The adaptive style feat from the Tome of Battle is another one of those abilities that could have done with some kind of official errata. Instead, we have to make do with ‘the sage’s‘ answer in the official Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 FAQ.
Q: If you take the Adaptive Style feat (Tome of Battle, pg. 28), can you pick new maneuvers and/or ready all maneuvers by spending a full-round action in the middle of combat?
A: Yes, you can use Adaptive Style to pick new maneuvers in the middle of combat. Since you are picking new maneuvers, they would all be readied. This is a clear advantage for a class such as the swordsage, who normally has to spend a full round action to recover a single maneuver, and would be a great feat to pick up.
On the surface, it sounds like a great feat, especially for swordsages. It would replace his awful recovery mechanic and allow him to compete on a more even footing with the warblade and crusader.
My favourite tactic is to open combat with Swooping Dragon Strike, followed by Death in the Dark, Rabid Bear Strike or a full attack enhanced by Inferno Blade. It is particularly effective, especially if you get the drop on your enemies – which happens quite often with improved initiative and the quick to react class feature.
With adaptive style, I could do this all day long.
But there has always been a nagging feeling that I’ve misread the feat description.
Was it intended to replace the recharge mechanic of the swordsage or simply give the martial adept more versatility and allow him to switch his readied maneuvers?
As much as I’d welcome the former interpretation, my head says it’s the latter.
Think about it: it’s like swapping out an Uzi for a pistol when you run out of ammo, only to try and switch back to the Uzi and use it without reloading it first.
Notice that the feat description states that you can change your readied maneuvers as a full round action, but does not mention anything regarding recovery.
Let’s break this down:
Basically, each martial adept class has a certain number of maneuvers they can prepare per level. Therefore, a maneuver can be considered:
- Readied – you know the maneuver and you can initiate it on your turn.
- Not readied – you know the maneuver, but you cannot use it until it is readied.
A readied maneuver can be one of two things:
- Un-expended – the maneuver is available for use during your turn.
- Expended – the maneuver is not available for use during your turn.
When you use a particular maneuver on your turn, it becomes expended. In order to make a maneuver ‘un-expended’, the character must recover the maneuver or wait until the end of the battle.
In either case, the maneuver is still considered readied.
Adaptive Style lets you ready a new set of maneuvers. Some or all of the maneuvers you ready can still be considered expended.
For example, you use (expend) Claw the Moon and then use adaptive style to change it to Minotaur Charge (which is un-expended). You then use adaptive style again to change it back to Claw the Moon, which is still expended and has to be recovered in your next turn.
What About Crusaders?
The feat mentions that crusaders are granted new maneuvers, which effectively means that crusaders will recover maneuvers upon using the feat.
But then a crusader recovers his maneuvers automatically anyway, due to his unique recovery system.
However, the caveat is that the maneuvers that you recover are granted randomly, meaning you won’t always get what you want on the round that you want it. This can be mitigated somewhat by taking the extra granted maneuver feat.
And let’s not forget that the crusader would be required to spend a full round action in order to use this feat to recover his maneuvers, a full round action that could be better spent doing something more useful.
That’s my take on the adaptive style feat.
While it’s true that a swordsage could do with a better recovery mechanic, the ability to swap out maneuvers would allow a swordsage to use his whole repertoire of maneuvers, which is almost as good as recovering all his maneuvers at once.
If you’re using this feat as a recovery mechanic already, there is no need to change what you’re doing as long as you’re comfortable with it. I’m simply offering my own opinion on why the feat should not be treated as such.
On the other hand, you could try this out and see what it does for game balance in your campaign.
I suppose it all depends on how adaptive you are, really (sorry, that was poor).
In any case, feel free to agree or disagree and offer your own compelling reasons why you think it should be treated as an additional recovery mechanic in the comments box below.