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Pathfinder - Fighter Archetypes Breakdown


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.


The fighter's job is simple: Hurt the other guys (Striker), and keep them from getting to the squishy people behind the fighter (Defender). When considering an archetype, make sure that the archetype addresses on of those jobs.


Archery is a feat-intensive combat style, and Fighters have the feats to make it work. With a clever combination of feats, you can eventually threaten a 15 foot area around you with your bow, and fire in melee without drawing attacks of opportunity.

Hawkeye (Ex): The bonus on perception checks is nice since Perception is so important, but the range increment bonus doesn't matter much since bows already have extremely good range.

Trick Shot (Ex): Disarming and Sundering with a ranged weapon is a pretty cool trick. Feinting much less so. At higher levels you get bull rush, grapple, and trip.

Expert Archer (Ex): Identical to weapon training with the Bow weapon group. Bonuses to your attacks and damage are nice since your normal strategy is to use Rapid Shot and Deadly Aim.

Safe Shot (Ex): This lets you tank while still using a bow.

Evasive Archer (Ex): At this level, most enemies making ranged attacks won't be using actualy projectiles, and the dodge bonus to AC is helpful against rays and touch attacks.

Volley (Ex): This is really nice when facing multiple foes, and there isn't a limit on how many times you can use it.

Ranged Defense (Ex): The DR is highly situational, but the Snatch Arrows effect is highly abusable. Grab a level 1 commoner with a bow, have him shoot at you, and you get a free attack.

Weapon Mastery (Ex): Auto-confirming crits won't come into play much with a 20/x4 crit, but when it happens it will feel very good.

Replaced Features: Armor Mastery, Armor Training (1, 2, 3, 4), Bravery, Weapon Mastery, Weapon Training (1, 2, 3, 4)

Compatible Archetypes: None

Armor Master

Armor Master makes you very durable, but really the only meaningful contributions are the DR and Fortification. You give up all of the weapon training abilities, which means your class has no offensive abilities. So you're a very durable road block with no damage output. With no damage output, you must depend entirely on your feats to make you a meaningful threat.

Deflective Shield (Ex): A typeless bonus to your touch AC is cute, but it's only to your touch AC. It's highly situational, and the bonus is pretty lackluster. On top of that, it requires that you use a shield, which limits your options.

Armored Defense (Ex): DR is pretty nice, but I don't know why they even bothered listing bonuses for light and medium armor. You're an armor master, so you should be wearing Full Plate. DR 3/- no and 12/- later. Oh, and it stacks with adamantine, which can bring you up to 15/-.

Fortification (Ex): This replicates a very expensive set of armor abilities.

Indestructible (Ex): Ummunity to critical hits is nice, and immunity to sneak attacks is occasionally useful.

Replaced Features: Armor Mastery, Bravery, Weapon Mastery, Weapon Training (1, 2, 3, 4)

Compatible Archetypes: None


Brawlers specialize in uding the Close weapon group, which doesn't feature a lot of good options. However, the archetype provides a lot of very interesting abilities to increase damage output, and a whole mess of tricks for forcing enemies to remain in melee. These abilities also make Brawlers an incredible mage hunter.

Proficiencies: Fighters are proficient with basically everything except exotic weapons. Some Close weapons are exotic, but they are generally not worth a feat.

Skills: Fighters get 2+ skills, and have a very short skill list.

Close Control (Ex): Bull Rush, Drag, and Reposition are only situationally useful, and all do effectively the same thing: move the enemy from point A to point B. If you spend the feats, you can force the enemy to draw attacks of opportunity when you move them. Unless your party is full of rogues with combat reflexes, you're probably better of just hitting things instead of dragging them around between your party.

Close Combatant (Ex): The bonus to attacks is basically the same as weapon training. The +3 damage is two points higher than the normal weapon training bonus, which makes Close weapons roughly equivalent to most one-handed weapons in terms of damage. The close weapon group has very few fantasic options, which is unfortunate. I'm still confused why Daggers aren't a Close weapon.

Menacing Stance (Ex): This is the first signature ability for the brawler. It makes it hard to hit you in melee, and makes you very effective at locking down spellcasters. Combined with the Step Up and Disruptive feats, you are going to be very problematic for spellcasters. The scaling penalties keep this ability relevant into higher levels.

No Escape (Ex): Combined with Step Up, this ability is absolutely fantastic. Not only can people no get away from you, you get an attack of opportunity when they try. If they try to withdraw, make a trip attempt. If they do manage to withdraw, just charge them next round.

Stand Still: You should already have combat reflex and stand still by now, so this is basically another combat feat. The real benefit here is the bonus on combat maneuver checks when using Stand Still.

Weapon Mastery (Ex): Decent, but considering no close weapon has a threat range greater than 20, it's not going to see a lot of use. Your CMD should be insane by level 20, so being disarmed really shouldn't be a problem.

Brawler Fighter Handbook

Replaced Features: Armor Mastery, Armor Training (1, 2, 3, 4), Weapon Mastery, Weapon Training (1, 2, 3, 4)

Compatible Archetypes: Gladiator


The Cad is the master of the Dirty Trick maneuver. They are fairly difficult to play, but when paired with a decent striker the Cad is a brutally effective option.

Proficiencies: The Cad gives up proficiency in medium armor, heavy armor, and tower shields. It may be worth spending a feat on medium armor proficiency so that you can use mithral breastplate, but without Armor Training, you won't be able to move at full normal speed in medium and heavy armor. You need to get into combat quickly, so your movement speed is important.

Skills: The Cad add Acrobatics, Bluff, Escape Artist, Sleight of Hand, and Stealth to their skill list. These fit the flavor of the Cad well, but the fighter's limited skill points don't give him a lot of room to enjoy these bonuses.

Dirty Maneuvers: This is the Cad's replacement for bravery, and fits the flavor of the archetype perfectly. Disarm and Dirty Trick are crucial for the Cad, and this provides an extremely rare bonus to the Dirty Trick maneuver. Steal can be situationally useful, but I find that there are generally more important things to do in combat than pick people's pockets.

Catch Off-Guard: Catch Off-Guard is a weird feat, but can be very powerful in a Cad's hands. Proficiency with improvised weapons is fairly dull, but treating unarmed opponents as flat-footed opens up some options for the Cad, especially once he gets Deadly Surprise at level 7. This is particularly useful against NPC wizards/sorcerers who don't typically need weapons. Keep in mind that natural weapons count, so this isn't particularly useful against most monsters.

Payback: While certainly in keeping with the flavor of the archetype, this is strictly worse than Weapon Training. The Cad is good at locking down enemies and preventing them from attacking you (or doing anything else interesting). If payback comes into play frequently, the fight likely isn't going well for you.

Deadly Surprise: Level 7 is basically christmas. At this point you should have all of the Dirty Trick feats, which is great because Deadly Surprise is probably the best thing that has ever happened to the Dirty Trick maneuver. Dirty trick is, by default, a Standard Action. With Quick Dirty Trick, you can make a single dirty trick attempt per turn in place of your attack with highest base attack bonus, a limitation which isn't placed on other combat maneuvers like Trip and Disarm. However, your foe needs to be denied their dexterity bonus to use this ability. Use Quick Dirty Trick to blind your foe, then use Deadly Surprise to pile on other status effects.

If you are planning to dip into other classes, now is the time to do it. Deadly Surprise is easily the defining feature of the Cad archetype, and the higher level features do little to improve your maneuvers further.

Razor-Sharp Chair Leg: Changing the damage type for your improvised weapons is cute, but rarely necessary. The 19-20 threat range with improvised weapons is nice, but isn't a game changer. It's marginally more important when you get Treacherous Blow later, but still not a huge bonus.

Craven Combatant: You're going to have Combat Expertise for your combat maneuver feats, and you will likely be using it to compensate for your lack of medium and heavy armor. If you are using combat expertise, this effectively becomes Improved Uncanny Dodge.

Sweeping Prank: At this point, you should be getting to use dirty trick frequently due to Deadly Surprise, which makes Sweeping Prank only useful on surprise rounds in which you start adjacent to two foes or in rounds in which you need to move. Even then, you could simulate this effect by using Cleave and have the added benefit of dealing damage. At 17th level you can use this ability against 2+dex modifier targets. This is marginally better, but still only situationally useful.

Treacherous Blow: If you are critting a lot, this can give you several extra uses of Dirty trick. Combined with Deadly Surprise, you can use Dirty Trick twice on a flat-footed target after a single crit.

Ultimate Payback: This is a great improvement on Payback, but isn't going to be particularly helpful unless your build focuses on critical hits.

Cad Fighter Handbook

Replaced Features: Armor Training (1, 2, 3, 4), Bravery, Weapon Mastery, Weapon Training (1, 2, 3, 4)

Compatible Archetypes: None


The Crossbowman is a very difficult build. Instead of falling on Rapid Shot to deal damage, the Crossbowman uses sniping and prepared actions to make single shots. With some careful feat selection, this might be a workable build, but you likely won't match the Archer archetype's damage output. This may be the only archetype in the game where Vital Strike is actually an expected choice.

I strongly recommend reading my Practical Guide to Vital Strike if you plan to play a Crossbowman.

Deadshot (Ex): This ability defines how the archetype will be played. Essentially, the Crossbowmen depends on readied actions. Applying half of your dexterity to damage is nice, but it's hard to make it match up to the huge damage gap provided by using a composite bow with rapid shot.

Crossbow Expert (Ex): Weapon training with crossbows. If you're only to get that one attack off of a prepared action, you had better hit with it.

Improved Deadshot (Ex): Very few enemies depend on dexterity for AC, so this will rarely help you hit. If you had sneak attack, this would be nice, but after 7 levels a dip into Rogue won't be very helpful.

Quick Sniper (Ex): The bonus to sniping is nice, but Stealth isn't a class skill for you, and the archetype doesn't add it. The ability to return fire is situationally useful, but it also unloads your crossbow so that you can't take your prepared action shot unless you're using a repeating crossbow or have Rapid Reload.

Greater Deadshot (Ex): Finally. This is a small damage boost for Deadshot. Crossbow damage still isn't great, but every little bit helps. By this point your Dexterity should be fairly impressive.

Safe Shot (Ex): Saves you the trouble of taking Point Blank Master.

Pinpoint Targeting: Pinpoint Targeting is a decent feat, especially against high AC enemies. Armor, Natural Armor, and Shields are the sorts of bonuses which a typical tank relies on, and this will let you get past their AC. However, it prevents you from using things like Vital Strike, which might mean you sacrifice damage for reliability.

Meteor Shot (Ex): Bull Rush or Trip with a ranged attack. Neither help you much, but they might help your allies.

Penetrating Shot (Ex): I certainly hope you took Improved Critical. This makes critical hits with crossbows really exciting, but it's fairly difficult to set up, and it's certainly not reliable until you get Weapon Mastery.

Weapon Mastery (Ex): With 19-20x3 crit, your critical hits won't be spectacularly often, but they will be better than with a bow. Combined with Penetrating Shot, this might see a fair bit of action.

Crossbowman Fighter Handbook

Replaced Features: Armor Mastery, Armor Training (1, 2, 3, 4), Weapon Mastery, Weapon Training (1, 2, 3, 4)

Compatible Archetypes: Gladiator


Another attempt at a mounted charger archetype. The Dragoon is really bad past a level 1 class dip. The extra Weapon Training damage with spears is nice, but none of the other class abilities are particularly useful or interesting. If you want a mounted character, Cavalier is a much better option, or the Mounted Fury Barbarian archetype or the Horse Lord Ranger archetype. Basically anything but this.

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: You won't need Tower Shields.

Skilled Rider (Ex): Two bonus feats that you're going to want anyway. If you're playing a mounted character of another class, this is pretty nice for a Fighter dip.

Spear Training (Ex): Weapon training with the Spears group, and it gives you double the normal damage bonus.

Spinning Lance (Ex): This allows you to threaten adjacent squares without a weird gimick.

Banner (Ex): Banners can do some nice things, but the Cavalier will get a lot more out of it than you can.

Piercing Lance (Ex): Very few enemies will be mounted, so you will probably never see a use for this.

Leaping Lance (Ex): Aside from the extra +2 to hit, there is very little reason to use this ability. Even then, it's probably not worth it.

Weapon Mastery: Crits with lances are infrequent and lackluster.

Replaced Features: Bonus Feats (1st), Armor Training (2, 3, 4) Tower Shield Proficiency, Weapon Training

Compatible Archetypes: None

Free Hand Fighter

Free Hand Fighters give up the sheer power of using both of your hands at once for the excitement of having one of your hands empty and useless. Some of your abilities also expect that you wear light armor, which is dangerous since you can't use a shield.

Deceptive Strike (Ex): The bonus to disarm is nice, but why would you ever want to feint instead of attacking? Feinting is for Rogues.

Elusive (Ex): Dodge bonuses to AC are great, and this helps to offset the AC lost by removing shields, and helps to support your AC in medium armor.

Singleton (Ex): Weapon training with anything you use in one hand. Versatility is good, but because most fighters will use one weapon for their whole career this ability functionally identical to weapon training.

Timely Tip (Ex): As a move action, you can partially disarm an enemies shield. If you actually want to disarm, you should have improved and greater disarm by now, so you can just disarm in place of an attack instead of using a move action.

Interference (Ex): It's better than feinting, but you still have no real reason to feint.

Reversal (Ex): Redirecting attacks is hilarious, but requires that you have multiple adjacent enemies, which doesn't always happen.

Replaced Features: Armor Mastery, Armor Training (1, 2, 3, 4), Bravery, Weapon Mastery, Weapon Training (1, 2, 3, 4)

Compatible Archetypes: None


If you are using the performance combat rules, this is the gold standard character. Otherwise, the Gladiator is totally uninteresting.

Skills: Perform is cute, but it doesn't get you much.

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: This allows you to use a much wider variety of weapons while still benefiting form the Performance quality. In addition, you're much better at using piecemeal armor. However, you give up heavy armor proficiency.

Bonus Feats: There aren't a lot of performance feats, but this gives you a little more versatility.

Fame (Ex): Only important in performance combat.

Replaced Features: Bravery, Weapon and Armor Proficiencies

Compatible Archetypes: Brawler, Crossbowman, Shielded Fighter, Thunderstriker, Two-Weapon Warrior

Martial Master

Despite an impressively generic name ("Good Fighter" is basically a synonym), the Martial Master may be the best thing that has happened to Fighters since Pathfinder was published. One of the Fighter's biggest problems is that it tends to be pigeon-holed into one trick in combat because Fighters typically need to specialize in order to be effective at their one trick. This means that the Fighter shines when his trick works ("Killing Stuff" is a good trick in a game like Pathfinder), but is completely useless when his trick doesn't apply. The Martial Master addresses this issue by allowing the Fighter to gain some new Feats on the fly, allowing some small amount of ability to adapt the Fighter's abilities to whatever challenges present themselves.

If you don't want another Fighter Archetype, you would be a fool not to take this. Giving up Weapon Mastery and Armor Mastery is somewhat disappointing, but a clever player can make excellent use of Martial Flexibility. Be sure to look around for good feats to use, and keep a list handy so that you don't have to crack open a book every time you roll initiative.

Martial Flexibility (Ex): The Martial Master gets exactly one ability, and it's fucking fantastic. You get 3 + 1/2 level uses per day, and the duration is only one minute, but that's likely 3 + 1/2 level fights per day if you do things right. Remember that selecting more than one Feat uses one daily use per Feat selected, so don't feel inclined to select more Feats than you actually want.

Replaced Features: Weapon Mastery, Weapon Training (1, 2, 3, 4)

Compatible Archetypes: Mutation Warrior

Mobile Fighter

The Mobile Fighter fixes the issue of movement for fighters, who typically have to stand in place and make full attacks. By using your feats, you can get away with a wide range of fighting styles. Make sure to take traits to get Acrobatics as a class skill, and take the Dodge and Mobility feats so that you can move around the battlefield safely. However, since you are moving around more, you sacrifice much of your ability to defend the party by standing in front of them.

Agility (Ex): Situational. About as useful as Bravery.

Leaping Attack (Ex): Use your 5 foot step, and get weapon training with any weapon. This is great if you like to use different weapons to fit the situation, or if you're avoiding weapon focus/specialization.

Rapid Attack (Ex): Like a beautiful combination of pounce and spring attack. You give up one attack at your highest attack bonus, but you could run around with two weapons and attack everyone in the room if you felt the need to do so.

Fleet Footed (Ex): Very suddenly you're fast and good at acrobatics. Acrobatics isn't a class skill, which is annoying, but you can fix that with a trait.

Whirlwind Blitz (Ex): Almost as good as pounce if you just want full attacks, and it makes Whirlwind Attack considerably better.

Mobile Fighter Handbook

Replaced Features: Armor Training (3, 4), Bravery, Weapon Mastery, Weapon Training (1, 2, 3, 4)

Compatible Archetypes: None

Mutation Warrior

The Mutation Warrior is a really fun concept, and the statistical bonuses provided by Mutagen are really fantastic for a martial class like the Fighter. However, be wary of the Mutagen's limited duration. Once 10 minutes per level run out, the Mutation Warrior may have trouble keeping up with everyone else.

Mutagen (Su): Fighters are all about their physical ability scores, and mutagens are a great way to enhance them. The 10 minutes/level duration is annoying for Fighters who can usually spend all day fighting as long as their hit points stick around, but since most of your party members will likely also need to take breaks between encounters you should have time to prepare additional mutagens periodically throughout the day.

Mutagen Discovery (Su): Discoveries are a fantastic way to supplement your Mutagen, but you only get 4 (7, 11, 15, 19), so choose wisely. Because of the timing of the Discoveries, you will have trouble getting Greater/Grand Mutagen at their earliest possible levels (12 and 16, respectively), so you may want to take Extra Discovery to get them early.

Replaced Features: Armor Mastery, Armor Training (1, 2, 3, 4)

Compatible Archetypes: Martial Master, Tower Shield Specialist

Phalanx Soldier

Phalanx Soldiers get to use Tower Shields without penalties to attack, and they can use two-handed polearms in one hand. It's a tank/bodyguard archetype which falls between the polearm master and the shielded figher, but it lacks any abilities which contribute to damage output. Phalanx Fighting is the archetype's signature trick, but an animate shield makes the whole archetype largely pointless.

If you want to play a phallanx soldier, read my Area Control Defender Handbook for general advice on the tactics that make polearm users so effective.

Stand Firm (Ex): Bonuses to defend against some fairly rare combat maneuvers. Stack this with being a dwarf, and you are nearly unmovable.

Phalanx Fighting (Ex): Use a polearm one-handed, and still use a shield. It's a neat idea, but using an animated shield so that you can use your polearm two-handed is a much better strategy.

Ready Pike (Ex): Preparing a Brace weapon is a rarely used tactic, since you typically want to be the first one to charge. Allowing you to do it as an immediate action is useful if you're low in initative order. The uses per day seem low, but you likely won't need the ability more than that.

Deft Shield (Ex): A neat trick, but using an animated shield is still a better idea.

Shield Ally (Ex): Wasting a move action to protect your allies sucks, but the bonuses are sizeable if things are getting rough.

Irresistible Advance (Ex): Sometimes you need to bull rush with a tower sheild.

Shielded Fortress (Ex): Grant evasion/improved evasion to your allies. Not quite as flashy as Weapon Mastery, but certainly a nice buff.

Replaced Features: Armor Training (2, 3, 4), Bravery, Weapon Mastery, Weapon Training (1, 2, 3, 4)

Compatible Archetypes: None

Polearm Master

The polearm master is an excellent area-control tank. Reach weapons are already great for area control, and Pole Fighting prevents enemies from getting inside their reach. The whole of the archetype works well together, and synergizes well with obvious feat choices like Step Up and Combat Reflexes. However, the archetype doesn't offer much in the way of damage output, which can make your opportunity attacks somewhat lackluster unless you devote other resources to them.

If you want to play a polearm master, read my Area Control Defender Handbook for general advice on the tactics that make polearm users so effective.

Pole Fighting (Ex): Doing this is as an immediate action is nice. You can take an attack opportunity as someone enters your reach, shorten your grip as an immediate action, then take more attacks of opportunity as they attempt to move past you. However, using armor spikes makes this ability redundant since you can continue to threaten the are inside your polearm reach without taking your hands off of your polearm.

Steadfast Pike (Ex): A bonus to attacks of opportunity and readied attacks really addresses the purpose of the archetype: Stand between the bad guys and your friends, and kill anyone who tries to get past you.

Polearm Training (Ex): Weapon training with the Polearm weapon group.

Flexible Flanker (Ex): Not terribly important for you, but your rogues will be very happy.

Sweeping Fend (Ex): Bull rush is situational, and if you want to trip you have plenty of options.

Step Aside (Ex): Basically the opposite of Step Up, this ensures that you can always keep enemies in your weapon reach, but out of theirs.

Polearm Parry (Ex): Nice for protecting your allies, but not particularly exciting.

Weapon Mastery (Ex): Critical hits aren't a priority, but this never hurts to have.

Replaced Features: Armor Mastery, Armor Training (1, 2, 3, 4), Bravery, Weapon Mastery, Weapon Training (1, 2, 3, 4)

Compatible Archetypes: None


The Roughrider archetype is a weird idea. It's a mounted character concept, but it doesn't get a mount ability like cavaliers or paladins. You can armor your mount much better than other classes, which seems like it would make the roughrider a good tank. However, the archetype's abilities don't really lend anything to sitting in place on a horse, or to the normal Spirited Charge strategy. In addition, the extra cost of arming and armoring your horse enough to be relevant is hugely expensive. Overall, the roughrider is a good concept, and the abilities are great individually, but the archetype itself doesn't quite work. If you really want a mounted character, play a Cavalier. Still better than the dragoon though.

Steadfast Mount (Ex): Since you don't get an actual mount ability, it's important to keep your mount alive. This ability helps with that somewhat.

Armored Charger (Ex): Protecting yourself and your mount is a crucial part of fighting while mounted, but armor check penalties add up quickly. Removing the armor check penalty not only makes it easier for you to ride, but it increases your bonus for mounted combat, which makes you better able to protect your mount. Allowing your mount to wear medium barding without losing speed is also a great benefit, but your horse likely isn't proficient with medium armor, so you need to maker a concious trade between defense or offense. At low levels, a warhorse's attacks are brutally effective. At higher levels, you're going to want that armor.

Mounted Mettle (Ex): Weapon training bonuses for you and your mount as long as you're mounted or adjacent to your mount, which should be all of the time.

Leap from the Saddle (Ex): This is a weird ability. It's basically pounce, which is fantastic, but it removes you from the saddle. Since you're no longer mounted, you don't get to do bonus damage with lances or with Spirited Charge. It also works on your mount's single move instead of a charge.

Relentless Steed (Ex): Full plate barding without losing speed, and you can reroll a ride check once per day. Save that reroll for Mounted Combat on those rare occasions when your horse's full plate isn't cutting it.

Ride Them Down (Ex): If your mount is better at doing damage than you (it shouldn't be), this is a great ability. Overrun is a good combat maneuver to get through mobs of enemies, and Trample lets you do some damage as you go by, but this shouldn't be your go-to combat option. You're likely better off using Spirited Charge to lance things to death.

Unavoidable Onslaught (Ex): Charge lanes are critical to mounted characters, especially once you get Spirited Charge. This lets you freely charge through your allies.

Indomitable Steed (Ex): DR 5/- is amazing at any level.

Replaced Features: Armor Mastery, Armor Training (1, 2, 3, 4), Bravery, Weapon Training (1, 2, 3, 4)

Compatible Archetypes: None

Savage Warior

If your race has natural weapons and you want to play a fighter, this archetype has some nice tricks to offer. However, it gives up armor training and a lot of durability in exchange for reliable charges. Since most fighters prefer full attacking over charging, this class also doesn't offer anything exciting offensively either. If you want to use natural attacks, Barbarian is likely a better choice.

Spark of Life (Ex): I would take this over bravery any day of the week. Energy drain is infuriaitng, and death effects are scary.

Natural Savagery (Ex): Weapon training with natural weapons, and the bonus applies to CMB/CMD for grappling.

Savage Charge (Ex): Sacrifice additional AC for additional attack bonus on a charge. If you're using Power Attack (and you should be), this can be a pretty good way to start a combat. However, you don't have the Barbarian's hit points to fall back on when you drop your AC, so don't plan to spend all of your time charging.

Careful Claw (Ex): There aren't a lot of enemies which this ability will cover.

Greater Savage Charge (Ex): Now that you're dropping your AC proportionately less, charging becomes less risky for you. Allowing you to charge through your allies also makes charging much easier in crowded combats.

Natural Weapon Mastery (Ex): Natural weapons typically have 20/x2 critical threat, and bumping it to 20/x3 isn't going to be very exciting.

Replaced Features: Bravery, Weapon Mastery, Weapon Training (1, 2, 3, 4)

Compatible Archetypes: Mutation Warrior

Shielded Fighter

Shielded fighters play to the modern interpretation of the classic sword-and-board fighter, which is essentially "board-and-board". Dual-wielding spiked light shields or madus is likely your best bet to capitalize on Shield Fighter and Shield Master. With some decent feat choices, you can really fill the fighter's key role as Tank and still have some reasonable damage output.

Active Defense (Ex): Dodge bonuses to AC are great, but they don't apply when you're flat-footed and you don't have a way to get Uncanny Dodge. In addition, you need to be Fighting Defensively, using Combat Expertise, or using Full Defense to get the benefit. Your AC will be great as long as you're not flat-footed, but you'll be giving up potentially crucial attack bonus. If you spend a feat to gain exotic weapon proficiency with the madu, this moves up into green territory. A -2 to attack for a +2 to AC is a good trade for fighting defensively, and reducing the Combat Expertise penalty by 1 is pretty good too. Being able to use both at once can make you spectacularly durable. Spending a swift action to extend this bonus to your allies is occasionally nice, but shouldn't be a frequent decision.

Shield Fighter (Ex): Weapon training with shields. The portion of the wording which mentions freely alternating between your weapon and your shield on attacks is a trap: your shield is your weapon.

Shield Buffet (Ex): The initial version of this ability is totally useless. A move action to apply modest penalties to fighting only you is a waste of time when you could be full attacking and making 4 attacks. The 13th level version allows you to do this as a swift action, which is considerably better in one-on-one fights. Fighters have very few uses for a swift action, and this functionally gives you a +2 to attacks and a +2 to AC against one target. Keep in mind that Active Defense also requires a swift action to protect your allies, so you can't use both at once.

Shield Guard (Ex): This makes flanking you very difficult. Most enemies won't need flanking to be scary, but this can be great if you fight a lot of rogues. Keep in mind that you should never be using a tower shield because you can't sheild bash with it.

Shield Mastery (Ex): DR 5/- is great, and you basically don't exist without a shield.

Shield Ward (Ex): This is a really lackluster capstone. By this point most fighters will have evasion on a ring, and with your high BAB and physical stats, your CMD will be high enough that you don't need to worry about disarming or sundering.

Replaced Features: Armor Mastery, Armor Training (1, 2, 3, 4), Weapon Mastery, Weapon Training (1, 2, 3, 4)

Compatible Archetypes: Gladiator


A poor attempt at making the fighter into a thinking man. The combination of abilities makes the Tactician dependant on all 6 ability scores, which makes it very difficult to be good at anything. If you want an intellectual, social fighter, play a Cavalier.

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: Most people won't use tower shields, but losing heavy armor proficiency is annoying.

Strategic Training (Ex): Even with these skills, most players wiull probably dump intelligence. The additional skill selections change the fighter from a big dumb brute into a cunning tactician, or potentially an officer. With some effort, you can use these skills to turn the fighter into the party's face. However, this makes you dependent on all 6 ability scores, which is a recipe for disaster.

Bonus Feats: Skill focus isn't really important, but adding Teamwork feats to your feat options is fairly useful.

Tactical Awareness (Ex): Inititiative bonuses are always nice.

Tactician (Ex): Tactician is a cool way to take advantage of a teamwork feat. However, it only works with the feat which you receive as part of the ability. Since you're level 5, you have more feats to choose from than the Cavalier does at level 1.

Cooperative Combatant (Ex): If you're using Aid Another, you're not doing something more helpful. If you ever have enough allies situated to benefit from this, your party is either too far gone to benefit, or positioned too well to need this.

Battle Insight (Ex): The only ability which depends on your intelligence score. If your intelligence is good, this is good. But your intelligence is rarely decent on a fighter.

Replaced Features: Armor Training (3, 4), Bonus Feat (1st), Bravery, Skills, Weapon and Armor Proficiency, Weapon Training (2, 3, 4)

Compatible Archetypes: None


The base idea behind the Thunderstriker is an abusive use of the rules. It is a free action to switch from holding a weapon one handed to holding it two handed, and there is no limitation on how often your can do this in a turn. In theory, you could do this so many times that the friction of your repeated motion causes the atmosphere to combust.

In all seriousness, the Thunderstriker's key mechanic is to shield bash with a buckler, then use a free action to use their primary weapon two-handed, then return to holding their weapon one handed in order to use their buckler as a shield. While this may seem like a fairly abusive tactic, it is technically allowed by the rules as written, and the Thunderstriker seems to actively embrace it. This makes the Thunderstriker a perplexing fusion of two-handed and two-weapon fighting styles.

Strapped Shield (Ex): Removes the -1 penalty for using a buckler while weilding a weapon two-handed.

Hardbuckler (Ex): This gives away how the class should actually be played. Get shield bash and two-weapon fighting, and be a sword-and-board fighter while using your sword in two hands.

Knockback Smash (Ex): This appears to stack with Shield Master, which is pretty incredible. Shield Master specifies the bonus to work "as if it was an enhancement bonus", but Knockback Smash makes no such statement, so its bonus is typeless.

Hammer and Anvil (Ex): Effectively a +1 to attacking while using two-weapon fighting. Nice, but not particularly great.

Buckler Defense (Ex): This is essentially the Two-Weapon Shield feat, which is awful.

Balanced Bashing (Ex): Another +2 to attacks. Wee.

Improved Buckler Defense (Ex): This allows you to keep your shield bonus to ac from your buckler while still using your weapon two-handed. This really only matters for attacks of opportunity.

Replaced Features: Armor Mastery, Armor Training (1, 2, 3, 4), Bravery, Weapon Training (1, 2)

Compatible Archetypes: Gladiator

Tower Shield Specialist

The problem with the tower shield specialist is that it doesn't actually do anything. You are very good at turtling behind your shield, but you don't have any offensive abilities, and you give up Weapon Training. Your AC is going to be stellar, but since you don't do any damage, no one is going to try to kill you. If everyone is ignoring you, you're not much of a tank.

Burst Barrier (Ex): AOE effects are far more common than fear effects, so this will see a lot of use. Plus, it adds some value to a Ring of Evasion.

Tower Shield Training (Ex): The wording only mentions the maximum dexterity bonus on armor. I would reasonably assume that this also applies to the tower shield max dex, but check with your DM to be sure. Assuming your DM is a reasonable person, this means that the max dexterity on a tower shield goes up to +4, and scales with level.

Tower Shield Specialist (Ex): Removes that pesky -2 attack penalty from your shield.

Tower Shield Defense (Ex): Your tower shield gives you a +4 bonus when it's a non-magical piece of wood. As you enhance it, this gets progressively better.

Immediate Repositioning (Ex): You can't use it to interrupt an attack, but you can use it to interrupt blast effects, giving you total cover.

Tower Shield Evasion (Ex): Evasion at level 16 isn't great since you probably should have evasion on a ring by then. Improved Evasion at 20 is nice, but not very exciting.

Replaced Features: Bravery, Weapon Mastery, Weapon Training (1, 2, 3, 4)

Compatible Archetypes: Mutation Warrior

Two-Handed Fighter

Two-handed fighters give up all pretence of being a tank in favor of hitting things with a really big weapon. Their strategy is conceptually simple: Power Attack this thing until it dies, then find something else to kill. The abilities are almost purely numerical bonuses, so the Two-Handed Fighter is essentially just a very scary ball of numbers. Many players may find this boring due to the lack of mechanical complexity, but it's hard to argue with this archetype's sheer damage output.

Shattering Strike (Ex): If you like to sunder things, this is nice. However, when you're sundering you're not killing someone. And you should always be killing someone.

Overhand Chop (Ex): Your strength bonus should be huge (20 at first level is a good starting point), so this makes your charges and single attacks a bit more powerful. At third level you only have one attack, so this applies to all of your attacks (unless you use Cleave) until you hit level 6.

Weapon Training (Ex): It works just like the normal class feature, but you have to use two-handed weapons. So basically it's just the normal fighter class feature.

Backswing (Ex): 6th level is a little lonely without Backswing, but now you get to add double your strength on all of your attacks. Buff your strength and get swinging.

Piledriver (Ex): Since you likely don't have Combat Expertise, this is a good way for you to trip things. However, you don't get a whole lot for doing it. You can also bull rush, which can prevent the enemy from full attacking.

Greater Power Attack (Ex): Even with absurd strength, Power Attack is a huge chunk of your damage output. This makes it even better. When you get this ability, it nets +4 damage. At level 16, it nets +5.

Devastating Blow (Ex): This ability is absolutely phenomenal. I never thought I would ever want to use a scythe until I saw this. With the fighter's impressive attack bonus, you can generally expect to confirm the crit. So basically, you take a -5 to your attack rolls, and most likely do x4 damage. Then at level 20 you get Weapon Mastery and auto-confirm crits with the selected weapon. So you take -5 to definitely deal x4 damage. With your insane strength and Power Attack, that is a truly scary chunk of numbers.

Replaced Features: Armor Mastery, Armor Training (1, 2, 3, 4), Bravery, Weapon Mastery, Weapon Training (1, 2, 3, 4)

Compatible Archetypes: None

Two-Weapon Warrior

Two-weapon fighting is often left to Rogues, and for good reason. The TWF Fighter depends very heavily on full attacking, and lacks built-in options to get him into place to full attack. The Two-Weapon Warrior adds abilities which allow the Fighter to make additional attacks after moving, dramatically improving the Fighter's mobility. With the Fighter's excellent attack bonuses and respectable damage, this can turn the Two-Weapon Warrior into an excellent Striker. However, you lack abilities which make you a good Defender, so your effectiveness depends heavily on your feat selection and your party's composition.

Defensive Flurry (Ex): It's a bit cruel that this isn't just a normal dodge bonus to AC when you full attack. Still, most attacks against you will be melee attacks, and you will (hopefully) be full attacking most of the time.

Twin Blades (Ex): Basically weapon training when you full attack. It's unfortunate that it doesn't apply to attacks of opportunity, charges, or Doublestrike, but it works when you need it most.

Doublestrike (Ex): This slightly alleviates your issue with movement, but still limits you to a single move. You don't get the attack and damage bonus from Twin Blades, so try to full attack as much as possible.

Improved Balance (Ex): If you're using a light weapon in your off hand, this is a +1 to your attacks. If you choose to use two one-handed weapons (excluding Sawtooth Sabres) this is a +2 to both of your attacks.

Equal Opportunity (Ex): You effectively get two attacks on an attack of opportunity, which is absolutely fantastic. This is also your only Defender ability, so be sure to capitalize on this as much as possible.

Perfect Balance (Ex): If you're using a light weapon in your off hand or using a double weapon, you no longer have two-weapon fighting penalties. If you're using a one-handed weapon in your off hand, you don't get anything new.

Deft Doublestrike (Ex): A free disarm, sunder, or trip attempt is nice, but you're probably not built for it. At this level, your chances of success with trip or disarm aren't great unless you're already built for it, and sunder isn't useful often enough to matter.

Deadly Defense (Ex): I hope you brought combat expertise. To capitalize on this, you may actually want to drop your AC, but dropping your AC may make you worse as a Defender. It's a weird trade-off, and it's difficult to introduce this late in the game because of its implications for your build and tactics.

Two-Weapon Warrior Fighter Handbook

Replaced Features: Armor Mastery, Armor Training (1, 2, 3, 4), Weapon Training (1, 2, 3, 4)

Compatible Archetypes: Gladiator

Unarmed Fighter

This is the fighter trying to be a Monk. In 3.5, this was actually the best way to be a Monk since the Monk class was fairly horrible. Now, the Unarmed Fighter is a master of grappling, and gets to use the Dirty Trick maneuver for free several times at high levels. They don't grapple quite as well at the Tetori Monk, but they're a very interesting character concept, and a great way to abuse the Dirty Trick maneuver.

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: Monk weapons are weird and unique, but they do have a good selection of weapons which give bonuses to combat maneuvers, including Grapple. Giving up all but light armor is dissappointing.

Unarmed Style: Unarmed strike is basically a given, but the free style feat is fantastic since "he unarmed fighter need not meet all the prerequisites of the style feat he chooses". This means you can take the capstone feat for a monk style and skip the garbage pre-requisite feats. Keep in mind that some of the style feats rely on the abilities provided by earlier abilities, so take care to select a feat which will function.

Harsh Training (Ex): Bonus to saves against a very rare set of things.

Tough Guy (Ex): The DR against non-lethal damage is irrelevant, but the DR against grapple damage is pretty fantastic.

Weapon Training (Ex): Weapon training with monk weapon and natural weapons.

Clever Wrestler (Ex): You can continue to be a meaningful presence on the battlefield while grappled, which means you can both pin one target and continue to take attacks of opportunity and tank for the party.

Trick Throw (Ex): Dirty Trick can apply some very nasty status effects (such as entangled, which lowers their CMD considerably), so taking the time to trip people is worth the effort to throw this ability around. Plus, if they're entangled they can't stand back up. Enjoy that +4 to attacks on prone targets.

Takedown (Ex): Drag them, then trip them, then hit them with a dirty trick. At higher level, Grapple them, then trip them, then hit them with a dirty trick. This requires a lot of combat maneuver feats to use, but having lots of feats is sort of your thing.

Eye Gouge (Ex): Conveniently, you begin your turn grappled even if you started the grapple. A swift action to apply the best Dirty Trick status effect is pretty fantastic.

Sucker Punch (Ex): More free dirty tricks!

Sheer Toughness (Ex): Immunity to fatigue, exhaustion, and subdual damage won't see a lot of use, especially at this level. Immunity to staggered is considerably better, but still situational.

Weapon Mastery (Ex): crits with unarmed strikes are pretty boring. And you can't crit while grappling.

Replaced Features: Armor Mastery, Armor Training (1, 2, 3, 4), Bonus Feat (1st), Bravery, Weapon and Armor Proficiencies, Weapon Mastery, Weapon Training (1, 2, 3, 4)

Compatible Archetypes: None


Unbreakable Fighters are very good at saving throws and resisting mind-affecting effects. While these abilities are tempting, the archetype doesn't offer any offensive abilities or area control abilities. You're very good at soaking spell effects, but since there isn't anything to make you scary, your enemies may just ignore you in favor of targets who are doing something more exciting.

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: You were't going to use a tower shield anyway.

Tough as Nails: Endurance is fairly useless, but Diehard is passable, and you get two feats for the price of 1.

Unflinching (Ex): Mind-affecting effects make up most will save effects, so this will get a lot of mileage.

Heroic Recovery (Ex): You can use Heroic Recovery to recover from poison or disease or a number of other effects. Occasionally useful

Heroic Defiance (Ex): You can delay the effects of status effects for one round. This would be cool to delay the effects of Flesh to Stone or Hold Person, but it's not going to see a lot of use on anything really important.

Quick Recovery (Ex): When are you ever fatigued?

Stalwart (Ex): Evasion for both Fortitude and will saves. This makes you considerably more durable, and with some feats and a ring of evasuion you can become practically immune to spells and spell-like abilities.

Unlimited Endurance (Ex): When are you ever exhausted? The most common way for you to become exhausted is from a spell, and now you have Stalwart.

Miraculous Recovery (Ex): At high levels, poison becomes more common on many monsters. This allows you to better resist those effects, and help withs stuff that Stalwart doesn't cover.

Unbreakable Mind (Ex): Wow. Wholly immune to almost all will saves. This makes Unflinching totally irrelevant, but I don't think anyone minds.

Replaced Features: Armor Training (1, 2), Bonus Feat (1st), Bravery, Weapon Mastery, Weapon Training (1, 2, 3, 4)

Compatible Archetypes: None

Weapon Master

This archetype does very little to focus on using a single weapon. It has a couple of abilities which make you very marginally better at critical hits, but they don't come until very high level. Vanilla fighter is strictly better in every way.

Weapon Guard (Ex): Not a lot of enemies are going to use disarm or sunder against you.

Weapon Training (Ex): Weapon training with only one weapon.

Reliable Strike (Ex): Rerolling one roll with your weapon is pretty nice, but it's not game changing, and the uses are very limited.

Mirror Move (Ex): The odds of enemies using your chosen weapon are laughable, especially if you use an interesting weapon.

Deadly Critical (Ex): I don't understand why this isn't just a static bonus. As it stands, this is absolutely awful. It's not meaningful enough to make you focus on critical hits, and it's not frequent enough to be helpful if you don't.

Critical Specialist (Ex): Suddenly you need to be good at critical hits. The +4 DC is pretty great, but very little in the archetype has led up to this ability.

Unstoppable Strike (Ex): Making your attack a touch attack essentially makes it unstoppable at this level. Ignoring DR is absolutely brutal. However, you give up full attacks to use it, so to do meaningful damage you need to find ways to add a ton of damage to single attacks. This also does't synergize particularly well with the archetype's weird critical hit powers.

Replaced Features: Armor Mastery, Armor Training (1, 2, 3, 4), Bravery, Weapon Training (1, 2, 3, 4)

Compatible Archetypes: None