I am about to bring a Shield and Sword Slayer to a PFS game. Assume I can use anything on PFSRD since if I need the book, I will just buy it. I am starting form level 1 with 150g, as is PFS standard. I just want to have my level progression set before I start.

Human Swashbuckler 1 / Slayer X

Str 14, Dex 19 (17 +2 human), Con 14, Int 8, Wis 11, Cha 8.

Feats: Two Weapon Fighting, Improved Shield Bash, Swashbuckler Finesse (not quite a feat, but close enough)

Gear: Chain Shirt (100g), Gladius (15g), Buckler (5g), Morningstar (8g), Dungeoneer's Kit (15g)

Traits: Shield Trained, Reactionary

Goal: Use a Heavy Spiked Shield and a Rapier on a high dex build to skyrocket my AC while not sacrificing too much damage.

  • Level 3: Weapon Focus (Rapier) via Rogue Talent (RT), Fencing Grace
  • Level 5: Shield Focus via Ranger Combat Style (RCS), Power Attack
  • Level 7: Shield Master via RCS, Improved TWF via RT, Improved Initiative
  • Level 9: Improved Critical (Rapier), Blood Reading?
  • Level 11: Bashing Finish via RCS, Greater TWF

I am unsure on Improved Init and Blood Reading (which comes off my favored class bonus). Is there a better growth for this build? I asked at the Paizo forums and I was recommended lots of other builds, but no suggestions on this one.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Should this question be updated to reflect the changes made to the feat Fencing Grace? \$\endgroup\$ Apr 29, 2016 at 5:19

2 Answers 2


Are you going to be in a party, particularly with a rogue or ninja type? You may want to consider upping your Int, taking Combat Expertise and Two Weapon Feint/Improve Two Weapon Feint. You can then sacrifice one 'swing' in your full attack to flat-foot your opponent until your next turn (including for allies and attack of op). CE also gives you significant bonus AC at a low cost on your to-hit.

You might also want to look into Swashbuckler Opportune Parry and Riposte. It allows you to ready attacks to make opposed rolls instead of letting them just hit your AC and can be better than fighting defensively.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Actually, with the new printing Ultimate Intrigue, this build no longer works. Fencing Grace can no longer be used with a shield besides a buckler, or with two weapon fighting. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 11, 2016 at 14:09

The short answer is "No".

For a start, Improved Critical is a waste of a feat, unless your DM has house-ruled that it stacks with Keen. Yes, you might get a few extra crits with your shield and save some gold, but generally the rapier is the only place the added threat range will make a significant difference, and that feat could go to a number of other options. For instance, if you were to work in the prerequisites, Break Guard can allow you to deal damage while at the same time improving long-term survivability. If another player is willing to work with you, Precise Strike has a significantly lower investment and can add up quickly with TWF, and stacks with any other precision damage you can do as well.

As an alternative to Blood Reader, Studied Ally can work well thematically (and helping your ally will encourage them to want to tag-team with you) and has better mechanical benefits. Slowing Strike can be useful in a number of situations, but is probably best for totally wrecking flyers. Then there's Foil Scrutiny. A bonus on Bluff means a bonus to Feint (useful if you need a small edge to hit a difficult target), but more than that gives you a bonus to will versus mind-reading, which can save you from a screw depending on the DM. All of these can be better than Blood Reader, which, to be honest, is really only useful to players wanting to take targets alive or using consumable resources you don't want to waste to deal damage. It won't change your combat tactics much otherwise.

In other words, take another look at what each feat does for you. Consider if there's another way to get the benefit. Then consider how often you'll use it, and whether there's any drawbacks. Once you've done that, go back and think about what you want to be doing most of the time (For instance, is that penalty to hit from Power Attack really going to work well with making lots of attacks at the cost of an already-lowered attack roll?) and see if there's something else you could be taking that would have a greater effect at the same purpose, let you do your signature tactic more or better, or just has good synergy with something you'll be doing anyway.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I know it's a parenthetical, but if a creature's already making a bunch of attacks but at a significant penalty, is there a reason the creature should avoid increasing that penalty further via the feat Power Attack? That is, if the creature's not going to hit except on a lucky roll anyway, shouldn't the creature try to make that hit on a lucky roll matter? \$\endgroup\$ Apr 29, 2016 at 12:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ There's a bit of a threshold. Technically, either PA or TWF are meant to apply a penalty that will make the rolls difficult, but not impossible. Stacking penalties means that you can reach the point where only a crit can connect. Plus, it makes even your good attacks chancy. Of course, it is ultimately a judgement call, which is why I list it as an example of something subject to cost/benefit analysis, rather than an absolutely suboptimal choice. \$\endgroup\$
    – user28753
    Apr 29, 2016 at 17:50

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