Saturday, February 1, 2020

5 Ways To Sidestep Hits in Pathfinder (Without Magic)

The main defensive mechanic players pay attention to in Pathfinder is their armor class. If that number is as high as they can get it, typically through armor, shields, spells, magic items, feats, and additional abilities, it will allow them to just tank attacks while avoiding damage.

What was your total? Heh, git gud, scrub.
As the game goes on, though, your armor class just isn't going to keep pace with the enemies you're fighting. Even the biggest tanks are going to run into issues when it comes to melee touch attacks, or trying to dodge arrow snipers who were specifically built to aim for their visor slits. So, with that said, this week I thought I'd lay out some handy tricks for making sure you've got at least one Get-Out-of-Pain-Free card on your person for when you need it most.

For example...

#1: Deflect Arrows


Catch these hands!
 Perhaps the oldest trick in the book, Deflect Arrows is one of the favorites from the Core Rulebook. In short, it allows you to just deflect any one missile attack that would normally hit you (provided it's appropriately sized, as cannonballs, boulders, etc., are all too large to be affected). All you need is to be aware of the attack, which makes it ideal for those who can't be caught flat-footed (looking at you barbarians and rogues).

The reason this feat doesn't wind up on nearly as many sheets as it should is because it has Improved Unarmed Strike as a pre-requisite. As such, most folks only give it to brawlers and monks. However, if you have a DM who actually uses archers, poisoned throwing stars, darts, firearms (as Ultimate Combat states that this feat works on the flintlocks and muskets we typically see) it is well worth the investment. It's ideal for warpriests (whose Sacred Weapon ability lets them bump up their unarmed strike damage, as well as apply blessings and bonus abilities to their strikes), but as a purely defensive measure it's also worth keeping in mind.

#2: Parry


What did you say? "Parry this"?
 Anyone who's shared a table with me knows that the swashbuckler was one of my favorite additions to the game in the Advanced Class Guide. Their parry ability allows them to try to make a counter attack using an attack of opportunity in melee, essentially deflecting an incoming attack. When combined with Combat Reflexes, the proper weapon buffs, and even traits like Fencer, that can add up to a big damn defensive ability. Even if you can only riposte once per round as an immediate action, it's possible for a swashbuckler to just guard themselves with a flurry of steel... even against melee touch attacks!

With that said, the duelist prestige class also offers a parry ability. The difference is that the swashbuckler's ability costs panache to use (based on your Charisma modifier), whereas the duelist's just allows you to use your normal attacks reserved from a full attack action. So which option works better for you depends on what your Charisma modifier is going to be (for the record, a paladin with a dip in swashbuckler, or simply taking the paladin archetype Virtuous Bravo which gives you swashbuckler abilities is one of the best combos for this ability). This is only going to work in melee, of course, but sometimes that's all you really need.

#3: Snake Style


Go on, punk... take your shot.
 One of the most popular fighting style feats found in Ultimate Combat, Snake Style takes a bit to set up. You need to take a swift action to get into the stance, and then once you're in it you can use your immediate action to roll a Sense Motive check against an incoming attack that you are aware of, and while you're not flat-footed. That requires you to first invest maximum ranks in a skill, and to probably have a pretty good Wisdom score. You then need to take the whole first round of combat setting up your stance. However, the thing that makes Snake Style really good is that it counts as your AC or your touch AC. So if you've got a ghost that's slapping you through your armor, or a necromancer who's shooting beams of acid green death, this ability is a great method for dodging out of the way.

The hard part, of course, is beefing up your Sense Motive to a high enough degree. Skill Focus will help a lot here (making it ideal for half-elves wondering what to use their free Skill Focus on), and any traits that give you a bonus, and which make Sense Motive a class skill will stand you in good stead. Again, this is commonly used by monks and warpriests, but it's great for any class that wants to be able to just cobra their way out of being hammered into the dirt.

#4: Cut (And Smash) From The Air


Better make it count.
 There are few things more frustrating than being a fighter, and constantly getting shot at from nine different directions. However, if you have a crap load of attacks of opportunity, then you might want to consider taking Cut From The Air and Smash From The Air, both feats out of the Weapon Master's Handbook. The first feat allows you to spend an attack of opportunity to try to cut a ranged attack out of the air, provided it's a normal-sized missile (boulders, ballista, etc. still not allowed). The second feat allows you to use Cut From The Air against all missiles that come your way, as well as targeted magic effects. A great way to save your fighter from taking a few rays of searing light in uncomfortable places.

I keep saying fighter, because like many other feats from this book, you need to have weapon training with a melee weapon in order to use these feats. While there are other classes and archetypes that gain this ability other than fighters (looking at you, swashbuckler), your options are pretty limited for which characters you can slap these feats onto.

#5: Missile Shield and Ray Shield


Don't miss.
 Missile Shield, out of the Advanced Player's Guide, is pretty common among sword-and-board fighter types. It has Shield Focus as a prerequisite, but basically lets you use Deflect Arrows as long as you have a shield to deflect them with (same rules and restrictions apply). This is particularly useful for two-weapon style fighters who are going sword and shield bash, who still want to slap away crossbow bolts while they ginsu the enemy forces. Combined with the above feats, it can get tough to even scratch these fighters.

Of course, just to add insult to injury you can also take Ray Shield out of the same book. It requires you to have the Spellbreaker feat, which itself requires you to have Disruptive, and to have 10 levels of fighter. However, it allows you to basically deflect ray spells and effects, taking the hit on your shield. Your shield still takes the effect of the spell, which can be a problem for things like disintegrate or spells that deal absurd amounts of energy damage, but if your shield is tough enough you can often negate enemy magic that could otherwise seriously impede you. Especially if the ray wouldn't have an effect on an object, so you can basically ignore it.

Also, for those who like the idea of getting to smack away rays with impunity, the Crystalline Body feature of the oread not only increases your AC against rays (making them more likely to miss in the first place) but gives you a once-per-day deflection due to your crystalline structure. Just something to think about!

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16 comments:

  1. Great guide. Actually had me looking at ways to get most of the options on a single character, and that lead to the discovery of Greater Ray Shield(you shield no longer takes the effect of the ray it deflects!) so that adds another fun item to the article.

    ReplyDelete
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  2. Another way that's been missed...

    The Path of War stuff from Dreamscarred Press, all of the Schools / Traditions have some way to stop, dodge, divert, or even, at higher levels, turn an opponents attack back on them. Some magical, some martial.

    ReplyDelete
  3. "You need to take a swift action to get into the stance, and then once you're in it you can use your immediate action to roll a Sense Motive"

    Well you won't be doing both of those in the same turn! A Swift Action eats your Immediate Action for that round, while an Immediate Action eats your Swift Action for either your current OR following turn. (At least that's what it says here = https://www.aonprd.com/Rules.aspx?Name=Immediate%20Actions&Category=Action%20Types)

    I'm a little disappointed that #5 is just "Magic!". I mean, even a rookie can think "isn't there magic for this"?

    Thanks for bringing up the Cut From/Smash From feats though, I desperately needed reminding of them!

    keep up the good work!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, you can get into the stance on one turn, and while someone’s attacking you on their turn, you use your Swift for the next round! Simple as that.

      Delete
    2. #5 is a pair of feats though. No magic involved in it at all.

      Delete
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