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    Default Arcane Swordsage: Making it actually work

    I came up with some suggestions for Arcane Swordsage in discussion threads a while back, and I think it's time to make them a formal homebrew. The posts I originally made my suggestions in are here and here. Now to combine them, add a tweak or two, and put it in homebrew.

    Swordsage Adaptation: Arcane Swordsage
    As Swordsage except as follows:
    Hit die: d6
    Armor Proficiency: none
    AC Bonus: Works only when unarmored and not using a shield

    Spells as maneuvers: Whenever an Arcane Swordsage learns a new maneuver, he may adapt a spell from the Sorcerer/Wizard list into a maneuver and learn that instead. Only certain categories of spells can be converted into maneuvers, and each spell's level, duration, casting time, and effects are altered as part of the conversion. These spell-based maneuvers are included in the Swordsage's maneuvers known and are treated the same as maneuvers for readying, using, and recovering. The spell's caster level is equal to the Swordsage's Initiator Level, and its save DC is based on the Swordsage's wisdom score. An Arcane Swordsage must have an Initiator Level high enough for the modified level of the spell-turned-maneuver that he chooses in order to learn it.

    Spells as strikes:
    Requirements: Must have a casting time of a full round action or less, must directly affect an enemy; creating a lasting effect, such as a summoned monster or field of tentacles, that affects one or more enemies does not count.
    Level: If the spell is targeted and normally targets multiple enemies, decrease level by 1.
    Duration: Unchanged
    Casting Time: Increased to a minimum of one standard action. Full round action spells remain a full round action.
    Effects: The Arcane Swordsage must make a normal melee weapon attack as part of the spell. If this attack misses, the spell fails. If this attack hits, it deals damage as normal and the spell takes effect. Roll Spell Resistance and saving throws as applicable. If it is a targeted spell, the target of the attack is the spell's target. If it is an area spell, its point of origin is a corner of a square occupied by the attack's target, and the attack's target must be included in the spell's area. The Swordsage may choose to be exempt from the spell's effect even if he is inside its area, though his allies do not get this option.

    Spells as Boosts:
    Requirements: Must have a casting time of one standard action or less, must be able to target the caster, must have a non-instantaneous duration, must increase the offensive capabilities of the target.
    Level: If the spell's casting time is a swift or immediate action, increase level by 1. If the spell's casting time is a standard action and its duration is 1 round or less, increase level by 5 and ignore other duration-based modifiers. If the spell's duration is 1 minute or expressed in rounds, decrease level by 1. If the spell's duration is 1 hour or expressed in minutes, decrease level by 2. If the spell's duration is 1 day or expressed in hours, decrease level by 3. If the spell's duration is multiple days or longer, decrease level by 4.
    Duration: Set to 1 round
    Casting Time: Set to 1 swift action
    Effects: Usable on self only. If the spell normally results in gaining an ability usable a limited number of times per day (or longer time period), you do not gain that ability.

    Spells as Counters:
    Requirements: Must have a casting time of one standard action or less, must be able to target the caster, must have a non-instantaneous duration, must increase the defensive capabilities of the target.
    Level: If the spell's casting time is a swift or immediate action, increase level by 1. If the spell's casting time is a standard action and its duration is 1 round or less, increase level by 5 and ignore other duration-based modifiers. If the spell's duration is 1 minute or expressed in rounds, decrease level by 1. If the spell's duration is 1 hour or expressed in minutes, decrease level by 2. If the spell's duration is 1 day or expressed in hours, decrease level by 3. If the spell's duration is multiple days or longer, decrease level by 4.
    Duration: Set to 1 round
    Casting Time: Set to 1 immediate action
    Effects: Usable on self only. If the spell normally results in gaining an ability usable a limited number of times per day (or longer time period), you do not gain that ability.

    Spells as Stances:
    Requirements: Must have a casting time of one standard action or less, must be able to target the caster, must have a non-instantaneous duration. If casting time is a standard action, duration must be greater than 1 round.
    Level: If the spell's casting time is a swift or immediate action, increase level by 1. If the spell's duration is multiple days or longer, decrease level by 1. If the spell's duration is 1 hour or expressed in minutes, increase level by 1. If the spell's duration is 1 minute or expressed in rounds, increase level by 2. If the spell's duration is 1 round, increase level by 3.
    Duration: Stance
    Casting Time: Set to 1 swift action
    Effects: Usable on self only. If the spell normally results in gaining an ability usable a limited number of times per day (or longer time period), you do gain that ability but restarting the stance does not reset your daily uses.

    Comments? Critique? Suggestions? I do not claim this cannot be broken, but I'm pretty confident any spell that would break this would be similarly broken for a normal wizard.
    Last edited by douglas; 2011-05-02 at 01:41 PM.
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    Default Re: Arcane Swordsage: Making it actually work

    Wouldn't tweaking the Duskblade be way, way easier?

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    Default Re: Arcane Swordsage: Making it actually work

    Quote Originally Posted by Hyooz View Post
    Wouldn't tweaking the Duskblade be way, way easier?
    That is rather thoroughly beside the point.
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    Default Re: Arcane Swordsage: Making it actually work

    It feels a lot like the Duskblade with more tricks up its sleeves. The strikes alone allow it to do what the Duskblade does (damage, damage, and a side of damage), but the boosts/counters/stances allow quite a bit of versatility beyond that. Especially the stances, which can allow for some nifty things in the right hands (like Wraithstrike or Polymorph). It still seems reasonably balanced (going by the tier definitions, it's either a high tier 3 or low tier 2), as a whole, but it is notably more powerful than the standard swordsage.

    For reference, are you implementing the same spell limitations as did the suggested adaptation (ie, abjuration, evocation, and transmutation)?

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    Default Re: Arcane Swordsage: Making it actually work

    Is it intended for the arcane swordsage to access only sorcerer/wizard spells? As written, all spell lists are open, which would allow for some exploits (Trapsmith haste comes to mind).
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    Default Re: Arcane Swordsage: Making it actually work

    Can you explain the logic behind increasing the level of swift and immediate spells by one? It seems to me that they shouldn't have their level altered at all if the casting time of the maneuver is set to a swift action.

    Spell A was level 3 and a swift action. Now it's level 4 and a swift action.
    Spell B was level 3 and a standard action. Now it's level 3 and a swift action.

    It is not making a lot of sense to me, sir. I feel like I'm missing something.
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    Default Re: Arcane Swordsage: Making it actually work

    Quote Originally Posted by NoldorForce View Post
    It feels a lot like the Duskblade with more tricks up its sleeves. The strikes alone allow it to do what the Duskblade does (damage, damage, and a side of damage), but the boosts/counters/stances allow quite a bit of versatility beyond that. Especially the stances, which can allow for some nifty things in the right hands (like Wraithstrike or Polymorph). It still seems reasonably balanced (going by the tier definitions, it's either a high tier 3 or low tier 2), as a whole, but it is notably more powerful than the standard swordsage.
    The boosts, counters, and stances do add some capabilities Duskblades would have a hard time imitating, but it also has worse BAB, a smaller hit die, and less armor/shield (though with Wisdom-to-AC to compensate). Also, the absence of full attack channeling hurts at high levels.

    Compared to a standard Swordsage, the hit die and armor difference makes it significantly more fragile but it's still almost required to be in close melee to do anything. I'm not sure how much access to defensive spells as counters would balance that out, particularly with the 1 round duration for everything but stances, but my initial impression is that this is more of a glass cannon than a normal Swordsage - greater offense, but worse defense unless you focus on it.

    Quote Originally Posted by NoldorForce View Post
    For reference, are you implementing the same spell limitations as did the suggested adaptation (ie, abjuration, evocation, and transmutation)?
    I'm undecided on that. That seems like primarily a fluff issue to me, though cherry-picking the best spells from each school would grant some advantage, and while Charming someone by stabbing them seems hilariously wrong I'm not sure banning entire schools is the right way to deal with that. Maybe give access to a limited number of schools to limit cherry-picking, but allow the player to pick which ones? Trading discipline access for school access might also be a good idea.

    Or maybe I should institute a rule to give higher level spells a prerequisite number of same-school spells just like most high level maneuvers.

    Quote Originally Posted by imperialspectre View Post
    Is it intended for the arcane swordsage to access only sorcerer/wizard spells? As written, all spell lists are open, which would allow for some exploits (Trapsmith haste comes to mind).
    Good point, pulling from all arcane lists is way too abusable. The well known power of the Archivist should have taught me better than that. I'll make it sor/wiz only.

    Quote Originally Posted by Vadin View Post
    Can you explain the logic behind increasing the level of swift and immediate spells by one? It seems to me that they shouldn't have their level altered at all if the casting time of the maneuver is set to a swift action.

    Spell A was level 3 and a swift action. Now it's level 4 and a swift action.
    Spell B was level 3 and a standard action. Now it's level 3 and a swift action.

    It is not making a lot of sense to me, sir. I feel like I'm missing something.
    Huh. That was initially put in because the first such spell that came to mind was Wraithstrike, and that as a level 2 boost on a class intentionally designed out-of-the-box to be melee struck me as a bit much. The way you outlined it does seem a bit counter-intuitive, though.

    Thinking about it a bit more, I'm not ready to drop or reverse it immediately, and here's why:
    Swift/immediate action spells that target the caster are, in general, designed as exactly the sort of short-duration super-buffs that boosts and counters are meant to be. At the same time, they are on the spell list of classes not designed for melee. Thus, their power as written was based on the assumption of a weaker base, which would require more compensation, than an Arcane Swordsage. The same bonuses in the hands of a class intended for melee are significantly more powerful, and this needs to be compensated for in some way. The gishes that usually make the most use of these spells pay the price in reduced spell progression from having to multiclass, but that option doesn't really apply to Arcane Swordsage.

    So, swift/immediate action spells do miss out on casting time improvement, but they are also much more likely to be specialized for an Arcane Swordsage's role.

    What do you think of this reasoning, and if you look up some example swift action spells what do you think of how they compare with these rules?
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    Default Re: Arcane Swordsage: Making it actually work

    Quote Originally Posted by douglas View Post
    Huh. That was initially put in because the first such spell that came to mind was Wraithstrike, and that as a level 2 boost on a class intentionally designed out-of-the-box to be melee struck me as a bit much. The way you outlined it does seem a bit counter-intuitive, though.
    Wraithstrike at level 3 is barely more powerful than Emerald Razor - it boosts melee TWFers, who are generally considered underpowered, and one or two attacks of opportunity per round if you actually get them. The majority of situations in which Wraithstrike is used as an arcane swordsage maneuver between levels 3 and 8 (when swordsages get enough BAB to make two attacks in a round without TWF), it will not provide a greater benefit than Emerald Razor. I don't see the situational boosts to attacks of opportunity and TWF as enough to justify pushing it to two levels later, especially when swordsages have the most difficulty in making attacks hit (low BAB, somewhat more MAD than crusaders or warblades) and don't generally make for good AoO character builds.

    And Wraithstrike is, as you pointed out, the best swift-action spell that would qualify for use as an arcane swordsage boost.

    So no, I don't think that it's necessary to push swift-cast spells up a level.
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    Default Re: Arcane Swordsage: Making it actually work

    Quote Originally Posted by imperialspectre View Post
    Wraithstrike at level 3 is barely more powerful than Emerald Razor - it boosts melee TWFers, who are generally considered underpowered, and one or two attacks of opportunity per round if you actually get them.
    You're forgetting the single most important difference, though: it's a boost instead of a strike. Using Emerald Razor to get a touch attack prevents you from using any other strike to augment that attack, and strikes provide by far the greatest extra effects on attacks.
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    Default Re: Arcane Swordsage: Making it actually work

    Wouldn't "If the spell's duration is one round or less, increase the level by 1" Do that same thing? I can think of no overpowered swift action buffs that have a duration of rounds/level under that system.

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    Default Re: Arcane Swordsage: Making it actually work

    Apart from the obvious benefit of making any swift spell as a maneuver, I'd have thought that the swift spell is best suited to no adjustment at all. It has been intentionally designed as a sudden, single shot affair and thusly makes not a lot of difference how it's delivered. In many respects, it's no more or less open to abuse than Spectral Hand. You also need to consider that for every swift spell taken, there's one less to be had for that level, and although some may be powerful, the diversity and range of the swordsage would be severely hampered if they went down that road too far.
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    Default Re: Arcane Swordsage: Making it actually work

    I do agree that spells that were balanced as one-shot single castings for a single round of combat, for a class that is not traditionally good in melee wihout spells, are not balanced for a swordsage.

    Seriously, Wraithstrike as a L3 boost is NUTS. You still have your maneuver to use, you still have your full attack if you wish, and you're not expending any slots like wraithstrike usually is.

    Every other type of spell loses something by becoming a maneuver. Whether duration, level, or whatever, they all change for the worse, EXCEPT for the one-round swift actions. This is fair, because they're infinite use for all intents and purposes.

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    Default Re: Arcane Swordsage: Making it actually work

    The level of the boosts and stances needs to be increased. A greater mage armor boost is currently a level zero boost for a +6 armor bonus. A mage armor stance provides +4 AC as a first level stance, while a stance of clarity provides +2 against a single foe, and -2 against all others at the same level. Mage armor and greater mage armor are not broken spells.

    Edit: A true strike boost is 1st level, though true strike is slightly more broken than mage armor.
    Last edited by jvluso; 2011-03-31 at 02:48 PM.

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    Default Re: Arcane Swordsage: Making it actually work

    Quote Originally Posted by term1nally s1ck View Post
    Wouldn't "If the spell's duration is one round or less, increase the level by 1" Do that same thing? I can think of no overpowered swift action buffs that have a duration of rounds/level under that system.
    Bladeweave is a round/level swift action melee buff, and I think letting the 1 level drop for duration be its only modifier would put it too low level. On-hit save-or-daze as a level 1 boost strikes me as a bit much.

    Quote Originally Posted by jvluso View Post
    The level of the boosts and stances needs to be increased. A greater mage armor boost is currently a level zero boost for a +6 armor bonus. A mage armor stance provides +4 AC as a first level stance, while a stance of clarity provides +2 against a single foe, and -2 against all others at the same level. Mage armor and greater mage armor are not broken spells.
    For these, keep in mind that the spells in question are armor bonuses on a class meant for close melee combat. Stance of Clarity's effect is smaller in magnitude, yes, but its bonus is of a much rarer type that stacks with pretty much everything a character is likely to have until high level. Stance of Clarity is "you probably already have decent AC, now let's make it good." Mage Armor is "your AC probably sucks, let's make it halfway decent." If your AC does not suck and you don't already have an armor bonus that would make Mage Armor useless, something weird is going on or you've done some serious unarmored AC optimization already.

    Stance of Clarity is an augment on top of armor. Mage Armor is a replacement of armor. Mage Armor's purpose naturally calls for a much greater bonus than Stance of Clarity's purpose.

    Short version: (Greater) Mage Armor as boosts/counters or stances are not broken at the levels they are at for the same reason that the spells themselves are not broken.

    Quote Originally Posted by jvluso View Post
    Edit: A true strike boost is 1st level, though true strike is slightly more broken than mage armor.
    That does seem a bit much. Hmm, maybe a special level boost for 1-round standard action buffs to represent that that particular combination usually designates an exceptionally powerful effect? I'm not sure how much to raise its level, though; in most cases it would have a greater effect for its single attack than Wraithstrike but it only affects a single attack compared to Wraithstrike's full round.

    Edit: True Strike as a level 4 stance. Yeah, that needs fixing.
    Last edited by douglas; 2011-03-31 at 03:14 PM.
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    Default Re: Arcane Swordsage: Making it actually work

    I think you misread my suggestion. I'm talking 1 round or less only. Not 1 round/level, 1 round. Or 'On next attack'. And raising it a level, not lowering.

    That would be a L2 boost, since it hits none of the modifiers.

    L2 save or daze on a hit is very good, but not excessive.

    That would fix wraithstrike and true strike to both be 1 level HIGHER, too.

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    Default Re: Arcane Swordsage: Making it actually work

    I think you misread my response.

    My understanding of your suggestion: replace the +1 level for swift action casting time with +1 level for 1 round duration. Additional note that you can't think of any swift action buff spells with longer than 1 round duration that you think would be too powerful.

    My response: Bladeweave takes a swift action and lasts a round/level. This is an example of why I think the +1 needs to key on the swift action casting time, not the duration, because Bladeweave currently has a -1 for duration and if you take away the +1 for swift action it would be level 1 which I think is too low.

    Wraithstrike is already a higher level maneuver than the spell. Are you proposing that it should be boosted further to 4th level, or stating that your 1-round +1 level putting it at level 3 is enough?

    True Strike as a level 2 boost is still way too low level.

    Edit: How's this sound for fixing the True Strike issue?
    For boosts and counters, if the spell's casting time is a standard action and its duration is 1 round or less, increase level by 5.
    For stances, if the spell's casting time is a standard action and its duration is 1 round or less, it cannot be made a stance.

    For boosts and counters, this follows the principle of raising level slightly compared to the spells not-typically-melee casters get when compared to Quickened True Strike.
    For stances, I think spells like this would just get too crazy even for high levels if you could get them to last all day.
    Last edited by douglas; 2011-03-31 at 03:49 PM.
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    Default Re: Arcane Swordsage: Making it actually work

    Just going down the list of PHB third level spells that could be used:

    Dispel Magic: 3rd level strike; powerful, but not as powerful as IHS
    Protection from Energy: a terrible 4th level stance, but an overpowered 1st level counter
    Tongues: a utility 4th level stance; a high level for its effect
    Deep Slumber: a save or die 2nd level strike; a SOD for a swordsage; very powerful
    Heroism: 1st level boost, 4th level stance; the boost is ok
    Hold Person: see Deep Slumber, but a level higher
    Rage: 2nd level boost, 5th level stance; not great
    Fireball/Lightning Bolt: 3rd level strikes; boom
    Displacement: 2nd level counter, 5th level stance: good, but not overpowered
    Halt Undead: Deep slumber for undead
    Ray of exhaustion: 3rd level strike; decent
    Vampiric Touch: 3rd level strike; decent
    Blink: see displacement
    Fly: 1st level boost, 4th level stance? yes please
    Gaseous Form: very powerful as all three of boost/counter/stance (1,1,4)
    Haste: the 2nd level boost is better than Flashing sun in every way, the 5th level stance is also very good
    Keen Edge: 1st level boost, 4th level stance; not great
    Magic Weapon, Greater: A level 0 boost makes no sense, but as a 3rd level stance, it scales very well
    Shrink Item: a fun 3rd level strike
    Slow: see Deep Slumber
    Water Breathing: worst 1st level boost/counter ever, poor 4th level stance

    Save or dies are still save or dies, and haste is still haste. Some get a huge power boost (Protection from Energy as a 1st level counter), and some take a power hit (Fireball). One thing that keeps being repeated is that while spells usually scale with level, maneuvers don't. I'm not sure how to fix this.

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    Default Re: Arcane Swordsage: Making it actually work

    Regarding True Strike as a stance:

    It probably wouldn't be too borked if you left the fact that the spell is dismissed after one attack in there. That is, you could, for a (4th? 5th?) level stance, grant yourself a +20 bonus to your next attack once per round. You wouldn't be able to benefit from any other stance until you got your next swift action to activate one, so it would be a balancing act between offense and defense.

    Obviously True Strike at will is a powerful option, but at that level, it's basically mandatory to quicken it anyway. Something to think about, at any rate.
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    Default Re: Arcane Swordsage: Making it actually work

    The thing that makes True Strike every round a bad idea is that, at the cost of one swift action, every Strike you roll (except that natural 1) is going to hit. Nothing I can think of has an AC that can reliably withstand medium BAB+30.5(assuming an average die roll). So every single time you want to hit, you pretty much just roll and check for ones.

    As a boost, it can be balanced. As a stance, it's just wrong.

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    Default Re: Arcane Swordsage: Making it actually work

    Quote Originally Posted by douglas View Post
    I think you misread my response.

    My understanding of your suggestion: replace the +1 level for swift action casting time with +1 level for 1 round duration. Additional note that you can't think of any swift action buff spells with longer than 1 round duration that you think would be too powerful.

    My response: Bladeweave takes a swift action and lasts a round/level. This is an example of why I think the +1 needs to key on the swift action casting time, not the duration, because Bladeweave currently has a -1 for duration and if you take away the +1 for swift action it would be level 1 which I think is too low.

    Wraithstrike is already a higher level maneuver than the spell. Are you proposing that it should be boosted further to 4th level, or stating that your 1-round +1 level putting it at level 3 is enough?

    True Strike as a level 2 boost is still way too low level.

    Edit: How's this sound for fixing the True Strike issue?
    For boosts and counters, if the spell's casting time is a standard action and its duration is 1 round or less, increase level by 5.
    For stances, if the spell's casting time is a standard action and its duration is 1 round or less, it cannot be made a stance.

    For boosts and counters, this follows the principle of raising level slightly compared to the spells not-typically-melee casters get when compared to Quickened True Strike.
    For stances, I think spells like this would just get too crazy even for high levels if you could get them to last all day.
    I said nothing about removing any current modifiers, just adding that one. Which makes 1/2 of that work without the specific wording. +1 for swift, +1 for 1 round duration.
    True strike is just broken as a stance though, and I agree with your solution to that.

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    Default Re: Arcane Swordsage: Making it actually work

    Well, I once put forth the idea of using Invocation-users, who have at-will access all day 24/7 without even the limitations that maneuvers have, as a possible basis for comparison or at least the floor for power of arcane swordsagery... probably without the all-day durations though.
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    Default Re: Arcane Swordsage: Making it actually work

    I think that teh swift action spells are only a problem when the RKW comes into play really, and with swordsage it isn't hard.
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    Default Re: Arcane Swordsage: Making it actually work

    Quote Originally Posted by douglas View Post
    Good point, pulling from all arcane lists is way too abusable. The well known power of the Archivist should have taught me better than that. I'll make it sor/wiz only.
    Uh, not really. As long as you are only allowed to know a handful of spells, it doesn't matter whether they are selected from one or several lists. That's why I normally let Sorcerers take Cleric or Druid spells if they want, they are effectively creating their own extremely limited list rather than actually using an extremely diverse list like the Archivist does.

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    Default Re: Arcane Swordsage: Making it actually work

    I propose that True Strike should be a strike.

    I really like the mechanics you've put up here, but True Strike is an oddball spell. It's the spell's fault, not the system's, IMO.
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    Default Re: Arcane Swordsage: Making it actually work

    Quote Originally Posted by Ernir View Post
    I propose that True Strike should be a strike.

    I really like the mechanics you've put up here, but True Strike is an oddball spell. It's the spell's fault, not the system's, IMO.
    Been a while since I've used Tome of Battle, but doesn't using a strike limit you to that one attack that turn? A single attack, guaranteed to hit, but dealing normal damage doesn't seem overpowered to me.

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    Default Re: Arcane Swordsage: Making it actually work

    It's True Strike as a stance that causes the problems. Even a high level stance giving +20 to attacks is too much.

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    Default Re: Arcane Swordsage: Making it actually work

    Quote Originally Posted by term1nally s1ck View Post
    It's True Strike as a stance that causes the problems. Even a high level stance giving +20 to attacks is too much.
    While, wouldn't translating True Strike to a stance cause the stance to be deactivated after every attack? If we assume that it isn't very broken.

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    Default Re: Arcane Swordsage: Making it actually work

    It still adds up to true strike as a Swift action 1/round. Too much power for an Initiator, who frequently deals retarded damage and additional effects with no save, because they are based on hitting with an attack roll.

    No, true strike works as a Boost, or maybe even a Strike.

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    Default Re: Arcane Swordsage: Making it actually work

    Quote Originally Posted by UserClone View Post
    It still adds up to true strike as a Swift action 1/round. Too much power for an Initiator, who frequently deals retarded damage and additional effects with no save, because they are based on hitting with an attack roll.

    No, true strike works as a Boost, or maybe even a Strike.
    While, without a complex rule for accurately determining what level each spell maneuver should be and whether it should be allowed at all, or else a comprehensive ban list, a system like this would have to come down to "use common sense", maybe with a short guide on what is considered too powerful for people who aren't familiar enough with Tome of Battle to be sure.

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    Default Re: Arcane Swordsage: Making it actually work

    True Strike as a strike would be altering the spell in a way that doesn't generalize at all, and I'd rather avoid that as much as possible. True Strike as a boost is reasonable if it's high enough level. True Strike as a stance, even with having to refresh it, is essentially an all day long guarantee that you will almost never miss in exchange for your swift actions, and I think that's too much.

    I've edited the OP with what I think is the best solution mentioned so far - standard action casting plus 1 round duration is a signature of extremely potent buffs, sufficiently potent that a full doubling of your effectiveness is plausible, which merits a large adjustment for boosts/counters (I copied Quicken Spell's +4 and added 1 to adjust for general power level of buff spells plus them being applied to a Swordsage base) and banning for stances.
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