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What level of stacking is possible with at-will modifying feats?

Take, for example, the fighter power: "Cleave"

At-Will Martial, Weapon

Standard Action Melee weapon

Targets: One creature

Attack: Strength vs. AC

Hit: 1[W] + Strength modifier damage, and an enemy adjacent to you other than the target takes damage equal to your Strength modifier.

Cruel Cut Style (Feat):

Cleave (fighter): If no other enemies are adjacent to the target when you hit the target with this exploit, the target takes ongoing damage equal to your Wisdom modifier (save ends).

Deft Hurler:

Cleave: You can forgo dealing damage to the adjacent enemy to instead make a ranged basic attack with a heavy thrown weapon against one creature other than the target of your cleave. This ranged basic attack does not provoke opportunity attacks.

Criterion of Balic Practice:

When you use a power associated with this feat and hit an enemy with it, you can shift 1 square, or 2 squares if you are an elf. The shift is a free action, and you ignore difficult terrain during it.

and Longhand Student:

If you are attacking with a two-handed polearm or a two-handed spear and you have proficiency with that weapon, you also gain the following benefit. When you hit an enemy with a power associated with this feat, you can push that enemy 1 square.

Without recourse to other rules, all four of these feats are technically compatible with a farbond spellblade glaive. (Note that using all of these at the same time is silly but that's beyond the point.) If all of these are applicable at the same time, what order can or should they be resolved in?

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4 Answers 4

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Beyond the points that Acedrummer_CLB exquisitely exposed, I think that in every occasion you could apply more than one effect under the same conditions and these effects come from different sources (powers, feats, whatever), you could apply them in the order you prefer.

I have found no reference to support this "rule": I simply decided that if there is no explicit ordering criterion, an arbitrary one could be used.

I think, however, that the effects of all four feats in the example should fall under the hit or miss phase (they all apply only on a successful hit only).

Under this hypothesis while the decision to exploit the Deft Hurler option takes place before the attack, its effects, Cruel Cut Style, Longhand Student and Criterion of Balic Practice effects could all take place in the hit or miss phase.
These four effect are not simultaneous, but could be applied in any order. A possible sequence of play could be:

  1. Before the attack: Deciding to use Deft Hurler
  2. As you attack: You compute attack and damage bonus and check if you hit you primary target.
  3. Hit or miss: You hit the Cleave target and deal damage as normal.
    1. You use the Longhand Student benefit, thus pushing the target one square (and isolating it from its allies).
    2. You use the Cruel Cut Style benefit to the now isolated target and deal it ongong Wisdom modifier damage.
    3. You use the Criterion of Balic Practice benefit and shift 1 (or 2) square(s); you are now in range for a ranged basic attack against the artillery monster.
    4. You use the Deft Hurler benefit to make a ranged basic attack against the artillery monster.
  4. After the attack: none.

I have found no reference to rules that prohibit the appliance of multiple "at-will attack modifier" effects. A more formal at-will attack modifier definition or keyword may be needed.
However, as the number of publish material grows, some at-will attacks could become far more powerful than many encouter attacks.
I'd house rule that no more than one "at-will attack modifier" feat could be applied on a single power utilization; and this decision must be made in the before the attack phase.

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there is some merit to this idea of limiting the things you can pile on. However, would a highly trained martial arts fighter not use a skill they had perfected in combination with 1 or 2 or even 4 other skills in a sparing match? –  Acedrummer_CLB Jan 13 '11 at 14:29
    
As you point out: it makes sense to stack known tricks up in a single powerful move, and it is aldo perfectly legal (until denial). My intention, however, is to keep the implicit guidelines that generates the basic <= at-will <= encounter <= daily escalation. Stacking up stuff this way may put at-will attacks in the range of encounter ones with ease. If you fell comfortable with that, then there is no problem in doing so. –  Erik Burigo Jan 13 '11 at 14:45
    
Yeah, I have encountered that on a number of combats already. My group discussed this and decided that we wanted to leave it for now. In response I tweaked the monsters to have a few more grains of powder behind each 'bullet' they shoot. –  Acedrummer_CLB Jan 13 '11 at 15:05
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I would argue that you cannot use Longhand Student to create the isolation required for Cruel Cut Style. The later states "If no other enemies are adjacent to the target when you hit the target", and that "when you hit" has already happened - as a trigger it is between as you attack and hit or miss –  Simon Withers Jan 13 '11 at 15:29
    
@Simon. Good point: seems correct to me. –  Erik Burigo Jan 13 '11 at 15:57

You have setup a good example the complex interactions of Powers, Feats and Actions. Since you are referring to stacking I will assume this means leveraging the best ToHit, damage potential and combat affects with an attack.

Any 'Level of Stacking' is possible, but the question is what is allowed within the given combat.

I have found that in most cases where a player wants to stack things there is a cascading progression that happens, a sequence of steps there are interrelated and event sensitive. This progression has way of allowing or disallowing various powers/feats based on conditions, affects and outcomes during each of previous progressions steps. Sometimes the same power or feat will be evaluated on multiple steps. It may start out applying but be removed later by a follow up condition (a miss, shift, interrupt, etc). To keep everything straight I say it like this: What will you do, what are you doing and what did you do.

I approach the progression in this way:

  • BEFORE YOU ATTACK. Things that determine how you will attack fall here. The first part of Deft Hurler would fit here as it determines how you will execute your 'attack'. This can set up the first level of modifiers that could be used during attack.
  • AS YOU ATTACK. The attack power being used establishes the base TO Hit and Damage potential. Your example is Cleave: Attack: (Strength vs. AC); Hit: (1[W] + Strength).
  • HIT or MISS. Powers and feats that refer to a successful hit, a miss or both go here in the sequence. Additional modifiers to damage or combat happen here. Your example of Deft Hurler (again to see if it still is valid) goes here. Each of the other powers should be evaluated at this step to make sure they still can be used. Assuming all of them apply they would stack, but sometimes there is an obvious limiting condition that would make one or more invalid to use.
  • AFTER THE ATTACK. These are things that happen because one or more of the powers can be applied after the attack. Things like on going damage, shifts combat affects like stun or prone. Cleave; Cruel Cut Style; Longhand Student; and Criterion of Balic Practice; all are verified and applied here should they still be valid.

I have used this to break apart each attack quickly. This helps me to track the affects of a power or feat in relationship to the point in combat where it applies. My rules lawyer and my Min-Max'er both hate this approach since it forces them to be clear cut in how they do an attack. No one just says I do X and Y and rolls anymore in our group. As a bonus it has clarified the power interactions between characters too.

Another member has given an excellent answer outline the guidelines for resolving what is allowed or dis-allowed for stacking purposes here: Stacking Limits

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Interesting. So you haven't found any rules prohibiting that kind of stacking? –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Jan 13 '11 at 1:59
    
Why Deft Hurler's granted range attack falls in the hit or miss phase, while other feats' benefits (triggering on a hit) falls in the after the attack phase? –  Erik Burigo Jan 13 '11 at 8:06
    
Yep: Deft Hurler "You can forgo dealing damage.." Instead of doing damage you can do this instead. This means it is usable only when you hit. So you must do a damage causing attack to activate this. Then it is re-checked to make sure you didn't miss. You must do a damage causing attack first and successfully hit to use this power. This is why it is in 2 steps. Most players I encounter gloss over this , but for purposes of the question it is important to underscore. –  Acedrummer_CLB Jan 13 '11 at 14:19
    
I have found no rules saying there is a limit to the number of race/feat powers that you can pile on if the criteria allow it. As a DM I allow this without reservation. I simply apply the same 'logic' to the monsters. Everyone stacks a character but very few DMs stack powers on monsters. –  Acedrummer_CLB Jan 13 '11 at 14:26
    
I agree that Deft Hurler 's effect should take place in the hit or miss phase. I reword my question as it was really intended: "Why don't the other three feats effects (which trigger on a hit only too) take place in the hit or miss phase?". –  Erik Burigo Jan 13 '11 at 14:50

From Martial Power 2, pg110:

Using Combat Styles: ... You can learn any number of lesser and greater style feats. However, any single attack can benefit from only one lesser style feat and one greater style feat, and those feats must be associated with the same combat style. If multiple lesser style feats or greater style feats can affect an attack, you must declare which of each type of feat you are using before making the attack.

From Dark Sun Campaign Setting, pg103:

Arena Fighting Feats: ... The arena fighting feats in this book are similar to the arena fighting feats presented in Dragon #368. ... You can take any number of arena fighting feats, but you can use only one at a time. If you have two arena fighting feats that modify the same power, you must decide which feat applies before you attack with that power.

Thus, the RAW (rules as written) is that any given use of an at-will power can benefit from at most 1 lesser style feat, 1 greater style feat (as long as it's the same style as the lesser style feat being applied, if any), 1 arena fighting feat, and any number of technique feats (such as the ones from Dragon373).

Many people have argued that the RAI (rules as intended) is that only one feat that modifies specific at-will powers (greater style feats do not fall into this category) can be applied each time an at-will power is used. Wizards' Customer Service has historically supported that view (for what little that's worth); this is also the way the rules work in Living Forgotten Realms (WotC's official play system). As Erik Burigo mentioned in comments elsewhere in this question, there are risks to allowing at-will powers to become as potent as, or even more potent than, encounter powers.

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If you are asking whether more feats can modify an at-will at the same time, the answer is No. You can learn as many as you want, but you can only use one at a time:

If you choose multiple heritage feats (or feats that similarly modify at-will powers), you choose which feat modifies the power for the purposes of resolving the attack with the power. (Dragon 371, p9).

There is only one exception, with the Lesser and Greater part of a style.

[...] any single attack can benefit from only one lesser style feat and one greater style feat, and those feats must be associated with the same combat style. (Martial Power 2, p110).


If you want to know what would happen without the rules above, it gets a bit more complicated.

Balic Practice and Longhand Student can not be used to position the target or yourself to fulfill the requirements of Cruel Cut or Deft Hurler if they were not met before, as the triggers are evaluated before the push or shift happens.
However you can make them work without any push, Deft Hurler needs an enemy adjacent to you, and Cruel Cut needs an enemy standing alone. So the next settings are totally legal:

E      
E Y T  
E      
  • T is the target, he gets 1W+Str, and an ongoing Wis, can also be pushed
  • Y is you, can shift after a hit
  • E is any other enemy, one of them can get Str damage, or a ranged basic attack
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I am not sure I can in good faith support an answer that bases itself on a ruling from Dragon Magazine, considering Dragon Magazine is responsible for some of the game's most headscratch-inducing content. Further, the quote itself does not appear to be referring to feats in general but a specific type, and comes only a few months into 4e's lifetime. If such a position is reflected in one of the game manuals, then I would support using it. –  Jonathan Hobbs Feb 10 at 14:50
    
"or feats that similarly modify at-will powers" is quite general in my opinion, but your reservation about Dragon is valid. –  András Feb 10 at 15:00
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On the other hand LFR and the Customer Service use this ruling as well. So 3 are against it, no explicit rule overwriting Dragon, it is quite safe to say this is not allowed. –  András Feb 10 at 15:04
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Two of the feats in question are from Dragon. Taking those but not the ruling about them from the same source seems a bit cheesy to me. –  András Feb 17 at 9:06
    

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