Introduction: This is my first Handbook, and as you can see from the title, it is devoted to the Swashbuckler. Now you might wonder, why Swashbuckler? First of, there was no Handbook. And 2nd, I think there is more to them than a 3 level dip.
Also, special note to Dictum Mortuum, for the great guide to writing handbooks
- Full Bab
- Decent Skillpoints per level: 4+Int
- Good HD: d10
- Good Fort Save
Strength: Normally necessary for a melee character. However, the Swashbuckler can easily have a very low strength score while still remaining quite dangerous.
Dexterity: Very important for a Swashbuckler, both for initiative, and to hit with Weapon Finesse. Also important due to Light Armor Proficiency.
Constitution: Considering the Swashbuckler's d10 hit die this is not as important as you might think, though it should not be neglected. You can never go wrong with a solid Con score.
Intelligence: This and dexterity are hands down your most important abilities. Int will land you both skills and extra damage.
Wisdom: One of your least important abilities, but I would suggest not having less than 10, as it will bring down your Will Save.
Charisma: Important due to flavor reasons, but not critical otherwise, as you only have 2 class-skills that rely on Charisma.
I would suggest the following order of abilities for the Swashbuckler:
Dex & Int>Con>Str>Wis>Cha.
Weapon Finesse: Hey, it's free
Grace or Arcane Stunt*: +1 in reflex saves or SLA usable 1+Int times per day. I'd pick SLAs any day.
Insightful Strike: The Swashbuckler's signature ability, as it let you add your Int modifier to damage with weapons useable with weapon finesse.
Seduction: Use the Bluff skill to learn secrets by Seducing the target. Found at http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/cwc/20070227x
Dodge Bonus or Shield of Blades*: This depends on both race and the style of your Swashbuckler. If dual-wielding, Shield of Blades is better, but in other cases, the Dodge Bonus is handy, as you only have light armor most of the time.
Acrobatic Charge or Swift and Deadly*: Also dependeble on style. Swift and Deadly is only for Two-Weapon Fighting, so if using two weapons, this is a no-brainer. Acrobatic charge is great for Spiked Chain-wielders and other Swashbucklers using Two-handed weapons.
Improved Flanking: An extra +2 to hit is never bad.
Lucky: Limited, but may save you life.
Acrobatic Skill Mastery: It is useful to take 10 even if it is only on 2 skills.
Weakening Critical: When you get this, most enemies you encounter are immune to crits, but for those who aren't, -2 str helps a bit...
Slippery Mind: Handy when you fail that will save, if you are still alive.
Wounding Critical: see weakening but insert con damage instead.
- Alternate Class Features from, in descending order: Complete Mage, Player's Handbook 2 and Drow's of the Underdark.
Human: Always handy for their bonus feat at lv 1, and make good Crowd controllers with reach weapons.
Drow: A very strong race for Swashbucklers, as they have bonuses to the class' important abilities, Dexterity and Intelligence, plus they have a bonus to Charisma, which is handy in tight point-buy games. Not recommended if playing without LA buy-off. Strong due to the Swift and Deadly ACF, as by RAW it is only availible to Drow, but check with your DM if it is possible to House-rule it.
Fire Elf: A elf varient from Unearthed Arcana, which give +2 in Intelligence and Dexterity, but take a hit in Constitution and Charisma. Suggested by GreenStarDuelist.
Half-Drow: As half-elf, but may count as Drow. Handy for builds that would otherwise have an experience penalty due to multi-classing. Do not have any Ability Modifiers though, but also no LA.
Grey Elf: Drow light so to speak, they are like common elfs, but gives plus 2 to intelligence. But in return they take a strength hit.
Elan: Take a Charisma hit, but they are natural Psioncs, which is always nice, especially if you want to enter something like Warmind.
Halfling: Player's Handbook halfling bad, Strongheart good.
Tiefling: Get +2 in Intelligence and Dexterity, but a hit in Charisma. If using LA buy-off, this is the second best race, if not, it is still almost as good as Drow, but one LA less. If you are not able to pick LA races, Grey Elf is the best.
Snow Elf: This elf subrace from Frostburn's +2 to dexterity and -2 to charisma makes it a solid alternative to the grey elf. The grey elf's constitution penelty hurts and the strength penelty all but negates the int bonus. Losing the int bonus might be worth losing both the con and str penelty to some players.
There is also a lesser version in the back of Player's Guide to Faerun.
Changeling: to use seduction you need to be attractive to the target, which is alot easier if your a shapeshifter.
Marrulurk: This little nasty dog from Sandstorm, grants 2d6 sneak attack, but also death attack! In addition to solid stats, it also grant several good feats as bonuses, among them Point-Blank Shot and Rapid Shot. Thanks goes to Surreal for pointing this out.
Catfolk: A nice +4 to Dexterity and +2 to Charisma in exchange for an LA+1.
Beguiler: One of two base classes that has Intelligence-based spontaneous casting. While the spell-list is a bit limited, it have some very nice spells that work well with Swashbuckler. Also give you trapfinding, so you have something to do outside of combat. That is when you not make fair damsels swoon.
Factotum: This relatively new class has much to give to a Swashbuckler, as inspiration points can be a nice addition to your class abilities, as even a one level dip can give you the edge you need to succeed. Also have great Intelligence synergy.
Fighter: As with many other builds, Fighter levels are great to grab some extra feats. It also have some nice Racial substitution levels, if you dig deep enough. It also give you shield profiency, if you want Improved Buckler Defense.
Lurk: An often overlooked Psionic class from Complete Psionics, the Lurk has alot to offer a Swashbuckler as it has two good saves, a decent list of Powers, sneak attack and some augumentations that can be handy, Lurk is a good choise.
Psion: Another good combination, as many good powers are beneficial to Swashbuckler, among them Hustle. Greater Psionic Weapon can also be nice in a Duelist build. And there is the flexibility of the entire Psionic system.
Psycic Warrior: Can be as good as Fighter dips, but because of Wisdom-based powers MAD becomes a bit problematic. But that is not something that a good old Belt of Magnificence cannot fix.
Rogue: Really good in combination with Swashbuckler, as a 3 level dip can give you some very nice abilities (ie. Sneak Attack, Evasion...), and also fit thematically, especially if you want to make a scoundrel, or why not a Daring Outlaw!
Warblade Has great synergy with Swashbuckler, as both are very Intelligence dependant for class abilities. And some levels of Warblade can give you some nice manuevers that work very well with a quick-witted fencer.
Wizard: It's Batman, so there is some very good reasons to take some levels. If only dipping for access to gish classes, or to add some spells, consider specializing in a school. Of them, Transmutation is a good choise, as it contain many good low level buffs. And that it is based on Intelligence is only gravy.
Arcane Duelist Very nice Prestige Class found at wizards.com. This class give the Swashbuckler some interresting options in combat, and make you a deadlier opponent.
Dervish: Great for mobile, dual-wielding Swashbucklers. One of the best melee prestige classes.
Dread Pirate: Ever wanted to play the Dread Pirate Wesley? Then this is the class for you! Fairly easy requirements, good flavor and some nice abilities.
Duelist: A flavorful class for Swashbuckler, but considering other options availible to Swashbucklers sub-par.
Warmind: What is better than having a nice chunk of Sneak Attack die? Having a nice chunk that affect to targets simultaneously Requires some Powerpoints, but otherwise a pretty solid class, even if it's Powers are Wisdom-based, which lead to MAD.
Skills and SkilltricksEdit
Balance: Useful for those situational roof-top fights. Also is a pre-req for some nice Skill Tricks. 5 or more ranks also make sure that you keep your Dexterity modifier to AC when balancing, which is nice.
Bluff: Great if you take the Seduction dead-level, but otherwise not really worth it, unless you have a good modifier to back up your ranks. 5 ranks in this skill grant a synergy bonus to several skills, so you might as well take some ranks if you can afford it.
Climb: Good to keep high, because you never know when you are in need of a good climb-check. But beware, climbing make you lose you Dex to AC, unless you have a climb speed.
Craft: You are a Swashbuckler, leave the crafting to someone else.
Diplomacy: A great skill, but not for Swashbucklers, which have a hard time getting all the extra modifiers that is availible to bards and marshalls. Take some ranks in it if you have skill points availible, unless you are going to be the party-face.
Escape Artist: As your Strength probably will be lower than your Dexterity, this will be what you use to escape Grapples.
Jump: A good Swashbuckler should be able to leap between roof-top, so take some ranks in this. It is also a handy skill to use in a dungeon to avoid pit traps and similar hazards. 5 ranks gives a bonus to tumble checks, which is useful at low levels.
Profession: Don't take this unless you are working as something that is vital to the campaign, or if money is very hard to come by when adventuring.
Sense Motive: This is good to have if you are going to be the party face. It is also good to have some ranks in this if you often get Feinted, as you add this modifier and your Bab to avoid it, making you nigh impossible to feint.
Swim: Unless you are a pirate, or you are frequentally fighting near water, you won't see much use of this skill.
Tumble: Probably your most important skill. Many good Skill Tricks require ranks in Tumble, so you might as well keep it high. Also give a synergy bonus to jump and balance.
Use Rope: Good to have for style points, and you never know when your grapple-firering crossbow be handy.
Acrobatic Backstab: You can make a attack after you successfully tumble through your opponents square. Great for Daring Outlaws.
Back on Your Feet: Stand from Prone as a Immediate Action without provoking an AoO.
Corner Perch: Allows you to make attacks when perched in a corner.
Easy Escape: Gain bonuses to escape grapples from big enemies.
Escape Attack: Attack an opponent who was grappling you after you escape. Great for Daring Outlaws.
Extreme Leap: Add 10' to a successful jump check as a swift action.
Group Fake-Out: Feint several opponents, with a scaling penalty per opponent.
Leaping Climber: Add jump check to progress when climbing.
Nimble Charge: No balance check when running over difficult surfaces.
Nimble Stand: Stand from Prone without taking an AoO.
Quick Escape: Reduces the time to use Escape Artist.
Quick Swimmer: Add an extra 10' to your swimming with a successful check.
Slipping Past: Ignore penalties when squeezing as a swift action.
Social Recovery: Make a bluff check to try to save a failed Diplomacy check.
Speedy Ascent: Add an extra 10' to your climb with a successful check.
Timely Misdirection: If you succeed in feinting your opponent, it cannot take AoO on you for a turn. Great against AoO monsters.
Tumbling Crawl: Make a tumble check to avoid AoO when crawling.
Twisted Charge: You may turn once when you charge.
Up the Hill: Ignore speed penalties for moving up on slopes.
Walk the Walls: Good, but not great, unless your Swashbuckler have a very high speed. The psionic feat Up the Walls is better in all ways.
Wall Jumper: You can jump of walls...
Whip Climber: If this isen't style, I don't know what is. Good if you have to make a dashing entrance. Take a Use rope check as a move action to use.
Bounding Assault: If using Spring Attack, take this for another attack.
Cleave: Can be good with the right build
Combat Expertise: An important Swashbuckler feat, both because it has alot of flavor, and that it is a pre-req for alot of other good Swash feats.
Combat Reflexes: Great if combined with either Evasive Reflexes or Robilar's Gambit. Also a pre-req for some good combat styles.
Daring Outlaw: One of the best feats availible to Swashbucklers. Let you stack Rouge and Swash levels for Sneak Attack.
Daring Warrior: Not as good as Daring Outlaw, but can be nice in the right builds.
Deadly Defense: Great for Duelists.
Dodge: So so feat that is a pre-req for alot of good feats and Prestige Classes.
Einhander: Tactical feat that has more flavor than strong mechanics.
Elusive Target: Great tactical feat for Swashbucklers with high mobility.
Exotic Weapon Profiency: Most good finesseble weapons is exotic.
Improved Buckler Defense: Great if you get shield profiency from somewhere. Superior to Two-Weapon Defense.
Improved Disarm: Can be used to snatch items from your opponent, or to take that staff of Power the Archlich you fight is using.
Improved Feint: This is a trap, unless you somehow manage to get a big bluff modifier.
Improved Initiative: Going first is never bad.
Improved Trip: One of the best attack options availible to melee characters, if not the best.
Improved Weapon Familiarity: Vastly better than Exotic Weapon profiency, but check with your DM which weapons a Drow will get from chosing this feat.
Martial Stance: Stances that is good include, Child of shadow and Assassin Stance, but also Stance of Clarity and Black Pearl of Doubt.
Martial Study: Depending on your Swashbuckling style. Some good include Diamond Mind, Shadow Hand and Desert Wind.
Mobility: While not being the most optimized feat, +4 vs AoO is handy for Robilar's Gambit builds that ignore Tumble to provoke AoO. Also a pre-req for many good classes and feats.
Power Attack: If you are going to get into melee, this is your friend when wielding Two-handed weapons, as +2 on damage per penalty taken to your to-hit, this is golden.
Rapid Blitz: If you already have taken Bounding Assault, and have the Bab, this let you take a third attack when using Spring Attack.
Shadow Blade: Dexerity to damage from a limited list of weapons, but all of them finesseable, is always good. Grab a level or two of Swordsage for easy access.
Sidestep Charge: Great when combined with Elusive Target. It is also nice if you are using the Dueling Style.
Speed of Thought: 10' of extra speed is never bad, but to get it you need to have Power Points, as it only work while you are maintaining your Psionic Focus.
Spring-Attack: Great if you have strong single attacks. Also do not provoke AoO from the target you are Spring-Attacking.
Two-Weapon Defense: You need to have a really good reason to pick this, but one reason can be that you do not want to take a Fighter dip or similar. Is good if you frequently fight defensivelly.
Two-Weapon Fighting: You need this if you want to Dual-wield at all. To make most of this you need a source of extra damage, like Sneak Attack. A pre-req for most Weapon Style feats.
Two-Weapon Pounce: Two attacks on a charge is nice, and in some builds this is better than Improved Two-Weapon Fighting.
Two-Weapon Rend: If you hit with both of your weapons, you may make a rend attack 1/opponent/round.
Weapon Focus: A so so feat, but it is a pre-req for many good classes, like Dervish.
Whirlwind Attack: This feat is just down-right bad. Taking Martial Study for Mithril Tornado from Iron Heart is much better.