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Making the Most out of the Death or Glory Feat (Pathfinder)
Throughout the history of Third Edition, we’ve seen any number of feats that are poor choices, like the original Toughness or the 3.5 version of Monkey Grip. Pathfinder has been no exception, boasting a number of feats that will see very little use at the gaming table. One of the most recent examples of a bad feat has been Death or Glory from Ultimate Combat . Here’s the feat text, from Paizo’s Pathfinder Reference Document:
Death or Glory (Combat)
Even when facing a larger foe, you aren't afraid to take great risks in order to finish the fight.
Prerequisites: Str 13, Power Attack, base attack bonus +6.
Benefit: Against a creature of size Large or larger, you can make a single melee attack as a full-round action, gaining a +4 bonus on the attack roll, damage roll, and critical confirmation roll. You gain an additional +1 on this bonus at base attack bonus +11, +16, and +20 (for a maximum of +7 at base attack +20). After you resolve your attack, the opponent you attack can spend an immediate action to make a single melee attack against you with the same bonuses.
Special: You can combine the full-round action attack this feat allows with the benefit of Vital Strike, Improved Vital Strike, or Greater Vital Strike.
Death or Glory has three main problems:
- It only works against creatures larger than Medium size. Large and larger creatures do become more common at the higher levels of the game, but villainous NPCs (which will likely be Medium size) are staples of many campaigns, too, limiting the use you’ll see out of Death or Glory from the get-go.
- It only grants you a single attack. Normally, melee damage dealers want to make a large number of attacks to maximize the number of times they’re adding their Strength to damage (as well as any other sources of bonus damage, like elemental weapons, or sneak attack). They give up all of their mobility with full attacks to gain all of those chances to deal their bonus damage, so a feat that restricts them to a single attack for the same full-round action has to be very good to be attractive. Death or Glory, in general, is nowhere near good enough to justify giving up those extra attacks.
- There’s a good chance you’re going to get hit afterwards (since you probably don’t have an exact hit point total for whatever it is that you’re fighting). If losing a big chunk of damage wasn’t enough to deter you away from the feat, the fact that you’re setting yourself for a strong attack from your enemy probably should. Most monsters hit pretty hard already, so most players will be really reluctant to make them hit even harder.
That’s three strikes against the feat, and though Pathfinder is by no means baseball, Death or Glory is probably off the plate for most characters without further consideration. However, if you want a challenge, or you’re really attached to the idea of a giant-killing character that has this feat, there are some things you can do to maximize what use you do get out of the feat.
Take note that the attack you make with Death or Glory can benefit from the Vital Strike line of feats, including Devastating Strike (from Ultimate Combat ), which adds a +2 damage bonus for the extra weapon damage you deal on any Vital Strike (up to +6 damage if you’re making a Greater Vital Strike). Additionally, since you’ll frequently (if not always) make only one attack per round, you’ll want Furious Focus (from Advanced Player’s Guide ) so that you never take penalties for using Power Attack.
Committed as you are to the Vital Strike line, you’ll want to use a weapon that has multiple damage dice, such as the greatsword, to get the most out of your extra weapon damage. The falchion is certainly worth considering for its high critical range, as the damage bonus from your Death or Glory attack and the damage bonus from Devastating Strike are both multiplied on critical hits. You can then increase your base damage dice further by being a titan mauler barbarian, which lets you wield a large weapon with fewer penalties than normal, and no penalties at all at 6th level—just in time for you to take Vital Strike. Titan mauler also has obvious flavor synergy with Death or Glory.
A number of rage powers synergize well with Death or Glory as well, making barbarian an even more attractive choice. You’ll likely want to do as much damage when using Death or Glory as possible, and the powerful blow power gives you a scaling damage bonus to use with the feat. In situations where you don’t need to move and are only using Vital Strike (not Death or Glory), you’ll have an extra move action to use on powers like guarded stance and intimidating glare. The king of rage powers for a Death or Glory build, however, is the come and get me power. When activated, you give your opponent more bonuses when attacking you, but if they do attack you, you get an attack of opportunity which resolves before their attack. Not only does this give you another shot at killing your foe before he can hit you, you can also combine it with the knockback power, using the attack of opportunity to bull rush the enemy away. If you’re successful, they can’t even hit you in the first place (you can use the strength surge power to all but guarantee success on the bull rush, too).
Taken all together, this won’t get you a top-of-the-line damage dealer, but it’s about the best way you can use Death or Glory that I’ve found. Other than powerful blow and come and get me, your rage power choices are fairly open (though I personally really recommend knockback, too). You’d have less flexibility with your feats, generally, but barbarians are thankfully not a very feat-heavy class.