As a kid, I spent a good chunk of my weekend hours watching just about anything that had swashbuckler goodness. Pirates, musketeers, and masked avengers were among the first sparks that ignited my fledgling imagination. When we set out to design the swashbuckler class our chief goal was to create a class that was fun in that Errol Flynn sort of way, while creating enough room for the many fine swashbuckler variants that have appeared in the many decades after Captain Blood.
Even before playtesting began, we designed two versions of the class. Like all of the classes appearing in the Advanced Class Guide, the swashbuckler is a hybrid class—a class with mechanics and sometimes theme rooted in two existing classes—specifically a hybrid of fighter and gunslinger. One of the pre-playtest version was heavy on fighter, the second was heavy on gunslinger, but we soon discovered that the latter variant was a lot more fun, as we reskinned grit to panache, and were able to create deeds that were both useful and iconic...including the very fun derring-do feat that grants an extra d6 boost with the possibility of exploding dice (if you roll a 6 on that roll you gain another d6 boost) when using Acrobatics, Climb, Escape Artist, Fly, Ride, or Swim checks.
During the playtest, feedback granted us a wealth of information that allowed us to fine-tune the class. We wanted the class to be true to its roots, but to have enough room for players to create their own take on this daring warrior classic. To this end, we made it relatively easy to gain Dexterity modifier damage and benefit classes nifty precise strike precision damage deed with a variety of weapons through the class itself, by way of multiclassing, and through feats (try the Snake Style feat from Ultimate Combat with the precise strike deed to get your swashbuckler/kung fu fusion on).
The playtest also gave us feedback on which abilities were good, but not quite good enough for a true swashbuckler. For example, in the original iteration of derring-do, you had to spend panache and use the deed before you made the skill check. The finally ability allows you to use it after making the check, but before the results are revealed, making it more evocative and useful.
With the fine-tuning of class abilities complete, we moved on to archetypes, which allowed us create fun and interesting variants on the theme. In the book you’ll find (among others) the flying blade (hint: the blade are flying, not the swashbuckler, unless the wizard decides to do her a solid), the mysterious avenger (so you can make your own flavor of Zorro), and the picaroon (for those of you who like a little bang-bang alongside your flashing blade). Add this to the various combat and panache feats along with magic items tailor made for the swashbuckler, and you will find a lot of options to make exactly the swashbuckler that you always wanted to play.
Needless to say, if you like your heroes with light armor, a sharp rapier, an even shaper wit, and more than a few tricks up your sleeve, we think you’re going to enjoy the swashbuckler at least as much as we enjoyed designing her.