Dashing, yes! But in DDO, gimped.
Last week, Turbine developer Vargouille introduced a new Bard prestige enhancement tree called “Swashbuckler”. Clearly inspired by the movies, the Swashbuckler enhancements utilizes a single-weapon fighting style that among other things, improves the critical profile of finesse weapons.
It’s hard not to love the idea of a swashbuckling hero. If this doesn’t excite you, I can only ask, have you never seen Princess Bride? Pirates of the Caribbean? Anything with Errol Flynn in it? Or really, any movie that features a sword fight? Because they are all swashbuckling.
Even the most jaded of us have to admit: hey, that’s pretty cool!
But those are movies, while this is DDO. Once one has gotten over the awesomeness of imagining your character as the Fourth Musketeer, one has to start dealing with the reality of how it will work. And to be frank, it is a bit puzzling.
What place will the single-weapon fighting style (SWF) (lol at SWF) have? Our existing styles all have clearly defined roles and trade-offs:
- Two-Handed Fighting (THF): Best damage per hit. Slowest attack speed. No defenses. Splash damage. One less equipment slot for hanging magic bonuses and augments.
- Two-Weapon Fighting (TWF): Less damage per hit, much better attack speed, minor defenses. No splash damage.
- Unarmed Fighting (monk): Best attack speed. Least damage per hit. Slightly better defenses. No splash damage. One less equipment slot for hanging magic bonuses and augments. Have to be monk.
- Sword and shield (sword & board or S&B): Worst attack speed. Less damage per hit. Best defenses. Possibility of splash damage depending on weapon choice.
I was going to put all this in an Excel radar chart except I haven’t installed Excel on my new machine yet, and it would have only added color. The words explain the tradeoffs quite well.
But it does beg the question: where does SWF fit in all this?
- Single Weapon Fighting (SWF): Less damage per hit. Slowest attack speed. No defenses. No splash damage (swashbuckling weapons are all finesse). One less equipment slot for hanging magic bonuses and augments.
Not very enticing.
In the movies, and for that matter in real life, SWF with a finesse weapon is the chosen method for duels because it is the fastest attack style. While this will seem counter-intuitive to someone used to DDO, one weapon is faster than two. TWF is actually more of a defensive style; the second weapon is there to block. Albeit a defensive style that includes an additional avenue of attack when the blocking weapon is used offensively.
And of course, SWF is much faster than S&B and especially much faster than THF.
But in DDO it will be slower than TWF as DDO’s offhand weapon is purely offensive and in some builds can double the rate of attack. Also, SWF will have the same damage per attack as TWF. Same damage, slower attack rate. That is going to be problematic for meleers.
Turbine appears to be countering this by throwing a hodgepodge of everything they can think of into the Swashbuckling enhancement tree. And some of that looks pretty fun!
But … and there is a but … but all of the Swashbuckling stance bonuses do not actually improve SWF although they require it. The Bard will still be using an inferior attack style while earning his or her various enhancement-based goodies. You can look at the enhancement tree and get excited about the abilities there, but then compare that to a fighter who can also get exiting abilities while in TWF or THF. Or a rogue who gets exciting abilities and is still able to TWF. Or a ranger that has the best TWF of all and who also gets, yes, you guessed it, lots of exciting abilities.
My opinion, to make this something that is considered to be a viable and effective choice, not just fun but also competitive, Turbine may have to do something to SWF itself. For instance, increase the attack speed of SWF.
Or better, give it a chance to “Feint” (because that is something one does in a sword fight), a 10% chance to be missed that calculates together with Dodge, Incorporeal and Concealment.
Now you have something that someone who is not a Swashbuckler might still want, instead of TWF or THF. Imagine a form of SWF that is so interesting that certain types of Rogues want it. Some Fighters too, and Rangers, and maybe even the odd Barbarian here and there.
Once you have achieved that, once you have made SWF something that is by itself worthwhile and part of the balanced melee style discussion, only then you will have truly given Swashbuckler a reason to exist, because the Swashbuckler will be the best SWF build of all.