d20 Tweaking: The Hexblade
The Hexblade is a base character class introduced in the Complete Warrior. The basic idea of the class is a primarily martial character with some arcane abilities – most notably the ability to call down a curse on its foes. I like the concept. Unfortunately, I really dislike the execution. His supplementary powers are of very limited use. The curse ability can only be used a very limited number of times per day. At low levels, the Hexblade quickly runs out of curse uses and usually functions as a second-rate fighter. At 4th level, the Hexblade gets to begin casting a few spells and can gain a familiar. His spells are generally ineffective, though, since he has so few of them and their caster level is limited. Familiars are thought by many to be liabilities more than assets – with a Hexblade’s high hit points and BAB and a few familiar-boosting spells, a Hexblade’s familiar can actually be fairly competent in combat, but the cost of having one die is rather high.
I’ve been tempted to revise the Hexblade. If I were to do so, I’d concentrate on its two key features: martial combat and cursing.
I’d scrap the spellcasting and the familiar altogether. My Hexblade deals in hexes, not spells. I’d model the basic curse ability off of the auras of the Marshall or the Dragon Shaman. The Hexblade would have a choice of learning a number of minor hexes that would have an effect on all enemies within a certain radius. (examples of weaker curses off the top of my head: The Curse of Fragility – All items held, worn, or carried by the Hexblade’s affected enemies have their Hardness reduced by the Hexblade’s Charisma modifier. The Curse of Clumsy Defense – All of the Hexblade’s enemies affected have their Dexterity modifier to Armor Class reduced by the Hexblade’s Charisma modifier; if a Dexterity modifier to Armor Class is reduced to 0 or below, that enemy counts as having lost its Dexterity modifier to Armor Class.) These would be useable an unlimited number of times per day. More powerful hexes could be learned at higher levels. There would also be a Hex Strike power that would more strongly hex an enemy struck in combat. This might be useable a limited number of times per day. Alternately, I might make it freely useable, but reduce the damage of the attack on which it is used.
Other than that, I’d probably scrap the bonus feats a Hexblade gets in favor of a choice of abilities that can expand the usefulness of the hexes (such as expanding the hex area, being able to put up a hex as a swift action, increasing the difficulty of resisting the hex, or other sorts of things). I’d also give the Hexblade a good Fortitude Save, but drop Mettle as a class ability. Mettle is cool and all, but it doesn’t seem right for a class with a poor Fort Save to have it.
I’d be really tempted to increase the number of skill points that the Hexblade gets… and to increase its armor proficiency. I think I’d need to see how it balanced out power-wise before I did either of these things, though.