Build a Better Monster: Human Pikeman

by northernbeholder

Sometimes you just need a generic soldier, whether they’re part of the city guard, the royal army or just a sword-for-hire.  However, ‘generic’ doesn’t have to mean ‘unthreatening’.  Through use of Pathfinder’s Combat Maneuvers system, these CR 2 humans are an effective addition to any encounter, even against a mid-level party.

The combat maneuver system is another process Paizo adapted from the 3.5 edition of Dungeons and Dragons, streamlining the sometimes complex and cumbersome mechanisms to make resolving the maneuvers much quicker and easier, allowing GMs to keep the pace of combat going.  However, because they require taking at least two feats to use with reliable effectiveness (the ‘improved’ version of the combat maneuver, and the prerequisite feat, which is either Power Attack or Combat Expertise depending on which maneuver you want) many players choose not to pursue them, even when playing Fighters, the class with the most opportunity (thanks to its bonus feats) and the most to gain.  As such, they can often be surprised by having the feature used against them.  It’s an easy way to make lower-level creatures effective, as any given player character’s Combat Maneuver Defense is almost always guaranteed to be lower than their Armour Class, a difference that will only grow as they acquire more powerful armour or defensive spells to further boost their AC.

Human Pikeman

This hardened veteran readies his long lance against your approach, the gleaming tip dancing through the air with the deadly grace of an adder.

Human Pikeman (CR 2)
XP 600
Human Polearm Master 3
TN Medium humanoid (human)
Init +6; Senses Perception +3

AC 19, touch 13, flat-footed 16 (+6 armour, +2 dex, +1 dodge)
hp 24 (3 HD; 3d10+6)
Fort +5  Ref +3  Will +1

Speed 30ft (20ft in armour)
Melee ranseur +8 (2d4+6/x3); longsword +7 (1d8+4/19-20×2)
Disarm ranseur +11; longsword +9

Str 18, Dex 14, Con 14, Int 12, Wis 10, Cha 10
Base Atk +3;  CMB +7 ; CMD 19 (21 vs disarm)
Feats Improved Initiative, Weapon Focus (ranseur), Improved Disarm, Combat Expertise, Dodge
Class Pole Fighting, Steadfast Pike
Skills Intimidate +6, Survival +6, Perception +3

Environment any
Organization pair (2) or platoon (3-12)
Treasure standard (chainmail, ranseur, longsword, potion of cure light wounds, flask of alcohol, waterskin (full), rations (3 days), 1d6gp 1d10sp)

Like their historical inspiration, these pikemen fight best together, presenting a united wall of spearheads to the enemy and punishing any attempts to swiftly close the gap with an array of Attacks of Opportunity. The Polearm Master archetype’s class features allow them to shorten their grip and use their pike in close melee if needed (Pole Fighting) and give them attack and damage bonuses on their Attacks of Opportunity (Steadfast Pike), while their feat selection and weapon of choice means players will be unwillingly dropping their blades throughout the encounter.  Their relatively low AC and HP mean that they will go down fairly quickly if caught in close melee, and at higher levels their formation is vulnerable to Fireballs and other area-of-effect spells, but until then they will teach your players a healthy respect for the lowly mook.

The pikeman came into being when my players were around level 5.  They were travelling north through the Sunlit Vale towards the necromancer stronghold mentioned in the Skeletal Hoplite article, though of course they didn’t know that yet.  Their first encounter with the necromancers was to be a walled village overrun by the undead.

I had introduced the players to the idea of walled villages before. In fact, they had rescued one from an orc raiding party a few sessions previously.  The encounter was designed to seem outwardly normal;  a walled village, the gates closed, some pikemen standing guard.  These pikemen were mercenaries from Damara, a nation which had not so long ago been ruled by an undead tyrant, and as such were used to the ways of necromancers.

The job of the pikemen was to turn away travellers from the town gates while the necromancer raised the slaughtered villagers inside.  If the party believed them and moved on, their camp would be assaulted the following night.  As it happened, however, my players were sufficiently suspicious of the eerily silent village to force the issue, leading to combat – first with the pikemen, and then the necromancer and her small horde of zombie peasants.  The pikemen proved effective both in disarming and general combat.  The selection of the ranseur as their weapon (a polearm which gives an inherent +2 to disarm checks) improved their CMB, allowing them to disarm party members with relative ease, and their solid damage and x3 crit modifier led to Philippe the fencer spitting himself upon a pike and falling into negative hitpoints early in the battle.