#4 of my Top Ten of 2018
This installment of the Legendary Class-redesigns/supplements clocks in at a mighty 62 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of introduction, 2 pages of ToC, 4 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 51 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This review was moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreon supporters.
This book is, in its structure, akin to the phenomenal Legendary Rogues, in that it begins with a closer examination and expansion of the fighter class features, intended to provide means to differentiate the fighter class from other classes. As such, the book begins by taking a look at the advanced weapon training options introduced in the Weaponmaster’s Handbook – these allow for the replacement of the weapon training class feature at 9th, 13th and 17th level, and may alternatively be accessed via the Advanced Weapon Training feat, which fighters may take multiple times, but only once per 5 class levels attained. An updated version of said feat is included within, as the feat no longer requires a clause for the weapon master archetype. 19 such options have been included within this book, with the first of them allowing for weapon training bonus to be applied on combat maneuver checks with a chosen maneuver. There is also a means to enhance CMD, increase the save DC, if any, of effects caused by critical hits, quicker intimidation (with Dazzling Display synergy and means to combo it with e.g. Cornugon Smash), etc. Nice if you’re like me and enjoy, style-wise, some weapons that damage-die wise are less impressive: With focused weapon, you get a somewhat monk-ish damage progression for a weapon of your choice that you have Weapon Focus for, and scale its damage based on level, with the small table provided covering Small and Large size categories as well.
Cool one: These also include the option to expend an attacks of opportunity as an immediate action to add weapon training bonus to the saving throw, excluding ongoing magical effects; spell sundering and dispelling can also be found, and these two are not only mechanically great, they help make the fighter more viable and fun in high-magic contexts. Dexterity bonus to attack and Strength bonus to damage with thrown weapons as well as doubled weapon training bonus can be helpful as well – a helpful table sums these up, as well as their source, notes name-changes, if any, and we do get some guidance regarding implementation as well – big plus.
The next section pertains Weapon mastery feats, with Martial Focus as a specifically denoted gateway feat for non-fighters – and this feat is listed in the beginning, set apart with a shaded background. It may be a small thing, but seeing this one not hidden amidst a ton other feats made me smile from ear to ear – it’s really consumer-friendly and didactically-sensible presentation. Adaptive Counterstrike and Trade Blows, both with their own combat tricks, are included. Adaptive Counterstrike deserves special mention here: It’s the single best “analyze enemy”-type of feat I’ve seen in ages, and it doesn’t require wonky attack roll comparisons. Mechanically a boon for sore eyes. Trade Blows is similarly genius, making readied actions matter and allowing you to really harry targets. There may just be these two here, but quality trumps quantity any day of the week, and both of these are gamechangers. Speaking of making sense: If you’ve been adamant about playing by the book, you will have noticed weapon groups and associated lists being spread across different sources, including a blog post – well, fret not, for this book collects them in a sensible manner in one proper place. This is, once more, a thing that you may not immediately be stoked about, but the diligence that collected this list is something I genuinely applaud. And yes, there is a ginormous list that notes them all by source and whether or not they agree, allowing you to resolve conflicts of interpretation swiftly without having to resort to asking on the boards. This is amazing, very much the definition of going the extra mile.
You’ve probably seen it coming, so the presence of advanced armor training options probably is what you expected to see. However, what you probably did NOT expect to see, is that we begin with an analysis of the class feature, as the book highlights the issues and potentially rather limited appeal of this class feature. The ability also ranges in the power its component offers, and as such, the class feature is divided into two selectable pieces that no longer strand you with components of a class feature you simply can’t make use of. A total of 20 different armor training options may be found within this book, once more, like for the weapon training options, sporting the handy table that notes changes at one glance – for example for quick donning, or for unmoving, which now lets you select two different maneuvers. The section does, once more, come with an implementation guideline provided. Armor Focus, as an Armor Mastery feat, is included, and for your convenience, a massive table of such applicable feats, including sources, once more greatly helps navigating the breadth of options out there. At this point, the book has already a serious edge, as it acts as a brilliant reference book for fighter options.
From there on out, we move on to perseverance, which is the term employed for defensive resilience abilities; unless I’ve miscounted, there are 16 of these inside, and yes, e.g. bravery can be found here; this mean s that e.g. employing the content herein in conjunction with Michael Sayre’s Bravery Feats is very much possible. These features replace the armed bravery, and implementing them as the CRB bravery feature is an easy to grasp and super simple way of inciting players to remain in the fighter class instead of classing out of it. Additionally, the sequence in which these options are gained mirror the progression intervals of other fighter features, which generates a pleasant symmetry.
…don’t judge me, I can’t help it! I really like seeing symmetry and elegance in design, and this renders the fighter more pleasing from a rules-aesthetic point of view. Perhaps I’m weird, but in case you’re like me in that regard, I figured you’d like to know that. On the other side of things, while I never will become a huge fan of stalwart mettle (basically evasion for Fort- and Will-saves), it ultimately won’t break the game when made available to the fighter.
The next option array provided would be “Prowess” – these options represent the fighter’s meta-feats, which enhance combat feats, provide skill-based options, etc. – as the book correctly notices, there is a fine line between prowess and advanced weapon training options – but thankfully, the table does list such options with an asterisk, noting that they may be taken as either. It’s nice to see that the book doesn’t simply leave that aspect up to the GM and provides apt guidance. 21 such options are included for your convenience, and allow the fighter to gain skills and no longer be the dumb and useless brute outside of combat; there is an option for proficiency in an entire weapon group, a means for allies to share the fighter’s teamwork feats and options that render Style feat use more viable: Style Training lets you always be in one style and enter them as a free action, and Style Mastery lets you use more than one style feat simultaneously. The implementation of these options is explained analogue to the previous option categories – 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter are suggested, and detailed corner case rulings prevent confusion with e.g. Barroom Brawler. And yes, if you’ve always been irked by the fighter’s bad saves, there is an easy to implement optional rule/variant here. And while I noticed this before, you have probably guessed it at this point – this massive tome of fighter tweaks also provides the means to make the fighter less feat-starved.
Another issue that many a player has encountered, would be the requirement to invest in tertiary ability scores to meet the prerequisites of certain feats, and, you guessed it, the book does offer solutions for this, and contextualizes the fighter anno 2018 with other classes and their means to waive certain prerequisites and the like. I absolutely ADORE the concept of latent feats: Feats you’ve retrained, but which still count for the purpose of prerequisites. At 4th level, this suggested class feature is perfectly placed to avoid dipping-abuse and regarding when, during a fighter’s career, feats like Mobility or Dodge start becoming dead weight. Once more, a potential issue of the fighter can be resolved in a smooth and elegant way. (And no, they can’t be abused.)
Fighter-specific feats get their own table, with (Greater) penetrating Strike and Clustered Shots having their effects listed in a handy table – and once more, the reference table can be worth its weight in gold when planning your fighter. The book goes beyond that, retuning e.g. the gloves of dueling to work smoothly in conjunction with the massive option array presented. There are alternate rules here that render fighters still somewhat capable when employing nonproficient weapons, options that fortify weapons gripped by these martial masters, not dropping held weapons when panicked or stunned…nice. As an aside: One of my last campaign’s PCs, a super-high-powered gladiator-type, ALWAYS managed to fail saves versus dragons, losing multiple unique magic weapons this way, so yeah, these may not look like much, but they certainly do matter! The book then proceeds to present optional alternate rules for high-level fighters, like moving up to his speed before or after a full attack (making the fighter less static), not automatically missing on a natural 1, 1/round treating an attack roll as a 10 at 19th level…yeah.
So far, so good – a colossal grab-bag of fighter options to customize the class. Beyond that, we have the Legendary Fighter, who gets d10 HD, 4 + Intelligence modifier skills per level, proficiency with all simple and martial weapons as well as armor and shields, including tower shields, full BAB-progression and good Fort-saves. 1st level and every even levels thereafter net a bonus feat, and the fighter can choose 4 skills from a list to be added to the list of class skills, representing the skill-upgrade design paradigm mentioned before. The legendary fighter also takes the save-issue into account: He gets sharp reflexes, which nets +1 to Reflex saves, which further improves by +1 at 5th level and every 6 levels thereafter. 2nd level nets +1 to Will saves, which increases by another +1 at 10th level. The legendary fighter treats his ability scores as +1/2 class level higher for the purpose of meeting feat prerequisites starting at 2nd level, and 3rd level adds +1/3 class level to BAB for the purposes of prerequisites, capping at +5. Also at 3rd level, we have an advanced weapon training, with an additional one gained at 7th, 11th and 15th level. Also at 3rd level, the fighter may don the more problematic heavy armors sans aid and gains advanced armor training options at 5th, 9th and 13th level. Also at third level, we have a +1 bonus to atk and damage with all proficient weapons, and to combat maneuver checks executed with said weaponry and to CMD versus weapon targeting maneuvers. The bonus increases by +1 at 7th, 11th and 15th level.
4th level implements aforementioned feat-retraining options, including the genius latent feats engine, and also introduces prowess options. Proper weapon grip, aforementioned high-level skirmishing option – at this point you have noticed it, right? Yep, this class is basically the result of implementing all those modular class features in a concise manner. And here is where the book once more walks the extra mile that separates a good or very good book from an excellent one – it starts talking about archetype use in conjunction with the legendary fighter, providing concise and easy to grasp guidelines to use them in conjunction with the class, including how to deal with underpowered archetypes, with redundant abilities, etc. And guess what: Yes, we do get a HUGE table of archetypes, with sources listed and modifications noted. Want to play a pack mule legendary fighter? Just check the table. A.W.E.S.O.M.E.!
If your system mastery at this point is rather pronounced, you’ll know that e.g. armor master, lore warden, unbreakable or weapon master require some more love, right? Well, guess what: This book covers them in detail. Oh, and the pdf offers “simple” archetypes – these present the last tools you need to make this engine slot in seamlessly with pretty much anything: Exotic weapon wielders, living weapons, stamina adherents, spirit warriors – ALL ARE COVERED.
Editing and formatting are top-notch on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard, with most artworks being classics that fans of Legendary Games will be familiar with. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
I won’t lie, I did not really look forward to reviewing this fighter-rebuild. I have read more than my share of them, and e.g. Alexander Augunas’ Unchained Fighter sated my thirst for a Stamina-bar-based fighter rather aptly.
Here’s the thing: Matt Goodall’s Legendary Fighter does not seek to become a competition for that class, and they actually work rather smoothly in the same campaign, offering different playing experiences.
More than just a class, though, this is basically the “Teach you how to make the fighter awesome”-book. Instead of presuming to be aware of all realities of tables out there, this book takes the ultimate high-road: It presents awesome rules, and explains the consequences of their implementation, the design rationale behind them, allowing the customer to make informed decisions regarding the implementation of all modified class features herein. This is a GIGANTIC plus, and in an ideal world, would be the standard.
Let’s say you’re playing a Greyhawk-like campaign, with an emphasis of gritty low magic, and you’re actually happy with how the fighter works – for the most part. Your group doesn’t need too much tactical finesse and doesn’t feature much minmaxing, but the skill situation sucks, and so does the save stuff. Great, you can read this book, make an informed decision and just include these components! On the other side of the spectrum, veteran number-crunchers and connoisseurs of diverse options finally get a fighter class that is on par with more recent releases, that has a vast plethora of unique tools at its disposal, and that is rewarding and versatile to play. From latent feats to the small details, this oozes care and a genuine love for the fighter, one that translates into a master-class supplement.
Oh, a supplement that also represents a massive reference tome that helps you navigate the intricacies of PFRPG. From magic items to archetypes, this does not simply slam down great content – it provides the content, sure. But it also explains in a didactically-sensible manner why and how these design decisions have been made. This book, in a way, is a guideline for you to emancipate, in the Kantian sense, the fighter class, making it what YOU think it should be. Oh, and even if design and tinkering are not things that catch your interest, guess what – the Legendary Fighter, as the whole-deal comfort package has you covered.
This is a master-class book, even when looked at within the context of this series’ exceedingly high standards. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval, and, you’ve probably seen it coming, this is a candidate for my Top Ten of 2018. Don’t wait – finally make the fighter class that fits your game!
You can get this great DIY-customize-your-own-fighter toolkit + class rebuild here on OBS!
The more, the merrier? If you’re like me and love having multiple excellent options, you may also want to check out the Unchained Fighter here!