I have been leading by example and using enemies and custom monsters to show off combat strategies and builds to my players. This has worked pretty well so far – my players have been much more receptive to these demonstrations than when I just give them build advice, and they've adopted some combos I've demoed.

The next combination I was intending to demo is Improved Trip, Combat Reflexes, and Elusive Target with the Spiked Chain, but it seems very synergetic, and possibly broken. Is this combo as overpowered as it seems? Does it have notable weaknesses or drawbacks? I'd like to get a reality check before I pit my players against it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, after reading some other posts, of course I realize that starting as a Goliath (Powerful Build - Races of Stone) increases the build, as would other size bonuses... \$\endgroup\$ – Jonny Delirium Jul 30 '12 at 7:08

I've played a fighter character up to level 6 with Improved Trip, Combat Reflexes, and a spiked chain. I wasn't overly impressed with the setup. It looks great on paper until you spend all of those attack actions on trip attempts that are straight opposed checks against the enemy's Str or Dex, whichever is higher. Granted, my fighter had a well above-average strength score, but it wasn't other-worldly, so my trip attempts had roughly a 70% chance of success against a foe with no better than average strength and dex. It isn't too often that you get to stand toe-to-toe with an enemy that is average in both of those stats (otherwise that enemy would likely not want to be in melee range with you), so the trip attempts were largely a 50/50 shot. That is far, far worse, than the success rate of just a normal attack, to the point of being very depressing and wasting so many actions on failed attacks.

As for Combat Reflexes with a spiked chain, the extra reach with the chain really enhanced the ability to do attacks of opportunity. However, against any type of smart enemy, one successful lash of the chain on an attack of opportunity severely discouraged other enemies from coming within even the extended range of my character's position, unless the terrain dictated a more close quarters fight. Also, if there are other melee-range allies nearby, smart enemies often could use them as soft cover to avoid provoking my attacks of opportunity at an extended range.

So, all-in-all, the style points are pretty cool, but the practical application of tripping everyone with a spiked chain, even on frequent extended range attacks of opportunity just didn't work out very well.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ "smart enemies often could use them as soft cover to avoid provoking my attacks of opportunity at an extended range." To my knowledge there is no impediment to using reach weapon and/or trip atk through an allie's square. This is the only point I think u were off on. \$\endgroup\$ – Ben-Jamin Nov 12 '13 at 4:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ben-Jamin See this question regarding soft cover and attacks of opportunity at reach: rpg.stackexchange.com/a/35443/2787 \$\endgroup\$ – Matt Hamsmith Jul 9 '14 at 14:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Huh, whatdya know, learned something new. We've never played with any of those rules. Question, it says "can" does that mean that (in instance of the person being an enemy opt NOT to provide the bonus? I dont see how as people reading the rules but it says "can" which means to me that there are ways in can not. Either way +1 & thx for the education \$\endgroup\$ – Ben-Jamin Jul 11 '14 at 15:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ben-Jamin That's a tricky nuance to the rule. I see multiple interpretations: 1) The entity providing cover can opt not to provide cover. 2) The entity receiving cover can opt not to take cover. 3) The entity facing cover can opt not to face it. #3 seems ridiculous: common sense indicates that an attacking foe cannot choose whether the target has cover or not. But #1 and #2 seem valid interpretations of the rule, though I would choose to interpret the rule as not involving choice - cover exists whether any party involved wants it or not. \$\endgroup\$ – Matt Hamsmith Jul 11 '14 at 18:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ben-Jamin I think the most reasonable interpretation of that part of the rule is: "Soft Cover Creatures, even your enemies, can [be in a position to] provide you with cover against ranged attacks, giving you a +4 bonus to AC." Bracketed text is mine. In this case, "can" refers to the ability to exist in a certain spot, not the ability to choose, once in the certain spot, whether to grant something else the benefits of cover. \$\endgroup\$ – Matt Hamsmith Jul 11 '14 at 18:36

You didn't mention what level your party is at, which is going to be a factor.

As for 'overly powerful', that'll depend on your party. That kind of combo is a huge disadvantage for melee-based characters and pretty much no disadvantage at all for ranged characters. If your melee-based party members are clerics or druids, go for it, they're plenty powerful and versatile anyway. If your melee-based party members are fighters/rogues/anybody who isn't a primary spell caster, then you're just piling extra hassles on the weaker PCs.

In terms of CR, any foe that you put an iota of thought into is dramatically tougher than default monsters. If you're throwing a smart feat/class build on something with a really impressive stat block, your effective CR is going to be quite a bit higher than the by-the-book listing. See for example any dragon that can cast Antimagic Field.

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