Fighters' Handbook By Dictum Mortuum (3.5e Optimized Character Build)
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- 1 Introduction
- 2 Attributes
- 3 Races
- 4 Class Features
- 5 Feats
- 5.1 General
- 5.2 Styles
- 5.2.1 Unarmed Strike Style
- 5.2.2 Spring Attack Style
- 5.2.3 Two Handed Weapon Style
- 5.2.4 Armor Style
- 5.2.5 Shield Offense Style
- 5.2.6 Shield Defense Style
- 5.2.7 Two-Weapon Style
- 5.2.8 Ranged Style
- 5.2.9 Secondary Styles
- 5.3 Feat Combos
- 6 Skills
- 7 Weapons
- 8 Multiclassing
Alert: Be prepared for a long read.
Color coding works in the following way: red things are not recommended, black things are recommended, and blue things are very recommended.
This is an attempt to optimize the well known PHB class. Unfortunately, people only take the class for the bonus feats, as a dip. Lately, getting fighter beyond 2nd level got some additional credit with the introduction in the Dungeonscape supplement of the Dungeon Crusher alternative class feature. In this guide, we won't be using fighter as a dip though. It may be mysterious, but actually a lot of people enjoy playing a fighter, even fighter 20. I am well aware that clerics, druids, wizards, artificers, etc. are powerful classes. However, it can't be said that playing these classes at such an optimized (close to theoretical optimization) degree is actually fun.
Actually, fighters at first glance look that they don't depend on multiple statistics. That's not the case though. Surprisingly, based on their chosen fighting style, they require average scores in multiple statistics.
- Strength: Important to fighter since it is the main ability used for melee weapon damage and attack.
- Dexterity: This is the requirement for many fighter feats and is the main archery attribute. The bonus to reflex saves is going to be appreciated.
- Constitution: You will most likely be a front liner. This is very important.
- Intelligence: Required for classic combat feats like combat expertise, which opens up space for combat maneuvers.
- Wisdom: Boosts your will save, which is going to be bad. Also some fighter feats have wisdom listed as a requirement.
- Charisma: You can dump this. Not generally useful.
- Human: Extra feat, skill points and favored class (any). Fighters generally multiclass a lot.
- Dwarf: Wear heavy armor without hits to your movement mode. More survivability, stability and hit in a dump stat.
- Elf: Not too good. Constitution hit and weapon proficiencies are useless to fighters. Immunities, resistances, skills and dexterity bonus can make a decent archer though.
- Gnome: Constitution bonus, but strength hit. Also weapon familiarity, but small size. Wearing heavy armor with 20ft base land speed can hurt.
- Half - Orc: Strength bonus but intelligence hit. Careful if you are going for combat expertise based feats.
- Halflings: Small size, but make for perfect archers. They have tons of bonuses.
Main Class Features
- Full base attack bonus.
- Good fortitude saves.
- d10 hit die.
- 2 + intelligence modifier skill points.
- Proficiency with all simple and martial weapons.
- Proficiency with all armor.
- Proficiency with shields including tower shields.
- A fighter gets bonus feats at first level, 2nd level and at each even-leveled number thereafter.
Alternative Class Features
- Dragonscale Husk (Dragon Magic): You must be of the dragonblood subtype to be able to get this alternative feature. You lose proficiency with any kind of armor, but gain scales that provide bonus to AC that depends on your level and elemental resistances. Unfortunately you can't enhance this armor. Replaces your armor proficiencies.
- Dungeon Crasher (Dungeonscape): This is a very good trade. Gain bonuses to saves and AC when attacked by traps. Bonus to smash obstacles. Also huge damage when you bull rush people in solid objects. Replaces the bonus feats gained at 2nd and 6th level.
- Elusive Attack (PHB II): Make a single attack and gain a scaling dodge bonus to AC. Not good, since dungeon crusher is already replacing your 6th level bonus feat. Replaces 6th level bonus feat.
- Counterattack (PHB II): Interesting ability, but you get it really late. Replaces 12th level bonus feat.
- Overpowering Attack (PHB II): Deliver a single attack through a full round action. That attack deals double damage, as any other attacks you make before the start of your next turn (as attacks of opportunity). This is a very good ability. Replaces the bonus feat gained at 16th level.
- Armored Mage (CM): This only includes light armor and shields and applies to spells of a specific level. Not good. Replaces proficiency with medium and heavy armor.
- Aligned Strike (CC): This is nice to have, but not die for. It's a free action to activate and requires you to be non neutral to benefit from this alternative feature most. Replaces the bonus feat gained at 4th level, or any even-numbered level's feat you acquire this feature.
- Armor of God (CC): Reduce your base will save. I don't think that trading your +6 top base will save for that much AC bonus (which is unnamed) for one round is worth it. However it can be used as an immediate action, which helps. Replaces the bonus feat gained at 8th level feat, or any even-numbered level's feat you acquire this feature.
- Resolute (CC): Reduce your attack bonus by one-half to gain it as a bonus on your will save. Usable as a immediate action. This effect lasts until your next action. Replaces the even-level's bonus feat this ability is acquired.
- Skilled City Dweller (Cityscape Web Enhancement): You can replace ride with tumble and handle animal for gather information.
- Kobold Fighter (Races of the Dragon): Standard class skills plus profession (miner).
- 1st level: You gain 4 bonus feats in first level: 3 weapon focuses in spears (longspear, shortspear, spear) and Dodge. You lose heavy armor proficiency though.
- 2nd level: Increase constitution by 2 points. Lose the fighter bonus feat. This isn't that good, especially with dungeon crusher replacing the same feat slot.
- 4th level: This may help and its pretty much the same with whatever alternative class features you can choose.
- Half-Elf Fighter (Races of Destiny): Standard class skills plus bluff, diplomacy and sense motive. 4 + intelligence modifier skill points at each substitution level.
- 1st level: Replace your first level feat for two weapon focuses (rapier, longsword).
- 2nd level: Two-Weapon fighting for free when wielding longsword/rapier and dagger. Gain a small AC bonus.
- 6th level: It's usable only when you fight defensively and the skills used are charisma based. All this for a +2 bonus on attack rolls.
- Dwarf Fighter (Races of Stone): Standard class skills plus Knowledge (dungeoneering). d12 hit die at each substitution level.
- 1st level: Trade your bonus feat for multiple weapon focuses in axes.
- 2nd level: Trade your bonus feat for +2 damage to some races. Just take weapon specialization and deal more damage to all opponents.
- 8th level: +1 bonus to AC with heavy armor in exchange of your bonus feat. Bad.
- Raptoran Fighter (Races of the Wild):
- 1st level: Glide while carrying medium load. This is useful for raptorans.
- 4th level: Weapon specialization when you are higher than your opponent. Decent trade.
- 8th level: Nice bonuses to flying speeds. Stacks with others so it is worth the trade.
- Zhentarim Soldier (Champions of Valor web enhancement): Standard class skills plus Bluff and Diplomacy.
- 3rd level: Skill focus (intimidation) for free.
- 5th level: Also nice ability and free.
- 9th level: Demoralize as a swift action. You don't trade anything.
- Planar Fighter (Planar Handbook): Standard class skills plus knowledge (the planes).
- 4th level: Weapon specialization for outsiders, elementals and extraplanar creatures when on material plane. Just take weapon specialization.
- 8th level: Give your extra feat for an ability usable once per day. You align your weapon as good, evil, chaotic or lawful. If you encounter creatures with damage reduction a lot, aligned strike alternative class feature is strictly better.
- 12th level: A dimensional anchor effect on you. Nice for grapplers.
Feats for fighters are split in three sections: The primary combat styles, the secondary styles and the general feats. Fighting styles are: Spring Attack, Unarmed Strike, Two Handed Weapon, Armor, Shield Offense, Shield Defense, Two-Weapon. The secondary fighting styles are: Expertise, AoO, Flanking, Defensive Fighting, Charging, Combat Form. There isn't a mounted combat style because fighters can't acquire a special mount, familiar or animal companion as paladins, hexblades or rangers do. Also there isn't an archery combat style because fighters lack the bonus damage swift hunters get from skirmish and rogues from sneak attack.
- Blind-Fight (PHB): Reroll miss chance because of concealment. Not important, but it is listed as a requirement usually.
- Dodge (PHB): The dodge bonus isn't bad, you need it actually to avoid touch spells and attacks. Also a requirement feat.
- Mobility (PHB): Gain bonus to avoid some attacks of opportunity. Mediocre but requirement feat.
- Exotic Weapon Proficiency (PHB): The fighter's main weapon is very important. Exotic weapons offer many additional abilities.
- Improved Critical (PHB): You can just make your weapon keen, impact, etc. No reason to get this.
- Improved Bull Rush (PHB): Combined with dungeon crusher this is top quality.
- Improved Overrun (PHB): This isn't too good because the sizes of the opponents you can overrun are limited. It's better to go with trip.
- Improved Sunder (PHB): Important feat, since it adds some versatility to your fighter. Also a requirement feat.
- Quick Draw (PHB): It's nice to have, but you can do without it. You can get this with a crystal on your favored weapon and also you can draw a weapon as part of a move if you have base attack of bonus of at least +1.
- Greater/Weapon Focus (PHB): Sub optimal feat, but listed many times as a requirement. It can be useful for two-weapon combat style.
- Greater/Weapon Specialization (PHB): Again this feat's usefulness depends on the combat style you are using. For two handed style it's bad, but for two-weapon style is ok.
- Close-Quarters Fighting (CW): Gives you great defensive capabilities against grapple attempts.
- Eyes in the Back of your Head (CW): Opponents don't gain flanking benefit.
- Improved Toughness (CW): Bonus hit points are always nice, especially when you are going to be hit a lot.
- Improved Weapon Familiarity (CW): For fighters with weird races.
- Monkey Grip (CW): Don't get this. It's just bad.
- Power Critical (CW): +4 bonus to confirm threats. Sub optimal.
- Prone Attack (CW): Attack from prone position with no penalty, and if you succeed you can stand up as a free action. Nice against trippers. Requires lightning reflexes though.
- Swarmfighting (CW): Occupy the same square with a small ally.
- Elusive Target (CW): Use various defensive maneuvers which have various uses.
- Raptor School (CW): If you favor the jump skill, this is effectively a greater/weapon specialization with any weapon.
- Acrobatic Strike (CW): +4 bonus on a target you successfully tumbled past.
- Cometary Collision (PHB II): Hold the line is strictly better.
- Grenadier (PHB II): A weapon focus and specialization with thrown weapons.
- Intimidating Strike (PHB II): Acts as a minor debuff to help your spellcasters or optimize fear effects.
- Lunging Strike (PHB II): Make a single attack as a full-round action with a 5ft bonus to your reach. Not a particularly hot feat.
- Melee Weapon Mastery (PHB II): Greater weapon focus and specialization with multiple weapons from a selected weapon type (bludgeoning, piercing or slashing).
- Overwhelming Assault (PHB II): Designate one foe as a target of this feat. If that foe starts and ends his turn adjacent to you and doesn't attack, target you with spells or abilities, you gain a +4 bonus on melee attack rolls. Average.
- Spectral Skirmisher (PHB II): Nice ability, but you can't use it by yourself.
- Steadfast Determination (PHB II): Use constitution modifier instead of wisdom to modify will saves. This is only good if you are dumping wisdom.
- Weapon Supremacy (PHB II): Various of nice combat related abilities. However the requirements are steep.
- Pierce Magical Concealment (CA): Ignore spell-based concealment.
- Pierce Magical Protection (CA): Ignore spell-based bonuses to armor class.
- Combat Intuition (CV): Assess a challenge to gain a mild bonus to attack rolls.
- Daring Warrior (CS): Stack fighter and swashbuckler for some class abilities.
- Martial Stalker (CS): Stack fighter and ninja for some class abilities.
- Sense Weakness (Draconomicon): Ignore some damage reduction points.
- Martial Study (ToB): There are many maneuvers that can help a fighter.
- Martial Stance (ToB): As above.
- Exotic Shield Proficiency (Races of Stone): Gain proficiency with exotic shields.
- Fearless (PGtF): Stacking fear effects can be disastrous to a fighter.
- Otherworldly (PGtF): You are considered a native outsider, so you are immune to some effects.
Unarmed Strike Style
- Strength important (attack bonus, grapple attempts)
- Dexterity 13+ (improved grapple, stunning fist, defensive throw)
- Wisdom 13+ (stunning fist)
- Medium or Larger Size (damage output, grapple checks)
- Improved Unarmed Strike (PHB): Considered armed with your hands and a requirement feat. Also you can use this with a reach weapon to threaten adjacent squares.
- Improved Grapple (PHB): Get this if you are going to be grappling. No attack of opportunity really helps.
- Deflect Arrows (PHB): Deflect one ranged attack per round. Can prove useful as it requires no roll, but you need to have one hand free.
- Snatch Arrows (PHB): Catch a deflected ranged attack. If it is a thrown weapon you can immediately throw it back to your attacker. Mediocre.
- Stunning Fist (PHB): Stun an opponent with an unarmed attack. Nice but requirements are steep.
- Clever Wrestling (CW): Gain a circumstance bonus to escape a grapple or pin. Too limited.
- Defensive Throw (CW): Gain immediate trip attack against the target of your dodge feat if he misses you.
- Earth's Embrace (CW): If you pin your opponent you deal an extra 1d12 points of damage as long as you maintain the grapple. Average.
- Eagle Claw Attack (CW): Add your wisdom bonus to damage dealt to objects.
- Fists of Iron (CW): Deal an extra 1d6 points of damage if you spend a stun attempt. Useless.
- Flying Kick (CW): Deal an extra 1d12 damage with your hits when charging unarmed. This is interesting with pounce ability.
- Freezing in the Lifeblood (CW): Paralyze a target with a stunning fist attempt.
- Pain Touch (CW): This is nice if you are getting deep in this style. Requires wisdom 15 though.
- Rapid Stunning (CW): Use stunning attack or stunning attack-like abilities more times per round.
- Roundabout Kick (CW): If you score a critical hit with an unarmed attack, you get immediately an additional unarmed attack at the same base attack bonus.
- Weakening Touch (CW): Nice ability with no save. However it needs wisdom 17 and it imposes strength penalty, which is not good.
- Fiery Fist (PHB II): Expend a stunning fist attempt for a fire damage bonus to your attack for one turn. Useless.
- Fiery Ki Defense (PHB II): It is bad even for having fiery fist listed as a requirement.
- Ki Blast (PHB II): While this is not too bad, it does require fiery fist.
- Versatile Unarmed Strike (PHB II): Deal specific types of damage with your unarmed strikes.
- Water Splitting Stone (PHB II): Bonus to damage rolls if your target's damage reduction is effective against your attacks.
- Improved Natural Attack (MM): Very nice to optimize damage output.
- Cunning Sidestep (Draconomicon): Bonuses to resist bull rush or trip/knockdown.
- Acheron Flurry (PlH): As a standard action distract an enemy. He can make a standard action or move action on his turn.
- Martial Throw (Miniatures Handbook): Special grapple lets you swap places with target.
- Pharaoh's Fist (Sandstorm): Stun multiple opponents with one stunning attempt.
- Rattlesnake Strike (Sandstorm): Deal constitution damage with your unarmed strike. Constitution damage is nice.
- Scorpion's Grasp (Sandstorm): Begin grapple with a melee attack. Nice feat for a grappler.
- Serpent's Fang (Sandstorm): Spend a stunning fist attempt to gain 5ft reach for one attack.
- Snap Kick (ToB): Make an extra attack, but all attacks that round are made at -2 penalty.
- Superior Unarmed Strike (ToB): Greater unarmed strike.
- Knifefighter (PGtF): Full attack with light weapons while grappling.
Spring Attack Style
- Dexterity 13+ (improved grapple, stunning fist, defensive throw)
- Increased movement speed
- Spring Attack (PHB): This is very nice. Coupled with improved trip you can trip, attack and move away from your target.
- Whirlwind Attack (PHB): This not only is acquired late because it lists many other feats as requirements, but to use it efficiently you must be surrounded by enemies, which is bad.
- Bounding Assault (PHB II): Take a second attack as a part of a spring attack.
- Rapid Blitz (PHB II): As above but make three attacks.
- Flyby Attack (MM): Nice, but only if you acquire somehow a fly speed.
- Fleet of Foot (PGtF): Bonus to your speed.
Two Handed Weapon Style
- Strength 13+ (attack bonus, damage bonus)
- Use of a two handed weapon or one handed weapon in two hands.
- Power Attack (PHB): Even with just this feat and a two handed weapon you get 2:1 damage return. Very nice feat.
- Cleave (PHB): This combat style is adept to dealing large amounts of damage. As such, it is more likely that you will actually hit with cleave.
- Great Cleave (PHB): Same with above, but usable unlimited times per turn. Nice only if you have the feats to spend. Generally I consider it below average.
- Combat Brute (CW): This is invaluable to this combat style. Various maneuvers and nice requirements.
- Shock Trooper (CW): All of its maneuvers are nice. You can negate some damage with elusive target if you use Headless charge maneuver.
- Net and Trident (CW): First entangle someone with your net and then full attack with your trident, probably spending more attack bonus to power attack because of the dexterity penalty of the target. However it requires two-weapon fighting and weapon focus, which is not that good.
- Spinning Halberd (CW): A minor bonus to armor class and an additional attack when full attacking with a halberd. Unfortunately requires two-weapon fighting and weapon focus.
- Three Mountains (CW): The saving throw against the effect is nice. Not everyone can be made nauseated though and this does require cleave and weapon focus.
- Brutal Strike (PHB II): Make an opponent sickened with a difficulty class based on your power attack damage.
- Combat Tactician (PHB II): +2 on melee damage if at the start of your turn neither your or your target threaten each other.
- Flay (PHB II): Only affects opponents without an armor bonus to ac and gives only -2 penalty to attack rolls.
- Driving Attack (PHB II): Free bull rush attempt if you succeed in attacking a target as a special full-round action.
- Pushback (Miniatures Handbook): Special bull rush when you strike opponent. Unfortunately doesn't work with dungeon crusher.
- Knockback (Races of Stone): Push foes backward with your blows.
- Heavy armor proficiency
- Use of armor spikes
- Armor Specialization (PHB II): Damage reduction 2/- with selected armor.
- Exotic Armor Proficiency (Races of Stone): Gain proficiency with exotic armor.
- Greater/Heavy Armor Optimization (Races of Stone): Reduce check penalty and bonus armor.
- Axespike (Races of Stone): Make secondary attack with armor spikes on a full attack.
Shield Offense Style
- Strength important
- Two weapon fighting penalties
- Improved Shield Bash (PHB): Retain your shield bonus to AC when shield bashing.
- Shield Charge (CW): If you hit with a shield as part of a charge action, make a free trip attack. You don't provoke attacks of opportunity and your opponent can't trip you. Nice if you are going this way.
- Shield Slam (CW): Nice feat, but you get only one attack. The difficulty class is good, but not all opponents are likely to be dazed.
- Shield Sling (PHB II): Nice feat if you want to use your shield as a thrown weapon. In addition you can make a trip attack with your shield.
- Agile Shield Fighter (PHB II): Get lesser penalties for fighting with two weapons when combining armed strikes and shield bash.
- Blood Spiked Charger (PHB II): It has some not so hot maneuvers. It requires two weapon focuses though, so i would be reluctant to get this.
Shield Defense Style
- Dexterity 13
- Use of one handed weapon. You will probably need exotic weapon proficiency to get a weapon that is worth it.
- Great defensive capabilities
- Phalanx Fighting (CW): Nice if you use it with your allies. Otherwise don't bother.
- Shield Specialization (PHB II): Improve the shield bonus to AC for a particular type of shields.
- Shield Ward (PHB II): Add shield bonus to your touch AC and checks to resist various attack modes (trip, bull rush, grapple, etc).
- Shield Block (HoB): Deflect arrows once per round.
- Shield Wall (HoB): Gain shield bonus when adjacent a shield wielder.
- Parrying Shield (LoM): Shield ward is strictly better, but requires two feats to enter.
- Dexterity 15+ (two-weapon fighting feats)
- Use of light weapons or double weapons (offset two-weapon fighting penalties)
- Greater/Improved/Two Weapon Fighting (PHB): This feats are required to effectively use two handed weapons. Should be acquired as fast as you fulfill their requirements if this is your chosen style.
- Weapon Finesse (PHB): Used to reduce MAD. This weapon style requires high dexterity and light weapons, so it fits perfect.
- Greater/Improved/Two Weapon Defense (PHB): Not worth the feat investment. Just get a animated shield.
- Improved Buckler Defense (CW): A lot better than the two-weapon defense feats.
- Pin Shield (CW): Nice if you encounter opponents with shields. If you use this a lot, you should consider not taking improved or greater two-weapon fighting feats.
- Anvil of Thunder (CW): Requires power attack and improved sunder. These feats are sub optimal for two-weapon fighting. Also the two weapon focus feats hurt a lot. Finally many creatures are immune to daze effects.
- Bear Fang (CW): A grappler is more likely to use feats that are actually related to grappling than two weapon fighting and two weapon focuses. However improved grab is a nice ability.
- Cresent Moon (CW): A free disarm attempt if you hit with both weapons. I'd stick with a disarming weapon and use it as a mode on my attack.
- Hammer's Edge (CW): The difficulty class is nice, but this isn't a trip attempt, which means that you won't take a free attack if you have improved trip.
- High Sword Low Axe (CW): This isn't of blue quality because it requires two weapon focuses. However it is probably the best of the weapon style feats.
- Lightning Maces (CW): This is good. You gain the attack on a threat. Not on a successful critical hit. This helps much if you somehow manage to have a nice threat range.
- Slashing Flurry (PHB II): Gain additional attacks with slashing weapons. Has tons of requirements though.
- Two-Weapon Pounce (PHB II): Attack with both weapons when charging with -2 penalty. Pounce is strictly better.
- Two-Weapon Rend (PHB II): Optimize damage output. Unfortunately 1/round.
- Crushing Strike (PHB II): Gain commutative bonuses on attack rolls with each hit with bludgeoning weapons.
- Dual Strike (CV): Useless.
- Oversized Two-Weapon Fighting (CV): Useful if you want to wield a normal weapon in your off hand instead of a light one.
- Shielded Axe (Races of Stone): Improved buckler defense is strictly better.
- Twin Sword Style (PGtF): +2 armor bonus that stacks with that of a shield, but for a single opponent.
- Strength important (damage)
- Dexterity 13+ (Archery feats regular requirement)
- Size medium or smaller (bonus to both attack rolls and dexterity as you go down sizes)
- Point Blank Shot (PHB): A requirement for most archery related feats.
- Far Shot (PHB): The main advantage ranged fighter have over rogues and scouts, is that they deal the same amount of damage within their range. This is not one of the best feats, but keeps you away from danger.
- Precise Shot (PHB): Being ranged means that someone in the team has to tank or take care of enemies in melee. This takes care of attacking enemies in melee and is the requirement of other great feats, such as improved precise shot.
- Rapid Shot (PHB): This depends. You get an extra attack but all attacks in the round get a -2 penalty. May seem nice, but only if your attack bonus is high.
- Manyshot (PHB): Fire many arrows as a standard action, but at a huge penalty. This feat isn't suitable for ranged fighters, but more for skirmishers or sneak attackers going for greater manyshot.
- Shot on the Run (PHB): Decent, but why spend one shot to your attack when you have full base attack?
- Rapid Reload (PHB): If you are going to use crossbows this is important, so you can take full advantage of your base attack bonus.
- Improved Precise Shot (PHB): This is a very good ability.
- Brutal Throw (CV): Used to reduce MAD with thrown weapons.
- Power Throw (CV): Power attack with thrown weapons.
- Improved Rapid Shot (CW): Ignore the -2 penalty on ranged attack rolls when using rapid shot. Nice if you are going this route.
- Ranged Disarm (CW): Nice, but limits you to 30ft. Still, it is nice to have attack modes with ranged weapons.
- Ranged Pin (CW): Grapple with ranged weapons and has no range limitation, but targets must be within 5ft of solid surface.
- Ranged Sunder (CW): Also a nice ability, but limits you to 30ft. Nonetheless, this offers versatility.
- Sharp-Shooting (CW): Get this until you qualify for improved precise shot and retrain it for something more useful.
- Throw Anything (CW): Nice if you want to have melee/ranged transparency. Has its uses.
- Crossbow Sniper (PHB II): Lets you add your dexterity bonus to crossbow damage rolls. Requires weapon focus though.
- Penetrating Shot (PHB II): Attack all enemies in a line, but you must roll against each of them and if you fail the projectile stops there. It's a standard action. I'm sure that with rapid shot is better.
- Ranged Weapon Mastery (PHB II): Normally this isn't required. It has a nice bonus of increasing your range though.
- Intelligence 13 (combat expertise)
- Weapons able to trip/disarm
- Combat Expertise (PHB): Being a fighter is all about using your base attack bonus in various modes. This translates it to AC bonus.
- Improved Disarm (PHB): Bonus on disarm attempts and no attack of opportunity. Disarming your opponent's weapon will most likely render him useless. Nice attack mode for any fighter.
- Improved Feint (PHB): Feint as a move action. This is bad for fighters. You don't have bluff as a class skill and you don't benefit much from flat-footed opponents.
- Improved Trip (PHB): Probably the best attack mode available. Prone opponents have a -4 penalty to their AC. So you can use feats like combat expertise and power attack without actually hurting your damage output. If you successfully trip an opponent, you get a free attack on the target.
- Improved Combat Expertise (CW): Very nice feat for improving your defensive capabilities.
- Quick Staff (CW): When using combat expertise and wielding a quarterstaff, gain a +2 dodge bonus.
- Sand Snare (Sandstorm): Tripped opponents in loose earth lose 1 round to get up from prone.
- Allied Defense (Shining South): Adjacent allies gain AC bonus from combat expertise.
- Combat Cloak Expert (PHB II): Some "smart" maneuvers if you use a cloak. Nice requirements.
- Dexterity 13 (combat reflexes)
- Weapons able to trip/disarm
- Combat Reflexes (PHB): Make additional attacks of opportunity and even if you are flat-footed. Very nice feat and is required usually for others.
- Hold the Line (CW): Nice with reach weapons and trip if you get charged a lot.
- Karmic Strike (CW): Great for Attack of Opportunity builds.
- Defensive Sweep (PHB II): Opponents that begin their round adjacent to you and do not move provokes AoO.
- Hindering Opportunist (PHB II): Replace AoOs with aid another.
- Robilar's Gambit (PHB II): One of the best feats out there for this type of combat style.
- Stalwart Defense (PHB II): Aid your opponents when they get attacked in melee by opponents by giving up AoOs.
- Mage Slayer (CA): Bonus to will saves and spellcasters you threaten can't cast defensively.
- Deft Opportunist (CV): +4 bonus on attack rolls when making AoOs.
- Overhead Thrust (Draconomicon): Opponents attacking you from above generate AoOs.
- Standstill (EPH): Stop opponent's movement with AoOs.
- Double Hit (Miniatures Handbook): When making a AoO you may attack with your off hand at the same time.
- Sidestep (Miniatures Handbook): Combined with feats like karmic strike or Robilar's Gambit, with this feat you can easily evade full attacks.
- Evasive Reflexes (ToB): As above, but no AoO.
- Only useful when you have a character in your party that benefits from flanking
- Gain attack bonuses which can be spend on power attack and combat expertise
- Adaptable Flanker (PHB II): Flank target from one adjacent square.
- Vexing Flanker (PHB II): Gain a +4 bonus to attack rolls when flanking.
- Expert Tactician (CV): If you hit someone with an AoO you and your allies gain +2 hit and damage against that opponent for 1 round.
- Distracting Attack (Miniatures Handbook): If you make a melee attack, other creatures get +1 bonus against that creature.
- Improved/Shieldmate (Miniatures Handbook): Give AC bonuses to adjacent allies.
- Low number of attacks per round.
- Greater AC bonuses.
- Defensive Strike (CW): If you are using the total defense action and an opponent misses you, you attack that opponent the next round with a bonus on your attack roll. Average.
- Active Shield Defense (PHB II): Threaten while using the total defense action. Make attacks of opportunity with a -4 penalty. If fighting defensively you don't take the standard penalties.
- Deadly Defense (CS): +1d6 damage with light weapons when fighting defensively.
- One attack on charge unless pounce or special feat is gained.
- Hurts AC.
- Must position well, but great as an opening move.
- Leap Attack (CV): A bonus modifier on power attack damage when charging.
- Hurling Charge (Miniatures Handbook): Attack twice on a charge.
- Greater/Powerful Charge (Miniatures Handbook): Extra damage on charge based on your size.
- Reckless Charge (Miniatures Handbook): +4 on attack rolls but -4 on AC.
- Furious Charge (PGtF): +4 bonus on your attack roll on the end of a charge.
- Battle Jump (Unapproachable East): Another modifier if you jump on your target.
- Wisdom 13
- Dexterity 13
- Need 3+ combat feats to be effective
- Combat Focus (PHB II): Bonus to will saves and a requirement for the rest combat focus feats.
- Combat Awareness (PHB II): Gain ability to learn the hit point totals of adjacent creatures and eventually blindsight.
- Combat Defense (PHB II): Change the target of your dodge feat as an immediate action. Gain a bonus on your dodge bonus eventually.
- Combat Stability (PHB II): Huge bonuses to resist special attack modes.
- Combat Strike (PHB II): End your combat focus and gain a bonus on your attack and damage rolls equal to the number of combat focus feats you possess for the rest of the turn. Nice if your duration is ending (which unfortunately is unlikely since they last at least 10 rounds). Not hot.
- Combat Vigor (PHB II): Gain fast healing 2 or 4. That's [ 10 + (1*combat feat) - 1 ] * x hit points healed, where x is the amount of your fast healing. Very nice.
- Knockback (RoS), Shock Trooper (CW) and Improved Trip (PHB): Each time you hit someone, you get a free bull rush, you can steer them into an ally and get 2 free trips which result in a further 2 free attacks.
- Shock Trooper (CW) and Leap Attack (CAdv): Massive damage on a charge without a to hit penalty. Elusive Target and Karmic Strike help deal with the repercussions of the resulting low AC.
- Shock Trooper (CW), Knockback (RoS) and Rampaging Bull Rush (RoS): This effectively allows the charger to effectively setup his Heedless Charges every round.
- Karmic Strike (CW) and Double Hit (MiniHB): They hit you, you hit them back twice. Works best for a Monk.
- Elusive Target (CW) and Defensive Throw (CW): Use Diverting Defence to activate Defensive Throw.
- Improved Feint (PHB) and Staggering Strike (CW): Sneak attack a foe and only allow them a standard action to retaliate.
- Karmic Strike (CW) and Sidestep (MiniHB): Great for stopping a full attack action.
- Karmic Strike (CW) and Improved Disarm/Sunder (PHB): As near as you'll get to a Parry effect. It's possibly that the AoO from Karmic strike resolves before the damage from the attack so you may be able to stop the attack entirely, although this is open to individual interpretations of the rules.
- Quickstaff (CW), Combat Expertise PHB, Allied DefenseShining South and Improved Combat Expertise CW: You sacrifice x BAB and you and all adjecent allies gain x + 2 dodge bonus to AC. Great if your size is larger than normal.
- Improved Trip (PHB), Shock Trooper (CW), Combat Brute (CW) and Improved Sunder (PHB): Trip, sunder and hit, all in one attack.
- Improved Disarm (PHB) and Improved Unarmed strike (PHB): For stealing weapons.
- High Sword Low Axe (CW) and Double Hit (MiniHB):Every time you make an AoO, you get a free off-hand attack. If both attacks hit, you get a free trip attempt. If your trip succeeds, you get a free attack against your now prone foe.
- Anvil of Thunder (CW) and Double Hit (MiniHB): Potential daze effect every time you use an AoO.
Main Class Skills
- Climb: Spend some skill points in this to offset the armor check penalties.
- Craft: Dump skill or just for flavor points.
- Handle Animal: I'd completely dump this.
- Intimidate: Max this. Demoralizing helps your allies and spellcasters. Also can be used to stack fear effects.
- Jump: This is also good. Has many uses in the various fighting styles such as battle jump, leap attack, etc.
- Ride: Dump. As said, fighters aren't particularly effective mounted.
- Swim: As with climb, spending skill points to this is important. It is not going to see play much, but it can be a life saver.
- Gather Information: Swapped by skilled city dweller with handle animal. This is great, as you can actually have a social skill that helps your party.
- Tumble: Swapped by skilled city dweller with ride. Tumble greatly helps a fighter. I think this should be taken by any fighter.
- Profession (miner): Gained through kobold substitution levels. Meh.
- Bluff: Gained by half-elf and Zhentarim Soldier substitution levels. Great, but can't max it. I'd get five ranks for the synergy bonuses.
- Diplomacy: Gained by half-elf and Zhentarim Soldier substitution levels. Again, great skill, but not for fighters when you only have it as a class skill for 3 levels. However taking both zhentarim soldier and half-elf substitution levels, you'll have it as a class skill for 6 early levels, which can result in nice checks.
- Knowledge (dungeoneering): Gained by dwarf substitution levels. At least five ranks in this is ok for the synergy bonus. Otherwise dump it.
- Back on your Feet (Movement)(CS): Stand from prone as an immediate action without provoking AoOs. Great against trippers.
- Extreme Leap (Movement)(CS): Move more if you jump horizontally.
- Leaping Climber (Movement)(CS): Begin a climb with a jump check.
- Never Outnumbered (Interaction)(CS): Demoralize multiple opponents.
- Nimble Stand (Movement)(CS): Stand up from prone without provoking AoOs.
- Quick Swimmer (Movement)(CS): Swim more during a swim action.
- Speedy Ascent (Movement)(CS): Climb additional distances.
- Tumbling Crawl (Movement)(CS): Crawl without provoking attacks of opportunity.
- Twisted Charge (Movement)(CS): Requires some cross-class skills in balance, but you can turn once during your charge.
- Walk the Walls (Movement)(CS): Coupled with nice movement speed, this is very nice.
- Wall Jumper (Movement)(CS): If you successfully climbed you can leap from the wall as if you have made a running start.
Fighters depend a lot on their choice of weapons. Choose wisely. Most weapons in PHB are more or less equal. However, exotic weapons are being published with each new source book. Most combat styles should focus on acquiring weapons that have nice damage and allow for different attack modes (trip, disarm, etc). While a factor, critical range isn't the first priority.
- Brilliant Energy (DMG): Make touch attacks, but can't harm undead, constructs and objects. +4 bonus.
- Defending (DMG): Nice ability if you are going to use something else that a weapon for making your attacks. +1 bonus.
- Ghost Touch (DMG): Required when you are fighting incorporeal creatures. +1 bonus.
- Ki Focus (DMG): Make stunning fist attempts through your weapon. +1 bonus.
- Mighty Cleaving (DMG): Better than taking the great cleave feat. +1 bonus.
- Speed (DMG): When making a full attack, you may take an additional attack at your full base attack bonus. +3 bonus.
- Spell Storing (DMG): Nice if you have a spellcaster in your team. +1 bonus.
- Banishing (MIC): Banish a creature back to its home plane. +2 bonus.
- Binding (MIC): Prevents target from using any form of extra dimensional travel. +1 bonus.
- Blindsighted (MIC): Three times per day gain blindsight for one minute. +2 bonus.
- Brutal Surge (MIC): Free bull rush attempt after successful attack. +1 bonus.
- Collision (MIC): +5 damage on each successful hit. +2 bonus.
- Defensive Surge (MIC): A bonus to your armor class when using combat expertise or fighting defensively. +1 bonus.
- Disarming (MIC): Bonus on disarm attempts and you can't be disarmed of your weapon.
- Dispelling, Greater (MIC): Three times per day greater dispel magic at a caster level of 15. Activated as a free action when you hit.
- Eager (MIC): Bonus on initiative checks and damage rolls on the surprise round of combat. +1 bonus.
- Ethereal Reaver (MIC): Acts as ghost touch. Additionally you can see invisible creatures as you were the subject of a see invisibility spell. Use blindsighted instead maybe. +3 bonus.
Attack Bonus and Damage Interaction
There are abilities like rapid shot and flurry that let you take additional attacks by reducing your attack bonus. At first glance, they may seem nice, but that's not always the case:
Assuming you have a base attack bonus of +6 and an attack bonus of +9. Your normal damage in each successful hit is 15 hit points. You face an opponent with 20 AC. Critical hit/miss are not included in the calculations.
Normal full attack:
- Attack Bonus: +9
- Number of Attacks: 2
- Chance of successful attack: 50%
- Damage Calculation: 15 (your damage with each hit) * 2 (number of attacks) * 50% = 15
Flurry-like full attack:
- Attack Bonus: +7
- Number of Attacks: 3
- Chance of successful attack: 40%
- Damage Calculation: 15 (your damage with each hit) * 3 (number of attacks) * 40% = 18
So, on average, even though you get an extra attack with the chance to deal 15 more damage, you only get 3 points up in return. This doesn't mean that these abilities are bad, only that you'll have to use them in conjuction with a relatively high attack bonus.
So to wrap it all up, you can find your damage output by following these simple steps:
- Calculate your attack bonus against your target.
- Find out your target's AC against you.
- Subtract your attack bonus (a) from your target's ac (AC). If the result x>20 then x=20. If x<1 then x=1. x = [ AC - a ], 1<x<20
- Subtract x from the number 21: y = [ 21 - x ]
- Divide y by 20, and you got your chance for a successful attack: Success = y / 20