From the comments it seems I havent quite asked the correct question. For the purposes of some abilities, largely related to path of war but also relevent in regular pathfinder, what is an encounter which I consider to be combat. What would define the start and/or end? Can you enter into it and there be no attacks or danger?

The reason for this question comes from Path of War (PoW). In this rules expansion there are many abilities which can only be used during combat, in my specific case, the medics triage ability. The class has limited healing, but that healing can be used in EVERY combat, regardless how many you have had that day. But has very little for healing outside of combat.

Now you could just attack an ally to cause combat, but that tends to upset people. Which bares the question, just what is combat and combat rounds? The combat rules page doesn't actually say what combat is or what is required to initiate combat. Would it be possible to enter into "combat" to perform the triage healing because someone was damaged by a trap lets say?

Triage (Ex): A medic must be able to react immediately to any danger that threatens her allies. At 1st level, a medic gains the ability to perform a triage as a swift action. When she does, she can move up to her speed, so long as she ends her movement adjacent to an ally. That ally is healed for a number of hit points equal to three times the medic’s initiator level. This increases to four times her initiator level at 7th level and five times her initiator level at 14th level. In addition, she can apply the effects of one of her medic's expertises (see page X) to the ally, if applicable. The medic can also perform a triage on herself; she does not move when she does so. A medic can use this ability three times per encounter at 1st level, plus one additional time per encounter at 4th level and every three levels thereafter. Alternatively, the medic can take a full round action to apply her triage to multiple allies at once. If she does so, she can move up to twice her speed; this movement ignores difficult terrain and does not provoke attacks of opportunity. Any ally that the medic is adjacent to at any point during this movement is healed for the medic’s triage amount. In addition, the medic can apply the normal number of medic’s expertises for a medic of her level to each healed ally. Each ally can only benefit from the full-round use of triage’s healing once per use of the ability. Using triage in this way costs two uses of the ability.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented May 28, 2018 at 0:13

2 Answers 2


The author says that triage intentionally can be used only during an encounter… then helpfully defines encounter

The thread Giant in the Playground thread "[Dreamscarred Press] Presents: The MEDIC!" includes a couple of relevant posts by the medic's author. The first is this from page one of the thread that begins with a quotation from one of the medic class's playtesters:

While I understand that DSP [Dreamscarred Press] doesnt have anything against At-will healing, I would like to point out that there is no text stating that the medic cannot use the Triage ability outside of combat. I dont know if this was intentional.

That wording is actually contained within the PoW [Path of War] definition of "encounter" which is

An encounter is a period of time from when initiative begins (starting with the surprise round, if any) to the last initiative has ended and after a total time amount of one minute has elapsed without combat resuming. This means that martial disciples have had time to recover all expended maneuvers and abilities that are used and depleted within the span of an encounter. [This quotation is from Per Encounter Powers on Path of War 28.]

As it's a per encounter ability, it can only be used during an encounter. But I can see the need for reminder/clarification text, and that is something I'm working on with help from some of the other writers.

On page 2 of the thread there's also this post by the medic's author that begins with a quotation from another playtester:

It's extremely disappointing [i.e. the medic's triage ability]. This makes the medic a healing focused class that can't actually heal any wounds that weren't caused right now- they're useless in a hospital situation or really anywhere that isn't in the middle of a fight on the front lines. I'm not even sure what the problem was, since hp attrition has never been a thing in D&D (and is likewise completely eliminated by Silver Crane) and condition removal from spell services is really cheap and readily available almost everywhere.

Without getting into my own opinion on the matter, there is a notable camp of though that disagrees with you and believes that HP attrition is a thing (and/or should be a thing) in D&D. There is room in the class to add additional features to help them heal outside of combat, though I'm reluctant to do so because triage already presents apparent issues and I don't want to split up the medic's healing ability into multiple different types as that just strikes me as exceedingly messy.

Tactically speaking, even before this line was added I found that medics operated best when they saved 2 triage uses for the end of the encounter so that they could use a full round action to heal up all their allies in one go. So even in the case of the medic being able to heal more freely, I found it better to play your triage uses conservatively.

(This answer's author has preserved these as best he could from their original, adding only the bracketed editorial comments for clarity.)

So, while this fine answer discusses what an encounter and a combat are in the broader perspective of Pathfinder as a whole, Path of War has its own unique definition of an encounter.

To be clear, Combat on Initiative says, "At the start of a battle, each combatant makes an initiative check." Presumably, the GM—rather than the PCs or the players—determines exactly when (or even if) a battle begins, and, likewise, if initiative should be rolled if it's a battle of wits or a metaphorical battle against time or whatever. In short, if the GM has the medic roll initiative, then it's an encounter, and the healing can begin.

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    \$\begingroup\$ So, the medic IS forced into attacking allies to provide "out of combat" healing... \$\endgroup\$
    – Fering
    Commented May 28, 2018 at 0:36
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Fering I guess so… if the GM says that'll really and technically start a battle. I mean, unless the medic's serious about it—going after his allies with deadly force (rather than unimproved unarmed strikes or whatever) and the medic's allies responding in kind—, the GM may rule that the medic's merely roughhousing (or some other euphemism) rather than engaging in actual battle. (And, yeah, I totally know it sucks, but, in other words, ask the GM how that'd be handled. Also you really should read that thread!) \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 28, 2018 at 0:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ So he did mean combat encounter and not just any encounter. \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Commented May 28, 2018 at 1:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ShadowKras The author uses the technical Path of War definition of encounter. Like I said, it's possible the GM may have folks roll initiative for a battle of wits or a race against time, but it really does sounds like the author intended the triage ability to be used only in actual, for-reals, Incoming!, hey-look-swords-and-stuff combat. (And, to be clear, no, I'm not really sure how a GM goes about justifying it narratively, either.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 28, 2018 at 1:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ Suggestions for improvement welcome. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 28, 2018 at 2:17

An Encounter is defined on the Gamemastery Guide (pg 9):

Encounter: An encounter is a short scene in which the PCs are actively doing something. Examples of encounters include a combat with a monster, a social interaction significant to the adventure’s plot, an attempt to disarm a trap, or the discovery of a mystery or clue requiring further investigation.

While a Combat encounter (pg 176) is described as:

Combat: In a combat encounter, the PCs are faced with a foe or foes that bar progress—in order to complete the encounter, the PCs must defeat the foes in combat. A combat encounter can be with a single opponent or a group of foes. In most dungeons, combat encounters are the rule. Rules and guidelines for building balanced combat encounters can be found on pages 397–399 of the Core Rulebook.

This means that a combat is a type (or archetype, as described in the book) of encounter, just like traps, puzzles, natural hazards or even an obstacle that the characters have to participate in order to move the plot forward.

If the ability says it can be used once per encounter, then encountering a trap, hazard, or even a wandering merchant should also count, but would that really be what the author intended? It's possible that he simply used encounter as a term for combat encounter by mistake. That would require us to actually contact the author to actually have an answer.

The way I see it, the author meant combat encounter. But the way it is actually written and for your Path of War abilities to work, there must be some kind of creature blocking your progression, an obstacle threatening the life of your character, an enemy that must be defeated, or some kind of plot-oriented situation that has to be overcome in some way before the story can move on.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Why do you say that there must be a creature? Why would the other types of encounters be sufficient to use abilities? \$\endgroup\$
    – Fering
    Commented May 27, 2018 at 18:58
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ It does appear to be what you said. The ability requires an encounter — you define encounters —you define combat as just one type of encounter — you conclude the ability requires a combat encounter, contrary to the stuff leading up to that. Is that not the intent? That’s how I’m reading this post (as Fering seems to be too). \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 27, 2018 at 19:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ This kind of explanation would go a long way to fill the gap in the answer's trail of reasoning that prompted these comments. :) \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 28, 2018 at 1:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ Alright. Will do. \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Commented May 28, 2018 at 1:01

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