How do you build an Arcane Duelist-styled Bard in this edition?


Advice


In PF1e, my favorite way to play a bard in combat was to grab a sword, load up on melee feats and go to town. Spells played a support/utility role.

Maybe it's just my unfamiliarity with the system, but it seems to me that there isn't any provision or affordance to push a bard in a more martial direction.

I suppose I could multiclass fighter to add some cool melee tricks, but the fighter feats don't seem to increase damage that much so I'm not sure how a bard's melee attacks stay relevant over time. Am I just supposed to rely on weapon runes for damage?


There are VERY few feats that increase your damage. That's true for all classes and all combat styles. Your damge isn't supposed to come from feats anymore. You get your damage from your stats, your weapon, some buffs and Weapon Specialization. And a level 20 fighter will deal only about 7 more damage than a bard, which isn't much at that level. His main advantage is the much better chance to hit due to better weapon proficiencies.

Fighter Multiclass is probably your best bet. Or Champion if you want heavier armor. Just don't expect to get much extra damage out of either. It's more about getting more flexibility wiht various special attacks. Those will rarely add some damage and more oftn than not do stuff like debuffing enemies by making them flat-footed or frightened or something like that.


As Blave says, damage is fine as-is. Bard multiclassing Fighter is still a great choice though, as there are several Fighter feats that give you fun stuff to do. Things like Combat Grab let you get some combat tricks, and Duelist's Parry is a nice defensive move, though you're probably fine with just the Shield Cantrip.

If you were going Str-based Duelist, wielding a Bastard Sword and taking the Fighter feat "Dual Handed Assault" with Multiclass at 8th level is great. That feat lets you use both hands to hit extra hard with a one handed weapon (for normal weapons you just increase the die one step, but for weapons with the Two Hand trait you instead use the two-hand die, d12 in the case of this weapon, and add an extra +1 damage per weapon die). It has the Flourish tag (you can only use one Flourish move in a round), but that's no downside to you since you likely aren't attacking more than once per round. So you could cast Shield, move in, attack, or move in, Demoralize, attack, or use a Composition Cantrip, move in, attack, or such. With Haste you can cast a spell, move in, and still attack, all of these letting you land two-hand levels of weapon damage while keeping a hand free.

You could also go Fighter with Bard multiclass, but that leaves behind a lot of Bard-ness. Bard with Fighter MC (Or even just Bard with Rapier plain and simple) is a perfectly effective fighter, especially with their buff options.


As Edge93 noted, bard-fighter with buffs could be a decent way to go. Although a fighter/bard will be better at attackingl. As for buffs, inspire courage, inspire defense, and dirge of doom are all potentially decent ways to gain an advantage in combat. If you're a polymath muse you can ignore the need to pump intimidation if you want to demoralise in combat. If going 1-handed then the fighter has some nice 1-handed options.
Personally if I were going bard primary as a martial, I'd probably consider playing an archer, so I could go inspire courage with the occasional True Strike.

For a considerably more dumb and less mobile build I might consider getting a familiar and going heavy crossbow, spending my turn on spell + move/buff, buff+ attack+command familiar to do both reloads, or attack+command reload+move. It's fairly niche though and I think it would take some effort to make as fun as another weapon.

Liberty's Edge

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There's a nasty combo you can do with Rogue Multiclass as well. That lets you pick up Dread Striker, which makes enemies count as Flat Footed against you when they're Frightened. Combine that with Dirge of Doom for an artificial +3 to hit for yourself that also buffs all your comrades.

The Half Orc melee Bard in Chapter 5 of my playtest game combined this combo with Fighter Multiclass (from the Human Ancestry Feat) and a Bastard Sword to do some very nasty stuff. That combo's more Feat-intensive now than it was then, but it's still doable, and the Rogue version alone if very doable.


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It's a very weak option that requires a lot of investment. Look at the suggestions being given, hit "hard" once with a weapon after a huge investment in strength and feats or just use a cantrip for similar damage.

If it's done in the future it will most likely be an archetype that scales down spell slots for melee specific features.

Liberty's Edge

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It's really not weak. You can get very respectable DPR if you focus on it, especially with the combo I mention above, or when using Focus for Inspire Greatness.

You're doing only two actions of attacks rather than three, but that's hardly crippling, especially given the buff you provide everyone else.


And it doesn't even take that many feats. The combo I mentioned works with two feats and lets you use one of the highest-damage weapon strikes in the game while still doing plenty else with your turn. And it takes one action where a Cantrip takes two. Only making one weapon attack per turn isn't a bad thing like it was in PF1, either.

As for the investment in Str, its not that huge a deal. With how PF2 abiloty score boosts work you've still got plenty else to put into other scores even if you put as much into Str as possible.

And just to give a quick comparison on weapon vs. Cantrip for that build, using level 8 which is where the two-handed strike comes online.

Weapon, +15 to-hit, 2d12+6 damage (average 19).

Typical Cantrip, +16 to-hit, 4d4+4 damage (average 14).

(A regular hit from a Longsword without feats also has +15 to hit and does 2d8+4, average 13 BTW)

Even considering the -1 to hit, the weapon does about 30% more damage and only takes one action (yes the Cantrip is ranged and it gets +1d4 damage next level, but the weapon is still stronger). Even with no feats you have a nearly-equal attack for one action instead of two.

And all that said, if you're already in melee or you have Haste, you can do both!

An addendum to this, I'm not sure Bards have an offensive Cantrip besides Telekinetic Projectile and Daze. The former does use d6s for damage but also RAW uses Dex to hit (may be a typo), which means it has less accuracy. And Daze does 2d6 instead of 4d4 with a potential minor debuff.

So the weapon build here is still in a pretty good place.


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If you want to be a character that uses a weapon a has magic for support and utility then you should am have a martial as your main class and multi class into a caster.


citricking wrote:
If you want to be a character that uses a weapon a has magic for support and utility then you should am have a martial as your main class and multi class into a caster.

That's really dependent on how much you want to use the magic. Can multiclassing martial are still highly comoetent combatants, there's no reason you can't go that route if you want that full casting progression.


Blave wrote:

There are VERY few feats that increase your damage. That's true for all classes and all combat styles. Your damge isn't supposed to come from feats anymore. You get your damage from your stats, your weapon, some buffs and Weapon Specialization. And a level 20 fighter will deal only about 7 more damage than a bard, which isn't much at that level. His main advantage is the much better chance to hit due to better weapon proficiencies.

Fighter Multiclass is probably your best bet. Or Champion if you want heavier armor. Just don't expect to get much extra damage out of either. It's more about getting more flexibility wiht various special attacks. Those will rarely add some damage and more oftn than not do stuff like debuffing enemies by making them flat-footed or frightened or something like that.

Interesting. It seems like the bulk of the damage as you level will come from weapon dice increases. So what happens if your weapon is stolen or destroyed? Do you just need to have a backup weapon of around the same level handy?

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

Combat bards work great if you try to build a competent combatant that elevates themself and everyone else in the party rather than just a fantastic destroyer-of-faces on their own.

Things like Inspire Heroics and Dirge of Doom tilt things in your favor, especially if you Harmonize them together. You got plenty of spells to help like Blur, Ray of Enfeeblement, and Haste. You can conjurer up a flank-buddy (even an illusory one) to help you hit and deal damage in their own.

Dedications can augment things like giving you a wider selection of weapons or armor to use. You can pick up a reaction to use in combat for more opportunities to damage stuff. Feats like Bespell Weapon or Sneak Attacker can directly increase damage, while Combat Grab or Sudden Charge gives you more options to pick from mid-combat.

If you want to be an amazing combatant that does bard things, you might be better off starting as a Fighter, Ranger, Rogue, etc. that dedicates to Bard and grab some spells and Inspirational Performance. If you want to be a bard that focuses on combat, you can do that pretty easily by picking a few select feats.


nomenoblitum wrote:
Blave wrote:

There are VERY few feats that increase your damage. That's true for all classes and all combat styles. Your damge isn't supposed to come from feats anymore. You get your damage from your stats, your weapon, some buffs and Weapon Specialization. And a level 20 fighter will deal only about 7 more damage than a bard, which isn't much at that level. His main advantage is the much better chance to hit due to better weapon proficiencies.

Fighter Multiclass is probably your best bet. Or Champion if you want heavier armor. Just don't expect to get much extra damage out of either. It's more about getting more flexibility wiht various special attacks. Those will rarely add some damage and more oftn than not do stuff like debuffing enemies by making them flat-footed or frightened or something like that.

Interesting. It seems like the bulk of the damage as you level will come from weapon dice increases. So what happens if your weapon is stolen or destroyed? Do you just need to have a backup weapon of around the same level handy?

For a caster you would kinda need a similarly powerful backup weapon, yeah. Though a stolen/destroyed weapon is super rare, to be fair. You aren't completely out of luck without one, for most of the game you're looking at 2dx+4 vs 1dx+4 (with -1 accuracy) or 3dx+6 vs 1dx+6 (with -2 to hit) for top-notch weapon vs. my weapon. Painful damage drop, but not impossible to live with until you get a replacement.

For Martials it's a little less important because they get better damage from Weapon Specialization, so their gap in magic vs. non-magic weapons is smaller. Still good to have a backup if your GM is the type to jack up your weapons while not doing the same to ypur backups.


Pinstripedbarbarian wrote:

Combat bards work great if you try to build a competent combatant that elevates themself and everyone else in the party rather than just a fantastic destroyer-of-faces on their own.

Things like Inspire Heroics and Dirge of Doom tilt things in your favor, especially if you Harmonize them together.

That takes up three actions every round and nails you to the floor, though, unless you have Haste to have an extra action to move/strike. Harmonize is only really good as a prerequisite for Symphony of the Muse at 20th or for an NPC whose role is to stand still in the middle of a huge platoon of allies and double buff them.


Xenocrat wrote:
Pinstripedbarbarian wrote:

Combat bards work great if you try to build a competent combatant that elevates themself and everyone else in the party rather than just a fantastic destroyer-of-faces on their own.

Things like Inspire Heroics and Dirge of Doom tilt things in your favor, especially if you Harmonize them together.

That takes up three actions every round and nails you to the floor, though, unless you have Haste to have an extra action to move/strike. Harmonize is only really good as a prerequisite for Symphony of the Muse at 20th or for an NPC whose role is to stand still in the middle of a huge platoon of allies and double buff them.

Couldn't a maestro bard blow two focus points and use Lingering Composition to extend each effect? You wouldn't get inspire heroics in that, but you'd get your actions back. Or is there a limit to how many focus spells you can use in a round?


I really like DMW's DOD Bard idea. Sucks that it takes so long to come online, though; you need to be level 8 before you can take Dread Striker. I feel like I'm having that issue with a lot of interesting builds in PF2, though that was a long standing issue with PF1 as well.


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nomenoblitum wrote:
Xenocrat wrote:
Pinstripedbarbarian wrote:

Combat bards work great if you try to build a competent combatant that elevates themself and everyone else in the party rather than just a fantastic destroyer-of-faces on their own.

Things like Inspire Heroics and Dirge of Doom tilt things in your favor, especially if you Harmonize them together.

That takes up three actions every round and nails you to the floor, though, unless you have Haste to have an extra action to move/strike. Harmonize is only really good as a prerequisite for Symphony of the Muse at 20th or for an NPC whose role is to stand still in the middle of a huge platoon of allies and double buff them.
Couldn't a maestro bard blow two focus points and use Lingering Composition to extend each effect? You wouldn't get inspire heroics in that, but you'd get your actions back. Or is there a limit to how many focus spells you can use in a round?

You (probably) can't combine Lingering Composition with Harmonize because they both have the same trigger/requirement "if your next action is to start a composition" (approximately). And Harmonize only protects the composition it is attached to from later compositions, it does not protect those later compositions from additional compositions, including Harmonized ones.

So on round one you can do Harmonize, (harmonized) Composition 1, (lingering composition) Composition 2. Composition 2 would then be extended. But you couldn't start another composition, even a harmonized one, without ending Composition 2, because it isn't itself harmonized.

Edit: This is actually slightly ambiguous, because the common trigger limitation is supposed to apply to reactions/free actions, and Harmonize is an action that isn't supposed to have a trigger per se, even though it's written as if it does.

Limitations on Triggers, CRB 462 wrote:
The triggers listed in the stat blocks of reactions and some free actions limit when you can use those actions. You can use only one action in response to a given trigger. For example, if you had a reaction and a free action that both had a trigger of “your turn begins,” you could use either of them at the start of your turn—but not both. If two triggers are similar, but not identical, the GM determines whether you can use one action in response to each or whether they’re effectively the same thing. Usually, this decision will be based on what’s happening in the narrative.

Harmonize and Lingering Composition both have identical "triggers" even though Harmonize is neither a free action or reaction. I don't think they're supposed to work together. But if they are you could set up two lingering compositions on round 1 and then forget about them for a while, I guess. Or set up a single harmonized lingering composition on round 1 and toss in some secondary compositions on later rounds.


Edge93 wrote:

And it doesn't even take that many feats. The combo I mentioned works with two feats and lets you use one of the highest-damage weapon strikes in the game while still doing plenty else with your turn. And it takes one action where a Cantrip takes two. Only making one weapon attack per turn isn't a bad thing like it was in PF1, either.

As for the investment in Str, its not that huge a deal. With how PF2 abiloty score boosts work you've still got plenty else to put into other scores even if you put as much into Str as possible.

And just to give a quick comparison on weapon vs. Cantrip for that build, using level 8 which is where the two-handed strike comes online.

Weapon, +15 to-hit, 2d12+6 damage (average 19).

Typical Cantrip, +16 to-hit, 4d4+4 damage (average 14).

(A regular hit from a Longsword without feats also has +15 to hit and does 2d8+4, average 13 BTW)

Even considering the -1 to hit, the weapon does about 30% more damage and only takes one action (yes the Cantrip is ranged and it gets +1d4 damage next level, but the weapon is still stronger). Even with no feats you have a nearly-equal attack for one action instead of two.

And all that said, if you're already in melee or you have Haste, you can do both!

An addendum to this, I'm not sure Bards have an offensive Cantrip besides Telekinetic Projectile and Daze. The former does use d6s for damage but also RAW uses Dex to hit (may be a typo), which means it has less accuracy. And Daze does 2d6 instead of 4d4 with a potential minor debuff.

So the weapon build here is still in a pretty good place.

You need 3 feats before you can take the half level multiclass. So you've severely hurt your ability to be a Bard.

You don't have a lot to spare. As a Bard you would aim for high charisma and dex, after that it's con and wisdom. 4 stats for the 4 boosts.

So what stat do you cripple for strength? Your ac and reflex, your hit points and fort or your will and perception?

It would be fling for 4d6+4, probably a typo but dex is the second most important stat for Bards. It will scale and requires no investment. But that's something to fall back on when you aren't casting spells and songs

As I pointed out this requires 75% of your feats and cripples one of your stats for an effect that doesn't come online until level 8 and scales terribly.


IMO martial bard works much better as an archer. true strike + attack + inspire....works from lvl1 to lvl20 with no investment...and that true strike really helps them crits....and bows sure love to crit(deadly d10). Throw in ranger dedication + hunted shot for those 2 shots for 1 action and maybe even monster hunter with your bardic knowledges and you can be a really cool character

but, if you really love to go melee, true strike works as well(only verbal), and mirror image helps...but it's harder to cast and strike consistently while you have to stride and step into melee....and inspire. It has to be a dex build if you don't go champion dedication...but if you do(liberator sounds cool), then you can go 16, 10, 12, 10, 12, 18 and use heavy armors all the way...but then you don't have a good str melee weapon in your profs.


Hmm...other than the Cantrips a lot of this advice burns through your spell resources really fast. There's a lot less magic to go around, so there's no spamming True Strikes.

Looking at your OP, it sounds like you used a Bard chassis to make a martial, with the spells being secondary.
In PF2, Bards are a full caster and their songs (Composition Cantrips now) never make up for the loss of BAB (or its PF2 equivalent, proficiency). So there's a cost they've paid for that in lower weapon proficiencies and a much later Weapon Specialization. You may not even notice at the lower levels because only the Fighter has a head start, though others are getting unique tricks. And you'll fall behind, at least as a martial.
Think Eldritch Knight, and not so much Magus.

That's not to say a 1 strike/round PC that boosts his allies isn't good, especially if leaving that beautiful stock of magic on call to go nova in the worst fights. But you won't be able to "go to town" as a martial like you did, not without burning lots of spells which also uses up lots of actions, just to catch up to what you can get from a martial class directly.

So yes, you can build around that cost of being a full caster, catching up to a generic martial, maybe learning some of their lesser tricks, but you're still really a full caster with a side gig. All the non-caster classes have perks that make them better than that and proficiencies and specialization which add that damage you're not finding in their feats.

So I recommend Fighter with a Bard Dedication. Pick up a few feats for moves you like, but really take Fighter so you have the best non-feat base warrior that doesn't use actions to buff and where you can use class feats to be enough Bard.
(Arguably, a singing Cleric of Shelyn might be a better fit, since Wisdom>Charisma and Inspire Courage is at 8th.)
Speaking of which, while War Priests are also full casters, they have given up some spell proficiency to have better martial proficiencies so that's a similar route with decent spell buffs. It's too bad there wasn't a similar Battle Bard option.

And as DMW mentioned, Rogue may be even better, especially if you are going to use some stat boosts on Cha for a Bard Dedication. You can drop Str and still do good damage while maintaining a good AC. And if you're new to the system, you'll really appreciate the ridiculous amount of skills (& skill feats) Rogues get w/ only a 10 Int (freeing up another stat).

Of course, if it's just the Arcane Duelist imagery of a glowing warrior you want, a Champion has Focus Spells & Sword Ally and a dragon or spirit instinct Barbarian can add energy damage to weapons.

Nerd-ramble over,
Cheers.


Edge93 wrote:
citricking wrote:
If you want to be a character that uses a weapon a has magic for support and utility then you should am have a martial as your main class and multi class into a caster.
That's really dependent on how much you want to use the magic. Can multiclassing martial are still highly comoetent combatants, there's no reason you can't go that route if you want that full casting progression.

I guess that depends on what you consider competent. A bard MC fighter focused on strength will do about 50% of the expected damage of a fighter mc bard.

Granted the fighter doesn't get inspire courage until level 8.

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