Tuesday, June 16, 2009

3.75 Update: Swashbuckler

Role: The Swashbuckler can be classed as a “striker,” dealing large amounts of damage but lacking in resiliency. The Swashbuckler also has the social skills to function as a party “face.”
Abilities: The Swashbuckler is dependent on a high Dexterity score for both defense and offense. Swashbucklers also benefit from a high Intelligence, and Constitution will improve a Swashbuckler’s staying power in combat.
Alignment: Any. More Swashbucklers are chaotic than lawful, but no particular ideology is required.
Hit Die: d10
Class Skills: Acrobatics, Bluff, Climb, Craft, Diplomacy, Escape Artist, Profession, Sense Motive, Spellcraft (Supernatural only), Swim, Use Magic Device (Supernatural Only)
Skill Points per Level: 4+INT
Base Attack Bonus: Full (as Fighter)
Good Saves: Fortitude, Reflex
Bad Save: Will
Weapons and Armor Proficiency: A Swashbuckler is proficient with all simple and martial weapons and with light armor. She is not proficient with shields.

Class Features
1-Weapon Finesse, Exploits 1/encounter -Weapon Finesse (Ex): A Swashbuckler gains Weapon Finesse at level one, whether or not she meets the prerequisites.
-Exploits (Ex): Through sheer bravado and force of will, a Swashbuckler is able to achieve feats of death-defying bravery—and sometimes, stupidity. This manifests in game terms via the use of Exploits.
Using an Exploit is a free action that can be used whenever the Swashbuckler rolls a d20. If the Swashbuckler elects to use an Exploit, she rolls 1d6 and adds the result to her d20 roll as a competence bonus. If the Swashbuckler has more than one Exploit available, she may spend as many Exploits on a single roll as she wishes, but since they are all competence bonuses she will only receive the result of the highest roll. Exploits are refreshed after one hour of downtime.
Initially, a Swashbuckler can use only one Exploit per encounter. This total increases to two per encounter at level two and one additional Exploit per encounter every three levels after that.
2-Basic Combat Style, Exploits 2/encounter
-Combat Style:
A Swashbuckler is nothing if not stylish, and so at level two she begins to develop a fighting style all her own. A Swashbuckler may choose between two fighting styles, the Extraordinary Style and the Supernatural Style.
-Extraordinary Style (Ex): The Swashbuckler becomes a master of acrobatic combat. Upon selecting Extraordinary Style, the Swashbuckler may immediately select a bonus feat from the following list. She must meet all prerequisites for that feat:
Acrobatic, Agile Maneuvers, Athletic, Caught-Off Guard, Combat Expertise, Combat Reflexes, Dodge, Exotic Weapons Proficiency (Finesseable weapons only), Improved Critical (Finesseable weapons only), Improved Disarm, Improved Feint, Improved Initiative, Improved Trip, Improved Two-Weapon Fighting, Quick Draw, Run, Skill Focus (class skills only), Two-Weapon Fighting, Weapon Focus (Finesseable weapons only).
In addition, the Swashbuckler chooses a number of class skills equal to her Intelligence modifier (minimum 1) in which she has at least 1 rank. The Swashbuckler gains a +4 bonus to checks involving each of these skills and may take a 10 on these skills, even if distractions would normally prevent her from doing so. Both these abilities are lost whenever the Swashbuckler is wearing armor heavier than light, using a shield, or carrying a medium or heavy load.
-Supernatural Style (Su): The Swashbuckler learns to dabble in the arcane arts, intermixing spell and sword. While her spell selection would be considered pitiful by any dedicated arcanist, what little magical aptitude she has is obtained at no expense to her martial training. Upon selecting the Supernatural Style, the Swashbuckler chooses one cantrip and one first level spell from the Sorceror/Wizard spell list. She can then cast this spell as a spell-like ability at will, but within certain limitations. She may cast a total number of spells this way each day equal to half her class level. Cantrips do not count against this limit; all spells of level 1 or higher do. Her caster level is equal to her Swashbuckler level, and any save DCs of the spell use her Intelligence modifier. Though these abilities are spell-like, they still require a certain degree of mobility from the Swashbuckler, and thus take Arcane Spell Failure Chance from armor heavier than light armor as well as from shields.
In addition, the Swashbuckler adds Spellcraft and Use Magic Device to her list of class skills.
3-Insightful Strike
-Insightful Strike (Ex):
A Swashbuckler uses her head in combat, picking out weak points on her foe, be they vital organs, load-bearing joints, or some other obvious weak spot. Starting at level 3, a Swashbuckler adds her Intelligence bonus to weapon damage rolls. This bonus does not apply against foes who are immune to critical hits or if the Swashbuckler is using a weapon unaffected by the Weapon Finesse feat. If a Swashbuckler has selected the Supernatural Combat Style, she may also use this ability when casting spells that deal hit point damage and require an attack roll.
4-Dodge Bonus +1
-Dodge Bonus (Ex):
A Swashbuckler relies on being unfettered in combat to put her abilities to best use, and so she learns to defend herself without cumbersome armor. As long as a Swashbuckler is wearing no armor heavier than light, not using a shield, and is not carrying a medium or heavy load, she gains a +1 Dodge bonus to Armor Class. This bonus increases by 1 every four levels. This bonus is lost whenever the Swashbuckler is denied her Dexterity bonus to AC.
5-Exploits 3/encounter
6-Acrobatic Charge

-Acrobatic Charge (Ex):
A level 6, a Swashbuckler gets more creative with her use of charges. From level 6 onward, she can make a charge across rough terrain that normally would slow her movement or through allies. She may still be required to make an Acrobatics check to charge successfully, depending on the circumstances involved.
7-Improved Combat Style
-Improved Combat Style:
At level 7, the Swashbuckler’s combat style improves.
Extraordinary Style (Ex): The Swashbuckler gains an additional bonus feat from Extraordinary Style list. She must meet the prerequisites for that feat. In addition, she add her Intelligence modifier to her Combat Maneuver Bonus (minimum +1) as long as she is only lightly armored, and is not using a shield or under a medium or heavy load.
Supernatural Style (Su): The Swashbuckler adds a 2nd level and a 3rd level Sorceror/Wizard spell to her repertoire.
8-Exploits 4/encounter, Dodge Bonus +2
-Seduction (Ex): Swashbucklers have a lascivious way of learning secrets. Starting at level 9, she can use the Bluff skill in place of a Diplomacy check. She can also use Bluff to replace a failed Diplomacy check made by herself or a member of her party, albeit at a -4 penalty. Using Seduction to gather information takes twice as long as using Diplomacy.
10-Heroic Exploits
-Heroic Exploits (Ex):
As her adventures continue, a Swashbuckler learns how to push the envelope on her daring and recklessness. Starting at level 10, whenever she uses an Exploit, she may roll 2d6 and use whichever die is higher as her result.
11-Exploits 5/encounter
12-Advanced Combat Style, Dodge Bonus +3
-Advanced Combat Style:
By level 12, the Swashbuckler’s fighting style has begun to approach true mastery.
Extraordinary Style (Ex): The Swashbuckler gains another bonus feat from the Extraordinary Style list. She must meet the prerequisites for that feat. In addition, she adds her Intelligence bonus to her Touch AC (but not her normal AC). This bonus cannot increase her Touch AC beyond her normal AC.
Supernatural Style (Su): The Swashbuckler adds a 4th level and a 5th level Sorceror/Wizard spell to her repertoire.
-Lucky (Ex):
While skill is certainly a factor in a Swashbuckler’s daily life, luck plays its part as well. At level 13, a Swashbuckler may tap into that luck once per day. She may reroll an attack roll, skill check, ability check, or saving throw. If she has used an Exploit on that roll, she may choose to reroll it or leave it. She must accept the result of the reroll, even if it is worse than the original roll.
14-Exploits 6/encounter
15-Weakening Critical

-Weakening Critical (Ex):
As a Swashbuckler’s grasp of weaponplay continues to advance, she becomes ever more aware of her enemies weak points. Whenever a Swashbuckler confirms a critical hit against an opponent, she deals 2 points of Strength damage to that opponent. This strength damage only applies if the attack also causes Insightful Strike damage.
16-Dodge Bonus +4
17-Master Combat Style, Exploits 7/encounter

-Master Combat Style:
At level 17, a Swashbuckler’s comprehension of her fighting style has reached its peak, leaving her with truly amazing skill.
Extraordinary Style (Ex): The Swashbuckler may select an additional feat from the Extraordinary Style list. In addition, she adds her Intelligence modifier to all Strength and Dexterity based skill checks and all Strength and Dexterity checks, including Initiative checks
Supernatural Style (Su): The Swashbuckler adds a 6th level and a 7th level Sorceror/Wizard spell to her repertoire.
18-Wounding Critical
-Wounding Critical (Ex):
The Swashbuckler’s intimate knowledge of causing injury makes its final manifestation at 18th level. From then on, whenever a Swashbuckler confirms a critical hit in an attack that dealt Insightful Strike damage, the foe takes 2 points of Constitution damage. This Constitution damage is in addition to the Strength damage caused by Weakening Critical.
19-Crowning Achievement
-Crowning Achievement:
At the penultimate to greatness, a Swashbuckler’s long years of training finally pay off, giving her an amazing display of talent and skill based on her Combat Style.
Dancing on Sabers (Extraordinary Style) (Ex): The Master Swashbuckler enjoys unrivaled skill and coordination to the point that she can literally dance on an enemy’s weapon. In order to do so, the Swashbuckler must be within jumping range of a foe and able to jump to the weapon’s height (usually about half the height of the creature wielding it). She must then make an Acrobatics check (DC=foe’s touch AC). Making this check is a move action that provokes an attack of opportunity from any other weapon threatening her (but not her intended target). She may increase the DC of the check by 10 to avoid provoking attacks of opportunity. While standing on a foe’s weapon, that foe is denied his Dexterity bonus from the Swashbuckler’s attacks and cannot attack the Swashbuckler with the weapon she is standing on. In addition, her weight is disorienting and inflicts a -4 penalty on all attack rolls with the weapon. Whenever the foe attacks with the weapon the Swashbuckler is standing on, the Swashbuckler must make an Acrobatics check equal to the attack roll or fall from the weapon, landing prone unless she makes a DC 15 Acrobatics check. The foe wielding the weapon may attack an empty square in an attempt to dislodge the Swashbuckler if he wishes, but doing so counts against his attacks for the round.
Mystic Defense (Supernatural Style)(Su): The Master Swashbuckler, dabbler in magic though she may be, understands magic on a fundamental level, granting her additional protection from the supernatural. She adds her Intelligence modifier to all saving throws against spells, spell-like abilities, and Supernatural abilities.
20-Legendary Exploits, Exploits 8/encounter, Dodge Bonus +5
-Legendary Exploits (Ex):
Fate smiles on a level 20 Swashbuckler as she smiles on no other. Whenever a level 20 Swashbuckler rolls for an Exploit, she rolls 3d6 and uses the die with the best result.

What’s Gone: Grace, Slippery Mind
Grace was a weird ability that, over the course of 20 levels, gave the Swashbuckler a +3 to Reflex saves, but only when unencumbered. In other words, it’s strictly worse than having a good Reflex save, yet is the only class ability at level 2. The only time Grace is good is in Gestalt (and “not bad” is probably a better description there) when gestalting with a good Reflex save class. So, it’s a mechanic that is only even worth paying attention to when it’s being abused, and even then isn’t great. I cut it and just gave the class the good Reflex save it wanted.
As for Slippery Mind, I find it to be almost useless on the Swashbuckler, especially at level 17. It’s extremely narrow (good against Will saves against Enchantments only) and at that level if a class with a bad Will save (like Swashbuckler) and no reason to prioritize Wisdom (again, like Swashbuckler) is going up against an Enchanter, a reroll isn’t going to help (not to mention that Slippery Mind does nothing for a whole round). Plus, with the addition of Exploits, the Swashbuckler already has a better shot at making the save the first time.

What’s Changed:
Acrobatic Charge, Improved Flanking, Dodge Bonus, Weakening Critical, Lucky, Acrobatic Skill Mastery, Wounding Critical
Dodge bonus was changed to reflect the 3.75 version of Dodge, albeit without the swift action activation (so people can use the Dodge feat if they want to). Since Monk now gets an AC bonus every 4 levels instead of every 5, doing the same for Swashbuckler seemed appropriate, especially since the Swashbuckler’s bonus is easier to cheat her out of.
Acrobatic Charge, Wounding Critical, Lucky, and Weakening Critical got their levels changed to fill gaps in the increments between Combat Styles, Exploits, and Dodge bonus to keep there from being super concentrated levels and dead levels. I also weakened Wounding and Weakening Critical in a way that 99% of players won’t even notice (they now only function with a weapon that can be finessed), mostly to enforce the class’ cohesion.
Acrobatic Skill Mastery became part of the Extraordinary Combat Style because I felt that style needed a bit of a leg up over Supernatural considering the versatility a handful of spells could give the Swashbuckler (Fly or Improved Blink, anyone?). I also think that a Swashbuckler should probably get really good at jumping and tumbling, you know, before the party’s Wizard can destroy foes with little more than a gesture.
Improved Flanking is now an optional bonus feat on the Extraordinary Style, which seemed appropriate to me from power level concerns.
What’s New
Exploits, Combat Styles, Seduction, Crowning Achievement
It always felt weird to me that the class called “Swashbuckler” had no use for Charisma and wasn’t particularly good at over-the-top stunts. In fact, it was worse in both areas than the Rogue, and was still a mark below the core fighter classes in combat. Exploits are a way to motivate the Swashbuckler player to do dangerous stunts and have a shot at succeeding where others would fail. As you may have guessed, both Exploits and the Supernatural Combat Style are a nod toward the other high-intelligence non-caster of 3.5, the Factotum. I deliberately made Exploits less reliable, less plentiful, and more difficult to improve than Inspiration points because of the class’ power level and in regards to the general feel of risky behavior associated with the class (i.e., even a min-maxed Swashbuckler shouldn’t succeed just because she used an Exploit).
Combat Styles are a way to add to the overall “cool” factor of the class. In terms of bonus feats, the Extraordinary Style just takes pressure off the player’s character feats; the 5 bonus feats (including level 1 Weapon Finesse) are far behind the Fighter’s 11 (not to mention the options now available to the Rogue) and from a restricted list, while the additional bonuses are just nice little perks that make a very cinematic combat style possible. Supernatural Combat style was deliberately sparser in its offerings because I think a fair number of clever players can exploit it rather well; it also gives the class some expandability in regards to published spell lists. And besides, a 7th level spell up to 10 times per day is nothing to sneeze at. As for Crowning Achievements, I think that someone who has resisted the urge to multiclass out of Swashbuckler for 19 levels should get something on par in at least presentation to the 9th level spells the casters are slinging around at that point, rather than Wounding Critical.
Seduction is a simplified version of a Dead Level mechanic published on wizards.com for Swashbuckler, actually motivating her to have a positive Charisma modifier.

The goal here was to take what might have been the worse class in the game (except maybe Shadowcaster) and make it not only playable, but unique. I am a little concerned about power level in the opposite direction at this point, and would like some playtesters to check on that for me. However, I think I have managed to create a Swashbuckler who’s worth playing beyond level 3.

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