# How can this bard best spend her remaining levels?

I've been working for months on a character that in my head is a combination of bard and thief. Here's the basic concept:

Performer. Enchantress. Silver-tongued thief. She's easy to get along with and a fine negotiator and investigator, but she's rash, impulsive, terrible with money, and loves jewelry. She's prone to tantrums and slightly vain. She's outgoing, unafraid of showing some skin, pretty much refusing to wear anything that doesn't expose her midriff. Her patron is Sune.

Out of combat, she's the party face, gathering information and thieving. In combat she casts enchantment spells, illusion spells, and information gathering spells that help the party fight better. If she must herself fight, she'll use her whip, but she'd would rather run away or negotiate.

I intend to have her take at levels 11 through 20 the prestige class heartwarder (Faiths and Pantheons 196-7). What I need help with are the other levels. I want 7 levels of bard to meet the prestige class's requirements, but what remaining 3 levels help with the thief part of the concept while still having the character as Charisma-dependent as possible?

Based on the character's concept, what is are the best class choices for this character before at level 11 she enters heartwarder?

• What problem are you trying to solve? Are you stuck in deciding to play a bard or a thief? – KorvinStarmast Oct 1 '16 at 2:05
• Sorry im still not used to this um...actually how would i reword this to make it not sound like i'm trying to start a discussion? – Masakan Oct 1 '16 at 2:36
• I have edited your question to make it coherent, organized, and more grammatically correct. Please review the edit to make sure that I have captured the problem you want solved. If I have, great. If not, please edit the question again to clarify anything that isn't quite right. – KorvinStarmast Oct 1 '16 at 12:10

## Bonus Feats

Heartwarder is a very difficult class to enter, requiring as it does three (pretty bad) feats. One major goal for your non-bard levels would be to secure some of these feats as bonus feats.

### Dodge and Mobility: Cobra Strike Monk

Dodge and Mobility are frustratingly difficult to get as bonus feats. You can get them with two levels in monk using the Cobra Strike fighting style, also netting you a monk’s improved ability with unarmed strikes, Wisdom bonus to AC (which can be made into a Charisma bonus to AC using the Ascetic Mage feat from Complete Adventurer), and Evasion.

### Mobility alternative: Mobility magic armor property

Magic Item Compendium has a +1-equivalent armor property, mobility, that grants the Mobility feat. This is sufficient to qualify for heartwarder, and once you take a level of it, losing the prerequisites does not impede you. So you could have a mobility armor to take your 1st level of heartwarder, and then never worry about losing your class features or right to continue taking levels.

But definitely make sure your DM both knows these rules, and is OK with you using them. Temporary qualification for prestige classes is a fairly controversial trick, even if the rules allow it.

### Spell Focus (enchantment): Cleric, but probably not if you worship Sune

Spell Focus (enchantment) can be gotten from the Domination domain as a cleric, but since you worship Sune, that probably won’t work (though honestly domination does not sound particularly out of place for her, at least if restricted to the bedroom, so you might ask your DM). Cleric still has a lot to offer, but none of it directly aids with heartwarder. But aside from the Domination domain, the feat doesn’t seem to be on offer anywhere.

## Other Features

Since the feats we want are difficult to find, it’s worth mentioning other possibilities.

Two levels of paladin gets you divine grace, the ability to add your (rather large) Charisma bonus to all saving throws. This is, of course, amazing.

If you were able to ignore patron requirements, the harmonious knight in the Champions of Valor web enhancement grants inspire courage +1, 1/day, instead of the usual at-will detect evil of paladins. Unfortunately, it requires that your patron be Milil, which it can’t be if your patron is Sune.

### (Cloistered) Cleric: Charm and Pleasure Domains

As mentioned, cleric is still quite good even if you are restricted to Sune’s domains. If it were the cloistered cleric variant, you get 6+Int skills, and a free Knowledge domain which can, per Complete Champion, be traded for the rather-good Knowledge Devotion feat. The Charm domain is not bad, granting 1 minute of +4 Charisma, 1/day, and then the Pleasure domain can make you immune to Charisma damage or draining, which is nice enough. They align nicely with the monk and paladin options, since you get Charisma to add to so many things. (As an aside, Sune’s other domains kinda suck.)

Note that cloistered clerics get identify as a 1st-level divine spell. As a divine spell, it does not require the arcane material component, which is why clerics usually get it as a 2nd-level spell. Free identify is a rather-nice perk.

Crusader and warblade from Tome of Battle are both good options: warblade has more HP, crusader gets more maneuvers (and steely resolve serves as a kind of HP bonus anyway). The point to taking either class, though, is to take the Song of the White Raven feat. Song of the White Raven allows you to start your inspire courage as a swift action, saving you a lot of time to use your other abilities. It also lets your crusader or warblade level count for bardic music uses, so you get another daily use out of the deal.

### Swordsage: Excellent mobility and stealth

The third class from Tome of Battle, swordsage has a number of mobile and stealth options. It does not get White Raven maneuvers, so no Song of the White Raven, but the ability to briefly turn invisible or teleport short distances can be invaluable. In particular, look for assassin’s stance for +2d6 sneak attack damage and mountain hammer for breaking and entering.

It also gets Wisdom to AC at 2nd level, and unlike the monk, it retains this even in light armor. It can also get Improved Unarmed Strike if you use the unarmed adaptation. Ascetic Mage explicitly says that it functions with any addition of Wisdom to AC, so it will turn this into Charisma to AC.

Whether or not this bonus stacks with the monk’s bonus is unclear. Both are untyped bonuses, and both come from a class feature named “AC Bonus”—whether or not that means they come from the “same source” and don’t stack is rather contentious. Considering that monk is one of the better ways to get all the feats you need, this is a concern for you. Ask your DM.

Finally, swordsage can learn Desert Wind maneuvers, which qualify you for Desert Wind Dodge. Desert Wind Dodge is pretty crap, but it’s still better than plain old Dodge, so that’s a perk, sort of. If you could convince your DM to allow some kind of feature swap to get it as a bonus feat, that would be ideal. You’d much prefer it over the Weapon Focus you do get.

## Other Options

Going beyond simply taking those three levels, you could consider playing with the seven levels of bard that you’re already planning on.

### Bard: Inspire Courage shenanigans

You have seven levels of bard? Might want to consider going for 8 then, just to get inspire courage +2. Also, Eberron Campaign Setting has a variant that lets you trade inspire competence at 3rd level for Song of the Heart, a feat that bumps your inspire courage up by one. A badge of valor from Magic Item Compendium offers another +1, casting inspirational boost from Spell Compendium offers another on top of that, so all told you could be up to +5—not bad at all.

And then the Dragonfire Inspiration feat from Dragon Magic can grant you a song that deals grants your allies $x\text{d}6$ fire damage on weapon attacks, where $x$ is your inspire courage bonus—so you can give your allies +5 to attack and damage, and then +5d6 fire damage as well. This adds up.

### Unseen Seer: Get those 3rd-level spells while getting better class features

If you don’t go for an 8th level of bard, you don’t really get much between 3rd level and 7th level aside from spells. A prestige class that advances spellcasting could do wonders for you here.

A top choice in my mind would be the unseen seer from Complete Mage. It grants ¾ BAB, 6+Int skills, full spellcasting, and most importantly, it’s rather easy to enter and has good class features. It’s an arcane espionage class, which seems fairly fitting for your character, too. A 5th-level bard/2nd-level unseen seer does a lot of good for you. For the advanced study feature, I suggest the hunter’s eye ranger spell from Spell Compendium—it grants 1d6 Sneak Attack per three caster levels, which then get boosted by unseen seer’s precision damage bonus.

Unseen seer does grant Silent Spell, which bards can’t use, as a bonus feat at 2nd level. Wasted feature on you, but oh well: the class is still good. Silent Spell is a pretty mediocre feat in the first place and the real reason we are here are the BAB, skills, damage bonus, advanced learning, and divination spell power.

### Sha’ir: Get those 3rd-level Charisma-based spells faster, enjoy better spellcasting for the rest of your career

If you wanted better spellcasting to go with heartwarder, the sha’ir class from Dragon Compendium gets you 3rd-level Charisma-based spells in five levels, and then eventually gets to 9th-level spells. Even if you wanted to dip bard to get skills or bardic music, one level of bard and five levels of sha’ir is six levels, saving you an entire level. Or two levels of paladin, especially harmonious knight paladin, and five levels of sha’ir.

Note that sha’ir can be improved by unseen seer about as easily as bard.

### Sublime Chord: The real spellcasting

Sublime chord is a prestige class from Complete Arcane that goes from level 11 to 20, the same ones you want for heartwarder. However, heartwarder doesn’t require you to be 10th level, which means you can start it earlier. And sublime chord’s big draw is its spellcasting, so you only really need one level of it to get that, and then use heartwarder to advance it. So if you take (at least) 1 level of heartwarder before 11th, and then have your 11th character level be the 1st level of sublime chord, you could thereafter finish heartwarder and get all that sublime chord spellcasting.

And sublime chord spellcasting is very, very good: it grants 4th-level to 9th-level spells off the bard and sor/wiz lists.

The big problem with the sublime chord is its skill requirements: it needs Knowledge (arcana) and Listen maxed (at 10th level), Perform almost maxed, and a smattering of skill points in Spellcraft and Profession (astrologer).

However, Listen, Perform, and Spellcraft are something that a bard thief absolutely wants anyway. Listen is key for scouting and avoiding detecting while sneaking, Spellcraft is generally necessary for a spellcaster, and Perform is part-and-parcel of being a bard. Maybe the requirement involves somewhat more Perform ranks than are really needed, but then it requires a relatively small number of Spellcraft ranks.

Knowledge (arcana) is a great skill; it’s not necessarily entirely on-target here, but it is very valuable. Between it and Spellcraft, a thief can better recognize and understand magic security systems, and magic valuables.

Finally, Profession (astrologer)—the tax. A completely worthless skill. But it only requires 6 ranks, which by 10th level is not a lot.

And many of the classes I recommend here have 6+Int skill points per level. Being human could get you another per level; taking Nymph’s Kiss (Book of Exalted Deeds) could get you yet another per level. The skills a thief wants include Hide and Move Silently, Spot and Listen; the skills a face want include Bluff, Diplomacy, Perform, and Sense Motive; the skills a spellcaster wants include Knowledge (arcana) and Spellcraft.

With a decent Intelligence (say, 12), and focusing on mostly 6+Int skill point/level classes, we expect you to be able to max 8 skills. Hide, Move Silently, Spot, Listen, Diplomacy, and Bluff, the skills you most want, mean 6 of those skills. The remaining two, or twenty-six skill points, are not enough to qualify for sublime chord. So in this case, you would be looking at some sacrifice: less stealth than you might want, or fewer ranks in the face skills to rely on your very-high Charisma. Or you could have better Intelligence, be human, or take Nymph’s Kiss. Then you would be able to get everything you want.

And ultimately, skills are not very valuable. They have limited applications, and get completely overshadowed by magic at pretty much every level. Thus, trading some partial sacrifices in the area of skills, for a massive improvement in your spellcasting, is absolutely an excellent choice. The spells will give you far more capability, flexibility, and versatility than the skills will.

## Final Recommendations

These are what I recommend.

In both cases, I assume human as a race, because you really need feats, and I specifically assume silverbrow human from Dragon Magic, to qualify for Dragonfire Inspiration.

You could use the Dragonblooded feat from the same book to qualify for it, but the better trade if you want to keep the extra skill point per level would be to keep going silverbrow, and taking the Nymph’s Kiss feat from Book of Exalted Deeds instead of Dragonblooded. In addition to an extra skill point per level, it also grants you a +2 bonus on all Charisma-based ability and skill checks and a romantic relationship with a Good-aligned fey (yes, the romance is listed as a benefit of the feat, not a requirement :P).

I assume you can use mobility armor to qualify for heartwarder here. It’s a cheap trick, but the requirements for heartwarder are rather onerous: I for one don’t feel particularly bad about it. If you cannot do that, you could use a level of monk instead of a level of swordsage to get Dodge as a bonus feat and take Mobility regularly.

If you do take that monk level, you can either keep one level of swordsage (the late one) for maneuvers (especially assassin’s stance and mountain hammer), replace it with another level of monk (to get Mobility as a bonus feat, and also grab Evasion), or replace it with another level of unseen seer (getting better bard spellcasting as well as another improvement to your precision damage—though without assassin’s stance, you’ll only get to use that bonus while under the effect of hunter’s eye).

\begin{array}{c|l|l|l} \text{Level} & \text{Class} & \text{Special} & \text{Feat} \\ \hline 1^\text{st} & \text{Bard} & \text{Exotic Weapon Proficiency (whip)} & \text{Dragonfire Inspiration,} \\ & & \quad\text{Inspire Courage +1, $etc.$} & \quad\text{Spell Focus (enchantment)} \\ 2^\text{nd} \\ 3^\text{rd} & & \text{Song of the Heart} & \text{Extra Music} \\ \hline 4^\text{th} & \text{Cloistered} & \text{Charm and Pleasure Domains,} & \\ & \quad\text{Cleric} & \quad\text{Knowledge Devotion} \\ \hline 5^\text{th} & \text{Swordsage} & \text{Maneuvers} \\ \hline 6^\text{th} & \text{Unseen Seer} & \text{Damage bonus +1d6} & \text{Desert Wind Dodge} \\ 7^\text{th} & & \text{Advanced Learning} \\ 8^\text{th} & & \text{Divination Spell Power +1} \\ \hline 9^\text{th} & \text{Swordsage }2^\text{nd} & \text{AC bonus, $assassin$'$s$ $stance$} & \text{Ascetic Mage} \\ \hline 10^\text{th} & \text{Heartwarder} & \text{Charisma increase} \\ \hline 11^\text{th} & \text{Sublime Chord} & \text{Spellcasting} \\ \hline 12^\text{th} & \text{Heartwarder }2^\text{nd} & \text{Heart of passion} & any \\ 13^\text{th} & & \text{Charisma increase} \\ 14^\text{th} & & \text{Lips of rapture} \\ 15^\text{th} & & \text{Charisma increase} & any \\ 16^\text{th} & & \text{Voice of a siren} \\ 17^\text{th} & & \text{Charisma increase} \\ 18^\text{th} & & \text{Tears of Evergold} & any \\ 19^\text{th} & & \text{Charisma increase} \\ 20^\text{th} & & \text{Fey metamorphosis} \\ \end{array}

If you wanted to get more creative, you could take just one level of bard and replace the others with sha’ir. You would need to take Song of the Heart as a regular feat, and Extra Music would become more important, but you would also save a level. This would allow things like using a monk level to grab Dodge as a bonus feat, basically earning the feat back in the process, while picking up another AC bonus (which may or may not stack).

If you can be flexible on patron requirements, two levels of harmonious knight for divine grace could be amazing. Fitting them in gets dicey though: you need to lose a level of something you don’t want to lose, on top of losing the last bard level. I’d actually suggest the 10th level of heartwarder—fey type isn’t terribly special. Beware, though, that your skill points and daily bardic music uses would get very tight if you did that—Nymph’s Kiss and Extra Music would become even more important—and you would need to take Exotic Weapon Proficiency (whip) as a regular feat. But as long as you are ignoring patron requirements, replacing the Pleasure domain with the Domination domain saves you a feat on Spell Focus (enchantment), or, arguably, the War domain could get you both proficiency and Weapon Focus in a whip since it is Sune’s favored weapon.

The alternative is to go in the other direction, and simplify things. Removing the cleric level costs you some nice, but fairly random, perks. Taking out the swordsage levels means no Ascetic Mage, no assassin’s stance (so the unseen seer damage bonus only applies with hunter’s eye active), no mountain hammer (aka the ultimate lockpick), but the build still works. And sublime chord could be dropped to save a fair few of skill points, though it is not really a good trade to do so. Levels reclaimed from these classes ideally go towards unseen seer, though before 6th you’ll have to put them in bard instead. But 5th-level bard/5th-level unseen seer/10th-level heartwarder is a fine enough simple build.

# One last thing...

Heartwarder is a rather poorly-designed prestige class. I mean, they literally have a class feature that grants one of its own prerequisites: Spell Focus (enchantment) is required to enter the class but also granted as a bonus feat by voice of a siren. The combo Deities & Demigods/Faiths & Pantheons FAQ does mention that it was supposed to grant Greater Spell Focus (enchantment) and Spell Penetration, but 1. an FAQ isn’t errata, so this is an obnoxious and obscure way to indicate that, and 2. it does kind of show how much care went into the production of the heartwarder class in the first place.

This revised version of it is wholly unofficial fan work, but it seems to have gotten more thought than the real thing. Something to consider. Especially if you take the 1st level (which doesn’t advance spellcasting) before sublime chord, you have more to play with. This does get harder to do since it means you need another level that progresses bard spellcasting before 11th.

• Gosh that's a shiny table. – doppelgreener Oct 1 '16 at 20:17
• @doppelgreener Glad you like it! – KRyan Oct 1 '16 at 20:20
• @Masakan I have updated this answer to address some of your concerns with sublime chord, and indicated avenues for simplifying the build, including the removal of sublime chord. – KRyan Oct 2 '16 at 16:04
• @Masakan Also commented on the unseen seer’s Silent Spell bonus feat. Which I had actually completely forgotten about; you’ll note I did not include it in the table. That’s because it’s unimportant; the unseen seer is valuable anyway. – KRyan Oct 2 '16 at 16:08
• @KRyan Thanks for adding clarity, also personally I don't see the issue with astrologer a problem at all at least from a RP perspective. I can just say I tell fortunes as a side business and Gypsies fascinate me. – Masakan Oct 2 '16 at 16:38

I don't know of any one class that does a good job of making your character a better thief, and making your character more Cha-dependent. Fortunately, you have three class levels to play around with, so we can solve these problems separately.

## Thievery

The two things the Bard class is missing to be an effective thief (compared to, say, Rogue) are trapfinding and theft-related class skills (Open Lock, Disable Device, Search, etc.). You can solve both of these problems by taking a 1-level dip in Rogue or Spellthief.

If you're a Human, you might also want to take the Able Learner feat (Races of Destiny); if not, you'll have to pay skill points at the cross-class rate for your thief skills for most of your career.

If you choose to dip Spellthief, you should consider the Master Spellthief feat (Complete Scoundrel), which would let you steal and recast spells from enemy spellcasters if you manage to Sneak Attack them. Without this feat, you would be limited to doing this with level 1 spells only.