Iconic Design: Too Many Tails

Welcome to Guidance, Private Sanctuary’s source for tips and techniques for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, written by Everyman Gamer Alexander Augunas. Today, we’re going to be looking at one possible nine-tailed kitsune build.

One thing that people are always asking in regards to the kitsune race is, “How do I go about building a nine-tailed kitsune character when I need to invest eight feats into making it work?” Its probably the most commonly asked question from kitsune players. Now I’ve addressed this a little bit in my Third-Party product, the Kitsune Compendium, but if you’re a Pathfinder Society player that doesn’t help you out very much. So today, I’m going to provide a sample build that showcases how to make an effective (and downright memorable) nine-tailed kitsune character. Let’s begin.

Build Concept

Obviously, the most important aspect of building a nine-tailed kitsune is making sure that you are able to select the Magical Tail feat eight times. The easiest way to make this work is by picking a class that has access to a lot of bonus feats. Wizard, sorcerer, fighter, monk, and warpriest are all excellent choices because they get more feats than any other character in the game, with the gunslinger and swashbuckler chasing up the rear behind them. Its also somewhat helpful to start building for the extra tails after you have every feat that you need for your baseline build. Most of the kitsune’s tail spell-like abilities are out-of combat, utility effects so whatever build you end up choosing needs to be able to hold its own in combat without the use of the feats.

The obvious choices are melee and ranged strikers, or damage-dealers. The advantage to a melee character is the distinct lack of feats that one needs to be an effective melee character. Most only need Power Attack, maybe Weapon Finesse too if they’re Dex-based. A character with a medium base attack bonus might also need Weapon Focus. For ranged characters, however, you need Precise Shot and Point-Blank Shot, plus Deadly Aim. After a bit of brainstorming, I’ve decided that for this build, I want to take the harder route: I want to go ranged. Here’s what I need.

  • Fighter (Archer): Fighter is a no-brainer because of the plethora of bonus feats that it possesses. If you’re using a bow, the archer archetype is fantastic; it allows us to perform cool tricks at ranged and ignore attacks of opportunity with our weapon of choice.
  • Arcane Archer: So if we’re going to focus on magical spell-like abilities and be a fighting character, then it only makes sense to invest in the arcane archer prestige class. The class features for this class are absolute gold, even if your spellcasting will be underwhelming. Although I can qualify for this prestige class off of my spell-like ability caster level from the first Magical Tail feat alone, I decided that I want to take a level of a spellcasting class in order to put the arcane archer’s full benefits to use.
  • Arcanist: Of all the possible arcane casting classes, I like the arcanist best for this build. Arcanist is very flexible, which is something we’re going to want for our minimum-casting character. The bonuses that can be applied to the arcanist’s otherwise weak spells through the arcane reservoir are also very helpful.

So with all this in mind, let’s take a look at the final build, starting with the early levels.

Early Levels (1–7)

  • Classes: Fighter (Archer) 7
  • Feats: Arcane Strike (1st), Point-Blank Shot (Bonus), Precise Shot (Bonus), Sniper’s Lantern (3rd), Weapon Focus: short bow (Bonus), Magical Tail (5th), Weapon Specialization: short bow (Bonus), Magical Tail (7th)
  • Abilities: expert archer +1, hawkeye (+2, +10 ft.), trick shot (disarm, feint).

For the first seven levels, this build is just a fighter build. At 1st level, the build can use the kitsune’s racial dancing lights spell-like ability to qualify for Arcane Strike, which gives the fighter something to do with all of those swift actions that he otherwise makes no use of. Point-Blank Shot is also an essential choice for 1st level, as it leads into Precise Shot at 2nd level. Going your first level without Precise Shot might be a little bit rough, thought, but Arcane Strike is a combat feat, so if you prefer you can choose Point-Blank Shot and Precise Shot at 1st level and Arcane Strike at 2nd level.

At 3rd level, I stall taking Magical Tail for one more level as I instead pick up the Sniper’s Lantern feat. This handy feat, which can be found in the drow section of the new Monster Codex book, essentially gives you a special version of dancing lights that grants you a +2 bonus on ranged attack rolls against creatures within 5 feet of the dancing light sphere. Is this a mandatory bonus? No, but there are certainly going to be times where a +2 bonus on attack rolls can make or break you, and considering that it plays off of dancing lights for its range and duration, you’ve got a pretty reliable bonus if you want to set up your enemies. In a way, this is like your hunter’s mark, from World of Warcraft. And yes, any race with dancing lights as a racial spell-like ability can take this feat. Nifty, huh?

Finally, at 5th level, I start picking up Magical Tail. It will take me from 5th level all the way to 19th level to pick Magical Tail eight times, so I hope you get used to be reminding you about the number of tails you have. (Three by the end of the early levels.) For my 4th level Fighter bonus feat, I’ve opted into Weapon Focus for my short bow; extra bonuses to hit are always nice. For my archer trick shot, I chose feint for several reasons. Besides being thematically appropriate for a kitsune archer, the archer’s trick shot ability notes that ranged trick shots take a –4 penalty to their CMB. But feint isn’t a combat maneuver and doesn’t require a CMB check, so you can essentially feint with your bow at no penalty. All that aside, the build also gains hawkeye (+2 on Perception checks AND +10 feet to the bow’s ranged increment at the cost of bravery; tooooough choice) and a modest +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls with bows from the weapon training stand-in, expert archer.

Despite spending many feats on spell-like abilities, this build is looking pretty good so far! Let’s check out the mid levels.

Mid Levels (8 –14)

  • Classes: Fighter (Archer) 9 / Arcanist 1 / Arcane Archer 4
  • Feats: Arcane Strike (1st), Point-Blank Shot (Bonus), Precise Shot (Bonus), Sniper’s Lantern (3rd), Weapon Focus: short bow (Bonus), Magical Tail (5th), Weapon Specialization: short bow (Bonus), Magical Tail (7th), Deadly Aim (Bonus), Magical Tail (9th) Magical Tail (11th), Magical Tail (13th)
  • Abilities: arcane reservoir, arcanist exploits (dimensional slide), enhance arrows (elemental, magic), expert archer +2, hawkeye (+2, +10 ft.), imbue arrow, safe shot, seeker arrow, trick shot (disarm, feint).
  • Arcanist CL: 4th

Mid levels! There’s … more tails. All joking aside, the big change here is the progression of the archer archetype to 9th level, the acquisition of a single arcanist level, and the beginning of the arcane archer prestige class. By spending 1 point from his reserve as a move action, the arcane archer will be able to move 10 feet without provoking an attack of opportunity from that 10 feet of movement. Better yet, that 10 feet only counts as 5 feet towards her total movement via the move or withdraw action for the turn, effectively adding 5 feet to the arcane archer’s movement speed when using a move action. Being able to get out of places and move around without provoking is a great ability for any archer to have.

I choose to go to fighter 9 as a priority, however, because a 9th level archer gains what is essentially Point Blank Mastery for his bow; he does not provoke attacks of opportunity when making attacks with the weapon. I also used these extra fighter levels to pick up two more bonus feats: the ever-popular Deadly Aim and Weapon Specialization: shortbow to further improve my build’s damage.

Starting at 11th level, the build goes full arcane archer, which you can see here in the form of seeker arrow, enhance arrows, and imbue arrow. But the real draw to arcane archer can be seen at the end game.

Endgame (15+)

  • Classes: Fighter (Archer) 9 / Arcanist 1 / Arcane Archer 10
  • Feats: Arcane Strike (1st), Point-Blank Shot (Bonus), Precise Shot (Bonus), Sniper’s Lantern (3rd), Weapon Focus: short bow (Bonus), Magical Tail (5th), Weapon Specialization: short bow (Bonus), Magical Tail (7th), Deadly Aim (Bonus), Magical Tail (9th) Magical Tail (11th), Magical Tail (13th), Magical Tail (15th), Magical Tail (17th), Magical Tail (19th)
  • Abilities: arcane reservoir, arcanist exploits (dimensional slide), arrow of death, enhance arrows (aligned, distance, elemental burst, magic), expert archer +2, hail of arrows, hawkeye (+2, +10 ft.), imbue arrow, phase arrow, safe shot, seeker arrow, trick shot (disarm, feint).
  • Arcanist CL: 8th

My favorite thing about the arcane archer is the sheer number of cool supernatural abilities that the class gets. Its like the martial, bow-using version of the witch. In the end game, the arcane archer’s arrows basically overcome everything regardless of what sort of weapon is being used. Alignment, distance penalties, everything is no match for the arcane archer. Hail of arrows has some of the coolest imagery imaginable and phase arrow is especially cool. Arrow of death is okay, but the relatively low Fortitude save DC makes it less awesome then a capstone should be, in my opinion. Doubly so because Pathfinder’s version has the one-in-existence clause added onto the ability. But by this point, do you care? You have nine tails, a billion arrows, and the damage to bright just about anyone low before you. You are a mythological badass and you know it.

And that’s all I have to say for my nine-tailed archer build. What do you think? Is this a build that you would use, or is eight feats just too many for you to invest regardless of all the cool stuff that the build can do. Should I make a melee nine-tailed build sometime in the future? Leave your answers and comments below, and since next week’s build (and the week after that) are both fan-requests, I want to take a moment to remind people that if you ask me for my advice on a specific build or ask for GM tips or player tips or tricks, I’ll almost always say, “Sure! Just give me a few weeks.” I typically write these articles two to three weeks in advanced and so they need time to move through my buffer, but I’ll never say “No” to your quests. Take care, everyone!

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’s favorite color is blue, his favorite Pathfinder Race/Class combination is kitsune arcane archer, but only if that archer has nine-tailed. EXACTLY. NINE. TAILS.

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. Darrell Vin Zant Reply to Darrell

    I would change out Weapon Focus and Specialization for Rapid Shot and Manyshot, as it adds a greater amount to your damage in a round than Focus/Spec.

    But, otherwise, it looks like a fun, neat build. That, and unlike most archery builds, it’s not going to absolutely curbstomp all encounters into dust. The arcanist spells and magical tails will really round-out out of combat presence as well, so it’s just, all-in-all, a solid, fun build.

    • Alex Augunas Reply to Alex

      I think whether or not Rapid Shot / Manyshot beats out Weapon Focus / Weapon Specialization is subjective. Is +4 damage on an attack that’s got a +5% chance to hit going to hit better than two extra attacks with roughly a 10% decreased chance to hit? Depends on what you’re fighting and how much damage reduction the target has, I guess.

    • Alex Augunas Reply to Alex

      But yeah, it looks like a lot of fun. Its on my “Maybe” list for builds that I might want to try in Pathfinder Society. I’ve got a buddy who might join, so this could be a good one. The ultimate question is whether or not the Sniper’s Lantern feat is going to be PFS Legal for Kitsune or not. (I’m thinking yes, if only because the drow aren’t a legal choice for PFS, but I haven’t looked into it.)

  2. Matthew wellings Reply to Matthew

    I would love to see a kitsune melee build im currently playing a pfs kitsune rouge 🙂 and having loads of fun, i really like this build thou i might try it out in some capacity 😀 but anyway this is an awesome write up 😀

    • Alex Augunas Reply to Alex

      I’m planning on doing a melee build too, but I don’t like to do similar builds back to back. Tires out my readers who might not be into whatever I’m writing about. It’ll come down the line somewhere.

    • Alex Augunas Reply to Alex

      I have a few ideas for some kitsune melee builds. In the end, I want to make sure that I pick something that’s not only functional, but really, really cool to go with it.

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