Lasers & Feelings Hack for fantasy dungeon-crawling

Characters in Lasers & Feelings (a free, one-page RPG. It’s so good!) are defined by contrast & tension. It’s right there in the name: Lasers oppose Feelings. They pull characters apart instead of leading them to a single point.  It’s quite a paradigm shift for me, because I usually build characters around a central theme, with each detail re-enforcing the others.  Can I define the stock characters of fantasy dungeon-delving in terms of contrast?  Let’s try!

Rogue: cowardice & greed
Heists, reconnaissance, and assassinations are tense activities, so it’s easy to see how a Rogue is torn between making the score and avoiding a fair fight.

Wizard: knowledge & destruction
Wizards are nerds that love books, research, and high-quality paper. Wizards will also turn you into a newt, strike you with lightning, and drop you through a portal to Hell.

Bard: sex & puns
This is the cultural consensus on proper Bard activities, although not many systems provide official support for them.

Fighter: combat
The Fighter only has one stat, because Fighters are one-dimensional and boring. A fighter who tries to do something that doesn’t fall under “combat” fails without rolling.

Jam, the Whirlwind Spear

While building “#1 Sap Master” I lamented that there were no finesseable reach weapons, but one does exist!  The Elven Branched Spear is not only finesseable, but gets a +2 bonus to attacks of opportunity.  So I built a Monk around it.  I didn’t try for the Flowing Monk this time, just an Unchained Monk, which is basically Monk 2.0.

The reach weapon (acquired through Ancestral Arms) and her high Dexterity gives her lots of AOOs, and Panther Style also gives her a pool of “retaliatory unarmed strikes” that she can use each round by provoking AOOs from her enemies.  Flying Kick lets her move during a Flurry of Blows, so she can take all 3 attacks on her turn, move past enemies and retaliate when they take their AOOs, then take her own AOOs if the enemies she left behind try to close in again.  She doesn’t hit hard, but she hits often, growing more dangerous as she faces more foes.

I named her after Jam from Guilty Gear, who fights with quick strikes, flying kicks, blazing fast dashes, and a distinctive “HOOOO!” battle cry.  She’s basically that, but with a spear.


Female Half-Elf Unchained Monk 7
N Medium humanoid (human, elf)
Init +7; Senses darkvision 60ft., Perception +8


AC 25, touch 21, flat-footed 20 (+1 Armor, +5 DEX, +4 WIS, +1 monk +1 deflect +3 natural) +4 vs AOOs
hp 64 (7d10+28)
Fort +9, Ref +12, Will +4 (+2 vs. enchantment, +2 vs charm & compulsion) Immune: disease


Speed 50 ft.
flurry of blows unarmed strike +12/+12/+7 1d8+5
+1 elven branched spear +13/+8 1d8 x3 P (brace, reach, +2 attack on AOOs)

Special Attacks Stunning Fist 7/day FORT 17 stunned 1 rnd OR fatigued 1 min


Str 10, Dex 20, Con 14, Int 9, Wis 20, Cha 7
Base Atk +7; CMB 7; CMD 27
Feats Combat Reflexes, Dodge, Exotic Weapon Proficiency (elven branched spear), Improved Unarmed Strike, Mobility, Panther Style, Panther Claw, Panther Parry, Stunning Fist, Weapon Finesse
Skills Acrobatics +13, knowledge (history) +3, knowledge (religion) +3, Perception +8, Sense Motive +10, Stealth +13
Languages Common, Elven
Special Qualities

  • Ancestral Arms: Exotic Weapon Proficiency (elven branched spear)
  • Blended Views: Darkvision 60 ft.
  • Evasion: no damage on successful Reflex save.
  • Ki pool: 7 points
    • spend 1 point: gain 1 attack at full BAB as part of full attack
    • Sudden Speed. swift action, 1 ki point: increase base land speed by 30 ft. for 1 minute.
    • Barkskin: standard action, 1 ki point: +3 natural armor bonus for 70 min.
  • Ki strike: unarmed attacks overcome DR for magic, cold iron, and silver
  • Style Strike
    • Flying kick: During flurry of blows, move up to 20 ft. (provoking AOOs as normal), ending adjacent to a foe and kicking it.
  • Combat Reflexes: 6 AOOs per round
  • Panther Style: When you provoke an AOO by movement, make a retaliatory unarmed strike against the creature making the AOO (limit 4/round). If you damage the creature, its AOO takes -2 on attack and damage.

Traits: reactionary (+2 initiative), focused disciple (+2 saves vs. charm & compulsion)
Gear: +2 cloak of resistance,+2 Belt of Dexterity, +2 headband of Wisdom, agile amulet of mighty fists, +1 bracers of armor, +1 elven branch spear, +1 ring of protection, handy haversack, monk’s kit, ioun torch.

Three-armed fighter

In my last post, I said that Triali could be just as effective if she were a two-handed fighter, so I built a two-handed fighter who uses her third hand to hold a tower shield.  She’s Triali’s half-orc half-sister.  The Two-Handed Fighter archetype makes two-handed weapons hit even harder.  Her Alchemist levels also grants her mutagen and a few spells like enlarge person that let her hit harder and control more area.

Chely Temminck

Female Half-Orc Two-Handed Fighter 5/ Alchemist 2
N Medium humanoid (human, orc)
Init +4; Senses darkvision 120ft., Perception +?


AC 28, touch 15, flat-footed 27 (+10 Armor, +1 DEX, +6 shield +1 deflection)
hp 68 (7d10+28)
Fort +14, Ref +10, Will +7


Speed 20 ft.
MW adamantine Lucerne Hammer +13/+6, 1d12+14 (x2) B or P
MW halberd +13/+6 1d10+14 (x3) P or s
MW cold iron Orc double axe +11/+4 1d8+13 (x3) S
MW alchemical silver Orc double axe +11/+4 1d8+12 (x3) S
MW composite longbow +9 1d8 (x3)
Special Attacks Overhand Chop, Shattering Strike

Alchemist Formulae prepared:
level 1 (DC 12) expeditious retreat, enlarge person, enlarge person


Str 20, Dex 14, Con 16, Int 12, Wis 10, Cha 7
Base Atk +6; CMB 11; CMD 23 (+6 vs. Bull rush & overrun)
Feats Combat Reflexes, Furious Focus, Iron Will, Mobile Bulwark Style, Mobile Fortress, Power Attack, Shield Focus, Weapon Focus (Lucerne Hammer)
Skills 18 ranks sraft (alchemy) +11 (+5 to create alchemical items), linguistics +2, spellcraft +6
Languages Common, Orc, Elven, Giant
Special qualities

  • Missile Shield: once per round, when a ranged attack would hit you, deflect it harmlessly.
  • Vestigial Arm: a third arm to hold the tower shield
  • Overhand Chop: add 2*STR instead of 1.5*STR when making a single attack
  • Mutagen: 20min duration. +4 to STR or DEX or CON, -2 to INT or WIS or CHA, respectively
  • Shattering Strike: +1 to CMD and CMB on sunder attempts. +1 damage against objects
  • Combat Reflexes: 3 AOOs per round
  • Sacred Tattoo: +1 luck bonus on all saves
  • Fate’s Favored: increase all luck bonuses by 1
  • Reactionary: +2 initiative
  • Weapon Training: +1 attack and damage for two-handed polearms
  • Dragon Sight: darkvision 120 ft.
    Traits: fate’s favored, reactionary
    Gear: +1 full plate, +1 tower shield, +1 ring of protection, +2 cloak of resistance, +2 belt of strength, MW adamantine lucarne hammer, MW halberd, MW cold iron/alchemical silver orc double axe, MW composite longbow, 20x arrows, 20x blunt arrows, cracked pale green prism ioun stone, ioun torch, 50 ft. Rope, fighter’s kit.

Triali the three-armed scarecrow

Triali’s not an effective character.  Her average damage is the same as a fighter with a greatsword and Power Attack + Furious Focus.  That fighter also get heavy armor and seven feats to spare.  Worse, Triali’s damage is unpredictable, as seen in the graph above.  Maybe those huge damage spikes instantly kill a boss, or maybe they overkill some mooks.  That’s what makes her exciting to play, watching the pieces interact and waiting for the explosion!

The center of the build is Butterfly’s Sting, which allows a character to pass a critical hit to an ally.  So one character uses a weapon (or dual-wields two weapons) that has a high crit range to maximize the number of critical hits, and another uses a two-handed weapon with a high critical multiplier, to maximize the damage of those critical hits.

Here’s the twist: a character counts as her own ally, and with a third arm from an Alchemist discovery she can wield both a kukri (which crits often) and a scythe, (which crits really hard).

She’s a Ranger so she can focus on Strength and get Two-Weapon Fighting feats through her combat style without meeting the Dexterity Requirements.  That also means she gets an animal companion.  Since she carries a scythe, I gave her a big raven and a scarecrow aesthetic.  She does the samurai thing of shrugging off one shoulder of her jacket when preparing to fight, not just to give her left arm freedom of movement, but also to reveal her other left arm!

In the future she’ll get Power Attack, to make her hits bigger and less predictable.  She’ll enchant the kukri with keen, so it crits more often, and add thundering and shocking burst to the scythe, so it will literally crit like a thunderbolt.


Female Human Ranger 5/ Alchemist 2
N Medium humanoid (human)
Init +2; Senses Perception +11

AC 21, touch 13, flat-footed 21 (+7 Armor, +2 DEX, +1 deflect +1 natural)
hp 56 (10 + 6d8+20)
Fort +11, Ref +11, Will +6 ( +2 Will vs. divine spells)

Speed 30 ft.
Melee +1 kukri +11 1d4+3 (18-20/x2) +1 scythe +11/+6 2d4+8 (x4)
Ranged MW composite longbow +8 1d8 (x3)
Special Attacks favored enemy (humanoid(human) +4, undead +2)
Alchemist Formulae prepared:
1. (DC 12) shield, long arm, enlarge person
Ranger Spells prepared:
1.  (DC 12) longstrider

Str 20, Dex 14, Con 14, Int 13, Wis 12, Cha 7
Base Atk +6; CMB 11; CMD 23
Feats Butterfly’s Sting, Combat Expertise, endurance, iron will, two-weapon fighting, weapon focus (kukri), weapon focus (scythe)
Skills 45 ranks: Perception +11, Stealth +11,  Swim +9, Climb +9, Knowledge (nature) +11, Knowledge (geography) +11, Handle Animal +8, Perform (pipe) +4
Languages Common
SQ Vestigial Arm, Hunter’s Bond: Raven (Daszo)
Traits: anatomist, disdainful defender
Gear: +1 Mithral Breastplate, Cloak of Resistance +2, Ring of Protection +1, Amulet of Natural Armor +1, Belt of STR +2, +1 kukri, +1 scythe, MW Composite Longbow, 20x arrows, 20x blunt arrows, ranger’s kit

“#1 Sap Master”

This Pathfinder character is based on the Sap Master feat that doubles sneak attack damage when attacking a flat-footed opponent with non-lethal bludgeoning damage. That’s a lot of conditions

  • sneak attack
  • flat footed
  • non-lethal
  • bludgeoning

I need sneak attack and a way to make opponents flat-footed.  Rogues have sneak attack, and there’s a Flowing Monk archetype whose AOOs make opponents flat-footed.  I’ll multi-class.

  • sneak attack ✅
  • flat footed ✅

Unarmed strikes (Monk’s specialty) are bludgeoning and can be non-lethal, so that’s a great fit.

  • non-lethal ✅
  • bludgeoning ✅
  • AOO

Rogues and Monks both have reason to maximize Dexterity, so I planned to get Weapon Finesse so my accuracy is based on Dex, not Str.  But I need AOOs to make my combo work, and reach weapons threaten more areas, so enemies provoke more AOOs.  No reach weapon is finessable (except whips, which require a huge investment to work).

I decided to drop Weapon Finesse and maximize Str over Dex.  I wanted the reach weapon to also deal non-lethal bludgeoning damage (like my close-range unarmed strikes). The Bludgeoner feat allows me to deal non-lethal damage with any bludgeoning weapon, but Monks and Rogues are not proficient with any bludgeoning reach weapons. Half-Elves have an alternate racial trait called Ancestral Arms that awards proficiency with one martial or exotic weapon, so I picked the Lucerne Hammer and was ready to actually build the character!

  • sneak attack ✅
  • flat footed ✅
  • non-lethal ✅
  • bludgeoning ✅
  • AOO ✅
  • Flowing Monk 2 ✅
  • Rogue 5 ✅
  • Half-Elf ✅
  • STR, not DEX ✅

As I started selecting ability scores and looking up class features, I remembered that Rogues are bad.  3/4 BAB, d8 HD, and light armor makes melee combat dangerous, but I planned to be in melee all the time.  There’s an Alchemist archetype called Vivisectionist that gets Sneak Attack just like a Rogue.  If I was going to have the weak BAB, HD, and armor, I might as well get spellcasting to go with it.  So Rogue was out, and Vivisectionist was in.

The Vestigial Arm discovery let me hold a shield and a two-handed weapon at once, boosting my low AC, but I didn’t have shield proficiency.  Building the shield from Darkwood reduced the penalty for wielding the shield to zero, which is just as good as proficiency.  Similarly, a mithral breastplate that I was not proficient in inflicted a penalty of zero.  So my alchemist/monk used a weapon, shield, and armor that alchemists and monks are not proficient in.

Alchemist Mutagen boosted my Str, and the Feral Mutagen discovery gave me three natural attacks.  Those three attacks with regular, lethal sneak attack dealt far more damage than the single non-lethal weapon attack with double sneak attack.  Should I drop Sap Master, the whole reason for this build?

Non-lethal Vivisectionist

  • Vivisectionist Alchemist
  • Feral Mutagen
  • 3 natural attacks with sneak attack
  • non-lethally maul people into submission

But wait! Feral Mutagen does not specify the damage type of the bite and claw attacks, so I must fall back to the defaults.  The bestiary has a table of natural attacks and their damage types.  Both Bite and Claw deal bludgeoning damage (as well as other damage types) which means the Bludgeoner feat affects them and I get double sneak attack damage on all three attacks! Now my character had two modes:

Normal form

  • 2 hands on Lucerne Hammer
  • 1 hand on shield
  • 1 free hand for potions, etc.
  • Get AOOs with Lucerne  Hammer to make opponents flat-footed
  • Continue to hit at reach with Lucerne Hammer, or use unarmed strike up close

Mutagen form

  • 1 hand to hold Lucerne Hammer (can’t use it)
  • 1 hand on shield
  • 2 hands make Claw attacks
  • Bite attack too
  • 3 natural attacks do a lot of damage, even without the Sap Master bonus.
  • At the end of my turn, I put a second hand on the Lucerne Hammer so I can make AOOs with it.

I was almost done with the character when I re-read the Unbalancing Counter text one more time, and realized that the entire build didn’t work. Hitting with an AOO wasn’t enough to make the opponenet flat-footed. The opponent also got to make a save. The save was based on Monk level and would be DC 11 forever, low enough to be irrelevant.  I had no way to make opponents flat-footed.  I’d never get to use Sap Master.

Since I had no use for the Monk levels, and was non-proficient with my weapon, armor, and shield, I switched to Fighter 1/Alchemist 6.  I didn’t need the Half-Elf ability to get proficiency with my weapon, so I switched to human for the extra feat.  Now I could wear heavy armor and a shield and get into flanking to trigger sneak attacks.  I swapped the Lucerne Hammer and Mithral Breastplate for an Earthbreaker and Full Plate.

Invisible Tank

  • use Stealth skill and Invisibility spells to open combat with Sap Master attacks on opponents who haven’t acted yet.
  • another melee character in my party moves around to flank with me, since I’m slow.
  • 3 natural attacks with sneak attack still do a lot of non-lethal damage.

Armor Check Penalties make sneaking in Plate armor difficult, and I’m not sure Pathfinder allows me to sneak up behind someone using the Stealth skill. Charge during the surprise round? Fortunately, I remembered another feat that allows me to make opponents flat-footed.

Catch Off-Guard lets me attack with improvised weapons without penalty, which is fun to roleplay.  It also says that unarmed opponents are flat-footed vs. my attacks with improvised weapons.  Clearly I’ll just have to disarm people.  Improved Disarm and a flail give me bonuses to disarming opponents, and I hold an improvised weapon in the other hand to use once they are disarmed.  The weapon is a trophy, reading “#1 Sap Master”  The chance to disarm is disappointing, especially compared to Crusher’s inescapable grip, but the concept is fun to roleplay, so I’m still happy with it. Sort of.  I want more to-hit and better saves.

Catch Off-Guard Shenanigans

  • Alchemist 6/Fighter 1
  • Flail in one hand to disarm
  • Trophy in other hand to use as improvised weapon
  • Shield in third hand
  • Feral mutagen is still an option

That’s the long, winding road from nimble Monk/Rogue with a reach weapon to heavily-armored mutant who knocks people out with a trophy for knocking people out.


Number One
Male Human Fighter 1/ Alchemist (Vivisectionist, Beastmorph) 6
N Medium humanoid(human)
Init +4; Senses Perception +10

AC 24, touch 11, flat-footed 23 (+10 Armor, +1 DEX, +3 shield)
hp 56 (10 + 6d8+20)
Fort +12, Ref +9, Will +6

Speed 20 ft.
Melee MW Flail +11 1d8+5 non-lethal
or MW Flail +15 vs CMD disarm
or “#1 Sap Master” trophy +12 vs flat footed AC, 1d6 + 5 non-lethal
Ranged MW composite longbow +8 1d8 (x3) non-lethal
Special Attacks (3d6+3 sneak attack, double if flat-footed)
Alchemist Formulae prepared:
1. (DC 13) enlarge person x2, vanish x2, expeditious retreat
2. DC 14) barkskin, bull’s strength x2, invisibility

Str 20, Dex 14, Con 14, Int 15, Wis 10, Cha 8
Base Atk +5; CMB 10 (+5 disarm); CMD 21
Feats Bludgeoner, Brew Potion, Combat Reflexes, Improved Initiative, Iron Will, Sap Adept, Sap Master, Throw Anything
Skills perception +10, craft(alchemy) +11, spellcraft +11, acrobatics +3, knowledge nature +11, knowledge arcana +11, climb +2, swim +2 (ACP = -6)
Languages Common, +2 more
SQ Beastmorph Mutagen, Improved Beastmorph Mutagen, Mutagen, poison use, Feral Mutagen, Wings, Vestigial Arm
Traits: Surprise Weapon, Reactive
Gear: +1 Full Plate, +1 Heavy Wooden Shield, Cloak of Resistance +2, , Belt of STR +2, Headband of INT+2, +1 Amulet of Mighty Fists, MW Flail, MW Composite Longbow, 20x arrows, 20x blunt arrows, alchemist’s kit, “#1 Sap Master” trophy

Improved Feral Beastmorph Mutagen: 60min duration. +4 STR, -2 INT, 2 1d6 claws, 1 1d8 bite, 2 of the following abilities (climb 30 feet, fly 30 feet (average maneuverability), swim 30 feet, darkvision 60 feet, low-light vision, and scent.)

What do I do with my hands?
3 arms: shield, flail, “#1 Sap Master” trophy
3 arms with mutagen: 1 for shield, 2 for claws.

Attack with mutagen: bite +13 1d8+7, 2 claws +13 1d6+7 non-lethal

Crusher, the emotionless Barbarian

Pathfinder’s Android race has two features that are very interesting to Barbarians.

  1. Immune to morale bonuses.  The stat buffs from rage are morale bonuses.
  2. Immune to fatigue.  Ending Rage makes Barbarians fatigued, and they can’t enter rage again until the fatigue wears off.

Combining these two makes an interesting Barbarian who does not get stat bonuses, but can use powerful “once per rage” abilities every round, by beginning and ending rage every round.

At first I pursued the robot theme by selecting the Savage Technologist archetype, which has the appealing pistol + sword fighting style. Using a pistol in melee without provoking AOOs sounds great, but reloading still provokes, and reloading requires a free hand, which Crusher doesn’t have because he’s holding a sword.   It was too much trouble.

Strength Surge adds barbarian level to one CMB check, so I looked for a combat maneuver to specialize in.  The Brutal Pugilist archetype and Animal Fury rage power reward grappling, so I built a grappler. I chose level 7 because that’s when Greater Grapple becomes available, which lets me make two grapple checks per round.  Since Androids get a bonus to Dexterity, Crusher uses Dexterity instead of Strength for all his rolls.  (Maybe the three feats aren’t worth the slightly higher numbers, but I’m tired of doing math.)

The average CMD for a CR 7 enemy is 26, so Crusher succeeds on a 2.  Each time he maintains a grapple, he bites, and he can choose to deal damage when he maintains a grapple, so he can bite up to four times in one round. He can also reliably tie up foes with an escape DC in the 40s.

His defenses are fine.  23 AC will stop 60% of attacks.  Alas, the -2 AC penalty from rage is not  a morale penalty, so it still applies.  He’s immune to a number of status effects and has bonuses against others, including mind-effecting, the worst kind of save for a melee monster to fail.

Male Android Barbarian (Brutal Pugilist) 7
N Medium humanoid, construct
Init +6; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +13

AC 23, touch 14, flat-footed 18 (+7 Armor, +5 DEX, +2 shield, +1 deflect -2 rage)
hp 76 (7d12+28)
Fort +10, Ref +10, Will +5 (+4 vs. Mind-effecting, paralysis, poison, stun)
Defensive Abilities DR 1/–, Immune disease, sleep, fear, emotion, fatigue, exhaustion
Speed 40 ft.
Melee unarmed strike +14/+9 1d4+6 (19-20/x2), bite +8 1d4+3
Ranged MW composite longbow +14/+9 1d8 (x3)
Special Attacks rage (19 rounds/day), rage powers (animal fury, strength surge +7, brawler)

Str 10, Dex 22, Con 16, Int 9, Wis 12, Cha 6
Base Atk +7; CMB 13 (+5 grapple); CMD 24 (+3 vs. grapple)
Feats Agile Maneuvers, Improved Grapple, Greater Grapple, Weapon Finesse
Skills 11 skill points Perception +13, Acrobatics +12
Languages Common
SQ fast movement, Pit Fighter (+1 grapple CMB, +1 grapple CMD), Improved Savage Grapple
Gear: +1 Mithral Breastplate, +1 Buckler, Cloak of Resistance +2, Ring of Protection +1, Belt of DEX +2, Agile Amulet of Mighty Fists, MW cold iron Cestus, MW alchemical silver Cestus, MW Composite Longbow, 4x50ft silk rope, 2x potion of Fly, 40x arrows, 20x blunt arrows, barbarian’s kit

  • Immune to fatigue, so cycle Rage every round to use Strength Surge on grapple every round
  • Greater Grapple allows maintaining a grapple as a move action, so 2 grapple checks per round.
  • Animal Fury: free bite attack when maintaining a grapple

Initial grapple: +25 vs CMB (7BAB + 6DEX +7 Strength Surge +2 Imp. Grapple +2 Greater Grapple +1 Pit Fighter)

Animal Fury: bite +13 1d4+6
Maintain grapple: +25 or +23 vs CMB (7BAB + 6DEX +5 Maintain +2 Imp. Grapple +2 Greater Grapple +1 Pit Fighter) +2 Animal Fury?
Pin or damage (1d4+6)