skip to main content
RPGOT Logo

Pathfinder 2e - The Fighter Handbook

Last Updated: August 31st, 2019

Disclaimer

I will use the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks.

  • 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.

Introduction

The master of arms and armor, the Fighter is an iconic class dating back to the earliest editions of dungeons and dragons. Despite being one of few classes in Pathfinder with no access to magic, the Fighter is still a powerful and versatile class capable of being a terrifying and powerful in combat.

The Fighter is at their best in combat, where their capabilities truly shine. The Fighter has fewer skills than most classes and terribly few utility options, but in a fight the Fighter is versatile, capable, and often surprising. The Fighter primarily serves their party as a Defender and a Striker, but despite the narrow scope of their capabilities they still have a ton of room for customization and diversity in how their play and what tactics they coose to employ in combat.

There are a lot of interesting mechanical things about the fighter. Unlike other classes, the Fighter has no sublasses. Instead, you can totally determine how the Fighter works by your choice of class feats. Even in the limited options of the Core Rulebook there are feats to cater to a dizzying variety of weapon and armor arrangements. Want to use shields? There are options for it. Two-handed weapons? You've got it. Two weapons at the same time? Definitely. Want to have a free hand for high-fives and such? Surprisingly, they found a way to make that viable. Even archery is a viable option, though it takes a few levels to get off the ground.

Because the Fighter is defined almost entirely by their feats and their choice of weapon, Pathfinder 2e's retraining rules are absolutely crucial for the Fighter. Expect that any time your party's membership changes, or whenever you find a cool magic item, you may need to make some changes to your feats to make yourself as effective as possible. However, your ability scores are difficult to change, so you'll be locked into some sets of options depending on whether your choose Strength or Dexterity as your key ability score.

Fighter Class Features

Key Ability: Your choice of Strength or Dexterity. Choose whichever caters to your preferences. Strength-based fighters will be largely locked into melee, while Dexterity-based fighters can switch between melee and ranged combat but may deal slightly less damage.

Hit Points: 10+ hit points, and it's easy for you to focus on keeping your Constitution high since the Fighter needs so few ability scores.

Initial Proficiencies: , and both simple and martial weapons. Your AC and attack bonus will be higher than any other character at 1st level. On top of that, the Fighter is the only class which is Trained with advanced weapons at 1st level without spending a feat to get it.

  • Perception: Expert at 1st level and you improve to Master at 7th and get an additonal +2 to Perception checks for Initiative.
  • Saving Throws: Fortitude and Reflex saves will be good, especially if you emphasized Dexterity, but Will saves are a huge weakness so don't dump your Wisdom.
  • Skills: A total of 4+ skills is about average, but Fighters often dump Intelligence so you may find yourself with few skills. Take Athletics if you plan to rely on Strength, and consider Acrobatics if you plan to rely on Dexterity.
  • Attacks: Expert with simple and martial weapons at 1st level, and the Fighter is the only class that is Trained in Advanced Weapons without spending a feat.
  • Defenses: Expert in all armor and unarmored defense at 1st level, and your proficiency rises to Master so your AC should be higher than nearly any other character.
  • Class DC: There are no published options which make use of the Fighter CLass DC

Attack of Opportunity: Very few creatures in Pathfinder 2e have the ability to punish creatures for moving through their reach, so most creatures can simply rush past each other to reach vulonerable targets. The ability to make even one additional attack in these cases is a significant deterrent, and the Fighter is the only class that gets this option without spending a feat.

Shield Block: It's difficult to choose to use a shield without this feat, so getting it for free is helpful. Don't feel like you absolutely need to use it, but remember that shields are always an option if you find yourself in a tough spot.

Fighter Feats: See Fighter feats, below.

Skill Feats: Standard for everyone except the Rogue.

General Feats: Standard.

Skill Feats: Standard for everyone except the Rogue.

Ability Boosts: Standard.

Ancestry Feats: Standard.

Fighter Weapon Mastery: The Fighter's weapon proficiency advances strangely. You choose one weapon group (Brawling, Swords, etc.) and your proficiency with that group (including Advanced Weapons) advances at 5th level while your other weapon proficiencies remain unchanged.

Battlefield Surveyor: This is as good as your Perception will get without spending a feat, but Master is still really good.

Weapon Specialization: More damage on weapon attacks, and since your proficiency is already Expert or Master with your weapon, you're getting a better damage bonus than other classes.

Combat Flexibility: Class feats are the best feats, and getting one more of any level offers a ton of great options. Since you get to change this every day, it's a great way to experiment with options which you're not certain that you'll like without spending Downtime to train, and it's a great way to bring in material from newly-published sourcebooks.

Juggernaut: Fortitude saves are very important, and between your high proficiency and your probably 18 Constitution you should be very good at them.

Armor Expertise: +2 AC and access to armor specialization effects. I'm partial to full plate because slashing damage is common, so 2+ damage resistance to slashing damage is a significant benefit.

Fighter Expertise: The Fighter class DC isn't used for anything.

Weapon Legend: Master in Simple/Martial, Expert in Advanced, Legendary in all Simple/Martial weapons in one group, and Master in the Advanced Weapons in that group. Legendary proficiency opens up some exciting options that most characters can't use until much higher level, and it gives you more damage from Weapon Specialization.

Evasion: Even if your Dexterity is poor, Full Plate's Bulwark trait and your high proficiency give you a good bonus to Reflex saves, so Critical Successes should be common.

Greater Weapon Specialization: You're Legendary or Master in the weapons which you care about the most, so this is a big damage boost.

Improved Flexibility: Another free class feat! Great for all the same reasons that Combat Flexibility is great.

Armor Mastery: Another +2 to AC.

Versatile Legend: Realistically, this won't matter much. You've spent your career dumping gold into a weapon or two which you care about and which are probably in the same weapon group. Even with Legendary proficiency, other weapons won't do enough damage to keep up with your super-powered pointy stick.

Ability Scores

Strength-based Fighter

Most fighters will be Strength-based. Dexterity is not the "god stat" that it was in Pathfinder 1e. Since you only need three high Ability Scores, you have a lot of flexibility with your other ability scores.

Str: Your defining ability score

Dex: Full Plate has a Dexterity Cap of +0, and you want to be in Full Plate. Once you're in Full Plate, the Bulwark trait replaces your Dexterity modifier.

Con: Hit points.

Int: Only useful for starting skills and languages.

Wis: Essential for Perception and Will Saves.

Cha: Only useful if you're building for Intimidation.

Dexterity-based Fighter

Finesse weapons and ranged weapons make Dexterity-based builds an option, but keep in mind that even the most Dexterity-heavy Fighter can still benefit a lot from high Strength.

Str: You want some for Propulsive weapons (bows) and for melee weapons, but there is very little reason to go beyond 18 and you can start as low as 14 and you'll be fine.

Dex: Your defining ability score.

Con: Even if you fight at range, you want the extra hit points.

Int: Only useful for starting skills and languages.

Wis: Essential for Perception and Will Saves.

Cha: Only useful if you're building for Intimidation.

Ancestries

Since the Fighter primarily needs boosts to physical ability scores ande every Ancestry gets one, nearly any Ancestry works. Strangely, a bonus to Wisdom from an Ancestry is actually a better way to identify Ancestries that work well. Also look closely at Ancrestry Feats, especially those which reduce the proficiency type on racial Advanced Weapons and grant access to Uncommon weapons.

Dwarf: Constitution, Wisdom, and a free increase can go into your choice of Strength or Dexterity, so the Dwarf's Ability Boosts are perfect. Their Ability Flaw in Charisma makes Intimidation builds hard, but that's barely a problem, and -1 to your Charisma modifier is not insurmountable. Dwarven Weapon Familiarity makes the Dwarven War Axe a great option for dueling builds, and Unbound Iron can do a lot to mitigate the Dwarf's poor speed. Dwarfs also have the highest hit points from their Ancestry and Darkvision, making them a truly fantastic option.

Elf: A Boost to Intelligence is wasted, and a Flaw in Constitution is risky. If you're set on Elf, be sure to use the Optional Flaws rule to fix the Constitution penalty, but most likely you'll end up with +2 Dex, -2 Int, and nothing else. At that point, just play a Half-Elf.

Gnome: Even for Dexterity-based builds, a Strength Flaw means less damage for nearly every Fighter. You could use the Optional Flaws rule to end up with +0 Str, +2 Dex, +2 Con, -2 Int, -2 Wis, +2 Cha, which could work for a Dexterity-based Intimidation build, but I don't know if that's enough. Gnome Weapon Familiarity gets you acces to the Gnome Flickmace, but with a Strength flaw that's not helpful.

Goblin: The ability boosts and flaws work fine for the Fighter, but few of the Goblin's Ancestry Feats work especially well. Goblin Scuttle is helpful if you like Flanking (and you should), but Goblin Weapon Familiarity isn't helpful because goblin weapons aren't great options for the Fighter. Consider Adopted Ancestry (Elf) so that you can take Elf Step and use Goblin Scuttle to Step twice and get into Flanking position more easily.

Halfling: Dexterity and Wisdom work great, but a Strength Flaw is a problem for many fighters, so consider the Optional Flaws rule to offset the Strength Flaw. Most halfling feats won't be very helpful, but Halgfling Luck is fantastic, and you can use Cultural Adaptability to open up great options from other Ancestries, such as Human for the Natural Ambition feat.

Human: Always a great choice, your two free Boosts can go into Strength or Dexterity and whatever other ability you want. Natural Amibition gives you an extra 1st-level Class Feat, and many of the Fighter's 1st-level feats are great. Unconventional Weaponry can make one Advanced Weapon a martial weapon, making options like the Dwarven Waraxe and the Sawtooth Saber much more effective.

Backgrounds

Look for backgrounds that offer boosts to Strength or Dexterity, depending on your build. You can make use of a wide variety of skill feats depending on your build, so you have a lot of great options.

If you're having trouble deciding, here are some suggestions:

  • Acrobat
  • Farmhand
  • Guard
  • Laborer
  • Martial Disciple
  • Warrior

Skills

  • Acrobatics (Dex): Acrobatics isn't especially useful, but you're capable of being good at it.
  • Arcana (Int): Intelligence is your biggest dump stat.
  • Athletics (Str): Athletics is used for a variety of special maneuvers in combat, including Shove and Trip.
  • Crafting (Int): Intelligence is your biggest dump stat.
  • Deception (Cha): Unless you're built for Intimidation you won't have the Charisma to back this up.
  • Diplomacy (Cha): Unless you're built for Intimidation you won't have the Charisma to back this up.
  • Intimidation (Cha): Essential for Intimidation builds, but if you dumped Charisma it won't work.
  • Lore (Int): Intelligence is your biggest dump stat.
  • Medicine (Wis): You need Wisdom to compensate for your relatively poor Will saves and to boost your Perception, so you may have enough to make this work. It's also your only healing option short of resting or items.
  • Nature (Wis): Essential if you want to fight while mounted, but otherwise skip it.
  • Occultism (Int): Intelligence is your biggest dump stat.
  • Performance (Cha): Aside from a handful of feats that you probably don't want, there is no reason for you to be good at this.
  • Religion (Wis): You'll have the Wisdom to make this work, but I would leave it a Wisdom-based spellcaster if you have one in the party.
  • Society (Int): Intelligence is your biggest dump stat.
  • Stealth (Dex): Many fighters have high Dexterity, so Stealth is absolutely an option.
  • Survival (Wis): Only situationally useful.
  • Thievery (Dex): Many fighters have high Dexterity, and Theivery is an absolutely crucial skill to have available to the party.

Feats

Fighter Feats

1st Level
  • Double Slice: Essential for two-weapon users. Rangers and Rogues get arguably better two-weapon fighting feats, but Double Slice does better against foes with damage resistance.
  • Exacting Strike: You can only use this as a second action on your turn because it has the Press trait, and it's only useful if you're going to make a Strike as part of your third action. That's an extremely specific situation, and if you hit this is exactly the same as making a regular Strike. So this is situational, only useful for single-weapon melee builds, and it only matters if you miss.
  • Point-Blank Shot: Crucial for archers.
  • Power Attack: This is great for anyone using a single weapon, and it gets better if you damage dice are bigger. It's viable with anything d8 or higher. With big weapons like a greataxe, the extra damage from the additional die will outweigh the extra damage from a comparably less-reliable secondary Strike. I haven't run the math yet, but it's possible that the additional damage from Striking Runes on your weapons will eventually make secondary attacks more powerful, but I can't be certain yet.
  • Reactive Shield: Raising a shield costs an action, which is a difficult commitment when an extra attack seems more useful, or when you need to Stride and also hit some stuff. This is a good fallback, but if you're committed to using a shield you're probably counting on using the Shield Block Reaction, which will conflict with this until you get Quick Shield Block.
  • Snagging Strike: This is a great first attack every round. Making the target flat-footed reduces their AC, which not only makes your own follow-up attacks more reliable but makes things a little easier for all of your allies because the effect remains until the start of your next turn or until the target moves away.
  • Sudden Charge: Great action economy, and you still have another action to draw a weapon or raise a shield.
2nd Level
  • Aggressive Block: If you're using your shield to block an attack, pushing an enemy 5 feet away probably puts them out of reach, thereby denying them the ability to make another attack. Instead, the attacked will be forced to use their action to Step or Stride to get back into reach.
  • Assisting Shot: Conceptually interesting, but Aid is absolutely not worth an Action in combat.
  • Brutish Shove: Shoving a creature isn't always useful, but it can help you force them into a space where you want them like off a cliff or into a wall of fire. Hit or miss, the target is flat-footed for the remainder of your turn, which means that if you follow up with another Strike their AC is reduced. However, this action has the Press trait so you can only use it after you've already made a Strike.
  • Combat Grab: Grabbed prevents the target from moving, but you might prefer to let them move so that you can take an Attack of Opportunity.
  • Dueling Parry: This is essentially the same as the Raise a Shield action, at least in terms of the AC bonus. Multiple attack penalties stack up quickly, so your third action is often left to making an attack at a -10 penalty or doing literally anything else. In those cases +2 to AC is very appealing compared to a borderline useless attack.
  • Intimidating Strike: -1 to all checks and saves isn't enough, and you can't rely on getting the -2. If you plan to pick up Fearsome Brute later, this becomes much more important, but you may want to take something more interesting at this level then retrain a feat later when you pick up Fearsome Brute.
  • Lunge: Movement is too easy in Pathfinder 2e to make reach especially important, and using Stride to get into reach means that you can use more interesting feats.
4th Level
  • Double Shot: Normally making two attacks would take two actions and one would be at a -5 penalty. Two attacks, both made at -2, is a slight improvement.
  • Dual-Handed Assault: There aren't many weapons with the two-handed trait which justify this feat, but the Dwarven Waraxes goes from d8 to d12, which is tempting. Unfortunately, this is a Flourish so you can only do this once per turn.
  • Knockdown: Knocking the target prone makes them flat-footed and imposes a -2 penalty to AC. They'll likely spend an action on their turn to stand up (a "move action"), which both wastes one of their actions and gives you an attack of opportunity.
  • Powerful Shove: If you took feats to shove enemies, it's really disappointing to run into things too big to shove./
  • Quick Reversal: Situational, but realy good when the situation arises. Unfortunately it's a Flourish so you can only use it once per turn.
  • Shielded Stride: Almost nothing can make Attacks of Opportunity.
  • Swipe: Sweep weapons like axes are great for handling crowds of enemies, and Swipe builds on that capacity. The attack bonus from Sweep adds to both Swipe attacks, so I recommend using Swipe before making other Strikes. Unfortunately, since the targets need to be adjacent to each other, which can be difficult when enemies are typically trying to circle around and flank you.
  • Twin Parry: Basically the same as Duelling Parry, but for two-weapon fighters. Because TWF actions typically involve making more than one Strike, you'll accumulate multiple attack penalties almost immediately, making your second and third actions difficult to attack with.
6th Level
  • Advanced Weapon Training: Some Advanced weapons can add a lot to a build, and this brings them on par with your other weapons so you'll get another +2 to attacks and extra damage from Weapon Specialization. However, you can often proficienct with one or more advanced weapons reduced to Martial using an Ancestry Feat, which is usually a better deal since Class Feats are typically more important than Ancestry Feats.
  • Advantageous Assault: A great option on top of Combat Grab or Knockdown.
  • Disarming Stance: Too situational and the bonus is too small.
  • Furious Focus: This makes following up with another attack much more reliable.
  • Guardian's Deflection: Too situatinoal. It only works when you're positioned correctly, and even then only 10% of the time.
  • Reflexive Shield: Reflex saves are the Fighter's low save, and dropping AOE damage is an easy way to wear down a character with a huge pool of hit points like a fighter.
  • Revealing Stab: Invisible creautures are a serious problem, but your party should be using magic to address them or Blind-Fight.
  • Shatter Defenses: A decent follow-up to Intimidating Strike, but borderline useless on its own.
  • Shield Warden: Great for protecting your allies, but in combat they typically shouldn't be adjacent to you.
  • Triple Shot: Three shots for two actions is good, and the -4 penalty doesn't make that significantly worse. Mathematically, -4/-4/-4 is better than +0/-5/-10, especially since your attack bonus with a bow will already be higher than most characters.
8th Level
  • Blind-Fight: Your best best for tackling Invisible creatures.
  • Dueling Riposte: Dueling Parry is a great choice, especially compared to a third attack. This makes that even better. The Fighter is a Defender, which means that they're typically standing between their allies and their enemies and drawing the bulk of their enemies' attacks. The Fighter also has the best armor proficiency in the game, which means that your AC should be higher than anyone elses. Together, that means that you have the most opportunities to trigger this and you're more likely to trigger the Reaction any time you're attacked. Unfortunately, I'm not totally certain that your Multiple Attack Penalty doesn't apply to this attack. Unlike Attack of Opportunity, Twin Riposte does not include clarifying text that says how the Multiple Attack Penalty works with Twin Riposte.
  • Felling Strike: With no built-in magic options, flying enemies are a serious problem for the Fighter. This doesn't require any specific type of Strike, so you can do something as simple as throwing a rock.
  • Incredible Aim: Situational. Usually using Tripple Strike will work out better on average/
  • Mobile Shot Stance: The ability to make Attacks of Opportunity with a bow is worth the feat.
  • Positioning Assault: Situational.
  • Quick Shield Block: If you use a shield, you absolutely need this.
  • Sudden Leap: If you're facing a flying enemy, switch to a ranged weapon. If you insist on using this, be sure to invest Skill Increases in Athletics to improve your jumps.
10th Level
  • Agile Grace: Essential for TWF users and finesse fighters.
  • Certain Strike: You're guaranteed your Strength bonus bonus to damage and similar bonuses, but that's not enough. It's better than a plain Strike, but it's still not great.
  • Combat Reflexes: If your GM lets enemies trigger Attack of Opportunity frequently, this is absolutely worth a feat. If your GM has creatures run up to you and stand still, this won't get much use.
  • Debilitating Shot: Against big single foes, this may be more useful than dealing a pile of damage with Triple Shot. You'll need to rely on your allies to capitalize on the enemy's reduce actions, so hopefully you're not the only one in the party dealing big piles of damage.
  • Disarming Twist: Situational because not every enemy uses a weapon.
  • Disruptive Stance: Activate to murder spellcasters. They may still be able to Step out of your reach, so consider using a reach weapon to keep them in your reach if spellcasters are a frequent opponent.
  • Fearsome Brute: Potentially excellent if you have Intimidating Strike, or if your party has other options to frighten enemies. Consider the Battle Cry skill feat, and encourage allies to use spells that cause fear.
  • Improved Knockdown: Skipping the Athletics check to trip the target makes Knockdown dramatically more reliable, and it means that you're not strictly required to put Skill Increases into Athletics. The critical success effect on a trip deals 1d6 damage, and improving that do a d12 isn't a huge improvement so don't stress about not using a two-handed weapon.
  • Mirror Shield: Too situational, and as soon as you use it once the enemy will switch to targeting your allies or casting AOE spells.
  • Twin Riposte: Great for all the same reasons that Dueling Riposte is great.
12th Level
  • Brutal Finish: A spectacular follow-up to Power Attack. Two actions on Power Attack (which counts as two Strikes for the Multiple Attack Penalty), then follow up with Brutal Finish to end your turn. You'll probably miss with the -10 Multiple Attack Penalty, but the Failure effect on Brutal Finish guarantees you a bit of damage.
  • Dueling Dance: If you're built for a single weapon and a free hand, this is basically required. One action gets you +2 to AC for the rest of a fight.
  • Flinging Shove: Increasing the range on a success is fun, but the biggest appeal is that you still Shove the target 5 feet on a failure. That's usually enough to force an enemy far enough away that they can't reach you with additional attacks.
  • Improved Dueling Riposte: You no longer need to give up a possible Attack of Opportunity to riposte, and if you're extremely lucky you might even be able to Riposte twice!
  • Incredible Ricochet: Tempting, especially in cases where Incredible Aim applies, but those situations are infrequent and you're making this attack at the usual Multiple Attack Penalty and without Incredible Aim's +2 attack bonus.
  • Lunging Stance: Absolutely spectacular. If you're not already using a Stance feat regularly, this is a great option. If you combine this with a reach weapon, you can effectively control a 15-foot radius sphere. If you have Combat Reflexes, you may be able to make multiple attacks of opportunity agains the same target as it moves through your reach.
  • Paragon's Guard: If you're using a shield, this is an absolute must. Spending the action every turn to Raise a Shield cuts into time you be spending doing other stuff.
  • Spring Attack: This is a bad feat. It requires that you be adjacent to one enemy, and since Spring Attack has the Press trait you must make a Strike before using it. So you spend at least one action to Strike the first target, then move to a second target and make another Strike. If the first creature can make an Attack of Opportunity, Spring Attack does nothing to prevent it.
14th Level
  • Desperate Finisher: Nearly every fighter has a good Press feat available. If you're unlikely to use your Reaction in the next round (maybe you fight at range or something), or if you have an extra Reaction from something like Combat Reflexes, spending your Reaction to do more on your own turn is a great idea. A Press feat will typically be more interesting than the basic Strike granted by an Attack of Opportunity, but keep in mind that you still suffer the normal Multiple Attack Penalty, which is like -10 at this point in your turn.
  • Determination: Essentially a second save against a problematic ongoing effect. It's based on your Will save, which is probably your worst save, but it's still helpful.
  • Guiding Finish: Situational. Unless you're trying to force an enemy into place to be flanked, or to put them somewhere dangerous, this isn't helpful.
  • Guiding Riposte: Basically the same as Guiding Finish. I wouldn't take both.
  • Improved Twin Riposte: Great for all the reasons that Improved Dueling Riposte is great.
  • Stance Savant: Activating a Stance normally only costs one action, which usually isn't a huge problem. However, more actions early in a fight is always a significant advantage.
  • Two-Weapon Flurry: Absolutely essential for fighting with two weapons, but it's both a Press and a Flourish, so you can only use it once per round, and you can only use it after you've already attacked. It works with Desperate Finisher, but you can still only use it once per turn.
  • Whirlwind Strike: Great with a reach weapon, but I don't know if I would use it otherwise. Three actions means that you need to be in position the turn before, which can be hard to accomplish unless you're in a fight with numerous enemies. You get to make every attack before applying a Multiple Attack Penalty, which is really satisfying if you can make a whole bunch of attacks.
16th Level
  • Graceful Poise: Essential for a two-weapon fighter. Reducing your Multiple Attack Penalty means a big boost for Two-Weapon Flurry.
  • Improved Reflexive Shield: Potentially excellent, but technically situational. Your job is to keep dangerous stuff away from your frail allies. If your frail allies are adjacent to you, they're too close to dangerous stuff.
  • Multishot Stance: Archers typically don't need to move once they're well-positioned anyway, and the attack penalty reduction is significant when applied to three attacks.
  • Twinned Defense: Absolutely essential for two-weapon fighters.
18th Level
  • Impossible Volley: If you're using a longbow, this is basically Whirlwind Attack at range. Whirlwind Attack is fantastic, but since it costs three actions it's difficult to position yourself for it to be useful. Since this works anywhere outside your "volley" range (30 ft. for a longbow) and out to your maximum range (600 ft. for a Longbow), you can target groups of enemies at extremely long range. You still suffer range penalties, you take a -2 penalty to each of the attacks, and Multishot Stance doesn't apply, but if you can get more than three attacks this is almost certainly going to deal more damage on average than Triple Shot.
  • Savage Critical: This feat is strange. You get it at level 18, but you're not Legendary with any weapon until level 19, so you can't benefit from the feat for a full level. Beyond that odd limitation, more critical hits is always great. You still need to hit on a 19, but if a high-level fighter can't hit on a 19 your problem isn't the enemy's AC. Anything like concealment or a miss chance of some sort can still prevent this just like it would prevent hitting on a natural 20. This notably makes weapons with the Fatal traight much more effective, but at level 18 you may be attached to whatever you've been swinging about for 17 levels.
20th Level
  • Boundless Reprisals: Fighters can do a lot with Reactions, and there a number of wonderful Fighte Class Feats that offer you a single additional Reaction which you can use for a specific type of Reaction. This adds an additional Reaction not once per round, but once for each enemy turn. That means that you can make an Attack of Opportunity or any other Reaction at least once on each enemy's turn, allowing you to make Attacks of Opportunity nearly whenever you want, Shield Block nearly every attack, Riposte nearly every critical miss, or any number of other wonderful things. If you picked up Desperate Finisher, you're much more free to spend your normal Reaction to get more out of your turn, confident in the knowledge that you'll get at least one Reaction on each enemy's turn.
  • Weapon Supremacy: An extra action is always great, but you can only use it to make a Strike action, which isn't very exciting and will almost certainly be made at a -10 maximum Multiple Attack Penalty.

General Feats

  • Diehard: Fighters are the front line of most parties, so you're going to take a lot of damage, and as a result you may find yourself dropping to 0 hit points frequently. I would pick up options like Toughness first, but if you have a General Feat to spend you could do much worse.
  • Fleet: Offset the speed penalty from heavy armor.
  • Incredible Initiative: Going fist is always great.
  • Ride: If you're fighting while mounted, you want to have this. Rolling checks every turn to command your mount gets annoying very quickly, and failing makes you feel really silly.
  • Toughness: Fighters already get a lot of hit points, but they also take a lot of damage so you want as many as you can possibly get.

Skill Feats

  • Assurance: Great with Athletics and Intimidation.
  • Battle Cry: Start every fight by making one enemy Frightened.
  • Bonded Animal: A poor man's Animal Companion, a Bonded Animal is a great stand-in for mounted characters until you can get a Multiclass Archetype that gives you an Animal Companion. A great option for mounted builds, but I would retrain it once you get an Animal Companion.
  • Intimidating Glare: Language barriers on Intimidation are a serious hindrance, but you may want to retrain this once you get Scare to Death because it will totally replace the Demoralize action.
  • Intimidating Prowess: If you take this at all, I would wait until you have 20 Strength so the bonus is worth the feat.
  • Quick Jump: A good way to cirucmvent difficult terrain.
  • Scare to Death: Make sure you have Assurance. Spend one action to pick out the creature in the room the lowest Will save and kill them or send them fleeing. Repeat until the room is cleared. At this point you only need weapons for things that are strong enough to threaten your whole party on their own, and even then this can still replace the Demoralize action almost entirely. Battle Cry is still worthwhile, but that's probably your only reason to use Demoralize over Scare to Death.
  • Terrified Retreat: If the target's level is lower than yours, there's probably more than one creature in the fight, and sending one or more of them fleeing will make the fight much easier for you.
  • Titan Wrestler: A lot of enemies will be bigger than you, and you still want to be able to Trip and Shove them.

Weapons

Your choice of weapons needs to line up with your Class Feat choices. If you're running around with a longbow, Power Attack won't help you. Expect to pick a single weapon that will be your weapon on choice unless a magic item comes along that justifies switching. In some cases you can change your type of weapon with little effort (battleaxe to longsword isn't a big change), but in other cases you may need to retrain a long list of feats to change weapons effectively.

Archery Builds

Your choice of weapon as an archer comes down to two decision points. First, will your Strength score be 14 or higher? If so (and there's little reason why it shoulnd't), get a composite bow. Second, you need to consider the range at which you'll be fighting. Shortbows work better within 30 ft. because they aren't Volley weapons, but in every other case longbows are better. At low levels you can switch between bows easily, but at high levels when you have magic weapons you won't want to drop your +2 Greater Striking Longbow to use a mundane shortbow just because and enemy is only 25 ft. away.

Crossbows are worthless. Ignore their existence.

Single-Weapon Builds

Single-Weapon builds are a lot of fun, and enable things like holding shields, pushing, and grappling with your free hand. Your first though might be a nimble, high-dexterity fencer, but that's definitely not your only option. Even high-Dexterity fighters still need high Strength for the bonus damage, so your Strength and Dexterity scores will rarely be more than 2 apart, and a Strength-based single-weapon build may actually be more effective in some ways.

Consider the weapon traits which you find valuable, as they're often more important than your weapon's damage die. The gap between a rapier's d6 and a longsword's d8 isn't significant, even when you're rolling multiple dice. Agile is great if you plan to make numerous attacks, but if you're relying on options like Power Attack, you don't need to worry about Agile. Try to get an idea of what feats you want to take as you gain levels, and choose a weapon which works will with those feats.

Here are some examples of good weapons and feats you could use to maximize their effectiveness:

  • Battle Axe / Longsword / Pick / Warhammer: Simple, go-to weapons. The d8 damage die is geat, and Power Attack presents a significant damage boost, especially at low levels. The Battle Axe's Sweep property is helpful against multiple foes, especially if you plan to use Swipe. Longswords are Versatile, which makes it easier to deal with enemy damage resistances. Picks have Fatal, which is like deadly but more lethal (those are all synonyms), so if you're trying to get lots of critical hits it's great. Warhammers have the Shove property, which isn't much help because you probably have a free hand.
  • Bastard Sword / Dwarven Waraxe: If you plan to primarily fight two-handed but want the ability to use a free hand for stuff like shoving, the Bastard Sword and Dwarven War Axe are your best options. You can also use options like Dual-Handed Assault to get the benefits of a d12 damage die while still maintaining a free hand. The Dwarven War Axe adds the Sweep property, but is otherwise identical to the Bastard Sword, so go for the Dwarven War Axe if it's convenient to do so.
  • Flail: By no means a bad weapon, but you need to be willing to put mental effort into capitalizing on special maneuvers in combat to make it useful.
  • Gnome Flickmace / Whip: Reach on a two-handed weapon is a huge advantage. You get the most important part of a polearm, but you can also use your other hand for things like a shield. The Gnome Flickmace has a bigger damage die and doesn't have the Nonlethal trait, but otherwise the whip is a much better weapon due to its numerous useful traits. Unfortunately, some creatures are immune to nonlethal damage, so the whip isn't always a safe bet. If you're building to make attacks of opportunity, consider either a flickmace or a whip, and look at feats like Combat Reflexes.
  • Katana: Similar in many ways to the rapier, but it's an Advanced Weapon so you're either spending a feat or losing attack bonus.
  • Rapier: The go-to for Dexterity-based melee builds, but by no means a perfect weapon. Deadly is great, but likely won't close the damage gap between d6 and d8, and disarm is only situationally useful. Finesse is nice at low levels, but your Dexterity and Strength will rarely be more than 2 apart so it's not a significant boost to your attack bonus.

Two-Handed Builds

There are two good reasons to use a two-handed weapon: reach, and big damage dice. No one-handed weapon has a damage die larger than 1d8, and no one-handed weapons have reach without also having a handicap like the Nonlethal trait or being an Advanced weapon. Two-handed weapons frequently have interesting traits like Backswing and Forceful, but otherwise they're not much different from one-handed weapons.

  • Elven Curve Blade: I can't think of a case where the Elven Curve Blade is better than a Falchion. Maybe for an elf rogue with the Elven Weapon Familiarity feat? For the Fighter, it's basically a worse Falchion.
  • Falchion: If you're planning to rely on multiple attacks every turn, the Falchion is really good. Swipe in particular works very well with the Falchion. The 1d10 damage die is smaller than other options, but the bonus damage from Forceful easily makes up the difference.
  • Greataxe: Simple and straight to the point, the Greataxe has a big damage die and Sweep so it works well with Power Attack for single enemies and Swipe with multiple enemies.
  • Greatclub / Maul: Backswing is a bad trait, and Shove isn't good
  • Greatsword / Halberd: Basic, generic options that have Versatile instead of something interesting. If you don't plan to use special maneuvers like Trip or Shove, go for one of these.
  • Guisarme / Ranseur: Reach and you can use them for a special maneuver. I prefer Trip over Disarm, personally.
  • Horsechopper: Low damage die for a two-handed weapon, but you get Reach, Trip, and Versatile on a single weapon. I consider it on par with the Guisarme, but I wouldn't go to great lengths to find one.
  • War Flail / Spiked Chain: Like the Flail, the War Flail and the Spiked Chain emphasize special maneuvers like disarming and tripping over raw damage. The War Flail is the better option: Spiked Chain reduces the damage die and loses Sweep in favor of Finesse. Finesse is most likely no more than +1 to attacks if you're maximizing your Dexterity, and you need high Strength to Disarm and Trip successfully anyway.

Two-Weapon Builds

Two-weapon builds have twice as much room to choose weapons, but you also need to spend more money to enhance those weapons. You also need to consider how the two weapons interact with each other, and with the feats you plan to take.

In most cases, you'll be using two different weapons: a larger primary weapon like a longsword and a smaller Agile weapon like a dagger. Double Slice is your defining class feat at low levels, so having an Agile second weapon is crucial. You have more flexibility with your primary weapon; see Single-weapon builds, above, but keep in mind that you have two weapons which might support things like Disarm and Trip, so you may want to spread those capabilities across your weapons if you plan to use them.

  • Dagger / Starknife: The Starknife is just a better dagger, so there's little reason to use a dagger except as a backup weapon. The Starknife's damage isn't as good as a shortsword, and Deadly isn't enough to close that gap, but the ability to throw it is tempting so it's worth considering as your second weapon.
  • Dogslicer / Filcher’s fork: Similar to other weapons, but notable the Dogslicer and Filcher's Fork add Backstabber. It's a bit of extra damage, but without something like Twin Feint to guarantee a flat-footed target I don't think they're worth a feat.
  • Clan Dagger / Main-gauche: Much like the Starknife, the Clan Dagger and Main-gauche are upgraded daggers, adding the Parry trait. Giving up a shield means reduced AC, but with a Parry weapon you can spend an Action for a +1 Circumstance bonus to AC, making up some of the gap. If you take Twin Parry at 4th level, this bonus increases to +2 to match the bonus from a shield. Even with an Agile weapon, your third attack is still made at -8, so spending your third Action to defender yourself is frequently a better idea than attempting another Strike. The difference between the Clan Dagger and the Main-gauche is Versatile or Disarm. Disarm is situational becauyse monsters don't typically use weapons, but the Clan Dagger is Uncommon so it's not available to most characters.
  • Gauntlet / Spiked Gauntlet: Not a lot of damage, but combine the best parts of two-weapon fighting and dueling builds. A free hand allows you perform special maneuvers like Disarm and Trip, though admittedly you won't get the item bonus to the check that you would from a weapon designed for that maneuver. You may also be able to make use of the dueling feats like Dueling Parry and Dueling Riposte, which are available two levels before the comparable Two-Weapon Fighting feats and frequently have the same effect. At the very least, a gauntlet is a great backup weapon.
  • Hatchet: Agile, throwable, and 1d6 damage. It has Sweep, too, so if you switch to another target your third Strike in a turn will only be at a total penalty of -7.
  • Sawtooth Saber: Tailor-made for two-weapon fighting, the Sawtooth Saber is the only published weapon with the Twin property. Twin adds some extra damage to your second attack, which is great motivation to make more attacks each turn. The Sawtooth Saber also has the Agile trait, which is absolutely crucial for Double Slice. However, because the Sawtooth Saber is an Advanced Weapon your proficiency bonus will lag behind other weapons unless your take Advanced Weapon training at 6th level, and I don't know if the tiny bit of extra damage is worth a class feat when there are comparable options like the shortsword.
  • Shortsword: Reliable and uncomplicated. 1d6 damage and versatile, so if all you need is damage you're good to go.

Sword-and-Board Builds

See Single-Weapon Builds, above.

Armor

Whatever you do, don't use light armor. Armor specialization effects don't apply to light armor, and your AC goes up by 1 with every armor tier. Even if you're an archer, it's easy (and smart) to have enough Strength to not be impeded by heavy armor. However, Dexterity-based characters should avoid Full Plate because the Bulkwark trait may actually reduce your bonus to Reflex Saves.

!-- Ezoic - Third mid-content placeholder C - longest_content --
!-- End Ezoic - Third mid-content placeholder C - longest_content --

Archetypes

  • Alchemist: Mutagens are a tempting buff, and other alchemical items can give you a lot of utility and support options. It's easy to avoid options which require high Intelligence, and you won't get much from most Alchemist Class Feats, so you're probably fine with Alchemist Dedication, Expert Alchemy, and Master Alchemy. Infused Reagents you can create enough free items to get you through the day and still have plenty of reagents left over for a few bombs and elixers. Alchemical bombs are a martial weapon, so you get your usual proficienct bonus to attacks and your Weapon Specialization damage bonuses with them.
  • Barbarian: Rage is a significant buff for a melee fighter. You have enough AC to absorb the AC penalty, and the temporary hit points should make up the difference anyway. There are only two Fighter Class Feats with the Concentrate trait, and they're archery-related so you won't use them with Rage anyway. If you're building to emphasize Intimidation, consider the Raging Intimidation feat. Avoid the Fury instinct since it doesn't have an Instinct Ability
  • Bard: Bards are Charisma-based, and most of the options available to you involve spellcasting. You might be able to make use of options like Inspire Courage, but I don't think that's good enough to put the points into 14 Charisma and then spend a class feat.
  • Champion: Champion's Reaction is really good, but it might conflict with your other Reaction options like Attack of Opportunity. The biggest benefit is probably access to Focus Spells like Lay on Hands which will scale with your level without further investment.
  • Cleric: Clerics have a surprisingly large amnount to offer martial classes lik the Champion and the Fighter. The dedication feat doesn't offer much in the way of proficiencies, but the Divine spell list's cantrips include great options like Guidance (easy +1 on basically anything whenever you want it, with a cooldown) and Shield (no-hand Shield Block with a cooldown, but works great if you don't use a shield). Domain Initiate gives you a Focus Pool and access to several useful domain spells depending on your choice of deity.
  • Druid: If you want spellcasting, I think that the Cleric makes more sense. If you want Focus Spells, I think the Champion makes more sense. If you want an Animal Companion, the Ranger offers the same options, plus other feats that cater to the Fighter's martial capabilities. There are some amusing things that you can do with Wild Shape and related feats, but sticking to weapons will typically be more effective and you woud need to invest a significant number of class feats to make those options worthwhile.
  • Monk: With the right stance feat your unarmed strikes are as good as a two-handed weapon, and you may be able to combine the Monk's capabilities with Fighter Class Feats which are usually intended for fencing builds. Monastic Weaponry gets you access to interesting options like Shuriken, a well as several melee options like the Kama and the Sai, both of which are potential candidates for two-weapon fighting builds. Monks' Flurry gets you access to Flurry of Blows, but remember that it's a Flourish so you can't combine it with things like Double Shot or Two-Weapon Flurry.
  • Ranger: A good option for archers and two-weapon fighting builds, and access to Quick Draw enables thrown weapon builds which are otherwise totally unplayable. Disrupt Prey is easy to miss, but it essentiall adds another Attack of Opportunity that you can use against your Prey which can also disrupt some actions.
  • Rogue: You don't get to choose a Racket, which dramatically limits your Rogue Class Feat options, but there are still a few gems. You're Next and Dread Striker are great for Intimidation enthusiasts. Quick Draw is absolutely required for thrown weapon builds.
  • Sorcerer: Sorcerer feats are almost exclusively related to casting spells. If you want spellcasting, nearly any other option will work just as well and they'll all offer other useful options.
  • Wizard: All the same issues as the Sorcerer. You might be able to get some use out of some school spells like Protective ward, but they're not good enough to justify two class feats when other, better options are widely available.