The power of malevolence: A guide to the Blackguard Prestige Class, 2nd Edition

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    Orion

    Greetings! I originally wrote this guide because:

    • I did not find any practical guides regarding the use of the Blackguard Prestige Class in Neverwinter Nights 1,
    • I had played quite a few hours using Blackguard class characters.

    Since I wrote my original guide, my writing skills and playing skills greatly improved, hence the new 2nd edition guide I have prepared. The first edition of this guide was originally written in the Epic Character Builder’s Tapatalk Forum in June 2019.

    There are many experienced Blackguard players out there. If you meet this criteria, please feel free to comment on this post to share your wisdom! Perhaps I have missed something vital or you disagree with something I have written. I’m totally fine with it. I hope you enjoy what I believe is a unique contribution that adds to your knowledge of NWN 1.

    The basic statistics of the Blackguard and the requirements to become a Blackguard are very accessible, however as mentioned there is limited information available regarding applying this in a practical sense. This will therefore be my focus. The basic statistics and requirements are well described in the NWN Wiki: Blackguard page.

    Roleplaying a Blackguard Effectively

    Neverwinter Nights is an RPG – a roleplaying game. How does one role play a Blackguard?

    There are many misconceptions about what a Black Knight is in modern day culture. From a DnD and NWN perspective, a Blackguard is pure evil, malevolent, totally embracing the forces of darkness to achieve malicious type goals such as the total annihilation of her former homeland because they executed a naive elf cleric. Here are some pictures so you get a visual of what is expected (and they say, a picture says a thousand words):


    Source: https://sigil-nwn2.fandom.com/wiki/Blackguard

    Source: https://nwn.fandom.com/wiki/Aribeth_de_Tylmarande

    What a Blackguard is not:

    There are some misconceptions in modern culture what a Dark Knight is, and this guy, although he is called a ‘Dark Knight’ and does breaks the law, he definitely tries too hard to be good. He’s definitely more chaotic good than true evil:

    Source: https://www.polygon.com/2019/3/13/18263948/the-dark-knight-trilogy-imax-batman-anniversary-tickets

     

    A Blackguard, but perhaps too comedic for our tastes

    This is for our Monty Python fans out there. Please note, the video may not be suitable for young audiences or to watch at work.

    The Black Knight – Monty Python – Youtube

    Source: https://www.pinterest.com.au/pin/781022760347707998/

    Source: https://www.pinterest.com.au/pin/433330795377636430/

    What qualities of the Blackguard class are the most useful?
    I find the following characteristics of the Blackguard Class the most useful:

    • A prestige class that does not affect the multiclass XP penalty
    • Free access to simple weapons, martial weapons, light armor, medium armor, heavy armor and shields with a single level. Unlike Champion of Torm (CoT), you do not need to take a weapon focus in a melee weapon, and you get access to the heavy armor feat, which CoT does not.
    • Maximal base attack progression which allows some classes (ie Monk, Bard and Cleric) to access the maximal attacks per round with at least 4 pre-epic levels
    • Access to Dark Blessing at level 2, which adds your charisma bonus to all saving throws. This stacks with the saving throw bonus from Paladins (Divine Grace), and does not count to the +20 cap for saving throws (unlike Champion of Torm).
    • With at least 3 levels, access to Divine Might and/or Divine Shield abilities (which add your charisma bonus to damage and armor class respectively). This very useful for characters with high charisma who want these abilities but who do not have access to these feats (such as Bards or Sorcerers)
    • Ability to cast two summons, one undead and one outsider. These are excellent ‘cannon fodder’ which can soak up damage from spells or other abilities, or distract enemies while you sneak attack them. You can cast one of each per day, but they cannot exist at the same time. If you take the Epic Fiendish Servant Feat, your outsider summon will scale as you advance in Blackguard levels.
    • Ability to cast Bull’s Strength, which will stack with other versions of Bull’s Strength (ie you can stack Cleric and Blackguard Bull’s Strength for a double bonus)
    • Ability to sneak attack, which is very strong if you do a lot of attacks (such as a Monk build)
    • Access to Taunt, Discipline and Persuade as class skills

    What qualities of the Blackguard Class are not useful?

    I find the following characteristics of the Blackguard Class unhelpful or even detrimental:

    • The Inflict Serious Wounds and Inflict Critical Wounds are essentially useless for a combat focused character, as it is a melee range touch attack, your attacks will do much more damage and will not provoke an attack of opportunity, and there is a will save for half damage (DC 10 + Blackguard level + constitution modifier).
    • It is also pretty much useless for a caster, as it is a melee range touch attack, and requires you to have a high enough attack bonus for it to land, and undoubtedly you will have other spells which will deal more damage.
    • Contagion sounds cool in theory, but I have never found this ability useful in game
    • Having to be Evil means you are very susceptible to the Paladin’s and Champion of Torm’s ‘Smite Evil’ ability. For example during Aielund Act 3, there are a group of angels in a tomb who did a huge amount of damage to me as an Evil character with these abilities (I pretty had to try to get them to focus my companions and run away whenever they tried to attack me)
    • If you have a negative Charisma modifier, you will lose points on your saving throws. This is because Blackguard’s Dark Blessing will cause this to occur which is different to Paladin’s Divine Grace.

    What might be useful for Blackguards but I am unsure

    • Use poison might be helpful but I am still unsure. Certain statistics look nice, but the duration in standard NWN is not very good at all. In a module or persistent world (PW) where this has been given bonuses, this could be helpful.

    When to take Blackguard and what classes work well

    Some classes work very well with Blackguard compared with others. The following is a discussion of a number of possible multi-class possibilities.

    Cleric

    • Cleric provides tremendous enhancement of combat ability with Divine Favor, Bless, Aid, Divine Power, Battletide, Bull’s Strength, Endurance and many other abilities.
    • The Blackguard’s Taunt can lower the armor class of enemies even further, allowing the Blackguard to hit the enemy even more often.
    • Both Cleric and Blackguard can access Divine Might and Divine Shield, which Cleric can buff the Charisma statistic even further with Eagle’s Splendor.
    • Blackguard levels add to your BAB allowing you to not have to rely on Divine Power as much to maximise your attacks per round. This can be a good thing, but in largely dedicated cleric builds with divine power this may not be so good.
    • There is great synergy between the Sneak Attacks of the blackguard and the invisibility provided by the Trickery Domain. For example you could cast invisibility 5-6x / day and sneak up to high priority enemies such as Mages and eliminate them rapidly, then cast invisibility again to escape. Rinse and repeat.
    • The Bull’s Strength provided by Blackguard stacks with that provided by Cleric.
    • A Wisdom based Blackguard Cleric I believe could work, but I suspect you would want to take the Zen Archer feat and shoot them with a bow. With sneak attacks from Blackguard and your Divine Might and Divine Favor buffs this might not be terrible.

    Bard

    • Bard/Blackguard is very popular in conjunction with Red Dragon Disciple (RDD). If you want to go primary bard, then one could go Bard 26/BG 4/RDD 10. A primary blackguard build could go is Bard 8/RDD 10/BG 22.
    • At least 4 levels of Blackguard pre-epic if designed well, could allow the character to have BAB 26+ and the maximal number of attacks per round as a Bard.
    • Blackguard provides Dark Blessing and access to Divine Might and Divine Shield, which has synergy with the Bard’s interest to invest in at least some Charisma. The Bard’s can also cast Eagle’s Splendor with enough levels in Bard.
    • Blackguard provides extra hitpoints, access to martial weapons, heavy armor, which is very helpful for Bards who have d6 hit die, simple weapon, medium armor and shield proficiency.
    • Bard provides multiple casts of invisibility, darkness/ultravision, even stinking cloud, which can work well with the Blackguard’s Sneak Attack. Darkness can be cast in full armor without arcane spell failure.
    • Bard provides a whole bunch of other abilities such as Keen Weapon, Bard Song, Curse Song, Mage Armor, Bull’s Strength as well as access to the Red Dragon Disciple Class, which provides tremendous immunities, natural AC, and +8 to Strength +2 Constitution +2 Intelligence and +2 Charisma.
    • Unlike Paladin, a Bard/Blackguard does not require any alignment changes to be valid.

    Monk

    • A single level of Monk, after level 1, provides Cleave for free (a pre-requisite), and allows one to skill Hide 5 ranks as a class skill. An evil Monk is essentially able to become a Blackguard for free.
    • At least 4 levels of Blackguard pre-epic will allow the character to achieve the maximal attacks per round as a Monk, and provides sneak attack.
    • With all the attacks / round (6-8 with fists or single kama, 8-10 with improved two weapon fighting and dual kamas) even a small amount of sneak attack does a lot of damage.
    • Monks get Improved Knockdown for free with 6 levels of Monk,  (
    • Blackguard provides access to heavy armor, shields, simple and martial weapons although these will disable your Monk abilities and is not great synergy as such.
    • Blackguard’s Dark Blessing can be a double edged sword. Monks tend to have low charisma scores to allow investment in other statistics, and a negative charisma modifier can lower saves. There are ways to work around this, including equipping items which boost charisma, or drinking Eagle’s Splendor potions.  That being said if the character can boost charisma in a positive modifier, it is a valuable feat to boost saves!
    • The Evasion feat Monk gets for free, which synergises well with Dark Blessing, if you have a positive Charisma modifier

    Paladin

    • Both Divine Grace and Dark Blessing stack, meaning the character gets +2 to saves per Charisma modifier point with a positive Charisma modifier.
    • The Paladin abilities Eagle Splendor and Aura of Glory can further buff your Charisma, making the character’s saves, Divine Might and Divine Shield even stronger.
    • Bull’s Strength (Paladin) and Bull’s Strength (Blackguard) also stack, boosting strength by 2-5 twice!
    • The main downside is the need to change alignment from Lawful Good to Evil. In some modules this could be difficult.
    • Some PW servers will not allow characters who have classes that require alignment change to be loaded into their modules.

    Sorcerer

    • A sorcerer will have naturally high Charisma. Two levels of Blackguard provide Dark Blessing, which will add +1 to saves per Charisma modifier point.
    • Divine Shield is extremely strong with such a high Charisma modifier.
    • Multiclassing with Paladin instead of Blackguard is much easier, as many pre-requisites (Strength 13+, Power Attack, Cleave, Hide 5) are not needed, plus Paladins can get Disease/Fear Immunity, and Lay on Hands. With Paladin, certain classes such as Palemaster or Bard cannot be taken without alignment change, while Blackguards will not have this alignment change problem, they also help minimize multiclass experience penalties, if this is important.

    Rogue

    • Blackguard/Rogue is a nice combination because Blackguard provides full BAB progress pre-epic, allowing access to BAB 26+ and maximal attacks / round with four pre-epic levels if built well, as well as Bull’s Strength and Use Poison, access to martial weapons, armor and shields and a boost to sneak attack.
    • Blackguard provides access to Divine Might and Shield if the Rogue has significant investment in Charisma and Strength, as well as Dark Blessing if there is significant investment in charisma.
    • Dark Blessing could be bad with a negative charisma modifier, as this would reduce your saves.

    Fighter / Ranger / Barbarian

    • This combination is ok without being particularly powerful. It provides Bull’s Strength, and sneak attack without damaging your BAB at pre-epic levels. With significant Blackguard investment, one obtains access to the Epic Vrock.
    • Saves can be boosted with Dark Blessing, however it could be bad with a negative charisma modifier.
    • Blackguard provides access to Divine Might but such classes will usually not have high Charisma scores.

    Minor or Major Class Blackguard?

    To explain, a minor class, is when there is minimal investment in a particular class to allow greater investment in other classes. A major class is when there is the greatest or equal greatest investment in a particular class, and equal or lesser investment in other classes.

    Minor class Blackguards

    Ideally one takes four levels pre-epic (ie before level 21). Four levels of Blackguard is kind of a nice sweet spot. This allows the character to:

    • To take advantage of its maximal BAB progression pre-epic (which allows you access to four attacks per round for medium BAB progression primary classes such as Monk and Bard)
    • Provides access to Dark Blessing and Bull’s Strength,
    • Provides access to Divine Might (and/or Divine Shield),
    • Grants 1d6 sneak attack, which is strong in multiple attack builds (ie Monk), less strong in builds with less attacks per round.
    • Allow some skill dumps in taunt and discipline pre-epic.

    For a sorcerer, I would suggest only taking two to three levels in Blackguard, to obtain the Dark Blessing feat and access to Divine Shield if this is desired, in builds where Paladin is not an option. This provides a substantial boost to saves, an amazing Divine Shield with multiple uses / day, and some skill dumps in discipline and taunt, while preserving the sorcerer’s caster levels.

    Primary class Blackguards

    These can be very strong, with very high sneak attack, and great epic level bonus feats, including Epic Fiendish Servant, Epic Weapon Focus, Epic Prowess, Armor Skin, Devastating Critical.

    Good levels to stop leveling Blackguard as a primary class when designing builds are levels 16, 19, 22, 25 and 28. You gain very little by leveling Blackguard to 30. Having high levels (compared with a minor class) in Blackguard means your sneak attacks are strong and your fiendish servant is a useful summon throughout the game.  I would argue levels 22, level 25 and level 28 are great sweet spots to stop leveling Blackguard. Level 22 allows you to skill Armor Skin, Epic Prowess, Epic Fiendish Servant, Epic Weapon Focus as bonus feats (ie for free). Level 25 gives access to the improved sneak attack feat as a bonus feat, if you do not get sneak attack from rogue, for 9d6 sneak attack total, and your Epic Vrock is just a little stronger. Level 28 gives you 11d6 sneak attack (with two improved sneak attack bonus feats) and a slightly stronger Epic Vrock.

    Gameplay as a Blackguard

    One can play a minor class Blackguard with a focus on any attribute that your primary class needs, but obviously one will want to have a reasonable charisma score to take make adequate use of Dark Blessing, Divine Might and Divine Shield. I would suggest 14 as an absolute minimum with a view to increasing it further to at least 16, and further buffing it with items / spells / other buffs.

    A primary class Blackguard can focus on Strength, Dexterity (if you use melee weapons you will want Weapon Finesse), Charisma, Hybrid Strength/Charisma or Hybrid Dexterity/Charisma. Strength will increase AB, Damage and carrying capacity. Dexterity will increase your AB, Armor Class and Reflex saves. Charisma will increase your damage and armor class but only when DM and DS are activated. Regardless of how you manage your build, a Primary Blackguard will want a reasonable charisma score regardless of how you manage your Blackguard’s attribute score to make use of Dark Blessing, Divine Might and Divine Shield. The worst thing is to not invest enough into charisma with these abilities, and have them last such a short duration you have to cast it multiple times or run out of casts.

    Blackguards, especially primary class Blackguards, play best when they can use their sneak attack ability. This can be achieved by:

    • Enemies attacking targets other than the Blackguard such as Vrock summons, or a teammate
    • Enemies being knocked down which could be through the Blackguard’s knockdown ability, the Blackguard’s summon’s knockdown ability (the Vrock/Epic Vrock has knockdown as a feat), Grease + Knockdown Immunity or a teammate
    • Magical invisibility which could be provided from Bard, Cleric, Assassin, potions or items
      Stealth which could be provided from Rogue, Monk, Assassin or Shadowdancer – this is probably the least useful way to get your sneak attacks in, unless you have Hide in Plain Sight.
    • Ranged weapons (this is not obvious, but can be very useful!)
    • Darkness/Ultravision combination
    • Stinking Cloud / self cast Protection against Evil to protect one’s self against your own Stinking Clouds
    • UMD to disable enemies with Bigby’s Forceful Hand scrolls, for example

    Before hitting them, the Blackguard will want to use Divine Might and Divine Shield if your charisma is sufficiently high, to deal extra damage and increase your tankability.

    Taunt is also very valuable to lower the enemy’s AC allowing the Blackguard to hit enemies more easily.

    Builds that have multiple attacks take enormous advantage of both the sneak attack damage and the additional divine damage from Divine Might. This is why builds that involve high numbers of attacks per round such as dual wielding / improved two weapon fighting (ITWF) or monk builds (or dual kama ITWF monk builds) tend to be mean any enemy vulnerable to sneak attacks essentially dies to your blows in one or two rounds. You totally mow them down like the big bad sneaky Blackguard you are. This obviously depends on how much sneak attack you have. Even if you have 1d6 sneak attack from taking Blackguard as a minor class, an additional 6d6-10d6 damage is no joke, its like the damage from a level 7 to level 15 Ice Storm spell or a level 8 flame arrow being added to your damage per round to your opponent. Or 3-8 hit die.

    Buffs from the Cleric and Bard classes are very strong in allowing your Blackguard to ‘stand and fight’ for long periods. These are spells such as Ghostly Visage, Improved Invisibility, Ethereal Visage, Mage Armor, Shield, for example. You could also conceivably cast your spells / Divine Might / Divine Shield whilst invisible, cast your summon to draw aggression, then break invisibility to annhilate high value targets with sneak attacks. The main downside for a primary Blackguard is that such abilities can be easily dispelled by enemy spell casters. For a minor class Blackguard this is less of a problem, particularly with 25 caster levels or more.

    Against enemies who are immune to sneak attack your attack power is substantially diminished and you will have a tougher time. This is obviously more of a problem for primary class Blackguards than minor class Blackguards. You will be relying on your Divine Might/Divine Shield, other class abilities and your basic combat ability to win fights.

    Against enemies with Smite Evil you will need to be very careful. One or two Smite Evil’s against you could be the death of you!

    Blackguard builds

    Here are a quite few sample Blackguard builds that I would suggest are worth a read!

    Pre-epic character level 20 builds

    Epic character level 40 builds: Minor class Blackguard 

    Epic character level 40 builds: Major class Blackguard 

    I hope you have enjoyed this post as much as I have in creating it and hopefully it gives you some insight into this interesting class! Happy building!

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