Lion Blade: Does it still suck, and if so, can it be fixed?


Advice


The Lion Blade: a Golarion based prestige class from way back in the earliest 3.5 days of Golarion. Based in the nation of Taldor, which is also the site of the current, newest adventure path. You can find the details right here.

The Lion Blade has been around forever and is extremely flavorful! But it has never gained much traction or been particularly popular to play, because mechanically it sucks. It sucks pretty hard, honestly. A few years ago TacticsLion wrote this excellent post right here, which lays out most of the problems. His summary: "In the end, Lion Blade is out-killed by Assassins, out-stealthed/moved/action-economied/magicked by the Shadow Dancer (though under-attacked), and out everything'd by the Master Spy. It's... not even a contest."

I'll note that his analysis, while thorough, isn't even complete! It doesn't mention, for instance, that you're going to have an unusually bad Fort save and a *remarkably* low BAB. Like, at 7th level your BAB will probably be +4, and you likely won't get your first iterative attack until 9th. You'll probably have a whopping 3d6 sneak attack dice at that level anyway, so it's not going to make much difference. Also, the original version of this pretty clearly imagines you're going to enter it as a Bard 3 / Rogue 3, which is just awful.

So the Lion Blade is flavorful but sucks so badly that you'd have to REALLY want to play something like this. Okay, well, three questions. (1) Is Paizo planning to do anything with the Lions Blade in or about the new Taldor AP? Does anyone know? It would seem like a natural. (2) Okay, say they're not. A lot of new classes and splatbooks have come out. Do any of them make the Lions Blade (as written) less painfully awful? (3) Say the answers to the last two questions are both "no". Can you think of a single one-shot fix to the Lion Blade that would make it okay to play? Bye "one-shot" I mean changing one thing instead of rewriting the whole class. (My suggestion: give it the HD, Fort save and BAB progression of a martial. Yeah arguably that's three things but in Paizo PrC design they always go together, so I say it's one. Anyway, the remarkable thing is that even if you do this, the resulting class is still no more than meh.)

Thoughts?

Doug M.

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Regarding "rewriting the entire class": they did that. It was in Inner Sea Intrigue, and you can find it right here. ^_^

(I haven't compared the two versions or read the posts you linked - I have too much to do right now to read a Tacticslion post. So I can't comment on whether it's better, or whether it addresses any of the concerns.)

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In today's episode of "Why you shouldn't use the notoriously outdated, IP-castrated resource such as d20pfsrd when you want to critique printed material", the OP finds out the hard way.


The differences seem to be that their levels stack for bardic performance and they get a new performance (very nice), some bonuses when fighting or moving within crowds (whatever), cloud the mind is changed from a -5 penalty to enemies perception vs. your stealth to a reroll using bluff vs sense motive (sidegrade) and that when they hit someone with a sneak attack on a charge or spring attack they get a chance to knock them unconscious. The save DC on that last isn't going to be great but it's a good enough effect to spend some resources on.

The dirge of misfortune performance is the big one there. Forcing a reroll at -2 once/round makes for excellent support. You won't be doing it before character level 10, and since they both require immediate actions you can't use it with perfect surprise to knock an enemy unconscious, but it might be good enough to justify sucking for many levels before that.


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Kalindlara wrote:

Regarding "rewriting the entire class": they did that. It was in Inner Sea Intrigue, and you can find it right here. ^_^

Aha. Thank you!

Doug M.


Gorbacz wrote:
In today's episode of "Why you shouldn't use the notoriously outdated, IP-castrated resource such as d20pfsrd when you want to critique printed material", the OP finds out the hard way.

Serious question: what are the options? The SRD won't have it because (1) the SRD doesn't carry splatbook stuff and (2) the SRD hasn't been updated since this came out anyway. So it's d20pfsrd or Archives of Nethys. Is AoN that much better?

Doug M.

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Yes, Archives of Nethys is that much better.

Silver Crusade

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Very


avr wrote:
The differences seem to be that their levels stack for bardic performance and they get a new performance (very nice), some bonuses when fighting or moving within crowds (whatever), cloud the mind is changed from a -5 penalty to enemies perception vs. your stealth to a reroll using bluff vs sense motive (sidegrade) and that when they hit someone with a sneak attack on a charge or spring attack they get a chance to knock them unconscious. The save DC on that last isn't going to be great but it's a good enough effect to spend some resources on.

Yeah it's more specifically a bard PrC now. Doesn't give you any bard spells, though, so you're probably never going to get beyond a handful of 1st level spells. I suppose you could go Rogue 1/Brawler (Snakebite striker) 1/Brd 3 (early entry) or Brd 4 (you really want a couple of L2 bard spells).

Overall not much has changed and it's still pretty lame. The "Perfect Surprise" knockout ability is not bad but as you say, the DC will usually be low, so it's unlikely to succeed against a wizard or something -- and note that (1) this class is still ridiculously squish for a melee fighter, so that charging right up to a powerful enemy hoping for a lucky knockout is a questionable strategy, and (2) your BAB still sucks, so don't try this against something with a decent flat-footed AC. Also, they actually nerfed a couple of things (like, Hide in Plain Sight is replaced by the flavorful but mechanically weaker Hide in the Crowd ability). So, overall not great except for this:

Quote:
The dirge of misfortune performance is the big one there. Forcing a reroll at -2 once/round makes for excellent support. You won't be doing it before character level 10, and since they both require immediate actions you can't use it with perfect surprise to knock an enemy unconscious, but it might be good enough to justify sucking for many levels before that.

Yeah that's a fun ability! If nothing else, it means PCs will come to fear and hate Lion Blades the way they fear and hate pugwampis, and that's no small thing. It's still not a good PrC for PCs, but you can now make some mildly interesting NPCs -- have them attack in groups. One guy charges to deliver the Perfect Surprise knockout, if you make your save his buddies use Dirge of Misfortune to make you reroll it. Not a game-breaking tactic by any means but watch your players sit up straight the first time you hit them with this.

So, as a PC class it's moved from a mechanical F to a mechanical D. As an NPC class it's a solid B -- the guys who appear from nowhere to attack out of a crowd and who knock you out before you know what's happened.

Doug M.


Andrew Phillips wrote:
Yes, Archives of Nethys is that much better.

What's the difference that you see in terms of quality, and why is it different (i.e., who's behind it and what are they doing that's different)?

Doug M.


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The Deadly Courtesean Unchained Rogue can single class into Lion Blade. That almost seems intentional. You could even do something like Fighter, Swashbuckler, or some other full BAB class for one level and then 4 levels of Deadly Courtesean rogue for a pretty decent base.

Human or Half Elf get you skill focus at level 1 to help mitigate the feat requirements. Unchained rogue effectively gives you weapon finesse and Dex to damage.


Using a slayer as one of the entry classes might mitigate some of the weaknesses.

I think you're right though it has some neat stuff but it's too squishy.

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I'm still thinking about burning my remaining vishkanya boon on the deadly courtesan/Lion Blade. ^_^


Douglas Muir 406 wrote:
Andrew Phillips wrote:
Yes, Archives of Nethys is that much better.

What's the difference that you see in terms of quality, and why is it different (i.e., who's behind it and what are they doing that's different)?

Doug M.

New materials/updates/errata are added in a timely fashion from what I've seen. There is a huge lag for pfsrd. An example of this is the Brawling armor special ability which was still listed as a +1 on pfsrd well after the errata and it still lists it as a +1 for cost.

The linking issues of pfsrd are annoying and don't seem to be going away. The way pfsrd combines 3p materials with Paizo materials is annoying as well as I will sometimes read through what seems to be an interesting option and only realize when I get the the source that it is 3p - these materials should be completely separate given how many tables don't allow 3p. Archives also has a much better search feature compared to pfsrd.

I still use pfsrd on occasion for quick lookups since it is generally the first result when googling something, other than that stay away.


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Gallant Armor wrote:

New materials/updates/errata are added in a timely fashion from what I've seen. There is a huge lag for pfsrd. An example of this is the Brawling armor special ability which was still listed as a +1 on pfsrd well after the errata and it still lists it as a +1 for cost.

The linking issues of pfsrd are annoying and don't seem to be going away. The way pfsrd combines 3p materials with Paizo materials is annoying as well as I will sometimes read through what seems to be an interesting option and only realize when I get the the source that it is 3p - these materials should be completely separate given how many tables don't allow 3p. Archives also has a much better search feature compared to pfsrd.

I still use pfsrd on occasion for quick lookups since it is generally the first result when googling something, other than that stay away.

I still primarily use the D20PFSRD since it's easier to navigate. I also like their search function better. I use the AoN when I'm looking for an up to date version of something or something that isn't on the SRD.


Douglas Muir 406 wrote:
Andrew Phillips wrote:
Yes, Archives of Nethys is that much better.

What's the difference that you see in terms of quality, and why is it different (i.e., who's behind it and what are they doing that's different)?

Doug M.

Pfsrd usually does a given splatbook first, but they rarely get everything, so some details will be missed and never filled in. They also change names of Golarion specific stuff and strip out campaign specific limitations, so you'll miss than an option is limited to an organization or religion. Pfsrd also mixes in lots of rules commentary is that is not RAW without clearly noting it, and includes third party stuff that is hard to notice unless you're experienced with the site and looking to verify its origin.

AoN is usually a bit late (they run on a every couple/few months cycle since the owner got sick and had some job issues a year or two back), but once they put something up it's complete, and the "Sources" tab indexes everything rules-related in a given book. They also include all details, correct names, and full restrictions.


Hm. Interesting! I've been using mostly PFSRD because I like the layout better. It puts more information and links on any given page, and IT IS BLACK TEXT ON WHITE NOT EYE-HURTING WHITE ON BLACK. That annoys some people more than others; I'm firmly in the "why are you doing this? why?" group.

PFSRD also includes a few specific and useful options, most notably the Advanced Monster Search function. Want a CR 7-8 undead with a fly speed? Boom, you're there.

Doug M.

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For the record, there's a toggle on AoN that fixes the white-on-black issue. Upper right corner. ^_^


Andrew Phillips wrote:
Yes, Archives of Nethys is that much better.

Except when it goes radio silence on updates, which it has a tendency to do.

Seriously took them over a year to get the vigilante up.

Also can be pretty clunky to search through.


In the upper right corner there's a switch. It makes it black on white.

Nethys keeps flavour in for all races and regions, which I think is vastly superior to keeping the uniqueness of each region.


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cavernshark wrote:

The Deadly Courtesean Unchained Rogue can single class into Lion Blade. That almost seems intentional. You could even do something like Fighter, Swashbuckler, or some other full BAB class for one level and then 4 levels of Deadly Courtesean rogue for a pretty decent base.

Human or Half Elf get you skill focus at level 1 to help mitigate the feat requirements. Unchained rogue effectively gives you weapon finesse and Dex to damage.

How many Vishkanya live in Taldor in order to be considered loyal servants?


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Back to the subject (and I'm looking at the ISI version)....

...No, it still sucks.

* You're multiclassing two BAB0 classes to make a martial character
* ...with weak fortitude saves, who....
* ...has to eat two "tax" feats (in addition to actually-useful Improved Initiative)
* ...and 16 skillpoints later you're qualified for a martial PrC with...
* ...more weak BAB and fort saves.

6th level is the earliest you can get in the PrC (par for the course). The benefits of Lion Blade levels are....

1st: begs the question of why you do not already own a Hat of Disquise or UMD a wand of invisibility.
2nd, Slowing Strike is a fairly useless ability (unless you're trying to flee and the opponent's speed is exactly the same as yours).
3rd: Wait, now I need an Int score to set DCs? Hello MAD such from 1st-level, or a suddenly pissed player reading fine-print.
4th: Holy smokes, that's nice. (so long as monsters fail their fort saves, anyway...)

-- If the GM said, "Make an 10th-level character!", I can see considering one of these. But from 1st level? No thanks.


I agree with Douglas it's for NPCs but you know that rogues aren't the only ones to get sneak attack? A human or half-elf snakebite striker brawler 1 / bard 4 can squeeze accomplished sneak attacker in there to qualify and has +1 BAB at level 1, +4 at level 5, +8 at level 10. Not terrible. Base Fort save comes out to +2 at level 1, +3 at level 5, +5 at level 10, about the average of a good and a poor progression.


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Tacticslion wrote:
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Hey get out of here with that avatar! ;)


Regarding the next AP being in Taldor, isn't one of the main reasons to play a Prestige Class that corresponds to some important organization or tradition in the place the AP is set, the status or access you are accorded because you're in the club?

Like being able to say "I'm a Hellknight" has value in Cheliax that simply being a single classed character doesn't have. Probably can't just go around identifying oneself as a Lion Blade, but at the very least you're going to have connections to other people in the organization just from taking levels in the class.


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If you are allowed to use VMC (not in PFS!) and don't mind a bit late entry, you could single-class in with 7 levels of Slayer (full BAB, and nothing wasted on a truncated spellcasting progression) VMC Bard (gets you Bardic Performances Inspire Courage and Inspire Competence at 7th level) as a Human or Half-Elf (bonus Skill Focus (Perform)).

Alternatively, if you REALLY want to get in fast and don't want to (or can't) invest in VMC Bard, and you don't want to be a Vishkanya, you could be Human or Half-Elf with Racial Heritage (Vishkanya) -- take this at 1st level.

* * * * * * * *

With respect to www.d20pfsrd.com vs Archives of Nethys, you really need both -- each has some things that the other doesn't have.


PossibleCabbage wrote:
but at the very least you're going to have connections to other people in the organization just from taking levels in the class.

Potentially, but there's nothing in the PrC that really guarantees that any more or less than anyone else playing any other class.

So that's not really a boon for the PrC at all.

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Douglas Muir 406 wrote:
Andrew Phillips wrote:
Yes, Archives of Nethys is that much better.

What's the difference that you see in terms of quality, and why is it different (i.e., who's behind it and what are they doing that's different)?

Doug M.

AoN actually has the correct information.


UnArcaneElection wrote:
Alternatively, if you REALLY want to get in fast and don't want to (or can't) invest in VMC Bard, and you don't want to be a Vishkanya, you could be Human or Half-Elf with Racial Heritage (Vishkanya) -- take this at 1st level.

I got lost here. What does being (or counting as) a Vishkanya get you that helps qualify for Lion Blade?


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PossibleCabbage wrote wrote:
I got lost here. What does being (or counting as) a Vishkanya get you that helps qualify for Lion Blade?

Vishkanya have the deadly courtesan archetype for rogue which grants bardic performance, hence single class entry to Lion Blade.

To the OP, AP #130 City in the Lion's Eye will have an Lion Blade article and a ton of relevant stuff in the actual adventure.


avr wrote:
I agree with Douglas it's for NPCs but you know that rogues aren't the only ones to get sneak attack? A human or half-elf snakebite striker brawler 1 / bard 4 can squeeze accomplished sneak attacker in there to qualify and has +1 BAB at level 1, +4 at level 5, +8 at level 10. Not terrible. Base Fort save comes out to +2 at level 1, +3 at level 5, +5 at level 10, about the average of a good and a poor progression.

That's probably the least bad build I've seen, and you even get a couple of second level bard spells -- woo. The main drawback is that three feats are needed to enter the PRC, and ASA would be a fourth. So it works, and isn't bad, but you won't have a free feat slot for a while.

Doug M.


The Purity of Violence wrote:
PossibleCabbage wrote wrote:
I got lost here. What does being (or counting as) a Vishkanya get you that helps qualify for Lion Blade?

Vishkanya have the deadly courtesan archetype for rogue which grants bardic performance, hence single class entry to Lion Blade.

{. . .}

Yeah, sorry, I should have stated that explicitly.

Come to think of it, Snakebite Striker Brawler 1 (with Racial Heritage (Vishkanya) if you are Human or Half-Elf)/Deadly Courtesan 4 might be the more powerful fast entry into Lion Blade -- not quite single class, but close, and you lose only 1 BAB instead of 2 before entry (*), and get an extra d6 of Sneak Attack (although it will be dormant at levels 2 and 4 due to the rule about number of Sneak Attack dice not exceeding 1/2 your character level + 1/2).

(*)If you are using Pathfinder Unchained Fractional Base Bonuses, this becomes almost irrelevant.


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Just for completeness's sake, your sneak attack dice wouldn't "go dormant" at all. There's no general rule that restricts your sneak attack dice from exceeding half your level, only a specific restriction placed by the Accomplished Sneak Attacker feat (and thus, only applying to those with the feat).


^The Vivisectionist Alchemist description of Sneak Attack has this as well as Accomplished Sneak Attacker -- although Rules As Written that is specific, it seems strongly suggested that Rules As Intended it is general. I thought I saw it somewhere else in addition to Vivisectionist Alchemist and Accomplished Sneak Attacker, but I can't remember where. The whole Slayer class and some Sneak Attack archetypes of other classes don't bother because they have a slower Sneak Attack progression anyway.


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Vivisectionist has no such thing - it simply describes sneak attack stacking with rogue, and doesn't attempt to suggest a greater or general rule. If you can find another source for this assertion, it would be welcome.


I don't see why there's any hate on the archtype. It does exactly what the flavour promises.

Hide in crowd. Stab from crowd. Sneak away in crowd.

Little bleed damage and poison and good to go.

Scarab Sages

I still want to try out my double (triple?) agent Dawnflower Dervish/Lion Blade someday. I don’t remember where I put the specific build, but it’s... tricky.

He has to be a true Sarenrae worshipper for Dawnflower Dervish, pretending to be Taldan to join the ranks of the Lion Blades, pretending to infiltrate the Dawnflower Dervishes, so he can fight with the scimitar without drawing suspicion.

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...they let Sarenites in, you know. ^_^

Scarab Sages

Do they? I always get confused because the canon shifted at some point. I know Sarenites aren’t hunted in Taldor anymore, but I wasn’t sure if the Lion Blades accepted them. I’ll have to go do some reading if I ever give the concept a go. That would remove the need for one layer of deception at least. I also suppose The War for the Crown may affect how Taldor relates to neighboring nations going forward. Hmm... I wonder if the concept would be good for that AP, actually.


GM Tyrant Princess wrote:
Vivisectionist has no such thing - it simply describes sneak attack stacking with rogue, and doesn't attempt to suggest a greater or general rule. If you can find another source for this assertion, it would be welcome.

I haven't found the other source yet, but Vivisectionist Alchmist is definitely trying to be more general than just describing how it stacks with Rogue in particular.

Sneak Attack: At 1st level, a vivisectionist gains the sneak attack ability as a rogue of the same level. If a character already has sneak attack from another class, the levels from the classes that grant sneak attack stack to determine the effective rogue level for the sneak attack's extra damage dice (so an alchemist 1/rogue 1 has a +1d6 sneak attack like a 2nd-level rogue, an alchemist 2/rogue 1 has a +2d6 sneak attack like a 3rd-level rogue, and so on). This ability replaces bomb.

It gives Rogue as an example, but says "sneak attack from another class", attempting to be more general.


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It's noteworthy that none of the (many) archetypes that grant sneak attack printed since then have similar text. None of which, it bears mentioning, stack with rogue levels. So... it's hard to draw that conclusion, and even harder to consider it enforceable.


^I thought for sure I saw it in some other place . . . but now that you mention it, it could be that they had an idea like that (which would is in line with how Boon Companion and Magical Knack work) with Vivisectionist Alchemist's Sneak Attack, and then again with Accomplished Sneak Attacker (and maybe in 1 other place, if I'm not hallucinating it), and then forgot about it.


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It further bears noting that Accomplished Sneak Attacker was designed by a freelancer (I want to say Alex Augunas), with no relation to the design of the vivisectionist. (Like most game content, as it happens.) I'm not even sure there's that degree of coordination.

It's possible that was the intention back when vivisectionist was released. Off the top of my head, it's the first example of its kind, so they may have been playing conservative or trying things out. The PDT also underwent a major change in the intervening years (SKR > Seifter), so policy shifts may also have played a part.


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^Good points.


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Incidentally, that icon makes your words read as much more assertive than your usual icon does Kalindlara.

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It's true! It's very effective, isn't it? ^_^


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^I think that's the idea (along with the alias name). Kalindlara definitely has ranks in Intimidate.


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Update:
In AP 130 there are now 2 new rogue talents that allow you to have inspire competence and/or sneak attack for the purpose of qualifying for prestige classes.( they don't actually give you the abilities though )

so now pure rogue , investigator, slayer or archaeologist bard can easily qualify.

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