The swiftblade

By NeoSeraphi 


If you blink, you may miss the legendary speed of: The swiftblade.

Since this month's theme is beginnings I want to talk about a class that is almost guaranteed to act at the beginning of every combat; The Swiftblade. A 3.5 homebrew class brought to us by the sensational Neosaraphi.

There's no doubt about the role and focus of this class. Speed, speed, speed. It is a phenomenally fast melee class that easily outshines the core options. I won't mince words and I'll say directly this class is much stronger than monks, barbarians, fighters, and rangers without a doubt. That being said, It's very frequently been said that non-casters should be a lot closer in power to their spell-slinging siblings.

basic chassis for the class is exactly what you might expect. Full base attack, good fort, good reflex, and not so great will. It gives you a very respectable 6+int skills which helps it remain nimble in a variety of situations and gives it the skills needed to double as a fine scout.

All of the abilities of the class are very well focused towards doing as much as possible as fast as possible. Of course there's a very decent increase to land speed that scales all the way up to an extra 100 ft. They gain a very interesting bonus to their initiative. At first glance their "quick to react" ability seems like a flat initiative increase, but in fact the flat bonus applies to every bonus provided to initiative which allows you to very quickly secure your place as first in every fight, and being able to act before even a wizard popping nerveskitter is a very good thing that helps keep it closer in power to those casters. With an ability focused towards exponentially increasing the power of Iaijutsu focus this class can deal a truly alarming amount of damage in close combat and like a spellcaster they are not limited to acting during their own turn. As they progress the swiftblade is able to make attacks out of turn, make multiple full attacks in a round, haste themselves, eventually constantly, and with every one of their many many attacks that hits, their foes armor class is reduced.

If you want to use this class in Pathfinder there are a few extra things to consider on top of the regular conversion. I might recommend reducing the skill points to 4+int since so many of the skills they need specifically are condensed into fewer skills in pathfinder. Additionally, as mentioned above the class has one ability, and a very strong one, focused on Iaijutsu focus. It's not hard to port in from 3.5, though if that is problematic it could be replaced with the sudden strike ability of the ninja without too much problem. Next pay close attention to the actions the swiftblade is using to attack. Even if they can convert a move action into a single melee attack they should not be able to make that attack a vital strike or combat maneuever unless the DM specifically permits it. Allowing extra abilities like that can shift the classes options and damage considerably and should be carefully considered.

As you can probably tell this class is very powerful and it has a very high floor for optimization. What that means is that even a novice can pick up this class and effortlessly outstrip even well optimized team mates. I'm a firm believer that the power of a class is not as important as having an understanding of the class and why it's powerful. Both DM's and players should be aware that a swiftblade at high enough level can throw out one or two dozen attacks in a single turn, and the DM should plan accordingly. If you wish to bring the swiftblade down so they arn't rivaling casters for damage I'd recommend removing "slice and dice" the Iajatsu focused ability since it can provide tremendous amounts of damage.  You could also replace it with an ability similar to their maddening flurry, where each hit adds 1 extra point of damage to all the other hits that round.

As far as flavour goes the class doesn't give us a pre-determined approach to placing swiftblades in your game, but the possibilities are extensive. Even at low levels swiftblades make a great replacement for bandits, outrunning their foes, stealing their possessions and vanishing as quickly as they came. Or they could serve as the fighting force of a divine order, perhaps dedicated to a travel god, or a god of time or warriors. Or one can always call on the classic idea of a lone un-armoured samurai with a gleaming katana seeking to test their skills against a worthy foe.

If you like your classes powerful, exciting, and just downright cool, or if you just want to see melee characters be able to threaten spellcasters the swiftblade is an excellent addition to your game.