Paizo Top Nav Branding
  • Hello, Guest! |
  • Sign In |
  • My Account |
  • Shopping Cart |
  • Help/FAQ
About Paizo Messageboards News Paizo Blog Help/FAQ
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game


Pathfinder Society


Starfinder


Starfinder Society

Is it possible to make a Combat Expertise based build?


Advice


I see the feat all the time: take a penalty on attack rols to gain a bonus to AC. Its main use is as a prerequisite to most of the combat maneuver feats and to get skipped over by brawler and the lore warden archetype.

But is it possible to make a useful character that specifically builds around the combat expertise feat? I mean, being harder to hit can always help you live longer, right?

What kind of class would benefit from this feat the most?


The problem is the aldori swordlord does it better than combat expertise ever could but all the abilities synergize with fighting defensively, not combat expertise


An Order of the Eastern Star cavalier gets bonuses with combat expertise, including ignoring the penalty on the first attack each round from 8th level. Since it's only the first attack you might find it useful to go for ride-by attack/spirited charge and try and pile a lot on to that attack. Power attack, the Qadiran horselord archetype, anything else you can think of.

A feinting build might find itself with more attack bonus than it really needs. Converting that into AC isn't the worst possible idea, unless you're a swashbuckler. They're happy with lots of attack bonus to parry with.

A spellcaster using touch attacks might find a bit more AC a very good idea. Obviously they won't have full BAB so this won't scale up as fast as you might like.


I had a gish Hellknight Signifier that rather abused it in combination with the Deflection spell. 63 AC near full caster who's entire strategy consisted of getting attacked as much as possible.


Blade Tutor's Spirit will get rid of a lot of the penalty resulting from using Combat Expertise, although if you are using that spell a lot, chances are that you have other penalties (for instance, Spell Combat) that you need to use it to get rid of.


I think Combat Expertise is an underrated feat even if you do suck up the attack penalty. Most people who theorycraft builds underestimate the importance of AC. With some of the builds that I have put together build on things like Panther and/or Snake style feats which gernerate attacks for themselves by drawing extra attacks upon themselves. An Snake Fang in particular only grants bonus attacks if those incoming attacks miss!

UnArcaneElection wrote:
Blade Tutor's Spirit will get rid of a lot of the penalty resulting from using Combat Expertise, although if you are using that spell a lot, chances are that you have other penalties (for instance, Spell Combat) that you need to use it to get rid of.

Blade Tutor's Spirit is pretty darn cool.

I got one, or a half-baked one: be a Halfling Fighter who takes Risky Striker and Combat Expertise. With Risky Striker, you take an AC penalty in exchange for an Attack Bonus. With Combat Expertise, you get your AC Bonus Back.


Reduxist wrote:
But is it possible to make a useful character that specifically builds around the combat expertise feat? I mean, being harder to hit can always help you live longer, right?

Primary natural attacks come to my mind. If you don't bother about iterative attacks, sacrificing AB for damage (Power Attack) and AC (Combat Expertise) becomes more interesting. Full BAB or something close would be helpful to get a good AB and a quicker progression on both feats. An AOO focused build might work also.

A while ago I tried to find synergies among the feats that require Combat Expertise - but there are not so many common themes. Dirty trick and feint are two of them, supported also by combat styles, and there are some teamwork feats tied to Combat Expertise.

Dark Archive

1 person marked this as a favorite.

There is also the Swordplay Style feat, which allows you to ignore the Combat Expertise penalty on your first hit each round. You even gain a +1 Shield Bonus to AC when you use Combat Expertise, so maybe useful when wielding a greatsword.


Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Subscriber

I agree with the statements about fighting defensively. Sadly, Combat Expertise is somewhat ill-supported. The immediate thought I had was the ol' Blundering Defense + Bodyguard build, where you're giving everybody gigantic AC. That's fighting defensively, though.

Silver Crusade

Note that Crane Style (even post nerf) is far superior to Combat Expertise (-2 for a +4 to AC) if you can fit Improved Unarmed Strike into your build.

I've got a character with both of those (the combat Expertise came free from a level of Mothers Fang Cavalier) in a Curse of the Crimson Throne game.

I almost always use Crane Style and almost never use Combat Expertise, even with an almost full BAB character (I have +13 Bab at level 14). My AC is high enough as it is and I don't want to miss.

The exception is when facing incorporeal undead (we're currently facing a LOT of them). Having CE has been a life saver (literally) for me in that scenario. With Dex, mage armour, CE, Crane Style, Deflection bonuses my incorporeal touch AC is high enough that most undead need 20's to hit me. And they tend to have such awful AC that I can afford the extra -4 to hit.


So, the best use (IMO) is for an Invulnerable Rager barbarian. Combined with Stalwart and improved Stalwart you can have something like DR 14/- at level 10. The penalty to hit is meaningless since you are a barbarian, and the DR makes you impossibly tanky.

It is also worth noting that you may combine Fighting Defensively and Combat Expertise at the same time. This can really spike your AC, especially if you take advantage of all the other tricks people have mentioned thus far. Pretty fun on a fighter.

Silver Crusade

Sometimes your attack bonus is so high that you can hit on a 2, even with the penalty. A good example is a halfling Dawnflower Dervish Bard. At 12th lvl, for example, you can have a +6 competence bonus from Battle Dance, and a +4 morale bonus from Dance of a Hundred Cuts. Add in Haste and typical gear and you have +31 to hit (9 BAB + 7 Dex + 1 size + 3 ench + 6 competance +4 morale +1 haste = 31). You can fight defensively and use Combat Expertise, and still hit AC 26 on a 2.

This does require a generous stat method, so you can afford the 13 Int.

Silver Crusade

One thing to keep in mind is that, depending on the character goal and the group you can get your AC TOO high.

If you get to the point where you're hit only on a 20 then the GM is very likely to have the bad guys ignore you and go after other party members. This can often be bad :-).

Silver Crusade

You need to maintain a credible offensive threat, so the enemy will suffer if they ignore you.

Edit: The above example was not so much a build based around Combat Expertise, more of recognizing that the feat was worthwhile to take, given the existing progression.


I just did a rough build of a fighter based on CE. Halfling, high dex, mid str, mid con, mid int. Took combat expertise, weapon finesse, weapon focus, weapon expertise (all rapier), dodge, and combat reflexes. With a few magic items (+1 hide armour, +1 heavy shield, Ring of Natural Armour +1, Ring of Protection +1, Rapier +1)...now, I think my calculations are all correct, AC of 29 when combat expertise is on. Attacks are still +9 and 1d4+5 so not too bad considering it's a small weapon. There's probably more that could be done, but that's just a quick rough build....hmmm might be fun to try one day.


Scott Wilhelm wrote:

{. . .}

I got one, or a half-baked one: be a Halfling Fighter who takes Risky Striker and Combat Expertise. With Risky Striker, you take an AC penalty in exchange for an Attack Bonus. With Combat Expertise, you get your AC Bonus Back.

NNnnnnnooooooooo! It got nerfed! Used to be that the Risky Striker penalty was constant, while the bonus scaled!

Mr. Bonkers wrote:
There is also the Swordplay Style feat, which allows you to ignore the Combat Expertise penalty on your first hit each round. You even gain a +1 Shield Bonus to AC when you use Combat Expertise, so maybe useful when wielding a greatsword.

If you are a Vital Striker, this could be VERY GOOD . . . .

Paizo / Messageboards / Paizo / Pathfinder® / Pathfinder RPG / Advice / Is it possible to make a Combat Expertise based build? All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.

©2002-2017 Paizo Inc.® | Privacy Policy | Contact Us
Need help? Email customer.service@paizo.com or call 425-250-0800 during our business hours, Monday through Friday, 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM Pacific time.

Paizo Inc., Paizo, the Paizo golem logo, Pathfinder, the Pathfinder logo, Pathfinder Society, Starfinder, the Starfinder logo, GameMastery, and Planet Stories are registered trademarks of Paizo Inc. The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Pathfinder Adventure Path, Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, Pathfinder Player Companion, Pathfinder Modules, Pathfinder Tales, Pathfinder Battles, Pathfinder Legends, Pathfinder Online, Starfinder Adventure Path, PaizoCon, RPG Superstar, The Golem's Got It, Titanic Games, the Titanic logo, and the Planet Stories planet logo are trademarks of Paizo Inc. Dungeons & Dragons, Dragon, Dungeon, and Polyhedron are registered trademarks of Wizards of the Coast, Inc., a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc., and have been used by Paizo Inc. under license. Most product names are trademarks owned or used under license by the companies that publish those products; use of such names without mention of trademark status should not be construed as a challenge to such status.