skip to main content
RPGOT Logo

Pathfinder - Swashbuckler Archetypes Breakdown

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.

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.

    Clandestine Expertise (Ex): Situational, but the static skill bonuses for yourself are nice. Not as nice as a bonus to initiative, but still nice.

    Silence Is Golden (Ex): This is a fantastic way to disable enemy spellcasters. The vast majority of spells include verbal components, so preventing their use largely prevents enemies from casting spells. You need to trip or grapple the target to trigger this, so be sure to invest in Trip.

    Authoritative Bluff (Ex): Situational. Rerolls are great, but Bluff still doesn't see a ton of use.

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 single-weapon 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.

    Subtle Throw (Ex): You don't want to rely on this too much, but it's excellent if you get into a bad spot.

    Disrupting Counter (Ex): You get a free attack, and the -4 penalty might prevent your enemy from hitting you.

    Precise Throw (Ex): This will be your primary source of damage output. With 60 foot range you have better range than a rogue, and increasing the range increment for your daggers is great, especially if you take Long Shot. Since it modifies Precise Strike you are unable to use it with two-weapon fighting, which is a great option for most thrown weapon builds, but the damage from Precise Strike is excellent, and you don't need an expensive feat chain.

    Targeted Throw (Ex): Targeted Strike offers some great tactical options.

    Bleeding Wound (Ex): Even better for the Flying Blade than for normal Swashbucklers, Bleeding Wound is fantastic for hit and run attacks. With no need to get into melee, the Flying Blade can inflict bleed damage on enemies and retreat to safety while they bleed to death.

    Perfect Throw (Ex): This is a cool option, but your attack bonus should be good enough to hit anything which you're fighting, and you should be able to bypass the DR of most enemies with a bit of forethought.

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. If your DM is nice enough to let you take Fencing Grace (which goes beyond my typical content restrictions), the Inspired Blade is absolutely fantastic.

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.

  • Inspired Strike (Ex): Too costly, and much of the Swashbuckler's damage comes from Precise Strike and thus isn't multiplied on a critical hit. Critical hits aren't importan to the Swashbuckler for their damage; they are important for the free Panache points.

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, and you get it three levels earlier than anyone else.

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.

    Underfoot Assault (Ex): This is a fantastic way to force your target to attack you, which is one of the most important functions of a Defender. Be sure that your AC is good and that you have enough hit points to survive combat in such close quarters.

    Quick Steal (Ex): Situational, but allows you to Steal without wasting a feat on Improved Steal.

    Hamstring (Ex): Dirty Trick is a fantastic maneuver with a lot of excellent options. You get none of them. Instead you can stagger the target. Staggering enemies can be very useful because it prevents iterative attacks, but you give up Targeted Strike which offers a lot of useful tactical options for the Swashbuckler.

    Cat's Charge (Ex): Giving up Bleeding Wound is disappointing, but this vastly improves the Mouser's mobility. Charging to the far side of your enemy is a great way to get into position for flanking.

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.

    Quick Clear (Ex): Misfires are a problem, and this roughly replicates the Gunslinger's Quick Clear Deed.

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.

    Melee Shooter (Ex): You don't want to use this often because it will eat your Panache pool too fast. If you take Signature Deed it can be useful.

    Quick Clear (Ex): Essential for any firearm user.

    Gun Feint (Ex): The Swashbuckler gets very little from making an enemy flat-footed.

    Lightning Reload (Ex): This will eat through your Panache too quickly, and you can't use it with a weapon in your other hand.

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