By Richard Baker, Frank Brunner, Joseph D. Carriker
Skilled combatants often find that discipline combined with training is the key to a long life -- and a great battle. Take a peek at some of the latest combat options your martial-minded character can implement in our Tome of Battle: The Book of Nine Swords excerpts. In this book, both players and Dungeon Masters can find a slew of new options for characters, including feats; prestige classes that build on the disciplines included in the tome; new magic items and spells; and new monsters and organizations. The excerpts below include a brief section of the Introduction, the warblade, a table showing you what feats are in the book, some information about the Iron Heart discipline, and the item called Supernal Clarity.
"I was born for war. I have the heart of a lion, the swiftness of an eagle, and the strength of a dragon! In battle I find purpose, in conflict perfection, and in victory exaltation. The gods themselves envy my hour of glory."
-- Arzimon, a warblade
The warblade was born for conflict. Swift, strong, enduring, and utterly confident in his martial skills, he seeks to test himself against worthy foes. Battle is beautiful to him -- a perfect moment in which life hangs suspended on the bright edge of a sword. Sheer combat skill is important to a warblade, so he trains intensely with his chosen weapons. But even more important are his athleticism, endurance, daring, recklessness, and joy in the hour of danger. Warblades, often called sword princes, live for the chance to test themselves in battle -- the stronger the foe, the greater the glory once an enemy is defeated.
Making a Warblade
A warblade is a front-line melee combatant, much like a barbarian or fighter. He engages his enemies toe to toe and defeats them through skill at arms.
Abilities: Pure physical perfection is a warblade's ideal, so Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution are all vital to him. Because mastering a bewildering variety of martial maneuvers is difficult, Intelligence is also important to a warblade, because he appreciates the bonus skill points, and many of his class features reward a high Intelligence bonus. Given the choice between Wisdom and Charisma, a warblade is more likely to boost the latter -- the better to wear the mantle of glory he hopes to win with his deeds on the battlefield.
Races: The warrior cultures that give rise to warblades are most often found in human, elf, and hobgoblin lands. Admiration for athletic prowess, the martial ideal, and sheer physical daring is common among these races. The githyanki also take great pride in their martial skill, and a number of warblades can be found among this race. Dwarves appreciate a warblade's martial prowess but might shy away from overweening praise. Halflings generally admire athletic prowess, but most find the stringent requirements of this class too challenging. Half-orcs and savage humanoid races generally do not appreciate beauty in motion in quite the same way that their more civilized counterparts do; they fight to destroy their enemies, not to cover themselves in glory. Gnomes feel no particular need to try themselves in battle; they are happy with their normal pursuits.
Alignment: A warblade can choose any alignment, though many prefer chaotic over lawful. After all, a warblade seeks to win glory through individual deeds of prowess, so he is unlikely to adopt a personal code emphasizing obedience over freedom to improvise. Good warblades are champions of the weak and downtrodden; evil ones are vicious warlords who exult in the defeat and humiliation of their foes.
Starting Gold: 5d4x10 (125 gp).
Starting Age: As barbarian.
When fighting, you rely on an ever-increasing repertoire of spectacular martial maneuvers. Depending on which disciplines you choose to study, you might be a mongoose-swift skirmisher who uses speed as your sword and shield, a fierce master of blades, or a bold commander who leads your allies into battle. Your maneuvers are the signature moves that serve to define your character.
Regardless of the path you choose, you acquire a modest number of bonus feats that make you quicker, more agile, and more athletic than most other warriors.
Weapon and Armor Proficiency: You are proficient with simple and martial melee weapons (including those that can be used as thrown weapons), light and medium armor, and all shields except tower shields.
Maneuvers: You begin your career with knowledge of three martial maneuvers. The disciplines available to you are Diamond Mind, Iron Heart, Stone Dragon, Tiger Claw, and White Raven.
Once you know a maneuver, you must ready it before you can use it (see Maneuvers Readied, below). A maneuver usable by warblades is considered an extraordinary ability unless otherwise noted in its description. Your maneuvers are not affected by spell resistance, and you do not provoke attacks of opportunity when you initiate one.
You learn additional maneuvers at higher levels, as shown on Table 1-3. You must meet a maneuver's prerequisite to learn it. See Table 3-1, page 39, to determine the highest-level maneuvers you can learn.
Upon reaching 4th level, and at every even-numbered warblade level after that (6th, 8th, 10th, and so on), you can choose to learn a new maneuver in place of one you already know. In effect, you lose the old maneuver in exchange for the new one. You can choose a new maneuver of any level you like, as long as you observe your restriction on the highest-level maneuvers you know; you need not replace the old maneuver with a maneuver of the same level. For example, upon reaching 10th level, you could trade in a single 1st-, 2nd-, 3rd- or 4th-level maneuver for a maneuver of 5th level or lower, as long as you meet the prerequisite of the new maneuver. You can swap only a single maneuver at any given level.
Maneuvers Readied: You can ready all three of the maneuvers you know at 1st level, but as you advance in level and learn more maneuvers, you must choose which maneuvers to ready. You ready your maneuvers by exercising for 5 minutes. The maneuvers you choose remain readied until you decide to exercise again and change them. You need not sleep or rest for any long period of time to ready your maneuvers; any time you spend 5 minutes in practice, you can change your readied maneuvers.
You begin an encounter with all your readied maneuvers unexpended, regardless of how many times you might have already used them since you chose them. When you initiate a maneuver, you expend it for the current encounter, so each of your readied maneuvers can be used once per encounter (until you recover them, as described below).
You can recover all expended maneuvers with a single swift action, which must be immediately followed in the same round with a melee attack or using a standard action to do nothing else in the round (such as executing a quick, harmless flourish with your weapon). You cannot initiate a maneuver or change your stance while you are recovering your expended maneuvers, but you can remain in a stance in which you began your turn.
Stances Known: You begin play with knowledge of one 1st-level stance from any discipline open to warblades. At 4th, 10th, and 16th level, you can choose additional stances. Unlike maneuvers, stances are not expended, and you do not have to ready them. All the stances you know are available to you at all times, and you can change the stance you are currently using as a swift action. A stance is an extraordinary ability unless otherwise stated in the stance description.
Unlike with maneuvers, you cannot learn a new stance at higher levels in place of one you already know.
Battle Clarity (Ex): You can enter a state of almost mystical awareness of the battlefield around you. As long as you are not flat-footed, you gain an insight bonus equal to your Intelligence bonus (maximum equals your warblade level) on your Reflex saves.
Weapon Aptitude (Ex): Your training with a wide range of weaponry and tactics gives you great skill with particular weapons. You qualify for feats that usually require a minimum number of fighter levels (such as Weapon Specialization) as if you had a fighter level equal to your warblade level -2. For example, as a 6th-level warblade, you could take Weapon Specialization, since you're treated as being a 4th-level fighter for this purpose. These effective fighter levels stack with any actual fighter levels you have. Thus, a fighter 2/warblade 4 would also qualify for Weapon Specialization.
You also have the flexibility to adjust your weapon training. Each morning, you can spend 1 hour in weapon practice to change the designated weapon for any feat you have that applies only to a single weapon (such as Weapon Focus). You must have the newly designated weapon available during your practice session to make this change. For example, if you wish to change the designated weapon for your Weapon Focus feat from greatsword to longsword, you must have a longsword available to practice with during your practice session.
You can adjust any number of your feats in this way, and you don't have to adjust them all in the same way. However, you can't change the weapon choices in such a way that you no longer meet the prerequisite for some other feat you possess. For instance, if you have both Weapon Focus (longsword) and Weapon Specialization (longsword), you can't change the designated weapon for Weapon Focus unless you also change the weapon for Weapon Specialization in the same way.
Uncanny Dodge (Ex): At 2nd level, you gain the ability to react to danger before your senses would normally allow you to do so. You retain your Dexterity bonus to AC (if any) even if you are caught flat-footed or struck by an invisible attacker. However, you still lose your Dexterity bonus to AC if you are immobilized.
If you already have uncanny dodge from a different class (barbarian or rogue, for example), you automatically gain improved uncanny dodge (see below) instead.
Battle Ardor (Ex): The sheer love of battle lends uncanny strength to your blows. Starting at 3rd level, you gain an insight bonus equal to your Intelligence bonus on rolls made to confirm critical hits.
Bonus Feat: At 5th level, you gain a bonus feat from the list given below. You must meet the prerequisite for the feat you select. Every four levels thereafter (at 9th, 13th, and 17th level), you choose another bonus feat from the list.
Bonus Feat List: Acrobatic, Agile, Athletic, Blade Meditation*, Blind-Fight, Combat Reflexes, Diehard, Endurance, Great Fortitude, Improved Initiative, Iron Will, Ironheart*, Lightning Reflexes, Quick Draw, Run, Stone Power*, Tiger Blooded*, Unnerving Calm*, White Raven Defense*.
*New feats described in Chapter 2.
Battle Cunning (Ex): Your instinct for seizing the moment gives you a significant advantage over foes unprepared for your attack. At 7th level, you gain an insight bonus equal to your Intelligence bonus on melee damage rolls against flat-footed or flanked opponents.
Battle Skill (Ex): You anticipate your enemies' ploys and tactics. At 11th level, you gain an insight bonus equal to your Intelligence bonus on any check made to oppose an enemy's bull rush, disarm, feint, overrun, sunder, or trip attempt.
Battle Mastery (Ex): You notice the most subtle openings and cues offered by your opponents. At 15th level, you gain an insight bonus equal to your Intelligence bonus on melee attack rolls and melee damage rolls made whenever you make an attack of opportunity.
Improved Uncanny Dodge (Ex): At 6th level and higher, you can no longer be flanked; you can react to opponents on opposite sides of you as easily as you can react to a single attacker. See the barbarian class feature (PH 26) for more information.
Stance Mastery (Ex): At 20th level, you can have two stances active simultaneously. When you use a swift action to initiate or change your stance, you can initiate or change one or both stances.
Playing a Warblade
Mastering the techniques of blade and shield is important to you, but even more important is the sense of daring, recklessness, and even joy that transports you in the hour of danger. You fight for glory, the thrill of combat, and personal honor. Thus, you approach each encounter as if the bards will sing of it for ages. Every raging bulette that breaks through the cobblestones in the bazaar, every dragon snarling on its pile of coin, and every reth dekala champion still carrying a sword of the Shadow Tiger horde is an opportunity for you to test your skill, prove your heroism, and shine ever brighter. Gold and magic are pleasant tokens, but the real measure of your success is the height of the obelisk commemorating your triumphs.
As a warblade, you find adventure wherever an opportunity for glory exists. A more mercenary character might ignore an impecunious burgomaster's plea for aid, but you are quick to step in, taking the accolades of the villagers and the rapture of combat as pay along with a small bit of gold. Diplomatic missions have all the appeal of weak tea for you, but nearly any fight will do. Even a quick hunt through the sewers for a rabid otyugh can become a suitable adventure, as long as the otyugh is a worthy opponent and some townsfolk are present to honor you when you emerge, slime-covered but victorious.
If you are good-aligned, you probably worship Kord. His independent and amiably belligerent nature reflects your brash approach to life. Other good warblades favor Pelor, Heironeous, and, in rare cases, dour St. Cuthbert. If you are evil, you probably champion the cause of Erythnul or Hextor. A rumored secret sect of warblades follows Vecna, claiming to be the descendants of the loyal army that watched horrified as its commander, Kas, committed his famous betrayal.
Because you appreciate the long years of study and practice necessary to become a master of combat, you have great respect for fighters and paladins -- though you sometimes feel a rivalry with them, as well. You don't get along too well with barbarians because they seem incapable of properly bestowing or receiving honor. Bards are among your favorite companions as long as they stay out of the way and leave the glory of the fight to you -- and sing of your success later in tavern and hall. Both divine and arcane spellcasters are foreign to your pursuit of physical perfection, so you see them as little more than a means of support for your own endeavors. For that matter, you rarely work well with other warblades, since they are as competitive as you are, and you're always suspicious that one of them might try to steal your glory.
You revel in melee. Your place is battling face to face with vrocks and umber hulks, where you can deal maximum damage while keeping such monsters away from the softer targets in your own party. You make good use of your various battle-keyed abilities to give yourself an important edge in combat. Although these abilities might not be as physically impressive as a barbarian's rage, they can grant a significant boost to defense, as well as situational bonuses on attack and damage rolls. Unlike rage, your class features carry no fatigue penalty. Your lack of proficiency with heavy armor is both a blessing and a curse -- it allows you to enter combat quickly but leaves you vulnerable to the enemy. Consider taking feats such as Improved Toughness (see Complete Warrior) to increase your ability to soak up damage and partially offset your lack of heavy armor. Choose bonus feats that enhance your capabilities (such as Blind-Fight or Improved Initiative) or bolster your weaknesses (such as Iron Will).
You consider swordplay to be high art, and a martial maneuver to be the artist's signature on his masterpiece. Learning many maneuvers in one discipline generally makes you more lethal in combat than a warblade who learns a few maneuvers from each of several disciplines. This phenomenon stems from the fact that taking many maneuvers from one discipline while largely ignoring the rest lets you master higher-level maneuvers sooner. You gain only thirteen maneuvers over the course of twenty levels, so make your choices carefully.
Warblades come from all walks of life. Perhaps you were a poor youth who lacked the respect of the upper class and now seeks to redress this inequity and win the praise of all through your fighting. Perhaps your drive to succeed was inborn, like the innate power of a sorcerer.
Your race matters little; anyone with the drive to win glory through combat is a good candidate for warblade training. The first warblades to embark on the path of the Iron Heart were hobgoblins. They were the first to teach Reshar, and their discipline was the first that he mastered. In the centuries that have followed, hobgoblins have not forgotten this fact, and that race still produces more warblades than many others.
Elves and half-elves often take up this class because they appreciate the warblade's view of battle as a glorious art, and the martial dwarves favor it as well. Outsiders often wonder at a warblade academy in which synchronized lines of young would-be warblades practice their weapon forms, especially when they notice that these ordered ranks include elves, hobgoblins, and dwarves. But as a warblade, you know that it is the art of the sword that makes a true warrior, not a coincidence of race.
As you become more skilled, your most important decisions are which maneuvers to learn. When selecting maneuvers, try not to choose any in isolation. Instead, pick two or three that work well in synergy so that one maneuver can set up another.
Human WarbladeStarting Package
Armor: Scale mail (+4 AC, armor check penalty -4, speed 20 ft., 30 lb.).
Heavy wooden shield (+2 AC, armor check penalty -2, 10 lb.).
Weapons: Longsword (1d8, crit 19-20/x2, 4 lb., one-handed slashing).
Shortbow (1d6, crit x3, range inc. 60 ft., 2 lb., piercing).
Skill Selection: Pick a number of skills equal to 4 + Int modifier.
Feat: Weapon Focus (longsword).
Bonus Feat: Improved Initiative.
Gear: Backpack with waterskin, one day's trail rations, bedroll, sack, flint and steel, 3 torches, quiver with 20 arrows, tent, traveler's outfit, cold weather outfit.
Gold: 2d4 gp.
Warblades in the World
"The clicks and scrapes echoed off the limestone blocks, warning us of danger ahead. The dwarf and I whispered, debating a retreat, but our third was a warblade and a student of the Bright Annis. He charged, slicing the umber hulk's mandibles off, then striking it seven times more before the creature's jaw had clattered to the floor."
-- Dorrom Veshthazrell, swordsage of the Murient Temple
Warblades live by muscle and steel, but their interaction with the campaign world is not limited to trading sword slashes for talon rakes. These characters are keenly aware of their social standing, and for them, glory and honor are at least as important as gold and gems. Because these precious intangibles cannot be won by strength of blade alone, warblades constantly find themselves embroiled in liaisons with generals, kings, princesses, archprelates, and others who can confer the honor of an entire society upon a victorious hero. The whispers of courtesans, the badinage of bards, and the wit of aristocrats can be as significant to a warblade's career as the giants and phase spiders of the Sunspire Mountains -- and even more ferocious.
Warblades in adventuring parties must strike a balance between group and individual goals. Ideally, the party's path guarantees the warblade both the thrill of combat and the laurels of an acclaimed hero. In cases where only one or the other is possible (such as a stealth mission to extirpate a reth dekala cell operating in embarrassingly high government circles, or a crucial escort mission in which the danger comes not from flashing swords but from the wayward nature of a dauphin), the warblade must bide his time and accept the need to sacrifice one objective for another. Never for long, however, does a prince of the sword allow himself to forgo tasting the heady rush of combat and the sweet adulation of the multitudes.
A warblade must train constantly to maintain his puissance. Thus, much of his day is spent working through forms, jabbing at wooden effigies, and swinging weighted swords. Many warblades are affiliated with sword temples or dojos that allow them space to practice. While out adventuring, a prince of swords often spends his time at night on watch practicing his breathing exercises and stretches. The character taking the next watch is likely to wake and find his predecessor in the trees, meditating with measured breaths and supported only by a branch under each far-flung ankle.
Once he has reached a respectable level of accomplishment, a warblade might take the Leadership feat and begin teaching his own pupils at a school -- either his previous academy or one he has founded. Teaching allows a warblade to prove his worth to many students on a daily basis -- and the more prestigious they are, the better. Nobles' daughters and sons are highly sought-after students. A positive word from them, placed in the right ear, can earn a warblade honor, a royal audience, or even an honor guard and a ship for his next journey.
Famous warblades fall into two categories: those who recruit followers to found a sword temple or form an adventuring band, and those who operate independently. Among the warblades who have founded their own schools, the one known as the Bright Annis is famous for her merciless training techniques. Fewer than one in ten of her students manage to complete her tutelage. Many perish while sparring with their instructors or are lost in Bright Annis's ferocious quest for the heads of drow, whom she blames for the death of a lover long ago. Among the warblades who refuse to tie themselves to a particular school or demesne are Allek Thrazt, an outcast of the hobgoblin masters of the Iron Heart school. He is known to trade his former school's secrets for bright gold. The charcoal-skinned dwarf sword prince Mardilkuthor Pwarna is the scourge of the Seekers of Reshar (a group that hopes to rediscover the Nine Swords and hasten Reshar's return). Whether Mardilkuthor's motive is fear, jealousy, or an agenda he has managed to conceal even from the Sage of Snow and Shadow, the dwarf reportedly hunts down martial adepts who seek to reunite the Nine Swords.
Because of their independent and sometimes downright chaotic natures, many warblades refuse to join traditional, hierarchical organizations, though they are not averse to the greater glory of founding one. Thus, some warblade-created organizations have one or more warblades in a leadership position, while the rank and file consists of fighters, rangers, and bards, who can record the deeds of the organization's leaders.
Mardilkuthor Pwarna has built up a network of spies, assassins, and rangers across the Sunspire Mountains and the Deluge Jungle. These individuals meet in concealed safe houses, tree blinds, and mountainside caves in the peaks gathered at the skirts of the Mother Mountain, Koshtra Amnorn. Members of this organization can advance through the capture of any adepts seeking the Nine Swords, but Mardilkuthor maintains an iron grip on command.
The Bright Annis welcomes all princes of the sword to her open-air dojo in the southern fens of the Deluge Jungle. A consummate teacher, she is harsh even by warblade standards. Her students are regularly required to make forays into the dark places beneath the earth to hunt dark elves. Any warblade who slays large numbers of drow is guaranteed advancement.
Countless other warblade organizations rise and fall according to the mercurial fortunes of individual sword princes. Most of these movements are dedicated to the greater glory of their founders, although a fair number are, ostensibly at least, focused on amassing coin or arcane power. Because the warlike natures of their leaders guarantee a high casualty rate, most such organizations are always eager for new blood.
Governments, churches, and spy rings love to employ warblades. Easily motivated by promises of gold, glory, and land (whichever the employers possess a surplus of at the moment), warblades can lend excellent, efficient muscle to any mission. A wise patron sends companions of other classes along with a warblade, though, to keep him on track. Many kings and high priests have been left cursing in their chambers when word reached them of their hired muscle's fickle decision to abandon the job, seize the goal for his own, or even change sides to gain greater glory.
The stoic, taciturn, clan-oriented mindset of dwarves is anathema to the free-thinking, brash, and individualist warblade. But even so, a surprising number of dwarves (often outcasts from their clans) choose to take up this path. Conversely, warblades are often admired by the more gregarious races, including humans, halflings, and gnomes, for their life-on-the-edge, devil-may-care attitude.
Fighters, paladins, and other front-line fighters welcome warblades as brothers in steel. Mages, however, are often suspicious of warblades and tend to give them a wide berth. Rogues often see warblades as useful muscle, so eager for glory and gold that they can easily be duped. In the absence of other motives, most classes and races regard warblades with a cautious and hesitant eye. The chaotic and individualist nature of warblades means that they sometimes make unreliable companions, and no one wants to be caught in the Sunspires while the party's warblade pouts in his tent, unsatisfied with his split of the last battle's loot.
Characters with ranks in Gather Information or Knowledge (nobility and royalty) can research warblades and learn more about them. When a character makes a skill check, read or paraphrase the following, including the information from lower DCs.
DC 10: A warblade is a fighter with delusions of immortality. These glory-hounds think they can live forever in a bard's song!
DC 15: Warblades walk the Sublime Way, and few can match their skill with weapons. A warblade can learn combat maneuvers from many different disciplines, so you can't guess the strengths or weaknesses of any warblade you face in battle. He might move with the speed of thought, tumble like a boulder through your ranks, or attack with the savagery of a beast.
DC 20: A warblade tends to be a chaotic creature. His downfall is his pride -- he cannot abide an affront to his prestige. The promise of honor and the laurels of a city are often enough to entice a warblade to risk his life. An enterprise's possible reward -- be it glory or gold -- is much more important to a warblade than the potential risks, which he often disregards completely.
Table 1-3: The Warblade Hit Die: d12
Class Skills (4 + Int modifier per level, x4 at 1st level): Balance, Climb, Concentration, Craft, Diplomacy, Intimidate, Jump, Knowledge (history), Knowledge (local), Martial Lore*, Swim, Tumble.
*New skill described on page 28.
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