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 a flying blade swashbuckler build.
Every now and then I like to take a character that I’ve personally played and present him here on Iconic Design. Today I’m going to share my current PFS character: Hirokyu the swashbuckling kitsune hibachi chef!
As a kit, Hirokyu was abandoned outside of New Oppara in Amanandar. Found and raised by anti-Taldean bandits on the colony’s frontiers, young Hirokyu was put to work in the gang’s kitchens as soon as he was old enough to hold a ladle. When the bandits were found and routed by authorities, Hirokyu was brought back to New Oppara and placed in foster care. Despite his race, Hirokyu’s affiliation with a gang (even a disbanded one) and his prodigal cooking skills earned him protection and admiration from older and younger children alike. At age 15, Hirokyu sailed from New Oppara across the world to Absalom seeking new experiences and recipes. He ultimately joined the Pathfinder Society in order to travel the Inner Sea in search of rare and exotic cooking ingredients and recipes.
In his human form, Hirokyu possesses a mix of Taldean and Tien-Shu heritage, lending to the possibility that one of his parents was human. Hirokyu’s mysterious heritage plays favorably for him when dealing with his faction, the Sovereign Court, as they see him as being familiar enough to be allowed a degree of respect within the faction while remaining exotic enough for him to be memorable and left somewhat to his own eccentrics.
I actually decided on making Hirokyu a flying blade after the archetype was revealed during the ACG Swashbuckler preview; the idea of playing a chef who fought with swagger and knives was too fun to pass up.
- Swashbuckler (Flying Blade): The heart and soul of the build is the swashbuckler class. Flying blade is a neat (although far from perfect) archetype. Embarrassingly enough, it took me a while to figure out what this archetype was supposed to be good at, as if the fact that every single deed that the class provides interacts with panache wasn’t clue enough! I prefer to think of the flying blade as a bit of a close-range switch hitter: you focus on ranged attacks and with any luck the rest of your class is good enough at melee that you don’t need to worry much about it.
- Fighter: After a few test builds, it was very clear that I wasn’t going to be able to grab all of the feats that I was going to need in a timely fashion without some assistance. In this case, that assistance is the fighter class. I’m only dipping for two levels for this build, but the slightly better Fortitude save and the two extra feats are well worth it for this build.
Early Levels (1–7)
- Classes: Swashbuckler (Flying Blade) 5, Fighter 2
- Feats: Weapon Focus: dagger (1st), Point-Blank Shot (3rd), Precise Shot (Bonus), Deadly Aim (Bonus), Quick Draw (5th), Weapon Specialization: dagger (bonus), Point-Blank Master (7th)
- Abilities: bravery +1, charmed life 3/day, deeds, flying blade training +1, panache, nimble +1
The early levels of the build are a bit of a scramble to get a few key feats and class features. Early on, I’m mostly melee because of my lack of resources and feats that boost my ranged capabilities. Damage is someone scant until 3rd level when the precise strike deed activates, and Point-Blank Shot activates not too long afterwards. Now personally, I take Levels 4 and 5 in Fighter for the bonus feat after gaining precise strike since it is such an important aspect of swashbuckler damage. Level 4 grants me Precise Strike, which is where ranged attacks start becoming much more viable (that –4 penalty really hurts early on) and Level 4 grants me Deadly Aim and Quick Draw. Deadly Aim is an obvious choice and every thrown weapon specialist needs Quick Draw by 6th level or you aren’t able to make a full attack with your thrown weapons. At Level 6, I go back into swashbuckler and pick up Weapon Specialization: dagger, as my swashbuckler levels count as fighter levels when qualifying for swashbuckler bonus feats. Weapon Specialization (and Weapon Focus) are nice because they apply regardless of whether I use my dagger in melee or at range, unlike many other feats that I’ve taken so far.
Some people question my choice of taking Point-Blank Master, which essentially makes my subtle throw deed pointless. Subtle throw allows me to spend a panache point when I make a ranged attack to avoid attacks of opportunity with that attack, or at 6th level I can spend a panache as a swift action to prevent all my melee attacks from provoking. Personally, I think that subtle throw is a poor deed because of the high panache cost early on and the swift action cost later on. I would rather take a feat and ignore the deed then use the deed and have it contend with my ability to make an opportune parry or use the precise strike deed or charming life. I get wanting to base the class around swift action management, but there comes a point when that’s too much, and that point happens VERY early on to the swashbuckler. If you don’t want to ignore this dead, I would recommend either bumping up Rapid Shot (see mid levels) or picking up either Combat Reflexes, Critical Focus, Extra Panache, or Arcane Strike (you qualify because of your racial dancing lights spell-like ability).
With all those thoughts out in the open, let’s move on to the mid levels to see how Hirokyu is doing.
Mid Levels (8 –14)
- Classes: Swashbuckler (Flying Blade) 12, Fighter 2
- Feats: Weapon Focus: dagger (1st), Point-Blank Shot (3rd), Precise Shot (Bonus), Deadly Aim (Bonus), Quick Draw (5th), Weapon Specialization: dagger (bonus), Point-Blank Master (7th), Rapid Shot (9th), Greater Weapon Focus: dagger (Bonus), Piranha Attack (11th), Improved Precise Shot (13th), Signature Deed: precise throw (Bonus)
- Abilities: bravery +1, charmed life 5/day, deeds, flying blade training +2, panache, nimble +3
From here on out, it’s all swashbuckler, all the time for Hirokyu. Abilities-wise, Hirokyu doesn’t really gain anything special beyond the standard swashbuckler fair. Many of the additional deeds that the flying blade gains merely alter standard swashbuckler deeds so they can be used with ranged attacks, so most of the interesting parts of the build happen in feats. At 9th level, I grabbed Rapid Shot as a feat. If you use this build in a home game, you’ll want to make sure that you’ve acquired a blinkback belt before you take Rapid Shot; if you don’t have it by this point, I would instead put off Rapid Shot and grab a different feat instead. An easy choice (and one that I will likely do myself if I haven’t gotten a blinkback belt in PFS by Level 9) is to take Piranha Strike at Level 9 instead, which will give your melee attacks extra bite to match your ranged attacks.
Greater Weapon Focus: dagger is a sorely-needed bonus on attack rolls when it comes at Level 10 (Level 8 Swashbuckler) and Improved Precise Shot allows you to ignore a lot of the subtle nuisances of terrain with your daggers. Perhaps my favorite choice (if it is legal) is taking Signature Deed with the precise throw deed, which was earned way back in the early game. With Signature Deed, you essentially ignore all ranged incremental penalties with your daggers all the time. Normally, this may not seem like a big deal because thrown weapons only have a 10 foot range increment, but between flying blade training and precise throw, you gain a rather sizable bonus to your dagger’s range increments. Precise Throw gives +5 feet while you have a panache point and each increment of flying blade training gives another +5 feet, so when you take Signature Deed at 14th level (10th level swashbuckler, you’re looking at having the ability to attack anyone within 5 range increments of 25 feet at no penalty. Sadly, 14th level isn’t commonly experienced in PFS, so I’ll likely have to retire Hirokyu before I get to pull this off. Still, a guy can dream, right?
- Classes: Swashbuckler (Flying Blade) 18, Fighter 2
- Feats: Weapon Focus: dagger (1st), Point-Blank Shot (3rd), Precise Shot (Bonus), Deadly Aim (Bonus), Quick Draw (5th), Weapon Specialization: dagger (bonus), Point-Blank Master (7th), Rapid Shot (9th), Greater Weapon Focus: dagger (Bonus), Piranha Attack (11th), Improved Precise Shot (13th), Signature Deed: precise throw (Bonus), Greater Weapon Specialization: dagger (15th), Critical Focus (17th), Bleeding Critical (Bonus), Combat Reflexes (19th)
- Abilities: bravery +1, charmed life 7/day, deeds, flying blade training +4, panache, nimble +4
So I’ll be honest, I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to do with Hirokyu at the end game, if only because Pathfinder Society typically ends around 12th level. Greater Weapon Specialization is definitely in the cards because sources of bonus damage are difficult to come buy and Greater Weapon Specialization helps out my character’s melee attacks and his ranged attacks. Aside from that, I’m not entirely sure what I’m looking for. Grabbing Bleeding Critical seems pretty good, as I have a constant Improved Critical effect with my daggers. But the 19th level feat? Probably a toss up between either Combat Reflexes, Extra Panache, or Steadfast Personality (or Rapid Shot if I didn’t take it sooner).
Class feature wise, the end game is mostly an increase of bonuses on stuff I already have. Better nimble, better flying blade training, and so on. I also get a few more deeds, but the 15th and 17th ones aren’t crazy important to my build and I also miss out on the 19th level deeds as well as flying blade mastery. In the long run, however, I think that the improvements to my switch hitting abilities more than make up for it.
And with that, you’ve seen my PFS build for my swashbuckling kitsune hibachi chef! What do you think? Is this an effective switch hitter or a poor ranged character? How would you have built a flying blade swashbuckler? Does my backstory whet your appetite? Leave your comments below and I look forward to hearing from you next time!
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 hibachi chef, and yes, he’s aware that he’s used this joke before.