Melee Characters.


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Please rate the list below in order from best to worst in terms of melee capabilities for mid-late game, I don't want any additions to the list. I.E. Wizard, Cleric, etc. I'm looking for the "best" in terms of how good they are at what they do. Builds that would make them better at what they do would also be appreciated.

Barbarian
Bloodrager
Brawler
Cavalier
Fighter
Monk(Unchained)
Monk(Regular)
Paladin
Ranger
Samurai
Slayer
Swashbuckler

Dark Archive

Best is a pretty subjective term. Best at what, precisely? Best at damage? Best at survivability? Best at battlefield control? Ranking a list is a LOT of homework, especially considering that feat selection and player skill will factor in quite a bit.

Pound for pound, your best bet is probably a Barbarian. They put out some of the best melee DPR and they are usually dirt simple to run.


Swashbuckler is pretty great.

Grand Lodge

And if properly trained, we can grapple almost anything! Bwahahahahahaha!

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Card Game, Maps, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Flexibility must be considered for thier capabilities.

Sir Black-Knight wrote:

Please rate the list below in order from best to worst in terms of melee capabilities for mid-late game,

Barbarian 1
Bloodrager no opiniion
Brawler 2
Cavalier 9
Fighter 3
Monk(Unchained) no opinion
Monk(Regular) 10
Paladin 5
Ranger 7
Samurai 8
Slayer 6
Swashbuckler 4

Rogue(unchained) 7.5

Rogue (Regular)11


Strait up melee?

Paladin- The ability to smite is really, really strong (makes boss fights easy) and has absurd healing capabilities. Best saves in the game help.

Bloodrager- same as the barbarian plus the ability to enlarge when they want. This is fairly dependent on their bloodline though.

Barbarian- Really strong brute with high health. Long fights or lots of fights during a day can bring him down though.

Ranger- As long as you know what you will be fighting in advance and can make them your favored enemy...

Fighter- If fighting multiple types of monsters for a prolonged period of time/ many times a day and want something simple, look no further.

Monk- not as bad as people make them out to be. Need to move very little to get full effect though. Generally these guys are really strong defensively.

Slayer (untested)

Brawler (boring)
Cavalier (not a melee combatant)
Samurai (/shrug)
Swashbuckler (not really a DPR kind of char, I think.)


How is the cavalier not a melee character?

What, exactly, is your definition of a melee character?


Barbarian - Powerful at anything melee
Bloodrager - ?
Brawler - ?
Cavalier - Powerful at Mounted; Loses Class Feature when Mount isn't feasible.
Fighter - Powerful at anything melee
Monk(Unchained) - ?
Monk(Regular) - Moderate Power, High Utility
Paladin - Powerful at anything melee
Ranger - Powerful at anything melee
Samurai - See Cavalier; Sword Saint removes this awesome class feature and gives mediocre ability that can be used at any time.
Slayer - Powerful at anything melee
Swashbuckler - Powerful at anything melee

It all depends on how you build the character. You can take any class and break the game.


Rylar wrote:


Swashbuckler (not really a DPR kind of char, I think.)

Swashbuckler can get pretty decent DPR i am level 6 playing one in my current game i am now doing 1d6+18 per hit +24 if i double precise strike damage 22 dex for 6 damage, 6 precise strike, 2 from weapon specialization, 2 from rapier training, and 2 from Greater Magic Weapon .

i am by far the biggest damage dealer in the party and definitely largest per hit damage


This is a tricky thing to rank in such a fashion...

Much of it depends on how they are played, which items are available, which enemies they encounter, etc...


Bloodrager is nearly as strong as Barbarian if you take the primalist archetype. Certain blood line powers and the ability to buff yourself with things like Greater Magic Weapon really make it incredibly strong. The only thing the Bloodrager really lacks is the Human Favored Class Bonus which actually gives barbarians the best saves in the game, not paladins. These are tied for 1st and 2nd in my book.

For pure out and out melee grunt Bloodrager and Barbarisn are the top of the pack to me. Greater Beast Totem is a big part of that. However, there is basically the problem that only 1 build is so undeniably great, the Invulnerable Rager Beast Totem Superstitious Barbarian.

Brawler, is a slightly better monk. I don't think it's particularly overwhelmingly good at melee combat. Probably in the mid range.

Cavalier, a god from the back of his steed. Removed from horseback or forced into situations where charging isn't possible...near worthless. The notable exception being the Daring Champion Cavalier, which is a better version of Swashbuckler. Daring Champion is strictly above that entire class.

Fighter, very strong at melee, but uninteresting for doing anything else. Suffers from being too mundane (no supernatural abilities). Although the archetype that gives mutagens is actually quite good. For pure melee ability, I'd probably place him in the top 5. He does what does and can always do it. There's no turning him off. He's just dreadfully boring because he can't do anything else.

Unchained Monk - Decent on the surface, haven't had enough time to look at it too closely. A good upgrade from the original monk, but the original monk only beat the original rogue.

Paladin is strong class, but against non-evil entities it barely registers as a threat (IMO). However, its ability to self heal, and strong saves make it a good "tanky" character with some decent support abilities. Against evil entities #1, against other stuff...near the bottom.

Ranger, not actually that good at melee. The make TWF viable, but the Slayer does a much better job of it. Slayer is the better melee fighter, but they are very similar classes. The overall power of a ranger depends heavily on whether or not their Favored Class bonus applies, until they get to level 10 and get favored enemy. Once that happens they can rock a +8 (or more) to attack and damage while TWF against any opponent. They really excel at ranged combat, but well, that isn't melee. I'd rate below the fighter until Instant Enemy comes online.

Swashbuckler is decent but not actually that great. People like it because it made dex to damage an option. In terms of DPR its basically just on the same level as a THF. It does have some weird quirks that oddly powerful like the ability to disarm an opponent without needing to go against CMB. I'd put the swash above the ranger, roughly on par with the fighter. But offering a lot more options than a fighter.


Yeah, there are too many archetypes and varied builds to entirely do this justice. I will just throw a few ideas out there for consideration

Monks do a lot better damage if you go with archetypes like sohei. Whether using pummeling style or crit fishing with a nodachi in a flurry...they are great since they have weapon training, they qualify for dueling gloves, they can have survivable AC without going completely MAD since they can use armor (so you can just grab a decent str score and be done with it), and for unarmed they can grab brawling armor.

Swashbuckler...decent enough, but I agree Claxon- precise strike is just meant to put it on par with a 2 handed full BAB character in terms of damage. They are as DPR as one would expect out of any decent full BAB class. Having intimidate and parry/riposte built in is nice, but I could see other specialized melee builds do just as well. Mostly, I like that it gets 2 handed damage but it can use nonTWF sword and board (they can only use light armor...but that allows mithral medium and they get scaling bonuses to AC that makes up the difference anyway)

Cavalier- not entirely bad without a mount. May depend on your order (some argue that dragon gives you the bonuses too, since you count as your own ally; flame's GLORIOUS CHALLENGE is a high risk, high reward deal). More about teamwork though through tactician and most orders. If you aren't using a mount, you would probably grab an animal companion one or daring champion (which is in the same boat as swashbuckler)

Fighters with the brawler archetype are interesting- they are the specialists of lock down- they get earlier access to lock down feats/mechanics, and they get a big boost to the maneuver involved (lore warden can also pull this off, but at a later level). They could theoretically hold down even beefier enemies. This discussion is not about that though- I only bring it up since it means they can be fairly sure that an enemy will stick around for full attacks, and the archetype highly encourages TWF. So they do alright.


I think the best is usually one with a dip of another. Melee characters can get a lot out of multiclassing. There are exceptions, but often some ability from an archetype or base class is exactly what you need to make your build work better. Some of this is simply that many of the coolest martial abilities are locked up in specific archetypes of specific classes with no other or a really late entry way of using the abilities.

Sovereign Court

So much depends upon what you mean by 'best melee'. DPR? Survivability?

For example - a monk's DPR is rather low (though they benefit more from buffing than most and can be pushed up to middling) - Sohei boosts them to middling. However, an unarmored qinggong dex monk's defenses at high levels are the best in the game by a very good margin (better saves than any but possibly a pali & far higher AC - sitting at an AC of 56 with ease @ 20 without fighting defensively etc - when really trying they can push 70 when they are fighting defensively) - with the possible exception of a wildshaped druid once they grab Wild armor/shield.

Does that make them the 'best melee' - almost certainly not (though in a 1v1 dueling tourney they'd certainly be competitive due to said defenses). But it's a good example of how silly it is to try to objectively define 'best melee'. But - if you're looking for survivability - the monk's it.


Charon's Little Helper wrote:

So much depends upon what you mean by 'best melee'. DPR? Survivability?

For example - a monk's DPR is rather low (though they benefit more from buffing than most and can be pushed up to middling) - Sohei boosts them to middling. However, an unarmored qinggong dex monk's defenses at high levels are the best in the game by a very good margin (better saves than any but possibly a pali & far higher AC - sitting at an AC of 56 with ease @ 20 without fighting defensively etc - when really trying they can push 70 when they are fighting defensively) - with the possible exception of a wildshaped druid once they grab Wild armor/shield.

Does that make them the 'best melee' - almost certainly not (though in a 1v1 dueling tourney they'd certainly be competitive due to said defenses). But it's a good example of how silly it is to try to objectively define 'best melee'. But - if you're looking for survivability - the monk's it.

Of course, normal monks can make better tanks...eventually. Sohei just simplify AC and makes it easier to get at the vital early levels where you do not ahve the ton of magical items boosting you. They certainly do not ahve to have complete turtle stats just to survive- they can have a strengths core and they don't have to wait for or waste resources with dex to damage.

I find sohei get to at least fighter levels in terms of TWF, and they do have access to pummelings style and great saves. Add a few qinggong powers, and they can pull their weight at least.


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Yeah, archetypes and specific builds can really have very different power levels.

There isn't a simple answer to "What is best?", except to Crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentations of their women.


I feel like all of this has basically been said before. Barbarian is the ultimate in smashing all of the things. Just taking a one level dip in barbarian make you better at hitting things, so staying in until 12 basically makes you the hulk. The one true barbarian got it's name for a reason, but I also like orc invulnerable ragers with ferocious action.

I've only played the untouchable bloodrager, which has more defensive options than the barbarian, but doesn't hit as hard. I like arcane for blur and haste.

Paladin is good for fighting evil things, which is awesome if you die and get to roll up a new character right before you fight something super evil. This is easily thwarted if the DM says that the bad guy is actually chaotic neutral and misunderstood or lawful good with a different perspective than yours.

Fighter is less reliant on strength because of weapon specialization/weapon training/overhand chop, which can make them good at more than one thing, and they can fight all day. You can also build weird, niche things with fighters because they have good health and tons of feats.

I've heard people say that rangers are good at TWF, but I've never actually seen one not get destroyed in game. My orc barbarian sponged a whole fights worth of arrows while our party's ranger died from one full attack. The worst archer I've ever seen and the worst scout I've ever seen were also rangers. Ranger is still pretty popular though because everyone wants to be Aragorn.

I haven't had a lot experience with the rest.


Froth Maw wrote:
I've heard people say that rangers are good at TWF, but I've never actually seen one not get destroyed in game. My orc barbarian sponged a whole fights worth of arrows while our party's ranger died from one full attack. The worst archer I've ever seen and the worst scout I've ever seen were also rangers. Ranger is still pretty popular though because everyone wants to be Aragorn.

Eh, I guess you never seen good builds and or tactics.

There is a reason why wolves and big cats are the more popular animal companions- they have trip on their natural attacks. The wolf, while it doesn't have pounce, does get large sized which helps in that regard (can trip larger things, CMB bonus, a lot more strength). Trip can seriously help a ranger since it means the enemies can't move away as easily form full attacks.

Also, since they do not need dex, they can go with a strength build without doing a balancing act. That opens up options that dex TWFers can't use- double weapons and one handed weapons (there is more to that one in a bit).

Double weapons are fantastic- they can serve either as one big 2 handed weapon, or they can be a one handed/light combo. That means you can go for 2 handed attacks when you have to move or do AoOs, and then you can go TWF when you want to wrack up a lot of favored enemy bonuses. Previously, you needed to either use an exotic weapon (either through feat or race- half of the core races have options for that, including all of the main melee ones) or a quarterstaff (which has the problem of being wood only), but now there is a double weapon in the simple category- the Weighted spear. It is nothing fancy, just a spear with a bashy end opposite the pointy one, but it gets the job done.

Now, I also mentioned one handed weapons. Why are they important? Because of the cestus. Or gauntlet. Or whatever 'glove' weapon you can use that also lets you use a weapon in that hand instead. Basically, the idea is similar to double weapons- you 2 hand you nice sword when you move or AoO, and you do a one handed/light combo when you full attack. Just with this, it is two separate weapons- your sword and your gauntlet. Not as great for things like weapon focus, but hey- you aren't a fighter, that is only a minor concern.


Roughly in order:

The best all-rounder is the standard Beastsperstition Invulnerable Rager Barbarian.

Huge DPR, Pounce, excellent saves, decent AC, huge amounts of DR. You CANNOT go wrong with this build.

A close second is Bloodrager, mostly because they can take Primalist and get a poor man's version of the above, plus spells.

Paladin has the most staying power of any class in the game, and incredible burst DPR vs Evil targets, and not too shabby damage output versus everything else.

Slayers and Rangers are roughly identical, with Slayers being more consistent and Rangers being better vs their Favored Enemy. The Slayer is slightly worse off because of a lack of spells.

Unchained Monk with a weapon is solid, with Unarmed less so. Brawler is this but more flexible with their Feats.

Cavalier/Samurai have some neat features, but don't hit the high notes of either DPR or survivability as the above. Daring Champion archetyped Cavaliers are Swashbuckler+. They have all the good features.

Swashbucklers have a decent DPR, but absolute s$&# saving throws and a meh AC, so they're a glass cannon in a list of classes that can dish it just as well as take it.

Fighter has the highest consistent DPR at 20th...and nowhere else. Along with bad saves, worse skills, and no class features.

Core Monk is worth dipping. 2-4 levels combined with Fighter (Brawler) and this moves up to about where Unchained Monk and Brawler are. Combined with Brawler, this moves up to about where the Slayer is.


Rynjin wrote:
Swashbucklers have a decent DPR, but absolute s$++ saving throws and a meh AC, so they're a glass cannon in a list of classes that can dish it just as well as take it.

I am not so sure about that (and no, I am not talking about dex builds)

They are highly encouraged to go sword and board with a buckler- they typically have nothing to use that hand for (at least nothing a buckler would interfere with).

A +2 shield and a +2 armor cost less than a +3 armor, but gives more AC. It is the nature of the exponential growth of price for pluses- getting a bonus over two separate items is cheaper than boosting up one single one.

They are limited to light proficiency early on, but hey, no one is buying full plates first level either. They can keep all their class features in a mithral breastplate (and it is ridiculously easy to grab- not even a feat, you just grab armor expert to eliminate the remaining penalties- works for any class that isn't a full caster or regular monk).

The scaling dodge bonus to AC tips it over 'on par with heavier armors' to 'fairly good AC'.

I will agree that the saves are....eh... Their one good save is the one that would most likely be good anyway (since most people use dex builds). I wouldn't call the damage too amazing either (at least compared to other well built full BAB classes)


Their one good save is the one that doesn't matter as much as any other one, is the main issue.

Ref saves are to avoid some damage.

Fort and Will saves are to avoid dying, mainly.


Rynjin wrote:

Their one good save is the one that doesn't matter as much as any other one, is the main issue.

Ref saves are to avoid some damage.

Fort and Will saves are to avoid dying, mainly.

There are also a few things that boil down to 'avoid getting caught', like with pits and tanglefoot bags.

But yes, on the scale, it is generally reflex<fort<will. Reflex tends to put you out of a fight, fort might kill you, and will might make you kill your entire party.


Rynjin wrote:
Swashbucklers have a decent DPR, but absolute s~$+ saving throws

I dunno, Charmed Life is usually enough to make up for the will saves. Then again my table isn't a fan of creatures that force saves every turn so table variance.


HyperMissingno wrote:
Rynjin wrote:
Swashbucklers have a decent DPR, but absolute s~$+ saving throws
I dunno, Charmed Life is usually enough to make up for the will saves. Then again my table isn't a fan of creatures that force saves every turn so table variance.

What is likely to be little more than a +2 to saves generally isn't enough to make up the difference. An extra 10% chance of success when the chance is only 30% to begin with improves your odds from "You're boned" to "You might not be boned as hard".


Dotting. On phone. Have lots to type.


Sir Black-Knight wrote:
Builds that would make them better at what they do would also be appreciated.

If you want builds you'll need to specify more than 'good at melee' and a list of 11 possible classes. A level range (numerical, not undefined med-late level), allowed sources, and anything you'd particularly like or dislike in the character are kind of essential.


Rynjin wrote:
HyperMissingno wrote:
Rynjin wrote:
Swashbucklers have a decent DPR, but absolute s~$+ saving throws
I dunno, Charmed Life is usually enough to make up for the will saves. Then again my table isn't a fan of creatures that force saves every turn so table variance.
What is likely to be little more than a +2 to saves generally isn't enough to make up the difference. An extra 10% chance of success when the chance is only 30% to begin with improves your odds from "You're boned" to "You might not be boned as hard".

depends, I suppose.

If you were building to make up for this problem anyway, you might be better off.

I tend to like half elves, since they have a racial option to get +2 to will saves, which goes along with the +2 against the 'kill your own party' (ie- enchantment effect) saves. That, maybe iron will, and a trait could make it possible to get by (...and make the caster cleric jealous early on-this can be fairly frontloaded).

Although having a poor save in the more dire saves does mean you have a lot of problems to cover up... works great for most full BAB classes though since they have good fort saves- they just need to patch up will to do well enough.

I suppose half orcs are a better choice with their luck bonuses- not as specialized as the half elves', but that is the advantage, it covers all saves. I would also suggest a dwarf with hardy and steel soul...but that is for spells only (which means you are prime bait for a vampire with their supernatural suggestions- again, I like half elves since they defend against enchantment "effects" and also give a straight will boost)


Rynjin wrote:
HyperMissingno wrote:
Rynjin wrote:
Swashbucklers have a decent DPR, but absolute s~$+ saving throws
I dunno, Charmed Life is usually enough to make up for the will saves. Then again my table isn't a fan of creatures that force saves every turn so table variance.
What is likely to be little more than a +2 to saves generally isn't enough to make up the difference. An extra 10% chance of success when the chance is only 30% to begin with improves your odds from "You're boned" to "You might not be boned as hard".

+2? +2?! Good lords, what swashbucklers have you seen?! Charisma can be used to add to AC and every save for this class, why is your charisma so freaking low?! It should be +3 around the start and should gradually go up thanks to headbands and the like. Panache is not grit and is used a lot more often, especially with Dodging Panache. As such more points into charisma is actually worth it for this class. If you build a Swashbuckler like a Gunslinger that uses charisma of course you're having trouble!

Then again we play at 20 points. I understand 15 points can't get this as easily, but with something like a Halfling or a Kitsune (Small Div Tieflings and Azata Aasimar are the best for this but not all tables allow them) you should be able to nab it even on that ruleset. It requires a good deal of system...finesse, but swashbuckler isn't made of glass when built and played well.

Sovereign Court

lemeres wrote:


Of course, normal monks can make better tanks...eventually. Sohei just simplify AC and makes it easier to get at the vital early levels where you do not ahve the ton of magical items boosting you.

Monks become tankier when unarmored by 4ish. My level 4 PFS dex Drunken Master's AC is 27 without trying that hard (Mage Armor is your friend). They'll gain more on unarmored classes as they level due to +1/4 levels, having 2 stats to boost AC, and no max dex (already at +5). Eventually they'll want to trade out Mage Armor for bracers once they can afford +5 without costing too much.

Of course - nothing says that a Sohei HAS to wear armor - and it is the best DPR monk. I mostly just wanted the infinite ki. (And a Sohei's DPR doesn't get a lot better until they can afford to grab Dueling Gloves)


HyperMissingno wrote:
What is likely to be little more than a +2 to saves generally isn't enough to make up the difference. An extra 10% chance of success when the chance is only 30% to begin with improves your odds from "You're boned" to "You might not be boned as hard".

+2? +2?! Good lords, what swashbucklers have you seen?! Charisma can be used to add to AC and every save for this class, why is your charisma so freaking low?! It should be +3 around the start and should gradually go up thanks to headbands and the like. Panache is not grit and is used a lot more often, especially with Dodging Panache. As such more points into charisma is actually worth it for this class. If you build a Swashbuckler like a Gunslinger that uses charisma of course you're having trouble!

Then again we play at 20 points. I understand 15 points can't get this as easily, but with something like a Halfling or a Kitsune (Small Div Tieflings and Azata Aasimar are the best for this but not all tables allow them) you should be able to nab it even on that ruleset. It requires a good deal of system...finesse, but swashbuckler isn't made of glass when built and played well.

While I think Dodging Panache is probably the most useless ability they have, I agree with everything else.

I think most people go with Inspired Blade and use INT for the Panache.

There's a feat that the name escapes me that allows you to add your CHA to all saves. It's not PFS legal, but if you aren't playing PFS...


Jodokai wrote:
HyperMissingno wrote:


There's a feat that the name escapes me that allows you to add your CHA to all saves. It's not PFS legal, but if you aren't playing PFS...

i think you are talking about Divine Protection, which swashbuckler doesnt qualify for, and from what i have heard from different people wouldnt stack with charmed life anyways


Koshimo wrote:
Jodokai wrote:
HyperMissingno wrote:


There's a feat that the name escapes me that allows you to add your CHA to all saves. It's not PFS legal, but if you aren't playing PFS...

i think you are talking about Divine Protection, which swashbuckler doesnt qualify for, and from what i have heard from different people wouldnt stack with charmed life anyways

Ah that's right, they nerfed the SLA's back to where they were. And as far as charmed life, if you use it, you get an extra +1, if you don't you still get CHA to saves.


Divine protection, and requires domain, blessing, or mystery to take.

On another note, does this mean we might be seeing another DPR Olympics thread around here soon?

Edit: ninja'd


HyperMissingno wrote:
Rynjin wrote:
HyperMissingno wrote:
Rynjin wrote:
Swashbucklers have a decent DPR, but absolute s~$+ saving throws
I dunno, Charmed Life is usually enough to make up for the will saves. Then again my table isn't a fan of creatures that force saves every turn so table variance.
What is likely to be little more than a +2 to saves generally isn't enough to make up the difference. An extra 10% chance of success when the chance is only 30% to begin with improves your odds from "You're boned" to "You might not be boned as hard".

+2? +2?! Good lords, what swashbucklers have you seen?! Charisma can be used to add to AC and every save for this class, why is your charisma so freaking low?! It should be +3 around the start and should gradually go up thanks to headbands and the like. Panache is not grit and is used a lot more often, especially with Dodging Panache. As such more points into charisma is actually worth it for this class. If you build a Swashbuckler like a Gunslinger that uses charisma of course you're having trouble!

Then again we play at 20 points. I understand 15 points can't get this as easily, but with something like a Halfling or a Kitsune (Small Div Tieflings and Azata Aasimar are the best for this but not all tables allow them) you should be able to nab it even on that ruleset. It requires a good deal of system...finesse, but swashbuckler isn't made of glass when built and played well.

...Wot

You can't add Cha to AC with a Swashbuckler. You can use an Immediate action and Panache to add your Cha to AC for AoOs triggered by MOVEMENT. Which is not nearly the same thing.

The Swashbuckler is not a Charisma based class any more than Gunslinger is a Wisdom based class. There is zero reason to spend more than 5 points on Charisma at start, and that's only if you're not using one of the many Dex/Cha races in the game.

You use it for three things: Panache (which can be restored in a bajillion ways), Swashbuckler Finesse (which needs 13 at highest), Dodging Panache (which prevents you from using Charmed Life that round), and Charmed Life.

Meanwhile you need the same stats as every other melee based class. Str/Dex/Con (drop Str for many builds, but still), and you want a decent Wis for saves when you need to make more than one save a round or three saves per day, and I like a decent Int so I can do something.

So you probably want something like 10 16 14 10 12 12.


Charon's Little Helper wrote:
lemeres wrote:


Of course, normal monks can make better tanks...eventually. Sohei just simplify AC and makes it easier to get at the vital early levels where you do not ahve the ton of magical items boosting you.

Monks become tankier when unarmored by 4ish. My level 4 PFS dex Drunken Master's AC is 27 without trying that hard (Mage Armor is your friend). They'll gain more on unarmored classes as they level due to +1/4 levels, having 2 stats to boost AC, and no max dex (already at +5). Eventually they'll want to trade out Mage Armor for bracers once they can afford +5 without costing too much.

Of course - nothing says that a Sohei HAS to wear armor - and it is the best DPR monk. I mostly just wanted the infinite ki. (And a Sohei's DPR doesn't get a lot better until they can afford to grab Dueling Gloves)

Well, it is slightly better...mostly due to weapon choice since it has martial weapons (and just 2 handing a nodachi is a fine choice prior to level 6 when you can flurry with it- I mean...flurry's -2 is a rather large penalty for levels 1-5, so just going with reliable 2 handed damage with a high crit is not a bad idea)

Well, that and the fact that they are less MAD and less dependant on going high dex/wis in order to get even basic AC. They can just invest in str.

So for the most part, it is just the weapons and the fact that armor highly simplifies AC that makes them better for damage before they can start stacking weapon training, dueling gloves, and brawling armor if they are unarmed.

I will admit though that my expectations of monk AC is based off of 'sohei' stat rather than the 'usual monk' stats (ie- compared a str based sohei's AC with armor vs. AC without, seeing about when the AC gets overtaken).

Sovereign Court

lemeres wrote:
Charon's Little Helper wrote:
lemeres wrote:


Of course, normal monks can make better tanks...eventually. Sohei just simplify AC and makes it easier to get at the vital early levels where you do not ahve the ton of magical items boosting you.

Monks become tankier when unarmored by 4ish. My level 4 PFS dex Drunken Master's AC is 27 without trying that hard (Mage Armor is your friend). They'll gain more on unarmored classes as they level due to +1/4 levels, having 2 stats to boost AC, and no max dex (already at +5). Eventually they'll want to trade out Mage Armor for bracers once they can afford +5 without costing too much.

Of course - nothing says that a Sohei HAS to wear armor - and it is the best DPR monk. I mostly just wanted the infinite ki. (And a Sohei's DPR doesn't get a lot better until they can afford to grab Dueling Gloves)

Well, it is slightly better...mostly due to weapon choice since it has martial weapons (and just 2 handing a nodachi is a fine choice prior to level 6 when you can flurry with it- I mean...flurry's -2 is a rather large penalty for levels 1-5, so just going with reliable 2 handed damage with a high crit is not a bad idea)

Well, that and the fact that they are less MAD and less dependant on going high dex/wis in order to get even basic AC. They can just invest in str.

So for the most part, it is just the weapons and the fact that armor highly simplifies AC that makes them better for damage before they can start stacking weapon training, dueling gloves, and brawling armor if they are unarmed.

I will admit though that my expectations of monk AC is based off of 'sohei' stat rather than the 'usual monk' stats (ie- compared a str based sohei's AC with armor vs. AC without, seeing about when the AC gets overtaken).

I think that we're pretty much on the same page with Sohei vs unarmed dex monk, though even a Sohei would need a decent dex for AC. I just tend to build characters who lean a bit defensive... and Drunken Master is a lot of fun (who is drinking away his troubles mid combat).

I will say - in terms of DPR - with Fast Drinker he does get an extra swing every other round from ki, and at 5 he'll get Scorching Ray virtually at will, making him a decent switch hitter.

Actually - if this 'best melee' was in the form of a level 20 melee only duel (not really a good marker for 'best melee' - but still...) - I'd put my $ on a unarmored Sohei dex monk - he'd have the AC/saves I mentioned before, but also considerably higher offense than any other monk due to the things you mentioned. (Except maybe for the Ronin Vorpal combo.)


Here are my personal rankings, with some explanations behind each choice. I've omitted the samurai simply because I don't know enough about it to judge it adequately, but if I had to guess, it'd be below the cavalier, and probably around 7 or 8.
1-Bloodrager - The bloodrager combines everything great about the barbarian with some powerful versatility via their bloodlines, and their spells provide an extremely powerful self-buffing capability. In my personal opinion, a cross-blooded arcane/destined steelblooded bloodrager is the most powerful melee build out there, at least that I've seen.
2-Paladin - This ranking only goes to the paladin under the assumption that in a normal campaign, nearly all of the enemies are evil. They usually have very solid defenses and survivability thanks to Divine Grace and Lay on Hands. In addition, their offence goes from being mediocre to amazing when they smite, which by mid levels can usually be against most truly intimidating foes. Perhaps I'm biased in favor of the paladin, since it was my first class in Pathfinder, but I think that this is generally a very strong class.
3-Slayer - The slayer is so high on this list because of their versatility. Unlike the paladin and the ranger later on, their combat abilities work in every situation, and are fairly easy to activate. They gain access to the ranger combat styles via their talents, which means that they can take feats without meeting the prerequisites, and that makes them great for a lot of different builds. Overall, this class seems to be a powerful and versatile option for any melee build.
4-Swashbuckler - Far less versatile, the swashbuckler lends itself well to dex-based melee types, but makes them extremely good at what they do. The swashbuckler typically has great damage(although this is drastically reduced against those monsters that avoid precision damage), with relatively solid saves for a melee unit(great reflex saves, and Charmed Life can shore up the others), and their AC is boosted by being dex-based. Overall a very solid class.
5-Ranger - I see the ranger as being a slightly less versatile slayer, swapping out studied target for favored enemy, and trading things like sneak attack and talents for favored terrains, spells, and a wild bond. The ranger will usually be more powerful if you know exactly what you will be going up against, and the spells can provide a good self-buffing mechanism, but I would still place the slayer higher for their versatility.
6-Cavalier - The cavalier is a very powerful class when they have access to their mount and room to charge, but unfortunately there are often situations where this is infeasible, and then the cavalier is not a very powerful class at all. The reason they're 6th is simply because of the difficulty of always having a mount with you, which makes them a difficult character to play optimally.
7-Barbarian - To be honest, I've never really seen the point of the barbarian, but I have grown to recognize that they're a powerful class in their own right, if not to my taste. They have an extremely powerful offence, but at the cost of their AC, and unfortunately it's rare that hp alone is enough to get through a fight. With the right build, like the common Come and Get Me build, the barbarian can be quite effective, but I still think that the classes above them are usually more powerful.
8-Brawler - The brawler is an interesting class, and with the correct use of pummeling style can definitely be a great melee character, but what makes them stand out is their flexibilityno pun intended. Their ability to gain any feat they qualify for allows them to adapt on a whim, which is something that many classes struggle with. Combined with their bonus feats and ability to take fighter-only feats like weapon specialization, as well as applying pummeling style to their build, can make for a powerful character.
9-Fighter - The classic melee character, the fighter is still a powerful option in its own right. Their abundance of feats allows them to create incredibly specialized builds while retaining their overall combat ability, and they can certainly hold their own in many situations. That said, they lack anything truly unique that makes them stand out, and I think that hurts them in later levels, when most classes have at least some kind of burst or nova ability that makes them more powerful when they need it most(smite evil, rage, studied target, etc.).
10-Monk(Unchained) - The unchained monk definitely has some cool options, and I don't see them as a bad class by any means, but their small ki pool hurts them, and they just don't seem as good as the above classes.
11-Monk(Regular) - Finally, the regular monk. To be honest, this is the only class that I wouldn't want to play as a melee character that is on this list. With a d8 hit die and usually low AC, the monk struggles to find its place. Notoriously MAD, many of its abilities rely on wisdom, which unfortunately can't be a primary stat for a class that needs all 3 physical stats as high as possible. Archetypes make this class slightly less painful, but in a melee-only setting, the monk's most powerful option is nullified(zen archer is arguably one of if not the best archetype in Pathfinder, but in a melee-only ranking, it's useless).

Liberty's Edge

House-ruling Wisdom to attack and damage rolls plus full BAB has made my players love the Monk again.


best is... a weird concept.
for me, best is fun, versatile while still able to do the job (melee).
so...
#1
Sohei monk that take animal companion.
you can move and full attack with flurry (skirmisher) .
you got great saves and skills.
your pet is super strong.
you roll 100 attacks a round.

#2
hungry ghost monk, dip 1 into cleric .
flurry with a 15-20 katana, 6 attacks a round, each crit = heal your level ? yes plz.

#3
lore warden fighter that dip 3 into maneuver master monk OR thug rogue.
ever dirty tricked a dragon ?
want to shut down (grapple, grt grapple, rapid grapple for pin and tied) in round 1?

#4
small cavalier on a bear or a giant gecko.

#5
medium cavalier, order of the dragon, that fight along side (not riding! ) the animal (lion).
you defend all while still ableto attack nicely.
dip 1-4 into either a thug or maneuver master monk. (or 6 into sohei.)
charge for triple when you can, but stand and defend when cant.

#6
barbarian inv. rager.
dip 1 into oracel
dip 1 into fighter .
get DR 20, sunder magical effects, saves passed all the time and HUGE pool of HP while still doing ok damage.

#7
barbarian with a mount.
dip 1 into oracle = int 6 of animal.
rage cycle to death.
i love to be a grappling master with this build.

#8
ranger. with animal companion. mounted combat that has more skills and little less damage than a cavalier.


Any class built with a pounce mechanic (without giving up too much) plays drastically better than a character without that mechanic. You can build without pounce, but you're doomed to spend half your time without something to do but move.

You can design around it by taking the cleave feats and hurtful, invoking more than one attack after moving via those mechanics. That ends up being just fine. There are just some classes where it's harder to do than others.


Froth Maw wrote:


I've heard people say that rangers are good at TWF, but I've never actually seen one not get destroyed in game. My orc barbarian sponged a whole fights worth of arrows while our party's ranger died from one full attack. The worst archer I've ever seen and the worst scout I've ever seen were also rangers. Ranger is still pretty popular though because everyone wants to be Aragorn.

TWF itself is mechanically deficient due to requiring more resources for an inferior product. I can't build a good playable TWF ranger that I'm happy with, but I can build extremely playable 2h rangers no problem. It really requires looking hard at your ranger style options, I like Gorums best.


Lastoth wrote:

Any class built with a pounce mechanic (without giving up too much) plays drastically better than a character without that mechanic. You can build without pounce, but you're doomed to spend half your time without something to do but move.

You can design around it by taking the cleave feats and hurtful, invoking more than one attack after moving via those mechanics. That ends up being just fine. There are just some classes where it's harder to do than others.

Not necessarily. There are ways to avoid that...mostly by abusing reach.

A reach weapon with lunge can full attack anything in a 45' wide circle. That eases things up a lot, and generally reach is a fairly powerful melee build anyway (especially with the new fortuitous property adding another possible hit for the same AoO drawing action- it is a mini full attack basically, taking putting some of your best attacks in)

And I know of ways to continually set up movement Aoos against the same opponent using a reach weapon. If you keep the enemies far enough way, you can get off all your attacks and AoOs, and they only get maybe 1 attack. Just attack from far with lunge, and push them away from you with pushing assault. Doing that, you can basically kite them continually, and they have to eat AoOs just to get close enough to even try doing anything to you. And unlike most defensive builds, it still has a nice 2 handed bites (with a wide reach as mentioned above), so they have a hard time avoiding you if they decide attacking you is too much trouble.


lemeres wrote:
can full attack anything in a 45' wide circle

So you mean 20' reach? Yeah it's not hard. You can build an abberant bloodrager who gains 5' reach at 4th along with access to enlarge person and long arm. At 4th level you can have a 20'reach with just that since they all stack which means a 40' reach with a reach weapon and later a 50' reach with lunge.


Lastoth wrote:
lemeres wrote:
can full attack anything in a 45' wide circle
So you mean 20' reach? Yeah it's not hard. You can build an abberant bloodrager who gains 5' reach at 4th along with access to enlarge person and long arm. At 4th level you can have a 20'reach with just that since they all stack which means a 40' reach with a reach weapon and later a 50' reach with lunge.

No, not 20' reach- it is reach weapon+lunge+5' step.

I view it like that because I always try to avoid reach weapons with enlarge person, since they have a rather massive flaw- the gap where they cannot use their reach weapons is too large for a 5' step.

The 45' circle I mention is an area where the character can attack any opponent- it has full control, and then it adds on feats to increase that control to encourage far, far more AoOs.

With a large+reach weapon, you have to move 10' to attack an adjacent opponent. That means you lose your full attack, and not even pounce will help you. You viewed classes without pounce as comparatively crippled compared to those with pounce. Large+reach makes a situation where a character faces the same problem...but it is in a place where any other melee build could get their full attack off.

Sure, there are ways to attack adjacent, such as bites or unarmed strikes...but those are separate weaker items that need enhancing, rather that your nice big 2 handed polearm, and it also needs you to spread your investments out. (Now, there is an exception to this, the polearm master fighter who can change up their reach- they are generally fine with going large)

Combining reach and large size typically sacrifices your ability to take an enemy on directly in order to focus more on battlefield control (typically by doing things like trip builds, making you a very ahrd wall to pass if enemies want to get at casters). While valuable and great situationally, it is not something I would build my character around.

Now, being large and having the increase to reach from your bloodline (and longarm)? Yeah, that is great, since it is all natural reach that lets you attack anywhere. I would more build for that and put on a greatsword, or maybe a falchion. Bloodragers can pull off reach very well in a method different from other classes.

But for everyone else, I would generally aim for mastering medium sized reach builds, since they still have a fairly nice reach for battlefield control, and you retain your ability to face enemies head on. And between lunge, 5' step, reach weapons, and perhaps a long arm spell, they can full attack most of the battlefield without using using size changes.


I'm going to mostly ignore what everyone else has said--not out of condescension, but more because it's beating a dead horse--and give some other opinions.

Again, it really depends on your play style, first and foremost. Something others are forgetting is that it also drastically depends on your table, as different DMs and players will do wildly different things. That said, I have a few personal favorites and will describe some excellent builds for them.

--Swashbuckler: Rather fond of the class, I really don't get why people seem to dislike it so much. It gets decent damage boosts, and you can easily make a swashbuckler with good AC (with a fair bit of enchanting costs) with a shield with the defending property and never attack with it. Your buckler gives you a +11, congratulations. Swashbucklers are held back slightly by their inability to multiply their extra damage on a crit, but I know many PF DMs that ignore that rule, myself included. One of the best builds for Swashbucklers, I've discovered, is to multiclass into Paladin for a few levels; Smite Evil is NEVER going to hurt, and Divine Grace helps pump up all of your saves. Parry and Riposte is excellent for avoiding damage at higher levels as well, especially if you have good Panache. I disagree whole-heartedly with those saying you shouldn't have high Charisma as a Swashbuckler. Pump that sucker. Deflect everything!

Paladin: Very good tank, with decent AC (great against Smite Evil targets), and can heal itself nicely to help with damage. Smite gives you a lot of damage output, which is nice. Much like Swashbuckler can benefit from a dip into paladin, the inverse is true. Even a strength based paladin, as they're not very feat intensive, can afford the (mostly) useless to them Slashing Grace. This gives you the Swashbuckler's damage bonus at all times, which stacks with your Smite bonus, and lets you deflect attacks on occasion. Good deal, if you ask me.

Brawler: Absurdly good at grappling. Depending on the DM, taking Dragon Style feats will either make you very good at damage, or absurdly good. The secret to brawlers, much like monks, is that they can't move much to make the most of their abilities. Put into a pair with a tripping build, Brawlers can destroy their targets pretty nicely. The snakebite striker is also an interesting archetype, but YMMV on its usefulness.

Slayer: Favorite class, hands down. It's probably the best melee class for adaptability, if you ask me. A high number of skill points, along with an assigned attack/damage/skill bonus, along with sneak attack and full BAB can make the Slayer a deadly combatant if built right. They're very good TWF builds, as their full BAB combined with Sneak Attack means they'll likely hit more often than the rogue, and have more attacks in general. One-handed Slayer builds with a few levels in Swashbuckler can be hilariously good, I'm building one myself at the moment.

Hope this is helpful to you, at least somewhat.


JDPhipps wrote:

--Swashbuckler: Rather fond of the class, I really don't get why people seem to dislike it so much. It gets decent damage boosts, and you can easily make a swashbuckler with good AC (with a fair bit of enchanting costs) with a shield with the defending property and never attack with it. Your buckler gives you a +11, congratulations. Swashbucklers are held back slightly by their inability to multiply their extra damage on a crit, but I know many PF DMs that ignore that rule, myself included. One of the best builds for Swashbucklers, I've discovered, is to multiclass into Paladin for a few levels; Smite Evil is NEVER going to hurt, and Divine Grace helps pump up all of your saves. Parry and Riposte is excellent for avoiding damage at higher levels as well, especially if you have good Panache. I disagree whole-heartedly with those saying you shouldn't have high Charisma as a Swashbuckler. Pump that sucker. Deflect everything!

Paladin: Very good tank, with decent AC (great against Smite Evil targets), and can heal itself nicely to help with damage. Smite gives you a lot of damage output, which is nice. Much like Swashbuckler can benefit from a dip into paladin, the inverse is true. Even a strength based paladin, as they're not very feat intensive, can afford the (mostly) useless to them Slashing Grace. This gives you the Swashbuckler's damage bonus at all times, which stacks with your Smite bonus, and lets you deflect attacks on occasion. Good deal, if you ask me.

Shield thing for swashbucklers won't work. Swashbucklers only get bucklers, and some of their class features turn off with other shields (...like the all important precise strike). Defending is a weapon property, and bucklers aren't weapons (that is the main difference between them and light shields- you can use weapons with bucklers, light shields are weapons themselves)

Also, it wouldn't work anyway- you have to actually attack with a defending weapon in order to use it.

Paladin- slashing grace and precise strike only work with 1 handed weapons used in 1 hand- you can't 2 hand. And if you only dip swashbuckler, you won't ever get enough precise strike damage to justify losing the x1.5 str and power attack (you need a rather high level in swashbuckler before precise strike does anything but catch up with 2 handed builds).

Similar problems with the slayer thing you suggested. It might have some relevance to TWF builds...but not while you are using TWF (since precise strike needs you to not use a weapon in the other hand)- I think slayers are better off just using a double weapon or 1 handed+gauntlet/cestus honestly.


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1. Barbarian.
2. Lesser Barbarians.
3. Puny Mortals.

On a slightly more serious note:

1. Barbarian.
2. Bloodrager.
3. Paladin/Ranger.
4. Brawler/Cavalier/Slayer.
5. Swashbuckler/Samurai/Fighter/Monk (any).

And the Bloodrager is only there because of Primalist (which has no downside, so it's like Qinggong). Otherwise it'd probably go down a level to Paladin/Ranger. I suppose we could include a Viking Fighter too but that's a very specific kind of fighter, unlikely to be the most common example.

The barbarian is the king of smash. They eat magic, crap lightning, and punch spells so hard they cease to exist. Bloodrager is like half of those, plus some spells. Paladin has the same saves and survivability and is the only one with dispel magic but has a limited focus. All defense, only occasionally offense. Rangers get massive bonuses against specific creatures (and then a spell to make that every creature), a spare combatant, and spells that give them crazy utility. Seriously, this spell is hilariously awesome. Brawler is actually flexible with feats, cavalier does incredible spike damage in its focus, and slayer is a decent all-arounder.

The rest are gimmicky (and the gimmick isn't that good), unfocused, or weaker than one of the other classes.

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