A while back I got to thinking "Hey, why does nobody use Dragon Disciple?" As I smoked a tobacco pipe over this question, I began to understand why this prestige class was so maligned. I was able to come to the following conclusion:
The class requires casting, yet does almost nothing to promote its use.
Melee characters interested in taking it are forced to bear with a low HD, no BAB level.
It dawned on me that there could be a way to utilize, nay optimize, this template disguised as a prestige class. And so I present for your analysis and critique: Bahamut's Axe!
(Note: The formatting I'll be using draws heavily from the Weekly Optimization Showcase. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, after all.)
Books Used: PHB, DMG, DMG II, PHB II, ToB, DM, RoS, RotD.
Race: Gold Dwarf (from the DMG), though any variety of dwarf will work in a pinch. However, I chose this race because it penalizes dexterity rather than charisma, which is far more important to the build.
Alignment: Any non-lawful. This is mandatory, though beyond that it's up to you. I chose neutral good while working on this.
Abilities: 16/12/16/10/10/12 using 32 point buy, before racial modifiers. Put all stat increases into constitution as you level up. Tomes and other items for constitution and strength are a priority.
Mundane Gear: Since we have proficiency with it, let's go ahead and use a dwarven waraxe and a heavy shield early on. Once we pick up Power Attack, switch to whatever two-handed weapon you like (I chose greataxe to stick with the theme).
Magical Gear: Nothing unusual for a melee character. Constitution and Strength items, magical weapons and armor, so on and so forth. If you're strapped for cash (for whatever reason), you can save some money by relying on your wings rather than items. However, a Badge of Valor would certainly come in handy.
Build Stub: Crusader 6/Bard 2/Dragon Disciple 10/Deepwarden 2
1 - Crusader 1 [Endurance] (Furious Counterstrike, Steely Resolve 5) (Crusader's Strike, Charging Minotaur, Stone Bones, Leading the Attack) (Martial Spirit)
Ugh, I hate prerequisite feats as much as anybody else. Endurance aside, crusader is always a strong start.
2 - Crusader 2 (Indomitable Soul) (Leading the Charge)
3 - Bard 1 [Song of the White Raven] (Bardic Music, Bardic Knowledge, Countersong, Fascinate, Inspire Courage +1)
Now here we go. Song of the White Raven is quite the gem, isn't it?
4 - Crusader 3 (Zealous Surge) (Mountain Hammer)
The ever-handy Mountain Hammer packs quite a whallop. I would recommend readying this instead of Leading the Attack.
5 - Bard 2
It may seem strange to take another level of bard rather than a fourth level of crusader, but this gets us 1st level bard spells. While it's extremely unlikely that you'll be using them in combat (since heavy armor causes spell failure), the rather large amount of 1st level spells you'll end up with will be a good source of out of combat healing and help conserve spells for the cleric, druid, or what-have-you. Just take a seat, doff your armor, and let some out of combat Cure Light Wounds do their thing.
6 - Dragon Disciple 1 [Extra Music] (Natural Armor +1, Bronze Dragon Choice)
Our uses of bard music per day is limited, so this is a much needed increase.
7 - Dragon Disciple 2 (Str +2, Claws and Bite)
Now we're getting into the meat and potatoes of this class. Though you'll likely never use your claws, using your bite as a secondary natural attack can provide a nice source of more damage.
8 - Dragon Disciple 3 (Breath Weapon 2d8)
The breath weapon does not inflict high damage, but it gives versatility to a primary melee character. Since we chose to be a Bronze dragon disciple, our breath deals electricity damage which is not too commonly resisted. Also, because the DC is con based, it's going to be rather hard to make that saving throw.
9 - Dragon Disciple 4 [Power Attack] (Str +2, Natural Armor +2)
This is where we forgo axe-and-shield in favor of a two-handed weapon. I chose greataxe to stick with the theme, but it makes no difference if you want to use a greatsword, guisarme, glaive, or whatever.
10 - Dragon Disciple 5 (Blindsense 30')
A very handy ability to have to help warn you of stealthy opponents before they try to murder you.
11 - Dragon Disciple 6 (Con +2)
12 - Dragon Disciple 7 [Extra Granted Maneuver] (Breath Weapon 4d8, Natural Armor +3)
Our breath weapon damage just increased, as did our AC. Though it comes online rather late, Extra Granted Maneuver can help get the maneuvers you want.
13 - Dragon Disciple 8 (Int +2)
14 - Dragon Disciple 9 (Wings)
Flight is taken care of for this guy, which is always needed for a melee character. It's not a great speed, but it's free and effective.
15 - Dragon Disciple 10 [Dragonfire Inspiration] (Blindsense 60', Dragon Apotheosis)
Now that we've hit the last level of dragon disciple, we get a slurry of stat increases, another increase to our breath weapon, and importantly we now count as a half-dragon, which means Dragonfire Inspiration lets us add electricity damage to everyone's attacks as a swift action!
16 - Deepwarden 1 [Track] (Trapsense +1)
17 - Deepwarden 2 (Stone Warden)
Perfect, now we can use our obscenely high constitution modifier to armor class instead of our pitiful dexterity.
18 - Crusader 4 [Entangling Exhalation] (Steely Resolve 10) (Elder Mountain Hammer > Mountain Hammer)
We got what we came for from Deepwarden, so back into crusader we go. We now get to swap out Mountain Hammer for its big brother, so more damage for us. Lastly, Entangling Exhalation provides some rather significant battle field control.
19 - Crusader 5 (Irresistible Mountain Strike)
20 - Crusader 6 (Smite 1/day, Inspire Courage +2)
Thanks to Song of the White Raven, we pick up an increase to inspire courage, which means an extra 2d6 of electricity damage for the entire party now, 3d6 with the Badge.
So there you have it. A dragon disciple who puts his casting class to use, ends up with +16 BAB, more HP than you can shake a stick at, and uses his draconic abilities as a staple rather than a gimmick. Please let me know what you think, and if there's any room for improvement.