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  1. #1

    [3.5, Tome of Battle] Need Balance & Build Advice on Swordsage

    Hi all,

    My game group recently returned to 3.5 and would like some advice on a new character I was making. My DM knew my love of anime so pointed me to a book that was released after I left D&D. As you can guess I loved Tome of Battle but it is a bit confusing on the first few reads.

    The Meat of the Thread:

    1) Would it be unbalancing for the Swordsage to have a High BAB? It's the one thing that really puzzles me on this class.

    2) I would like some advice on initial stances and manoeuvres:

    For my two stances, I am waffling between:
    Hunter's Sense, Flame's Blessing and Island of Blades.

    Flame's blessing is fairly a lock. (Main thing I am going for is long term usability.) Hunter's sense looks good for the same reason but Island of Blades is tempting, I just don't know how good it will be in the long term.

    For manoeuvres, I would like your opinion on:
    Burning Blade
    Moment of Perfect Mind or Sapphire Nightmare Blade
    Counter Charge or Mighty Throw
    Stone Bones
    Shadow Blade Technique
    Wolf Fang Strike (Needed for Hunter's Sense, Although I don't really intend on being a TWF.)

    I would like to have one manoeuvre from each discipline (Mo9 in the making and in the RP) but I am not completely set on that.

 

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    It wouldn't be overpowered with full BAB. But I don't think you need it much if you're not going TWF style, either. Just stick to standard action strikes and skirmish around the battlefield.

    Stances:
    Flame's Blessing is very meh early on, it comes into its own when it gives immunity ~level 16, before then it's alright, but far from a no-brainer choice.

    Hunter's Sense is good, it only has 2 problems, IMO: 1) TC 1st level stances, unlike any other discipline, require a maneuver known. The ONLY TC maneuver you can learn w/o knowing one already at level 1 is Wolf Fang Strike (Claw at the Moon and Rabid Wolf Strike of 2nd level later on can become entry points). I guess if you want Sudden Leap this isn't an issue since you have to suck it up anyway. 2) Later on, the Hearing the Air stance just completely obsoletes it, and honestly...HtA is one of the best stances in the game, you'd be foolish not to get it.

    Island of Blades is alright if you have sneak attack, otherwise it what? Lets you get +2 to hit a round sooner than you would have otherwise? If you have a rogue ally, it's much more helpful.

    My favorite 1st level stance for a swordsage is child of shadow. You're going to be moving around anyway, so 20% miss chance is awesome and remains useful even at higher levels. I also really like Step of the Wind. Ignoring difficult terrain can be extremely helpful when it comes up, and you get bonuses in it, to boot!

    Burning Blade: Good
    MoPM: You already have a good will save, all this does is not fail on a 1. Pass.
    Saph NM Blade: Having to beat AC twice for only +1d6 seems like a bad deal to me, unless the AC is abysmal. It's much better if you have sneak attack since it also flatfoots the person.
    Counter Charge: It's outstanding!
    Mighty Throw: It's handy, difficult to succeed on the check without trip optimization, but at least there's no drawback if you fail. Without Improved Trip, it's main use would be tactical, to toss an enemy into your friend's Entangle spell or something. Not bad, but also not essential.
    Stone Bones: If the enemy makes a DC 11 int check (untrained Martial Lore), they know to just go full defensive for a round and wait it out. This also ages VERY poorly with levelling. I'd skip it.
    Shadow Blade Tech: This is pretty good, lets you have two chances to hit someone. The only time to go for the cold damage is if both rolls are high but neither is a crit threat (or if both are...), you're mostly using this for the higher chance to hit.
    WFS: I don't like it, but sometimes you may just find the need to get in two weak hits to fight off a mob of mooks. You CAN swap this out at level 4, so it's not that crippling to take.

    I'd caution against Mo9, it's inferior to actually remaining a swordsage, and the feat costs are ridiculous (the example Mo9 didn't even qualify for the class legitimately with his feats!) and too all over the place to be helpful. See if the DM can at least drop the Improved Unarmed Strike pre-req. Or avoid the PrC. You need your feats, badly. Namely:

    Adaptive Style is an essential feat for the Swordsage, like Natural Spell is for Druids, except more so, because druids can technically function without Natural Spell. Take it at level 1. Take it take it take it take it take it!!!!

    I really cannot emphasize that last point enough.
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  • #3
    Thank's for the feedback Stream of The Sky, you gave me a bit to think about.

    The main thing I am looking for with stances is long term viability. Especially as you can't change them (as far as I know.) So Flame's Blessing is good for me in that sense.

    I took a look through for Hearing the Air and you were so right, it blows Hunter's sense out of the water.

    So that leave's Child of Shadow, Island of Blades and Step of the Wind. Island of Blade's usefulness does sound as it might get less at higher levels though. I'll double check with my DM about his intention's regarding terrain and then decide between Child of Shadow and Step of the Wind.

    Burning Blade, Shadow Blade Tech & Counter Charge: Confirmed.

    After some thought I will drop Stone Bones and take Sudden Leap in it's place with the intention of swapping out Wolf Fang Strike at Level 4.

    I am at a bit of a loss on the last maneuver though. I would have liked something from Diamond Mind as I was thinking of making that my main discipline later.

    Which other maneuver would you recommend taking, with at outlook for long term use? MoPM seemed like a good choice in that respect and I am having difficulty coming up with another good long term choice.

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    I want to second the suggestion against Master of Nine. The PrC does not accomplish what the flavor implies.

    I'd instead suggest considering a rare dips in Warblade and Crusader at higher levels. Because ToB classes consider non-marital classes as half levels towards initiator level, this means you'll have access to higher level Maneuvers with a single dip.
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    A few years ago I played a Warblade (not quite the same but he was a beast in battle). With as many manuevers and stances as you get by the time you are 20th level, don't worry too much about specializing. I tracked my path and was able to "specialize" in 2 different and still almost specialize in a 3rd with half of what the swordsage gets for manuevers and stances.

    Also you may have noticed from your readtrhoughs that each discipline equates to a different fighting style and therefore play style as well. Some disciplines compliment each other greatly and some just stand alone. Find the ones that go best with your style of combat and milk them for all they are worth.


    Also you can swap low level manuevers (those that don't benefit you much) for ones that will of your current level. You can only swap them on even levels and one at each interval so planning from start to finish is the key to getting what you want.

    Advice on whatever path you choose. Plan all manuevers out for all 20 levels so you see what you're going to end up with. If need be you can make changes along the way and it should be simple to do. Otherwise you may find you won't get the high end manuevers that do devasting amounts of damage (some of these can kill opponents in a single attack with no save).

    Stances are usually useful for most of your characters career of you choose them correctly. Think combat munchkin and you should be fine with them even though once you learn it, its with you forever.

    The classes in ToB are combat and strategy masters so don't worry about balance when playing them. Munchkin them as much as possible. They are the ultimate fighting machines in combat. Design them as such and play them as such in combat.

    Hope this general advice will help

  • #7
    Quote Originally Posted by RUMBLETiGER View Post
    I want to second the suggestion against Master of Nine. The PrC does not accomplish what the flavor implies.

    I'd instead suggest considering a rare dips in Warblade and Crusader at higher levels. Because ToB classes consider non-marital classes as half levels towards initiator level, this means you'll have access to higher level Maneuvers with a single dip.
    Hmm, sound's like either a few levels of Warblade or straight Swordsage...

    Quote Originally Posted by Dandu View Post
    Nice link Dandu, I am going to check out the rest of the Tangled Webs site when I get off work, but where are the stances/manoeuvres ?

    Quote Originally Posted by cjosephs1s View Post
    A few years ago I played a Warblade (not quite the same but he was a beast in battle). With as many manuevers and stances as you get by the time you are 20th level, don't worry too much about specializing. I tracked my path and was able to "specialize" in 2 different and still almost specialize in a 3rd with half of what the swordsage gets for manuevers and stances.

    Also you may have noticed from your readtrhoughs that each discipline equates to a different fighting style and therefore play style as well. Some disciplines compliment each other greatly and some just stand alone. Find the ones that go best with your style of combat and milk them for all they are worth.


    Also you can swap low level manuevers (those that don't benefit you much) for ones that will of your current level. You can only swap them on even levels and one at each interval so planning from start to finish is the key to getting what you want.

    Advice on whatever path you choose. Plan all manuevers out for all 20 levels so you see what you're going to end up with. If need be you can make changes along the way and it should be simple to do. Otherwise you may find you won't get the high end manuevers that do devasting amounts of damage (some of these can kill opponents in a single attack with no save).

    Stances are usually useful for most of your characters career of you choose them correctly. Think combat munchkin and you should be fine with them even though once you learn it, its with you forever.

    The classes in ToB are combat and strategy masters so don't worry about balance when playing them. Munchkin them as much as possible. They are the ultimate fighting machines in combat. Design them as such and play them as such in combat.

    Hope this general advice will help
    My general idea was to specialise in Diamond Mind, Shadow Hand as secondary while cherry picking the rest for good options, Damage, Mobility etc.

    Question: How did you plan out your character? I tried reverse planning mine yesterday for a bit but it turned into a real mess, Time Stands still needs 4 maneovres and one of it's pre-reqs needs three (although to be fair I wasn't trying that hard at the time, just while watching a movie.)

    My character concept was a True Neutral Swordsage who was completely devoted to the Nine-fold way rather then good/evil etc.
    Last edited by Shadow_Tickle; Friday, 7th October, 2011 at 08:12 AM.

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    Uncheck the "Spells and Powers" box under the skills list.

  • #9
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    Well its partly reverse engineering to a degree. At least that's where you start. So you want Time Stands Still (who doesn't...lol) Ok so you need 4 manuevers from Diamond Mind. So pick 4 that you really want to have when your character is completed. Lets say you want Ruby NIghtmare blade (4), Rapid Counter (5), Quicksilver Motion (7), and one of my favorites..Moment of Alacrity (6). So this meets your prereqs for your Diamond mind "final tree" But how do you get those? Once again you can work backwords starting with levels not with prereqs. So Ruby Nightmare Blade is the first one you want to take. It requres 2 manuevers. So pick up two before this. Lets say they are Sapphire Nightmare Blade (1) and Emerald Razor (2). So now you have the prereqs for this. But odds are you don't want Sapphire Nightmare Blade when you are level 18 or 20 so you can switch it out for Time Stands still and still meet the prereqs for all of your 4 original top teir "final tree" and not have felt like you wasted a manuever.

    Manuevers don't have to be of lower level to count as prereqs. You can take a level 5 manuever to count as a prereq for a level 4 manuever just the same as if you lower level manuever that still needs prereqs your higher level ones you have taken will count towards that.

    The swordsage is a master of combat and strategy but it takes a lot of strategy to build one too. So its going to take a few hours to compile all of your manuevers (especially since you get so many). And even then it may take some more time to fit them all in at just the right times.

    For complicated progressions like this (or even the average class ones) I love using excel. You can plot your class levels on the left and then assign columns for all of your abilities such as HD, BAB, saves, special abilities, manuevers and feats. It takes a little bit of time but in the end you usually have one sheet that lays out your entire character progression in an easy to read and change format (just in case your DM throws a monkey wrench in the campaing )

    Also a suggestion...The Dragon Heart discipline will deal out serious damage while the Tiger Claw has mobility and damage. Look into both for cherry picking. You should be able to specialize and get the best manuevers from at least 3 different trees and probably 4 if you do it right.

    Hope that made sense and was useful.

  • #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Dandu View Post
    Uncheck the "Spells and Powers" box under the skills list.
    Oops, think I missed that.

    Looking at it, I think your first level manoeuvres are almost the same as mine.

    Quote Originally Posted by cjosephs1s View Post
    Well its partly reverse engineering to a degree. At least that's where you start. So you want Time Stands Still (who doesn't...lol) Ok so you need 4 manuevers from Diamond Mind. So pick 4 that you really want to have when your character is completed. Lets say you want Ruby NIghtmare blade (4), Rapid Counter (5), Quicksilver Motion (7), and one of my favorites..Moment of Alacrity (6). So this meets your prereqs for your Diamond mind "final tree" But how do you get those? Once again you can work backwords starting with levels not with prereqs. So Ruby Nightmare Blade is the first one you want to take. It requres 2 manuevers. So pick up two before this. Lets say they are Sapphire Nightmare Blade (1) and Emerald Razor (2). So now you have the prereqs for this. But odds are you don't want Sapphire Nightmare Blade when you are level 18 or 20 so you can switch it out for Time Stands still and still meet the prereqs for all of your 4 original top teir "final tree" and not have felt like you wasted a manuever.

    Manuevers don't have to be of lower level to count as prereqs. You can take a level 5 manuever to count as a prereq for a level 4 manuever just the same as if you lower level manuever that still needs prereqs your higher level ones you have taken will count towards that.

    The swordsage is a master of combat and strategy but it takes a lot of strategy to build one too. So its going to take a few hours to compile all of your manuevers (especially since you get so many). And even then it may take some more time to fit them all in at just the right times.

    For complicated progressions like this (or even the average class ones) I love using excel. You can plot your class levels on the left and then assign columns for all of your abilities such as HD, BAB, saves, special abilities, manuevers and feats. It takes a little bit of time but in the end you usually have one sheet that lays out your entire character progression in an easy to read and change format (just in case your DM throws a monkey wrench in the campaing )

    Also a suggestion...The Dragon Heart discipline will deal out serious damage while the Tiger Claw has mobility and damage. Look into both for cherry picking. You should be able to specialize and get the best manuevers from at least 3 different trees and probably 4 if you do it right.

    Hope that made sense and was useful.
    Very Useful!

    I'll try that out when I get back home from work. Dragon Heart will only work if I dip into Warblade but so far I don't really see that as a bad option.

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