I'm rather fond of the duskblade as a class, in terms of mechanical abilities; they're both unique enough to justify being a separate base class (if you're not of the opinion that all such things should be prestige classes; I certainly am not), and powerful without being unbalanced. However, the flavor in the Player's Handbook II (the book in which they appear) is kind of bland, presenting them as a sort of bladesinger-lite: 1/3 the niftiness of your regular class.
Anyway, more below:
Problem: Duskblades, while a strong class with a nice mix of abilities, don't have the flair and flavor of, say, hexblades, who posses a similar mix of melee ability and spellcasting, instead coming off like a base-class version of bladesingers that lack any of the unique and interesting abilities that make the bladesinger prestige class, well, interesting.
Solution: Instead of presenting duskblades as heritors of an ancient elven tradition (don't we have enough of those anyway?), they're akin to sorcerers, in that their abilities are a reflection of draconic heritage. Since they're eligible for the Dragon Disciple prestige class -- being spontaneous casters -- and benefit tremendously from it (much moreso than the specialized sorcerer-derivatives, the dread necromancer, the beguiler, and the warmage), let's play that up.
By rewriting the flavor, we open up possibilities much more interesting, such as elite kobold squads composed of duskblades and sorcerers, and take advantage of existing resonance through established ties between spontaneous casting and draconic heritage. And this obviates any need to rework the mechanics of the class, a plus in my book (because I'd rather not have to worry about game balance if I can avoid it).
So, without further ado:
Duskblades are people who, like sorcerers, find themselves the natural possessors of arcane power. Unlike sorcerers, however, their arcane powers manifest through a quickness of mind and understanding, and they also tend to possess a toughness and strength of body that sorcerers are not typically given to. Like sorcerers, they attribute their gifts to draconic heritage, though rather than manifesting the powerful arcane gifts and phenomenal presence of a sorcerer, they exemplify the physical might and sharp mind of the great dragons. While most are also very disciplined, their physical prowess flows from an inborn source, and their ability to blend arcane power into their melee combat at will is something else that sets them apart.
Nobody knows exactly where the term "duskblade" originated; some scholars contend that it is a Common translation of a Draconic term meaning "claw that strikes with force of dark and light," while others believe that it comes from a much less poetic term in the dialect of Draconic spoken by kobolds (the kobold word for "duskblade" supports this). Still others maintain that it is a term that descends from elves who first manifested the unique abilities, describing the blend of normally diametrically-opposed disciplines.
Abilities: Strength and Intelligence are generally the most important, as the former drives melee ability and the latter spellcasting. Constitution is important for hit points, as duskblades do not have a large hit die. Kobold duskblades are often Dexterity-oriented rather than Strength-oriented, as their physiology drives them in this direction.
Races: Duskblades are most common amongst humans, elves, half-elves, and kobolds. Human duskblades, like sorcerers, generally learn their abilities by trial and error, honing their bodies and combat skills in tandem with their minds and arcane power. Elven duskblades are encouraged to find a master, an experienced duskblade, who can guide them in the development of their abilities, but there exists no formal structure for dealing with them. Half-elven duskblades follow the
tradition of whichever culture they're raised in. Kobold duskblades hold a place of esteem and honor in kobold society, like sorcerers, and, like sorcerers, they are carefully cultivated and trained to hone their abilities from a young age.
Duskblades are uncommon amongst orcs and half-orcs, as the draconic heritage that it reputedly flows from is much less common amongst them, but they are not unheard of. Gnomes, dwarves, and halflings are rarely duskblades.
Alignment: Duskblades can be of any alignment, though, like true dragons, they are rarely neutral, usually following one or two moral imperatives strongly.
Starting Gold As per Player's Handbook II, or PH2.
Starting Age As bard (PH 109).
Class Features As PH2, except:
Special Duskblades may take draconic heritage feats (see Complete Arcane).
Playing a Duskblade
Religion: While duskblades are highly individualistic, and thus nothing about them can be said universally, religion typically takes a back seat to the development of their personal abilities. Most who do ascribe to a religion follow gods of combat or magic, or racial deities, and a substantial minority revere draconic gods.
Other Classes: Duskblades get along well with sorcerers, sharing the inborn gift for arcane power and draconic heritage. They also get along well with fighters, who share some of their abilities and interests, and to a lesser extent bards, who also walk a line between easily-defined categories. They are less trustful of rogues, who they have little in common with, and other skillful classes, and are neutral towards clerics and other divine casters as a rule. They tend to distrust hexblades, who have similar abilities but have a decidedly more sinister air, and warlocks to a lesser extent.
(rest as per PH2)
Duskblades in the World
Daily Life: A duskblade's day-to-day life consists of experimentation and repetition, discovering new heights and depths to both her arcane powers and melee skills. They typically seek out sorcerers and other spontaneous casters to learn from, and fighters and barbarians to spar with. Outside of this, their pursuits are as wide and varied as they are.
Notables: Duskblades are fairly uncommon; most who discover the spark of power within themselves are more likely to cultivate it independently, as a sorcerer, or through discipline and book learning, as a wizard. Much rarer are those who have the spark and physical power and inclination to follow the warrior's path at the same time. Still, there are some whose deeds are known far and wide.
Kobolds speak highly of Skiktak the Invincible, a kobold duskblade who followed the path of the Dragon Disciple, developing his draconic heritage to its utmost. He grew mighty in both the physical and arcane arenas, and eventually left the Material Plane to seek out greater power in other worlds. His home tribe, elevated to power and wealth by his adventures, awaits his return.
Sera the Blue, a half-elf duskblade who grew up in a human city, is known for her tendency to duel both arcanists and warriors on their own terms, and best them in those arenas. She has never yet used arcane power to defeat a fighter, or martial skill against an arcanist, saying that it would go against her honor.
Gerrak Coalbeard, a dwarven duskblade, is known far and wide in both dwarven and human lands for the might of his axe and the deftness of his spellcasting; he adventures with a human favored soul and a halfling spellthief, often venturing into the depths of the underworld to fight drow and mind flayers on their own turf.
Organizations: There are no significant duskblade organizations outside of kobold society, simply due to the relative rarity. This same rarity means that duskblades tend to share some degree of camaraderie, and two who meet each other will often take some time out to spar or trade arcane lore, or sometimes both. Kobold duskblades form groups of various kinds, ranging from small paramilitary units to almost monastic orders to train and pass on the secrets of duskblade power.
NPC Reactions Most people have never heard of duskblades, and, thus, duskblades are generally assumed to be fighters with some sorcerer ability or vice versa. A few have heard stories of people who combine both disciplines with equal skill, and some of them may even know the appellation "duskblade." Adventurers tend to be wary of duskblades, as their apparent skills in both the martial and arcane arts make them difficult to get the full measure of.
DC 10: Some kobolds have abilities that combine arcane and martial disciplines in unique ways, often casting while in melee combat. They are called "duskblades."
DC 15: Duskblades are not just kobolds, but show up in many races, though are typically mistaken for fighter/wizards or fighter/sorcerers.
DC 20: Duskblades attribute their abilities to draconic blood, like sorcerers, and sometimes exhibit signs of that heritage.
Any thoughts? Criticisms?