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The feet-slot magic item steadfast boots (Magic Item Compendium 139-40) (1,400 gp; 1 lb.), among other benefits, grants the following benefit:

Furthermore, as long as you carry a two-handed weapon, you are treated as if you had readied that weapon against any creature that charges you (and thus it deals double damage if your attack is successful), even if the weapon can’t normally be set against a charge.

How does this benefit of the steadfast boots work according to the rules? For example, can the two-handed weapon be carried in a backpack, and, if so, does it remain in the backpack? Does the ersatz readied action replace the wearer's turn that round or next or does it supplement it? Can a wearer realize this benefit of the boots multiple times if the wearer is the target of multiple charges during a round? That kind of thing.

Note: I like the steadfast boots enough as one of the least expensive ways to grant a wearer a bonus when the defender against trip attacks (these replace the steadfast boots from Arms and Equipment Guide 130 that granted outright immunity to bull rush and trip attempts!), but it's this other benefit that has always annoyed me—and other folks, too—, making me too chicken to include them in a campaign. I'm looking to consolidate readings on this function of the item into one place and see which reading the hive mind thinks is the best reading so I can finally start using them to protect my poor monsters against trip attempts.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ There's an old chat room on this topic that might be helpful to have linked here: chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/31372/steadfast-boots-mechanics \$\endgroup\$ – Erik Aug 25 '17 at 5:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Erik The question links to it already, although the question's link starts later (omitting my participation in the chat, which is probably for the best). \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Aug 25 '17 at 5:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ Oh, I hadn't seen that those three words pointed to 3 different things. That's not really clear from the text. \$\endgroup\$ – Erik Aug 25 '17 at 5:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ FWIW I've played a Crusader with those boots; I do remember a fight against a horde of goblins in which she would easily kill 3 or 4 of those each turn, but I had to make her fall back (5ft.) each turn to avoid getting swamped, and specifically target those which I had missed with my attack, it was not a free run... and a single fireball could easily have killed many more in any single round. I certainly didn't feel overpowered. \$\endgroup\$ – Matthieu M. Aug 29 '17 at 15:14
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The two-handed weapon can be in your backpack, but you can't actually attack with it while it's in your backpack, so the readied action doesn't do anything; this is the same as if the character had readied any other action that later turned out to be impossible.

Yes, Rules As Written the ability works multiple times per round.

As normal for readied actions, your initiative result becomes the count on which you took the readied action, and you don't get a turn until a full round later. Using the readied action doesn't otherwise consume your turn.


This is actually not horribly broken. It's true that a single character could make a lot of attacks in one round using this, but:

  • armies of one-hit-killable creatures are rare in practice
  • most armies of one-hit-killable creatures will quickly realize that using the 'charge' action against that character is a bad idea
  • against armies of really stupid one-hit-killable creatures, the character will still sometimes fail to kill a creature, so they'll quickly become surrounded and will stop being charged at
  • against armies of really stupid trivially-one-hit-killable creatures, spells such as black tentacles, fire wall, or spike growth can kill unbounded numbers of creatures more reliably than this technique
  • there are other ways to get attacks against things that charge at you, including reach weapons and the hold the line feat; although these exploits can be fun, they're not so good that people consider fighters higher than Tier 4
  • in situations that don't involve unbounded numbers of attackers, readied-action attacks are somewhat worse than attacks of opportunity, because they reset your initiative score, which costs (on average) half a turn each time.

There's a thing we do sometimes, in D&D, where we have different standards for fighters than for magic-users. If the wizard can cast black tentacles and kill an unbounded number of creatures in a very hypothetical scenario, we're like "well, that's magic for you! magic does this sort of impossible thing all the time". But if the fighter can equip a magic item and do something similar, we're like "that's not realistic! that's not how muscles work!" We should try to avoid privileging magic-users over fighters in suspension of disbelief.


Having said that: yeah, this item should cost more than it does. It gives an ability that's probably about as good as the hold the line feat, and items that give feats are supposed to cost like 10000gp.

A reasonable DM might issue a house rule to nerf this in some way, or even just to increase the price.

But a DM that is dedicated to Rules As Written should follow the rules as written.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I haven't been able to find a rule that says: "you can only make attacks with a weapon if you are physically holding that weapon in your hands". Personally I believe the writers thought this was so obvious as to not need to be written explicitly. If you don't agree, I don't think I have a good argument with which to convince you. \$\endgroup\$ – Dan B Aug 26 '17 at 21:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's just that the boots themselves mention nothing about attacking nor needing the weapon in hand. A Colossal halberd strapped to one's back might be enough to meet the boots literal rules as written. It's cool if you want to dismiss it with Obviously, the weapon needs to be in hand, but my main issue with the item is the leaps the item's author presumably assumes readers will make instead of concentrating on what the item actually says. (Also, the final version of the feat Hold the Line in Shining South specifically limits it to the normal number of attacks of opportunity.) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Aug 26 '17 at 22:14
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For the first part, unless I've missed it, 3.5 doesn't specifically define "carry," so that's up to the GM to decide if they actually meant "wield" or not. In English, if it's in your pack, you're carrying it.

As to the second part, it says you're considered ready for any charge. I don't see any other way to read that other than you get free attacks against anyone who charges you. I'd personally adjust that at my table, because that seems a bit much for 1,400, but that's neither here nor there.

Just to explain my reasoning a bit, the item says "you are treated as if you had readied," not something more reasonable like "you may ready." These boots don't allow you to use your action to brace, they make it so you already have.

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So, the three points of contention here are

  • what is meant by 'carried'?
  • what is meant by 'readied'?
  • what is meant by 'set against a charge'?

Carried

The first one is a common point of contention. Many items confer their benefit upon their 'bearer', 'possessor', or even worse 'owner'. It is generally clear that wielded/worn is a more stringent requirement than any of these, but the exact interpretation of each of these and how they each differ from the other is a subject of intense consternation. Obviously, whatever you decide 'carried' means in one context should apply to other contexts, but beyond that there's not much to dicuss in terms of the rules, as written.

In English lugging something around in your backpack is certainly 'carrying' it, but e.g. loading it into a wagon and driving a team of oxen from your comfy front seat is disputable. We can say "Mule team 6 carried the shipment to Freeport", but even if you're the head of Mule team 6, far less people would agree that you had carried it. Still, it's not uncommon for management in such situations to refer to your activities that way: "Hey, Bob's Team has a busted axle, they need a mechanic, can you have John carry some parts over on his way to Neverwinter?".

In conclusion, backpacks are pretty safe, but the exact limits are something you're going to have to decide on your own.

Now, having a readied action and being able to use it are not the same thing! Or rather, they are possibly not the same thing! See, nothing stops you from taking actions after you ready an action and before it triggers, even normally.

So, for example, you could ready an action to stab the next person who enters the room with your dagger, then drop your dagger and draw your halberd using Quick Draw (both are free actions). When someone charges through the room, you get an AoO with the halberd, and then stab them with the dagger that you dropped when they close. The RAW make no accomodation for the possibility that your ready action might no longer be viable due to changing circumstances when your trigger is met. Even if you can't take actions, someone else might disarm your weapon in the above example, or otherwise do something that seems like it would negate your readied action but does not actually do so.

The reason I bring this up is that the situation where your greatsword is in your backpack when your readied action involving it triggers is not unusual. It's just another example of the really-common problem where somebody readies an action, somebody else tries to stop them from being able to take that readied action before it's triggered, and then the rules seem to say they can take the action anyways, even though they are no longer eligible, because they were eligible at the time they readied it. If/when you house rule this odd behaviour away, the backpack thing should be similarly affected. And if you don't houserule it, someone could, while hidden, ready an action to halberd the next person who charges them, drop the halberd and move action over into plain sight, and then take that action when the enemy charges the apparently unarmed character, dealing double damage on a hit. So stabbing people with a sword they're at least carrying is hardly weird by comparison.

Readied

On page 160 of the PHB the Ready action is described. It's weird. The rules specifically call it out as its own sort of action, completely separate from the standard and move action types: it's a 'Special Initiative Action', like the delay action. However, readying is also a standard action, according to readying's own text on that page. So... that's weird.

Anyways, the important thing here is the section about readying against a charge. That's a specific kind of ready action, just like drawing or sheathing a weapon is a special kind of move action. So this item doesn't give you a ready action, but rather the results of this specific subset of readied action (though that ends up being mechanically equivalent as far as I can tell).

The worst part of this (in fact, the only really problematic part of this) is that all ready actions are, as previously mentioned, 'special initiative actions'. By the rules as written, every time you use these boots your initiative probably changes. That's not particularly helpful in terms of your combat options, most of the time, and basically means you end up skipping your next turn, which sucks. Much more importantly, people changing initiative counts mid combat can be a real pain for some group's logistics. You may want to consider house ruling the item to not change your initiative.

Set against a charge

This is synonymous with 'readied' in this context. Weapons with the 'brace' special property can be set against a charge as a ready action, which then lets them deal double damage. This and the last thing are talking about the same thing.

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I'm not entirely happy with my answer, but under the RAW viewpoint, this may be as good as it gets. (The whole "ready a weapon against a charge" is a bit murky, even without the complication of the boots)

  • as long as you carry a two-handed weapon...

From the context of the rest of the sentence, it's fairly clear they mean carried in hand.
Not necessarily wielded 1 - you can carry a two-handed weapon with one hand, even though you can't wield it, so there is a difference.

  • you are treated as if you had readied that weapon...

The rules for readying against a charge say:

The ready action lets you prepare to take an action later, after your turn is over but before your next one has begun. Readying is a standard action.
[...]
You can ready certain piercing weapons, setting them to receive charges.

The special text against "settable" weapons doesn't add much, but confirms that it is an action:

If you use a ready action to set a (halberd) against a charge, you deal double damage on a successful hit against a charging character.

The phrasing "as long as you carry... you are treated as if..." sounds like it takes no action to ready. It doesn't mention the attack itself - normally, this results from the ready action (which you haven't had to take). RAW, I think this is unanswerable.

  • against any creature that charges you...

It says any creature. It doesn't specify whether this is the first creature to charge you in a round, or if it is all creatures that charge you. "Any" certainly suggests "all", but it's not explicit. Again, I think it is unanswerable as RAW.


1 If you weren't looking for RAW, I'd suggest that they actually meant wielded.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "you are treated as if you had readied that weapon against any creature that charges you" if you had readied that weapon, you would get the attack. So you get the attack. Why unanswerable? You haven't had to take the action, but you are treated as if you did. - Also note that "any" might mean "the one you choose among many, and you're free to choose whichever you want". Contrast with "every". \$\endgroup\$ – Zachiel Aug 25 '17 at 8:37
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I'm totaly aware that this answer will probably gather downvotes quickly, but I think it may be helpful for the OP. If you are interested in strict RAW answer, I personally agree with Dan B.

The awkvardness realy isn't coming from the boots. It is readying against charge general rule what is responsible for it. RAW it probably works (untill boots are concerned) despite being questionable from simulationism viewpoint. We can only guess about RAI, but consider such an assumption of how maybe readying against charge was intended to work:

As a standard actoin you may set [insert weapon_name here] to recieve charges. Untill the start of your next turn all your attacks with [insert weapon_name here] deal double damage on a successful hit against a charging character. This is a special kind of ready action and doesn't change your initiative count.

So, your "set" doesn't itself result in attack when someone charges you. But you deal double damage on every AoO you normally make. This seems very good themathically, and mostly solves your disturbance about the boots (besides the part about carrying).

But. It also makes bracing against a charge almost worthless against the most common treat (mounted combatant1) it was used against and leeds to overall decrease in it's effectiveness (untill you are charged by multiple enemies with the shorter_than_yours reach and you have Combat Reflexes and decent Dex).


1: There are two things. First, mounted charger will most probably use lance, so, untill you are larger, you both have the same reach and there will be no AoO. Second, good mounted combatants probably have Ride-by-Attack, which completely ignores AoOs untill you are standing next to the target of a charge, and isn't the target yourself.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Why are you talking about AoOs? Bracing only works with readied actions. \$\endgroup\$ – Zachiel Aug 25 '17 at 8:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Zachiel Because I suggest a ruling, which I think may be the intent, that you waste a standart action to make subsequent attacks stronger. Isn't it clear from the answer? Whith what attack can you strike a charging character? That should be AoO. Well, that may be not AoO thanks to some trick, but tricks are not what general rules describe. \$\endgroup\$ – annoying imp Aug 25 '17 at 9:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ I see you're trying to make sense of the readying action, but I don't get why you turn it into an AoO. Apart for not getting whatìs questionable simulationistically (you stick the far end of your halberd against the ground behind you and point it at the charging opponent with your hands so that his inertia does the work), I can understand that one can think it was intended to work differently but I can't understand why you think turning it into an AoO is a good idea. Unless your weapon has reach, you don't even get an AoO when someone charges you. \$\endgroup\$ – Zachiel Aug 25 '17 at 9:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Zachiel That is what my last paragraph is about. I'm saying it works bad this way or another for different reasons. It just seems to me, that author of the boots thought reading against charge works similar to the way I describe here. \$\endgroup\$ – annoying imp Aug 25 '17 at 11:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Zachiel For "why reading against charge works bad (read unclear in this case) under RAW" you may check the link posted by Erik (or find the link in the question). \$\endgroup\$ – annoying imp Aug 25 '17 at 11:25

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