As one might expect, I have a lot of friends who are Pathfinder players, what being a Venture-Agent and all that. One of my friends (he was actually our healer in our now-complete Reign of Winter group) loves making weird builds, and he pointed out a fun interaction between a feat chain I wrote (the Cloak and Dagger Style) and a feat chain that growing legend Luis Loza wrote (Kitsune Style).
Naturally, I felt like I needed to exploit said interaction. And now, you all profit! Go knock’em dead, lads and lasses!
Any information important to understanding the build or its roots goes here.
- Classes: fighter (lore warden; AG version) 12
- Feats: Weapon Focus: kukri (Bonus), Dirty Fighting (1st), Improved Dirty Trick (3rd), Kitsune Style (Bonus), Kitsune Tricks (5th), Combat Expertise (Bonus), Vital Strike (Bonus), Cloak and Dagger Style (7th), Kitsune Vengeance (Bonus), Weapon Style Mastery (Bonus), Improved Trip (9th), Greater Trip (Bonus), Cloak and Dagger Subterfuge (11th), Improved Steal (Bonus).
- Abilities: scholastic, skill over strength, weapon training (light blades +2)
- Advanced Weapon Trainings: Weapon Style Mastery (9th)
- Sword Secrets: maneuver training (3rd), know thy enemy (7th), swift assessment (11th)
- Maneuver Training: dirty tricks +3, trip +2, steal +1
Public Service Announcement
Before I get started, I need to address the elephant in the room—the Adventurer’s Guide version of the lore warden archetype. I know there’s a lot of controversy around this archetype because of how heavily the lore warden was nerfed going from the Pathfinder Society Field Guide to the Adventure Guide. I will not deny this, nor will I deny that the archetype is sort of … flawed.
If you want my stance, I think that the new lore warden’s skill over strength ability is a terrible trade, and is completely unfun to play. You’re essentially trading all your class abilities at 2nd level for a benefit at 3rd level and beyond. Why do I say this? Well, you lose bravery and your 2nd level bonus feat for the ability to count as having Combat Expertise and an Intelligence of 13 for combat feats. While you do eventually get Combat Expertise at 6th level and you do eventually get a neat reduction to the attack roll penalty you take while using Combat Expertise, this doesn’t change the fact that you can’t benefit from “counting as having the prerequisites” until 3rd level when you actually get a feat. That means 2nd level is a dead level for you. If you’re a GM and you want a version of the Adventurer’s Guide lore warden that’s a little better balanced, I recommend errataing skill over strength to the following. (And yo, if anyone at Paizo who is penning erratas wants this, take it.)
Skill Over Strength (Ex): At 2nd level, you gain Combat Expertise as a bonus feat. For Combat Expertise and all feats that list Combat Expertise as a prerequisite, you count as having an Intelligence of 13 for the purpose of meeting the feat’s prerequisites. If you have an Intelligence of 14 or higher, you instead reduce the penalty on attack rolls for using the Combat Expertise feat by 1 (minimum –0). This attack roll penalty doesn’t stack with other effects that reduce the attack roll penalty of Combat Expertise.
This ability replaces bravery and the fighter’s 2nd-level bonus feat.
Nevertheless, I legitimately think that New Lore Warden brings some strengths to the build. So without further delay, the analysis!
- NOTE: This build is NOT currently PFS legal because Cloak and Dagger Subterfuge is not legal. But hey, if you want to use it in a home game, feel free to. Just remember that it’s not always a good idea to create a build that will make your GM pull their hair out—you tend to lose GMs that way.
So, how does this build work? Essentially it relies on a complex series of interactions between the Kitsune Style feat and the Cloak and Dagger Style feat. This build using the Weapon Style Mastery feat so you can have both styles up simultaneously, but technically you can also use it with a master of many styles monk or a varisian freestyle fighter if you want. However, I recommend lore warden because of the bonus feats and because it gains the maneuver training brawler class feature, which lets the character get a nice bonus to all of the combat maneuvers you’ll be using.
Yes, that’s right. ALL of them. This build REALLY wants to mess your face up with dirty tricks, and it also gets a lot of utility out of tripping and stealing from enemies. But let me explain how this build works.
First, Kitsune Style and its third-link feat, Kitsune Vengeance, all add special situations in which you can make dirty trick attempts against enemies. Kitsune Style lets you use dirty trick at the end of a charge, while Kitsune Vengeance lets you use dirty trick in place of an attack of opportunity. That last one is important because of the 2nd-chain link in Cloak and Dagger Style, Cloak and Dagger Subterfuge. This feat allows you to make a dirty trick attempt whenever you make an attack of opportunity. Seeing the big picture here? With both of these styles up at the same time, you can make a dirty trick as an attack of opportunity with Kitsune Vengeance, then immediately make a second attack of opportunity with Cloak and Dagger Subterfuge.
But wait, there’s more!
In order to have Kitsune Vengeance, you need to have Kitsune Tricks. Kitsune Tricks allows you to drop two penalties onto your opponent per dirty trick. So when you make a dirty trick as an attack of opportunity, you’re actually slapping the penalties of four different conditions on them at the same time with this build (I recommend blinded and entangled on the first, followed by shaken and sickened on the second. This way you’ll get to lower your enemies’ AC by a bunch with blinded and entangled, making the second two conditions more likely to land).
But wait, there’s more!
Cloak and Dagger Style also allows you to make a free dirty trick attempt against an opponent during a surprise round, AND it causes any opponent who attempts to remove a dirty trick’s penalty from themselves to provoke an attack of opportunity. Meaning you could just slap on completely different penalties with a new trick to keep your enemy constantly hindered by SOMETHING. Cloak and Dagger Subterfuge also gives you a free steal attempt whenever you successfully use dirty trick against an opponent with that feat, so why pass on that?
Most of this build is amassing the crazy number of feats you need to pull this trick off. It surprisingly doesn’t have Greater Dirty Trick yet (you could either sub out Improved Steal for that, or take it as your 13th level feat), but that’s simply how jammed-back this build is. If you’re wondering why I took Improved Trip and Greater Trip, it’s basically because tripping an enemy is an EASY way to get attacks of opportunity on them. SO, SO easy…. Plus you get a total of three maneuvers from maneuver training with this build, so it seemed worth it to me.
This build is kind of bonkers, and while it’s basically a one-trick pony, that one trick is a DIRTY trick. You’re a REALLY good fighter debuffer with this build, and never forget it! But that’s all I got for this week—tune in next Monday for a new article from Guidance or Iconic Design. (Whichever muse inspires me.) Take care!
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 Alex’s Twitter, @AlJAug.