New Feat: Contingency

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Fixxxer
Fixxxer's picture
New Feat: Contingency

This is something that's been tickling the back of my mind recently and I thought I'd put it down on paper to see what it looked like. I think the idea behind it is sound, but I can't seem to find language for the feat that I like. Here's what I've got so far:

Contingency [General]
You always have a backup plan.
Prerequisite: Int 13+ or Wis 13+
Benefit: Whenever you use the Ready special initiative action, you may ready two actions instead. You may still only take a single readied action per turn, but may specify two actions with two triggering conditions and react to the first the occurs. For example, you might use the Ready action to shoot your bow if the thugs you're fighting draw weapons or to move to cover behind a pillar if one of them begins casting a spell.

Talanall
Talanall's picture

I think the either-or prerequisite is a bad decision. Combat Expertise is already a pretty attractive feat because it allows an AC boost and also serves as a gateway for Improved Trip and Whirlwind Attack. The Combat Expertise > Improved Trip chain is already very attractive as the basis for a "battlefield control" combatant.

This feat is particularly attractive as a refinement that same build. A trip-monkey equipped with a halberd can use this feat to ready a set attack against a charge (for double damage) while concurrently maintaining a readied action to trip anyone who enters his threatened area without charging at him.

If Int 13+ is a prerequisite, then there is no debate about whether you take the feat; you just do.

So I like Wis 13+ as a prerequisite. The feat still has good synergy with the usual tactics of a trip-monkey, but getting Int 13 and Wis 13 means you have to sacrifice something else in a point buy, or you have to have gotten really lucky in a dice-generated array.

Furthermore, I think Wis 13+ is more in keeping with the basis of the feat, which is that you are watching for two different trigger conditions and responses, then activating the first one that comes into effect.

If you wanted to make this feat ability-agnostic, Combat Reflexes might be an acceptable prerequisite instead, although that really would impose a "soft requirement" of Dex 12+, because the utility of Combat Reflexes is at its fullest if you have a positive Dex modifier. Creatures with Dex 11 or less still derive a very modest benefit from the feat because they can make AoOs while flat-footed, but the real draw is the feat's ability to grant a second (and possibly third, fourth, and fifth) AoO per round.

Overall, I think I prefer Wis 13+.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Fixxxer
Fixxxer's picture

I started with Wis 13+ originally. My thinking at the time for adding Int 13+ was because I was working on an Int-based PrC at the time and this feat sprang from that build. You make a good point about that, and I'm generally in favor of using Wis as a prerequisite for situational awareness types of things specifically to help combat the use of Wis as a dump stat for anyone that's not a divine caster.

What do you think of the wording of the feat? It gets the point across, but while I can't put my finger on it exactly, something seems hitchy about the way it reads.

deadDMwalking
deadDMwalking's picture

I think Wis 13+ is appropriate; no need for an 'or'. Feats are very limited in 3.x, so I don't know that everyone would take it if they were making a trip monkey, but if so, I don't think that'd necessarily be a bad thing. Power level wise, it's not breaking the game.

As for text, I'd say:

Benefit: When readying an action, you may specify two actions that you will take as well as the conditions for each action. Any time before your next action, you may take one of the chosen actions if the conditions are met.
Normal: You must select a single action and set of conditions to trigger a readied action.

Talanall
Talanall's picture

I don't see anything unclear about the current phrasing of the feat's benefit. The only quibble I have is that it's named the same as a spell from the Core Rules, which could lead to some confusion. That's

Regarding the "must have" status for a trip-monkey, making Wisdom the prerequisite fixes that. If it's Int 13+, then it's a must have because the basic build only requires two feats, Combat Expertise and Improved Trip. A human of any class can start with those at first level and be fully functional as a trip-monkey.

Minutiae of that specific build aside, this is a VERY powerful feat because it is 1) exploitable and 2) useful to almost any character of any class. It's a "must have" feat for the trip-monkey, but most non-spellcasting characters really won't find it revolutionary. Spellcasters are another story, though. I can think of a lot of very nasty tricks based on the ability to specify two readied actions and take the first one to be triggered, because that affords me an opportunity to specify a readied action that I really want (say, counterspelling against a hostile wizard) and also a second one that isn't what I REALLY want, but which is still virtually certain to happen if my first one doesn't trigger. It means I get to have my cake and eat it, too.

I'm pretty sure that it is actually a game-breaker.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Fixxxer
Fixxxer's picture

Talanall wrote:

Spellcasters are another story, though. I can think of a lot of very nasty tricks based on the ability to specify two readied actions and take the first one to be triggered, because that affords me an opportunity to specify a readied action that I really want (say, counterspelling against a hostile wizard) and also a second one that isn't what I REALLY want, but which is still virtually certain to happen if my first one doesn't trigger. It means I get to have my cake and eat it, too.

That's really the point here. But since this is a feat and not a class ability, it comes at the cost of giving up a very valuable and very limited feat slot. Even a human spellcaster only gets 8 of them before reaching epic levels.

Talanall
Talanall's picture

Are you kidding? I would choose this before any metamagic feat.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

deadDMwalking
deadDMwalking's picture

My take is that this is a good feat, and there's no point in making not good feats. Because the number of feats are so limited, those that aren't good enough for a build never see play. If you're going to create a feat, you want people to take it.

But of course, if you make it too good, everyone has to take it. I don't think we're in that territory.

But even if we assume that it was some kind of Kantian Imperative that every character did take this feat, what are the ultimate consequences?

People aren't getting more actions. At best, they're getting more USEFUL actions. They're able to specify the thing that they most want to do that's conditional and the thing that they'll settle for if circumstances don't line up. Considering how important keeping players engaged is, I don't see a problem with that. If you can tell what the conditions are, there are still ways to avoid it. A character that has readied an action is surely up to something. I don't see it as a problem. Honestly, I'd rather wizards take this than any metamagic feat; most of those aren't great without something like divine metamagic because they boost the spell level high enough that it isn't frequently worth the cost.

Talanall
Talanall's picture

I think this feat is extraordinarily good, to the point that any character who can take it but doesn't needs to have a pretty good rationale to explain why not. For spellcasters, it goes well past that point; if you can take this feat and you don't, you're choosing to be decisively less powerful than anyone who has it.

The only reason I would consider not taking this if it were available for Dalvar's 3.5e version is that he relies so extensively on summon monster spells, which can't be readied because they take a full round to cast. Even with that in mind, it's such a powerful feat that I might very well take it just because it's such a huge upgrade to his psionic capabilities.

If he weren't summoning-orientated, then I would take this feat without a second's hesitation.

To illustrate the point, let's imagine that I am readying an action with this feat. I'm playing a sorcerer, and I'm facing a spellcaster, an archer, and a heavily armored melee character. The initiative order is such that I act first, then the spellcaster, then the archer, and then the tank. We'll say that the tank is armed with a sword and board.

I'm not alone against all three of these characters, but for the purposes of this example that doesn't matter. We're illustrating its effects on action economy.

I can ready an action to use dispel magic to counterspell against the spellcaster. Concurrently, I also can ready an action to cast blindness against the spellcaster if the tank performs an action other than making a ranged attack.

The possible results of this strategy are:
1) The spellcaster triggers a counterspell.
2) The tank triggers a blindness against the spellcaster.
3) The tank sacrifices his turn in order to nullify my readied action.

No matter what happens, I win. Either I get to take one of my readied actions, or I neutralize somebody.

So I would not allow this feat in a game for which I was the DM.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

MinusInnocence
MinusInnocence's picture

What I would really like to see is for it to be broken up into two feats: the first one listing only Combat Reflexes as a prerequisite but letting you ready two actions in response to one declared trigger, and the second requiring Wis 13+ and letting you declare two triggers with a readied action in response to each of them.

This means that for the full benefit of what we're seeing in the rough draft, you have to spend a total of three feats (the first of which almost certainly means you have a positive Dex modifier to get the most mileage out of it, as Tal observed) and have a Wis modifier of +1 or higher. I might even be open to having a final feat in this chain that requires Wis 14+ and lets you declare two triggers and two readied actions for each of them. Scaling it this way makes it less and less likely that people will continue investing in the tactic, but ensures they keep getting more bang for their buck.

I just wouldn't feel comfortable letting someone take the feat as it is written. It might even be more appropriate broken down as class features for a 3 level PrC instead of a feat chain. That might help to mitigate some of the "it's so good, why wouldn't everyone do this?" stuff.

"Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag and begin slitting throats." - H.L. Mencken

Talanall
Talanall's picture

Mike's suggestion has some potential to quell my most pressing concerns about the feat as it's written. Overall, anything that meddles with action economy needs to be very expensive, because the action economy is a really profound element of how combat encounters are balanced in 3.5e.

If this feat were broken into two pieces, I still would seriously consider taking them both for a spellcaster. Being able to establish this kind of "fork" in a readied action is extremely powerful, as I think my example scenario demonstrates. I can cook up lots of scenarios along those same lines; I threw this one together quickly, and did not try to optimize it.

Requiring Combat Reflexes probably would be enough to dissuade me from using it with an arcane caster because I'd need to mostly waste a feat in addition to needing Wis 13+, but I probably still can make it work with a cleric or druid (and it may actually be nastier; like I said, I didn't take the time to game this out for the cheesiest possible application). Combat Reflexes can be useful, in particular, for druids because Wild Shape prevents me from having to have a positive Dex modifier in order to avoid "wasting" Combat Reflexes.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold