It needs to be understood right off the bat on this blog "best" does not mean "right". There is no one right way to build a character; there are simply more optimized ways to achieve a certain goal. In this case the goal is to build a fighter that gets the largest numbers of attacks possible, while maintaining an extremely high defense. That's the goal; defend yourself optimally while at the same time smashing down anything in your path. The reason I feel confident in calling this build the best is because it is the only way to be a two weapon fighter and to take no negatives for at least some of the attacks you make when fighting with two weapons.
Sword and Board: Why You Can't Beat the Classic
The classic fighter archetype is a warrior with a sword, a shield, and the best armor he or she is capable of wearing. That's where we're going to start out for our two weapon fighter. We're assuming for this build that you're a human, that you have strength as your primary attribute, and that it's at least 17 or higher. Dexterity is secondary, and will need to be at least a 17 by mid-levels. It will need to be a 19 if you intend on taking Greater Two Weapon Fighting (Core Rulebook 126).
Your first three feats (1st level, Human bonus, 1st Fighter feat) are:
- Improved Shield Bash (Core Rulebook 128)
- Two Weapon Fighting (Core Rulebook 136)
- Double Slice (Core Rulebook 122)
At this point your level one fighter is off and running. You can take a full attack with both weapons (I recommend a light shield, and if you're all right with doing piercing damage upgrade it to a light, spiked shield), and still keep the defensive bonus from your shield. You can do your full strength damage on both attacks.
For levels 2-5 you should have:
- Shield Focus (Core Rulebook 133)
- Missile Shield (Advanced Player's Guide)
- Weapon Focus Sword (Core Rulebook 136)
- Weapon Specialization Sword (Core Rulebook 137)
We're still building on the basics here, and these feats should be combined with Weapon Training in the Close group of weapons. This will ensure that even though you've taken feats to make your main weapon (sword is the place holder) more effective, you're still getting a bonus to hit and damage with your shield too. In addition to becoming deadlier you've increased your armor class, and you can negate one ranged weapon hit per round. As per the rules in Ultimate Combat, this applies to bullets as well as to arrows, crossbow bolts, sling stones, etc.
For levels 6-10 take:
- Shield Slam (Core Rulebook 133)
- Disruptive (Core Rulebook 122)
- Improved Two Weapon Fighting (Core Rulebook 128)
- Weapon Focus Shield (Core Rulebook 136)
- Spellbreaker (Core Rulebook 134)
Level 10 is where the big parts of the build start coming together. At this point you have two attacks with your secondary weapon, you're posing a bigger threat to spellcasters, you get a free bull rush attack when you hit with your shield, and you're hitting a lot better with your shield (hint, take the Focus for heavy steel shield. Trust me). You should also have gotten to the point where you can take full movement in any armor, and where you've taken a second weapon training group for your main weapon. You're a pretty deadly combatant at this point. The next few levels is the icing on the cake, though.
Level 11- 13:
- Shield Master (Core Rulebook 133)
- Ray Shield (Advanced Player's Guide)
- Two Weapon Rend (Core Rulebook 136)
These three feats are the end game. Shield Master allows you to use any magical enhancement on your shield for attack and damage as well as defense, and you take no negative on any attacks with that shield (for those who want to be Captain America). You have the ability to deflect a magical ray attack with your shield as if it were an arrow, and if you hit with both weapons then you get to do additional damage as you rend your enemies asunder. Who needs whirlwind attack with that?
Notes and Recommendations
This build is meant to balance offense and defense in such a way that the two weapon fighter is protected from physical attacks, and gets as many attacks of his or her own as possible. That said if your goals vary then tweaking the feat list presented here isn't just a good idea, but a necessity.
Also important to note; not all of these feats need to be taken in this order. Many of the higher-level feats have prerequisites, but for many of the feats on this list all you need is a certain level of fighter. So if you'd rather take one feat before another, or swap out a feat that isn't an important part of the chain for something different (Power Attack comes to mind. Or perhaps Improved Bull Rush if you want to make Shield Slam as effective as possible) then that's also perfectly acceptable. The list is here to help you build a better tank; if something here doesn't do what you want, then feel free to change it up.
On the subject of weapons; high crit weapons are your friend. Bastard swords, scimitars, anything that can have keen put on it and give you a better chance of hitting vitals. You aren't likely to do a stunning amount of damage on any single hit; if you hit often and hit hard though, it won't matter unless you fail to overcome the enemy's damage reduction.
Lastly, remember there's a counter to everything. The two weapon fighter is deadly in a brawl or one-on-one with another big brute. This build even has a few tricks for protection against arrows and ray spells. If you simply cannot reach the enemy though, or if that enemy is a great deal more mobile than you are, then you might find yourself getting frustrated. Tanglefoot bags are a great alchemical weapon for holding enemies in place, or at least dropping their move speeds. What I'm saying is always keep an ace up your sleeve; just because you're the best there is at what you do, that doesn't mean the DM will let you steamroll every fight be serving it up on a silver platter.
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