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I have a question regarding the weapon feature "Brace". Some weapons have the special weapon feature "Brace", for example a simple spear

How to use it (how I understand it)

On your turn, you take the standard action "Ready".

To do so, specify the action you will take and the conditions under which you will take it.

You specify the action (I will ready my spear) and the condition (I am attacked by a Charge). Then, you wait until the condition happens and take your action (before the triggering action is resolved).

You can now attack a charging enemy with a standard action (so no multiple attacks, if you are able to do so), but deal double damage. If you manage to kill the charging enemy, it does not get to do damage against you (because you interrupted its action). If not, you still deal double damage but receive the charge /the melee attack normally.

Questions

  1. Do I understand readying and charging correctly?
  2. Main Question: Isn't it a bit awkward playing out in a real-life (haha) fight situation? The player has to assume that he is being charged in this round, otherwise she would have wasted their turn. The GM, playing the monsters, has to decide wether she let's her monster run into the brace or not. Does it boil down to the monster strategy "During combat" as written in the monster description? Is there a check a monster can do or fail to notice, wether a PC has braced a weapon against a charge? (And vice versa?)

Thank you all!

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  • \$\begingroup\$ "awkward" is inherently opinion based. Asking how to narrate it so it makes sense as a story would be a bit better, in my opinion. \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot Mar 13 at 15:50
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Yes, your understanding of Charge and Brace is correct

Your PC has to anticipate the charge and set their weapon against it.

It is usable in many common scenarios (especially at low levels)

While 'bracing' won't be useful in every situation, there are plenty of common situations where it is. In practice you need 2 things.

  1. The monster can only realistically target you.
  2. The monster wants to charge.

2 is easy to satisfy. If you're fighting anything with pounce, or just anything that lacks ranged attacks and is more than 1 move away, you can realistically expect the monster to charge. This includes most low level non-humanoid monsters (especially the various beasts).

1 is harder to make happen, but is achievable in hallways, caves, alleyways, mountain passes, any place where you can be out in front of the party with no easy way around you.

Even if it's not awkward to use, it isn't very rewarding

The main problem is that you are giving up the guarantee of an action for the chance of a single stronger attack. Obviously this means that the effectiveness is dependent on the damage you output and the probability that the monster will charge you (which can be manipulated using the above), but there are some broad trends we can call out. If you have more than 1 attack, bracing probably isn't worth it, same for if you can cast spells (unless you are out of slots). These, combined with the tendency for high level monsters to get spells and ranged attacks, means bracing will most often be available to use at low levels.

I personally have only used the Brace action once, on a mid-level cleric, and even then because both the situation was perfect for it and I had carried this trident with me all game and I was going to use it, dangit! I was in a hallway with the rest of the party behind me, the monster was clearly going to charge (only had melee attacks, was more than 40ft away, was a rage monster so it wouldn't think to try something else), and (due to the unique situation not allowing me to regain spellslots on a rest) I wanted to conserve my spells. It worked perfectly, but even then I probably would have been better off using my ranged weapon or a spell. But was it cool? Yes, yes it was.

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  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I, too, in nearly 20 years of play—both as a DM and with my own PCs—have used this option exactly once: my oracle's longspear against a sack-of-hp melee monster, and the monster charged someone else, going past (rather than through) my oracle's threatened area. O, the disappointment! \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Mar 13 at 17:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ We recently had a Samurai Brace multiple times against a zombie-esqe creature... it was very effective. In play, I tend to allow Brace to activate on any ready attack action for "when it moves to attack me" (assuming the creature ends up in the Bracer's threatened area)... if the target charged, you get the Brace benefit; if they did not then you can still choose to use your readied attack without the benefit \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso Mar 13 at 23:09
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  1. Yes.

  2. Yes.

I have literally never seen this option used. In fact, the only real use of it I can imagine is, basically, the real-life one: an army of low-level mooks using it to make the charge itself suicidal. At low levels, charging into three double-damage attacks (from your target and from each mook on either side of them), probably plus three attacks of opportunity (from the same people after their readied action) will likely get you killed, so you probably won’t do it, so it can protect the army as a whole.

By low-mid levels, though, there are just so many ways of breaking that formation that it becomes meaningless. Even at low levels, you could just walk up to the wall instead of charging, negating the effect. Three attacks of opportunity could be rough, but if you are facing an entire army presumably your defenses are far greater than their offenses (or else you shouldn’t be trying to solo that army).

Outside of a formation like that, though, there just isn’t really any reason to even try it. Certainly, every single PC ever should have something better to do with their turn, just about every turn. You can imagine some really contrived scenarios where it becomes a more conceivable choice, but like I said, I’ve never seen any of those actually happen. Maybe some kind of 1st-level bodyguard for a squishy mage, so you stay adjacent and let threats come to you? With a chokepoint so they can’t just go around you and charge your ward. Charges are kind of dangerous, so it’s something. Just really hard to do without an army around you, and at an immense opportunity cost.

Ultimately, though, D&D 3.5e and Pathfinder don’t always have rules because the rules are supposed to be good ideas or useful options. A lot of times, they have rules just because this is a tactic you ought to be able to do, so it should have rules for doing it. Often, those rules are implemented in a way that just kind of passes a “gut check,” seems to make sense to the authors, and no rigorous analysis of whether or not it’s a fair choice is ever made. So the question itself is kind off-base with its very premise: there is no particular promise made that any given option offered by the rules is going to be worth using. For things that cost resources to get (feats, spells, magic items, and so on), there is supposed to be more of a guarantee that it’ll be worth something, but the reality is that 90% of them are crap and aren’t actually worth their cost even when the game says they are or should be (and in at least a few cases, Paizo has explicitly said that things aren’t supposed to be worth their cost—exotic weapons, for a notorious example). For “free” stuff like this, the game doesn’t even pretend to say that.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I would say that there are actually some situations where it's legitimately useful, such as against enemies that get some major benefit out of charging (a cavalier built for Spirited Charge being the most notable), but I would generally agree that it is a very niche tactic and mostly just included because it makes sense for it to be an option. \$\endgroup\$ – Kyle Doyle Mar 13 at 16:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KyleDoyle Except this isn’t going to stop them from charging you in most situations. Yes, a way to stop someone from charging you would be amazing. But this does not do that. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Mar 13 at 20:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well yeah, but it can make the tactic they're built around a much worse idea. If I'm charging at someone with a lance trying to skewer them for triple damage, but every time I do they get an attack against me for double damage that's a much worse deal than usual. And if there are multiple people with spears it becomes an outright terrible idea. \$\endgroup\$ – Kyle Doyle Mar 13 at 21:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KyleDoyle A single attack for double damage is, for most of the game, better than what you usually are dealing with. If an enemy is readying their action like this, thank them for wasting their turn and letting you have yours effectively unimpeded. It simply is not correct that a single double-damage attack is a significant impediment to most characters most of the time. And if multiple characters are throwing their turns away like this, then you’re suddenly the best crowd-control in the game. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Mar 13 at 21:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you are a cavalier optimized for charging and you find yourself fighting a melee combatant you're generally going to want to use your superior mobility to charge past them using Ride-By Attack, dealing them triple damage in the process and leaving yourself out of their attack range, then doing it all over again. Against that tactic, bracing is generally going to be better than charging after them. \$\endgroup\$ – Kyle Doyle Mar 13 at 21:51
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I think there is some misunderstanding of the technique based on word choice. When you brace a spear or pike you do not "attack" anybody. You are simply holding the weapon in place and allowing them to impale themself on it as they attack you. There is an attack roll involved for targeting because you need to keep the weapon angled correctly so that it actually goes into the attacker instead of just being pushed aside.

If you've watched any movies or TV shows that involved cavalry charging into infantry such as the "Spoils of War" episode of Game of Thrones when the Dothraki attack the Lannister supply column then you have seen spears and pikes being braced against a charging enemy. No human is strong enough to hold a spear or pike in place as a strong animal charges at them so bracing is the only realistic option in this situation. Otherwise the spear gets pushed back into the second and third rows of infantry and disrupts the line at a critical moment.

As for the whether or not the charging creature continues their attack and impales themself or turns away when they see the weapon, that depends on several factors starting with whether or not they are able to see the weapon and understand what it is. The term "blind rage" comes to mind. Even if they do see the weapon, they also need to be able to stop or turn away before getting there. A skilled defender who waits until the last minute to brace the weapon may not give the attacker a chance to halt their attack.

One thing to note, a weapon that is braced should not get any damage bonus from the strength of the person holding the weapon. The whole point of the technique is that you are holding the weapon against a solid object so you don't depend on your own strength. You are using their own strength and speed against them. What should offer a bonus to damage is the speed and mass of the creature charging at you. But I have never spent the time to work up or search for a formula for calculating this damage bonus. The truth is that hardly any of my players use spears or pikes so it has never been a major concern.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ While I agree that this answer sounds like an accurate depiction of the technique in real-life, it doesn't address the rules question of how it works in a turn-based game and doesn't cite a rules source for why the damage should be different (though a DM is certainly free to make a house rule that the damage is different in their game). \$\endgroup\$ – Ben S. Mar 15 at 7:17

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