[RPG] How to build a Capoeira Dancer


I started to play with the Pathfinder Bard. Now, I would like to build a Capoeira Dancer.

An example of capoeira.

Goals and Requirements

  • I would like this character to be good at dancing. Able to be a difficult to touch front liner. Someone tankish that can control the battlefield. A bit of damage but not a glass cannon.

  • I think the bard is a good start with some levels of monk (or umonk). I never use VMC so far, but it could be useful. I know the brawler exist, but I didn't yet read his page. The Kapenia Magus could be in theme but I would like to be bare hand. Also, I am already playing a Kensai Magus and I would like to try something else.

  • We mostly play around the level 8, but we could start at the level 4. I don't know so far.

List your group and campaign situation

  • I do not know what the other players are going to pick. It is not impossible that a social Roguish character (maybe a bit bard also) will be there. If so, I may ask the third player to be part of our band! Speculation here.

  • We are playing in a custom medfan setting. Not far from Faerun or Golarion. Homemade countries, gods, etc. Arcane magic was mostly forbidden without authorization, but more and more folks come pack to pagan magic. Magic items are restricted but not hard to find for someone who know where to ask with enough money. We try to avoid vanilla level-9 full caster.

  • Most of the content is allow (Official content, and sometimes 3.5 or 3th party content. We even have a little bit of homebrew. I personally want to avoid it). Cheesy stuff need to be discuss at the table. Fun for everybody before all. 🙂

  • We are not playing PFS.

  • We are using 20 point-buy (high fantasy).

  • We use most of the official rule as far as I know.

  • Most items are fine. We use the character advancement table for this.

Another capoeira animation.

The capoeira animations are by adrien-gromelle as far as I know.

Best Answer

Note this answer predates a possibly-better option raised by gemini011’s answer. For historical reasons, I have decided to consider that option in a separate answer.

A few quick pointers

  • VMC is never useful. No, not even then. Every single VMC option is 100% trap. Please never use them.

  • Monk, likewise, is a pretty awful class; it doesn’t offer a whole lot here.

  • Bard is OK, but it’s very heavy on the “master of none” counterpart to “jack of all trades.” You don’t necessarily want all of those trades, and your ability to be a martial artist will suffer for it.

  • Meanwhile, skald is solid for a combat bard (trading some extraneous trades for some combat mastery), and unchained monk is a huge upgrade to the regular monk.

  • Brawler and ninja might also be worthy of consideration.

  • Since you want Charisma, paladin must always be on your radar. Seriously, it is impossible overstate how good divine grace is.

  • There is a metric boatload of 3.5e support here. A couple, in particular, would be fantastic for you.


The skald’s schtick is that their song can give allies (themselves included) rage-like effects, including a few rage powers. Inspired rage is the only skald performance worth using, but it’s very good and very worth using.

This does mean you can potentially multiclass here, since you get inspired rage as a 1st-level skald. That gives you very little usage of inspired rage, though, and you definitely want to have at least some rage powers for yourself and allies. The best time to break from skald will depend on other factors in your build.

The other issue is that skalds are associated with only a few types of performance: oratory, percussion, vocal, and wind. None of these is dance. In fact, since skald performances (along with bardic performances) must be heard, dance is problematic. What I have done in the past, with GM permission, is use a tambourine along with the dancing to make it percussion. Clapping or slapping could also work. With a 3.5e bard, rather than skald, I have also used tiny bells sewn into my character’s clothing, though that might be hard to argue as one of the four skald performance types. Singing is also totally hands-free, but that one is problematic simply because then it really will be completely separate from your dancing.

There is a demon dancer archetype for skalds who use dance, but

  1. it could be problematic fluff, though it doesn’t actually specify any alignment,
  2. it never specifies how dancing works in conjunction with needing to be heard,
  3. it replaces your 3rd-level, 6th-level, and 9th-level rage powers with a bite attack, the fiend totem, and the greater fiend totem. They’re not terrible but you could do better and might want something else.

Speaking of skald archetypes, none of them really jump out at me as particularly useful to your character. However, I’ll note that the fated champion is, in my estimation, pure upgrade compared to the base skald: initiative checks are often the most important roll of the battle, and well-versed is not particularly good. You probably aren’t using your spells for damage, so far seer is an upgrade too. Dirge of doom is pretty meh, while shield of foresight is pretty nice, and while master skald is great, so is not this day. All of my skalds are fated champions.

Anyway, for reasons that will become more clear, I will assume the tambourine or clapping, and thus percussion, rather than the problematic demon dancer or the dubious bell trick.

Unchained monk

There are three things you really like about unchained monk: bonus feats, including Improved Unarmed Strike which you absolutely want, improved unarmored AC (though Wisdom-based is kind of disappointing), and, at 5th level, the flying kick style strike.

Unchained monk is a solid class in many respects, and could just be your capoeira dancer itself. Perform is a monk class skill, after all. But it doesn’t have much use for Charisma or performance, so it will be pure description if you go that route.

But even in a multiclass situation, getting flying kick is just nigh-mandatory. That’s what allows you to jump around the battlefield beating people up, rather than being painfully immobile.

As for archetypes, unchained monk itself has relatively few options. One of them, however, is the scaled fist—which uses Charisma instead of Wisdom. The usefulness of that is pretty obvious. Losing maneuver training is kind of sad, but only kind of. So go with scaled fist. I recommend acid damage for the draconic fury, just because it tends to be the least often resisted, but feel free to go with whatever you like.

Invested regent has some nice Charisma-based options, though giving up feats is hard. Note that investiture stacks with divine grace, if you manage to get it, because it’s a sacred bonus equal to Charisma rather than just adding your Charisma bonus. Technically, scaled fist and invested regent are incompatible, but it’s really easy to massage them together if your GM is amenable: the only reason that they’re incompatible is because both add extra options for your bonus feats. Neither wants to take away something that the other has already “used,” so having both doesn’t seem problematic.


You are interested in Charisma. Divine grace is a paladin class feature that adds Charisma to all saving throws. That makes it quite possibly the best defensive class feature in the game, barring high-level spellcasting. It’s incredible how good this is.

Smite evil’s pretty nice, the auras can be OK, lay on hands and mercies might be alright, but divine grace is why you are here. Taking just two levels of paladin for just divine grace is entirely legitimate.

As far as archetypes are concerned, any that leave divine grace alone can be considered, but enlightened paladin is particularly interesting—as written, confident defense should stack with the monk AC bonus, even after scaled fist switches it to be Charisma-based. Ask your GM about that; 2×Cha to AC would be pretty nice. Most of the rest of enlightened paladin is pure downgrade, though: personal trial in particular really sucks when you compare it against smite evil, and aura of excellence protects against a vastly rarer threat than aura of courage. Which might be a case you could make to justify 2×Cha to AC, if your GM is iffy about it, particularly since confident defense is capped at your paladin level and therefore requires spending more levels in paladin than you might otherwise be inclined to do if you actually want to have 2×Cha to AC. Be sure to ask how the ki pool and unarmed strike damage does or doesn’t stack, too.

Extra Performance

You are multiclassed, and therefore have notably fewer rounds of bardic performance than a straight bard or skald would. Even the minimum 4+Cha rounds per day should be pretty good—especially given your Charisma should be as high as possible. But if it is an issue, the Extra Performance feat is a solution to that.

3.5e material

There are a number of 3.5e options that are really worth considering for your character:

Snowflake Wardance

This is a feat from Frostburn. It requires that you be using a slashing weapon in one hand, which kind of works neatly with the idea of using the other hand for a tambourine or other percussion. (You could combine it with two-weapon fighting but that would require a lot of feats.)

It also explicitly requires that you dance, requires ranks in Perform (dance), and adds your Charisma bonus to attack rolls. This could not be more on-point for you. It even activates as a free action, so you don’t have to waste a turn putting it on.

You’ll notice, however, that unarmed strikes are not slashing weapons. Not to fear! Versatile Unarmed Strike is a feat from Player’s Handbook II that allows you to switch your unarmed strike to piercing or slashing damage, or back to bludgeoning damage, as a swift action.

However, bardic music changed pretty substantially between 3.5e and Pathfinder. Having Snowflake Wardance just use rounds of performance the same as any other performance works fine, though it’s far weaker than it would be in 3.5e (just as bardic music in general is far weaker than it would be in 3.5e).

In addition, you could overlap bardic music in 3.5e: each bardic music effect lingered for 5 rounds after you stopped it, so you could start one, stop, and then start another while the first still lingered. You can’t do that in Pathfinder. It’s therefore unclear if using Snowflake Wardance prevents you from also performing inspire courage/inspired rage—if it does, then you really don’t care much about most bard or skald features and just want the minimum necessary to qualify for the Snowflake Wardance feat. Extra Performance then becomes important to make sure you have enough rounds of performance to maintain the wardance as long as you need it.

Gauntlets of Heartfelt Blows

Found in Dragon Compendium (hey, Paizo content!), these magic gauntlets add fire damage to your attacks equal to your Charisma bonus. Pairs very, very nicely with Snowflake Wardance.

Song of the White Raven1

This feat, from Tome of Battle, requires a White Raven maneuver (which can be gotten through the Martial Study feat in the same book, or by taking a level of crusader or warblade). It allows crusader or warblade levels to stack with bard levels for the size of the inspire courage bonus, and allows you to use inspire courage as a swift action.

Ask your GM if you can take this an apply it to inspired rage. It is very much worth it. I recommend crusader for getting the White Raven maneuver, but either works. Grabbing mountain hammer along with your White Raven is highly recommended; that means taking your level after 4th.

Song of the Heart,1 medallion of courage,1 inspirational boost1

These options (a feat from Eberron Campaign Setting, an item from Magic Item Compendium, and a spell from Spell Compendium respectively) each improve your inspire courage bonus by +1. Ask your GM if you can apply them to inspired rage (granting another +2 Str/Con and Will).

If you really wanted to go nuts, you could also ask about Words of Creation from Book of Exalted Deeds, which doubles the bonus. Actually, don’t do that; that’s absurd.

Dragonfire Inspiration1

This feat from Dragon Magic gives you a new bardic performance that gives all of your allies +\$x\$d6 fire damage, where \$x\$ is the morale bonus that your inspire courage gives. In the case of inspired rage, \$x\$ would be half your bonus to Strength and Constitution.

Note that you must be dragonblooded to take Dragonfire Inspiration. Several 3.5e races are automatically dragonblooded, including silverbrow humans, who retain the human bonus feat. These should be relatively painless to port to Pathfinder.

Harmonious Knight

Harmonious knight from the free Champions of Valor web enhancement gets inspire courage (+1, 1/day, which matches that of a 1st-level 3.5e bard—getting the 4+Cha rounds/day of inspire courage +1, as a 1st-level Pathfinder bard, would presumably be appropriate here) rather than detect evil. That could allow you to skip bard or skald entirely—especially valuable if your GM rules that Snowflake Wardance cannot be combined with other performances and so inspire courage or inspired rage are useless. Even if you can combine them, though, Song of the Heart, medallion of courage, inspirational boost, and Dragonfire Inspiration might be good enough that you don’t miss the actual bard or skald levels. Extra Performance, again, can help with any shortage of performance rounds.


I think a 1st-level skald/2nd-level enlightened paladin/5th-level scaled fist is probably your choice for 8th level, at least if we make no assumptions about 3.5e material. After that point, more levels in enlightened paladin would improve your AC, at least until you reach the point where you have as many levels as your Charisma bonus (which should be a lot). But I think more skald levels are better—you already have Cha to AC once, and further AC improvements might be redundant at that point, while your inspired rage is pretty mediocre. At the least, getting a rage power from being a 3rd-level skald should be a high priority.

If you can use 3.5e material, your highest priority is Snowflake Wardance (and the Versatile Unarmed Strike you need to use it). The gauntlets of heartfelt blows pair with it amazingly well—at that point, you would have Cha to attack, damage, all saving throws, and AC. Harmonious knight might also be better than dipping skald, especially if Snowflake Wardance can’t be combined with other performances. On the other hand, if it can be combined, taking crusader or warblade at 9th to get Song of the White Raven is a fantastic choice, as are various boosts to inspire courage—which could include skald levels if you like.

  1. These options improve performances other than Snowflake Wardance. If you cannot combine another performance with Snowflake Wardance, they aren’t worth using.
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