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Pathfinder - Swashbuckler Archetypes Breakdown

Disclaimer

I will use content from the core rules, but will intentionally omit any content not published on the official Pathfinder SRD due to the unmanageable volume of non-SRD content, and the wildly varying quality of non-SRD content. If you would like me to write handbooks for specific content not published on the official SRD, please email me and I will consider it on a case-by-case basis. I will use the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks. Also note that many colored items are also links to the Paizo SRD.

Temporary Note: Pathfinder Unchained and Occult Adventures were both recently added to the SRD. I'm excited to explore them, and I am actively working on adding their contents to my collection of handbooks. I appreciate your patience while I make these changes.

Archetypes

The Swashbuckler is a Striker and potentially a Face. The Swashbuckler's archetypes seek to add interesting new fighting mechanics to the Swashbuckler's already considerable prowess.

Daring Infiltrator

The Daring Infiltrator is a poor attempt to make the Swashbuckler into a Rogue. If you want to play a Rogue, they already have a class for it.

Class Skills: Disguise is situational, but Stealth is nice. Losing Diplomacy hurts if you want to play a Face, but you won't miss Perform or Profession. If you still want to play a Face, spend a trait to get it as a class skill.

Bonus Feats: Feats which provide bonuses to skills are rarely taken, and for good reason. While the bonuses are certainly tempting, they can be easily replaced with skill ranks or fantastically cheap items.

Quick-Tongued (Ex): The Swashbuckler's Charisma should be good enough that they should be good at Bluff. This bonus won't see much use unless you plan to Feint frequently, and the Swashbuckler has very little reason to do so. Giving up Charmed Life is disappointing, but not difficult to overcome.

Deeds: All of the new deeds are situational.

Replaced Features: skill list (altered), bonus feats (altered), charmed life, Deeds (swashbuckler initiative, menacing swordplay, bleeding wound)

Compatible Archetypes: Musketeer, Mysterious Avenger

Flying Blade

The Flying Blade is a fun archetype executed very well. Thrown weapon builds typically require a combination of Two-Weapon Fighting and archery feats, but Precise Throw adds a big pile of precision damage which bridges the gap between normla and TWF builds without the expensive feat chain. The Swashbuckler's abilities are fantastic and a lot of run, and Flying Blade modifies several essential Deeds to be extremely viable at range.

Panache: This shouldn't really be a problem.

Deeds: The Flying Blade's deeds rework the default Swashbuckler deeds so that they work with daggers and starknives. Many of the deeds are great, and really contribute to a dagger-centric character concept.

Flying Blade Training (Ex): The bonuses to attack and damage are nice, and improved critical is fantastic considering that you get it three levels earlier than anyone else can.

Flying Blade Mastery (Ex): Your daggers now have 17-20/x3 criticals, which is fantastic.

Replaced Features: Panache (altered), Deeds (Dodging Panache, Kip-Up, Menacing Swordplay, Targeted Strike, Bleeding Wound, Perfect Thrust), Swashbuckler Weapon Training, Swashbuckler Weapon Mastery

Compatible Archetypes: Mysterious Avenger

Inspired Blade

The Inspired Blade is a lateral step from the base Swashbuckler. The biggest problem is that the Inspired Blade can't take Slashing Grace. If that's acceptable to you, the Inspired Blade can be a very interesting option.

Inspired Panache (Ex): Investing a little bit in two abilities is much cheaper than investing a lot in one ability. However, losing the ability to gain Panache points from killing blows can hurt the Swashbuckler's sustainability.

Inspired Finesse (Ex): If you weren't planning to use Slashing Grace, the rapier is the Swashbuckler's best weapon option, so you're essentially getting Weapon Focus for free.

Deeds: One option and it's bad.

Rapier Training (Ex): Remember that Weapon Focus gives you an additional +1 to attacks on top of this. Improved Critical makes it easier to fuel the ever-important Panache pool.

Rapier Weapon Mastery (Ex): 15-20/x3 critical hits with rapiers. Weapon Mastery is always fantastic.

Replaced Features: Panache (altered), Deeds (Bleeding Wound), Swashbuckler Weapon Training, Swashbuckler Weapon Mastery

Compatible Archetypes: Musketeer

Mouser

The Swashbuckler is a fantastic class for small characters looking to get into melee. The Mouser attempts to further emphasize this by allows the Swashbuckler to better engage foes larger than the Swashbuckler. However, the Mouser gives up several great Swashbuckler Deeds for some very situational options. Underfoot Assault is a great ability, and is certainly worth a class dip for small characters looking to fight in melee.

Deeds: Most of the options are situational. Underfoot Assault could be good for a class dip into Mouser Swashbuckler, but you can live without the other Deeds, and the Deeds replaced are much better than what the Mouser gets.

Replaced Features: Deeds (Opportune Parry and Riposte, Menacing Swordplay, Targeted Strike, Bleeding Wound)

Compatible Archetypes: Musketeer, Mysterious Avenger

Musketeer

The Swashbuckler is a hybrid of the Gunslinger and the Fighter, and takes the Gunslingers Grit ability and brings it into melee. Instead of trying to play the Swashbuckler as a Gunslinger, just go play a Gunslinger. This archetype is bad, ridiculous, and pointless.

Weapon Proficiency: Firearms are complex, but can be very effective.

Musketeer Instruction (Ex): You don't get to use your Charisma modifier in place of Intelligence for combat feats, but in exchange you get Rapid Reload (Musket). If you plan to use a musket, Rapid Reload is required.

Deed: Misfires are a problem for any firearm user, and Quick Clear significantly mitigates the issue.

Replaced Features: Weapon Proficiency, Deeds (Dodging Panache)

Compatible Archetypes: Daring Infiltrator, Inspired Blade, Mouser

Mysterious Avenger

Slow down there, Zoro. (Do people still know who Zoro is?) The Mysterious Avanger is a combination of a secret identity and a penchant for whips. Proficiency with whips and the ability to use whips with Swashbuckler Deeds gives the Swashbuckler the ability to be an Area Control Defender if you take Improved Whip Mastery. The flavor of the archetype is cool, but the abilities are slightly worse than what they replace, so you really need to capitalize on the ability to use whips in order to make this archetype functional.

Alignment: This shouldn't be a problem in most campaigns.

Class Skills: Disguise is very situational, but it makes a lot of sense for this archetype.

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: The whip is hard to use in melee, but can be great for combat maneuvers. If you plan to use it consistently, pick up Whip Mastery and Improved Whip Mastery. Losing proficiency with bucklers means nothing: you can get masterwork buckler with no armor check penalty and never notice that you're not proficient.

Avenger Finesse (Ex): This allows you to use Dexterity for your attacks with whips, which is essential to a Swashbuckler.

Secret Identity (Su): Very situational, and Nimble provides a much-needed bonus to AC.

Greater Charmed Life (Ex): This will help to overcome the loss of AC caused by giving up Nimble, but it makes you very dependent on your limited uses of Charmed Life in a day. Remember that this adds 3 additional uses, so the Mysterious Avenger gets a total of 6 uses per day at level 4.

Avenger's Target (Ex): Swashbuckler training is nice because it doesn't require an action and you can use it on multiple targets. However, Avenger's Target also increases the DCs of your deeds. I would call that an even trade, especially once you hit level 10 and can study targets as a swift action.

At 10th level, a mysterious avenger can study an opponent as a move or swift action. This ability replaces swashbuckler weapon training.

Replaced Features: Armor Proficiency, swashbuckler finesse (altered), Nimble, Bonus Feats (4th)

Compatible Archetypes: Daring Infiltrator, Flying Blade, Mouser, Musketeer, Picaroon

Picaroon

I really wish that this archetype was good, because the fighting style is very flashy and exciting. Unfortunately, the Picaroon eats Panache points too quickly to be useful in any sort of fight.

Weapon Proficiency: Firearms are complex, but can be very effective.

Panache: Normal Panache, plus you can use firearms.

Deeds: The Picaroon's deeds do a bit to fix firearms for the Swashbuckler, but they eat Panache points too quickly to be useful.

Two-Weapon Finesse (Ex): While this looks absurdly cool, it doesn't work mehcanically. Two-Weapon Fighting and Firearms are very feat-starved builds, and adding both on one character is a recipe for disaster.

Replaced Features: Weapon Proficiency, Panache (altered), Deeds (Opportune Parry and Riposte, Kip-Up, Superior Feint, Bleeding Wound)

Compatible Archetypes: Mysterious Avenger