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Low Strength Phalanx Fighter - Advice needed...


Hi, I've recently started a Phalanx Fighter that on the roll for stats unfortunately had low strength (strength 12)

He's still only level 1, his stats are as follows:

Str 12
Dex 15
Con 15
Wis 12
Int 12
Cha 8

He's armed with a spear and longsword and armoured with a tower shield and chainmail.

He has the feat that can protect allies next to him with a +2 shield bonus, one that gives him a shield bonus and a teamwork feat that allows him to swap places with one of his allies who also has the feat (that one is more for the fluff aspect). Sorry I can't remember the names of the feats (might be others in there but not sure).

We're not far from 2nd level and am really looking to improve on him, his AC is awesome (23 AC), but he can "NEVER" hit. In fact I've only hit once and that was on a roll of a 20... And then when I am hitting I'm doing no damage at all.

I'm working towards getting him Plate Armour for even more defence and looking at Stalwart Defender later on in levels.

At level 3 he can use spears and pole arms one handed with a shield so will be looking at getting some reach weapons then.

The problem I'm having is that whilst he is pretty much unhittable, he is pretty much completely useless in combat, I still want to head along the defender line but want to do something, anything in close combat.

Are there some tricks I can do or some way to cause damage or even just a way to take some bad guys out of the fight with my low strength?


grab a 13 str ASAP, then nab power attack

He can't hit anything and you recommend power attack????

Get weapon focus... upgrade your weapon with straight +1, +2, no flaming/acidic or anything. Always try to get flanking for another +2.

Honestly you have a character whose primary stat is a +1, there's not going to be a whole lot that you can do.

You're not helping your cause by using a tower shield; that's a -2 to hit, making your attack roll the equivalent of another fighter with an 8 in Strength.

If I were you, I would NOT work towards plate armor, at least not immediately; you're already virtually never being hit with attacks vs. AC. Spending additional character resources on that isn't going to help any of your problems, and you're going to further cut your mobility.

The key to actually being able to protect your party is that you need to be a credible threat to the enemies. Right now, even though it looks like you're probably hard to kill, there's no reason for an enemy combatant to not simply walk around you, since even if they eat AoOs, your AoOs aren't very scary. They're probably going to miss, and if they hit, they're not going to do very much damage.

If you want to contribute in combat, you need to up your offensive output, stat. Here's one extreme suggestion: Put away the tower shield (you'll still be plenty survivable), pick the polearm or spear you're going to want to use when you hit level 3, and just fight with that. Instead of spending your immediate resources on platemail, spend them on a masterwork or magical version of that weapon. Then, when you hit level 3, pick the tower shield back up again. Yeah, it's a waste of two of your feats for two levels, but being a walking stone block is a waste of a lot more.

Contrary to what you might expect, fighters in defensively-oriented archetypes like Phalanx Soldier NEED to focus super heavily on their offense; otherwise they end up as walking bricks, hard to take down (with melee attacks) but unable to contribute in combat otherwise, and not meaningfully guardians of their allies. You're working with a very low score in your attack stat on top of attempting to play a defensive style; you need feats like weapon focus, weapon specialization and power attack as soon as you can possibly qualify for them or things are only going to get worse.

I play a Phalanx Soldier 8 / Emissary + Honor Guard Cavalier 2 myself, and he does very well so far. But I didn't have to use such brutally not-fitting-the-theme stats. ;)

I mean... your stats really are neither fish nor fowl.

When opponents start to realize that you don't hit them and don't hurt them even if you do, they'll ignore you and go after your squishier friends. And when you can't hit them, you can't even use your reach and probable AoOs to stop them from doing so.

It's not really what you asked for, but I'll post it anyway, maybe it helps you decide what to do.

Is it possible to swap two of those scores? You could swap Str and Con - you don't need that many HP because you have reach and can build yourself an awesome AC, while you desperately need the to-hit and damage increase. You could do okay then, even though the rest of your stats could also be better.

Just for reference, my char started with str 17 (half-orc) and con 12, both incs went into str. Cha is 8.

Your dex is okay @ 15 (I got 16), because the Combat Reflexes feat is your best friend, as that allows you to actually use the threatened squares your reach gives you.

You don't need wisdom 12 (I got 10), while you could have so much fun with int 13, because you could take combat expertise and, more importantly, the trip feats then. Trust me, shutting down approaching enemies is fun (yes, you can try it without the feat, as your reach means most opponents won't be able to take that AoO against you, but the feats give bonus to hit and an extra AoO when you drop someone).

I'd almost advise you to reroll that character... because while you could very well nab power attack (if you take a heavy shield instead of that tower, you can take the shield bash feats), it doesn't help you with hitting things at all.

So... what remains, if you really want to keep what you have? Take weapon focus, weapon specialisation... but feats you spend on trying to let that character keep up to par are feats you can't spend on being awesome.

I really like my character and have spent a lot of time on his back story and made a mini for him ect, so I don't want to scratch him, and will likely not be able to just re-roll or switch stats, even thought that would be great if I could. The hazards of rolling your stats I guess...

I actually never really thought of dropping my shield for a few levels, though it does make sense, could still have it on hand if needed but just not use it. And I agree with not get plate right away... Kinda would just make a bad situation worse...

Also if I'm going to upgrade my weapon, what weapon would you suggest? I was thinking of just going for a mix of a few but if I'm going to upgrade them I should stick to one right? I'm kinda impatial to a spear but open to suggestions.

Well... I don't know how rigid your group's char rules are, but in our group, when someone says his character is no fun because he can't play it the way he wants, he can rebuild that character (we have a once per character rule, but that never had to be enforced). Never understood that "haha, you have to make due with what you rolled, no matter how much fun that is" approach with stat rolling... but I digress.

Take a heavy shield instead of a tower shield, so you also threaten adjacent squares if neccessary.
For your polearm, grab one with brace and a bonus to whatever combat maneuver you like to perform besides trip - you don't need that weapon quality to trip and it doesn't give a bonus. How does that sound: Lucerne Hammer, 1d12 /x2, reach, brace, +2 sunder med/hvy armor?

(Personally, I got my char the luxury of a transformative polearm so that I can adjust to the situation, but thats at least 10k gp more than you can spend at level 1.)

We had it that we rolled three sets and chose one, unfortunately the other two sets were worse... I have this problem where my dice hate me... And chances are if I re-rolled them my new set would be even worse than the current set... This was actually a decent roll for me... I've once rolled 7 out of 8, 1's on a D20, and the one that wasn't a 1 was a 5 or something. On a D100 in a different game system I'm the only person to throw my sword three times in a row, (you need to roll a 100 to do it.)

I get not using a tower shield, but are you saying that you can't threaten whilst using one or am I reading that wrong?

Lucerne Hammer sounds fun, and a transformative polearm at later levels.

And in the mean time chuck any stats I gain into strength and try to get a belt of strength asap?

I really would encourage you to go to your DM and ask if you can switch your stats around a little. It's pretty clear to me that you gave the character a fair shake and it's not working out for you. Rather than suffering through an entire campaign like this, it will be better for everyone if you can make minor adjustments. You're clearly not some kind of munchkinning no-gooder, and you're not asking to totally scrap the character or even change the concept at all, just to wiggle things around a little. If you've really been missing nearly all of your attacks, hopefully your DM will be sympathetic.

Cyberwolf is suggesting using a heavy shield instead of a tower shield so you can bash with it, which would allow you to threaten adjacent squares in addition to the squares 10 feet away you threaten with your polearm. Other options would include Armor Spikes.

Ask if you can swap your strength with dexterity or constitution. What do you think would happen to a sorcerer with 12 in charisma? Eventually he couldn't even cast his highest level spells.

I haven't done dice in order since the 80's. The romance was short lived, and i'd prefer a character is fun or challenging, not one I struggle with.

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Not 100% on this, but I think at 5th level (or there abouts) you can shorten your grip on your pole arm as a free action to attack people 5ft from you with a reach weapon? I think it's at a further -2 to hit though and that doesn't help my cause again. lol.

I think I'll wait out another level before I ask him about changing stats, see if I can work something out in the mean time. I kinda feel like I'd be cheating if I moved stats around... haha.

If I did swap stats around would you suggest changing str with dex or con?

That's up to you. Hit points are good. So is armor class. Both help saving throws.

You don't need that many HP when you have high AC and reach.

If you go the polearm+heavy shield route, you can even take Shield Slam, eventually, so that you can Shield Bash -> Bull Rush opponents out of adjacent squares, IF they manage to make it through your reach threatened squares.

That ability Foximus talks about is from the Polearm Master archetype.

Would dex even help though when I get plate armour?

Foximus wrote:
Would dex even help though when I get plate armour?

Depends on type. You'll at least 1 additional on most and more if you get it made from mithril.

This starts feeling like a chat.

On topic: Well, you could stick to medium armor first, until you can afford Celestial Plate Armor or Mithral Full Plate of Speed (both count as medium armor, choose wether you like +2 higher armor and more dex or 10 rounds of haste more).

What I did in my build was taking two levels of Cavalier, Emissary archetype. It allows you to move at full speed while wearing medium armor (see above). But that's entirely optional if you want to be a bit more mobile.
Now that I'm almost doing it anyway... if you want me to post my build, say so. ;)

Personally, I would swap dex for strength since plate mail maxes at +1dex bonus (without mithril) and you since dont have Armor training eventually you will max out even mithril full plate with magically boosted dexterity (12dex+4enhancement = 16, max on mithril full plate).

From that point on, max your strength as much as possible. I would also use a heavy shield until your BAB bonus improves because a tower shield comes with a penalty to attack (-2, -1 at level 7, -0 at level 11).

Feats: Weapon Focus (ASAP), Weapon Spec at level 4 of course. Feats like combat reflexes and stand still will be beneficial but only if you get your dex up with magic items (assuming you swap it for strength).

Is there anyone else in your party that dishes out damage? If so, consider aid another feats too (Swift Aid, Bodyguard, In Harm's Way). While not optimized for damage it is something to help you protect others if you are interested in that.

- Gauss

IF your GM will not allow you to swap str for another stat I would consider a rebuild of another nature..maybe your GM will allow you to rebuild as a standard fighter. At that point Id consider a weapon finesse weapon or an archer build.

If your GM will not allow you to rebuild then you can still go the weapon finesse route. Most of the phalanx build is independant of the weapon type.

- Gauss

I'd never do a game with rolling stats in order, since, as shown here, it really doesn't let you do the class you want to do. I gather that one idea behind such a stats rolling method is that you roll stats THEN pick class/race? So why would you go fighter??? Presumably you have +2 racial to str, which means you started with a 10? Really should have gone for something that played to your good stats, like maybe a finesse tripper or something.

oneplus999 wrote:
I'd never do a game with rolling stats in order, since, as shown here, it really doesn't let you do the class you want to do. I gather that one idea behind such a stats rolling method is that you roll stats THEN pick class/race? So why would you go fighter??? Presumably you have +2 racial to str, which means you started with a 10? Really should have gone for something that played to your good stats, like maybe a finesse tripper or something.

Should of, but I had the idea for this character in my head already, it's not a hopeless situation, there are still things I can do to improve on it, it'll just take a few levels is all. No biggie...

And the good thing about rolling stats in order is it either forces you to play something new or gives you a challenge to overcome, not every game should be easy...

Cyberwolf, I'd love to see your character sheet if you'd like to post it. Always good to see how another person builds and learn from them.

I wanted to create him as an Alias but the board decided to eat everything when I had almost finished typing everything in.

So, here's the important stuff:

Name: Draug
Occupation: Protector and Bodyguard of Maira (Oracle of Desna)

Class: Fighter (Phalanx Soldier) 9 / Order of the Dragon Cavalier (Emissary & Honor Guard) 1
Race: Half-orc

Trait (only 1 in our group): Reactionary (+2 Ini)

Combat Expertise, Improved Trip, Greater Trip
Improved Shield Bash, Shield Slam
Combat Reflexes
Bodyguard: when adjacent ally is attacked in melee, AoO vs 10 to start Aid Another action (+2 AC)
In Harm's Way: take melee hit meant for adjacent ally (immediate action)

Special Abilities:
Shield Ally: move action, adjacent allies (+ self) get part cover (+2 cover ac, +1 reflex ST) until next round
In or Out of the Saddle: move at full speed in medium armor
Challenge: 1/day, +1 melee attacks of allies vs my target, as long as I threaten it, until it is dead; one protegé gets +1 dodge AC (and I get -1) as long as we're adjacent

corrosive transformative polearm +1
arrow catching bashing spiked heavy mithral shield +1
celestial plate armor
cloak of resistance +2
belt of strength +2
bracers of dex +2
ring of deflection +1
potions (haste, barkskin, enlarge person)

One-handed Polearm: +16/+11 (damage depending on weapon)
One-handed Shield: +16/+11 2d6+6 + free bull rush
TWF: main +12/+7, off +12

Saving throws: for +12 / ref +10 / wil +6

AC: 27, with shield 30, +1 vs ranged w/ activated arrow catching, +2 w/ combat expertise, +2 w/ shield ally
touch AC base 15, ff base 23
CMD: 29

Default tactics:
- stand in front of or adjacent to squishy oracle
- use AoOs to trip anyone who tries to get close @ + 20 (+ second attack thanks to greater trip), with ready pike when anyone charges
- use shield bash / bull rush @ +16 when someone managed to get really close
- protect her at all costs... with shield ally, bodyguard, soft cover due to placing myself in front, arrow catching shield draws all attacks to adj squares to me, challenge, and as my last resort I still got In Harm's Way

it's becoming even more awesome.
Next level is probably Cav 2, to get aid another up to +3, the rest goes into Phalanx Soldier (shield ally +4 and eventually +8).
Feats will include shield master and shield focus stuff, or anti caster feats, depending on where our campaign is heading.

I haven't played Draug for all of his levels (we jumped a bit because my GF and I can't make it everytime the group plays), but it was fun and effective every time.


Remember Light Shields are considered light weapons for 2 weapon fighting. Heavy Shields are cnsidered 1 handed weapons.

Hence -4 between my one-handed and twf stats.

Anyway, yeah, by using a light shield, you could effectively get +2 on your attacks when using TWF, but a) you won't get to attack with polearm and shield in the same round sooo often anyway, b) you lose 1 point of AC all the time, c) your shield bash does less damage, and d) with the shield master feat, you don't get a twf penalty on your shield attacks anyway (still on the polearm, but that's more than compensated for by your trip feats).

Btw, I forgot to mention the Shield Wall teamwork feat. If you can convince your squishy friend to take it too and wear a non-hindering buckler, you can give him/her a +2 (heavy shield, +1 for a light one) increase to shield ac (and you get a +1) as long as you're adjacent.

Nice, you have a pretty well rounded character. Sounds like a lot of fun... I may "borrow" some aspects if you don't mind. =D

Foximus wrote:
Nice, you have a pretty well rounded character. Sounds like a lot of fun... I may "borrow" some aspects if you don't mind. =D

You're invited to do so. :)

It's really lots of fun. But of course, a huge part of that also comes from the roleplaying aspects...

The traveling Desna oracle Draug has to protect has clouded vision, so she always buggers me in-character to tell her what's up ahead out of her vision reach.
She thinks I'm more of a personal maid and herald - like everytime they approch a village or an unknown group of NPCs, she tells him to "go forth and announce" her, and sometimes she tries to make him do the stuff she doesn't like, but of course he mostly growls and rejects it.
She's also a bit impatient and naive, so I often get to shout people down (being a spiked-shielded, full-plate-armored half-orc helps countering the negative cha modifier) or have to jump after her in a desperate attempt to prevent the next catastrophe.
Draug actually lost a leg once - Maira jumped through a magic portal with unknown destination, he tried to follow her but the portal was already shutting down, I failed the reflex saving throw. (Yeah, I hate when that DM does things like that. Good that we change who's DM in our group. ;) )

That sounds awesome.

I went the bodyguard route too. Daigon left his home after his unit was made to raid his home villages, this not to his liking he deserted them. He ended up in a small woodcutting town and works as a guard for a shop where his new friend Spiderz works (a maniac of a Tengu who has random loud outbursts and small fits of agressive anger. He dumped his waterskin full of water over this young girls head because she woke him by having loud nightmares. Was so funny.)

Anyway he's basically working with this Tengu Rogue and their idea's of justice and punishment ect don't really match, so I need to try to keep him in line, he eventually listens, or pretends to whilst Daigon is around, but it makes the RP pretty entertaining. Plus there is this elf wizard with a total of 6 hp who is always looking for protection from me who we squeeze gold from (and his shoes..) He's been KOed twice now for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and for being broke with no shoes... lol.

By the way, I got my first kill last night and two hits. =D

I figure the fact that I'm not hitting very easily at this level will likely have a bit to do with my dice rolls, so as long as I roll ok it should be all good and I'll just get a belt of strength as soon as I can. I've started painting a tally on the inside of his shield too. lol.

Sounds fun so far.

If you're really keeping the stats, at least get the In Harm's Way feat ASAP, so that you can start taking hits for your friends.

I could see some strange variant of a ping-pong game going on, what with your character jumping back and forth between the two squishies. :D


Since I don't want to argue...remember you can 5 foot in the middle of an attack. Don't build your character around a feat you will get in 10 levels and possible MONTHS.

There are ways to build a fighter that rely less on damage. I'm going to second the swapping out your shield comments--you can always pick up the tower again later once he's trained a bit more (11+). The heavy or light shield effectively raises your to-hit by 2, and you can always go back to a tower shield at 11+.

Second, one route is to focus on "how can I be a pest"?

You might sit down with your DM and go over some feat ideas. Some that come to mind are: Combat reflexes, lunge or combat patrol, trip maneuvers, reposition maneuvers. You may consider going with the feat that lets you use your dex with combat maneuvers instead of str. Wolf listed some of the same ones--and In Harm's Way is always nice for a defender-type.

Reposition and similar feats are particularly nice when you're paired with a buddy who /does/ hit hard.

The thing to remember here is that you'll want to do a modest amount of damage...yet your greater role is to be annoying by hampering enemy movement as well as providing general aid to your teammates.

Your AC will be fine for a while--don't worry about it. You've reach, and if you're focused on moving them about the battlefield, for example, they'll wind up with fewer opportunities to hit you, generally speaking.

This is not to say throw away the armor--instead, I say this as it opens up other areas for you to spend on. Let the armor sit for a while and use that space to grow in other areas.

Hey! I also recently started a Phalanx fighter class but quickly realized his limitations. I went with the Hvy. Shield and a spear and focused on the 2 weapon proficiency using the shield as my second weapon (shield bash, slam, etc.).
With lots of help from my DM, I managed to squeeze the most from my character to make him truly impressive.
Yeah, but seriously, ditch the tower shield and go for Hvy so that you can gain offense and do some damage.
Good luck!!

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