D&D 5E (+) The Athamir, or The Swordmage as The Ritual Blade

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
So, what I've landed on for the "swordmage" or "light mobile gish" class for 5e, is either the word Athame, or a close variant meant to denote "the idea of the ritual or ceremonial blade, as a title for a person". The concept then clarifies into the following;

The (eg Athamir ) is a member of a mystical or esoteric tradition or order, specifically one who takes on the role of being the "ritual dagger" in the metaphorical "hand" of the order or tradition. A divine assassin member of the class might consider themselves "the blade in the left hand of God", while a less stealthy individual might think of themselves as the sword in the right hand, standing alongside the shield, represented by someone like a Paladin or heavy Fighter.

Essentially, the name speaks to the idea that they have forged themselves into a weapon that is a synthesis of martial and mystical properties.

And yes, the esoteric BS nature of the above is intentional. It's very nearly the point of the class.

In terms of mechanics, this is a class that operates on a similar paradigm to the Monk, but is explicitly a spellcaster, and has abilities which combine martial manuevers with arcane effects. I've changed all of the "here is a monk feature, renamed" abilities of my previous attempt into abilities that are more unique and "concept-forward" for the class identity.

I'd love some feedback, though I've made this a plus thread to hopefully avoid unhelpful feedback, such as "dnd doesn't need this", or "the hexblade is a gish" or "your ideas are bad and you should feel bad", or worst of all, "we should be reducing classes not increasing them".

Mechanical principles in action: The class is comprised of the following key elements:

  • Aegis. This is the fundemental defensive feature of the class, which is active as long as you are concious. It starts out as just an AC calculation, but comes to include all the base class defensive features, more or less.
  • Dweomer Weapon. This is a weapon that you bond to yourself and through it bind power to yourself, it is a spellcasting focus as well as a weapon, and gains the thrown property is it is a melee weapon without that property, gains either a range of 30/60 or increases it's range by the same amount, and loses the loading property if it normally has that. When thrown, it returns to your hand. This also gains upgrades in the base class as wellas in some subclasses.
  • Aether. This fuels the Aether Strike, which is a scaling spell attack that can be it's own attack or add on to a weapon attack. It also fuels your spellcasting and esoteric techniques.
  • Manual Esoterica. This is your spellbook and martial manual of fighting techniques, in one book. You have spells known, but gain new spells like a wizard. You need your book to perform rituals (though I need to clarify that in the feature), and to learn new techniques, aegis forms, and spells. Your spellcasting is similar to a known spells version of the artificer, but with spell learning like a wizard, so half-caster round up, and gained at level 1. You gain 1 new spell every level (half of what wizards get), and get new esoteric techniques only a few levels, and only automatically get the basic aegis that others layer on top of, and any gained via subclass. Everything else you have to go find, get trained in, or invent/research.
    • Spellcasting costs 1 aether per spell level, and most esoteric techniques are at a level 1 basis with upcasting. All upcasting is limited to the level of spelll you can currently learn, so that the Esoteric Technique Level on the class table shows both what level of spell you can learn, and how many aether you can spend on a given ability at a given level.
The entire class is built on those 4 concepts.
 

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Aegis of Protection: Only allows substituting Int for Dex, even though you could use either Int or Wis as spellcasting ability?

From power level I'd guess that aether is recovered on a Long Rest, but I didn't see it stated anywhere.

The starting equipment isn't clear that the book you start with is your Manual Esoterica.

As written, the class runs off a "spells known" mechanic, with the spellbook not necessary to memorise spells from?
Likewise you can't learn new spells from scrolls to know, just to inscribe into your manual and use as rituals?

Elemental Strikes: Should it read Dweomer Weapons rather than Aether weapons?
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Aegis of Protection: Only allows substituting Int for Dex, even though you could use either Int or Wis as spellcasting ability?
It should read “Spellcasting ability modifier” in any place where it currently reads “intelligence”.
From power level I'd guess that aether is recovered on a Long Rest, but I didn't see it stated anywhere.
I may have accidentally cut the line about recovering Aether during the last revision, but it is the idea that you have the same amount as a monk has ki, and can recover your Aether with a ten minute ritual which can be done by itself or as part of a short rest, PB times per day.

If that ends up being too powerful, and a revision of the spell list doesn’t fix that, then the recovery ritual would only give you a portion of spent Aether.
The starting equipment isn't clear that the book you start with is your Manual Esoterica.
👍 Good catch.
As written, the class runs off a "spells known" mechanic, with the spellbook not necessary to memorise spells from?
The spellbook is necessary to learn spells in play, as well as techniques and aegis forms, but is only required to cast rituals.
Likewise you can't learn new spells from scrolls to know, just to inscribe into your manual and use as rituals?
That isn’t the intention, no. You should be able to learn spells in all the same ways a wizard can, or by being trained by someone who has mastered it, or by using the home brewed spell research downtime activity that will be available to most spellcasters.
Elemental Strikes: Should it read Dweomer Weapons rather than Aether weapons?
Yes.
 



doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
So, there is a lot of information in the top post. let's break it down a bit.

Here is an optional esoteric technique.

"#### Dweomer Mark


When you hit with a melee weapon attack, you mark the target of the attack as a bonus action with this technique. The mark last for 1 minute or until you mark another creature. As long as the marked creature is within 30ft of you and you can see them, when they target a creature that is friendly to you with an attack, you can teleport to up to 30ft to a space within 5ft of the attacker, and make a single weapon attack against them, as a reaction."

Now, what I like about it is that it provides a punishment for doing what you don't want it to do, and it is very magical. It could probably stand to deal damage equal to your aether die, or something, but otherwise I think it's good.

Perhaps marking a target should be a basic technique, with a subtle feature like being able to reduce damage when your marked target deals damage? Compelled Duel is a level 1 spell that is currently on the swordmage list, maybe something like it could be a basic technique, which marks the target and gives them disad on attacks that don't include you. Then there are optional techniques that target a creature marked by you?
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Another topic is subclasses, or in this case, the Esoteric Orders.

In the document attached to the OP, I detail the Aegis of The Four Winds. This is basically the classic elemental aegis swordmage. You even get to combine multiple aegis forms at later levels, and eventually enter the avatar state and use all four elemental aegis forms at once. You also learn some additional spells, like Absorb Elements and Chromatic Orb. I figure later you would learn summon elemental spirit or whatever from tasha's?

Another Order concept I have is the Order of The White Lotus, which is a very swordplay focused order. The most flashy magic thing it would get is a high level ability to create a mirror of the Athame to fight beside them, similar to a tasha's summon spell. Well, or there might be a different order that focuses on that ability.

Either way, the focus of the White Lotus would be passive bonuses to speed, accuracy, critical chance, critical damage, etc. They might get some battlemaster manuevers instead of bonus spells known, alternatively. One way or another, they are just really excellent weaponmasters.

The Order of The Goetic Circle would be the most ritualist, most scholarly, most outwardly magical, Order. Probably specializing in one handed weapons with a wand, rod, staff, or their manual, in their other hand as a magical focus, with different passive benefits depending on your choice of impliment. (This idea might instead be a Wizard subclass, but I can see both living in the same product)
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Okay I’m adjusting things a bit.

A basic thing, now, is that you have two at-will attack boosters that take a bonus action, rather than one. one is just making an Aether strike.

The other is marking the target, and gaining extra damage against it once per turn equal to an Aether die. Something like that.

Any thoughts on what an at-will mark ability could do? Add Aether damage to your next attack before the end of your next turn against the marked creature if it has hit or missed a creature you can see? Isn’t that what the DMG optional mark ability does?


Anyway, then Aegis brand becomes “when you mark a creature, spend 1 Aether as a bonus action and it gains disad against creatures other than you, and you can deal proficiency mod damage to it once per turn.
 

I may have accidentally cut the line about recovering Aether during the last revision, but it is the idea that you have the same amount as a monk has ki, and can recover your Aether with a ten minute ritual which can be done by itself or as part of a short rest, PB times per day.

If that ends up being too powerful, and a revision of the spell list doesn’t fix that, then the recovery ritual would only give you a portion of spent Aether.
OK. So 1 Aether is equivalent to 2 spell points at first level, although the conversion reduces a bit after that. Means a 1st level Athame gets as many spells as a full casting class.
That would also mean that a level 9 Athame could cast more level 3 spells than a spell-point-based pure caster, and a level 20 Athame could cast more 5th level spells than the level 20 full caster.

The spellbook is necessary to learn spells in play, as well as techniques and aegis forms, but is only required to cast rituals.

That isn’t the intention, no. You should be able to learn spells in all the same ways a wizard can, or by being trained by someone who has mastered it, or by using the home brewed spell research downtime activity that will be available to most spellcasters.
Yep. It looks like there are bits from two different classes pasted in there. You may need to do some integration and add a bit similar to the wizard about memorising spells from the Manual, and how many the Athame can have memorised compared to how many they get to add to their book.

Would it be worth changing the damage type of the Aegis of Earth to Bludgeoning?
That would free up Force damage for a different School.

Bonus spells for Aegis of Fire: Unsure what the second one is.
Flameblade is a very poor spell for the class - Remember you take an action to make a melee spell attack: you don't get Extra Attack or any bonuses to weapon attacks, and you're not going to be upcasting it effectively.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
OK. So 1 Aether is equivalent to 2 spell points at first level, although the conversion reduces a bit after that. Means a 1st level Athame gets as many spells as a full casting class.
That would also mean that a level 9 Athame could cast more level 3 spells than a spell-point-based pure caster, and a level 20 Athame could cast more 5th level spells than the level 20 full caster.
Costing spells differently feels completely wrong in play, however, so if soemthing has to give, it’s something other than the Aether cost of spells.
Yep. It looks like there are bits from two different classes pasted in there. You may need to do some integration and add a bit similar to the wizard about memorising spells from the Manual, and how many the Athame can have memorised compared to how many they get to add to their book.
The idea right now is that you don’t prepare spells, you know them. It may not end up working long term, but I’m going to playtest it this way.
Would it be worth changing the damage type of the Aegis of Earth to Bludgeoning?
That would free up Force damage for a different School.
Might be.
Bonus spells for Aegis of Fire: Unsure what the second one is.
Flameblade is a very poor spell for the class - Remember you take an action to make a melee spell attack: you don't get Extra Attack or any bonuses to weapon attacks, and you're not going to be upcasting it effectively.
Yeah that one is a placeholder mostly.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
OK. So 1 Aether is equivalent to 2 spell points at first level, although the conversion reduces a bit after that. Means a 1st level Athame gets as many spells as a full casting class.
I’m not sure that adds up, actually. Not only will the Athame have a lot to spend Aether on, but IMO the spell point math isn’t even quite right to begin with.

While technically the athame currently has 1 Aether 3 times a day, or 3 Aether, at level 1, having to spend 10 minutes regaining a single Aether makes a difference. 3 level 1 spells per day is also only 1 more than the Artificer.
 

Costing spells differently feels completely wrong in play, however, so if soemthing has to give, it’s something other than the Aether cost of spells.

I’m not sure that adds up, actually. Not only will the Athame have a lot to spend Aether on, but IMO the spell point math isn’t even quite right to begin with.

While technically the athame currently has 1 Aether 3 times a day, or 3 Aether, at level 1, having to spend 10 minutes regaining a single Aether makes a difference. 3 level 1 spells per day is also only 1 more than the Artificer.

It probably feels wonky because Aether points are modelled on spell points, and the values match up reasonably well with a short-rest half-caster. However because the Aether points convert to spells at a much better ratio than actual spell points, and the recovery increases to more than expected short rests/day, the maths gets weird.

This is only an issue if you decide that it is an issue however. There is definitely room for a caster class with the level limits of a half-caster, but more total spellcasting capacity than a full-caster.

If that doesn't seem like it fits the class, you could adjust recovery to half proficiency bonus number of times/day perhaps? Or the actual Aether point progression /level?
 

steeldragons

Steeliest of the dragons
Epic
I really quite like "Athamir," tbh. Better than just the actual name of the dagger/knife. Becomes much more a "fantasy rpg class" kind of thing.

As for the powers and subclass orders, I like a lot of it. The "standard swordmage" subclass. The more fightery/less (outward) magical and more magical/less (outward, but still capable) fightery options a good way to go. I might add a more stealth-oriented/infiltration/spy specialist "shadow magic" subclass.

I also might (well, no, I absolutely would. But you can do what you like) change the "White Lotus" name, given the White Lotus order from ATLA . Also, I'm not nuts about the "avatar state" direction. ...a little too copy/rip off, for me... and isn't this to have a swordmage class and get away from being an Elemental Monk?

That said, this is a homebrew class for your game and players. So if that's something you/they want and think will be cool to play, knock yourselves out.
 

steeldragons

Steeliest of the dragons
Epic
I noticed in a skimming, that you specifically call out a "rare school" of elemental "Binders" for fae, shadow, celestial or fiendish entities.

That makes me think/expect that one of your "Mystic Orders" (which I would rename "Esoteric Orders" for the subclasses, as its a term you use repeatedly in the class description) to be "Binder" or "Circle of the Bound" or -draw directly from your descriptive fluff of the class- as "The Magic Circle."

...and then make the others similar sounding: "The Magic Star (Pentagram)" for the castery swordmages, "The Magic Blade" for the fightery swordmages, "The Magic Chalice (or Cup or something, I am leaning into a Tarot symbology here, it seems" for the cleric-y healery swordmages (bonus "divine" spells, that are still "arcane Esoteric techniques" for game purposes), and a "The Magic Rod/Staff" for the stealthery roguish swordmages.

Another potential way to organize subclasses would be by assigning a different Order to a different type of spells/or predominant spelllsit or bonus spells from different spell lists: an Arcane, a Clerical, a Druidic guardian kind of swordmage, a Psionic, maybe an illusion magic specialist, a shadow magic specialist, etc...

But then, we're probably getting into what I would consider "way too many subclasses" territory. I think the simplicity and symbolism of a "general/default" swordmage order, and then the four Tarot *(which as you well know, are the four elements) fits and fluffs nicely.

Just random thoughts/ideas I'm passing along.

I am also unclear...and it might require a more thorough read, about the "spells known"...but in your manual/spellbook...but there's also a Pool mechanic (your Aether points) that's fueling some things but not all...

Would it, perhaps, be more...simple, by which I mean/think/hope an overall "tighter" design to just have the Aether mechanic fuel most if not all of your features.

Then, there's also, your "Esoteric Techniques"...which read, to me, in the descriptive parts as it would be things you can do in your fighting/swording/weapon side of things...so shouldn't they relate, moreso to abilities you can do with your "Dweomer Weapon" (which I also really like as a term/title, btw)? But, as far as I can tell, is merely a spell list...so why isn't it just the "Swordmage Spell List?"

There was something else that caught my eye/made me think 'hmm"...but it's gone now/slipped my mind. I'll post it if it comes back.
 

steeldragons

Steeliest of the dragons
Epic
OH! It came back/I remember! ...the whole "Witcher" thing...

You mention a couple of times in the class description about "alchemy" and "alchemical [alterations or whatever it was]"...

So, got to thinking, why don't I see any Alchemical/Alchemist skills or features that have to do with -at least knowledge of- potions if not actual alchemist abilities"...or Alchemist ability at higher levels...and then you use your Aether to make them actual magical potions/elixirs that you can siphon a lot of the physical amplification stuff to being potion based instead of taking up space in the spell list.

But, that was the thought. If you're mentioning "alchemy," which is a very specific thing for fantasy rpgs, in relation to a class, then that should be reflected in the features somewhere. Doesn't have to be a "big" part of it. This is still a swordmage. But, on the "magey" side of things, I feel like there should be some alchemy in the mix.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
It probably feels wonky because Aether points are modelled on spell points, and the values match up reasonably well with a short-rest half-caster. However because the Aether points convert to spells at a much better ratio than actual spell points, and the recovery increases to more than expected short rests/day, the maths gets weird.
Yeah replenishing proficiency mod per day should match the expected short rests per day, and thus have the same amount of Aether per day that the monk has in a “standard” adventuring day. That’s why I made it a ten minute ritual with a limit per day. If it feels too powerful I may reduce it to “regain half, round up” and see that feels.
This is only an issue if you decide that it is an issue however. There is definitely room for a caster class with the level limits of a half-caster, but more total spellcasting capacity than a full-caster.
Yeah and considering it has a decent amount of its regular offense and defense bound up in Aether-fueled abilities that aren’t spells, I think it’ll be fine in practice. There’s a reason it’s version of smite (focused strike) uses a smaller damage due that the paladin’s divine smite, up until level 11 or so.

I need to review the spell list and make sure it doesn’t have stuff like shield, and does have a lot of utility stuff.
If that doesn't seem like it fits the class, you could adjust recovery to half proficiency bonus number of times/day perhaps? Or the actual Aether point progression /level?
We’ll see, but I’m open to either of those. I think I’d go “half your total Aether PB times per day” first. That probably works better for all large short rest resource pools when converting to PB/day model.


I really quite like "Athamir," tbh. Better than just the actual name of the dagger/knife. Becomes much more a "fantasy rpg class" kind of thing.
Yeah I think it works well.
As for the powers and subclass orders, I like a lot of it. The "standard swordmage" subclass. The more fightery/less (outward) magical and more magical/less (outward, but still capable) fightery options a good way to go. I might add a more stealth-oriented/infiltration/spy specialist "shadow magic" subclass.

I also might (well, no, I absolutely would. But you can do what you like) change the "White Lotus" name, given the White Lotus order from ATLA . Also, I'm not nuts about the "avatar state" direction. ...a little too copy/rip off, for me... and isn't this to have a swordmage class and get away from being an Elemental Monk?
The swordmage has a history of being an elementalist, which is why this is the main subclass. I might move this subclass wholesale to the Monk and rename some stuff, but for now, it’s there to allow making 4e style elemental swordmages.
That said, this is a homebrew class for your game and players. So if that's something you/they want and think will be cool to play, knock yourselves out.
The idea is to publish 5-7 classes together with some optional variant features and possibly subclasses for PHB classes, as an “esoteric 5e D&D” type supplement.
I noticed in a skimming, that you specifically call out a "rare school" of elemental "Binders" for fae, shadow, celestial or fiendish entities.

That makes me think/expect that one of your "Mystic Orders" (which I would rename "Esoteric Orders" for the subclasses, as its a term you use repeatedly in the class description) to be "Binder" or "Circle of the Bound" or -draw directly from your descriptive fluff of the class- as "The Magic Circle."

...and then make the others similar sounding: "The Magic Star (Pentagram)" for the castery swordmages, "The Magic Blade" for the fightery swordmages, "The Magic Chalice (or Cup or something, I am leaning into a Tarot symbology here, it seems" for the cleric-y healery swordmages (bonus "divine" spells, that are still "arcane Esoteric techniques" for game purposes), and a "The Magic Rod/Staff" for the stealthery roguish swordmages.
Yeah white lotus probably is better as an Int fighter. Not sure what atla is, but White Lotus School is from 4e and 3.5 Book of Nine Swords. I really like Order of The Magic Circle. Not sure about chalice and stuff, but not a bad idea to use the language of the other ritual tools in a class named after one of the main tools.
Another potential way to organize subclasses would be by assigning a different Order to a different type of spells/or predominant spelllsit or bonus spells from different spell lists: an Arcane, a Clerical, a Druidic guardian kind of swordmage, a Psionic, maybe an illusion magic specialist, a shadow magic specialist, etc...

But then, we're probably getting into what I would consider "way too many subclasses" territory. I think the simplicity and symbolism of a "general/default" swordmage order, and then the four Tarot *(which as you well know, are the four elements) fits and fluffs nicely.
I think I like Esoteric Orders, but I’m not sure it’s better to use the same word a ton. I’ll think on it more. For the subclass ideas, I want them to feel like organizations you could join or use as a group patron, etc. I love the idea of a Tarot themed order, perhaps with some form of “randomize determining your extra bonus for the day” feature, idk.
Just random thoughts/ideas I'm passing along.

I am also unclear...and it might require a more thorough read, about the "spells known"...but in your manual/spellbook...but there's also a Pool mechanic (your Aether points) that's fueling some things but not all...

Would it, perhaps, be more...simple, by which I mean/think/hope an overall "tighter" design to just have the Aether mechanic fuel most if not all of your features.
Spellcasting is fueled by Aether. You cast spells by spending points.
Then, there's also, your "Esoteric Techniques"...which read, to me, in the descriptive parts as it would be things you can do in your fighting/swording/weapon side of things...so shouldn't they relate, moreso to abilities you can do with your "Dweomer Weapon" (which I also really like as a term/title, btw)? But, as far as I can tell, is merely a spell list...so why isn't it just the "Swordmage Spell List?"
Dweomer Techniques might be interesting, but some are offensive, some defensive, and some utility, so I’m not sure.

Some are similar to spells, but are more similar to monk ki abilities with more outward magic, if that makes sense.

But most are things that relate either to your aegis, or your Dweomer weapon. The utility ones can be flavored a little more to relate to the power of your aegis, I suppose.
There was something else that caught my eye/made me think 'hmm"...but it's gone now/slipped my mind. I'll post it if it comes back.
lol I look forward to it.

@ all: If it helps make sense of things, the idea is to present a class with access to spells, and to essential magical Battlemaster maneuvers, using the same resource. May even make some techniques that aren’t especially magical. Right now the class isn’t succinct in presentation because it’s been heavily revised a lot of the last month.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
OH! It came back/I remember! ...the whole "Witcher" thing...

You mention a couple of times in the class description about "alchemy" and "alchemical [alterations or whatever it was]"...

So, got to thinking, why don't I see any Alchemical/Alchemist skills or features that have to do with -at least knowledge of- potions if not actual alchemist abilities"...or Alchemist ability at higher levels...and then you use your Aether to make them actual magical potions/elixirs that you can siphon a lot of the physical amplification stuff to being potion based instead of taking up space in the spell list.

But, that was the thought. If you're mentioning "alchemy," which is a very specific thing for fantasy rpgs, in relation to a class, then that should be reflected in the features somewhere. Doesn't have to be a "big" part of it. This is still a swordmage. But, on the "magey" side of things, I feel like there should be some alchemy in the mix.
Yeah that’s a good point. IRL Alchemy is just an ancient word for laboratory science. In D&D, it’s specifically magical chemistry. I wish D&D used the term in a way that meant that the artificer would be called the alchemist, but that ship sailed decades ago.

perhaps the class could get auto proficiency in alchemists tools, and some abilities could be potion or similarly based.

Even just some language, like describing the process of making the Dweomer Weapon as involving alchemical acid etching sigils into the blade, along with ritual magic to bind power into those sigils, etc.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I think going forward, I’ll be calling it the Athamir.

The etching of weapons chemically involves a “mordant”, which is simply the term for chemical compounds used to etch, or to make dye insoluble on a piece of clothe. Probably some language can be taken from that.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Idea: a set of esoteric techniques that let you make “elixirs” of different kinds, allowing the class to spend resources on support. Things like granting THP, or granting temporary damage reduction, or giving the drinker a brief breath weapon, etc.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
The subclasses are crystallizing for me in terms of a through line.

I’m thinking that each Order is named for a symbolic relationship that represents a philosophy. So, the Elemental Compass rather than the Four Winds. The Magic Circle rather than White Lotus.

Etc.
 

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