In my Pathfinder: Kingmaker Chargen guide, I mentioned towards the end the four classes I would recommend for new players, mostly for their ease of use and utility. Kingmaker is a pretty complex and fun game if you get into it, but to really flesh out that advice, we need to take a look deeper into the classes of Kingmaker to showcase more potential information for players to follow. So let’s start with the most bog-standard of them all, the Fighter.
The bread and butter of any RPG, the Fighter is perhaps the easiest class to play and master in Pathfinder: Kingmaker, with a drawback of not being flashy or complicated. Fighters are a martial class with no magical abilities, but instead rely on their raw feats and passive bonuses to not only go toe-to-toe with enemies, but stay on pace with Arcane and Divine classes. Fighters are a great class for any adventuring party, and playing one as your main makes you a front-line defendant or damage machine if you play your cards right.
The Fighter Basics in Pathfinder: Kingmaker
So for the purposes of this guide, it is going to presume that the player wants to make a pure Fighter and will not be doing any multiclassing. It also assumes the player will be making a standard Fighter, and not one of the three archetype classes made available. Towards the end of the guide however, I will talk about the archetypes, what they change, and multiclassing tips for Pathfinder: Kingmaker.
The Fighter class has the following basic stats.
Class Skills: Athletics, Knowledge (World), Lore (Nature), Persuasion
Hit Die: d10
Preferred Abilities: STR, CON
Skill Ranks Per Level: 2 + ½ INT modifier
Saving Throw Progression: Fortitude = High. Reflex, Will = Low.
The Fighter class also has the following class features and bonuses as they level up. All of these features and bonuses are easily found and readable in the class progression section on the character class screen. Archetypes also change these features.
All Fighters get the following at level 1:
Fighter Proficiencies: The Fighter is able to use all simple and martial weapons, all types of armor (light, medium, and heavy) and all types of shields (including tower shields) with zero penalties.
Bonus Combat Feat: At 1st level, and every even level thereafter, the Fighter gains a bonus feat, meaning the Fighter will gain a feat at every level, unlike other classes. This extra feat, however, must be a combat feat. At Level 4, and every four levels thereafter, the Fighter can elect to replace a bonus feat they have chosen for a new bonus feat, so long as the old feat is not used as a prerequisite for another feat, prestige class, or ability. The Fighter can only change one feat at a given level, and must choose whether or not to swap the feat at the time you level up.
Pathfinder: Kingmaker Fighter Build Suggestions
With the basics of the Fighter class above, the next steps are to determine the other parts of the character build. Specifically, we're looking at Race, Abilities, Skills, and Feats for the standard Fighter. A lot of this is ultimately up to the player in what type of Fighter they want to create as well; a damage-dealing Fighter, for example, would look slightly different from a more defense-oriented Fighter.
For purposes of this build, I will be focusing more on a high damage dealer with defenses being secondary, but high enough where the Fighter is versatile in their role. We will also not be going into prestige classes as an option for this build, though I will briefly mention them later when we discuss archetypes and cross-classing in Pathfinder: Kingmaker.
So let’s go through each category step by step, and see what we come up with.
In Pathfinder: Kingmaker, a lot of races have an advantage for being a Fighter, but the key stats to focus on would also be STR, CON, and possibly DEX if you want to go more defensive. Humans, Half-Elves, and Half-Orcs make fairly good fighters, since you can choose their ability score modifier and fill in the gap as you see fit.
Of the three, Humans are probably the best choice, because of their additional skills and feats at level 1. Fighters are essentially married to feats as their only way of dealing damage and staying relevant from a mechanics point of view, so having additional feats is always a great choice.
Half-Orcs gain the ability of weapon familiarity with Orc weapons, exotic-type weapons that may be worth using, as well as the Ferocity feat, which allows the Half-Orc to keep fighting for a round even after their health drops to 0. This makes them great specialized Fighters who are really good at doing one thing: hitting and killing enemies in a fury.
Half-Elves are probably the weakest of the three, gaining mostly passive bonuses to skills, which Fighters don’t get many points for anyway, and a racial bonus against saving throws that involve magic.
Surprisingly, Gnomes also make decent Fighters, if you plan on using them wholly defensively. The -2 to STR is a weakness that can harm their damage output, but their +2 to CON is a good boon to have, and when pumped with their DEX and considering their small stature, they can be quite effective tanks in Pathfinder: Kingmaker. Gnomes also get specialized bonuses, including a Hatred bonus against reptilian and goblinoid enemy types, and defensive bonuses against giant subtypes, plus proficiency in exotic Gnome weapons like the Hook Hammer.
The most prominent and, I would say, best race choice outside of Humans, however, would be the Dwarf, which I chose for this Pathfinder: Kingmaker build. The Dwarf gets a solid bonus of +2 to CON and +2 to WIS, and a -2 to CHA. The CHA penalty is not that devastating for a standard Fighter build, and unless we plan on using persuasion a lot (which other party members, such as Linzi or Valerie, can do better anyway) it can be made our dump stat for the build.
Dwarves also get a lot of bonuses that make them passively sturdy. They have similar abilities as a Gnome, with a +4 dodge bonus against the giant subtype, a +1 Hatred bonus against orc and goblinoid subtypes, as well as Dwarven weapon proficiency, adding a selection of exotic Dwarf weapons into the mix. On top of this, Dwarves also gain a +4 bonus to their Combat Maneuver Defense when resisting trip or bull rush, two common combat maneuvers, and a +2 saving throw against poison, spells, and spell-like abilities.
This passive tankiness allows the Dwarf to be incredibly versatile as a fighter, meaning I can focus on damage but in a pinch, soak up damage without much of an issue.
The two ability scores that benefit the Fighter the most are STR and CON. Since this fighter is designed to do a lot of damage, STR gets the lion's share of the ability points, pumped all the way up to 18 or as close to 18 as possible. CON should not be far behind in any good Fighter build.
Now, there are alternative choices here still. DEX is an important skill for Fighters, and some builds in Pathfinder: Kingmaker may focus heavily on DEX over STR to compensate for attack damage with the additional use of feats or character builds. For a standard Fighter, DEX should be a secondary stat that is increased by at least one threshold, so 10 to 12, or 12 to 14, to give you that edge.
Subsequently, INT and CHA are stats that the Fighter doesn’t really need as much. Fighters get a very low number of skill points. Even a high INT will not really change that, since it’s a half a point per INT modifier, so four skill points per level at 18 INT in this case. CHA is really only useful for talking to people, but Kingmaker uses the highest Persuasion bonus of the party, so unless you want to role-play a smooth talker, it may not be worth investing in it.
In the case of our Dwarf here, his CHA penalty is already at a disadvantage, and lowering it to its maximum amount gives us extra points to spend. So STR goes to 18, and we can evenly distribute CON and DEX, giving CON a 17 total and DEX at a solid 14. Since we only have two skill points, putting them in two skills you will likely use the most (in my case, Athletics and Lore (Nature)) is pretty much the way to go, and the only spots where those skill points should be pumped into for most levels in Pathfinder: Kingmaker.
The real challenge is selecting feats to use for your Fighter in Pathfinder: Kingmaker. This ultimately does depend on the character build, but certain feats I would most definitely recommend over others. Below are the best early feats to consider for your Fighter build, listed with any prerequisites the player needs to clear before taking it, and why you should take them.
Armor Focus: Prerequisite: Base Attack Bonus +1. You select one type of armor (light, medium, or heavy) with that AC bonus granted by the armor increased by 1. This is great for all Fighter types, giving you more AC defense and making you incredibly difficult to hit in your armor type.
Combat Expertise: Prerequisite: Intelligence 13. Combat Expertise allows the Fighter to take a -1 penalty on melee attack rolls and combat maneuver checks while giving the player a +1 dodge bonus to their AC. When the Fighters BAB reaches +4, the penalty increases by -1 to attack rolls, and increases +1 to dodge.
Combat Expertise is a solid feat simply because it is a prerequisite for other Pathfinder: Kingmaker feats like Trip, Disarm, and Dirty Trick. All three of these are considered combat maneuvers. These maneuvers require checks in the form of what's called a Combat Maneuver Bonus, or CMB, which is made against the Combat Maneuver Defense, or CMD, of the target. Combat Expertise is one of the few reasons to also increase INT for a Fighter, as the ability to trip and disarm opponents are particularly valuable for defensive builds.
Dodge: Prerequisite: DEX 13. Dodge gives you a +1 Dodge bonus to AC. This feat is solid, but if you are hit with a condition that makes you lose your DEX bonuses, you also lose the Dodge bonus. Still worth taking though to shore up weaker AC, especially if you use light armor.
Power Attack: Prerequisite: STR 13. Power Attack is a toggled feat, meaning that it can be turned on and off. What it does is it gives you a -1 penalty on all attack rolls and combat maneuver checks, but gives you a +2 to all melee damage rolls. What’s great about Power Attack is that it can often be a devastating one-hit kill depending on how you build characters, and with high STR the increased +2 to damage could lead to pretty heavy hitting overall, with starting characters gaining a passive +6 to damage if they connect with the enemy.
The bonus to damage is also increased by 50% if you are making an attack with a two-handed weapon, a natural weapon that adds 1.5x to your STR modifier on damage rolls, or a one-handed weapon using two hands, which makes it even more devastating. This works best with a single weapon however; any off-handed weapons will see a decrease in damage by 50%.
Power Attack also grows every time your BAB reaches a +4 threshold, which for Fighters will come quickly. This adds another -1 penalty to attack rolls, but an additional +2 damage.
Power Attack seems complicated, but it is almost a must for damage-dealing Fighters. It also serves as the prerequisite feat for other special attacks, such as Cleave and Great Cleave, which allow you to make additional attacks to targets nearby if you hit the enemy, at the expense of your AC bonus.
Shield Focus: Prerequisite: Shield Proficiency. Similar to Armor Focus, Shield Focus gives the user a +1 AC bonus whenever they wield a shield. Combining this with Armor Focus makes for an incredibly tanky build, increasing the AC without the need to pump up a Fighter's DEX ability score.
Toughness: Toughness is a flat +3 to your hit points at level 1, but for every additional hit dice you have beyond 3, you gain an additional +1 to your HP. Toughness has no prerequisite, and additional HP at level 1 is never a bad thing, plus the relative speed that you gain additional hit dice make Toughness a good feat choice for those looking to sponge a lot of damage. The bonus HP are also calculated retroactively as well, so taking Toughness at later levels to shore up different feat selection early on is also an option. Of all the defensive feats, Toughness is one I definitely recommend, as that extra HP gain does make a difference in the long run.
Two-Weapon Fighting: Prerequisite: DEX 15. Penalties for using a second weapon in your off-hand are reduced. Normally, the penalty for using two weapons at the same time is steep, with a -6 on your main hand, and a -10 on your off-hand. With this feat, the penalties both decrease to -4 across your main hand and off hand, giving the Fighter a better chance to hit their enemies.
This is an excellent feat if you plan on dual-wielding weapons, though certain types of weapons will always be better for dual-wielding, specifically light weapons such as knives, rapiers, and dueling swords.
Weapon Finesse: Allows you to use your DEX modifier for attack rolls, instead of your STR modifier, so long as the weapon is a light weapon. This is a crucial feat for very specific fighter builds, most notably defensive ones that rely more on DEX than STR, light-armored fighters, and even some races such as Gnomes or Halflings, who would rely on DEX or STR for fighting.
Weapon Finesse is also a great feat to have with Two-Weapon Fighting feat, as it would increase the likelihood to hit enemies without sacrificing heavily on off-hand penalties to a -2 if wielding light weapons in both hands, instead of -4. It won’t be necessary for every Fighter build, but if you plan on being more agile in your defense than armor dependent, or want to do hundreds of little cuts of damage over a big, bruising hit.
Weapon Focus: Prerequisite: Proficiency with the weapon of choice, Base Attack Bonus +1. You select a weapon type you are trained in, and gain a +1 to attack rolls with that weapon. So selecting longsword gives you an additional +1 to hit with longswords, and likewise for any weapon type in the game. Fighters can take this feat multiple times, each for a different weapon as well.
Weapon Focus is a simple feat, but is needed as a prerequisite for Greater Weapon Focus and Weapon Specialization. Greater Weapon Focus gives you an additional +1 to attack rolls, while Weapon Specialization gives you +1 to damage rolls.
These are small bonuses, but important ones to increase the likelihood to hit and do damage with specific weapons. Add in the Weapon Training that Fighters get, plus feats like Power Attack, and Fighters with Weapon Focus can double down on attacks connecting, damage done, or both with relative ease. Focusing on one or two weapons is recommended for a standard Fighter build.
Pathfinder: Kingmaker Fighter Archetypes
With the basic Fighter done, let’s take a look at the archetypes in Pathfinder: Kingmaker for a brief moment. Each class gets three archetypes that change or replace their abilities, effectively specializing the class or granting them abilities similar to another class in the game. In the case of the Fighter, the three archetypes present represent a highly specialized version of the standard fighter, pigeon-holing them into a singular role over having more versatility.
Aldori Defender: A quasi Fighter/Rogue type, the Aldori Defender is designed to use the Dueling Sword as its primary weapon, gaining proficiency with it for free. They also lose their Armor Training abilities and instead get them replaced with defensive abilities that rely on combat maneuver bonuses to defend themselves, disarm opponents, or make counterattacks.
The Adori Defender is a solid archetype that focuses more on DEX-based fighting, and is great as the prerequisite for the Aldori Swordlord Prestige class. Players simply looking to create a light armor, dueling kind of Fighter, this is a perfect choice.
Tower Shield Specialist: The Tower Shield Specialist archetype is focused entirely on one thing; tanking. The specialist gains additional defensive feats designed around the Tower Shield, such as using the shield for additional saving throws against spells, touch attacks, and increased DEX bonuses and reduced penalties when wielding the shield. The specialist loses any weapon training and weapon mastery bonuses in exchange however.
Of the three archetypes in Pathfinder: Kingmaker, the Tower Shield Specialist is the most redundant and least useful. Part of this is due to one of the in-game companions, Valerie, already being a Tower Shield Specialist Fighter in the game's early stages. It is also focused heavily on the use of the Tower Shield specifically; all of the shield bonuses described or given do not work with other shields. Players looking to double down on the defensive tankiness with Valerie, or those who simply want to be almost unkillable, can consider this archetype.
Two-Handed Fighter: Your damage-dealing archetype, the Two-Handed Fighter basically trades defense for offense by using two-handed weapons to carve through enemies with ease. At the expense of all defensive bonuses, such as Armor Training and Mastery, the Two-Handed Fighter is given bonuses to CMB and CMD when using two-handed weapons, the ability to perform combat maneuvers such as bull rush with ease, and most importantly, gain additional damage.
Two-Handed Fighters can be devastating, but need to be built correctly to work to their potential. The biggest weakness is their lack of AC, which means they can dish out damage heavily, but are not as sturdy as other Fighters in return. The Two-Handed Fighter though should be considered if you plan on wielding greatswords or greataxes as your Fighter, but just be warned that their AC will be low at first unless you shore it up with feats.
A Word on Multiclassing
When it comes to multiclassing in Pathfinder: Kingmaker, Fighters benefit the most from what is called ‘dipping’ into another class, which is basically taking one or two levels in a single class to gain their abilities and bonuses. Note that every time you choose to multiclass, it takes away one fighter level from the player, which subsequently removes any gained class bonuses, feats, or increases of that chosen class. So a Fighter that dips into let’s say Bard and Barbarian can now only be a level 18 Fighter, level 1 Bard, and level 1 Barbarian, instead of a level 20 Fighter.
This makes character creation incredibly complex, and I honestly only recommend players familiar with the classes in Pathfinder: Kingmaker to experiment with multiclassing. The benefits however are pretty solid. For one, multiclassing is how you can achieve most prestige classes, which are powerful classes that have prerequisites attached to them. Prestige classes often require disciplines or abilities from multiple classes to be unlocked. Some multiclass combinations also enhance the player's chosen class with additional skills, abilities, and in some cases spells to use, providing some variety to the standard class progression. Finally, some combinations make for powerful min-maxed builds that increase damage and survivability for the player's character, which is almost a must for harder difficulties.
If the player is interested in multiclassing, Fighters can benefit the most from dipping into the Rogue class for sneak attack damage, the Bard class for support spells and a Charisma boost, Barbarian for massive damage and rage powers, and Paladin for healing and survivability. Again, I would recommend only multiclassing if you plan on doing a more power-gaming build and you know when to dip into these classes.
Pathfinder: Kingmaker - Final Thoughts on the Fighter
And with all of that, the final touches on our Dwarf Fighter are set. In the end, we have an axe-wielding Dwarf with shield and weapon focus to give our slightly weaker defenses a boost to match our high STR. Our Dwarf Fighter is ready to wreak havoc in the Stolen Lands and slowly grow in power as a proficient fighting machine.
Hopefully, this guide helped you in understanding the Fighter a little better, and gave you some ideas on what feats, abilities, and type of build you would want to make for your own Fighter in Pathfinder: Kingmaker!