Fox’s Cunning – Don’t Fear the Playtest

The Advanced Player’s Guide Playtest is out! And unless you’ve been living under a roc*, you’ve probably heard the hype regarding the four new classes. And if you haven’t checked them out yet, I highly recommend you go ahead and at least skim that file. But make sure you come back and tell me which class excites you the most!

Me, personally? It was hard finding just one class to review. Each of the new classes looks like a blast, with great synergy with existing ancestries and archetypes. But like a mommy roc returning to her nest, I found myself hopelessly drawn to the Dex-based swashbuckler! There is room for improvement, and you can already find some very well written guides and analyses for the class. But I’m here to highlight an understated truth behind not just my favorite self-hype fighter, but 2e and its future as a whole.

*I’ve been tempted to find a floofy birb myself to keep warm during the arctic blast.

Buckling Swash with Style

The swashbuckler exists somewhere between a one-handed weapon, Dexterity-based fighter and a high-mobility, combat-focused rogue. It can easily out-damage the rogue using finishers and panache, but it has very little out-of-combat utility without archetypes. And while its defense and damage consistency won’t match a well-balanced fighter, its mobility and ability to explode will make it appealing to the kind of heroic daredevil the class is meant to emulate.

In short, the mechanics of the swashbuckler are a flavor home-run.

For those of you familiar with the old swashbuckler, Parry & Riposte are no longer the time-consuming headache they were in 1e. Instead of countering an attack outright, the new riposte punishes a monster for a critical failure. Since monsters also suffer a multiple attack penalty and you’ll be playing a Dexterity-based character, it’s very likely a swashbuckler will still be able to use this ability multiple times in an encounter. Back in First Edition, many swashbucklers just found themselves never being attacked by parry-fatigued GMs, undermining their role as a frontliner.*

And because this is 2e, your swashbuckler won’t be starving for a slew of feats like Combat Reflexes and Slashing Grace just to function as a contributing adventurer. The class’s innate strength leaves you with room to pick abilities that appeal to you, even if they aren’t optimal for your character’s style of combat.

In short, don’t be afraid to experiment.

*It’s hard to feel like Errol Flynn when all the enemies just choose to ignore you and rush Olivia de Havilland.

So Cool It’s Scary

  • Ancestry: Hobgoblin
  • Background: Warrior (or take Intimidating Glare)
  • Class: Swashbuckler (braggart)
    • Class Feats: Tumble Behind (1st), Charmed Life (2nd), Impaling Finish (4th), Attack of Opportunity (6th), Twin Finisher (8th)
    • Other Feats:
      • Ancestry Feats: Remorseless Lash (1st), Agonizing Rebuke (5th)
      • General Feats: Battle Cry (7th)
      • Skill Feats: Terrified Retreat (8th)


You might notice there’s lots of room for extra feats in this build. I italicized the only options I’d consider mandatory for the hobgoblin braggart. You don’t need many feats to make the character effective, giving you lots of wiggle room to make the build your own. Rogue multiclass provides Dread Striker and sneak attack. Aldori duelist nets you their titular swords and the admirable Unnerving Prowess feat. You can even dabble in alchemy with the Alchemical Scholar heritage feat so you have an extra ranged option against mindless foes. Not to mention Leech-Clipper is also an excellent choice for the build, especially if you have a goblin or two in the party and want to play up the runtboss heritage angle!*

But will it blend? You bet your pointy rapier it will! You have all the necessary class features to stack on plenty of precision damage with whatever swishy piercing weapon catches your eye. But what makes the build terrifying is the hobgoblin ancestry feat Agonizing Rebuke. The feat makes you so terrifying that you get free caltrops of damage each round to anyone you successfully Demoralize. Using feats like You’re Next and Battle Cry makes it easy enough to Demoralize without cutting into your action economy, and Remorseless Lash ensures your targets will stay frightened even if you don’t get a critical success.

And then we reach level 9 and get Exemplary Finisher.

This class feature lets a swashbuckler remove a target’s temporary immunity to your Demoralize action, letting you stack multiple instances of Demoralize on a target even if they are already frightened. Which, FAQ pending, lets you stack multiple instances of Agonizing Rebuke onto your target.

Let that sink in while your magic missile mage whines about how many d4s you get to roll.

Of course it’s not perfect. Yeah, you are effectively getting between 8d4 and 12d4 extra damage a round, assuming your target isn’t immune to fear, doesn’t have a high Will save, and you can successfully hit them with a finisher each round. But when it does work? Well, your braggart will be earning that fear-inducing reputation.

*The whip can also prevent teammates from being forced to run off the map.


But Why Should I Care?

The coolest feature for both the swashbuckler and many classes in 2e is how few of your character options you have to dedicate to be an effective character. With just a few feats you have effectively covered what you need to master your niche, letting you dedicate some of your options to fleshing out a more complete character. Now this is still a playtest, so for all we know Mark Seifter will read this post and rule that Agonizing Rebuke doesn’t stack. But even without that trick, this is a nasty and effective character that shows how flavorful martial combat can get in Second Edition. I highly recommend everyone take advantage of this playtest and get your feedback in as soon as possible. All four classes are highly versatile and open up new avenues for players and GMs alike. The new classes manage to complement what we already have without changing the fundamental balance of the game, giving me hope that Pathfinder Second Edition is a game with a long lifespan that lets anyone experience high fantasy adventure without having to spend a week and a half researching optimal builds just to keep up.

Dustin Knight

Dustin has been playing and improving on RPGs since AD&D in 1999. He ran games and conventions around California while studying Graphic Design, Philosophy, English & Architecture. After developing a tabletop game seminar he began working freelance for Alderac Entertainment Games. During his stint on the East Coast, he became a Venture Lieutenant and began reviewing Pathfinder mechanics for Organized Play. After moving to Washington in 2019, he met Alex Augunas at Paizocon and developed, designed and wrote for Everybody Games LLC. He has since published work with Rogue Genius Games and Paizo. He can be found on the Know Direction discord where he goes by the username "KitsuneWarlock".

1 Comment

  1. Rob Pontious

    Thanks Dustin! I do love mechanic rewards for roleplaying and acting the flavor, and swashbuckler certainly has it!