The Battlesnake


Advice


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I'm going to be putting together a folio of sorts on my character builds, consolidating them in one place with some break-downs as to their strengths and weakness... but in the meantime, I'll be posting them individually to get feedback and invite discussion. My newest build has been dubbed 'The Battlesnake' by a member of our group whom has just started playing it, and if you ever wanted to see how dangerous an unarmed character could be, this is it.

This build was designed as a killer, a melee damage-dealing force of nature. It's important to understand that while it has above average saving throws and a couple of defensive tricks, it is absolutely not a tank and would benefit most from a party capable of combat healing. He (or she) is a particular danger to enemy spellcasters and once they get within arm's reach of them, that's usually all she wrote. The build was inspired by such historical and fictional characters a Bruce Lee and Lady Shiva though I envision the style of fighting more akin to what modern day commandos and secret operatives might use - quick, controlled movements disrupting attacks and striking vital areas with lethal force.

We begin by taking a single monk level in Master of Many Styles and then going with the Fighter's Brawler archetype the rest of the way. Levels 17-20 can optionally be used to pursue the Urban Barbarian class instead if one wishes (detailed below). The reasons why we choose Monk initially are both for mechanical benefit as well as for role-playing purposes - the character's history begins as a promising outlander student in a martial arts monastery who was either cast out or decided to strike out on his own once the aesthetic lifestyle failed to take root in him. That one level of Monk grants us:

* the Improved Unarmed Strike feat for free
* a d6 damage die with unarmed attacks
* the ability to deal lethal or non-lethal damage with unarmed attacks without penalty
* the removal of 'off-hand' damage penalties, which is the same as getting the feat Double Slice for free and increases the benefit of Power Attack or Piranha Strike
* a boost to saving throws that amount to receiving the Iron Will and Lighting Reflexes feats for free.
* a free style feat, in this case either Boar Style or Mantis Style
* the Stunning Fist feat for free
* the ability to add our Wisdom modifier to AC when not wearing armor
* a wider array of class skills than the Fighter offers, including Acrobatics, Perception and Sense Motive all of which are useful in the build

Some other benefits of focusing on using unarmed strikes as our weapon of choice is that we immediately become immune to Disarm and Sunder attempts, you'll always have the weapon you're most proficient with on hand (heh) and will always have a weapon drawn. Additionally your high Sense Motive score will make you virtually immune to Feints when in combat and Bluffs when not. Potential liabilities of the character are that he has little ranged ability to speak of and can't heal himself when injured. His reach will be limited to adjacent targets. For a front-line fighter his hit points and AC will be just average, though he will be able to take advantage of the defensive benefits of Snake Style.

The favored class will be Fighter obviously and will take the traditional 1 hit point/level route.

Attributes:
STR - 12
DEX - 16 (+2 racial bonus, +1 at 4th, 8th, 12th and 16th level)
CON - 14
WIS - 14
INT - 12
CHA - 7 (+1 at 20th level)

Attributes are based on a 20 point buy. The minor bumps to Strength and Intelligence are for skill purposes as much as anything else. Dexterity is the primary stat followed by Wisdom and then Constitution. The low Charisma can be played up as surly, aloof, withdrawn or prone to making incredibly insightful but equally inappropriate observations (remember, the character will have both high Perception and Sense Motive skills).

Traits:
Heavy Hitter
Auspicious Tattoo

Heavy Hitter adds +1 damage to unarmed attacks, making it a no-brainer, and Auspicious Tattoo boosts my lowest saving throw (Will). Other solid options might be Bullied (+1 attack rolls when making AoO's unarmed), Resilient (+1 Fortitude saves), Deft Dodger (+1 Reflex saves) and Reactionary (+2 Initiative).

Feats:
1st - Improved Unarmed Strike (Monk)
1st - Boar Style or Mantis Style (Monk)
1st - Weapon Finesse
1st - Skill Focus: Sense Motive (Human - Focused Study)
1st - Stunning Fist (Monk)
2nd - Two Weapon Fighting (Fighter)
3rd - Weapon Focus: Unarmed Strike (Fighter)
3rd - Snake Style
5th - Weapon Specialization: Unarmed Strike (Fighter)
5th - Piranha Strike
7th - Improved Two-Weapon Fighting (Fighter)
7th - Combat Reflexes
8th - Skill Focus: Perception (Human - Focused Study)
9th - Snake Sidewind (Fighter)
9th - Snake Fang
11th - Agile Maneuvers (Fighter)
11th - Standstill
13th - Greater Two-Weapon Fighting (Fighter)
13th - Improved Critical: Unarmed Strike
14th - Disruptive (Brawler bonus feat in place of Standstill)
15th - Greater Weapon Focus: Unarmed Strike (Fighter)
15th - Greater Weapon Specialization: Unarmed Strike
16th - Skill Focus: Acrobatics (Human - Focused Study)

Some points about feats:

Master of Many Styles lets you take a Style feat for free and without pre-requisites at 1st level. Boar Style allows you to deal Slashing or Bludgeoning damage with unarmed strikes (Snake Style will add Piercing damage later at 3rd level) and will also add 2d6 of Bleed or Rend-type damage every round you hit with two or more unarmed strikes, depending on which interpretation of the style you prefer. Alternately, Mantis Style will give you an additional use of Stunning Fist each day and add +2 to the DC of the save against all of your stunning fist attempts. Both are excellent options in the early going with slightly diminishing returns as you level up.

With a high Sense Motive skill, Snake Style will effectively allow the character to avoid one attack each round at the cost of an immediate action - to include touch and ranged touch attacks. Starting at 9th level, every single miss by a foe within reach will provoke an attack of opportunity while using this style (and you'll have at least 6 a round to play with).

Combat Reflexes is a pre-requisite for both Standstill and the Snake Style feat line.

Focused Study works to increase several vital skills, particularly Sense Motive which powers Snake Style's defensive option, Perception which is one of the most-used skills in the game and a rare boon for Fighters and Acrobatics which uses your extremely high Dexterity score to help keep you safe on and off the battlefield.

As mentioned, Piranha Strike grants full damage benefits to all your attacks as Monks have no 'off-hand'. Accuracy is more important than damage though, and this build draws bonus damage from many different sources, so use the feat wisely.

At 11th level the character has the class features Menacing Stance and No Escape, along with the Standstill feat - as such, adjacent opponents will find it nearly impossible to move away from you even with a 5' step, will suffer penalties on their attack rolls and adjacent casters will have a very difficult time casting spells. Things get even worse for casters when you add Disruptive at 14th level.

Levels 17-20 can continue on along the Brawler Archetype advancement and take the critical feats outlined below - unarmed strikes are hardly the best critical option out there, but you should have many, many opportunities to land critical hits (7 attacks per round without Haste at 17th level plus just as many potential AoO's), and the ability to Sicken/Stagger foes is as much a defensive boon as it is an offensive one. There is no saving throw versus Sickening Critical (who's penalties stack with Menacing Stance) and its saving throw penalty may be immediately applied to that of Staggering Critical when inflicting both conditions via Critical Mastery.

Brawler (levels 16-19)
17th - Critical Focus
17th - Sickening Critical
19th - Staggering Critical
19th - Critical Mastery

Alternately, the character can take four levels of Urban Barbarian instead. This offers the option of Focused Rage which allows them to increase Strength, Dexterity or Constitution depending on circumstances without suffering a penalty to AC. The benefits extend beyond combat, aiding in skill checks, attribute checks and saving throws as well. They also gain Crowd Control which the Brawler should find useful. If this option is taken, I recommend the following feats & Rage Powers instead, being mindful of the prohibitions surrounding Superstition:

Urban Barbarian (levels 1-4):
17th - Extra Rage
18th - Superstition (Rage Power)
19th - Extra Rage
20th - Auspicious Mark (Rage Power)

Skills: 4 ranks/level

Acrobatics (1/level)
Climb (1 @ 1st level)
Swim (1 @ 1st level)
Stealth (1/even level)
Survival (1/odd level)
Sense Motive (1/level)
Perception (1/level)

The character will at most be wearing light armor, though Bracers of Armor would be ideal - as such Acrobatics should be very effective for getting around the battlefield and closing with foes quickly. Sense Motive is maxed out to use Snake Style to its full potential while Stealth and Perception are among the most used skills in the game. All skills are class skills by 2nd level. If you decide to go the Barbarian route, you'll get two extra skill points per level - consider using them to bolster your Swim, Climb, Survival or Stealth scores.

Equipment:
Light armor or Bracers of Armor with the Brawling enhancement, Amulet of Mighty Fists with the Agile enhancement

Normally I'm not a very big fan of including equipment as part of a build, but the Brawling enhancement is to this character what Gloves of Dueling are to most Fighters and its generally cheaper besides. Bracers of Armor allow you to gain the full benefit of both your Dexterity and your Wisdom bonuses to AC without any armor penalties to skill checks. The Agile enhancement allows you to use your Dexterity modifier for damage which makes it a must as well and an Amulet of Mighty Fists does not need to have an enhancement bonus to accept other weapon enhancements. Other suggested items would be a Cloak of Resistance as high as you can afford, Rings of Protection and Free Movement, Boots of Speed, a headband for Wisdom and a belt for Dexterity or Dexterity & Constitution.

Below is a basic breakdown of how the character would look statistically at levels 4th, 8th, 12th, 16th and 20th with what would be considered standard magical equipment. These numbers are meant to give an idea only as I haven't double-checked every single number yet. Its assumed that this particular example chooses Mantis Style at 1st level and continues on through Brawler to 20th rather than Urban Barbarian.

Character stats by level:

4th level w/full equipment

Spoiler:
AC 18, HP 34 (1d8+3d10+11), Fortitude +7, Reflex +7, Will +6
Stunning Fist 2/day (DC 16), Snake Style / Sense Motive +14
Attack: +9/+9
+3 [BAB] -2 [TWF] +4 [Dex] +1 [Focus] +1 [Close] +2 [Brawling]
Damage: 1d6+7
1d6 [Unarmed] +1 [STR] +1 [Trait] +3 [Close] +2 [Brawling]
Equipment: (6,000)
Brawling Bracers of Natural Armor +1 (4,000), Ring of Protection +1 (2,000)

8th level w/full equipment

Spoiler:
AC 21, HP 70 (1d8+7d10+23), Fortitude +9, Reflex +9, Will +7
Stunning Fist 3/day (DC 18), Snake Style / Sense Motive +18, Menacing Stance: -1 attack/-4 concentration
Attack: +16/+16/+11/+11
+7/+2 [BAB] -2 [TWF] +5 [Dex] +1 [Focus] +2 [Close] +2 [Brawling] +1 [Amulet]
Damage: 1d6+15
1d6 [Unarmed] +5 [Dex] +1 [Trait] +4 [Close] +2 [Brawling] +2 [Specialization] +1 [Amulet]
Equipment: (33,000)
Brawling Bracers of Natural Armor +2 (9,000), Ring of Protection +2 (8,000), Agile Amulet of Mighty Fists +1(16,000)

12th level w/full equipment

Spoiler:
AC 25, HP 106 (1d8+11d10+35), Fortitude +15, Reflex +16, Will +12
Stunning Fist 4/day (DC 20), Snake Style / Sense Motive +25, Menacing Stance: -2 attack/-5 concentration
Attack: +21/+21/+16/+16/+11
+11/+6/+1 [BAB] -2 [TWF] +5 [Dex] +1 [Focus] +3 [Close] +2 [Brawling] +2 [Amulet] +2 [Belt] -3 [Piranha]
Damage: 1d6+25
1d6 [Unarmed] +5 [Dex] +1 [Trait] +5 [Close] +2 [Brawling] +2 [Specialization] +2 [Amulet] +2 [Belt] +6 [Piranha]
Equipment: (108,000)
Brawling Bracers of Natural Armor +3 (16,000), Ring of Protection +3 (18,000), Agile Amulet of Mighty Fists +2(36,000), Cloak of Resistance +4 (16,000), Belt of Dexterity +4 (16,000), Sustaining Spoon (5,000)

16th level w/full equipment

Spoiler:
AC 34, HP 133 (1d8+15d10+47), Fortitude +20, Reflex +19, Will +17
Stunning Fist 5/day (DC 24), Snake Style / Sense Motive +31, Menacing Stance: -3 attack/-6 concentration
Attack: +27/+27/+22/+22/+17/+17
+15/+10/+5 [BAB] -2 [TWF] +6 [Dex] +2 [Greater Focus] +4 [Close] +2 [Brawling] +2 [Amulet] +2 [Belt] -4 [Piranha]
Damage: 2d6+31
1d6 [Unarmed] +1d6 [Shocking] +6 [Dex] +1 [Trait] +6 [Close] +2 [Brawling] +4 [Greater Specialization] +2 [Amulet] +2 [Belt] +8 [Piranha]
Equipment: (315,000)
Brawling Bracers of Natural Armor +7 (64,000), Ring of Protection +5 (50,000), Agile Shocking Amulet of Mighty Fists +2(64,000), Cloak of Resistance +5 (25,000), Belt of Might +4 (Dex/Con, 40,000), Headband of Mental Prowess +4 (Int - Fly, Swim/Wis, 40,000), Winged Boots (16,000), Handy Haversack (2,000), Sustaining Spoon (5,000)

20th level w/full equipment

Spoiler:
AC 37, HP 229 (1d8+19d10+119), Fortitude +25, Reflex +23, Will +21
Stunning Fist 6/day (DC 27), Snake Style / Sense Motive +42, Menacing Stance: -4 attack/-7 concentration checks
Attack: +34/+34/+29/+29/+24/+24/+19
+19/+14/+9/+4 [BAB] -2 [TWF] +6 [Dex] +3 [Belt] +3 [Amulet] +2 [Greater Focus] +5 [Close] +2 [Brawling] -5 [Piranha] +1 [Ioun Stone]
Damage: 1d8+1d6+36
1d8 [Unarmed] +1d6 [Shocking] +6 [Dex] +3 [Belt] +3 [Amulet] +1 [Trait] +7 [Close] +2 [Brawling] +4 [Greater Specialization] +10 [Piranha]
Equipment: (880,000)
Brawling Bracers of Armor +7 (64,000), Agile Shocking Amulet of Mighty Fists +3 (100,000), Belt of Physical Might +6 (Dex/Con - 90,000) , Ring of Protection +5 (50,000), Ring of Freedom of Movement (40,000), Headband of Mental Prowess +6 (Int - Fly, Swim, Knowledge: Nature/Wis - 90,000), Winged Boots (16,000), Cloak of Protection +5 (25,000), Monk's Robe (13,000), Handy Haversack (2,000), Ioun Stones (Pale Green Prism - 30,000 & Dark Blue Rhomboid - 10,000), Stone of Good Luck (20,000), Sustaining Spoon (5,500)

[There is room left in the 20th level equipment limit to purchase both a Manual of Quickness of Action +4 and a Manual of Calm Reflection +4 as well, though those enhancement bonuses have not been figured into the stats above)]


Unless it's handwaved by houserule, Brawling has to be added to light armor... which bracers aren't. So, RAW, the Brawling Bracers are a no-go.


Kazaan wrote:
Unless it's handwaved by houserule, Brawling has to be added to light armor... which bracers aren't. So, RAW, the Brawling Bracers are a no-go.

I really appreciate you pointing that out.

It's one of the reasons I prefer not to include magic items generally. Brawling light armor will serve almost as well obviously, but I personally read that restriction as 'nothing heavier than' light armor. After all, Bracers are lighter than light armor, and they are actually worn on the arms/hands that are doing the brawling, so common sense would seem to dictate that the enhancement was applicable. Magic items are generally the most mutable rules PF has as the creation of new and unique items are encouraged and appear in pretty much every publishing Paizo makes. Of course, I could certainly see a rule-lawyer's case if it was made.

Any thoughts on all the rest if it?

Grand Lodge

I have to disagree with your rage power choice for superstition. On other full barbarians, it scales quite well, especially on humans, possibly making you near-immune to spells. However, in this case you're getting very little bonus wise, with a huge draw-back.

Looking over your feats, I don't really see the point of the Int part of the Headband. Unless I'm missing a feat's ability, you're spending a ton of cash for some skill ranks.

Also, you might want to consider trading brawler for a fighter archetype that gives weapon training. With gloves of dueling, +7/+7 totals better than +5/+7.

Grand Lodge

One more thing I forgot to mention, Sohei and MoMS stack, so take Sohei to have the always act in surprise round ability.


Kiinyan wrote:

I have to disagree with your rage power choice for superstition. On other full barbarians, it scales quite well, especially on humans, possibly making you near-immune to spells. However, in this case you're getting very little bonus wise, with a huge draw-back.

Looking over your feats, I don't really see the point of the Int part of the Headband. Unless I'm missing a feat's ability, you're spending a ton of cash for some skill ranks.

Also, you might want to consider trading brawler for a fighter archetype that gives weapon training. With gloves of dueling, +7/+7 totals better than +5/+7.

Again, it's not really about the magic items.

At 20th level you almost have more cash than you can burn, particularly for a build like this. We generally don't use generic magic items in our campaigns but that one was actually labelled a 'Circlet of Natural Harmony'', granting increased Wisdom as well as the skill to fly like the birds, swim like the fish and gain a broader knowledge and understanding of nature. Our players do not buy, sell and trade magic items, especially high level ones, like trading cards.

The Brawler gets Close Combat which is better than Weapon Training and can use the Brawling armor enhancement in place of Gloves of Dueling for the same benefit. The entire point of the build is to make full use of the Brawler's many advantages.

The Rage Power selection is certainly debatable, but there are few useful options to be had there and as the character can be very effective as a Mage killer, it's a nice option to have when circumstances call for it.

As far as the Sohei archetype, I don't consider losing the ability to use Stunning Fist multiple times a day just to be able to act in the odd surprise round a worthwhile trade-off.


I've considered another possibility for those final few levels - Wizard levels, specifically as a Transmuter/Shapechager. Something like this:

Wizard (Transmuter/Shapechanger):
17th - Scribe Scroll
17th - Critical Focus
19th - Staggering or Blinding Critical

I still like the idea of having a good critical option given the sheer number of attacks you might make over the course of a combat, but an argument could be made to do something else there as well. Brew Potion perhaps, or Iron Will to compliment your improved Will saves. The reasoning behind taking those four levels as a Wizard is that it would theoretically net you a far greater benefit than simply taking additional levels in Fighter and can easily be made part of the character concept. Your hands are already free, you won't be wearing much in the way of armor - light at the most - and your intelligence is just high enough for what you are trying to do. The ability to cast an entire swath of useful cantrips, 1st and 2nd level spells is obviously a boon, but to that you add the ability to scribe and use scrolls and other spell trigger items like wands, get a bump to your Will saves and gain a familiar (the greensting scorpion is recommended here) who grants you both the feat Alertness (bonuses to Sense Motive and Perception) as well as a significant Initiative bonus as well.

Moreover at those higher levels, filling your spellbook with low level spells shouldn't be difficult, nor should wands of Enlarge Person, Shield, Cat's Grace, etc. be too expensive to acquire. Pearls of Power likewise would be pocket change and I can envision an entire strand being worn like prayer beads around a wrist and forearm. Finally, there's nothing wrong with a +1 bonus to your Dexterity and while I haven't quite worked out how a natural attack like a bite or gore would stack with all of your unarmed attacks, another attack every round can only be a good thing. You give up a few things - a bump to both your version of Weapon Training and your Menacing Stance ability at 19th for instance, a point of BAB, a few hit points - so it's not a slam dunk decision though I'm warming up to it a lot as a means to make your character much more versatile.

Definitely something to consider. I suppose at 20th level my spells would look something like this, assuming I wasn't carrying around wands or potions that duplicated their effects:

Spells: (0 level - unlimited, 1st - 5, 2nd - 3)
0 level Detect Magic, Light, Mage Hand, Spark
1st - Enlarge Person x2, Shield x2, Ray of Enfeeblement or True Strike
2nd - Cat's Grace x2, Resist Energy


Interesting character, thanks for sharing.


Came to this thread hoping for an actual battlesnake, ready to ride for able bodied adventurers.

left disappointed.


Dotting.


sorry to necro this thread, but how are you getting that feat progression, even with multiclassing im seeing you shoudl only be getting 1 feat at level 3 not 2 O.o...

Silver Crusade

w01fe01 wrote:
sorry to necro this thread, but how are you getting that feat progression, even with multiclassing im seeing you shoudl only be getting 1 feat at level 3 not 2 O.o...

That's the second level of fighter, and fighters get a bonus feat at first, and all even levels.

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