Iconic Design: Peerless Dancing from the Fringe

Hey everyone, and welcome to Guidance! Today I have a Pathfinder 1st Edition character build like I promised, but sadly I had to change the build I initially wanted to do at the last minute, hence the lateness. Basically, I had wanted to make a bard around this sweet bardic masterpiece that let you turn allies (and eventually enemies) into animals, but that build sort of died when I realized that starting said masterpiece took three full-round actions. Honestly, I wish someone at Paizo would realize that combat rounds are over too quickly to punish the bard with long activation times like that, but I digress.

Instead, I’m going to build a different character using a different set of options from Heroes from the Fringe that I adore—the Warrior Poet archetype for samurai! Well don’t delay, let’s get started!

You won’t see me call the warrior poet the Ronin Kenshin archetype, but holy crap it basically is!

Build Concept

Any information important to understanding the build or its roots goes here.

  • Class: samurai 12
  • Feats: Diva Style (1st), Combat Expertise (3rd), Power Attack (5th), Spring Attack (6th; Bonus), Diva Strike (7th), Greater Feint (9th), Diva Advance (11th), Improved Spring Attack (12th; Bonus)
  • Class Features: battle dance, challenge 4/day, dancer’s grace, graceful warrior, graceful strike, greater resolve, honorable stand, resolve, skirmisher’s challenge
  • Flourishes: kitsune’s mystique (1st), exodus of jinn (3rd), jinisiel’s guidance (5th), jinisiel’s guidance (9th)
  • Order of the Songbird: versatile performance (oratory), (2nd), poetic inspiration (8th)

Playing the Build

Okay! Now that we’ve got our build together, what does it do? Essentially, the Warrior Poet is a high-Charisma armorless samurai, and if that doesn’t have you intrigued then I don’t know what will. Dancer’s grace essentially works like the canny dodge ability of the duelist, except you add points of Charisma to your AC when you’re completely unarmed and not using a shield. That’s right, no bucklers for this build! Flourishes are a set of abilities that replace most of the samurai’s abilities: mount, weapon expertise, banner, and greater banner. Losing weapon expertise kind of hurts because you lose the ability to take fighter feats, but the flourishes themselves are strong. They include things like Improved Feint (ignoring prerequisites) from kitsune’s mystique, bonus movement speed while unarmored from exodus of jinn, and uncanny dodge / improved uncanny dodge from jinisiel’s guidance. You get to keep resolve, greater resolve, challenge, the order, and honorable stand, so overall its a good deal for you.

Next, let’s talk about this build’s order, which also comes from Heroes from the Fringe. The Order of the Songbird is basically custom-built for the warrior-poet archetype. Its challenge benefit offers a substantial bonus on saves and to AC for being unarmored (basically what you would have gained from your armor), while also including a bunch of neat abilities and skill bonuses. At 2nd level, this order grants versatile performance (as a bard) with one Perform skill. At 8th level, once per encounter you can grant your allies a competence bonus to weapon attack rolls and damage rolls equal to your Charisma bonus for 1 round. This won’t stack with a bard’s inspire courage, but at basically any level of gameplay it’ll probably be higher anyway. The 15th level ability, which this build won’t gain, allows the samurai to declare one attack she makes per day a beautiful strike, which deals nonlethal damage and has a chance to charm her target (as charm monster). Very cool, very neat. Now, let me tell you about the build’s feats so you can see how we tie this all together.

The first thing to remember is that our class features and flourish choices end up netting us Improved Feint, Spring Attack, and Improved Spring Attack as bonus feats. Kitsune’s mystique also provides an additional boon for Improved Feint—the samurai can feint one enemy for free as part of the movement taken during a Spring Attack as long as she feints the enemy at some point during her movement. To build on that, we’re going to be taking Diva Style as our 1st-level feat. This awesome feat allows us to pick one Perform skill and use that Perform skill for feinting. We’ll likely be using Oratory, which is cool! Even with versatile performance you couldn’t normally use Perform (oratory) for feinting, so this is a neat benefit. The next feat in the chain is Diva Strike, which allows you to add your Charisma bonus to damage rolls against a target who is denied their Dexterity bonus to AC the first time you hit them in a round, and it culminates in the awesome Diva Advance, which allows you to not provoke attacks of opportunity from anyone you’ve feinted. Not only does this allow you to do things like use combat maneuvers with abandon, but it also allows you to make use of your “one feint per Spring Attack” to essentially choose two targets with Improved Spring Attack to attack, one of whom can be feinted for free. Alternatively, anyone you choose to attack with Improved Spring Attack can’t make attacks of opportunity against you for moving through their threatened area, so combined with Diva Advance, you could move without provoking from three different targets (the two you attacked with Improved Spring Attack and a third that you feint with kitsune’s mystique). It is a very cool, very powerful set up.

Damage-wise, this build has a lot going for it. Power Attack is always awesome, and the warrior poet has a “lethal grace” vigilante ability baked into it, which is perfect. The Warrior Poet can also use Weapon Finesse with the katana and naginata, so you’re looking at a STRONG reach weapon and a strong two-handed weapon that you can use in one hand. Carrying a full diamyo (katana + wakizashi) is very doable here.

Overall this is a fun, interesting build that does an AWESOME job of scratching the unarmored beauty itch. It’s basically a not-broken version of the sword devil, and the fact that it’s put on a class that people don’t normally like playing is EVEN BETTER in my opinion. Next week I’m going to look at a completely different way to use this versatile archetype, so stay tuned!

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 Alexs Twitter, @AlJAug.


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 Comment

  1. Jim

    Thank you! I’ve been looking at this archetype and considering a good build for it; it also seems suitable for how a Noldor-type character might fight. Do you have any recommendations on stats?