I have played a monk before and enjoyed it but I was thinking of playing a character who's more of a brawler than a mystic martial artist. I know there are some options in the barbarian class but what else is there in the game?

As a supplementary question, is there any point in making an unarmed combatant character of this sort or are they likely to be outclassed by the, er, classes that do use weapons?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Two questions- One, how do you feel about gratuitous amounts of refluffing? Two, how much much do you care about the supplementary? An unarmed combatant is going to be outclassed by an armed combatant, and both are outclassed by spellcasters. There is however, still a point to playing them if you enjoy them. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 26, 2013 at 23:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't mind a bit of reskinning and while I don't mind an underpowered character, other members of my group sometimes frown on my disregard for character optimisation. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 26, 2013 at 23:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Another option that you might want to consider is going with Natural Weapons - for instance, an Alchemist with the Feral Mutagen discovery, is an unorthodox, but very potent 'unarmed' melee combatant. Or of course, any race with natural attacks, at which point, you can play any martial class - Ranger with the Natural Weapon specialization is another option... etc. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 27, 2013 at 4:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ Mm, brawling isn't grappling. Voting to leave open. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Commented Oct 28, 2013 at 4:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ This appears to be asking for a list of every possible option to provide non-mystic barehanded combat (not even a list of all classes dedicated to providing such options), AND a discussion of poweredness for these options. I speculate there's no accepted answer because it's not a question which can be answered within the SE format. \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Commented Sep 17, 2014 at 9:43

3 Answers 3


If you have the Dreamscarred Press psionics books for pathfinder, take a look at a Psion with the Egoist specialty, and the Metamorph prestige class at lvl6. Take every power in the Metamorphosis line as early as possible, and spend nearly all the rest of your powers known on other combat buffs. For feats, start with Overchannel, then take anything that boosts your natural attacks. You're not proficient in armor, but you don't have armor-derived spell failure either, so start with MW leather, and upgrade when you can to mithril chain shirt, but don't wear anything with a check penalty, you can't afford the loss of attack bonus.

I'm running such a character now, and he makes for an unarmed brawler with very much the same mechanical feel as a monk, but much stronger to carry your own weight and appease the optimizers in the group. Mine is fluffed to emphasize the mystical aspects, but fluffing in the other direction should be easy enough. You'll not want the scouting secondary focus my guy has, since that depends heavily on using metamorph to become very small, and will probably want to avoid any of metamorph's size-change options, which can be good in certain fights, but the main metamorph options you want are the natural attacks (go for slam, a body slam doesn't tie up your arms if you decide to carry a mithril buckler or keep a ranged weapon at the ready) and fast healing. Both of those, and most of the other metamorph options that you'll want to use often, are easy to justify non-mystically (the Barbarian can get variations of most of them), and the shape-changing effect's blatant mysticality can be easily averted by always choosing your own natural appearance for the shift.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I hadn't considered psionics at all, and my GM is not fond of third party products, so it's unlikely I'll be able to make use of this. That said, it is a really good answer, thank you! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 30, 2013 at 16:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @kelvingreen DSP's worst product is still better than Paizo's best. I cannot more strongly recommend that you go this route. Egoists and psychic warriors can actually be good while going for unarmed combat. The classes supposedly designed for that purpose (e.g. those in Guest's answer) are awful and are very difficult to make effective. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Sep 17, 2014 at 18:19

There are 4 classes that have any basis in unarmed combat. These are the:

  • Brawler (which seems exactly what you are looking for)
  • Monk (All archetypes beside Zen Archer, and partially the Sohei)
  • Barbarian (As a grappler with Brutal Pugilist)
  • Fighter (in the form of the Brawler and Unarmed Fighter)

If the brawler isn't for you, there is a monk archetype(Martial Artist) that has fewer 'mystically' themed choices and more 'martially' themed choices which might be more what you are looking for. It also can be any alignment rather than must be Lawful.

That said, you can build viable(if complicated) builds for unarmed combatant(The barbarian with Brutal Pugilist stacked with the Invulnerable Rager is decent), but as a general rule, most unarmed that aren't monks or brawlers are going to have a difficult time.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I like this answer a lot. Could you go into more detail on the three main options? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 30, 2013 at 16:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ What kind of details are you looking for? What you get/give up for the various archetypes? \$\endgroup\$
    – Guest
    Commented Oct 31, 2013 at 5:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, perhaps a brief comparison of their strengths and weaknesses, without going into too much detail; we can always use the SRD for further research. Thank you! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 1, 2013 at 8:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ Unarmed monks and brawlers are still going to have a difficult time. All of these options are awful. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Sep 17, 2014 at 18:14

You could always refluff monk. You enjoyed playing one before, so why not play one again, this time with more brawling? Rename odd abilities Still Mind becomes Raging Mind, for the same effects. Purity of Body becomes Hardy Body, for the same effects. Diamond Body becomes Iron Guts, for the same effect. Rename the Ki Pool as the Rage Pool, with the same effects (Except it refreshes after 8 hours or rest or inebriation.) Continue as needed. This results in a character that you already know you enjoy mechanical, with a very different aesthetic. (And is really easy to do!) I would recommend changing the alignment restriction- Lawful may not fit the character you have in mind. If needed, change other abilities to match this. (I.E. at tenth level, unarmed attacks count as chaotic weapons.)


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