so ive recently been searching for what people have done with sword and board as i recently got interested in making such a character, phalanx fighter using a heavy shield and non reach spear, basically a hoplite. and it seems that everybody makes the twf variation, which is fine but it seems to be THE only way to build a shield user.
i really have no interest in the twf aspect as ive recently played two separate chars using the style and was wondering if its the case that the style is just completely useless without using twf or not. Granted i realize this character concept is rather unoptimized as i could use a tower shield, but i would rather be able to bash when needed, say against DR/ Bludgeoning enemies or what not, also using a spear when i could take regular fighter and use a longsword but the flavor to me is just to cool not to do it.
anyway im rambling and in essence im curious what people think about defensive sword and board, useful, useless, etc
You can make a sword-and-board fighter the same way you'd make a two-handed-weapon fighter, you'll just be a chunk worse in the damage department. (And a hair better defensively.) You're correct that it's not as optimized a concept as most other fighter concepts, but I think it can work well enough to be a character you can be happy with.
As one final thing: you actually really don't want to use a tower shield. Tower shields are like the king trap of the trap brigade. They cut deeper into the offensive capabilities of a concept that's already struggling in that department. The only fighter option trappier than the Tower Shield is the Fighter archetype dedicated to it, which further mangles your offensive capabilities.
so it will definitely be doable? im not looking to rule the roost optimization wise.
and joyd i have no intention of using one mind you, but what are the downsides of the towershield after you lose the to hit penalty of them using the tower shield specialist and phalanx fighter? obviously other then not being able to use it as a oh s&%$ weapon. simply curious
Morning star trippers aren't particularly bad. You just need to accept you're not as high damage output; good AC is better than some give it credit for. You'll probably not want straight fighter; lacking shield bash, you're going to lose a lot of the gain from such, as you don't need many feats for such. Pally is pretty good; though you need a light shield for the swift-action heals.
Again, especially for the first 10 levels sword-and-boarding leads to ACs most can't overcome. Having trip can prevent people from getting past you.
I don't know what other people think about it, but I like the Stalwart Defender prestige class. I think it might lend itself to the hoplite concept quite well. It even has an ability that gives you an extra attack with your shield without going with the full TWF tree.
thats definitely an option, im liking what im seeing with it. for some reason i never even thought of it as i keep thinking it was dwarf only as in 3.x, thanks for pointing it out!
Granted i realize this character concept is rather unoptimized
Thankfully, Pathfinder is not so vicious (in most of its APs, and/or with most DMs I've met) that it would erase all degrees of separation between 'optimized' and 'unplayably bad.' Non-TWF Sword and Shield/equivalent may not be optimal, but it is playable.
The most common critique I hear against high-AC Sword-and-Board is that enemies will just ignore your PC and rush the mage in the back-field. While that's a viable tactic and a legitimate thing to worry about, it has been my experience that this is only true if any of several factors apply:
1 - Your PC's AC is so high that attacking them is a waste of time, and eating any AoO is a worthwhile price to pay to go hit some other target. If your AC isn't that ridiculous, chances are they won't risk it and will stay on the 'tank' unless the enemy and/or the DM show unusually bold tactics.
2 - The mage or similar soft target can be easily reached, ideally within one move action so the enemy can move and attack. If they're much further out than that, it's probably not worth the cost of the AoO.
3 - Less severe versions 1 or 2 are in effect, and the AoO would be trivial to the enemy (for example, it has DR sufficient to ignore or mostly ignore the damage... or very high Concealment ratings, or high AC of its own, etc.). In this case it doesn't matter how good a job the tank does normally.
The difference between 1d8+Str damage and 2d6+1.5x Str damage is significant, no doubt about it. It is not so large that every enemy is going to just gleefully provoke AoOs from your proposed Hoplite/non-TWF character. If they do, the DM is a very unusual (not bad, just unusual) one insofar as their NPCs' combat tactics go.
I can't offer much optimization advice that hasn't already been offered, but I would encourage you to try your planned character anyway. Pathfinder is nowhere near being so insanely difficult in most Paizo-designed fights (or their offshoots, such as DMs using those fights as precedent to make their own) that everyone must be optimized. No way. Give it a shot, I bet your character will do okay!
Has anyone created an updated guide to fighters to include all the current books? I seem to recall the one guide I can find is core (And maybe APG) only. Is Two Weapon Fighting the new optimal strategy for Fighters these days?
Optimal continues to be two-handed; two-weapon shielding is best done by rangers, thanks to earlier access to shield feats that you would never get to use if pfs (the level 6 gives you the ability to enhance both the attack and AC bonus of shield feat; otherwise unavailable untill 11 for most classes).
Actually, thanks to amazing flexibility I think the polearm fighters are probably "best" now. Non-TWF sword-and-board fighters sadly continue to be the worst; there just aren't enough feats to warrant their existence. The Dwarven tank with a trip flail is the best you can hope for there; get steely resolve to fix the save issue and hope for a good hallway to wedge yourself in.
Getting the alchemist's extra arm is quite good if you want a shield; so you can two-handed while holding a shield. Alchemist also gives you handy skills, vivisector gives you minor sneak attack when avail, and of course getting your +4 Str buff is always handy.
Which is really a shame.
Non-TWF sword and board is one of the classic archetypes in both fantasy and history. It really should be decently supported in the game.