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In short:

The Warder, a 3rd party class for Pathfinder, focuses on debuffing foes. Just like a 4e defender, he can mark enemies and those enemies take huge penalties to their attacks against other allies.

Yet, what happens is that the enemies focus on me and our Medic can't keep up with the healing.

How should I play this character to be effective and avoid dying?

More details

We started playing at level 8 and we have WBL-compliant money, which I invested in a +2 full plate, a +2 heavy shield, a +1 ring of protection and a +1 necklace of natural armor, for a total AC of 27. Most of my other money went into a +2 longsword and a strength-boosting belt (in retrospect, I think I should have bought a constitution belt, but with a +15 to hit I'm pretty weak in that compartment too. A barbarian, for comparison, would have about a +20 at the same level).

Basically, except for a dex bonus, I have all the AC I could reasonably get without nerfing my offensive capabilities, or so I think.

I'm trying the vanilla Warder, no archetypes, human (18 10 14 16 10 10 or something like that). I need to check where my favored class bonuses went for my character sheet is at our DM's but I'm pretty sure they become extra HP. Still, with +2 Con modifier, I'm at around 80 HP (we use average HP and a 22pts point buy).

The rest of the party is:

  • a lizardfolk Luchador Brawler with 6 attacks per round
  • a duergar Aegis with even worse to hit than me, but 100 HP and DR 7
  • a dwarven Medic (yes, I know, the constant bickering with the duergar might be a bigger problem than my AC)
  • an half-elf Zealot with curses
  • an half-drow Stalker
  • that Magus archetype that uses firearms and deals lots of damage but only every other round

I know, lots of tanky characters here (I said "I'll be the tank" while the other two people who ened up being an Aegin and a Zealot weren't there. We didn't expect someone else to want to be the tank.)

In the game where my character died we were the Medic, the Aegis, the Magus and me, against a huge advanced bulette with AC30 (which we hit on a 15 or more unless we flanked - the medic enchanted our weapons with an extra +2 when flanking and I was using the level 3 Golden Lion stance for easier flanks - as long as I was up, and with a 18 otherwise), DR, fire resistance and a lot of HP (and some archetype that let it breathe a line of lightning once, but that wasn't the problem) and combat reflexes (i.e. eat your OAs or let me pounce on you).

I used a counter to use intimidate (+20) instead of AC but it only saved me from a single attack of the bulette. Not enough to live for a second turn.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you give more details on what you are currently doing, and how that’s not working? Maybe some examples? Because the warder has very strong defenses, as well as considerable damage output—this isn’t usually that much of a problem for them. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Mar 16 '18 at 20:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ Details on the rest of your party and their strategies would also be helpful. \$\endgroup\$ – chif-ii Mar 16 '18 at 20:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't want to get too far afield, but was the fight against the bulette a boss battle? Also, did the bulette make all of its two rounds of full attacks on your PC then die to the other PC's attacks? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Mar 17 '18 at 14:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ It was a boss battle, it made two rounds of attacks on me, one round on the aegis, the two rounds spent attacking me and the Aegis (one attack to drop me again, then more attacks on the Aegis). Apart from a slight debuff (-2 dex -2str) we were fresh and the Medic had us at 150% hp \$\endgroup\$ – Zachiel Mar 17 '18 at 15:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Zachiel An Advanced Bulette is CR8 - are you all level 8? Were there any crits involved? Did you guys provoke lots of OAs? Even with the Advanced template, it should have needed 12s or more to hit you, and could only hand out a total of 64 damage in one round without a crit. \$\endgroup\$ – YogoZuno Mar 17 '18 at 23:56
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I invested in a +2 full plate, a +2 heavy shield, a +1 ring of protection and a +1 necklace of natural armor

This is a colossal amount of money for a very small bonus to AC. Ditching the ring of protection and necklace of natural armor saves you an incredible 4,000 gp, and reducing your full plate and heavy shield to just +1 each saves you another 6,000 gp. So you spent 10,000 gp—nearly a third of your wealth—on a measly +4 to AC.

I know that these items are believed to be super-critical to Pathfinder characters, members of the “big six” items, but the reality is that they are traps. AC is a weak defense, particularly armored AC, and aside from the basics you get from armor and (maybe) shield, costs far too much to be worth investing in. And without high Dexterity, even if you really truly wanted to, you can’t maintain solid AC anyway.

So your first mistake was investing so highly in AC, when you could have invested in other, better things. Improving your attack roll might have been one, getting non-AC defenses might have been another (mithralmist shirt or nightmare boots perhaps). Point is, close to a third of your wealth basically went to waste here.

And on top of that, a big part of the reason why warders are so powerful is because they have such incredible built-in defenses, so they can safely ignore things like rings of protection and necklaces of natural armor. Really no Pathfinder character should buy those, but for a warder they are particularly irrelevant—you have counters.

That is the big, stand-out thing I see missing from your strategy: you don’t mention counters at all. Warder counters are phenomenally powerful, and can protect you from a lot more—a lot more reliably—than AC can.

A well-built warder would have had far better accuracy, and would have used a counter every round. There is actually a decent chance of not being hit in such a situation. The warder is widely considered—including by the PoW team I believe—to probably be the most powerful of the Path of War classes, which are at least a bit overpowered in general.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Probably I'm bad at counters too. I used Extended Defense to try Fear the Reaper against every attack from the bulette in that round and it hit me anyway, every time. Facing an enemy with a huge attack bonus (probably because of templates that disproportionally increase Str) still means I need to roll very high, despite my high Intimidate bonus. Also, needing a standard to recover maneuvers means I will always have some counterless round sooner or later, isn't it? \$\endgroup\$ – Zachiel Jul 7 '18 at 14:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ (Anyway, getting more counters in my maneuver lineup is a great reply to the "what have I been missing" question.) \$\endgroup\$ – Zachiel Jul 7 '18 at 14:53
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Let us look at the monster creation guidelines:

https://www.d20pfsrd.com/bestiary/rules-for-monsters/monster-creation/

As you can see there, a CR 8 Monster has an average AC of 21. This gives you a hit on a 6. Your secondary attack hits on an 11, but as a Warder, those will be rare to you.

The high attack and damage values for CR 8 let it hit you on a 12 and deal 35 damage per round if it hits. Discounting crits, that is 21 average damage per round to you. So you can tank this for 4 rounds. With your group and the average monster hp of 100, that is plenty of time to kill it. The warder works here pretty well. Your medic should be able to handle this very well.

Now to the CR 12 range.
The critter deals on average 41 damage to you per round, considering attack bonus, your ac and the average high damage. You can tank this for 1-2 rounds. Your medic may extend this time. So it will be brutal, but the Warder still works.

If you look at the table in the link, the first CR to deal damage as you describe would be CR16. 80 damage per round to your warder.

So the problem is not your warder, it is the badly homebrewed bulette.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The bulette was not homebrewed, it had an official archetype added. \$\endgroup\$ – Zachiel Jun 7 '18 at 21:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well what kind of template is it? Did it crit you? Fact is, as it stands, it dealt way more damage than expected for its CR. But without a statblock we won't find a conclusive answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Phil Yardman Jun 8 '18 at 9:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ Giant half dragon advanced bulette. Actually CR 11. \$\endgroup\$ – Zachiel Jul 7 '18 at 13:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Zachiel It's probably unwise to assume that the CR rules, particularly where templates are involved, are in any way balanced or that this "CR 11" is actually appropriate as CR 11 and not, say, 16 per this answer. Being off by 50% sounds entirely plausible, because the CR rules are notoriously and wildly inaccurate. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jul 7 '18 at 14:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan I know, I know. \$\endgroup\$ – Zachiel Jul 7 '18 at 14:41

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