In many build guides (e.g. RPGBOT), I see people saying this feat sucks for having so many prereq feats and providing so few character tactical options, except for certain classes like the Scout, who would need to move around the battlefield to maintain their damage output continuously.

But I also see some PCs mentioned that when this feat is combined with a character with high land speed (e.g. a high-level monk (90 feet) or a barbarian with a horned helmet (80 feet) (both can be increased by 30 feet further if are under haste effect)), they can just get out of a cover (e.g. perhaps an Antimagic Field, a Magic Circle against Chaos, a fighter holding his Tower Shield or things similar), hit an opponent, and then sneak back with ease.

Or, in an one-on-one combat, such a character can easily jump onto the enemy's face, hit hard, and then jump out of the threat range. It could be especially effective when the enemy can only take one action per round for some reason or has a horrific full-attack combo.

So I am wondering what land speed would be the minimal requirement for maximising the utility of this feat? I can see if, with some good planning, it can be very useful when the situation is too dangerous for a melee-focused character to make a full-round attack and when a single attack (likely with Power Attack) is powerful enough already. I personally feel even 40 feet is hard to put this feat to good use. Perhaps 60 feet-ish?


2 Answers 2


I broadly agree with @KRyan's answer, but I really like the flavor of spring attack: it feels cool to be able to use, even when it's mechanically unsound. So, setting aside all of their correct(!) criticisms of the feat, I'm going to try to answer with the assumption that "I'm taking spring attack" is desirable on its own for whatever reason. So: let's just assume that all references to spring attack in this answer carry an implicit "to the extent that it's ever useful" assumption.

Also, note that enemy reach here mostly means "compared to your own reach"; it got ugly including that, though; "without reach" means "without reach that's larger than yours", basically.

Faster will always be better, especially with feats like spring attack. There is no point at which more speed stops being useful at least once in any campaign I've ever seen or heard about (granted, there may be only one time that having a speed over 9,000 was useful, but that one time was Really Cool™).

The benefits of speed will also highly depend on the areas in which combat takes place. Fighting on an infinite, featureless plane favors speed and spring attack far more than fighting in a divinely-enforced 10x10x10 cube.

That said: to my analysis, the utility of spring attack kicks in at a speed of 10 feet, increases quickly to a speed of about 30, then very slowly increases to whatever maximum speed you can manage to attain.

At a move speed of 10 feet, you can use spring attack to avoid the negative effects of any creature with a 5-foot aura that affects you during their turn and/or on the beginning of your turn, so long as the aura doesn't also trigger when you enter it. Granted, there aren't a whole lot of such creatures out there.

At a move speed of 10 feet, you can also avoid melee attacks by immobile creatures without reach, which is even better than having an arbitrarily high AC (again, though, the count of such creatures is quite rare, unless you're in a party that can apply similar conditions). In this one very specific situation, you with spring attack against an immobile foe without reach or special abilities, you can simply say "I kill it" and it can't do anything in response.

At a move speed of 20 feet, you can reliably prevent creatures without reach from full-attacking you with melee attacks, provided you have an open enough environment through which to move. This is especially useful against foes that depend on their iterative attacks or if you have some once-a-round trick to avoid getting hit.

At a move speed of 30, you can reliably prevent many creatures with 10 feet of reach from full-attacking you with melee attacks, again provided you can move through the environment sufficiently easily.

I don't have an easily-searchable-by-move-speed table of monsters from 3.5, but my memory is that a move speed above 50 is fairly rare (dragons being the notable exceptions, followed by teleporters). At a move speed of 55, then, you can reliably prevent a great many - possibly even "most" - creatures without reach from attacking at all except via charge (and, with a little bit of helpful terrain or allies, possibly even that).

Beyond a speed of 55, you're going to continue to gain in utility from spring attack, but the increased benefit per speed bump will be more limited. You'll be able to stay out of the threatened area of more creatures, but the number of additional foes you'll be able to avoid decreases (eg., dwarfs have a move speed of 20; with a move speed of 45 on a featureless plain, you can prevent them from ever attacking you; increasing your speed to 50 doesn't help against that particular foe). Similarly, terrain will become less of a concern, though the theaters in which the extra speed will matter become less frequent.

The next jumps in utility happen at staggeringly high speeds, when you can spring attack from outside of ranged attack distances, though even a meager dagger's range is 50 feet, so your speed would need to be at least 110 to stay out of it outside of your turn (assuming the dagger's thrower couldn't move); a composite longbow's 100-foot range means you need to be able to cover 2010 feet per round to do the same.

There is no non-cheese speed at which spring attack's utility is maximized. Where is the minimum speed at which it's "worth it"? That depends heavily on the campaign. If you're mostly fighting in 30x30 rooms, a move speed of 20 will honestly provide quite a bit of the feat's benefit with extra speed going to waste. If you're fighting on infinite, featureless plains, more speed is always better.

But, what about multiple opponents?

Against multiple opponents, the analysis basically holds up the same; the additional opponents roughly equate to less-favorable terrain or combat theaters: you have fewer safe squares to enter, whether it's because a square is occupied by a foe or a stalagmite.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for taking up this cause. I will point out that the Dodge feat is free to a level 1 ninja from the (officially licensed) Rokugan sourcebook, and the Mobility feat costs only a +1 enhancement bonus on armor (MIC 13)—together, the price becomes okay. Further, when it's combined with the hide in plain sight ability, the Spring Attack feat really is (ahem) something to see at the table. Finally, the Fly-by Attack feat doesn't prevent attacks of opportunity like the Spring Attack feat does. Sure, Spring Attack probably won't matter at levels 17–20, but who plays that anyway? \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 4, 2023 at 21:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan Well, actually, I was planning to throw my PCs into a strange campaign where a lot of NPCs are 20-ish and there would be a lot of communication rather than direct combat happens (but combat does happen, yeah, with some NPCs' help). Any suggestions to make them look strong while still letting PCs (14-16 atm, likely reach 18 afterwards) play an important role in the battle? (Or should I open a new question for it?) \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 5, 2023 at 1:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan My groups do play at or above such levels, all the time. But then we seem to be a rare species of roleplayers who can keep high and epic levels consistently fun in our groups. \$\endgroup\$
    – nijineko
    Commented May 5, 2023 at 2:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TerryWindwalker Honestly, that sounds like a better conversation for a forum. I bet the GITP folks would dig that discussion. Still, off the top of my head, one way to create a "reasonable" environment like you describe would be to allow the PCs to use the campaign's "normal" optimization strategies but limit NPCs to (reskinned) published NPCs or limit artificially NPC design choices (e.g. NPCs have one base class, up to one prestige class, and only feats with 2 or fewer prerequisites—or whatever). One of the issues with high-level play is DM prep time; use the setting to cut that. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 5, 2023 at 10:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nijineko I was out of room to phrase my rhetorical question to include the all the time part, which—you're right—is really important. I mean, I've run campaigns that reach those levels, but not all the time. :-) \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 5, 2023 at 10:16

There isn’t any. Those people claiming that with enough speed, the feat is good, are simply wrong. The feat is never good.

The problem is that if your turn is just one regular weapon attack, you have no hope of your turn being effective. At higher levels, characters are getting many, many attacks (or they’re using a special attack with huge bonuses, or they’re doing things better than attacking in the first place); getting just one regular attack doesn’t matter.

Player’s Handbook II has Bounding Assault and Rapid Blitz to allow you to get a second attack at −5 and then a third attack at −10 when you spring attack, and Tome of Battle has Snap Kick, which allows you to take −2 on all attacks to get an extra attack whenever you attack, and that includes when using Spring Attack. So with those feats, you are now attacking a respectable 4 times... but you have spent an incredible six feats for the privilege, when otherwise that is just the default number of attacks a full-BAB character gets. And that character could have taken Snap Kick themselves, if they wanted. Furthermore, it’s extremely difficult to build on this from there: you can’t benefit from Tome of Battle maneuvers, you can’t benefit from other sources of extra attacks like haste or a speed weapon, you aren’t charging so a ton of bonuses are unavailable to you, etc.

But even all of those problems with the Spring Attack et al. line don’t really tell the whole story. The real problem for Spring Attack is the competition—the other things you can take instead. For instance, Spring Attack just has no hope of ever achieving usefulness because Fly-by Attack exists. Every character ever must have flight by around 10th level or so; you simply cannot hope to keep up with opponents at that level without it. And Fly-by Attack, unlike Spring Attack, doesn’t require Dodge or Mobility; you can just take Fly-by Attack. Furthermore, instead of just attacking once, you can use any standard action—which could be casting a spell, using a Tome of Battle maneuver, using something like Manyshot or Improved Manyshot, etc. This is vastly better than Spring Attack, and costs 1 feat, not 3-6.

And despite Fly-by Attack completely outclassing Spring Attack in very-nearly every way, Fly-by Attack is only considered a so-so feat. It’s popular, but mostly with spellcasters. Most warriors prefer even more mobility than it offers, and so turn to the Complete Champion barbarian’s lion spiritual totem for pounce, or the Travel Devotion feat, also from Complete Champion. Pounce allows you to full-attack at the end of a charge; Travel Devotion allows you to move as a swift action so you can full-attack wherever you go to. There are some limitations here—charging requires certain terrain and geometry, Travel Devotion can only be used a few times per day—but these are so much cheaper, and do so much more, than even Fly-by Attack does, that almost every optimal warrior has one or the other. (It is a little silly that almost every warrior-type character requires at least one level of either barbarian or cleric, but that’s how it is.)

So Spring Attack is just bad. It requires too many feats, and is too limited, and is utterly outclassed by cheaper options. Even core-only, Fly-by Attack is a core feat. The only reason to ever even have Spring Attack is because you’re an elocater who needed it to qualify for that prestige class, or you’re a swiftblade who got it as a bonus feat, but even then you’ll probably never use it.

  • \$\begingroup\$ There is one thing I would like to ask would the attacks beyond 2nd really matter in real combat? I made a brief calculation before, and it seems that when we consider the first attack (full BAB) has a hit rate of exactly 100%, the hit rate for one of the 3rd and 4th attacks (50% and 25%) to not miss is slightly lower than the 2nd attack (75%), which actually means if we are taking feats for additional attacks, 3rd and after is never cost-efficient unless you have tons of AB. In a high level where AC is generally somewhere 35-45, 3rd attack and after are basically ignorable in combat. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 5, 2023 at 0:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TerryWindwalker It depends, of course, and obviously −10 or −15 is a lot. But yes, they matter. AC is a very, very weak defense in this system, and many targets may easily have so little that you can hit even with −15, particularly if you’re doing things to jack up your attack. Consider that Power Attack contemplates volunteering for penalties up to −20 on top of those penalties—that’s kind of where the math is at. And with enough optimization—Shock Trooper, wraithstrike, for two of the bigger things—you can reasonably expect to hit 4+ times with full Power Attack. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented May 5, 2023 at 1:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ "Even core-only, Fly-by Attack is a core feat" - Remind me where it is? I can't find it in the PHB. \$\endgroup\$
    – J. Mini
    Commented May 7, 2023 at 12:13
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @J.Mini It’s in Monster Manual. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented May 7, 2023 at 12:48

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