Combat Incarnate - Building the Ultimate Melee / Ranged Fighter


Advice

Liberty's Edge

So I was thinking character concepts and party roles and wahatnot and got to thinking about trying to combine two of the most powerful fighter options, the two-handed sword fighter and the longbow archer. Building this character would require a TON of feats, so there is that, and with the high feat tax wouldn't be quite as good as a fighter solely focused on one or the other but I think it could work.

So here is my challenge: 20 point buy, no archetypes

I would go human for the extra feat. I'd try to stay in light or medium armor to keep dex up, probably something like mithril chainmail once it can be afforded and a chain shirt before that. Weapon group choices are pretty obvious though I think I would focus on blades first.

The biggest feat tax would be the Weapon Focus/Specialization feats for both weapons. Point Blank Shot and the Rapid Shot feats are a must for massive ranged damage by 6th level. Power Attack and Cleave are all important for the sword damage. Dodge and Toughness, if they could be fit in there might be really good to account for the lighter armor, though taking them may not be possible.

How would you build this character?


You've described the basic Switch Hitter Ranger here.

Take basic Ranger, add Power Attack and use Combat Style to get all the good ranged feats without prerequisites.

And like that, all the essential bases are covered. Season to taste.

You'll be surprised how easy this is to accomplish.


You're better off being a half-elf, and use a elven-curve blade with agile. Place priority on dex and con, and just enough strength to avoid carrying capacity issues. The problem with trying to be good at both melee and range is trying to keep both strength and dex high enough to be useful. But taking the elven curve blade allows you to use weapon finesse on it and get dex to damage with agile. It wont deal as much damage as two-handing with strength, but it will get most of the way there. After that, standard feats for archery (which is a lot). At some point you'll want to get 13 strength so you can pickup power attack. Piranha Strike would be another way to go, but it only applies to light weapons (which the elven curve blade isn't).

Cleave is okay at low levels, you will want to retrain it at higher levels into something else. With the fighters ability to increase the dex to AC allowable by any armor he wears you can probably manage a mithral breastplate later on. Toughness isn't necessarily bad, but you're better of picking up Iron Will to shore up your poor Will Saves.

For stats, I would go with something like Str 13, Dex 17, Con 15, Int 10, Wiz 11, Cha 7. Half-elf ability increase to dex, for 19 starting dex. It will take a bit for both sword and bow to come online, but with all the extra feats a fighter gets you can do and be pretty good at it.


Switch hitter ranger is the go to here. Assuming it doesn't change much, the ACG Slayer is actually even better. You get the ranger combat style to pick up ranged feats without prereqs, and then you can use two more slayer talents for a combat feat and for weapon focus. Advanced talents can be replaced by feats as well. So you basically have a better bonus feat progression than a fighter does. There's probably enough feats there (with human) to switch hit with two weapon fighting if you want... (and have the dex for).

Liberty's Edge

Hm, I considered ranger to get the archery feats but are there enough feats overall to really maximize the potential of both? Such as a ranger can't take Weapon Specialization, which can seriously improve a longbowman's DPR.

Clearly I haven't actually built this character and it doesn't exist beyond a thought experiment right now. If it clicks I may hand it out as a build option to one of the players in my upcoming Serpent's Skull game if they want a total combat monster.

Scarab Sages

Ranger doesn't need Weapon Specialization. Favored Enemy bonuses more than make up for the lack, and can be applied to whatever foe you are fighting by casting Instant Enemy.


Have you considered Zen Archer? Point Blank Master as a bonus feat at level 3 makes you a de facto melee class. And in any event you can always punch them.

Your offense remains on par with an Archer Fighter and your defenses will be far better.

Check out this excellent guide for details.

Liberty's Edge

Zen Archer is out because I may hand this character concept out for use in my upcoming game and I have removed monks from the list of options. I usually disallow Zen Archers anyway.


Since you've got a great sword for up close, a ranger can easily skip out on feats like precise shot. They have plenty of feats to do both.

Scarab Sages

Joshua Goudreau wrote:
Zen Archer is out because I may hand this character concept out for use in my upcoming game and I have removed monks from the list of options. I usually disallow Zen Archers anyway.

Why??? Monks are not tied to "Eastern Oriental Aisia kungfu town". The class can be used to describe Greek Wrestles, Tavern Brawlers, Savate Fencers, and so on. Zen Archer in particualar is a great class to make a Green Arrow or Hawkeye style "Trick Archer" concept.


Favored enemy bonus / slayer study bonus can help, along with access to gravity bow for the ranger / sneak attack for the slayer.

Edit: Sohei monk could be another option. You get to wear light armor, you can flurry with your temple sword for melee, you can shoot a bow and rapid shot with it, and at level 6 you can start flurrying with the bow on top of that rapid shot (and spend ki for another attack: 6 attacks at level 6 I think?).

Liberty's Edge

Joshua Goudreau wrote:
Zen Archer is out because I may hand this character concept out for use in my upcoming game and I have removed monks from the list of options. I usually disallow Zen Archers anyway.
Imbicatus wrote:
Why??? Monks are not tied to "Eastern Oriental Aisia kungfu town". The class can be used to describe Greek Wrestles, Tavern Brawlers, Savate Fencers, and so on. Zen Archer in particualar is a great class to make a Green Arrow or Hawkeye style "Trick Archer" concept.

When I prep a long campaign I tend to make a list of options, dropping a few here or there, to make something along thematic lines. I almost never allow absolutely everything and my players get that. For this game I was looking for a Joseph Conrad dark heart of Africa kind of theme so I dropped monks. I added in Gunslingers, though.

Speaking of guns and a tad more access to the technology, I wonder if a musket might be a good alternative for a longbow in this build.


Guns are bad unless you play a gunslinger (for the most part), and gunslingers don't get much in the way of melee capability.

Liberty's Edge

Claxon wrote:
Guns are bad unless you play a gunslinger (for the most part), and gunslingers don't get much in the way of melee capability.

I was concerned that might be the case. High crit and touch AC targeting seem good, but they do reload really slow.

The Exchange

There's a wonderful feat called Opening Volley that is great for many different switch hitters. It makes hitting people very easy after you shoot something.

Liberty's Edge

Tirq wrote:
There's a wonderful feat called Opening Volley that is great for many different switch hitters. It makes hitting people very easy after you shoot something.

I really like that feat. It got me thinking that Quick Draw would probably be a pretty vital feat for this kind of character.

Liberty's Edge

Joshua Goudreau wrote:
Claxon wrote:
Guns are bad unless you play a gunslinger (for the most part), and gunslingers don't get much in the way of melee capability.
I was concerned that might be the case. High crit and touch AC targeting seem good, but they do reload really slow.

There are actually fairly easy ways around that. Rapid Reload + Alchemical Cartridges do it all by themselves.

It'd be doable as a switch hitting Gunslinger...just not really a good idea given how much better shooting someone winds up being than stabbing them for a Gunslinger.

Ranger is currently the way to go for a Switch Hitter. Though if you have access to the ACG playtest, Slayer is also an excellent option, and can manage a few more Feats a bit earlier than Ranger.

Scarab Sages

It's your game, and there is no badwrongfun, but limiting mechanical options for "thematic" reasons is usually a mistake. As I said, Monk is perfect for a unarmored skirmisher. It would be a great class for a zulu warrior inspired character that would fit with your theme. All it would take is changing a Siangham to an Assegai and a nunchuck to knobkerrie.


Deadmanwalking wrote:
Joshua Goudreau wrote:
Claxon wrote:
Guns are bad unless you play a gunslinger (for the most part), and gunslingers don't get much in the way of melee capability.
I was concerned that might be the case. High crit and touch AC targeting seem good, but they do reload really slow.

There are actually fairly easy ways around that. Rapid Reload + Alchemical Cartridges do it all by themselves.

It'd be doable as a switch hitting Gunslinger...just not really a good idea given how much better shooting someone winds up being than stabbing them for a Gunslinger.

Ranger is currently the way to go for a Switch Hitter. Though if you have access to the ACG playtest, Slayer is also an excellent option, and can manage a few more Feats a bit earlier than Ranger.

The other problem being that only gunslingers (and I think trenchfighter) get to add anything to the firearm damage rolls. Normally you don't add strength or dex to firearms damage. It's not until gunslinger level 5 that you get to add dex to damage, and thats when gunslingers come into their own. Reloading isn't that big an issue, though it is expensive unless you can make your own ammunition.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

if you want to go for a firearm-switch hitter the trench fighter archetype adds dex to damage with (some) guns and gets standard weapon training...

a dex based build that favors firearms but adds some 2handed melee with an agile curve blade could be pretty effective. take 13 Str and as much Dex as you can afford (remembering to get at least 12-14 Con, but free to dump Int and/or Cha). all you ready need to be decent in melee is EWP[curve blade], weapon finesse, and power attack. for range you definitely want rapid reload (and alchemical cartidges); deadly aim is great for your damage, and all the classic ranged feats (point blank, precise, rapid shot if you're using a 1 handed gun, etc) are all good. personally, i would take weapon focus/spec for a firearm but not worry about it for melee... and i would take firearms for my first weapon training and heavy blades second. with all those bonuses your firearm should do pretty decent damage (and with your huge bonus to hit, often vs touch AC, you can afford to wait on precise strike and imp ps until its convenient).

Liberty's Edge

I'm going to give this build some thought and see what some of the numbers look like either after I get out of work tonight or tomorrow morning. I think a pretty powerful combat monster can be made utilizing both a two-handed sword and a longbow, especially with a 20 point stat spread.

Liberty's Edge

Okay, here is what I have worked out as a possible build. Any suggestions on alterations to this build or another build entirely, are welcome.

The high-level concept here is a warrior (likely fighter) who makes use of the two most powerful weapon options in the game, in my opinion, the greatsword and the longbow. I have seen some incredible fighter builds using both and want to see if combining the two is possible. I wanted to make each fighting style feel a little different so I attempted to base the longbow around full attacks while the greatsword is focused on single attacks. I know this build could be better if it focused on one style over the other so I recognize that it will be a little behind in both regards but I am hoping that the dual versatility will make up for it.

Human Fighter - no archetype
S 16, D 18, C 12, I 10, W 10, C 8
Trait: Indomitable Faith

Feats
1 - Weapon Focus (greatsword), Weapon Focus (longbow), Power Attack
2 - Point Blank Shot
3 - Rapid Shot
4 - Weapon Specialization (greatsword)
5 - Weapon Specialization (longbow)
6 - Manyshot
7 - Vital Strike
8 - Greater Weapon Focus (greatsword)
9 - Greater Weapon Focus (longbow)
10 - Improved Critical (greatsword)
11 - Improved Vital Strike
12 - Greater Weapon Specialization (greatsword)
13 - Greater Weapon Specialization (longbow)
14 - Penetrating Strike
15 -
16 - Greater Vital Strike
17 - Greater Penetrating Strike
18 -
19 -
20 -

EDIT: Now that I look at it dumping Charisma and Intelligence might be a good idea to bump up Con.

Liberty's Edge

Personally, I'd swap Str and Dex. Without Precise Shot, in most fights you'll spend a bit more time in melee than you will shooting. It also provides a damage bonus at both melee and ranged.

I'd also likely go Cha 7 and up Wis to 12. Your Will Save needs all the help it can get. A Trait to get Perception as a Class skill seems most useful for the second Trait...though Reactionary is also solid.

Dumping stuff for Con doesn't seem really necessary, though. With Favored Class bonus you ought to do okay.

Scarab Sages

I'd also likely go with Lore Warden instead of Core Fighter. The extra knowledge skills will be useful for you theme, and Knowledge checks for an extra damage boost is thematic and useful. The bonus to Manuevers would let you trade out Vital Strike for Improve X and be more useful than an extra 2d6. I would go with Dirty Trick for it's versatility, although Disarm or Trip are both situationally useful.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

i agree with deadman- without precise shot you're only using your bow until your enemy is in melee range (which means you'll melee more often than ranged), i'd definitely suggest switching str/dex; the difference between 7 and 8 Cha is minimal but the extra +1 will save could be important so upping Wis is a good idea (plus see next point); one of the things that makes the longbow great is its range- in theory you can shot it over 1000' but in reality its range is really determined by how far away you can spot someone... every archer should max out their perception (take the trait to make it a class skill, put max ranks in it, and invest in Wis when you can).

the Con/hp thing... personally i'd try to squeeze in toughness early (and still take FCB in hp) if your going to go with 12 Con, but you can probably get away with keeping it as is.

Liberty's Edge

Good point on the human bonus going to Str instead of Dex, since that seems more versatile. My thought was a means of shoring up AC with a higher Dex. The low Will save is definitely this build's weak point, which is why I chose Indomitable Faith when I couldn't shoehorn Iron Will in there anywhere. Con seems like a concern to me since the character will get bonuses from favored class they will be knee deep in combat as a melee front liner and more HP seems useful.

I really wanted to fit a few other feats in here but there just wasn't space earlier in the build and by the time higher levels hit and there are openings the feats like Dodge, Deadly Aim, Opening Volley, or Hammer the Gap just aren't as poignant.

I tried to make this concept as an above suggested switch-hitting ranger but it didn't really work out. The Combat Style feats are nice but the way the feats fall the character misses out on things like Power Attack at first level. As a feat intensive build the ranger just wasn't granting enough.

Liberty's Edge

So here is a different stat array that should hopefully shore up the weak Will save a little, grant a bonus to Perception and make better use of damage output with a two-handed fighting style and composite longbow.

S 18, D 16, C 12, I 10, W 12, C 7

I played with the numbers a bit to try to lower Int and raise Con but I kept ending up with a point left over so I stopped trying.

Liberty's Edge

There are some weaknesses of the build, such as the lower Con, lower Will save, etc. that can be shored up with the use of magic items, but I'd like the build to stand on its own as best as possible. I would consider dropping Improved Critical in favor of a keen weapon, but I'm not sure.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

deadly aim is never irrelevant... honestly, unless you think you'll be able to use the bow from a couple of range increments away with some regularity, you're probably better off taking it than weapon spec[longbow] (at 4th level it gives +4 damage vs WS's +2, and the -2 to hit should't be a big problem since you'll be at around +9-10 to hit normally).

edit: and realistically the vital strike feats aren't going to do much for you... most enemies will come to you (since you're filling them with arrows and they want to stop that/get even), so you'll probably end up full attacking more often than you think... dropping those will free up some feats.

Liberty's Edge

My thought with Vital Strike was to give the greatsword some extra oomph (like it needs it). The lack of Quick Draw means melee will be mostly be single attacks so I thought of maximizing criticals and upping damage. I really like the look of Vital Strike but I've never seen it really used in a game and the optimization threads (like this one) seems to avoid it.

Taking Deadly Aim instead of Weapon Specialization (longbow) bumps out other later iterative feats too.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

spending one feat on quickdraw would be a lot more efficient than spending 3 on vital strike (both in terms of feat usage and damage output). you could spend one of the 2 feats that opens up on deadly aim and still keep wpn spec...

remember, you don't have to use deadly aim just because you have it- you can use it if your shooting at something easy to hit (or if you can't full attack for some reason) for a big damage bonus and just opt not to use if you're worried about hitting. i don't know what context the build would be used in either but if you've got a couple buffs going (say maybe you have a bard and cleric in the party so you're rocking inspire courage, heroism, and prayer) you can often afford to stack the deadly aim/rapid shot penalties?

Liberty's Edge

I kind of like the look of this feat progression, though I'm not married to it. What are some good feats to bolster the greatsword? All I'm really landing on is the Vital Strike chain. I really want to fit Toughness in there but the early-game feats are tight. Also, what are some good late-game feats?

1 - Weapon Focus (greatsword), Weapon Focus (longbow), Power Attack
2 - Point Blank Shot
3 - Rapid Shot
4 - Weapon Specialization (greatsword)
5 - Deadly Aim
6 - Manyshot
7 - Vital Strike
8 - Greater Weapon Focus (greatsword)
9 - Weapon Specialization (longbow)
10 - Improved Critical (greatsword)
11 - Improved Vital Strike
12 - Greater Weapon Specialization (greatsword)
13 - Greater Weapon Focus (longbow)
14 - Penetrating Strike
15 - Greater Weapon Specialization (longbow)
16 - Greater Vital Strike
17 - Greater Penetrating Strike
18 -
19 -
20 -

Scarab Sages

Also, if you want to be able to deal with Cover, you need Precise Strike & Improved Precise Strike. Dropping Vital Strike also gives you room for those and Quick Draw.

Liberty's Edge

The context of the build is mostly a thought experiment to see if two powerful options can be combined in a single character. If it sees the table any time soon it will likely be in an upcoming Serpent's Skull game I will be running.

Liberty's Edge

Cover is one of the things that was concerning me actually and I'm not sure how to combat it without dropping greatsword-related feats.

I originally started out trying to divide the feats mostly evenly between the two weapons but it seems to be trending more toward the longbow as it evolves.

Scarab Sages

To get IPS as a fighter though, you will need a Dex of 19. This would man a very large investment in +dex items, or swapping your 18 back to dex.

Liberty's Edge

With stat bumps this build could get it by level 12 but that doesn't seem very useful when Str could be boosted to 20. I may just have to suck it up or invest in a bow that ignores cover/concealment.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

i know you're really attached to the greatsword but there is another option...

Human Fighter - no archetype
S 14, D 18, C 14, I 10, W 12, C 8
Trait: Indomitable Faith, eyes and ears of the city

Feats
1 - Point Blank Shot, Weapon Focus (longbow), Deadly Aim
2 - Precise Shot
3 - Rapid Shot
4 - Weapon Specialization (longbow)
5 - Point Blank Master
6 - Manyshot
7 - Snap Shot
8 - Combat Reflexes
9 - Improved Snap Shot
10 - Greater Weapon Focus (longbow)
11 - Improved Precise Shot
12 - Greater Weapon Specialization (longbow)
13 - Clustered Shot
14 - whatever else you want...
15 -
16 -
17 -
18 -
19 -
20 -

this is a switch hitter in the sense that you can continue to shot your bow in melee and even threaten with it.

Liberty's Edge

I'm playing an archer in a Second Darkness game who has some of the craziest damage output I've ever seen and his feat progression looks a lot like that. Point Blank Master is an amazing feat. In the last game I was able to stand toe-to toe with a drow druid and pump arrows into her face while she tried desperately to hide behind her obscuring mist. Hammer the Gap is another great archer feat once you gain Manyshot.

What feat allows making AoO with a bow? My archer needs it. lol

Scarab Sages

Snap Shot

Liberty's Edge

Well hell, that is so going on my Friday night archer, he just hit level 7.

Liberty's Edge

Okay, so after doing some more digging about what options are available for maximizing the use of a greatsword (there isn't much) this is what I have come up with:

Human Fighter - no archetype
S 18, D 16, C 14, I 7, W 13, C 7
Trait: Indomitable Faith

Feats
1 - Weapon Focus (greatsword), Weapon Focus (longbow), Power Attack
2 - Point Blank Shot
3 - Rapid Shot
4 - Weapon Specialization (greatsword)
5 - Deadly Aim
6 - Manyshot
7 - Hammer the Gap
8 - Greater Weapon Focus (greatsword)
9 - Weapon Specialization (longbow)
10 - Vital Strike
11 - Improved Critical (greatsword)
12 - Greater Weapon Specialization (greatsword)
13 - Greater Weapon Focus (longbow)
14 - Improved Vital Strike
15 - Greater Weapon Specialization (longbow)
16 - Penetrating Strike
17 - Greater Vital Strike
18 - Greater Penetrating Strike

I really wanted to fit a few different feats in there and if I was making a straight tank I would have, such as Toughness, Furious Focus, Iron Will, etc. I didn't bother to build the character past 18th level because I was already out of end-game feats anyway.

Weapon group choices for this build are fairly obvious with heavy blades and bows. Later weapon groups are kind of wasted but things like clubs or axes could work.

Stat increases can start with Wis then go into Str. Skill choices are mostly irrelevant and equipment is pretty obvious.


With access to Point Blank Master and the Snap Shot line, you only need to have the Greatsword on switch for the low levels. It's definitely not worth investing another set of feats, and the gold to have it enhanced.

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