Duskblade

Introduction

The Duskblade is probably the easiest way to both cast spells and do melee combat, but far from the best. While the class is limited in spell selection, it is very good at doing nova-style damage in melee using its Arcane Channeling ability to both attack and cast a touch-range spell on an enemy. While it is out-damaged by other classes and builds, it has a few perks (lots of free cantrips, a few random useful spells, full BAB) that some people may like. It is also a generic class that can be used to add flavor to other builds, so you could have a charger but start with some levels of Duskblade because you want magic-infused attacks. Ultimately, the Duskblade is not good at much else besides dealing damage, so this guide is mostly optimizing for more damage and some amount of utility. There are not very many endgame options for a Duskblade, so it is best to exist the class via Prestige or Multiclass at some point, also. A Duskblade can be a nice addition to a Brains-Over-Brawn build (high-INT melee fighter), as she gets a good handful of useful spells in the core 3 levels. There are some variant builds that use Duskblade more extensively in order to abuse the full-channel Arcane Channeling to damage hordes of enemies with huge reach or buff allies by the same mechanic. There’s generally 2 kinds of Duskblade builds: ones that go to level 13 to get the full-round Arcane Channeling in order to spread their DPS and spells between monsters with a reach weapon, full attacking, and those who exit some time after level 3 or 6 and make do with the basic ability in order to focus on single-target DPS. Both are viable builds, but I tend to favor the versatility of the early-exit Duskblade, as there is a lot of sacrifice in getting to full-round channeling.

Base Stats

Hit Die: d8 – Just good enough for melee combat with a decent CON score.

Base Attack Bonus: Full – Excellent, considering this is a gish-type class.

Saves: Good Fort, Bad Ref, Good Will – Fair enough, you have the HP to soak the failed Ref saves.

Skill Points: 2 + INT – Could be better, but it’s acceptable because with a decent INT score you will have enough skill points to invest in what you want.

Ability Scores

Strength – Very important score, allows you to hit things in melee and deal more damage, but mostly ensures you hit things. This should be prioritized after you reach the minimum INT, and once you have the amount of CON you want. Don’t ignore this stat; you will regret it later.

Dexterity – Not really necessary to ever pump DEX, UNLESS you are doing a Reach Weapon/Combat Reflexes/AoO/Tripper build or something. You could do Weapon Finesse, but Duskblades are so much better with a  solid Strength score to both ensure they hit, and to improve their already-impressive single target damage output. You have limited feat slots for a DEX-based build, so basically it is a choice between DEX and STR, where STR is clearly better in most cases.

Constitution – Get as much CON as you can, as it adds HP that you need to stay alive. However, it is not a top priority unless you really want the HPs for your party.

Intelligence – In this stat, you need at least a 15 in order to cast your highest-level spells. If you don’t care for spells that need high save DCs, just go with a 12 or 13. This also affects skill points and bonus spells. You have few skill points, but many spells. There are many tradeoffs to consider when selecting your intelligence score, so plan ahead as to how much you want. If you want to be smarter, more skilled, and cast utility spells (either through the later levels of the class [not recommended] or or PrC), go beyond 14. I recommend taking a 16 and using your knowledge skills in combination with a high INT score to bolster your utility and damage via Knowledge Devotion (see below).

Wisdom – Governs your Will saves and your perception skills. You may want it high for Arcane Disciple, a feat that can expand your spell list, but other than that it needs little to no advancement.

Charisma – The traditional dump stat for many Melee builds. The Duskblade is no different. She has no exceptional social skills or CHA-based spells to begin with, so for optimization it would be best to dump this stat.

Races

There are many choices for races, but here are some examples of the kinds of things you want to look for as a Duskblade and the things you want to avoid.

HumanSRD – Humans have no stat bonuses, but Duskblades don’t need those so badly. However, they do need Skill Points and Feats. Humans give both of these things. In my opinion, this is the best race for a Duskblade. You can’t beat the bonus Feat™.

Tiefling/Lesser TieflingSRD/PGtF – This relies on a variant rule presented in the PGtF to function with no level adjustment. This race is probably the best choice if you are interested in prioritizing INT. Bonuses to INT and DEX are both beneficial while the penalty to CHA causes virtually no problems. Great if your DM will let you utilize the Lesser Planetouched variant. Also some excellent racial bonuses. This is not a blue choice if you can’t get Lesser variant. Lesser Earth GenasiSRD/PGtF – This relies on the same variant as the Lesser Tiefling. This race gives a bonus to STR and CON with penalties to WIS and CHA. The stat mods come out about even with the Dragonborn Water Orc, slightly worse if you want DEX low, slightly better if you want DEX and CON about the same, but you miss out on the Dragonborn racial mods and all you get in return is pass without trace, a fairly useless ability.

DragonbornRotD – Technically a template, but replaces many of the features of the base race. Gives +2 CON and -2 DEX on top of the base race’s ability mods, the Dragonblood subtype, and the size and movement speed from your base creature. A good example of how this can be turned to your advantage is the Water Orc variant from the Unearthed Arcana section of the SRD- the extra CON and the swim speed are meant to be offset by a fire weakness, but the dragonborn template removes the penalty AND the light sensitivity common to all orcs while retaining both benefits and adding more on top.

Dragonborn Water OrcSRD+RotD – If you MUST play an orc, this is what you should try for. This variant and template combo improves on the base orc by 4 CON plus a swim speed, along with a scaling choice of wings, vision improvements, or a breath weapon while only losing 2 DEX. Incredible, but with an odd or unbelievable flavor. Very cheezy.

Half-GiantSRD – Costs +1 LA. You get +2 STR and CON for -2 DEX, but that’s not all. A Half-Giant gets Powerful Build, which allows her to act as if she were 1 size category larger if it is advantageous to her. This stacks with other things, so you can use larger weapons and access all sorts of neat tricks from this race. However, it does cost a level. You most likely cannot gain reach from this, but check with your DM. You do get bigger weapons for more damage, but then you need to find bigger weapons. Ask your DM.

Silverbrow HumanDM – As with the human, but you trade the Skill Points for the Dragonblood subtype, which can allow you to choose feats intended for only Dragonblooded characters. Also, use Feather Fall as a SLA 1/day per 5 hit dice.

Strongheart HalflingFRCS – As a halfling, but it loses the untyped bonus to saves and gains a feat instead. A superb option for players who want to be small-sized and a human. It will be worse than human unless the build is DEX-focused, which is generally undesirable. You get size bonuses to attack, but have to use smaller weapons, too. A tradeoff that I don’t recommend, but still a solid option.

OrcSRD – The penalty to INT is annoying, but the +4 STR can make up for it if you aren’t aiming to increase save DCs and the WIS and CHA penalties don’t hurt anything important. However, if you are aiming to cast your highest level spells, you can’t afford to get an 18 in STR, so you are probably better off stat-wise going with a race with just +2 STR and no INT penalty. Still, if you are dipping Duskblade 3 or 5 as a base in some other build, then it’s an option. Only need 11 INT for that Shocking Grasp.

Hill DwarfSRD – Dwarves have a lower base movement speed, but +2 CON for the price of -2 CHA. Moves more slowly. Mixed bonuses to various saves and defenses versus certain enemies. Stonecunning. Not a great race, but not as bad as others.

Dragonborn Gray ElfSRD+RoD – Probably the best elf variant for duskblade. The bonus to INT more or less offsets the penalty to CON, and the DEX bonus more than offsets the CHA penalty. The dragonblood subtype is also a mechanical advantage, though not a large one. Not better than human for all of that, simply because INT and stats means a lot less to a Duskblade than to a Wizard. Outclassed by the Tiefling in pretty much every way, as long as your DM is allowing the +0 LA variant. A regular Gray Elf is alright, too, but penalizes STR for an equal INT boost. Still the best Elf, I think.

HalflingSRD – Every halfling variant has a STR penalty, and the bonus to DEX is not an even trade for most builds. The race has other interesting modifiers, but they are not worth it. There are better races to get DEX from, and if you’re gonna be small it’s possible option.

Gully DwarfSRD – If you want to be small but don’t want the STR penalty, this is the best you are gonna get. The bonuses to DEX and CON are offset by double-sized penalties to WIS and CHA. The CHA penalties mean nothing, but watch out for Will saves, because the WIS penalty is pretty brutal. If you’re optimizing, you don’t want to be small, though.

Half-OrcSRD – You take a -2 hit to INT and CHA, but gain a +2 bonus to STR. If you are going to sacrifice INT, you may as well go for full orc to minmax just a little more.

GoliathRoS – Costs +1 LA. You get +4 STR and +2 CON as well as powerful build. In a long game, with LA buyoff, LA races are better choices, but ultimately you can’t beat the bonus Feat™.

High ElfSRD – The class might have originated with the elves, but they are a terrible race to use if you want to optimize. The CON penalty hurts a lot more than the DEX bonus helps, and the other racial features are nothing compared the the benefits of, say, human bonus feat.

GnomeSRD – Every gnome variant has a STR penalty, and the bonus to CON is not worth the trade.

Half-ElfSRD – Poor half-elves can’t do much of anything right. Sadly, this class is no exception.

WarforgedECS – Extremely bad choice, as the body gives you a chance to fail to cast arcane spells, but you can make it work with Mithral Body Feat. Did I mention that Duskblades are Feat-starved?

Class Features

1 Armor Proficiency: All Armor and All Shields – This is good because a melee combatant needs a higher AC.

1 Weapon Proficiency: All Martial –  You have access to good weapons, but the best weapons for a Duskblade are exotic.

1 Spellcasting – Spells are always awesome, and the Duskblade gets plenty of them every day. Their huge number of spells per day can be used to fuel other things.

1 Spells Known – The downside to a Duskblade’s spellcasting ability is their not-so-great spell list and number of spells known.  However, this can be remedied in a few ways.

1 Arcane Attunement (Sp) – Gives extra cantrips as SLAs. These will be very useful. There’s also some feats that can be used in conjunction with these from Drow of the Underdark.

1 Armored Mage [Light] (Ex) – Allows you to wear a light armor and a shield without worrying about spell failure. Not really useful at high ECL, because armor enhancements alone can remove the penalty on light armor, but when starting out at level 1 it is definitely more useful than not, and in a campaign with no Magic-Mart or low-magic items, this becomes an even better feature.

2 Combat Casting (Feat) – A free feat, but it unfortunately is not that useful in the long run. Can be used to qualify for some Prestige Classes though, especially the Abjurant Champion, so it’s not a trash feature.

3 Arcane Channeling (Su) – The Duskblade’s signature ability allows you to deliver touch spells with your melee weapon attacks. An extremely powerful tool to deal massive single-target damage.

4 Armored Mage [Medium] (Ex) – Upgrades to medium armor, which allows you to wear heavy armor if it is made of Mithral. The main reason to go to level 4 besides spells.

5 Quick Cast 1/day – Cast any spell that is a standard action in length as a swift action once per day. Not bad at all, but it’s the only feature this level.

6 Spell Power +2 (Ex) – Gives a bonus on caster level to overcome Spell Resistance for any enemy damaged with a melee attack. The conditions in which the bonus is obtained are meh, but overall an okay feature, considering the Duskblade’s role and spell list.

7 Armored Mage [Heavy Shield] (Ex) – This would be better if it were not wiser to use a two-handed weapon. You can use a levitating shield, I guess, but even then that costs money.

10 Quick Cast 2/day – Same as before, but twice a day. Unfortunately have to sit through two mostly dead levels to get this.

11 Spell Power +3 (Ex) – Requires even more dead levels for a minor bonus.

13 Arcane Channeling [Full Attack] (Su) – If you stayed in Duskblade for this many levels, this had better be the reason why. It’s not blue or better because of the investment it takes to get this ability, and even then its use is limited to when multiple enemies are on the field within your reach. This is one of the primary reasons that extreme reach is useful when playing a Duskblade. RAW, spells only apply to each target you hit once every round, so you want to be able to hit as many targets as possible if you have full-round channeling. Overall, an average ability due to its limitations. Multiclassing or obtaining Prestige after Arcane Channeling is fully upgraded is definitely smart, because everything after this is just not that worthwhile. Having said that, there are many ways to trick this ability out.

15 Quick Cast 3/day – Still just as powerful, but now with more frequency. This is the absolute last level that you should stay in the class if you have the option of multiclassing.

16 Spell Power +4 (Ex) – Another increase. Something to consider is the rate/amount of monsters that have SR, and whether it is worth it to continue to progress forward for such a small increase. At this point, you really should multiclass or Prestige into some new class levels, even if you are a fan of pure Duskblade.

18 Spell Power +5 (Ex) – Same as above, except most monsters you fight at this point WILL have SR. GET OUT OF THIS CLASS ABSOLUTELY NOW.

20 Quick Cast 4/day – Pretty much THE LAMEST capstone ever. Please take some levels in ANYTHING ELSE before reaching this point. The spells this high aren’t worth it either.

Spell List

You only get 1 more spell known each level, so the spells you choose are of vital importance if you want to be a useful member of your party.

0th-Level

It really doesn’t matter, as you have a selection of virtually free cantrips.

1st-Level

Blade of Blood – Potentially worthwhile if you have spare first level spells and no use for your swift action. The sweet spot for this spell is levels 5-9. The hp/damage tradeoff isn’t particularly favorable except against caster monsters though, and the bonus damage is negligible at higher levels.

Burning Hands – Not usable with the signature class ability and not very useful to begin with, but if you need AoE damage or like burning things, this is your spell.

Cause Fear – Rather counterproductive for a melee combatant, and the HD limit makes it even less useful. Full casters do this much better than you.

Chill Touch – Not enough damage of either type to be very useful. You have better options. Still worth picking up for the monsters weak to cold because you can channel it.

Color Spray – While this spell is just crazy for wizards, it is not so much for the Duskblade who is MADder. However, even with your low save DCs, this spell is worth it if your character is starting from level 1. Swap it out early though, as the effects get much less useful very quickly.

Fire Bolt – Not your role in combat, and not very good regardless.

Jump – Perhaps situationally useful, but very narrowly, so not worth a spell known.

Lesser Deflect – Not terrible, but quickly outclassed. Doesn’t stack with the bonuses from Shield of Faith, Ring of Deflection, Protection from Evil, or any other of the many sources of deflection bonuses.

Magic Weapon – Useful until you can afford a magic weapon. Take it and swap it out later, if you think you’ll need a magic weapon quick for your campaign.

Obscuring Mist – Less useful due to the Duskblade’s melee role. Still, a quick escape can usually find a use.

Ray of Enfeeblement – Not your role, but not a terrible debuff.

Resist Energy – A useful buff if you know ahead of time what you are fighting. Also good to take for entry into Abjurant Champion, which you should probably take 5 levels of no matter how you are building if you want pure Duskblade. Recommended.

Rouse – Extremely situational, and not particularly useful even then. Actually, just bad.

Shocking Grasp – Your go-to spell for channeling until Vampiric Touch. This will probably be your most used 1st-level spell. The 5d6 cap guarantees you will have better options at later levels. You can nova REALLY hard at level 3 channeling this with a big damage two-hander, and it’s almost impossible to not take this spell. Also helps if your GM lets you take the bonus to-hit modifiers for attacking a metal enemy on your weapon attacks for channeling the spell.

Stand – Tripping and Grease aren’t enough to ever justify taking this spell.

Swift Expeditious Retreat – An additional tactical option worth considering, especially if your GM puts you in hard encounters where a retreat is necessary to survive.

Tripping Hand – The bonus to the trip attempt is too low to be really useful. A much worse Grease at best.

True Strike – Useful primarily if you are concerned about missing with a high level channeled spell. Quite useful against displacement and other forms of concealment. However, note that you are probably better off using both turns to attack instead of casting this, especially once you get iterative attacks. I would take this at a higher level when it will be crucial to hit with a nova power attack.

2nd-Level

Acid Arrow – Not very good damage, and not really useful for a melee combatant. However, with long range, a touch attack, no save and no SR, it is practically a sure thing against anything not resistant to acid.

Animalistic Power/Bear’s Endurance/Bull’s Strength/Cat’s Grace – Useful buffs, but clerics do it better. If no one in the party is built to buff, these may go up to blue. Out of these, Strength is probably the most useful unless you are finesse-based, but using weapon finesse is not optimal. Even then, you excel at damage, and Bull’s gonna help that. Cat’s Grace and Bear’s Endurance can give you extra survivability through AC and HP.

Darkvision – Light sources are easy to get and plentiful. Only useful if stealth is key. Could be usable if your campaign is one in which darkness is plentiful and stealth is a necessity.

Deflect – A larger bonus to a rarer category of mod may make this more useful than the level 1 version. If you are playing a sword and shield character or have an animated shield the bonus becomes significantly less great, however. The higher level of this spell makes it rather impractical nonetheless.

Dimension Hop – Usable with channeling, and in my opinion the best 2nd-level spell here. The distance you move your target isn’t too far, but enough to do something tactical if necessary. Pulls double duty, since it can be used on allies or yourself if walking doesn’t cut it for some reason. Personally, this spell is something I will take every time if I am going to level 13, so I can full-channel with unarmed strike/sap on my entire party and then we all can teleport short distances/jumps using one of the Duskblade’s MANY spells per day. You can also do cool things like teleport an enemy off of a cliff or into a hazard, but they can save. Extremely versatile spell.

Ghoul Touch – Can be channeled. This spell would be excellent if not for one thing – the target must be humanoid. If you fight primarily humanoids in your campaign, this spell is the best thing since sliced bread, though your low save DCs make it slightly less enticing.

Scorching Ray – Rather bad since it can’t be channeled and the damage is worse than 1d6/level most of the time. On top of that, the range is really crappy.

See Invisibility – This spell can be useful in some situations, but those situations are not common enough to justify wasting a precious spell known.

Seeking Ray – You should not be casting enough rays to justify the use of this spell. If you are, you are probably in the wrong class. Try Warmage instead.

Spider Climb – The only Duskblade spell to improve mobility outside of the “swift X” line and a handful of teleportation. Probably not worth a spell known unless you envision yourself setting up ceiling ambushes a lot or your party truly lacks some other way of moving vertically.

Stretch Weapon – If this spell was an immediate action or lasted longer it would be useful, but as it is there is no reason to use a spell known on it. Better ways to get Reach.

Striking Fist – Probably not worth a spell known. The damage is too crappy and the bull rush attempt is only occasionally useful. Dimensional Hop does a better job of moving enemies if you are so inclined.

Sure Strike – Sadly, the insight bonus is not very large, and it only lasts a single attack. With a full base attack bonus, you shouldn’t be this desperate for bonuses like this.

Swift Fly – One round of flying isn’t much. In most cases, Dimension Hop or Swift Expeditious Retreat will do the job better. Still, it is flying.

Swift Invisibility – For in-combat use, this is probably more functional than regular invisibility as far as the Duskblade is concerned. Gain the offensive or defensive benefits for one round. The offensive bonuses of invisibility are not as useful to a Duskblade as to, say, a Rogue.

Touch of Idiocy – Another utility spell you can channel, and possibly the best spell of the level in the right situation. No-save damage to mental ability scores. Against casters, this will at least lower save DCs and may even prevent some spells from being cast.

3rd-Level

Crown of Might – By the time you can get this spell, you could have a magic item that already grants an enhancement bonus to STR, making this spell moot. Worse still, you can’t wear this and a magic hat at the same time. If you have none of these items, it’s an alright spell, but for the long term not useful except in low-magic settings.

Crown of Protection – Same problems as Crown of Might, but with resistance and deflection bonuses.

Dispelling Touch – One of two useful touch spells at this level. Most intelligent enemies by this point ought to be using some sort of buffs or magicks on themselves. However, if those magicks stop you from hitting them, then this channel is not as useful. Might as well grab it, though.

Doom Scarabs – This spell has a lot in common with Vampiric Touch; out of the two Vampiric Touch is much better for the Duskblade.

Energy Aegis – When you have no forewarning, this serves the same purpose as Resist Energy. However, this spell is a high enough level that it is difficult to justify using it over the offensive spells it is competing with. It is, however, an immediate action, so if you aren’t worried about using up all your spells it does make a difference.

Energy Surge – Like Blade of Blood but elemental and way too high of a level to be really useful.

Greater Magic Weapon – Save money on magic weapons. If you have any need for anything but the mod you still have to pay for it, but this takes +1 to at least +3, and it lasts all day. Duskblade is probably not the best class to use this spell, however – full casters are losing less to cast a third level spell.

Halt – There are better ways to immobilize opponents, but most of them aren’t immediate actions. Probably not worth learning as a Duskblade though, simply because using it is too resource-intensive.

Keen Edge – Crits are not a reliable way to get extra damage for the Duskblade and this spell is not the best way to improve crit rate on them anyway.

Protection From Energy – By the time you can cast this, Resist Energy will do as good of a job if not better, and with a lower level slot too.

Ray of Exhaustion – A guaranteed debuff and not too bad of one either. Even on a successful save, most of the dangerous melee options are prevented, and on a failed save damage suffers greatly. Not the Duskblade’s role, but this spell can be plenty useful nonetheless.

Regroup – The effect is probably not worth a 3rd level spell and a standard action. However, outside of combat, this could be useful. Dimension Hop and then Regroup across some obstacle, or use it as a retreat option.

Vampiric Touch – The other useful channel at this level. The damage is adequate, though not great (better than shocking grasp though, which is what you have to use before this), but the useful part about this spell is the temp HP. There are no better options for channeling extra damage for the rest of your regular spell list, so really you must take this spell.

4th-Level

Channeled Pyroburst – You’d think from the name you could channel this spell, but you would be wrong. It is basically fireball but at a higher level. The redeeming feature is that you can cast it as a swift action to do a bit of single target damage. You generally have better things to be doing with this level of spell, but if you don’t for some reason, this isn’t terrible.

Dimension Door – Very useful. Since it is a standard action, it is less awesome for combat than it could be. Still a good spell though.

Dispel Magic – Sadly not a touch spell. Almost all spellcasters get this spell, so in most parties it will be redundant, but this spell is useful in a wide variety of situations and might be worth taking even if everyone else already has it. Enervate – A pretty useful spell, but sadly not channelable. With the Duskblade’s high BAB you are almost sure to hit, so it does serve as a pretty useful debuff, though by this level the full casters will have 7th level spells, so it might be best to let them handle debuffs instead.

Fire Shield – Resist Energy does a better job of protecting from the elements unless your opponents are doing truly massive amounts of damage, and the damaging effect fails to effect 75% of monsters by the time you get access to the spell between SR, resistances, and casters.

Interposing Hand – Cover is nice and all, but I’m not sure the benefits of this spell are worth the level it takes to cast it.

Phantasmal Killer – This spell is awful but seems cool. Don’t take it.

Shout – Deafen isn’t a very good debuff, and the damage is not very good.

Toxic Weapon – Channelable. The poison created by this spell is pretty strong. The problem is lots of things are immune to poison. Still, when it works it will do some good damage. On an average roll, the damage is 2.5/enemy hit die, which is comparable in some situations to Vamp Touch damage assuming the enemy is level appropriate.

5th-Level

Chain Lightning – Better damage than most of the Duskblade spells, but by this point the full casters have 9th level spells, so it is sort of silly to try to compete spell for spell. Suffers from all the usual problems with blaster spells: SR, evasion, mediocre averages. Just go nova with channeling and you’ll do better.

Clenched Fist – The damage is mediocre, the stunning is nice, but many creatures are immune, and the bull rushing is situational. Meh.

Disintegrate – Good damage if they don’t make the save, awful damage if they do. Like Chain Lightning, probably not worth the trouble. Also, your DCs won’t be stellar enough to guarantee a success.

Hold Monster – Paralysis is nice, but Duskblade save DCs are at least 4 behind full casters, so it will probably succeed less often than would be hoped.

Polar Ray – Better than Chain Lightning and Disintegrate in that there is no save, but damage is still less than 70 on average, so still no prizes to win.

Slashing Dispel – The damage probably isn’t enough to justify using this over Dispel Magic, but there isn’t much worth learning at this level anyways.

Sonic Shield – The deflection bonus probably doesn’t matter too much, especially since AC is mostly pointless at this level. Sonic is almost unresisted and the knockback isn’t terrible, but this is not the kind of thing you spend a standard action on at level 17.

Waves of Fatigue – Fatigue is a pretty okay debuff, but the cone is smallish and Ray of Exhaustion is better on single targets. There really isn’t that much worth taking for 5th level spells though, so it isn’t the worst option.

Feats

Perhaps moreso than your average character, Feats really define a Duskblade. Depending on what kind of build, what your party needs, and how you want to balance the damage/survivability/utility tradeoffs, your feats will vary. However, Duskblade excel at damage, so the best feats are focused on improving this aspect. That’s not to say you can’t mix and match feats though, but that better synergy exists in some niches and does not in others.

Arcane DiscipleCD79 – You can learn spells from  a chosen Cleric domain. Very useful and effective way of increasing your spell list without dips. The major downside to this is that it works off of your WIS score, making you MADder.

Arcane StrikeCW96 – Burn a spell slot for a bonus to attack rolls and some extra damage based on the spell level sacrificed. Works well as you have a lot of spells per day, and only so many actions per combat. At midrange levels of straight Duskblade builds, you can get better mileage. Otherwise, useful for early level novas. Quite frankly, the most straightforward and useful feat around for the Duskblade.

Arcane ThesisPHBII74 – If you’re focusing on maximizing damage from one attack, and want to apply metamagic to either Shocking Grasp or Vampiric Touch, then this feat can reduce metamagic costs by 1 for these one of these 2 spells. When you upgrade to Vampiric Touch, you can ask your DM if you can retrain the Feat. If you’re using this Feat any other way, write me, because that’s baffling.

Battle Caster [Heavy Armor]CA75 – If you really want to wear Heavy Armor but don’t want to pay for Mithral, this is something you could take, though it is not at all a good use of a feat.

Battle CastingRotW148 – Easy to take since you get the prerequisite Combat Casting for free. You’ll also probably be casting a spell every round. However, the small dodge bonus to AC might not be worthwhile for a feat slot. Also, you can’t make AoO while you gain the bonus.

Blind-FightSRD – It’s blind fight, yeah. Helps you do well with your melee in a variety of scenarios.

CleaveSRD – If you for some reason want to do a pitiful attack after you nova some scrub down to -20 at level 5, this is your crap. Channeling won’t even work on this bonus attack until level 13, so the scaling is bad while the skill remains even remotely relevant.

Combat ExpertiseSRD– This doesn’t see much use except as a pre-req for it’s big bro, Reflexes.

Combat ReflexesSRD– If you are doing a tripping build or something, this is fairly important.

Deformity (Tall)HoH121 – For evil characters, can grant you +5ft reach. This would be black or blue if not for the totally useless prerequisite, Willing Deformity, which has its own obstacles.

DodgeSRD – If you’re gonna spring attack, don’t. You already have plenty of mobility options and enough durability to not need it.

Draconic AuraDM16 – Choose a Draconic Aura and project it. If you are Dragonblooded, it improves with class levels. Not a bad option, really. Combines well with Dragonborn or Silverbrow Humans, but if you’re not of the Dragonblood subtype, it’s less worthwhile.

Empower SpellSRD – I am not wholly opposed to taking Rapid Metamagic and then this feat in order to buff up your Shocking Grasps. It could be worth it to have more consistent damage.

Exotic Weapon ProficiencySRD – I recommend the Spiked Chain, but there is also the Spinning Sword from Secrets of Sarlona, a 1-handed reach weapon, and the Kusari-gama, another 1-handed reach weapon. For big multi-hit full attack Arcane Channels, reach improves your ability to stay safe and hit many enemies. Some people also use the Whip.

Extra SpellCA79 – Depending on how your DM rules this, you can get spells that are perhaps not on your spell list. If you can only get spells that are on your spell list, it’s not worthwhile, as your default spell list is bad. A few great spells to grab if you can get them: Haste, Wraithstrike, Fist of Stone, Nerveskitter.

Heighten SpellSRD  – Not recommended.

Improved FamiliarSRD – Some of the improved familiars aren’t too bad I guess, and it can make them more combat-ready.

Improved InitiativeSRD – Initiative: win it to fire the first rocket in rocket tag.

Improved TripSRD – Par for melee trip builds.

Knowledge DevotionCC60 – Knowledge checks on a monster type determine an insight bonus to attack and damage, up to +5. This feat was built for Duskblades; you have all knowledges as class skills! Highly recommended as it can provide you with better combat for investing in utility and information that come easily to you anyway. Combine with Collector of Stories Skill Trick and a Cloistered Cleric dip for maximum power. Cloistered Cleric can sacrifice a domain to get this for free, as well, and they still get 2 domains, so the other domain can also net you a domain feat that could improve your mobility or allow you to pounce. They also have a huge number of skill points at level 1 to get you started on your knowledge skills. See this page on Dipping Cleric 1.

Maximize SpellSRD – If you’re doing metamagic, why the hell not Maximize that Shocking Grasp? Oh wait, that’s only 30 extra damage on average.

Martial StanceToB31 – If you already dipped a maneuver class, this feat is good to take later to get a high-IL stance, but otherwise you need a maneuver so you’ll have to take Martial Study as a pre-req. Many melee builds get Thicket of Blades to have better sticking power, and that works even better with a reach weapon. Also good stances: Assassin’s Stance, Punishing Stance.

Martial StudyToB31 – A decent situational feat if used well in the build, as it gives you a class skill from the discipline (permanently), and any maneuver you have the IL to support. So, if you take this feat at a high level, you can pick from a pretty huge selection of maneuvers. However, this feat is extremely inefficient depending on which maneuver you want, so it’s probably best to just dip Swordsage and get the benefits of this feat directly. Generically good maneuvers: Iron Heart Surge, White Raven Tactics, Stone Dragon/Mountain Hammer line of maneuvers (bypassing DR), Shadow Jaunt (standard action tele), Diamond Mind Fort/Ref/Will save counters, and Burning Brand (bonus reach).

MobilitySRD – Stoppp.

Obtain FamiliarCA81 – Familiars are alright, but I think they are better theoretically than they are practically. Most familiars are kind of weak, and there are just as many penalties to losing one as there are benefits to gaining one. Duskblade familiars are probably stronger than most (higher HP, all good saving throws for the Familiar, high BAB), but it still doesn’t change their slight frailty. In any case, you can cast a touch spell, have your familiar hold the charge, and then have the familiar deliver the spell as normal. There’s a lot you can do with it otherwise, too, like scouting and chatting. A solid use of a feat, but not my favorite.

Power AttackSRD – It’s power attack. Get some good attack bonuses, and use a two-hander for even better damage bonuses.

Practiced SpellcasterCA82 – Follow CO Rule #1: Never give up caster levels or spellcasting. You may not ever need this, but if you do dip for 3+ levels for some reason, be sure to take this. I can think of some scenarios where this is usable (Swordsage, Fighter, Prestige dips), so it’s not the end of the world if you do need it, and the only thing Duskblades stand to lose is damage dice per CL lost. If those can be made up through the dip and you can take this feat later, then ignore CO Rule 1. For the record, I think the Duskblade is best (practically optimized, not totally optimized) with dips, so you might end up taking this.

Quicken SpellSRD – How about no? Also, Duskblades already get this for free.

Rapid MetamagicCM46 – You have to take this if you want to use metamagic like a normal caster. But Duskblades suck at metamagic.

SidestepMH28 – There are too many prereqs. You have to prioritize better Feats, therefore you can’t get the prereqs.

Short HaftPHBII82 – Sounds like a good deal, but is usually a trap. This lets you burn your swift action (which you have other, better uses for) to give up reach on your reach weapon. Also it requires Weapon Focus, removes your ability to regain reach until you use ANOTHER swift action… just use good positioning if you’re going to use a reach weapon (the Duskblade has high enough intelligence to justify this), or take one of the myriad of ToB stances that gives you mobility options. Such a bad Feat, big trap.

Spring AttackSRD – Why are you this far up on the Feat chain?

Versatile SpellcasterRotD101 – Make 2 1st-level spells into a single 2nd-level spell, and 2 2nd-level spells into a single 3rd-level… and so on. This is great for Duskblades because they tend to use the same spell over and over again, and they have a TON of spells per day. I like this spell in simple campaigns where I just need to attack things and do damage. Goes very well on Duskblades that PrC to maintain high spells per day rather than multiclass.

Weapon FinesseSRD – It’s doable, but there’s not exactly a reason to do this. Your damage will hurt too much.

Weapon FocusSRD – If you know you’re not going to have to change weapons, this is tolerable but I don’t recommend it at all except as a pre-req for something else.

Whirlwind AttackSRD – Theoretically you can buff an entire army using a whip or something, or kill lots of weak enemies. This is, of course, assuming you slogged your way to level 13 for full-round channeling. You could also do serious AoE damage with a reach weapon while surrounded without this attack, though, if you maintain your BAB.

Willing DeformityHoH125 – Requires you to be Evil-aligned, and gives a cruddy bonus to Intimidate. The only reason you would take this is to get to Deformity (Tall).

Skills & Skill Tricks

Skill selection can be pretty tight with only 2/level, but INT is fortunately the Duskblade’s casting stat, so up to 4/level is easily obtained. If you go are a Human, you can get up to 5/level. Also, the class skill list is pretty slim, so if you want to invest in cross-class, it can be costly. There aren’t any good skill tricks for a gish like the Duskblade, with one exception, detailed below.

Skills

Appraise – Even if you had enough points for appraise, it’s not a good skill.

Autohypnosis – Not enough skills to invest in the non-psionic uses.

Balance – If you can get 5 ranks in balance, you are not considered flat footed while balancing. Not priority.

Bluff – Duskblades don’t make a good social character. Invest if you like.

*Climb – Too situational, and you’ll have a good strength score to make up for it.

*Concentration – If you think you’ll be casting non-channeled spells in combat, you may want to put some points here. However, it is not extremely useful otherwise.

*Craft – Craft (alchemy) and craft (poison-making) are the only two you would consider, but this is not important or necessary.

*Decipher Script – No good general use. Don’t invest.

Diplomacy – Duskblades don’t make a good social character. Invest if you like.

Disable Device – Too costly/difficult for a Duskblade.

Disguise – Not needed.

Escape Artist – Too situational, should use your strength to escape instead.

Forgery – Unless there is some campaign-related reason, don’t put points in.

Gather Information – Duskblades don’t make a good social character. Invest if you like.

Handle Animal – Don’t bother with animals in this class.

Heal – Possibly good to take a point in if your party has nobody else to stabilize.

Hide – You’re not a stealth character.

Intimidate – Better than the other social skills to invest in, but still not good.

*Jump – Your STR will be able to yield you a good jump check, yet I find jumping more common than climbing or swimming, and if you need to jump, you probably need to do it now, and can’t prepare, unlike a lot of climbs or swims.

*Knowledge (arcana) – Definitely look to max out this knowledge, as it gives synergy and creatures from this are common.

*Knowledge (architecture and engineering) – Not as important as other knowledges, but put in 1 point if you can afford it.

*Knowledge (dungeoneering) – Place 1 point in here, more if you encounter more monsters of this type.

*Knowledge (geography) – Put 1 point in to get the skill use.

*Knowledge (history) – Put 1 point in to get the skill use.

*Knowledge (local) – Put some amount of points in this, as it works vs humanoids. At least 1, at most max out.

*Knowledge (nature) – An excellent knowledge to try and keep high. Lots of monsters come from this.

*Knowledge (nobility and royalty) – Put 1 point in to get the skill use. Probably the least important knowledge.

*Knowledge (psionics) – Situationally put 1 point in the skill. Check with your DM if there are psionics in the setting. Otherwise it doesn’t make sense for the skill to exist.

*Knowledge (religion) – A great knowledge to try and max out. Can give you more than just info on monsters, but also info on all the gods in the game.

*Knowledge (the planes) – Good to max as you level. Depending on the DM, can be more or less useful, as there are extraplanar creatures of all levels, but more as you are higher level.

Listen – Good to put some points in if you can afford, but not as valuable as Spot.

Martial Lore – If your campaign has initiators (from ToB) you may want to put a point in this.

Move Silently – Duskblades don’t do stealth.

Open Lock – Don’t bother.

Perform – Unless it’s a prerequisite for your obscure PrC, stay away.

Profession – Not worthwhile.

*Ride – You can be a mounted Duskblade, but the investment does not have good returns. Stay away unless you like the idea of mounted stuff. The Cityscape Web Enhancement may let you swap this class skill with Tumble, which is better for you.

Search – Take 10 or20, OR let someone else search, even though your INT will be decent.

*Sense Motive – A very useful skill, but someone else in your party will be better at it.

Sleight of Hand – Not a dextrous character.

*Spellcraft – Very useful to figure out what the enemy’s spells are, and has synergy with a knowledge skill.

Spot – One of the best skills in the game. You really don’t have room to invest in it, but if you do it is a good skill.

Survival – Synergy with knowledge skill means that if you have a few extra points and possibly a need for the skill in your campaign it’s not the worst investment.

*Swim – Don’t bother swimming, try to avoid getting in the water in the first place. The Armor Check penalty is high for an armored character (as you should be) and your strength will help you to swim if you absolutely need to.

Tumble – Usable if you can swap Ride class skill for this as a class skill. Otherwise, your armor and low DEX will probably make this unusuable or at least inefficient/risky.

Use Magic Device – Good skill, no room to put points in it.

Use Rope – Bad skill, no room to put points in it.

Skill Tricks

Back on Your Feet – 12 ranks of Tumble, you can immediately stand from prone without AoO. Too much investment.

Collector of Stories – For only 5 ranks of any knowledge, when you attempt to use a knowledge check to identify a creature, you get +5 competence bonus on the check. An incredible skill trick that DOES work with Knowledge Devotion. If you DM insists otherwise, bummer. It’s an amazing combo, but useable only once per encounter, although if the enemies you are facing are all governed by the same knowledge, it effectively works more than one time.

Extreme Leap – 5 ranks of jump, you can use swift action to get 10 feet bonus on a 10 foot or greater horizontal jump. If you are like me and invest a little in jump, you might want this later to surprise your foes or clear a gap to safety. Situational, though, so not that good.

Nimble Charge – 5 ranks of Balance, you can run or charge over difficult terrain without making a Balance check. If you like to charge, it could be useful, and 5 ranks of balance never hurt anyone.

Nimble Stand – 8 ranks of Tumble, you can stand up from prone without provoking AoO.

Swift Concentration – If you invested 12 ranks in concentration (not a good idea) you can maintain concentration on a spell as a swift action. Not really for gishes.

Twisted Charge – 5 in balance and 5 in Tumble let you turn 90 degrees during charge movement once. I’m not sold on it, as the investment in tumble is just crappy.

Multiclass Options

There are generally two kinds of dips for the Duskblade – fighter-type supplements, and spellcasting supplements. Fighter-type dips get you better melee combat abilities, while the spellcasting dips are usually for increasing your spell list or adding spells to channel. While a decently balanced class by itself, the Duskblade can potential benefit from some base class dips. Personally, I think these are decent options if you take Practiced Spellcaster to keep your CL high for your spell damage dice scaling. Even if you choose not to do that, the Duskblade is still a good fighter with a full BAB. There some better options for Prestige than dipping base classes, but it may be necessary to take one of these in order to enter some of the best PrCs.

Fighter – The classic Fighter 2 dip. If you’re truly hard-up for Fighter bonus Feats and don’t care to use spells frequently, this may actually be an option for you. You get 2 feats and 2d10 hit dice. Your saves will suffer, but your BAB is preserved. This dip is best used after level 3, so you can still channel spells and attack.

Warblade – The Warblade is a good dip for a quick-witted, tactical, melee fighter. It has access to a great spectrum of maneuvers, gains boosts to Ref saves from INT bonus, (the worst Duskblade save), has a d12 hit die, and the (potentially cheesy) Weapon Aptitude feature. As a 1-level dip, you get a LOT of things, but investing further gives up more caster levels. A very solid dip, or possibly a main class after 3 levels of Duskblade. To compliment the Brains-Over-Brawn (really brains and brain) build further, a splash of Factotum can be added. Highly recommended if you want to be a tougher melee opponent with more options. Combine with Jade Phoenix Mage PrC for best results. Note that you want to delay entry until after level 4 for best selection of maneuvers (Iron Heart Surge ho!).

Swordsage – Another martial initiator, more fragile than the Crusader or the Warblade but a good option as well, because maneuvers are simply that powerful for melee characters. The real problem with this dip is that there is a lot of sacrifice for the maneuvers you get. You essentially get weapon focus and a big variety of maneuvers at level 1, but you lose out on BAB, as the Swordsage has only +3/4 progression. The class does have two good saves though. A 2-level investment nets you 7 different maneuvers, and 2 stances, but any more and the dip becomes pretty inefficient. This class does have access to Desert Wind discipline, but the Warblade gets the Iron Heart discipline. Still, a good dip. Comine with Jade Phoenix Mage PrC for best reults. Delay entry until post-4 for best results.

Crusader – The last martial initiator class. My least favorite dip of the three, but still a decent dip. This class with 1 level will give you a small delayed damage pool which can and will be converted to a +1 bonus on damage, and a useful set of maneuvers that never runs out, but is harder to control. The Swordsage and Warblade give better straight-up control over your nova and damage, and the Crusader actually scales really well with more investment in the class. Not a recommended option, but usable. You can use it to get into some PrCs.

Swashbuckler – It looks good in theory, take 3 levels to get INT to weapon damage – but that is a huge loss for such small gains. You get Weapon Finesse, a +1 dodge bonus, and then the hook of the class. That’s not enough to justify 3 levels of this cruddy class.

Barbarian – Get pounce in 1 level or in 2 levels various bonuses. Ultimately not as effective as other dips, and you can’t cast spells while enraged.

Cleric/Cloistered Cleric – Even ONE level of Cleric can step your game up. You get a slew of spells and 2 domains that you can swap out for Devotion feats (like Knowledge Devotion). The Cloistered Cleric variant gets 6 + INT skill points at level 1 (times four), and has all knowledges. If you take Cloistered Cleric before your Duskblade levels, you can swap one of your domains for the Knowledge Devotion feat, and swap another for something like Travel, which gives you your full movement as a swift action, or Animal, which gives a sacred bonus to STR or the ability to Fly. So you can start the game out with some ridiculous boosts in power and utility for very little loss. You get a bump in saves, but lose a point of BAB as it has worst progression. Also, you can use magic items. Arguably the most versatile dip. No matter what you end up doing with your cleric dip, it will probably be something good.

Paladin – Quite simply too MAD. Probably can make it work, but that’s not optimized in any way.

Wizard – I don’t recommend taking Wizard, but you can do some sort of funky Ultimate Magus build where you progress both separately.

Sorcerer – See Wizard.

Factotum – Lots of bonus skill points, and ALL SKILLS AS CLASS SKILLS. I may be slightly biased. Anyway, this class synergizes well if you have high INT score. You get Inspiration Points equal to your INT mod, and you can use them to give yourself a competence bonus equal to INT mod on attack rolls, damage rolls, or saving throws. Yes, that’s right, +INT to attack and damage rolls, on top of your STR. This is basically better Swashbuckler. You also can use inspiration to boost your skill checks (including Knowledge Devotion checks). However, it is a bonus equal to your Factotum level, but there is limited incentive to invest up to 3 levels. At 3rd level, you get Brains Over Brawn, which gives INT mod as a bonus to all STR and DEX checks, including skill checks, for no charge. You can also burn an inspiration point to give yourself +INT mod dodge bonus to AC as a free action. Also by level 3, you can cast one spell as if you were a Wizard per day. That spell can be Haste, or any 1st-level spell you need. Despite all this, it is a heavy investment, so I cannot promote this with any higher than a moderate rating, despite my bias suggesting otherwise.

Spellthief – The limitations of the spellthief inhibit its power a lot, but it is a flavorful option that can be included in a powerful build with just a single level dip. Basically, you can steal others’  spells and use them for yourself. This sort of addresses the problem of the Duskblade spell list, but it slows the class down by a lot in terms of damage per round, and you have to be able to sneak attack in order to steal. If you dip this, consider Master Spellthief Feat to stay relevant.

Incarnate – If you don’t know about Soulmelds, they are actually decently effective pieces of pseudo-equipment. A 2-level dip gets you 3 soulmelds with 2 essentia to invest. Not recommended, but check it out. Some of the Crown bindings are particularly potent. Not much synergy.

Warlock – A bunch of random utility via invocations. Low synergy.

Prestige Classes

Even as a pure Duskblade, you should enter a Prestige class after level 3. The class features on Duskblade simply suck too much, and via PrCs you can still get your caster levels with new and better features that can help you out. You can skip a base class dip, but don’t skip a Prestige class. You can also use the Duskblade as a base for a Theurge character, but it is not very efficient.

Abjurant Champion – The premier Duskblade Prestige Class. This gives you full BAB and CL progression, which is perfect for Duskblade, has very easy entry requirements (you are given the feat you need for Free at Duskblade 2), and gives class features at every level but 3rd. Unfortunately, the class is only 5 levels long. The class is straightforward boost to survivability, so take that Resist Energy at level 2 or 3, and get ready to enter the class at level 7 or 13, or really as early as possible if you aren’t making use of Full Round Channeling.

Spellsword – Another virtually required Prestige class, the Spellsword. It is another rare PrC that gives full BAB and CL at level 1. It is even easier than the Abjurant Champion to enter, but is significantly less powerful. All it really offers is ignoring 10% spell failure, and the aformentioned +1 BAB and CL. You can’t take beyond level 1 or you’ll lose a CL, but this is still a no-brainer.

Jade Phoenix Mage – The requirements are actually not very steep – you’ll want all of the requirements to enter, anyway, and have a good reason and means to get them. You’ll need to take a level in Warblade, Swordsage, or Crusader, unless you want to drop three Feats to get in. See above for the selection of those, because dropping 3 feats is unacceptable when a 1-level dip of Warblade is so crazy good. You will definitely want to take Practiced Spellcaster if you enter JPM, because in order to get down to the good stuff you have to lose a CL at first level, and another CL for the Warblade or Swordsage dip to get in. However, it is a full BAB class, and you only lose another CL at level 6. The benefits of this class are basically Arcane Strike feat on steroids – you get a +4 bonus to hit on an attack or maneuver, and 1d10 damage per spell level expended. This dramatically increases the nova capability of the Duskblade. Also, you continue to get maneuvers from Desert Wind or Devoted Spirit as you progress. But, it gets better still. You gain, as a part of the Rite of Waking in the class, a +2 untyped bonus on knowledge checks to further pimp your Knowledge Devotion, along with a +2 to some other less cool things. You also get a special defensive stance at level 2, which you can burn spell slots to fuel. Take Versatile Spellcaster for this build, because you will need it. The stance also somewhat makes up for the loss of CL, as it gives +1 CL. I think the overall synergy this class has with Duskblade puts it on par with the Abjurant Champion. However, the class is probably only 5 levels long, as the benefit for 6th level is fairly lackluster compared to the early levels of this PrC.

Warmind – A solid class to bolster melee fighters, but pales in comparison as you lose spellcasting and gain psionic powers. Not recommended as anything more than a short dip. You can follow this up if you decide to go deeper in order to get manifesting powers with Cerebremancer.

Dragon Disciple – There are many tools for creating a Draconic-theme Duskblade. In any case, this class is an option that lets you become more draconic if you are a non-dragon (Dragonblooded subtype is allowed in this class). The requirements are lax besides this, but the benefits are lackluster, but can work. You get bonus spells to apply to any spell level you like (which can be shifted around with Versatile Spellcaster, so always pick the highest level) and increases to ability scores of STR, CON, and INT, along with Natural armor and a Breath Weapon. This all scales with level, and you cease to gain caster levels, so there are certainly better options. As a dip at high level, it’s an acceptable choice.

Green Star Adept – Do you want to slowly transform into an otherworldly construct ala The Vision? Well, here’s the weird class for you. It doesn’t give good BAB progression, and it only improves CL every even level, so it’s not a good choice, but it’s a flavorful choice. Not recommended, not even as a dip. If you want to play this class, Duskblades can get in pretty easily, though.

Sand Shaper – In order to enter this class, you need 8 ranks in knowledge (local) in order to take a Touchstone feat. Enter by level 7 is good, so the awkward requirements are actually not as awkward, but you do have to take essentially a dump feat. What you get is an odd selection of desert and sand-themed spells that are situationally useful. You do get Parching Touch, a touch spell that dehydrates things but does not scale with CL. I think this class is an overrated option for spell list expansion in most all campaign settings, but it does give those spellcasting levels, at the cost of horrible BAB progression. As a 1-level dip, I could see it, but I think there are better 1-level dips.

Bladesinger – Another Swashbuckler-level trap. The investment for this class is HUGE and the payoff is NONEXISTENT. As a flavor build ONLY is this an option. You have to get a bunch of irrelevant feats and you must be an Elf, one of the worst Duskblade races. It is easy for the Duskblade to enter, though – she can take Dodge and Expertise, then dip Swordsage to be treated as having Weapon Focus in both longsword and rapier. Very bad, not recommended, but you could do it to show off.

Arcane Archer – I also see discussion of the Arcane Archer as a good Duskblade PrC. It can work, but your CL suffers very badly. A neat use of the Arcane Archer with Duskblade 5/PrC X 5/Arcane Archer 4-10. However, melee builds are far superior.

Wyrm Wizard – A personal favorite. The Wyrm Wizard can provide up to 3 spells from ANY LIST and add them to your own. You can get Haste from the Trapmaster’s list, Celerity, or whatever! On top of that, you get bonus to knowledge (arcana), free metamagic on a specific 2nd and 4th level spell, up to +4 adjust. This means you can potentially persist a spell on yourself. Persist the Trapsmith’s Haste or Arcane Sight. Slightly cheezy, check with your DM. You do lose some BAB though, and a CL at level 1.

Initiate of the Sevenfold Veil – This is pretty strong, but takes a lot to get in to. Not sure if it’s worth the investment or matches the idea of the Duskblade, but very strong even if only for 7 levels.

Equipment

This is a small selection of equipment that is powerful on typical Duskblade builds. This is not comprehensive.

Weapons

Spiked Gauntlet – This is great way to compensate when you don’t have the Feat to spare for a broken reach weapon like the spiked chain. If you buy a Spiked Gauntlet, you can technically threaten both adjacent to you and at reach range with any reach weapon. Since you are considered armed with a spiked gauntlet, you can use it with arcane channeling to punch people with your touch spells. However, you could always just TOUCH them with your touch spells if they are adjacent to you, but what fun would that be? Every Duskblade should have one of these in their non-casting hand. More on that later.

Spiked Chain – AKA the Cheeze Chain. The best melee weapon in the game is even better for Duskblade. She can threaten/attack adjacent as well as within her reach. This is the preferred weapon for full-channel Duskblades, as they can use their full attack Arcane Channeling to hit every enemy within their reach with a touch spell. This is significantly less powerful for Duskblades who are not level 13. Requires EWP.

Spinning Sword – Cheeze Chain Jr. He’s a 1-handed variant of the Spiked Chain, dealing less damage and can be worn as a belt to conceal it. Requires EWP. You can use a shield, but then you can’t cast spells or deal damage. This weapon is from Secrets of Sarlona, an Eberron Splatbook.

Kusari-gama – The one-handed Spiked Chain, but also a double weapon. You can’t cast spells with somatic components if you wield this plus a shield, so it’s not very good, actually. Also, your damage goes down. Requires EWP.

Greatsword – Looking to bop people early on in the game? This is the best weapon you can start out with as a Duskblade. Costs no Feat, and does more damage on average than any other weapon. It doesn’t have reach, but you won’t need reach early on anyway. If you’re not not getting full arcane channeling, it’s worth considering a Greatsword over a reach weapon just because of the damage.

Longsword – If your DM is a hardass and doesn’t let you cast spells without a truly free hand, you’ll have to use a longsword so you can flail your arm around and channel. This is a major drag, but the longsword is a reliable weapon in this case. If this is the case, see Spinning Sword.

Guisarme – The poor Duskblade’s reach weapon. The Guisarme is arguably the best martial reach weapon, as it deals consistent 2d4 damage with slashing, the ability to trip, and they are cheap to boot. You can really use any reach weapon you want, but this is the best weapon tied with Greatsword if you’re not going for an exotic weapon.

Whip – A whip is a pretty crappy weapon, to be honest. It doesn’t deal damage hardly at all, but it does have 15ft of range. If you’re truly that scared or want this for flavor, go ahead, as the majority of your damage is spells. But you are missing out on the STR score to damage and the relative durability of the Duskblade as a service to your party. I don’t recommend this weapon except in mass-attack builds, tripping builds, or army-buffing whirlwind builds.

Lance – Like a Guisarme with the reach, but x2 damage on charge. If you like to charge, this is a pretty good pick up instead of the Guisarme. You can’t use arcane channel on a charge, though.

Elven Courtblade – an exotic weapon that works for free with some Elven prestige classes. Has better damage than the Greatsword, but not worth a Feat to pick up like the Spiked Chain. If you’re set on a badass blade though…

Elven Lightblade – AKA better longsword, but like the Courtblade, it takes an EWP to get or a special trip through splatland.

Composite Bow – Good to have if you can afford it, but you’ll suck at hitting, so not worth the investment.

Spiked Heavy Shield – If you have the shield proficiency and can use one without arcane failure, you could forgo a weapon in a tense fight and be a meatshield. When the time is right, strike with a shield bash and channel your Vampiric Touch to try and kill them. If you use it to bash, you lose the AC bonus, so it’s not a reliable method. Also, you need a hand free to cast, so you can’t really ever use a weapon + shield combo.

Weapon Enchantments

Bloodstone – A spellstoring weapon but only for Vampiric Touch spells. Also gives free empower metamagic to the Vampiric Touch spell stored inside. Since Vampiric Touch is the best touch spell Duskblades get, this is a pretty darn good enchantment.

Shattermantle – Reduces spell resistance of targets hit. Stacks with spellpower class feature. Not great, but situationally powerful.

Sizing – This lets you change the weapon size as a swift action (?). You can shrink your reach weapon to 1 size category smaller and attack adjacent enemies with a -2 penalty, as reach weapons smaller than your size category do not function as reach weapons. Less cheezy than the Spiked Gauntlet method, and preserves more damage, since your weapon with probably be magic and your gauntlet will be plain.

Speed – Extra attack on full attack. Doesn’t stack with Haste. Good for both full Duskblades and basic Duskblades.

Whirling – Gives you whirlwind attack as the feat 3/day. Since the feat chain is like 5 feats too long, and this only costs +1, it’s a steal. If you are a full-channel Duskblade above level 13, this is a great choice when you are surrounded with a reach weapon.

Spellstoring – Bloodstone but better if you need different spells. Otherwise, I’d pick Bloodstone.

Magic Items

Ring of Wizardy – If you look above, there are many abilities that deal more damage using spell slots. This gives you more spell slots, and you can combine it with Arcane Strike/Versatile caster and get many, many spells. Best offensive ring a Duskblade can wear, I think, as it allows you to potentially miss your nova damage and try again or keep a more consistent level of DPR.

Special thanks to Dictum Mortuum for his original Duskblade handbook.

4 comments

  1. Thanks for the great guide! The amount of information and level of detail you managed to fit in is impressive and much appreciated.

    You mentioned the importance of deciding on how many points to put in INT, I like the idea of 16 pts and getting the extra skill point to help with Knowledge Devotion, but finding the points for a 16 in the 2nd best stat seems like it’d be tough in a lot of games. To get a better idea of how valuable INT is compared to DEX/WIS it’d be really helpful if you had examples on how you’d handle attributes for something like 25/28/32 point buys in that section.

  2. Wow! It’s great to see another, complete, handbook for my favourite class even though it’s been so long! I like how you provide a different perspective from Dictum Mortuum on the 13th level feature, the key point of decision for the class.

    Several years ago I played my first game of D&D 3.5 using Dictum Mortuum’s guide, but I knew it would be a long way to 13th, so I built for early strength and multiclassed, as you recommend here. So many great memories! I was wondering what you thought of the build:

    1 Duskblade 1 — Empower Spell, Power Attack
    2 Duskblade 2 — Combat Casting
    3 Duskblade 3 — Knowledge Devotion
    4 Duskblade 4
    5 Evoker 1 (energy affinity [electricity], fighter bonus feats, focused specialist) — Improved Initiative
    6 Evoker 2 — Practised Spellcaster (wizard)
    7 Abjurant champion 1 (advancing wizard)
    8 Abjurant champion 2
    9 Abjurant champion 3 — Arcane Thesis (combust)
    10 Abjurant champion 4

    (Alternatively, you can go duskblade 3/evoker 2/spellsword 1/abjurant champion 5, etc., and potentially end up with 9th-level spells.)

    My reasoning was that channelling shocking grasp, with its 1d6-per-level damage up to 5th level, is the duskblade’s main schtick from levels three to eight, while combust, with its 1d8-per-level damage up to 10th level, is even better, though not on the duskblade spell list. I decided to multiclass into wizard to get it. Arcane Thesis lets me empower it cheaply and, together with Practised Spellcaster, restores my caster level with it to full.

    Armour is provided by the (greater) luminous armour spell from the Book of Exalted Deeds, enhanced by the abjurant champion’s abjurant armour ability and backed up by a rod of bodily restoration to heal the ability damage. The abjurant champion’s arcane boost ability stands in for Arcane Strike, less powerful but more versatile. And you can take whatever wizard spells you want (as long as you don’t ban evocation or abjuration)!

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