[New Class]Sword-sorcerer

Prime Requisites: STR and INT
Requirements: None
Hit Dice: 1d6
Maximum Level: 14-

“It was surprising enough to see that Kane could actually read, mused Imel. What little information he had compiled gave Kane the reputation of being a rugged and skillful warrior–a violent personality by all accounts. In Imel’s experience, such a man usually was contemptuous of anything concerned with the arts. Suddenly his eyes were held by a page filled entirely by a strange diagram. Startled, he slowly read the script on the page opposite and found his suspicions verified. With horror he shut the book and abruptly set it down. A grimoire. Was Kane then a sorcerer as well as a soldier? Imel remembered Arbas’s warning and began to feel fear.”
-from Darkness Weaves by Karl Edward Wagner.

Sword-sorcerers are humans who train to be mighty warriors, but also value arcane knowledge. They study magic but cannot suffer the sedentary academic life required to become serious wizards. Sword-sorcerers crave raw power; power both worldly and otherworldly, martial and supernatural. Sword-sorcerers may seek power for ambition, revenge, or nobler purposes. They will risk or compromise anything to achieve this power, including their souls, but not their freedom. The sword-sorcerer is an iconic role from the classic era of heroic fiction. As a class it is intended to enable players to create characters with the abilities of Michael Moorcock’s protagonist Elric, Karl Edward Wagner’s Kane, or Roger Zelazny’s Dilvish the Damned, among others.

Sword-sorcerers are eager to take advantage of the great power of chaotic forces, without becoming slaves of chaos. Consequently, sword-sorcerers cannot have a lawful alignment. A sword-sorcerer will lose his or her spellcasting ability and powers of arcane dabbling and contacting dark powers during any period in which s/he holds a lawful alignment.

Sword-sorcerers are mighty opponents. At first level, they hit an unarmored foe (AC0) with an attack throw of 10+. They advance in attack throws and saving throws as fighters, by two points every three levels of experience. They increase their base damage roll from successful missile and melee attacks by +1 at 1st level and by an additional +1 at 3rd, 6th, 9th, and 12th level.

Sword-sorcerers may wear chainmail or lighter armor, but not wield shields. They are trained in the use of all weapons, and may wield a two-handed weapon or a weapon in each hand.

Due to their education and intense curiosity, all sword-sorcerers begin with loremastery as a bonus proficiency.

“I have never attempted to raise the cursed legions of Shoredan. My grandmother told me that only twice in all the ages of Time has this been done. I have also read of it in the Green Books of Time at the keep of Mirata.”
-from “The Bells of Shoredan” by Roger Zelazny, in Dilvish the Damned.

At 3rd level, a sword-sorcerer gains the ability to cast arcane spells, as a wizard of one-third their level, using the same spell list and the same rules for learning and casting spells. Unlike mages, they can cast spells while wearing chainmail or lighter armor.

“The albino frowned, remembering the secret pacts of his forefathers. He took a deep breath and closed his pain-filled scarlet eyes. He swayed, the runesword half-loose in his grip. His chant was low, like the far-off moaning of the wind itself. His chest moved quickly up and down, and some of the younger warriors, those who had never been fully initiated into the ancient lore of Melnibone, stirred with discomfort. Elric’s voice was not addressing human folk—his words were for the invisible, the intangible—the supernatural. An old and ancient rhyme began the casting of word-runes.”

  • from The Bane of the Black Sword, by Michael Moorcock.

At 4th level, a sword-sorcerer can contact dark powers. Once per week, the character can contact higher plane (as the spell), similar to the soothsaying proficiency.

When a sword-sorcerer reaches 5th level, his or her battlefield prowess inspires others to follow. Any henchmen or mercenaries hired by the sword-sorcerer gain a +1 bonus to their morale score whenever the sword-sorcerer personally leads them. This bonus stacks with any modifiers from charisma or proficiencies.

At 9th level, a sword-sorcerer with sufficient resources can build a castle and establish a domain, in the same manner as a fighter.

At 10th level, a sword-sorcerer becomes capable of arcane dabbling, as the proficiency, allowing the use of wands, staffs, and other magic items only usable by mages. The character must make a proficiency throw of 3+ or the attempt backfires in some desultory way (Judge’s discretion).

Class Proficiency List: Alchemy, Battle Magic, Beast Friendship, Berzerkergang, Black Lore of Zahar, Collegiate Wizardry, Command, Elementalism, Elven Bloodline, Familiar, Fighting Style, Illusion Resistance, Intimidation, Knowledge, Language, Leadership, Magical Engineering, Military Strategy, Mystic Aura, Naturalism, Quiet Magic, Prestidigitation, Riding, Sensing Power, Swashbuckling, Transmogrification, Unflappable Casting, Weapon Focus.

Sword-sorcerer Level Progression ~Spell Progression
Experience~Title~Level~Hit Dice~Damage Bonus~1~2
0~Soldier of Lore~1~1d6~+1~-~-
2,425~Mystic Swordsman~2~2d6~+1~-~-
9,700~Arcane Warrior~4~4d6~+2~1~-
19,500~Mage Knight~5~5d6~+2~1~-
39,000~Dark Crusader~6~6d6~+3~2~-
80,000~Doomed Hero~7~7d6~+3~2~-
160,000~Sorcerer Prince~8~8d6~+3~2~
280,000~Warlord Mage~9~9d6~+4~2~1
400,000~Warlord Mage, 10th level~10~9d6+2*~+4~2~1
520,000~Warlord Mage, 11th level~11~9d6+4*~+4~2~1
640,000~Warlord Mage, 12th level~12~9d6+6*~+5~2~2
760,000~Warlord Mage, 13th level~13~9d6+8*~+5~2~2
880,000~Eternal Champion~14~9d6+10*~+5~2~2
*Hit point modifiers from constitution are ignored.

Sword-Sorcerer (Fighter) Attack and Saving Throws
Level ~Petrif. & Paralysis ~Poison & Death ~Blast & Breath ~Staffs & Wands ~Spells ~Atk. Thr.
1 ~15+ ~14+ ~16+ ~16+ ~17+ ~10+
2–3 ~14+ ~13+ ~15+ ~15+ ~16+ ~9+
4 ~13+ ~12+ ~14+ ~14+ ~15+ ~8+
5–6 ~12+ ~11+ ~13+ ~13+ ~14+ ~7+
7 ~11+ ~10+ ~12+ ~12+ ~13+ ~6+
8–9 ~10+ ~9+ ~11+ ~11+ ~12+ ~5+
10 ~9+ ~8+ ~10+ ~10+ ~11+ ~4+
11–12 ~8+ ~7+ ~9+ ~9+ ~10+ ~3+
13 ~7+ ~6+ ~8+ ~8+ ~9+ ~2+
14 ~6+ ~5+ ~7+ ~7+ ~8+ ~1+

Build points: 1x HD, 2x fighter, 1x Arcane

XP Cost
+0500 ~ HD d6
+1000 ~ fighting value 2: +2 hit/3 lvls, unrestricted weapons & armor, 3 fight styles, +1 dmg/3 lvls, 1 cleave/lvl
+0625 ~ Arcane value 1: 1/3 level mage.
=2125 ~ Subtotal XP

trade offs:
+0150 ~ 1 ~ reduce armor selection to broad.
+0150 ~ 1 ~ eliminate one fighting style (no weapon/shield),
=0300 ~ 3 ~ Subtotal Trade-off XP

=2425 ~ Total XP

Fighter save progression.
Prime requisites STR and INT.

+2HP after 9th.

Stronghold Type: Castle. Battlefield prowess at level 5.

Custom Powers
Loremastery (as proficiency)
Contact Dark Powers at level 3/ Level 11 Arcane Dabbling
Battlefield prowess (stronghold bonus)

EDIT: Added Elric and Dilvish quotes; Fixed commas in xp numbers and a couple of other typos.

Thanks for sharing this class. I quite like it. Fighter-mage hybrids have always been my personal favorite type of characters. I'd happily play this in a game.

Glad you like it! I made some minor edits: added a couple more quotes for flavor and fixed some typos.

Thanks for sharing this class. I quite like it. Fighter-mage hybrids have always been my personal favorite type of characters. I'd happily play this in a game.

Would you really find this a satisfying warrior-mage?
Peaking at 4 spells per day, the highest of 2nd level? Not being able to use mage items until after they establish a stronghold?

I’ve been really unsatsified at my own attempts to sketch hybrid mage classes with ACKS, but that may come from too much recent reading of non-Appendix-N fantasy, where the main character has some fighting, some survivability, and a good deal more spellcasting than a typical ACKS mage.

You’re right that it’s not a very powerful class. I see two reasons:
#1 the proficiencies are low powered. Partly this was to be faithful to the source material. Partly it was to err on the side of caution to avoid complaints that the class is overpowered. Nobody will accuse me of powergaming by giving loremastery as a custom power.

#2 Under the custom class rules in the companion, humans get 4 pts to distribute. With d6 hd, he either must be fighter 2/mage 1 or fighter 1/mage 2. I went with the former, based on my interpretation of the fictional characters I had in mind. But really either way you can’t be much of a mage. Still, he fights about as good as a fighter, with slightly worse armor and HP but otherwise as a normal fighter, and he gets a few arcane perks. So ought to pull his weight in a group, and hopefully be fun to play, but that’s about it.

Open to suggestions about tweaking the proficiencies etc to make it more appealing.

I’d be tempted to reduce Weapon Selection to Broad (given that they devote time to study, they may not simply have time to train effectively with enough weapons to become proficient with all of them).

I’d also move Arcane Dabbling further forward in their progression and if the Weapon Selection is reduced, add another Custom Power such as Spell Storing or Familiar.

Hmmm. I'm not comparing the class to hypothetical warrior-mages from fiction, but to other classes in ACKS. This character has most of the benefits of a fighter, and gains spellcasting and other powers that will be quite beneficial. He's certainly on par with the paladin or barbarian classes in the Player's Companion in terms of total power. And there are lots of 1st and 2nd level spells that can be quite beneficial to a fighter-mage, such as chameleon, summon berserkers, sharpness, silent step, inaudability, and ogre power.

Obviously the class could be made considerably more arcane and powerful by using the Zaharan racial template as its base, but the XP cost per level will shoot right up. As it stands it levels at a much faster clip than, e.g. the Elven spellsword. 

Another option would be to delay spell casting until level-7. Then at 14th level you are looking at casting as a 7th level caster…far more relevant and perhaps more keeping in with ‘the fiction’. Does make it weaker at lower levels.

I’d also consider reducing the weapons usable and maybe giving some some extra custom powers in there. Possibly some spell-like abilities at lower level that might make it feel more magical until real spells show up?

I have something similar I’ll have to dig up and post. My version is a little more “4e sword mage”, as I’ve renamed Flesh Runes “Arcane Shield”, and given that to the class. I’ve also applied a number of the Zaharan custom powers, as they’re thematically appropriate. Like you, I’m using my sword-sorcerer to cover the “spell casting bard” territory, as well.

Hey, I just had a thought. What if we had a contest to design the best sword-mage class using the rules in Player's Companion? All the entries get bundled together into a PDF for download on the site, and the winning entry gets some cool prize.


It would certainly be interesting to see. My fighter/mage is so derivative of the ruinguard I’d never enter it, but I’d sure like to see what other people have done.

Since I can’t find the class write-up, only the spreadsheet I used to move points around, I’ll simply summarize:

Warlock (I’m using warlock à la Dragon Warriors. The ACKS warlock gets renamed the sorcerer, à la Ron Edward’s Sorcerer. It makes perfect sense if you’re me.)

HD1 Fi2 Ar1

Broad weapons (1 & 2 handed melee)
No armor
Two handed fighting style, no shields or dual weapons
Fighter damage bonus only to melee

Gains Flesh Runes (renamed Arcane Shield), Quickening, Dark Blessing (renamed) and Inexorable at first level.
Gains Arcane Striking at 3rd, Arcane Dabbling (and whatever morale bonus pleases you) at 5th and Spell Storing at 7th.
3325xp for 2nd level.

In my game, I’m cutting out elves, so if you want to cast spells and swing a sword, this is how to do it.

Question: When casting as a “mage of 1/3rd their level”, does .66 round up or down? I assumed up, therefore anyone with Arcane 1 would gain access to spell casting at 2nd level, and finally attain 3rd level spells (FIREBALL) at 14th, which makes a nice end-cap, I think.

Sounds awesome! Any limitations (race, XP, etc)?

I’m in. Here’s a first draft of a mithril sorcerer [PDF] class. I would like to add a custom spell list as well, but that’s going to have to wait a bit.

I’d enter.