This build creates a crossbow-using support spellcaster with excellent people skills (Appraise, Persuade). Persuasion is used whenever possible to avoid battle. In combat the henchman is relied on to do the major damage while you support them with buffs and hinder enemies with debuffs.
This build very similar to my High Perform Bard build, but with a few changes to accommodate the Harper Scout prestige class. The Harper Scout turns your character into somewhat of an anti-caster with higher saving throws, better ranged abilities, and a good mix of spells to counter whatever spells enemy casters use.
Race: Half Elf
Class: Bard (5) / Harper Scout (15)
Alignment: Chaotic Good – It has to be non-lawful, non-evil for the two classes, but you can choose whatever you want for your own roleplaying.
Strength – 12 +0 = 12
Dexterity – 14 +2 = 16
Constitution – 12 +0 = 12
Intelligence – 14 +0 = 14
Wisdom – 10 +0 = 10
Charisma – 15 +3 = 18
Hitpoints: 140 max
Charisma is pushed up to 18 for the bonus to Perform as well as the people skills. Having a high Charisma score also adds a few bonus spells for the Bard. The other primary stat is Dexterity, starting at 14 but increased to 16 by the end of the game. Dexterity adds some Armor Class for survivability and Attack bonus for the crossbow.
4 Search (8 cross-class)
Total Skill Points: 138
Perform is the primary skill in this build and for the most part, with all Bard builds. I also make sure the spellcaster skills are pretty high (Concentration, Spellcraft). The typical Bard skills are Lore, Persuade, and Appraise. To get the necessary skill ranks to take the Harper Scout levels, I chose to lower Appraise skill. Of all the skills in this build, Appraise is the weakest one. Without it maxed, you should have enough gold in the game to buy the items you want for your character, but maybe not for every henchman you have in your party. Your character is the most important one though.
The earlier you get Search and Discipline to 4, the earlier you get access to Harper Scout. Keep in mind Search is a cross-class skill for Bard, so it will take 8 skill points over 2 levels to raise it to 4. This means the earliest possible level you can access Harper Scout is at level 6. I recommend getting your 5 Harper Scout levels sooner rather than later as many of the spells are better at lower levels than higher levels.
Skill focus (Perform)
Total Feats: 7
Alertness and Iron Will are required for the Harper Scout. The earliest level you could have these is at level 3, allowing you to take Harper Scout at level 6 (assuming you made sure to also get the skill requirements). The last possible level you could finish these feats is level 12. The next feat available is at level 15, so you will only be able to get 4 Harper Scout levels there (with a level 20 cap). If you wait until 18 to finish them, you will get only 2 Harper Scout levels. I recommend just getting these two feats as early as possible. It’s the easiest way to do it.
The feats simply complement the skills with Bardsong bonuses (Lingering Song, Curse Song), Perform bonuses (Artist, Skill focus (Perform)). The one exception is Rapid Reload which I took so my character can get the normal number of attacks per round with a crossbow. Crossbows limit you to one attack per round without this feat.
Note that this list only includes feats you don’t get for free. With the Harper Scout, you get two Favored Enemy feats plus a number of unique saving throw bonus feats unique to the class. You end up avoiding a lot of bad effects from enemy spells as well as have a better chance to hit them with your crossbow.
Level 0: Cure Minor Wounds, Resistance, Daze, Flare, Light
Level 1: Cure Light Wounds, Charm Person, Balagarn’s Iron Horn, Lesser Dispel, Grease (bonus spell), Sleep (Harper Scout)
Level 2: Cure Moderate Wounds, Blindness/Deafness, Hold Person, Sound Burst, Silence (bonus spell), Cat’s Grace (Harper Scout), Eagle’s Splendor (Harper Scout), Invisibility (Harper Scout)
Level 3: Cure Serious Wounds, Confusion, Fear, Haste, Slow (bonus spell)
Level 4: Cure Critical Wounds, Dominate Person, Hold Monster, Neutralize Poison, Dismissal (bonus spell)
Level 5: Greater Dispelling, Mind Fog, Summon Creature V
With the Harper Scout, you lose 6 known spells but get 4 free spells. The free spells are lower level than the ones you get access to if you went full level 20 Bard, though the free feats more than make up for this loss.
I won’t go through all the spells here except what I think are the core ones. I take the “Cure X Wounds” line to heal my henchman during combat. The lower level ones won’t help all that much, but there are times where it can make the difference between running back to town or not. Some places you can’t rest either, so healing is the only way to get hitpoints back.
The other core spell is the “Summon Creature” line. They are an excellent way to keep some damage off of your henchman and let your character stay at range. You should only have one of these spells at any time, because you can’t summon more than one and they last for a full day ingame time. Take the best Creature spell you can get every time you level up. Whenever you get a new one, that same level you can replace the old one with a different, more useful spell. Changing spells can only be done on level up, so don’t wait until level 20 to get rid of low level Creature spells.
The rest of the spells all fit the theme of “control”. The idea is to control the enemy as much as possible with spells while my henchman and summoned creature do the damage. Make sure you get a melee henchman with good damage.
Bow instead of crossbow – Instead of taking the Rapid Reload feat, you can take the Weapon Proficiency (Martial) feat to give you Bow proficiency. Bows automatically get the full number of attacks per round without the need for Rapid Reload.
More anti-caster feats – If you are okay with 5 less Perform points, you can replace Artist and Skill Focus (Perform) with Arcane Defense and Lightning Reflexes to get better saving throws versus spells.
Better crossbow feats – The Artist and Skill Focus (Perform) feats can also be replaced with Weapon focus (Crossbow) and Improved Critical (Crossbow) to boost your crossbow attacks.