Iconic Design: For the Short Guys

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 a mouser swashbuckler build.

They say that the big guy always steps all over the little guy. Thankfully, that’s exactly what today’s build WANTS the bad guys to do. Let’s hop right into today’s concept: a mouser swashbuckler!

Build Concept

So, what are we doing for this build? Well, here’s the concept:

  • Swashbuckler (Mouser): The mouser is an AWESOME archetype; by far one of the best available to the swashbuckler. Underfoot assault, the mouser’s first and arguably its most powerful deed, allows the swashbuckler to occupy the same square as an opponent that is larger than her to A) provide flanking to ALL adjacent allies and B) place a rather large attack roll penalty on the creature if it tries to attack any character other than the mouser. This is going to be the lynchpin of the build.
  • Fighter (Phalanx Soldier): This archetype has a special ability at 3rd level that we’re VERY interested in. Effectively, while carrying a shield a phalanx soldier can wield a two-handed polearm in one hand. In October 2013, a ruling was made that if an ability allows you to treat a two-handed weapon as a one-handed weapon, then it was considered a one-handed weapon for all effects, including stuff like swashbuckler’s finesse. Furthermore, the swashbuckler can perform all of her abilities while using a buckler, so in doing so we’re effectively using a larger-than-normal weapon, which is a neat tactic overall (though not one that’s necessarily unique to this build).
  • Monk (Master of Many Styles): I’ll be honest, we’re taking one level of this class to get Crane Style as a bonus feat.
  • Race: This build isn’t going to make any assumptions about what race you choose to play as, but at low-levels playing a Small race such as a halfling or a wayang would be best for you. Much of the build relies on you using underfoot assault to get into your opponents’ space, and that only works if you’re at least one size category smaller than your opponent. This is much more likely to happen if you are Small, as Medium enemies are more common at low levels.

Early Levels (1–7)

  • Classes: swashbuckler (mouser) 4, fighter (phalanx soldier) 3
  • Feats: Weapon Focus: nodachi (1st), Step Up (Bonus), Combat Reflexes (Bonus), Antagonize (3rd), Slashing Grace: nodachi (5th), Weapon Specialization: nodachi (Bonus), Following Step (7th)
  • Abilities: deeds, charmed life 3/day, nimble +1, panache, phalanx fighting, swashbuckler’s finesse, stand firm +1

Alright! Opening levels are devoted to getting our two-handed weapon set up as a one-handed weapon. Personally, I am going with the nodachi for this build because it is a polearm piercing weapon with an 18-20 critical threat range that doesn’t have reach. Its important to pick a weapon without reach because if your weapon has reach, you won’t be able to attack the creature whose square you have entered with underfoot assault. By all means, keep a reach weapon as a sidearm for when you can’t use underfoot assault or it is a terrible idea to do so. The halberd is the only other weapon that you can take for this build, and I prefer the nodachi because the expanded critical threat range makes it more likely that you’ll regain panache, which you’ll be spend a lot on your underfoot assault ability.

So, what’s your enemy going to do after you’ve entered his square and given him a –4 penalty to hit everyone sans you? Well, one of two things: one, he’ll try to move away from you or two, he’ll try to kill you. We need to be prepared for both out comes, so the first thing I’ve done is take Antagonize, from Ultimate Magic. If your target understands you, use Diplomacy to give the target additional penalties against everyone except you or use Intimidate to force it to attack you, which it’ll gladly do considering you’re in its space. We’ve also grabbed Step Up and Following Step for this build in case your enemy tries to run away from you; now, an enemy that tries to escape your clutches is going to moan as you move up to 10 feet and follow it wherever it tries to hide. Pretty cool, eh?

I mentioned that mouser is full of awesome deeds, and towards the end of this stage in the game the quick steal deed helps to reinforce this. The mouser can spend panache to attempt a free steal maneuver against her opponent without provoking attacks of opportunity. Awesome! RP wise, you could use this ability to steal something from your target that he or she would REALLY want back. Want enough to focus entirely on you and never move away from your space, even! Talk with your GM about it, but the real fun deeds for this build are earned in the mid levels. Let’s check’em out!

Mid Levels (8 –14)

  • Classes: swashbuckler (mouser) 10, fighter (phalanx soldier) 3, monk (master of many styles) 1
  • Feats: Weapon Focus: nodachi (1st), Step Up (Bonus), Combat Reflexes (Bonus), Antagonize (3rd), Slashing Grace: nodachi (5th), Weapon Specialization: nodachi (Bonus), Following Step (7th), Agile Maneuvers (9th), Greater Weapon Focus: nodachi (Bonus), Crane Style (Bonus), Improved Unarmed Strike (Bonus), Stand Still (11th), Step Up and Strike (13th)
  • Abilities: deeds, charmed life 5/day, nimble +2, panache, phalanx fighting, swashbuckler weapon training +2, swashbuckler’s finesse, stand firm +1

Mid-Game, there are a few more abilities that we need to make controlling our target easier. First, Agile Maneuvers is a necessity for Stand Still, which admittedly comes much later then I would have liked. Stand Still is awesome because you can use your Combat Reflexes feat to essentially block foes from moving around you. This allows you to put pressure on opponents even while you’re in another creature’s space, and although most enemies will try making a 5-foot step or withdrawing to get away from you, Stand Still is still a nice trick. Its completely optional, however, so if there are two feats that you want more then these, go for it.

At 10th level (or earlier, if you prefer), we take our monk dip and grab Crane Style. This feat will allow us to take a reduced penalty when fighting defensively for an increased benefit; likely a +4 to AC for a –2 penalty. This AC penalty is going to be important considering that you’ve set yourself up to take ALL of the hits for your party, so you might want to consider taking that monk dip earlier. You even get the monk’s AC bonus, allowing you to add your Wisdom to your AC as well if you have a Wisdom bonus. (I’d recommend having at least a +1 if you can get it.) Finally, Step Up and Strike is a nice complement to Step Up and Following Step as it allows you to further penalize foes who thought that it was a good idea to try and escape your clutches.

Deed-wise, the super-important ability that we get is called hamstring. This deed allows the mouser to attempt a dirty tricks maneuver to inflict the staggered condition onto an opponent whenever she has at least 1 panache point. This deed is FANTASTIC, especially because staggering an opponent is a great way to reduce its movement potential, and the mouser doesn’t even need to do it to someone whose space she’s sharing. Awesome.

Endgame (15+)

  • Classes: swashbuckler (mouser) 16, fighter (phalanx soldier) 3, monk (master of many styles) 1
  • Feats: Weapon Focus: nodachi (1st), Step Up (Bonus), Combat Reflexes (Bonus), Antagonize (3rd), Slashing Grace: nodachi (5th), Weapon Specialization: nodachi (Bonus), Following Step (7th), Agile Maneuvers (9th), Greater Weapon Focus: nodachi (Bonus), Crane Style (Bonus), Improved Unarmed Strike (Bonus), Stand Still (11th), Step Up and Strike (13th), Signature Deed: underfoot assault (15th), Critical Focus (Bonus), Blinding Critical (17th), Impaling Critical (19th), Critical Mastery (Bonus)
  • Abilities: deeds, charmed life 6/day, nimble +4, panache, phalanx fighting, swashbuckler weapon training +3, swashbuckler’s finesse, stand firm +1

At the end game, the mouser gets several nasty tricks to round up her arsenal. The cat’s charge deed allows the mouser to pick any square to end her charge in when she charges an opponent who is larger than her instead of the closest available square. This sort of tactics advantage is fantastic for our swashbuckler character. Furthermore, she gets Signature Deed: underfoot assault to cancel out the number one deed that’s eating up her panache. She also gains several fantastic feats, namely Critical Focus, Blinding Critical (50% concealment from the enemy whose’s space she’s in? Okay!), Impaling Critical, and Critical Mastery (two critical feats per critical hit) as a capstone.

Overall, the build is designed to harry and harass its opponents with a high AC, high critical threat range, decent damage, and excellent mobility. Not only can this character nullify her enemies’ movements, but she can also effortlessly chase her foes across the battlefield as often as she needs to. One of the challenges of playing this build (as well as any swashbuckler) is going to be learning when and where to use your swift action abilities, but this build has the potential to be a nasty battlefield control specialist.

What do you think of this build? Did I miss any key feats or abilities that would help my concept? What do you think of the mouser archetype? (Personally, I’m a fan and I’d expect to see me do more with this all-star list of abilities in the future.) What race would you pick for this build? With that, I’m signing off until next week. 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’s favorite color is blue, his favorite Pathfinder Race/Class combination is halfling mouser. Because come on, you know this archetype was written for halflings!

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.

Know Direction Pathfinder Podcast


  1. Darrell Vin Zant Reply to Darrell

    Were I to optimize it? Halfling, and abuse the hell out of the Risky Striker synergy. Were I to build more for flavor? Ratfolk named Reepicheep!

    • Alex Augunas Reply to Alex

      I’ve heard of Reepicheep before; about all I know is that he’s a mouse or a rat or some other little anthropomorphic critter. What is Reepicheep from, and should I be interested in it?

      • Reepicheep is from the Chronicles of Narnia. He’s an ok guy.

        • Alex Augunas Reply to Alex

          Really? I’ve read all of the books and I don’t recall a Reepicheep.

          • Doug

            Sure enough. I was never a big fan of the series, so I’m probably wrong in this, but I think he was in the dawn treader.

          • Luthorne

            Yeah, Reepicheep was in Prince Caspian and Voyage of the Dawn Treader…I think he might have showed up in The Last Battle too? Been a long time, but I definitely remember him, since he was kind of a badass swashbuckling swordsman despite his temper, and had loyal fellow swordsmen. He was the one who lost his tail in Prince Caspian and the one who went over the edge of the world in Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

      • Darrell Vin Zant Reply to Darrell

        I’m a little sad to hear this. The Chronicles of Narnia is as classic fantasy literature as Lord of the Rings and they were even written in the same time period. But I guess Lord of the Rings is by far the more famous of the two. It doesn’t help that The Chronicles of Narnia movies weren’t very popular. Though, as book to movie adaptations, they were far more loyal than the majority.

        Still, Reepicheep was a mouse that fought with a rapier and tackled large creatures. A great swordsmouse and warrior, he was extremely loyal to Prince Caspian and he offered to go over the edge of the world in Voyage of the Dawn Treader. He shows up in the very last book of the series, even though many centuries have passed and is long dead, but so too do many of the characters of the earlier series.

        • Alex Augunas Reply to Alex

          After all of the explanations, I vaguely know who everyone is talking about. I read the Chronicles of Narnia just over a decade ago, in sequential order, and honestly, they didn’t leave a huge impact on me. I especially remember not caring for the final book in the series for its out-of-the-blue plot-twist, “Aslan is Jesus” ending.

    • Halflings can also go with the Cautious Defense Racial Feat…this does the same effect as Crane Style but with a +2 for AC (as opposed to +1) and no need to assume a “style”.

      • Alex Augunas Reply to Alex

        I prefer Crane Wing because it lowers the attack penalty of fighting defensively. That said, I have a build coming up in a few weeks that combines both to hilarious effect.

  2. Darrell Vin Zant Reply to Darrell

    Oh, also, were I to go Mythic, Titan’s Bane is a must!

  3. Cool as the build is, what I’m really focusing on is that ruling. Glad to have heard it before I tried to use some of the Two-handed fighter features while one handing a two handed weapon. I guess that wouldn’t work out, huh?

  4. Does a Nodachi work for this? It’s not a polearm, it’s a sword with a really long blade.

  5. I realize that this is an older post, but!

    What ruling are you referring to that allows you to “treat a two-handed weapon as a one-handed weapon, then it was considered a one-handed weapon for all effects, including stuff like swashbuckler’s finesse” ?

    I can’t find it and want to have it in hand when I run this build.

  6. I’m having a lot of fun and getting to midlevels with this build, am I missing a rule that lets me use the monk AC bonuses and armor?

Leave a Reply