Melee Bard advice please


Advice


I'm new to Pathfinder and am looking to build a bard that is both melee and support. I've been looking through arcane duelist, dervish dancer and dawnflower dervish but really can't decide which one is best for what I want. There will only be two melee characters in our group (including my bard) so I think I'm leaning to one of the dervish archetypes. Any advice you guys can provide?


Lvl, pointbuy, others in group?
Helps if we have more information


Dawnflower dervish is the best but it is not a support bard by any margin. He could support a little with spells, but the fact that insipre courage becomes a self-buff speaks for itself.

Avoid the other two archetypes.

Check the Archaeologist archetype too.

Neither of these two archetypes (DD and Archaeologist) are good at supporting, but they are great at melee, especially Dervish Dancer. If you mainly want to support the vanilla bard or the chelish diva is better, but then again your melee capabilities will be limited.

Decide what you want to play first. If you are the only melee I certainly suggest the Dervish Dancer.

A great move before the errata was to dip MOMS monk in order to take advantage of the crane style feat tree. Bear in mind that it is a good move not anymore. You could have some merit though dipping two lvls in MoMS monk for the Crane Style and the Mantis style or the Snake Style, without going further into the feat chain of either.

I do not suggest further multiclassing. Maybe, INSTEAD of the monk dip, you could dip 3-4 lvls to weapon master fighter for weapon training and gloves of dueling for a +3/+3 bonus on attack and damage rolls.

The Eldrich Heritage (Arcane) feats can be very interesting.

Be an Aassimar and take your favored class bonus towards inspire courage for maximum benefit.

Is it for PFS or not?

An alternative is a chelish diva using a long spear and combat reflexes for AoOs. As an added bonus, you can add flagbearer on the long spear for a greater inspire courage along with a banner of the ancient kings. It could be better for your party, but it could also be worse.

What is your party composition?


Just a word of advice: the dawnflower dervish is better up not even touching a scimitar.

This is because it does not properly utilize the huge advantage of the double bonuses that the battle dance gives inspire courage. The benefits are on each and every single hit, so having a ton of hits would be best. So TWF or archery are typically the best options. With either of those, your bonuses to hit and damage are actually on par with a raging barbarian. Especially when you throw in arcane strike on top of that.


Daxthemonk wrote:

Lvl, pointbuy, others in group?

Helps if we have more information

Beginning at level 1 and playing Rise of the Runelords. We'll be doing a 15 point buy (may be able to change this if I ask). Unfortunately I don't know the party composition yet besides there will be one other melee. Not playing PFS.

Melee is my first priority, support is my second.

With a dawnflower dervish that doesn't go with the scimitar, do you just wait until agile weapon for dex bonus then or do you use a str build and ignore the feat altogether?


Hmmm....admittedly, with that kind of point buy, you might want to grab a scimitar for use until after you get your feats together. So scimitars until you get: weapon finesse, TWF, arcane strike, and maybe improved TWF.

Even without agile weapons, you can get +2 to +8 to damage to each hit from inspire courage, and +1 to +5 from arcane strike. Doubling all that is more than enough justification to make the switch even if you must forsake the few points of damage from dex to damage.


lindz wrote:
Daxthemonk wrote:

Lvl, pointbuy, others in group?

Helps if we have more information

Beginning at level 1 and playing Rise of the Runelords. We'll be doing a 15 point buy (may be able to change this if I ask). Unfortunately I don't know the party composition yet besides there will be one other melee.

Melee is my first priority, support is my second.

With a dawnflower dervish that doesn't go with the scimitar, do you just wait until agile weapon for dex bonus then or do you use a str build and ignore the feat altogether?

With a 15 point buy you cannot expect to go for TWF feats with a Str based bard. It is nice in theory but in practise you need to be high lvl in order to reap the benefits of the TWF or even archery style as a dawnflower dervish.

I say start with a Dex build and use a Scimitar. The feat invested in TWF or archery can be invested in other useful staff. This way you will be effective at every stage of the game, instead of waiting with useless feats until the high lvls in order to shine.

For example, you could take Eldrich Heritage (Arcane) and Improved Familiar and have Faerie Dragon casting haste on you without losing your own actions.

Azata Blooded Aassimar, 15 pb

STR 10
DEX 18
CON 12
INT 10
WIS 8
CHA 16

The Exchange

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Try the feats Nature Soul, Animal Ally and Boon Companion. Let an asset do the fighting while you buff.


Thanks for the advice so far. Working on the Azata Blooded Aasimar Dawnflower Dervish right now. Kind of bummed about not being able to inspire courage on the group but it does look like the best match for what I want to do.

Pet bard sounds kind of neat, but not really the concept I have in mind.


XMorsX wrote:


With a 15 point buy you cannot expect to go for TWF feats with a Str based bard. It is nice in theory but in practise you need to be high lvl in order to reap the benefits of the TWF or even archery style as a dawnflower dervish.

I say start with a Dex build and use a Scimitar. The feat invested in TWF or archery can be invested in other useful staff. This way you will be effective at every stage of the game, instead of waiting with useless feats until the high lvls in order to shine.

For example, you could take Eldrich Heritage (Arcane) and Improved Familiar and have Faerie Dragon casting haste on you without losing your own actions.

Azata Blooded Aassimar, 15 pb

STR 10
DEX 18
CON 12
INT 10
WIS 8
CHA 16

Would a 20 pb open up more options? How would you go about that?


lindz wrote:
XMorsX wrote:


With a 15 point buy you cannot expect to go for TWF feats with a Str based bard. It is nice in theory but in practise you need to be high lvl in order to reap the benefits of the TWF or even archery style as a dawnflower dervish.

I say start with a Dex build and use a Scimitar. The feat invested in TWF or archery can be invested in other useful staff. This way you will be effective at every stage of the game, instead of waiting with useless feats until the high lvls in order to shine.

For example, you could take Eldrich Heritage (Arcane) and Improved Familiar and have Faerie Dragon casting haste on you without losing your own actions.

Azata Blooded Aassimar, 15 pb

STR 10
DEX 18
CON 12
INT 10
WIS 8
CHA 16

Would a 20 pb open up more options? How would you go about that?

It might alleviate the problem of having a high Str with enough Dex for TWF. But there would still be the problem of having too few feats in order to have the TWF feats on time. The solution would be to start the campaign at lvl 10 or so. This is not going to happen though, so I suggest to stay with the 15 point buy and avoid the heavy feat prereqs of TWFing.

Now an argument could be said about natural attacks and an agile AoMF. But really it is no need to start finding ways exploiting battled ances. Dervish Dance works from lvl 1 and scales with your lvls, it is good enough IMO.

Still, for the natural attack plan, you could consider being a SKinwalker (the Boar-kin or whatever they are named) for 2 hooves and another natural attack. After the agile AoMF you will be a beast. Until then you are going to be worse than the Aasimar one.

But really, a skinwalker dervish dancer? That is munchinism, my friend. :)


A possible feat path:

Trait: Blade of Mercy, Reactionary

1 DD Enforcer
3 DD Skill Focus: Knowledge (Arcana)
5 DD Eldrich Heritage (Arcane) (Arcane Bond)
7 DD Improved Familiar (Lyrakien Azata)
9 DD Arcane Strike
11 DD Improved Eldrich Heritage (Expanded Arcana)
12 Weapon Master Improved Critical (Scimitar)
13 Weapon Master Quicken Spell, Weapon Focus (Scimitar)
14 Weapon Master
15 DD Critical Focus
17 DD Staggering Critical
19 DD Improved Initiative


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Here is my opinion, for what it's worth.

I think that, when you take inspire courage away from a bard to focus on his own melee ability, there are better class options. Inspiring your group is the main ability the bard brings to a group (unless they are the better rogue option). That's why people cheer when one person shows up with a bard, because you are going to make them awesome. I wouldn't get rid of it, personally. If it is just you and one other melee and the rest are casters, maybe it makes sense at higher level play but, at 1st level through mid-levels, it helps those casters have crossbow options when their small load of spells are spent. Those actions add up until the casters start taking care of you in later levels.

Arcane duelist and savage skald could be built for melee and support. Half Orc savage skald power attacking with a falchion in melee, inspiring his comrades, extra buffing on crits, and making the other melee guy rage at critical fights could be fun. Cha can be lower with the half Orc racial option for +1 round of performance per level.

Another option might be arcane duelist 3 / order of the cockatrice cavalier 2 then into battle herald. Then you really inspire the group, debuff the enemy, and have a better bab progression. Plus you are laying tactician down with your other melee buddy.


Yeah that was my biggest worry about the two dervish builds. I really would like to inspire the group if possible. I haven't looked into savage skald yet maybe I'll read up some on them. For race I'd like to stick with human or aasimar most likely. Any other thoughts on the arcane duelist? They don't seem to be well liked.

Don't think I'm interested in any cavalier levels, not much interested in the class.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Have you thought about Arcane Duelist 5/Dragon Disciple4/Rest???

Grab a longspear, wear a buckler, you keep inspire courage and get Arcane Strike as bonus feat and a bonded item (see wizard).
You lose some of the vanilla bard stuff (esp. the knowledge/skill-related stuff).
With Dragon Disciple you add +4 to Str, some Natural Armor, natural attacks (bite, 2 claws for a couple of rounds/day) and better hp.

Ruyan.


Melee Bard Primary, Support Bard Secondary (options)

************************************

Straight Classical Bard

S: 14 D: 14 C: 12 I: 10 W: 9 Ch: 15 (15pt tengu)

Feat: Flag Bearer (1st), Lingering Performance (3rd), Arcane Strike (5th), Power Attack (7th)

- claw/claw/bite straight from level 1 => 3 attacks at full BAB is really nice
- Flag Bearer gives the party an extra +1/+1 always on, Inspire Courage on top of that gives you +2/+2 buffing

- this is a bard that keeps the excellent skill potential as well

************************************

Arcane Duelist Bard

S: 14 D: 15 C: 12 I: 10 W: 10 Ch: 14 (15pt ordinary human)

Feat: Arcane Strike (bard 1), Two Weapon Fighting (1st), Lingering Performance (human 1), Weapon Focus (3rd), Power Attack (5th)

- two weapon strikes via a quartstaff, enchant it at half cost at 5th level
- there are magical flags to hang on your quarterstaff that you can get

************************************

In any event, prop your to hit bonus up with Inspire Courage, Heroism spell, flanking, magic weapon effects, etc. Bards have a large list of options in this regard.


RuyanVe wrote:

Have you thought about Arcane Duelist 5/Dragon Disciple4/Rest???

Grab a longspear, wear a buckler, you keep inspire courage and get Arcane Strike as bonus feat and a bonded item (see wizard).
You lose some of the vanilla bard stuff (esp. the knowledge/skill-related stuff).
With Dragon Disciple you add +4 to Str, some Natural Armor, natural attacks (bite, 2 claws for a couple of rounds/day) and better hp.

Ruyan.

That is a cool combo but I wouldn't be able have a roleplaying justification for it.

Makes me realize just how many combinations I haven't looked at. It sucks being new. :p


I vote Arcane Duelist. I like that archetype, I think it is well-crafted for a combat-focused bard. The abilities you get compared to what you lose is a real plus for a "bard" that wants to portray himself as a fighter or knight or paladin. The theme supports multiple different front-line 'styles' and armored casting can workout to a nice advantage for a bard that stays in reach of the enemies.

Shadow Lodge

arcane duelist is awesome, especially when you focus on anticaster tactics


Is it better to focus on power strike and a 2hander with arcane duelist or dex and TWF?

Oh and I was able to get a 20 pb! So that makes things a bit easier.


Arcane Duelist is not a trap, but it is not a great archetype either. Look more carefully and you will see that the best features are just extra feats and, apart arcane strike, mediocre ones.

It is supposed to improve your martial prowess while keeping the core of the support bard. Yet it is not done right. The main feature of the archetype is the bladethirst which does not stack with inspire courage. This means that you either have inspire courage activated and you play a gimped bard (no versatile performance and lore master while not enjoying any special martial boost either) or you have bladethirst activated and you are a lesser version of a magus (no buffs to allies, no spellstrike or spell combat). In the end the bonus feats do not save the archetype from mediocrity, as you trade unique features of the class for feat sthat every fighter can have. Only Arcane Strike is worth it and with one good feat you cannot say that an archetype is good.

As a result, I suggest a dawnflower dervish or an arcaheologist as melee bards (DD is probably better) or a chelish diva for a more support oriented bard. If you expect many undead enemies dirge bard is a must.

Savage scald is still a mainly supportive archetype, but with decent Str and a high crit-range weapon (the rapier won't cut it, but if you are a half-orc you have access to the falchion) you can use Inspiring Blow in melee with good effect. Still I don't believe that it is as strong as the other options I talked about, unless you have a barbarian in your team.


Found out some more about the grp if it hrlps at all. Greatsword using ranger, conjuration school wizard and a plague bringer alchemist.

Still so undecided. I don't want lose inspire as grp buffs but dervish really looks so much better.

Thanks for all the advice so far, still lots to think about.


A supportive bard is probably your best choice, both the ranger and the alchemist will appreciate the bonuses that you will giving them.

The chelish diva does this better, use a longspear and the flagbearer feat with the banner of the ancient kings, along with lingering performance and improved initiative.

Otherwise a dawnflower dervish will work great. In the sample build I posted, raise Str to 13 and take Power Attack instead of improved critical at 12 lvl (Imp. Crit. at 13th lvl instead of weapon focus) with the 20pb.

A dex based aasimar savage scald would be a compromise between the supportive and the melee bard, with a clear emphasis on the supportive part. Use a rapier and shield and your alt. racial class bonus on inspire courage.

Shadow Lodge

I'm just saying I've tried the other bard types and I found arcane duelist worked best for me, maybe you'll find something different works for your personal play style

Liberty's Edge

You might consider a half-elf archaeologist bard who takes the scimitar proficiency from his race and goes for the Dervish Dancer feat. I found it was fun and quite effective! You won't be able to inspire courage, but you would be able to provide all of the face, trap-finding, and skill-monkey rolls a rogue would normally fill.

The Fate's Favored trait is a huge boost to this archetype's power, and with a courageous +1 scimitar and extended heroism, every attack, save, and skill roll that I care to use my archaeologist's luck on is very, very likely to succeed. Fight defensively, because you'll probably still hit on anything but a 1.


For a support bard who is also good in melee, Arcane Duelist is the way to go. For a melee bard that can do some support, Dawnflower dervish is what you want.


Bardic Dave wrote:
For a support bard who is also good in melee, Arcane Duelist is the way to go. For a melee bard that can do some support, Dawnflower dervish is what you want.

This seems like a pretty good way to put it. It seems like I just need to figure out which I'd rather do.

XMorsX wrote:
A dex based aasimar savage scald would be a compromise between the supportive and the melee bard, with a clear emphasis on the supportive part. Use a rapier and shield and your alt. racial class bonus on inspire courage.

Would you mind giving me an idea of what this would look like? I haven't looked too much into the finesse feats yet and this sounds really interesting.

Silver Crusade

Here's a post from someone who played a melee bard from levels 1 through 15. He emphasizes how awesome the inferior-seeming longspear can be for a Bard. It also works great with the Flagbearer feat. This gives your entire team +2 +2 combat bonuses from first level, for the win.


I played a melee bard from level 1-12 and I can attest to the awesomeness of the longspear for this kind of character.


Magda Luckbender wrote:
Here's a post from someone who played a melee bard from levels 1 through 15. He emphasizes how awesome the inferior-seeming longspear can be for a Bard. It also works great with the Flagbearer feat. This gives your entire team +2 +2 combat bonuses from first level, for the win.

Great thread, thanks a bunch for the link.

Bardic Dave wrote:
I played a melee bard from level 1-12 and I can attest to the awesomeness of the longspear for this kind of character.

Did you do this with an Arcane Duelist?


I actually did it with Savage Skald, for flavour reasons. It was a Norse Campaign.


lindz wrote:
Bardic Dave wrote:
For a support bard who is also good in melee, Arcane Duelist is the way to go. For a melee bard that can do some support, Dawnflower dervish is what you want.

This seems like a pretty good way to put it. It seems like I just need to figure out which I'd rather do.

XMorsX wrote:
A dex based aasimar savage scald would be a compromise between the supportive and the melee bard, with a clear emphasis on the supportive part. Use a rapier and shield and your alt. racial class bonus on inspire courage.
Would you mind giving me an idea of what this would look like? I haven't looked too much into the finesse feats yet and this sounds really interesting.

Actually, I re-read the Inspiring Blow performance, it does not worth to build around it. So, the savage skald should be built like the typical supportive bard, using a long spear, with decent Str and Dex. The only difference is that with Virtuoso Performance and Shadow Bard you will combine Inspire ccourage with the performances taht are granted by the archetype, namely Incite Rage and Berserkergang. Horn of the Valhala is also fun.

Interestingly enough, Savage Skald stacks with Chelish Diva, which is one of my favorite bard archetypes as you could tell by now. It wil let you take advantage of the amazing Scathing Tirade and eventually wear a mithral full plate.

An Azata-blooded Aasimar should probably have a stat array like this for a support bard (20 pb, not the dawnflower dervish archetype):

STR 14
DEX 16
CON 14
INT 12
WIS 8
CHA 16

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