Pathfinder Player Companion: Melee Tactics Toolbox (PFRPG)

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Pathfinder Player Companion: Melee Tactics Toolbox (PFRPG)
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Look Your Enemies in the Eye!

Get up close and personal with Melee Tactics Toolbox! The new tips, tricks, and tactics in this volume enable your Pathfinder Roleplaying Game character to perform a huge variety of daring deeds in hand-to-hand combat, whether you’re dashing around a foe to flank it by yourself or inspiring allies to hold the line on a castle wall.

Melee Tactics Toolbox is a player-focused manual that makes the most of in-your-face abilities, spells, and weapons, in addition to providing a plethora of new rules options to make you even more formidable in combat. Each Pathfinder Player Companion includes new options and tools for every Pathfinder RPG player. Inside this book, you’ll find:

  • Tips on how best to fight in melee, including suggestions for rules options that can give you an edge, as well as general tactics available to all characters.
  • Dozens of new kinds of magic armor and melee weapons, weapon special abilities, and wondrous items to hinder your foes or protect you from close-combat attackers.
  • Thirty new feats to bolster your staying power in close combat, including combat, style, and teamwork feats.
  • An illustrated guide comparing more than 20 different styles of swords, including the falchion, katana, and urumi.
  • Tons of new spells, equipment, weapons, class archetypes, and character options, including a new bardic masterpiece.
This Pathfinder Player Companion is intended for use with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and the Pathfinder campaign setting, but can easily be incorporated into any fantasy world.

Written by Paris Crenshaw, Ron Lundeen, and David Schwartz.
Cover Art by Milivoj Ceran.

Each monthly 32-page Pathfinder Player Companion contains several player-focused articles exploring the volume’s theme as well as short articles with innovative new rules for all types of characters, as well as traits to better anchor the player to the campaign.

ISBN-13: 978-1-60125-732-1

Note: This product is part of the Pathfinder Player Companion Subscription.

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A Real Grab-Bag of Stuff


You don't have to guess what sort of stuff is in the Melee Tactics Toolbox. If you like mixing it up face-to-face, there's a reasonable chance the assortment of feats, equipment, spells, and more will have something that piques your interest. The book also contains some general tips on tactics, useful for newer players to the game. Like most books in the Pathfinder Player Companion line, this is a 32-page, full-colour offering, divided into two-page sections. The interior artwork is really impressive, and I have to particularly call out the great shot of the Iconic Brawler punching out a troll on page 3. You can judge the front cover art yourself. The inside front-cover has capsule descriptions of four fighting schools and war colleges in the Inner Sea region of Golarion: the Aldori Academy, the Crusader War College, the Grand Coliseum, and the Tempering Hall. I thought it was a useful shortcut for coming up with a background for a character. Maybe someday I'll do a "graduate students" campaign where every PC has to be a student at a fighting school, wizard's academy, or bardic college! The inside back cover is a "Combat Options Overview" that has a chart of what type of action various things (like combat maneuvers and combat feats) require, along with basic definitions. I really should print it out for new players. Anyway, now onto the content.

The first five pages are the table of contents, a "For Your Character" page that summarizes what sort of stuff you'll find in the book, a "Rules Index," and a two-page Introduction. I guess this would be useful if I were deciding whether or not to buy the book, but the book is short enough that I would rather have more content than multiple pages describing that content. The Introduction does contain some reasonably good advice for different types of melee encounters, and a useful sidebar that I haven't seen elsewhere summarising the *seventeen* different types of feats in Pathfinder! Okay, maybe those PF2 fans have a point about bloat . . .

"Up Close and Personal" contains some good advice on offensive melee tactics along with suggestions of which feats to take to support various builds. It introduces seven new feats for close-combat, some of which have become pretty common with certain builds, like Artful Dodge and Circling Mongoose. On the whole, the new feats look pretty well-written and fairly powerful.

"On the Defensive" is the flip-side: advice for protecting yourself in melee combat (such as the benefits of different types of armor, whether or not to use a shield, etc.). There are three new feats, with one ("Just out of Reach") something that would come in very useful in certain APs like Rise of the Runelords. There's also a new Cavalier archetype called the Castellan; there aren't a lot of Cavalier archetypes, but this one is really only useful in a very niche sort of campaign centered around fortifying and protecting a castle.

"Mass Melee" contains some advice (again, with specific suggestions for feats and class options) for when the battlefield is crawling with multiple combatants on each side. When I ran homebrew campaigns, I used to love tossing twenty or thirty low-CR mooks on the battlefield, but a few years of playing exclusively APs and PFS have gotten me used to the PCs outnumbering the enemies. This section contains five new feats; I used Harrying Partners (making Aid Another last for an entire round) to good effect for one PC, and I know Phalanx Formation (eliminating soft cover for reach weapons) is really useful for a lot of builds. There's a new bardic masterpiece ("Battle Song of the People's Revolt") that looks pretty great, and a bland Fighter archetype called the "Drill Sergeant" (basically, it gives them the Cavarlier's tactician class feature).

"Unarmed and Dangerous" is really designed for monks and brawlers. It contains six new Style feats (3 for "Cudgeler Style" and 3 for "Kraken Style") and a very brief Bloodrager archetype ("Bloody-Knuckled Rowdy"). I've never gotten into Style feats so I don't really have an opinion, and the Bloodrager archetype pays a heavy price (one fewer spell known per spell level) to get better at unarmed combat.

"Melee in a Pinch" was a clever idea: what to do when you weren't expecting a fight (or, at least, when a fight slides into a situation you're not ready for--like underwater, while grappled, etc.). I know I've taken the "Aquatic Combatant" feat (no penalties on melee attacks underwater, and your weapons do full damage), for example. There are eight more feats in this vein. There's also a "Makeshift Scrapper" archetype for Rogues that are about improvised weapons, and it looks okay but not amazing.

"Anatomy of Melee Weapons" is something very different: poor drawings of several different types of swords and very basic diagrams of the different parts of an axe, mace, and sword. For most of this stuff, Wikipedia and Google Image search would be better.

"Melee Weapons" introduces sixteen new weapons. At this stage in the development of Pathfinder, I'm not really sure they're necessary. The only new one here I've ever seen someone use was the Elven Branched Spear just because it was an elven weapon that had reach and a x3 Crit modifier.

"Tools and Equipment", on the other hand, contained loads of good stuff. An armor truss is almost a must-have for solo adventurers who want to wear heavy armor, while "exemplar weapon salve" allows you to turn that story-based background weapon into a masterwork weapon suitable for enchantment. I would like to scare a player so much that they start regularly using Sunderblock, but it hasn't happened yet.

"Magic Armor" contains a good assortment. Advocate's Armor is really clever (getting hit by a crit has a chance to put a lesser geas on the attacker), an Alchemist's Suit could be great fun (get hit by a crit and automatically apply the effects of one of eight vials stored within it), and my caveman shaman really needs to get the Mammoth Hide armor.

"Magic Weapons" didn't do as much for me. I liked the Diplomat's Traveling Stick and could imagine characters it would be perfect for. One of the weapons, the Pirate's Arm, is just bizarre.

"Armor and Weapon Special Abilities" presents some pretty niche material, but it's an interesting array.

"Wondrous Items" has a mostly unremarkable selection. I do really like the Anchoring Bracers, and would love to see the surprise on a gamer's face when they try to have their character teleport away from a tough battle.

"Melee Spells" finishes the book, containing ten new spells. Most spells are assigned to four or five different classes, but I'd guess magus and bloodrager would get the most out of the selection. Some of the spells are cast by swift actions, which is particularly useful.

Overall, Player Companions like the Melee Tactics Toolbox are just a big grab-bag of stuff. Some of it's great, some of it's dumb, and most is mediocre. Having this book is excellent for something like PFS, as sooner or later you'll almost surely want an option that appears somewhere within these pages. I also think the advice given on melee combat is reasonably useful, even if it's rather concise.

Interesting Read with Un-interesting Options


Basics: This book is all about the aspects of melee combat and on that premise it delivers.

Mechanics: There are some fantastic options mixed in with a lot of poor options that will not fare well. Feats are important choices and most of these feel like they are better suited for an NPC.

Theme: This is where it shines giving you ways to bring melee combat alive if you don't mind toning down the power level or taking niche options. The new weapons inside are my favorite part especially the Orc Skull Ram.

Execution: It was unbalanced but shined in some examples with weapons and combat styles.

Summary: If you know there is content in this book you want your character to use pick it up. Choices can be sub-optimal or niche so diving in to explore may result in a less than stellar experience with this thematic piece.

Decent book, but little that stands out


Read my full review on Of Dice and Pen.

Like Ranged Tactics Toolbox, Melee Tactics Toolbox is primarily a book of character options, this time focusing on mêlée combat. Like its companion, it doesn't actually spend a great deal of time on the tactics of its title, but does have scores of new feats, weapons, magic items, and more. Also like its companion, it seems to be desperately trying to create new things for something that doesn't really need any new things added to it. By itself or in conjunction with Ranged Tactics Toolbox, Melee Tactics Toolbox will likely be a useful resource for players, but in conjunction with the scores of other books out there, it will likely be mostly forgettable. It's not a bad book; it just doesn't really stand out.

Ring Side Report- RPG Review of Pathfinder Player Companion: Melee Tactics Toolb


Originally posted at Throat Punch Games, a new idea everyday!

Product-Pathfinder Player Companion: Melee Tactics Toolbox
System- Pathfinder
Producer- Paizo
Price- $12
TL; DR- a one-feat-book 77%

Basics-Why do it from afar when you can hurt them up close! Melee Tactics Toolbox provides every up close and personal character with several new options ranging from spells, items, feats, class options, and even new archetypes much live every other player companion product.

Mechanics or Crunch-This is a major crunch book for players, but I wasn’t amazed. There are several new options, but nothing here immediately made me want to build a character based around that theme. Some of the new options seem like new expectations just for expansion sake as the archetypes underwhelmed me like the rogue archetype that strips out all the rogue powers that make a rogue a rogue. Nothing here is objectively bad, but it’s not as amazing as I expected. 4/5

Theme or Fluff-This book has a bit of theme, but not as much as I wanted. You get a few bits and pieces but not near as much as the world books the Paizo puts out. It feels light. 3.5/5

Execution- This book has a ton it it, but it feels a bit overstuffed. There are many things in the book, but it feels a bit like things were thrown in because of the melee thing and that was the sole reason that they made the cut. So, things didn’t flow as well as other books. Also, much of the execution was a bit off as there were a few too many walls of text to really draw me into and through the book. But, as a counterpoint, the book does have a nice font, decent layout aside from a few too many text walls, and some nice art. However, as a counterpoint to that, the book still has the standard Paizo price for its splatbooks which is a little high anyway. 4/5

Summary-This is my least favorite Paizo Pathfinder book to date. Overall, it’s not a horrible book, but compared to Paizo’s other products, I wouldn’t suggest you start with this one. Honestly, this is a one-feat-book meaning that you will find exactly one thing from this book that might, sometimes, help you PFS character. And, you will buy it so you can show your PFS GM the feat/spell/item, so you can legally use it in your game. But, truth be told, you can pass this book by and be ok even if you are a greatsword only fighter. Too many options that are not worth the price, little world and character story, and a less than stellar execution make this a book that won’t find its way into many Pathfinder collections. 77%

MMMMM crunchy


Amazing, useful, thematic and clever feats and abilities for those who like it mix it up hand to tentacle with golarions nasties.

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Pexx wrote:

So I just picked up the melee toolbox and here are my thoughts on it.

There are some more versatile options, good art woork, some new weapons and armor, a few new spells, and a pretty sweet diagram of weapons.

So I read through the book and all though I love getting more options big or small I just felt the book was hugely on the small side for me. There was nothing whiz bang about it imho.

And it made me feel some of the text in the book alluded, that martial classes are just there to let wizards kill things.
"Dedicated spellcasters and archers can appreciate the excitement of engaging an enemy and understand the virtues of a well-planned assault, but they often need someone else to force the foe into close combat to prevent such threats from reaching them." That's great if we playing a themed class of sit there and take damage class why everybody else kills it concept.

Also a lot of things in the book are based around the "teamwork" feats which imho is broken already and we usually disallow all together in our groups games. (More of a personal problem I know)

I was hoping for this book to be "the book" to bring martial classes maybe not on par with spell casters, but a bit more balanced. Cause past lvl 10 Skills and Combat Maneuvers don't mean a whole lot.

Sure there are certain builds to min/max damage or some crazy combo that's amazing for martial classes, but I don't want to go that route every time I play just to keep up. I just feel that martial classes need a boon of some kind.

The Unchained book is coming out next month and that may bring some stuff, but just seems like some other classes are getting the nerf bat and some more options that may or may not be impressive. Have to wait and see on that I could be totally off base.

What I am basically trying to say is can Martial Classes get a Companion or Handbook that makes them on par or close to with the Spell Casters?

I understand the mentality that casters should just get everything cause oooo magic. Just seems like a...

I can not agree with this enough. I have been a melee player in pen and paper RPGs going back to the mid 80's and to this day it still surprises me how much favoritism is given to magic or ranged classes. This thinking permeates both pen and paper RPGs and MMORPGs. I don't know why someone thinks it is "fair" to make melee classes live in a cubby hole of either meat shield or loldps that is outclassed by magic or ranged but is 2015. Can't we please break out of this stereotype?

So far I really like the magic armors in this book the most, cool items.

Anyone else page 25 blurry as all hell?

I am glad I am not the only that sees this as being next to useless for an actual melee fighter and not a quirky class like monk or INT using melee types. Where's the beef for the heavy armor sorts?

Dark Archive

BuzzardB wrote:

So far I really like the magic armors in this book the most, cool items.

Anyone else page 25 blurry as all hell?

Mine looks normal. Might be a problem with your copy.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8

Deadkitten wrote:

** spoiler omitted **

It makes me sad that this spell is not on the Bloodrager spell list.

Or the bard list. Arcane Duelists and the like would love this.

Shadow Lodge

Odd question about the Orc Skull Ram:

This weapon consists of a wooden log with a shoulder strap to carry some of the weight. The name comes from the orc tradition of making the ram’s head out of a large skull. On a successful critical hit with a skull ram, you can attempt a combat maneuver check to bull rush your opponent as a free action.

Because of the bit about the skull - would that suggest that an Orc Skull Ram could be "tipped" with a special material (aside from the obvious Darkwood or Greenwood or Wyroot)?

i.e. Could a (presumably bone) skull be replaced by an Adamantine cast of a skull?

I am 90% sure the answer is no, but since I believe some authors/developers follow this, I figured there was no harm in asking! Thanks very much!

PS - This Player Companion is probably the most popular one of all time amongst my local PFS lodge's players and GMs! Bravo to everyone who worked on this!


Harrying Partners (Combat, Teamwork)

Source Melee Tactics Toolbox pg. 10 (Amazon)
Your movements perfectly synchronize with your ally’s to greater effect.

Prerequisites: Any teamwork feat, base attack bonus +6.

Benefit: When you successfully use the aid another action to improve the Armor Class or attack roll of an ally who also has this feat, the benefit from aid another lasts until the beginning of your next turn.

Normal: The bonus granted by aid another either grants your ally a +2 bonus on her next attack roll against an opponent or grants your ally a +2 bonus to AC against that opponent’s next attack made before the beginning of your next turn.


Aid Another

In melee combat, you can help a friend attack or defend by distracting or interfering with an opponent. If you're in position to make a melee attack on an opponent that is engaging a friend in melee combat, you can attempt to aid your friend as a standard action. You make an attack roll against AC 10. If you succeed, your friend gains either a +2 bonus on his next attack roll against that opponent or a +2 bonus to AC against that opponent's next attack (your choice), as long as that attack comes before the beginning of your next turn. Multiple characters can aid the same friend, and similar bonuses stack.

You can also use this standard action to help a friend in other ways, such as when he is affected by a spell, or to assist another character's skill check.

Am I crazy or does this feat not do anything as written?

Shadow Lodge

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Deadkitten - you're crazy :P

Aid Another = bonus to AC against that enemy's next attack (single)

Feat = bonus to AC against that enemy until the start of your next turn (i.e. would help vs. a full attack)

I'm not saying how strong of a feat this is, just that it does do something!

Not only full attack, but also multiple attackers full attacks.

And: It lasts through the aided partners turn and thus is helpful against AoO's as well.

Cyrad wrote:
David Neilson wrote:

Honestly I remember them, but I see Sword and Board as well as Reach as more subschools of TWF and THF, respectively. Arguably grapple might better be conceived as a subschool of combat maneuvers however.

I honestly do not think they will ever do a THF with still doing spell combat without a severe penalty. I have not played it, but I honestly think you can probably be fairly solid with a magus using a THF style build. You just need to focus on casting spells with more charges than shocking grasp.

Also it should be pointed out that still arcana and still metamagic let you mix in a style going for a big single hit. Which given this is a 3/4 Bab class is a somewhat viable option until level eight or so.

That said I would like some more stuff for the Magus, but honestly they have a really good tool kit already. Maybe, maybe an arcana or archetype that lets you open up some of the brawler options would be interesting, especially if it retained spell recall.

Also maybe a little clarification on the swashbuckling arcana.

I agree that THF magus is doable. However, people generally just want more options to encourage builds other than the boring scimitar business. I've seen GMs ban the magus class, not because they think it's overpowered, but because they're so sick of every magus having the same build.

My GM allowed me to use Bastard Sword as the basis for my magus build. Not that hullabaloo about casting a spell and swinging the sword TH because it was a free action, rather that if I used Monstrous Physique to turn into anything with more than two arms, I could use the extra hands for somatic and use two hands on the sword. Was this too broken? According to the only guy who had seen a Dervish Build he said it turned out about the same strength...

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