Guidance – Playing 101: I Keep Rollin’, Rollin’, Rollin’ Rounds!

Welcome to Guidance, Private Sanctuary’s source for tips and techniques for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, written by Everyman Gamer Alexander Augunas. Today, we’re going to be talking about round cycling.

In today’s article, we’re going to be talking about a game mechanic for players that players often see as being the apex of good resource management and that GMs sometimes lament as the ultimate cheese. Today, we’re going to talk about round cycling for bards, barbarians, bloodragers, and skalds.

What is Round Cycling?

Round cycling has several different names that are usually specific to whichever class you’re using this tactic with. For bards and skalds, round cycling is often known as performance cycling while for barbarians and bloodragers, it’s called rage cycling instead. Of the four classes, this practice is by far the most commonly spoken of in regards to barbarians, as barbarians and bloodragers arguably get the most benefit out of keeping their special class feature up. These also aren’t the only classes that can round cycle; any class that gains bardic performance or rage also cares about round cycling. Off the top of my head, the wild stalker ranger, the Viking fighter, the evangelist cleric, the sensei monk, and the exemplar brawler all have the potential to deal with round cycling.

In a nutshell, round cycling is the ability to stretch one’s rounds of bardic performance or rage as long as possible, getting the maximum benefit out of it. For those who are unfamiliar, bardic performance, rage, and any ability that functions similarly to them operates on a limited amount of time spend using the ability per day, which is typically measured in “rounds.” Round cycling needs two basic things to occur: first, your ability needs to be able to have its duration split up non-consecutively and second, your ability needs to have a class option available to it that allows you to be exceptionally particular with how you use that ability.

Performance Cycling

Of the two basic types of round cycling, performance cycling is not only the easiest to do, but also the most beneficial to the bard, especially at higher levels. Unlike the barbarian, which needs to jump through several hoops in order to make rage cycling work, the bard really only needs two things: action economy and Lingering Performance. We’ll start with the easier prerequisite, Lingering Performance. This extremely powerful feat allows most bardic performances to continue their benefits for up to two rounds after the bard stops performing, meaning that for two whole rounds, the bard is giving his bardic performance benefit without actually needing to pay from his limited round pool for it. For the bard, “round cycling” simply means starting a performance on round 1, then failing to continue it on round 2 in order to trigger Lingering Performance, causing 1 round of bardic performance to effectively cover rounds 1, 2, and 3 of combat.

So, you might be asking yourself, what’s stopping the bard from using Lingering Performance to triple his number of rounds of bardic performance each day? The simple answer is the action economy. For most of the bard’s career, he needs to spend an action to begin his bardic performance. From 1st up until 7th level, it’s a standard action. From 7th level up to 13th level, starting a bardic performance is only a move action, and at 13th level it’s a swift action. This means at low levels, restarting your bardic performance is basically your turn, but by 13th level its absolutely effortless for you to do. Personally, I think that if you’re going to grab Lingering Performance, 7th level is the level to do it. That said, bards quickly amass a LOT of rounds of performance, so while performance round cycling is an excellent tactic, its not a mandatory one because at low levels, you don’t want to use your feats on Lingering Performance and at high levels, you have enough rounds of performance that you don’t mind. Although effective and easy-to-do, round cycling is completely optional for the bard.

Whether or not that’s the case for the barbarian is debatable.

Rage Cycling

This type of round cycling is interesting. Barbarians and bloodragers get a LOT out of being able to stay in their rage state. That said, its all-too often that a barbarian or bloodrager finds himself in need of doing something that his rage doesn’t really benefit. For instance, the barbarian just beat up one bad guy, and now he needs to spend his turn running across the battlefield to the next one. Assuming that charging isn’t an option, that round that the barbarian spends running is ultimately a waste of a round of rage. That said, if the barbarian chooses to refrain from maintaining the rage, he becomes fatigued for what could potentially be the entire combat. And as every barbarian knows, raging while fatiguing is either impossible or inconvenient.

When a barbarian rage cycles, he’s not really increasing the number of times per day that he can rage. There’s no feat or ability that allows the barbarian to continue raging for two rounds after he stops raging. Instead, rage cycling for the barbarian is all about preservation rather than efficiency; the barbarian rage cycles in order to use his rage rounds as effectively as possible. This is easier said than done, however, as removing fatigue (the inhibitor to rage cycling) is costly. The barbarian class itself “turns off” rage at 17th level when he gets the tireless rage ability, and therefore no longer fatigues at the end of the rage. But that’s basically the end of the game! That’s not helpful.

The only other truly effective way in the game to allow the barbarian to rage cycle is by dipping a single level into oracle. This has major consequences for the barbarian: he loses a base attack bonus, rounds of rage, and the progression of his usual abilities, after all. But in exchange, a barbarian can take the lame curse, which makes the barbarian immune to fatigue when his oracle level reaches 5. And luckily for the barbarian, half of his non-oracle levels are treated as oracle levels for the purpose of his oracle curse. As a result, a barbarian 8 / oracle 1 with the lame cure would be flat-out immune to fatigue, meaning he can pop in and out of his rage as he sees fit. Better still, there are even a feat decent oracle options for the barbarian. Going battle and getting Weapon Focus for free isn’t a terrible idea, for example.

So, how effective is rage cycling for the barbarian? Fairly effective. Beginning your rage is a free action, so there’s no action economy issues with popping in and out at your leisure. The lame curse reduces your movement speed, but as long as you take an archetype that doesn’t replace your fast movement ability, the bonus and the penalty balance each other out. The real question is whether or not you’re willing to delay all of your barbarian goodies for immunity to fatigue, but in the long run its usually worth it for most players that I’ve seen make the trade-off, even if they have no intention of multiclassing into the rage prophet (barbarian/oracle) prestige class.

Final Verdict

Round cycling for the barbarian and bard is an incredibly powerful tool, and it’s a feature of Pathfinder that’s pretty much unique to them. With round cycling, you gain additional control of your resources, and with good playing they’re almost never an issue. Round cycling doesn’t work for most other class features with non-consecutive rounds, but for the bard and barbarian it is a seriously viable strategy when used correctly.

And that’s all I have to say about round cycling this week! What do you think? Are there any other major round cycling abilities that I didn’t mention? What other similar tactics do you think that more players should be made aware of? Leave your comments, questions, and answers below, and I’ll see you next week for another casting of Guidance. Take care!

Alexander “Alex” Augunas has been playing roleplaying games since 2007, which isn’t nearly as long as 90% of his colleagues. Alexander is an active freelancer for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and is best known as the author of the Pact Magic Unbound series by Radiance House. Alex is the owner of Everyman Gaming, LLC and is often stylized as the Everyman Gamer in honor of Guidance’s original home. Alex’s favorite color is blue, his favorite Pathfinder Race/Class combination is bard barbarian. And yes, I can totally say that’s a race/class combination if I want to. Stop looking at me like that! Stop it!

Alex Augunas

Alexander "Alex" Augunas is an author and behavioral health worker living outside of Philadelphia in the United States. He has contributed to gaming products published by Paizo, Inc, Kobold Press, Legendary Games, Raging Swan Press, Rogue Genius Games, and Steve Jackson Games, as well as the owner and publisher of Everybody Games (formerly Everyman Gaming). At the Know Direction Network, he is the author of Guidance and a co-host on Know Direction: Beyond. You can see Alex's exploits at, or support him personally on Patreon at


  1. Bloodrager can also dip into paladin for 3 levels get self heals that remove fatigue and charisma to saves.

  2. Darrell Vin Zant Reply to Darrell

    You, uh, forgot the big point of rage cycling: 1/rage powers. This is the true point of rage cycling as a barbarian or bloodrager, the ability to get 1/rage powers whenever you need them.

    The big culprit of this, is the Strength Surge/Spell Sunder combo to screw over casters.

  3. An android barbarian can start rage-cycling at level 1 if they have a charisma of 13. There’s a feat called “Empathy” that let’s an android character get morale bonuses. I will play one some day…

  4. Late game, a bard can benefit greatly from a Tuned Bowstring! Frankly, its almost too good.

  5. There is also an item that allows you to be sickened instead of fatigued and a barb rage power that makes you immune to sickened.

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