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The Yellow Wizard » The Bar » Bloggards » Quark's thoughts on the Skald

Quark's thoughts on the Skald

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Great Adventurer
Great Adventurer
Well, in a fairly rapid continuation in this series, now I'm looking at the Skald, another probably too strong class from the notoriously dreadful Advanced Class Guide. This is maybe one of the better balanced classes, a cross between Bard and Barbarian, but we'll see.


Always good to start at the beginning.

BAB, HD, Skills and Saves: You've got bard class skills (but barbarian ranks), bard HD and BAB, and a hybrid of Fort and Will as good saves (Barbarian has Fort, Bard has Ref and Will). Seems fine as the hybrid.

Proficiencies: You've got barbarian proficiencies, but because you cast arcane spells, you're the only class to be able to cast spells in medium armour from the start.

Spells: You get all the bard spells. Guess it's fair, since you've got their BAB as well.

Bardic Knowledge: As the bard ability. Pretty nice.

Raging Song: Comes in a variety of flavours, but effectively a half way between bardic performance and rage. Give less potent rage to everyone (gradually keeping up), Hustle without getting tired, bonuses on stregth checks, Dirge of Doom (as a bard) and temporarily bring people back from death. Of these, the last one is the main remarkable one and one you're likely to use beyond the basic one, whereawares there are some actually useful other bard ones.

Scribe Scroll: Combined with Spell Kenning (below), this nets you scroll access to an awful lot of spells.

Versatile performance/Well Versed: As the bard things. Covers up your 'lack of skill points'.

Rage Powers: As Barbarian, but you give them to everybody. Also not quite as many, but you do get to keep the good ones. Feels like you're treading a fine line here with your martials, since some of these end up being much better than a simple bonus to attack and damage. And then your casters don't care about performance anyway, so nyah.

Imp/Uncanny Dodge: As the barbarian abilities, if slightly later.

Spell Kenning: Get any spell from the big lists a few times per day. Slow casting, but usually just the one or two a day are all you need.

Lore Master: As the bard ability, if slightly later

Damage reduction: Give it to all your friends. It's DR/-, but not very good, but better than nothing? Worth improving it with rage powers, potentially.

Master Skald: Capstone. Rage doesn't restrict what you can do and basically auto haste everything.

The big issue I kind of see is that at level 3 you take calm stance as a rage power, and then all your casters get bonus hp. Grab Accurate Stance as well to help those martials, and ultimately increase their crit range. And potentially negate those pesky mirror images. Ultimately, the boons in combat really do beat any bardic performance, and you end up getting most of the barbarian things that you care about, just a little slower. Likewise, you get most of the bard things. Not all of them, nor as quickly, but a lot.
Ultimately, while you don't hit as hard or as well as a real barbarian, making your entire party barbarians as well with potentially no downside (doubly so at level 20), easily outstrips even the best bard combat things. And also, you're still nearly barbarian yourself, except you can buff yourself more. Feels hard to justify this as not stepping on the toes of either class.

Just in case, let's see what you're not getting.

Barbarians get 4 more rage powers, better DR (by 2), fast movement, trap sense and faster progression on the rage stats. Skald effectively has tireless rage from the start. Barbarians also take a bigger AC hit. That said, they also hit rather harder and more easily.

Bards get 1 more versatile performance, Jack of All Trades, Countersong and Distraction (both semi-useless), Inspire Competence (which admittedly is a shame to lose), the fascinate/suggestion line, Soothing performance, Frightening Tune and Deadly Performance. The inspire heroics and greatness are things that could reasonably be achieved with the rage powers, but the other things are very much either blah. Bard's definitely better as a more social/skill class, but for support, Skald beats it by a long way.

Well, even though Skald is indeed overpowered, might as well do its archetypes for completeness. Usual ratings of Excellent, Good, Blah.

Augur: Lose versatile performance for some nifty divination spell-likes, well-versed for bonus to Identify monsters and spell kenning for ignoring concealment and cover a small number of times per day. Considering how great kenning is for crafting and stuff, especially if you've got a wizard, Witch or Alchemist, ultimately this isn't worthwhile.

Battle Scion: Be better at verbal duels and intimidating instead of some of the 'hard' knowledges, lose dirge of doom and song of the fallen for geas for willing targets only, and can (but don't have to) take combat/teamwork feats in place of rage powers to give to friends. Also ultimately immortal if people don't destroy your body in place of master skald. Loss of Song of the Fallen could be harsh, but if you're not going to get it anyway, sweet.

Bold Schemer: Lose uncanny dodges, Dirge of Doom and DR for skill bonuses trying to infiltrate somewhere. Bonuses get pretty big. In the right sort of game, this is exceptionally good.

Demon Dancer: Auto pick effectively the first 3 rage powers (an improving bite attack, then normal and greater fiend totems, and things need to make a will save or have Str+Con bonuses increased and continue attacking the same target until you stop your song. It's a shame that the rage powers aren't especially good (except for the bite), because otherwise this'd be cool. You lose basically nothing otherwise.

Dragon Skald: Lose scribe scroll for possibility of fog spells, bardic knowledge for being good on boats, bonus vs fear instead of vs sonic and lose song of marching for tiny bonus on diplomacy checks for some people. Thematic, but very blah.

Fated Champion: Bonus on initiative instead of knowledges, easier to cast divinations but hard to cast damaging spells with Spell Kenning, Give big bonuses on fear saves when using raging song in place of dirge of doom, and can spend lots of song rounds to force things to reroll in place of master skald. As pure battle support, it's pretty tough to argue with this.

Herald of the Horn: Get arcane bond with horn instead of scribe scroll, DC increases with sonic spells instead of lore master, and high DC Horn of Blasting and rerolls vs enchantment/fear in place of spell kenning. While it's a shame to lose spell kenning, those rerolls are completely worth it.

Instigator: Reroll vs compulsions in place of lore master, Enthrall to replace Spell Kenning and can cause riots instead of Dirge of Doom. Worth it in certain games, but definitely a skip otherwise.

Spell Warrior: Counterspelling. On not a full caster. Riiiight. Sure that'll work out fine. Not to mention all the rage powers you get are UTTERLY USELESS because you don't get inspired rage, which you need to get them to work. Skip for sure.

Totemic Skald: Lose Dodges, kenning and a rage power for a low power wild shape. Still worth it if you pick a good animal.

Urban Skald: There are some useless swap outs for useless stuff largely, but the main thing of interest is the controlled inspired rage: Smaller bonus, but can give everyone a flexible bonus that even your casters can accept.

War Drummer: Hit stuff hard with clubs in place of scribe scroll, get Craft Magic Arms and Armour in place of Lore Master and be a siege engine in place of one versatile performance. These trades are pretty sweet, considering the benefits you can get from the scroll swapout (which completely makes actually taking the scribe scroll feat to still have it worth it).

Warlord: You get to be scary and get leadership in place of Scribe Scroll, Well Versed, Kenning, Loremaster and improved uncanny dodge. Leaderhship for free is nice, but you're losing a little much here.

Wyrm Singer: Give a pal Form of the Dragon 1 in place of song of the fallen, a different attack boon, no con boost and different save bonuses in place of inspired rage, and a terrible breath weapon as a high level rage power. Skip.

And there we have it. The Skald. Too much toe-treading for my liking. Let me know if you disagree in the comments though. I'm going to work on the last of the maybe not completely dreadful hybrids next: the Warpriest.

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