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Pathfinder - Practical Guide to Fighting Defensively

Disclaimer

I support a limited subset of Pathfinder's rules content. If you would like help with Pathfinder player options not covered here, please email me and I am happy to provide additional assistance.

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Introduction

Fighting Defensively is a rarely-used which allows you to temporarily handicap your attacks for a modest increase to your AC. It doesn't see a lot of use because it's a poor trade. -4 to hit in exchange for +2 to AC is rarely going to be your best choice in combat. Characters who like this option typically pick up Combat Expertise, which works in the same way, but offers a 1-for-1 trade.

But with a long list of character options which modify Fight Defensively, there's some room to improve it. In fact, improving Fight Defensively can quickly make Fight Defensively provide a larger bonus than Combat Expertise with a smaller penalty.

Skills

Three ranks in Acrobatics improves your Dodge bonus from Fight Defensively by 1, which is an easy improvement that almost any character can afford.

Feats

Halfling Racial Feats

Halflings get several feats pertaining to Fighting Defensively.

Weapons

Any weapon with the Blocking property adds a +1 Shield bonus to AC. This obviously won't stack with an actual shield, but it's very helpful for characters who don't or can't use shields.

Conclusion

This guide turned out to be less interesting than I had hoped.

The best build I can think of to capitalize on Fight Defensively is a Halfling Brawler. You can pick up the Crane Style feat tree and use a madu without giving up class features. With 3 ranks in Acrobats, equipped with a Madu, and with the feats Exotic Weapon Proficiency, Dodge, Crane Style, Crane Wing, and Cautious Fighter, you have a -0 penalty for Fight Defensively and get a total dodge bonus to AC of +11, plus whatever you get from your Madu. 6 feats is a lot, but your AC is going to be absurdly high.