Commander (3.5e Class)

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The brave commander of the army lifted his sword in the air, as he told the tale of the king which bravely fought against the barbarian horde. With a cry of war, he and his men charged bravely into battle.

The classic commander is a fighter who, beyond learning skill with sword and armor, knows how to boost the morale of others like a bard. He lacks spellcasting or a focus on performance for performance sake, but makes up with it with his fighting prowess.

A commander need not actually be a member of the military. Indeed all a commander is is a fighter willing to give his all to benefit the team. It is not uncommon for commanders to be people who take the Leadership feat or otherwise command respect.

Making a Commander[edit]

A commander is as competent as any melee fighter on the battlefield, though due to less bonus feats they must choose their specializations more carefully. The lack of spells means they rely on their Brave Cheer skills and magic equipment.

Abilities: As a fighting class, Strength and Constitution are important for offense and the ability to absorb blows from those they fight. Dexterity is important for archer builds or those who choose light armor. Charisma fuels the Brave Cheer abilities and the social skills which the Commander uses. Intelligence can be used for extra skills, for those focused on the more social aspects and tricks usually associated with rogues and bards, not fighters.

Races: Any race which allows for military teamwork and leadership is apt to have a Commander somewhere in their ranks, directing the charge of the warriors to victory.

Alignment: Non-chaotic.

Starting Gold: 5d6×10 gp (175 gp).

Starting Age: As Fighter.

Table: The Commander

Hit Die: d10

Level Base
Attack Bonus
Saving Throws Special
Fort Ref Will
1st +1 +2 +0 +0 Brave Cheer, Commanding Voice, Inspire Courage +1, Bonus Feat
2nd +2 +3 +0 +0 Social Rank +1
3rd +3 +3 +1 +1 Inspire Competence
4th +4 +4 +1 +1 Aura of Confidence
5th +5 +4 +1 +1 Improved Aid Another
6th +6/+1 +5 +2 +2 Suggestion
7th +7/+2 +5 +2 +2 Social Rank +2
8th +8/+3 +6 +2 +2 Inspire Courage +2
9th +9/+4 +6 +3 +3 Inspire Greatness
10th +10/+5 +7 +3 +3 Greater Aid Another, Bonus Feat
11th +11/+6/+1 +7 +3 +3 Aura of Courage
12th +12/+7/+2 +8 +4 +4 Pledge of Freedom
13th +13/+8/+3 +8 +4 +4 Social Rank +3
14th +14/+9/+4 +9 +4 +4 Inspire Courage +3
15th +15/+10/+5 +9 +5 +5 Inspire Heroics
16th +16/+11/+6/+1 +10 +5 +5 Fast Intimidation
17th +17/+12/+7/+2 +10 +5 +5 Mass Intimidation
18th +18/+13/+8/+3 +11 +6 +6 Mass Suggestion
19th +19/+14/+9/+4 +11 +6 +6 Social Rank +4, Aura of Menace
20th +20/+15/+10/+5 +12 +6 +6 Inspire Courage +4, Bonus Feat

Class Skills (4 + Int modifier per level, ×4 at 1st level)
Bluff (Cha), Climb (Str), Craft (Int), Diplomacy (Cha), Gather Information (Cha), Handle Animal (Cha), Intimidate (Cha), Jump (Str), Knowledge (history) (Int), Knowledge (Nobility and royalty) (Int), Perform (Oratory) (Cha), Profession (Wis), Ride (Dex), Sense Motive (Wis), Swim (Str).

Class Features[edit]

All of the following are class features of the commander.

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: Commanders are proficient with all simple and martial weapons, with all types of armor (heavy, medium, and light), and with shields (except tower shields)..

Brave Cheer: Brave cheer effectively works identical to bardic music (and feats which apply to bardic music may apply to brave cheer). Once per day per commander level, a commander can use his commanding voice to produce magical effects on those around him (usually including himself, if desired). While these abilities fall under the category of spoken performance, appropriate variations can exist for re-flavoring. Each ability requires both a minimum commander level and a minimum number of ranks in the Perform skill to qualify; if a commander does not have the required number of ranks in at least one Perform skill, he does not gain the brave cheer ability until he acquires the needed ranks.

Starting a brave cheer effect is a standard action. Some brave cheer abilities require concentration, which means the commander must take a standard action each round to maintain the ability. Even while using brave cheer that doesn’t require concentration, a commander cannot cast spells, activate magic items by spell completion (such as scrolls), spell trigger (such as wands), or command word. Just as for casting a spell with a verbal component, a deaf commander has a 20% chance to fail when attempting to use brave cheer. If he fails, the attempt still counts against his daily limit.

Commanding Voice (Sp): Effectively a bard's Fascinate ability, with their powerful speeches they can cause awe (or hesitation and doubt) in those they speak to. A commander with 3 or more ranks in a Perform skill can use his speech to cause one or more creatures to become fascinated with him. Each creature to be fascinated must be within 90 feet, able to see and hear the commander, and able to pay attention to him. The commander must also be able to see the creature. The distraction of a nearby combat or other dangers prevents the ability from working. For every three levels a commander attains beyond 1st, he can target one additional creature with a single use of this ability.

To use the ability, a commander makes a Perform check. His check result is the DC for each affected creature’s Will save against the effect. If a creature’s saving throw succeeds, the commander cannot attempt to fascinate that creature again for 24 hours. If its saving throw fails, the creature sits quietly and listens to the speech, taking no other actions, for as long as the commander continues to talk and concentrate (up to a maximum of 1 round per commander level). While fascinated, a target takes a -4 penalty on skill checks made as reactions, such as Listen and Spot checks. Any potential threat requires the commander to make another Perform check and allows the creature a new saving throw against a DC equal to the new Perform check result.

Any obvious threat, such as someone drawing a weapon, casting a spell, or aiming a ranged weapon at the target, automatically breaks the effect. Commanding Voice is an enchantment (compulsion), mind-affecting ability.

Inspire Courage (Su): A commander with 3 or more ranks in a Perform skill can use speeches to inspire courage in his allies (including himself), bolstering them against fear and improving their combat abilities. To be affected, an ally must be able to hear the commander speak. The effect lasts for as long as the ally hears the commander speak and for 5 rounds thereafter. An affected ally receives a +1 morale bonus on saving throws against charm and fear effects and a +1 morale bonus on attack and weapon damage rolls. At 8th level, and every six commander levels thereafter, this bonus increases by 1 (+2 at 8th, +3 at 14th, and +4 at 20th). Inspire courage is a mind-affecting ability.

Bonus Feat: At 1st level, a commander gets a bonus combat-oriented feat in addition to the feat that any 1st-level character gets and the bonus feat granted to a human character. The commander gains an additional bonus feat at 10th level and every ten commander levels thereafter. These bonus feats must be drawn from the feats noted as fighter bonus feats. A commander must still meet all prerequisites for a bonus feat, including ability score and base attack bonus minimums. He is counted as a fighter of equal level for the Weapon Specialization chain.

These bonus feats are in addition to the feat that a character of any class gets from advancing levels. A commander is not limited to the list of fighter bonus feats when choosing these feats.

Social Rank: If the commander is part of any military, guild, or other group outside of the party, they begin to achieve fame and respect amongst their ranks. At 2nd level and every 5 levels after, they gain a bonus to social skill checks when dealing with aforementioned appropriate groups.

Inspire Competence (Su): A commander of 3rd level or higher with 6 or more ranks in a Perform skill can use his speeches to help an ally succeed at a task. The ally must be within 30 feet and able to see and hear the commander. The commander must also be able to see the ally.

The ally gets a +2 competence bonus on skill checks with a particular skill as long as he or she continues to hear the commander's voice. Certain uses of this ability are infeasible. The effect lasts as long as the commander concentrates, up to a maximum of 2 minutes. A commander can’t inspire competence in himself. Inspire competence is a mind-affecting ability.

Aura of Confidence (Su): Beginning at 4th level, a commander gets a +4 morale bonus against fear (magical or otherwise). Each ally within 10 feet of her gains a +2 morale bonus on saving throws against fear effects.

This ability functions while the commander is conscious, but not if she is unconscious or dead. The ability is later replaced by Aura of Courage.

Improved Aid Another (Ex): At 5th level, the commander knows how to help his allies achieve greatness. When using the aid another ability, the bonus is +4 instead of +2.

Suggestion (Sp): A commander of 6th level or higher with 9 or more ranks in a Perform skill can make a suggestion (as the spell) to a creature that he has already fascinated by his Commanding Voice. Using this ability does not break the commander’s concentration on the fascinate effect, nor does it allow a second saving throw against the fascinate effect.

Making a suggestion doesn’t count against a commander’s daily limit on brave cheers. A Will saving throw (DC 10 + ½ commander’s level + commander’s Cha modifier) negates the effect. This ability affects only a single creature (but see mass suggestion, below). Suggestion is an enchantment (compulsion), mind-affecting, language dependent ability.

Inspire Greatness (Su): A commander of 9th level or higher with 12 or more ranks in a Perform skill can use his speeches to inspire greatness in himself or a single willing ally within 30 feet, granting him or her extra fighting capability. For every three levels a commander attains beyond 9th, he can target one additional ally with a single use of this ability (two at 12th level, three at 15th, four at 18th). To inspire greatness, a commander must speak and an ally must hear him talk. The effect lasts for as long as the ally hears the commander talk and for 5 rounds thereafter. A creature inspired with greatness gains 2 bonus Hit Dice (d10s), the commensurate number of temporary hit points (apply the target’s Constitution modifier, if any, to these bonus Hit Dice), a +2 competence bonus on attack rolls, and a +1 competence bonus on Fortitude saves. The bonus Hit Dice count as regular Hit Dice for determining the effect of spells that are Hit Dice dependent. Inspire greatness is a mind-affecting ability.

Greater Aid Another (Ex): At 10th level, the commander improves his teamwork skills. When using the aid another ability, the bonus is now +6.

Aura of Courage (Su): Beginning at 11th level, a commander is immune to fear (magical or otherwise). Each ally within 10 feet of her gains a +4 morale bonus on saving throws against fear effects.

This ability functions while the commander is conscious, but not if she is unconscious or dead. It replaces the effects of Aura of Confidence.

Pledge of Freedom (Sp): A commander of 12th level or higher with 15 or more ranks in a Perform skill can use his words to create an effect equivalent to the break enchantment spell (caster level equals the character’s commander level). Using this ability requires 1 minute of uninterrupted concentration and speaking, and it functions on a single target within 30 feet. A commander can’t use song of freedom on himself.

Inspire Heroics (Su): A commander of 15th level or higher with 18 or more ranks in a Perform skill can use speech to inspire tremendous heroism in himself or a single willing ally within 30 feet. For every three commander levels the character attains beyond 15th, he can inspire heroics in one additional creature. To inspire heroics, a commander must speak and an ally must hear the commander talk for a full round. A creature so inspired gains a +4 morale bonus on saving throws and a +4 dodge bonus to AC. The effect lasts for as long as the ally hears the commander speak and for up to 5 rounds thereafter. Inspire heroics is a mind-affecting ability.

Fast Intimidation (Ex): At 16th level the commander may Intimidate as a move action with his sharp piercing glare and powerful presence.

Mass Intimidation (Ex): At 17th level the commander has such a presence on the battlefield that he can intimidate all opponents within 30 feet of him when making an Intimidation check.

Mass Suggestion (Sp): This ability functions like suggestion, above, except that commander of 18th level or higher with 21 or more ranks in a Perform skill can make the suggestion simultaneously to any number of creatures that he has already fascinated. Mass suggestion is an enchantment (compulsion), mind-affecting, language-dependent ability.

Aura of Menace (Su): Beginning at 19th level, a mighty aura surrounds a commader when she fights or gets angry. Any hostile creature within a 20-foot radius of her must succeed at a Will save (DC 10 + ½ commander’s level + commander’s Cha modifier) or be shaken for one day or until it successfully hits the commander that generated the aura. A creature that has resisted or broken the effect cannot be affected again by that commander's aura for one day.


A commander who becomes chaotic loses the service of their social rank and auras, and cannot gain more levels as a commander. He retains all the other benefits of the class (feats obtained, aid another improvements, and brave cheer abilities).

Epic Commander[edit]

Table: The Epic Commander

Hit Die: d10

Level Special
23rd Bonus feat
26th Inspire Courage +5, Bonus feat
29th Bonus feat

(4 + Int modifier skill points per level.)

Brave Cheer: The commander gains no new brave cheer effects from his or her Perform ranks. However, he or she may select epic feats that grant new brave cheer effects (the same ones which apply to bardic music effects).

Inspire Courage (Su): The epic commander's bonus when this ability is used increases by +1 every six levels higher than 20th.

Bonus Feats: The epic Commander gains a bonus feat (selected from the list of epic Commander bonus feats) every 3 levels after 20th.

Epic Commander Bonus Feat List: Armor Skin, Blinding Speed, Combat Archery, Damage Reduction, Deafening Song, Devastating Critical, Dire Charge, Distant Shot, Energy Resistance, Epic Endurance, Epic Fortitude, Epic Inspiration, Epic Leadership, Epic Prowess, Epic Reputation, Epic Skill Focus, Epic Toughness, Epic Weapon Focus, Epic Weapon Specialization, Epic Will, Fast Healing, Great Charisma, Great Constitution, Great Strength, Group Inspiration, Hindering Song, Improved Aura Of Courage, Improved Combat Reflexes, Improved Whirlwind Attack, Inspire Excellence, Lasting Inspiration, Legendary Commander, Legendary Rider, Music Of The Gods, Overwhelming Critical, Penetrate Damage Reduction, Perfect Health, Perfect Two-Weapon Fighting, Polyglot, Ranged Inspiration, Rapid Inspiration, Spellcasting Harrier, Superior Initiative, Swarm Of Arrows, Two-Weapon Rend, Uncanny Accuracy, and Widen Aura Of Courage.

In addition to the feats on this list, the commander may treat any feat designated as a fighter bonus feat, but not listed here, as being on his or her bonus feat list.

Human Commander Starting Package[edit]

Weapons: Bastard Sword.

Ability Scores: Str 15, Dex 10, Con 13, Int 12, Wis 8, Cha 14.

Skill Selection: Pick a number of skills equal to 4 + Int modifier.

Skill Ranks Ability Armor
Craft (metalsmithing) 4 Int
Diplomacy 4 Cha
Gather Information 4 Cha
Handle Animal 4 Cha
Perform (Oratory) 4 Cha
Ride 4 Dex -2

Feat: Exotic Weapon Proficiency (Bastard Sword).

Bonus Feats: Mounted Combat, Improved Initiative..

Gear: Backpack, Map, Flint & Steel, Grappling Hook, Hooded Lantern, Silk Rope, and Tent.

Gold: 8 gp.

Campaign Information[edit]

Playing a Commander[edit]

Religion: Commanders come in all sorts of flavors, from the pious paladin-esque knight of justice to the atheist warlord who finds comfort on the battlefield. Thus no particular religion stands out, nor do they have to worship warrior gods. Gods of peace, gods of justice, and gods of luck are all part of it.

Other Classes: Depending on their personality they may be confused for a Paladin or a Fighter. If seen when speaking they may be even taken as bards or politicians, and treated accordingly.

Combat: Commanders belong on the front line with the barbarian, paladin, fighter, and ranger. They often lead the charge to help allies in their efforts.

Advancement: Any fighter or paladin oriented class is fare game for a Commander. Prestige Bard may also be a good choice if they wish to explore their bardic side a bit deeper and gain spells. Classes which progress their mount are ideal for mounted combat builds.

Commanders in the World[edit]

The enemy outnumber us a paltry three-to-one, good odds for any Greek. This day we rescue a world from mysticism and tyranny and usher in a world brighter than anything we can imagine. Give thanks, men, to Leonidas and the brave 300! TO VICTORY!
—Dilios, Human Commander

Commanders are typically those leading the charge of armies. Yet even on smaller party scales, they can provide a force of unity.

Daily Life: Commanders are just like fighters, in that they live their own lives, though focus on improving their physical powers. They are charismatic people and may likely be involved in a great deal of social activities.

Organizations: Commanders can be part of any military organization (and unofficially can simply be leaders). Typically the class of commander is accompanied by an appropriate rank as well.

NPC Reactions: For those without rank, a Commander is just a Fighter. However those with rank may receive admiration or scorn as the people or ideal they serve.

Commander Lore[edit]

Characters with ranks in Knowledge (history) or Knowledge (Nobility and royalty) can research Commanders to learn more about them. When a character makes a skill check, read or paraphrase the following, including information from lower DCs.

DC 10: Commanders are fighters who take charge of battles.

DC 15: Charismatic Commanders can inspire the troops to epic deeds of heroism.

DC 20: A Commander has an aura about them which causes awe or fear. Their presence can shake armies.

DC 30: Those that reach this level of success learn details about specific Commanders and various trivia, including their exploits, beliefs, or general location..

Commanders in the Game[edit]

Commanders may be important NPCs in armies, or PCs trying to climb military ranks. If mass combats are your thing, Commanders make an excellent boss for a mission to take out the enemy troop leader.

Adaptation: The military flavor of the class is mutable, and any fighter which generates respect, even a Gladiator, could be seen as a Commander.

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