Warrior-builds are all about having the right feats. Unfortunately, with such a wealth of feats, it can sometimes be hard to come up with creative combinations that actually work. The following are some simple guidelines for building the warrior you want, without spending several days reading every single feat and analyzing the combinations.
Rule 1: Start with generics…
For starters, rather than worrying about a defining weapon, super combo, or neat trick your character can do, think about their fighting style in the most basic terms. Do you want a heavily armored tank? A nimble skirmisher? An unarmed master? Combine spells and swordplay?
This is a great way to pick a class. Most of the classes in this game are surprisingly well balanced such that no single choice is obviously better than any other. If you are building a warrior, start with a class with good Base Attack Bonus. The +1 attack at 1st level makes a big difference and also opens up a lot of basic combat feats. This has the added benefit of narrowing the choices a lot—leaving us with the following:
- Defender: If you want to do unarmed combat, play this. Done!
- Wildlander: More skills than any of the others, this is a good pick if you want some skill versatility.
- Hexblade: Able to cast a few spells and with strong magical defenses. This could work for any combat style.
- Swashbuckler: If you want to build a fencer, this is your pick.
- Champion: The best option for a traditional sword-and-board melee fighter (since they can summon magic shields starting at only 2nd level).
- Totem Warrior: Good for a variety of builds. If you want a good archer, always be a Hawk Totem Warrior.
- Unfettered: If looking for dirty tricks and light or unarmored defense stop here.
- Warmain: Any heavily armored tank-build should start here.
- Crusader: A bad choice for any new player. This class requires a lot of book-keeping with an unnecessary level of mechanical complexity.
- Warblade: Works for any melee build, plus a few neat tricks on top of your regular options.
The important thing to remember is that the feats actually matter a lot more than the class. If you’re stuck just roll a d10 and move on.
Rule 2: Don’t worry about race…
While some races might seem better than others for certain warrior builds (Giants and Orcs with their +4 Strength, Faen or Elflings with +4 Dex, or Erenlanders with piles of feats), their advantages all balance out over the life of the character. By 7th or 8th level the racial modifiers will be completely overshadowed by your class abilities and magic items.
Pick a race that seems interesting to play, don’t worry about the mechanics. You’ll be happier.
Also, having a “sub-optimal” race makes your character stand-out more.
Rule 3: Have a goal in mind…
There are a lot of Prestige Classes available in this game. If you see one that looks cool or that definitely fits your character idea, GO FOR IT. Having a prestige class (or two) in mind as a goal makes your choices of skills, feats, and even races and classes strait-forward. Just make every choice with the intent of completing the prerequisites for the class as quickly as possible. You’ll have a cool character with minimal work.
Also, when doing this, watch the other prestige classes…there are a lot of overlapping prerequisites for prestige classes with similar themes, you might complete the requirements for 3 or 4, giving you some options for further customization without too much thought later on.
Note: I’ll try to put some better summary information and prerequisites on the prestige-class page when I get the chance.
Rule 4: Don’t pick 20 feats…pick 2…
There are a LOT of feats, and you’ll get a lot of them. For any warrior, two types of feats can definitely simplify your choices: Style feats (search Feats for “style”) define your choice of weapons and Tactical feats (search Feats for “tactical”) give you a variety of combat options for the cost of only 1 feat.
Both Style and Tactical feats usually have steep and very specific requirements. If you pick one feat from each category as a goal, then you’ll probably have at least 4 (possibly 7 or 8) of your other feats picked out for you. Picking a Style feat, a Tactical feat, and a Prestige class to work towards means you’ll probably be 13th or 15th level before you have to start cherry-picking from the giant feat list (and the focused work on prerequisites should make some higher-teir feats pop as obvious choices “Hey look, I already qualify for X…awesome!”).
You’ll be guaranteed to have an effective warrior with a clear “niche” in the campaign-world and some cool descriptive text to make them stand out.
Also, keep in mind, in many cases you’ll come up with cooler combinations by “picking blind” (that is, just looking at the names and prereqs and not the actual mechanics) than many people do from trying to crunch all the numbers. If things sound like they would go together well, they probably do.
Rule 5 (or 1): Keep it simple…
Don’t let any of the other player’s jabbering about this combo or that combo throw you off, there is no “optimal build” or “perfect choice” for any character. Pick a few things that sound interesting to focus on and let the rest take care of itself.
For skills, for instance, once you’ve met the prerequisites for any feats or prestige classes you are working on, just put the rest in the class skills for your class. The game designers are smart and these are usually the skills you’ll end up using the most anyways.
But..but..but… What about this bonus feat?
For that pesky “Ceremonial” or “Talent” feat that everyone starts with. Don’t fret it for your warrior. Most ceremonial feats are spellcaster-oriented and none (or very few) of the remainder give you any combat-optimization.
The simplest way to pick these is to:
- Throw out the ones that have ability requirements you don’t meet.
- Throw out any with “Mage” or “Spell” in their name (unless you want a fighter/caster combo).
- Look at the names and pick one that sounds cool. Doing it this way is a good way to round out your character without worrying about the minutia of the rules.
If you really want to combat-optimize though, here is the short list you should look at:
- Ceremonial Feats: Bonded Item, Fleet of Foot, Hands as Weapons, Intuitive Sense, Sense the Unseen, Defensive Roll, or Slippery Mind.
- Talent: Born Hero, Defensive, Natural Archer, Natural Swordsman, Night Owl, or Energy Resistance.
If you want a cool trick or two without the complexity of spell-casting or tracking per-day powers, you should take the Martial Study feat. This lets you pick one martial maneuver (from the Tome of Battle) which becomes usable once per encounter. They are cool both mechanically and thematically, and only having one or two won’t bog you down with too many brain-warping options.
If you want to power-game, one small thing to remember about these is that you use 1/2 your total character level to determine the level of powers you can use, so the longer you can make yourself hold-off on taking the feat, the cooler the tricks you will learn when you do.
The same goes for “splashing” levels of Warblade, Swordsage, or Crusader. These might look like desirable options at lower levels (since they have extra AC and save buffs), but the longer you can delay taking the level(s), the better the powers you learn will be.
Note that unless you want to play a complicated caster-like character, you are better off just taking the Martial Study feat once or twice than you are taking a level in one of these classes.
An example of this in practice. For this we’ll be building a tough, savage front-line melee warrior. Our main criteria for all choices will be having cool, evocative names to get ideas flowing.
- Pick a class: Bear Totem Warrior (bears are both “tough” and “savage”)…
- Prestige Class Goal: Bloodclaw Master (sounds suffiently frightening and bear-like)
- We see that is has the following requirements: Acrobatics 6 ranks (can’t get in til 7th level), Two-weapon Fighting (ok, he uses 2 weapons), Must know 3 Tiger-claw Maneuvers (huh, ok, we’ll need to learn some maneuvers before level 7)
- Race: Since the Prestige Class has no requirement here, we’ll defer this decision for now.
- Feats: Since he’s a Bear Totem Warrior the “Bear Fang Style” style feat sounds appropriate. Likewise, the “Reaping Talons” tactical feat sounds like it fits the savage motif we’re building.
- Interestingly both of these appear to have Two-weapon Fighting as a prerequisite. Since this is also a prereq for the prestige class, we see a clear thematic element developing for his combat style, and also a clear winner for 1st feat for the character.
- Between the two, we also require: Power Attack, Weapon Focus-dagger, Weapon Focus-axe (all feats we could take starting at level 1), and 2 Tiger-claw maneuvers.
- Race (revisited): Bear Fang Style requires a Str score of 15 and Two-weapon Fighting requires a Dex score of 15. Unless we rolled several high stats, we’ll probably need to go with a race that boosts one of these two stats. Since we’re keeping things simple and building a savage warrior, Orc (with its +4 Strength) seems appropriate, and we’ll probably put our highest rolled ability into Dex to make sure we qualify for everything.
- Leveling: It looks like we’ll need to take 1 level of Warblade (to learn our 3 Tiger-Claw maneuvers) some time before level 6, and we have a total of 6 feats already picked out. So we’ve got most of our character decisions resolved until level 12. Awesome!
- What we have: X is a Bear Totem Warrior who fights with a dagger in one hand and an axe in the other using the “Bear Fang Style”, he favors the use of “Reaping Talon tactics” and hopes to one day become a “Bloodclaw Master”. Sound cool? Yeah, that only took like 5 minutes…