View Full Version : Couple of Tome of Battle questions

2009-12-14, 09:45 PM
I've been thinking about playing something from ToB, so to that end, I've been flipping through the book. I know (or at least am under the impression) that Crusader is generally considered the best class, but it wouldn't fit in with my character concept of a halfling freebooter, so we're moving on.

My first question comes from reading over the Swordsage class. Why is it considered so good? Of the three classes, it seems to have the worst maneuver recovery method, and really only has specialization and breadth of choice in it's favor. Why would I want to play a Swordsage over, say, a Warblade? In the same vein, are there any feats or tricks to get over that seemingly bad recovery method?

Also, I'm not looking to be super duper optimized, but I'd like to at least be pretty useful. Right now, all the classes look good on paper, but are there any that are just flat out bad in practice? For that matter, are there any good builds for around level 5 or so?

2009-12-14, 09:49 PM
Wisdom to AC in light armor means Swordsages are hard to hit. They also have three exclusive schools and Diamond Mind + Tiger Claw from the very good common schools, allowing them to among others easily qualify for Shadow Blade. Insightful Strikes also enables sort of a Wisdom-focus.

There is indeed a trick to getting past the recovery, one very in-flavour with them too: pick up Adaptive Style. It allows you to reprepare maneuvers with one full-round action. All of 'em. And choose new ones. So now your vast array of maneuvers is actually useful.

Of course, the main selling point is simply the huge number of maneuvers they get. That's really good, and more importantly, really interesting to play.

2009-12-14, 09:53 PM
Also, I'm not looking to be super duper optimized, but I'd like to at least be pretty useful. Right now, all the classes look good on paper, but are there any that are just flat out bad in practice? For that matter, are there any good builds for around level 5 or so?

The good thing about the ToBers is that they are hard to screw up. Plan ahead a bit, choose the highest level maneuvers available to you and you should be fine.

2009-12-14, 09:54 PM
Swordsage is good because it finally gives a solid mechanical representation to the ninja/monk/mystical warrior/Judo Dude archetypes (the Crusader does it for Holy Warriors, and Warblade does it for general Fightan' Dudes.) The Shadow Hand school in particular is very nice, with its signature Sneak Attack Stance and teleportation maneuvers. It also allows you to easily make a Dex-dependent fighter with Weapon Finesse + the Shadow Blade feat. The Adaptive Style feat fixes its recovery method.

And for the general question: there are few to no bad choices in Tome of Battle. There are better and worse options- about half of Desert Wind is on the weak side, for example- but there are very few outright bad choices. It's one of the few WotC publications where you can seriously just take whatever looks neat and do alright.

2009-12-14, 09:55 PM
Well the primary way to get around the swordsages recovery method is the Adaptive Style feat, it lets you re-pick all your maneuvers as a full round action thus recovering them. Still not as good as the others but not debilitating as before.

As to why they're good, its the large breadth of maneuvers they have access to/have known. It makes up for their lower bab through having strikes/boosts that give bonuses to hit, allow rerolls, are touch attacks, make the opponent flatfooted etc. Also unlike the other two classes they aren't meant to be frontliners, they are meant to fulfill the ninja/monk analogue of the party so they have a bit more of a skillmonkey feel both in utility maneuvers and skills.

None of the three classes are bad, they all do a good job at making paladin/fighter/ninja classes that can (to an extent) stand up to full casting.

2009-12-14, 09:57 PM
First thing to note, the three ToB classes are considered to be very close together in power. Yeah, the Crusader might come out on top and the Swordsage on bottom, but only barely.

The Swordsage is intended to pretty much be able to win a battle without having to refresh maneuvers. Hence, his huge number of Readied maneuvers compared to the other classes. That being said, Adaptive Style is practically a required feat choice, just in case a battle ever goes poorly and isn't over by the time you run out of maneuvers.

So, the Swordsage is popular even in competition with the other two because he gets great skills; because he can be based on Dex and/or Wis (which are ability scores people tend to like); and because he has a lot of cool tricks, such as shadow-flavored teleportation and use-your-foe's-superior-strength-against-himself tricks, that the other two classes can't get without feats or items.

2009-12-14, 10:02 PM
Huh. How about that. I never even thought of using Adaptive Style like that, but it's a great idea. Obviously.

Now I just need to figure out which school I like the best, then. Thanks, everyone!

2009-12-14, 10:08 PM
ToB is exquisitely internally balanced. Just about everything you can do with out comes out basically even. Crusaders do best in long fights, Swordsages are most likely to have just the right trick in Round 1, and Warblades are somewhere in between. The disciplines are similarly balanced, at least compared to schools of magic. Some people don't like Desert Wind since it relies on Fire damage, some don't like Stone Dragon since you need contact with the ground, but really you can focus on any and be effective. It's really hard to screw up a ToB character enough to become useless (in most games, at least), and it's hard to build well enough to make the rest of the party useless.

It may, however, make many pre-ToB melee classes rather useless. It runs circles around the Fighter, Monk, Paladin, Samurai, Knight, etc. It is, however, on speaking terms with the Psychic Warrior and Duskblade.

Long story short, don't worry about it. Make your character, choose based on flavour, and you'll still probably be fine.

2009-12-14, 11:00 PM
If you're going for sheer speed, unarmed combat or a stealthy assassin, go for Swordsage. They have the most skill points and have a whole bunch of maneuvers that the others just don't get.

My favorite is the warblade, but Swordsage can do certain melee archetypes better. I'd say that TWF is easier to make with a Warblade (and harder to screw up thanks to the full BAB), Swordsage can say, enter and synergize with PrCs like Dervish more easily (high skill points, free Weapon Focus, and has more ways to stack damage onto each attack despite using small weapons, etc).

2009-12-14, 11:09 PM
Well, my character is, like I said, a halfling freebooter, and I'm just trying to figure out what to go with. An Iron Heart Warblade seems to be the most fitting, unless anyone else had a suggestion? Nothing's written in stone yet.

2009-12-14, 11:23 PM
Well, what do you want to do with him? If he's a pirate, he can be sneaky, honorable, or fight with his bare hands.

I did make a bugbear pirate's first mate as a villain before. I made him primarily use Shadow Hand and Setting Sun. He fought with a Spiked Chain.

Iron Heart always seemed to me as more of a samurai-type swordsman with incredible skill. He's so confident in his ability that he's willing to go with all-out offense instead of focusing on defense.

2009-12-14, 11:31 PM
I am thinking of a non-comedy chain-smoking Jack Sparrow, for lack of a better comparison figure. As far as crunch goes, I'm leaning towards either a Desert Wind SS with a scimitar, or a Iron Heart Warblade with a waraxe of some kind.

I realize this is more up to me than crunch questions, so you can safely ignore me thinking out loud unless you had a nifty idea. I love nifty.

2009-12-14, 11:51 PM
I'd probably go Swordsage myself, although I'd focus more on Diamond Mind than Desert Wind.

I think the Wis->AC thing translates well with fighting lightly armored at high mobility, and the crunch of Diamond Mind is somewhat better than Desert Wind, since it isn't all fire damage. It loses some of the mobility feel, but it adds in more "hit him where he's weak" thematics.

2009-12-14, 11:57 PM
Tiger Claw has a lot of mobility-based effects, primarily based on Jump checks. I recommend it over Desert Wind for a swashbuckler type. Setting Sun is pretty nie, too, if...more difficult than the rest of the book.

Keld Denar
2009-12-15, 12:25 AM
You can always dip back and forth, unless your DM plays with the rediculously stupid multiclass penalties. This gives you 2 seperate pools of maneuvers to draw from. Say...dip 2-4 levels of Warblade in a mostly Swordsage build and always have 3 extra manevuers readied. This costs you a bit of IL, but its not the end of the world, trading a little power for greater versatility and longevity.

The trick is to alternate back and forth so you can get better stuff. Say...


This gets you 3 first or 2nd maneuvers, 1 3rd level, 1 4th level and 1 6th level. You finish with an IL of 18 for Swordsage and 12 for Warblade.

Just an idea.

2009-12-15, 12:53 AM
I love the Swordsage's skill points, but I'm not a fan of its skill list. I usually dip my Swordsages into Rogue or Ninja for a bit more flexibility.

Also, Adaptive Style is questionable as a recovery mechanic: some groups interpret "changing" recovered maneuvers to be different than "recovering" readied maneuvers. Check with your DM before grabbing the feat.

2009-12-15, 12:54 AM
There's a good number of threads around here, so I would really suggest using the search thread function. It's actually a mini running joke that every week brings another ToB, monk fixing, "Is wizard overpowerd", and fighter fiddling thread.

Swordsage works best for your pirate theme dude because of the maneuverability, unless you're wanted a pirate in full plate not relying on dex of course. Something to be careful with the shadow hand strikes is their reliance on forcing fort saves, something not fun to rely on when hitting other melee classes. Shadow hand has some awesome counters and strikes for making people leave the vicinity, like counter charge and brutal throw. Since all the throws allow you to use dex, it becomes pretty usefull. Mountain hammer is great for bypassing DR with the mountain hammer strikes, and diamond mind is excellent for smashing some damage down using a concentration check. This is really useful later on when your conc check is sky high, way higher than your BAB+modifier.

I actually haven't messed much with tiger claw, so can't say too much there. And the fire sand discipline thing has some awesome stuff in it like searing charge and leaping flame, though those are 4th and 5th level maneuvers so not until later.

If you do multiclass, something which I would actually suggest doing, try and have an even number of levels in whichever class you're going to have the fewest levels in. That way you get the full 1/2 of those levels towards effective initiator level.

2009-12-15, 09:12 AM
Also, Adaptive Style is questionable as a recovery mechanic: some groups interpret "changing" recovered maneuvers to be different than "recovering" readied maneuvers. Check with your DM before grabbing the feat.

Given that adaptive style allows you to do in a full round what usually takes 5 minutes, unless you argue that the 5 minutes also doesn't refresh manouvers, adaptive style should.