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D&D 5E A sword sage

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
I'm going to be starting playing in a 5e campaign starting at level 5 soon. I've come up upon a concept - a "sword sage", an old wandering scholar who has studied the way of the blade.

(Some of you may note, and I wouldn't argue with them, that a kensei monk would be perfect for this concept, and I would not disagree. However, I played a monk in the last game, so I decided not to repeat that. )

So I made him a fighter, psi knight to be exact. He's going to be the party tank, so I'm going with a dex build (a "hulking" sage doesn't fit my mental image), with a fast slim blade (ah la jian, so an "alt rapier") and a "shield" which is a heavy iron pipe (similar to the japanese kiseru).

All the "psi powers" are reflavored as "ancient mystical techniques". Things like "Twin River strike!" or "Cloud conceals the cunning cobra!" can "explain" his powered psi-strikes. Others (like the protective field acting at a distance) are "inner strenght" powers, where with a wave of his hand the sage causes a cloud of dust that partially fouls the blow of a foe upon an ally.

I think there is potential humor in some of the limitations of the powers - like he can "boost up" an ally to throw them up on a wall... but then has to ask them to lower a rope - he can't jump that high, he's old!

For the sage specialty, I will take alchemist. To give this more "substance", and because the party is a bit low on support, I'm going to take the Chef feat to boost my con and heal the party a bit - but instead of treats and meals, it's going to be tonics and ointments (and gain the alchemical tool proficiency).

Those are my ideas so far, but I'm sure you have some too!
 

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Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
One of the things I'm pondering is if I should take a +1 armor or +1 sword (we can start with a few magical items). Since I'm going to be the party tank, the +1 armor seems like the right choice, especially since I can take a "common" magical sword (like the moon-touched blade). But +1 to hit and damage is nice too...
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I'd go with the armor. You'll be in light armor, I'm guessing?

How do you feel about multiclassing? Swashbuckler rogue would be killer, as would Inquisitive, with each promoting different aspects of the concept.

What fighting style are you thinking? Dueling is obvious, as is Defensive, but the one that gives a superiority die and a manuever could be really fun.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
I'd go with the armor. You'll be in light armor, I'm guessing?

How do you feel about multiclassing? Swashbuckler rogue would be killer, as would Inquisitive, with each promoting different aspects of the concept.

What fighting style are you thinking? Dueling is obvious, as is Defensive, but the one that gives a superiority die and a manuever could be really fun.
Light armor yes. This will not be the party scout, but he'll be reasonably stealthy due to high dex.

Multiclassing? Ooof. At level 6 I get another feat (ritual magic? uh? uh?), level 7 I get more psi powers, level 8 I get a feat.... I don't know man. There is a lot of good in sticking with fighter for a while.

I was going to go dueling, but I hadn't considered that last one... it's tempting, but I think Dueling is better. The psi dice will have to do.
 


doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Light armor yes. This will not be the party scout, but he'll be reasonably stealthy due to high dex.

Multiclassing? Ooof. At level 6 I get another feat (ritual magic? uh? uh?), level 7 I get more psi powers, level 8 I get a feat.... I don't know man. There is a lot of good in sticking with fighter for a while.

I was going to go dueling, but I hadn't considered that last one... it's tempting, but I think Dueling is better. The psi dice will have to do.
For sure, yeah. That all makes sense.
 


Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
You know, now that I look at the inquisitive, that is pretty interesting indeed. But have you looked at the mastermind? Master of tactics really fits, and master of intrigue... well you know what they say about old age and treachery...
 

Have you read the flavor of the actual swordsage class from 3.5? Not that it matters but you could get some inspiration there.

I've toyed with the idea of going battlesmith3/psiknight17 just to dump Str and go completely Int for all weapon attacks. I ran Hexblade3/Echoknight with full Cha focus and it was pretty cool.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Light armor yes. This will not be the party scout, but he'll be reasonably stealthy due to high dex.

Multiclassing? Ooof. At level 6 I get another feat (ritual magic? uh? uh?), level 7 I get more psi powers, level 8 I get a feat.... I don't know man. There is a lot of good in sticking with fighter for a while.

I was going to go dueling, but I hadn't considered that last one... it's tempting, but I think Dueling is better. The psi dice will have to do.

Fighter has some definite potency boosts even at level 5
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Have you read the flavor of the actual swordsage class from 3.5? Not that it matters but you could get some inspiration there.

I've toyed with the idea of going battlesmith3/psiknight17 just to dump Str and go completely Int for all weapon attacks. I ran Hexblade3/Echoknight with full Cha focus and it was pretty cool.
4e Swordmages featured that all Int as a core feature. Some mashup between that and the Eldritch Knight/Psiknight is almost the Swordmage (Swordmage was also a blinking battlefield teleporter and after a while teleport/blink every round)
 

4e Swordmages featured that all Int as a core feature. Some mashup between that and the Eldritch Knight/Psiknight is almost the Swordmage (Swordmage was also a blinking battlefield teleporter and after a while teleport/blink every round)
I did play the swordmage in 4 and it was much more of a spellcaster than the swordsage was. The swordsage was like an avatar martial artist punching people while throwing fire while the swordmage was a wizard that happened to use a sword. One of the big innovations that 4e introduced that was unfortunately dropped from 5e was the idea that a weapon class centered around an ability score just got to use that ability score for their features instead almost every weapon build using dex or str.
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
I've had in mind for a time a similar concept:

a very, very old swordmaster, who made a vow to defend his birth village until his death.
Funny thing though, he already died 3-4 times! When he dies, the villagers burry him in a nice tomb under the river and all pitch in together for the appropriate anti-necromancy, anti-decay magical protection.

Then, when the village is again in danger, the local priest resurrect him for free (you'll see) and there goes again our hero, fighting to save his hometown until he falls once again.

He's a good guy with a big heart, but a little cranky and...well...he suffers a little of the fact that the world changes a lot between each time he is awakened. He can be a little dephased each time, and tends to confuse the ''rules and standards'' of each generations and the historical fact.

On the PC sheet:
Human, Zealot barb (for the free resurrect!)
high Con, Dex and either Int or Wis.
Sage background
Sword and shield, armorless, an old straw hat
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
I did play the swordmage in 4 and it was much more of a spellcaster than the swordsage was.
Perhaps
The swordsage was like an avatar martial artist punching people while throwing fire while the swordmage was a wizard that happened to use a sword.
I made a post on here about what I felt the swordmage was... and why I felt 4e with its many unique to class abilities better encompassed that and how I felt their magic was integrated into their weapon use not something they did separate from it


One of the big innovations that 4e introduced that was unfortunately dropped from 5e was the idea that a weapon class centered around an ability score just got to use that ability score for their features instead almost every weapon build using dex or str.
Ironically I felt using Strength ie one attribute for seemingly everything back in the very beginning AD&D almost entirely used a single ability score for physical combat was kind of meh ( my dad was in the martial arts so I had been taught differently and I had also seen RuneQuest at almost the same time as D&D where they did otherwise. ).

4e basically brought home the idea of that primary attribute being a simplified description of fighting style. (See melee training feat)
Str - emphasized brute unstoppable sometimes simplistic force
Dex - emphasized reaction and precision and grace of movement.
Con - instinct and enduring energy but also enables wild unpredictable nigh wasteful moves
Int - emphasizing predictive, pattern analysis and quick thinking.
Wiz - with perception and awareness you are ahead of your enemy, you are the perfect disciplined student and, zen awareness and sometimes divine guidance,
Cha - emphasizes deception and sometime divinely gifted luck, and emotional energy
 
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Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
I've had in mind for a time a similar concept:

a very, very old swordmaster, who made a vow to defend his birth village until his death.
Funny thing though, he already died 3-4 times! When he dies, the villagers burry him in a nice tomb under the river and all pitch in together for the appropriate anti-necromancy, anti-decay magical protection.

Then, when the village is again in danger, the local priest resurrect him for free (you'll see) and there goes again our hero, fighting to save his hometown until he falls once again.

He's a good guy with a big heart, but a little cranky and...well...he suffers a little of the fact that the world changes a lot between each time he is awakened. He can be a little dephased each time, and tends to confuse the ''rules and standards'' of each generations and the historical fact.

On the PC sheet:
Human, Zealot barb (for the free resurrect!)
high Con, Dex and either Int or Wis.
Sage background
Sword and shield, armorless, an old straw hat
That's not quite what I'm going for, but I do like the idea a lot.

The tentative idea for the party is that we all came from this village/small town. Some calamity happened (orc invasion, a flood, something) and the villagers were scattered to the wind. Many years later, a few of them reunite, each having found their way to power (meaning they are level 5)

While the other PCs were kids/teens when this happened, my PC was a teacher, already in his 40s-50s (exact age not worked out). He took to the road, bitter that his knowledge had done nothing to protect the village. While working at the vault of sages in Silverymoon, he was tasked to translate an ancient text. It turned out be a githerai manual of fighting arts and mystical practices. He started studying the text in earnest, eventually fully memorizing it.

The other party members are (tentatively) a shadow monk and a hexblade, so it should be interesting :)
 
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TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Hmm. Old man teacher/sage/blademaster is the sort of concept that's screaming for a high Intelligence and/or Wisdom to me. If I were the DM, I'd offer up this concession.

Trade in light, medium, and heavy armor proficiency. Gain the ability to use Intelligence for attacks with one-handed melee weapons. Gain unarmored defense as barbarian (shields allowed), using 10+Dex+Int or 10+Int+Wis, depending on what stats you feel are more important for the character.

If I wanted to play up the crafting/alchemical techniques, I might look at Infusionsmith from Kibblestasty's Alternate Artificer. Still gets Int to attack, and some craftable spells.
 

I made a post on here about what I felt the swordmage was... and why I felt 4e with its many unique to class abilities better encompassed that and how I felt their magic was integrated into their weapon use not something they did separate from it
I probably shouldn't have used the word "wizard" since I don't mean that they were like the class. What made them good, and what 5e sorely lacks, was that they were designed as an entire class based around bespoke combat spells. Every thing they did was a spell, like any other spell-caster, but made specifically for melee.

This comes at the concept from the opposite angle as the swordsage, who still needed to rely on BAB multiattacking and the basic fundamentals of martial classes in 3.5. The swordmage was a spell-caster designed around melee and the swordsage was more like a martial or monk with ex and su abilities added on.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
Hmm. Old man teacher/sage/blademaster is the sort of concept that's screaming for a high Intelligence and/or Wisdom to me. If I were the DM, I'd offer up this concession.

Trade in light, medium, and heavy armor proficiency. Gain the ability to use Intelligence for attacks with one-handed melee weapons. Gain unarmored defense as barbarian (shields allowed), using 10+Dex+Int or 10+Int+Wis, depending on what stats you feel are more important for the character.

If I wanted to play up the crafting/alchemical techniques, I might look at Infusionsmith from Kibblestasty's Alternate Artificer. Still gets Int to attack, and some craftable spells.
I appreciate the suggestions, but I rather would not rely on homebrewed stuff. I want to try the class too, after all, and I'm not sure how comfortable the GM is with homebrew stuff.

One thing that is helping is that we are using a fairly generous stat array, and I am taking standard human to boost stats even more. My lowest are in strength and charisma - yes charisma is "good" for a teacher, but we've all met cranky teachers/professors who still were good at their job :). So with int magically boosted to 19 (the headband of intellect was my gm's "concession" to the character concept, one I am very grateful for) and a wisdom of 14... I think I'm good :)
 

One of the big innovations that 4e introduced that was unfortunately dropped from 5e was the idea that a weapon class centered around an ability score just got to use that ability score for their features instead almost every weapon build using dex or str.
I can definitely see the appeal from a character optimisation point of view, particularly for a spellcaster character. However if 5e decided to rein things back a bit in a nod towards realism, I think sticking with Str as a basis for melee offence, and Dex for melee defence is a decent compromise.

I should mention that this was not an attempt to duplicate an earlier edition class, but bringing a concept to life (not trying to start edition wars here haha).

I haven't spoken to the GM yet, but I think I'll ask if this can be the main weapon instead of a rapier: https://lkchensword.com/magnificent-chu-jian
Yep. Can't see why you couldn't count that as a rapier myself.
 

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