# Cloak Fighting, the Ultimate Deception… How to Build it?

I'm rolling up a new character, and had an idea for a character inspired by the novel Dance of Cloaks. In the novel, the main character fights like a rogue, but uses his cloaks to displace his position, hide his movements, and surprise his foes.

The only other limitation I am putting on my character is that they either won't use or will minimally use magic. They rely on pure physical skill and prowess. The DM does not allow anything psionic related or monk related at the table for the sake of balance reasons. The campaign itself is a dungeon-delving style campaign.

I'm going to be making a 5th-level character for this and would like to have a general plan to level 10. The campaign is a hodgepodge of 3e, 3.5e, and pathfinder so feel free to combine things officially printed within them.

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• Because I'm not an expert on the novel but still want to help, is it possible to go into more detail about the combat style? That is, is the cloak the character's actual weapon of choice—weighted and suitable for striking with—, or is the cloak a tool he uses to confuse his foes only to then poke dudes with a sword, punch dudes in the face, or wallop dudes with a blackjack? – Hey I Can Chan Feb 17 at 23:47

There is almost-zero support for such a character in this system. D&D, especially 3.5e, is an extremely high-magic system—people wouldn’t bother to learn those tricks because magic is easier and does them better. Pathfinder is, if anything, worse. In both systems, magic is the be-all, end-all of abilities, and a character with magic is quite simply more powerful than a character without magic. Even if you go for a character whose class is entirely without magic, you will absolutely need magic items to survive the highly-magic world you’re playing in.

And so, and I say this as someone who has wanted a character like this and looked quite hard for material, there just aren’t any good options for this. I’ll give you what I’ve found, but I’m afraid it isn’t much and I strongly recommend against using any of these options. For right now, mostly covers 3.5e—I gave up on this kind of character long ago, so I am less familiar with what bad options Pathfinder has for it, though I mention some. I am very sure, nonetheless, that it has no good ones. Good non-magical options are few and far between in Pathfinder, and I’m pretty familiar with what those are. They aren’t this.

### Feats

• The Cloak Dance1 feat: nice for almost-exactly using the same terminology you use. It lets you use a move action to gain concealment, or a full-round action to gain total concealment, each until your next turn. That makes it near-impossible to capitalize on; it generally means move action to get concealment, then standard action attack to attack once with that concealment. Since it uses a move action, you have to be within range to make that attack, and you are far, far better off just full-attacking (uses a full-round action to attack multiple times; doesn’t require a feat). You could potentially combine this with Snap Kick from Tome of Battle for two attacks with concealment, and you’d also get concealment for any attacks of opportunity you make, so Combat Reflexes might be good, but ultimately that’s still too little to be worthwhile. Actually, far better would be to take Manyshot and Greater Manyshot,1 but that is a ton of feats for a mediocre strategy.

• The Combat Cloak Expert feat from Player’s Handbook II: again, explicitly referencing cloaks, and this time requiring that you use one. The other requirements—Dex 15, Int 13, Combat Expertise, Dodge, and BAB +6—are a lot more problematic. Combat Expertise and Dodge are awful feats, and Int 13 may well be more than you want on a martial character. In exchange, you get three mediocre combat options:

• +1 AC while fighting defensively, or +2 AC while using total defense (which is nuts, since you are literally required to have Combat Expertise which is supposed to be a better version of those—and it is, even though it’s bad, because those are basically unusable)

• Hide that you’re drawing a weapon, which any reasonable DM should let you just do using Sleight of Hand, no feat required.

• Use a move action after hitting someone (read: ruining any chance of making more than one attack) to eliminate a target’s ability to make attacks of opportunity against one ally for one round. There are vastly better ways to accomplish this if you really want to—and it’s not really worth wanting to do.

• The Exotic Shield Proficiency (battle cloak) feat from Races of Stone: a special cloak designed to be used in battle. As the the name of “Exotic Shield Proficiency” hints at, it’s just treated as a shield. Specifically, it’s basically identical to a light shield, except that instead of being able to bash with it, you can try to disarm with it. Disarming is a poor tactic in general: most monsters won’t have anything to disarm, and any warrior worth his salt that doesn’t want to be parted from his weapon will use a locked gauntlet to make it nigh-impossible to disarm them. Even if you want to do it, just go ahead and do it with your weapon; there is zero need to burn a feat on a fancy “shield” that can do it.

• The Dueling Cape Deed feat from Advanced Class Guide: treat a cape as a buckler, and also get the option to entangle foes with the cape as an immediate action. Clearly superior to Exotic Shield Proficiency (battle cloak), since bucklers are better than light shields and entangling is better than disarming. Still, it costs a panache point, which means taking levels in a weak class like swashbuckler, and more importantly, you lose your cloak when you use it. The enemy will likely destroy it. Cloaks are cheap enough that you could have a significant supply of them, I suppose, but that’s still pretty awkward. Far and away the best option here, though.

• The Equipment Trick (cloak) feat from Dirty Tactics Toolbox: with thanks to Ifusaso’s answer for pointing it out, this gives you a series of “tricks” with a cloak. Each trick has additional requirements above and beyond the Equipment Trick feat, but not all of them are onerous.

• Dazzling Trail: requires the awful Dazzling Display feat, and only adds 1d4 additional rounds of demoralizing. If you’re focusing on an Intimidate build, you likely won’t need that. It’s nice but it’s not remotely worth a feat (and Dazzling Display isn’t worth using at all, even if you already have it).

• Distracting Cloak: only requires 3 Stealth ranks, which is nice and easy. Unfortunately, the benefit is fairly weak: instead of feinting to deny someone Dex to AC, you can feint to try to use Stealth against them. Note that creating a diversion in order to hide is a default use of the Bluff skill, though this is arguably a bit better because you can use it and then get to cover or concealment, and because it’s a feint which you could potentially build upon to do quicker. It’s a lot of investment for a minor benefit, though. Even if you make that investment, most of the time you’ll prefer to deny their Dex to AC anyway.

• Parachute Cloak: again, easy requirements, but really, how often are you falling from great heights? The damage you avoid this way is extremely minor, but avoiding being knocked prone isn’t too bad. Not worth a feat, but worth 5 ranks in Acrobatics anyway.

• Suerte de Capote: combines with Dueling Cape Deed, above, to get a decent-ish bonus to Bluff checks made to feint. For a feint-heavy build, the bonus is not nothing, and it really sucks if you specialize in feints and then fail to feint.

Ultimately, Equipment Trick (cloak) is probably worth it to a feint specialist, but specializing in feint is a poor choice—and this feat isn’t enough to save it.

• The Armor Dance feat from Dragon vol. 315: gain a +2 dodge bonus to AC whenever you make a full-attack while wearing fancy/distracting armor, which in your case could be a cloak. Good, in that it doesn’t require you to do something other than what you want to do anyway, and because dodge bonuses stack with everything. Bad, because it’s a fairly small bonus. But ask your DM if it can count as the Dodge feat for you—plenty of actually-good things require Dodge, and while this is poor, it’s a whole lot better than Dodge (which isn’t even worth remembering you have).

• The Combat Panache feat from Player’s Handbook II: another feat that gives you three combat options, only one of which might arguably have something to do with a cloak, and all three of which are weak. But for completion’s sake:

• After getting hit, which is something any rogue-like character should endeavor to never do, you can take a move action (read: only one attack for you this round) to Bluff them, and if successful, can take an immediate action (why does this need so many actions?) to cause one melee attack to hit someone else they can reach instead of whoever they intended. Getting to redirect an attack is awesome, but there are so many hoops to jump through here that it doesn’t end up being anything like “worth it.” Anyway, this is the one you could arguably use a cloak to do.

• You can play dead if you are hit for at least 10 points of damage, Bluff vs. everyone’s Sense Motive to pull it off. If no one recognizes that you’re faking, they assume you’re dead, and you can jump up and surprise them. Again, requires a ton of actions (immediate action to play dead, move action to stand), benefit is minor (surprised against one attack), etc. Actually probably the best of these options, just because downed characters are typically ignored which is good defensively, but that’s not saying much.

• You can sneer at someone you damaged to reduce their attack rolls against you by your Charisma bonus. Requires your move action, which if you’re doing things right, could be used to just kill them, but whatever.

### Classes

• Anything with evasion: evasion is the extraordinary (read: non-magic) ability to not be hit by explosions etc. when you totally should have been. Can work even in cases where there is no conceivable explanation for it to work in physical reality—explanations often posit the existence of a hypothetical “roguespace” where evasive characters hide from blasts. Anyway, Reflex saves are the least important, your character will probably have great Dexterity and levels in classes with good Reflex saves, and so this will be a bit of win-more that isn’t likely to substantially improve your life. It’s nice enough but it’s not amazing. Still, seems like the kind of effect you’d be looking for.

• Anything with camouflage and hide in plain sight: maybe you can fluff your stealth as doing something fancy with a cloak. Makes about as much sense as anything else. Unfortunately, prohibitively difficult to get without magic: rangers wait until 17th (!), scouts from Complete Adventurer do a little better, getting both by 14th, but those are still really high levels. With magic, a shadowdancer can get it by 8th, an assassin can get it by 13th, there are other options. A Complete Arcane warlock could get it at 1st level (!) by taking the Blend into Shadows feat from Drow of the Underdark. Note that unlike most supernatural sources of hide in plain sight, the ability by that name from the dark template (Tome of Magic), which can be obtained as a magical item (collar of umbral metamorphosis from the same) does not include the camouflage effect, and is therefore considerably less useful.

• The invisible blade prestige class from Complete Warrior: at 5th level (read: 10th level overall, since you need 5 levels in other things to qualify), gain the improved version of uncanny feint, which lets you feint as a free action. Until then, feinting is a complete waste of time because when you feint, you have to give up your full-attack. Note that invisible blade nonsensically requires the Point Blank Shot and Far Shot feats, despite the class having nothing to do with ranged attacks: according to its author, the class was originally a 10-level class that included stuff for ranged attacks, but in editing half the levels, and all the ranged-combat abilities, were cut, but without fixing the requirements. Ask your DM if you can drop those requirements.

# Better options by fudging the rules

We can do better here if we bend the rules suggested in the question a little bit. Still nothing psionic or “monk-related,” whatever that means, though since those things are either quite well-balanced, or extremely weak, your DM’s judgment of balance seems questionable and it’s plausible that choosing actually-decent options will be nixed. Anyway, unlike the above, each of these is something I can actually recommend as functional and fun.

## With just a little magic

If we allow just a little magic, a Tome of Battle swordsage focusing on the Shadow Hand maneuvers from the same book would be fairly effective. Shadow Hand maneuvers are often supernatural, but it’s more of a monk-style supernatural martial arts, not spellcasting. And they allow for things like brief invisibility (cloak of deception) and short-range tactical teleports (shadow jaunt, shadow stride, shadow blink). I would probably pair them with the Setting Sun maneuvers from the same—those aren’t magical, and they’re great for repositioning and redirecting people and attacks.

Another way to use a little bit of magic to go a long way here is with bard, for preference, the 3.5e version (the Pathfinder version is annoyingly nerfed). The Snowflake Wardance feat from Frostburn allows you to use bardic music to allow you to use Charisma for attack rolls with light or one-handed slashing weapons, which is awesome. You can combine that with other Charisma-based boosts—the paladin’s divine grace being the big one (the paladin’s code in no way prohibits them from taking advantage of misdirection in combat—though check with your DM, they sound like they have some pretty particular views on things). There are non-lawful paladins, like the paladin of freedom, that are safe to combine with bard. For that matter, the Champions of Valor web enhancement even includes a paladin variant, the harmonious knight, who gets inspire courage instead of detect evil.

## With a lot of magic

The swiftblade prestige class gets a ton of stuff relevant to you, like being non-magically blurred by your pure speed, and at the end of the class, non-magical time stop, which is just insane. “Unfortunately,” you need to cast the haste spell to get in, and it’s going to keep on advancing your spellcasting. I say “unfortunately” but really it’s very fortunate—magic is good for you, and swiftblade gets you some more of it. Swiftblade is a really great class and you could enter as a 1st-level rogue/5th-level wizard, perhaps, to play up your roots in non-magical trickery.

Or you could go with the beguiler from Player’s Handbook II—an Intelligence-based spellcaster who focuses on Illusion and Enchantment and has strong skills and rogue-like abilities. In addition to qualifying for swiftblade, a 6th-level beguiler also gets the ability to feint as a move action—or as a swift action if they have Improved Feint. While a swift action is a serious limitation compared to the invisible blade’s free action, it’s still pretty good, and since you’re getting it for just one feat rather than invisible blade’s three feats and five levels, that’s a pretty big win. Combining that with Equipment Trick (cloak) and Dueling Cape Deed could be the best way to make this character.

The unseen seer prestige class from Complete Mage also bears mentioning: it’s the magical espionage class. It could be quite worthwhile to take levels in that around swiftblade, since it has better BAB, better skills, and some great class features that might well be relevant to you. A 1st-level rogue/4th-level wizard/1st-level unseen seer also qualifies for swiftblade, and you could continue taking unseen seer levels after swiftblade is finished.

## With no magic, but with pure homebrew

For another question, I wrote up a revised duelist prestige class that takes a lot of notes from the swiftblade, but avoids all magic. For reference, I am a sometime freelance writer of third-party Pathfinder material, so I do know a bit about what I’m talking about here. For that matter, the dualist class I proposed as another answer to that question may also merit some attention—you could probably fluff the parries as involving your cloak somehow.

# Without any mechanics at all

Finally, a word of advice: you do not need something in a book to tell you how your character does stuff. You can totally just play a rogue or whatever, and just describe your character’s actions as involving a cloak. You don’t need a rulebook’s permission to do so. Instead of looking for particular abilities that say something about cloaks, just look for solid combat tricks. There are frustratingly few of those, but you could take Pathfinder’s Dirty Fighting feat, and then take Improved Dirty Trick to use dirty tricks better—and then just describe your use of dirty tricks as involving your cloak. Dirty tricks are one of the few solid non-magical options that Pathfinder has, so that could totally work.

# An actual build

Ultimately, the question asks for a build, and I think there’s a half-decent one available. The idea here is a beguiler/swiftblade with a focus on feints—not a great choice for a beguiler or a swiftblade, but beguiler/swiftblade is strong enough to make it OK. It definitely doesn’t use little magic—beguiler is a spellcasting class, and a good one, too. That said, it has plenty of non-magical tricks, and also the magic ones. And the magic ones are, as mentioned at the beginning of the answer, the best way to do this. Stuff like major image, invisibility, mirror image, blur, blink, and so on are just perfect for this character.

The build looks something like this:

Cloak-n-daggerspell, a TN2 strongheart halfling3 6th-level beguiler/10th-level swiftblade/4th-level unseen seer.

$$\begin{array}{l|l} \textbf{Level} & \textbf{Class} & \textbf{Special} & \textbf{Feat} & \textbf{Spells}^4 \\ \hline 1^\text{st} & \text{Beguiler} & \text{Armored mage, trapfinding} & \text{Dirty Fighting,}^5 & 1^\text{st} \\ & & & \quad\text{Improved Feint}^B \\ 2^\text{nd} & & \text{Cloaked casting (+1 DC),} & & 2^\text{nd} \\ & & \quad\text{surprise casting} \\ 3^\text{rd} & & \text{Advanced learning}^6 & \text{Dodge}^7 & 3^\text{rd} \\ 4^\text{th} & & & & 4^\text{th} \\ 5^\text{th} & & & \text{Mobility,^8 Silent Spell}^B & 5^\text{th} \\ 6^\text{th} & & \text{Surprise casting (faster feint)}^9 & & 6^\text{th} \\ \hline 7^\text{th} & \text{Swiftblade} & \text{Swift surge +1/+0 ft.} & \text{Spring Attack,}^B & 6^\text{th} \\ & & & \quad\text{Surprise Riposte}^{10} \\ 8^\text{th} & & \text{Blurred alacrity} & & 7^\text{th} \\ 9^\text{th} & & \text{Sudden casting} & \text{Dueling Cape Deed}^{11} & 8^\text{th} \\ 10^\text{th} & & \text{Arcane reflexes,} & & 8^\text{th} \\ & & \quad\text{swift surge +1/+10 ft.} \\ 11^\text{th} & & \text{Evasive celerity} & \text{Improved Dirty Trick}^{11} & 9^\text{th} \\ 12^\text{th} & & \text{Fortified hustle} & & 10^\text{th} \\ 13^\text{th} & & \text{Swift surge +2/+10 ft.} & \text{Bounding Assault,}^B & 10^\text{th} \\ & & & \quad\text{Equipment Trick (cloak)}^{11} \\ 14^\text{th} & & \text{Diligent rapidity} & & 11^\text{th} \\ 15^\text{th} & & \text{Perpetual options} & \text{Practiced Spellcaster}^{12} & 12^\text{th} \\ 16^\text{th} & & \text{Innervated speed,} & & 12^\text{th} \\ & & \quad\text{swift surge +2/+20 ft.} \\ \hline 17^\text{th} & \text{Unseen seer} & \text{Damage bonus +1d6}^{13} & \textit{any}^{14} & 13^\text{th} \\ 18^\text{th} & & \text{Advanced learning}^{15} & \text{Silent Spell}^{B, 16} & 14^\text{th} \\ 19^\text{th} & & \text{Divination spell power +1}^{17} & \textit{any}^{14} & 15^\text{th} \\ 20^\text{th} & & \text{Damage bonus +2d6} & & 16^\text{th} \\ \end{array}$$

1. Cloak Dance and Greater Manyshot are contained in the psionics section of the SRD, because they were originally printed in Expanded Psionics Handbook. Neither of them has anything whatsoever to do with psionics—they are general feats, not psionic feats, and neither require nor in any way use any psionic rules. Nevertheless, if your DM is under the misconception that psionics is imbalanced, or even more unbelievably, that the monk of all things is overpowered, they may well nix these feats just for being under the wrong heading.

2. Alignment has zero impact on this build. None of these classes or feats has any alignment requirement. I just chose TN as a “default” option.

3. Strongheart halfling from Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting gets a bonus feat, and is Small-sized, which improves stealth. Ultimately, human (or some human variant) works nearly as well, and even the bonus feat can be replaced if you want some other race.

4. That is, the spellcasting of an $$\N^\text{th}\$$-level beguiler.

5. Dirty Fighting from Dirty Tactics Toolbox can replace Combat Expertise, Improved Unarmed Strike, Dex 13, and Int 13. This character actually probably has the ability scores, doesn’t need anything that requires Improved Unarmed Strike, and so could just take Combat Expertise. However, the benefit of Combat Expertise is marginal, while Dirty Fighting allows you to use any combat maneuver without provoking in a flanking situation, even if you don’t have the relevant Improved (combat maneuver) feat. That strikes me as far more likely to be useful.

6. Advanced learning allows a beguiler to learn any Enchantment or Illusion off of the sor/wiz list. Spell Compendium’s net of shadows is pretty decent, for my money.

7. Dodge is a terrible feat. You might prefer Expeditious Dodge from Races of the Wild—you have to move 40 feet to trigger it, but you get a +2 dodge bonus instead of a +1 dodge bonus. Once you get into swiftblade and are constantly under the effects of haste, and you have Spring Attack and Bounding Assault, moving 40 feet in a round should be pretty easy. But maybe having half the bonus when you’re pinned down is worth it. Neither feat is really good, per se.

8. Mobility is another awful feat. You could, conceivably, replace it with a +1 mobility chain shirt; mobility is a special armor property from Magic Item Compendium. Once you have taken your first level of swiftblade, you no longer need Mobility and can feel free to get some other armor. But some DMs won’t like that (and it sounds like your DM is one of them), and in any event a +1 mobility chain shirt costs 4,250 gp, which might be a big ask of a 6th-level character (though it’s totally possible—D&D 3.5e recommends 13,000 gp for such a character, and Pathfinder recommends 16,000 gp. But again, the fact that your DM has such a poor grasp on balance worries that they may also believe it is safe to go significantly below these guidelines.).

9. Before you have the 6th-level beguiler feature, you should not bother attempting to feint; it’s just not worth it at a move action.

10. Surprise Riposte is a feat from Drow of the Underdark, and it says that when you feint and then hit that person with a melee attack, that person is flat-footed until their next turn. Not only does this mean you can keep attacking them with them flat-footed, it means they are flat-footed for all your allies. This is fantastic, and could easily be fluffed as using your cloak.

11. Dueling Cape Deed, Improved Dirty Trick, and Equipment Trick (cloak) may be pointless at these levels. Whatever value they may have had, it took too long to get them and now they are obsolete. If you have more feats, e.g. with the optional flaws variant from 3.5e, or by saving a feat on Mobility by using a mobility armor, these might be available a whole lot earlier, when they are more relevant.

12. Practiced Spellcaster from Complete Mage allows you to get a +4 bonus to caster level with any one class, but to a max of your overall character level. Basically, it partially makes up for the levels where swiftblade doesn’t advance your spellcasting—you don’t get more or better spells, but at least the spells you do have work like they should.

13. The unseen seer’s damage bonus only applies if you have some kind of precision damage, like sneak attack. At this point, you do not.

14. At this point, I’m not really sure what feats are best, so I’m just leaving these open. Unfortunately, you won’t qualify for Rapid Blitz from Player’s Handbook II—the follow-up to Spring Attack and Bounding Assault that swiftblade gave as bonus feats and would give you a third attack during Spring Attack. Ultimately, your attacks are a little lackluster—you only get 2 or 3, while real warriors at this level get a minimum of 4, and possibly quite a lot more. So ask your DM if maybe you could just have it, if you want it—it’s not that good and it’s thematic. You might also go in for flanking benefits—which could easily be a better idea than Dueling Cape Deed or Equipment Trick (cloak), too. Taking Tome of Battle’s Martial Study and then Martial Stance to get island of blades, for example, is excellent, allowing you to flank with allies as long as you’re both adjacent to the same target, instead of having to be on opposite sides. A menacing weapon, or perhaps better a menacing amulet of mighty fists, can cause your flanking to give allies a double bonus, too.

15. The unseen seer’s advanced learning can get you a Divination spell—that can include hunter’s eye from Spell Compendium, which gives you +1d6 sneak attack damage for every three caster levels you have. At this point, that’s a minimum of +4d6 damage—and it then lets you take advantage of the damage bonus, so that becomes +5d6 damage.

16. Unseen seer gives Silent Spell as a bonus feat, which beguiler already gave you as a bonus feat. If you get this far, maybe ask your DM to allow you to get a different feat instead—if nothing else, the Still Spell feat that beguiler would have eventually given you seems fair.

17. Divination spell power gives you +1 to caster level when you cast Divinations—at the cost of −1 when you cast anything else. That hurts, particularly since you are already shorted by the levels where swiftblade doesn’t progress spellcasting. Still, it’s bearable, and +1 caster level for Divinations would include hunter’s eye—potentially allowing you to get higher damage bonuses. Still, if you wanted to avoid this, taking just two levels of unseen seer is legitimate. You could go back to beguiler, getting its advanced learning for some high-level Enchantment or Illusion, or perhaps Complete Mage’s abjurant champion might catch your fancy.

• The only other thing that might be worth mentioning is the weighted cloak, that's—obviously—a cloak but is otherwise just a crappy one-handed martial weapon. But because it's a one-handed weapon it can be wielded in two hands, and then it's only a short walk to an ubercharger who murders a foe per round by beating on the foe with the big rug on his back. Unsubtle? Not what was asked for? Sure. Sure. Effective? A little less than the traditional ubercharger, I guess, but since that's already a really effective strategy, so what? – Hey I Can Chan Feb 18 at 9:05

## The Equipment Trick for Cloaks does a lot of what you want.

Select the Feat and it's associated Feats to do what you want on any martial class of your choice. Rogues have an obvious affinity for the type of combat you're describing, but a Fighter might be a solid choice to keep up with the Feat requirements.