My blog’s primary goal is a reflection on all things about the Monk class in Dungeons & Dragons Online. Often the posts I share are meant as extensive discussion and analysis of general abilities, prestige tracks and builds that the Monk can utilize. Such discussion would clog up the Book of Syncletica guide itself and would also be too subjective.
There have been a few new things that’s entered into our virtual world of Eberron to pull my attention away from the monastic for a time.
It might surprise some people to know that not all of my characters are Monks. I have an Artificer, still in her first life and used primarily for Cannith Crafting. I have two Rogues, one an Acrobat in her first life and a very young Assassin. There’s also a halfling Cleric.
But many of the other non-monks have been re-rolled as I needed a new slot for a character idea. A paladin, bard, Cleric-Monk, Rogue-Monk and sorcerer have met an early demise out of lack of interest or poor, irreparable building.
I’ve really, really wanted to enjoy more of the magical classes but Artificer has been the closest I’ve come to doing so.
And then came something new with Update 22 that I just had to try.
DDO’s concept of this single-bladed scoundrel did not take much inspiration from the SRD versions or official tabletop concepts. Because of DDO’s live-combat format. low role-play and Epic quests and raids, the DDO Swashbuckler needed a lot more attack power and versatility. In short, the D&D Swashbuckler is more role-play oriented with simple but highly effective fighting rules. The DDO Swashbuckler must be a master with the single blade almost to Jedi Knight caliber.
I enjoyed a Swashbuckler version long ago in Neverwinter Nights 2. This version (and all of the D&D rules and designs I’ve found online) used a Rogue as the base class. Makes sense, given that a Rogue is…well, roguish, with that swagger and bravado and versatility you’d expect to see in such a character.
But DDO moved in a different direction. Rather than Rogue, their version is geared primarily for Bards.
It’s not a bad idea. In DDO as with D&D, Bards truly are a support class. They are weak in attack but can greatly augment a party’s attacks, buffs and strong in crowd control. But that was about it.
When Epic levels came along, the Bard gained the Fatesinger epic destiny, yet it, too, seemed more of the same: A series of abilities that supported its arcane songs and buffs but with lower attack than other destinies.
And so, perhaps to help this class with greater overall attack power, this new class tree came into being…although not without a lot of player criticism and advice after the developers announced it and asked for comments during its development.
But kudos to the developers; they listened very intently to all players and tweaked the class tree for a solid balance and an enticing reason to choose Single Weapon Fighting over Two Weapon Fighting. You cannot have both; the new feat is mutually exclusive to the TWF feats.
Now, a disclaimer: I know Monks. I know very little about Bards except in gameplay with others. That said, my guild leaders and a few officers have Bards I watch often in play, so I know their abilities. I’m sure that many of you may have multiclassed in the past to generate a better fighter out of a Bard than the stock L20 Bard.
But, as I tend to do with Monks, I’m going to explore how strong the single-class Bard can become with the new Swashbuckler tree.
In Like Flynn
My character naming convention is clear. My Monks have the -(c)letica style nomenclature exclusively (Pynthetica was an early exception as my 2nd character rolled; she was first a Ranger before her current life as a Zen Archer Monk). All my other characters had names often starting with an “A” (a tribute to my mother, who named all her children with “K” names).
But I thought that this character had enough potential to stay to be worthy of my monastic convention. So the name I chose was an in-joke to an existing name (Lynncletica) but also as a reference to Errol Flynn, the late actor renowned for many swashbuckling films in the pre-WWII era.
She’s fresh off the boat and taken only to level 4 with Veteran I status so I could appreciate most of the low-level quests and understand more of the Bard class in a crash-course of early levels.
That said, Flynn is already a terrifyingly powerful melee fighter. With her Starter Rapier and about 10 action points used, she can Blur and heal herself, throw out a few useful bard songs while ripping quick, deadly holes into everything she’s encountered so far.
The keys to Flynn’s power comes from two components. The Single Weapon Fighting ability, among other effects, adds a 10% Combat Style melee and ranged alacrity bonus as well as Doublestrike and Doubleshot from the Swashbuckling stance (should I care to use a repeating crossbow or bow).
Note the distinction of that alacrity bonus. I immediately crafted a reusable trinket with the 10% melee alacrity as an Enhancement bonus.
These effects stacked. I had a level 4 character with 4% Doublestrike and 20% melee alacrity.
Later feats in the Single Weapon Fighting line raise the melee alacrity to 30% Combat Style bonus with greater damages to boot. Does that mean that Flynn could have a 40% total increase in melee alacrity? Yes. Yes, it does.
Sadly, there are very, very few named bucklers, the smallest of the shields, in the game. The best ones are Epic versions (and are quite cool looking). The only Heroic version is from the Crystal Cove event, called (not surprisingly) the “Swashbuckler.”
Aside from the general protection that a shield provides, I’d like to see more with Riposte effects. In the NWN2 version, any missed attack gave my character an immediate counter-attack. Riposte (as well as other tree effects) can add more of this. There are a couple of similar effects that generate damage on missed attacks.
My current buckler has 1% Doublestrike, which stacks with the Swashbuckler’s innate bonuses.
I may need to craft a bit.
I love the look and feel of the rapier and I’m going to stick with this weapon type throughout Flynn’s life, occasionally swapping out a recently-looted Everbright rapier for oozes and rust monsters. Plenty of good weapons for Bards exist, including the Spider Spike, the Elyd Edge (my Bard-savvy guild leader advised me to get this one to regenerate my bard songs using its Anthem effect), the Turbulent Epee, the heavy Dueling Schlager, Sheridan’s Ruin, Nuushmaar’s Adamantine Tooth, and Tyrzza’s Bane, to name a few.
Light armor should be sufficient for Flynn, and there’s more of that good stuff in-game than I need to mention here.
As for other essentials that Bards should have, I’ll need lots of advice and experimentation.
I took some pointers from two threads on the general build. As much as I’d love to add in the halfling dragonmark (good tip, Geoff), I can see that I’ll be pretty feat starved and would be better off adding healing or defensive spells as I went along.
Based on one poster’s very helpful answer, I focused on combat (DEX) but will be adding as much CHA as I can to whip out anything that slows down at least smaller crowds.
Flynn, like most Bards, is not meant to solo, I think. I have to keep a meat shield handy. I’ve had a blast running this character with guildmates and might–just might–even join in a PUG or two. I’ve also looked more at the Monte Cristo build ideas for better Bardesque crowd controls in whatever I can apply to Flynn.
I’m studying what Warchanter tree abilities can improve Flynn’s attack and CC powers. Advice is appreciated.
One thing that DDO players don’t do nearly as often as they should is block. We have shields, true, but often they’re there for off-hand effects and general passive protections.
I plan to block and often. I plan to start off defensively, letting the enemy’s first attack go into my shield (with miss effects activating as they might) before I pummel him with several Swashbuckler attacks while also letting any Riposte or guard effects hurt him more. I find shield bashing quite handy as well. I suspect you really can’t just hold down your Attack button as often as a swashbuckler if you want to triumph.
As Flynn gains in power, I’ll enjoy some Bard crowd controls, choking attacks in doorways and narrow passages while picking off any comers to my blade. I’m particularly interested in using taunts that reduce Will saves, making paralysis and charms more effective to make an enemy’s army my own. I’ll need some study to ensure I can pull off powerful Otto’s Spheres in higher levels: That’s CHA, and I’m pumping DEX over all else, so tomes and equipment will be needed along with action points to some enhancements.
Bards aren’t known to be stealthy. But Flynn can cast Invisibility (immunity from Spot). Combined with some Move Silently points (and a few Hide points given as part of being a halfling), she can use some situational tactics to help decide where and when she will fight. The tree also adds Fast Movement, a lighter but appreciated speed-up.
In higher levels, Flynn may be able to kill anything that is Fascinated or prone as she trains her magic skills.
Three-Barrel Cove and Tangleroot are next–but Flynn is leveling hyper-fast as a first-life character.
Flynn may not be a Monk, but she’s going to have speed and versatility that matches many of them. And, she’ll be wise enough to buff any Monks in party to make the most of their powers.
Stay tuned for the next exciting episode of
“The Madcap Adventures of Flynncletica”