As some of you might know, I recently got a second chance at playing my Dragonsong build in Pathfinder after the first character I made met with an unfortunate, neglected end.
The DM decided to start us at about level 13 because of where in the campaign everyone was, and it’s been an adventure. So much so, in fact, that Shane and I have managed to get the entire Path of War rule series banned from our table. Whoops.
See, back when we were planning to join the table, Shane had a few ideas for what he wanted to build, but wasn’t sure how to do it. He wanted to build as close to a true tank role as he could—think FFXIV or WoW—but because of the nature of D&D, and the fact that it’s impossible to aggro a DM who can decide to go for your party’s squishies, that’s much easier said than done.
He had been looking for strategies, including asking Reddit about the viability of a hybrid paladin/rogue build, but it didn’t do what he was hoping for. It wasn’t until we went back to the Path of War that we did find it—and thus the Ultimate Guardian was born.
Meet Kreatos, the Ultimate Guardian.
Before we get into the build, yes, Shane’s character’s name is intentionally close to Kratos from the God of War series. And you’ll see why in a few minutes, because he is pretty close to a god of war.
Kreatos is a Lympasi, built using a race I created a couple of years ago based on the Disney movie Hercules. Because our DM was trying to have some control over our characters’ power level, we had a set grid for stats.
He’s designed to function as a crowd control tank who dishes out a ton of damage and can mitigate on behalf of other players in the party. Because there aren’t really any roles that can do that to the extent Shane wanted, this build is based on a couple of different classes:
It’s important to note that this build only works with regular monk, not unchained!
Building an Ultimate Guardian
When building this class, there are a few things you’ll want to focus on to make the most of its abilities.
First, the key stats are Strength and Wisdom, with Constitution and Dexterity falling just after. Because monks can’t wear armor without losing a lot of their skills and bonuses, you’ll need to rely on your Dexterity and Wisdom to boost your armor class until you can get your hands on any magical items like bracers of armor.
Second, this build relies really heavily on intimidation and fear tactics, so any points you can put into Charisma will help. The Lympai get a +4 to Charisma, so you’ll likely be all right with that.
Third, this build uses the Path of War rules for maneuvers, which are special skills you can use in battle. Think Naruto’s Rasengan, or the Kamehameha wave; they’re powerful, but they consume limited charges within each encounter that you don’t get back until after the fight is over.
And fourth, this build uses the initiation function from Path of War, which has slightly different rules from initiation through feats for prestige classes like the dragon fury. The gist is that you can add half of your non-initiator levels (fighter) to your initiator levels (monk) to find out what maneuvers you can learn.
This build starts off with fighter, and adds monk later once it’s gotten some essential feats. Each level gets the regular bonuses to base attack bonus, saves, and spells!
Note: This build only goes to level 13 because that’s what we started at, and I didn’t want to work ahead on Shane’s character for him. So after that point, it’s up to you!
Level 1: Level 1 fighter
Though it’s not the core class for this build, fighter is a strong starting point, and builds the foundation you’ll need later on.
At this level, you get the high guardian’s Obligation feature, which lets you declare an ally as your obligation for the day. As you progress, you’ll unlock new abilities that let you protect your obligation in battle, including the Right Hand feature.
For your first-level character feat, take Armor Focus (gauntlets) to increase your AC bonus from gauntlets by 1. The monk of the silver fist uses gauntlets instead of unarmed strikes, so when you get there, this bonus will apply to your attack, damage, and CMD as well.
Level 2: Level 2 fighter
At this level, the high guardian gets its own special version of Combat Reflexes, which lets you make additional attacks of opportunity each round. Because it’s treated as a fighter ability, you can use your Strength instead of Dexterity to determine these attacks of opportunity.
You also unlock Unassailable Allegiance at this level, which gives you a bonus against compulsion spells and effects.
Level 3: Level 3 fighter
This is where the core of this build starts to show itself. The third-level character feat, Stand Still, means that if an enemy tries to move through your threatened squares, you can immediately make an attack of opportunity against that enemy. And if you succeed, that enemy cannot keep moving. It’s useful for protecting allies, and builds to more fun feats later on.
You also get armor training from being a fighter, but it’s pretty useless once you switch to monk.
Level 4: Level 4 fighter
One of the main functions of this build is to protect other players, and this level gives you two specific feats for that: Bodyguard, and In Harm’s Way.
Because they’re specifically for the high guardian’s Royal Protector feature, they are a little different; they can only be used to protect your chosen obligation. But even with that limitation, it’s extremely useful to get bonuses to protect allies and intercept attacks.
Level 5: Level 5 fighter
Normally, I like to switch out of base classes into final builds as soon as possible, but there’s a good reason for holding out this long: the fighter’s Weapon Training feature. At this level, fighters can choose a specific weapon group that they’re exceptionally skilled with, including monk weapons—which includes unarmed strikes and by extension, the monk of the silver fist’s gauntlets.
You also get a character feat at this level, which for this build is Steady Engagement. It builds off of Stand Still and lets you clothesline anyone you stop with an attack of opportunity. It’s important because it sets up for another feat down the line.
Level 6: Level 1 monk
Here’s where we start to have some fun. The monk of the silver fist is a martial archetype from Path of War, so it replaces traditional monk features like flurry of blows and stunning fist with martial maneuvers. It can choose from three martial disciplines:
When I wrote my Dragonsong build, I had assumed you had to choose one discipline. After reading how this class was written up (and lots of discussion at our table), we came to the conclusion that you could mix and match from those disciplines—so that’s what Shane opted to do.
By default, you can learn three maneuvers and one stance at this level, but the martial maneuver progression chart allows for more based on your initiator level if you’ve taken other levels before your martial level. It’s a lot like the chart that lets you have more spell slots for higher stats.
At this level, the Ultimate Guardian knows:
- Vigilant Keeper’s Stance
- Terrifying Blow
- Strike of the Infinite Protector
- Iron Shell
- Angering Smash
- Guard’s Oath
It’s worth noting that as you level up, you can switch out maneuvers (but not stances) for new ones. This build does make use of that feature later on!
The other major change at this level is that you get to fight like a monk now. The monk of the silver fist replaces unarmed strikes with gauntlet strikes, and gains fun features like Shielding Fist—which lets you apply an AC bonus for your gauntlets, as well as any enchantments they have, to your attack and damage rolls. Which, yes, means that if you have +2 gauntlets, you add that both to your AC and your attack and damage.
You also gain the standard defense bonuses for monks, including your AC bonus and later on your Wisdom modifier.
And lastly, at this level you unlock a bonus feat for being a monk of the silver fist, which for this build is Dodge.
Level 7: Level 2 monk
Though a bit quieter than the previous level, this one still has some major milestones for your Guardian. First up, you’ll unlock Evasion, a standard monk feature that lets you completely negate damage on any attack that says you can do a Reflex save to take half damage.
Second, the monk of the silver fist gets an additional maneuver and stance at this level, and can officially start switching maneuvers out as desired. For your stance, you’ll want to take Reaching Blade Stance, which gives you extra damage on every melee attack and reach on your first one each round.
For maneuvers, this build adds Tactical Snap here, which lets you make free trip attempts on a successful melee attack. It also switches out Iron Shell for Fear the Reaper, a counter that lets you counter any attack against yourself or any ally within 60 feet.
And lastly, at this level you get a second bonus monk feat, Deflect Arrows, as well as a level 7 character feat, Vicious Stomp. This is the last step in your wombo combo; now, anyone you trip or knock prone with Stand Still and Steady Engagement automatically provokes an attack of opportunity from you.
Level 8: Level 3 monk
This level is all about monk features! At this level, you unlock:
- Fast Movement, which gives you +10 movement
- Maneuver Training, which lets you apply your monk level to your CMB instead of your monk BAB
- Note: this doesn’t affect your fighter BAB!
- Still Mind, which gives you +2 on saving throws against enchantment spells and effects
Level 9: Level 4 monk
This level unlocks your ki points, a core monk feature. You start with a pool equal to half your monk level plus your Wisdom modifier, so it’ll grow with you. It’s important to note that the monk of the silver fist archetype does change this feature: Because you don’t have flurry of blows, you can’t use ki points for it. You do get the speed and dodge bonus options though.
You also gain a special ki feature: Mark of the Silver Fist. This lets you spend ki to mark an ally, who gains a +4 bonus to AC for rounds equal to 1 plus your Wisdom modifier, and any enemy that attacks your marked ally automatically provokes an attack of opportunity from you.
Additionally, as long as you have at least one point in your ki pool, all your gauntlet strikes count as magical weapons for the purpose of overcoming damage reductions. You also gain Slow Fall and your monk AC bonus at this level.
For your level 9 character feat, you’ll want to take Monastic Legacy, which lets you apply half your levels in other classes to your gauntlet strike damage table. Because of your fighter levels, this means each strike increases to 1d8.
Level 10: Level 5 monk
At this level, you unlock another stance and maneuver for your monk of the silver fist. This build also switches one out at this level, so what you’ll want is:
- Stance of the Eternal Guardian, which lets you grant an ally bonus AC and take some of their damage for them
- Intruder’s End, a counter that lets you declare an area your territory and then teleport to any enemies inside and smack them
- Salt Breeze Strike, which replaces Angering Smash and lets you deal big damage, as well as give opponents a negative to attack
You gain a couple of core monk features here: High Jump, which lets you increase your Acrobatics checks, and Purity of Body, which makes you immune to all diseases, even supernatural and magical.
Level 11: Level 6 monk
At this level, you get a bonus to your Slow Fall feature from earlier, and a couple of useful feats. For your level 6 monk bonus feat, you’ll want to take Mobility, which gives you a dodge bonus against attacks of opportunity for moving through threatened squares. This is a unique feat because ordinarily, dodge bonuses don’t actually stack—but because of this one’s writeup, it does.
You get a level 11 character feat, which for this build is Asura Technique. You might remember it from my Dragonsong build; it gives you more dodge bonus for moving, reduces enemy flanking bonuses, and builds to an incredibly deadly melee fighting feat chain.
Level 12: Level 7 monk
This level gives you two big core monk features: a change to your ki pool, and Wholeness of Body. At this level, as long as you have at least one point in your ki pool, your gauntlet strikes now count as cold iron and silver weapons to overcome damage reduction. And for two ki points, you can heal your own wounds, equal to your monk level.
You gain another maneuver at this level, Grim Guard’s Laughter. This fun boost lets you deal an extra 4d6 damage on a melee attack, then lets you demoralize all enemies within 30 feet.
Level 13: Level 8 monk
This is the final level of this build so far, since this is where we started in our game and I didn’t want to take all the fun away from Shane!
At this level, you get some improvements for your monk features, including Slow Fall and your AC bonus. And because of your Monastic Legacy feat from earlier, your gauntlet strike damage increases to 1d10 each.
Lastly, for your level 13 character feat, you’ll want to take Asura Motion, another core of my Dragonsong build. This feat means that as you hit different targets in a round of battle, whether it’s separate hits in a full-round action or with Cleave, you deal more damage. The first target takes your normal damage, the second one takes an extra 2d6, and the third one takes an extra 4d6.
So there you have it, the Ultimate Guardian! He’s been incredibly effective in the games we’ve played so far, especially at protecting squishy bards and casters from hobgoblins. Let me know if you try it too, and what you do with the build later on!