Duelist (3.5e Class)

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This class needs a completed general description and/or information about where it excels. If you have read and understand this class enough to add this information please edit this page and add it.
This article has been tagged since March 2007.
Anyone can kill with the tip of the sword: there’s no art to it. The use of the edge of the blade, however, is more artistic.
—anonymous eopolitan duelist



Alignment: any

Religion: any but often Kord

Background: On the northern cliffs by the Green Sea, the City-state of Eopolis stands as a beacon for scholars and adventurers, placed purposedfully by the end of the single navigable river of the entire north, its sides dotted with every empire in the region. This naturally advantageous location has made the city into a unrivaled metropolis with anough monetary and military power to buy, sell or conquer any of the minor nations in the continent.

Luckily for these lesser states, then, is the fact that the average Eopolitan feels it has as much to win from invading its neighbor as it would have from crawling into a nest of rats.

Within its eleven white walls, the lowliest citizen lives a far better existence than the “kings” of many tribes, with glasses in the windows, lights on the streets at night, schooling for its children and a nobility that competes for position through theathres and bardic colleges.

It is no surprise, then, that outsiders are seen with mistrust at best and plain hostility at worst. Travelling adventurers and mercenaries often raise trouble within the city of winds, and for decades now, it has been forbidden to wear the heavy and cumbersome weapons and armours that the Eopolitans have come to consider as the symbol of an outsider. This has caused a peculiar figthing style to develop within the city, focusing upon an idealizated, romantic hero swordsman, versed in matters both martial and intellectuals, wearing light armors or merely his finest clothes, and figthing with panache betwen the roses of the many public squares.

The average duelist is a man or woman that disdains the heavier weapons and armours of the more brutish peoples, focusing its studies in a figthing style that rewards the cunning over the strong, and with wide interests on fields beyond the martial.

Races: Most common is Drow but any works.

Other Classes: The average Duelist considers the average figther as a studious of a single art, and the average barbarian as a mindless brute, good for charging ahead and softening up big sluggish targets. Then again, the same could be said of many spell slingers, tossing fireballs around (or mental brutes, as they call them).

Role: The duelist is at home within packed theathe rooms, crowded plazas and the balconies of beauties. It gains a large number of skill points that it can spend as it wishes in studies that would typically be out of reach for ordinary men-at-arms, having the points to spend on a few cross class skills of its choosing. The Duelist can be a romantic, a brawler or a daring poet-warrior, as deadly with steel as it is with words.

Game Rule Information[edit]

Duelists have the following game statistics:

Abilities: Dexterity and Intelligence are hallmarks of a successful duelist, while Charisma supports many of her skills. Strength is not as important for a duelist as it is for other melee combatants.

Alignment: Any

Starting Age: Moderate

Starting Gold: 5d4

Table: The Duelist
Hit Die: d8

Level Base
Attack Bonus
Special ManeuversTemplate:Cite
Fort Ref Will Maneuvers Known Maneuvers Readied Stances Known
1st +1 +0 +2 +2 Bonus Feat, Goad, Parry 4 4 1
2nd +2 +0 +3 +3 Combat Style 1, Insightful Strike 5 4 1
3rd +3 +1 +3 +3 Skill Trick 6 4 2
4th +4 +1 +4 +4 Refresh Trick, Off Guard -1 6 4 2
5th +5 +1 +4 +4 Against the Wall, Expert Flanker +1 7 5 2
6th +6 +2 +5 +5 Bonus Feat, Skill Trick 7 5 2
7th +7 +2 +5 +5 Evasion, Combat Style 2 8 5 3
8th +8 +2 +6 +6 Improved Feint (move), Off Guard -2 8 5 3
9th +9 +3 +6 +6 Skill Trick 9 5 3
10th +10 +3 +7 +7 Expert Flanker +2, Improved Parry 9 6 3
11th +11 +3 +7 +7 Bonus Feat, Improved Goad 10 6 4
12th +12 +4 +8 +8 Off Guard -3, Skill Trick 10 6 4
13th +13 +4 +8 +8 Combat Style 3, Improved Feint (swift) 11 6 4
14th +14 +4 +9 +9 Improved Evasion 11 6 4
15th +15 +5 +9 +9 Expert Flanker +3, Skill Trick 12 7 5
16th +16 +5 +10 +10 Bonus Feat, Off Guard -4 12 7 5
17th +17 +5 +10 +10 Parry Magic 13 7 5
18th +18 +6 +11 +11 Improved Feint (free), Skill Trick 13 7 5
19th +19 +6 +11 +11 Combat Style 4 14 7 6
20th +20 +6 +12 +12 Expert Flanker +4, Off Guard -5, Superior Swordplay 14 8 6

Class Skills (6 + Int modifier per level; ×4 at 1st level)
Balance (Dex), Bluff (Cha), Climb (Str), Craft (Int), Diplomacy (Cha), Escape Artist (Dex), Jump (Str), Perform (Cha), Profession (Wis), Sense Motive (Wis), Swim (Str), Tumble (Dex) and Use Rope (Dex).

Class Features[edit]

All of the following are class features of the duelist.

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: A duelist is proficient with all light, one-handed, or ranged simple and martial weapons and one light, one-handed, or ranged exotic weapon. They are proficient with light armor and shields (but not tower shields).

Maneuvers: At 1st level, you gain four maneuvers known from the Dancing Goddess, Diamond Mind, Eloquent Speech, Iron Heart, Setting Sun, and Surreptitious Bandit disciplines. You must meet a maneuver’s prerequisite to learn it. You add your full duelist levels to your initiator level to determine your total initiator level and your highest-level maneuvers known. At 2nd, 3rd, and every odd level beyond, you gain an additional maneuver readied per day.

Upon reaching 4th level, and at every even-numbered duelist level after that (6th, 8th, 10th, and so on), you can choose to learn a new maneuver in place of one you already know. In effect, you lose the old maneuver in exchange for the new one. You can choose a new maneuver of any level you like, as long as you observe your restriction on the highest-level maneuvers you know; you need not replace the old maneuver with a maneuver of the same level. For example, upon reaching 10th level, you could trade in a single 1st-, 2nd-, 3rd- or 4th-level maneuver for a maneuver of 5th level or lower, as long as you meet the prerequisite of the new maneuver. You can swap any number of maneuvers at any given level.

'Maneuvers Readied: You can ready all three of the maneuvers you know at 1st level, but as you advance in level and learn more maneuvers, you must choose which maneuvers to ready. You ready your maneuvers by practicing for 5 minutes. The maneuvers you choose remain readied until you decide to practicing again and change them. You need not sleep or rest for any long period of time to ready your maneuvers; any time you spend 5 minutes in posing, you can change your readied maneuvers.

You begin an encounter with all your readied maneuvers unexpended, regardless of how many times you might have already used them since you chose them. When you initiate a maneuver, you expend it for the current encounter, so each of your readied maneuvers can be used once per encounter (until you recover them, as described below).

You can recover all expended maneuvers with a full round action, or as a standard action by successfully using the Goad ability. If your Goad attempt fails, you do not refresh maneuvers successfully. Thus is becomes a balance between reliability or speed and action.

Stances Known: At 1st, 3rd, 7th, 11th, 15th, and 19th level, you learn a new martial stance from one of the Dancing Goddess, Diamond Mind, Eloquent Speech, Iron Heart, Setting Sun, and Surreptitious Bandit disciplines. You must meet a stance’s prerequisite to learn it.

Bonus Feat: At 1st level, 6th level, and every 5 levels beyond the duelist gains a bonus feat selected from the following: Combat Expertise, Combat Reflexes, Dodge, Improved Disarm, Improved Initiative, Improved Trip, Mobility, Quick Draw, Skill Focus, Spring Attack, Weapon Finesse, Weapon Focus, and any +2/+2 skill feat. You must still make any pre-requisites of the feat.

Goad (Ex):: As a move action you can take time to make terrible puns, taunt your opponent, assert your superiority, or otherwise aggravate the enemy. Choose a target within 90 feet who can sea or hear you, and make either a Bluff or Intimidate check against the DC 10 + the enemy's CR + Wisdom modifier + modifiers against fear or compulsion. If you make a successful Bluff check, you belittle an opponent so their rage is focused on you. They take a penalty on attack rolls equal to 1/2 your class level against any creature they attack except for you (minimum -1). On a successful Intimidate check, you assert your superiority against the enemy, lowering their AC against your attacks by 1/2 your class level (minimum -1).

Both effects last for 1 round. This is a mind-affecting language-dependent compulsion effect. You can still goad creatures which do not speak your language through pantomime, but they gain a +4 bonus to the DC you must make.

Parry (Ex):: Duelists often focus on single strikes, parrying away blows to depend themselves. You may choose to conserve one or more of your attacks granted by your BAB in this round. If you do and you are subsequently attacked, you may parry the blow. Roll 1d20 + your conserved attack, this is your new AC which may cause the attack to miss. You may parry after the enemy's attack is made but before damage is rolled. Parrying is a free action, and you may parry up to as many attacks as you possess (up to a maximum of 4 at BAB 16 and over). For example, a 18th level duelist has four attacks at +30/+25/+20/+15. He makes two attacks on his turn (+30 and +15) and saves two attacks. During the rest of the round he is attacked with two claws and a bite. He chooses to parry the claws with the +25 and +20 rolls, and cannot parry the bite.

If you possess at least a +2 magic weapon, you may parry ray attacks as well.

Combat Style: At 2nd level, a duelist must select one of three combat styles to pursue: two-weapon combat, one-weapon combat, or sword and board. This choice affects the character’s class features but does not restrict his selection of feats or special abilities in any way. You do not need to meet the pre-requisites for any bonus feats gained by this ability.

Dual Blade (Ex):: Master of the two-weapon style, you attack with an overwhelming number of blows to achieve victory. You gain the Two-Weapon Fighting feat (or another fighter bonus feat if you already possess it) and a +1 shield bonus to AC whenever wielding two weapons. At level 7, you gain the Improved Two-Weapon Fighting feat (or another fighter bonus feat if you already possess it) and the shield bonus rises to +3. At level 13 you gain the Greater Two-Weapon Fighting feat (or another fighter bonus feat if you already possess it) and the shield bonus rises to +5. At level 19, you may take a full-attack action to duplicate Whirlwind Attack except you may make a number of attacks up to your normal maximum. Roll only once, the attack rolls apply to all targets in your reach.

Solo Blade Stance (Ex):: By keeping one hand free you are light, unencumbered, and permitted to dance freely about using your hand to assist in your combat tactics. You do not provoke attacks of opportunity for combat tactics such as disarming, sundering, or tripping. At 7th level, you may instead make an attack with a -4 penalty to the attack roll, dealing damage as normal and applying a free combat option such as disarm or trip to your attack. You are counted as wielding the weapon two-handed when beneficial for the purposes of various combat options. At level 13, you gain a +4 bonus on all combat options such as disarm, trip, sunder, and so forth. The bonus stacks with the benefits of feats such as Improved Disarm. At level 19, whenever you successfully perform a combat option against the enemy you gain a +5 morale bonus on attack and damage rolls against the target for the rest of the encounter. You must fight one handed with no weapon or shield in your other hand to gain these benefits.

Swashbuckling (Ex):: You fight sword and board style, blocking attacks with your shield and countering with your sword. You ignore the armor check penalty from any shield, as well as the penalty to attack rolls from bucklers. At 7th level, you treat your weapon as a weapon one hand larger when beneficial, such as for Power Attack or multiplying your strength damage by 150%. At 13th level, you may apply your shield bonus to your touch AC and whenever an enemy misses your AC by an amount less than your shield bonus, they provoke an attack of opportunity. At level 19, you gain a +4 bonus to damage for every attack you parried during the previous round. You must fight with a sword and shield to gain these benefits.

Anchor|Insightful Strike (Ex):: At 2nd level, a duelist becomes able to place his attacks where they deal greater damage. He applied his Intelligence bonus (if any) as a bonus on damage (in addition to any strength bonus he may have) with any light or finessable weapon. The damage is precision damage, targets immune to sneak attack or critical hits are immune to a duelist's insightful strike. A duelist cannot use this ability while wearing medium or heavy armor or carrying a medium or heavy load.

Anchor|Skill Trick: At 3rd level and every three levels beyond, a duelist obtains a skill trick for free. He may qualify for any pre-requisites of the skill trick as if he had sufficient ranks in the required skills equal to his class level +3. Any other pre-requisites still apply. These are bonus skill tricks and do not count towards your limit of skill tricks known (normally you may only learn a number of skill tricks equal to 1/2 your character level, rounded up). Most skill tricks are listed in Complete Sublime.

Alternatively instead of a skill trick, the duelist may take skill mastery in one class skill, such as Balance. Skill mastery allows the duelist to take 10 on the check, even in stressful situations.

Refresh Trick (Ex):: A 4th level duelist uses skill tricks as much as he does maneuvers. The use of skill tricks is normally limited to 1/encounter. However, whenever a duelist refreshes his maneuvers, he also refreshes the use of his skill tricks.

Off Guard (Ex):: At 4th level, any target you successfully parry not only has their attack foiled, but their stance disrupted. They take a -1 penalty to AC for 1 round, allowing you or allies to take advantage of the opening. At 8th level and every 4 levels beyond, the AC penalty rises by 1.

Against the Wall (Ex):: At 5th level a duelist can use the environment to his advantage. Whenever fighting an enemy who has their back to the wall with you on the opposite side, or is in an unsteady situation (such as needing to make balance checks on a thin ledge), you may treat such an opponent as flanked. They are not flanked for anyone other than yourself.

Expert Flanker (Ex):: At 5th level, you know how to take advantage of an opening. Your bonus to attack when flanking rises by 1. At 10th level and every five levels beyond, the bonus to attack rises by 1 additional point.

Evasion (Ex):: At 7th level or higher if a duelist makes a successful Reflex saving throw against an attack that normally deals half damage on a successful save, he instead takes no damage. Evasion can be used only if a duelist is wearing light armor or no armor. A helpless duelist does not gain the benefit of evasion.

Improved Feint (Ex):: At 7th level can feint quickly. They may feint as a move action. If they already possess the Improved Feint feat, they may trade it out for any other fighter bonus feat.

At 13th level, a duelist may feint as a swift action instead.

Improved Parry (Ex):: At 10th level, whenever an enemy misses you due to a parry attempt, they immediately provoke an attack of opportunity from you.

Improved Goad (Ex):: At 11th level, you may goad any creature regardless if they speak your language, or even have a mind to goad. Creatures no longer gain a +4 bonus to their save if you do not speak their language. You may even goad creatures mindless creatures or creatures immune to mind-affecting effects, though they do gain a +4 bonus on their saving throw.

Improved Evasion (Ex):: At 14th level, a duelist’s evasion ability improves. He still takes no damage on a successful Reflex saving throw against attacks, but henceforth he takes only half damage on a failed save. A helpless duelist does not gain the benefit of improved evasion.

Parry Magic (Sp): At 17th level, any spell which has the duelist as a target can be parried as if it were a sword or ray. The effective attack roll of the spell is the caster level + 11. If successful, the spell has no effect on the duelist. This ability requires the use of a magic weapon, and does not function on area effects, only spells targeted at the duelist.

Superior Swordplay (Ex):: At 20th level a duelist wins at D&D, managing to pull off a flurry of complicated sword strikes in one action. Once per encounter, the duelist may initiate 2 strike maneuvers in 1 standard action. The maneuvers must have a initiation time of 1 standard action or less.

Epic Dualist[edit]

Table: The Epic Dualist[edit]

Hit Die: d8

Level Special
21st Bonus Feat, Skill Trick
24th Off Guard -6, Skill Trick
25th Expert Flanker +5
26th Bonus Feat
27th Skill Trick
28th Off Guard -7
30th Expert Flanker +6, Skill Trick

6 + Int modifier skill points per level.

Expert Flanker: The bonus to attack rolls while flanking increases by 1 every 5 levels.

Off Guard: The penalty to AC from Off Guard increases by 1 every 4 levels.

Skill Trick: The duelist gains an additional skill trick or skill mastery every 3 levels.

Bonus Feats : The epic duelist gains a bonus feat (selected from the list of the previous bonus feat list) every 5 levels after 21st.

Human Duelist Starting Package[edit]

Weapons: Rapier.

Skill Selection: Pick a number of skills equal to 7 + Int modifier.

Skill Ranks Ability Armor
Bluff 4 Cha
Concentration 4 Con
Diplomacy 4 Cha
Gather Information 4 Cha
Intimidate 4 Cha
Sense Motive 4 Wis
Spot 4 Wis

Feat: Dodge.

Bonus Feats: Weapon Focus (rapier), Weapon Finesse.

Gear: Chain Shirt.

Gold: 5 gp.

Campaign Information[edit]

Playing a Duelist[edit]

Religion: Religion is varied between duelist, some being devoted and others being careless. However duelists seem to attract the scoundrel sort and so religion rarely takes a big part in their lives.

Other Classes: Duelists share much with martial-minded rogues, finesse fighters, swashbucklers, and bards. The real difference between them is not their style, but merely how they go about it. Duelists use martial abilities, rogues sneak attack, fighters with feats, and so forth.

Combat: A duelist belongs on the front lines, challenging the largest brute to battle and keeping them busy. Through a solid defense via parrying and goading them into staying to fight they can protect the party from otherwise dangerous individuals.

Advancement: Martial classes, especially of the finessing sort, are ideal for a duelist.

Duelists in the World[edit]

My name is Inkyrius Tao... you killed our druid. Prepare to die!
—Inkyrius Tao, Human Duelist

Daily Life: A duelist is a man who is skilled with the blade and knows it. They see themselves as daring heroes (or at least daring for the more villainous sort) and are prone to over-the-top shows of bravado.

Notables: Inkyrius Tao is the leader of the thieve's guild, the Black Cats. His Robin Hood style antics have gained him much fame and infamy.

Organizations: Duelists do not associate under a common flag, at least not for being duelists. Usually it is another force that pulls them together, be they under the guise of brave knights and musketeers, or piracy on the high seas.

NPC Reactions: Be they good or ill, duelists certainly know how to put on a show. It leaves lasting impressions and stories of heroes and villains in their wake.

Duelist Lore[edit]

Characters with ranks in Knowledge Local can research duelists to learn more about them. When a character makes a skill check, read or paraphrase the following, including information from lower DCs.

Knowledge Local
DC Result
10 Duelists focus on single strikes and skillful tricks, parrying away blows with their sword.
15 A duelist can open your defenses by parrying your blade away, then attacking. They take advantage of any open opportunity.
20 Powerful duelists can parry away spells as well as blades, and can become very difficult to hit with any attack form.
30 Those who reach this level of success can research specific duelists, lore about them, their motivations, location, and other details.

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