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D&D 5E Giving the arcane gish an identity.

Frozen_Heart

Adventurer
One thing which is brought up often when talking about 5e is the lack of a dedicated arcane/elemental gish class. Both of the two prior editions of DnD have had a dedicated arcane gish, as well as the current and prior editions of pathfinder. All have been centred around a spellstrike type mechanic, and all have had a clear focus on arcane type magic, rather than divine or occult links like Paladin or Warlock. As a result it has strongly associated mechanics and themes, but no 'story' to it unlike many other classes.

However one thing I've seen mentioned around this forum in particular is the lack of identity for the class, which may by one of the reasons for it failing to stick in the collective consciousness of the playerbase in the same way as a paladin. Even the class name has failed to last more than a single edition. Duskblade in 3e, swordmage in 4e, and magus in pathfinder. The only identifying feature it has consistently had is 'person who uses magic and weapon'. But this description applies to many other classes as well. I've seen some argue that it doesn't need an identity, in the same way a fighter doesn't. But unlike a fighter the class is a lot more specific.

The duskblade is mentioned as 'elite guardians of an ancient elven empire'. Which could provide some starting point. However it has a lot of overlap with the bladesinger, which as a 5e subclass lacks any of the features those wanting a gish class are asking for from a spellstriking gish. The swordmage from 4e is mentioned as being common among genasi, and the magic employed as being often but not always elemental in nature.

What do people think the identity should be for a dedicated arcane/elemental gish class should be if it did exist in the current edition? Or does it not need an identity beyond what it's previously had? How would you give it a story in a way which gives it a strong theme without preventing players from having their own background for characters using the class?
 

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vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
In a previous thread, I suggested the name Janissary, the arcane equivalent to Paladin.
In lore, they would be planar bodyguard in charge of protecting Elemental and other Planar big shots. A Geni-lord's bodyguard, if you want. Seeking to guard portals linking its liege's domain against incursion from other planar travelers.

In terms of thematic, a mix of Horizon walker, Crown paladin and Genie-blade-lock would be the desired result.
 

Duskblade's origin and vibe is far, far too specific for a class. If the class can't be generalized to most worlds, it probably isn't a class, it's a subclass or something.

Swordmage is more like it but it does need a bit more identity than that. Trouble is it needs a fairly generalized identity. So it's a difficult balance to strike.

The other issue is that a lot of people want different things from the class, which you can serve with subclasses, but again, it means it can't be too specific.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
I like the idea of a gish with a unique identity. I don't think that necessarily ought to preclude more customized options via multiclassing, but I do appreciate the cohesive approach that derives from having a dedicated class.

Personally, my favorite gish was the swordmage. The name perhaps left something to be desired, but I found the implemention very enjoyable to play. It was probably my favorite 4e class.
 

The duskblade is mentioned as 'elite guardians of an ancient elven empire'. Which could provide some starting point. However it has a lot of overlap with the bladesinger, which as a 5e subclass lacks any of the features those wanting a gish class are asking for from a spellstriking gish.
I always bounce off the word "gish" pretty hard, so I don't have a lot of history with these sorts of threads, but what is the bladesinger lacking that you'd like to see? I'm about to DM one in one of my games.
 

Undrave

Hero
I always thought that a guy who binds elemental spirit to their equipment would make a cool concept for a gish, especially if they bind them to armour and has their armour transform in cool ways during battle.

I like the idea of a gish with a unique identity. I don't think that necessarily ought to preclude more customized options via multiclassing, but I do appreciate the cohesive approach that derives from having a dedicated class.

Personally, my favorite gish was the swordmage. The name perhaps left something to be desired, but I found the implemention very enjoyable to play. It was probably my favorite 4e class.
One thing the Swordmage did great is that it FELT like a union of Sword and Magic. He wasn't like the Eldtrich Knight who slings spell with one hand and swings a sword with the other. It always felt like its actions wouldn't be possible without the martial or arcane component.
 


J-H

Adventurer
In a previous thread, I suggested the name Janissary, the arcane equivalent to Paladin.
In lore, they would be planar bodyguard in charge of protecting Elemental and other Planar big shots. A Geni-lord's bodyguard, if you want. Seeking to guard portals linking its liege's domain against incursion from other planar travelers.

In terms of thematic, a mix of Horizon walker, Crown paladin and Genie-blade-lock would be the desired result.
I get where this is coming from, especially given links to the Elemental planes and genies. However, in the current climate, a name based on a historical group that practiced literal slavery and forced religion changes as a way to weaken undesirable religious and ethnic groups is going to be dead in the water.

For 5e, we already have Bladesinger, Hexblade, Swords bard, and Eldritch Knight, all using weapons + arcane magic. I houserule EK to let them change which schools they pull from (nobody's taken me up on it yet).
 


Frozen_Heart

Adventurer
I always bounce off the word "gish" pretty hard, so I don't have a lot of history with these sorts of threads, but what is the bladesinger lacking that you'd like to see? I'm about to DM one in one of my games.
All prior arcane gishes have their mechanical identity built around something called 'spellstrike'.

In 3e this was the ability to cast touch spells through their melee weapon attacks. However from 4e onwards, the way touch spells are defined has been redone, and so this become dedicated spells which are cast through a melee attack. The 4e swordmage had a list of dozens of such spells, all with extremely varied effects.

Examples in 5e could be spells like wrathful smite, green flame blade, ensnaring strike, and lightning arrow. Paladin, ranger, and hexblade got big selections of these spells. However the two arcane gish subclasses (bladesinger and eldritch knight) got tied to the wizard list. Understandably the wizard list is not built for weapon attacks.

As a result, the arcane gishes no longer have the mechanic which people play them for (apart from two cantrips). It's like making barbarian a fighter sublcass, but removing rage from it. It would still have all the barbarian theme. But it would no longer have the mechanic people enjoy.
 

Frozen_Heart

Adventurer
In a previous thread, I suggested the name Janissary, the arcane equivalent to Paladin.
In lore, they would be planar bodyguard in charge of protecting Elemental and other Planar big shots. A Geni-lord's bodyguard, if you want. Seeking to guard portals linking its liege's domain against incursion from other planar travelers.

In terms of thematic, a mix of Horizon walker, Crown paladin and Genie-blade-lock would be the desired result.
I like that one a lot. It suits the mention of genasi often being swordmages. And it ties in with genies often being themed with the same cultures as a sultan. Elemental themes slot in extremely easily, and they're most often tied to arcane magic.

It could easily work for other cultures as well, in case you want a more eurocentric appearance. And even the 'guarding' aspect could tie into being a guardian of something else instead.

And duskblades were mentioned as being elite guardians of an elven empire, so it fits there.
 


jgsugden

Legend
One thing which is brought up often when talking about 5e is the lack of a dedicated arcane/elemental gish class. Both of the two prior editions of DnD have had a dedicated arcane gish, as well as the current and prior editions of pathfinder. All have been centred around a spellstrike type mechanic, and all have had a clear focus on arcane type magic, rather than divine or occult links like Paladin or Warlock. As a result it has strongly associated mechanics and themes, but no 'story' to it unlike many other classes.

However one thing I've seen mentioned around this forum in particular is the lack of identity for the class, which may by one of the reasons for it failing to stick in the collective consciousness of the playerbase in the same way as a paladin. ...
What are the key mechanics you're looking to see in this class?
  • Arcane casting?
  • Intelligence? Or could charisma base be ok?
  • Spellstrike (which I am defining as releasing a spell when you hit a target with a weapon attack)?
  • You mention elementalist - are you specifically looking for a focus on releasing (elemental) energies when you hit?
  • Heavy armor available?
  • Heavy weapons available?
  • Shields available?
My approach would be:

1.) Make this a wizard subclass.
2.) At 2nd level they gain martial weapons, medium armor and shields. They also gain a single elemental power they can emanate from their weapon (flaming sword, etc...) for an extra d4 (that grows to d6 at 6th, d8 at 11th, and finally d10 at 17th). In addition to lighting on fire, they'd also be able to do something (cold slows 10 feet, fire provides light and can ignite, acid does double damage to objects, etc... Additionally, they gain temp hps whenever they cast a spell (to make up for their low wizard hps).
3.) Give it access to unique 'spellstrike' spells at lower levels similar to the smite spells of the paladin. Also allow them to concentrate on two spells at once when both spells target only them.
4.) At 6th level, give them the ability to cast a spell as a bonus action, but only on a target that has been hit by their weapon attack that round. They would not get multiattack. They also gain heavy armor here.
5.) At 10th level they get resistance to damage from spells.
6.) At 14th they can concentrate on as many spells as they wish, so long as the spells target only them.
 

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Supporter
So I would like to note that I -do- like @vincegetorix's Janissary suggestion, that's a -solid- name...

But I'd also like to point out three very important things:

1) Any language you create is going to have to face decades of use and communication of other terms scattered across time meant to mean "Gish" in various settings. From Swordsages to Magi to Hexblades and Spellswords. That's a lot of history to overcome...

2) You're -all- using the word "Gish" to communicate a concept, already, because it -has- decades of cultural weight far and away beyond Duskblade or any variation thereof.

3) Gish also has meaning within the D&D Multiverse.

Just use Gish, guys. Call the class "Gish" and you'll be happier for it.
 

Frozen_Heart

Adventurer
I think it's more of a case of the Hexblade being too narrow a concept for a full class itself.
Also the fact that you're relying on your DM to allow you to play anything other than the one specific 'warlock who has made a pact and drawn a weapon from shadowfell'

Sure many DM's (including mine) allow you to completely reflavour it. But as seen on threads about the hexblade, many will enforce that one singular theme and identity, and not allow anything else.
 

Vaalingrade

Legend
I've been playing with a concept I call Arcane Armsman which has spells they cast through weapon attacks and quick-cast 1-2 turn enhancements they can cast without drawing AoO and without giving up their attack.

So they can do stuff like give themselves a burst of speed, close with the enemy super-quick, then deliver an electrically charged hammer blow or keen sword strike.
 

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Supporter
Also, outside of etymology, any character who has both magic and a weapon can cast a spell or swing a sword on different turns.

A Gish is someone who can do -both-. Throw off a Cantrip -and- take a swing as a bonus action, for example.

Spellstriking is all well and good, obviously. It's a similar ideal. Maybe have Spellstrikes be interesting special things they can do and use the Arcane Knight's level 7 ability as a Gish's 5th level ability in place of Extra Attack.
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
So I would like to note that I -do- like @vincegetorix's Janissary suggestion, that's a -solid- name...

But I'd also like to point out three very important things:

1) Any language you create is going to have to face decades of use and communication of other terms scattered across time meant to mean "Gish" in various settings. From Swordsages to Magi to Hexblades and Spellswords. That's a lot of history to overcome...

2) You're -all- using the word "Gish" to communicate a concept, already, because it -has- decades of cultural weight far and away beyond Duskblade or any variation thereof.

3) Gish also has meaning within the D&D Multiverse.

Just use Gish, guys. Call the class "Gish" and you'll be happier for it.
For fun sake, I just looked a the thesaurus for all words starting with G.I.S.H

... sadly, the only find I had is:
1) Lilian Gish, an actress in ''Birth of a Nation''
2) Gisha: the name of a neighborhood in Tehran.
3) Gishiri: the name of a ritual of genital mutilation on women in Nigeria

:(
 


All prior arcane gishes have their mechanical identity built around something called 'spellstrike'.
Minor point, but the "gish" (that name is so terrible as a generic) dates from 1E. So no, not "all prior."
In 3e this was the ability to cast touch spells through their melee weapon attacks. However from 4e onwards, the way touch spells are defined has been redone, and so this become dedicated spells which are cast through a melee attack. The 4e swordmage had a list of dozens of such spells, all with extremely varied effects.

Examples in 5e could be spells like wrathful smite, green flame blade, ensnaring strike, and lightning arrow. Paladin, ranger, and hexblade got big selections of these spells. However the two arcane gish subclasses (bladesinger and eldritch knight) got tied to the wizard list. Understandably the wizard list is not built for weapon attacks.

As a result, the arcane gishes no longer have the mechanic which people play them for (apart from two cantrips). It's like making barbarian a fighter sublcass, but removing rage from it. It would still have all the barbarian theme. But it would no longer have the mechanic people enjoy.
One possible answer sounds like an enhanced wizard spell list, assuming we're not talking about a new base class.
 

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