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Min/Max Boards Dungeons & Dragons Discussion DnD 3.5 and Pathfinder Handbooks Class and Concept: The Swashbuckler
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Class and Concept: The Swashbuckler
Topic Start: July 19, 2013, 03:44:21 PM
Jackinthegreen
DnD Handbook Writer
Posts: 4019
I like green.
Respect: +50
I started writing this handbook up well over a year ago, but of course I still don't have it as
complete as I would like due mostly to my own half-assedness. It's in useable condition
though, but chances are I need to do more formatting on it and since I'm not experienced in
getting a feel for it in Word, comments about improving the handbook can be done via PM or
through the usual discussion thread.
Note: If you feel like lifting anything from this and making your own handbook or whatever,
go ahead. I'm not even going to ask you credit me on this because I just wanted to get this
thing out and about.
Class and Concept: Swashbuckler
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Author Topic: Class and Concept: The Swashbuckler (Read 487 times)
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Table of Contents:
1: Introduction and party interaction
2: Attributes and races
3: Standard class features and ACFs
4: Feats, skills, and skill tricks
5: Multiclassing and Prestige Classes
5a: Playing the concept instead of the class
6: Equipment
7: Sample builds
8: Credits
Spoiler: Ratings system (click to show/hide)
Introduction
The swashbuckler: A person of daring, intrigue, and panache. Or so the fictional accounts
and characters have made out to be over the years. In actuality the name comes from a
fighting style using a sword and buckler, which was applied with much swashing and
making noise on the buckler.
Does the official class actually compare to the legendary characters of renown? Sadly, no. It
may have access to social skills enough to possibly be deemed charismatic, but it has no
actual Charisma synergies or even class abilities based on the stat. Thankfully the Dead
Level ability addresses this a little and adds something unique to the class, which Ill go
over in Part 3 with the other class features.
So, how then does one play a swashbuckler in D&D? Sure you could go with the full twenty
levels of the base class, but there are much better ways of realizing the concept and being
effective. The concept might be realized with good Dex, Int, and Cha representing a quick,
witty, and charming person, but those alone dont make an effective character.
Party Interaction
The swashbuckler class is primarily meant for melee but can do a tiny bit in other areas.
Melee: Swashbucklers are meant to be melee combatants, plain and simple. Most class
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features are keyed toward being in melee or getting into melee. Thankfully the class has full
BAB and also high health with d10 HD so swashbucklers have a good start, but the class
itself doesnt get much else.
Control and debuffing: Swashbucklers have no class abilities or synergies to control the
battlefield unless you decide to pick up a reach weapon you can Finesse (kusari-gama,
spinning sword, spiked chain, etc) for lockdown. The only debuffing a standard
swashbuckler will be doing is Str or Con damage on crits, which come at levels 14 and 19
respectively. Item enhancements and spells do better than those and much earlier.
Party Face: A swashbuckler has access to Bluff, Diplomacy, and Sense Motive as class
skills. Unfortunately, swashbucklers usually have little reason to pump Cha and a few
reasons to dump Wis. In short, a swashbuckler is unlikely to have as much social prowess
as most would think it should. The other skills available have little or no party effect as well
as being situational at best. At least the class has some incentive to up Int, so skill points
wont be in the crapper.
Attributes
Strength: Swashbucklers just dont need it usually. They get Dex to hit from level 1 and Int to
damage at level 3. Sure Str still applies to damage, but at this point the only reason to pump
Str is for skills and certain combat maneuvers such as tripping, which swashbucklers
normally dont do well anyway. A -1 or 2 wont be too bad but any worse might (literally) be
crippling.
Dexterity: Swashbucklers have Weapon Finesse as a bonus feat at 1st level and only light
armor proficiency. If you cant figure out why this is blue, I cant help you.
Constitution: Important for everybody. You might have issues juggling this with other stats
though. Needless to say, dump if you plan on becoming undead.
Intelligence: This contributes to damage and skill points. To be effective at swashbuckling
youll need this.
Wisdom: Dump, but try not to have worse than -1 or 2. Your Will save sucks, and a low
Wisdom will make it suck even more. The good news is you wont exactly be very
threatening if youre Dominated.
Charisma: Helps a bit with the social skills, but nothing else for a pure Swashbuckler. If you
really want to keep with the archetype though, this will get a decent score.
For a typical swashbuckler Id say the attributes boil down to Dex>=Int>Con>Cha>Wis=Str.
A decent 28 PB build might go: Str 8 Dex 16 Con 14 Int 14 Wis 8 Cha 10. Yeah, the class
has some MAD.
Races
Most civilized races will have swashbucklers. As with any class though, some are better
than others. Take note that no races have swashbuckler as favored, so you might run into
multiclassing issues if your DM is the type that insists on that crap.
PHB races:
Dwarf: The notion of a dwarf swashbuckler is an odd one, but they can manage it. +2 Con is
nice for surviving, and -2 Cha isnt so bad. Theyre at a tactical disadvantage because of low
speed though, and their ability to stay at that speed despite heavier armor doesnt really
matter for a swashbuckler due to light armor.
Elf: Bonus to Dex and penalty to Con means elves are hard to quantify, but that Con hit will
probably hurt more than the Dex will help. The feat Improved Weapon Familiarity allows
3 / 10
elves access to the Elven Courtblade set of weapons which all benefit from Weapon
Finesse, so elves can have a bit of a weapon advantage.
Gnome: Bonus to Con, penalty to Str. This turns out to be pretty good, along with the fact that
they can switch their exotic weapon familiarity over to Gnomish Quickrazor. The slow speed
hurts as with dwarves, and the small size means less damaging weapons. The +1 accuracy
bonus from being small helps mitigate that.Whisper Gnomes have a Dex bonus and 30 foot
move speed in spite of being small, though they trade that Dex for a Cha penalty which can
hurt depending on your style.
Half-elf: Half-elves are the pinnacle of boring. You can do better.
Half-orc: Int loss hurts and the strength bonus isnt useful. Dont do it.
Halfling: -2 STR, +2 Dex and +1 to all saves. Pretty good if you ask me. Slow speed still
hurts, as can small size. Strongheart Halflings from the FRCS come out ahead due to the
extra feat in place of the save boosts.
Human: As usual, humans are a fine choice. The extra feat and skills are always welcome.
Other notables:
Changeling: If youre in a campaign with good social options and have access to Eberron
races, Changelings offer great ways to make the most of it. Combine with the Seduction
dead level ability to great effect. Also goes well with the Changeling Rogue racial sub
levels, if you want a Daring Outlaw build.
Anthropomorphic cat: This furball is from Savage Species and the reason for its LA is
because of the skill and stat differences. In short, Dex to Climb and Jump instead of Str
(which essentially grants you the Agile Athlete feat) along with +4 racial mods on Climb,
Hide, and Move Silently. There are also the +8 mods on Balance and Jump checks. The
racial Hide bonus improves to +8 in tall grass or heavy undergrowth. Finally, the stat
differences are -4 Str, +2 Dex, and +2 Wis. What this means is you get to dump even more
Str since two of your skills no longer use it. Theres also flavoring yourself as Puss in Boots if
youd like.
Krynn Minotaur (DLCS): The only reason this race is mentioned is because they are written
as practiced sailors. Their stats are totally out of sync with the way swashbucklers work
though (+4 str, -2 dex, -2 int, -2 cha), so its not recommended for them to take the
swashbuckler class.
Swashbuckler Class Features:
Hit Dice: As a fighter, swashbucklers get a D10. Pretty good start.
BAB: Also like a fighter with full BAB.
Saves: Once again just like a fighter with good Fort, poor Ref, and poor Will.
Weapon and Armor proficiencies: All simple weapons, all martial weapons, and light armor
but no shields. I find it somewhat amusing that a class with buckler in its name isnt
proficient in them, but nonproficiency penalties are easily circumvented if you really must
have a shield.
Skills: Decent skill list and skill points with some Int synergy to the class. See the Skills
section for more info.
Weapon Finesse (1): This feat plays heavily into the swashbuckler style, so its no surprise a
swashbuckler gets it totally free at first level. It makes for a good dip too since swashbuckler
1 is mostly better than fighter 1 if the character just wants Weapon Finesse and you wont be
penalized XP for multiclassing.
Grace (2, 9, and 20): A save bonus of +3 over 20 levels is crap. Its even crappier because
its a competence bonus, which is quite common among buffs and items. However, Grace is
a requirement for a couple multiclassing feats that add some nice things to the character.
See the Feat section for more info.
Insightful Strike (3): Its +Int to damage (in addition to Str) on Finesse weapons, but doesnt
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work on crit-immune targets so its useless when facing such enemies. Still, Insightful Strike
is the main reason for taking a 3 level dip in swashbuckler and is the main cut off point
unless you have access to the dead level ability at 4th. From this point on, all class features
go downhill.
Dodge Bonus (5, 10, 15, and 20): AC tends to be a poor buff by later levels. The fact that this
only works against melee attacks of one opponent makes this feature pretty crappy, much
like a similarly named feat. Unlike the feat though, this doesnt lead into anything useful.
Acrobatic Charge (7): Any character can use Jump and Tumble, etc to avoid difficult terrain
during a charge. Psionic characters can essentially ignore it from level 1.
Improved Flanking (8): An extra +2 on flanking is alright for a rogue since they have Sneak
Attack, but the swashbuckler has no features whatsoever that play off flanking.
Lucky (11): The ability to reroll a failed check can be done by other characters from level 1.
Acrobatic Skill Mastery (13): Taking 10 on Jump and Tumble at all times is alright, but items
will tend to make the player forget this class feature even exists. Other classes grant the
option to Take 10 on more than just 2 skills before level 13.
Weakening Critical (14): 2 Str damage on a crit wont impress anyone at this level. Many
things you fight will probably be immune to crits anyway. Casters and weapon
enhancements do this much better and much earlier.
Slippery Mind (17): This gives the ability to reroll a failed save one round after failing the
save against a mind-affecting Enchantment effect. Once again its something certain other
classes can effectively do from level 1. Rogues can do it from 10 or 13 if they care to take it.
You can also use an item or be a certain race/creature to be immune in the first place.
Wounding Critical (19): 2 Con damage on a crit at level 19 just plain sucks. Low level spells
and weapon enchantments (like Wounding) do better than this.
Alternate Class Features:
Arcane Stunt (CM, p. 32): Lose Grace to gain the effects of blur , expeditious retreat , feather
fall , jump, or spider climb a few times a day. As a swift (or in FFs case, immediate) action. If
it wasnt for the fact that Grace is required for Daring Outlaw and Daring Warrior, this trade
would be blue. Those feats are covered in the Feats section.
Drow Swashbuckler (DotU, p. 59): Technically doesnt require being a Drow. When wielding
two weapons and hitting at least once with both, you gain a free 5-foot step as a swift action
that doesnt count against the normal limits on 5-foot steps. Replaces Acrobatic Charge. To
me this seems like its replacing a worthless ability with a practically worthless ability.
Shield of Blades (PHB 2, p. 63): Replaces Dodge Bonus. When attacking with two light
weapons, gain a shield bonus starting at +2 and going up to +5 at 20th level. This is
lackluster because it requires attacking with two light weapons (not just Finesse weapons
which is what the class is based on), which is only worthwhile if you have TWF or better.
Gaining the same and better shield bonus can be done better with an actual shield.
Dead Level Ability
Seduction: Gain a new use of the Bluff skill at 4th level called seduce to learn secret .
Basically, if you make a Bluff check of 10, 20, 30, 40, or 50, you can learn a potentially
valuable secret from an NPC. If your game is heavy on intrigue and you can afford to pump
Bluff up, then this is worthwhile. If not, then of course its probably not worthwhile for you.
Note that WotC added an option for the DM to give this use to all characters and oddly
enough the use time is lowered in that version. Chat with your DM about what can be
allowed in the game.
Multiclass Feats:
Daring Outlaw (CSc, p. 76) Requires Grace +1, 2d6 Sneak Attack.
This is the multiclass feat for rogue/swashbucklers. The main thing worth noting is it allows
rogue and swashbuckler levels to stack for the purpose of determining SA damage. It also
advances the Grace and Dodge Bonus features. See if your DM will allow Arcane Stunt in
place of Grace, since the substitution makes for a more flavorful and useful character.
5 / 10
Daring Outlaw (Complete Adventurer Ninja): Thanks to a CA ninjas Sudden Strike
counting as Sneak Attack for feats (see CAd page 8), its possible to stack swashbuckler and
ninja levels for this feat. I wouldnt recommend it though because the ninja relies heavily on
Wis, and thats a dump stat for swashbucklers. Your DM might also decide that since the feat
specifically says ninja, you dont actually benefit from the feat. Or you might get certain
abilities but not others. Check with your DM before trying this.
Daring Outlaw (Rokugan Ninja): The ninja from Rokugan Campaign Setting gets proper
Sneak Attack, so youre good on qualifying if this version of ninja is accepted. The classes
actually mesh decently well with each other since none of their high level class features are
worthwhile except for Sneak Attack, and theyre both full BAB with some Int synergy. Keep in
mind this ninja needs to be updated to 3.5, but its just the skills that will need fixing since all
the other features work as-is.
Daring Outlaw (fighter):Theres a fighter variant in UA that trades the fighters feats for, you
guessed it, Sneak Attack. Do not even think about trying this. A fighters feats will get you
much more versatility and, if chosen well, damage, than SA will. There is also the fighters
infamously bad set of skills to think about.
Daring Warrior (CSc, pg 76) Requires Weapon Specialization, Grace +1.
Its fighter/swashbuckler this time around. This feat allows fighter levels to advance Grace
and Dodge and also allows swashbuckler levels to count as fighter levels for the
prerequisites on fighter feats. Feats available only to fighters are listed further down. Since
the latter swashbuckler class features are worse than good fighter bonus feats, this feat
should work well for you if you dont mind the loss of skills (which can be worked around with
certain Fighter ACFs). As mentioned in Daring Outlaw, see if your DM will allow Arcane
Stunt to qualify in place of Grace for this feat.
Daring Warrior (rogue) Why is rogue listed under this when it has Daring Outlaw? Theres
a rogue ACF in Unearthed Arcana that trades Sneak Attack for the fighters bonus feat
progression. It doesnt explicitly say rogue levels count as fighter level for prerequisites, but
its something that a lenient DM could allow. This would allow you to get many more skills
points and feats, but youd lose out on BAB (which isnt so bad since you can still get 16 with
4 levels of swashbuckler).
Daring Warrior (Warblade): The Warblade from Tome of Battle qualifies as a fighter of 2
levels lower for feat prerequisites, so the Weapon Spec requirement can be met. These
classes mesh well together since both have nice Int synergy, although youll quickly realize
that Warblade trumps swashbuckler quite handily at every turn thanks to maneuvers and
better class features.
General Feats
Agile Athlete: Swaps the Climb and Jump skills to benefit from Dex instead of Str. If you
expect to use these skills often, absolutely get this feat.
Combat Reflexes: You have the Dex to make a lot of AoOs with this feat. Combine with a
reach/adjacent weapon (spiked chains, spinning swords, and the kusari-gama all benefit
from Weapon Finesse) and youve got a good start on battlefield control.
Combat Expertise: The AC bonus doesnt do a whole lot, but this is a prerequisite to other
good feats like Improved Trip.
Dodge: The least they could have done was make the swashbucklers actual Dodge ability
count as this feat like Ninja Dodge for the Rokugan ninja does, but oh well. It is a
prerequisite for several good (and bad) feats and some prestige classes. The feat on its own
is rather crappy.
Shadow Blade: Requires a Shadow Hand stance, but in return you get Dex to melee
6 / 10
weapon damage while in that stance. To meet the prerequisite youll need a dip in
Swordsage or the feats Martial Study and Martial Stance. Assassins Stance tends to work
well especially if your DM allows it to qualify you for Daring Outlaw.
Martial Study: Use it to gain any maneuver you qualify for. A Warblade dip will probably
suit you better, but if you want a maneuver from the Desert Wind, Devoted Spirit, Setting Sun,
or Shadow Hand styles this will get that.
Martial Stance: There are plenty of good stances around. Of special note is Assassins
Stance, which can technically qualify you for Daring Outlaw without rogue or ninja levels.
Exotic Weapon Proficiency: A few exotic weapons are worth it. The spiked chain can
benefit from Weapon Finesse and will make a great weapon for a swashbuckler.. The
kusari-gama (DMG 144) is essentially a light version of the spiked chain and allows for TWF.
The spinning sword from Secrets of Sarlona 13 is a one-handed version of the spiked chain
with some slight changes. If you can use Dragon Magazine, the Crescent Knife from DM 275
page 44 is an excellent weapon because its two attacks per swing, effectively doubling your
attacks. TWF and get Sneak Attack for some very fun numbers. If youre more of a
traditionalist with weapons, the Elven Courtblade from Complete Warrior/Races of the Wild
might turn your fancy.
Two-weapon Fighting: This feat and its chain usually arent worthwhile for a swashbuckler
to get unless you have Sneak Attack. Pick up Gloves of the Balanced Hand from MiC to get
TWF or Improved TWF if you already have the base TWF feat.
Shape Soulmeld (Sailors Bracers): More for theme than anything else since shaping it
alone grants a +4 insight bonus to Profession (Sailor), Swim, and Use Rope checks. If you
can bind it to your Arms chakra then you effectively get a swim speed.
Fighter specific feats:
Weapon Specialization: Requires fighter level 4. A +2 bonus on damage rolls is only
alright for a feat, but it is required for Daring Warrior. Dont bother with Greater Weapon
Focus/Specialization because of:
Melee Weapon Mastery: Requires Weapon Specialization and BAB +8. This feat grants +2
on both attack and damage rolls, which essentially combines and obviates the want for
Greater Weapon Focus and Specialization without needing 8 or 12 levels of fighter.
Weapon Supremacy: Requires fighter 18, Weapon Focus, Weapon Specialization,
Weapon Mastery, Greater Weapon Focus, and Greater Weapon Specialization. Gain +4
against disarms, wield the weapon in a grapple as if you werent grappling, gain a +5 bonus
to any attack after the first during a full attack, Take 10 once per round on an attack roll, and
gain +1 AC. The intense (generally crappy) feat investment is simply not worth it. Dont
bother with it on a pure fighter much less a swashbuckler.
Skills:
Balance (Dex): Most tend to leave this at 5 ranks to keep from being flat-footed while
balancing. Few classes (including swashbucklers) have much use for this skill otherwise.
Bluff (Cha): Simply for its synergies, putting 5 ranks here is worth it.
Climb (Str): Few classes ever put ranks in this, but if you routinely find yourself in spots
where Climb is necessary (such as fighting on a ships rigging) then points here might be
worthwhile.
Craft (Int): Crafting can be useful, but its usually not worth sinking points into.
Poisonmaking gets an honorable mention for usually being better than Weakening Critical
and Wounding Critical.
Diplomacy (Cha): Diplomacy is broken, period. Max this.
Escape Artist (Dex): Dont bother with ranks here unless its somehow really useful in your
campaign.
Jump (Str): If you plan on using Tumble, 5 ranks here will give a +2 there. Otherwise, its
7 / 10
usually not worth many skill points. Maybe 1 if youd rather land on your feet instead of your
face.
Profession (Wis): Most professions arent worth much. If youre having a seafaring
campaign though, Profession (Sailor) (benefits detailed in the Stormwrack supplement)
might be useful. Certain prestige classes geared towards a swashbuckler also require ranks
in this.
Sense Motive (Wis): Sometimes useful, but most only do 5 ranks for the Diplomacy
synergy.
Swim (Str): Any reputable sailor knows how to swim, but the skill itself usually isnt worth
much unless you expect to actually be in the water a lot. 1 rank.
Tumble (Dex): This skill is mostly used to avoid AoOs, so shoot for a regular check of 15 or
so. Higher can be nice if using other options. Put at least 5 ranks in for synergies to Balance
and Jump.
Use Rope (Dex): Dont bother with this unless you actually intend to, well, Use Ropes. You
might get some use from its synergies though.
Skill Tricks:
Introduced in Complete Scoundrel, Skill Tricks are a way for characters to get some extra
options while playing.
Acrobatic Backstab: Pretty good, especially for a Daring Outlaw build. With a high Dex for
the skill itself and Int to get skill points, Tumble checks will be a breeze.
Back on Your Feet: May not be worth much, but an immediate action to get up from prone
will help keep you in the fight.
Nimble Charge: This is one of the things that make the Acrobatic Charge feature worthless.
Timely Misdirection: The feint action is very rarely worthwhile, plus there are other ways to
negate AoOs.
Twisted Charge: Make up to a 90 degree turn during a charge. This is another thing that
makes Acrobatic Charge worthless.
Multiclassing
(work in progress)
Beguiler: If you absolutely need to feint in combat as a swift action, beguiler 6 and Improved
Feint are one of the very few ways to do that. (The only other one I know of is a psionic feat
that WotC added with the psychic rogue). The beguiler is a good class, but if your focus is on
combat chances are this extended dip wont be for you.
Factotum: For three levels you get Int to Str and Dex checks and skills plus wiggle room on
other things thanks to Inspiration points. If youre looking for better skill synergy plus
versatility, this is a great way to get it.
Warblade: One level gives you maneuvers, Int to reflex saves (which will stack with Grace
since its an Insight bonus), and the ability to retrain weapon-specific feats like Weapon
Focus to use another weapon. A second level grants another maneuver known and
Uncanny Dodge. A third level grants yet another maneuver known and your Int bonus to
confirming criticals. Or you could just be pure Warblade and call yourself a swashbuckler by
picking some more thematic maneuvers and roleplaying appropriately.
Rogue: Rogues are generally a better class than swashbucklers with only the lower BAB,
HD, and save swap being seen as disadvantages.
Fighter: The extra feats, if chosen well, will help with combat more than the later
swashbuckler class features. The Thug variant fighter from Unearthed Arcana is great
because it has more class skills and more skills per level (4+int) than the regular fighter for
trading off medium and heavy armor proficiency.
Swordsage: As the only base class which grants access to the Shadow Hand style, a dip
here might be worth it to get the Shadow Blade feat.
8 / 10
Last Edit: July 19, 2013, 06:53:27 PM by Jackinthegreen
Prestige Classes:
Scarlet Corsair (Stormwrack)
Dread Pirate (Complete Adventurer)
Playing the concept instead of the class:
So you want to play a swashbuckler without actually taking levels in the swashbuckler
class? Here are a few suggestions:
Fighter: Combat-wise, the standard fighter has more going for it than the swashbuckler.
The skill point loss hurts though, but that can be worked around a bit with UAs Thug variant.
Rogue: Notice how the swashbuckler has multiclass feats for fighter and rogue? Thats
because the swashbuckler is essentially the love child of them. You can pull off a more skill-
focused swashbuckler with rogue levels.
Warblade: A pure warblade can be a great swashbuckler depending on your chosen
maneuvers.
Equipment:
Feycraft Armor: When wearing feycraft armor (DMG2 pg. 275), the user gets a +1 bonus to
Bluff checks made to deceive another creature with words. Chat with your DM about what
this means, including possible interaction with the Seduction ability.
Feycraft Weapons: Feycraft weapons allow 1-handed weapons to benefit from Weapon
Finesse as if they were a light weapon. Since so much of a swashbucklers damage is
based on the weapon benefitting from Weapon Finesse, feycraft weapons allow for more
flexibility in choosing what weapon to use. Theyre also Cold Iron, for what its worth when
fighting anything with applicable DR.
Sample Builds:
None yet
Credits:
Thanks to Dictum Mortuum for some of the handbook layout. You can take a look at his
works through this link.
Further thanks to dman11235 for his Monk guide, which Ive also used a lot of formatting
from.
Finally, Ive taken some ideas and notes from Why Tier 5s are in Tier 5.
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Please let me know via PM if you vote up one of my posts.
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