Just hit 21 (4 blackguard, 17 bard) so this build is a combo of what’s done and what I plan to do. So far it’s been holding its own just fine. The biggest pain is that in Diamond Edition there’s a bug where the extra spells per day from buffed charisma disappear when the game is loaded. EE fixes this problem but obviously Swordflight was designed for Diamond so it’s not a perfect solution. Here’s the build:
Classes: Bard 18, Blackguard 4, Red Dragon Disciple 10
Alignment: Chaotic Evil
Bluff, Discipline, Perform, Persuade, Spellcraft, Taunt, Tumble, Use Magic Device. Make sure to have five ranks in hide prior to level 8 for blackguard and eight in lore prior to level 22 for RDD. Perform only goes to 25 ranks for Lasting Inspiration. If you don’t care for speech skills I’d advise dropping them for listen, additional ranks in taunt and/or discipline, or even appraise to reduce the price of high level scrolls. Spot is also another viable option though only on RDD levels.
You may have noticed there’s eight primary skills but only seven skill points per level. This is because with 10 ranks in bluff and persuade I was consistently passing checks (thanks to charisma + bard song + gear) so I started putting those points in taunt. Routinely debuffing enemy fighters with -6 AC is so strong. And as it turns out nearly every enemy, including undead and constructs, can be taunted. Combined with Curse Song (curse first to debuff concentration) you’re looking at a whopping -11 to AC potentially. You’ll even have a decent shot of successfully taunting spell casters though don’t rely on this.
Levels 1-7: Bard (7)
Feats: Extra Music, Lingering Song, Power Attack, Cleave
Ability Point: Strength
Level 8-9: Blackguard (2)
Feat: Blind Fight
Ability Point: Charisma
Levels 10-11: Bard (9)
Level 12: Blackguard (3)
Feats: Turn Undead, Divine Might
Ability Point: Charisma
Levels 13-17: Bard (14)
Feat: Still Spell
Ability Point: Charisma
Level 18: Blackguard (4)
Feat: Divine Shield
Levels 19-20: Bard (16)
Ability Point: Charisma
Level 21: Bard (17)
Feat: Curse Song
Level 22, 23: RDD (2)
Level 24: Bard (18)
Feat: Lasting Inspiration
Ability Point: Strength
Levels 25-32: RDD (10)
Ability Points: Charisma
Levels 33-40: TBD.
I don’t know what’s in the mid-to-late parts of Act 3 and all of Act 4 and I’m not an expert on spells so this is more a summary what’s worked for me so far. Your mileage may vary. Please feel free to provide feedback!
Only two mandatory spells here are Protection from Alignment and Mage Armor. Early on Magic Weapon is great as well but it becomes obsolete fairly quickly. Expeditious retreat is nice for running around town and cleared areas. At higher levels I’ve been testing Amplify to buff detection and Grease + freedom of movement potions.
Early on Bull’s Strength, Cat’s Grace, Ghostly Visage, and Clarity (Clarity potions are pricey at the lower levels) are all fantastic and will tide you over. Improved Invisibility will render Ghostly Visage obsolete and Bull’s Strength and Cat’s Grace will eventually become reliably available from other sources. Clarity becomes mostly obsolete once you can afford Lesser Mind Blank items and potions. Eagle’s Splendor becomes important once you pick up Divine Might and your bard song reaches higher levels. In the higher teens Darkness, Ultravision, and Detect Invisibility were all swapped in. Once you have several attacks per round and your Blackguard sneak attack Ultravision + Darkness becomes extremely strong. Darkness doesn’t have a somatic component and can be cast without risk of arcane spell failure from heavy armor and shields. Ultravision’s duration is 6 IRL minutes per level, and scrolls are cheap, so there’s no reason not to have it up most of the time. In addition to letting you see in magical darkness it also helps you spot in low light.
Greater Magic Weapon and Keen Edge are the two must haves here. GMW in particular since, upon reaching Bard level 15, its +5 bonus allows you to bypass damage reduction from Stoneskin, Greater Stoneskin, and Premonition. Displacement is also a nice ace to keep up your sleeve in case you’re caught unawares since, like Darkness, it only has a verbal component. Wounding Whispers gets honorable mention but I’d rather save the extra slots for additional casts of GMW and/or Keen Edge. I’ve been experimenting with clairaudience/clairvoyance as means to detect hidden enemies but the jury’s still out.
Improved Invisibility and War Cry are must haves here. The rest are pretty marginal. You won’t be able to fully utilize War Cry until you get Still Spell, but once you do it really shines.
Some of these are interesting but none are mandatory. Once you’ve got Still Spell some of these become more versatile but I find myself largely using these slots for Still version of the Level IV spells.
Only worthwhile spell here is Energy Buffer since it can be cast before entering combat. Dirge is nice but it’s got a short duration, you won’t be able to cast it while in combat, and enemy warriors often make their saves. Still spell version of greater dispelling can be useful but with spell breach scrolls available for purchase I haven’t found myself needing it too much.
- +16 BAB by level 20 allowing for unhasted 4 attacks per round
- Extremely high saving throws, unbuffed and buffed
- Fantastic AC. ACs in excess of 50 are achievable easily and cheaply. ACs of 60 or higher can also be reached using Shield and Shadow Shield scrolls/items.
- Near constant uptime on improved invisibility at higher levels
- You can turn any slashing or piercing weapon into +5 and Keen
- If you’re playing Diamond Edition 1.69 w/o community patches/rebuilds your Blackguard Bull’s Strength ability will stack with Bull’s Strength potions and spells.
- Divine Might and Flame Weapon scrolls simplify dealing with damage resistant and crit immune enemies
- Arcane spellcasting and divine spell casting (via UMD + scrolls)
- Access to that sweet lawful good pally gear thanks to UMD + high charisma
- Build is reasonably strong from the outset
- Lots of tactical options for tough fights due to the diverse array of usable equipment and items
- In Chapter 1 easier time getting gold and XP while maintaining alignment. Killing harmless animals yields decent XP and shifts you towards chaotic. Stealing and vandalism is lucrative and shifts you towards evil. Do these to the max extend practicable!
- Access to a lot of module content thanks to the high speechcraft skills and diverse class range. Just be sure to backtrack in chapter 2 once you get turn undead.
- Alignment restricted to chaotic evil
- RDD levels don’t start until late
- Relatively low HP for a melee build until RDD levels. This is somewhat mitigated by bard song temp hitpoints.
- No curse song until late
- No concentration. The lion’s share of your spells will be buffs cast before entering combat. When you do need to cast during, your high AC and concealment will protect you most of the time. Enemies with high enough BAB to have a good chance of hitting you tend to do so much damage that you’ll probably fail the check anyway. Stoneskin, Greater Stoneskin, and Premontion scrolls help a lot here, though they are expensive. If you need to be sure the spell works disengage and take AOOs to put some distance between you and the mobs before casting. They’ll catch up but miss the casting AOO and the chance to interrupt (at least this is what seems to happen). If you’re really desperate quaff an invisibility potion. They are cheap and abundant.
- No evasion or improved evasion
- No uncanny dodge or defensive awareness
- Vulnerable to attacks from stealth thanks to low spot, listen, and tons of dodge AC. This can be somewhat mitigated with True Sight scrolls and gems but these are pricey and limited in quantity.
- As you reach higher levels inventory management can become tedious, particularly if not well versed in mechanics and don’t know what to keep vs sell.
- Extra Turning feat can only be obtained via gear, which makes best-in-slot rings two quest-specific ones from chapter 2. This somewhat restricts gear load-out options.
Fundamentally, this is a self-buffing melee build that uses its sky-high charisma as a force multiplier. With Dark Blessing your unbuffed saves will be stellar and buffed will be absurdly high. As an arcane class with a high UMD you can use arcane and divine scrolls to shore up weaknesses (negative energy protection I’m looking at you) and buttress strengths. This is especially helpful b/c scrolls don’t worry about arcane spell failure from armor or concentration check failure from damage. At higher levels you’ll be able to cast Divine Might fairly liberally and it will last a while and hit like a truck. Generally, you won’t need Divine Shield for trash mobs, so save it for the tough fights since it draws from the same pool as Divine Might. Bard Song starts to suffer severe diminishing returns after Bard Level 16 however by this point you’ll have in the neighborhood of a +10 charisma ability modifier (with the right gear the +12 ability buff cap is easily reachable) which lets you hit the 30 perform ranks required to get the level 16 bard song buffs. For the majority of your engagements, Protection from Alignment, Mage Armor, Bark Skin, Bull’s Strength, Endurance, Eagle’s Splendor and Bard Song will be all the buffs required. For the more challenging encounters add on Divine Might and/or Shield, War Cry, and scrolls of Shield (+5 deflection). The scrolls only last five IRL minutes but that should be more than enough time for most fights. If it’s not, use another one. They’re cheap, light, and a stack of 10 only takes up one inventory square. For physical damage-resistant enemies, scrolls of Flame Weapon work wonders. They’re expensive, but last a while and add a ton of damage. For high AC enemies you have Taunt and Curse Song at higher levels. True Strike scrolls are another cheap but effective solution, especially when you’re attacking 4-5 times per round.
For the really tough fights pull out the big guns. Scrolls and items that let you cast things like Spell Breach, Globes of Invulnerability, Spell Mantles, Energy Buffer, Shadow Shield (+5 Natural AC along with necromancy immunity), Premonition, Ultravision + Darkness combo, etc. You can also use most of the sick class restricted items like the Advance Art of Meditation books, Wizard/Sorc Staves, and Pally/Cleric/Druid/Ranger Rods. The list goes on and is really only limited by your gold and creativity.
Edit: Link to pic of build so far