Author: Rigby Shepard – Last updated November 24th 2021
This handbook follows the same color coding scheme which is common among other handbooks or build guides for Pathfinder. To help with those that have difficulty with colors there is also a “star” rating, with 1 being the lowest and 4 being the highest. If any word is color-coded then it is referencing those ratings, though in the case of blue text with underlines they are hyperlinks to the specific word’s rules or reference page.
- Red: Bad. These are normally the worst parts of a feature or parts you should not focus on.
- Orange: Ok. Features that function but are not generally outstanding.
- Green: Good. Reasonably applicable and can work in many situations
- Blue: Fantastic. Parts you will love having or should try your best to maintain.
The Dragoon is one of the most iconic martial classes in Final Fantasy, using their Jump ability to potentially avoid enemy attacks while later crashing down to deal damage. This capability is translated into FFd20 with the Jump and Deadly Lancer class features, allowing the dragoon to use their Acrobatics skill to jump to deal additional damage. This allows them to become a highly mobile melee combatant without the need to use a mount.
Dragoon Class Features
Hit Points: d10 Hit Dice is one of the highest available, and you’ll want the extra HP as a melee martial.
Base Attack Bonus: Doesn’t get much better than Full BAB.
Saves: Two good saves; Fortitude and Reflex. This lets dragoons avoid most nasty effects, but Will saves will always be an issue.
Proficiencies: Dragoons are proficient with all armor types and no shields, as well as all simple weapons, and all weapons in the spears and polearms weapon groups. This includes some exotic weapons, such as the elven branched spear. Dragoons have no shortage of weapons and armors they would want. A popular armor choice is the agile breastplate, to reduce penalty to Acrobatics checks made to jump. Dragoons also have a choice on whether or not they want a weapon with reach. For weapons with reach, glaives, guisarmes, and elven branched spears are good choices. For weapons without reach, halberds, totem spears, and nodachis are good choices.
Skills: 4+INT mod is the lowest value any class can have, and Acrobatics demands one rank per level. You will need to rely on the rest of your party for most skill checks.
Strengthened Agility: Allows a dragoon to use STR or DEX for their Acrobatics skill modifier, giving them more options for character builds. May not be used depending on your stats.
Jump: The dragoon’s bread, their iconic ability. This allows them to close the gap very easily with charges, leaping over patches of difficult terrain depending on their Acrobatics check, and makes jumping in general easier.
Deadly Lancer: If Jump is the dragoon’s bread, Deadly Lancer is their butter. Depending on the result of their Acrobatics check vs. a creature’s CMD, gives a bonus to attack rolls, dodge AC, and extra d6s of damage. Can be used as part of a charge, or as a move action if already or nearly in range of the creature you want to attack. Depending on how high you get your Acrobatics bonus, this may fall off at higher levels when you could full attack instead, but the defense and attack bonuses can still come in handy against certain enemies. It’s great to have for a gap closer. Note that this can’t be multiplied even by dragoon’s later class features, but certain advanced talents multiply the damage.
Shaft Trip: All spears, lances, and polearms are treated as trip weapons. Many already have that special quality, and not every dragoon will want to use a trip build.
Pole Fighting: Can use an immediate action to ignore the reach quality of a spear, lance, or polearm at a penalty to attack rolls. Useful if attacking something that got in too close, and dragoon doesn’t have many other swift or immediate actions to use. Unfortunately, you can’t swap more than once a round. A bad feature if you’re using a weapon without reach since it’ll do nothing.
Balanced Stride: A bit of an extra boost for Acrobatics, but only when avoiding attacks of opportunity. Can be useful if you need to use Deadly Lancer in a way which will provoke from moving, such as just jumping from enemy to enemy, but otherwise won’t be used.
Armor Training: This class feature gives a dragoon more options for armor than only a mithral agile breastplate. Decrease armor check penalty, increase maximum dexterity bonus, and even eliminate movement speed penalties for medium and eventually heavy armor. This enables being a DEX based dragoon while still wearing heavy armor, for increased defensive capabilities.
Steadfast Pike: Boost to attack rolls for attacks of opportunity and readied action attacks, mainly useful for reach weapons. If not using a reach weapon, this is a bad feature.
Hardy Landing: Reduces fall damage by a certain distance scaling by level. Necessary for a class that is based around jumping, especially if there’s lots of flying enemies to fight, though it is situational. Even if fall distance is never an issue, that’s one less thing to worry about.
Vault: Adds +10 to Acrobatics checks to jump if you move at least 10 feet. It’s a hefty boost and helps a lot with Deadly Lancer, it will trigger with every charge.
Dragoon Training: Scaling bonus to attack and damage with spears, lances, and polearms. Effectively dragoon’s version of Chosen Weapon.
Pike Charge: Increases your attack bonus and removes the AC penalty when charging, useful for Deadly Lancer. It’s not a big boost, but it’s invaluable to have if you want to charge at all.
Fighter Training: Counts half of your dragoon level as fighter levels for qualifying for feats. Useful for grabbing Weapon Specialization and Greater Weapon Focus, both great feats to have.
Spinning Lance: Use the butt of your spear, lance, or polearm with reach as a club against adjacent targets. Would be good if you didn’t already have a class feature for these situations, though this does get around Pole Fighting’s attack penalty and allows you to always threaten in melee.
Sweeping Fend: +4 to CMD versus bull rush and trip maneuvers. Not great, but nothing to complain about.
Tail Sweep: A daily use ability that automatically hits and deals damage to creatures in 3 squares the dragoon threatens. Also causes a Reflex save to avoid being tripped, but only for enemies the same size or smaller as the dragoon. At 14th level, this is for every square the dragoon threatens.
Springing Charge: After charging with Deadly Lancer, a dragoon can use the rest of their movement to reposition without provoking attacks of opportunity from the enemy they just hit. Useful if you want to just jump in and charge all the time, but this becomes good if used to set up flanking for a thief or ninja in the party.
Agile Charger: Tired of figuring out how much difficult terrain you ignore with your jumps? No more, the dragoon now ignores all of it! Desirable since difficult terrain otherwise stops Deadly Lancer charges if you can’t jump over all of the difficult terrain. This class feature is good solely for speeding up combat, though drops down to bad if your total Acrobatics bonus starts outpacing the total distance you move during a charge.
Spear Parry and Riposte: Take a penalty to attack rolls until the end of your next turn to make an attack roll to parry an attack against you. Takes an immediate action and attack of opportunity. A decent defensive ability, though its usefulness depends on the dragoon being able to get higher attack rolls than their own armor class. There are several ways to boost both attack and AC for dragoon, and this becomes a good feature once the penalty gets decreased at higher levels.
Piercing Lance: Gain an extra attack when charging a mounted combatant to also attack their mount. Has little use otherwise, and Deadly Lancer damage is only applied once. Is bad if you never face mounted combatants.
Ranged Set vs. Charge: Throws your spear, lance, or polearm as a readied action if you set vs. a charge. Doesn’t let you get your thrown weapon back. Unless you’ve built around this and/or need to delay for a turn instead of charging in, this won’t be useful at 17th level and beyond.
Mighty Charge: Double the critical threat range of spears, lances, or polearms when charging, and can make a free combat maneuver if you hit with a charge. You’ll probably already have Improved Critical or keen by this level, but free combat maneuvers are the best combat maneuvers, especially for trip builds.
Spearhead Charge: Double damage when charging with a spear, lance, or polearm. Who can say no to free damage?
Pike Defense: Immediate action to grant an ally +2 shield AC and DR 5/- against one attack from a creature you threaten, a little underwhelming at this level but can be applied to yourself if you’re 10 ft. away from the creature.
Leaping Charge: Another double damage when charging (for 3x damage when using Spearhead Charge), and crits have a similar effect to Stunning Critical; Fort save or be stunned for 1d4 rounds, staggered for 1d4 rounds on a pass. A great capstone for dragoon.
Azure Dragoon: Stamina dragoon that makes the jump and deadly lancer combination a daily use ability, as well as adding in a line AoE in Geirskogul. Not really much stronger than base dragoon, but Dragon Sight is a nice small damage boost, and White Draw can make the dragoon the master of out of combat healing if you have a caster with Restora. Link.
Dragon Knight: Replaces most of dragoon’s normal kit with an animal companion – a dragon. Companion/mounted fighters are very good, though this archetype can’t use much of this handbook due to the changes. Link.
Dragon Slayer: Adds a Wisdom dependency and trades in half of your talents for a few new daily use abilities. Most of them aren’t great, but they do get access to Dragon Force for enhanced attack, damage (physical and magical), and healing. Would be bad if not for that. Link.
Drigagoonie: This hypello racial archetype allows base dragoon to be utilized underwater, switching out Acrobatics dependency for Swimming. It is ok if being used only on land, but is fantastic if playing in a primarily underwater campaign. Link.
Farstriker: Throwing weapon archetype for dragoon that throws spears. Gains bonus damage by throwing spears from farther away, and increases the range increment of spears. Adds a stat dependency on Wisdom. Not too bad, but there are better throwing weapon users with more consistent attack and damage boosts. Gets Trip Shot for free as a class feature, and can actually put it to use. Is a good option if you want to focus on using ranged combat maneuvers, and your GM allows you to add the effect of blinkback belt to your belt of physical might. Can’t use much of this handbook due to not having Deadly Lancer. Link.
Holy Dragoon: Cross between Dragoon and Holy Knight, gaining some impressive features such as Cover, Lay on Hands, and spellcasting. Trades out some offensive features like Dragoon Training, but makes up for it with abilities like Jump Cast. Does things even Holy Knight can’t do, and is the best choice if you want to make a tank for your party. Link.
Lancer: A mounted archetype using an older version of Deadly Lancer, basing bonus damage on distance travelled. While they don’t gain a mount naturally, it’s possible to purchase one and upgrade it with chocobo food. This would be a fantastic choice if they gained a mount through class features (or use certain traits to gain one). Gets a lot of use out of Ride-By Attack, but can’t use much of this handbook. Link.
Spear Warden: Trades in Deadly Lancer for Slayer’s Sneak Attack progression, using Jump as a gap-closer and flanking tool. Gains Spear Dancing Style as bonus feats, which are a popular choice for Two-Weapon Fighting builds as dragoon, as well as a pseudo group Outflank. If there’s no other melee in your party to provide flanking, this can still be a good option if you want to use Spear Dancing Style, but your party may have problems having a stable front line. Link.
Spearmaster: A light-armored combo dragoon, has free trips, evasion, and access to fighter talents. For trip builds, this archetype may be the best way to go. Spamming Rising Drive and Leg Sweep is entirely viable, and you still have other combos versus enemies that can’t be tripped. If tripping’s not your thing, this archetype also gets a daily use flurry of blows class feature in Mirage Strike. Ask your GM if this will qualify for Pummeling Charge. It doesn’t by RAW, but some might allow it. Link.
Valkyrie: Replaces some of the weaker class features of dragoon, and can eventually provide flight. Not bad, but can be just ok compared to a race with natural flight like aegyl using base dragoon. Aura of War Revelry is nice, but comes in very late. Link.
Windleaper: This ixal racial archetype is a Dexterity-based dragoon, alleviating some of the talent tax on using Dexterity. Doesn’t make many changes to the base class, though does give up Armor Training and a +1 bonus to attack and damage. A very good choice for playing a light armored, dexterity dragoon. Link.
Dragoon archetypes have limited ability to stack with each other, though some of them do work. More testing would be needed to determine viability, but if you’re looking to mix things up, here’s a list of what’s available to mix.
Dragoons have abilities, weapons, and talents that let them choose whether they would want to use Strength or Dexterity as their primary attack stat. They can do high in either, or both. They may want to focus on one to avoid being multiple-ability-dependent (MAD), and may want to deviate from the suggested stat arrays.
Str: One of your primary attack stats. Suggested for builds focusing on tripping, or using heavier armor. Probably the easiest to use, but can be lowered for Dex builds. You need at least 13 for Power Attack.
Dex: One of your primary attack stats. Suggested for builds focusing on being defensive, or using lighter armor. Can be a bit of a talent tax to focus on this primarily, but shouldn’t be ignored thanks to Armor Training.
Con: You’re a front line fighter, you’ll want the HP and Fort save bonus. Can be dropped a bit lower if someone else in the party is focusing on protecting allies.
Int: The only dragoons who want Int are the ones who will be taking Combat Expertise for Improved Trip. You’ll only ever need 13 for that, everyone else can dump it.
Wis: Useful for Will saves, but not much else. Dragon Slayer and Farstriker use this ability score for their class features.
Cha: Dragoons don’t make good party faces, not even for Intimidate. If using Holy Dragoon or Valkyrie, this can be increased higher.
Dragoon Ability Score Distribution
|25 Point Buy||20 Point Buy||15 Point Buy||Elite Array|
|Str: 18/13||Str: 18/13||Str: 17/14||Str: 15/13|
|Dex: 13/18||Dex: 13/18||Dex: 14/17||Dex: 13/15|
|Con: 16||Con: 14||Con: 14||Con: 14|
|Int: 9||Int: 9||Int: 7||Int: 10|
|Wis: 10||Wis: 10||Wis: 10||Wis: 12|
|Cha: 7||Cha: 7||Cha: 7||Cha: 8|
Any race with a bonus to Strength or Dexterity can make a good dragoon, all the class needs are physical stats. Even small races can make decent dragoons as long as they focus on using Deadly Lancer, but races with a 20 foot move speed will take a -4 penalty to all Acrobatics checks made to jump.
To narrow the scope, we’ll be focusing on races with good racial FCBs for dragoon, or have good racial traits for dragoon. Dragoon will either want their racial FCB or extra HP, depending on their race’s choice. One of the best FCBs for dragoon is +½ bonus to Acrobatics checks for jumping, giving you even more Deadly Lancer damage. +⅙ d6 to Deadly Lancer damage is also nice, if a bit less consistent than an equivalent +3 to Acrobatics. +⅓ to attack rolls (or damage rolls for humes, half-breeds, and immortals) is good for dragoons who want to focus on full attacking. The only bad FCB is +⅙ reduction on armor check penalty and max Dex bonus, which is only on moogles and sahagin.
Aegyl: +2 Dex, +2 Wis, –2 Cha, -2 Con. While the Con penalty isn’t ideal, they can make excellent dragoons with their racial FCB of +½ to Acrobatics for jumping. Eternal Hope is nice to have for Nat 1 insurance. Can also fly naturally, putting Valkyrie to shame. Suited for lightly armored builds, as heavy armor restricts their fly speed.
Antica: +2 Str, +2 Con, –2 Wis, -2 Cha. With a bonus to two physical stats, antica make excellent dragoons for heavy armored builds. With their natural attacks, opting for a close range polearm without reach would be ideal. Has minesight for darkvision, and a +⅙ of a d6 to Deadly Lancer damage isn’t the worst FCB they could have.
Au ra: +2 Str, +2 Wis, –2 Cha OR +2 Dex, +2 Cha, -2 Con OR +2 Str, +2 Cha, -2 Wis. Elemental resistance, natural armor, natural attacks, ferocity. Au ra have a whole selection of desirable racial feats, with good stats for some of dragoon’s archetypes. Can also gain Dodge or Weapon Focus as a bonus feat, and has +⅓ attack FCB.
Burmecian: +2 Dex, +2 Int, –2 Cha. Improved Initiative, a racial +4 to jumping, 60 ft. of Darkvision, and to top it all off +½ to Acrobatics for jumps as a FCB. Burmecian is tailor made with Dragoon in mind, and can be some of the best dragoons in the system, no matter what build you go for. Also Freya is best girl, fight me.
Dwarf: Most stat arrays for dwarves will do decently for dragoon, but the 20 ft. move speed will necessitate an archetype that replaces Jump and Deadly Lancer. At least their racial FCB is pretty good.
Elvaan: Most stat arrays for elvaan are great, but Ishgardian is very good as well as thematic, with +2 Str, +2 Cha, -2 Wis. San d’Orian is also worth noting, with +2 Str, +2 Wis, -2 Int and a Ferocity racial. Gains Weapon Focus as a bonus feat, optionally has darkvision, and has +½ to Acrobatics for jumping. An extra 5 feet of movement also helps for Deadly Lancer charges. Most will want to stick to Str builds.
Galka: See dwarf, but with only one stat array and ferocity.
Garif: +2 Con, +2 Wis, –2 Int. Nothing especially stands out, aside from +½ to Acrobatics to jump and optionally starting with Diehard as a bonus feat. Some overlap with their racials, as dragoons are already proficient with the racial weapon proficiencies.
Half-Breed (Ask GM): Combine Burmecian and Varg.
–Choose +2 STR or +2 DEX. Defense trait: Natural Armor or Dual-Minded. Feat and Skill trait: Natural Jumper. Magical trait: N/A. Movement trait: N/A. Offense trait: Bite (plus upgrade). Other traits: Dragoon + 1 other. Senses trait: Darkvision (60 ft.) Weakness trait: Emotionless.
–Gives you +2 to your primary attack stat with no penalty, either +1 natural armor AC or +2 to Will saves, +4 to Acrobatics for jumping, a natural bite attack, 60 ft. of darkvision, and all it costs is a -2 to Diplomacy. You also get +1 hp per level and a choice of +⅓ to damage per level or +½ to Acrobatics for jumping per level, which are two of the best things for a dragoon to get. Best suited for a non-reach weapon dragoon who will use Deadly Lancer to close gaps and then full attack.
Hume: Humes are one of the best races no matter what. +2 to either Str or Dex, or go Highlander for a bit more CMB and CMD in a Str build. Free feat of your choice, too. If using the Lancer archetype, humes are a fantastic choice as their racial FCB of +⅓ damage per level will be multiplied on a charge with a lance, even more with Spirited Charge. Half-Breed and Immortals are the only other races with this FCB for dragoon.
Hypello: +2 Dex, +2 Con with no penalty makes hypello one of the deceptively strongest lightly armored Dex dragoons. They also get 60 ft. of darkvision, +½ to Acrobatics for jumping, and even an alternate racial trait to help reduce fall damage if you need it for their racial dragoon archetype (or another that switches out Hardy Landing). The only negative is that you’ll have to roleplay as a hypello.
Immortal: Go with +2 Str or Dex. Useful for trying to make a tank dragoon, though be mindful they cannot cast Holy Dragoon’s spells.
Ixal: +2 Dex, +2 Int, -2 Wis, not the best racial traits to choose from, but solid stats and a +½ to Acrobatics for jumping gives ixal an edge for Dex-based dragoons. Also has a racial archetype to further enable a Dex build.
Mithra: The various heritages allow for a wide variety of builds, and a +⅙ of a d6 to deadly lancer damage give mithra a great spot on the dragoon list. Cheetara, Keepers of the Moon, and Seekers of the Sun all gain a +2 to Acrobatics checks. Cat’s Luck and Sprinter are also very nice for dealing with Reflex saves and gaining extra movement for charges, or you can trade those out for another +2 bonus to Acrobatics. Also has +2 to initiative. A fantastic option if playing in a setting without Burmecians.
Moomba: +2 Con, +2 Cha, -2 Int, and a small size might turn off a few people. A 40 ft. move speed for a +4 to Acrobatics for jumping, enhanced bite, and 60 ft. of darkvision make moombas one of the best options for small-sized dragoons. A shame they don’t have a racial favored class bonus for dragoon.
Orc: +4 Str, -2 Int, -2 Wis, -2 Cha. Orc Ferocity, a +2 to Acrobatics, optional darkvision, and a +⅙ of a d6 for Deadly Lancer damage make orcs a surprisingly good choice for dragoons.
Ronso: +2 Str, +2 Wis, –2 Cha. Ronso as well as both Hrothgar heritages have nice traits and stats for a dragoon, with 60 ft. of darkvision to top it off. +⅓ to attack per level and potentially a natural gore attack makes them suited for closing the gap with Deadly Lancer and then focusing on full attacking with a non-reach weapon.
Tarutaru: Go Gnome for the least disadvantageous stat spread of +2 Dex, +2 Cha, -2 Wis. Tarutaru have a +½ to Acrobatics for jumping, and they need it due to starting off at a -4 penalty from their 20 ft. move speed. They’d be a bad choice without this FCB. Intrepid Settler gives them a +2 bonus on Acrobatics and makes their racial heritage not matter apart from stats, so the penalty is lowered to -2 for jumping. Evens out at level 4, but it’s an uphill battle to make them work as small dragoons.
Varg: +2 Str or Dex, +2 Wis, –2 Cha. Up to 120 ft. of darkvision, a potential of a 40 ft. move speed with an extra 10 ft. when charging, topped off with a natural bite attack makes varg able to be very versatile when it comes to dragoon builds. Shame about the lack of a racial FCB.
Some of the listed traits may be from campaign settings, if so ask your GM if they allow those. Remember you can only have 1 of each type of trait (1 social, 1 faith) and trait bonuses do not stack.
Acrobat (Social): +1 to Acrobatics and climb faster is reduced to -2. Any boost to Acrobatics is nice.
Bahamut’s Legs (Regional, campaign setting): +4 to Acrobatics for jumping, a trait made just for dragoons. Say goodbye to every other regional trait if you can take this, cry a lot if your GM says you can’t.
Called (Faith): Once per day reroll for nat 1s on attack rolls. Useful when it comes up.
Chance Savior (Campaign, campaign setting): +2 initiative is always nice for traits. Comes from the Carrion Crown adventure path, check with your GM before taking this.
Fate’s Favored (Faith): Increases luck bonuses by 1. Useful if you have a party member like an Astrologian who can provide luck bonuses.
Indomitable Faith (Faith): Increases your low Will save.
Inspired (Faith): Reroll a skill check or ability check once per day. Will mostly be used on initiative rolls (Dex checks) and Acrobatics checks for Deadly Lancer.
Reactionary (Combat): +2 initiative is always nice for traits. Better than Chance Savior, since it can be used in every campaign that includes traits.
Unshackled (Faith): +1 Escape Artist and makes it a class skill. Grapples can shut down 2-handed weapon wielders, and almost all dragoons want to use 2-handed weapons. (If taking this, Escape Artist becomes a fantastic skill choice.)
You gain 4+Int skills per level, and won’t need very many of them. Only a few skills are fantastic for dragoons.
Acrobatics (Dex): You chose the class for this skill. Absolutely required (except in certain archetypes).
Climb (Str): Sometimes you can’t quite make those vertical jumps. Take this so your party members don’t make fun of you for it. Falls off later on when you absolutely can make those vertical jumps.
Craft (Int): Situational, if you want to craft your own equipment it can take a while.
Handle Animal (Cha): For the Lancer archetype and the Charisma-dependent archetypes, this is a good option.
Intimidate (Cha): Not too useful in combat, as dragoons don’t get support for antagonizing or demoralizing enemies. Can be good for Charisma-based archetypes.
Knowledge (Dungeoneering) (Int): Good for learning about monster weaknesses, though don’t expect a modifier boost.
Knowledge (Local) (Int): Good for learning about humanoids and cities you visit, though don’t expect a modifier boost.
Perception (Wis): Everyone should take this skill, and dragoon is no exception.
Perform (Cha): You wouldn’t disappoint your parents by pole dancing, would you?
Profession (Wis): Useful for making money during downtime, but that depends on the campaign.
Ride (Dex): Dragoon does get some of Cavalier’s stuff for lances, so they can put this skill to good use. This is a fantastic option for Lancers and Dragon Knights.
Survival (Wis): You generally won’t need too many skill points in this. DCs aren’t too high, unless you’re in a campaign based around Survival.
Swim (Str): Dragoons don’t do too well in water, since swimming and jumping are two separate things. This is a fantastic option for drigagoonies and dragoon archetypes that trade out Jump.
Feats & Talents
Power Attack: Too good to not take, since you’re a Full BAB class that focuses on two-handed weapons. Opens up several potential build options, such as Cleave. Dex-based dragoons will want this too, as Piranha Strike is harder to get and doesn’t increase when 2-handing a weapon.
Furious Focus: When using Deadly Lancer, you typically only make one attack. Getting rid of the attack penalty for Power Attack during that gives you free damage.
Weapon Focus: If you’re going to take this, you will qualify for Weapon Specialization later – when you reach dragoon level 8. Also helps with CMB rolls for trip builds.
Weapon Specialization: An extra +2 damage. Helps get those rookie numbers up.
Greater Weapon Focus: Increases that attack bonus from +1 to +2. You only qualify for this once you reach dragoon level 16, but you’ll want to be focusing on full attacking by then, so it’s still nice to pick up.
Vital Strike: Whether or not this feat line works with Deadly Lancer has changed a few times. Consult your GM on using a move action Deadly Lancer with a standard action Vital Strike before even thinking about this feat.
Exotic Weapon Proficiency: You already gain proficiency with exotic spears and polearms. You can’t use anything you gain from this with most of your class features.
Combat Expertise: Dragoons can get a lot of bonuses to attack rolls, so being able to transfer some of that to AC is nice. Also a prerequisite for Improved Trip. Requires 13 Int, so adjust the suggested stats.
Improved Trip: Avoid provoking attacks of opportunity when tripping, and gain a bonus to CMB and CMD for trips.
Greater Trip: Enemies you trip now provoke attacks of opportunity when they fall to the ground, and grants an even higher bonus to CMB and CMD for trips. This is the best thing for a trip build.
Felling Smash: When making a standard attack action with Power Attack, you can use a swift action to trip an enemy if you hit. Combined with Furious Focus and a beefed up Deadly Lancer, this can make an excellent addition to a trip build. Only ok if you’re focusing on full attacking.
Fury’s Fall: Add Dexterity in addition to Strength to your CMB for trip attempts. If you’re trying to focus on only one of your stats or have picked up Flowing Lancer to use Dex for attack and CMB, this is a bad option, as your Dex mod can only be added to this once.
Tripping Strike: Attempt a trip as a free action when you roll a crit confirm. More useful if you have a spear or polearm with a high threat range, like a nodachi. You can also decide to not use this feat after seeing the confirmation roll, as that determines the trip attempt. Can be good if you focus on crits.
Pummeling Charge: An unorthodox choice, but will allow you to follow up Deadly Lancer charges with full attacks, though it may involve dropping your spear/polearm and using unarmed strikes (or just kicking). Still, damage is damage, and more attacks give you more damage. Requires dipping a level into monk and wasting a feat on Pummeling Style, without any other benefit from doing so. Can be a good choice for builds focused around full attacking, especially for races which can add in an extra natural attack/have an attack or damage bonus FCB and dragoons that have a way to get the haste status effect from an allied caster or item.
Spear Dancing Style: Two-Weapon Fighting builds tend to have the highest damage output just from the number of attacks you have. Has a hefty feat investment, though it’s possible to just grab the first style feat and ignore the rest safely. Can alleviate some talent tax for Dex builds. A bad option for builds that want to just do Deadly Lancer charges instead of full attacking. Can be ok even if you take a double spear, since it can gain reach at the end of the feat tree.
Skill Focus (Acrobatics): When all you have is a hammer used for jumping…
Acrobatic: More suggested for dragoons who have natural flight, since it also boosts that skill.
Improved Critical: Most spears and polearms will either not have a big threat range, or can have keen applied to them. Can be good if you want to use Spinning Lance and have this apply, or don’t want to spend the money on keen.
Critical Focus: Critical feats can be good for dragoons since they get full BAB, and can qualify for the juiciest ones at higher levels. Can be an ok choice if you don’t focus on full attacking or have a weapon that only threatens on a 20.
Improved Initiative: Always nice to have a higher initiative score, so you can be the first to charge into a fight.
Acrobatic Talents are extra, selectable abilities that the Dragoon gets every even level. Advanced talents become available at 12th level.
Athlete: Always take 10 on Acrobatics checks, and can take 20 in half the time. Nice to have when you have a very high Acrobatics bonus.
Combat Feat: Gain a combat feat at an even level instead of an odd level.
Controlled Descent: Not dealing damage to your party with your AoE abilities is always nice. If there are no other melee combatants, this is instead an ok option.
Crater: Create temporary difficult terrain around you when you land with deadly lancer. More useful for dragoons focusing on reach weapons.
Dextrous Muscles: Add both Strength and Dexterity to Acrobatics checks. Many builds can benefit from pumping both of these stats high, and this helps by adding two ability score modifiers.
Flexible Flanker: Nice to have for reach weapon users, though dragoons don’t get a lot of use for flanking. If you have a sneak attacker in the party or are using the Spear Warden archetype, this becomes a good option if you want to enable that damage more easily.
Flowing Lancer/Pinpoint Lancer/Graceful Bound: Dexterity instead of Strength to attack, damage, and ability uses and DCs, respectively. Obviously, ignore these if your Strength is higher. A bit taxing on talents to get all three, Flowing and Pinpoint Lancer are the more important ones. Notably, Pinpoint Lancer lets you gain 1.5x Dex mod to damage for 2-handing a weapon.
Halting Blow: Stops an enemy’s movement if you hit them with an attack of opportunity. Very useful with reach weapons, ok without them. This is better for dragoons who want to be more defensive fighters.
Heroic Landing: Changes deadly lancer damage into a 5-foot radius elemental explosion. Due to advanced talent prerequisites, this is all but required for games going into higher levels; there just aren’t enough advanced talents to pick if you skip this. Some stand-out options are lightning and ice, but fire elemental damage is useful since fewer enemies resist that than the others. Even with campaigns with lots of enemies with elemental resistance (dragons, oozes, bosses, etc.), this is still an ok option to pick up, in no small part due to…
X Dragon Scales: Gain an additional buff when you use your Heroic Landing. Each element grants a different bonus, some being better than others, though each has its uses. Yellow Dragon Scales stands out as a fantastic option since – in addition to AC – it also grants evasion and uncanny dodge, along with the improved versions at higher levels. Red Dragon Scales is useful for doing multiple Deadly Lancer jumps turn after turn on a wide battlefield. Gray Dragon Scales might be the weakest of the bunch, since it only applies to ranged attacks, though in campaigns that heavily feature firearms it is very nice to have.
Phalanx Fighting: Gain the use of a shield at the cost of your 2-handed attack damage. Useful for dragoons who are focusing on being a tank or need the AC, and you can also get the follow-up talent to gain your 2-handed damage back. Can be good if you are often grappled and want to attack your grappler, as you can wield any spear or polearm 1-handed.
Pole Vault: Tired of not being able to Deadly Lancer due to obstacles or party members in the way? This talent will just about solve all of those problems. Becomes an ok option if you’re the only melee in your party and you tend to fight in wide-open spaces.
Predatory Pounce: Increases Deadly Lancer damage to d8s from d6s, but only against flat-footed targets. Sounds tempting, but the only way to consistently get this is to win initiative or to gain the ability to feint as a swift action. Can be ok if another party member has a way to consistently boost your initiative or help you hit flat-footed, or if you’re small and using Passing Trick.
Ready Pike: Actually use your brace weapon and the class features that go with it. A bit of a luxury pick, but can work well with reach weapons and other talents like Halting Blow. May be more useful in games where enemies charge your party a lot, though if you win initiative you should probably be charging in first.
Spear Brace: Get your 2-handed damage back after taking Phalanx Fighting. A good talent, though it would be fantastic if it was merged with Phalanx Fighting like knight’s version of the talent. It’s a bit taxing to take both. Best for dragoons who want the shield AC and the extra damage from 2-handed weapons.
Step Aside: Enemies taking 5-foot steps past your reach weapon? Get the upper hand back by immediately 5-foot stepping away! Useless without a reach weapon, and can be bad if enemies never get the chance to step in or are large enough to have reach themselves or you don’t have Halting Blow.
Tactical Drop: Exchange Deadly Lancer damage for a free combat maneuver with a bonus equal to the number of damage dice you would have gotten. If you really want to do that trip build, pick this up.
Trip Toss: Make a ranged touch attack with a thrown spear to trip an enemy. Relies on two separate rolls. There are better ways to trip.
Abominable Crash: The reason to take Heroic Landing (Ice). Can massively lock down an enemy’s action economy by encasing them in ice. Full usefulness is dependent on enemy resistances, but this is one of the best – if not the best – Heroic Landing advanced talent.
Double Jump: Deal double Deadly Lancer damage as a full-round action charge. Really helps the feature not fall behind at this level, even if full attacking is still king for damage.
Greater Landing: Increase the radius of Crater and Heroic Landing by 5 feet. If you have some good Heroic Landing talents like Abominable Crash, this might be worth taking, but requires some hefty investment to make it pay off.
Heat Wave: Fatigues enemies hit by Heroic Landing (Fire). Doesn’t stack to the exhausted condition, can be skipped safely.
Irresistible Advance: Up to a +3 bonus to CMB for bull rush and overrun is not what you want beyond level 12, especially not after a two talent investment.
Nerve Wrack: Makes enemies hit by Heroic Landing (Lightning) shaken. Doesn’t stack to the frightened condition, can be skipped somewhat safely.
Purge: Makes a dispel check against enemies hit by Heroic Landing (Water). Can be good if you fight a lot of enemies that start with magic buffs (Looking at you, Final Fantasy XII).
Rippling Earth: The bull rush against enemies hit by Heroic Landing (Earth) won’t stop them from just re-approaching you on their next turn at this level.
Shellbreaker: Damage reduction is a big deal at this level, and anything to ignore that will be a massive help. DR stops more damage from full attacks, so it may not be as big a deal for Deadly Lancer charges.
Shockwave: The reason to take Heroic Landing (wind). Knocks enemies of any size prone on a failed save.
Super Jump: Takes two full rounds to deal four times Deadly Lancer damage. Double Jump is better for action economy, but this could be a good option if your party fights a lot of bosses and you want to avoid certain mechanics.
Swoop of a Dragon: Cleaving Finish with the range of your Deadly Lancer Acrobatics check. Best used in combination with Double Jump or Super Jump. Preserves the attack roll bonus from Deadly Lancer, but the extra damage is still only on the first enemy. Can be situational, especially if a dragoon is relying on just using Deadly Lancer to close the gap, but who can say no to a free attack?
Dragoon has several builds depending on playstyle and archetype. Here is an example build that focuses on using Deadly Lancer, with advice for some others.
Example leveling guide:
- 1st: Power Attack – Deadly Lancer provides an attack bonus, as well, to help these hit.
- Hume racial: Furious Focus – delay progression by 1 to obtain this.
- Talent 2: Heroic Landing (Ice) – getting this online sooner than later.
- 3rd: Skill Focus (Acrobatics) – Deadly Lancer will be your best damage for a while.
- Talent 4: Controlled Descent – Can be skipped if you won’t worry about friendly fire, just consult the rest of the party first.
- 5th: Weapon Focus – select your preferred weapon. Elvaan and xaela can get this for free.
- Talent 6: Pole Vault – Helps with easily getting into melee.
- 7th: Improved Initiative – Here’s where we start having some leeway in the build. You can also grab a teamwork feat or an extra talent, or focus on a specific build such as tripping at this level. Burmecians get this feat for free, so they will pick something else.
- Talent 8: Crater – Luxury pick, exchange for a Combat Feat/Tactical Drop if you’re focusing on tripping, or Halting Blow if you have a reach weapon and want to protect your party.
- 9th: Weapon Specialization – Can also be taken at level 8 with the Combat Feat talent.
- Talent 10: White Dragon Scales – Spell Resistance and ice resistance for a round after Heroic Landing. Other scales can be picked up earlier, but friendly casters may have issues with dealing with SR at low levels.
- 11th: Critical Focus – works best with high threat range weapons with keen.
- Talent 12: Abominable Crash – Even if an enemy breaks out of this on the first turn, it still eats up their full-round action. Nothing is immune to this without freedom of movement.
- 13th: Crippling Critical – halves move speed for at least 1d4 rounds, or 1 minute.
- Talent 14: Double Jump – Double your Deadly Lancer damage on a full round charge. By this level, your Acrobatics should be high enough to consistently land at least a few dice on even the largest enemies.
- 15th: Staggering Critical – Stagger an enemy for 1 round, or 1d4+1 rounds.
- Talent 16: Shellbreaker – Get around enemy DR.
- 17th: Greater Weapon Focus – might seem like a drop in the bucket by this point, but helps with Power Attack and Combat Expertise. Can also take Blinding Critical instead.
- Talent 18: Swoop of a Dragon or Greater Landing – Time for luxury talent picks at this level.
- 19th: Stunning Critical – Stagger an enemy for 1d4 rounds, or stun them for 1d4 rounds. Can stack duration with Leaping Charge, though you may not want this with that class feature in place.
- Talent 20: Greater Landing – Not too much left at this point.
Dragoons will need to use spears, lances, or polearms, and gain proficiency with every single one of them. Exotic proficiency is already gained, but there are still plenty of good martial and even simple choices. There’s no clear winner, so choose one with the qualities you want.
Halberd: 1d10 damage, 3x crit, brace and trip. An excellent choice for a polearm without reach, especially for archetypes that trade out Shaft Trip but still want a trip build.
Nodachi: 1d10 damage, 18-20 threat range, brace. One of the go-to weapons for crit fishing builds. Surprisingly, it’s a polearm in addition to a heavy blade.
Spear, Double: 1d8/1d8 damage, 3x crit, double. Useful for dragoons who just want to get into the Two-Weapon Fighting build without going through Spear Dancing Style, forgoing the other benefits from that style tree. Can make up for skipping Spear Dancing Style through talents, and can still take the feat tree if you so wish.
Shortspear: 1d6 damage, 20 ft. range increment. Can be thrown and even used with Two-Weapon Fighting to hurl multiple spears at once, albeit at -4 penalty.
Javelin: 1d6 damage, 30 ft. range increment. A fantastic option for Farstriker dragoons. Takes a -4 penalty in melee. Can’t be used with Blinkback Belt, but Ricochet Toss works.
Totem Spear: 1d10, 10 ft. range increment, 3x crit. Provides a +2 circumstance to Acrobatics, so of course Deadly Lancer focused dragoons are going to take one of these.
Lance: 1d8 damage, 3x crit, reach. A fantastic option for mounted builds as charging with one of these doubles the damage, or triples it with Spirited Charge. Though it can be wielded one-handed while mounted, you still need shield proficiency with the Phalanx Fighting talent if you want to use a shield.
Elven Branched Spear: 1d8 damage, 3x crit, brace, reach. +2 to attack rolls for AoOs, and can be used with Weapon Finesse. Good for Dex builds that are fine with exchanging a feat for a talent, and even Str builds will be happy with the +2 to attacks of opportunity.
Glaive: 1d10 damage, 3x crit, reach. Definitely one of the better reach weapons for dragoons.
Guisarme: 2d4 damage, 3x crit, reach, trip. Has a higher damage floor and average than other 1d8 spears and polearms, and has trip if your archetype trades out Shaft Trip. Still an ok option for small dragoons, but not too much better than other trip and reach weapons.
Glaive-guisarme: same as glaive, but with brace and gives enemies hit by it a -2 to their Ride check to stay mounted. It costs a few more gil than a glaive, but if you’re facing lots of mounted opponents it’ll be worth the paltry sum.
Longspear: 1d8, 3x crit, brace, reach. Probably what most people think of when they imagine a dragoon weapon.
Spear: 1d8, 3x crit, 20 foot range increment, brace. Every other spear on this list is a better choice no matter what you’re trying to do. Deals a bit more damage than a shortspear unless you want to factor in Two-Weapon Fighting.
Mithral: Deserves its own special mention, most armors you want will have their usefulness reduced when using an archetype that trades out Armor Training. Mithral will solve that by making the armor lighter by 1 category, increasing max Dexterity by 2, and reducing the armor check penalty for things like Acrobatics by 3.
Breastplate, Agile: The go-to starter armor for dragoon. Has only a -1 penalty to Acrobatics checks for jumping, and at level 3 the movement speed reduction and ACP for jumping vanishes completely thanks to Armor Training. Highest reward for the least cost.
Full Plate: Heavy armor tends to be reserved for high Str builds, and only at level 7 once Armor Training removes the movement speed penalty (and the resulting -4 to Acrobatics for jumping).
Half-plate, Agile: 1 less armor and max Dex than full plate, but 2 less ACP for jumping. If you want mithral heavy armor, full plate is suggested instead, though it’s ultimately your preference.
Kikko: A mithral suit of this armor completely eliminates ACP and movement speed penalties. Can be good for archetypes that trade out Armor Training, though those archetypes tend to favor Dex builds that get a higher modifier than this would allow.
Haramaki: Rely almost entirely on Dexterity for your armor. Can still be ok if you keep Armor Training and get a super high Dexterity.
The Dragoon has a few magic items that support their play style, though many general magic items also benefit them greatly.
Dragoons want to prioritize the enhancement bonus, though there are some special abilities they can put to good use.
Dueling (+14,000 gil): A somewhat expensive way to get a +4 initiative bonus, exclusively for the elven branched spear. Doesn’t count towards a weapon’s maximum enhancement bonus. Link.
Elemental (+1): Each elemental damage enhancement stacks, and you can apply all 8 to the same spear or polearm to get +8d6 damage. It may sound tempting, but even 5 elemental resistance on enemies will nearly nullify a specific enhancement. You can either get the same element as your Heroic Landing, or spread out your elemental damage. Good general choices are Holy, Dark (except against undead), and Fire. If you fight a lot of bosses, elementals, flans, and dragons, this can be a bad option. Link.
Keen (+1): Most spears and polearms can have a 3x or 4x crit, but only threaten on a 20. This would increase the threat range to 19-20. A fantastic option for nodachis and other weapons with a naturally high threat range. Link.
Ghost Touch (+1): A situational enhancement to deal with incorporeal undead. Considering your damage would otherwise be halved, you’ll want this when it comes up. Link.
Heartseeker (+1): An excellent way to get around concealment for living targets, and very cheap to apply. Does not work on aberrations, oozes, plants, outsiders, elementals, and other creatures that lack a heart, so its usefulness is inversely proportional to how often you encounter those enemy types. Link.
There aren’t too many enticing options for magic armor on dragoon, it’s best to focus on the enhancement bonus.
Celestial Armor: A specific magic armor, allows you to cast fly on yourself once per day at CL 5. Desirable for high Dex builds. Low dex builds, races with natural flight, and Valkyries will see this as a bad option. Link.
Elemental Spikes (+1): See Elemental weapons above. A bit of a worse option since it involves getting hit. Dread Spikes can be good if you’re the party’s front line and not facing lots of undead or bosses, though it’s just a small bit of mitigation.
Spell Resistance (+2, +3, +4, +5): By the time you can afford this, enemies will be able to easily bypass the spell resistance. Link.
Power Materia: Frees up a feat slot or two for Power Attack and Furious Focus. Invaluable to Dex based dragoons who don’t qualify for Power Attack. Str dragoons will find this ok, if they can retrain the feats that they probably took by the time they can afford this materia. Link.
Skill Materia: Frees up a feat slot for Skill Focus (Acrobatics), and is cheap enough that you could take Acrobatic instead of the Skill Focus feat. You only need the level 1 of this materia, but feel free to shore up some other skills when it levels. Link.
Ring of Freedom of Movement: Stop getting shut down by grapples and slow effects. Link.
Ring of Jumping, Improved: +10 competence bonus to Acrobatics checks for jumping. Need I say more? Link.
Ring of Protection: Deflection bonus to AC. Can be skipped by Valkyries and dragoons in a party with casters using Protectra. Link.
Amulet of Natural Armor (Neck): Pump up that AC to stay alive. Link.
Belt of Physical Might (Belt): Most dragoons will only need their physical stats, Con included. Some builds can benefit from both a high Str and Dex, so they can spend some extra on a Belt of Physical Perfection. Link and Link.
Boots of Speed (Feet): Free action to apply haste to yourself for up to 10 rounds per day. The movement speed buff gives you +12 to Acrobatics for jumping. Dragoons focusing on full attacking will want these over Sprint Shoes. Link.
Cloak of Resistance (Shoulder): Basic item for any adventurer. Shellra can somewhat mitigate the need for this, though it can get dependent on the caster’s action economy and MP. Link.
Dusty Rose Prism (Ioun Stone): Normal version is +1 insight to AC. Cracked version is +1 competence to initiative. Both are fairly cheap and slotless. Link.
Goggles of Night (Eyes): For races that lack darkvision. Link.
Muleback Cords (Shoulders): Useful for heavily armored dragoons who may need more carrying capacity. If your GM allows custom magic items, you can add the effect of these on top of your current cloak for 1,500 gil. Link.
Pearly White Spindle (Ioun Stone): A cheap, slotless version of the ring of regeneration. Nice if you want that effect, since a dragoon’s ring slots are going to be taken by the time they can afford that ring. Don’t expect to rely on this mid-combat. Link.
Sabin’s Monk Tunic (Body): More useful for Dex dragoons who are using bracers of armor. A bit more useful if they dip a level or two into monk for the sake of getting Pummeling Charge. Otherwise it’s +1 AC and CMD. Link.
Sprint Shoes (Feet): Grants improved initiative feat and +30 foot move speed. The movement speed buff gives you +12 to Acrobatics for jumping. Dragoons focusing on using Deadly Lancer instead of full attacking will want these over Boots of Speed. Burmecians already get the feat from their race. Link.
There are a select few spells that benefit the Dragoon with Permanency. Permanency carries a risk, it can be dispelled, and all of your gil investment vanishes. A few of these are personal spells (noted in brackets), so ask your GM if you can use scrolls to emulate the steps for permanency.
Darkvision: Useful for races that lack this naturally. It may be a better investment to just buy goggles or cast it. Link.
Dragon Jump III: +30 enhancement bonus to Acrobatics for jumping. Still a good choice if you’re not focusing too much on Deadly Lancer at higher levels because of how beefy that increase is. Link.
Displacement: If you expect to be in the line of fire a lot, this can cause a lot of misses. Link.
Saber (Ask GM): +1 to attack rolls and +2 to damage rolls, both untyped. Obtain other, easier methods to increase your damage before picking this up. Link.
See Invisibility: Invisible creatures can be a pain to fight, and always having this makes them a cinch. Link.
Shield (Ask GM) or Shieldra: +4 shield AC with no ACP. A bad choice for dragoons with Phalanx Fighting. Link.
Temper (Ask GM): +2 untyped bonus to damage, crits cause shaken. Obtain other, easier methods to increase your damage before picking this up. Link.
True Seeing: Say goodbye to illusions and concealment. Link.
Weapon of Awe: +2 sacred bonus to damage rolls, crits cause shaken. Obtain other, easier methods to increase your damage before picking this up. Holy Dragoons may want to just cast this. Link.
Multiclassing and Prestige Classes
Dragoons can benefit from multiclassing into Fighter, especially if they want access to Weapon Specialization and Greater Weapon Focus at earlier levels. There are also some nice fighter talents such as Melee Power. Chosen Weapon stacks with Dragoon Training.
Taking 2 levels in Knight is a nice alternative to obtain Spear Brace without having to take Phalanx Fighting. Defensive Stance can also be nice if you don’t need to keep Deadly Lancer charging around the battlefield.
Taking a single level in Monk can benefit Dex based dragoons who want to use Pummeling Charge by fulfilling feat prerequisites. With a decent Wisdom, taking 2 levels in Monk will grant Evasion (no armor only) and the Ki Jump ki power. While the passive bonus isn’t granted, a ki point can be spent as a swift action to grant a +20 competence bonus for 1 round – 10 more than a Ring of Jumping, Improved. You can also use a monk’s spade or a tiger fork for a weapon to get the extra attack from Flurry of Blows.
Taking at least 1 level in the Poledancer archetype for Dancer allows you to get Dexterity to attack and damage rolls for polearms, without needing to spend two acrobatic talents on them. If you want to also take the Phalanx Fighting talent, however, you will end up losing this ability. A second level will get you an extra acrobatic talent.