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A_S
2011-12-19, 10:39 PM
So, I really like the swashbuckler archetype. I think the idea of the skillful warrior who uses finesse and skill to defeat bigger, stronger opponents is pretty appealing. Unfortunately, the crunch support for that archetype is pretty weak in 3.5. In core, the Duelist is the laughingstock of the DMG's PrC list, beating out even such also-rans as Dwarven Defender and Arcane Archer for the book's "why would you ever take this class" award.

Complete Warrior helped out a bit with the Swashbuckler class, and there was some more love in Complete Scoundrel in the form of the Daring Outlaw feat. These days, every time somebody in the 3.5e forum asks how to optimize a Duelist, they get told "roll Rogue/Swash and take Daring Outlaw instead."

Now, in one sense, that's good advice, in that it results in pretty good characters (given that they're pure non-casting melee). But I have a bone to pick with the Daring Outlaw feat, and that's the fact that it doesn't help you make daring outlaws. Without some way beyond the standard ones to deliver Sneak Attack damage, you can't actually play a Swashbuckler the way they should be (fencing toe-to-toe with the enemy in epic and flashy duels across rope bridges and narrow ledges), you have to play them like a Rogue (attacking from the shadows and depending on allies for flanks) who happens to have better BAB, HP, and Fort saves. Which isn't bad, it's just not a swashbuckler, no matter how many levels it takes in the Swashbuckler class.

Fluff-wise, the additional way to deliver sneak damage ought to be the Feint action. But mechanically, feinting sucks. It's way too hard to succeed on the check, since the attacker gets (1d20 + skill + Cha mod) and the defender gets (1d20 + skill + Wis mod + BAB). And even with the Improved Feint feat, it's impossible to use in conjunction with a full attack. The only class that lets you do so (Invisible Blade) is otherwise relatively bad, and comes with a steep feat tax which is rather weirdly focused on throwing (a consequence of formerly being the other half of the Master Thrower class, and a rather stunning example of incomplete editing which would be surprising if I thought anyone ever playtested anything published for 3.5).

So here's my contribution: The Bewildering Bladesman, a fencer focused on spamming the Feint action to reliably deliver precision damage while actually buckling some swash up in the front lines of combat, instead of sticking a knife in your back the way Daring Outlaw characters generally have to if they want to be effective. Lemme know what you think!


http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v322/azurasstar/plus-sexy-swashbuckler-costume.jpg
I had no idea how many images like this there would
be in a Google image search for "swashbuckler."


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The Bewildering Bladesman

Hit Die: d10

Requirements
To qualify to become a bewildering bladesman, a character must fulfill all the following criteria.
Skills: Bluff 8 ranks
Feats: Improved Feint
Special: Precision Damage (Sneak Attack, Skirmish, or Sudden Strike) +1d6

{table=head]Level|BAB|Fort|Ref|Will|Special

1st|+1|+0|+2|+0|Damage Bonus +1d6, Skill Focus (bluff), Canny Defense

2nd|+2|+0|+3|+0|Baffling Blade +1, Swift Feint

3rd|+3|+1|+3|+1|Penetrating Strike

4th|+4|+1|+4|+1|Damage Bonus +2d6, Baffling Blade +2

5th|+5|+1|+4|+1|Master of Misdirection

6th|+6|+2|+5|+2|Baffling Blade +3, Off Balance

7th|+7|+2|+5|+2|Damage Bonus +3d6

8th|+8|+2|+6|+2|Baffling Blade +4, Feint Mastery

9th|+9|+3|+6|+3|Right When They Least Expect It

10th|+10|+3|+7|+3|Damage Bonus +4d6, Baffling Blade +5, Dazzling Display[/table]

Class Skills
The bewildering bladesmanís class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are: Balance (Dex), Bluff (Cha), Climb (Str), Craft (Int), Diplomacy (Cha), Disguise (Cha), Escape Artist (Dex), Hide (Dex), Intimidate (Cha), Jump (Str), Knowledge (local) (Int), Listen (Wis), Move Silently (Dex), Profession (Wis), Sense Motive (Wis), Sleight of Hand (Dex), Spot (Wis), Swim (Str), Tumble (Dex), Use Magic Device (Cha).

Skill Points at Each Level: 4 + Int modifier

Class Features
All of the following are class features of the bewildering bladesman.

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: Bewildering bladesmen are proficient with all simple and martial weapons, and with light armor, but not with shields.

Damage Bonus: At 1st level, the extra damage a bewildering bladesman deals with his sneak attack, skirmish, or sudden strike ability increases by 1d6. If he has more than one of these abilities, only one ability gains this increase (choose one each time you gain this benefit). His sneak attack, skirmish, or sudden strike damage increases by another 1d6 at 4th level, 7th level, and 10th level.

Skill Focus (bluff): At 1st level, a bewildering bladesman gains Skill Focus (bluff) as a bonus feat. If he already has Skill Focus (bluff), he may choose a different feat for which he meets the prerequisites.

Canny Defense (Ex): Starting at 1st level, when wearing light or no armor and not using a heavy or tower shield, a bewildering bladesman adds 1 point of his Intelligence bonus (if any) per class level as a Dodge bonus to his Armor Class.

Baffling Blade (Ex): A bewildering bladesman can distract his foes by feinting even when they are not caught entirely off guard. Starting at 2nd level, any time he feints in combat and his opponent wins the opposed check, he still gains some benefit on any attack on which he could have ignored his opponent's dexterity bonus had he won the check. In this case, he deals 1 point of bonus damage and may ignore 1 point of his opponent's Dexterity or Dodge bonuses to AC (if any). These bonuses increase by an additional 1 at every even level, to a maximum of +5 damage and 5 points ignored AC at level 10. This ability does not make his opponent an eligible target for Sneak Attack or Sudden Strike damage.

Swift Feint (Ex): A bewildering bladesman's weapon is practically too quick for the eye to track. Starting at 2nd level, when using any weapon which can be used with Weapon Finesse, he may feint in combat as a swift action.

Penetrating Strike (Ex): A bewildering bladesman knows just how to strike any foe where it counts. Starting at 3rd level, he may apply any precision damage even to foes who are normally immune to it. However, when doing so, he halves any damage bonus he would receive from precision damage.

Master of Misdirection (Ex): A bewildering bladesman seems almost supernaturally adept at knocking his opponent's weapon out of position. Starting at 5th level, when using any weapon which can be used with Weapon Finesse, he may add his base attack bonus to his Bluff check when feinting in combat.

Off Balance (Ex): A bewildering bladesman's opponents often find themselves one stroke behind, scrambling to parry an attack that just isn't there anymore. Starting at 6th level, when he feints in combat with any weapon which can be used with Weapon Finesse, he may apply any benefits he gains from doing so (ignoring Dexterity bonus or his Bewildering Blade bonuses) to all attacks he makes against that opponent for the next round, instead of merely to his next attack.

Feint Mastery (Ex): Starting at 8th level, a bewildering bladesman becomes so practiced misleading his opponents that he may take 10 on all Bluff checks to feint in combat, even if stress and distractions would normally prevent him from doing so.

Right When They Least Expect It (Ex): A bewildering bladesman has an uncanny knack for striking out at the least expected times. Starting at 9th level, when using any weapon which can be used with Weapon Finesse, he may feint in combat as an immediate action (allowing him to enjoy the benefits of doing so on any attacks of opportunity he might make after doing so).

Dazzling Display (Ex): A bewildering bladesman can put on truly stupendous displays of swordsmanship. Starting at 10th level, when using any weapon which can be used with Weapon Finesse, he enjoys the following benefits:
He may "take 12" on Bluff checks to feint in combat, instead of taking 10.
Any time an opponent he threatens misses him with an attack, he may make an immediate attack of opportunity against them.
He adds his Intelligence bonus (if any) to the maximum number of attacks of opportunity he may make per round (as the Combat Reflexes feat, but using Intelligence instead of Dexterity).
Furthermore, he may deal full sneak damage (instead of half) to foes normally immune to it on a number of attacks per day equal to (3 + Intelligence bonus). Doing so is not an action; it is part of the attack.

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The "default entry" I think is Rogue 2/Swashbuckler 3, taking Daring Outlaw as your feat at level 6 on your first level of Bewildering Bladesman. That gets you a nice 5 BAB, 4d6 Sneak Attack, Int to damage, and a good Bluff check which can be used to feint as a move action at level 6, which I think is about in line with the power level I'm looking for with this class (Tier 4, I think?). By level 15, you're level with a pure Rogue on sneak attack, and you've sacrificed skillmonkeyness and Rogue feats for much better combat abilities; you should reliably be able to deliver decent Sneak damage to most things on all your iterative attacks, and get some nice AoO/nova-ing capabilities from the 9th and 10th level class features.

There's a couple things I know I'm not completely happy with yet, and I'd like some help with: The wording on Baffling Blade is pretty awkward right now. I know what I want it to do, I want you to get a smaller bonus as a consolation prize when your Feint doesn't work, but can anybody help me think of a better way of phrasing it?
I'm not sure about the spacing of class features. As it is, Swift Feint comes online one level after you'd get your second iterative attack if you entered Rogue/Swashbucker, which is good, but I feel like Feint Mastery is maybe a little early, and Penetrating Strike is maybe a little late. Also, I can't tell if Off Balance needs to come earlier to make the class worth taking before level 13, or if being able to apply sneak damage to one attack each round is enough before then.
I like what Dazzling Display does right now, but I'm not sure about the (3 + Int rounds) thing. Should I make it work like a DFA's breath weapon, where you get one round and then have to recharge it? Or like Barbarian Rage, where you get limited uses/day and it fatigues you? Or should I make it 1/encounter? Have some recharge mechanic, like a maneuver? Not sure what would work best here.
Should Fort also be a high save, or only Reflex like I have it now?
Also, though it looks like it plays somewhat differently than my version, I just noticed that jiriku tackled a very similar problem (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=188150) just recently, so if this is your thing, go check out that class too!

Any other comments you've got, I'd also like to hear. This is only like my second attempt at homebrew (and I'm even posting this one in the right section!), so I'd love some feedback. Thanks!

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Changelog:
-Changed ordering of some class abilities.
-Made the Int>AC bonus scale with levels, instead of being part of the capstone.
-Made the capstone constant, rather than activated.
-Fixed the AoO thing to be more in line with Combat Reflexes.
-Added light armor/finessable weapon restrictions to abilities I thought they made sense for.

The Winter King
2011-12-20, 02:36 PM
hmmm....

perhaps switch feint mastery and offbalance?

move penetrating strike to be gained earilier, not sure when.

Dazzling Display could be constant and still be balanced I think if instead of gaining unlimited AoOs per round you gave them combat reflexes effect based on Int and may deal full precision 3+int per day.

Thems my thoughts

A_S
2011-12-20, 03:13 PM
Hm, how about reshuffling four class features so you get:
2 - Swift Feint (right when it benefits your second iterative attack if you've lost 1 BAB so far)
3 - Penetrating Strike (earlier, like you said)
6 - Off Balance (earlier, like you said)
8 - Feint Mastery (later, like you said)

I'll fiddle with Dazzling Display. Thanks for the help!

TheOasysMaster
2011-12-22, 09:43 AM
I shall make use of this.