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    Default [3.5] Viability of an Unarmed Swordsage with VoP?

    I have been toying with the idea of an Unarmed Swordsage with a Vow of Poverty. But I have doubts. Without access to anything like... say, battlefists, would he be doomed to end up as the Party Load who brought nothing but a fist and his pajamas to a swordfight? Assuming a competent (but not ridiculously optimized) group of co-players.

    You see, the character fluff I came up with does not really work if the character is mechanically useless. I would need him to be able to lecture an evil Fighter in full armor on how to properly do things while dragging him from his horse and delivering justice, not boring said Fighter to death by lecturing him and ineffectually waving fists at him.


    Edit: I should mention: have read about Unarmed Swordsages, and that they do actually work. Just nothing about Swordsages that also carry a VoP. =/
    Last edited by Ernir; 2009-02-23 at 09:35 AM.

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    Default Re: [3.5] Viability of an Unarmed Swordsage with VoP?

    Well, he'll suck less than a VoP monk, that's for sure. Really, VoP isn't all that great, as you're no doubt aware, and even though he has some tricks like Crushing Weight of the Mountain and such, you won't really be able to boost your grapple, especially in case of Freedom of Movement.

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    Default Re: [3.5] Viability of an Unarmed Swordsage with VoP?

    Well, the thing is, you're still using VoP without spells. So you'll first be able to fly on level 15 (at least you, unlike the poor ****er of a Monk, do learn to fly), eternally have trouble hitting incorporeals (other than when using One With Shadow, I suppose), Ethereals and the like. Maneuvers do naturally help out a lot with all the failings of Monkish characters, but you've still got a bunch of issues to deal with.

    That said, a Dex-focused UA SS with perhaps the TWF line or some would probably work out as a Fighter-spoiler as with a stat to focus on, you can actually make your AC relevant. You can also acquire miss chances and additional defenses with maneuvers really helping out with the whole "staying alive"-crap. And of course, you can make yourself actually hit, again with maneuvers.


    So it's not amazing, but it's certainly a 100 times better than a Monk. Mayhap some multiclassing could help though. I assume you don't want manifesting/spellcasting?
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    Default Re: [3.5] Viability of an Unarmed Swordsage with VoP?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ernir View Post
    I have been toying with the idea of a VoP Unarmed Swordsage. But I have doubts. Without access to anything like... say, battlefists, would he be doomed to end up as the Party Load who brought nothing but a fist and his pajamas to a swordfight? Assuming a competent (but not ridiculously optimized) group of co-players.
    Hmm. Two problems: SwordSage's AC Bonus only applies when wearing light armor, rather than no armor. I'm a little fuzzy on VoP... can they wear normal non-magical armor? If not, then you may want to ask the DM if he can fudge this a bit and let your AC Bonus apply to no armor as well. You might also want to look at some grafts, such as Chitin Plating (Lords of Madness p. 216), since they don't count as magic items.

    Second problem is weapon enhancements. You can't use the gauntlet workaround. Your maneuvers will obviously mitigate this quite a bit, but your effectiveness will depend on which strikes you want to focus on (I'm guessing the Diamond Mind concentration strikes). You can also use Kensai to enchant your fists.

    If you really want to bludgeon someone to a bloody pulp while nekkid, though, I'd probably look at Totemist first. Soulmelds wouldn't be considered magic items, so you'd get gobloads of natural attacks and some interesting buffs to make them more effective.

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    Default Re: [3.5] Viability of an Unarmed Swordsage with VoP?

    Quote Originally Posted by Darrin View Post
    Hmm. Two problems: SwordSage's AC Bonus only applies when wearing light armor, rather than no armor.
    That is clearly (imo) just an oversight, and I remember seeing a WotC quote to that effect somewhere though it didn't make it into errata. The only time I advocate enforcing that bit of RAW is when someone's trying to stack Monk and Swordsage AC bonuses.

    Quote Originally Posted by Darrin View Post
    Second problem is weapon enhancements. You can't use the gauntlet workaround. Your maneuvers will obviously mitigate this quite a bit, but your effectiveness will depend on which strikes you want to focus on (I'm guessing the Diamond Mind concentration strikes). You can also use Kensai to enchant your fists.
    Vow of Poverty does at least get you an enhancement bonus. While not being able to get special abilities on your weapon is a handicap, it's not all that much of one. While Kensai would let you get around that it's not worth the lack of maneuver progression.

    Flight can be dealt with as early as level 7 with Searing Charge, though it does limit you to attacking once every other round if that's the only way you can get to your target. Better to just ask the party wizard to cast Fly on you, simply receiving buffs does not violate the Vow.

    You should pick either dexterity or wisdom to focus on. If dexterity, take Weapon Finesse and Shadow Blade and spend all your time in a Shadow Hand stance. If wisdom, take Intuitive Attack. Either way you'll get the chosen ability score to attack rolls. With dexterity you'll get it to damage on all your attacks from Shadow Blade but you'll lose it if you use a non-Shadow Hand stance. With wisdom you'll get it to damage on your strikes from one school from level 4 on, and another school at level 12, and it also boosts most of your maneuver save DCs. I usually prefer wisdom for the save DCs and not being forced to stick with Shadow Hand stances.
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    Default Re: [3.5] Viability of an Unarmed Swordsage with VoP?

    Quote Originally Posted by douglas View Post
    You should pick either dexterity or wisdom to focus on. If dexterity, take Weapon Finesse and Shadow Blade and spend all your time in a Shadow Hand stance. If wisdom, take Intuitive Attack. Either way you'll get the chosen ability score to attack rolls. With dexterity you'll get it to damage on all your attacks from Shadow Blade but you'll lose it if you use a non-Shadow Hand stance. With wisdom you'll get it to damage on your strikes from one school from level 4 on, and another school at level 12, and it also boosts most of your maneuver save DCs. I usually prefer wisdom for the save DCs and not being forced to stick with Shadow Hand stances.
    I prefer Shadow Blade. Intuitive Attack replaces Wis for Str. Shadow Blade stacks Dex damage on top of Str. Depends on your stats, I suppose... if you're dumping Str, then Intuitive Attack might be better.

    Hmm. Swordsage + Totemist + Fist of the Forest could be pretty effective. You get decent unarmed damage, pounce, Con bonus to AC on top of Dex and/or Wis, add a little Touch of Golden Ice for flavor... yeah, the Fort save is only DC 14 and can't be increased, but with so many attacks, some poor fool will eventually roll a '1'.

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    Default Re: [3.5] Viability of an Unarmed Swordsage with VoP?

    Why are you comparing Shadow Blade and Intuitive Attack? The appropriate comparison is Weapon Finesse and Intuitive Attack, both of which replace strength with either dexterity or wisdom for attack rolls only. Shadow Blade matches up with the Insightful Strike (I think that's the name) Swordsage class feature, both of which add either dexterity or wisdom to damage on top of strength, but have different restrictions - either limiting you to one discipline for your stances or only working with one discipline's strikes.

    In either case, your maneuvers should be adding enough damage to make the difference not especially important.

    About Totemist and Fist of the Forest, it takes some pretty impressive bonuses to be worth slowing down maneuver advancement and I'm not convinced either of those classes have enough to offer.
    Last edited by Douglas; 2009-02-23 at 11:05 AM.
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    Default Re: [3.5] Viability of an Unarmed Swordsage with VoP?

    Quote Originally Posted by douglas View Post
    Why are you comparing Shadow Blade and Intuitive Attack?
    Sorry, got confused. Never used Intuitive Attack before.

    Quote Originally Posted by douglas View Post
    About Totemist and Fist of the Forest, it takes some pretty impressive bonuses to be worth slowing down maneuver advancement and I'm not convinced either of those classes have enough to offer.
    A SwordSage can take up to six non-Martial Adept levels and still get 9th level maneuvers. Fist of the Forest may be worth it for the two damage bumps to unarmed strike, although the three required feats don't really do anything to help the build.

    Two or three levels of Totemist might be nice because Touch of Golden Ice works with any natural attack, and binding Girallon Arms to your totem chakra gives you four additional secondary claw attacks. Totem Avatar bound to your shoulders gives you another size increase on all your natural weapons. And Sphynx Claws bound to your hands gives you pounce with all your natural weapons.

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    Default Re: [3.5] Viability of an Unarmed Swordsage with VoP?

    Yes, a Swordsage with 6 levels in non-martial adept classes would still get 9th level maneuvers - at level 20. Small consolation when you're level 17 and only have 7th level maneuvers, or level 11 with only 4th level maneuvers, or especially when you're finishing up the non-Swordsage levels and are still stuck with the best you could take back on your last Swordsage level (Swordsage 5/X 6 with only 3rd level maneuvers would really suck).

    The extra attacks only get used in full attacks, which are not compatible with most strikes. Also, just how many levels of Totemist are you suggesting he take, with three chakra binds? It almost seems like you're telling him to build a Totemist with a little Swordsage thrown in, not the other way around.

    And, really, two damage bumps to unarmed strike is not going to surpass the extra power of higher level and more maneuvers unless you're piling on a lot more of them to really get the exponential growth going, and I don't think that's really feasible without abandoning core elements of the character.
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    Default Re: [3.5] Viability of an Unarmed Swordsage with VoP?

    I actually built a VoP Unarmed Swordsage last week, just to see how it would turn out. I went Raptoran, so I didn't have to rely on a certain stance (or the party) for flight. I also focused on WIS as my highest ability. The overall intent was for the character to be quite like a stereotypical Monk, fluff-wise. I didn't use any multiclassing, because I was avoiding XP penalties and didn't want the additional complication anyway. I didn't pay any attention to the incorporeal problem, but I don't think it would be a huge problem, between (1) One with Shadow, (2) just hitting incorporeals 50% of the time (which a lot of characters just have to put up with), or (3) having the party help out (e.g. by having one party member purchase an Incorporeal Binding enhancement to his weapon).

    Result? Meh. The character will be playable, but not especially impressive. I haven't playtested him, but that's my guess.

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    Varlin
    LG Medium Humanoid (raptoran)
    Raptoran Swordsage 20
    Male; Age 21; Height 6'2"; Weight 135 lb.; Deity Heironius
    - - - - - -
    Str 14 (+2); Dex 18 (+4); Con 20 (+5); Int 10 (+0); Wis 29 (+9); Cha 8 (-1)
    Init +9; Fort +14 (+18 vs. poison); Ref +19; Will +24 (all saves +1 vs. spells and SLA's)
    HP 193 (20d8+100); AC 38, touch 26, flat-footed 34; BAB +15/+10/+5; Speed 30, fly 40 (average)
    Languages: Raptoran, Common
    - - - - - -
    Features: gliding (20 ft forward for every 5 ft fall, no damage); flight (unlimited); low-light vision; wing-aided movement (+10 Jump); +1 Climb, Spot; unerring direction.
    Quick to act +5; unarmed strike; AC bonus; sense magic; improved evasion; dual boost (3/day); proficient with simple weapons and martial melee weapons.
    AC bonus +10; deflection +3; natural armor +2; resistance +3; endure elements; exalted strike +5 (good); greater sustenance; mind shielding; DR 10/evil; energy resistance 15; freedom of movement; regeneration; true seeing.
    Discipline Focus (Weapon Focus benefit): Setting Sun weapons (unarmed strike, nunchaku, short sword, quarterstaff).
    Discipline Foucs (Insightful Strike, +Wis to damage): Diamond Mind strikes, Tiger Claw strikes.
    Discipline Focus (Defensive Stance, +2 to saves): Diamond Mind stances, Setting Sun stances.
    - - - - - -
    Flaws: Love of Nature, No Time for Book Learning
    Feats: Improved Unarmed Strike, Sacred Vow, Vow of Poverty, Extra Readied Maneuver, Nymph's Kiss, Intuitive Attack, Adaptive Style, Touch of Golden Ice, Vow of Abstinence, Improved Natural Attack (unarmed strike), Gift of Discernment, Snap Kick, Servant of the Heavens, Blade Meditation (shadow hand), Nimbus of Light, Lliira's Blessing, Combat Reflexes, Sanctify Natural Attack, Stigmata, Stunning Fist (4/day, Fort DC 27), Defender of the Homeland
    - - - - - -
    Skills
    23 Concentration (+28); 23 Sense Motive (+32); 20 Tumble (+26); 23 Jump (+37); 23 Listen (+32); 21 Hide (+27); 23 Move Silently (+27); 1 Escape Artist (+5); 0 Spot (+10); 0 Climb (+3); 0 Balance (+6); 0 Diplomacy (+5)
    Armor Check Penalty: 0
    - - - - - -
    Combat
    Melee Unarmed Strike +30/+25/+20 (3d8+7), +0/+1 when using any strike, +0/+1 vs. evil (or +1d4 vs. undead, [Evil])
    Thrown Javelin +24/+19/+14 (1d6+7), range increment 30 feet
    - - - - - -
    Equipment: dagger, javelin [x5], monk's outfit
    Weight Carried: 11 lb.; Carrying Capacity light 43 lb., medium 86 lb., heavy 130 lb.
    - - - - - -
    Initiator Level 20; Maneuvers Readied 13
    Stances Known: Child of Shadow (SH1), Hearing the Air (DM5), Pearl of Black Doubt (DM3), Shifting Defense (SS5), Stance of Alacrity (DM8), Step of the Wind (SS1)
    Maneuvers Known:
    Diamond Mind: Diamond Nightmare Blade (L8), Emerald Razor (L2), Greater Insightful Strike (L6), Insightful Strike (L3), Mind over Body (L3), Time Stands Still (L9)
    Setting Sun: Baffling Defense (L2), Ballista Throw (L6), Feigned Opening (L3), Fool's Strike (L8), Hydra Slaying Strike (L7), Mirrored Pursuit (L5), Tornado Throw (L9)
    Shadow Hand: Five-Shadow Creeping Ice Enervation Strike (L9), Shadow Blink (L7), Stalker in the Night (L6), Hand of Death (L4), One with Shadow (L8)
    Stone Dragon: Adamantine Bones (L8), Elder Mountain Hammer (L5), Mountain Hammer (L2), Mountain Tombstone Strike (L9)
    Tiger Claw: Death from Above (L4), Sudden Leap (L1), Swooping Dragon Strike (L7)


    Feel free to point out any more glaring weaknesses in the build that have popped up due to Vow of Poverty or otherwise. For example, if there's a feat that's clearly more help to my damage output than Improved Natural Attack, let me know.
    Last edited by Draz74; 2009-02-23 at 12:08 PM.
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    Default Re: [3.5] Viability of an Unarmed Swordsage with VoP?

    Unarmed Swordsage is on the lower end of workable. Which means it will require a bit of optimization, but not too much. Certainly not enough to be unreasonable. This is only true though, if you do not take VoP. If you do, forget about it. WBL > VoP. Full stop.

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    Default Re: [3.5] Viability of an Unarmed Swordsage with VoP?

    Well, he'll suck less than a VoP monk, that's for sure. Really, VoP isn't all that great, as you're no doubt aware
    Yep.
    Sure beats doing a pure RP VoP, though. This way at least you get something. :P

    The only time I think a VoP might be truly, mechanically stronger than someone with standard WBL is when someone teleports a Balor on you while taking a bath...

    I assume you don't want manifesting/spellcasting?
    Rather not. =/

    The only way I see that sneaking its way in if this ends up being a Gestalt for some reason. And I doubt the DM whose campaign I will be trying to invade even knows about Gestalts. :P

    Two problems: SwordSage's AC Bonus only applies when wearing light armor, rather than no armor.
    Hah, I had not even noticed that.

    I'm a little fuzzy on VoP... can they wear normal non-magical armor?
    More along the lines of a "simple robe, a walking stick, and a simple bag for one day's trail rations". Any item for personal protection would be against the spirit of the vow, I believe. =/

    If you really want to bludgeon someone to a bloody pulp while nekkid, though, I'd probably look at Totemist first.
    That... is a pretty good idea. I had not even thought of it. Thank you. 0_o

    Better to just ask the party wizard to cast Fly on you, simply receiving buffs does not violate the Vow.
    Yesh. I just wouldn't dare do this without a friendly spellcaster in the group. Luckily one of us does not seem to like playing anything but good-aligned Wizards. :P

    Intuitive Attack would be the way I would go, I think. Nothing like using Wisdom for everything.

    I actually built a VoP Unarmed Swordsage last week, just to see how it would turn out. I went Raptoran, so I didn't have to rely on a certain stance (or the party) for flight. I also focused on WIS as my highest ability. The overall intent was for the character to be quite like a stereotypical Monk, fluff-wise.
    Ooo, that is awesome. Thanks.
    And pretty similar in theme to what I was trying to hatch in my head, except for the Raptoran.

    Thanks so much, everyone. Good to know it is, well, not quite a VoP Monk. :P
    Last edited by Ernir; 2009-02-23 at 01:39 PM.

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    Default Re: [3.5] Viability of an Unarmed Swordsage with VoP?

    The only class I have seen that really makes good use of VoP is Druid as they retain all the benefits of VoP while using Wildshape.

    In general, from a purely mechanical stance, magic items will out perform the benefits of VoP every time. The exceptions are low magic campaigns and, as stated above, the druid.

    If you are going to make an unarmed swordsage you should consider working versatile strike in to your feat selection somewhere along the way.

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    Default Re: [3.5] Viability of an Unarmed Swordsage with VoP?

    Unarmed Swordsage is good, Vow of Poverty is not. UASS is so versitile, but as a melee character, you are still very gear dependant. Things like a Monk's Belt and something to provide you with Haste, Miss Chance, Flight, and a few other things that are pretty vital to a melee characters.

    Look into Snap Kick (Flurry Lite) along with Improved Natural Attack (increases damage die size of UAS one size). These feats will go a long way toward smacking someone down.
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    Default Re: [3.5] Viability of an Unarmed Swordsage with VoP?

    Quote Originally Posted by enygmatic_me View Post
    The only class I have seen that really makes good use of VoP is Druid as they retain all the benefits of VoP while using Wildshape.

    In general, from a purely mechanical stance, magic items will out perform the benefits of VoP every time. The exceptions are low magic campaigns and, as stated above, the druid.

    If you are going to make an unarmed swordsage you should consider working versatile strike in to your feat selection somewhere along the way.
    Also, VoP is inflexible. The reason why Druids are the only ones that are decent with it is they are about the most flexible class in the game and can thus get that flexibility elsewhere. They also don't need items just to perform their basic function. Wizards need spellbooks, Archivists are basically divine Wizards (see previous), Clerics need Holy Symbols, and Artificers... Where's the rolling on the floor laughing smiley when you need it?

    Of course, Wilding Clasps means even they are better off with WBL.

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    Default Re: [3.5] Viability of an Unarmed Swordsage with VoP?

    Use VoP if it's the only way to meet your character concept. Don't do it if you're attempting any sort of optimization. To be fair, you probably won't be useless, but you're going to have a much more difficult time than you would with even the most basic magic items.

    If you're using Vow of Poverty and are already using the Swordsage Adaption section, this might be one of the only reasonable times to use the Arcane Swordsage variant. Maybe turn buff spells into 1-round boosts for a more homogenous system.

    You'd have to make a point of not being an *******, though. Perpetual Polymorph effects starting at level 7 would be kinda outrageous, for instance.

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