Build of the Week: Branch Pounce
Hope I didn’t leave anyone hanging the last couple of weeks. Leaping from one coast to the next is no simple feat. And neither is Branch Pounce. Go ahead and pounce on that link now. I’ll hang out here. Don’t worry about me: I have a nice view and plenty of tea.
Ready? Let’s fly.
I’ve been wanting to sink my teeth into this feat for a while. I’ve been fortunate enough to play with it successfully up to mid-tier. And now that I find myself flying over Chicago without wifi, this feels like the perfect opportunity to take the plunge. And if you think my puns will get any better, I hate to say it’s all downhill from here
Analyzing the Feat
The feat can be something of a trap, so make sure you understand all the pitfalls. Adding numerous d6’s of damage for a single feat that isn’t even restricted by your level requires some catch, right? So let’s take it apart.
First the feat requires that you make a “falling charge”. This doesn’t just mean you fall on someone as part of your charge, but that the charge was a straight line downward ending next to an opponent. This charge is still a full-round action, and is still limited to double your move speed. So the only way to reach that spicy 20d6 cap is to get a 100 foot move speed…which to be honest isn’t all that difficult.
Second, the feat infers that you must take falling damage for it to work. So feather fall and similiar effects will not help. Again, this isn’t hard to bypass.
Finally, and most frustrating for new players, the feat cannot be used to build a JRPG style Dragoon. That is, you cannot simply jump during a charge and get extra d6s because you figured out how to exceeed 20 feet with an acrobatics check. You must fall on an enemy. In other words, your charge must start on a solid surface and only move, at most, 5 feet in any direction on the x-y axis. This is the most difficult to overcome obstacle, and the one most likely to cause players to fall off the wagon and decide the fest is for NPCs.
Let’s Get High!
The discouraging moment I had with Branch Pounce was releasing those almost non-existant prerreqs didn’t mean much once I found out how difficult it is to consistently pull off at lower levels. In almost every case, it can be hard to pull off in PFS scenarios that take place indoors. Caves and small rooms are not your friends, and if you love your GM you should tell him your using this feat in advance so he can check the height of ceilings, because you’ll be asking every combat!
Terrain: Use the pre-existing terrain. Trees, ledges, ruins, rocks, boxes and even vehicles all make great platforms for an extra d6 or two. Remember to tell your GM before combat starts that your character is running across the bookshelves; you don’t want to spend time in combat positioning for a just a couple of extra dice.
Mundane Solutions: Climber’s Planks can help in a reverse ambush, but the DC20 ability score check can be difficult. Gecko Gloves serve as a sort of Spider Climb, but you really are better off having a racial climb speed. Rope and Ladders are always useful, and you should already have them if your a prepared adventurer who doesn’t dump strength.
Magic Solutions: Fly and Spider Climb are your friends, but whether or not the feat works if you have an active fly speed is up to table variation. The invaluable but single use Feather Token tree can give you an instant platform (and lift). This is also a wonderful combat application for our trusty Immovable Rods. But nothing will out class a flying vehicle, especially the Flying Carpet: your new fluffy mobile death platform!
Falling with Style
First and foremost, buy Boots of the Cat. Feather Fall will negate the falling damage, which means negating the Branch Pounce damage. Boots of the Cat are critical to using Branch Pounce and surviving!
That being said ,any melee class with adequate solutions for frequently getting higher than an opponent works for the build, but there are three specific classes that do it best: Unchained Monk, Barbarian and Kinetic Knight Kineticist.
Monk and Barbarian both give you extra movement speed and methods to obtain Pounce (be it Pummeling Style or Totem Rage Powers). The extra movement speed directly translates to extra d6s, since your “falling charge” distance is capped by your movement speed. The extra attacks won’t get extra dice, but are more damage. And, in the case of Monks, it can be used with the Style Strike “Flying Kick” to move away from your enemy, even back onto your mobile death platform i.e. Flying Carpet. Combine that with Rhino Charge and you can move up and away from or toward your next target, letting you Branch Pounce each round! Just use your standard action to “ready” the Rhino Charge “when I’m directly over my target”, then you will either immediately pounce (if you are already over your target) or pounce when you get your move action. After you’ve clawed your target to pieces, use your flying kick to attack that piece of yarn you left on your flying carpet…or jump back into your tree.
Kineticist can reach high places easily with various Infusions like Flame Jet, but you’ll have to look into traits, items and spells to increase your movement speed to keep up with the Monk and Barbarian. Charging with your Kinetic Blade on a Branch Pounce might seem excessive, but if you didn’t want to throw every d6 you owned you wouldn’t be here, right?
It goes without saying that the standard Sap Master Scout Thug Rogue cheese can work well too, but is a feat intensive build.