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The Marshal archetype seems to be great, with many useful feats, but what is the best base class?

I know this seems broad and opinion based, but to be considered best, I have many criteria:

  • Qualifies by level 2 (all martial weapons)
  • Can have a decent Charisma score (starting with at least 14, so not very MAD), and preferably has a use for that Charisma besides being a Marshal
  • Want and can be in the front line because your aura is usually 10 feet
    • At least 11 HP per level after Con
    • At least AC 18 on level 1 without shield
    • Has decent Strikes, in case they are grabbed or the enemy has AoO
  • Not action starved, does not have anything better to do with their actions (Magi would not have actions to start the stances and use the other Marshal abilities)1
  • Not feat starved (Bomber Alchemists need all the class feats they can get)

  1. not that they can afford 14 Cha
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    \$\begingroup\$ 11 hp / level is going to be very dependent on your stat distribution, general feats, etc. Any 8 hp level class with 16 con (or 14 con + toughness) could meet this, and that's very possible at level 1. Are you truly fine with every class that isn't Wizard, Witch, or Sorcerer (and probably Psychic when that comes out)? Or do you want 10 hp/lvl classes so you don't have to stack con? Also, any class can qualify for prof with all martial weapons by level 2 by simply being a human and taking Versatile Heritage for Weapon Proficiency - similarly for Armor Proficiency. \$\endgroup\$
    – ESCE
    Jun 5, 2022 at 22:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, how many actions per turn are you wanting to dedicate to Marshal Actions? \$\endgroup\$
    – ESCE
    Jun 5, 2022 at 22:09

3 Answers 3

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Champion with Blade Ally

... is the only class that meets all your criteria. In particular, a Champion with a Good Cause and Blade Ally doesn't just meet, but actually stands out in almost every criteria.

Dedication Prerequisites

Qualifies by level 2 (all martial weapons)

This criteria doesn't narrow it down at all. Barbarian, Warrior Muse Bard, Champion, Fighter, Gunslinger, Inventor, Investigator, Magus, and Ranger meet the martial weapon prerequisite out of the box. The Wizard needs to take1 the Weapon Proficiency feat twice to meed the prerequisites, while everyone else only needs to take1 it once.

Ability Score Constraints

Can have a decent Charisma score (starting with at least 14, so not very MAD) [...] At least 11 HP per level after Con [...] At least AC 18 on level 1 without shield [...] Has decent Strikes, in case they are grabbed or the enemy has AoO

These criteria all rely on ability scores and are affected only by the classes key ability and armor proficiency. Although the cutoff points for these criteria are somewhat arbitrary, we can assess them objectively.

  • At least 14 Charisma.
  • Decent Strikes require strength or dexterity, let's say at least 14 in one of them, similar to decent charisma.
  • I will consider at least 18 in the class' key ability as an implicit criteria, because a class that can't achieve this is hardly the best for Marshal.
  • At least 18 AC at level one can also be framed in terms of the class' armor proficiency and, to avoid the armor penalties, some minimum combination of strength & dexterity: 8 & 20 for unarmored (or 8 & 16 for Monks because they are expert), 10 & 18 or 12 & 16 for for light armor; 14 & 14 or 16 & 12 for medium armor; 16 & 10 for heavy armor.
    Unarmored's 8 & 20 is impossible before level 5, but Sorcerer, Summoner, and Witch can take1 Armor Proficiency to wear light armor, while Wizards can't because they already need to take1 Weapon Proficiency twice.
  • At least 11 HP per level can also be framed in terms of class and constitution: Barbarians need at least 8 constitution; Champions, Fighters, Monks, Rangers, Summoners, and Swashbucklers need at least 12 constitution; Alchemists, Bards, Clerics, Druids, Gunslingers, Inventors, Investigators, Magi, Oracles, and Rogues need at least 16 constitution; Sorcerers, Witches, and Wizards fail outright because they would need at least 20 constitution, and not even the Toughness feat can salvage this.

Barbarian, Champion, Fighter, Monk, Ranger, and Swashbuckler easily meet these criteria. Bard, Gunslinger, Magus, Oracle, Rogue, and Summoner can also meet all these criteria, if just barely by choosing appropriate ancestries and backgrounds.
On the other hand Sorcerer, Witch, and Wizard failed outright as mentioned previously. Alchemist, Cleric, Druid, Inventors, and Investigators cannot meet these criteria, even if they take1 the Toughness feat and choose appropriate ancestries and backgrounds the best array they can get is 18 14 14 14 10 8, and it's impossible to assign those scores to reach 18 in AC, 18 in key ability, and 14s in strength/dexterity, constitution, and charisma.

Down to 12 contenders: Barbarian, Bard, Champion, Fighter, Gunslinger, Magus, Monk, Oracle, Ranger, Rogue, Summoner, and Swashbuckler. Going forward I'll disregard the other classes.

Disregarding Class Feats

Not feat starved

This one is tough to assess, because you'll only be feat starved if you desire more feats than you can acquire, but the desirability of feats is partially subjective and often depends on the specifics that go beyond just class and archetype.
However, this criteria implies that you wish to take Marshal feats at almost every opportunity, so a good approximation for this criteria is to simply disregard class feats when considering the other criteria. Hence going forward I will focus on class features.

Frontlining

Want [...] to be in the frontline because your aura is usually 10 feet

No surprises here. Any class that wants to consistently make melee Strikes or short-ish ranged Strikes wants to be on the frontline, or at least right behind the frontline from where the aura can still reach allies.
Bard, Oracle, and Summoner don't meet this criteria: it's certainly possible to limit your repertoire to short ranged spells, but there's really no incentive to do so; most Eidolons are meant to be in the frontline, but the Dread and Inspiring Marshal Stances originate from the Summoner, not the Eidolon.
The standout for this criteria is the Champion with a Good Cause, because the 'range' of the granted reaction roughly matches that of the Marshal's aura and that will further incentivize cohesive positioning from the whole frontline.

Action Economy

Not action starved, does not have anything better to do with their actions

Marshal has several go-to actions that can be used every round to great effect like Cadence Call, Rallying Charge, and To Battle! Every class also has it's own go-to actions, whether they are basic actions enhanced by class features, or new actions granted by class features. If we want to use Marshal actions often we need determine what the go-to actions for each class are and how much they compete for action economy.

  • Cast a Spell is the go-to action for almost every caster. The number of actions is typically two, but can also be one or three. Cast a Spell is particularly competitive when used with a focus point or one of your few highest slots, though some spells remain very competitive regardless of what slot they use, and Cantrips are also competitive. This doesn't leave much room for Marshal actions, especially the two-action ones. Bard, and Oracle fit snugly in this category, and Bard in particular has the very spammable Inspire Courage.
  • Strike is the go-to action for almost every martial, with the MAPless Strike being especially competitive. The second Strike is competitive, but not nearly as much as the MAPless Strike, and the Strikes at full MAP generally aren't competitive at all. That means that there's one or two actions available for Marshal actions. Moreover, Rallying and Coordinated Charges subordinate the MAPless Strike instead of competing with it!
    • Some Rangers enhance Strikes unevenly MAP-wise: the Flurry Ranger specifically enhances Strikes with MAP, leaving less room for Marshal actions; the Precision Ranger enhances only the first hit, but if the first Strike misses, the second Strike will be more competitive than normal again leaving less room for Marshal actions.
  • Some martial classes subordinate Strike into a different go-to action. Unlike normal Strikes, these actions are incompatible with Rallying and Coordinated Charges.
    • For Magus, it's Spellstrike, which also subordinates Cast a Spell. In addition being two-actions, it also must be reloaded with another action, leaving very little room for Marshal actions.
    • For Monk, it's Flurry of Blows, which is also incompatible with Cadence Call and To Battle! due to the Flourish trait.
    • For Swashbuckler, it's Confident Finisher.
  • The Summoner's go-to actions are both Strike and Cast a Spell. Even with Act Together the there will be less room for Marshal actions, especially the two-action ones.
  • Some classes have other go-to actions besides Strike or Cast a Spell, which further compete against Marshal actions.
    • For Champion with Shield or Steed Ally, it's Raise a Shield or Command an Animal respectively. While riding, Command an Animal can be used to effectively Stride twice, but unfortunately this benefit is incompatible with Rallying and Coordinated Charges.
    • For Gunslinger, it's Interact to reload.
    • For Outwit Ranger, it's the Edge's listed Skill Actions.
    • For Rogue, it's any action that makes a foe flat-footed, though some Marshal actions can be used for this purpose, instead of competing.
    • For Swashbuckler, it's any action that generates Panache.

The Dread and Inspiring Marshal Stances compete strongly against other actions that are best used in the first round and a few classes have such actions.

  • For Maestro Bard, it's Lingering Composition.
  • For Barbarian, it's Rage. Fortunately, no Marshal feats have the Concentrate trait.
  • For Magus, it's Arcane Cascade, which is also a Stance and therefore completely incompatible.
  • For Ranger, it's Hunt Prey, which ideally can be used during exploration instead of the first round.

The Marshal's Attack of Opportunity, Topple Foe, and Target of Opportunity compete with other reactions, but having additional triggers at your disposal also increases the odds that you'll spend your reaction at all. Hence, acquiring more reactions with differing triggers is still positive for your action economy.

  • The Bard has Counter Performance;
  • The Champion has the Champion's Reaction associated with a Cause
  • The Champion and Fighter both have Shield Block, though the prerequisite Raise Shield does compete with other Marshal actions.
  • The Fighter has Attack of Opportunity, which isn't a different trigger per se, but makes Marshal's Attack of Opportunity unnecessary.
  • Some of the Oracle's Focus spells, depending on Mystery and Domain choices.

Speed is also a relevant to action economy because with greater speed you'll have to use fewer Move actions in the long run. Monk is easily the best in this regard, and only Swashbuckler with Panache can match the Monk.


Champion with Blade Ally, and Fighter stand out in this criteria, because their only go-to action is Strike and they have reactions to boot. Rogue is second, because some Marshal actions to flank in place of a different go-to action. Barbarian is a close third, because it doesn't have any go-to actions besides Strike, but is held back by the need to Rage.
The other classes have go-to actions that either eat into the action economy more than necessary, or directly conflict with Marshal actions.

As a side note, the choice of weapon can also be significant for action economy. Weapons with the Fatal or Deadly traits make Strikes at MAP comparatively less appealing. Ranged weapons and returning thrown weapons can reduce the need to Stride. Weapons with a reload entry other than 0 obviously have terrible action economy, though feats such as Running Reload can alleviate it.

Charisma Preference

Preferably has a use for that Charisma besides being a Marshal

  • Bard: Key Ability, Spellcasting, and reliance on Performance
  • Oracle and Summoner: Key Ability, and Spellcasting.
  • Champion: Spellcasting (only Lay on Hands or Touch of Corruption) and persistent alignment damage (granted by their Cause at level 9).
  • Pistolero Gunslinger: reliance on Deception or Intimidation
  • Outwit Ranger: reliance on Deception and Intimidation, among other skills
  • Eldritch Trickster and Scoundrel Rogues: Key Ability, Spellcasting (only two Cantrips) for the former or reliance on Deception for the latter
  • Battledancer, Braggart, Fencer, and Wit Swashbucklers (reliance on Performance, Intimidation, Deception, or Diplomacy respectively).

Bard, and Oracle stand out in this criteria, because most of what they do uses charisma. Outwit, Braggart, and Wit would stand out more if their bonuses could benefit the activation of Dread and Inspiring Marshal Stances.
Choosing charisma for the Rogue's key ability is an interesting option, but I wouldn't recommend it considering that a Marshal Rogue will generally use dexterity far more than charisma.

Conclusion

The last two criteria largely disagree on what class is best for Marshal and in retrospect it's obvious why: a class that "does not have anything better to do with their actions" also doesn't have any worthwhile actions that use charisma. Still, that leaves passive bonuses that use charisma, which the Champion receives at level 9. Moreover, the Champion with a Good Cause and Blade Ally tops all the other criteria too: it meets the dedication prerequisites and the ability score constraints without needing General feats, its reaction gives allies an additional reason to stay by your side, and most of its actions can be spent on Marshal actions.

Fighter is worth mentioning, despite not meeting all criteria, because it will activate the Rallying and Coordinated Charges' on-hit effects more often than other classes.
Rogue only barely passes some of the criteria, but I've thoroughly sold myself on the idea of repositioning an ally into flaking with To Battle! in order to land a Sneak Attack (though depending on the size of the enemy, the aura might not reach the flanking ally).


  1. Humans can take any two General feats via their General Training feat and their Versatile Heritage. A couple other ancestries can choose any one General feat by nabbing the Human's General Training feat.
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    \$\begingroup\$ Dread Marshall Rogue also has some possibility with the Feat that lets you Sneak Attack (consider flat-footed?) targets with the Frightened condition. Of course if you have a rogue in the party, they could take full benefit of having a separate Dread Marshall who isn't trying to set their own SA up, capitalizing on access to SA for more than one attack \$\endgroup\$ Jun 8, 2022 at 13:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Ifusaso yeah there's definitely synergy to be had between Rogue and Marshal as party members. I've tried building a Rogue Marshal that can access all those synergies on its own, but it's the kind of build that really needs Free Archetype to shine. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ruse
    Jun 9, 2022 at 9:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ Rogues are trained in all martial weapons since the Remaster \$\endgroup\$
    – András
    Nov 29, 2023 at 12:48
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Swashbuckler

Specifically, a Wit or Braggart Swashbuckler (which use Inspiring or Dread Marshal stance respectively). Starting stats (assuming human): STR 12 DEX 18 CON 12 INT 10 WIS 10 CHA 16

  • Qualifies by level 2 (all martial weapons)
    • Yep!
  • Can have a decent Charisma score (starting with at least 14, so not very MAD), and preferably has a use for that Charisma besides being a Marshal
    • Charisma will be used by:
      • Wit: Bon Mot, One for All (Aid via Diplomacy)
      • Braggart: Demoralize
    • So Charisma gets you panache, and therefore more damage and better rolls for entering your stances
  • Want and can be in the front line because your aura is usually 10 feet
    • You'll want to be on the front line for at least Opportune Riposte, plus your normal strikes
  • At least 11 HP per level after Con
    • Yep! Grab Toughness if you want more, or don't pump Charisma as much.
  • At least AC 18 on level 1 without shield
    • Yep! You've got 18 Dex!
  • Has decent Strikes, in case they are grabbed or the enemy has AoO
    • You have not only decent strikes, but phenomenal strikes - Finishers! Your to hit will scale like any other martial as well!
  • Not action starved, does not have anything better to do with their actions
    • As a Swashbuckler, you should have a lot of floating third actions. You'll want to be using your Finisher a lot, which prevents you from making a strike after it. A normal routine could look like:
      • Wit (for Braggart, replace Bon Mot and One For All with Demoralize):
        • Turn 1: Stride, Bon Mot, Inspiring Stance
        • Turn 2+: Finisher, One for All, whatever
  • Not feat starved
    • This is a bit subjective. Swashbucklers, however, really do get all they need from their core chassis.

Second Place: Good-aligned Champion

Champions are also good Marshals (as Ifusaso points out). They also have pretty meh class feats. The biggest downside is they don't use Charisma near as much as they did in PF1e, nor as much as the PF2e Swashbuckler. You'll want to always be near your allies for your Champion's Reaction, though, and you can grab some of the Champion's aura feats to make that even more juicy (although most of them come online in later levels and hardly seem worth it to me). I think Swashbuckler is the better choice in a vacuum, but if you want more defense for your party (in trade for damage, debuffing, and actually using Charisma) you could grab Champion.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The swashbuckler's first turn seem to be really wasted without an attack \$\endgroup\$ Jun 6, 2022 at 19:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SpearCarrier.no2 - yeah, it does seem that way on paper. The reality is that we have no idea how far away from your enemy you'll even be - part of the hope is that they'll move closer towards you so you don't have to move on Turn 2. If you are only a single Stride away from the enemy, you could just delay, assuming they'll come to you. There's also no guarantee that Bon Mot will succeed, nor your Inspiring Stance, so... take the routine with a bit of a grain of salt I suppose. \$\endgroup\$
    – ESCE
    Jun 6, 2022 at 19:32
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Bard

Simply put, Bard is the easiest way to meet your desires for the class

  • Qualifies by level 2 (all martial weapons)
    • Warrior Muse (base or with Multifarious Muse) or Human with General Training
  • Can have a decent Charisma score (starting with at least 14, so not very MAD), and preferably has a use for that Charisma besides being a Marshal
    • Primary spellcaster using Charisma stat
  • Want and can be in the front line because your aura is usually 10 feet
    • Warrior Bard can make decent melee actors, focusing on control and support spells when not using their weapon
  • At least 11 HP per level after Con
    • The hardest criteria, as Bard provides only 8HP per level. Start with 14 Con (10 HP per level) and take Toughness ASAP/add Con at level 5
  • At least light armor proficiency
    • Trained/Expert at 13
  • Has decent Strikes, in case they are grabbed or the enemy has AoO
    • The second hardest criteria with Trained/Expert at 11 but with self-buffs (but access to Cantrips for typical fighting and other spells to help Escape)
  • Not action starved (Magi would not have actions to start the stances and use the other Marshal abilities)
    • Bard features only need one action per turn to maintain an Inspire Cantrip
  • Not feat starved (Bomber Alchemists need all the class feats they can get)
    • Bards have extreme versatility with their Feats... and don't rely heavily on any of them because of it

Backup: Champion

If you really want a better up-front presence, the Champion shores up the Bard's weaknesses with better weapon/armor proficiency and 10+HP per level, but at the cost of most of the other aspects. It does not rely heavily on Charisma, usually wants to spend Actions on movement, Focus spells, and raising their Shield or Commanding their Mount, and their Feats are heavily tied into their class identity (as most "martial" type classes are, to give them more things to do than swing a sword).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Why would a Bard want to be in the front line? Everything they do best (Inspire Courage, spellcasting) can be done from a safe distance. \$\endgroup\$
    – András
    Jun 6, 2022 at 7:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ But +1 for the Champion \$\endgroup\$
    – András
    Jun 6, 2022 at 7:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Warrior Bard is the equivalent of P1e bard archetypes that had them using a weapon as often as casting - Arcane Duelist, Dervish Dancer, etc (as well as probably Skald). It's far from out of the question for them to decide to go toe-to-toe with things. Is it the best pick if that is your plan? Probably not. But it is enough for them to get up close and personal to use their Marshall abilities. In fact, the one reason I forgot to point out that gives me any concern is that their class abilities tend to overlap the Marshall a bit, meaning it may not be worth the investment. But they're one... \$\endgroup\$ Jun 6, 2022 at 15:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ ... of the backup characters I've made to plug in when I feel like it, and one I'm genuinely interested in how well it does because it looks really good on paper. Unfortunately (for the character), my new campaign is the Strength of Thousands AP where I don't expect my allies to want to run up and hit things as much as in others. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 6, 2022 at 15:03

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