Building a frontline without special items

Hi, so I’d like to build a party with 2 short range melee and 1 reach melee, and 3 ranged characters.

I’m struggling to build a “frontline” that has enough defense to survive well, whilst being capable in melee.

Most of the really tanky builds in Kingmaker assume the existence of +allstats headgear and belts, and the monk robes, to really take advantage of stat->AC dips. However, I notice monk dips and high dex don’t really compare to heavy armour without those items, unless I’m missing some trick.

But I’d like to build a party that doesn’t assume those items will exist in Wrath. (and one that will work early game, like Levels 3-8).

So I assume all of these feats are mandatory on the frontliners:

  • Weapon Focus / Dazzling / Shatter
  • Combat Reflexes / Outflank / Seize the Moment
  • Improving crit chance in some way
  • Maybe trip.

Can I please get some advice on how to build a survivable frontline, without relying on the existence of +stat items and monk robes?

Undecided on difficulty level. I’m planning on building the party first and then choosing a difficulty that offers a challenging but reasonable time.

3 levels of towershield specialist give you enough AC to tank at difficulty hard and lower all game long.

  • +3 max dex to armor while using a towershield or +6 total when using a mithral fullplate and a towershield.
  • At low level cast barskin, reduce person and shield of fate on him versus hard encounter if needed.
  • Feats you should try to get as soon as possible: Dodge + imp. unarmed strike + crane style + mobility skill rank 3

After those 3 levels of TSS you can go wild in almost any direction you want.

  • My personal favorite way next is to send her into Bard 11 to greatly increase her usefulness to the party. However, removing armor at first to buff can be very annoying…

Note that you might not want to level up the TSS to 3 right away depending on how much dex you currently have.

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My personal favourite:

The Slayer.

A Slayer is a Ranger/Rogue Hybrid class. It gets the BAP of a fighter class, the Sneak Attack dmg of a rogue (although only 1D6 per 3 levels) but also the advanced slayer talents at lvl10. The most important thing, however, is that it gets Ranger combat styles.

That makes low DEX (14), high STR (20) builds viable, as you get all the dual-wield skills. So i basicly build my slayer as a dual-wiel with 1H+Shield Bash, with power attack/Cornugon Smash (later into dazzling display/shatter defense). Among the advanced slayer talents is a talent that removes the slow movement from heavy armor + increasing the maximu dex-bonus.

So in essence:

You get heavy armor, shield, some AC from DEX, with a Dip into 1lvl monk you can also get crane style + dodge as bonus feat. Please note, that the slayer is not proficient with heavy armor, you need to take the feat. In principle there is a feat for this among the advanced slayer feats too, but that would be a waste).

at the same time you are an extremely effective Damage Dealer, dealing a shit ton of dmg with studied target + sneak attack dices.

I often dip into 4 levels of rogue for the uncanny dodge, evasion and debilitating injury (which enables double debilitation as advanced slayer feat).

With accomplished sneak attacker an Rogue (4), Monk (1), Slayer (15) build has still 8D6 sneak attack damge compared to a pure rogue with 9D6, but far Defence/BAP.

[EDIT: I just realized that there is a bug in this game. “Armored swiftness”, the feat which removes the speed limit and gets you additional DEX has “Armored Maraude” as prerequisite in the original pathfinder rules]

Thanks! Never used Slayer before, I’ll give it a try.

That’s very helpful, thanks!

That’s my close range characters sorted. Do you have any tips for the reach melee character?

There is many ways to go for reach characters but i will say that cleric are particularly good as reach because of a few reasons like

  • They get in range for Archon’s aura more easily
  • They can become quite good damage dealer as the game progress with divine favor or divine power, power attack and a two-handed weapon.

Sacred huntmaster / Mad dog want to always attack the same target as his pet, so having reach can help doing so more easily.

Any squishy damage dealers with any weapon can become a reach character with enlarge type spells or reach weapon users get even more reach with enlarge.

Note that some enemies, mostly archers, love to target the lowest AC party member. This can sometime be a issue with Ecclesitheurge reach cleric since they generally have very low AC and health.

Yeah, I was thinking I’d like my reach character to still be survivable in combat (ie. “Off-tank”) so not just relying on not being targeted at all.

Since tower shields aren’t possible with reach weapons, are there other sources of defense I can easily “bolt on” to a class in the same way as your Tower Shield Specialist suggestion?

It depend on how much buffing you are willing to do.

Dex sword saint / traditional monk can get his AC very high in the early game but a Str sword saint is a lot better in the long run.

A vivisectionist with a two-handed can get his AC very high without to much effort.

A Cleric / monk or a paladin / scaled fist are very good with a alchemist in the party to cast shield and a arcane for mage armor.

I think now with a 1 level witch dip you can get +3 AC?

Someone with simply just access to images mirror and blur will greatly increase is survivability in a pinch

I don’t want to rehash what typically turn into heated debates on the best tank, but here are some major considerations:

Plate armor will not improve your touch armor class. That was very important in PM KM’s end. I don’t know whether it will be important here. If it is, plate will always underperform a dexterity tank because plate AC and shield AC are ignored.

There is some amount of AC above which more AC is worthless. I don’t know what that number will be in WOTR, Chapter 5,
But there will almost certainly be many plausible builds that can get there. Once you reach that AC, your real risk of dying is a natural 20 roll. There’s a 5% chance of that occurring every attack. To reduce that 5%, you should have Blur/Displacement and Mirror Image, which will take it to something like 1.25%. Because Blue/Displacement/Mirror Image are so impactful your residual risk, classes with access to mirror image are “better”.

Tanks that stack dexterity over strength are “better” because that stat converts to AC and also improves touch AC. Plate armor limits your ability to stack dexterity and, at least in PF KM scaled much slower than dexterity growth.

The “best” tanks will splash certain monk or magus archetypes to gain feats that convert other stats, ie wisdom, charisma or intelligence to AC as well. Even without items, there are LVL 2 buff spells that make lengthy, +4 buffs available early.

Without items, no armor dex tanks will outperform because mage armor and shield give a huge edge (+8 AC on top of dex bonus). Note, you’ll need an alchemist to give the tank shield.

The crane style monk feats are extremely powerful. Even without a robe, those feats and the wisdom/charisma to AC feats make a 1 lvl dip in monk worthwhile. You lose no BAB and get a free feat, while gaining access to excellent feats and a second stat for growing AC.

In any event, a good tank will include some combination of the following classes:

1/2 monk (either charisma or wisdom to AC class, get crane style feats)

2 paladin (charisma to saves)

4 levels of thug (dazzling, dex to damage)

XXX Vivisectionist (stop on a level where to get a mutagen upgrade, gives access to shield to others)

XXXX Sword Saint (allows conversion of int to AC, will help meet requirements for duelist)

8 or so Aldori Defender (used with a duelist prestige and to mitigate fighting defensive penalties)

4 levels of dragon disciple (for a strength build)

I also like a pure dex eldritich scion with 1 lvl monk.

Thanks. When I tried to build a monk dip character, their early game AC was just extremely low. I guess I wasn’t using mage armour + shield though.

Do these characters start off wearing armour and then transition to unarmoured later on?

Oh, wow. That must have been painful. Together, mage armor and shield add 8 AC, which is roughly a 40% reduction in your chance to be hit and almost as much as plate’s 10 AC. The key difference is that plate starts at 10 AC and grows to +15 by end game, whereas the dex/wis/cha builds will grow by much more than 5 over the course of the game.

One of my personal favorite builds is the feral mutagen alchemist because it is super strong early game. Your first levels are vivi, then monk (usually the wisdom to AC one). At LVL 3, you take feral mutagen with your vivi class and have 4 bite/claw/unarmed attacks and your full BAB. Each will provide your sneak attack dice, which is your primary source of damage. You’ll use mage armor and shield, fighting defensively, barkskin, and AC growth from your wisdom/dex to scale. I prefer the strength build for higher overall damage through damage bonus to hits and a higher chance to hit. Also, it helps with dazzling debuffs after getting the strength to dazzling feat and tripping more. End game, you’ll want to switch to a 2H, + 5 weapon depending upon what is available in WOTR. But a dex build that focuses just on armor class is also viable because of sneak attack.

Note: I prefer the aesthetic of plate and feel like it’s more realistic. I even suggested in early game development that WOTR address the disparity between plate and dex tanks by having plate from passive DR, scaling for some classes with feats, or to allow plate to improve touch AC, or give plate tanks a str to AC talent. Alternatively, plate tanks should be able to stack much more dex than is currently available even as a baseline fighter. We’ll see whether any of that gets implemented. Or plate might be perfectly fine as/is if touch armor class is such a big deal, like at the end of PFKM.

Double note: many of these dex tank builds involve lots of buffing. That can get tedious after 60 hours.

Triple note: I’ll probably have a plate build in my party, if only because I think it’s cool and I have trouble wasting those sexy plate mail drops. Couple of pointers for it: I think 4 levels of dragon disciple is a worthwhile investment for the natural armor and strength. Aldori defender is quite good as well because it’s AC bonuses do not require stacking more dexterity (like a normal fighter). I think dazzling and str to dazzling are probably necessary. I suspect archaeologist 2/4 to qualify for Dragon Disciple is the best way to go.