The Brawler fighter archetype focuses on distraction, hindrance, and close combat. The fighter trades their signature weapon and armor training for focus on the Close weapon group, some nice crowd control effects, and some minor debuffs. Altogether, the Brawler is good at battlefield control, disabling single targets, and hunting spellcasters. They may lack some of the basic damage of other fighter builds, but they make up for it in utility.

Since spiked shields count as Close weapons, brawlers make an excellent sword-and-board duel-wielding fighters. They won’t be using big two-handed weapons or reach weapons, so we’re going to rely on Two-weapon Fighting to supplement our damage output.

Brawlers also get bonuses to bull rush, drag, and reposition combat maneuver checks. These maneuvers require Power Attack instead of combat expertise, and can get let us do some fun things in combat.

Table of Contents


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RPGBOT uses 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. Nearly never useful.
  • Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances. Useful sometimes.
  • Green: Good options. Useful often.
  • Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character. Useful very frequently.

Fighter Class Features

Hit Points: Between your d10 hit points and your heavy armor, you are very durable.

Base Attack Bonus: The biggest and best in the game.

Saves: Your fortitude saves are good, but you will need to invest in your other saves.

Proficiencies: You get the best proficiencies of any class.

Skills: Fighters only get 2+ skills, and very few of your skill choices are worthwhile, so you will likely dump intelligence.

Bonus Feats: The main reason to play a fighter. Everything a fighter would want to take is a combat feat, and there are enough options that you never have to play the same fighter twice.

Bravery: The brawler is one of very few fighter archetypes which doesn’t trade in Bravery for something more interesting. A bonus to fear saves is very rarely useful, but it certainly doesn’t hurt.

Archetype Features

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 not 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 Reflexes 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.


Str: Any melee character’s bread-and-butter, but we need high dex to get the two-weapon fighting feats.

Dex: Dexterity opens up two-weapon fighting. Since you don’t get armor training, heavy armor is less appealing, which makes medium armor attractive. Dex also adds additional effect to Combat Reflexes, which can get some serious mileage on a brawler.

Con: You have d10 hit points and strong fortitude saves, but you’re a front-line tank, so you need them both.

Int: You may want 13 for Combat Expertise, but won’t benefit much from anything past that. Your skill list is garbage, so extra skill points really won’t get you much. If you’re not using combat expertise, dump to 7.

Wis: The only real benefit you get here is will saves. While will saves are certainly important, your other abilities need more focus. Plus, you can always take Iron Will if you need it.

Cha: Dump to 7 or 8. Even if you plan on intimidating, it’s not worth wasting crucial ability score points on charisma.

25 Point Buy20 Point BuyElite Array
  • Str:17
  • Dex:17
  • Con:14
  • Int:7
  • Wis:12
  • Cha:7
  • Str:15
  • Dex:17
  • Con:14
  • Int:7
  • Wis:13
  • Cha:8
  • Str:14
  • Dex:15
  • Con:13
  • Int:10
  • Wis:12
  • Cha:8


Basically any race that makes a good fighter can make a good brawler.

Dwarf: Dwarves are excellent fighters normally. Bonus Constitution and Wisdom make them very durable, a +2 on saves against spells is fantastic, and Darkvision is always helpful. The Dwarven Stability bonus is nice… for resisting other Brawlers. The speed penalty isn’t a problem, and Slow and Steady makes heavy armor more appealing after trading in Armor Mastery.

Elf: The bonuses to Dexterity is nice, but the intelligence bonus is useless here. The constitution penalty hurts, and none of the racial abilities do anything helpful. Alternate racial traits help a bit, but there are still better options.

Gnome: Gnomes are small, and get a penalty to strength. Nothing a gnome has makes them a good brawler.

Half-Elf: That variable ability bonus goes straight into strength or dexterity. If you are planning a class dip, Half-Elf is a good choice due to Multitalented. Their other racial bonuses are situationally useful, but not game changers.

Half-Orc: Variable ability bonus to strength or dexterity. Beyond the ability bonus, Darkvision is really the only thing Half-Orcs bring to the table. About on-par with Dwarves, but certainly nothing to get excited about. If you plan to use intimidate, the racial bonus is nice and can offset dumping your charisma.

Halfling: Halflings suffer the same issues that Gnomes do.

Human: I’m going to throw a curve ball and suggest a +2 bonus to strength or dexterity (I can’t throw a curve ball). The human skill bonus matters very little for a fighter, but a bonus feat opens up a lot of options. If you aren’t planning a class dip, you would be hard-pressed to find a better option than Human.


  • Axe to Grind (Combat): Not very useful if your party has two or more melee characters, but potentially useful since you’re going to be duel-wielding.
  • Deft Dodger (Combat): Bonus to a bad save.
  • Easy Way or the Hard Way (Combat): If you plan on taking the Enforcer feat, this might be a good choice.
  • Reactionary (Combat): A +2 bonus to initiative is never a bad choice. If you can go before the enemy, you can get on top of them and hold them in place, which is what the Brawler is for.
  • Resilient (Combat): Your Fortitude save is already good, and there are several more beneficial trait options.
  • Tactician (Combat): A small bonus to initiative is nice, but the real draw is the bonus to attacks of opportunity once per day. It’s annoying that it’s only once per day, but sometimes that +2 bonus is crucial.
  • Indomitable Faith (Faith): A bonus to your worst save is never a bad choice.
  • Seeker (Social): This makes perception a class skill, thereby giving you at least one useful option for your meager skill points. The +1 bonus is a nice touch, but this would still be blue without it.


With only 2+ skill points, dumped intelligence, and the lousy fighter skill list, your options are somewhat limited.

  • Climb (Str): Why would anyone ever put ranks in climb? You can mitigate most climb issues with a rope. For everything else, learn to fly.
  • Handle Animal (Cha): You’re not on a horse. You don’t train animals, you PUNCH THEM.
  • Intimidate (Cha): Your only social skill, and for good reason. You’re dumping charisma, so this likely won’t get a lot of use unless you build it into your feat selectin. With the Enforcer feat, it’s a good investment.
  • Knowledge (dungeoneering) (Int): Your intelligence is garbage, but one rank can let you make the very rare lucky knowledge roll. It can also help identify monsters very rarely.
  • Knowledge (engineering) (Int): Your intelligence is garbage, and this skill is garbage. Don’t double-dip into the garbage.
  • Ride (Dex): You’re still not on a horse.
  • Perception (Wis): Basically the go-to option for fighters, despite it being cross-class. If you take the Seeker trait, you can actually do some good with this skill.
  • Survival (Wis): Arguably the best fighter skill, survival can be crucial in some rare situations. You’re not dumping your wisdom, so you may as well put at least on rank here.
  • Swim (Str): If your DM tends to try drowning you in your armor, one rank is a good investment. Otherwise, rely on your strength and buy a potion of water breathing for emergencies.


Like any fighter, the Brawler depends heavily on feats. Fortunately, you get plenty of them. With normal feats at every odd-numbered level and bonus feats at every even-numbered level, you get a feat at every level (and two/three at first).

  • Bludgeoner: Combines well with Enforcer.
  • Combat Expertise: Really only useful if you want Improved Trip. Since you’re duel-wielding, you don’t want to give up previous attack bonus to boost your already fantastic AC.

    • Improved Disarm: Disarming an really doesn’t get you anything more than it would for anyone else. Menacing stance already gives people a penalty to attack rolls while adjacent to you, and your AC should be fairly high, so weapon attacks shouldn’t be scary for you.
    • Improved Trip: Tripping shouldn’t be your go-to tactic, but it can be useful in combination with No Escape. Step Up is a better choice for Brawlers, costs less feats, and doesn’t need Intelligence.

      • Greater Trip: Unless you really want to focus on tripping, the additional bonus likely isn’t worth all of the feats required to get here.
  • Combat Reflexes: You already need resonable dexterity for Two-Weapon Fighting, so Combat Reflexes becomes goes a long way. Combined with Enlarge Person and No Escape, Combat Reflexes make you very scary.

    • Stand Still: When combined with No Escape, you can actually prevent people from using the Full Withdraw action. People literally can’t get away from you.
  • Dazing Assault: The attack penalty hurts, especially if you’re Two-Weapon Fighting, but Daze basically robs the target of their turn.
  • Disruptive: Suck it, wizard. This combines with Menacing Presence in a way that I think you will really enjoy.

    • Spellbreaker: Suck it harder, wizard. With Menacing Presence and Disruptive, casters are going to fail Concentration checks frequently. Combined with Combat Reflexes, you’re going to be a huge problem.
  • Enforcer: While it requires you deal nonlethal damage, Enforcer allows you to make free intimidate checks to make your target Shaken. Shaken further drops the target’s attack rolls, which works nicely with Menacing Presence. The Shaken effect lasts for a number of rounds equal to the damage dealt, which should be plenty. Unfortunately you can’t use Intimidate to move people past Shaken on the fear scale.
  • Great Fortitude: You are on the front lines, and are going to get hit with a lot of stuff. Buffing your saves will keep you alive, but your fortitude save is already going to be high.
  • Improved Shield Bash: This makes duel-wielding with a shield a viable option.

    • Shield Slam: The free bull rush attempt can be useful combined with Greater Bull Rush and Close Control, but you’re usually better off keeping people next to you so that you can debuff them and full attack them.

      • Shield Master: This is a beautiful feat. It eliminates those pesky -2 penalties for duel-wielding, which I would happily spend a feat for. Allowing you to use the shield’s enhancement bonus as a weapon enhancement bonus is amazing since armor enhancement bonuses cost half as much as weapon enhancement bonuses.
  • Shield Focus: Your AC is going to be fine without this. A +1 shield bonus isn’t spectacular, and Dodge may be a better option since it boosts your relatively low touch AC.

    • Greater Shield Focus: All the same problems as Shield Focus, but sometimes you just really need a ton of AC.
  • Iron Will: Will saves are the fighter’s biggest weakness. Mind-controlling the fighter can cause a party to fall apart. If you have a spare feat, Iron Will is a great choice.
  • Lightning Reflexes: You are on the front lines, and are going to get hit with a lot of stuff. Your reflex save won’t be as bad as your Will save, but better saves is never a bad idea.
  • Lunge: Reach is any fighter’s friend, but, the effect of this feat ends at the end of your turn, which means it doesn’t affect attacks of opportunity. There are very few cases where taking a five-foot step is not a completely superior option.
  • Pin Down: This is basically a combination of the No Escape ability and the Stand Still feat. If you combine No Escape with Pin Down, you get two attacks of opportunity when people try to move away, and Pin Down prevents them from moving if you hit (instead of dealing damage).
  • Power Attack: Power Attack is a difficult choice for duel-wielding. You only get half of the power attack damage bonus for off-hand attacks, and you have to give up attack bonus for less reward than you would normally expect from Power Attack. Once you get Shield Master, power attack is a better option because you can offset the attack penalties so inexpensively.

    • Furious Focus: Avoiding Power Attack’s penalties is nice, but Brawler is a two-weapon fighting build, so investing in a feat that only applies to one attack doesn’t make sense.
    • Improved Bull Rush: This feat really doesn’t get you anything fun except access to Greater Bull Rush.

      • Greater Bull Rush: When combined with shield slam, Bull Rush suddenly becomes an interesting option. You can end a full attack by shoving your enemy through a bunch of your party members. Keep in mind that this does not allow you to take attacks of opportunity.
  • Precise Strike: If you are flanking frequently, this is a decent choice to improve your damage output. Since you’re duel-wielding, you’ll get extra attacks to to apply that extra d6.
  • Step Up: Always fantastic on a melee character, Step Up allows you to keep people inside your Menacing Presence.

    • Following Step: Slightly improves the movement part of Step Up. Instead of taking a 5-foot step to follow, you get to move 10 feet however you like without sacrificing your 5-foot step on your turn.

      • Step Up And Strike: Another free attack when people try to step away from you. This is nice on top of No Escape, but since it’s somewhat situational, it’s hard to justify two feats.
  • Toughness: You have d10 hit points and good constitution, so you shouldn’t need Toughness.
  • Two-Weapon Fighting: Almost all Close weapons are light, and Close Combatant provides a static damage bonus. This screams Two-Weapon Fighting.

    • Double Slice: This will add some nice damage to your off-hand attacks, but Weapon Specialization will add roughly the same amount of damage to both hands.
    • Two-Weapon Rend: 1d10+1-1/2 strength mod is a nice bit of damage, but you have several more reliable options.
    • Improved Two-Weapon Fighting: Take this as soon as possible.

      • Greater Two-Weapon Fighting: Take this as soon as possible.
  • Weapon Finesse: If you put everything into Dex, this might be a good idea. But don’t do that. Don’t do it. You need strength for damage, so you should be able to rely on strength for attacks too.
  • Weapon Focus / Weapon Specialization: You will probably end up duel-wielding, which makes Weapon Focus / Weapon Specialization and excellent choice. Weapon Specialization gets more mileage as you make more attacks, so try to use two identical weapons to maximize your feats.

    • Stage Combatant: If you take Weapon Focus, this works better with Enforcer than Bludgeoner because you can use it with weapons which deal any damage type.


Your selection of weapons is fairly limited, and most of your options are lackluster. Even so, the Close weapon group offers some interesting options.

  • bayonet: The only two-handed weapon in the Close weapon group, the bayonet is a mechanical death trap. They can only be used when attached a crossbow as a move action, rendering the crossbow roughly equal to a club. Plus, you still need to spend a move action to draw the damn thing. There is literally no case in which a shortspear is worse. Why anyone would use this piece of trash, especially a Brawler, is beyond me.
  • brass knuckles: Brass knuckles are listed under “Unarmed Attacks”, which means that using them draws attacks of opportunity if you don’t have Improved Unarmed Strike. Save these for the Monk.
  • dan bong: A very odd weapon, the Dan Bong is one of the few Close weapons with a 19-20 threat range. They provide a +2 bonus to grapple, which is very rare on an item. The d3 damage is basically average for the Close group, and the Defending quality is occasionally nice. If you like to grapple, this may be worth the feat, but certainly not before you get Improved Grapple and Greater Grapple.
  • emei piercer: Costing three times as much as the dan bong and having fewer features, the emei piercer is not doing you any favors. A Monk might find them useful when they need to do some piercing damage, but the Brawler isn’t going to find anything useful here.
  • fighting fan: d4 damage and x3 crit is pretty nice, but probably not worth the feat. The +2 bonus to feint is nice, but since Brawlers don’t get bluff, it won’t see a lot of use. Not worth a feat.
  • gauntlet: Gauntlets are listed under “Unarmed Attacks”, which means that using them draws attacks of opportunity if you don’t have Improved Unarmed Strike. These are great if you get into a grapple or get disarmed, and you get them for free with heavy armor.
  • heavy shield: Why would you use this when you can get a spiked heavy shield instead?
  • iron brush: Let the monk have his weird toy.
  • light shield: Why would you use this when you can get a spiked light shield instead?
  • madu: This is a very odd weapon indeed. A madu is functionally a light spiked shield with some extra stuff. It makes Fight Defensively and combat expertise considerably better, and has the Performance quality. When combined with a Blocking weapon (such as a dan bong or tonfa), Fight Defensively is a really good option. The only downside is that it’s exotic, so you need to spend a feat to get anything more than you would get from a spiked light shield.
  • mere club: This is a fluff weapon for Aztec fans.
  • punching dagger: Hands down the best Close weapon in the Core Rulebook, the punching dagger brings d4 damage and x3 crit. With the extra +2 damage which Brawlers get above the normal Weapon Training progression, the average damage on a punching dagger is 4.5, matching that of a battle axe or longsword. If you don’t want to weild spiked shields, this is your go-to option.
  • sap: d6 damage is pretty hard to find in the Close group, but the damage is nonlethal.
  • scizore: Another weird weapon. The scizore provides a +1 shield bonus to AC, and a whopping d10 damage. Unfortunately, using it to attack removes the shield bonus and applies a -1 penalties to attacks. Without that penalty to attacks, this might be a good choice.
  • spiked armor: d6 damage, x2 crit, can’t be disarmed, and doesn’t take up a hand to use. If you use heavy armor, spend the 50 gold just to know that you have them in emergencies.
  • spiked gauntlet: d4 damage, x2 crit, can’t be disarmed, and doesn’t take up a hand to use. This is the armor spikes’ little brother. If you’re not in heavy armor, buy two spiked gauntlets as backup weapons.
  • spiked heavy shield: d6 damage, x2 crit. The +2 shield bonus is nice if you want to duel-wield with a shield.
  • spiked light shield: d4 damage, x2 crit. The +1 shield bonus and damage aren’t as nice as the heavy shield, but you can use two light shields without additional penalties, which makes your weapon focus/specialization feats more effective.
  • tekko-kagi: The tekko-kagi is the only Close weapon with the Disarm quality. It also lets you disarm without provoking attacks of opportunity. If you want to disarm, but don’t have the Intelligence for Combat Expertise, this may be a good investment. If you do have Combat Expertise, the +2 bonus is excellent. The entry mentions that the tekko-kagi can be used defensively like a buckler, but doesn’t elaborate on the stats for doing so.
  • tonfa: A slightly better version of the club, the tonfa is a reasonable choice. The Defending quality is nice if you like to Fight Defensively, and d6 damage isn’t bad for the Close group.
  • wooden stake: Use it on vampires, but otherwise pretend this weapon doesn’t exist.
  • wushu dart: d3 damage, and it’s one of the few non-exotic close weapons with a range increment. If you like to throw things, this may be a good choice. Otherwise, look elsewhere.

Multiclassing and Prestige Classes

This is a fighter archetype that really gets a lot of benefit from more class levels. I don’t recommend clas dips unless you have a specific concept in mind.

Example Build – Half-Orc Enforcer

No one runs. Everyone dies.

The Enforcer feat is a really fun mechanic, and combines well with the Brawler’s existing abilities. Combined with Menacing Stance and a good AC, the Enforcer is an excellent tank, and is really good at locking down targets and disabling them with Fear.


We will assume the 25-point buy abilities suggested above, but the other suggested abilities can also use this build without any problems. The Half-Orc racial bonus goes into Strength.


We’re going to try out the Half-Orc here. Darkvision is always welcome, and Intimidating works nicely since we’re going to dump Charisma.


With our one skill point, we’re going max Intimidate. We can use the favored class bonus to get a bonus skill point at first level and put it into Perception to get a total +6 perception bonus which should keep us slightly helpful for the rest of the character’s career.


Easy Way or the Hard Way (Combat) and Seeker (Social). We’re going to doing nonlethal damage with lethal weapons some of the time, and Seeker gets us Perception as a class skill.


LevelFeat(s)Notes and Tactics
1 – Fighter
  • Two-Weapon Fighting
  • Improved Shield Bash*

At first level, you’re a fairly generic sword-and-board fighter. With Shield Bash and Two-Weapon fighting, you’re duel-wielding straight out of the gate. Take a Heavy Spiked Shield and a short sword for first level, but don’t get attached to the sword. With 19 strength and +1 BAB, you’re rolling +3/+3 on your attack rolls and 1d6+4/1d6+2 damage. Very respectable.


Get Scale Mail for now, and look to pick up a Breastplate or Agile Breastplate in the near future. In the long term, you’ll want to get mithral O-Yoroi or Tatami-Do. If your DM doesn’t allow eastern armor, go for Mithral Breastplate instead.


Combined with the shield and your high dexterity, You’re looking at a nice comfortable 20 AC out of the gate. Nice and tanky with your 12 hit points.


Favored class bonus: 1 Extra Skill Point (Perception)

2 – Fighter
  • Combat Reflexes*

2nd level brings Bravery and Close Control. Neither of these abilities is going to really change anything important about your character.


Combat Reflexes is the first step in really controlling the battlefield. Get one of your casters to Enlarge you, or buy potions of Enlarge Person, and make it very clear that your enemies shouldn’t try to get away from you.


Favored class bonus: 1 Extra Hit Point

3 – Fighter
  • Enforcer

3rd level brings Close Combatant, and is the first point where you can distinguish yourself from a normal sword-and-board fighter. Drop your short sword, and grab a punching dagger. The Close Combatant damage bonus applies to both of your weapons, making you fairly scary fighter despite relatively weak weapons.


Enforcer is going to be a lot of fun. Most of the time, you’re going to start a fight by hitting with your shield to do nonlethal damage, and with 1d6+7 damage on a mundane heavy spiked shield, your target should be shaken for a good long time. If you have trouble intimidating the target, hit them for nonlethal damage until you succeed. Your Intimidate won’t be spectacular since your charisma is garbage, but you have the luxury of quantity here. Don’t forget that being larger than your target gives you +4, so Enlarge Person improves your social skills.


If your party is ever really having issues with a target, you can Enforcer them again to make them go from shaken to Frightened or Panicked, which causes them to run away, drawing attacks of opportunity from you when you’re enlarged.


Favored class bonus: 1 Extra Hit Point

4 – Fighter
  • Disruptive*

Disruptive. Because we hate wizards.

Ability Score Increase: Strength (19 to 20)

Favored class bonus: 1 Extra Hit Point

5 – Fighter
  • Step Up

Step Up is always a great choice for melee characters, especially those that apply penalties to people standing adjacent to them.


Favored class bonus: 1 Extra Hit Point

6 – Fighter
  • Improved Two-Weapon Fighting*

Woo! Time for some iterative attacks! With Improved Two-Weapon Fighting, you’re now looking at four attacks per turn. With high BAB and strength, your attack bonus is pretty fantastic.


Favored class bonus: 1 Extra Hit Point

7 – Fighter
  • Stand Still

Level 7 is a fantastic level for you. Your Close Combatant bonus goes up by 1, and you get Menacing Stance. Casters have every reason to shit their pants when you walk into a room, and anyone unfortunate enough to get into melee with you is going to stay there until you’re finished with them.


Stand still is hilariously effective, especially on a Brawler, but just wait until level 9 when you get really scary.


Favored class bonus: 1 Extra Hit Point

8 – Fighter
  • Shield Slam*

Shield Slam is a really boring feat, but we need is as a pre-requisite for Shield Master, and this is the last opportunity to take it before much better feats become available.


Increase our dexterity here so that we can hit 19 Dex at level 12.


Ability Score Increase: Dexterity (17 to 18)

Favored class bonus: 1 Extra Hit Point

9 – Fighter

9th level brings No Escape. When combined with Step Up, Combat Reflexes, Stand Still, and Enlarge Person, no one is getting away from you without taking some very serious damage. And if they take damage, you can use Stand Still to keep them from moving away. No one runs. Everyone dies.


If you’re a horrible monster (hint: you should be), use Enforcer to make enemies panicked. Then when they try to run away, beat them to a bloody pulp and keep them in place with Stand Still.


This is one of the few open feats in this build, but we are out of important feats which we qualify for at this level. You could take Iron Will to boost your worst save, or you could take weapon focus in anticipation of our impending switch to fighting with shields.


Favored class bonus: 1 Extra Hit Point

10 – Fighter
  • Spellbreaker*


Favored class bonus: 1 Extra Hit Point

11 – Fighter
  • Shield Master

Level 11 brings another point of Close Combatant, and the ever-important +11 BAB. Shield Master also brings a major shift in our weapon choice. Drop the heavy shield and punching dagger, and replace them with spiked light shields. While this means weaker critical hits, it nets you a +2 bonus to your attack rolls with both shields, and you no longer need to enhance the spikes on your shields past +1 (and you only need +1 to get other enhancements).


Since shield enhancement bonuses are cheaper than weapon enhancement bonuses, you can afford better weapons faster than anyone else, and you get bonuses to AC. By this point, the damage dice on your weapon is already a much less important factor in your damage output, so try not to miss your longsword too much.


Level 11 also gets us our third iterative attack. Sadly, we don’t have space or dexterity for Greater Two-Weapon Fighting. We also get our first extra point of Menacing Stance!


Favored class bonus: 1 Extra Hit Point

12 – Fighter
  • Greater Two-Weapon Fighting*

With 19 dexterity, you can now get Greater Two-Weapon Fighting Even at effectively -10 from your normal attacks, your strength, BAB, and Close Combatant give you a +8 on attacks before enhancement bonuses, which is still very solid at level 12.


Ability Score Increase: Dexterity (18 to 19)

Favored class bonus: 1 Extra Hit Point

13 – Fighter
  • Weapon Focus (Spiked Light Shield)
  • Weapon Specialization (Spiked Light Shield)*

Level 13 gives us Stand Still, which gives us a feat we already have, so we get a free Combat Feat instead. The real benefit here is the bonus to the Stand Still Combat Maneuver check. At level 13, it’s a whopping +6 bonus, and it goes up at every even level.


At this point we have all of our big flashy feats, so we can start putting feats into Weapon Focus/Specialization. Boosts to your attack bonus and damage will have exponential returns since they make your iterative attacks hit more frequently, thereby applying damage bonuses more frequently.


Favored class bonus: 1 Extra Hit Point


At 14th level and beyond you have a lot of freedom for your feats. Take Greater Weapon Focus / Specialization, and maybe Power Attack. Multiclassing may be an option, but don’t forget that you’ll be giving up your scaling Close Combatant, Menacing Stance, and Stand Still bonuses.