Build of the Week: White Fluffy Tail
There are so many ways to read a new sourcebook. Maybe you are looking for just the right feat for that explosive fire-mage you levelled-up last week? Or are you trying to find that perfect swashbuckler archetype for your aasimar? It’s natural that new material means new discoveries. But I’m going to argue today that the most exciting part about new content isn’t what you can discover in the new book, but rather what you can rediscover in older material.
There are plenty of really cool character options that just don’t work as well as we’d like. It’s always fun to try the archetype regardless, especially in a format lLike thisike Pathfinder Society where the scenarios aren’t (usually) designed to crush the party. But sometimes, if we are really lucky, those awesome archetypes and prestige classes will get an option that will bump them up from “probably made for NPCs” to pure awesome (or, at least, “occasionally gets the spotlight“). And one character concept in particular I’m proud to feature this week? The Martial White-Haired Witch.
Build Idea: The Tail
I’ve always loved the trope of characters so powerful they can non-chalantly strangle their victims with their tails, keeping their arms crossed or filing their nails as they spout of their evil plans. And when I heard a joke about a dwarf strangling people with his beard via this archetype, I was immediately inspired to build a kitsune capable of such a feat. And while I knew it wasn’t technically the kitsune’s tail, can anyone really tell the difference between the fur of a fox’s tail and the tail itself when its snapping your neck? Didn’t think so.
So the first thing I did was look for character options involving strangling. And boy there are a bunch! And while they deal with grappling, they mostly deal with doing sneak attack during a grapple. And I feel compelled right now to point out the difficulty of trying to combine a half-BAB caster with a three-quarters BAB rogue without the use of touch spells… especially if you need Strength! Fortunately, we’ve had a number of flavorful and fun options since the release of the White-Haired Witch that has actually helped bridge the gap between the White-Haired Witch and your typical Strangle themed character options. Specifically: Its ability to stack bludgeoning attacks.
But what are you going to do about “requiring strength”? Simple: Dump it. Unchained Rogue gives us Weapon Finesse. The initial grapple check can use your Intelligence modifier. And the kitsune’s Fox Form gives us +4 Dex (and a +2 size bonus), letting us hit more easily and offsetting the special size modifier to CMB as Tiny creatures can use Dexterity for any other Grapple CMB checks the build has to do. A crab familiar gives you an extra +2 CMB to grapple. And the rest can be offset with magic items and feats.
Archetype Analysis: White-Haired Witch
The archetype has long been the subject of ridicule, especially when you compare it to the Prehensile Hair hex. The hex has two distinct advantages: not eating up all your hexes if you wanted to play witch, and being far more suited for the Hexcrafter Magus as a way to stack an unholy number of debuffs in a single round. But what does the archetype itself actually do?
White Hair: This is the only real ability the archetype gets, replacing the primary class feature of the Witch: “Hex”. It’s a natural attack that does 1d4 damage and can grapple as a free action without provoking, or giving the witch the grapple condition. It let’s you use your intelligence modifier in lieu of Strength, but you still have to use Strength to make the attack roll. At level 4 and every 4 levels after, it gets an additional 5 feet of reach, letting the Witch eventually control the battlefield with her hair.
Constrict: At 2nd level, the witch gets the constrict special attack, dealing extra damage with each successful grapple.
Trip: At 4th level, a witch can also trip a creature as a free action when they hit them with their hair.
Pull: At 6th level, a witch can also attempt a combat maneuver to pull the creature closer to them.
Strangle: At 8th level, the witch can strangle its victim, leaving them unable to speak or cast spells as they are tripped, grappled, constricted and pulled closer to them.
Grabbing Tail/Lashing Tail/Michievous Tail: Super flavorful and quite useful. In addition to having an extra place to hold onto wands and potions, Lashing Tail lets you pick up Mischievous Tail, which lets you disarm and steal without provoking (effectively becoming two “improved” combat maneuvers). If you decide to go the Milanite route and take levels in Rose Warden, you can even Disarm with Sleight of Hand (which should be higher than any enemy CMD).
Rogue Talents: At level 10, and every 2 levels after, the white haired witch gets a rogue talent. Yes, this is as random as it sounds.
Build Options: Squeezing All The Things
Sap Adept/Sap Master: Doubles your sneak attack dice! As a multi-class rogue, you will need this to shore up your Sneak Attacks. You will quickly outpace any other rogues, though. You will need some way to make your hair do nonlethal damage, like a Merciful Amulet of Mighty Fists or the Bludgeoner feat.
Final Embrace: Grab is really good. The bludgeoning damage is another trigger for Sap Master! If you have room for Shatter Defenses in your build, Final Embrace Horror isn’t bad, but you likely won’t have enough feats.
Improved Grapple/Chokehold/Stranlger: Strangler lets you do a swift action to immediately do your sneak attack damage to your target. This may or may not be multiplied with Sap Master, but that’s up to GM fiat given you are grappling with a nonlethal bludgeoning weapon. We are going to have to take Dirty Fighting in Lieu of Combat Expertise since we don’t get Improved Unarmed Strike with this archetpye of brawler. Alternatively, you can get the Deep Red Sphere Ioun Stone to get Improved Unarmed Strike later on, and retrain this out for Combat Expertise, but Dirty Fighting is usually better.
Ambuscading Grapple (Rogue Talent): Free sneak attack damage on a grapple. Like Strangler, but without the swift action.
Offensive Defense (Core Rogue Talent): There is some debate on how you can qualify for this if you go Unchained Rogue, but Rose Warden/Shadow Dancer/Pathfinder Field Agent should get it in 2 or 3 levels. A white-haired with can also get it at level 10, but that’s a big dedication for this build that wants as much sneak attack as it can squeeze out of its levels.
Scout (Rogue Archetype): Flank can be such a pain. You know what isn’t a pain? Charging a target.
Strangler (Brawler Archetype): +2d6 Sneak Attack guaranteed even if you aren’t flanking? Where do I sign up?! No reason to take it past level 2, but this will make up for your reduced sneak attack. You shouldn’t even need Accomplished Sneak Attacker! Note this does not stack with Snakestriker Brawler, as they both change your class skills. The ability to grab a random combat feat is super useful though, as you can always use an additional feat from this feat heavy build.
Fox Shape: In addition to being adorable, the feat gives you lots of bonuses for hit-and-damage with the increased dexterity and size-bonuses, depsite the penalties to grapple CMB. But you get to use Dex to CMB without wasting a feat on Agile Maneuvers!
Detailed Build: Fluffy Tails
So I’ve given you a fairly clear suite of options you can choose from, and there is no “right answer” when it comes to how you want to strangle your enemies to death with your own tail…but I’m quite fond of this build, myself!
- Race: Kitsune (Skilled, Fast Shifter, Keen Kitsune)
- Class: White-Haired Witch 2/Scout Unchained Rogue 1/Strangler Brawler 2/Scout Unchained Rogue 2-5/Rose Warden 2
- 20 Point Buy: Str 10, Dex 17 (+1), Con 13 (+1), Int 15 (+1), Wis 12, Cha 13)
- Feats: Dirty Fighting (1), Improved Grapple (3), Weapon Finesse (B3), Sap Adept (B5), Fox Form (5), Sap Master (RT5), Strangler (5), Greater Grapple (7), Iron Will (9), Knockout Artist (11)
So what else needs to be said? Take Combat Feat, Ambuscading Grappler and Offensvie Defense for your rogue talents and insurgeant techniques respectively. Take a Crab Familiar for +2 to Grapple (I’d call mine Cap’n Snips). Do a hair attack at the end of a charge as a Scout (1), then grapple and do your constrict damage (2), to get a free ambuscading grpaple (3) and finally swift action for a chokehold (4). Each of these will do double your +6d6 sneak attack, for a total of +48d6+48 nonlethal sneak attack damage…granting you +48 AC. It’s a straight-forward single-option build that is probably best reserved for an NPC, but you can use this as a launching point for a far more interesting and engaging opponent.
ERRATA: Let’s go ahead and do Knock-out Artist now that it’s been clarified to me that White-Haired Witch does not qualify for Final Embrace.