Welcome to Iconic Design! I’m Alex Augunas, the Everyman Gamer, and today I’m building a blast from the past—a Pathfinder First Edition character! My friend Robert Brookes put out an open call for character concepts to act as contestants in a fighting tournament, and I ended up sort of cobbling this build together in my brain. Not only did I submit it to him, but I thought it would be a fun build to do for the Know Direction Network in case any of you are like James and are still playing in active First Edition Pathfinder games.
Without further adieu, let’s look at the build!
- Race kitsune
- Class shifter (style shifter) 11, monk (master of many styles) 1
- Feats Power Attack (1st), Furious Focus (3rd), Swift Kitsune Shapeshifting (5th), Dragon Ferocity (7th), Raking Claws (9th), Vulpine Pounce (11th),
- Monk Bonus Feats Improved Unarmed Strike (1st), Shapeshifter Style (1st), Stunning Fist (1st)
- Shifter Bonus Feats Dragon Style (1st), Crane Style (5th), Wildcard Feat (10th), Wildcard Feat (15th)
- Class Features defensive instinct +2, fuse styles, shifter’s claws (natural strikes), shifter’s fury, trackless step, unarmed strike, wild empathy, wild shape (form of the wild), woodland stride
Playing the Build
I’m sure none of you are TOO surprised that I made a kitsune build, but please note that the race is mostly inconsequential for this build; the only things you have to be a kitsune for is Vulpine Pounce and its prerequisite, Swift Kitsune shapechanger. Vulpine Pounce is an awesome way to grab a full attack at the end of a charge, but it’s not required. You could just use the style shifter’s wild shape to assume a form with pounce after all. That being said, you need to be a shapechanger or have Wild Shape to take Shapeshifter Style, so if you aren’t a kitsune you can’t really take any of the bonus feats until you get wild shape from the shifter class. That’s not a huge deal, but it’s something to keep in mind.
So the first question you’re probably asking, “What exactly does this build do?” In a nutshell, the style shifter is an archetype that grants you benefits when you use specific combat styles. For our purposes, Dragon Style and Crane Style are the feats we’re focusing on. Dragon style is an awesome damage boost, allowing you to add extra damage to your attacks based on your Strength modifier, while Crane Style is arguably the best defensive feat in the game. Shapeshifter Style, our third style feat, basically lets you pick from a menu of abilities to gain when you enter the stance. You can grab something defensive like a natural armor bonus (pretty nice considering you’re probably going to use your neck slot for an amulet of mighty fists instead of an amulet of natural armor) or a +1 bonus to Reflex save to bolster your defense, or you can simply pump up the damage of your claw attacks.
Most of the build is constructed around being awesome with the natural attacks you gain simply for being a shifter. At 11th level, you have claws that deal 1d8 damage baseline and ignore DR/cold iron, DR/magic, and DR/silver. You also deal 1d6 of bleed damage thanks to Raking Claws and Dragon Style allows you to add an extra half of your Strength bonus to your first unarmed strike each round; thanks to your natural strikes class feature, your claws count as unarmed strikes for all effects. When you grab Dragon’s Ferocity, you get to add twice your Strength bonus to your first attack each round and 1-1/2 times your Strength to all others.
It sounds pretty helpful, but what’s it look like in practice? Well, if you can net your self a 16 Strength (fairly easy, even for a kitsune) you’ll be looking at +6 to damage from your Strength on the first claw attack, +8 from Power Attack, +4 on your other claw and your bite (betcha you forgot you had one of those, right). That’s actually another reason we went kitsune; Raking Claws says you get additional damage when you hit with your primary natural weapons. Despite being shifter specific, it doesn’t care if those attacks are from your shifter’s claws or not. As a result, as a kitsune your true form’s bite deals bleed damage too. Finally, if you’re in Shapeshifter’s Style, brutal attack gives you +1 damage, plus an additional +1 for every feat you have that lists Shapeshifter’s Style as a prerequisite. You’re going to want at least the one; I’ll assume you’re using at least one of your wildcard slots for Shapeshifter’s Twist for an extra +2 damage. That brings you to 1d8+16 plus 1d6 bleed, for an average of about 23 before we factor things like enhancement bonuses and weapon special abilities. It’s not bad, not bad at all.
So, what’s your alternative? Shifting into Crane Style lets you fight defensively at a -2 for +4, and Shapeshifter’s Style gives you a +1 enhancement bonus to your natural armor bonus. You’re looking at a +5 swing when you decide to be defensive. We haven’t talked about the style shifter’s style aspects yet because it’s tough to take advantage of Dragon Style’s aspect and Shapeshifter Style doesn’t have one, but Crane’s asepct further reduces the penalty from -2 to -1, and if you have enough ranks in Acrobatics you’ll get another +1 dodge to AC when fighting to AC with that ability. +6 to AC for -1 to hit is pretty amazing, in my opinion!
And while we could stop there because the damage on these claws is actually pretty good (even better, remember that your natural bite gets most of these benefits too), it’s worth noting that you can shapeshift like a druid because of the style shifter archetype. So yeah, transform into a dinosaur with pounce and destroy the world!
This build is fairly strong. Maybe not as strong as a druid with magic, but strong in its own way especially regarding damage. It’s pretty great at switching from offense to defense and back, and the flavor of your body taking on aspects of the animals whose styles you embody is pretty sweet. Here are some guides if you want to switch things up:
- Because of how wildcard feats work, you’re definitely fine if you want to substitute the kitsune race for any other shapechanger, and you’re probably fine if you want to pick any other race. You’ll just have to wait longer to pick up some of the later feats.
- You might want to lean into Dex as a kitsune rather than go Strength-based. Luckily Raking Claws doesn’t have a prerequisite, but you can totally swap Power Attack for Weapon Finesse and Furious Focus for Piranha Strike. This’ll basically give you the same effect as the Strength-based build, but you won’t be able to ignore Piranha Strike’s penalty for your first attack in a round. You’re also going to want to skip on Dragon Style; since it’s adding its own bonus equal to your Strength modifier you can’t change your damage bonus with an agile amulet of mighty fists or anything (you’re definitely going to want an agile amulet if you go this route). Instead of Dragon Style, you’ll want to go Boar Style instead. This will let you deal an extra 2d6 damage each round if you hit with both of your claws, and later feats in the chain let you deal extra bleed damage AND get fast demoralizes on your foe. If you manage to grab all 3 feats, you’re looking at an extra 2d6 damage +1d6 bleed; even better, the Boar Aspect from your style shifter gives you ANOTHER 1 bleed damage when you hit twice in a round. This is really, really nasty folks. 2d6+1 bleed between Boar Style and Raking Claws!
- Finally, if you don’t care about having the Crane Style defenses, you could just ignore it AND Shapeshifter Style and just go Boar / Dragon. This combination is BRUTAL. Boar Style’s second feat, Boar Ferocity, gives you a free demoralize whenever you hit twice with unarmed strikes. Dragon Style’s style shifter aspect means your unarmed strikes deal damage of 1 size category larger whenever you hit a shaken foe. BOOM. Your claws are now 2d6 weapons, and your bite went from 1d4 to 1d6. Enjoy.
I hope you enjoyed this build. Look forward to more content from me on the Know Direction Network in the coming weeks on Wednesdays! I want to do more PF2 characters now that the Character Guide is out, and Character Operations Manual is like literally a month away; I’M SO EXCITED GUYS!
See you soon!
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.
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