I AM the shield!


I am helping my son plan out a character concept for a Pathfinder Society game we may be joining soon. It is inspired by Pantheon from League of Legends fame, Spartans, King Leonidas, etc. The concept is to be an effective tank for your party while not being ineffective at doing anything else.

Outside of getting into position and using it's challenge ability to better prepare his allies this build is most effective at setting up a Combat Patrol and using his enemy's turn against them by making his allies unstoppable. In other words: the best offense is an unstoppable defense.

This is what I have for a build so far:

1st Cavalier 1
Challenge 1/day, Mount, Order of the Dragon, Tactician: Paired Opportunist (bonus), Sworn Defense, Combat Reflexes (1st), Dodge (Human)

2nd Cavalier 2
Aid Allies

3rd Cavalier 3
Intercept, Bodyguard (bonus), Mobility (3rd)

4th Cavalier 4
Challenge 2/day, Drill Instructor

5th Phalanx Soldier 1
Combat Patrol (Fighter 1)

6th Phalanx Soldier 2
Stand Firm, Improved Shield Bash (Fighter 2)

7th Phalanx Soldier 3
Phalanx Fighting, Stand Still (7th)

8th Phalanx Soldier 4
Shield Slam (Fighter 4)

9th Phalanx Soldier 5
Ready Pike, Two Weapon Fighting (9th)

10th Phalanx Soldier 6
Saving Shield (Fighter 6)

11th Phalanx Soldier 7
Deft Shield, (11th)

12th Phalanx Soldier 8
(Fighter 8)

The meat and potatoes of this build are the following feats:

Bodyguard Feat:
Prerequisite: Combat reflexes.
Benefit: When an adjacent ally is attacked, you may use an attack of opportunity to attempt the aid another action to improve your ally’s AC. You may not use the aid another action to improve your ally’s attack roll with this attack.

In Harm's Way Feat:
Prerequisite: Bodyguard.
Benefit: While using the aid another action to improve an adjacent ally’s AC, you can intercept a successful attack against that ally as an immediate action, taking full damage from that attack and any associated effects (bleed, poison, etc.). A creature cannot benefit from this feat more than once per attack.

Combat Patrol Feat:
Prerequisites: Combat reflexes, Mobility, base attack bonus +5.
Benefit: As a full-round action, you may set up a combat patrol, increasing your threatened area by 5 feet for every 5 points of your base attack bonus. Until the beginning of your next turn, you may make attacks of opportunity against any opponent in this threatened area that provokes attacks of opportunity. You may move as part of these attacks, provided your total movement before your next turn does not exceed your speed. Any movement you make provokes attacks of opportunity as normal.

He could easily grant allies a +7 bonus to their AC or more with equipment. With his reach increasing as he levels with Combat Patrol (+10ft reach by 10th level) and a reach weapon (+5ft) and Enlarge Person (+5ft) from a friendly caster or potion he could have a zone of control of 20ft radius from the character. A 45ft spread (including the characters square) is fairly impressive and hard for enemies to circumvent.

Aid Another:
Aid Allies and Helpful: +4 AC with Aid Another
Saving Shield: +2 Shield Bonus

Allies receive +1 circumstance to attack and damage if threatening
Sworn Defense: -1 AC to character, +1 AC to Ward
That would give an ally a total of +7 to AC and +1 to attack and damage
He would also give them the paired opportunist feat for +4 to attacks of opportunity.

A benevolent weapon would increase the AC granted by the enhancement bonus of that weapon. Same with benevolent armor. That could easily get this up to +10. These are all untyped bonuses except the Saving Shield feat which is a shield bonus.

For the empty feats I was thinking of Combat Expertise, Gang Up and Swift Aid. The only problem was I wasn't thinking of getting the character to 13 Int. But by the later levels it is a possibility.

I am sure I missed a fair amount of good options. This is really the first time I have tried for this kind of build. Also, I haven't really vetted everything yet to ensure that it is all PFS legal.

Opinions? Ideas?

You might want to consider using Daring Champion Cavalier. Then you can combine that with Phalanx Fighter 3 and Slashing Grace to have dex to attack and damage with a slashing polearm.

I think you should just go Tower Shield Specialist Fighter. While not speary as the Phalanx Soldier, and a bit too Roman in terms of equipment, I think you get enough tools to be a very competent bodyguard.

Secret Wizard: You changed your profile picture. I don't like it. Change it back, please. Also...

Tower Shield Specialist Fighter falls flat on it's face for this build. It can't shield bash. That is over half of this build's tactics. Well... I suppose he could shield bash if his other weapon was a shield. Meh, I have a different build for that.

Melkiador: I had actually considered Daring Champion. One of the downfalls to it is that it doesn't give Bodyguard as a bonus feat without having to meet the prerequisites to allow for early entry into that feat. Drill Instructor is also a much better use for his Challenge ability for this type of build to allow him to up his allies defenses further. While Dex to Attack and damage with a one handed polearm is nice it isn't what this build is going for. It doesn't further the schtick. It also requires another feat (Slashing Grace) in an already feat starved build. For a different build this would be a great idea though.

Grand Lodge

If he used a Tower Shield he'd have to give up reach. Fail! Having lots of reach is hugely important to this build! Having Combat Reflexes, Paired Opportunists, and Combat Patrol without reach just seems silly, considering the synchronicity those things have.

Suggestion: since he'll give Paired Opportunists to allies, perhaps encourage other PCs (like yours!) to also use a reach weapon. That way you both get those yummy +4 AoOs. That's how Rodinia operates, and it works really well. As a mounted 5th level cleric she would often pull an effective +21 to hit on AoOs, which would hit for about 25 HP each. That's +3 BaB, -1 Power Attack, +3 Strength, +1 weapon, +5 magical buffs, +1 higher ground (mounted), +1 trait bonus to AoOs with polearm, +4 paired AoO, +4 for prone target (tripped by axe beak animal companion). This approach makes for a very effective Tank style character.

I have done a similar build. The halfling Helpful trait rocks.

I concur that getting a trip capability is a great adjunct to this build - better than combat patrol IMO - but if the feat tax is too much, consider overrun and greater overrun off the power attack tree. Also generates AoO for you and your mates, and adding Spiked Destroyer later is bonus. In harm's way is a waste in my opinion - too circumstantial. Also, if you can fit in cleaving finish, definitely do. It's like cleave, but allows an attack to anyone in your threat range after a target drops - which for you is pretty much everyone. quickdraw can also help out for swapping to a one-hander when they get inside your reach.

Rodinia: you hit the nail on the head.

My character will likely be his ward. I am thinking about playing a White Mage Arcanist. I don't think I will be working in a polearm to his build. ;) Great idea though.

Grand Lodge

Every core class except Monk and Wizard is proficient with the longspear. It costs nothing to carry one. Your AoOs won't matter, but you can still give him +4 on his, which is huge. At the very least carry an extra longspear, in case someone finds it useful. Just a thought ...

MyCupRunnethOver: I didn't actually mention it above... well, I sorta did. The build does have a bonus Human feat. Anyway, I think he has to go with Human here for the bonus feat. While it is a good suggestion you will notice that he would be taking the Helpful (non-halfling) trait.

Any suggestions on another trait? I was thinking Temple Guard for +1 AoO with Polearm weapons. The problem is he would likely be using his Shield to do that more often than not. Shield Bearer might be decent but he already has Saving Shield so it's use would be limited.

Shield-Trained is a consideration. It would allow a heavy shield to count as a light weapon and decrease his TWF penalties to -2/-2. I was thinking about this but it isn't really a big deal as the majority of his attacks would not happen on his terms. And because of this cheaty rules clarification he would basically never have to worry about those penalties unless he had the rare situation of actually attacking on HIS turn:

If you use Two-Weapon Fighting on your turn to attack with two weapons, do you also take that penalty on attacks of opportunity made before the start of your next turn? How long do the penalties last?

No, the penalties end as soon as you have completed the full-attack action that allowed you to attack with both weapons. Any attacks of opportunity you make are at your normal attack bonus. Generally speaking, penalties on attacks made during your turn do not carry over to attacks of opportunity unless they specifically state otherwise (such as the penalty from using Power Attack).

Rodinia: Well. That is true. Actually, to be honest, it would probably be best if HIS character carried some longspears and handed them out at the start of each scenario. Yeah, I'll mention that to him. Thanx. :)

Silver Crusade

Few things - my reach fighter uses Longarm spell to increase his reach then enlarged giving him total reach of 25ft (enlarge reach fighter has 20ft reach not 15ft) or 55ft across (more than enough to cover most combats). My full round actions are spent pounding my opponent and I use combat reflexes to smash any who provoke AOO. I can't see value in using full round action to set up patrol when I can use it to smash my opponents instead - am I missing something?

Bragnar: Yes.

You are missing how Combat Patrol combos off Bodyguard. You can still get your AoOs for them moving into your considerable threatened area, and you can buff your allies when the baddies try to attack them. And if they try to attack you, well... you are a tank. That is what you want.

Sovereign Court

If you're looking to boost his threat area - your arcanist using Enlarge Person could be huge. (pun intended)

It would lower his AC by a point or two, but a 20ft reach isn't to be sniffed at. (not to mention boosted damage) And frankly - it probably makes Combat Patrol unneeded. On turns where he's using Combat Patrol he'd likely be better off readying an attack for double damage to use in addition to his AOOs - giving you a total of triple damage against a single target. I just don't see Combat Patrol being worth two feats. (Mobility's main purpose in this build being a feat tax for Combat Patrol.)

Curious - at lower levels is he going to just not use a shield? (Meaning that he actually takes Improved Shield Bash a level before he starts using a shield.) Or is he going to use a small polearm and take a -2 to hit?

Charon's Little Helper: Ready Pike allows him to 1/day ready a weapon to brace vs a charge as an immediate action. That would allow him to both brace and use Combat Patrol in the same turn. Beyond that (especially in PFS play where scenarios are fairly short) I do not see it happening much more often than that where an AoO will not suffice.

Once you get Combat Patrol having Mobility is worth it as you can move during your Combat Patrol. This allows you to soak up AoOs and survive them, allowing your allies to safely move back into position on their turn.

About low level weapon us: Probably just use a 1 handed weapon and his shield. Either that or use a polearm and drop it after foes have closed and draw shield and weapon as part of the move during the enemy's turn while using Combat Patrol. Or he could just switch levels around and move up the fighter levels to compensate. I'm not sure, really. Do you have suggestions? A small sized polearm is an option I suppose.

Sovereign Court

I'd probably move the first 3 levels of fighter up faster. He'll definitely want a magic weapon by level 4-5 at the latest, but as it sits he can't do the shield/polearm combo until 7. He probably doesn't want to have to buy a magic weapon only to sell it off a couple levels later.

Also of note (just read your full feat explanation) - enlarge doubles your base reach, it doesn't just add 5ft. So with enlarge/reach, he'd by able to attack at 15/20ft with his polearm and 5/10ft with his shield. With combat patrol & enlarge it would go to 15/20/25 ft.

One option of note - since this doesn't look like a mounted character - and past level 6-7 the mount will be too far behind to be useful - he could go Standard Bearer archetype. It's not great - but an extra +1 attack for the whole party on charges and +2 vs fear is nothing to sniff at.

Standard Bearer doesn't play well with the other archetypes. Otherwise it would be perfect. :(

Ah, you are correct on reach for large size.

You are probably right on switching the levels around.

I am currently using a similar build in PFS. Mine is a Swash (Mouser) 1 / Cav (Honor Guard) 3 / Paladin (Sacred Shield) 4 / Bard or Magus (Eldritch Scion) X. His main tactic is to get tiny (starts small as a Halfling) and then run into the square of an enemy he wishes to neutralize. So far, I have played it to level 4 and nothing melee has hit an ally since level 2.

Just note that Bodyguard requires you to be adjacent to your ally (not the attacking creature). Aid Another normally requires you to be adjacent to the target but the Bodyguard feat replaces the qualifier for using that action.

Order of the Dragon is really the heart of the build. It's a free +3 you're handing out on top of your normal aid another. Add in things like Benevolent armor, Ring of Tactical Precision, Gloves of Arcane Striking, and you're looking at giving a hefty +14-17 when everything comes to fruition.

Regardless, if you want to run Bodyguard, there's a few things to keep in mind. First, you're not a damage dealer, so don't try to be. Second, you need to get a +8 bonus to as many things as possible. Every skill, every save, and your attack bonus. Why? Because (with the Mentored trait) that would let you overcome even the worst rolls and you'd score a hit (a roll of a 1 still fails on an attack or save, bummer). Third, finding ways to get adjacent to allies is critical. I *really* like Combat Patrol as an option, because you could move adjacent to an ally off-turn. This is insanely important. When playing my build, most of my turns involve moving underneath one enemy, using a swift action, and then readying another action to move when an ally is attacked. This allows me to move in to save that ally off-turn. Being able to do this and retain a standard action on any turn is *amazing.*

heyyon: Thank you for the anecdotal post!

I was thinking about placement in combat so this is valuable for us to think about.

Oh wait... did I calculate that incorrectly? Oh, I just reread it. Wow... does it mean +3 in addition to? I thought it meant +3 instead of +2. Wow. That is a LOT.

Oh man, thank you for the equipment suggestions too. Very helpful! Thank you for your advice.

That ring is solid, BTW, especially in PFS with the Day Job rolls. Not sure if the gloves will be worthwhile for this build though. Probably better for yours.

Shadow Lodge

heyyon wrote:
Order of the Dragon is really the heart of the build. It's a free +3 you're handing out on top of your normal aid another.

Order of the Dragon's Aid Allies (Ex) replaces the standard +2 aid another with a +3 aid another, which is then improved at 8th level+. It does not give an additional +3 for a total of +5. This also means that the Helpful trait overlaps with Aid Allies (Ex).

heyyon wrote:
Being able to do this and retain a standard action on any turn is *amazing.*

How would you retain a standard action?

Serum: Are you sure on your interpretation of Aid Allies? I thought I was until heyyon posted but I think he is right. It doesn't say it replaces it. After rereading it I think heyyon is correct.

Shadow Lodge

Yes, I am. It states that when you use the aid another action, you grant the target a +3 bonus to the roll. This is the exact language that the aid another action uses.

aid another wrote:
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).
Aid Allies (Ex) wrote:
whenever an order of the dragon cavalier uses the aid another action to assist one of his allies, the ally receives a +3 bonus to his armor class, attack roll, saving throw, or skill check.

Since it doesn't specifically call out that this stacks, then you'd go back to the standard ruling of "untyped bonuses stack, unless they come from the same source". These two bonuses not only come from the same source (a character's aid another), they come from the same specific action.

Perhaps the Threatening enchantment would add to your theme.

Serum: I do not disagree with you on what it says. However, it does NOT say that this replaces the bonus given by Aid Another. And since they DO NOT come from the same source they would stack as they are untyped.

One source being the Aid Another action and the other being a feat and Ex ability named Aid Another.

I can see it both ways. I mean, obviously I can or I wouldn't have made the same mistake the first time I read it either. But like I said, after rereading it I think heyyon is right.

MyCupRunnethOver: Hm, good suggestion. Probably better than benevolent for weapon. As far as I can tell benevolent bonuses from shield and armor stack, though, right?

Shadow Lodge

Maybe you'd like to re-open it on the Rules Questions forums again. Every time it's been brought up as possibly +5, it generally gets smacked back down to +3. Nothing official one way or the other, of course.

If it has been done already and you know of it, can you post a link?

Shadow Lodge


Also see here (proto-guide post). You can also do the stuff here without a tower shield (as heyyon posted above), which reduces the shield bonus but makes the Phalanx Soldier levels more attractive (unfortunately you can't go Full Roman and blend the Phalanx Soldier and Tower Shield Specialist archetypes of Fighter).

But then also see here (pitfalls pointed out by the Bodhizen, author of the most up-to-date Paladin guide that I know of).

Lune wrote:

MyCupRunnethOver: I didn't actually mention it above... well, I sorta did. The build does have a bonus Human feat. Anyway, I think he has to go with Human here for the bonus feat. While it is a good suggestion you will notice that he would be taking the Helpful (non-halfling) trait.

Any suggestions on another trait? I was thinking Temple Guard for +1 AoO with Polearm weapons. The problem is he would likely be using his Shield to do that more often than not. Shield Bearer might be decent but he already has Saving Shield so it's use would be limited.

Shield-Trained is a consideration. It would allow a heavy shield to count as a light weapon and decrease his TWF penalties to -2/-2. I was thinking about this but it isn't really a big deal as the majority of his attacks would not happen on his terms. And because of this cheaty rules clarification he would basically never have to worry about those penalties unless he had the rare situation of actually attacking on HIS turn:
** spoiler omitted **

Small size bardiche best weapon keep your shield take the -2 to attack.

UnArcaneElection: Wow, that was a lot to digest. Not all of it applicable but nice to see someone else is thinking along the same lines of being an effective tank that protects his party.

FYI - I opened a separate thread in the rules forum for the Aid Allies stacking issue. You can find it here. Please FAQ for an official ruling on this. There have been several past threads on it never resulting in any official ruling with opinions on both sides.

how does your son like the build so far

He is particularly excited as it only needs one other book to be allowable for him to play it in PFS: Ultimate Combat. I own all the other resources required already. Otherwise he likes it a lot. It is one of two builds that he is strongly considering. The other being a blasty air elemental/bronze dragon blooded sorcerer.


My son has created this character and has been enjoying playing it so far. The only exception is having to deal with table variation with the Aid Allies/Aid Another ruling. Most (but not all) GMs have ruled against it stacking. From what I am told this is a rule of thumb for PFS; if something doesn't expressly say that it does stack, rule against it until there is a ruling. No on has yet said they are ruling this way for balance reasons or for an understanding of how the rules mechanics work. In fact, most believe it needs a ruling because the text is ambiguous and unclear. It seems like it should stack but no one is comfortable with ruling that way until something official is put up.

Unfortunately, he has to ask at each table. It isn't an issue of him not taking a feat or trait. This is the Order that his Cavalier took and it gives this ability that either stacks with a combat action anyone can perform or it doesn't. He just has to know so he can tell the person he is buffing what bonus it is that they receive.

It is kinda funny. I am playing a Breaker/Liberator Half-Orc Barbarian with a level in Trapper Ranger. I tell people I am a "Human" "Rogue". In combat my character is pretty offensive. A decent strenght, rage, a greatsword and power attack attack go a long way in the early levels. Especially when you come up against your favored enemy. His character is completely defensive. My character is female, his is male. We are always playing in the same scenarios. I think his gears started grinding and he asked, "Do you think it would be appropriate if our characters had like ... a relationship?" I had to chuckle and said, "You know... I guess it would make sense."

Now that would be kinda odd. A father and son playing characters in a relationship. Not certain how I feel about it but I guess I will find out soon.

Anyway, he has been pretty effective. He has only got hit a couple times with his high AC and no one he has buffed has got hit once aside from a single crit. He is having fun playing the character so I guess that is what matters most. I will likely have some questions that I will be posting soon about the concept though and the mechanics of how it works.

How can you gain reach with this concept prior to 5th level?
How does reach work with Bodyguard?
Does anyone have experience with placement of your character when moving on an opponent's turn with Combat Patrol?
Just how superior is Combat Patrol's movement?

Ok, so currently his character does not have reach. He wont get it until 5th level when he gets Combat Patrol unless he doesn't use a shield. He really wants to use a shield.

The only solutions I can come up with are potions/wands of Enlarge Person or using a small sized polearm one-handed and accepting the minus. The first solution seems the most helpful as it increases his adjacent squares for Aid Allies and Sworn Defense, and increases his reach for Bodyguard. The second solution, while technically allowed defies logic to the point of seeming like rule abuse. He doesn't want to do it and I do not blame him. So if he is going to want to be enlarged frequently does anyone have suggestions for that other than potions/wands?

Another issue we have ran up against is the placement issue. Aid Another (and Aid Allies by extension) requires you to be adjacent to both the attacker and the ally you wish to grant the AC bonus to. Bodyguard says "When an Adjacent ally is attacked," ... which requires you to be adjacent to the ally... "you may use an attack of opportunity to attempt the Aid Another action..." so... wait, what? Is this saying that you can use your reach for the Aid Another action? It seems that way as that is how every other attack of opportunity works. It actually is a bit self-contradictory.

I feel like what they meant was to make it apply to anyone within your reach. Or maybe just even your natural reach. With the wording as is it is a bit complicated.

By 5th level this will mostly be moot with Combat Patrol although it does create some difficult movement decisions on how one moves whether they are medium or large. Decisions have to be made about where you want to move according to who you wish to be adjacent to when you end your move. When you are large size you have to choose what squares you want to be in and whether it is worth squeezing or not.

With this type of build it is actually EFFECTIVE to purposefully provoke AoOs due to movement so others do not have to deal with them. With a high AC made higher with Mobility you are nigh-unhittable.

And actually Combat Patrol itself brings up the whole issue of movement during an opponent's turn. I think most DMs probably have all opponents act on the same turn. This has always seemed typical to me. The way I read Combat Patrol it allows you to move up to your movement regardless of where/when you make the attacks on your opponent's turn. So this movement is more effective than any other character without this feat could have during their own turn. He could, for instance: wait for an opponent to close within your threatened zone, make an AoO to increase your buddy's AC, move to a place next to another ally and wait for an opponent to approach THEM, use another AoO to increase your that person's AC, rinse, wash, repeat for as many times as you can up AC. When you are done buffing allies AC you could then just move into a position that would allow you to get AoOs on the rest of the approaching enemies.

Did I interpret that correctly? If so then movement increasing items would be in high demand here. This is one reason I am thinking that the Step Up line of feats would be good for this.

While my son has been playing this character recently in PFS we have been looking for gear upgrades for him.

Currently the only items we have on the list are:
Longarm Bracers
Pliant Gloves
Ring of Tactical Precision
Enlarge Person potions/wands
Boots of Striding and Springing
Mithril medium armor
Shield and Armor with Benevolent enhancement

Thats about as far as we got. Outside of normal items (cloak of resistance, ring of protection, stat boosters, etc.) I don't know of a lot more that can add to this kind of build. Does anyone have any suggestions on equipment?

Lune, I just saw your message and replied. I don't think I was of much help. You're really on the right track!

Nah, Arrow Catching on the shield is a great idea. Thank you for the suggestion. It seems like Benevolent Armor would stack with Benevolent Shield though.

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