View Full Version : The Duelist Base Class

2007-12-12, 09:20 PM
I created this last night after reading many posts inspired me.

The Duelist

The Basic Idea:

Iíve done fencing. Iíve studied fencing. I love the idea of a character which can realistically fight with a light weapon and not be a Rogue, Ninja, or some other non frontline class. And Iíd have to say, there is no such thing in D&D 3.5 Not that Iíve seen. And donít say the Swashbuckler, or the Duelist from the DMG. I think both of those are fluffy. They both focus far too much on mobility and other non combative aspects. What I want to obtain with this class is a non armored class which can, like the Monk, have a high armor class, fight with a single or pair of light weapons, and skillfully weave and fight without getting hit while surely overcoming enemies.

My Request:

Be utterly unafraid to critique, and please, can someone give me a better name for this class? I donít want to use Ďswashbucklerí because this class is one that can only be partaken by those who are very disciplined and well trained. I donít think duelist is the best name, despite the name of one of their features Ė Dueling Ė because I donít remember the last time a wise DM would pit a single foe against an entire party. Dueling implies one vs one with a single humanoid opponent with similar training to yourself Ė at that point, this class is better as an NPC fluff class. Not what Iím looking for, not at all. Please give solid supporting arguments and comparisons to other classes for me to use.

My Thanks:

To anyone and everyone who solidly critiques this class and gives supporting arguments and comparisons, as well as to anyone who can help me balance this. Iím hoping to use it in a campaign. Thank you for reading it, too.

The Duelist:

The cocky warrior in no armor; the noble who strives to learn martial discipline. The gladiator who fights for enjoyment, fame, and money. The devilish assassin who stalks the streets without remorse or kindness. The Elven bodyguard; all may very well be highly trained duelists. A duelist can be a killer without remorse, someone who sees their skills as sportslike or enjoyable, or someone who is very dedicated to learning a sophisticated, challenging blade art with which to defeat their enemies. Not all duelists are going to call themselves that; not all duelists fight in one on ones with opponents who train similarly to them. Rather, a duelist may call himself a tempest, skirmisher, or merely a disciplined warrior.
Adventures: Not all Duelists bother adventuring; many rich and proud nobles will learn this art for competition or enjoyment. Other duelists may very well learn it to perform in gladiator fights, striving to become rich and famous. Yet many duelists do adventure, and practice their strict martial tradition in a very strange way; they apply rules of combat to open melee where there is no rules Ė simply kill, or be killed. Yet, despite the seemingly ignorant, limiting mindset of setting protocols, right and wrong ways to do things, the trained approach of a Duelist is rarely inadequate for victory. Regardless, almost all Duelists engage in activities where they can frequently enter combats.
Characteristics: Of all the classes, the Duelist is the one with the most frontline approach that will take the least hits. Wearing no armor, he relies on skilled footwork, good blocking, careful observation, and disruptive attacks to keep him safe. However, he also has very low health, and his defense is entirely based on him having a blade drawn and his danger awareness perked. He is also going to have some of the most dramatic abilities of all the classes; not content to merely do damage, every attack, every stroke, must be debilitating if at all possible.
Distinguishing aspects between duelists do exist, though; some learn two weapon arts, other focus on offensive, one shot finishes. Others focus on defense, waiting for opportune strikes to sink in; others prefer fighting while grappling, using careful motions to control enemies as they strike them down. Still others work on toying with the minds of enemies, carefully outmaneuvering them in their heads, ending as much of the fight as they can with fierce eye contact or body motions before they make an assault.
Alignment: A duelist must be of a lawful alignment; the studies of a Duelist are hard, difficult, and often filled with humiliation. Commitments must be made and muscle memory must be achieved. You will find no farm boys or happy-go-lucky types among the duelists; they are all strict, disciplined, and usually carefree about anything other than the next fight. Lawful Neutral is a very typical alignment for a duelist of any upbringing.
Religion: A duelist typically disdains religion; if he needs prayer, his studies have not been hard enough. A duelist may pray the spirits of those he cares about in hopes that they will be appeased by his show of force; alternatively, some duelists zealously embrace religion, making every fight a show for his gods, hoping to secure his eternity in the afterlife.
Background: All duelists have received formal training at some point. Roving masters will teach the arts of the duelist; as will fencing schools and martial weapons academies. In a given area, itís often difficult to find a duelist; itís easier, often, to become a fighter, and those of such discipline usually go to the Monk or Paladin class, but they do exist, although they often keep low profiles unless they are gladiators.
Races: Humans often become duelists, with their ambitious natures to succeed and drive hard. Human duelists are often practitioners of difficult but balanced forms; two weapon fighting duelists are common among them. Elven duelists are also common; despite the difficulty it takes for an Elf to muster such a non-chaotic and expressive approach to learning, their life spans grant them great deals of time, and they often specialize in highly dexterous, mobile, or mind-game based styles. Dwarves very rarely become duelists; if they do, they often do so out of a desire to learn how to defend themselves and others without being conspicuous, and they usually learn furious, aggressive styles that submit opponents quickly. Halflings and Gnomes produce great numbers of duelists, and competitions between the two races are not uncommon. Gnome duelists are known for their wile and cleverness in a fight; Halfling duelists often choose violent, aggressive dueling forms such as two weapon fighting, hoping their small size is defense enough against assault when combined with their generic duelist training and natural dexterity. Half-Elves are usually nomadic duelists, going from place to place, doing a few gladiator fights, righting a few wrongs, and then vanishing, feeling uneasy around most kinds of people. Only the Half-Orcs rarely produce duelists, as their massive girth and strength is poorly suited for such types of weapon fighting.
Other Classes: Different types of duelists feel different ways about different classes. Almost all duelists are guaranteed to disdain Barbarians, with their clumsy, raging ways, although Fury Style duelists may very well have a large deal of respect for such characters. Duelists often see a great deal of themselves in Monks, and frequently tell Monks they travel with what they missed in choosing to learn the unarmed arts. Paladins are commonly ignored; too zealous and their smites are seen as clumsy and vulnerable to counterattack. Spellcasting types are treated indifferently unless they exhibit Chaotic natures, at which point a Duelist commonly grinds their teeth and gives silent treatment. Rogues find Duelists to be quite fascinating; fighting as they would fight if they chose to become frontline material warriors.
Role: In any adventuring party, the Duelist is a melee combatant first and foremost. His antics are defensive enough to allow him to stand toe to toe with crowds of enemies; heís best against mobs of similarly sized combatants rather than against giants or larger foes, against which their weapons are usually negligible in effect. They can also serve as skilled bodyguards and rear-guards for a party, due to their constant vigil, and could do raids for a group that needed to be in and out quickly. Monks share roles with monks, and they can do many of the same things.

Duelists have the following game statistics:
Abilities: Dexterity and Intelligence are, first and foremost, the most important skills a Duelist can possess. Next in line is Constitution, to boost their meager hit points. Charisma is important for Mind-Game duelists, who prefer to psych enemies out and then attack. Charisma is also important for the Duelists Taunt Feature, which allows him to draw enemies into melee with him.
Alignment: Any lawful
Hit Die: d8
Saves: Good Reflex, Bad Will, Bad Fortitude
BAB: Equal to Fighter
Prof. w/: Rapier, Dagger, Shortsword, Scimitar ((treated as a light weapon in my games since itís statistically identical to rapier)), Kukri, no armor prof.

The Duelists class skills are as follows: Craft, Escape Artist, Intimidate, Jump, Knowledge ((Any one, taken individually)), Listen, Perform, Profession, Tumble.
Special: For the purposes of in combat, a Duelist can use Intimidate, Bluff, and Sense Motive as if he had a number of ranks equal to his Duelist level + 3. For the purposes of concealing a weapon, the Duelist treats Sleight of Hand as a class skill with a number of ranks equal to his class level + 3.
Skill Points at 1st level: 2 + Intelligence x4
Skill Points at each additional level: 2 + Intelligence

Class Features: ((Each line stands for a level))

Fighting Style I, Weapon Finesse, Predict Attacks
Graceful Weave +1, Intelligent Striker
Fighting Style II
Uncanny Dodge, Quick Draw
Fighting Style III
Combat Expertise
Fighting Style IV
Weapon Focus ((Light Weapon you picked weapon finesse for))
Fighting Style V
Taunt the Enemies
Fighting Style VI
Graceful Weave +2, Improved Uncanny Dodge
Fighting Style VII
Improved Initiative, Duel +2
Fighting Style VIII
Too Slow to Hit Much, Duel +4
Fighting Style IX
Graceful Weave +3, Duel +6
Fighting Style X
Finesse is an Understatement, Insult to your Kind

Fighting Style I:

When a Duelist is first level, he picks a fighting style. There are seven Fighting Styles: Two Weapon, Precision, Fury, Mockery, Guarded, Grappling, Mobility; each has ten abilities that the Duelist will gain upon picking one. Once the Duelist has picked one, he is utterly devoted to that weapon style; he cannot change it. At every level where the Fighting Style increases, he gains the next ability up the line. He starts at the first ability on the chart and works his way down, slowly developing move and more talent with the behavior and antics related to that style.


You are the epitome of slashing, stabbing, and killing. You desire only to kill before you can be killed, and sacrifice much of your accuracy and defense in exchange for another crack at the enemy, hoping that one strike, or the next, or the next will pierce a vein, slice his throat, immolate his skull, bypass his block.

Flood of Strikes: The Fury Fighter can make one extra attack per -2 he takes to his attack rolls. The attacks do damage normally.
Power Critical: Accustomed to making multiple attacks and getting partially lucky on at least one, you have learned how to make your best angled blows guaranteed to hurt. You gain a +4 on all rerolls to confirm critical hits.
Improved Critical: The range of your Critical Threat doubles as you train in making more and more of your strikes devastate your foes. You gain Improved Critical as the Feat, to be applies to the weapon you chose weapon finesse for.
Lunge Attack: If you hit with two strikes in a row while using your flood of strikes ability ((meaning -4 to both attacks)) you gain a special Lunge attack as you go from a slashing twirl to a brutal stab, catching your foe flat-footed.
Power Attack: You can power attack with your weapon, allowing you to inflict even more pain. As light as your weapon is, itís difficult to ignore the damage you can put behind them when you sacrifice a little more Ďooohí for a little more Ďoomph.í
Tirade of Strikes: By lowering his armor class to ten for one round per two strikes, the Fury Fighter gains the ability to make another two attacks. For example, a Fury Fighter who accepted an AC of 10 for the next 3 rounds would get six additional attacks this round at his lowest attack bonus but with no penalty. This cannot be used at the same time as flood of strikes.
Deathly Critical: Your critical hits are obscene and damaging; you deal x4 damage when confirmed critical hits are landed, using whatever weapon you selected weapon finesse for.
Make it Die!: By accepting a -12 to your attack roll using power attack, you gain a +20 to damage.
Fear my Wrath!: Your abilities to do massive damage in a single strike do not go unnoticed. Whenever you land a hit with Make it Die! Or confirm a critical, all enemies within your reach must make a will save equal the damage you dealt or take a -5 morale penalty to attack rolls.
I Taught the Grim Reaper: Any time you land a critical hit, roll damage three times. Take the best roll as the final damage landed.

Two Weapon Fighting:

Enemies canít guard themselves against you. There is no way they can; youíre willing to put down as many attacks is needed to see that they donít. You like being on the offensive, but your offensive training is blended with defensive techniques that allow you to employ your second blade as knights might a shield. Enemies beware; you are their worst nightmare.

Two Weapon Fighting
Two Weapon Defense
Improved Two Weapon Fighting
Improved Two Weapon Defense
Greater Two Weapon Fighting
Greater Two Weapon Defense
Two Weapon Tempo Ė by attacking from two different directions with both blades at once, you can treat your opponent as if he was flanked, only you gain a +6 bonus to attack rolls. Doing so sacrifices the +3 shield bonus you gain from Greater Two Weapon Defense.
Two Weapon Rend: If you land strikes with two attacks in a row on the same opponent, you automatically pull your blades out in two separate directions, rending flesh and dealing twice the damage you just did. This does not double critical hit damage.
Two Weapon Pin & Hit: You know how to pin your opponents blade, taking one of your weapons and tying up his weapon ((both weapons or his weapon and his shield)), allowing you to make one attack at your full base attack bonus +6.
Two Weapon Cyclone: You are fine with being surrounded; your response is the same every time. You go into a spinning, dazzling corkscrew maneuver, making two attacks at each enemy within reach. Enemies hit take an additional +2 damage and are pushed back five feet as if bull rushed.


You like up close and personal. You happen to be very fond of getting on top of people, pinning them down, and then stabbing them repeatedly until they stop moving. Itís quite unsettling for the person on the bottom of this, but you donít mind. As such, youíre trained in a wide plethora of moves that allow you to obtain such dominance, moves that get your opponent on the ground and allow you to grapple and wail on them.

Improved Grapple: You are trained in reaching over mid-move and grappling a person. You gain Improved Grapple as the feat.
Improved Trip: If you cannot grapple a person down to the ground, you will politely assist them in getting to grounds level by tripping them. You gain Improved Trip, as the feat.
Slam and Cram ((A blade in their face)): Trained in stabbing and grappling, you no longer take the -4 to attack rolls associated with grappling and fighting with a light weapon.
Executioners Method: You are extremely accustomed to striking down on opponents. Every round that your opponents fails a grapple or Escape Artist check to escape your grapple, you gain a cumulative +2 bonus to attack rolls and +1 to damage.
Unshakable: You gain a +4 circumstance bonus to counter grappling attempts made to end grapples with you.
Why Bother Aiming: You can now make your full attack using your highest attack bonus when your opponent fails to grapple you in the current round.
Kip-up: You can get up from a grapple as a free action immediately at any point in your turn.
Earthen Grasp: Every round enemies remain pinned under you, they take 1d12 points of crushing damage.
Immovable: Enemies who attempt to pull you off or grapple you have to roll separately and do not gain grapple bonuses for trying to grapple you jointly.
Titan Grappler: You are treated as two sizes larger than you are for the purposes of grappling.


You are epitome of accuracy; fury fighters are too hasty, two weapons paying too much attention to too many things, grapplers getting too close. You know that you can put opponents down without needing to fruitlessly waste all that energy. You attack an opponent at every weak point, go for the kill at all the right moments. They see you as just another fool with a blade too small to get the job done, but theyíll learn very soon.

Observe the Quarry: Designate a single opponent; if you go for three rounds without being hit by him, your next attack is an automatic critical hit. You can take no damage in the three rounds you watch him and can make no other attacks.
Well Placed Strikes: For every two levels of Duelist level, you add an additional +1 to your damage you get from your Intelligent Striker ability.
One Strike: You can give up your full round attack option in order for a single, well placed strike. This strike does an extra dice of damage. For example, if your rapier typically does 1d6+6 in damage, it now deals 2d6+6.
Disturbingly Accurate: Every time you land a One Strike attack, your opponent takes a -1 morale penalty to damage. If you land another every round, it accumulates another -1.
Catch Unready: Every time your opponents provoke an attack of opportunity from you, treat them as flat footed.
Light Jab: By lightening on strikes and the amount of speed you commit to your strike, you can track and opponents blocks and movement more easily. You gain a +1 to attack rolls for every point of damage you subtract from your strike.
Bleeding Strike: Your accuracy is so supreme you can hit a thin vein on a moving opponent. Every wound you do bleeds a number of hit points per round equal to twice your intelligence modifier, and lasts an amount of time equal to your intelligence modifier.
Beyond Precise: You gain a +10 bonus to damage when you use One Strike. This stacks with Well Placed Strikes, magical enhancers, and other bonuses.
End the Fight: On any strike where you leave your opponent unconscious with your attack, you can treat the attack as a coup de grace.
End the Quarry: Designate a single opponent. If you go for three rounds without being hit by him, your next attack is an automatic critical hit. In addition, your opponent must make a fortitude savings throw equal to half the damage dealt or die. You cannot take any damage in the three rounds you observe him.


You hate being hit; yet, every time, people always try to hit you. So youíve adapted, changed, made your stance tighter, learned to make yourself less and less of a target with less and less effort. Youíre willing to settle for lucky shots, counter attacks, and bluffs to get your strikes in; as long as you donít get hit, you can fight all day.

Misdirect Efforts: When more than one enemy attacks you in a round, you gain a +6 bonus to armor class.
Parry Arrows: Once per round, when you would ordinarily be hit by a ranged attack, you deflect the attack instead.
Survive another Minute: When you do not make an attack for an entire round, you gain a +4 bonus to your AC.
Magnet for Trouble: You add a +4 circumstance bonus to your Taunt ability rolls.
Improved Combat Expertise: As feat.
Tricky Parry: By standing still and parrying only with your blade Ė only applying the AC bonus you get from Improved Combat Expertise Ė you gain the ability to overbalance your enemy. Declare attempting a tricky parry; your AC is reduced to 10 + your BAB. For example, a 12th level Duelist would have an AC of 22 using a Tricky Parry. If the enemy fails to hit, he is overbalanced for the rest of this round and the next.
Dodge: As the feat, only a +3 bonus to AC.
Sidestep and Cause Miss-step: Use full Imp. Combat Expertise; if the target of your dodge makes an attack on you and misses, use Improved Trip as a free action.
Irresistible: Your natural charm makes monsters love to hate you. You gain a +8 bonus on your Taunt Checks.
Countering the Miss: Once per round, you can declare an opponent who missed you and make a single attack. If it hits, you roll 3x the amount of dice you normally would. For example, a rapier would do 3d6 instead of 1d6.


Opponents who fight you feel like your very presence is an insult. You go into combat swearing at them, telling them to hit harder, faster, and working them into a frenzy. For you, itís all part of the fun, working them into a rage and causing them to drop their guard so you can make attack after brutal attack as it slips past them.

Improved Feint, +1d6 Sudden Strike: As feat and class ability
Enrage Foes, +2d6 Sudden Strike: With a successful bluff check ((DC 20)) you can goad an enemy into a rage, similar to a barbarian rage. Their AC is a -4 when enraged.
Bluff Out, +3d6 Sudden Strike: Youíve learned to rely on clever misdirection to save you. By accepting a 10 in AC, you can instead avoid being hit by making Bluff checks that succeed opponents attack rolls.
Not Worth Killing, +4d6 Sudden Strike: Select one enemy; as a full round action, you can make a Bluff check to make yourself look pathetic and full of despair. Your enemy must make a Sense Motive check. If they fail, your enemy takes no hostile actions towards you for the round.
Larger than Life, +5d6 Sudden Strike: Taking a steely look and putting yourself through a breathtaking set of sword attacks, you can intimidate opponents. Make an Intimidate check and compare it to your enemies attack rolls. If your result is higher, your enemy takes a -4 to attack rolls against you.
Dazzling Superiority, +6d6 Sudden Strike: When you succeed on an Improved Feint, as a standard action which provokes AoE, you can make a foe confused for one round.
Fake as can be, Sudden Strike +7d6: Designate one opponent and a number of rounds. Make a single bluff check, and compare it to your opponents attacks every round. In any given round where your opponent misses, they are flat footed.
Ungodly in Power, Sudden Strike +8d6: Taking a steely look and putting yourself through a breathtaking set of sword attacks, you can intimidate opponents. Make an Intimidate check and compare it to your enemies attack rolls. If your result is higher, your enemy takes a -6 to attack rolls against you.
Swift Feint, +9d6: You can now feint in combat 1/round as a free action.
Not Worth Killing II, Sudden Strike +10d6: As a full round action, you can make a Bluff check to make yourself look pathetic and full of despair. Your enemies must make a Sense Motive check. If they fail, your enemies take no hostile actions towards you for the round.

The best way to not be struck dead on your feet is to keep your feet moving. You move, and you move a lot. Every round, you five foot step in some direction or another, frequently coming back in at a surprising angle. You roll, jump, cartwheel, trip, dive, and maneuver everywhere, and can never seem to be flanked or driven against a wall.

Mobility, Quick Recovery: Get up as a free action, +4 AC vs attacks of opportunity.
Tumbling Stroke: By rolling on the ground and stabbing as you come up, still carrying forward momentum, you get the same results as others do charging, only without provoking attacks of opportunities or reducing your armor class. When you tumble into reach of an enemy, then attack them, add damage and attack as if you had just charged.
Wall Run: By moving ten feet in a straight line, you can then go ten feet straight up a wall and jump off, going ten feet for every five points your jump roll exceeds 20.
Long Thrust: When you take a five foot step back away from an enemy, you can make a single attack roll at your highest attack bonus with a 10 ft reach.
Power Slide: When you Power Slide, make a Tumble check. If your enemy hits you, your slide stops prone. If your Tumble exceeds their attack, you Tumble through their space and leave them prone, and come up behind them.
Ghost Roll: As an action that provokes an attack of opportunity, you can declare a Ghost Roll. Your enemy makes a single attack against you; if it hits, your turn is over. If it misses, you make a Bluff & a Tumble check. If you exceed both his Sense Motive & Spot respectively, you end up behind him and push him into your previous space. Anyone who threatens that space with a melee weapon makes an AoE at a +2 bonus.
Monkey Toss: When an opponent charges at you or makes a Power Attack, you can catch their forward momentum with a successful Tumble check which exceeds their attack roll. If you succeed, you throw them five feet behind you, where they land Prone.
Spring Attack: As feat.
Flip Over: In a breathtaking flip attack, you make a Jump check through an opponents space which provokes an AoE. If they hit, you take twice normal damage, an additional 1d6 damage, and fall prone. If it fails, you make a single attack which is an automatic x4 critical hit.
Expert Acrobat: You make Tumble & Jump checks as move actions.

Weapon Finesse:

As feat, only applied to any weapon that the Duelist is proficient with that is a light weapon.

Predict Attacks:

The Duelist gains his Intelligence modifier as an insight bonus to AC. Whenever he would be denied his dexterity bonus, he is denied this bonus as well. Wearing armor cancels this ability.

Intelligent Striker:
You add your Intelligence modifier or your strength modifier to melee weapon damage when attacking, whichever is higher.

Graceful Weave:

At 2nd level, your training in careful changes and shifts of posture has paid off, granting you a +1 dodge bonus to AC at all times; even when flat footed, you constantly move with a strange grace that makes it difficult to accurately place attacks on you at all times. This class feature improves as you level up.

Uncanny Dodge:

As Rogue class feature.

Quick Draw:

As feat.

Combat Expertise:

As feat.

Weapon Focus

As feat, but must be applied to the same named weapon that you applied your Weapon Finesse to at 1st level.

Taunt the Enemies

Your training and experience has given you a confidence; you are willing to fight enemies many times your number in combat at the same time. By utilizing your natural aggressive assertiveness and putting on a show for your enemies of your skill and the threat you pose to them, you can draw the attacks of enemies within fifteen feet. Make a Charisma check; enemies who lose the Charisma check immediately attack you as long as they are within fifteen feet. Enemies who succeed regard you as a dangerous threat, but are not necessarily bound to attack you. If you attack enemies who succeeded on their Charisma checks immediately after making the Taunt the Enemies attempt, you make another opposing Charisma check with a +5 circumstance bonus.

Improved Uncanny Dodge

As class feature.

Improved Initiative

A duel between skilled duelists is often decided by who can act first in the fight, who can control the fight with their attack patterns. Training for this situation, the Duelist gains a +4 to Initiative rolls.


The Duelist picks a single opponent. He gains a +2 to attack rolls, damage rolls, rolls to confirm critical hits, and Bluff & Intimidate checks made to that opponent. He is treated as having an AC of 10 to any other enemies who attack him. As the duelist improves in his skills, his Dueling feature improves as well.

Too Slow to Hit Much:

When the Duelist combats an enemy wearing armor ((Natural armor, magical armor, and dodge based bonuses to AC do not count)) the enemy gains a penalty to attack rolls equal to his AC bonus that is granted to him by his armor. For example, an enemy with a tower shield and full plate armor who fights the duelist takes a -10 to attack rolls made against the duelist. However, if he had a +3 tower shield and +4 full plate, his penalty would not increase to -17, as the protection is magical and doesnít inhibit movement. Any time where the Duelist is flat footed, not moving, or otherwise not dodging actively, this class feature is considered inactive.

Finesse is an Understatement

The Duelist is the very epitome of grace, control, and limber attack and defense. At 20th level, he applies twice his dexterity modifier as an attack bonus with his weapon.

Insult to your Kind

As the Taunt the Enemies ability, only all enemies within thirty feet.