Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Expanded Class Feature 10: Warblade

Class: Warblade
Source: Tome of Battle

How it Works:
I’ve worked up an all-purpose ‘How it Works’ article for pact-making classes as a whole, which can be found here.

Yes, this took a long time. I’ve lost my primary source of readership, which kinda killed my mojo. I’m not sure about the future of this blog, but we’ll see. I’m still shooting for biweekly updates.

Anyways, this is the first class I’m tackling from the greatest 3.5 supplement WotC’s ever put out, though quite frankly, with the nine schools and the How it Works sections already covered, the majority of the class is already covered.

This one's a part of the Tome of Battle free sample, by the way, so if you don't have the book, you can follow along here.

Fluffy Bits:

That’s all you need. This is the definitive nonmagical warrior class, one of the game’s very few true nonmagical classes, and one of its even fewer good ones. It can fit most traditional warrior archetypes from the savage berserker to the stalwart commander, though the finesse warrior has little less trouble than it always has.

Crunchy Bits:
I’ve already done write-ups on the nine schools of maneuvers, available here. Warblades get Diamond Mind, Iron Heart, Stone Dragon, Tiger Claw, and White Raven. That is to say sword smart, sword good, hit hard, be angry, and lead good.

Now, then. Skeleton. Strong BAB and fortitude, d12 hit die, martial melee weapons, medium armor, 4+ skill points from a so-so list, though it does include Tumble, Diplomacy, and Knowledge (History), which are beyond most melee classes. Unsurprisingly, this is a warrior’s skeleton. The Barbarian skeleton, in fact, save for skills.

Moving on to the general class features, as you level up, you add your intelligence modifier to various things. Reflex saves, confirming critical hits, damage against flat-footed enemies, defense against some of the standard martial tricks (trip, disarm, et cetera) and eventually damage on attacks of opportunity. Odds are intelligence is a tertiary stat, so these bonuses aren’t likely to be very big, but they’re still nice to have. Those start at level one and roll in over the course of the first fifteen levels.

Also at first level, you get what could be the most almost-interesting-but-ultimately-meh class feature ever. Weapon Aptitude. You can spend an hour to shift the designated weapon for any feat you possess (like Weapon Focus). And… all that really means is that random treasure is less problematic, since instead of taking the magic halberd to the city to sell as a down payment on a magic greatsword, you can train with the halberd to move your greatsword feats over. Ultimately, not a big deal, particularly since most feats it could apply to (again like weapon focus) are pretty crappy to begin with. The other half of this class feature is that you can qualify for Fighter-specific feats as a Fighter two levels lower than your Warblade level, but again, aren’t a whole lot of useful Fighter feats.

Other than that, you gain Uncanny Dodge in a timely manner and get a few bonus feats from a small but decent list.

Then, at level twenty, you get your capstone. Stance Mastery lets you assume two stances at once. A nice capstone.

Then, you have your maneuvers. You go from three maneuvers known and three maneuvers readied up to thirteen known and seven readied. You also go from one to four stances known. This is the least of all initiators, just slightly less than the Crusader. You’re liable to find the supply rather tight, so choose carefully. With five schools available, you get a lot of good maneuvers to choose from, so it may help to focus things a bit.

Your refresh method is also possibly the best of all ToB classes. If you need to refresh your maneuvers, make a swift action after standard action or full attack, which can still inflict a nice bit of pain between maneuvers. Alternately, you can use a standard action for some sort of flourish if there’s no one within reach.

How to use the Warblade is a big question. However, in general, it lends itself most to offense, with a side of support through White Raven. On that note, consider how many allies you have to support in the first place before investing heavily in White Raven; if you’re going to be alone or close to it on the front line, then many of its maneuvers could well be useless.

Ultimately, odds are your job is going to be to deliver the mail in the form of hit point damage. Your maneuvers should generally be geared towards killing things and any defenses only serve to keep you functional long enough to kill more things. Moment of Perfect Mind is probably wise; a dominated Warblade can be terrifying.

To that end, Tiger Claw, Diamond Mind, and Stone Dragon are good at hitting hard. Diamond Mind has some of the best defenses, but Iron Heart has its own powerful defenses as well. Iron Heart serves well as your unique school, with nice accuracy boosts and mob-clearing maneuvers that the other initiators just don't get.

Stats are rather self-evident; strength and constitution are primary stats, while dexterity and intelligence are secondary. Unfortunately, 3.5 hates finesse warriors, so unless you manage to get Shadow Blade working for you (most likely through a dip in Swordsage), dexterity will probably be a poor choice for primary stat.

Ultimately, there’s not a whole lot to say here. Tome of Battle adds a lot, but the procedure is still similar; make a face-breaker, find a face, and break it. The face-breaking process has just been made more interesting.

Great skeleton
Good school access
Great recharge method

Fewest maneuvers known
Purely melee

Remaining classes: Ardent, Artificer, Crusader, Divine Mind, Dread Necromancer, Empyrean Monk, Erudite, Exorcist, Incarnate, Lurk, Muse, Occult Priest, Pact Warrior, Psychic Rogue, Psychic Warrior, Ravaged Soul, Rookblade, Soulborn, Swordsage, Soul Weaver, Spirit Binder, Templar, Totemist, Unbound Witch, Warbinder.

Next Time: Unbound Witch

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