A Guide to Alpha-Striking
Iaijutsu, "the art of drawing your sword and striking with one action",
and also "the art of mental presence and immediate reaction".
1. What ?, 2. Why ?, 3. Reading the Guide
2. Basic Stratagems
2. Improvements, 3. Tips & Tricks
4. Having a Backup Plan
5. Putting it into Action
1. Contributions of the Roles
2. Finding the Balance
6. Actual Play
2. Meta-Game Consequences
1. Further Readings, 2. Guide Status, 3. Remarks
1.1 What is Alpha-Striking ?
Alpha-striking is the goal to cripple an emeny before he can do the same to you, thereby avoiding drawn out and costy conflicts.
It is an often proposed tactic on CharOp, but also a controversial topic, because the optimal degree of commitment to that goal is widely disputed. Hence the aim of this guide is not to postulate the one-true-way. It rather will rather inform you about the basic tactics involved, how to translate these into character builds, related complications and exploits and how different grades of commitment will affect your playstyle.
At last you need to know the major drawback of alpha-striking. As resources are naturally limited, those commited to alpha-striking can't be commited elsewhere such as a high level ongoing performance with defense as most notable part. Thus having a solid backup plan is what differentiates good from bad alpha-strikers.
1.2 Why Alpha-Striking ?
As already mentioned the fact that you neutralise your opposition before it can reasonably retaliate can save you a lot of resources, both when building and playing your character. If executed well, alpha-striking not only saves more resources than you invest and thus makes for a better characters, but also is synergetic with itself and up to a certain point grows in power exponentially.
Also... it's great fun to smoke encounters in short order and dictate how fights are played out !
1.3 Reading the Guide
Chapter #2 introduces the basic required stratagems, which are momentum, reconaissance, reliability, divide and conquer vs brute force, hammer vs scalpel and melee vs ranged.
Chapter #3 takes a look at complications that may arise, tactics to improve your performance and miscellaneous tips and tricks.
Chapter #4 discusses what happens when alpha-striking fails and how to enact a good backup plan.
Chapter #5 aggregates that knowledge and puts it into practise, reviewing the contributions of different classes to and the effects of increasing commitment into alpha-striking.
Chapter #6 then shows how alpha-striking affects actual play, ranging from in-play examples to shifts in the meta-game.
Chapter #7 closes the guide as appendix by providing resources for further reading, as well as references and a few organisational and personal remarks.