Staff Tripper (3.5e Optimized Character Build)

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Have you ever said to yourself "I'd sure like to play a tripper, but the spiked chain is so passé?" Well then, this build is for you!

Have you even seen videos of martial artists using staffs, and thought "This weapon is clearly much more awesome than the Player's Handbook thinks it is?" So did the creators of the Dragonlance campaign setting!

Enter the emmide! An exotic variant of the quarterstaff that can be used to trip, has reach, and can still be used against adjacent enemies!


Now with unnecessary detail!

Holy Order of Stars

  • Emmide: page 31

Player's Handbook

  • Combat Expertise: page 92
  • Combat Reflexes: page 92
  • Exotic Weapon Proficiency: page 94
  • Human: page 12
  • Improved Trip: page 96
  • Monk: page 39

Player's Handbook II

  • Decisive Strike: page 51

Tome of Battle

  • Martial Stance: page 31
  • Martial Study: page 31
  • Thicket of Blades: page 61
  • Warblade: page 20

Unearthed Arcana

  • Passive Way Monk: page 52

Game Rule Information[edit]

Maneuvers and Stances[edit]

You can choose any maneuvers you want, so long as the one you get from Martial Study is from the Devoted Spirit school. You need that as a prerequisite for Thicket of Blades. Remember though, you'll be using Decisive Strike a lot, which is a full-round action. This limits the usefulness of maneuvers that aren't a swift or immediate action to use.

Once you get Thicket of Blades, that's the only stance you'll be using. Until then, go with whatever stance strikes your fancy.


Emmide: This is your signature weapon, so of course you'll need that. Probably a magic version at some point. Maybe even make it out of one of those special materials for wood that makes it harder to sunder.

Armor: You have armor proficiency, and you have an unarmored AC bonus. It's up to you which you'll take advantage of. Personally, I'd go with light armor, unless your DM wants to add one of those "only when unarmored" provisions to Decisive Strike.


Ability Scores: Strength is very important, because it determines both your chance to hit and your chance to trip. You'll also want a decent Dexterity score, for extra attacks of opportunity, and a decent Constitution score, for hit points. If you decide to go the unarmored route, Wisdom will also be helpful.

Race: Human

Level Class Base Attack Bonus Saving Throws Feats Class Features Initiator Level Maneuvers Stances
Fort Ref Will Known Readied
1 Warblade +1 +2 +0 +0 Combat Reflexes, Exotic Weapon Proficiency (emmide) Battle Clarity (add int to ref saves) 1 3 3 1
2 Monk +1 +4 +2 +2 Combat ExpertiseB AC Bonus, Decisive Strike, Unarmed Damage 1 3 3 1
3 Monk +2 +5 +3 +3 Improved TripB, Martial Study (any devoted spirit maneuver) Evasion 2 3 3 1
4 Warblade +3 +6 +3 +3 Uncanny Dodge 3 4 3 1
5 Warblade +4 +6 +4 +4 Battle Ardor (add int to crit confirmations) 4 5 3 1
6 Warblade +5 +7 +4 +4 Martial Stance (thicket of blades) 5 5 4 2


Level 1: You start the game as a certified staff master. You can use your emmide (your super-special staff) to trip, and to attack both near and far. You don't have Improved Trip yet, but you can often avoid attacks of opportunity by doing your tripping from outside the enemies reach. You've also got Combat Reflexes, so don't be shy about taking the attacks of opportunity your reach will give you.

Level 2: You've got Decisive Strike, so go ahead and take that -2 penalty for double damage. Remember, your attacks of opportunity get their damage doubled too!

Level 3: Now there's Improved Trip. No longer do you have to choose between tripping and dealing damage. As the old tripper adage goes, "Hit him when he's down!"

Level 6: And, finally, you get Thicket of Blades. This means you get to make attacks of opportunity for movement even if the enemy 5-foot steps or succeeds on a tumble check.

Munchkin-Size Me[edit]

Armbands of Might: These give you a +2 untyped bonus on Strength checks. Which, of course, includes trip attempts! Every little bit helps!

Belt of the Champion: This gives a +5 competence bonus on Strength checks. Which, of course, includes trip attempts! You do need to worship Kord and have the True Believer feat, though.

Enlarge Person: A classic among trip builds. This lets you hit things 20 feet away (with a reach weapon), and gives you a nice +4 size bonus to trip. Getting this spell onto yourself in some fashion can really help.

Giant Size: Now this is a hard spell to get on yourself. It's personal range, and only on the spell list of one obscure class. But if you can pull it off, you can get up to colossal size (with sufficient caster level).

Jotunbrud: This feat gives you a +4 size bonus to trip, as though you were large. Note that it doesn't stack with anything that actually alters your size. And you can only take this feat at 1st level, so you'd need to rearrange your feats from the order I listed above.

Wolf Berserker: This feat, on the other hand, gives you a +4 to trip that stakes with everything. It has its own downside though. You need the ability to rage to qualify for it. And if you want to take use both Monk and Barbarian levels on the same character, you'll have to change alignments. Some DMs don't like when you do that.

Bonus References!

Complete Arcane

  • Giant Size: page 109

Magic Item Compendium

  • Armbands of Might: page 72
  • Belt of the Champion: page 73
  • True Believer: page 222

Player's Handbook

  • Enlarge Person: page 226

Races of Faerûn

  • Jotunbrud: page 166

Unapproachable East

  • Wolf Berserker: page 45

Side Notes[edit]


Your chief limitation is one you share with all other melee characters. You have to get close to your enemies to be effective.

DM Counters[edit]

Big monsters are hard to trip, so you could try using those. Alternately, monster that fly without wings are immune to trip.


If you want, you can replace Warblade with Crusader. That'll save you a feat. I went with Warblade here because it has a better selection of swift- and immediate-action maneuvers.

If your DM doesn't like Tome of Battle, you'll have to miss out on Thicket of Blades. The next best thing is the Knight class. At level 3, that gives you the ability to make your threatened area count as difficult terrain. That means enemies have to spend 10 feet of movement just to travel 5 feet, so they can't 5-foot-step. At 5th level, you also gain the ability to slightly hinder attempts to tumble past you. The Knight class can sort of be thought of as a "poor man's Thicket of Blades."

Bonus References!

Player's Handbook II

  • Knight: page 24

Tome of Battle

  • Crusader: page 8

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