Is swashbuckling worth taking?

Does +1 AC make that huge of a difference?

I kind of wish that effects like that were rolled up with other effects like acrobatics or cat burglary, it sucks to choose between “+5% chance my guy won’t die to a goblin arrow” and something cool like “healing” or “alchemy”

If you are a bladedancer or mystic, it's a great choice. My own PC in ACKS has swashbuckling! Keep in mind that it's not just a +1 AC bonus. It increases to +2 AC at level 7 and +3 AC at level 13. 

It's worth noting that in my ACKS campaigns, even mid- to high-level characters spend a lot of time fighting low-HD monsters. For example, the PCs frequently engage in mass combat, where heroes are cleaving through phalanxes of orcs. (A lot of the mechanics of ACKS are best understood in this light, e.g. cleaving, fighter damage bonus). Such fights put a huge premium on the marignal points of AC that protect you from such monsters.

Consider the case of a 7th level Bladedancer with 16 DEX and +1 leather armor. Her AC is 7 (+2 DEX bonus +2 graceful fighting ability +2 leather armor +1 magic bonus). If she has swashbuckling, her AC is increased to 9. Let's have that bladedancer take missile fire from 10 orcs (attack throw 10+). With AC 7, she's getting hit 20% of the time, e.g. 2 orcs per round. With AC 9, she's getting hit 10% of the time, e.g. 1 orc per round. So swashbuckling is *halving* the damage she takes. 



it’s also worth noting that swashbuckling seems to be particular good for, well, pirates. Wearing heavy armor at sea is a death sentence if you fall overboard, so better to wear lighter armor even if your class permits you to wear more.

Considering that Fighting Style (Shield) has become THE proficiency to take among my party’s fighters (along with Alertness), I’m inclined to think that Swashbuckling would do well if we had any assassins, thieves, or bladedancers, since it does scale upwards.