December 15, 2015


Martial Archetype
Comment from the Palm: A variation on the Monk/Fighter, this one mostly just focuses on punching things really, REALLY hard. While not intended to be a conversion of the class from FF 14, it would certainly work as such. Also, yes, it's intended that you can use a shield with Close Quarters Combat, as I want a way to natively play Captain America. 
     Don't judge me. (Quick comment from the Finger: No judgement here; I wrote shield expert to scratch the same itch.)


Conventional thought states that a warrior is only as good as his weapon. For a pugilist, his weapon and his hands are one and the same. Though intense physical conditioning, a pugilist strives to forge his body into the ultimate tool of war, without relying on magic or the mystical crutch of Ki.

Close Quarters Combat
Starting when you choose this archetype at 3rd level, your study of unarmed fighting grants you mastery of combat styles utilizing such techniques. You gain the following benefits when you aren't wearing medium or heavy armor or using a shield:
  • You can use your Dexterity instead of Strength for attack and damage rolls of your unarmed strikes, and you can use your Strength instead of Dexterity for determining your AC.
  • When you take the attack action on your turn, you can use a bonus action to attempt to grapple a creature within your reach.
  • Your unarmed strikes and fist weapons deal 1d4 damage, and deal increased damage as you gain levels in the fighter class, as shown below:
    • 7th level    1d6 
    • 10th level  1d8 
    • 15th level  1d10 
    • 18th level  1d12 

Close Quarters Fighting Styles
At 3rd level, you learn to utilize your traditional combat training in unique ways, granting you a measure of flexibility better suited to your chosen path. Your chosen Fighting Style changes in the following ways when you aren't wearing medium armor, heavy armor, and aren't using a shield:
     Defense. You gain an additional +1 to your AC, for a total of +2, and you gain this bonus even if you are not wearing armor.
     Dueling. Your unarmed strikes deal +2 damage. You are treated as if you are wielding a one-handed finesse weapon for the purposes of feats and other class abilities.
     Great Weapon Fighting. When rolling damage for an unarmed strike, you can reroll any 1s or 2s. You must keep the new result, even if it is a 1 or 2. You can treat unarmed strikes as attacks with two-handed heavy weapons for the purposes of feats and other class abilities.
     Protection. You gain the benefits of Close Quarters Combat and Close Quarters Fighting Style while using a shield. When you take the attack action on your turn, you can use a bonus action to make an additional attack with the shield you are wielding, which deals 1d4 bludgeoning damage.
     Two-Weapon Fighting. When you take the Attack action on your turn, you can make an additional unarmed strike as a bonus action. You are treated as if you are wielding two one-handed light weapons for purposes of feats and other class abilities.
     Additionally, as an action on your turn, you can choose to replace any of your current fighting styles with a different fighting style, though you still cannot benefit from the same style more than once. Starting at 7th level, you can replace your fighting style/styles as a bonus action instead of an action. 

Intensive Training
At 7th level, your training has given you an edge in all physical contests. Add half your proficiency modifier to all Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution checks that you do not already add your proficiency modifier to. Additionally, you can select either Athletics or Acrobatics: you gain proficiency in this skill, or double it if you already had proficiency.

Knockout Blow
At 10th level, you have learned to channel your impressive physical power into a single, devastating blow. When you use the Attack action on your turn to make an unarmed strike, you can forgo any additional attacks you gain from the Extra Attack feature. For each attack you would give up in this way, you can add two additional damage dice to your unarmed damage roll, and the attack is treated as magical for the purposes of bypassing damage resistance and immunity. You must choose to use this ability before the attack is rolled.

Close Quarters Master
At 15th level, you've become a true master of unarmed combat. You learn an additional Fighting Style, and you have advantage on grappling checks against creatures of your size or smaller. Additionally, you can attempt to grapple creatures two size categories larger than yourself.

Focused Offense
Starting at 18th level, once per turn when you deal damage to a creature with an unarmed strike, you can heighten your awareness of their attacks. You gain resistance to any damage that creature deals to you until the beginning of your next turn.

New Weapons
Weapon  Cost  Damage  Weight  Properties
Cestus    -1d4 bludgeoning  2 lb.  Fist
Punching Dagger    -1d4 piercing  2 lb.  Fist
Claw Gauntlet    -1d4 slashing  2 lb.  Fist

Cestus. A cestus can take many shapes, but in all cases it is comprised of some sort of glove or hand wrapping covered with metal, stone, bone, or some other hard, blunt material, normally worn in pairs. Unarmed fighters often use them simply to protect their hands, but they are also useful for covering in special materials, such as silver or alchemist's fire. Wearing a cestus allows your unarmed strikes to deal 1d4 points of bludgeoning damage.
     Claw gauntlet. Claw gauntlets take two general forms: either a gauntlet with one to three long, sharp claws extending from the top of the arm to approximately one foot past the end of the wearer's fist, or a glove/gauntlet with sharp metal talons extending from the ends of the fingertips. In either case, they serve to slice the wearer's opponents to ribbons. Wearing a claw gauntlet allows your unarmed strikes to deal 1d4 points of slashing damage.
     Punching dagger. This unique style of dagger consists of one or more blades attached to an H-framed handle, allowing a proficient user to augment his unarmed strikes. Wielding a punching dagger allows your unarmed strikes to deal 1d4 points of piercing damage.

New Weapon Property
     Fist. You can treat attacks with this weapon as unarmed strikes.

4/15/17 Multiple balance changes:
 - You can now use either Strength or Dexterity to determine their AC when wearing Light or no armor.
 - Knockout Blow is treated as Magical for purposes of overcoming damage resistance and immunity.
8/9/17: Added in 7th level ability to swap fighting styles as a bonus action. Changed Defensive CQC ability.
Deadblow: Replaced by Focused Offense


  1. To answer a question I got from a few others right off the bat, let me say that the Fist weapons serve an important purpose for the Pugilist: without them, the Pugilist has no way to get magic damage into his normal attack chain. He could use normal weapons like a regular fighter, but then he's clearly a sub-optimal choice. If you as a DM want to allow this class into the game, please consider adding in fist weapons as well.

  2. It would seem fist weapons also count as monk weapons as written - was this intentional? I really like the idea of a dual-katar wielding monk right now.

    1. Yes, they would also work as monk weapons.

  3. At the top in your comment it says it is intended so that you can use a shield with close combat. But in close combat it says you can't.

    1. 'Protection: You gain the benefits of Close Quarters Combat and Close Quarters Fighting Style while using a shield. When you take the attack action on your turn, you may use a bonus action to make an additional attack with the shield you are wielding, which deals 1d4 bludgeoning damage.'

    2. Ha! I got caught by the same thing when I first read this one.

  4. So I don't really understand how deathblow and knockout blow are beneficial. I feel like using them would drastically reduce your chances to hit and prospective damage.

    1. Each attack that you sacrifice grants you two additional damage dice for knockout blow and three for deathblow. So if you're level 20, you could attack four times for 1d10+mod damage each time or you could attack once for 10d10+mod damage, so the prospective damage is much higher at risk of you missing the one attack

    2. sctually, At Level 20, Deathblow would kick in, so it'd be the difference between 4d10+20 across 4 attacks and 9d10+5 for one.

      At level 10, when you get it, you're hitting twice for 2d10+10, avg. of 21 damage. Knockout blow turns that into 3d10+5, or 21.5 avg damage, and gives much higher returns on critical hits and when using great weapon fighting.

    3. Yeah, but then any fighting style except for gwf is suboptimal.
      Or maybe twf

  5. So, the fighting stlyes change, meaning previous bonuses don't apply, right? Also, what happens if someone picks the Hand-and-a-half homebrewed fighting style?

    1. Because they are home rules or not officially sanctioned, I only included fighting styles that one could get out of the PHB ( Except archery, for obvious reasons). I'll make an addendum on here at some point for all Non-official fighting styles, including any home-brew (On this blog only) and Unearthed Arcana. not all styles need a change (Mariner comes to mind) so i'll only include those that do.

    2. Also, no, the previous bonuses do not go away, unless the change says otherwise. Example: The Defensive CQF says that it grants an additional +1 to AC, granting a total of +2. this only works is the previous style bonus still worked.

    3. Thanks for the reply, I asked about Hand-and-a-Half becouse I found it here so I was suprised not to see it. As for the previous bonuses I was confused as it said "change" and the defensive did say "additional". Thanks for the clear up. Oh, and, where can I find the Tunnel fighter? I'm not familiar with UD, whatever that stands for.
      Anyway, Pugilist is very interesting, and I look forward to trying it out!

    4. Nevermind, I found it. It's in Light, Dark, Underdark along with Close Combat shooter (in case a future reader doesen't know).

  6. On the Two-Weapon Fighting for Close Quarters Fighting Styles how many attacks does this class get? It says you treat your unarmed attacks as light and that you get an 'additional' unarmed attack as a bonus action. So does this mean that if you do the attack action you get to hit once with an unarmed attack, or does this stack with two-weapon fighting and you do two unarmed strikes as a bonus action?

    1. "When you take the Attack action on your turn, you can make AN additional unarmed strike as a bonus action. You are treated as if you are wielding two one-handed light weapons for purposes of feats and other class abilities."

      Emphasis mine. You can make one unarmed strike as a bonus action, so long as you take the attack action first. The second part of this fighting style means that, when you are unarmed, you can still, say, gain the +1 to AC from the Dual Wielder feat that you would gain if you were wielding two weapons.

  7. Following a hefty bit of playtesting, this subclass is going to get some rework to get the feel more where I want it to be. I was worried about it being too OP, but even when Knockout Punching for 5d8+6 at level 11 every round (the DM gave me a belt of Stone Giant Strength), I was consistently out damaged by my party's rogue, which makes sense.

  8. Is the STR in place of DEX for AC new?
    As I was telling my DM I originally passed this over because I thought it went with a DEX focus just like monk. He said he never noticed that either, so I'm assuming we didn't both just gloss over it and that it was part of the April changes.


    1. Sorry the changelog isn't awesome on this one -- I blame the Palm. We /did/ just do a ton of reworks a few days ago, including completely changing the capstone, because the Palm is currently playtesting it. So it's probably new.

    2. Yeah, that's new, and YES, THE CHANGELOG IS MY FAULT.

      Mostly, 5e isn't built for the power fantasy of the "Big Strong Guy What Punches Things", so a LOT of tweaks needed to be made. I will adjust the change log to show specific changes made, that one is my bad.

  9. Ah yes. I felt a visceral attraction towards this subclass but set it aside because it felt meh at the time. Kudos to y'all for playtesting and redoing it.

    1. I've been meaning to for a while. It feels very good now, flexible and unique.

  10. The new changes feel great!! I have been using this since last year, and let me tell you it felt a little weak, my dm let me use some other fighting stlyes: Tunnel Fighter, Lead from the Front, Back Fist Strike, Hand and a Half.

    With the buff to be able to change styles with a bonus action, tons of opennings are available now! Also the little tweak for the armor felt just so rewarding, since STR is a must max if you are going for grapples.

    Magical Knockout its ehh, since you could achieve that with a magic fist weapon.

    Im eager to try the Focused Offensive, i can roleplay as barely dodging, getting grasped, good for my Tiger-man gladiator.

    Keep up the good work, and thanks for the new updates!

    1. Also, about lvl 7th extra prof, in odd lvls (+3,+5), do we round down or up?

    2. Since the 7th level feature is functionally similar to the Champion's 7th level feature, I believe that you always round up.

      I'm glad you're enjoying it! The Fighting styles from Hero of Legacy should work perfectly for an unarmed fighter like the pugilist.

      The Magical change for knockout punch is to ensure it stays relevant: unlike 3.5, there is no inherent benefit to doing a lot of damage with one shot vs. doing the same amount of damage over several hits, except in certain circumstances.

      And yeah, focused offensive was there to keep knockout punch from getting far too insane. 10d12+5 damage per round averages WAY higher than other comparable fighters, but 7d12+5 does not.

    3. Ah! That makes sense!

      Yes, being able to switch from defensive to offensive, to counter offensive, while not sacrificing your action its really useful. Also, after lvl 15, we can use action and bonus action to switch both fighting styles??

      That's also true, and the magical property just saved me from a cocky Warden, he had this cell made of magic metal (inmmunity to physical attacks) while in a antimagic Field, made a bet with the warden, one punch the cell door for 50 dmg, won a lot of money and our freedom..

      Being more durable its also a way to be stronger, i personally dont care that much for damage but for utility and versatility.

      Have you thought to make more control type fighting syles? Like shove,push, grappling, etc..

    4. At 15th level, you can use yours bonus action to switch any styles you have. This isn't limited to those granted by the fighter class, either.

      In my experience so far, the pugilist is an exceptionally proficient grappler at higher levels. Expertise on Athletics checks and advantage on grappling checks means you're rolling twice with around a +14 on average to grapple something. That said, more fighting styles are always good.