Fighters get so many feats that they can’t afford to. An awful lot of fighters simply start on the pure-buff Weapon Focus, when–and this will surprise some of you–there are standard feats in the Player’s Handbook that are even more powerful. The following is my top five of favourite fighter bonus feats.
In no particular order:
- Improved Trip: Tripping is quickly overlooked in the rush to pure melee bonuses, but it’s remarkably efficient. Not only can you trip whenever you could normally attack and do so with a +4 bonus on trip checks, if successful you immediately gain a free attack as if you hadn’t used your attack. Tripped opponents take a -4 penalty to AC, so you essentially gain a significant +4 attack bonus, and since standing from prone is a move action which provokes Attacks of Opportunity, a tripped opponent can’t make a full attack and you still have a free chance to trip him again when he stands. As a drawback, however, you need Combat Expertise and at least Int 13, so this can cost you two feats. It also doesn’t work so well on especially huge or beefy creatures.
- Spirited Charge: Although this costs three feats in total counting its prerequisites, it’s remarkably powerful – double damage on a mounted charge, if you can get your horse into the dungeon. The prerequisites themselves aren’t a complete loss, allowing you to save your horse from attacks and move again after your charge. The overall benefit of “spirited charging” is that while you lose around 2.5 points damage switching to a lance over a greatsword, you deal fully triple damage on a charge (after which you can switch to the greatsword), your base speed increases to fifty or sixty feet, and in any case you gain +1 to hit against unmounted opponents. Not to be sniffed at.
- Weapon Specialization: You can’t really argue with plus two damage on every hit. It’s sort of the fighter’s prerogative to take Weapon Spec. Doesn’t mesh too well with a fighter who regularly uses more than one weapon, though, and two points of damage becomes less significant as you level up.
- Cleave: Cleave’s prerequisite, Power Attack, is rarely used except on things with damage reduction you can’t beat and low-AC, high-hitpoint opponents like oozes. Cleave, on the other hand, is a completely free second attack that triggers every time you kill a guy. Drawbacks are that it’s useless against single large foes or very spread out ones, and at later levels the wizard may perform more finishing blows than you.
- Improved Critical: Provided that your weapon offers a significant critical threat range, doubling that range is a clear winner. The extra average damage output on a 19-20/x2 weapon extending to 17-20/x3 is roughly equivalent to a +2 to-hit, while a rapier extended to 15-20 is roughly worth +3. Not so good against opponents immune to critical hits or with extremely high AC, but even so still a very effective feat.
Honourable mentions go to the Point Blank Shot tree, without which ranged combat would be much less tidy, and the generic feats you can take with your non-fighter feat slots for a serious buff: Improved Initiative, and the three excellent “+2 to saves” feats.