This is part of a series of posts consolidating feedback from my players and myself on our playtest sessions.
The Skald is a class the defines role flexibility. It can be a frontline fighter, a spellcaster of the blaster or support variety, and it's clearly a support character with its raging song. Just like the bard it's a master of none of these roles, but the Skald proved (to me) a suprising asset in a number of situations. If only the other members of the party would realize it.
The early Skald is very simple. With extremely limited spells and rounds of rage, you find yourself hoarding what you have. The Skald worked closely with a Bloodrager, and that team was a very strong combo. We asked our DM for approval to consider raging song equivalent to the rage class feature for the purpose of feats, and when he approved it opened up a whole world of pain.
The early mechanic was Amplified Rage (+4 to rage modifiers while adjacent) along with moment of greatness (double your morale bonus for 1 roll) to do positively insane damage - having 30 strength while wielding a 2-hander is pretty strong.
Once the Skald gained access to Spell Kenning, I was very interested to see how his play would be affected. With its extreme limitation on usage / day, it didn't impact things much, but it was very cool to have the flexibility to cast just about any spell. While the wording is a bit ambiguous, it was clear that Skald's couldn't cast spells of a level higher than they could normally cast, and that's how we played it. This ensure that those reality-altering 7th-9th spells stayed safely out of reach.
At 15th level the Skald's raging song was providing a whole mess of rage powers, including extra attacks (claws, bite, gore) and pounce. This, combined with some coordinated charge teamwork feats, was quite strong - but not really much stronger than if some barbarians had been in the same party.
The big headache that we encountered is that while everyone is willing to accept inspire courage, not many people want to accept the rage. Be it concerns about AC, or the loss of the ability to cast spells, everyone has a reason why they don't want the bonus. Inevitably the conversation would go something like this:
Skald: Okay, I activate my song. who wants a whole bag of goodies? Strength, Con, Claws, all kinds of fun things.
Magus: I can't, I want to cast spells
Cleric: What if I have to heal somebody?
Monk/Rogue: I can't let my AC get any lower!
Wizard: Ha, no.
How the round of combat would go after this:
Skald Attacks, or casts spells as normal
Magus Attacks, chooses not to spellstrike
Cleric Attacks, doesn't cast any spells
Rogue Attacks, doesn't provke any AoO's or get attacked on his turn
Wizard gets hit and drops to -1 HP, falls unconscious
Now, I know why the Skald's raging song has the restrictions it does. But players aren't used to the feature, and while the removal of fatigue penalty provided a welcome relief, it's tedious to explain to every player the benefits they could enjoy if they were willing to plan their turn ahead. Granted, most of the playtesting occurred when the ability couldn't be turned off - my understanding now is you can choose to turn if off every round, which is very flexible and might encourage more players to accept it. With the new changes, I think these issues will be reduced, if not removed.
The class is so incredibly flexible. The only thing they don't do well is ranged combat.
Hitpoints, BAB, skills and saves are all appropriate.
Spell Kenning is super cool and fun, without being unbalanced. If only you could use it more often/longer, perhaps at a severe penalty...
Raging Song is fantastic and full of flavor, and provides great benefits to those who accept its benefits.
Raging Song is difficult to explain to allies, and many are wary of accepting it. It only gets worse as you start giving out rage powers. But that's why it's an Advanced class, right?
I wish Raging Song got 1 more extra round per level. 1 per level is too few when you realize that you get 3/4ths BAB and little else when the rage is down.
I love the Skald. I give this class a 10/10, because even with the faults, and the difficulty convincing people you're here to help, the class does work and provides concrete benefits, while still maintaining their own identity - with their weapon and armor proficiencies, they can go toe-to-toe in combat. Take some teamwork feats and some rage powers as feats and become the penultimate teammate.
|Sean K Reynolds Designer, RPG Superstar Judge|