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Pathfinder - Brawler Handbook

Disclaimer

I will use content from the core rules, but will intentionally omit any content not published on the official Pathfinder SRD due to the unmanageable volume of non-SRD content, and the wildly varying quality of non-SRD content. If you would like me to write handbooks for specific content not published on the official SRD, please email me and I will consider it on a case-by-case basis. I will use the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks. Also note that many colored items are also links to the Paizo SRD.

Temporary Note: Pathfinder Unchained and Occult Adventures were both recently added to the SRD. I'm excited to explore them, and I am actively working on adding their contents to my collection of handbooks. I appreciate your patience while I make these changes.

Introduction

Someone looked at 3.5 and realized that Fighters made better Monks than Monks did, and merged the two into one class. The Brawler is a fantastic take on unarmed combat, and isn't limited by the Monk's Ki Pool. With access to a huge number of bonus feats, the Brawler can work as a Defender or Striker, and can accomplish those roles with wide variety of builds.

Brawler Class Features

Hit Points: d10 hit points is standard for martial characters.

Base Attack Bonus: Full BAB.

Saves: Good Fortitude and Reflex saves, but with no dependence on Wisdom Brawlers will have issues with Will saves..

Proficiencies: The Brawler is largely intended to fight unarmed, and weapons generally only offer the Brawler options for a bonus to combat maneuvers. The Brawler only gets light armor, but the Brawler's AC bonus can help a little bit.

Skills: 4+ skill ranks, but very few interesting options and Intelligence is a dump stat.

Brawler's Cunning (Ex): Fantastic for Combat Expertise and other feats which require it.

Martial Flexibility (Ex): This is one of the greatest mechanics available to martial characters. It's very complex, and requires a bit of practice to master, but if you plan out clusters of feats for various situations you can get a ton of mileage out of this.

Martial Training (Ex): Brawlers get to count as both a Monk and a Fighter, opening up huge numbers of feats like Disruptive, Weapon Specialization, and a whole bunch of weird Monk feats.

Unarmed Strike: Improved Unarmed Strike for free, and the damage dice progress at the same rate as for a Monk. The size of the damage die is greatly affected by the Brawler's size, so it's essential that the Brawler be medium and become permanently enlarged at the first opportunity.

Bonus Combat Feats: Bonus feats are always fantastic, and Combat Feats make up a huge chunk of available feats. The ability description specifies that the chosen feats must improve the Brawler's "defenses or melee attacks", but doesn't really specify a way to enforce or interpret that. Assume that anything involving a ranged attack or a skill is probably off-limits. In addition, the Brawler gets to retrain a bonus feat every time that they get a new one. This can be great if you want to experiment with feats or take feats to temporarily cover gaps in your character until you can retrain old feats into new feats with steeper prerequisites. Feats like Toughness are good examples because they give you early survivability and you can retrain them later in the game into something more exciting.

Brawler's Flurry (Ex): With the exception of first level, this gives the Brawler attacks as the same rate and BAB as the Monk. Note that this also allows you to apply your full strength bonus to attacks with your off hand, effectively duplicating Two-Weapon Rend. You can also use one weapon for the whole flurry, so you could just repeatedly punch/stab someone with a punching dagger if you wanted to. The Brawler also isn't restricted to Monk weapons, which allows you to flurry with some interesting things.

Maneuver Training (Ex): This bonus scales a bit like Favored Enemy, so pick your favorite combat maneuver early because it will get the biggest bonus. I recommend Dirty Trick, Trip, or Grapple.

AC Bonus (Ex): These bonuses are really tiny, but they help a bit and they don't go away if you use a shield.

Knockout (Ex): A martial save or suck ability, and it's available far earlier than other similar abilities.

Brawler's Strike (Ex): Goes a long way to help overcome damage reduction, which is a problem for characters like Brawlers and Monks that depend on a large number of weak attacks.

Close Weapon Mastery (Ex): The damage of a weapon won't be meaningfully worse than your unarmed strikes, and this helps with the poor damage dice offered by Close weapons. This also makes it easier to build Brawlers who fight exclusively using weapons.

Awesome Blow (Ex): Situational.

Improved Awesome Blow (Ex): This allows you to finish a full attack by knocking your enemy away from you. The natural 20 mechanic is very situational.

Abilities

Strength is key, but all physical abilities are important.

Str: The Brawler's primary offensive stat.

Dex: The Brawler only gets light armor, so decent Dexterity is essential.

Con: With light armor and mediocre AC, the Brawler.

Int: Dump to 7. Brawler's Cunning covers the only thing that for which you want Intelligence.

Wis: Take a bit to boost the Brawler's lousy Will save.

Cha: Dump to 7. Less talking, more punching!

25 Point Buy 20 Point Buy 15 Point Buy Elite Array
  • Str: 18
  • Dex: 16
  • Con: 13
  • Int: 7
  • Wis: 13
  • Cha: 7
  • Str: 17
  • Dex: 16
  • Con: 13
  • Int: 7
  • Wis: 12
  • Cha: 7
  • Str: 16
  • Dex: 14
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 7
  • Wis: 12
  • Cha: 7
  • Str: 15
  • Dex: 13
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 10
  • Wis: 12
  • Cha: 8

Races

Bonuses to Strength are great, and it's crucial that the Brawler be medium size.

Dwarf: Dwarves always make for good melee martial characters, and the Brawler is no exception. Dwarves offer great defensive bonuses, and their racial penalty is to Charisma. The Dwarf favored class bonus is useless.

Elf: A penalty to an important ability and a bonus to a dump stat. Elves are too frail to be Brawlers.

Gnome: Small Brawlers can only brawl smaller brawlers.

Half-Elf: The flexible ability bonus is nice and alternate racial abilities help a bit.

Half-Orc: A flexible ability bonus and Darkvision are great. The Half-Orc's favored class bonus is tempting, but not worth it. A favored class bonus should be worth roughly 1/6 of a feat, and you can do much better with a feat than 1.5 levels of unarmed strike damage.

Halfling: SMALL. BRAWLERS.

Human: A flexible ability bonus and a feat are perfect for the Brawler.

Skills

Weapons

All Close weapons deal 1d6 damage or less, which means that their damage will be overridden by Close Weapon Mastery. That means that we can ignore the damage die on a weapon when considering it, and focus on the cool properties that the weapon offers. Unfortunately, very few Close weapons offer useful special abilities.

Armor

Armor is presented in the order in which you should acquire it, rather than alphabetical order.

Multiclassing and Prestige Classes

Much like the Monk, it is difficult for the Brawler to multiclass because it means giving up bigger unarmed strike damage and more numerous attacks.