want to do a power attack, because that will lower their chance to roll high enough to hit around the armor's DR, so it will be counterproductive in the game mechanics, which really should be enough incentive to avoid mixing finesse and power attack often. And really, having in-game incentives is a much better way of handling this sort of thing than some brutish house rule of "you can't do it, because I disagree with it."
4. As I quoted from the book above, one example of finesse is trying to stab the guy in the face, so why couldn't someone try to do that with excessive force, i.e., power attack? Seems quite reasonable really, especially when you look at the game mechanics, because the penalty from power attack means he is even less likely to avoid the armor and end up with a powerful thrust that glances off the armor and having less effect. But that's the choice the character made, and having the option to make more choices rather than less is a good thing.
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Postby Clovenhoof » Wed Dec 20, 2006 5:15 pm

I now know where the other chap got his info from. It's in the SRD:

1.) Weapon Finesse can only be used with "With a light weapon, rapier, whip, or spiked chain"
2.) "You cannot add the bonus from Power Attack to the damage dealt with a light weapon"

Hence, according to the SRD, only the three special weapons rapier, whip and spiked chain are theoretically eligible for combined Finesse/PA use (and in Conan only one of these weapons exists, i.e. the whip). Respectively you can use both with light weapons but you only get the attack penalty, not the damage bonus.

So, even though it is not specifically written in the Conan core book, it is definitely NOT a house rule considering D20 games as a whole. I still say the SRD ruling makes a lot of sense and thus I declare it valid in any D20 based game I should master.

Besides, as you say, combining the two makes absolutely no _sense_ in most cases, being rather counter-productive. So there.
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Postby slaughterj » Wed Dec 20, 2006 5:46 pm

Clovenhoof wrote:I now know where the other chap got his info from. It's in the SRD:

1.) Weapon Finesse can only be used with "With a light weapon, rapier, whip, or spiked chain"
2.) "You cannot add the bonus from Power Attack to the damage dealt with a light weapon"

Hence, according to the SRD, only the three special weapons rapier, whip and spiked chain are theoretically eligible for combined Finesse/PA use (and in Conan only one of these weapons exists, i.e. the whip). Respectively you can use both with light weapons but you only get the attack penalty, not the damage bonus.

So, even though it is not specifically written in the Conan core book, it is definitely NOT a house rule considering D20 games as a whole. I still say the SRD ruling makes a lot of sense and thus I declare it valid in any D20 based game I should master.

Besides, as you say, combining the two makes absolutely no _sense_ in most cases, being rather counter-productive. So there.
The Conan RPG has specifically changed some of those rules, so what you are saying isn't applicable.

1. In Conan, you can finesse with any weapon that enables finesse, which includes wielding a broadsword two-handed!
2. Many weapons in Conan are finessable and are not light weapons, e.g., the arming sword, the broadsword wielded two-handed, etc. Therefore, they can be used to power attack.

That is the extent of the applicable rules. Therefore, unless there is something to the contrary, you can combine finesse and power attack. So there. :roll:

This appears abundantly clear, and you are making some errors in logic above. Please read over everything again closely and you'll see that it would be a house rule to make finesse and power attack not work together.
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Postby Clovenhoof » Wed Dec 20, 2006 7:15 pm

I think I have written pretty clearly that I am refererring to the SRD. I also suppose that Netherek was thinking of the lines I quoted from the SRD when he made his posting further up in the thread.

So once more with logic:
Conan RPG allowing bigger weapons to be finessed, i.e. wielded with Dex instead of Str, is a good thing and DOES make sense. I practice HES/WMA myself and can positively say that you don't need a lot of strength to effectively wield a proper sword. (It's also nice to see that the weapon weights are almost realistic in Conan, as opposed to the ridiculous figures given in D&D)

In the same context, I've always interpreted "Power Attack" as backhand swings (just for visualization) -- you get a lot of power behind these, but aren't really flexible in your moves and thus your opponent can avoid these rather easily. Though of course there are other possible manoeuvres that would qualify as well. Anything that lets you trade muscle for accuracy.

So I stand by what I said. Using PA and Finesse simultaneously simply doesn't make any sense. I'm still trying to figure out whether they should be entirely disallowed in combination, or if the player should just be allowed to try it and then feel sorry for himself. Can't decide right now.
My instinct says, just that it's not stated specifically in the rules does not make a difference. The rules also don't specifically say you cannot fart your enemy to death, still I wouldn't consider it a house rule if you said it won't work. Sorry for the polemics.
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Postby slaughterj » Wed Dec 20, 2006 7:59 pm

I understand, but disagree with your interpretations overruling clear rules.

Here's the rules:
1. Power Attack, p. 116 AE: For all weapons except light weapons, you can increase your damage by taking a penalty on attack rolls.
2. Finesse, p. 154 AE: All light weapons and several one-handed or two-handed piercing weapons can be used for finesse attacks.

In light of the above, we can form the following logical syllogism:
Premise 1: Non-light weapons can have increased damage through power attack.
Premise 2: Some finesse weapons are non-light weapons.
Conclusion: Some finesse weapons can have increased damage through power attack.

Therefore, through pure logic, non-light finessable weapons such as arming sword can include power attack while finessing. There are no rules which say otherwise.

Further, even under your own review of the SRD, there are weapons which can be finessed and use power attack. Therefore, neither Conan nor the SRD prevent such.

Of course you can always house rule what you want to, but I think (1) the game mechanics themselves already do a good enough job to incentivize against using finesse and power attack together, and (2) more choices are better than fewer.
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Postby argo » Wed Dec 20, 2006 8:08 pm

My response to the "Power Attack must be descirbed as a big two-handed swing" argument has always been "what about a lunge?"

Classical rapier move, a sudden forward thrust with great energy behind it. Is this not a Power Attack? Is this not also a Finesse Attack?

Power Attack has you trade to-hit bonus for damage. Sure this describes a "powerful swing" but I have no trouble also describing it as a person choosing to "pass up the easy hit and target a vital area" which decribes a finesse attack just fine.

The RAW allow it and I see no compelling reason to nerf it. Finesse fighters tend to be behind on the damage curve anyway.

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Postby Ichabod » Thu Dec 21, 2006 2:25 am

I'd echo argo's point. Why further punish someone using finesse fighting?

It's one thing that a thief with +5d8 of Sneak Attack can use Dex rather than Str to try to hit someone. But, try playing a finesse fighter without Sneak Attack. The feats to help finesse fighting in Argos and Zingara are the sort that should have been in the main book, and they hardly seem like equalizers to big weapon + PA + Cleave.

As said earlier, it's not all that likely that someone would be finessing and PAing at the same time. The two aren't synergistic, so it's highly unlikely someone is trying to abuse the system or that it's going to be anywhere near as effective as bardiche + PA.
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Postby Netherek » Thu Dec 21, 2006 8:17 pm

I can't locate the article, I believe it was in Sage Advise in Dragon...

Any way, I can see PA when finessing as a lunge, but I am not so sure about defensive techniques with PA. It just seems counter intuitive to me as they really represent vastly different methods.

Since I can't prove my point, I'll concede. I can't get a confirmation from WotC, either way.
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Postby slaughterj » Thu Dec 21, 2006 8:42 pm

Netherek wrote:Any way, I can see PA when finessing as a lunge, but I am not so sure about defensive techniques with PA. It just seems counter intuitive to me as they really represent vastly different methods.
I see using Combat Expertise or Fighting Defensively with Power Attack as the situation where you are trying to hang back and avoid getting hit, but when you do step forward to swing, you swing really hard. Remember, the combat round is 6 seconds long and a lot is going on in that time. Further, realize that those defensive techniques are counterproductive to being successful with Power Attack, since the defensive techniques and Power Attack both apply a penalty to hit, so just like with Finesse and Power Attack, you won't see frequent uses of defensive techniques and Power Attack. (And again, the game mechanics provide the incentive rather than some rigid rule against doing such, which seems to be a better way to handle things that aren't necessarily outright contradictions.)

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