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I have a melee druid I plan on playing specifically in wild shape form. I have tailored my hero to specifically be a specialist of grappling. My current/future feats include:

  • Level 1 Improved Unarmed Strike
  • Level 1 Improved Grappling
  • Level 3 Celestial Obediance Falayna
  • Level 5 Natural Spell
  • Level 7 Defensive Combat Training
  • Level 9 Greater Grappling
  • Level 11 Powerful Shape
  • Level 13 Rapid Grappler

Was just hoping I could get some clarity on the feat Dirty Fighting. I have Improved Unarmed Strike (IUS) at the moment andImproved Grapple. Should I retrain IUS?

Is there any benefit at all in keeping IUS instead of replacing it with Dirty Fighting? Is Dirty Fighting superior in every way?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I have made the assumption in my answer, but possibly you want to clarify your question, that your goal is to have access to Improved Grapple, and you took Improved Unarmed Strike in order to qualify for it - the question being, in the pursuit of Improved Grappling, is Dirty Fighting just flat out better than Improved Unarmed Strike, or is there some hidden caveat you have not noticed? \$\endgroup\$ – Carcer Mar 30 '17 at 7:45
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For reference, the text of these feats:

Dirty Fighting

You can take advantage of a distracted foe.

Benefit(s): When you attempt a combat maneuver check against a foe you are flanking, you can forgo the +2 bonus on your attack roll for flanking to instead have the combat maneuver not provoke an attack of opportunity. If you have a feat or ability that allows you to attempt the combat maneuver without provoking an attack of opportunity, you can instead increase the bonus on your attack roll for flanking to +4 for the combat maneuver check.

Special: This feat counts as having Dex 13, Int 13, Combat Expertise, and Improved Unarmed Strike for the purposes of meeting the prerequisites of the various improved combat maneuver feats, as well as feats that require those improved combat maneuver feats as prerequisites.

vs.

Improved Unarmed Strike

You are skilled at fighting while unarmed.

Benefit: You are considered to be armed even when unarmed—you do not provoke attacks of opportunity when you attack foes while unarmed. Your unarmed strikes can deal lethal or nonlethal damage, at your choice.

Normal: Without this feat, you are considered unarmed when attacking with an unarmed strike, and you can deal only nonlethal damage with such an attack.

There's an obvious comparison of the listed primary benefit of each feat which is fairly trivial; unless you are specifically intending to fight unarmed, Dirty Fighting is a more generally useful feat. Flanking occurs far more frequently than an armed character being separated from their weapons and forced to fight unarmed, but Improved Unarmed Strike is mandatory for any unarmed combat specialist.

However, as wild-shaping Druid, you are not playing an unarmed combat specialist - your attacks are natural weapons, not unarmed strikes, so you already count as armed and do lethal damage - so Improved Unarmed Strike by itself is no use to you. You are only interested in Improved Grapple. Dirty Fighting's special quality enables you to qualify for Improved Grapple without needing Improved Unarmed Strike. It also allows you to take many other Improved Combat Manoeuvre-type feats without having to meet certain other prerequisites. This seems intended specifically as a way to make those combat feats available to a wider range of characters without needing to pay an onerous feat tax (Combat Expertise particularly is much loathed in this regard) or meet Int/Dex requirements. Dirty Fighting may be the only way for low Int/Dex characters to qualify for many combat feats.

However, Dirty Fighting also only counts as Improved Unarmed Strike for the purposes of Improved Combat Manoeuvre feats and feats that have Improved Combat Manoeuvre feats as pre-reqs. Specifically, there are many feats that have Improved Unarmed Strike as a prerequisite that are not Improved versions of a combat manoeuvre, and thus Dirty Fighting does not help you to qualify for taking those. Most of those feats are only useful when using unarmed strikes so they would not be helpful while you are wildshaped, but a few could be applicable to your natural weapons. If you planned to take those feats, you would still need to take Improved Unarmed Strike.

Ultimately, Dirty Fighting is a generally superior feat for those who do not actually want to fight unarmed. You should retrain Improved Unarmed Strike to Dirty Fighting as it will provide you a much greater benefit.

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Yes, you should.

I have a melee druid I plan on playing specifically in wild shape form.

Improved Unarmed Strike grants you no benefits if that is your primary combat strategy. The only benefit would be on non-wild shape combat situations. Your main weapon while wild shaped are natural attacks, not unarmed strikes.

Not only Dirty Fighting replaces Improved Unarmed Strike as feat requirements on your build, but also opens new possibilities for your character, now that he is considered as having dex/int 13 and Combat Expertise aswell.

Should I retrain IUS?

Yes. If your GM allows retraining, that is exactly what i would do.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Do you know approximately how much training would cost at level 5? I know the formula is 10 X Your Level X The number of days required. I'm just wondering how many days roughly would it take? \$\endgroup\$ – Atalius Mar 31 '17 at 0:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ Feats are 5 days. \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowKras Mar 31 '17 at 2:58
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It's not "superior in every way" because it doesn't allow you to make better unarmed strikes.

The real question is which of these two situations are more likely for you to be in:

1) a situation where you can't use your main weapon but need to attack something anyway

2) a situation where you are flanking an opponent and want to perform a combat maneuver.

Dirty Fighting is better for the latter. Improved Unarmed Strike is better for the former. I'd be willing to bet that 2) comes up for more people, though.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The comparison of primary benefits is obvious - Dirty Fighting would probably be more useful to most characters than IUS - but I think the meat of the question relates to Dirty Fighting's special quality of allowing the character to ignore several prerequisites for other combat feats, specifically that it can count as IUS to qualify the character for taking Improved Grapple. \$\endgroup\$ – Carcer Mar 30 '17 at 7:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ His main weapon will, most likely, be natural attacks, not unarmed strikes. \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowKras Mar 30 '17 at 17:15

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