Iconic Design: How Can Something So Fluffy Be So Terrifying?! — Memoirs of a Kitsune Hellknight

Eureka! I’ve done it! I’ve designed a build for a Hellknight that I —think— can capitalize on the prestige class’s strengths while also being fun to play! The catch? You need to be a creature with the shapechanger subtype for the build to work. Currently, that means you’re either a kitsune, a reptoid, or a skinwalker, but kitsune literally does it better than the other three. (You’ll see why in a minute.)

If you’re still interested, then read on to see what my dastardly plan is all about!

Build Concept

Any information important to understanding the build or its roots goes here.

  • Classes: mesmerist (gaslighter 4) / fighter 2 / Hellknight 6
  • Feats: Skill Focus: Intimidate (1st), Manifold Stare (3rd), Weapon Focus: Order’s Favored Weapon (Bonus), Dazzling Display (5th), Startling Shapechange (Bonus), Swift Kitsune Shapechanger (7th), Improved Dirty Trick (9th), Vulpine Pounce (11th)
  • Abilities: aura of law, bravery +1, consummate cruelty, detect chaos, discern lies, disciplines, force of will 2, Hellknight armor 2, horrid mask, hypnotic stare, painful stare, smite chaos 2/day, towering ego
  • Bold Stares: psychic inception (3rd)
  • Disciplines: fearsomeness (3rd), versatile intimidation (6th)
  • Mesmerist Tricks: fearsome guise (1st), compel alacrity (2nd), mesmeric mirror (4th)
  • Mesmerist 2nd-Level Spells Known (2): blistering invective, quick change
  • Mesmerist 1st-Level Spells Known (4): forbid action, grease, mental block, psychic reading
  • Mesmerist Knacks Known (6): detect magic, detect psychic significance, mage hand, light, prestidigitation, read magic

Play Summary

Okay, so this build is deceptively simple, and one of its biggest problems is that it needs two swift actions in order to get its ball rolling: quick change/Swift Kitsune Shapechanger and hypnotic stare. Luckily, you don’t really need them both active on the same turn, but regardless it is probably a good idea to invest some money into that shirt that let’s you use two swift actions in a turn once per day. Not a necessiry, but its helpful.

So, how does this Hellknight play? Essentially, you get a massive bonus on Intimidate checks and the ability to demoralize people whenever you use your change shape ability, thanks to the Startling Shapechanger feat (which is from Blood of the Beast). Between Skill Focus and consummate cruelty, you’re looking at a +5 bonus on Intimidate checks on top of what will likely be a massive bonus from your Charisma, ranks, and class skill bonus. (This will rise to an extra +8 when you get 10 ranks in Intimidate.) Obviously you’re going to want to trick out your Intimidate check bonus with a maiden’s helm (surprisingly the only wondrous item in the game that I could find that gives you a +5 competence bonus on Intimidate checks) too.

So, why are we going so all-in with the Intimidate thing? Well, one of the Hellknight prestige class’s most powerful abilities is the ability to automatically cause demoralized creatures to become frightened. Yes, you read right. Frightened. Unlike other, similar abilities (like the rogue’s edge for Intimidate) this discipline power uses your check result to determine the duration of the frightened condition, so you can very easily shatter an opponent to the winds. What’s better is that you have three different ways to demoralize people as a swift action. At Level 4, you can blistering invective to demoralize everything around you a standard action. At 7th level, Startling Shapechange comes online, which means your swift shapechanger alternate racial trait will let you demoralize as a move action, and the quick change spell will let you do demoralize as a swift action. (Quick change let’s you change your shape as a swift action, making anyone who sees you do so denied their Dex against your next attack within a round. Startling Shapechanger basically let’s you demoralize anyone nearby when you change shape.) Finally, when you get Swift Kitsune Shapechanger at 7th level, it will let you demoralize everyone around you for the same reasons as quick change.

So yes, you can demoralize an entire area as a standard action (blistering invective), a move action (fast shapechanger), and a swift action (quick change/ Swift Kitsune Shapechanger). Oh, right. And if you want to demoralize just ONE pain-in-the-butt guy, the fearsome mien trick will do that for you. Whenever someone tries to attack one of your friends with the impanted trick, you get to try to demoralize them for free. But you’re a hellknight, so you basically interrupt the attack with your trick and your foe runs away screaming. Hilarious, right?

So, you’re probably thinking, “This is all well and good, Alex, but everything is immune to demoralize by high-level play.” First, I consider that a feature, not a flaw. Rogues can’t always sneak attack. Spellcasters have to deal with spell resistance sometimes. Incorporeality really puts a hamper on a bunch of builds. Everyone has hard counters in this game, and if you use this build you will too. However, you can get past a LOT of those hard encounters with the psychic inception bold stare. Demoralize creates the shakened condition, which is a mind-affecting effect. This means that if you use your hypnotic stare against someone who is normally immune to mind-affecting effects, you have a 50% chance for your shaken (and frightened) conditions to work on them each turn. That is PRETTY clutch for a build that relies on mind-affecting abilities like this one!

So, that’s my weird kitsune Hellknight build. What do you think? Leave your comments below and let me know if there are any builds you’d like to see me tackle. Hopefully this makes you feel a little bit better about my skills, reader Zozh, as now I have FINALLY done an actual Hellknight build for the blog. Don’t expect it again! Thanks for reading, and have a great week!

Alexander “Alex” Augunas has been playing roleplaying games since 2007, which isn’t nearly as long as 90% of his colleagues. Alexander is an active freelancer for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and is best known as the author of the Pact Magic Unbound series by Radiance House. Alex is the owner of Everyman Gaming, LLC and is often stylized as the Everyman Gamer in honor of Guidance’s original home. Alex also cohosts the Private Sanctuary Podcast, along with fellow blogger Anthony Li, and you can follow their exploits on Facebook in the 3.5 Private Sanctuary Group, or on Alexs Twitter, @AlJAug.

Alex Augunas

Alexander "Alex" Augunas is an author and behavioral health worker living outside of Philadelphia in the United States. He has contributed to gaming products published by Paizo, Inc, Kobold Press, Legendary Games, Raging Swan Press, Rogue Genius Games, and Steve Jackson Games, as well as the owner and publisher of Everybody Games (formerly Everyman Gaming). At the Know Direction Network, he is the author of Guidance and a co-host on Know Direction: Beyond. You can see Alex's exploits at http://www.everybodygames.net, or support him personally on Patreon at http://www.patreon.com/eversagarpg.


  1. Tim

    I have a few questions on your discipline choices. As I read the prestige class the 1st discipline gained (at 3rd) has to be associated with your own Hellknight order, the 2nd one must be taken from any of the disciplines listed as all. So you can’t pick up fearsomeness until Hellknight 6. Also I don’t see a discipline of versatile intimidation.

  2. Zozh

    Thanks again. While the build is not my jam it’s certainly more effective than mine and I appreciate you working on a build for an option you don’t like mechanicaly. I did my HK for the flavor and challange of playing a paly/HK (Phylactery of Faithfulness was a must) and it was interesting and a lot of fun but had we gotten to higher levels I’d have likely run into issues.

  3. Adam

    I love these Designs and look forward to reading them whenever they come out.

    I have a bit of a request/challenge for you.
    I am looking to make a Mechromancer for a nautical campaign my playgroup is doing soon (a couple of months) and I was hoping you could steer me in the right direction. I want to be able to make a lot of constructs (which kind doesn’t matter although I think Clockwork and Alchemical Constructs sound cool) and my end goal is to make a Construct large enough to be a ship for the party. Any tips?

    Thanks a bunch