Pathfinder - The Mobile Fighter Handbook
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.
- Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational.
- Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances
- Green: Good options.
- Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character.
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 Mobile Fighter is a fantastic archetype. It fixes the Fighter's issues with mobility, and makes the Fighter one of the most mobile characters in the game. Even with this improvement, the Mobile Fighter doesn't sacrifice the Fighter's excellent build versatility, and in many ways enhances the Fighter's already formidable capabilities as a Defender and Striker.
Taking inspiration from the Mobile Fighter's abilities, we can divine Mobile Fighter builds into three options: TWF builds (lots of movement and lots of attacks), Two-Handed builds (a little movement, few attacks with high damage, and whirlwind attack), and the Switch Hitter (Double weapons to fight like TWF, but Whirlwind and make Attacks of Opportunity Two-Handed).
Fighter Class Features
Hit Points: d10 hit points like nearly every other front-line class.
Base Attack Bonus: Full BAB.
Saves: Good fortitude saves, but many fighters have major problems with Reflex and Will saves.
Proficiencies: All armor and shields, include Tower shields, and martial weapons. The fighter has a huge variety of options, and with plenty of bonus feats they can supplement these options with exotic weapon proficiency.
Skills: Likely the worst skill list in the game, and Fighters often dump intelligence to 7. 2+ skill ranks is almost nothing, but many fighters still can't find a good way to use all of their skill ranks.
Bonus Feats: Bonus feats are why most people play a Fighter (or at least take a class dip). With a feat at level one and another at every even-numbered class level, the Fighter gets a total of 22 feats by level 20 (23 for humans), giving you a dizzying number of options. On top of this, the fighter gets a free retraining option every 4 levels which allows you to pick up feats with high prerequisites by trading in low-level feats which aren't paying off anymore. Do silly things like trade in Toughness for Improved Critical at level 8.
Armor Training (Ex): This greatly reduces the need for Mithral armor, and makes Dexterity much more important for Fighters than it is for other heavily armored characters. Unfortunately you only get the first two steps, but the ability to move at full speed in armor works very well for the mobile fighter.
Armor Mastery (Ex): A bit late in the game, but DR/- is always welcome.
Mobile Fighter Features
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.
The Mobile Fighter's abilities strongly resemble those of other Fighters.
Str: Strength is key for Two-Handed Mobile Fighters, and even TWF Mobile Fighters should consider a bit of Strength to get Power Attack. Most TWF characters don't rely on Power Attack for damage because they can't spare the attack penalty, but Fighters get enough bonuses to hit that Power Attack is viable.
Dex: Dexterity is great for the Mobile Fighter. Two-Handed Mobile Fighters should start with 12 to max out their Full Plate, but TWF mobile fighters will want considerably more to qualify for feats.
Con: Hit points are crucial for Fighters because they tend to be the party's front line.
Int: The Fighter's skills are garbage, and you can't get less than one skill rank.
Wis: Only needed for Will saves, but don't dump it.
Cha: Worthless unless you plan to use Intimidate.
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Speed is important to a Mobile Fighter, but any race which works for a Fighter can be made to work for the Mobile Fighter. Access to a racial double weapon can also be helpful for TWF switch-hitter builds.
Dwarf: While normally a great Fighter, the Dwarf's slow speed limits its effectiveness as a Mobile Fighter, but the Dwarf can still be fantastic as a Two-Handed fighter, and the Dwarven Urgrosh offers an enticing option for a TWF build which can still use Whirlwind Attack.
Elf: The Elf is primarily a spellcasting race, but with some alternate racial traits the Elf can make a decent finesse fighter.
Gnome: The Gnome is not a great Fighter. With a penalty to Strength and a bonus to Charisma, the Gnome has very little to offer.
Half-Elf: The Half-Elf is versatile, especially with some alternate racial traits.
Half-Orc: A flexible ability bonus and Darkvision are both great for the Fighter. The other racial bonuses also play well to the Fighter's strengths, and the racial bonus to Intimidate can offset dumping Charisma. The Half-Orc also gets the Orcish Double-Axe as a martial weapon, which can be a good option for TWF builds that still want to use Whirlwind attack.
Halfling: Your best bet for a small Fighter, the Strength penalty is offset by the Dexterity bonus, making the Halfling a great option for TWF Striker builds. The Halfling's small size provides a bonus to AC and attacks, and with an alternate class feature you can fix the Halfling's slow speed, making it just as mobile as most medium races.
Human: An extra bonus feat gets your build up and running a level earlier, and the bonus skill rank applies after your 7 intelligence drops your class skill ranks to 1.
- Climb (Str): Too situational.
- Handle Animal (Cha): Only useful for mounted builds, and other classes (like the Cavalier or Paladin) do mounter combat much better.
- Intimidate (Cha): The fighter's only social skill, and some builds can work Intimidate into combat.
- Knowledge (dungeoneering) (Int): One of the best Knowledge skills. Unfortunately the Fighter's poor Intelligence will hurt your bonus.
- Knowledge (engineering) (Int): Too situational.
- Ride (Dex): Only useful for mounted builds, and other classes (like the Cavalier or Paladin) do mounter combat much better.
- Survival (Wis): Situational.
- Swim (Str): Too situational.
Your choice of feats depends heavily on your specific build. Imagine building your Fighter without the Mobile Fighter archetype; the same tactics will work for the most part.
Your choice of weapon depends heavily on your specific build. Imagine building your Fighter without the Mobile Fighter archetype; the same tactics will work for the most part.
Armor is presented in the order in which you should acquire it, rather than alphabetical order.
- Kikko: Cheaper than Breastplate with better Maximum Dexterity bonus and a bit less armor. Kikko is cheaper and less restricting than Scale Mail, but use Scale Mail is eastern armor is prohibited.
- Shield: Unless you plan to use TWF with shields, forgo shields. Armor Training will help your armor to make up the AC bonus, and you will get a wonderful return on investment for using your other hand for a real weapon.
- Breastplate / Lamellar (Steel):A solid bet for TWF builds, Armor Training will further expand the Maximum Dexterity Bonus to allow room for your growing Dexterity.
- Mithral Breastplate / Lamellar (Steel): For TWF builds you will likely want to upgrade to Mithral because Mobile Fighters don't get Armor Training 3 and 4. A total Max Dex of +7 should be plenty, and even without a shield your AC should be great.
- Mithral Kikko: Slightly more Maximum Dexterity than the Breastplate, so if your Dexterity is really good, consider this instead. Even if your Dexterity goes above +8, don't bother switching to light armor. Thanks to Armor Training, Haramaki is the only way to beat Mithral Breastplate, and you would need a dex bonus of +12 to match Kikko. Even at 20th level, that's hard to do without becoming very expensive.
- Full Plate: The go-to armor for two-handed builds. Armor Training will expand the Maximum Dexterity Bonus, but don't feel compelled to enhance your Dexterity until fairly high level if you can't afford it. The Max Dex will cap at +3, which is fine even with a Belt of Physical Perfection +6 because you will probably want to be permanently enlarged, dropping your Dexterity back down to 16.
- Quickrunner's Shirt: Normally one of my all-time favorite items, the Quickrunner's Shirt doesn't contribute anything meaningful to the Mobile Fighter. It is mentioned purely because I find it so astounding that the Mobile Fighter overcame how totally amazing this item is.
Multiclassing and Prestige Classes
The Mobile Fighter doesn't really need anything from other classes, but if you want to explore other classes I recommend waiting until you pick up Rapid Attack at level 11.
Example Build - Half-Orc Switch-Hitter
You've got about three seconds before I kill everyone in the room.
The Mobile Fighter is good for almost as many builds as the vanilla Fighter, and the double weapon switch-hitter concept is perhaps on the of the most interesting, though perhaps not the most effective.
This build makes the somewhat questionable assumption that you can use a double weapon to make two-handed attacks of opportunity. It's not crucial to the build, but the extra damage is an excellent improvement to the build's function as a combination Defender/Striker.
This build will use the favored bonus to gain additional hit points.
We will assume the 25-point buy abilities suggested above for switch hitters, but the other suggested abilities can also use this build without any problems.
Because we will want 19 Dexterity to fill out the Two-Weapon Fighting feats, we can stop improving Dexterity at 20, but that will still take all of our ability score increases through level 12. With a belt we can expect it to reach 26 at high levels. If you want to be permanently enlarged (I strongly recommend it on this build build because reach is great), use Breastplate for your armor. If you're happy at medium size, use Kikko.
Half-Orc. In addition to some cool miscellaneous bonuses, the Half-Orc gets the Orc Double Axe as a martial weapon, saving us a feat which we would have to spend as a Human. The Half-Orc racial ability bonus can go into Strength, bringing Strength to 18.
The Half-Orc's alternate racial traits offer some interesting options worth of consideration. Chain Fighter allows us to replace the Orc Double Axe with the Dire Flail, which is nice if you want to use combat maneuvers. Sacred Tattoo offers an excellent bonus to saving throws which we can boost further by taking the "Fate's Favored" trait in place of Indomitable Faith. If you don't plan to use Intimidate, consider Shaman's Apprentice. Endurance is a terrible feat, but it's a prerequisite for some more interesting options. Skilled brings the Half-Orc closer to the human, and because we're using the Orc Double Axe makes all of the other Half-Orc racial abilities effectively free compared to the Human. Toothy can get you an extra attack, but be careful not to give up Darkvision if your party does a lot of fighting inside.
With only one skill rank, we have very few options. One rank into Knowledge (Dungeoneering) will let us make occasional checks, but let's put the rest of our ranks into Acrobatics.
Reckless and Indomitable Faith. Reckless gets use a total +4 bonus to Acrobatics, and Indomitable Faith helps with the Fighter's poor Will saves.
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At level 1, using your axe two-handed will work much better than two-weapon fighting. With Power Attack, you can expect a +5 to hit and 1d8+9 (avg. 13.5) damage. You might use a greataxe in place of your Orc Double Axe for +4 to hit and 1d12+9 (avg. 15.5) damage if you prefer.
With Kikko starting armor and 17 Dexterity, 18 AC should keep you fairly safe at first level.
Combat Reflexes turns us into a Defender almost by itself. With Power Attack and decent Strength, our attacks of opportunity are enough to deter enemies from charging past us.
It doesn't really matter what feat we take here. Pick up Toughness or Dodge or something defensive to keep you alive through level 3, but be prepared to drop it at level 4. If your GM doesn't allow feat retraining, pick up Two-Weapon Fighting.
Level 4 is a good level. Weapon Specialization improves two-weapon fighting damage output quite a bit, so it makes sense to use it in place of using our axe two-handed. Power Attack damage goes up, so using our Orc Double Axe two-handed for attacks of opportunity is still going to be a good source of damage.
Improving Dexterity will increase your AC and reflex saves, and move us closer to the 19 Dexterity that we need for Greater TWF. 18 Dexterity will max out our Breastplate, but don't bother upgrading to Mithral yet unless you stumble on a Mithral Breastplate as loot.
Leaping attack further improves our two-weapon fighting by offsetting the TWF penalties and adding damage to both attacks.
Two additional attacks can potentially add a lot of damage.
A very dry level, but your AC gets a nice boost.
Greater Weapon Focus helps to further offset the TWF penalties, and more reliable attacks means more damage. You also get this bonus at the same time that Power Attack adds another -1 to your attacks, to this offets that penalty.
Dexterity of 19 allows us to pick up Greater Two-Weapon Fighting at level 11.
At this level you should be permanently enlarged. The Strength bonus will give you a bit of extra damage, but the real draw is reach. Bigger reach means more attacks of opportunity, which makes you a better Defender. It also means more targets for Whirlwind Attack.
Combat Expertise isn't a normal part of the Mobile Fighter's tactics, but we need it for Whirlwind Attack.
Mobility won't matter much here, but it's great for Rapid Strike.
Rapid Attack is where the Mobile Fighter really takes off. Combined with TWF you can run around making 6 attacks every turn.
Whirlwind attack is great when you're already surrounded by enemies. Use Rapid Attack and/or Spring Attack to move into a cluster of enemies, then on your next turn use Whirlwind Attack to attack with your Orc Double Axe two-handed for a whole pile of damage.
At level 12 we can stop increasing our base Dexterity. If you really like Dexterity you might continue to increase it at level 16 and 20, but that late in the game it's an annoying disruption to your build that encourages you to replace the magic armor you have likely been wearing for 10+ levels.