View Full Version : Building a Swordsage/Soulknife

2009-01-11, 12:06 PM
Very new here, and so new this is actually my first post.

I DM and play games all the time. I tend to make fairly simple enemies when I DM, and I tend to play very complex PCs when I am on that side of the table. So, I've basically burned through all of the core classes and simple prestige classes available to me, and now I'm looking for something new and interesting to play while I run as a player in a friend's campaign. That being said, playing in my games is very easy, not because I craft easy scenarios or money-haul (in fact a couple games I've rewarded so little that PCs actually greatly fell behind the money curve), but because dice absolutely positively hate me. You all have your friends who surprisingly roll natural 20s like it was their job, and no matter rolling conventions you put them through they still manage to roll with a natural luck that would make a leprechaun poop his pants. Well, for everyone like that, there is someone like me who in an average night rolls natural ones twos and threes like they were going out of style. So, to overcome this when I play and when I run the game I find feats that makes things unfair... I optimize everything as much as possible, within roleplaying reasons.

tl;dr version: Autumn plays a lot, but the dice hate him, so he almost min/maxes. Oh, and I play in 3.5 still.

My current character is a Swordsage/Soulknife. The idea I have for him is to be the Rogue's best friend/Harrier. His stats are:
Str: 10, Dex: 20, Con: 18, Int: 16, Wis: 14, Cha: 10
(Our rolling style is roll four, drop lowest, reroll ones once, and move two points. He's a Xeph.)

His first level is Swordsage, and he focuses heavily on Shadow Hand, including Island of Blades and Shadow Blade. This allows me to focus fully on my Dex later on (Weapon Finesse, Shadow Blade, Normal AC is +atk, +dmg, and +AC from one stat). The idea is that I want him to be in combat as support and tactical advantage rather than pure muscle or destructive abilities (DM gives props to anyone who finds a new or interesting way to defeat scenarios). I am allowed to use PHB, XPH, the Complete series, Heroes of Battle, Cityscape, and Tome of Battle. (Mostly because that is what I own. He also accepts some others, but I don't personally have access to those books)
Class progression will go as follows:
1st Swordsage feat: Shadow Blade, Discipline Focus(Shadow hand)
2nd Swordsage
3rd Soulknife feat: Weapon Finesse
4th Soulknife
5th Soulknife
6th Soulknife
... etc.

I get Discipline focus from Swordsage, that pretty much gives me Weapon Focus with a short sword (my preferred weapon, and the only one I'll be using). I get Weapon Focus from soulknife which is also with a short sword. My DM has decided to be very lenient, and offered to let me take another feat in place of that second effective focus into the short sword (though I would have preferred them to stack). This feat has to be the sort of feat a Fighter would consider a Bonus feat (even though I don't qualify as a Fighter for things like Specialization)

Now that I have set the stage here is the problem: I have no idea what feat would work best. So far I have come to three options:

Combat Reflexes - This feat opens up a lot of flanking abilities, and since that is what I plan to focus on in my character's career it could handle very nicely (Vexing Flanker and what not later on)

Combat Expertise - Wouldn't be bad either. With my left hand always open I could get into all sorts of fun if I started focusing on disarming my enemies (DM doesn't use as much monsters as I have noticed other DMs might)... which would force them to either retreat (provoking Attacks of Opportunity) or go unarmed (provoking Attacks of Opportunity (heaven forbid a monk))

Two Weapon Fighting - I just thought up this one as I sat here and was typing. It would fit the idea of being an "Island of Blades", but again my focus would be on support and not direct damage.

I also plan to spend a lot of time Psionically focused, so anything that causes me to lose focus commonly would not be preferred.

So, thoughts?

2009-01-11, 12:23 PM
Soulknife is pretty much a four-level class for you. That gets you the +1 enhancement to your mind blade, which makes you reasonably capable without items. Your mind blade will never be able to overcome DR, though, and its enhancement capabilities are pretty flimsy, so you need to progress maneuvers as much as possible. Four levels of soulknife gets you two initiator levels, so at level 19 you get access to 9th-level swordsage maneuvers.

Grab some Stone Dragon maneuvers to bypass enemy DR, and grab some Diamond Mind for bonus damage and the Concentration-save maneuvers. Other than that, there's no reason for you to get out of Shadow Hand--it's a solid school.

The Demented One
2009-01-11, 12:31 PM
If you're able to use homebrew sources, the Sleeping Goddess (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=98409) discipline is pretty much tailor-made for your character. It's got boosts that'll enhance your mind blade, maneuvers you can augment with power points, and lots of fun psionic toys.

Keld Denar
2009-01-11, 12:38 PM
Um, if you really like to be Psionically Phocused (heh heh heh, I has an alliteration), there is a feat in ToB that allows you to regain your as a swift action after initiating a maneuver. Its called Instant Clarity, and it works 3 times per day. I would keep you from using a Boost in the round you use it, since most, if not all, Boosts are swift actions. Unforunately, it is neither a Fighter bonus feat and also requires 7 ranks in concentration, which means you can't take it until level 6 at the earliest, since you cant qualify at 3rd.

As far as your question, I'd say probably TWF. Tiger Claw and Shadow Hand have a lot of synergy, both have short swords as perfered weapons, and are both Swordsage disciplines. They also synergize a lot with duel wielding.

And now for the real question...dear gods, why a Soulknife? Its universally regarded as one of the most poorly designed of the functional classes (Truenamer doesn't count, its just plain broken). It really relies on taking more Soulknife levels to improve your mind blade, but doesn't progress it fast enough to remain competative with normal magic weapons or other abilities. And then there is the fact that its medium BAB, which, combined with Swordsage medium BAB doesn't net you a +1 BAB until level 3.

Sorry for criticising, I'm just curious why you picked it. A better route might just straight Swordsage and pick up the Psionic Weapon feat, if thats the kind of shanananananananananagens you are looking for. I dunno, but I'm curious to hear.

2009-01-11, 01:14 PM
So to clear a few things up:

I want primary Soulknife class. I've heard that it's incapable of keeping up, but with my DM its tough to get a weapon that fits well. Not to mention I believe it will force me into spending my loot on things that don't involve a bigger sword (Seriously, what other class is such a bad ass while naked? Sorcerers, warmages, and warlocks... All spell casters. And my DM throws quite a few "You're captured, now escape" scenes). People say it's an awful class, but I have to ask which other melee class offers a weapon that can't be taken away. Or the ability to flow changes into your styles. I've considered going primary Swordsage secondary Soulknife, but running around with a +1 weapon is not a thing of legends.

I can't use homebrew, so even though it sounds awesome... Sorry.

I was considering Instant Clarity later, but to go that route would take a few feats away from my already feat starved class, especially if I go Two Weapon Fighting.

Keld Denar
2009-01-11, 01:30 PM
Sorcerers, warmages, and warlocks... All spell casters. And my DM throws quite a few "You're captured, now escape" scenes).

And....dun dun dun dun...Unarmed Varient Swordsages (its in the adaptation section, pg 20, left column). Basically lose armor proficiency to gain monk unarmed damage progression. Unarmed Strikes are ALSO both Tiger Claw and Shadow Hand weapons, and by taking Superior Unarmed Strike (count as a monk 4 levels higher, ToB) and Improved Natural Attack (count natural weapon as 1 size larger, Monster Manual), you could easily be swinging a hamfist to great effect. Get a Greater Magic Fang or Greater Magic Weapon from a druid or wiz/cleric respectively and you've just SURPASSED anything you could do as a Soulknife. Or wield a Scorpion Kama (Sandstorm) which allows you to deal your UAS damage with it, and can be enchanted normally. If you have the Kama, great. If you get captured and stripped, your UAS is still pretty damn decent, since they can't take your feats away (well, not without a lot of magic and some failed saving throws....:smalleek:)

2009-01-11, 02:19 PM
All of these are valid points, and very useful, Mr. Denar. I appreciate the thoughts, but I have already played a Monk in the past (three or four times actually) and I am looking to branch into something new. Plus, the soulknife has a pretty decent list of skills to choose from, and every day the blade could be different.

I've considered the Soulknife thoroughly... I'm gonna make it my primary career... And I'm going to hope that with a little help I could get the Soulknife to be an extremely playable character. (Remember, combat is not my focus with this guy. Being able to support all allies is)

Human Paragon 3
2009-01-11, 05:14 PM
Soulknife can be a decent class in a low-wealth setting, as your seems to be. Everybody on this board will advise you not to take the class, but I've seen them in action, and even though they are not the strongest, they are very fun to play. Make good use of authohypnosis and take psionic feats like Speed of Thought and Up the Walls.

Another great benefit of the soulknife is unlimited ranged attacks that are identical to your soul blade. Make it into a bastard sword and wield two-handed for fierce attacks, up close and at range.

Actually, looking at your stat array, two-weapon fighting will be the superior option. I believe there is a stance that adds dex to damage, and another stance that adds sneak attack, which will help you when you're making multiple attacks.

Also, if your DM is lenient, I'd ask for a couple home-brew tweaks to the soul knife. Getting Psychic Strike to apply to inanimate objects and mindless enemies boosts the class significantly, but does not make it overpowering in the least, for example.

Keld Denar
2009-01-11, 06:01 PM
I've considered the Soulknife thoroughly... I'm gonna make it my primary career... And I'm going to hope that with a little help I could get the Soulknife to be an extremely playable character. (Remember, combat is not my focus with this guy. Being able to support all allies is)

So be it. I wish you the best of luck then. I'd HIGHLY suggest nabbing a 2nd level of Swordsage at some point. This nets you a 2nd stance, and another maneuver of higher level. For the stance, Assassin's Stance would be the most likely choice, keeping it Shadow Hand keeps your Shadow Blade feat working, because most people forget that Shadow Blade ONLY works when using SH weapons AND being in a SH stance or using SH strikes. Assassin's Stance would net you 2d6 SA, which, when you want it, is nice to have. You can even use that SA to qualify for SA related feats, like Hamstring or Staggering Strike. For manuevers, I'd probably say Cloak of Shadows. A round of Improved Invis can be clutch, in and out of combat. Out of combat, you could refresh it every other round, which would allow you to fun between hiding spots unseen, especially with Xeph's improved Speed.

Another thing I thought of...there is a feat called Superior Unarmed Strike, which counts your UAS as 4 levels higher. Such a feat would be interesting if you could apply it to your mind blade. I don't think it would be terribly overpowered. Run the idea past your DM, if you are interested, and cite that a mind blade improves with levels just like UAS, and that a similar feat exists for UAS. That'll at least jump you ahead a bit with your mind blade manifesting, bringing your saggy power level up just a hair.

2009-01-12, 03:30 AM
If you want in a situation where you can't be disarmed, consider the psychic warrior soulbound weapon variant (http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/psm/20070214a) (I'd suggest picking an elvencraft bow; or, just use claws of the beast (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/psionic/powers/clawsofthebeast.htm) and bite of the wolf (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/psionic/powers/biteofthewolf.htm). And check out some of the other powers available. Expansion? (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/psionic/powers/expansion.htm) Hustle? (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/psionic/powers/hustle.htm) Strength of my enemy? (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/psionic/powers/strengthofMyEnemy.htm) Claws of the vampire? (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/psionic/powers/clawsoftheVampire.htm)) Sure, they run low on power points if you're not judicious with their use, but a dip in swordsage and long-duration buffs can extend your usefulness to 4+ encounters fairly easily (one manifestation of expansion per combat at early levels, plus Combat Reflexes and tripping, can go a LONG way). Just boost your Wis and there you go.

Or, you could check out the totemist from Magic of Incarnum.

Both would do very nice for something 'different,' and yet you're still pretty well undisarmable.

2009-01-12, 03:43 AM
The reason people are advising you against the Soulknife is that you claimed to be a min/maxer, and an optimizer, while the Soulknife is VERY much lacking in that department. You basically very slowly build your own magic item, and that's pretty much it (a few other abilities, though you usually have to spend time getting focused or charging them).

If you feel like doing a bit of converting, I'd try to get your DM to allow a kind of updated PrC version of the Soulknife, like they did pre-XPH. Go into it with Psychic Warrior or something else - All the same benefits of a Soulknife, but you'll also get Psionic Powers to boot, which is just plain more useful than a +X weapon (honestly, even +5 attack/damage isn't amazing by the time you'd get it.)

Just my two cents. I agree that they can be wholely fun to play, but do lack the pizazz of other classes.