Some say that the pen is mightier than the sword. While this is not strictly true, it serves well as a metaphor. With a pen, you can make as many swords as you want, because swords are songs and vice versa. Given time, tunes will harden to blades and poorly-crafted blades may evaporate into a droning hum. In a pinch, you can whistle yourself a dagger if you know what you’re doing.
It is accepted by most swordsingers that their art was taught, not invented, but it is unclear who is responsible. Some say that it was a tool of the gods, granted so that their chosen warriors would always have a weapon on hand. Others believe that it was bequeathed to mortals by Hell, whose devils stole the secret before their fall (or that they were cast out from the presence of the gods because they stole it).
In any case, swordsingers aren’t wizards. This is just the way things are.
Starting Equipment: leather armor, sword (as medium or heavy weapon).
Starting Skills: Swordsong.
- +1 Song, +1 HP
- +1 Song, +1 attack per round
- +1 Song, +1 HP
- +1 Song, +1 melee attack bonus
Language Skill: Swordsong
You may speak with blades as though they were rational beings. Blades appear to have personalities, and there seems to be a correlation between the type of blade it is and the personality that it has. Broadswords are pompous, whittling knives are patient and attentive to details, etc.
Their knowledge is very specific: who has used them, what they have been used for, and (to a very limited degree) the conditions they have experienced (e.g. were they left in the rain last week?). Blades which are not actually swords (e.g. axes, knives) can still be targeted with this song, but the less they are like a sword, the harder it is for them to communicate and the more clumsily they think.
Edgeless “swords” like the foil are cognizant but scream obscenities and heap abuse upon anyone who tries to communicate with them.
Though it is not possible to be a Swordsinger class without having the Swordsong skill, it is possible to have the skill without the class. This is a lot like knowing a language without knowing any particular poems.
Every time you gain a new Swordsinger level, your mastery of Swordsong grows. Swordsingers often refer to “songs” as though these were discrete entities, but singing a dagger into existence is not just a shorter take on singing a broadsword into existence. These complications are why most people never learn any songs.
If you can speak then you can sing, and you can keep a song going for as long as you want, but (1) you can only use song at a time, unless you have multiple throats (make friends with a biomancer!), and (2) you cannot verbally communicate while singing (but you can still use Westerling Sign).
There seems to be a kind of Platonic ideal of “swordness.” Daggers and knives are considered small swords, battleaxes are distant, and hatchets are a mockery: not only do they fail to resemble a sword, they aren’t even meant for combat. Where a song refers to “blades,” it means any kind of weapon (or other object) with a sharp edge. Some songs specify a sword, however, in which case axes and their ilk need not apply.
If someone can hear your song, then they are “in range.” If they can’t, then they aren’t.
To get a Song, roll 1d10, just choose one, or talk with your GM to create a new song.
|1||Song of Aural Darkness||This is not so much a song as it is an “unsong,” with a deep, palpable absence in the places where the music ought to go. Determine the “range” of this song as if you were singing normally, but within that range there are no sounds at all, only the unsound of your unsong.
Anyone else who is using a Swordsinger song must make a Save vs Magic with a penalty equal to your Swordsinger Levels. If they fail then their song has no effect this turn and they are likewise unable to speak or understand the language Swordsong. If they succeed, then their song is the sole exception to the silence that you produce.
|2||Song of Bearable Lightness||Medium swords count as light, and heavy swords count as medium. Yes, this means that you can throw medium swords (with a -2 penalty, because they’re still cumbersome) and wield swords with one hand.|
|3||Song of Bladerain||You sing a sword into existence: sharp, thin, and flawed, but sound enough for a single strike. It hangs above you in the air, hovering for as long as you maintain this song. At any point you may let the sword fall on a target within ten feet of you: make an Attack roll against their Defense and, if successful, deal 1d6+1 damage. The sword shatters immediately thereafter.
Each turn that you maintain this song you can sing another sword, up to a number of swords equal to your Swordsinger Levels, but if one sword falls then they must all fall.
|4||Song of Celeritous Creation||You quickly sing a sword into existence. If you spend one round singing then you can create something like a sausage knife (1d2 damage).
You can sing for a number of rounds equal to your Swordsinger levels, and each additional round spent singing the blade into existence upgrades the damage die (d4, d6, d10). The sword is a medium weapon at d6 and a heavy weapon at d10.
The swords which you craft in this way are unstable and will dissolve into a whistling tune in 1d10 x Swordsinger Level minutes after you stop singing.
|5||Song of Eternal Battle||Until it is finally destroyed, a sword is ever-faithful, and you are able to inspire your listeners and grant them a portion of this nature.
If you are singing the Song of Eternal Battle this turn, then each character in range can ignore a number of points of damage equal to your Swordsinger Levels. If you sing it for a second turn, then they can ignore further damage up to the same amount, and so on. Keep track of the damage that is ignored this way. When you stop singing this song, each character takes all the damage that they have ignored till now.
|6||Song of the Guided Blade||You sing to a particular blade to advise and inspire its efforts. One blade-wielding person in particular (which may be yourself or another person) gets an Attack bonus equal to your Swordsinger Levels.
You must be able to see or otherwise perceive a blade in order to grant this bonus to its wielder, because you cannot give advice to someone whose circumstances are unknown to you.
|7||Song of Holding||You are well-acquainted enough with particular swords that you have devised songs just for those swords, and can sing them in and out of existence at a moment’s notice.
You can “store” a number of swords in this way equal to your Swordsinger levels. By filling a skill slot, you can store another such allotment of swords but, like items which aren’t in your quick-draw inventory, they take 1 round to sing up (it’s the difference between that’s always on the tip of your tongue, and something you definitely remember but which takes you a moment to recall).
|8||Song of the Razor Tongue||It is painful just to hear your voice. Everyone in range must Save vs Magic. On a successful save, they take 1 damage. Otherwise, they take 1d4 damage.
Whether or not you are considered to be within range of this song, you also take 1d6 damage as your sharp voice cuts against the inside of your throat.
|9||Song of the Steel Oak||Some say that this the power of this song is that it communicates to the inner sword-nature of each person, and others that it merely inspires them to be like the blade that breaks before it bends, but its effect is undeniable: Everyone in range gets a bonus to Save vs mind-altering effects (including fear).|
|10||Song of Treason||You are adept at sowing doubt in the minds of other blades, and get +1 Defense against enemies wielding bladed weapons.
Additionally, enemies who fumble while attacking you with a bladed weapon deal damage to themselves or an adjacent ally of theirs.
Swordsong was taken from Vayra’s GROG hack and ultimately stems from a post on Jeff’s Gameblog. Some bits and bobs from the GROG’s Swordsinger class were also lifted, but this is a more bardic take. There’s also a tiny bit from Skerples’ Fighter class.
Swordsingers are fighter-bards. They’re supposed to feel a little magical without being complicated: an easy choice for somebody who just wants to hit things, but with the capacity to be relevant outside of a fight, which is something that I think fighters badly lack. There are some more complicated songs, but the mix of simple and complex songs means that you can pick what feels right for you.
I really like about half of the example songs here, and I expect that I’ll be revising and revising the list until the end of time (unless, of course, I decide to get rid of swordsingers entirely). The Songs of the Guided Blade, Steel Oak, and Treason do the best job of hitting that “fighter-bard” concept. Countersong is also a logical ability, but I may broaden it in the future unless there are lots of Swordsinger NPCs or something like that.
Bearable Lightness and Holding can make for a fun combination: hold a dozen swords in your skill-inventory and throw them like (somewhat unwieldy) daggers. Speaking of the Song of Holding, I really like that it turns skill slots into a kind of mental inventory, and I hope to find ways to play with that concept in the future.
Songs which do damage (e.g. Bladerain, Razor Tongue) are hard to balance and just plain feel wrong, and are the most likely to be edited out, though I might keep them for NPC Swordsingers when/if I get rid of them. I like the spirit of Song of Eternal Battle, but I’m not sure whether it’s any good. I imagine that it would be used as a stopgap to get some breathing room: the damage hasn’t been healed, but you can use it to stay healthy until you can get healing from some other source.
Lastly, I’m not sure whether some of these songs are too clunky. If I have enough good ideas in the future, I may just remove some on the basis of using too many words.
This hasn’t been playtested yet.