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Pathfinder - The Skald Handbook

Last Updated: October 15, 2018

Disclaimer

I support a limited subset of Pathfinder's rules content. If you would like help with Pathfinder player options not covered here, please email me and I am happy to provide additional assistance.

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.

  • Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational.
  • Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances
  • Green: Good options.
  • Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character.

Introduction

The Skald is a mesh of the Barbarian and the Bard. A "Bardbarian," if you will. The Skald borrows a bit of the Barbarian's combat options, but leans more heavily toward the Bard in terms of class abilities. The Skald is primarily a Face and Support class, but can serve as a Defender, Scout, Striker, or Utility Caster with the right skills and feats.

Skald Class Features

Hit Points: Consider the Skald is supposed to b part Barbarian, I expected at least d10 hit points. d8 is common to high-skill characters like the Bard and Rogue, but it makes melee combat dangerous.

Base Attack Bonus: 2/3 BAB.

Saves: Good Fortitude and Will saves. Be sure to get some Dexterity to boost your AC and Reflex saves.

Proficiencies: Martial weapons, medium armor, shields, and you can cast spells in all of it. Fantastic.

Skills: Despite a fantastic skill list, the Skald only gets 4+ skill ranks, severely limiting your options.

Bardic Knowledge (Ex): This makes the Skald and the Bard the best Librarians in the game.

Cantrips: Fantastic, versatile, and reliable.

Spells: The Skald has all of the spellcasting abilities of a Bard, offering a decent range of unique and interesting options.

Raging Song (Su): An altered version of the Bard's iconic Bardic Music ability. Like the Bard, the Skald gradually learns to start songs with smaller actions. Be sure to pick up Lingering Song so that you can stretch the Skald's music rounds.

  • Inspired Rage (Su): A bit like inspire courage, but more barbaric. Inspire Courage will stack with Inspired Rage, so you could have two Bards in the party and give your party some really crazy buffs. On top of the base buffs, you eventually get to add Rage Powers and DR to your Inspired Rage.
  • Song of Marching (Su): Really only useful out of combat, but this effectively doubles your party's travel speed.
  • Song of Strength (Su): Very situational.
  • Dirge of Doom (Su): A few levels later you can activate a song as a swift action, and this doesn't allow a save. Make your enemies Shaken, and hit them with spells. This is particularly nice if you have a save or suck caster in the party.
  • Song of the Fallen (Su): Depending on interpretation, this could allow you to get your allies back on their feet while your healer moves into position to cast Breath of Life. Even without that abuse case, this could be the difference between a costly defeat and a TPK.

Scribe Scroll: Scribe Scroll really doesn't work for spontaneous casters. You get a ton of spells slots, and spontaneous casters usually only use scrolls for spells which they don't know. And if you don't know a spell, you can't make a scroll for it unless someone else in the party can cast it. And if someone else in the party can cast it, why do you need a scroll? Eventually you can use Spell Kenning to get access to spells outside of your spell list, but at that point why not just use Spell Kenning instead of sinking gold into a bunch of scrolls?

Versatile Performance (Ex): This is a fantastic way to cover a lot of skills without a ton of skill ranks, but because the Skald is limited to so few performance types, you can't really make us of more than one Versatile Performance.

  • Oratory (Diplomacy, Sense Motive): Three of the Skald's most important skills in one skill. Sense Motive is Wisdom-based, so using Perform in place of Sense Motive allows the Skald to use their high Charisma in place of Wisdom.
  • Percussion (Handle Animal, Intimidate): Handle Animal is useless for a Skald.
  • Sing (Bluff, Sense Motive): On par with Oratory, but redundant because it also provides Sense Motive.
  • String (Bluff, Diplomacy): Bluff and Diplomacy are both crucial, but they're both already dependent on Charisma.

Well-Versed (Ex): Very situational.

Rage Powers (Ex): Granting Rage Powers adds a huge amount of utility and power to Inspired Rage. Because it's so easy for the Skald to stop and start a rage, Rage Powers with once per rage limitations are essentially meaningless. Select Rage Powers which complement your party's builds and tactics. For help with Rage Powers, see my Barbarian Rage Power Breakdown.

Uncanny Dodge (Ex): Situational.

Spell Kenning (Su): Hugely improves the Skald's versatility, and dramatically removes the need to learn situationally useful spells.

Lore Master (Ex): Considerably improves the Skald's reliability as a Librarian.

Improved Uncanny Dodge (Ex): Very situational.

Damage Reduction (Ex): Not a lot of DR, but DR/- in any quantity is fantastic. On top of that, you get to share with your allies.

Master Skald (Su): This is insanely good. It buffs Inspired Rage, makes Barbarians work better with the Skald, and adds a partial Haste effect.

Abilities

The Skald is primarily a melee character, but the Skald's skills and spell make it extremely very MAD. You will need to make some cuts, so plan your ability scores carefully. As you grow in level, it may be most effective to purchase a belt which provides small bonuses to each ability instead of large bonuses to one.

Str: The Skald is designed to be a melee class, so the Skald needs a bit of strength to get by in melee. Inspired Rage will help a bit, but the Skald needs to have a good base line before Inspired Rage. You can cut Strength a bit if you choose to focus on thrown weapons, but you still need Strength for damage.

Dex: 16 Dexterity will fill out a Breastplate or Mithral Full Plate, and the Skald needs enough AC to compensate for d8 hit points.

Con: The Skald is a melee class with d8 hit points, so it's never safe to have low Constitution.

Int: .

Wis: Only needed for saves. Will is one of the Skald's good saves, but it's still never a good idea to dump Wisdom.

Cha: The Skald's spellcasting ability, and required for a number of key skills. Fortunately, the Skald isn't a supremecy caster, so never need more than 16. More will always help, but 16 is technically enough.

25 Point Buy 20 Point Buy 15 Point Buy Elite Array
  • Str: 14
  • Dex: 14
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 12
  • Wis: 11
  • Cha: 15
  • Str: 14
  • Dex: 14
  • Con: 13
  • Int: 10
  • Wis: 10
  • Cha: 15
  • Str: 14
  • Dex: 12
  • Con: 13
  • Int: 10
  • Wis: 10
  • Cha: 14
  • Str: 14
  • Dex: 12
  • Con: 13
  • Int: 10
  • Wis: 8
  • Cha: 15

Races

Because the Skald is MAD, it's difficult to take any ability penalties. If you must suffer a penalty, adjust your build to place less emphasis on that ability.

Dwarf: The penalty to Charisma hurts, and the bonuses to Consitution and Wisdom don't make up for it. The Dwarf favored class bonus makes heavy armor a viable high level option for the Skald, but requires that you make build choices which don't work well until level 10.

Elf: Nothing useful for the Skald.

Gnome: The bonuses to Constitution and Charisma are good for the Skald, and the Gnome's affinity for illusions helps a bit too. Small size helps with the Skald's AC, and the Strength penalty is offset by Inspired Rage. The Gnome favored class bonus isn't very interesting because Concentration is so easy to fix.

Half-Elf: Flexible ability bonus and good social abilities. Take the Dual-Minded alternate racial ability to boost your Will saves, and you can dump Wisdom a bit. Use Adaptability on your favorite type of Perform, and it will apply to all of your Versatile Performance skills too. The Half-Elf favored class bonus provides much-needed music rounds, and Half-Elves can take the Human favored class bonus to learn additional spells once you have enough Performance rounds to get through the day.

Half-Orc: Flexible ability bonus and Darkvision. The Half-Orc favored class bonus provides much-needed music rounds, or you can take the Human favored class bonus to learn additional spells.

Halfling: Similar to the Gnome, but with more emphasis on stealth than illusions. The Halfling is an excellent option for thrown weapons.

Human: Always a good choice, Humans get a bonus feat and a free skill rank to help compensate for the Skald's low skill ranks per level. The flexible ability score bonus can go wherever you need it. The Human favored class bonus improves the Skald's limited number of spells known, which can make the Skald considerably more versatile.

Skills

  • Acrobatics (Dex): Situational.
  • Appraise (Int): Too situational.
  • Bluff (Cha): Essential for any face.
  • Climb (Str): Too situational.
  • Diplomacy (Cha): Essential for any face.
  • Escape Artist (Dex): Too situational.
  • Handle Animal (Cha): The Skald doesn't have a pet to train.
  • Intimidate (Cha): Essential for any face.
  • Knowledge (all) (Int): Knowledge is very powerful, and with Bardic Knowledge the Skald is among the best Librarirans in the game.
  • Linguistics (Int): Cast Tongues.
  • Perception (Wis): The most rolled skill in the game.
  • Perform (oratory, percussion, sing, string) (Cha): Essential for your music abilities.
  • Ride (Dex): The Skald doesn't have a pet to ride.
  • Sense Motive (Wis): Essential for any face.
  • Spellcraft (Int): Great for identifying spells.
  • Swim (Str): Too situational.
  • Use Magic Device (Cha): Perhaps the most versatile and powerful skill in the game.

Weapons

Basically any martial weapon works for the Skald.

Armor

  • Celestial Armor (22,400 gp): Unless you have heavy armor proficiency and a Dexterity modifier of at most +5, Celestial Armor is the best armor in the game if all you need from your armor is AC. For more, check out my Practical Guide to Celestial Armor.
    • Hide: Starting armor
    • Heavy Shield: A solid boost to your AC, but you can't cast spells and hold a weapon.
    • Buckler: A bit less AC than a heavy shield, but you can cast spells without dropping your weapon.
    • Breastplate: The Skald's best armor.
    • Mithral Full Plate: Heavy Armor Proficiency gets you an extra +2 to AC, but because mithral heavy armor is so expensive, you might not want this until very high level.

    Magic Items

    Armor/Shields

    • Celestial Armor (22,400 gp): Unless you have heavy armor proficiency and a Dexterity modifier of at most +5, Celestial Armor is the best armor in the game if all you need from your armor is AC. For more, check out my Practical Guide to Celestial Armor.
    • Clawhand Shield (8,158 gp): This is a weird item. It's a bit more expensive than your typical +2 shield, so it may not be worth the cost compared to a mithral buckler. However, it allows you to perform somatic components with the hand holding the shield, which means that you can hold a weapon in your other hand without issue, and because it has no armor check penalty or arcane spell failure anyone can use it without issue. The ability to automatically damage enemies while in a grapple is a helpful deterrent for small or physical weak characters, but ion't go looking for excuses to use it.
    • Hero's Hauberk (16,600 gp): Probably not worth the gp cost.

    Staffs

    It's difficult to recommend specific staffs without knowing your individual character, so instead I want to make a general endorsement of the concept of magic staffs in Pathfinder. If you are a 3.5 native, go read Pathfinder's rules for staffs because they have improved dramatically.

    Staffs are a reliable, rechargeable source of extra spellcasting that can give spellcasters easy and reliable access to spells from their spell list which they might not want to learn, or which they might like to use so frequently that they can't prepare the spell enough times in a given day. On days when you're not adventuring (traveling, resting, etc.) you can easily recharge any staff even if you can only cast one of the spells which the staff contains.