Dwarven Defender (3.5e Optimized Character Build)

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Currently this optimization does little optimizing. Please help make this a good optimization.


The idea is to create a character who, while not all that special at dealing out damage, can take one heck of a lot in return.


I've only used what's on this site in the SRD, so there may well be some tricks I've missed.

Race and Templates[edit]

Standard Dwarf, nothing special- or so it seems...


Fighter/ Dwarven Defender


I need a bit of help with these- specifically the fighter bonus feats, since Toughness isn't on the list. Other than that, though, every single one of the character's feats is Toughness.

Spells, Powers, Items[edit]

The only important items here are a suit of +5 Heavy Fortification Full Plate armour (101,800 gold, +13 AC), a +5 Tower Shield (25,180 gold, +9 AC), and an Amulet of Health +6 (36,000 gp). Another good trik is the classic "floating defender". because the dwarven defender cant move while in defensive stance, hes frozen and cant aid anyone f the need be, right? WRONG! by getting a magic carpet, you can still move but not break your stance! this is helpfull if your taking the brunt of the damage for one person, but need to move to the aid of another, or if you need to defend and advance at the same time.

Didn't you forget a weapon? Or rather, a stash of them to meet melee and ranged combat, different damage reductions, light weapon backup in case of Grapple...


The only important Racial feature is the racial Constitution bonus and the ability to become a Dwarven Defender.

Stability, full movement in heavy armor, save bonuses...


Base ability scores on the Elite array-

Str:14 Dex:12 Con:15 Int:13 Wis:10 Cha:8

Modified for race, that leaves-

Str:14 Dex:12 Con:17 Int:13 Wis:10 Cha:6

The only reason you need to waste points for Int 13 here is Combat Expertise. While Combat Expertise is a good feat, I doubt the use for a character that won't hit much anyway (-2 attack from Tower Shield). If your attack bonus is too low, no amount of AC and hitpoints will help, as enemies will just ignore you and kill the rest of your party first. If you have the space to take an attack penalty, Power Attack will be the better feat choice.

Adding the level bonuses all onto Constitution and the Amulet of Health, the level 17 Tank has-

Str:14 Dex:12 Con:27 Int:13 Wis:10 Cha:6

ECL Class/HD/LA Feats Special
1st Fighter 1 Toughness, Dodge
2nd Fighter 2 Combat Expertise
3rd Fighter 3 Endurance
4th Fighter 4 Heavy Armor Optimization (Races of Stone) +1 to Con
5th Fighter 5 None
6th Fighter 6 Improved Toughness (CW) and Shield Specialization (PHB2)*
7th Fighter 7 None
8th Fighter 7, Dwarven Defender 1 None AC +1, Defensive Stance
9th Fighter 7, Dwarven Defender 2 Shield Ward(PHB2)* Uncanny Dodge
10th Fighter 7, Dwarven Defender 3 None
11th Fighter 7, Dwarven Defender 4 None AC +2
12th Fighter 7, Dwarven Defender 5 Steadfast Determination(PHB2)
13th Fighter 7, Dwarven Defender 6 None DR 3/-, Improved Uncanny Dodge
14th Fighter 7, Dwarven Defender 7 None AC +3
15th Fighter 7, Dwarven Defender 8 Toughness
16th Fighter 7, Dwarven Defender 9 None
17th Fighter 7, Dwarven Defender 10 None DR 6/-, AC +4

Useful Feats:

  • Defensive: Shield Specialization (Tower Shield), Great Fortitude, Lightning Reflexes, Steadfast Determination, Iron Will, Dwarf's Toughness (MoW)
  • Offensive: Power Attack
   The Shield Specialization feat doesn't work with Tower Shields.


First, lets have a look at the statistics. Armour Class is normally a very respectable 37 (10 +13 armour, +9 shield, +1 Dex, +4 Dodge), rising to 42 with full Combat Expertise, while the Hit Dice are 7d10+10d12+221+18, resulting in an average of 347 hit points (if I did the maths right...). But that's just when he's not using the Defensive Stance- add that in, and AC rises to 41 (46 on Expertise) and Hit Points to 381. The Stance lasts for 13 rounds. This character (in Defensive Stance) has almost as many hit points as an Ancient Black Dragon, and four more AC than a Great Wyrm black dragon- and that's at level 17. I don't know if there are any other esoteric tricks I could drop in with those last three levels- does anyone have any ideas?

1. All those hit points are nice, but the character is very weak against anything that targets Will saves. At level 17, he is at a meager +9 so far. One Confusion and the poor fella is either babbling incoherently or a danger to his own party.
2. Why do you waste pretty much all your feats on Toughness to boost your hitpoints from 329 to 347? That's hardly a 5% increase. Take Improved Toughness to meet the PrC requirements, and use the other slots for something useful. Save boosters come to mind. Really, any feat, maybe except Skill Focus, is an improvement over Toughness.
3. Steadfast Determination from PHB 2 will greatly help your will save. Con is an important stat to a defender and this will allow you substitute your Con bonus on your will saves. As an added bonus you don't automatically fail a Fortitude save on a natural 1. With a big enough save and Con bonus and Dwarven traits you may even pass.
4. Shield Ward allows you to use you shield bonus against many attacks that you would otherwise be denied. Touch attacks being the major one. With Defender getting most of their AC from armor Touch AC can be lacking. This helps.
5. Another possibility is to drop one level of defender to take one more Lvl of Fighter to get another Feat. With this you could go with Monkey Grip and Short Haft or Long Spear with Sizing. Then you could go with a Long Spear or another reach weapon one handed and still be able to fight when they get in close. With mobile defense and this tactic you can nearly get around the static nature of the Defender. 5 foot move + 10 foot reach and you can almost hit a target with a full round attack that you would otherwise only get a standard action against with your 20 foot move.

Munchkin-Size Me[edit]

For those last three levels, you could throw in a Cleric level or three and (this is nicked from the Better Monk build- thanks!) take the Plant domain for a tasty wand of Barkskin, giving another +2 to the AC. Other than that, I don't have a clue... Any ideas are welcome.

Wand of barkskin is 4,500 gp. Amulet of Natural Armor +2 is 8000 gp but you do not waste an action to activate it and you won't run out of charges. Note that you can customize items for other slots, so it does not clash with the Amulet of Health.
And you don't need to multiclass into cleric. I'm not saying multiclassing into cleric is wrong, but I'd rather take the Strength, Luck or War domain, and the classic Wand of Cure Light Wounds and Wand of Protection from Evil. But remember that it's much better for characters with a high Charisma (like, not 8), because you can take Divine Feats.

Comment You should consider taking a couple of levels of ranger to meet dodge, endurance, toughness feat requirements of the Dwarven Defender. There will be some skills benefits and class feats that you should be able to appreciate, and not at too much of a cost.

Not too much of a cost? A full 3 levels. The only class feat you get (Two-Weapon Fighting) is useless, as you can't bash with a tower shield, and you would have to strip down to light armor to use it in the first place. Track? With that low Wis? And it's not a Fighter class skill. Most Ranger class skills will be made useless by armor check penalties in the double digits. Animal Empathy? With Charisma 8?
What's left is Endurance, but even that does not make up for 1 1/2 lost fighter bonus feat. What a really bad idea.

-suggestion- If you're worried about will saves and magic, maybe put those last 3 levels into occult slayer? sure, it requires improved intiative and weapon focus, but you've got feats to burn, right?

  If you're going to use Races of Stone anyway (which doesn't make this "SRD ONLY", btw): for a 2 level dip in the Deepwarden prestige class you get
  Con to Natural Armor. Go first level Ranger to meet the skill requirements and switch one dead fighter level in for a level Barbarian (Fast Movement
  in up to medium armor, take Mithriel Full Plate). Also Greater Heavy Armor Optimization grants +1AC and lessens ACP by 2. 

Outside of the SRD is the Unearthed Arcana and Complete Champion. Complete Champion has 2 barbarian variants. 1 grants 'Pounce' instead of fast movement (spirit lion totem). And the whirling frenzy (grants an extra attack and evasion for duration of rage). Take it early, and when you shift alignment to lawful, you retain Pounce (You lose whirling frenzy, but it was most useful at low levels when you needed that second attack) From Complete Arcane or Mage, take 1 level of ranger, Favored enemy 'arcanists'. Anyone with arcane spells or invocations. Again from Unearthed Arcana, how about some Paragon levels? They don't interfere with multiclassing, ever. Improve your saves vs. spells, +30ft darkvision, and +2 Con. Finally, for cheese: Use a nondwarf with 3 levels in Stoneblessed, which grants you access to dwarfish/gnomish/ or goliath feats and prestige classes. Halfogre dwarven defender.

-suggestion- Take the last 3 levels in Dwarven Paragon, get an extra +2 to Constitution and increased darkvision by an extra 30 feet. made by: ajak60

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