Top Five Fighter Feats

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.


Comments (23)

Elf (September 23rd, 2007)

I created a fighter with a spiked chain, combat reflexes, and improved trip, and it was stupid amounts of fun to play! I ended up in some fights with piles of bodies ten feet away from me, getting free attacks all over the place.

However, my group looked up the mechanics of tripping someone when standing from prone, and I believe, although I can’t remember for sure now, that it cannot be done. Essentially, the attack of opportunity effectively occurs before the action, and the argument is that you cannot trip a character who is already prone.

Personally, I argued that I am disrupting their attempt to stand up, by pulling away their arm or leg that they’re using to stand, but the official errata overruled my efforts as far as my play group was concerned. Still, Improved Trip is an excellent feat to take, and can add a new dimension to fighting.

Bluebeholder (September 23rd, 2007)

Improved critical does not increase the multiplier just the threat range; still a good feat though.

Stupidranger (September 23rd, 2007)

I’m also a fan of Spring Attack… moving in to strike, then moving back out. Not effective against large creatures with extended reach, but still a pretty good option to have.

Maxo (September 23rd, 2007)

"…Power Attack, is rarely used except on things with damage reduction you can’t beat and low-AC…"

Got to disagree with this statement. Power attack is brutal when using a 2-handed weapon (x2 damage for every point of power attack) This can cause some brutal damage with a GreatSword. For example a 4th level fighter with 18 strength will be doing 2d6 + 6 (STR) + 8 (due to 4 point power attack) or 2d6+14 and if he just charged that is really only with a -2 penalty to hit. Do the math to see how sick this gets at higher levels.

Nope, I disagree Power Attack for a fighter is one of the best feats out there.

Regards

Nigel (September 24th, 2007)

There are some pretty sweet Tactical Feats that Power Attack pairs well with too, like the one that lets you combine a charge and a Power Attack to trade your reduction in Attack Bonus for a reduction to AC instead. Pair THAT with a two-handed weapon. A 15th level fighter taking a -15 to AC for a round with a +30 to damage? Yes, please. Better hope I don’t critical. ;)

Another one people overlook is Improved Sunder. Sundering gets pretty easy in the higher levels, and busting down someone’s weapons is a pretty sweet way to ensure victory. Get a Wizard to quicken a True Strike on you if you’re afraid of someone with a higher attack roll, throw some Power Attack on the tougher magical weapons you’re trying to break, and you’ve got a pretty devastating way of dealing with bad NPCs. Don’t forget, it takes one spell to piece that weapon back together once you’ve broken it.

And you’re correct about the Trip Attack/Standing up from Prone thing: Attacks of opportunity resolve before the actions the provoke them. Since you can’t trip a prone opponent, the attack of opportunity he provokes while standing up resolves before he actually stands up, thus meaning you can’t try and trip him with the AoO he provokes when standing from prone.

Jonathan Drain (September 24th, 2007)

@Nigel: The problem with sunder is that you destroy your treasure. Craft skill and the make whole spell only repairs a damaged magic item, not a destroyed one. As far as I can discern, either it’s damaged (in which case it still works fine for your enemy) or it’s destroyed (in which case you need to re-enchant it).

Will (September 25th, 2007)

Strange, I’d say almost the opposite about cleave: rarely used because it’s just not often enough that you’re the person to land the killing blow and there’s someone close enough to cleave in to.

Power attack though, is amazingly useful - it’s often the case that a couple of points used in power attack means you’re still very likely to hit (full BAB, high Strength and other buffs such as weapon focus) and do a lot more damage.

Combat Reflexes can be a suprisingly useful feat too, as long as your fighter has some dex.

Ben Cummings (September 25th, 2007)

Also, True Strike targets only the caster. I may be missing some way to change that, but by default, the caster can’t “quicken a True Strike on you.”

I was actually thinking about allowing people to cleave off of a successful sunder, as a way of getting my players to actually use it (none of them have or come close to qualifying for improved sunder anyway, so I’m not too worried about it getting out of hand). Maybe I’d restrict the cleave attempt to the person holding the sundered object.

Is this way overpowered?

Stripes (September 25th, 2007)

"Also, True Strike targets only the caster. I may be missing some way to change that"

Well, you could be the caster’s familiar. (or animal companion for a wizard/druid multiclass, or maybe a paladan’s mount!)

What, you don’t let players play other’s palyers pets?

Oh, never mind then.

nate (September 28th, 2007)

Leap attacking Frenzied Berserker, 6:1 payoff with Power attack. Combine that with Shock Trooper and kill your AC to do +120 or so damage with no penalty to hit. Combine THAT with Complete Champion’s Lion Totem Barbarian to get pounce, and full attack on a charge, with every hit doing +120 damage. Yep, power attack. Such a terrible feat.

Dann (September 29th, 2007)

The guys on the character op forum in the WotC site can come up with some insanely cheesy crap. For instance, one guy made a frenzied berserker that can do something along the lines of 16k damage on a single charge at level 20. He uses nearly all of his gold for achieving this, but it was a theoretical thing. If I recall correctly it was also fairly easy to accomplish.

And I’d rather put keen on my weapon or have a scabbard of keen edges than use a feat.

Cleave is great at lower levels, just don’t eye Great Cleave unless you can do one hit kills all night.

Weapon Spec… it’s just 2 damage. You crit, thats another 2 to 8 damage, depending on your weapon.

I love Spirited Charge with a Paladin. Especially with a Valorous Lance. Get yourself a mounted charge going, smite evil and power attack with shock trooper. That’s your spinal cord baby, dig it!

Ron (October 8th, 2007)

You’re also overlooking close quarters fighting. Starting around level 8 most of the monsters are going to be too big for most players to effectively grapple. This allows fighters an easy way of preventing that.

It really is a must have for a front line fighter. Also improved trip starts to lose it’s effectiveness around level 8-10. Most monsters past that point are either going to be too large, strong or multilegged.

cycl0ps (October 10th, 2007)

You forgot Iron Will. While boring, it is priceless for Fighters. Barbs get some Will bonuses during rage to help close the gap when facing casters. Fighters have no such bonuses. All of those other tasty fighter feats become a benefit to the enemy once the vampire dominates your group’s trusty, front-line tank.

Jonathan Drain (October 10th, 2007)

@Ron: I’m only counting Player’s Handbook feats in this list. Otherwise, I’d have to open it up to all fighter splatbooks in order to do a fair list.

@cycl0ps: Iron Will is very useful for a fighter, but I’m specifically only counting feats that can be taken as fighter bonus feats. They do get a lot of bonus feats, so can easily afford to spend their normal feats on things like Iron Will.

Paul Alvarez (April 8th, 2008)

I’d have to say that Power Attack is on of a fighters greatest feats, hands down. i personally played a fighter to level 14 with an attack bonus that high a +28 to damage was great. BUT the feat Leap Attack adds so much power to your attack its amazing. Leap Attack allowes you to tripple damage dealt with a two handed weapon instead of just double. ordanarly i started out with a normal Greatsword (2d6+ 7) strength modifier of 5 round down. i took 2 levels in occult slayer which added an additional 1d6 to damage agains foes with magic/spell like abilities, then took 5 levels in Kensi. if you want to augment true power for your fighter i sudgest the kensi class its beautiful. after all this my Greatsword was doing 5d6+22 (you’ll have to look at the kensi class to understand where all the damage comes from, plus my strength increased as i leveled.) now 5d6+22 is an awesome amount of damage but using “rhino hide” armor adds an aditional 2d6 damage on a succesful charge (7d6+22) now add on a full leap attack (+42 damage) so a succesful charge with a full leap attack with my character was 7d6+66. with a 17-20 crit range that character was incredibly brutal. now I’ll leave you with one more thing to think about: with all my attack bonus going to my damage my attack rolls should be really low right? purchase a RING OF TRUESTRIKE, its a 1st lvl spell and if you get the ring with only 1 charge i think it only runs you around 770 gp. this is a lvl 7 fighter/5 kensi/2 occult-slayer. last time i played that character he was bitten by a vampire..i cant wait to add the stats of a vampire to my character.
take it easy guys i hope I’ve given you something to think about.
whoever said Power Attack is not a good feet is a moron. the only thing better than Power Attack is Leap Attack.

envevahex (December 20th, 2008)

Thak you for the news

Tamian (January 29th, 2009)

Imp. Trip have also a weak point, if you fail tripping your enemy it can attempt to trip you. I think that Imp. Disarm is more usefull than Imp. Trip. (remember that some weapons like the Flail or spiked chain gives +2 to a disarm attemp and hold a two handed weapong gives +4).

Example

In the case of a lvl 1 Human figher (3 feats, all stats on 10)

Exotic weapon prof (Spiked chain)
Combat expertise
Improve disarm

Disarm attemp is with and atack
(base attack+STR)

Yor disarm bonus would be:
2(spiked chain)+4(two handed)+1(base attk and STR)) = +7

But remember that attack is BASE+STR, and if you has more STR, like STR=18 (+4MOD)
yor disarm attemp would be

2+4+1+4= 11

that mean that you have a advantage of 55% more posibilities to win the check (with STR=18 and a Spiked Chain)

Also, Disarming (and imp Disarm) became more usefull vs opponents with two arms or light weapons. (remember that light weapons, and two weapons fighting has -2 on the disarm chek, so off-hand has -4)

Disadvantages or weakness:

The only benefit is that disarmed eney dont have any weapon to attak you. (but remember that is totally unusefull with spked gauntlets or unnarmed strikes).
Enemies with locked gauntlets has+10 for avoid being disarmed.
are not so usefull with oponnets with good base attk bonus, two handed weapon, larger or/and with hight STR bonuses.
Your enemy gain a free disarm attemp (withount attak of oportunity) if you fail your disarm attemp

Comparing with Tripping (and imp Trip)

Same disadvantages (enemy attemp if you fail, size, etc), but you can get bonnuses with some weapons and weapong kind (than in triping not).

Tamian (January 29th, 2009)

[Sorry if my Engligh is not the beast]

Tamian (January 29th, 2009)

English*

Kenshin (August 26th, 2009)

The Improved Sunder is one of the greatest fighter feat. Unfortunately, it is stupid for a player to break the magic weapons that is going-to-be your treasures. However, under the hands of the NPC, it is a great feat.

Michael (December 20th, 2009)

No one seems to have mentioned Step Up, which is amazing for a mage-killer. It allows you to take an IMMEDIATE action 5-foot-step when an adjacent opponent takes a 5-foot step. So, sorcerer takes a step back, intending to cast that devastating spell, but he doesn’t get the chance because you immediately step up to him and get an AoO when he starts casting. Even if your attack doesn’t kill him, he’s got to make a Concentration check or he fizzles

Falkyron (December 27th, 2011)

Weapon Specialization is alright, but Weapon Focus gives more bang for your buck with Power Attack.

If you’re wielding a two-handed weapon, you gain double the bonus damage from Power Attack. The difference is that you can toggle or adjust Power Attack as you feel you need to.

Power Attack is considered the Feat to have for Fighters simply because it’s one of the few Feats that scale as you increase in power.

Does the enemy have high AC? Turn down your damage for more hit.
Need to burst the enemy down? Get behind him and convert that bonus attack from flanking into pure damage.

Remember that AC tapers off in effectiveness as you level up, leaving more room to convert and crush. Your BAB is your only real limit.

TLDR: Power Attack = Stack attack feats. Win the game.

Azzu (February 29th, 2012)

You cannot use a trip attack as an attack of opportunity on characters that are getting up.They are still considered prone and you cannot trip a prone opponent.

The reason is that attacks of opportunity happen before the actual action that triggered them.

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