The World of Llowellen: Play-by-forum & Roll20 Virtual Tabletop.
“The power flows through me and into this blade. Watch yourself, or the blade will flow into you.”
Mage blades come from the Mortal and Fey peoples of all regions of the Old World. They embrace the natural fluidity of Fey magic combining it with their martial skills. Born with the will of a warrior but the talents of a spellcaster, the mage blade combines these divergent pursuits into a very specialized set of abilities. The mage blade’s focus is her key weapon, or ‘athame’. She uses it not only in combat, but as a focus for casting spells, as a magister uses his staff. She imbues this weapon with mystical powers and uses spells to augment it further, as well as to enhance and protect herself in battle. A mage blade prides herself on being self-reliant. This character’s abilities are broad, and few challenges arises that catch her unprepared.
While mage blades suffered less at the hands of the Shoshannic Church than the more religious followers of the old ways, they were still persecuted and often mistrusted in regions where the new faith was strong. Because of the dependence upon Fey magic, Heavenborn are never mage blades.
Background: Mage blades seek fame and fortune just like anyone else. They usually have a distinct sense of panache – their combat style has a flair as they use spells to complement their skills. Mage blades love the company of other adventurers, knowing that they can learn from both spellcasters and martial types, and offer something unique to either group. Mage blades can study while apprenticed to a single devoted master, or in an academy where they spend half the day in martial training and the other half studying eldritch lore. Some mage blades originally trained to be nonspellcasting warriors but could not resist the pull of their inherent magical talents. Others could not quite cut it as magic-users (through lack of talent or interest) but more than made up for this shortcoming with their physical abilities.
Humans embrace the mage blade’s versatility. Faen find the way of the mage blade to be a pursuit that loresongs and quiklings can both enjoy. Giantish mage blades like to sing battle ballads while they fight and call themselves bladesongs. Litorian mage blades use both magic and skill to act as expert stalkers, while verrik like the focus of mystical energies through a single source – the key weapon. Sibbecai mage blades operate as units, wielding both spells and weapons in organized formations. Mojh mage blades employ weapons that look like dragon claws and like to call themselves names such as “the fist of the dragon.”
Magic is a tool. It can be used toward an end. Mage blades see their spells as motions and positions, in the same way a swordfighter sees a thrust, a parry, a feint, or a riposte. Every motion has its countermotion. Raise your blade just so when you form the magic in your mind (and speak it with your mouth), and you can create an illusion. Twirl the blade clockwise and hold it perpendicular to your chest with the appropriate thought and word combination constitutes a well-practiced spellstroke.
Other Classes: Mage blades excel at ‘switching gears’ to allow them to spend time among magisters, witches, runethanes and others interested solely in magic, as well as with warmains, unfettered, fighters, barbarians and other warriors with little interest in such things. Some mage blades see ritual warriors as somewhat kindred spirits.
Mage Blade Archetypes
First Age: Most mage blades are wanderers and adventurers who seek hidden lore lost beneath the shifting sands and guardians of secret places of natural beauty. Their unique blend of skills makes them very self-sufficient and well-suited to eschew the lives of the city-states and even the settlements in the Western Lowlands. They are at home in the desolate wastes, where they have the freedom to roam. They might provide aid to those lost in the desert or they might scavenge dried out corpses like desert jackals.
NPCs: Engra the Strong, Quinvera the Tall
Second Age: Mage blades most frequently come from the Lano culture where they practice the ritual of bloodletting. According to their beliefs the gift of blood to Anwen would afford them a worthy role in Lano society. Mage blades pierce their ears, noses, eyebrows, lips, nipples, genitals, tongues and cheeks.
NPCs: The capable warrior who know a spell or two to herself out of danger is a mage blade. The dreaded slayer that cannot be stopped by man or magic is a mage blade. The ancient undead warrior priest out to avenge his fallen civilization is a mage blade.
Third Age: Mage blades are the scouts, spies and agents of the Seelie Court. They are divided into various cults each of which adheres to the teachings of a particular Seelie Princess and may act alone, in troupes or with other – more mismatched – groups. Always their actions are planned to support and protect the Old Ways and seek to hamper or redirect the modern movements sweeping through the nation.
Fourth Age: In this time of discovery and exploration mage blades from many diverse cultures and backgrounds are merchants, caravan guards, wandering adventurers or mercenaries and explorers or cartographers.
Skill Points at 1st Level: (2 +Intelligence bonus) x4.
Skill Points at Higher Levels: 2 +Intelligence bonus.
Class Skills: Alchemy (Int), Climb (Str), Concentration (Con), Craft (any) (Int), Intimidate (Cha), Jump (Str), Knowledge (all skills, taken individually) (Int), Search (Int), Speak Language (none), Spellcraft (Int) and Swim (Str).
Hit Dice: d8
Armor Proficiency: Light, shields.
Athame (Su): The mage blade selects a bladed weapon that she is proficient with and performs a daylong ceremony to make it her key weapon, also called an ‘athame’. A mage blade can have only one athame, and the athame must be a physical weapon (not the creation of a spell), although it can be enhanced with magic. The athame gains a +1 enhancement bonus, which functions only in the mage blade’s hands. At 4th level, and every four mage blade levels afterward, this bonus increases by +1 (maximum +5). The weapon does not have to be masterwork to use it as an athame, but if the mage blade ever wants to enhance it with weapon special abilities, such as keen or dancing, it must be masterwork. This ability provides enough of an enhancement bonus to give the blade special abilities without first giving it at least +1 enhancement bonus using the normal item creation rules.
The athame gains a small modicum of sentience in the ceremony. It has a very basic empathic link with the mage blade, so the character always knows where the weapon is (distance and direction). The athame serves as a special focus for all the mage blade’s spells. As long as it remains in her hands, her spells have no somatic components.
A mage blade can create a new athame by performing the ceremony again, but this results in the destruction of the previous athame, if it still exists.
Starting at 6th level, the athame strikes at anyone other than the mage blade who picks it up or attempts to use it, unless the mage blade specifically commands it not to. The weapon strikes once per round until dropped, using the mage blade’s attack bonuses. Resolve the attack as if the mage blade were wielding the weapon.
Beginning at 9th level, the mage blade can summon her athame to appear immediately in her hand as a standard action. The weapon can be up to 10 miles per class level away, although if it is in someone else’s possession or in a locked room, the mage blade must make a caster power check (DC 25) to summon it. Starting at 14th level, this summons becomes a free action, usable once per round.
A mage blade with a double weapon as her athame only enjoys the benefits granted by this ability on one end of the weapon.
Spells: Mage blades have access to simple spells. A mage blade may choose to ready any simple spell provided she can cast spells of that level. She readies spells ahead of time, any of which she can cast up to the maximum number of spell slots available to her for each given level. To ready or cast a spell, a mage blade must have a Charisma score of at least 10 + the spell’s level. The Difficulty Class for a saving throw against a mage blade’s spell is 10 + the spell’s level + the mage blade’s Charisma modifier. Bonus spells for mage blades rely on Charisma.
Mage blades never gain access to 9th- or 10th- level spells.
Mage blade spells always have both somatic and verbal components. Thus, these characters face spell failure chances when wearing armor. An exception to this requirement applies if the mage blade holds her key weapon in her hand(s). In such a case, her spells have only verbal components, so she suffers no spell failure chances when wearing armor. (Technically, the mage blade usually motions with the sword when casting spells, but this is not considered actual somatic components for purposes of spell failure in armor, casting spells while grappled, and so on.)
Weapon Proficiency: Simple, martial
Shimmering Shield (Sp): The 4th-level and higher mage blade can call a magical shield to surround her like a shimmering aura. This shield provides a +2 deflection bonus to Armor Class per four class levels and does not require the mage blade to wield it as a shield (she keeps both hands free). The shimmering shield can be called upon, as a standard action, once per day for 1 round per level.
Bonus Feats: At 5th level, the mage blade gets a bonus feat. The mage blade gains an additional bonus feat at 10th level, and another at 15th, 20th, 21st, 23rd, and 24th level. These are in addition to the feats a character gets every third level. Draw these bonus feats from the following list: Arcane Strike, Armor Proficiency (Heavy), Armor Proficiency (Medium), Athame Retort, Bloody Strike, Bonded Item, Born to the Blade, Combat Reflexes, Complex Spell, Defensive Move (Mobility), Defensive Stance, Defensive Unarmed Strike, Expertise (Improved Disarm, Improved Trip), Exotic Armor Proficiency, Exotic Weapon Proficiency, Exotic Spell, Hunter Mage, Improved Athame Defense, Improved Critical, Improved Initiative, Improved Spell Parry, Improved Sprightly Step, Mage Blade Strike, Mage Blade’s Torrent, Modify Spell, Point Blank Shot (Far Shot, Precise Shot, Shot on the Run), Psion, Quick Draw, Rapid Strike, Searing Shield, Stunning Blow, Superior Athame Defense, Two-Weapon Fighting, Weapon Finesse, Weapon Focus.
Some of these feats are ceremonial feats. The character need not go through the ceremony (or pay for it) to get a bonus ceremonial feat; even an Unbound character can choose a ceremonial bonus feat in this way. A mage blade cannot acquire some of these bonus feats until she has gained one or more prerequisite feats; these feats appear parenthetically after the prerequisite feat. A mage blade can select feats marked with an asterisk more than once, but it must be for a different weapon, spell, or spell level (depending on the feat) each time. The character must still meet all prerequisites for a bonus feat, including ability score and base attack bonus minimums (but not truenames).
Sprightly Step (Ex): The 7th-level and higher mage blade gains proficiency with medium armor but retains her normal movement rate while wearing it.
Slice Through Wardings (Su): Once per day per class level, starting at 11th level, the mage blade can ignore all magic-based protections (Armor Class bonuses, defensive field and so on) on a foe in a single attack made with her athame. The mage blade cannot use this ability to ignore spells or effects that take effect when a foe is attacked, such as feedback strike. The character must declare her use of this ability before making the attack.
Familiarity With Magic (Ex): The 12th-level and higher mage blade gains a +2 competence bonus to all saving throws against spells and spell-like and supernatural abilities (including magic items). Further, she gains +2 competence bonus to Armor Class against spells requiring attack rolls.
Spell Parry (Su): A 16th-level and higher mage blade gains the ability to parry spells. The mage blade must have her athame in hand to parry spells. The mage blade must have her athame in hand to parry a spell. Only spells targeting the mage blade alone can be parried – not area spells or spells targeted elsewhere. The mage blade makes an attack roll opposed by the caster’s caster power check. If the mage blade’s roll is higher, the spell fails to affect her at all. The mage blade can parry only spells she is aware of; spells from invisible casters or those casting mental-action only spells cannot be parried. No more than one spell can be parried in a round.
Slice Through Spells (Su): Once per day, beginning at 18th level, the mage blade can strike a non-instantaneous spell effect or creation (a summoned monster, an eldritch wall, an illusion, an area of obscuring mist and so on) with her athame and dispel it as if she had cast dispel magic using her class level as the caster level. A mage blade cannot dispel effects on a creature (like dominate or sorcerous guise), only ‘stand-alone’ effects. Even spells not normally subject to dispel magic can be affected.
Athame Critical (Su): At 22nd level and above, when they mage blade makes an attack roll that falls into the natural threat range of the athame (not modified by magic or feats such as Improved Critical), the critical hit is automatically confirmed.
Athame Burst (Su): The 25th-level mage blade can, using a full attack action, spin around with her athame and send replicas of the blade, composed of magical energy, toward all foes within 30 feet. The mage blade makes a separate melee attack roll against each foe, using her highest attack bonus. Each successful attack inflicts damage as if the mage blade struck the foe with the athame. The mage blade can use this ability a number of times per day equal to her Charisma bonus. If she has no Charisma bonus, she can use this ability once per week.
Mage blades were designed by Monte Cook and originally published in Monte Cook’s Unearthed Arcana, and more recently in Monte Cook’s Arcana Evolved. More options for the Mage Blade are available in Monte Cook’s Transcendence.
Artwork by Michael Komark. Used with love and not permission.
Cartography by Ian Hewitt.