Here we are folks, our very first entry/attempt at presenting interesting character ideas for your role-playing games, as promised. To inaugurate this new series I present to you my latest rolled character: a Half-Orc Brawler.
Disclaimer: This class has not been play-tested.
Also, Pathfinder is being used as this example because that’s what I’m playing at the moment, and all their material is available for free on their website.
Lastly, click all the links! They’ll save you tons of time.
For people who don’t want to read, my character’s PDF is at the bottom of this post.
First came Johnny Two-Fists, a mercenary Brawler I rolled as an NPC back when I was running our present campaign. I was intrigued.
Secondly, I then happened to have a craving for Jackie Chan’s 1994 Drunken Master. Recalling from memory, throughout the movie he fights with benches, chairs, plates, tables, bamboo poles, bottles, iron bars, barrels, and is not above using dirty tricks. All that on top of his drunken master style.
Also, his mom is awesome.
Thirdly I remembered Inui Banjin, From the Kenshin manga (coincidentally, I watched the live-action movies a few months back).
I thought of him before Harada Sanosuke because in the manga he fights with gauntlets.
Putting these last 2 characters together represent what I had in mind for a Brawler: an unpredictable guy fighting using his fists and every object around him, against people trying to stab and slice and crush him. Also, fireballs.
I’ve decided to leave the drunken fighting style behind, because that was heading too much towards a Monk, focusing instead on Improvised Weapons. During my short bit as an Alchemist I quite liked the Throw Anything feat, eventually ending up throwing rocks to save crossbow bolts – and having better luck that way. The Tavern Brawler feat from D&D 5e is okay, but I wanted something more fleshed out.
THE VISION IN A NUTSHELL:
A character who thrives on chaos, creates hilarious situations, carries almost nothing. He fights with his fists and whatever is in grabbing range. He disarms the damage dealer, trips the mobile enemy, blinds the Wizard. He’s not the tank nor the damage-dealer of the party, but can prove to be quite troublesome if ignored.
THE CHARACTER BUILDING:
Reminder: this post is about fun, not efficiency. We forego efficiency in favor of flavor.
From here we’ll cover character creation with suggestions, following the order in which I roll my characters. It’s up to you to choose which options fit your own vision.
Race: Totally up to you. I personally hesitated between Human (bonus feat) and Half-Orc, eventually settling on the latter when I saw the alternate racial trait Sacred Tattoo. Directly from Paizo.com:
- Sacred Tattoo: Many half-orcs decorate themselves with tattoos, piercings, and ritual scarification, which they consider sacred markings. Half-orcs with this racial trait gain a +1 luck bonus on all saving throws. This racial trait replaces orc ferocity.
Losing Orc Ferocity seems pretty bad, but I like the saving throw boost to Will and this racial trait helped me flesh out his backstory – why is he not so savage anymore? He was raised by humans. Okay, he likes to go to sleep bruised and bloody, but he’s not an Orcish killing machine since he didn’t grow up among a horde. Also since this is a luck tattoo, it helped me pick his deity: Desna. So at this early character creation stage we already have an unpredictable Half-Orc who loves to punch stuff and is walking around with a huge butterfly tattoo on his bicep. Perfect for starting trouble!
“Is that a butterfly tattoo?”
“Yeah. Got a problem with that?”
Class: Brawler, heh. Am I going to multi-class? That remains to be seen. A Barbarian for raging has a RP element of our hero succumbing to his Orcish heritage. Magic-using could be great, as his hands could be free to cast spells. However I want to see where the story will take him (if he survives), what he’ll need to punch ghosts, etc. He could also get a level in Fighter and put on spiked, heavy armor, bypassing the need for high dex, and creating another hilarious vision.
Ability Scores: I personally rolled an absolute beast out of sheer luck so I had a bit of freedom.
I put Strength as my highest score because I want to be able to lift anything I want to hit other, softer things with. I have powerful visions of my Brawler swinging tree trunks around.
I think Dexterity is very important, since we’re talking about a melee class with only Light Armor proficiency, so I chose that as my second-highest score. I want the highest AC possible.
Constitution came third. I need him to be tough. However, it helps to conserve HP if he can avoid getting hit in the first place.
Which physical ability is more important is up to you, depending on the roll you see yourself fulfilling in combat. Do you want to be able to pick up a whole table effortlessly as an impromptu shield against those cowards with bows, then break their knee with a kick when in range? Strength. Do you want to slap anyone who walks past you on their way to stab the squishies, and block whatever sharp thing is coming at you? Dexterity. Do you want to be the table, standing in the way of whatever is coming to hurt your friends so that they can do their stuff? Constitution.
Intelligence can be a dump stat as Brawler’s Cunning lets you cheat right from the start:
- Brawler’s Cunning (Ex): If the brawler’s Intelligence score is less than 13, it counts as 13 for the purpose of meeting the prerequisites of combat feats.
Wisdom is not used at all, except for some skills and as a boost to your dismal Will save. But then again, if you had any wisdom, you’d learn to fight with stuff that put a distance between you and poke-sticks, and you’d wear more armor. Or fireballs. I chose this as my dump stat instead of intelligence because I like when characters have a weakness.
Charisma is great, however. Intimidate can be a lot of fun and Half-Orcs get a natural bonus as this racial trait:
- Intimidating: Half-orcs receive a +2 racial bonus on Intimidate checks due to their fearsome nature.
There’s nice traits and feats that can make your Brawler interesting in that regard. Here’s a condensed idea in grey, if you’re not into tattoos but more into shouting into people’s faces:
Alternate Racial Traits offer Dimdweller (2 RP): Whenever characters with this trait benefit from concealment or full concealment due to darkness or dim light, they gain a +2 racial bonus on Intimidate, Perception, and Stealth checks. Half-orcs can take this trait in place of weapon familiarity. Source PPC:BoS
So you have Darkvision, and you’re scarier in the dark. Have some fun with that.
Using Paizo’s great filter system, I found a lot of different available traits to give you +1 to Intimidate. However, these caught my attention:
Bloody-Minded helps both your Initiative and Intimidate
Scrapper helps with intimidate and surprises
Mercenary is more specific, giving you an Intimidate bonus when dealing with payment. I love it!
Here are a few Feats you could pick to have fun with Intimidate without much prerequisites:
Antagonize makes people/things attack you through intimidation
Bullying Blow is the Intimidate answer to Power Attack, which we don’t get to use with our fists. Also Orc exclusive.
Destructive Persuasion not only gives a bonus to Intimidate in an awesome way, it works well with the “Smash Everything” build we’re going for.
Intimidating Prowess adds your Strength bonus to your Charisma bonus for Intimdate checks
Martial Dominance mostly lets you try to demoralize an opponent after a critical hit
Mercenary Company Tattoos. Take 10 to Intimidate! *Rolls up sleeves slowly*
Persuasive is a straight-up boost to Diplomacy and Intimidation
I don’t recommend using your starting feats on these however, as right now we need them to focus on ruining peoples’ businesses with Improvised Weapons. You could drop the Improvised Weapons aspect altogether, however.
As for Combat Styles, Boar Style works perfectly with an Intimidating Brawler.
There’s also this ridiculous spell: Transfer Tattoo.
Damn, all this is making me reconsider. Moving on! After Class, Race and Ability Scores I usually go over the skills. Quite limited in this case. I chose Intimidate to make the most of it, and Craft: Tattoo Artist for character depth.
Traits: Oh man, are we spoiled by Pathfinder here. So many options! I love it. Hours of reading fun. Essentially it’s pure inspiration. I mean, to me a +1 is more for flavor than power.
As mentioned before, for this build I was focusing on tattoos and damaging other people’s private property, so I found these traits that looked fun:
Auspicious Tattoo is a +1 to our weakness: Willpower.
Mercenary Company Tattoos is here twice because it’s just awesome.
Tattooed Wanderer is a slight boost to a skill or profession.
As a Drawback: Foul Brand has to be either on your hand or face, penalizing some skills.
For tattoos, I personally chose both Auspicious Tattoo and Foul Brand. I especially like the Foul Brand for backstories. My Brawler has a branding of Nulgreth on his right hand, an ugly reminder of his violent origins and to not give in to his most bestial instincts. By choosing a drawback, a whole new role-playing layer has been unearthed.
Dockside Brawler provides a +1 to brass knuckles and Improvised Weapons.
Improvised Defense helps with AC when you’re using Improvised Weapons.
Surprise Weapon helps with attack rolls instead.
I opted for Surprise Weapon and Improvised Defense since they go hand-in-hand.
Feats! My friends and I’s favorite part of a character! Here are a few of them pertaining to our present build. They’re low-level, so you can play-test your own Brawler and head into any direction you want at a later time.
I’m steering clear of most Strikes, Combat Styles and Combat Maneuvers as these three categories deserve their own post, which I am thinking of tackling in the future if my character survives long enough to get to use them.
- There’s no going around it, you’ll need Catch Off-Guard from day 1.
- Bleeding Attack sounds like a must and a great way to up the violent descriptions, and is much more time-efficient than Bloody Vengeance.
- Chairbreaker gives you more damage with Improvised Weapons.
- Combat Expertise because it leads to very useful things like Improved Dirty Trick.
- Deflect Arrows is always good for closing the distance when you don’t have a table.
- Dodge is always good. We like bonuses to AC, don’t we?
- Enforcer opens up a whole new thematic that I’m seriously considering. Hit stuff with nonlethal damage (I.E: your fists) and you get to try and demoralize them! It works well for RP reasons too. Maybe your dude doesn’t want to kill anyone and often just tries to knock them out.
- I love the idea of a grumpy brawling Grudge Fighter.
- Hamatulatsu lets you change your fists damage type and sicken people you hit for a relatively cheap investment in the form of Weapon Focus (Unarmed Strike).
- Kick Up feels awesome, unfortunately it’s for Slayers or Swashbucklers, but maybe a cool DM would smudge the rules a bit, maybe?
- Solo Maneuvers if you intend to use Combat Maneuvers a lot.
- Stunning Fist well, stuns, and the class feature Martial Training lets you count your Brawler levels as either Fighter or Monk levels!
- Throw Anything is both thematic and useful, and there’s a few feats like Two-Weapon Thrower to help you boost damage or distance.
- Disposable Weapon needs a bit of leniency from your DM, as it applies to fragile weapons. Is a beer mug a fragile weapon? I’m not using it since we did away with confirming critical hits.
- Extra Martial Flexibility gives you more use out of that great Class Trait, if you find you like to disarm people to give them an impromptu training in street fighting.
- Fire God’s Blessing needs a bit of role-playing but makes fighting with torches more fun: basically seeing people get hit with fiery things heals you a bit.
- Godless Healing lets you heal yourself supernaturally, as an Atheist. What?
- Ironhide offers another bonus to AC that you get to keep when flat-footed.
- Iron Will if you don’t like losing control of your character.
- Possessed Hand is awesome, I can’t believe I just discovered it. Click the link! Now!
- Splintering Weapon is a bit like Disposable Weapon in the sense that it requires a DM ruling over Fragile weapons, but it lets you add Bleed Damage to your attacks with Improvised Weapons!
Here’s a few more feats that I spotted that are to be considered Down the line:
Body Shield lets you use the creature you’re grappling take a hit for you. I love it.
Break Guard lets you use your eventual multiple attacks and Disarm skills in conjunction.
Hammer The Gap needs BAB +6 but could help you boost damage a bit.
Improvised Weapon Mastery seems to be a must once you get BAB +8. Higher damage dice and a tiny increase to crit range? Yes please.
School Strike, if you want to multi-class into Wizard. Because fireballs + fists = firefists.
There are a lot more feats available for all sorts of fun, and I’m sure I’ve missed a lot! Feel free to suggest any in the comments and I might edit this entry later to include them.
At the time or writing this, my character is level 1, so he’s getting Catch Off-Guard as his starter feat. As his bonus Combat Feat for level 2, signs point to Bleeding Attack, Chairbreaker, Combat Expertise or Enforcer, but I’m waiting to see what my role ends up being in our group.
Equipment is another part of the fun of perusing your books/PDFs/internets, but here’s a few interesting items. You might have to ask your DM if you can keep your unarmed damage output while wearing these (as my DM did). First of all, since we are proficient with the Fighter Close Weapons group, we get to use:
Cestus gives Bludgeon or Pierce damage
Dan Bong helps with Grapple
There’s whole builds revolving around using Shields. Brawlers get proficiency with Heavy Shields! Put a spike on that bad boy!
Rope Gauntlets lets you deal Slashing damage and helps you look cool.
A Scizore was a gladiator weapon, apparently. Besides the 1d10 dmg, it can help with AC a bit.
How about a Spiked Armor? The rules don’t give much details besides 1d6 damage. Grapple or Bullrush automatic damage? Have a talk with your GM.
The Tekko-Kagi lets you look like Wolverine a bit, and gives a nice bonus to Disarm and Sunder.
The Brawler is limited to Light armor so there’s not much to cover here besides the types and the materials (or multi-classing), but since this one is proficient with trashing a room, I had a look at the Adventuring Gear to see if anything could be used in a fun way.
Nothing much came up but I decided that my Half-Orc was going to walk around with a chain attached to his waist like a fake belt, which he can unwrap in a pinch and fight with.
I’m also considering him swinging around a bear trap (2d6+3) but for now I sort of want him to be limited in his violence.
For clarity’s sake, here is my own character sheet: Roadbeer Brawler.
I hope that this post was fun or helpful for someone out there. Let me know if you used it, or how I can improve in the comments!
Edit 1: Submitted by a reader, the Tribal Scars feat!