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5E Half (High) Elf Swashbuckler

All you optimizers probably already either played, or dismissed as unplayable, this combo a while ago, but I'm a bit slow in that department.

Anyway, I'm excited to play a High Elf Rogue(Swashbuckler) next. Some details:
background: courtier
cantrip: booming blade
4th level ASI: elven accuracy
expertise: acrobatics and stealth, then persuasion at 6th level (used for the Swashbuckler's Panache ability at 9th). Haven't decided 4th expertise.

I'll go with shortsword/dagger. I want to be able to make an offhand attack when necessary, so rapier is out. Aesthetically rapier is perfect for this concept, but I hate rapiers so I'm kind of glad rapier/dagger is off the table. Offhand dagger, though, instead of dual shortswords, just for style, as I'll only be making offhand attacks in limited circumstances.

At 5th level with Sneak Attack and booming blade it will be 4d6 + 1d8 + 4 damage, with nearly a 15% chance to crit when striking with advantage. At 11th level it will be 7d6 + 2d8 + 5 (or +4 if I go with more Feats. Lucky seems appropriate. Defensive Duelist fits, too, although I'll already have a defensive reaction.)

My group tends to use the optional flanking rule in the DMG, which means that the build's ability to move around behind an enemy to get advantage, strike, then move away without provoking opportunity attacks will rock. Since the Swashbucker doesn't have to spend Cunning Action to disengage, I can use it to either Dash (if deep behind enemy lines) or Hide if there's a handy pillar (to allow Sneak Attack next round without even needing to flank.).

If there are two enemies threatening opportunity attacks I can use offhand attack to negate the 2nd one, and if it's 3+ enemies then I will have to Cunning Action disengage.

Whaddyathink?

Now, to find the perfect avatar and roll20 token....
 

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Sabathius42

Bree-Yark
Conceptually: I'm trying to picture the cliff duel from Princess Bride, but every time Dread Pirate Roberts attacks a sonic boom sound effect is laid in. That's gonna summon a lot of guards.

Optimizationally: No opinion. Seems fine.
 


Horwath

Adventurer
If you have advantage on flanking, I would suggest 3 levels of Fighter(champion) for expanded crit range.

With elven accuracy you would have 27% crit chance.
You could even have a shield if you do not want to dual wield.
 




Coroc

Hero
All you optimizers probably already either played, or dismissed as unplayable, this combo a while ago, but I'm a bit slow in that department.

Anyway, I'm excited to play a High Elf Rogue(Swashbuckler) next. Some details:
background: courtier
cantrip: booming blade
4th level ASI: elven accuracy
expertise: acrobatics and stealth, then persuasion at 6th level (used for the Swashbuckler's Panache ability at 9th). Haven't decided 4th expertise.

I'll go with shortsword/dagger. I want to be able to make an offhand attack when necessary, so rapier is out. Aesthetically rapier is perfect for this concept, but I hate rapiers so I'm kind of glad rapier/dagger is off the table. Offhand dagger, though, instead of dual shortswords, just for style, as I'll only be making offhand attacks in limited circumstances.

At 5th level with Sneak Attack and booming blade it will be 4d6 + 1d8 + 4 damage, with nearly a 15% chance to crit when striking with advantage. At 11th level it will be 7d6 + 2d8 + 5 (or +4 if I go with more Feats. Lucky seems appropriate. Defensive Duelist fits, too, although I'll already have a defensive reaction.)

My group tends to use the optional flanking rule in the DMG, which means that the build's ability to move around behind an enemy to get advantage, strike, then move away without provoking opportunity attacks will rock. Since the Swashbucker doesn't have to spend Cunning Action to disengage, I can use it to either Dash (if deep behind enemy lines) or Hide if there's a handy pillar (to allow Sneak Attack next round without even needing to flank.).

If there are two enemies threatening opportunity attacks I can use offhand attack to negate the 2nd one, and if it's 3+ enemies then I will have to Cunning Action disengage.

Whaddyathink?

Now, to find the perfect avatar and roll20 token....
Keep in mind the biggest thing for the swashbuckler : he gets advantage and sneak attack when he is "alone" with his target in opposition to regular rogues who need someone "flanking".
That means he is able to do sneak attacks almost every round, so defensive duelist is a great feat. I recommend you also own a buckler if you do only rarely intend to offhand attack, this +2 extra combined with high DEX gives astounding AC, which is good when you "tank" an opponent alone

The swashbuckler player in my campaign has a mithril chain +1 a DEX of 20 and uses a parrying dagger (house rule +1 to AC) so he got an AC of 23 right now, but could have 24 also with a shield
 

Benjamin Olson

Adventurer
Rogues with Booming Blade are a very strong option, with Swashbuckler or the mobility feat it (circumstantially) becomes borderline broken. Suck it Paladin. The cantrip also goes up with character level if you ever want to multiclass (booming blade is basically my go to basis for low level multiclass builds as it means they get a big power boost at level 5 when all the non-multiclassers get their extra attacks or 3rd level magic and so you don't have to spend a level or two feeling underpowered).

I almost always go offhand dagger myself when two-weaponing it, because you never know when you might need to do something with a little more range and if your table remotely enforces the official one free object interaction rule switching between two melee weapons and a ranged weapon is cumbersome. Also if you need to drop a weapon to do something with a free hand simple daggers are generally cheap and plentiful should you not recover it. Most my characters end up with 2-6 daggers because literally every class can use them and you will always eventually find the occasion.

I've never played this particular build, but I have played an Arcane Trickster/Bladesinger Wizard with Mobility that heavily relied on your tactics and it was a very effective character. Now he brought a familiar, shadowblade, shield, absorb elements, bladesong, and misty stepping to the combat table, so there were definitely other things going on. But booming blade was the bread and butter and it was some tasty bread and butter. And that was with him having crap stats. A full on swashbuckler truly committed into making their blade boom with the best of them and being able to bring the accuracy of elves into the mix would be a sight to behold. And if you ever find yourself getting bored with the character mechanics just dip into Battlemaster Fighter or Sword Bard to spice things up.

Several major Booming Blade caveats:
1. I think you probably know this, but to be clear, you can't Booming Blade and make a bonus action offhand attack that turn, because you are not taking the attack action but the cast a spell action. This means you are committing to just one bite at the sneak attack apple. The value of offhand attacks for a Rogue is not in the single extra d4 or d6 of damage, but in doubling the chance of successfully laying down the Xd6 sneak attack damage. Now when your main attack is double advantage you probably want to go booming blade, but when you don't have advantage consider carefully, especially if there is reason to believe they aren't likely to move on the next turn and trigger that second set of thunder damage dice.

2. The Booming Blade probably booms. Strict RAW doesn't say the spell makes noise per se but what makes noise in 5e is mostly a DM decision and the spell description talks about both "thunder damage" and "booming energy" both of which scream for a ruling of "this thing is loud". Rogue sneaky time and blade boomy time may not always play well together. In fact many DMs would make the cantrip a particularly good way to wake up every monster in next few rooms and bring down the hurt.

3. Booming Blade's additional damage when they move only works if the DM moves them. Make sure you are on the same page as your DM about whether this is a world where everybody just knows "I've been booming bladed, better stand still", one where even animals sense "this movement is about to trigger thunder damage", one where people don't recognize it but learn from what you just did to their buddy, or one where enemies just blunder through everything. There's no right answer. If the DM is going to not move them then you've just gotten an awesome battlefield control ability, if they are then you are laying down extra damage. But if it is going to be your go to move then you want to make sure what your expectations should be.

My only caveat about Swashbuckler is that getting sneak attack becomes so easy that when I played one I started getting sloppy about planning how to get it.
 
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Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
Everyone loves a Swashbuckler. And masks! They quite comfortable, you'd think everyone would be wearing one.

You build looks great and I think it will be a blast to play. Work that expertise in acrobatics hard my friend, if you aren't swinging from chandeliers and booting the Cardinal's guards down flights of stairs you're doing it wrong. (y)
 

TwoSix

The hero you deserve
Supporter
That's actually a really strong build, mechanically. Taking advantage of Elven Accuracy in games that allow the flanking rule is a strong play.

The only thing that stands out to me is that the off-hand dagger doesn't do much for you (since you can't cast BB and then do a dual-wield attack), and a shield would be stronger if you can finagle shield proficiency from somewhere.

If I really wanted to trick it out, I'd probably go 1 level of hexblade, so I could focus on Charisma and go half-elf instead of high elf. Depends on how comfortable you and your DM are with reskinning, of course. A few levels of fighter couldn't hurt, but I'd be unhappy about delaying some of these sweet Tier 2 rogue abilities to get them, especially since they seem so core to the concept.

I can think of a few good options if 3rd party is on the table, too.
 

Looks really solid to me. Works mechanically, conceptually, likely fits lore/RP. Be pleased if a player brought something like this to me.

Conceptually: I'm trying to picture the cliff duel from Princess Bride, but every time Dread Pirate Roberts attacks a sonic boom sound effect is laid in. That's gonna summon a lot of guards.
That actually sounds amazing.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
That's actually a really strong build, mechanically. Taking advantage of Elven Accuracy in games that allow the flanking rule is a strong play.

The only thing that stands out to me is that the off-hand dagger doesn't do much for you (since you can't cast BB and then do a dual-wield attack), and a shield would be stronger if you can finagle shield proficiency from somewhere.
One level of fighter would net him shield proficiency and the Duelist fighting style, not a bad haul. One more level and you get to play with Action Surge. It's a thought.
 

TwoSix

The hero you deserve
Supporter
One level of fighter would net him shield proficiency and the Duelist fighting style, not a bad haul. One more level and you get to play with Action Surge. It's a thought.
Oh, absolutely. My only problem with fighter levels is that they're such a slippery slope. Those first two levels are good. But then a 3rd level, I could get expanded crit range (which is nice with Elven Accuracy and sneak attack), or I could get maneuvers so I can get some off-turn sneak attacks. Then a feat is right there, and then Extra Attack is right there. And all of a sudden you're down 3d6 sneak attack dice. :)

Honestly, I was hesitant to even suggest MCing; Rogue has such a nice steady progression that taking any levels away from it hurts, but it also benefits so much from various dips.
 

Thanks all! I’ll admit I totally forgot that BB precludes offhand attack. Hmm.

And I am tempted by the 3-level dip to champion for expanded crit range. And the other goodies. However, as someone pointed out, it’s a slippery slope, and the whole time you are giving up more sneak attack dice and other goodies. But oh that crit probability with Elven accuracy!
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
Hot take: Do not take fighter or hexblade levels. Stick with a true rogue swashbuckler. After all... if all that matters is just gathering a pile of game mechanics together to do the most damaging build, then the flavor of any subclass is unnecessary. You might as well forsake all class flavor altogether and just build yourself a frankenstein's monster of game mechanics and then call yourself whatever you want.

However, the fact you wished to play a high elf swashbuckler seems to me to indicate you wish to actually run with that specific characterization. So don't sully that flavorful identity by multiclassing just to get "better mechanics". The swashbuckler is powerful enough on its own mechanically, and is much stronger flavor-wise than any cobbled-together build just for bigger numbers. :)
 

Thanks all! I’ll admit I totally forgot that BB precludes offhand attack. Hmm.

And I am tempted by the 3-level dip to champion for expanded crit range. And the other goodies. However, as someone pointed out, it’s a slippery slope, and the whole time you are giving up more sneak attack dice and other goodies. But oh that crit probability with Elven accuracy!
I think it comes down to how often you're getting Advantage. The thing about Swashbuckler is that it takes a miracle for you NOT to be able to Sneak Attack. You aren't the kind of Rogue who needs to rely on Advantage (though you definitely want I mean duh). Thus Sneak Attack and LANDING an attack, any attack, has higher value, because it provides Sneak Attack. That means the BB thing might not work out as well as expected because of the lack of an ability to get SA from an offhand attack. The odds of missing with both main and offhand are drastically lower than missing with main.

On the other hand, if due to fancy flanking rules you are getting Advantage more often than not, that plus Elven Accuracy is going to be NUTS and if you miss a few SA dice, the fact that you're getting double-dice more often may well more than make up for it. Also BB not letting you make an off-hand "dammit" attack is much less of an issue if you get Advantage a ton, because really with Elven Accuracy, how much are you going to miss?

I think it'd be surprisingly close though and you know the DM will love you more if you don't MC to gain mechanical advantage, so I think staying Swashbuckler is the way to go, personally. Plus you get insane stuff like Reliable Talent at 11. Just put one of your Expertises in Persuasion and you will pretty much literally have enemies eating out of your hand in and out of combat.
 

TwoSix

The hero you deserve
Supporter
Thanks all! I’ll admit I totally forgot that BB precludes offhand attack. Hmm.

And I am tempted by the 3-level dip to champion for expanded crit range. And the other goodies. However, as someone pointed out, it’s a slippery slope, and the whole time you are giving up more sneak attack dice and other goodies. But oh that crit probability with Elven accuracy!
I don't want to do a deep dive into optimization math since that isn't really your thing, but sacrificing sneak attack dice for extra crit really isn't worth it until at least level 12, and then only on even levels. (When you're only down 1d6 sneak attack from a single-class rogue.)
 


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