Bard/Swashbuckler in a Low-Magic Campaign

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Hello, CO.

I'm going to be joining a low-magic campaign soon, and I was wondering if you would be able to help me.

The Set Up

We will be starting at level 5, with point-buy attributes. The world is low-magic, and the DM has barred any spell-casting class with access to 9th level spells. This isn't for any dislike, but merely to level the playing field for the other classes. This also means that magic items will be sparse. I am unsure for the rest of the party, though I know that one player is leaning towards a Dragon Shaman and the other towards some kind of mage killer. We can use PHB, PHB2, all the Complete books, and all of the Races books. I haven't asked if I'm able to access outside sources for feats like Snowflake Wardance, but since he's a new DM I'm not optimistic.

The Character Idea

I was hoping to make a swashbuckling bard, the Flynn type of fighter with light armor and constant movement. I was also planning to be the knowledge skill-monkey for the group, gathering information and filling in the gaps.

The (Potential) Crunch

The idea was that the synergy between a decent Int for the swashbuckler and the skills I would get as a bard would work nicely. Besides, gutsy swashbucklers should be dashing and charismatic which oozes bard. Combine that with Unfettered Defense from Invisible Blade, and you have a tricksy fighter who fights in nice clothes instead of stuffy armor. Throw in the Knowledge Devotion from Complete Champion, and we have a smarmy bastard fighting with smarts.

Potential races are Human and Half-Elf.

Human gives me access to Able Learner, extra skill points, and perhaps Chameleon if the party really needs that much versatility in a single character. If I went Human, I would also swap out of the Fascinate for the Healing Hymn variante ability (Complete Champion pg. 47) to assist with healing. Unfortunately, I can't get Dragonfire Inspiration since the book it comes from isn't among the ones we have access to.

Half-Elf lets me swap out of the probably-useless-for-this-setting Countersong ability for Soothing Voice (HoD, pg. 157).

I'm unsure whether to go for Perform(dance) or Perform(oratory). It depends on whether or not I go Dervish/Invisible Blade or focus more on Bardic stuff.

The Issues

Reading through the books, it seems that the best way to get what I want is to go Bard/Rogue/Swashbuckler/Invisible Blade. That just seems silly though, and it feels like I'm trying for too many things at once.

Problem is that if I go Bard/Swashbuckler/Invisible Blade, I won't get as much damage out of the Sneak Attack as if I had just gone Rogue/Swashbuckler/Invisible Blade with the Daring Outlaw feat. If I did go the Rogue, however, I would lose all of the nifty Knowledge skills, Bardic Knack and the fun musical/magical abilities of the bard class.

Not only that, but Invisible Blade has some weird feat pre-reqs:

At this point, I'm unsure what to do. Which is better, damage or versatility? Should I just give up on Invisible Blade? Is there some other PrC that matches the playstyle of what I'm going for?
Theres not that many prcs that advance both rogue and bard abilities since they tend to overlap. Fochluchan lyrist is the only one on top of my head that both require evasion and bardic music, if you feel like druid could fit into your concept that might be an idea.

something like:

rogue 2/druid1/bard7/sublime chord1/fochlucan lyrist 9

if you want focus on the "bard" side.

Invisible blade doesnt advance your bardic casting OR music, so i wouldnt suggest going there...

Unfortunately, I'm not allowed to take levels in druid as that class can cast 9th level spells. I'm in a similar rut if I want to take levels in Wizard, Cleric, Sorcerer, Beguiler, Warmage, etc. Interestingly, I am not allowed to play a Spellthief as there isn't enough magic in the world for the character to be useful. Paladins, Rangers, and Bards are alright.

Is there anything that combines Bard and Swashbuckler? Or should I just go pure bard and forgo the Swashbuckler path entirely?
Unfortunately, I'm not allowed to take levels in druid as that class can cast 9th level spells. I'm in a similar rut if I want to take levels in Wizard, Cleric, Sorcerer, Beguiler, Warmage, etc. Interestingly, I am not allowed to play a Spellthief as there isn't enough magic in the world for the character to be useful. Paladins, Rangers, and Bards are alright.

Is there anything that combines Bard and Swashbuckler? Or should I just go pure bard and forgo the Swashbuckler path entirely?

There's nothing that combines the two.  IYou might find Versatile Performer from Complete Adventurer useful, though.

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I do, however, have one last lesson on this subject. That last one? The only build in this post that can one-shot average opponents[by dealing twice as much damage as they have HP? I would argue that it is not optimized. Why isn't it optimized? Because it's overkill. Overkill is NOT optimizing. This means that there are portions of this build dedicated to damage which can safely be removed and thrown elsewhere. For example, you probably don't need both Leap Attack AND Headlong Rush at the same time. You could pick up Extra Rage feats for stamina, feats to support AoO effects, feats that work towards potential prestige classes, and so on. However, you could also shift our ability scores around somewhat. I mean, if you're getting results like that with 16 starting Strength, maybe you can lower it to 14, and free up four points to spend somewhere else - perhaps back into Charisma, giving you some oomph for Intimidating Rage or Imperious Command if you want. You can continue to tune this until it deals "enough" damage - and that "enough" does not need to be "100%". It could easily be, say, 80% (leaving the rest to the team), if your DM is the sort who would ban one-hit killers.
Tempest_Stormwind on Character Optimization
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When she meets CJ's mom?
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I'd also like to add that you're going to have a problem with this, simply because low magic games actually require a very experienced DM to work.

Still, let's work with it.

One thing to consider is that if you're only going three levels for swashbuckler (the class is three or four levels long unless you're using Daring Outlaw), you'll benefit from high Intelligence. Bards who have 15 or higher Intelligence almost always qualify for Words of Creation (Book of Exalted Deeds), which is the key to the most amazing bardic output you can imagine. You may need it to keep up with appropriate foes if your DM isn't scaling back the CR to account for less equipment. (This is still a good suggestion even without equipment.)

If you know what options are available to bards you're actually able to have a lot of fun with them. They're plenty swashbucklerous already. (Totally a word, don't you know.) 

Otherwise... hm. Give me a bit to think about this - intelligence based blade-bard, ideally without armor or with vey light armor? Is that the goal? 

Weekly Optimization Series

These are NOT all my creations! The lead authors are identified as follows: [TS] Tempest Stormwind, [AR] Andarious Rosethorn, [RT] Radical Taoist, [SN] Sionnis, [DH] DisposableHero_, [SH] Seishi.

[TS] The Pinball Brothers: Large And In Charge (Melee, Lockdown, Charge, Juggling)
[TS] Ashardalon Reborn: I Will Swallow Your Soul (Melee, Fear, Negative Levels, AoE, Theme)
[AR] "A"-Game Paladin: Play That Funky Music, Knight Boy! (Team Support, Melee, Theme, Single-Class)
[RT] Uncanny Trapsmith: Get in, make it look like an accident, get out. (Skillmonkey, Stealth/Scout/Infiltration, Unorthodox Methods, Theme)
[AR] Wizsassin: *Everything* is permitted. (Spellcaster, Support, Sneak Attack, Utility)
[TS] Phantom Rush: General Gish Gouda. (Gish, Theme, Setting-Specific(Eberron), Early-Entry PrC)
[TS] Storm Knight: Another kind of gish. (Melee/"Gish", Theme, Setting-Specific(Eberron), Unorthodox Methods)
[TS] Inevitable Nightmare: The weapon you only have to fire once. (Melee, "Unorthodox" Methods (no charging), Reliability)
[AR] Captain Constitution: The number one threat to America. (Melee, TOUGHTOUGHTOUGH, Defense, Theme)
[AR] Nuker: I casts the spells that makes the peoples fall down! (Spellcaster, damage, blasting, damage)
[TS] Dread Lord of the Dead: Let the Reaping Begin! (NPC-only, Variable (combat/casting/leadership), Iconic Villain, Theme)
[AR] Heavy Crusader: No Rest. No Mercy. No Matter What. (Melee, Damage (No charging), Variable, Theme).
[TS] Gun Fu: It's bullet time (Ranged, THEORETICAL, Twin weapons, Theme)
[RT] Face First: We should talk. (Psionic, social, mind-control, info-management)
[SN] Chaingun Porcupine: Never Enuff Dakka. (Ranged, Skirmishing, Spike Damage, Incarnum)
[RT] Always On Edge: The Mortal Draw deals death. (Melee, Generalist, Dungeoneering, Stunt)
[AR] Feral Druid: Real feral taste. Zero druid calories. (Melee, offense, damage, murder)
[RT] Rusty!: Man's Best Friend (Sentry, Support, Backup, Rearguard)
[RT] The T3 (Tashalatora Triple Threat): My Kung Fu is More Powerful (Hybrid, Flex-Function, Melee, Caster)
[RT] The #1 Snoipah: Boom. 'Eadshot. (Caster, Theme, Spike, Trapscout)
[AR] Dreamblade: Rest in Pieces. (Melee, Damage, Single-Class, Combo/Momentum)
[AR] Evasion Tank: “When fighting angry blind men, is best to stay out of the way.” (Melee, Tank, Unorthodox Methods (attack negation), Theme)
[DH] Psycarnum Warrior: ↑↑↓↓←→←→BA Start (Melee, Tank, Psionics, Incarnum, 1337 h4x)
[AR] Heavy Weapons Elf: WHO TOUCHED MY BOW? (Ranged, Cohort, Damage, Unorthodox Methods (ranged ToB))
[RT] Gnowhere Gnome: A little man who wasn't there (Caster, Stealth, Single-Class, Elusive)
[AR] Uberflank: I got your back. (Melee, support, stunt, teamwork)
[TS] Flip the Bird: Everyday I'm shuffling (Ranged, harrier, unorthodox methods (ranged ToB / off-turn movement), support)
[DH] Eat Sleep Gank: Real Ultimate Power (Stealth, Assassination, Spike, Magic Versatility)
[AR] Slash and Burn: Mind, Body, Blade, Flame / Aspects of a greater whole / which delivers death. (Melee, Theme (flex-style), Damage, Stunt)
[RT] Edge of the Light: Cut, Fade to Black (Melee, Defense/Offense, Momentum, Tactical)
[RT] Quiet Murder: Cut throats, not corners. (Melee, Stealth, Harrier, Tactical)
[TS] Wand Overdrive: Say Hello to my little friends. (Caster, support/artillery/variable, wand specialist)
[RT] God Hand: What did the five fingers say to the face? (Melee/Gish, Unarmed, SAD, Theme)
[AR] Zero Buff Time Gish: Try to keep up! (Gish, Speed, Movement, Opportunity)
[TS] Robo Tackle: I Am Iron Man. (Melee, setting-specific (Eberron), positioning, theme, stunt)

[TS] Holy Fire: Just getting warmed up! (Casting, damage, theme (fire), theme (sacred), blasting)

[TS] Groundhog Mage: ♪Let’s do the time warp again♪ (Casting, stunt, setting-specific (Faerun), spell stamina / versatility, spontaneous wizard)

[RT] Captain Charisma: All she wants to do is dance (Hybrid (melee/support), SAD, Theme (criticals), Theme (flex-style))

[TS] Assassin's Speed: A blade in the crowd (Melee (technical), iaijutsu, SAD, theme (Assassin's Creed), tutorial)

[RT] Something for Everyone: A.K.A. The Last Sorcerer RT Will Ever Build (Caster, Damage, Trapscout, Takedowns)


Want to see how the entire group rolls?
[All] Party Optimization Showcase: Dead for Nothing
[TS/RT/AR] Optimization Article: The Flash Step
[RT] Optimization Article: Kung Fu Witchcraft


Seishi: I think it might be fun to have a one-off [game] tuned fairly, but with the intention of wiping the party. 

DisposableHero_: if [my campaign] has taught me nothing else, it is that with this group, nothing tuned fairly will ever wipe the party

RadicalTaoist: I've been throwing **** at this group that's 5 levels over CRed in DFN, and have yet to wipe the party.

3.5: Definitive Shopping List (gear guide PDF)


5e Eberron homebrew rules (PDF) (Artificer, Warforged, Changeling, Kalashtar, Shifter, Dragonmarks, Magic Item Economy) | Discussion thread

@draco: Wow, thanks for the heads up. Versatile Performer looks like a real cool feat.

@Tempest: Yes, an intelligence-based blade bard with light armor is the goal.

I'm only really focusing on intelligence so I can have plenty of skill points to spread around. Since I'm leaning more towards the Half-Elf Bard variant, I won't have the luxury of Able Learner and those extra skill points. If I'm over thinking it, then hey: sky's the limit.

Wearing armor is fine, I suppose. I wanted to try the Thief-Acrobat, but that requires Evasion. Unless I take a 2 level dip in Rogue or Monk, that's off limits to me and I'd need more than that to really get anything out of them. I could just focus less on physical stunts and more on the social side, whatwith my potentially ridiculous Diplomacy and Bluff.

Oh, I've been using that Handbook. It's been real helpful so far.

Edit: Also, I read over your Uncanny Trapsmith. It looks like a bundle of fun in a deadly trap-happy box. I'll have to try it some time.


Currently, I'm looking at the following build:

STR 10 / CON 12 / DEX 14 / INT 14/ WIS 10/ CHA 16 (30 Point Buy)
Class Feature Swaps:
 - Countersong -> Soothing Voice (Heroes of Destiny)
 - Bardic Knowledge -> Bardic Knack (PHB2)

Featwise, I'm leaning towards (in no particular order): Jack of All Trades, Versatile Performer, Master Manipulator, Melodic Casting, Wanderer's Diplomacy, Weapon Finesse and (possibly) Leadership.

Regarding skill tricks, I was also planning on getting the Listen to This and Collector of Stories.
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