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I'm trying to understand how the new Swashbuckler 15th level ability dizzying defense works, rules-as-written. (I suspect I may not play it RAW, but I at least want to understand the RAW before making a decision.)

Dizzying defense reads:

At 15th level, while wielding a light or one-handed piercing melee weapon in one hand, the swashbuckler can spend 1 panache point to take the fighting defensively action as a swift action instead of a standard action. When fighting defensively in this manner, the dodge bonus to AC gained from that action increases to +4, and the penalty to attack rolls is reduced to –2.


Fighting defensively as a standard action reads:

You can choose to fight defensively when attacking. If you do so, you take a –4 penalty on all attacks in a round to gain a +2 to AC until the start of your next turn.

Based on this, here's my understanding of how these work (RAW):

Fighting defensively by itself

  • As a standard action, one can attack once, at -4 to hit and +2 to AC
  • Since this is a standard action, one can't use this as part of a Full Attack action (so you only get one swing)

Dizzying defense + fighting defensively

  • As a swift action (plus 1 panache), one can attack once, at -2 to hit and +4 to AC
  • Since this is a swift action, one still gets to use a Standard or Full Attack action.

Some examples:

  • A 15th level swashbuckler making a full attack (not fighting defensively or using dizzying defense) gets 3 attacks
  • A 15th level swashbuckler fighting defensively as a standard action gets 1 attack
  • A 15th level swashbuckler fighting defensively as a swift action via dizzying defense can also make a full attack, getting a total of 4 attacks (all at -2 to hit, +4 to AC)

Am I reading this correctly?

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No so sure of the ability but you can fight defensively as a full attack action. – Duncan Aug 16 '14 at 21:34
up vote 2 down vote accepted

Yes, A 15th level swashbuckler fighting defensively as a swift action via dizzying defense can also make a full attack, getting a total of 4 attacks (all at -2 to hit, +4 to AC)

Or anything else you can normally do. This ability grants 1 extra attack per round, but you have to fight defensively. It is just that simple. It may be a bit OP, but still, simple. And still not as good as Parry and Riposte, Precise Strike, Subtle Blade, Superior Feint, Perfect Thrust, or the archetype deed Inspired Strike.

The other issue to be aware of is that fighting defensively affects all attacks in the round. Therefore if you full attack and THEN fight defensively, you will change your to-hits with attacks that have already happened. Therefore, I would rule that you must use the ability first, so as not to mess things up.

Speaking of Perfect Thrust, you will be making only two attacks at level 15. But with 4 rolls. Your second attack being Perfect Thrust, which for ZERO Panache, allows you to attack touch AC and IGNORE ALL DR!!! At that level, everything has DR.

As far as why the class is so OP, I think it was designed with Dex-to-hit in mind, which would limit Str damage, but they forgot to add something to force you to use Dex-to-hit.

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The person who wrote that ability did not understand how fighting defensively works. They confused it with the Full Defense action.

As such, it is gobbledegook, nonsense. Your attempt to make it fit into the rules, amusingly, actually makes it a level appropriate ability - the author seems to have intended it to allow someone to change the bonuses for fighting defensively at the cost of a panache point, which is ludicrously weak for a 15th level ability.

I'd just houserule it to your version - attack as a swift, count as fighting defensively for the round but with better bonuses - and use that, but if you want the actual ability the way the author seems to have intended it, it works like this.

Dizzying Defense

As a free action you may spend a point of panache when fighting defensively to gain +4 to AC and -2 to hit rather than the normal modifiers.

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