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The True Swordmage

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Swordmage
For me a swordmage is not a wizard who happens to hold a sword in one hand while using the other for weaving of spells. For me a swordmage is not even a wizard who channels their power through a magic sword like one might use a staff or wand. (while that is perhaps closer) nor one who enchants their weapon.

For me the swordmages weapon and maneuvering and swordplay he does with it is integral to the magic he does. When he casts a spell its not a weaving of words but rather a dancing of their blade cutting runes into reality which bleeds with elemental energy. It's a weapon that when he wields it cuts through dimensional fabric itself teleporting him or even an enemy through a rip he formed. His weapon is core and integrated with many magics he does - he hurls his blade across the battlefield and it shatters becoming a field of biting shards slicing his enemies to shreds til he calls it back to his hand.

For me I was able to see the Swordmage this way in 4e AND for me their magics being their own and not pulled from some universal list everyone had access to I felt was creatively empowering, at least at a flavor level yes it might have been an illusion but isn’t that roleplaying?

This was the first class I managed to play in 4e.

 
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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
So, I think in 5e, a reflavored Hexblade is the closest existing option, using SCAG weapon cantrips instead of the Extra Attack invocation, but it still lacks spells enough spells that use the weapon, and doesn’t have the creative umph of the 4e swordmage.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
So, I think in 5e, a reflavored Hexblade is the closest existing option, using SCAG weapon cantrips instead of the Extra Attack invocation, but it still lacks spells enough spells that use the weapon, and doesn’t have the creative umph of the 4e swordmage.
I will have to investigate that... as the Eldritch Fighter feels like a dabbler for the most part stuck with meh spells.

I get the impression that the 5e team oft lacked empathy/understanding of what for me composed the greatest elements of 4e. I totally like some of their structural choices (even having the Warlord be Battlemaster with the right selection of maneuvers invokes the Tome of Battle classes and wouldn't be horrible if they actualy "GOT" the Warrior Lord and he could be an intellectual Tactician *without having the worst saving throws on the planet" and other mechanical conundrums as well as the rather sparse Warlord behavior. ).

Also SCAG?
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I will have to investigate that... as the Eldritch Fighter feels like a dabbler for the most part stuck with meh spells.

I get the impression that the 5e team oft lacked empathy/understanding of what for me composed the greatest elements of 4e. I totally like some of their structural choices (even having the Warlord be Battlemaster with the right selection of maneuvers invokes the Tome of Battle classes and wouldn't be horrible if they actualy "GOT" the Warrior Lord and he could be an intellectual Tactician *without having the worst saving throws on the planet" and other mechanical conundrums as well as the rather sparse Warlord behavior. ).

Also SCAG?
Sword Coast Adventurers Guide. It contains the Bladesinger (the wizarding counter to the Eldritch Knight Fighter), and two new cantrips that are combination of spell and melee Attack. One sends minor fire damage to a nearby target, the other deals 1d8 damage to the target if they move before your next turn.

Hexblade also gets access to a couple of the Paladin’s “X Smite” spells, helping you get that “magic and weapon skill are combined in one discipline” feel.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Hexblade also gets access to a couple of the Paladin’s “X Smite” spells, helping you get that “magic and weapon skill are combined in one discipline” feel.
Reminds me of a concept of Eldritch Paladins - it was actually called the Arcadian Knight that I am using for my title here
 

I like the name and background of hexblade, but about gampley the classes about buffing or nerfing enemies aren't my cup of tea. I would rather a buff-breaker/resitance-breaker.

And I would like arcane maneuvers, spell-like abilities in the middle between at-will and once-encounter, like the swordsage of Tome of Battle: Book of Nine Swords.
 

Marandahir

Crown-Forester
Bladesingers were in 4e Essentials, too, and did something similar.

I go back and forth on what a Swordmage in 5e should be, and if it should be at all (rather than a range of subclasses fitting into different parents classes, each approaching the idea of Arcane Gish in a different way).

I think part of my issue with 5e Hexblade Blade-Pact Warlock as fitting the platonic idea of the 4e Swordmage is that pesky Charisma vs Intelligence difference. I think I'm also affected by the fact that Hexblades existed in 4e and felt very different from Swordmages, and also felt very similar to 5e Blade Pact Warlocks (and to 5e Hexblade Patron Warlocks especially).

Most of all, I feel like Sword+Mage is a rotten name, and completely narrow in focus and identity - I felt similar with Pact of the Blade Warlock and the term Hexblade and the term Bladesinger. Almost every Arcane Gish concept somehow includes Blade or Sword in its name (3.5e Duskblade is another example!).

I think it best to try to capture the platonic idea of the class, and then figure out what would fit underneath it. I think playing with the Arcane Aegis is a starting point, as is the important idea of Martial Weapons User + Arcane Magic User. Swordmages, for lack of a better word, are Arcanists who channel magic through their weapons, rather than hit and then cast, as you said above. I agree that the Paladin smite smells are a great idea, and the idea of giving a bunch of them to the Ranger spell list in UA speaks to the broader application of this class of spell casting. I think the Swordmage would need additional "Smite" type spells that do these things.

I think the subclasses can't be as simple as Aegis of Shielding vs Aegis of Assault vs Aegis of Ensnaring, though those builds in 4e are a good arrow in the direction of character concepts (teleporting front-lines warrior or arcane hunter). Shielding probably should be the standard Aegis power that all "Swordmages" get, just the basic application of the Aegis, as that is what Aegis means - the Defendery function.

I think a master-at-arms sort of Armamentalist, vs an Arcane Hunter vs a Jedi Knight sort of psionic arcane warrior vs a Lightsabery- radiant weapon wielding "Luminary" (literal and metaphorical) smart person are good concepts for subclasses. I'm not sure there are 10 concepts that fit clearly within this class chassis concept versus fitting better as Fighter, Artificer, Wizard, Ranger, Sorcerer, Warlock, Bard, Rogue, Monk, etc subclasses, but I don't think it's a bad place to start thinking.

When I was brainstorming these ideas, one of my subclass ideas was an Iron Man or Gundam Fighter or Xenoblade Mechon/Skell-like power suit warrior. Then UA revealed the armorer Artificer, and I DOH'd so hard I almost hit my head - it was a far better fit as a type of martially-oriented Artificer than in my theoretical Swordmage chassis.

I still think there's room for a class where Arcane Magic is understood not as a bookish thing, nor as a Pact, nor even as innate, but something coming from bodily and martial discipline - where movement of weapon and casting of spell are one the same. The weapon and weave. It's almost more like a Kensei Monk, than anything, but I think the concept itself is just barely unique enough to be separate from the Monk chassis and its Ki. I also think it's separate from the Paladin's concept of magic, where regardless of Oath, the Paladin draws inner strength from their devotion to a platonic ideal, and how closely they align with and meet that ideal. Such a Swordmage might have codes in their Arcane Knightly Orders, but the codes don't make the magic.

I've thought a lot about the Knights Templar, and how perhaps they aren't Paladins so much as Secret Society Warriors. Arcane means secret, hidden. Perhaps these are a type of "Swordmage" bound in by initiation rites but not to profound or profane powers, but rather to arcane mysteries, martial practices, and bonds of fellowship with one another. Perhaps then a Templar might be a subclass of this "Swordmage" class, rather than fitting weirdly as a common-use parlance for a Paladin Oath yet-unseen.

I've been toying with calling this class the "Vanguard" - the Aegis protecting the front lines. I'm still unsure if it shouldn't just be a single, arcane-themed subclass of Ranger, though. I feel like it should be different, being Int and heavily arcane and not at all woodsy, but I'm having trouble tearing apart the platonic ideals of these two concepts.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Yeah I separated Aegis and subclass in my Swordmage for a reason. The aegis just isn’t a very strong story hook, which is what a subclass should start from in 5e.
 

Marandahir

Crown-Forester
Yeah I separated Aegis and subclass in my Swordmage for a reason. The aegis just isn’t a very strong story hook, which is what a subclass should start from in 5e.
You made a 5e Swordmage homebrew? I feel like I read it or read about it somewhere in the forums over the years, but I'd be curious to see it now. :)
 


jmartkdr2

Explorer
I will have to investigate that... as the Eldritch Fighter feels like a dabbler for the most part stuck with meh spells.

I get the impression that the 5e team oft lacked empathy/understanding of what for me composed the greatest elements of 4e. I totally like some of their structural choices (even having the Warlord be Battlemaster with the right selection of maneuvers invokes the Tome of Battle classes and wouldn't be horrible if they actualy "GOT" the Warrior Lord and he could be an intellectual Tactician *without having the worst saving throws on the planet" and other mechanical conundrums as well as the rather sparse Warlord behavior. ).

Also SCAG?
The 4e swordmaged worked so well by accident.

In all other editions, any swordmage-y option was built using the wizard spell list. 4e's structure simply didn't allow or that: they had to make an all-new spell list specifically for swordmages. And so they made a bunch of swordmage spells that support playing as a swordmage.

But in 5e, they tell you to use the wizard (or sorcerer or warlock) list. But the wizard list isn't built for swordmages - it's built for wizards. As it should be, but that means a swordmage gets a list of spells that are designed for characters who are very much not swordmages.

Which is part of the reason I think you can't get a really good gish without a new base class.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
You made a 5e Swordmage homebrew? I feel like I read it or read about it somewhere in the forums over the years, but I'd be curious to see it now. :)
Yep! It’s based on the concept of esoteric European sword manuals that treat science and fighting as intrinsically linked, and expanding that to include arcane magic. (Medieval Hermetic alchemy was as much about mysticism as it was about what we would now call science). the thread was active a few months ago, I’ll dig it up and link here later.
I did that with Aegis and subclass too, I totally agree with you for that.
Id love to see your take, if it’s far enough along toshare. Mine is probably about halfway finished but I feel like I need a different perspective on a few things.
The 4e swordmaged worked so well by accident.

In all other editions, any swordmage-y option was built using the wizard spell list. 4e's structure simply didn't allow or that: they had to make an all-new spell list specifically for swordmages. And so they made a bunch of swordmage spells that support playing as a swordmage.

But in 5e, they tell you to use the wizard (or sorcerer or warlock) list. But the wizard list isn't built for swordmages - it's built for wizards. As it should be, but that means a swordmage gets a list of spells that are designed for characters who are very much not swordmages.

Which is part of the reason I think you can't get a really good gish without a new base class.
I think a revised EK could do it just fine. It just needs some new spells so that there are decent range of thematically and mechanically appropriate options at every spell level, and my preference would be to, instead of relying on the SCAG cantrips, use a bonus action feature that changes how your next successful attack works, so they work with rather than against the fighter’s attack action. Maybe make that a fighting style, actually.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
You made a 5e Swordmage homebrew? I feel like I read it or read about it somewhere in the forums over the years, but I'd be curious to see it now. :)
Here we go!

 

The swordmage is funky. Like most of the 4e role/ power source classes invented for that edition it was not particularly generic. It's almost better suited as a release in a campaign setting than a general book. Ditto the runepriest, seeker, battlemind, and the like. It's something that can really only exist in a 3e/4e era of releases, where non-generic classes are regularly released.

There's not even a good place for it to fit as a subclass as the wizard is too squishy and the fighter won't get enough magic.
Well... maybe. If it's treated less like the eldritch knight and more like an arcane archer, and lacks spells but has magical powers.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
The swordmage is funky. Like most of the 4e role/ power source classes invented for that edition it was not particularly generic. It's almost better suited as a release in a campaign setting than a general book. Ditto the runepriest, seeker, battlemind, and the like. It's something that can really only exist in a 3e/4e era of releases, where non-generic classes are regularly released.

There's not even a good place for it to fit as a subclass as the wizard is too squishy and the fighter won't get enough magic.
Well... maybe. If it's treated less like the eldritch knight and more like an arcane archer, and lacks spells but has magical powers.
I disagree with the conclusion, although I prefer a full class.

IMO, the concept is more “generic” than any class Other than Fighter, Rogue, and Wizard.
It has a story, but that story can be as simple as “a warrior who treats arcane magic as a martial tradition, inventing spells that combine weapon use, physical movement, or specialized skill, with magical effects”.

Or as specific as my esoteric wandering weapon-master with a manual esoterica.

edit: point being that the 4e Swordmage is between the two in terms of how general and broad the thematic elements are.
 
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IMO, the concept is more “generic” than any class Other than Fighter, Rogue, and Wizard.
It has a story, but that story can be as simple as “a warrior who treats arcane magic as a martial tradition, inventing spells that combine weapon use, physical movement, or specialized skill, with magical effects”.
The gish class, yes. Which has been seen before as the spellsword. Or even the eldritch/ magic knight.
And you can do something pretty similar by mixing the ED and the wizard in a 3:1 ration, which is basically a 1/2-level caster like the paladin.

But the swordmage was really a 4e invention, and its aegis abilities, teleportation, and flavour are very non-generic. And a generic gish likely won't satisfy as that, as the OP says in his first post.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
The gish class, yes. Which has been seen before as the spellsword. Or even the eldritch/ magic knight.
And you can do something pretty similar by mixing the ED and the wizard in a 3:1 ration, which is basically a 1/2-level caster like the paladin.

But the swordmage was really a 4e invention, and its aegis abilities, teleportation, and flavour are very non-generic. And a generic gish likely won't satisfy as that, as the OP says in his first post.
That isn’t a very specific concept, though. What you described is generic.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
So, what makes a Swordmage?

Ignoring the fact that classes don’t need to do all the same things between editions, let’s look at what a close conversion would need.

Aegis: magical protection that also has active abilities, usually but not always reactive.

Attacks with weapons that are spells. Smite/ensaring strike style spells work, but more complexity and variety is warranted. “Throw your weapon and make a Melee weapon attack against all creature within 10ft of your target, and then all creatures within that space have to save vs spell-level-appropriate lightning damage. Any creature hit by your weapon attack has disadvantage on the save.”

Tactical teleportation. New spells or a class feature can handle this fine.

A Spellbook? Or was that an optional thing with a feat? Either way, it would help set them apart from other gishes.

The ability to attack with Int, and have good defenses without armor. Easy enough in 5e.

I really don’t see the difficulty. Give it the same flavor as in 4e, but split some stuff off into the defender/tank focused subclass, and then lean in other directions for other subclasses.
 

jmartkdr2

Explorer
So, what makes a Swordmage?

Ignoring the fact that classes don’t need to do all the same things between editions, let’s look at what a close conversion would need.

Aegis: magical protection that also has active abilities, usually but not always reactive.

Attacks with weapons that are spells. Smite/ensaring strike style spells work, but more complexity and variety is warranted. “Throw your weapon and make a Melee weapon attack against all creature within 10ft of your target, and then all creatures within that space have to save vs spell-level-appropriate lightning damage. Any creature hit by your weapon attack has disadvantage on the save.”

Tactical teleportation. New spells or a class feature can handle this fine.

A Spellbook? Or was that an optional thing with a feat? Either way, it would help set them apart from other gishes.

The ability to attack with Int, and have good defenses without armor. Easy enough in 5e.

I really don’t see the difficulty. Give it the same flavor as in 4e, but split some stuff off into the defender/tank focused subclass, and then lean in other directions for other subclasses.
Spellbook was optional but a really good feat.

I think you left out "magically bond with your main weapon" (and/or "enchant you weapon yourself")

I could fluff this as coming form a lot of different power sources (wizardy-arcane, bardic-arcane, any sorcerer origin, most warlock patrons), although each would probably deserve a few specific abilities to reinforce the flavor - so there's your subclasses. I'd probably leave tanky/striker-y as build options from things like fighting style and spell selection.
 

How would a 2/3 caster look?

1: L 1 spells
4: L 2 spells
7: L 3 spells
10: L 4 spells
13 : L 5 spells
16: L 6 spells
19: L 7 spells

But am lazy; a 5e swordmage that was a 1/2 or 1/3 caster would require inventing fewer spells... ;)

The swordmage is funky. Like most of the 4e role/ power source classes invented for that edition it was not particularly generic. It's almost better suited as a release in a campaign setting than a general book. Ditto the runepriest, seeker, battlemind, and the like. It's something that can really only exist in a 3e/4e era of releases, where non-generic classes are regularly released.
The swordmage was released in a campaign setting book. :)
 

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