The D&D game's arcane spells allow characters to accomplish dramatic things on the battlefield -- wizards are justly feared. Still, there's something deeply satisfying about defeating a powerful enemy with naked steel. The duskblade class from Player's Handbook II melds arcane power with straight-up fighting ability. Some duskblades forget that they can fill two roles in an adventuring party and tend to favor either their martial or arcane sides. Such characters never quite achieve their full potential. Other duskblades can lead the charge into battle and toss off a few spells to even the odds when things get tough. Such characters are deadly in battle thanks to the broad array of options they have available.
The duskblade class offers excellent combat power and magical potential. Here's a look at what you get when you choose a duskblade.
The duskblade's martial and arcane potential come at a price. Keep the following in mind when considering a duskblade character.
Playing a Classy Duskblade
Playing a duskblade well takes a measure of planning and nerve. Consider the following as you approach your career:
You can fight just about as well as any of the strictly martial classes such as fighter or paladin, at least for a short while, and your arcane spells can pack quite a punch. You have enough fighting stamina to walk in your party's front rank and set the pace during an adventure.
Be ready to use all of your capabilities during an encounter. Your arcane channeling and spell power abilities require you to enter melee with your foes, so be ready to close with the enemy. Sometimes, however, it pays to hang back for a round and soften up the opposition with a spell. In other situations, the best approach will be to fight a while, then fall back and cast spells. Learn to assess a situation quickly so you can act appropriately.
Integrate Spells and Physical Attacks
It's tough to take advantage of your high attack bonus unless you're willing to mix it up with foes at least once in a while. Your arcane spells give you more options than most other fighting characters have, so use them well. Start by thinking about how you'll handle combat and choose spells that will help you make your approach work.
If you favor melee, you can do well with spells that make you more capable. Blade of blood makes your weapon more potent. Stretch weapon and doom scarabs give you new tricks to bedevil your foes. If you prefer to keep the enemy a little farther off, consider spells such as Kelgore's fire bolt, seeking ray, and slashing dispel. If you plan to serve as your group's main fighter, add spells that can help keep you in a fight, such as deflect, crown of protection, or sonic shield.
No matter how you plan to fight, keep in mind that your arcane channeling ability only works when you hit a target with a melee attack, so plan to go toe-to-toe with the enemy at least some of the time. Make sure your repertoire of spells includes at least a few that have touch range. Even low-level spells such as chill touch and ghoul's touch can prove effective when you channel them through a weapon.
As you advance in level, choose spells that enhance your fighting style or give you new tricks to use on the battlefield. For example, if you've emphasized melee, spells such as crown of might and animalistic power can boost your potential. You can give yourself new melee options, however, with powers such as halt, dimension hop, and energy surge.
Use that Magic
You don't know many spells, but you have a fair number of them available, especially if you have a high Intelligence score. Use your spells and spell-like abilities to gain an edge over your foes whenever you can. It's usually not wise to burn through all your spells during the day's first few encounters, but it's an equally bad idea to hold back when you or your friends are taking a beating.
Don't forget the spell-like abilities that your arcane attunement class feature gives you. Detect magic can prove useful when assessing an area for hidden dangers as well as finding loot. Read magic can help your group make quick use of any scrolls you discover. A quick dancing lights effect can help you and your allies see, and it's also useful for distracting opponents and throwing off pursuit. Flare and ghost sound can make enemies think twice before messing with you.
Remember Your Friends
You'll be at your best when you balance your fighting ability, spellcasting, and fairly weak personal defense. That's easiest to achieve with help from your allies.
Fighting Allies: Characters such as barbarians and fighters have more hit points and usually at least slightly better Armor Class than you have. You might be tempted to leave the bulk of the combat chores to such allies. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, especially when you need time to cast a spell or two to get into fighting trim.
Remember, however, that you're a fighting character, too. Don't hang back too long when a fight breaks out. When you join a fight, keep track of what your fighting allies are doing. Do your utmost to make sure those allies don't become surrounded or flanked. Try to gauge the opposition. Double up with an ally to defeat powerful opponents quickly. When facing hordes of lesser foes, form a fighting line or ring and engage as many foes as you can.
Remember that some of your spells can affect your allies, too. Spells such as animalistic power, energy aegis, or toxic weapon can give a boost to a fighting ally.
Stealthy Allies: Stealthy characters such as rogues and rangers often need the same kinds of combat support that fighting characters do, and stealthy characters also can benefit from spells you place on them or their equipment.
As noted earlier, your spell-like abilities can prove useful whenever your group scrutinizes an area. You probably aren't very stealthy yourself, but your presence on a scouting trip can help finish a reconnaissance more quickly, and your fighting ability and spells can help get your group's scout out of danger. If you stay behind by choice or by necessity, be ready to go to the rescue if a stealthy ally gets into trouble. In a stand-up fight, remember that characters with the sneak attack ability need combat support in the form of an ally who helps them flank enemies. Get used to fighting in partnership with such characters,
Arcane Spellcasters: Wizards, sorcerers, and bards can pack a real punch with their spells, and they often serve as the party's heavy artillery. These characters are notoriously vulnerable to physical attacks thanks to their poor Armor Classes and very low hit points. They will rely on you to keep the opposition at a distance, and it's in your best interest to do so.
Be sure any fellow arcane spellcasters in your group are aware of your magical capabilities, and encourage them to choose spells (if they can) to handle situations that you cannot. Develop a plan for using offensive spells against enemies. For example, you can be very effective at distracting or eliminating opposing spellcasters and leaders. You can handle those tasks while other spellcasters deal with the main opposition.
Divine Spellcasters: Most of what applies to arcane spellcasters in your group also applies to divine spellcasters, though most divine spellcasters are a little less vulnerable and more self-sufficient than arcane spellcasters. In any case, get friendly and stay friendly with you party's cleric, druid, or paladin. This character's healing spells can keep you on your feet when you take damage.
Some Key Equipment
Your spells are your most important asset, but you won't get far without the right gear. The essentials for you include:
About the Author
Skip Williams keeps busy with freelance projects for several different game companies and was the Sage of Dragon Magazine for many years. Skip is a co-designer of the D&D 3rd Edition game and the chief architect of the Monster Manual. When not devising swift and cruel deaths for player characters, Skip putters in his kitchen or garden (rabbits and deer are not Skip's friends) or works on repairing and improving the century-old farmhouse that he shares with his wife, Penny, and a growing menagerie of pets.
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