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Swordmage [3.5 Attack Caster] (PEACH)

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Re: Swordmage [3.5 Attack Caster] (PEACH)

Postby Xzoltar » Tue Jan 04, 2011 7:31 pm

This seem like a good base guideline, and as fore Incantation readied, it really depend on the style of the player, so far half the incantation I readied are useful in some situation only, so thaT's mean half the time my Incantation do nothing, but I prefer having the right tool when the need is tere so I just have to recover more often I guess... When I ready my incantation im like what if... But I have yet to test it in a dungeon situation or I may know what to expect and ready my incantation for that particular challenge...

Playtest level 10 is on the way
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Re: Swordmage [3.5 Attack Caster] (PEACH)

Postby DragoonWraith » Tue Jan 04, 2011 7:51 pm

Awesome, thank you.
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Re: Swordmage [3.5 Attack Caster] (PEACH)

Postby Terazul » Thu Jan 06, 2011 2:54 pm

DragoonWraith wrote:
As for your experiences, thanks for the feedback! I'm not familiar with that Soulknife, but yeah, I'm not terribly surprised by the Warblades - this is supposed to be balanced with them, but I don't think I've found the mark yet. In particular, the number of readied Incantations is very high, and refreshing them is relatively easy. That definitely needs work. Tell your players that I encourage them to share their experiences! I'm still thinking about how best to bring down the power a bit.


Yeah, we've been off the past few weeks due to the holidays, but the next game should be this Saturday so I'll post any feedback from that session. Hmm. I can understand you wanting it to be around the same level of the warblade but... I'm not really seeing how? Like, just comparing the two's abilities in my game:

6th Level Swordmage has 13 Cants available per encounter without refresh; 4 Cantrips, 3 of each other level, all known.
6th Level Warblade has 4 without refreshing; 2 of at most being 3rd level, the rest lower. He has to pick specific ones.

Warblade has the edge as far as refreshing goes; He only needs a swift action to recover all his maneuvers. A Swordmage has to take a full-round action. Swordmage gets considerable more variety, as a Warblade picks and chooses his maneuvers, where Swordmage not only knows all of his list, but can also ready more to begin with. To top it off, many Cants scale; Maneuvers generally don't. Take Rending Claws for example. A 1st level Cant that is comparable to the 1st level maneuver Wolf Fang Strike; make two attacks, taking a -2 penalty to both. Cool! The main difference is that the Swordmage is limited to punching daggers (unless they take Incantation of Choice, in which case that's out the window), and also gets a bonus +1d6 if both attacks hit. +3d6 at 6th. And it's only as an attack action instead of a standard, so they could follow it up with another Cant at sufficiently high BAB. And they treat them as +1 weapons due to Enhanced Cant (or higher, if they Metacant it to a 3rd level slot), AND they get to use Charisma for their attack and damage roll. And to AC, but that's nothing to do with the ability itself.

The Swordmage gets scaling abilities, single attribute dependency, higher ability fluidity, and scaling weapons (and armor, including Blinkplate) just for being the class itself. Its abilities are also generally more powerful in general than maneuvers; A 3rd level Cant effectively gives you fly (albeit personal only) at-will. Yes, it takes up one of your per-encounter 3rd level slots, but it's still a 3rd level spell that's simply recoverable with a full-round action. I can't imagine any Swordmage passing that up. Or Disruptive Discharge either: an immediate action, 100 ft range Counterspell that also happens to do damage. I cannot think of a single 9th level Maneuver that is comparable to Annulment, either; On a failed save you lose all supernatural abilities. On a successful save, you're still treated as 6 levels lower than you actually are. And your action economy gets screwed. Or Ruby Prison; It's Forcecage.

I mean, the class is certainly cool, and it seems really fun and quite powerful... but I don't see how it's supposed to be comparable to a Warblade, when the only edge a Warblade has is recovery speed and hit die. And not have to deal with Spell Resistance, occasionally.

Also: Burn indicates that if used as an Art, enemies take a -4 penalty to melee attacks for the duration, but the Duration is Instantaneous. Sooo...?
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Re: Swordmage [3.5 Attack Caster] (PEACH)

Postby DragoonWraith » Thu Jan 06, 2011 6:16 pm

Easy question first: I didn't write Burn, so yeah, I don't know what the intent was. I'd call it 1 round.

Easy answer next: I have not done any serious play-testing past about 10th level, so 6th-level and higher Incantations are mostly... guesses. I'd point out that most 9th level maneuvers are intended to be likely one-hit-kills, though.

Harder: Yeah, that's a rather thorough analysis, and you're right. I spent too much time looking at spells (for ideas, but I ended up balancing off of them too much), clearly. I really need to sit down and go through all of the Incantations...
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Re: Swordmage [3.5 Attack Caster] (PEACH)

Postby Lord_Gareth » Thu Feb 03, 2011 10:13 pm

How goes the work, 'Goon?
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Re: Swordmage [3.5 Attack Caster] (PEACH)

Postby DragoonWraith » Fri Feb 04, 2011 9:30 am

The Swordmage rework I need to do is incredibly daunting. I've been avoiding it, as you probably guessed. I haven't seen Jarian in a long while, either, so I've lost my most reliable sounding board.
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Re: Swordmage [3.5 Attack Caster] (PEACH)

Postby DragoonWraith » Tue Feb 08, 2011 10:46 am

Killbray wrote:DragonWraith, I need some clarifications about the mechanics of incantations. One of my friends is playing the swordmage in our current campaign and our opinions differ in several points. Hence I'm looking for the creator's word to settle the matter.

Happy to help, but one thing I would say is that every group is going to have different balance points. Just because you're using something as I intend it does not mean it is balanced for your game (or even balanced at all). I do put a lot of thought and effort into this, but I don't know if I should be any sort of "infallible authority" on the matter.

Killbray wrote:1) How many (offensive) incantations can be used per round?
My opinion is that you can only conjure one and then you must use that very same incantation for the whole duration of the round, my friend however insist that you can conjure as many incantations as the number of attacks you can make. Basically our opinions differ on the concept of "attack action", which I believe differs from "attack". My pov also assumes that AoO will be made with the last incantation conjured and no AoO can be made if the swordmage is unarmed and doesn't have any incantation in his hand, since the use of an incantation requires an attack action and you can't make such action outside of your turn.

Your friend is right. The entire point of the class is that you are constantly switching up your attacks. See the Innate Cant feat: basically, you have to use several feats to get the effect you propose.

An "attack action" is not defined in 3.5, but the intent of any Incantation that says "attack action" is that you are able to replace any attack you are eligible for with an Incantation (barring specific exceptions that should be listed in the rules - some Incantations let you make another attack with that Incantation and the like - you can't use two different Incantations with an Incantation that allows you to attack twice for example). A Swordsage is considered 'armed' with any Incantations he has ready, even if he doesn't actually have anything in his hands, because he can make attacks of opportunity with any Incantation that can reach the square that provokes.

Killbray wrote:1) How does this work in conjunction with Iaijutsu focus?
Does conjuring an incantation qualify as "drawing" a weapon? If multiple incantations can be used at the same round then, does that means the bonus of Iaijutsu focus can be multiplied for as many incantations you can conjure in that round? Isn't that a bit overpowered, especially considering that a swordmage already relies on charisma for damage?

Iaijutsu Focus is really not that good. You have to realize that Iaijutso Focus has a lot of limitations: you have to make the skill check in the first place (not that trivial), it maxes at 9d6 (not that massive), and the target needs to be Flat-Footed. That last one is a big deal, because achieving the actual Flat-Footed status is hard to do: that would not include anything that "denies the target's Dex mod to AC" (Flat-Footed does do that but it does other things also) and certainly wouldn't include Flanking, which means you're left with forcing the target to Balance or attacking before their turn in the first round.

Depending how your friend is generating the Flat-Footed status, this could be quite balanced. It really depends - if this is something that works only on the first round of combat and that he's had to go out of his way to get skillpoints for, it's not a balance issue and I'd allow it. The more reliably he can generate Flat-Footed targets, the more concerned I'd be about it. Overall, its balance would depend on how much he had to do in order to make that happen. +9d6 damage on every attack ever at the cost of a couple of feats and some skill points is imbalanced. +9d6 damage on one attack every turn at the same cost probably is. +9d6 damage on every attack at the cost of a few class levels, several feats, ehh... you're getting there. I hope you get my point.

Overall, it depends on what is balanced for your game. Is it potentially a large damage increase for a class that I don't think needs it? Yes. Did I design it with Iaijutso Focus in mind? No. Does it make sense from a fluff perspective? Certainly. Is it balanced? Depends - mostly on how much it costs the character to use and how reliably they can use it. I think for the most part, though, I'd probably ban or put limits on it, since there are ways to generate the Flat-Footed status pretty reliably, and the damage increase would be over the top for a class that's already a bit more powerful than I'd like.

Killbray wrote:2) Can Two-weapon fighting be used in conjunction with incantations?
Suppose a character has TWF and he's wielding a normal weapon in his off hand. Can he, as a full attack action, conjure an incantation in his main hand and at the same time use the normal weapon in his off-hand? My take on this is no, especially because of fellfrost cross.

No. This came up on the GitP thread, and while I really like the image, it's just terrible for balance. I tend to think of Incantation-use as something akin to Flurry of Blows: yes, you're using both hands sometimes, but it's a specific attack pattern that already includes those attacks if appropriate, so you can't "re-add" them (of course, I'd let Monks do so, RAW or not, just because Monks need anything they can get).

Killbray wrote:3) How does fellfrost cross work?
The description doesn't specify that this attack includes two-weapon fighting, even so I think it is implied by the -2 penalty. However without a proper confirmation questions arise about its correct use. The fact that only one attack action is needed for this, suggests that the swordmage can move and then attack with both shortswords in the same round. This is however something you can't normally do with two-weapon fighting, since you need a full-round attack in order to get the extra attack from your off hand.
So does that mean that you should treat the 2x attack as a single attack? Does that mean that you get the 2x attack as many times as the number of your iterative attacks in a full-round attack? I'll make an example to better explain how I see this working and how my friend sees this working:

Suppose we have a lv20 swordmage using fellfrost cross as a full-round attack (penalties and bonuses omitted).
My opinion: +20/+20/+15/+10/+5 (four attacks plus one extra off hand attack)
My friend's opinion: +20/+20/+15/+15/+10/+10/+5/+5 (four 2x strikes with the two shortswords)

If he used Fellfrost Cross four times (i.e. he had taken Innate Cant in Fellfrost Cross), your friend would be right. Typically, your progression would be more typical: you use Fellfrost Cross as your first Incantation, making a pair of attacks at +18/+18, and then for your next iterative you use a different Incantation at +15, another at +10, and a "fourth" (actually your fifth attack) at +5. Only if you have Innate Cant could you use Fellfrost Cross on all four attacks to go +18/+18 then +13/+13 then +8/+8 and then +3/+3. I think there are considerably more powerful options for a 20th level Swordmage, personally.


I hope that helps!
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Re: Swordmage [3.5 Attack Caster] (PEACH)

Postby DragoonWraith » Tue Feb 08, 2011 7:17 pm

That's correct, you must switch Incantations, and it's intentional. You have Incantations per encounter for a reason: you'll be burning through these pretty quickly. The Swordmage is intended to be played similarly to a Tome of Battle initiator: use incantations early and often. The exact number of Incantations that you get to ready and the recovery mechanic are things whose balance I am rather unsure of, however. I've personally found (in low-level testing) that the Swordmage seems able to go for too long before recovering; several have agreed. But then other people have felt that there aren't enough readied. It's a bit unclear at the moment.
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Re: Swordmage [3.5 Attack Caster] (PEACH)

Postby Xzoltar » Mon Feb 14, 2011 10:55 am

How do we apply Swordmage Incantations to Monsters that take this Class. Most have the same number of attack as a normal character however some monsters have many limbs or many differents kind of attack.

I guess it only apply to your primary weapon or attack (similar to the rule for Two-weapon fighting and Incantations), but for monsters such as Dragon who dont get iterrative attack with their Bite (unless taking the feats chain for this), do they get the use of 1 incantations per such attacks ? (Bite, Claws, Wings, Tail...) What about Thri-Kreen and Marilith ?
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Re: Swordmage [3.5 Attack Caster] (PEACH)

Postby DragoonWraith » Mon Feb 14, 2011 4:52 pm

It would be BAB based - incantations are effectively weapons, so it would be the same as making weapon attacks for those creatures, and like with TWF, MWF wouldn't work with them. IIRC, the usual rules for this situation are that the creature makes the weapon attacks (based on BAB), and then makes natural attacks as secondaries provided the limb in question wasn't used for the weapons.
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Re: Swordmage [3.5 Attack Caster] (PEACH)

Postby Niezck » Tue Feb 22, 2011 5:58 am

So I've been playing a Swordmage in a low level low loot game (a West Marches style if you know what that is) and have just turned level 3. We had a bit of an issue previously with the Scourge incantation, as it proved ridiculously effective while inside an undead dungeon. The DM was very skeptical about the class after that, as I assured him it was only going to be as powerful as the crusaders/swordsages in the group. So, now that I've got to level 3 I'm looking through the new 2nd level incantations I can cast and I'm pretty worried about using one in particular - Fellfrost Cross.

The actual effect of the incantation isn't a huge problem - it's more the fact that I'd get two +1 Icy Burst shortswords - +3 weapons. I'd very much like to take it, since I'm going for a transmutation-focused Swordmage with Toughening Transmutation et al, but I'm pretty worried that my DM will ban the class if I start pulling out +3 weapons at level 3. Is it just me being paranoid, or does this seem just a teensy bit powerful for such a low level character?
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Re: Swordmage [3.5 Attack Caster] (PEACH)

Postby DragoonWraith » Tue Feb 22, 2011 10:06 am

One: The desired balance level of the Swordmage is to be in line with Swordmages and Crusaders - but I don't think I've quite hit that sweet spot yet. I'm working on it.

Two: The Scourge issue is interesting; in theory you should have had to spend half your actions Recovering the maneuver between uses of it, but this I blame partly on my misunderstanding of how the Turn Undead ability actually worked. If this continues to be an issue in your campaign, perhaps make it so that it Turns only the Undead struck with the mace?

Three: I'd argue that Icy Burst is overpriced (by a lot) as a +2 weapon enhancement, but you're still right, it's probably too much for 3rd level. Plus there's the TWF advantage. OK, how about a pair of +1 Shortswords, the second of which deals Cold damage instead of the usual Slashing/Piercing damage, and if both hit, the target takes an additional 1d6 Cold damage and must save against the hypothermia/frostbite. If either sword crits, the "rend" damage increases to 1d10; if both crit, it becomes 2d6. Does that sound more balanced; did I nerf too hard? Thoughts are appreciated.
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Re: Swordmage [3.5 Attack Caster] (PEACH)

Postby Niezck » Tue Feb 22, 2011 11:45 am

DragoonWraith wrote:One: The desired balance level of the Swordmage is to be in line with Swordmages and Crusaders - but I don't think I've quite hit that sweet spot yet. I'm working on it.


So far it's tested very well against the swordsage and two crusaders we've got, the only major advantage appears to be flexibility. While they've got equivalent-power maneuvers and stances and such, they're stuck wasting actions if they want to change weapons. Whereas I simply use a different incantation. Considering the power of their class features and the fact they have stances, etc, I'd say it's relatively well-balanced.

Two: The Scourge issue is interesting; in theory you should have had to spend half your actions Recovering the maneuver between uses of it, but this I blame partly on my misunderstanding of how the Turn Undead ability actually worked. If this continues to be an issue in your campaign, perhaps make it so that it Turns only the Undead struck with the mace?


Yeah, I'd say that'd be a good fix. At low levels undead very rarely have turn resistance, so a 40ft radius turn is basically encounter over if you get enough HD of undead to be turned. Even something like reducing your effective cleric level to 1/2 CL or something would work I think.

Three: I'd argue that Icy Burst is overpriced (by a lot) as a +2 weapon enhancement, but you're still right, it's probably too much for 3rd level. Plus there's the TWF advantage. OK, how about a pair of +1 Shortswords, the second of which deals Cold damage instead of the usual Slashing/Piercing damage, and if both hit, the target takes an additional 1d6 Cold damage and must save against the hypothermia/frostbite. If either sword crits, the "rend" damage increases to 1d10; if both crit, it becomes 2d6. Does that sound more balanced; did I nerf too hard? Thoughts are appreciated.


While I'll agree that it's overpriced, the immediate shock factor of "A +3 weapon!?" would put a few DMs off straight away, it certainly did me. Mechanically it isn't even that powerful - a regular 2nd level maneuver typically deals +2d6 damage and has a special effect. Hypothermia/Frostbite is a very minor effect at best, so that can essentially be discounted. The main thing here is the free TWF and the on-crit bonuses, which seem a teensy bit too powerful to me. Your fix looks pretty good to me, perhaps half slashing and half cold on both swords though?

EDIT: Are you still open for suggestions for further incantations by the way? If so I'll probably think some up in the coming weeks as I'm playing -- see what it's missing as I go along.
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Re: Swordmage [3.5 Attack Caster] (PEACH)

Postby DragoonWraith » Tue Feb 22, 2011 2:52 pm

Cool, sounds like we have some pretty good fixes here. Thank you for your input.

I am accepting suggestions on Incantations, but due to the fact that the existing Incantations need some serious tweaking (like Fellfrost Cross and Scourge here), I'm not going to add any new ones until I've been over the existing ones some.
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Re: Swordmage [3.5 Attack Caster] (PEACH)

Postby Niezck » Tue Feb 22, 2011 4:10 pm

Alright, well I'll start thinking some up and saving them somewhere.

Something the DM pointed out to me earlier is that Sever Gravity seems a tad powerful. An equivalent-level wizard would have to fill all their 3rd level spell slots to be able to fly every encounter and even then probably wouldn't have enough. A Swordmage, however, can fill a 3rd level slot with Sever Gravity and use it at the start of every encounter for flight.

You could essentially fly infinitely if you refreshed mid-air too, which is pretty powerful for the level. Perhaps bump it up to a 4th level incantation?

I'll be going through the others over the next few days, so I'll report back with my thoughts.
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Re: Swordmage [3.5 Attack Caster] (PEACH)

Postby DragoonWraith » Wed Feb 23, 2011 5:49 am

Counter commentary (not necessarily sufficient to counter your points, but this is my thought-process): It's personal-only (a very big deal later), and the Warlock gains the same at 6th rather than 5th, but it literally is all day, every day, without any refreshing or action usage.
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Re: Swordmage [3.5 Attack Caster] (PEACH)

Postby The-Mage-King » Sun Apr 10, 2011 5:35 pm

Hey, Dragoon, would you mind me doing a theurge-esque class for this? With ToB stuff? I stumbled upon this, and was struck by inspiration, so...
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Re: Swordmage [3.5 Attack Caster] (PEACH)

Postby DragoonWraith » Sun Apr 10, 2011 7:19 pm

I was planning on some day getting around to doing just that, but never did. I'd certainly take a look at yours (and in any case would never stop you). Just make yourself a thread and I'll take a look!
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Re: Swordmage [3.5 Attack Caster] (PEACH)

Postby Xzoltar » Mon Apr 11, 2011 4:05 pm

Be sure to post it somewhere around here also because support for this amazing class is more than welcome.
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Re: Swordmage [3.5 Attack Caster] (PEACH)

Postby The-Mage-King » Mon Apr 11, 2011 4:56 pm

DragoonWraith wrote:I was planning on some day getting around to doing just that, but never did. I'd certainly take a look at yours (and in any case would never stop you). Just make yourself a thread and I'll take a look!


Got it. Expect it to take a week to three to be made, depending on the time I can get.
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Re: Swordmage [3.5 Attack Caster] (PEACH)

Postby Matar » Sat Sep 17, 2011 5:12 pm

So I've been playing in a very combat heavy game recently and we've come to the conclusion that this class is way too powerful, at least at level one. So here are some things that I came up with that might help balance the first level incantations more. Thoughts?

Also note, we are at this moment level one. And I am rather crazy compared to everyone else.

Daggerhail

This ability hits too many people at too low of a level. How about if instead of hitting everything in a 10 foot burst it hit one target in a 10 foot burst per level? That should really help balance it out compared to what other low level characters can do.


Scourge

Scourge is way too strong. How about making it so that the turn attempt only effects the target that it hits? It still might be too strong regardless, but it definitly needs to be changed right now.


Grappling Hook
This incantation is too vague. What happens if you pull an ally? Do they draw AoO's? What about if you drag yourself to an enemy? What if all the surrounding squares are filled? All that sorta stuff. I'd just remove the whole pull thing and make it a ranged grapple instead or something. Maybe make it so that it can be used as a rope.


Blinkplate
Gaining fullplate at such a low level seems a bit much. I don't -personally- think this is overpowered, but it's been brought up. It's just a thought, that's all. I don't really see why it would need a nerf though.


Rope Cant
This seems a bit strong for a first level ability and should really be a bit more clear. Perhapes make it so that if it hits the target needs a reflex save. If it fails it's entangled and if it passes it simply has to move at half speed or something.

Also it should be clearer that it only effects the unit hit. As it reads now it seems like it could just cast entangle at the person hit, which I highly doubt is what you want.
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Re: Swordmage [3.5 Attack Caster] (PEACH)

Postby DragoonWraith » Sat Sep 17, 2011 10:28 pm

Matar wrote:So I've been playing in a very combat heavy game recently and we've come to the conclusion that this class is way too powerful, at least at level one. So here are some things that I came up with that might help balance the first level incantations more. Thoughts?

Also note, we are at this moment level one. And I am rather crazy compared to everyone else.

Thanks for the feedback, I'll look into these.

Matar wrote:Daggerhail

This ability hits too many people at too low of a level. How about if instead of hitting everything in a 10 foot burst it hit one target in a 10 foot burst per level? That should really help balance it out compared to what other low level characters can do.

Agreed on the problem; unsure on the fix. For one thing, it seems strictly better than Burning Hands in all respects, not just number of targets... But yeah, I'll think about it.

Matar wrote:Scourge

Scourge is way too strong. How about making it so that the turn attempt only effects the target that it hits? It still might be too strong regardless, but it definitly needs to be changed right now.

Baah, that was originally written when the Swordmage was working on an "Incantations Known" mechanic and it therefore needed to be powerful since it was kind of niche. One target getting turned seems reasonable.

Matar wrote:Grappling Hook
This incantation is too vague. What happens if you pull an ally? Do they draw AoO's? What about if you drag yourself to an enemy? What if all the surrounding squares are filled? All that sorta stuff. I'd just remove the whole pull thing and make it a ranged grapple instead or something. Maybe make it so that it can be used as a rope.

Well that's not happening, since this is my favorite Incantation, period, and I like the pull thing.

However, to address the questions: I don't see why you couldn't pull an ally; they would take damage, though. The movement is not stated to not provoke, and therefore does. If all the surrounding squares are filled, i.e. there are things in the way, how do you have Line of Effect in the first place? Hope that helps some.

Matar wrote:Blinkplate
Gaining fullplate at such a low level seems a bit much. I don't -personally- think this is overpowered, but it's been brought up. It's just a thought, that's all. I don't really see why it would need a nerf though.

It seems a bit good, I'm not sure. I'll think about it.

Matar wrote:Rope Cant
This seems a bit strong for a first level ability and should really be a bit more clear. Perhapes make it so that if it hits the target needs a reflex save. If it fails it's entangled and if it passes it simply has to move at half speed or something.

Also it should be clearer that it only effects the unit hit. As it reads now it seems like it could just cast entangle at the person hit, which I highly doubt is what you want.

"The target is affected as if by Entangle". There is not an Entangle spell at that location, only the target has it. I'll consider a save, but a double-defense thing is not good, and Entangle is, itself, a 1st-level spell — this is a lot weaker than that.
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Re: Swordmage [3.5 Attack Caster] (PEACH)

Postby DruchiiConversion » Sat Sep 17, 2011 11:04 pm

Good day. I'm running the aforementioned game Matar is playing in, and also ran Niezck's game before it. I wanted to outline before this post that despite everything I'm going to say later, I am quite genuinely impressed with the quality of the work presented in this class. The fact that in my small online campaigning experience I have had not just one person looking to use it, but two, points strongly at what can only be an enticingly written class. If my personal usage statistics are to believed, more enticingly written than everything else ever homebrewed put together, though I suspect such a small sample size isn't enough to come to conclusions like that. :)

However, I feel there are some pretty serious balance issues not just with the class, but with the theory behind the class.

I'l start with a quote:
DragoonWraith wrote:Counter commentary (not necessarily sufficient to counter your points, but this is my thought-process): It's personal-only (a very big deal later), and the Warlock gains the same at 6th rather than 5th, but it literally is all day, every day, without any refreshing or action usage.


This isn't on the face of it a bad point - Warlocks do indeed have a similar ability to always-fly, and that's fine, isn't it? There's the counterargument to be made that this is coming online at the same level as T1 Wizards, who are always advised to take the Fly spell as it is excellent, and the Swordmage's is better, but at least there's precedent for this ability existing. Well, not quite - that is in fact the Warlock's entire schtick, being the class that is written to be the best at staying 'on' at full power all day. That's a pretty convincing schtick, but we can work with that - we can say that the Swordmage is also meant to be just as good as the Warlock at that. It's actually a little better, gaining its always-on earlier (and no, action use isn't an issue here when the duration is minutes/level - no fights last that long, and you can recover the incantation in midair), but it's only a level better in return for a minor drawback and the Warlock isn't exactly overpowered already. Okay, no major problem. Let's move on.

Let's look at the Scourge incantation next. Here we have a fairly ho-hum attack, attached to a full-strength Turn Undead effect. This works as a cleric of your level, and uses your (entirely SAD) Charisma stat to bolster it further. Well, again, this isn't too bad, is it? It's a Cleric feature, after all, already - they can do this. Now, usually they're not as good at this as Swordmages are - they can't afford to focus as singularly on Charisma, for a start, and they also have a quite seriously restrictive limit on how many times per day they can do this - compared with Swordmages who can manage a rather impressive 7,200 turn undead attempts a day. However, this isn't a huge deal, again, is it? Clerics -can- specialise to be as high-Charisma as Swordmages are if they don't care about ever casting spells - they won't, sure, but they can. They'll never manage to pick up enough turn attempts to seriously be able to claim to do it 'all day', but they can end up with quite a lot. Now, Swordmages are clearly better at this than Clerics are, and clerics are a T1 class, but we can excuse this by saying Turn Undead is only a small sphere of the Cleric's specialisation. And that's fine, too, but we have to chalk down another fact - this is another thing that the Swordmage is the best class in the game at doing. Which is also fine - we now have two full-blown schticks for this class that it is the best in the world at. Let's see if we can find any more.

We can look at Daggerhail next. By all accounts, a rather average-looking power to have by mid-levels, I don't doubt it - but it's a level 1 power. So let's look and see how it stacks up compared to the class that is the best at outputting blasting spells - the Warmage. We could compare it to the Sorcerer or the Wizard instead, but they'd only do worse, so let's not bother - let's skip the T1 classes, and go right to the specialists. It has some area of effect damage spells, and the only one at 1st level in the book the Warmage was drawn from that doesn't have a costly material component is Burning Hands. That's okay, Burning Hands is a staple first level spell after all, we all know it - 1d4 damage, in a cone. That's actually quite a lot worse than 2d3 damage in a 10ft burst - it affects fewer squares, for less damage, requires you to be up close and personal, and it's energy damage, so things will resist it, even at this low level. Now, Warmages also have Warmage Edge, which makes them better at this than Wizards and Sorcerers, but again - they're not going to be able to focus on their Int in the same way that Swordmages can focus on their Charisma, so this number is going to be lower. At 1st level, it doesn't even matter that this is lower, but it is yet another point to the Swordmages. Another really important point is that the Warmage is probably only doing this 3 or 4 times per day and it's his best thing, but hey, that already pales into insignificance in light of the fact that his option is also worse.
So to recap, in terms of Area of Effect damage, the Swordmage has:
- the best damage
- the best range
- the widest and most flexible area
- and the most reusable option.
So it's the best at another thing - AOEs. Okay.

Let's move onto something quicker now. Blinkplate. Obviously not imbalanced, right? It's full-plate, but with a duration - so worse than full-plate. What's the best armour a 1st level Fighter can afford? A breastplate. Which is worse. Blinkplate is also better than, say, Mage Armour, if we're looking for a casting thing to compare it to - much better. So our first level Swordmage can also easily be the best at AC.

I could carry on, but I suspect anyone reading understands my point by now. It's clear that the way the power level for this class' abilities, at least at the very early levels (I certainly haven't playtested it far enough to know how good, bad or indifferent the higher levels are, so I can't comment) was determined by looking at the *best* class in the game for doing a thing, then making something comparable. This is just not a good way to design a class with lots of flexibility, period, because as it is there's just no reason to make a specialist character at level 1 rather than a swordmage who'll do your job better than you. It is my opinion that the class needs a bit more flexibility in terms of what it does in a round of combat (so more readied incantations), in return for those incantations being scaled -right- back to the level of Tome of Battle maneuvers. That proved to be a good system, and while it might seem overdone to make something similar, you cannot have the mechanics both ways - the ability to do a thing without squandering any of your future resources is *better* than the ability to do a thing by squandering power for the day, and if you build your incantations by looking at spells of the same level, they will always be higher on the power curve than T1 classes' options.

I apologise for having to write a post like this, but I felt the people in my games who were coming here to contribute weren't really getting at the heart of my issues with the class. (Having a not-that-good 3 weapon at level 3,for instance? Absolutely fine. Don't change that, it doesn't break a thing, it's just another way to be about as good as other competent TWF-style combatants.) Having googled around a bit, it looks to me like most of the playtesting on this class has been done at much higher levels than 1, 2 and 3, so I hope this information is valuable to you, and can give you some quick tips as to where to start looking in the aforementioned daunting task of rebalancing this class.

Thanks for reading,
-DC
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Re: Swordmage [3.5 Attack Caster] (PEACH)

Postby DragoonWraith » Sun Sep 18, 2011 7:17 am

Well written and compelling.

Largely, a huge amount of the problem comes from the fact that I was looking at spells for inspiration/ideas, and the balance crept too close to spells in execution — which is a problem because the Incantation mechanic is much better. You're absolutely right on that.

Also, on Scourge, I'd honestly never seen Turn Undead used in a game (for anything but powering Divine feats) and sort of assumed it was worthless crap, not fully appreciating what it could do. *shrug* So you're right about that.

Mostly, this class has been in need of serious revision for a long time, and it's a very daunting project.
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Re: Swordmage [3.5 Attack Caster] (PEACH)

Postby Matar » Sun Sep 18, 2011 8:56 pm

In your opinion do you think this class just needs to have Incantations nerfed or would it need everything redone? The reason I ask is because I am currently playing one at level one. If all it needs is nerfed incantations then I'd like to play-test them once nerfed on a level by level basis (The game I'm in is -very- combat heavy). However, if the entire class needs to be remade then I think I should just remake my character to something else.

Which wouldn't be very useful to you, of course, and I'd really like to help out in anyway possible.
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Re: Swordmage [3.5 Attack Caster] (PEACH)

Postby DragoonWraith » Mon Sep 19, 2011 4:36 am

The class chassis I think is fine, it's just the Incantations. Possibly some of the mechanics behind them (though I'm not ditching the idea of attack-action-based spells, because that was the entire point of the class).
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