Fox’s Cunning – Dazed and Confused

Are you excited for the Advanced Player’s Guide? I’m excited for the Advanced Player’s Guide! If you look around the network you’ll find blogs and podcasts and even twitch streams breaking down this massive tome of new options. But when people ask me what piqued my mechanical interests the most in the APG? A single feat: Dazing Blow.

Dazing Blow Single ActionFeat 6
[Fighter][Press]
Source Advanced Player’s Guide pg. 126
Requirements You have a creature grabbed.
You pummel a held foe, hoping to stagger them. Make a melee Strike against a creature you have grabbed. The weapon damage from this Strike is bludgeoning damage. If the Strike hits, the creature must attempt a Fortitude save against your class DC; this is an incapacitation effect.
Critical Success The creature is unaffected.
Success The creature is stunned 1.
Failure The creature is stunned 2.
Critical Failure The creature is stunned 3.

When I first saw this feat my initial gut reaction was to start bemoaning it as overpowered. You get to do your strike damage normally and potentially stun a target?! I understood that it has press, but attacking someone after you grab them isn’t exactly a steep requirement, and the grabbed condition helps offset the press trait. Now, mind you, I’m the type of player who is wary around stunning effects, especially in Pathfinder 2e. So I built a fighter and test ran them through a couple of Pathfinder Society scenarios and found my fears weren’t entirely unfounded. I was able to grab, strike, and stun at close to 70% efficiency. But after some headed discord discussions with some fellow Venture Officers and the wonderful community at the Arcane Mark Discord Server, I decided my initial tests were fundamentally flawed. The monsters in those scenarios had low fortitude saves, and I hadn’t accounted for playing in a higher tier game. So I opened up the old Gamemastery Guide: Monster & Hazard Creation PDF and went to work looking for the odds of successfully using this feat.

And I got my data. The results? You have a 73% chance to hit a creature your level or lower with a 52% chance of the target becoming Stunned 1 (or greater).

Huh. Turns out the feat isn’t “broken”, but it is very good! It’s a free potential stun on top of the damage you’d already be doing during a strike. It can be used unlimited times per day on the same enemy and still inflicts a debuff on success. But the fact the fighter’s class DC has such a slow progression helps keep the feat in check. Now, this doesn’t account for any buffs or debuffs, except for the flat-footed condition the target will have because you grabbed it. You might also be tempted to ask “what about failing the grapple check?”, but the odds are in your favor (around 70%) and you can reliably use Assurance on most targets in PFS.

 

But What About Incapacitation?!

So this feat does become pretty useless against higher level creatures. But I’d argue that doesn’t matter as much. While stunning a lone enemy is absolutely brutal, I would argue it makes the feat “un-fun” and might cause some self-conscious players to shy away from wanting to use it. More importantly: most encounters do not use monsters of a higher level. I checked every scenario a 6th level fighter could go through out of the currently released Pathfinder Society scenarios, and only found 5 out of 100 enemies you can face were level 7 or higher! And almost every time you fight a higher level enemy? They have lower-level monsters you could still successfully stun to help the encounter (especially since many of those mooks have 2-action or 3-action abilities to help augment or that complement the higher level boss). So you will have targets for your feat. Probably more targets per encounter than the Champion’s Oaths or even the Wizard’s elemental spells. And even if they only fail the save on a “1”, you don’t lose anything since you still deal your strike damage!

So What Kind of Character Would You Build?

One of the core strengths of Pathfinder 2e is the ability to use modular feats like these without having to make a dedicated “Build”. Many feats have other complementary feats that can help, but none are strictly “better” than any other build. So let’s go for style and try to make ourselves a proper pit-fighter in preparation for the upcoming Fists of the Ruby Phoenix Adventure Path!

  • Ancestry: changeling
  • Background: Ruby Phoenix enthusiast
  • Class: fighter
    • Class Feats: Sudden Charge (1st), Combat Grab (2nd), {Player’s Choice} (4th), Dazing Blow (6th), {Player’s Choice} (8th), Agile Grace (10th)
    • Other Feats:
      • Ancestry Feats: Slag May (1st); {Player’s Choice} (5th); Accursed Claws (9th)
      • General Feats: {Player’s Choice} (3rd); {Player’s Choice} (7th)
      • Skill Feats: Combat Climber (Background; 1st); Titan Wrestler (2nd); Intimidating Prowess (4th); Assurance (Athletics) (6th); Battle Cry (8th); Wall Jump (10th)

The bread & butter of this build is using your claws from Slag May to grab your target, then striking them with a Dazing Blow using whatever agile weapon you have on hand. Intimidation will give you an action that doesn’t involve your Multiple Attack Penalty and lower the save against Dazing Blow. You can multiclass Barbarian or Monk to pick up some feats that let you grab as a reaction, freeing you up to use feats like Intimidating Strike. You could also pick up the Fighter Dedication as a Barbarian, Monk, or even Gymnast Swashbuckler if those base classes more strike your fancy. There are also grapple options for Hellknight and Martial Artist. I picked the hag for those claws since they have the grapple trait, but the dhampir’s fangs have them too and will free up your hands for a shield. The grapple trait is pretty unnecessary if you plan on picking up the appropriate worn items since the two item bonuses to your athletics won’t stack. The worn items also give other nifty bonuses above and beyond more damage with a weapon you won’t be striking with if you can help it.

 


And there you have it! I think I’ve finally said everything I have to say about Dazing Blow! I’d like to thank everyone who has had to put up with me talking about this feat since I first saw it, and I promise it won’t come up until the next time Paizo publishes a fighter feat that includes the word “grab”. I am not ashamed to admit I was a little afraid when the APG was announced that we’d see the beginning of the end for our balanced system, but I after crunching the numbers I’m relieved and impressed that the Pathfinder Second Edition is able to provide us with so many tempting new options without disrupting the careful balance of this amazing game!

Dustin Knight

Dustin has been playing and improving on RPGs since AD&D in 1999. He ran games and conventions around California while studying Graphic Design, Philosophy, English & Architecture. After developing a tabletop game seminar he began working freelance for Alderac Entertainment Games. During his stint on the East Coast, he became a Venture Lieutenant and began reviewing Pathfinder mechanics for Organized Play. After moving to Washington in 2019, he met Alex Augunas at Paizocon and developed, designed and wrote for Everybody Games LLC, starting with the Feat Cards for Everbody and Files for Everbody lines. His lifelong dream is to see more people having fun using his content.