Pathfinder – The Brawler Handbook (2022)

Last Updated: March 21, 2022

Introduction

Someone looked at 3.5 and realized that Fighters made better Monks than Monks did, and merged the two into one class. The Brawler is a fantastic take on unarmed combat, and isn’t limited by the Monk’s Ki Pool. With access to a huge number of bonus feats, the Brawler can work as a Defender or Striker, and can accomplish those roles with wide variety of builds.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Disclaimer
  • Brawler Class Features
  • Abilities
  • Races
  • Skills
  • Weapons
  • Armor
  • Magic Items
    • Armor/Shields
  • Multiclassing and Prestige Classes

Disclaimer

We support a limited subset of Pathfinder’s rules content. If you would like help with Pathfinder options not covered here, please email me and I may be able to provide additional assistance.

RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks. Also note that many colored items are also links to the Paizo SRD.

  • Red: Bad, useless options, or options whichare extremely situational. Nearly never useful.
  • Orange: OK options, or useful optionsthat only apply in rare circumstances. Useful sometimes.
  • Green: Good options. Useful often.
  • Blue: Fantastic options, often essentialto the function of your character. Useful very frequently.

Brawler Class Features

Hit Points: d10 hit points is standard formartial characters.

Base Attack Bonus: Full BAB.

Saves: Good Fortitude and Reflex saves, butwith no dependence on Wisdom Brawlers will have issues with Will saves..

Proficiencies: The Brawler is largelyintended to fight unarmed, and weapons generally only offer the Brawleroptions for a bonus to combat maneuvers. The Brawler only gets light armor,but the Brawler’s AC bonus can help a little bit.

Skills: 4+ skill ranks, but very fewinteresting options and Intelligence is a dump stat.

Brawler’s Cunning (Ex): Fantastic forCombat Expertise and other feats which require it.

Martial Flexibility (Ex): This is one of thegreatest mechanics available to martial characters. It’s very complex, andrequires a bit of practice to master, but if you plan out clusters of featsfor various situations you can get a ton of mileage out of this.

Martial Training (Ex): Brawlers get to countas both a Monk and a Fighter, opening up huge numbers of feats likeDisruptive, Weapon Specialization, and a whole bunch of weird Monk feats.

Unarmed Strike: Improved Unarmed Strike forfree, and the damage dice progress at the same rate as for a Monk. The size ofthe damage die is greatly affected by the Brawler’s size, so it’s essentialthat the Brawler be medium and become permanently enlarged at the firstopportunity.

Bonus Combat Feats: Bonus feats are alwaysfantastic, and Combat Feats make up a huge chunk of available feats. Theability description specifies that the chosen feats must improve the Brawler’s“defenses or melee attacks”, but doesn’t really specify a way to enforce orinterpret that. Assume that anything involving a ranged attack or a skill isprobably off-limits. In addition, the Brawler gets to retrain a bonus featevery time that they get a new one. This can be great if you want toexperiment with feats or take feats to temporarily cover gaps in yourcharacter until you can retrain old feats into new feats with steeperprerequisites. Feats like Toughness are good examples because they give youearly survivability and you can retrain them later in the game into somethingmore exciting.

Brawler’s Flurry (Ex): With the exception offirst level, this gives the Brawler attacks as the same rate and BAB as theMonk. Note that this also allows you to apply your full strength bonus toattacks with your off hand, effectively duplicating Two-Weapon Rend. You canalso use one weapon for the whole flurry, so you could just repeatedlypunch/stab someone with a punching dagger if you wanted to. The Brawler alsoisn’t restricted to Monk weapons, which allows you to flurry with someinteresting things.

Maneuver Training (Ex): This bonus scales abit like Favored Enemy, so pick your favorite combat maneuver early because itwill get the biggest bonus. I recommend Dirty Trick, Trip, or Grapple.

AC Bonus (Ex): These bonuses are reallytiny, but they help a bit and they don’t go away if you use a shield.

Knockout (Ex): A martial save or suckability, and it’s available far earlier than other similar abilities.

Brawler’s Strike (Ex): Goes a long way tohelp overcome damage reduction, which is a problem for characters likeBrawlers and Monks that depend on a large number of weak attacks.

Close Weapon Mastery (Ex): The damage of aweapon won’t be meaningfully worse than your unarmed strikes, and this helpswith the poor damage dice offered by Close weapons. This also makes it easierto build Brawlers who fight exclusively using weapons.

Awesome Blow (Ex): Situational.

Improved Awesome Blow (Ex): This allows youto finish a full attack by knocking your enemy away from you. The natural 20mechanic is very situational.

Abilities

Strength is key, but all physical abilities are important.

Str: The Brawler’s primary offensivestat.

Dex: The Brawler only gets light armor, sodecent Dexterity is essential.

Con: With light armor and mediocre AC, theBrawler.

Int: Dump to 7. Brawler’s Cunning covers theonly thing that for which you want Intelligence.

Wis: Take a bit to boost the Brawler’slousy Will save.

Cha: Dump to 7. Less talking, morepunching!

25 Point Buy20 Point Buy15 Point BuyElite Array
  • Str: 18
  • Dex: 16
  • Con: 13
  • Int: 7
  • Wis: 13
  • Cha: 7
  • Str: 17
  • Dex: 16
  • Con: 13
  • Int: 7
  • Wis: 12
  • Cha: 7
  • Str: 16
  • Dex: 14
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 7
  • Wis: 12
  • Cha: 7
  • Str: 15
  • Dex: 13
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 10
  • Wis: 12
  • Cha: 8

Races

Bonuses to Strength are great, and it’s crucial that the Brawler be medium size.

Dwarf: Dwarves always make for good meleemartial characters, and the Brawler is no exception. Dwarves offer greatdefensive bonuses, and their racial penalty is to Charisma. The Dwarf favoredclass bonus is useless.

Elf: A penalty to an important ability and abonus to a dump stat. Elves are too frail to be Brawlers.

Gnome: Small Brawlers can only brawl smallerbrawlers.

Half-Elf: The flexible ability bonus isnice and alternate racial abilities help a bit.

Half-Orc: A flexible ability bonus andDarkvision are great. The Half-Orc’s favored class bonus is tempting, but notworth it. A favored class bonus should be worth roughly 1/6 of a feat, and youcan do much better with a feat than 1.5 levels of unarmed strike damage.

Halfling: SMALL. BRAWLERS.

Human: A flexible ability bonus and a featare perfect for the Brawler.

Skills

  • Acrobatics (Dex): Situational.
  • Climb (Str): Too situational.
  • Escape Artist (Dex): Situational, andtypically used to compensate for a low BAB.
  • Handle Animal (Cha): With no AnimalCompanion or Mount there is no reason a Brawler should need to learn how totrain aimals.
  • Intimidate (Cha): Useful if you want tolook into fear stacking with Intimidate, but Charisma is a dump stat and aBrawler doesn’t make a good Face
  • Knowledge (dungeoneering) (Int): One ofthe most important Knowledge skills, but Intelligence is a dump stat forBrawlers.
  • Knowledge (local) (Int): Helpful foridentifying humanoids, but Intelligence is still a dump stat.
  • Perception (Wis): The most rolled skill inthe game.
  • Ride (Dex): With no Animal Companion orMount there is no reason a Brawler should need to learn how to ride.
  • Sense Motive (Wis):
  • Swim (Str): Too situational.

Weapons

All Close weapons deal 1d6 damage or less, which means that their damage will be overridden by Close Weapon Mastery. That means that we can ignore the damage die on a weapon when considering it, and focus on the cool properties that the weapon offers. Unfortunately, very few Close weapons offer useful special abilities.

  • Armor Spikes: You can only get armor spikeson heavy armor, which Brawlers can’t wear.
  • Bayonet: Never a good idea for anyoneever.
  • Brass Knuckles: The same as a gauntlet, buta gauntlet lets you hold things.
  • Dan Bong: The Dan Bong is fantastic. Itadds an incredibly rare +2 bonus to grapple checks, has the blockingproperty, and can be thrown. Also it has 19-20×2 crit for some reason. Itdoesn’t actually have the Grapple property, so you can’t apply other weaponbonuses (masterwork/enhancement) to your grapple checks by using a dan bong.However, since you’re not using it to grapple, you can use your unarmedstrike damage when grappling.
  • Emei Piercer: The wording is confusing.Despite the d3 damage, the description says that emei piercers turn unarmedstrikes into piercing damage. General consensus in rules discussions seemsto be that the weapon overrides unarmed strike damage, but is otherwisetreated as an unarmed strike. If you just need a source of piercing damage,there are better options.
  • Fighting Fan: Leave these for ninjas.Poison is not your thing, and neither is feinting.
  • Gauntlet: Lower damage than a spikedgauntlet, and unarmed strikes already deal bludgeoning damage.
  • Heavy Shield: Brawlers can’t use shieldseffectively.
  • Iron Brush: A Brawler generally doesn’tneed to conceal weapons.
  • Light Shield: Brawlers can’t use shieldseffectively.
  • Madu: Brawlers can’t use shieldseffectively.
  • Mere Club: Never. Never ever.
  • Punching Dagger: Slightly better critsthan a spiked gauntlet, but you have to spend an action to draw it so it’s abit less usable.
  • Sap: You can deal nonlethal damage withyour unarmed strike if you really need to.
  • Scizore: The scizore grants a shield bonus, but isn’ttechnically a shield. Your GM might be lenient and let you wear one withoutruining your AC Bonus, but I certainly wouldn’t. Beyond the shield bonus,there is no reason to use a Scizore.
  • Shield Spikes: Brawlers can’t use shieldseffectively.
  • Spiked Gauntlet: A fantastic backup weaponfor any character. You don’t need to draw a spiked gauntlet because you’realready wearing it, and it deals piercing damage. Get one in cold iron andone in adamantine and get to punching.
  • Tekko-kagi: Using this as a buckler willruin your AC Bonus, and the disarm ability is too narrow to be useful.
  • Tonfa: The only appeal is the Blockingproperty.
  • Unarmed Strike: The damage scales, you canuse it with your hands full, and you can’t be disarmed.
  • Wooden Stake: Worthless.
  • Wushu Dart: Worthless except for the rangeincrement

Armor

  • Leather: Your starting armor
  • Mithral Shirt: Probably a permanentchoice.
  • Mithral Breastplate: If you can spare afeat to pick up Medium Armor Proficiency, a Mithral Breastplate offers a +2AC boost over your Mithral Shirt.

Magic Items

Armor/Shields

  • Brawling (+1): For a +1 armor enhancementbonus you get a +2 typeless bonus to unarmed strikes. You’re locked intolight armor anyway, so this ability is basically tailor-made for brawlersdespite being published several years before the Brawler class waspublished. Even the name makes sense.
  • Celestial Armor (22,400 gp): Unless youhave heavy armor proficiency and a Dexterity modifier of at most+5, Celestial Armor is the best armor in the game if all you need from yourarmor is AC. For more, check out myPractical Guide to Celestial Armor.

Multiclassing and Prestige Classes

Much like the Monk, it is difficult for the Brawler to multiclass because itmeans giving up bigger unarmed strike damage and more numerous attacks.

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