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With the confirmation from Owen KC Stephens that operative weapons used for a combat maneuver allow you to apply your DEX mod to a grapple check, I was inspired to make a 5th level Vanguard Skittermander build focused on grappling.
Female Skittermander Vanguard (Boundary) 5
NG Small Humanoid (Skittermander)
Init +9; Senses Perception +X; low-light-vision, darkvision 60ft.
KAC 25, EAC 23
HP 44, SP 55, RP 5
Fort +7, Ref +9, Will +3
Base Atk +5
Speed 25 ft.
Harmonic Vibrogarrote >Entropic Strike< +19 vs. EAC+8 (1d6+8 Fo; force, conceal, grapple, operative, powered, throttle, block. Critical: deafen)
(As a throttle weapon, this only does damage on grapple attempts)
Str 10 Dex 19+2 Con 16 Int 10 Wis 12 Cha 13
Improved Maneuver (Sunder)
Improved Combat Maneuver (Grapple): +4 on grapple attempts.
Weapon Focus (Advanced Melee Weapons): +1 to attack rolls with advanced melee weapons.
Coordinated Shot: When you are threatening a foe with a melee weapon, any ally that has line of sight to that foe without you granting that foe cover gains a +1 bonus to ranged attack rolls against that foe.
Harmonic Vibrogarrote, Tac. Starknife (Called), Vesk Overplate I (Infrared Sensors), Field Tactical Shield.
Standard kit of stuff. Ring of Resistance Mk 1 (Will).
Grappler: Skittermanders get +2 to grapple checks.
Hyper: 1/day can take an extra move action.
Low-light Vision: Low-light vision.
Six-Armed: You have 6 arms.
Aspect Insight -> Sunder, +2 perception
Aspect Embodiment Once per combat, when an attack misses you or hits you but fails to damage you, or you succeed at a saving throw that negates an effect, you can gain 1 Entropy Point without taking any additional action.
Vanguard Disciplines -> Constant Vigilance, Interfere
Reactive 1/day take additional reaction.
Entropic Attunement -> Force
Being able to target EAC with your maneuvers stacks with all the other goodies that being a grappling skittermander gets you, making your grapples (and pins) very likely to land. When you land a grapple, you do throttle damage based on your entropic strike, which scales far better than any normal throttle weapon, granting better dice at high levels and higher weapon specialization scaling. Furthermore, the block property of your weapon improves your AC against your grapple-target's attempts to escape the grapple.
Against combatant foes of the same level as you, you can expect 75% chance to land a grapple and 50% chance to pin!
Since grapple uses a standard action, once you're in melee you can spend your remaining move action on positioning a shield against your grapple target. You can position the shield for another +1 to AC, bringing your KAC+8 up to an eye-watering 35. A CR5 creature's +14-+15 to hit will have a very hard time breaking through that.
You have the vibrogarrote dealing 1d6+8 damage; I assume from Weapon Specialization for 5 and Con for 3. Does the Entropic Strike's special Weapon Specialization somehow override the Operative quality's limit of only 1/2 character level to damage?
It sure does! Entropic Strike uses its own special calculation for weapon specialization (1x your Vanguard level + 1/2 your other class levels).
That was not at all clear to me in the class write-up.
You just have to remember that Entropic Strike is an ability that acts as a melee attack with the given properties and can be modified by your weapon’s special properties; it is not a weapon attack. Since it isn’t a melee weapon attack, it doesn’t benefit from any benefits that you would otherwise add (like STR bonuses, which have to be specifically added back in with the lvl 10 ability). The description for Entropic Strike defines how to calculate the damage for the ability.
Entropic Strike doesn’t follow weapon specialization rules because it doesn’t get actual Weapon Specialization. The Weapon Specialization entry on the class description adds to the Entropic Strike damage not through the normal feat but by giving you a specific bonus to that ability equal to Vanguard Level + 1/2 of any other class levels.
I also missed it the first time I looked through the class, because it is under Weapon Specialization, instead of under Entropic Strike, and I had gotten so used to the Weapon Specialization thing not saying anything class specific that I skimmed over it.
EDSIT: However, entropic strike is mechanically a weapon attack. It counts as a magical advanced melee weapon.