Epic Insights09/02/2003


Epic Swordfighters



The sword, in all its various incarnations, is arguably the most popular weapon in Dungeons & Dragons. So it should come as no surprise that the art of swordfighting, in its many different styles and forms, should be the subject of so many different prestige classes, each of which cater to different strengths and styles of sword and swordfighting. This month, we present epic level progressions for two different prestige classes from very different sources. Yet despite their outward differences, the iaijutsu master (from Oriental Adventures, page 41) and the sword dancer (from Faiths and Pantheons, page 205)focus around the same core concept; mastery of swordfighting.

Epic Iaijutsu Master

Iaijutsu is the art of drawing a weapon (usually a katana) and striking with it in one fluid strike. Many are the samurai who seek to master this deadly art, but few can fully embrace this skill. Among the iaijutsu masters are told stories of warriors who have transcended this ancient art. These are the epic masters of iaijutsu -- swordfighters of incomparable skill. Some can strike numerous times with a single cut, others can use their swords to perform blinding works of precision cutting, and some even strike so fast that they do not seem to draw their blade at all. These masters form legends that are whispered or dramatically recounted to many but are encountered by few.

Epic iaijutsu masters continue to hone their skills as they progress beyond 11th level in their class. They focus on the art of swordfighting by selecting feats that further enhance their ability to end duels with a single, impossibly fast strike.

Iaijutsu duels are about focus, not strength, and as a result Charisma is the most important choice for ability increases for an epic iaijutsu master, although Strength and Dexterity are also appropriate choices.

Other Options: A rare few epic iaijutsu masters choose to augment their skills with magic. These characters often take Automatic Quicken Spell and Multispell so they can cast spells as quickly as they strike with their swords.

Hit Die: d10.

Skill Points at Each Additional Level: 4 + Int modifier.

Echoes of the Edge (Su): At 11th level, the epic iaijutsu master gains the ability to strike at a creature an additional time as a free action, as long as she successfully damages the target on the initial strike. This additional attack is resolved at the character's highest base attack bonus and must be directed at the same creature the character's previous attack struck; the strike lands on precisely the same location as the cut before, but slices yet deeper. If this strike hits, it deals an amount of damage equal to the previous strike. If the previous strike was a critical hit, this free strike is a critical hit as well and it inflicts the same damage as the prior strike. An epic iaijutsu master may use echoes of the edge only once per round and only once per day. At 14th level, and again at every 3 levels thereafter, she may perform an echo of the edge an additional time each day.

Improved Iaijutsu Focus [Epic]

The maximum bonus damage you gain for using Iaijutsu Focus increases.

Prerequisite: Iaijutsu Focus 27 ranks.

Benefit: The extra damage you inflict when you make an Iaijutsu Focus check no longer has a maximum die cap. The progression of extra damage continues indefinitely, increasing by +1d6 for every 5 points over a result of 10 you receive on the check. For example, an Iaijutsu Focus check of 76 would inflict +14d6 points of damage.

Normal: Without this feat, the most extra damage you can gain with an Iaijutsu Focus check is +9d6.

Spirit Strike (Su): At 12th level, the epic iaijutsu master can draw her sword, strike with it, and return it to its sheath so quickly that she doesn't even seem to move. The strike is so fast that no blood stains the blade, and the victim may not initially realize he has been cut. The epic iaijutsu master makes one attack as a full round action when she spirit strikes; a successful Spot check (opposed by the iaijutsu master's Iaijutsu Focus skill check) allows an observer to notice a faint blur about the target as the strike connects.

If the epic iaijutsu master hits her target with a spirit strike, it is treated as an iaijutsu strike and she can make an Iaijutsu Focus check to determine how many additional points of damage her strike inflicts.

The iaijutsu master can follow a spirit strike with an echo from the edge, but unless she uses up another of her spirit strike uses for the day, this second strike is visible (but still shockingly fast).

At 15th level, and every 3 levels thereafter, an epic iaijutsu master can make an additional spirit strike each day.

Bonus Feats: The epic iaijutsu master gains a bonus feat (selected from the list of epic iaijutsu master feats) every 3 levels after 11th.

Epic Iaijutsu Master Bonus Feat List: Blinding Speed, Devastating Critical, Epic Dodge, Epic Prowess, Epic Reflexes, Epic Skill Focus (Iaijutsu Focus), Epic Weapon Focus, Epic Weapon Specialization, Improved Combat Reflexes, Improved Iaijutsu Focus, Improved Whirlwind Attack, Overwhelming Critical, Spectral Strike, Superior Initiative.

Iaijutsu Master
Level Special
11 Echoes of the edge 1/day
12 Spirit strike 1/day
13 Bonus feat
14 Echoes of the edge 2/day
15 Spirit strike 2/day
16 Bonus feat
17 Echoes of the edge 3/day
18 Spirit strike 3/day
19 Bonus feat
20 Echoes of the edge 4/day

Epic Sword Dancer

The epic sword dancer is a huntress, an entertainer, a healer, and a diplomat, but above all else she is a fighter. Striving always to infuse her fighting style with beauty and grace, she views each fight as a prayer to her goddess, Eilistraee. To see an epic sword dancer in combat is to witness fighting at its most artistic and wondrous.

Epic sword dancers tend to focus on enhancing their magical and physical prowess in ways that complement the other, and they tend to split their feats fairly evenly between those that might aid fighting (such as Epic Weapon Focus) and those that enhance their spellcasting ability (such as Improved Spell Capacity).

Wisdom, Dexterity, and Charisma are the most appropriate choices for ability increases for epic sword dancers; their style of fighting is based on grace, insight, and style, rather than brute force or speed.

Other Options: Epic sword dancers with bardic music ability often select feats like Lasting Inspiration, Music of the Gods, and especially Rapid Inspiration so they can further maximize the performance aspect of their fighting styles.

Hit Die: d6.

Skill Points at Each Additional Level: 2 + Int modifier.

Singing Sword (Su): At 11th level, a sword dancer can select a single sword to infuse with the divine power of Eilistraee; this sword must be one that she has previously attuned herself to (see Faiths and Pantheons, page 206). Once the attuned sword is infused, it gains the ability to use bardic music to inspire courage as a bard of equal level to the character level of the sword dancer who infused it; neither the sword nor the sword dancer need have any ranks in the Perform skill to use this ability. The sword can use this ability once per day. Activating the sword's song is a free action for the sword dancer, as long as she is wielding the sword.

Additionally, the sword dancer can select one of the following magic weapon qualities to add to the singing sword. Every 15 levels, the sword dancer can select one more quality to add to this sword. The added power is permanent so long as the sword dancer keeps the sword. The power fades away if the sword ever leaves the sword dancer's possession for more than 1 minute, but it returns instantly if the sword dancer regains possession. If the sword is destroyed, permanently lost, or the sword dancer chooses to attune a new sword, the newly attuned sword gains the abilities the sword dancer gave to the old sword via this ability. Once the sword dancer chooses an ability to give her sword, she cannot change it.

  • +1 enhancement bonus. This quality may be added multiple times; its effects stack.
  • Bane. This quality may be added multiple times, but each time a new bane type must be selected.
  • Defending
  • Flaming
  • Frost
  • Shock
  • Keen
  • Spell Storing
  • Thundering

Epic Spellsong: At 12th level, and again every 4 levels thereafter, the sword dancer can select two spells from the cleric spell list. From this point on, she can cast either of the selected spells spontaneously, just as a good cleric spontaneously casts prepared cleric spells as cure wounds spells. To do so, the sword dancer must "lose" a prepared cleric spell of the same or higher. The spell lost cannot be a domain spell. Spells cast in this manner always have a verbal component in addition to their normal components.

Silverhair Armor (Su): At 13th level the sword dancer's hair becomes infused with divine energy and glows softly with silver light that illuminates a radius equal to 10 feet per point of Charisma modifier. The sword dancer can suppress and activate this glow as a free action.

As long as her hair is glowing and she is not wearing armor or using a shield, she gains a +2 sacred bonus to her Armor Class. This bonus increases by +2 every four levels after 13th.

Craft Epic Swords (Su): At 20th level, an epic sword dancer gains the ability to craft epic magic swords as if she had the Craft Epic Magic Arms and Armor feat. This ability works only on her attuned swords, but the magic abilities given to the sword persist even if she loses her attunement to the sword. She may add any epic properties (including enhancement bonuses) to the sword as long as she meets the property's other prerequisites.

Bonus Feats: The epic sword dancer gains a bonus feat (selected from the list of epic sword dancer feats) every 4 levels after 10th.

Epic Sword Dancer Bonus Feat List: Bonus Domain, Deafening Song, Devastating Critical, Efficient Item Creation, Epic Dodge, Epic Inspiration, Epic Prowess, Epic Speed, Epic Spellcasting, Epic Weapon Focus, Group Inspiration, Improved Alignment Based Casting, Improved Combat Casting, Improved Low-Light Vision, Improved Spell Capacity, Inspire Excellence, Lasting Inspiration, Music of the Gods, Overwhelming Critical, Permanent Emanation, Rapid Inspiration, Spontaneous Spell.

Sword Dancer
Level Special
11 Singing sword 1
12 Epic spellsong
13 Silverhair armor +2
14 Bonus feat
15 Singing sword 2
16 Epic spellsong
17 Silverhair armor +4
18 Bonus feat
19 Singing sword 3
20 Craft epic swords, epic spellsong
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