The Revised Bladedancer

There was overwhelming support for reverting the Bladedancer to my original conception of a lightly-armored fighter, so I’ve done so. Below are the revised rules. As an executive summary, they trade down from platemail to leather in exchange for an initiative and AC bonus.

Bladedancers are skilled combatants. At first level, bladedancers hit an unarmored foe (AC 0) with an attack throw of 10+. They advance like clerics in attack throws and saving throws, by two points every four levels of experience. By religious doctrine, bladedancers are forbidden from debasing themselves with the fighting implements of the peasantry, or dishonorably firing missiles from a distance. A bladedancer may only use piercing and slashing melee weapons, such as daggers, swords, spears, and polearms. This eliminates weapons such as clubs, maces, and warhammers, as well as bows, slings, and crossbows. A bladedancer may dual wield a weapon in each hand, or fight with a two-handed weapon, but may not resort to shields. Bladedancers are only trained to fight in leather or lighter armor. However, they gain a +1 bonus to initiative and a +1 bonus to Armor Class if able to move freely. At level 7, the AC bonus increases to +2, and at level 13 the AC bonus increases to +3.

Let me know what you think. Also, should it stack with Swashbuckler proficiency? A bladedancer in leather armor with the Swashbuckler proficiency could have AC4 (2 leather + class bonus + swashbuckler bonus), comparable to chain, reaching AC6 (platemail) at level 7, and eventually at level 13 improving to AC8 (2 leather + 3 class bonus + 3 swashbuckler bonus), or better than non-magical plate.
Other ideas would be to trade heavier armor in favor of weapon finesse or skirmishing.

The only thing I would change is the phrasing of “A bladedancer may dual wield a weapon in each hand” to say “A bladedancer may wield a weapon in each hand”. Dual wielding in each hand makes it sound like they can hold two weapons in each hand, which would be a bit silly.
Stacking with Swashbuckler doesn’t seem too broken to me, but I’m often a poor judge of such things.

To my mind, the question on Swashbuckler balance is whether comparable options exist for heavy fighters. The best that I can find is the sword and board fighting style, which only gives a +1 (and means that you can’t use an offensive fighting style in that round). I might consider adding a Defensive Fighting proficiency; something like “when wearing heavy armor and using a shield, you get a +1 to AC, increasing to +2 at level 7, and +3 at level 13.” That means that pretty much the hardest to hit characters will be the platemail/shield/Defensive Fighting specialists–which is as it should be. The only problem I see is stacking that with the Fighting style, so maybe the answer is to make the weapon and shield fighting style scale with level? If it scaled with level, then the defensive heavy fighter specialists will have the best AC. My guess is that weapon and sword is typically underpowered at high levels–chop till you stop strongly favors offense–so that’s probably okay on a relative balance basis. Obviously, stress testing this with actual play is necessary to be sure.