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There are items and powers in 4th edition that allow you to spend a minor action to have an effect until the end of the encounter.

For example,

  • An armor with a daily minor-action power that grants it a +2 bonus to AC
  • A power that gives you +2 to all defenses until end of encounter

Suppose you are in front of a door and you know there are monsters on the other side. Can you use these minor actions to active the buffs before initiative is rolled (even before the surprise round)?

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Yes, powers which last until the end of the encounter can be used outside of combat.

Any power which lasts "until the end of the encounter" actually lasts for up to 5 minutes, as shown in the Rules Compendium.

Until the End of the Encounter: The effect ends at the end of the current encounter or after five minutes, whichever comes first. [Rules Compendium 226]

During combat, this limit is rarely relevant, since 50-round encounters are all but unheard of in normal play. However, it also allows such a power to be used outside of combat, and some powers (generally only Utility powers) are even designed around it.

If a power has a shorter duration than that, it can still be used for whatever purposes, but it's unlikely to last all the way until combat starts.

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Yes.

This would be a useless resource expenditure if the duration was anything other than "until the end of the encounter", but for that specific duration you can activate your buffs before the fight if you want. After all, anything that last until the end of the encounter will last for five minutes. (Rules Compendium, pg 226)

In case you are wondering why this specific duration, it is the time you need to use to make a short rest. This ensure that you can't bring one "full encounter" buff to the next (unless you abide from healing and recovering your encounter powers).

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