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Swordmaster (PFRPG)

****½ (based on 3 ratings)
Swordmaster (PFRPG)

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Meet the swordmaster!

This deadly base class renders Dexterity a viable option on the front lines of combat. His cunning compounds of sword arts emulate dynamic swordplay, requiring players to think several moves in advance and rewarding well-conceived assaults with devastating finishers. A swordmaster's blade is his partner, not his tool, and it awakens as his prowess grows.

This class brings swordplay to life and has been thoroughly playtested.

Design Goals:

  • Render Dexterity a viable option for front-line combatants.
  • Create a flexible system of compounds evocative of swordplay.
  • Imbue dynamic gameplay into melee combat.
  • Foster a compelling relationship between a player and his weapon.

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Are there errors or omissions in this product information? Got corrections? Let us know at webmaster@paizo.com.

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Product Discussion (97)
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How to navigate the PDF:

Click a sword art's type at the top of its description (opener, sequitur, finisher) to travel to that section of the sword art table.
Click the name of a sword art in the sword art table to travel to that sword art's description.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I am not a fan of Dex to damage.

But I am interested in seeing how you pulled this off and may recommend it to those who are a fan of that.


Cheapy wrote:
But I am interested in seeing how you pulled this off and may recommend it to those who are a fan of that.

This is our first product to be requested by 100% of its playtesters (every playtester gets any Dreadfox product for free after an open playtest).

Hopefully that is an indication of responses to come.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber

You mean having Dervish Dance wasn't enough?


LazarX wrote:
You mean having Dervish Dance wasn't enough?

It was not.

The swordmaster was an opportunity to do a lot of really cool things (listed in the design goals).

Among our goals was make Dexterity a viable option for melee combatants. Even with Dervish Dance, Dexterity-based melee combatants are second class citizens. Having to choose between foregoing Power Attack (-50% damage in many cases) or wasting 3 ability score points, foregoing 2-handed and dual wielding damage while not using a shield and spending 2 feats on basic functionality combine to make Dexterity-based melee combatants much weaker than equivalent Strength-based melee combatants. The perks (+10 ft. speed, skill bonuses, high initiative, high Reflex) don't compensate enough to make the trade-off worthwhile mechanically in most cases, and the scimitar restriction renders it a poor choice for many characters in terms of flavor.

The swordmaster makes Dexterity and Strength competitive with each other. Neither a Dexterity-based swordmaster or a Strength-based fighter is clearly better than the other. We hope you will agree, however, that the Dexterity-based swordmaster is clearly more fun to play.


Reviewed first on Endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to GMS magazine and Nerdtrek and published here and on OBS. Cheers!


I really like the idea of a DEX-based fighter. Think about so many fantasy movies where a finesse swordswoman can pretty much hold her own against a much stronger swordsman because she's able to dance and parry much better, and usually, inflict more albeit lighter damage continually. It sounds like that is exactly like this new Swordmaster offers.

That said, I recently created a BladeBound Magus that has some of the interesting characteristics described for Swordmaster. I have a lot of learning to do due to the Magus magic-capabilities, and my unfamiliarity with PFS magic. I wish I could have the Swordmaster's benefits as a fighting class, without all the magic to learn, as well.

However, I'm relatively new to PFS and so totally unfamiliar with if and how non-Paizo products may be used within PFS play. Can a PFS character take on SwordMaster class?


PFS - no, sorry, not a chance of a snowball in Acheron.

Not even all Paizo-products are PFS-legal.
That being said, the class is the best take on a dex-based, intelligent front-line fighter I've seen in any publication.

Shadow Lodge

Dreadfox Games wrote:
The swordmaster makes Dexterity and Strength competitive with each other. Neither a Dexterity-based swordmaster or a Strength-based fighter is clearly better than the other. We hope you will agree, however, that the Dexterity-based swordmaster is clearly more fun to play.

Presuming of course you prefer Dex-based characters at all... I've always been more fond of a heavily-armored Strength-based smasher myself. Not my cup of tea, but at the very least interesting for those who do.

That said, if you're in to Dexy characters, this appears to do the job.


Endzeitgeist wrote:

PFS - no, sorry, not a chance of a snowball in Acheron.

Not even all Paizo-products are PFS-legal.
That being said, the class is the best take on a dex-based, intelligent front-line fighter I've seen in any publication.

Thanks for the response! Bummer!


I do believe I have discovered my next purchase....


Orthos wrote:

Presuming of course you prefer Dex-based characters at all... I've always been more fond of a heavily-armored Strength-based smasher myself. Not my cup of tea, but at the very least interesting for those who do.

That said, if you're in to Dexy characters, this appears to do the job.

You make a really good point.

We hope you agree that the mechanics are clearly more fun; not necessarily the concept.


Just wondering but what exactly are the swordmaster's weapon proficiencies? It says all simple and martial swords....but what exactly are those. As far as I can tell you get no simple weapons except for the quarterstaff. So what is considered a sword for the purposes of proficiency. Since there is no "sword" weapon group.

Cheliax

I love this class. I could do without the partnered blade but the swordplay mechanic is fantastic.

One question though. Maybe I'm just missing it but why is the Int bonus to AC a deflection bonus instead of untyped? It's already stated that it doesn't stack with the Duelist's Canny Defense (untyped) ability, so it seems that all you are doing is limiting the Swordmaster's ability to use a deflection bonus from another source.


havoc xiii wrote:
Just wondering but what exactly are the swordmaster's weapon proficiencies?

We used "swords" as opposed to a specific list to accommodate future Paizo material, 3.5 material and other 3pp material.

Definite Inclusions: cutlass, dogslicer, falchion, gladius, greatsword, longsword, rapier, scimitar, short sword, sword cane.

The GM is the final arbiter of additional inclusions. Some weapons straddle the fence between sword and something else (kukri comes to mind), making their inclusion a matter of opinion more than common sense. When in doubt, always consult the GM.

Adding this to our FAQs right now. Great question.


So the swordmaster is proficient in no simple weapons then...I was going to make a swordmaster who throws daggers as his semi "ranged" attack. Oh well its not going to stop me from buying the full PDF this Wednesday.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Zenlike wrote:
Maybe I'm just missing it but why is the Int bonus to AC a deflection bonus instead of untyped? It's already stated that it doesn't stack with the Duelist's Canny Defense (untyped) ability, so it seems that all you are doing is limiting the Swordmaster's ability to use a deflection bonus from another source.

Short answer: Yes, this exactly.

Long answer:

It was untyped at first, but as we continued to playtest the class, we changed it. It was a simple solution for a lot of convoluted issues.

1) Nerf Maximum AC. We want swordmasters have a slightly higher AC and slightly fewer hit points than Strength-based fighters. Emphasis on slightly. This change reduces a swordmaster's maximum AC by 5. 5 points may seem insubstantial, but not so much when phrased as "a 25% chance to hit" - especially when that brings an epic monster down to just 5%. The bottom line is that the -5 AC cap makes a defending optimized swordmaster difficult for epic monsters to hit as opposed to untouchable (requiring an attack roll of ~17 instead of ~22 in most cases).

2) Encourage Active Play. Swordmasters can get huge bonuses to AC from sword arts. Active and dynamic play are the foundation of the class. The only 2 AC bonuses we have control over are the Int and sword art bonuses, and we didn't want to tone down the sword art bonuses in order to keep the class as dynamic as possible.

3) Reliable AC. Swordmasters would be very soft front-liners in low-magic campaigns without a secondary AC bonus. With only mundane items, Dexterity is a ~4 AC disadvantage to Strength. Again, we wanted swordmasters to have a higher AC and fewer hit points than most Strength-based fighters, so including a secondary armor feature was an important way to standardize those strengths and weaknesses across all campaigns.

4) Balanced Defenses. We wanted the Int bonus to apply a small buff to CMD and touch AC - two of the most important defenses - to help compensate for lower hit points. Circumstance, deflection and dodge were the only types that a) apply to both of these and b) could be sensibly derived from sharp swordsmanship. But, because of maximum AC issues, something had to give, and both circumstance and dodge bonuses always stack.

5) Reduce Dependence on The Big 6. Every player in their right mind buys a ring or protection if one is available. Deflection is the best bonus to AC (applies to AC, touch AC, flat-footed AC and CMD) and the ring is cheap for what it is. But it's terribly boring when every player buys the same 6 items, over and over again on every character. By putting this bonus at odds with a ring of protection, we gave swordmasters the option to free up some gold (and a ring slot) to explore new and more exciting items. Int also increases a swordmaster's damage in many cases, so it's not often optimal to ignore this feature, dump Int for Con and buy the ring at a net -1 AC anyway.

Ultimately, the change brought all swordmasters closer to the same place on the power curve, encouraged active play and made itemizing more fun.


havoc xiii wrote:
I was going to make a swordmaster who throws daggers as his semi "ranged" attack.

There are lots of ways to gain a solid ranged attack at level 1. You could be a tengu, gnome, half-elf or elf, or you could take the Heirloom Weapon trait. Only tengu or gnome will grant proficiency with multiple daggers, but half-elf could grant proficiency with starknives, which are pretty similar.

Cheliax

That's a lot of information to digest. My initial reaction is that I don't think it would have been overpowered to make it an untyped bonus, so long as it didn't stack with the Canny Defense ability.

I could make a Kensai Magus, take Arcane Armor Training and wear light armor (what the Swordmaster can wear), get my Int bonus (untyped) to AC and still wear a ring of protection. All of which would give me a higher AC at the cost of a single feat. What I'm saying is I'm not sure it's worth the cost.

Also, the reliance on the Big 6 is inherently built into the game, and while I admire your effort to make a character less dependent upon it, i believe, in fact, it simply weakens the character for the wrong reasons (i.e. how the game COULD or SHOULD be as opposed to how it is).

Having not yet played the class I can't say how the swordplay bonuses will interact. Perhaps once I roll up my character and put him through the paces all my fears will be alleviated. Either way I love what I see and can't wait to give it a try.

Thank you for your time.

zenlike


What exactly does Appel do....?


havoc xiii wrote:
What exactly does Appel do....?

Mechanically: It enables a sequitur. It's a conservative opener that trades your move action for a 100% chance to advance the compound, but has no additional effect.

Thematically: It's a short and quick step that distracts your opponent, breaking their guard enough for you to advance. Here and here are videos of it in practice.


With Forceful Slash do you move with your target or do you send them away like a baseball?


You get to choose.

Upon a successful bull rush, "You can move with the target if you wish but you must have the available movement to do so."


Awesome cause I'm going to be playing Tiefling Swordmaster for Wraith of the Righteous. Loosely based off of Dante from Devil May Cry. Cliche I know but I don't care I like it.

A lot of the arts allow me to pull off some of his attacks. Winged death makes a great helm breaker forceful slash is stinger and so many more. :)


Overwhelming Assault, the attacks do they use normal iteratives or are all the attacks at your highest BAB?


havoc xiii wrote:
Overwhelming Assault, the attacks do they use normal iteratives or are all the attacks at your highest BAB?

They're all made at the swordmaster's highest BAB. Also, the number of attacks a swordmaster can make during Overwhelming Assault is not limited by his BAB. That is, if he has 28 Dexterity, 9 unique targets and never misses, he could make 9 attacks.

How's the class working out for you so far?


I haven't had a chance to use him yet but I've to an upcoming Wrath of the Righteous game that I'm going to play him in. :-D

Should be lots of fun, I've already got some interesting combos built in my head using the champion path.


For what it's worth, I have a swordmaster in my game - and elven wielder of curved blades who is a former bodyguard and a superb "tank" - in spite of having less hp than any other character in the group, including the psion.

The class works great for the "agility/mastery"-angle seen in fiction - hard to hit, but not too tough. It also doesn't hurt that being missed can actually turned around towards offensive means. I still, after more than a year of active gaming experience, stand by the review: This class rocks incredibly hard.

Wasn't there an expansion in the pipeline? "Secrets of Sword and String", if I recall correctly?


Endzeitgeist wrote:

For what it's worth, I have a swordmaster in my game... I still, after more than a year of active gaming experience, stand by the review: This class rocks incredibly hard.

Wasn't there an expansion in the pipeline? "Secrets of Sword and String", if I recall correctly?

Glad to hear it!

There is, although it's pretty deep in the pipeline right now. Other work has gotten in the way (meticulous improvements to our existing body of work before we take it to print), but we will definitely expand the swordmaster and the puppetmaster. Secrets of Sword and String should be third or fourth in line as soon as our revisions are finished.


Dreadfox Games wrote:
Secrets of Sword and String should be third or fourth in line as soon as our revisions are finished.

I'm glad it's still coming and hasn't been canceled and look forward to it. :-D


Dreadfox Games wrote:
havoc xiii wrote:
Overwhelming Assault, the attacks do they use normal iteratives or are all the attacks at your highest BAB?

They're all made at the swordmaster's highest BAB. Also, the number of attacks a swordmaster can make during Overwhelming Assault is not limited by his BAB. That is, if he has 28 Dexterity, 9 unique targets and never misses, he could make 9 attacks.

How's the class working out for you so far?

One more question regarding Assault. Does every attack need a fresh target or could you hit one target 5 times drop him and switch to a new one or is it more like a mop up attack when you e got 5 enemy left all at fairly low hitpoints?


havoc xiii wrote:
One more question regarding Assault. Does every attack need a fresh target or could you hit one target 5 times drop him and switch to a new one or is it more like a mop up attack when you e got 5 enemy left all at fairly low hitpoints?

Every attack needs a fresh target.


That's cool, sorta an AoEish attack for a melee class. Though I'd only use it if you can drop your main target with one more attack.


Errr another question if you have a feat/ability/whatever that turns a 5ft step into 10ft does it affect the once given by this class?

Edit: can sword arts count for the "any attack" clause some have?


havoc xiii wrote:
Errr another question if you have a feat/ability/whatever that turns a 5ft step into 10ft does it affect the once given by this class?

Can you give me an example? It'll depend on the wording of the ability that modifies 5 ft. steps. We didn't know of any within Pathfinder at the time that the swordmaster was created, but I don't doubt that one exists.

havoc xiii wrote:
can sword arts count for the "any attack" clause some have?

No. "Unless otherwise stated, only one sword art can be performed at a time."

"Action: Any attack" means a sword art can be made as part of a full-attack, as an attack action, as an attack of opportunity, as an attack granted by a spell or effect, etc., but only if you're not already performing a sword art with that action.

Tactical repartee and cunning swordplay are the only exceptions I can think of (their descriptions both state otherwise).


Shadowglide (Su): A shadow assassin with this style never treats any terrain in dim or worse lighting conditions as difficult terrain. At 6th level he may, when in dim or less lighting, move 10 feet whenever taking the “5-foot step” action.

Its part of an another 3pp class. I don't even plan on finding a way to extend the 5-ft step its already awesome but this had just occurred to me. I don't know if there are other ways I'm sure there are but that's the only one that I remember off he too of my heart.

Also the any attack that's what I thought it meant but it popped into my head and I was curious.


Is there a chance the Swordmaster is useable on Hero Lab?


havoc xiii wrote:
Shadowglide (Su): ... he may, when in dim or less lighting, move 10 feet whenever taking the “5-foot step” action.

By RAW, this doesn't apply to sword arts.

By RAI, I would definitely apply it to sword arts. It reads like it was written to exclude both 5-foot steps granted by external sources (spells, allied abilities, etc.) and movement that covers more than 5 feet (regular move actions). But it suits my sense of continuity that as long as the character with Shadowglide is providing a direct, physical impetus for his own 5-foot step, it should apply regardless of the type of action that step takes. That's just my opinion, but it's definitely worth discussing with your GM (and possibly the developer of Shadowglide, as well).

havoc xiii wrote:
Is there a chance the Swordmaster is useable on Hero Lab?

Soon. Before 2014 (don't have an exact date yet...).


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I just purchased the pdf and noticed that their is not a watermark on it listing the order number, date, and my email address. Is that a glitch?

Paizo Employee Webstore Gninja Minion

eakratz wrote:
I just purchased the pdf and noticed that their is not a watermark on it listing the order number, date, and my email address. Is that a glitch?

No. The publisher has opted not to use the watermarking feature on the PDF.


3 people marked this as a favorite.
Liz Courts wrote:
eakratz wrote:
I just purchased the pdf and noticed that their is not a watermark on it listing the order number, date, and my email address. Is that a glitch?
No. The publisher has opted not to use the watermarking feature on the PDF.

This.

Long story short, I'm a big believer in promoting goodwill between a developer and their audience rather than trying to strong-arm piracy :)


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Cool. I hope this philosophy works out well for your company. I was just surprised, that's all.

Oh, and the class looks good so far. I haven't read the whole thing I'm up to my ears in stuff.


Dreadfox Games wrote:


havoc xiii wrote:
Is there a chance the Swordmaster is useable on Hero Lab?
Soon. Before 2014 (don't have an exact date yet...).

Awesome! You know what'd really be awesome? If it came out on 9/25 my birthday. ;)


1 person marked this as a favorite.
havoc xiii wrote:
Dreadfox Games wrote:


havoc xiii wrote:
Is there a chance the Swordmaster is useable on Hero Lab?
Soon. Before 2014 (don't have an exact date yet...).
Awesome! You know what'd really be awesome? If it came out on 9/25 my birthday. ;)

No promises, but I've moved a few things around to try and manage a little present for you.


Dreadfox Games wrote:
havoc xiii wrote:
Dreadfox Games wrote:


havoc xiii wrote:
Is there a chance the Swordmaster is useable on Hero Lab?
Soon. Before 2014 (don't have an exact date yet...).
Awesome! You know what'd really be awesome? If it came out on 9/25 my birthday. ;)
No promises, but I've moved a few things around to try and manage a little present for you.

....0.o seriously? I was joking, but if you manage that it would be amazing. :D


Hero Lab file sent! Happy birthday :)

It's not 100% finished, but the functionality is all there. We just need to trim some of the scripting fat.

Shadow Lodge

Hmm, Hero Lab support?


TOZ wrote:
Hmm, Hero Lab support?

Soon we'll offer Hero Lab support for all of our products. It's one of the things coming in our huge update.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Late comer to this, but darn do I love this class! Just fantastic! Had a few things I wanted to clarify quickly:

1) When it says you get 1-1/2 times Dex bonus to damage when using a two handed sword...is that only for weapons like the greatsword (classified as two handed and must be used in two hands) or weapons you can wield in two hands (like katana for example) and you get that bonus when doing so?

2) Power Attack it says doesn't work, is it the same for Piranha Strike?

Thanks for publishing this!

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