Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Pathfinder Pugilist

The other day I was wondering which Pathfinder character would make a better unarmed fighter, a Monk or a Fighter who specialized in unarmed combat.

The answer is partially a matter of style.  The Monk would be much more mobile.  The Fighter could enjoy using any magic weapons and armor found while adventuring.  What about sheer damage?

Let's assume our Fighter has a starting STR and DEX both 16, and will increment DEX at levels 4, 8, and 12 to qualify for all of the two-weapon feats.

When writing attack bonuses, I'll use green for primary-hand attacks and red for off-hand attacks.

L1 Improved Unarmed Strike, Two-Weapon Fighting: -1/-1 , no damage bonus
  BAB +1, then -2/-2 for TWF
L2 Weapon Focus (unarmed)+1/+1 , no damage bonus
  BAB +2, then -2/-2 for TWF, then +1 for Weapon Focus
L3 Power Attack: +1/+1 , damage +2
  BAB +3, then -2/-2 for TWF, then +1 for Weapon Focus, then -1 for Power Attack
  damage +2 from Power Attack
L4 Weapon Specialization (unarmed), Power Attack increments: +1/+1 , damage +6
  BAB +4, then -2/-2 for TWF, then +1 for Weapon Focus, then -2 for Power Attack
  damage +4 from Power Attack, then +2 from Weapon Specialization
L5 Double Slice, Weapon Training 1 (unarmed): +3/+3 , damage +7
  BAB +5, -2/-2 for TWF, +1 for Weapon Focus, -2 for Power Attack, +1 for Weapon Training
  damage +4 from Power Attack, +2 from Weapon Specialization, +1 from Weapon Training
  Double Slice allows full STR modifier to apply to off-hand damage
L6 Improved Two-Weapon Fighting: +4/+4/-1/-1 , damage +7
  BAB +6, -2/-2 for TWF, +1 for Weapon Focus, -2 for Power Attack, +1 for Weapon Training
  second primary hand attack at -5 because of BAB +6, second off-hand attack at -5 from ITWF
  damage +4 from Power Attack, +2 from Weapon Specialization, +1 from Weapon Training
L7 ?: +5/+5/+0/+0 , damage +7
  BAB increments.  For feat options at this level, see suggestions below.
L8 Greater Weapon Focus (unarmed), Power Attack increments: +6/+6/+1/+1 , damage +9
  BAB +8, -2/-2 TWF, +2 Weapon Focus & GWF, -3 Power Attack, +1 Weapon Training
  damage +6 from Power Attack, +2 from Weapon Specialization, +1 from Weapon Training
L9 ?, Weapon Training 2 (unarmed): +8/+8/+3/+3 , damage +10
  BAB +9, -2/-2 TWF, +2 Weapon Focus & GWF, -3 Power Attack, +2 Weapon Trainings
  damage +6 from Power Attack, +2 from Weapon Specialization, +2 from Weapon Trainings 
  For feat options at this level, see suggestions below
L10 ?: +9/+9/+4/+4 , damage +10
  BAB increments.  For feat options at this level, see suggestions below
L11 Two-Weapon Rend: +10/+10/+5/+5/+0 , damage +10
  BAB increments.  Two-Weapon Rend causes possible per-round extra damage d10 + STR x 1.5
  Third primary hand attack at -10 because of BAB +11
L12 Greater Weapon Specialization (unarmed), Power Attack increments: +10/+10/+5/+5/+0 , damage +14
  BAB +12, -2/-2 TWF, +2 Weapon Focus & GWF, -4 Power Attack, +2 Weapon Trainings
  damage +8 from Power Attack, +4 from Weapon Specializations, +2 from Weapon Trainings
L13 Greater Two-Weapon Fighting, Weapon Training 3 (unarmed): +12/+12/+7/+7/+2/+2 , damage +15
  BAB +13, -2/-2 TWF, +2 Weapon Focus & GWF, -4 Power Attack, +3 Weapon Trainings
  Third off-hand attack at -10 because of Greater Two-Weapon Fighting
  damage +8 from Power Attack, +4 from Weapon Specializations, +3 from Weapon Trainings

(Nothing special in the above plan: I expect it is how many dual wield Fighters advance, with their favored weapon used instead of unarmed combat.)

What could our Fighter do with the three "free" feats above?  One option is to learn "wrestling" by taking Enforcer, Combat Expertise, and Improved Trip.  Another option is to become an effective archer by using second-tier Weapons Training for bow use and taking the three basic archery feats of Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, and Rapid Shot.

So, at level 13, how much damage is this Fighter doing on average when all six attacks hit?
     12 (d3, 6x) + 18 (STR modifier of 3, 6x) + 90 (damage bonus 15, 6x) + 9 (Two-Weapon Rend) = 129 damage

In comparison, a level 13 Monk has five attacks and only two feats to boost damage: Power Attack and Two-Weapon Rend.  With Weapon Focus (unarmed) the Monk attacks at +8/+8/+3/+3/-2 and if all five of these inferior attacks hit still only has an average damage of:
     35 (2d6, 5x) + 15 (STR modifier of 3, 5x) + 40 (Power Attack +8, 5x) + 9 (Two-Weapon Rend) = 89 damage

So the fighter does an average of 45% more damage.  The Monk's extra movement speed and abilities that help escape harmful situations is useful, and he is a much superior grappler.  But I expect most groups of adventurers would prefer to have the Fighter with them, who would finish the combat sooner to keep the entire party safer.

(The Monk could close the gap if he could take the Improved Natural Attack feat, but the online Bestiary errata specifies that the feat does not apply to Unarmed Strikes.)

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Since you are using APG...

High DPS monk should be using the "Monk of the Four Winds" template, which gives them a stronger Elemetnal Fist, which is missing from your default monk build as well.... Right off the bat this adds +3d6 elemental damage up to 13 times a day at level 13, to the Fighter's +1d6 3 times per day using the same (and he probably wouldn't qualify anyway!).

The monk should also be using Medusa's Wrath, which he can select as a bonus feat starting at 10. Monks do not need to qualify for their bonus feats like fighters do, so this lets the monk skip the aweful Scorpion Style and Gorgon's Fist feats (unlike the fighter).

Let's look at a DPS monk build, I'll just list the parts that matter:

Assuming a 20 point buy...
Str: 17+2 (13) Dex: 14 (5) Con: 13 (3) Int: 7 (-4) Wis: 14 (5) Cha: 8 (-2)
This gives me as many skills as an Int 10 fighter (2), which will be Intimidate and Perception.

L1?: Flury of Blows, Elemental Fist, Unarmed Strike, Intimidating Prowess
L2?:
L3: Enforcer
L4: Ki Pool(magic), +1 Str(20)
L5: Power Attack
L6?:
L7?:
L8: +1 Con(8)
L9?:
L10: Ki Pool (lawful), Medusa's Wrath
L11: Stunning Fist
L12: +1 Str(21)
L13: ?

The monk actually has more like 8 attacks:
+13/+13/+13/+13/+13/+8/+8/+3, assuming a ki point is spent (you'll have 8 available per day) and Medusa's Wrath. These factor in the -3 from Power Attack and the +5 from Strength.

First attack is for non-lethal damage to trigger Enforcer and is also a Stunning Fist attack.
This means the target is Stunned unless they Fort Save (DC18, 45%-65% chance of effect) and I get a chance an Intimidate (+19 v.DC23/28, 60%-85%) which means I'll probably get one or the other 78-95% of the time. This is important because getting either effect will give me the extra attacks from Medusa's Wrath.

Damage is 2d6(base) +5(STR) +6(PA) +3d6(EF) =28.5 avg per attack
The monk's total average damage is then 210 lethal, 18 non-lethal. Also his fists count as magic and lawful for damage reduction and 28 damage is elemental (monk's choice).

That leaves a lot of other feats and bonus feats and class features to do other things. Two Weapon Rend can get you more damage, but it is not worth the trouble for monks since Flurry doesn't stack with Two Weapon Fighting.

*****
I also feel I should point out some problems with your fighter build:
1. You are using off-hand attacks, which means that Power Attack is only +4 damage per attack at L13 for -4 penalty. Monk unarmed attacks are specifically not considered off-hand so they get the full +6 damage at -3 penalty (monks have lower BAB).

2. You are starting at 16 STR/DEX, which seems low... I'll assume you get to 18STR/19DEX by starting at 18/16 using a race mod. This gives you 3 more starting points in your primary stats though...

Your damage should be 1d3(base) +4(STR,DS) +3(WT) +4/8(PA) +2(WS) +2(GWS) = 17(off-hand)/21(main) avg per attack
Your attack is: +16/+11/+6 (main),+16/+11/+6 (off-hand), I think you missed your STR bonus.
Your total damage should be: 21x3 + 17x3 +11.5(TWR)= 125.5 average.

Overall the monk has better attacks, for more damage and more auxillary bonuses than the unarmed fighter. Your fighter build has 2 general and 1 fighter feat left open. My monk build has 3 general and 3 monk feats left. The monk has a bunch of other class features as well (evasion, still mind, poison/disease immunity, SR23, +5AC(touch!)) which seem a bit better than the fighter's features (armor training, bravery, armor wearing). Monks also have better saves and movement.

I think the fighter is great, but it doesn't make any sense for him to go unarmed (IMO). Give your fighter some Kukri instead and Critical feats you'd stack up much better!

David V.S. said...

Thanks, Anonymous!

I'm no Pathfinder expert. It is fun to hear how to better optimize.

I certainly agree that an unarmed fighter is silly. But my point was simply that, as I understood the rules, a monk was not the best pugilist -- which seemed quite wrong.

I'm not sure we've optimized the fighter pugilist as much as you've optimized the monk. Perhaps the monk is really doing about twice the damage with his fists. That would indeed make the rules seem less broken: monks should be best at what they do best!

Anonymous said...

Keep in mind that this is nova damage as well. The fighter can do his average all day long.

I'm actually doing 84 elemental damage with Elemental Fist and I'm burning through 8 (of 13) uses at a time, which means I can't do this twice in a day. I'll probably get more like 2 uses on average. That is 63 points less, but that is still 147 lethal damage.

If the stun/intimidate doesn't work you'll lose another two attacks from Medusa's Wrath. Then you're losing another 36 damage for a total of 111 lethal damage.

The fighter looks pretty decent for a two weapon fighter, except for being unarmed. Getting him the rest of the way (probably with Crit feats) will use up the rest of his feats.

On the other hand, the monk will likely get the Grapple feats and Bull Rush feats, and still have space left over for things like Step Up.

If you are interested in optimizing, I highly recommend Treantmonk's stuff. That is most of the build I posted, only I included APG. He doesn't have a fighter guide but Rogue Eidolon does and he seems to know what he's talking about too!