Iconic Design: Time to Buckle Our Swash!

Welcome to Guidance, Private Sanctuary’s source for tips and techniques for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, written by Everyman Gamer Alexander Augunas. Today, we’re going to be looking at an Iconic Design for Elan, from the Order of the Stick.

I –really– hesitated doing this build, folks. This is build that is very easy for me to get wrong, but hopefully I got it right. The reason this build is easy to mess up is that it is based on a character that is created with similar game mechanics in mind. It should come to no surprise that today’s Iconic Design character is Elan, from the Order of the Stick.

Background

Elan is one of the main characters of a 700 page comic series called Order of the Stick. He’s a bard who later becomes a dashing swordsman. I’m going to refrain saying anything else about Elan because Order of the Stick is an awesome read and I’m willing to bet that most of my readers know all about him. Those who don’t, go to giantitp.com and read Order of the Stick. It might take you a few days, but you’ll be glad you did. The humor and storytelling alike are phenomenal.

Build Concept

In this week’s Iconic Design, I’m going to do my best to simulate Elan’s build over his full Order of the Stick career. Since Elan is likely 15th Level or so by the present stripe, much of the end game is going to be predictions in my part. It’s also worth noting that Elan is built for the third edition of one of the world’s most successful roleplaying games, so one thing you’re going to see is that Elan will generally be more powerful in my build then he is in the comics. This is just a symptom of the edition update. Sorry, but I have no interest in doing 3.5 stuff!

  • Bard. Duh. We’re not giving Elan any archetypes because the bard’s most commonly traded abilities (inspire courage and inspire competence) are both abilities that we’ve seen Elan use before. Sadly, none of the archetypes that don’t trade these two abilities fit him very well.
  • Swashbuckler. Okay, here me out on this one. Technically at the time I’m writing this article, the swashbuckler class doesn’t “exist” in print yet. At least, not as a Paizo class. I thought long and hard about this multiclass, and I almost didn’t write Elan’s build because I fought with the idea of using a class from the playtest to build him. But without a doubt, it’s the best class to simulate Elan’s skills. Is it perfect? No, but since the Dashing Swordsman doesn’t exist outside of Rich Berlew’s Order of the Stickiverse, we have to make due with what we’ve got. This is honestly the most frustrating part about designing characters that were designed with games mechanics in mind: trying to find perfect fits.

Early Levels (1–7)

  • Classes: Bard 7
  • Feats: Skill Focus (Profession: Storyteller), Lingering Performance (1st), Harmonic Spell (3rd), Lightning Reflexes (5th), Weapon Focus: rapier (7th)
  • Abilities: Bardic Knowledge, Bardic Performance (16+Cha rounds/day; countersong, distraction, inspire competence +3, inspire courage +2, suggestion), Versatile Performance (Sing, String), Well-Versed
  • 3rd-Level Spells Known: good hope, major image
  • 2nd-Level Spells Known: Rat Quadrille (Bardic Masterpiece), bestow insight, heroism, minor image
  • 1st-Level Spells Known: moment of greatness, silent image, timely inspiration, toilsome chant, ventriloquism
  • 0-Level Spells Known: dancing lights, ghost sound, haunted fey aspect, lullaby, message, prestidigitation

Okay, so I know that taking the sing and string versatile performances right after one another isn’t a great idea, but Elan’s primary means of performing bardic music is his voice and his lute so it seems appropriate. That’s sort of the stance that I took for a lot of these abilities, especially Elan’s spellcasting. When you get right down to it, we don’t really see Elan casting many spells. Because of his love of drama, I like to think that he has a lot of spells that allow his party to succeed when he deems it dramatically appropriate, which is why both moment of greatness and timely inspiration are on Elan’s spell list.

Giving Elan the Rat Quadrille bardic masterpiece (from Paizo’s Magical Marketplace) instead of a 2nd level bard spell was a choice I made for several reasons. One, we don’t really ever see Elan casting many spells, so reducing the number of spells he has access to didn’t seem like a big deal. Two, the Rat Quadrille is based around annoying the crude out of your opponent, and Elan seems like he’d be great out of it. We’ve got many Elan-themed spells on the list despite this, however, such as ventriloquism and a plethora of illusions. If there’s one type of magic Elan uses often, it’s illusions.

Skill Focus: storyteller is another liberal choice on my part. I wanted Elan to have ranks in a skill that could represent his mastery over plot and exposition, and without a better alternative, Skill Focus: storyteller seemed like an excellent fit. Now, if we could find a character trait that allowed Elan to use his Charisma bonus instead of Wisdom on a single Profession check we’d be golden with this build. That, of course, is a very simple (and appropriate) house rule.

Mid Levels (8 –14)

  • Classes: Bard 11, Swashbuckler 3
  • Feats: Skill Focus (Profession: Storyteller), Lingering Performance (1st), Harmonic Spell (3rd), Lightning Reflexes (5th), Weapon Focus: rapier (7th), Weapon Finesse (Swashbuckler Bonus), Dazzling Display (9th), Dramatic Display (11th), Performing Combatant (13th)
  • Abilities: Bardic Knowledge, Bardic Performance (24+Cha rounds/day; countersong, dirge of doom, distraction, inspire competence +3, inspire courage +2, inspire greatness, suggestion), Charmed Life 3/Day, Deeds, Lore Master 1/Day, Nimble +1, Swashbuckler Finesse, Versatile Performance (Sing, String), Well-Versed
  • 4th-Level Spells Known: cure critical wounds, heroic finale, neutralize poison
  • 3rd-Level Spells Known: The Quickening Pulse (Bardic Masterpiece), good hope, fearsome duplicate, major image
  • 2nd-Level Spells Known: Rat Quadrille (Bardic Masterpiece), bestow insight, bladed dash, heroism, minor image
  • 1st-Level Spells Known: moment of greatness, silent image, timely inspiration, toilsome chant, ventriloquism
  • 0-Level Spells Known: dancing lights, ghost sound, haunted fey aspect, lullaby, message, prestidigitation

So the idea here is to build Elan up to really make use of his performances in all aspects of play. Feat-wise, he builds into using his rapier as part of performance combat and by the end of this stage of the game, he can effectively treat any combat as a performance combat, allowing him to make checks to dazzle onlookers. I like to picture these performance combat checks as Elan’s narration of the events that are transpiring around him.

While the swashbuckler class could very well have changed drastically since the Advanced Class Guide playtest, the playtest version works wonderfully as a stand-in for Elan’s Dashing Swordsman prestige class. The panache system works well for Elan as many of the swashbuckler’s early deeds have a certain dramatic flair that our favorite bard will likely love. The build stays in swashbuckler long enough to pick up the precise strike deed, which gives Elan an extra 3 points of damage on his damage rolls, or 6 points if he spends a panache point when he strikes. While Elan is no damage-dealed master, he can hold his own between his inspire courage bonus and his precise strike bonus, which adds up to a +3 bonus on attack rolls and a +6 bonus on damage rolls.

As a finale note, I made sure to grab more illusion spells for Elan to empoy as well as another bardic masterpiece, which represents his lore in the field. In my head, Elan performs his new masterpiece, The Quickening Pulse, by playing his kazoo. So there’s that. Elan also starts to come into his support healer role around this level range; he’s the absolute supportiest he can be while maintaining his skills and tricks from the comic.

Endgame (15+)

  • Classes: Bard 17, Swashbuckler 3
  • Feats: Skill Focus (Profession: Storyteller), Lingering Performance (1st), Harmonic Spell (3rd), Lightning Reflexes (5th), Weapon Focus: rapier (7th), Weapon Finesse (Swashbuckler Bonus), Dazzling Display (9th), Dramatic Display (11th), Performing Combatant (13th), Hero’s Display (15th), Masterful Display (17th), Shatter Defenses (19th)
  • Abilities: Bardic Knowledge, Bardic Performance (24+Cha rounds/day; countersong, dirge of doom, distraction, frightening tune, inspire competence +5, inspire courage +4, inspire greatness, inspire heroics, soothing performance, suggestion), Charmed Life 3/Day, Deeds, Jack-of-all-Trades, Lore Master 3/Day, Nimble +1, Swashbuckler Finesse, Versatile Performance (Dance, Sing, String, Wind), Well-Versed
  • 6th-Level Spells Known: mass cure moderate wounds, permanent image, project image
  • 5th-Level Spells Known: bard’s escape, greater bladed dash, mass cure light wounds
  • 4th-Level Spells Known: cure critical wounds, heroic finale, neutralize poison, song of healing
  • 3rd-Level Spells Known: The Quickening Pulse (Bardic Masterpiece), good hope, fearsome duplicate, major image, reviving finale
  • 2nd-Level Spells Known: Rat Quadrille (Bardic Masterpiece), bestow insight, bladed dash, escaping ward, heroism, minor image
  • 1st-Level Spells Known: animate rope, moment of greatness, silent image, timely inspiration, toilsome chant, ventriloquism
  • 0-Level Spells Known: dancing lights, ghost sound, haunted fey aspect, lullaby, message, prestidigitation

So, since this stage of the game is completely in the realm of speculation, I decided that more levels of bard fit Elan very well. With these levels, Elan has gained increased support power through his spellcasting. I particularly like the combination of song of healing and reviving finale; when reviving finale ends song of healing, it triggers the song’s secondary healing effect.

Elan still manages to end his career with the maximum inspire courage benefit and he picks up a few neat tricks along the way. He can now use two Performance Combat feats at once, and because of Dazzling Display, he’s actually pretty good at triggering his performance combat feats. But to me, the pinnacle of what it means to be Elan comes at 19th level, when I decided to give Elan Shatter Defenses. This feat will make Haley’s life easier in regards to trying to sneak attack opponents, so it only makes sense to me that Elan would want to do everything he could to help his honey fight more effectively where he can.

Other Notes

I want to reiterate a point: while I did my best to stick to what we see of Elan in The Order of the Stick, let’s be honest. The characters in Order of the Stick are playing a game where they receive one feat every 3 levels instead of at every odd level. This is a game where their classes have half the power and their skill rank expenditure is limited by their class level. This is a game where 90% of the abilities I mentioned above don’t exist. In short, Order of the Stick is a very different world than the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. As a result, this build tries to stay true to Elan as a character; his tactics, his specialties, and what he might take if Rich Berlew ever decided to upgrade the Order of the Stick “campaign” to Pathfinder.

And there you have it; a functioning build inspired by Elan of Order of the Stick. I hope you enjoyed this one, because it was REALLY difficult to craft! What do you think? Is this a good representation of Elan’s abilities, or am I missing that one special ability to really bring the class together. Is this a build you’d consider? Why or why not? Should I continue to use Playtest Classes in my builds? I want to hear your answers! But until I do, I’ll catch you next time at Iconic Design!

Alexander “Alex” Augunas has been playing roleplaying games since 2007, which isn’t nearly as long as 90% of his colleagues. Alexander is an active freelancer for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and is best known as the author of the Pact Magic Unbound series by Radiance House. Alex is the owner of Everyman Gaming, LLC and is often stylized as the Everyman Gamer in honor of Guidance’s original home. Alex’s favorite color is blue, his favorite Pathfinder Race/Class combination is kitsune dashing swordsman, and his favorite pastime is punslinging.

Alex Augunas

Alexander Augunas lives outside of Philadelphia, USA where he tries to make a living as an educator. When he's not shaping the future leaders of tomorrow, Alex is a freelance writer for esteemed Pathfinder Roleplaying Game publishers such as Paizo, Inc, Radiance House, Raging Swan Press, and more, and also acts as a co-host and blogger on the Know Direction Network, where he has earned the nickname, "The Everyman Gamer." Recently, Alex has forayed into the realm of self-publishing through his company, Everyman Gaming, LLC.

Leave a Reply