Iconic Design: Ryan’s Brawler

Welcome to Iconic Design, Private Sanctuary’s source for innovative and evocative character builds for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, normally written by Everyman Gamer Alexander Augunas, guest written this week by Ryan Costello. Today, we’re going to be looking at a build for a brawler in a thong.

First of all, hello everyone. Alex was busy with freelance deadlines, so I agreed to make an exception to personal not working on game-related writing unlike Milinarsted is done to take the reins for an iconic design. On top of Alex needing a break, he tells me people have requested more than once an iconic design based on my sumo-theme brawler, Daitora. Specifically, people want to know how I can have a 6th level brawler with AC 13.

Build Concept

A sumo brawler with a tattoo of a tiger on his chest. I actually posted a character creation journal for Daitora on the site during the Advanced Class Guide Playtest. Part 4 specifically went into the build. But that only covered up to level 2, and it wasn’t in Alex’s sleek style, so onward!

Early Levels (1–7)

  • Classes: Brawler 6
  • Feats: Meditation Master (bonus), Improved Unarmed Strike (bonus), Power Attack (1st), Combat Expertise (bonus), Tiger Style (3rd), Weapon Focus (Unarmed Strike) (bonus), Combat Meditation (5th), Slow Time (7th)
  • Abilities: brawler’s cunning, martial flexibility, martial training, unarmed strike, brawler’s flurry (Two-Weapon Fighting), maneuver training, AC bonus, knockout, brawler’s strike (magic), close weapon mastery

Let’s get it out of the way now that I don’t build classes the same way Alex does. I have no idea how he would feel about me taking Meditation Master from Pathfinder Player’s Companion – Faiths & Philosophies at 1st level. And even I know that, thematically, Daitora makes way more sense as a monk than a brawler. One of the underlying advantages of the brawler is that it eliminates the Eastern influence from the class. Then here I go, bringing the East to the brawler.

That said, there is a mechanical theme to my early choices: flexibility. Meditation Master grants me a +1 bonus to a single D20 roll per day and can be applied after a roll but before the results are determined. My other two first feats were Power Attack and Combat Expertise, feats that let me trade attack bonus for other advantages and the gateways to all of the combat maneuver feats. Fighting on a cliff? I use martial flexibility to gain Improved Bullrush. Fighting against a wolf? Don’t forget that Improved Trip also grants a bonus to CMD against trips. Fighting in a room with weird lava trenches? Been there. Daitora gained improved grapple and pinned the scenario’s villain face-first in the lava.

Tiger Style is largely a thematic choice, but the ability to deal slashing damage with an unarmed strike has come in handy (ha!) against creatures with DR, and it opens up Tiger Claws, which is even better against DR.

The end goal of the mediation feats I took was Slow Time. What warrior wouldn’t want the ability to grant themselves the effects of haste, especially in PFS where you never know who you’ll be adventuring with, but you’ll know you’ll appreciate the effects of haste.

Endgame (8-11+)

  • Classes: Brawler 11
  • Feats: Meditation Master (bonus), Improved Unarmed Strike (bonus), Power Attack (1st), Combat Expertise (bonus), Tiger Style (3rd), Weapon Focus (Unarmed Strike) (bonus), Combat Meditation (5th), Slow Time (7th), Tiger Claws (bonus), Tiger Pounce (9th), Weapon Specialization (Unarmed Strike) (bonus), Dodge (11th).
  • Abilities: brawler’s cunning, martial flexibility, martial training, unarmed strike, brawler’s flurry, maneuver training, AC bonus, knockout, brawler’s strike, close weapon mastery.

This being a PFS character, I have only plotted it out to 11th level, and even then everything after 6th level is tentative.

Even though by 8th level, martial flexibility grants me the option to complete my tiger style as a move action, I’m getting nervous about action economy. My meditation feats require full round actions, entering Tiger style is a swift action, I would rather commit to Tiger Claws and Tiger Pounce now and leave my martial flexibility options open. Plus, even though I’m not a tank, any round I have the option to flurry, I appreciate it.

I round out my feats with Weapon Specialization and Dodge. Dodge is not for the AC bonus, which I’ve basically given up on. It’s for what it opens up: Spring Attack and Whirlwind Attack. Whirlwind Attack is fun in concept but impractical. It entirely depends on who I’m fighting and how they fight me. But for those times when I find myself surrounded, I can gain the three feats I need as a move action for Whirlwind attack and hope to survive to go all E Honda out on them. Meanwhile, Weapon Spec is always useful and it’s a pretty exclusive feat so I feel like I am wasting an opportunity if I don’t take it.

But… AC 13?

You may have noticed very little makes up for my AC 13. It’s true. Without magic items, my AC will be 15 by 11th level. Truth be told, his AC is low for an Erik Monaian desire to play a naked adventurer. In this case, a sumo traditionally wears a mawashi, unceremoniously referred to in the West as a sumo diaper. It’s way more like a thong than a diaper, people! Between the traditional sumo dress and the tiger ink on his chest, when I picture what Daitora looks like, I don’t see armour. Sometimes I see him in a 90’s X-Men leather jacket over his sumo uniform, but that’s it. 

Call it a masochistic experiment in vulnerability, but I’m OK with that. Bring on the iterative attacks that the GM usually assumes are going to miss. Bring on the monsters with abilities that only go off when multiple hits succeed. Bring on everything you’ve got. Daitora may be a brawler, but he’s not a moron. And he’s definitely not a tank. Instead, he stalks his prey pensively for a few rounds, meditating and observing the battlefield for just the right approach. Then he picks the perfect feats for the encounter and gets in the thick of things. He may spend a few encounters hurting, but he rarely spends them dying.

Ryan Costello is the founder of the Know Direction Network and co-hot of the Know Direction podcast. 

Ryan Costello

What started as one gamer wanting to talk about his love of a game has turned into an empire of gamers talking about their games. Ryan founded what would become the Know Direction Podcast network with Jason "Jay" Dubsky, his friend and fellow 3.5 enthusiast. They and their game group moved on to Pathfinder, and the Know Direction podcast network was born. Now married and a father, Ryan continues to serve the network as a co-host of the flagship podcast, Know Direction. You can find out more about Ryan and the history of the network in this episode of Presenting: http://knowdirectionpodcast.com/2021/01/presenting-ryan-costello/

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  1. Joe Collins

    Thank you! I like the build overviews of actual characters, especially ones with a few levels on them. They tend to have a few less than optimal choices which give them character, and I like to hear why they were chosen and what effects they had for the character and campaign.

  2. Alex Augunas

    Thanks for stepping in for me, Ryan!

    I think the Meditation Master feats are okay. I would prefer if there was a way to use then more often, as I’m not exactly sure if Combat Metitation allows you to circumvent the feat’s usual daily limitations.

    I still think you should buy a haramaki and flavor it as a battle thong, though!

    • Unfortunately, it’s a PFS character and the Haramaki isn’t legal in PFS. The closest he can get is silken ceremonial armor which still doesn’t work for the sumo flavor. To keep the flavor intact. Wand of mage armor for when someone can cast it, a few potions of mage armor for when they can’t, then the package of ring of protection and amulet of natural armor. That’ll get him up AC 21.

      • BardWannabe

        Brian, where are you seeing that the haramaki is not PFS legal? The allowable additional resources for Ultimate Equipment and Ultimate Combat do not single it out as an exception to the “All items from Chapter 1 are legal for play except as noted below” or “All material from this book is legal for play except as noted below” clauses, respectively.