You guys know the Pathfinder feat cleave? I’ve seen some pretty convincing arguments about it being the archetypal “trap feat.” First of all it’s super conditional. Whole sessions will go by where the enemies fail to line up like dominoes, meaning your feat is effectively useless. In exchange for this occasional benefit you’re  giving up access to more consistent feats that will affect every combat (weapon focus and dodge spring to mind). Insult to injury, you wind up taking a penalty to your armor class when you cleave. I mean, why would any sane swordsman take this thing? And let’s not even get started on its big brother, the even-more-situational great cleave.

Here’s the thing though. People don’t take these feats because of what they do in reality. They take them for the same reason they buy lottery tickets. If you’ve got cleave written down on your character sheet you’re hoping for the stars to align, for the enemy goblins to advance in perfect formation, and for their heads to all fall off simultaneously in a single badass Conan-inspired swipe.

People take these abilities because they’re exciting. It’s the same reason players like to smite evil with a paladin or (as per our catfolk Magus) spellstrike with shocking grasp. Putting up those big numbers is fun, even if it makes your probability curve a little spiky. After all, no one remembers that one time you did a reasonable amount of damage to the level-appropriate monster. They remember the time you threw rocks, went nova, and unloaded a massive crit against the BBEG.

That brings us to the question of the day. When you’re building your characters, how much consistency are you willing to give up for the chance at a big, flashy hit? Would you rather build for all-around effectiveness, or for occasional exciting moments of awesomeness? Let’s hear it in the comments!