Swordlord (Apath)

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Unofficial rules compendium

The swordlords are among the deadliest and most feared fighters of the world. They have spent long years mastering the dueling sword, against both other dueling swords and all manner of other weaponry. Their speed and reflexes weave a net of impenetrable steel around them, from which they strike and harry their unfortunate opponents. They focus on avoiding damage and disarming foes; swordlords prefer wearing light or no armor, trusting their skill with their blades for protection.

Class Information

This is a prestige archetype. The swordlord is a stylish, defensive fighter.

Publisher: Purple Duck Games.

Prestige Class: Aldori Swordlord from Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Paths of Prestige. Also incorporates features of the swordlord fighter archetype from Pathfinder Player Companion: Inner Sea Primer.

Build Classes: Fighter.

Role: Swordlords are highly talented melee combatants, and while their true mastery shows itself in dueling situations or whenever flashy combat is called for, they can still carry their weight in more conventional battles.

Alignment: Any.

Hit Die: d10.

Class Skills

The swordlord's class skills (and the key ability for each) are Acrobatics (Dex), Bluff (Cha), Climb (Str), Craft (Int), Diplomacy (Cha), Intimidate (Cha), Knowledge (nobility) (Int), Perform (Cha), Profession (Wis), Ride (Dex), Sense Motive (Wis) Swim (Str).

Skill Ranks Per Level: 2 + Int modifier.

Class Features

The following are class features of the swordlord prestige archetype.

Weapon and Armor Proficiency

A swordlord is proficient with all simple weapons, with martial melee weapons, and with light armor, but not with any kind of shield.

Dueling Mastery

A swordlord gains the following feats at the indicated levels, ignoring the prerequisites. If the swordlord already has one of the indicated feats, he can select a combat feat he fulfills the prerequisites for instead.

  1. Exotic Weapon Proficiency (dueling sword), Weapon Finesse
  2. Dazzling Display
  3. Dueling Mastery

Deft Strike (Ex)

A swordlord can add his Dexterity bonus (if any) on damage rolls made with a dueling sword instead of his Strength bonus. This bonus on damage rolls applies whether the swordlord is wielding a dueling sword one-handed or two-handed, though the swordlord does not apply 1-1/2 times his Dexterity bonus on damage rolls while fighting two-handed. A swordlord cannot use this ability if he is wielding a shield or an off-hand weapon, including armor spikes, unarmed strikes, or natural weapons.

Bonus Feats

The swordlord can take fighter-only feats, counting swordlord levels as fighter levels for feat prerequisites. At level 2, and every 6 levels thereafter (level 8, 14, 20), the swordlord gains a combat feat as a bonus feat. The swordlord needs to fulfill all prerequisites for these feats.

Bravery (Ex)

Starting at 2nd level, a swordlord gains a +1 bonus on Will saves against fear. This bonus increases by +1 for every four levels beyond 2nd.

Steel Net (Ex)

At 3rd level, when a swordlord makes a full attack with a dueling sword, he gains a +1 bonus to AC against melee attacks until the beginning of his next turn. This bonus increases by +1 every four levels after 3rd.

Display Weapon Prowess (Ex)

At 4th level, a swordlord adds a bonus equal to ¼ his class level on Intimidate checks made while using Dazzling Display with a dueling sword. He also gains a +1 competence bonus on these Intimidate checks for each of the following feats he possesses with the dueling sword: Greater Weapon Specialization, Improved Critical, Weapon Specialization.

When involved in a duel, a swordlord's mastery of elaborate strokes and stances grants a bonus equal to 1/2 his class level on performance combat checks. These tricks are not merely for show, however, and are of great help in countering an enemy during a duel, granting a bonus equal to 1/2 his class level on rolls to make a dueling parry or use dueling resolve. For rules on duels and performance combat, see Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Ultimate Combat.

Duel Training (Ex)

Starting at 5th level, a swordlord gains additional benefits when fighting with a dueling sword.

Whenever he attacks with such a dueling sword, he gains a +1 bonus on attack and damage rolls.

Every four levels thereafter (9th, 13th, and 17th), the bonus increases by +1. A swordlord also adds this bonus to any combat maneuver checks made with a dueling sword. This bonus also applies to the swordlord 's Combat Maneuver Defense when defending against disarm and sunder attempts when he wields a dueling sword.

While a swordlord focuses on the dueling sword, there are also other dueling weapons to consider. The swordlord also learns to apply his training to other weapons required by a formal challenge or duel. Whenever he is wielding a weapon required by the rules or customs of the circumstance, he can use all his class abilities with that weapon as if it was a dueling sword. He cannot use feats this way, nor can he ignore non-proficiency penalties. At 9th level, the non-proficiency penalty penalty is reduced by 2 in this situation. At 13th level the swordlord is considered proficient with whatever weapon a situation demands.

Disarming Strike (Ex)

At 6th level, when a swordlord successfully disarms an opponent using a dueling sword, the swordlord also deals normal damage to the target.

Aggressive Defense (Ex)

A swordlord reduces the attack roll penalty for fighting defensively and/or using Combat Expertise by 2 at 7th level.

Shatter Confidence (Ex)

At 9th level, a swordlord can make an Intimidate check to demoralize his target as a swift action after he confirms a critical hit or succeeds at a disarm, reposition, or sunder combat maneuver with a dueling sword.

Whenever an opponent is demoralized by the swordlord's Intimidate, even if not by the ability above, any morale bonuses the target possesses are suppressed for a number of rounds equal to the swordlord's class level. Suppressed effects are not dispelled, and resume after this time elapses if their duration has not expired. Suppressed morale bonuses include those gained from a barbarian's rage ability; however, this ability does not actually end rage or suppress any other effects of rage or rage powers that do not provide morale bonuses.

Saving Slash (Ex)

At 10th level, when wielding a dueling sword, a swordlord can use a free action to try deflecting a melee critical hit targeting him, reducing its damage to that of a normal hit, with a 25% chance of success. This does not stack with the fortification special ability of magical armor or similar effects.

Dexterous Duelist (Ex)

At 11th level, a swordlord with at least one free hand is not denied his Dexterity bonus to Armor Class when making Acrobatics or Climb checks. In addition, if he stands from prone he does not provoke attacks of opportunity from any creatures he hit while he was prone earlier on the same turn.

Adaptive Tactics (Ex)

A swordlord learns to adapt his fighting style to counter his enemy's strengths. At level 12, after a swordlord declares an attack with his dueling sword against a creature he attacked or was attacked by during the previous round, as a swift action he can attempt a Sense Motive check (with a DC equal to 10 + the opponent's base attack bonus). If the check is successful, the swordlord can choose to gain a +2 circumstance bonus either on attack rolls or to AC against that creature until the beginning of his next turn. At level 17, this becomes a free action that can be used any number of times in a round.

Counterattack (Ex)

At 15th level, a swordlord can make an attack as an immediate action against an opponent who hits him with a melee attack, so long as the attacking creature is within the swordlord’s reach.

Greater Saving Slash (Ex)

At 16th level, a swordlord's saving slash has a 50% chance of reducing a melee critical hit to a normal hit. In addition, he can attempt a saving slash against a ranged critical hit, including those by rays and other ranged touch effects, with a 25% chance of success.

Confounding Duelist (Ex)

At 18th level, a swordlord who successfully uses shatter confidence also suppresses any competence or insight bonuses the target possesses.

Duel Mastery (Ex)

At 19th level, a swordlord gains Damage Reduction 5/— whenever he is wielding a dueling sword.

Dueling Sword Mastery (Ex)

At 20th level, a swordlord masters the dueling sword. Any attacks made with a dueling sword automatically confirm all critical threats and have their damage multiplier increased by 1 (×2 becomes ×3, for example). In addition, he cannot be disarmed while wielding a dueling sword.

Favored Class Bonuses

Instead of receiving an additional hit point or skill rank when gaining a sword lord level, the following races may select the following option. Dwarf: Add +1/4 dodge bonus to the sword lord’s Armor Class while flanked by opponents.

Elf: Add +1/2 bonus on Acrobatics checks to avoid provoking attacks of opportunity from movement.

Gnome: Treat your Dexterity score as +1/3 higher when fulfilling the prerequisites of combat feats.

Half-Elf: Gain 1/4 of Skill Focus with one of the following skills: Acrobatics, Bluff, Sense Motive, or Stealth. Once you have selected this benefit six times for a specific skill, you must select a new skill if you continue to gain this benefit.

Half-Orc: Add +1/2 bonus on Intimidate checks against an opponent when engaged in single combat.

Halfling: Add +1/2 bonus on Bluff checks against an opponent when engagd in single combat.

Human: Gain 1/4 of a fighter only combat feat.

Table: Swordlord

Level Base Attack Bonus Fort Save Ref Save Will Save Special
1st +1 +2 +0 +0 Exotic Weapon Proficiency (dueling sword), deft strike, Weapon Finesse
2nd +2 +3 +0 +0 Bonus feat, bravery +1, Dazzling Display
3rd +3 +3 +1 +1 Dueling Mastery, steel net
4th +4 +4 +1 +1 Display weapon prowess
5th +5 +4 +1 +1 Duel training
6th +6/+1 +5 +2 +2 Disarming strike
7th +7/+2 +5 +2 +2 Bravery +2, aggressive defense
8th +8/+3 +6 +2 +2 Bonus feat
9th +9/+4 +6 +3 +3 Shatter confidence
10th +10/+5 +7 +3 +3 Bravery +3, saving slash
11th +11/+6/+1 +7 +3 +3 Dexterous duelist
12th +12/+7/+2 +8 +4 +4 Adaptive tactics (swift)
13th +13/+8/+3 +8 +4 +4 Duel training (proficiency)
14th +14/+9/+4 +9 +4 +4 Bonus feat, bravery +4
15th +15/+10/+5 +9 +5 +5 Counterattack
16th +16/+11/+6/+1 +10 +5 +5 Greater saving slash
17th +17/+12/+7/+2 +10 +5 +5 Adaptive tactics (free)
18th +18/+13/+8/+3 +11 +6 +6 Bravery +5, confounding duelist
19th +19/+14/+9/+4 +11 +6 +6 Duel mastery
20th +20/+15/+10/+5 +12 +6 +6 Bonus feat, dueling sword mastery

Alternate Weapon Lords

The swordlord as described favors the dueling sword, but other cultures have developed dueling traditions based on other weapons. Simply replace all references to the dueling sword with the culturally appropriate weapon, usually an exotic weapon. Here are some examples of alternate dueling weapons: bastard sword, butterfly knife, dagger, elven curve blade, falchion, flambard, great terbutje, greatsword, katana, katar, khopesh, klar, longsword, nine-ring broadsword, nodachi, pata, quadrens, rapier, scimitar, scizore, sica, starknife, sword cane, swordbreaker dagger, temple sword, terbutje, two-bladed sword, wakizashi, and war razor. Not all of these weapons should have a class devoted to them in each world—GMs are encouraged to select one or a few such weapons as appropriate to the setting, or a player character might be allowed to be a pioneer that is developing a fighting technique for a new weapon.


These rules are from Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Ultimate Combat.

There is no form of combat more civilized than the duel. Be it with steel or spells, duels are used to settle disputes in situations where a chaotic melee would be disruptive or even illegal. Although duels are often considered honorable, this does not necessarily make them any less deadly. Duels often permit combatants to engage in more even fights than the fracas of the battlefield, allowing the true skill, power, and wit of each to determine the victor.

Starting a Duel

A duel is a form of combat, but unlike ordinary combat, the participants must all agree to willingly enter the duel and abide by its rules. If either side breaks the rules, that side is considered the loser of the duel, regardless of any other outcome, and if its members continue aggressive action, the fight continues using the standard rules for combat.

The rules for a duel are usually quite simple, but might vary if all of the participants are of a particular class or if all of the participants agree on specific restrictions or guidelines. Such discussions typically happen before the duel, allowing both sides to properly prepare, but as with all elements of a duel, this is not always the case. Most duels utilize the following simple rules.

  • Each participant must fight alone and can receive no help from outside sources, with the exception of other creatures who are taking part in the duel, such as familiars, animal companions, or other bonded creatures. If the duel consists of more than one participant on a side, those fighting alongside one another are free to aid each other.
  • The types of weapons that can be used in the duel are agreed upon before the duel begins. Typical restrictions include only using melee weapons, ranged weapons, unarmed (or natural) weapons, magic, or any combination of these. The rules of a duel may require all duel participants to use the same weapon or types of attacks. This is especially the case in duels that require swords, spells, or firearms. Absent any such rules, any type of weapon is permissible.
  • The duel usually lasts until one of the combatants has been knocked unconscious or otherwise prevented from continuing. Spells such as hold person do not end duels, but flesh to stone certainly does, assuming the target fails her saving throw. Some duels go to the death and are only ended when one duelist or team is cut to pieces or reduced to a pile of smoking ashes. Other duels last until first blood, first strike, or a number of successful attacks. These latter types of duels are usually intended to settle disputes where a creature’s death is not the required end result.
  • In the case of duels that exclusively use magic, additional rules might prohibit the use of summoned or conjured creatures, unless the duel is performed by such creatures at the behest of the spellcasters involved (as is common among druids and summoners).
  • In the case of duels exclusively among warriors, additional rules typically prohibit the use of poison or even entire types of attacks (such as prohibiting ranged attacks, or requiring the use of firearms). In addition, most such duels prohibit the use of magic that affects other participants, although spells that enhance the caster are sometimes allowed.

Duel Combat

A duel functions much like ordinary combat, with a few notable exceptions. At the start of the duel, each participant makes an initiative check, just like in standard combat. Because duels are always planned and expected, there is never a surprise round. Alternatively, some duels start off with each side facing off, waiting for the other to flinch or break resolve. In such cases, substitute a Bluff, Intimidate, or Sense Motive check in place of the standard initiative check. The skill used is decided by the individual participants and is reflective of their approach to the duel.

At the beginning of each round, the participants check the status of the duel (the GM may want to mark the beginning of each round in some way during initiative tracking as a reminder to check this status). So long as all participants agree to continue dueling, the duel goes on. If any one of the participants withdraws from the duel, the duel immediately ends for all participants, even those who would see it continue. The participant or side that ended the duel is considered the loser of the duel. The duel’s remaining participants can, among themselves, agree to resume the duel, but this is considered a separate duel from the previous one and does not involve those who withdrew from the duel.

Each participant in a duel can act normally on his turn, but his actions must target or affect either himself or one of the other duel participants (either an ally or an opponent). For example, a warrior might make an attack with his bow against anyone participating in the duel, or he might administer a potion to a wounded ally also involved in the duel, but he could not attack anyone other than a participant. Similarly a dueling wizard could not cast haste on allies outside the duel while excluding himself, but he could cast it on his allies if he was among the targets. The same goes for offensive spells, such as fireball—the dueling caster must include one of his opponents in the duel among the targets of the spell, and could not affect some nearby creatures to the exclusion of his opponent.

In addition to his normal actions, each participant in a duel may use one of a number of special immediate actions, available only to characters participating in a duel. They may take dueling counters, dueling dodges, dueling parries, or dueling resolve actions, each of which is described below.

Dueling Counter

Table: Dueling Counter Modifiers
Circumstance Check Modifier
Spell is of a different school -2
Spell is of the same school, but not the same spell +2
Spell is of a higher level than the spell being countered +1/level above
Spell is the same as the spell being countered +10

Each participant in a duel can take a special action called a dueling counter. A dueling counter is similar to a counterspell, but is easier to use.

When a dueling opponent tries to cast a spell, the targeted spellcaster can make a Spellcraft check (DC 15 + the spell’s level) as a free action. If the check succeeds, she can identify her opponent’s spell and can attempt a dueling counter. If it fails, she cannot attempt a dueling counter against that spell (although special actions are still available to her).

A dueling counter is an immediate action that does not provoke attacks of opportunity. To attempt a dueling counter, the countering duelist must expend a spell or spell slot of a level equal to or higher than that of the spell being cast. Note that characters who cast spells spontaneously (such as bards, oracles, and sorcerers) must choose which exact spell they are using to counterspell in addition to the slot being used. The countering duelist must then make a caster level check against a DC of 15 + the spell’s caster level. Unlike when using a true counterspell action (which requires a readied action), even expending an exact copy of the spell being cast does not guarantee success. The caster attempting the counterspell receives a bonus or penalty on her check depending upon the level of the spell slot being expended and the exact spell used, as noted in Table: Dueling Counter Modifiers. If the check is successful, the spell is countered—it is negated and the spell is lost. If not, the spell takes effect as normal and the duelist attempting to counter the spell takes a –2 penalty on any saving throws made against the spell’s effect.

Alternatively, a spellcaster can use dispel magic or greater dispel magic as a dueling counter. When a duelist spellcaster does so, he does not need to identify the spell being cast, can counter a spell of any level, and must succeed at a caster level check against a DC of 11 + the spell’s caster level. When dispel magic is used as a dueling counter, it is not modified by any of the circumstances in Table: Dueling Counter Modifiers.

Because readying a counterspell is its own action, a dueling spellcaster can prepare to counterspell and make a dueling counter in the same round. This is only useful if the participant is facing multiple opponents, or someone with access to the Quicken Spell feat or other abilities that allow casting two spells in the same round.

Dueling Dodge

Each participant in a duel can take a special action called a dueling dodge. This special maneuver gives a duelist a temporary bonus to his AC and on Reflex saves, but leaves him vulnerable to other attacks until the start of his next turn.

Whenever a character participating in a duel is the target of a melee attack, a ranged attack, a supernatural ability, or a spell or spell-like ability from another participant of the duel, he can declare that he is making a dueling dodge as an immediate action. This grants him a +4 circumstance bonus to his AC and on any Reflex saving throws he must make as a result of the attack. This bonus only applies until the attack that triggered the immediate action is resolved. If the attacker can make more than one such attack, all subsequent attacks are resolved as normal. This immediate action must be declared before the attack is resolved. If the attack does not require an attack roll or a Reflex saving throw, the immediate action is still spent, but with no effect.

Once the attack is resolved, the creature that attempted a dueling dodge takes a –2 penalty to his AC and on all Reflex saving throws until the start of his next turn (even if the duel ends).

Dueling Parry

Each participant in a duel can take a special action called a dueling parry. This special action allows the duelist to deflect a blow from a melee or ranged attack directed at her. A dueling parry cannot deflect spell or firearm ranged attacks.

Whenever a character participating in a duel is the target of a melee or ranged attack from another participant of the duel, she can declare that she is attempting to parry the attack as an immediate action. She must then make an attack roll with whatever weapon she is currently wielding, using her full base attack bonus but with a –5 penalty. If this attack roll is equal to or greater than the attack roll being made against her, she parries the attack and it is considered a miss. If the duelist attempting the parry is unarmed, she takes a further –2 on the attempt. If the duelist possesses the parry class feature, she can attempt this dueling parry once per round without spending an immediate action if she is using her parry class feature.

This dueling parry only applies to one attack. Other attacks made by the same attacker are resolved normally. If the attack is a hit and a critical threat, but would be parried by the duelist, it is still a hit, but no confirmation roll is made and damage is rolled normally.

Dueling Resolve

Once per duel, a character can use a special action called dueling resolve. This special action allows a duelist to keep on fighting despite a crippling spell or terrible injury.

Whenever a character participating in a duel fails a Fortitude or Will saving throw, or is reduced to fewer than 0 hit points, he can use dueling resolve as an immediate action. If he failed a Fortitude or Will saving throw, he can attempt another saving throw, using the same bonus. If this second saving throw is a success, the spell or effect prompting the saving throw does not take effect until the end of his next turn (even though its duration begins immediately). If he is reduced to fewer than 0 hit points (but not slain), he does not fall unconscious or gain the staggered condition, and can act normally until the end of his next turn, at which point he becomes staggered or unconscious based on his current hit points. If, by the end of the character’s next turn, the spell or effect ends or he is brought to above 0 hit points, he is fatigued, but otherwise suffers no ill effect. A character can only use this ability once per duel.

Duels and Performance Combat

If you are using the duel rules within a performance combat, successfully performing a dueling counter, dueling dodge, or dueling resolve all allow the combatant to make a performance combat check as a free action. Since the dueling counter, dueling dodge, and dueling resolve action are all immediate actions, and are usually not done on the character’s turn, this means that the combatant using one of these dueling actions must spend a victory point to make the performance combat check (not an action).

Duel Results

While duels can be treated as another form of combat, they are usually undertaken to resolve a dispute between colleagues or rivals and are not usually intended to end in death. As a result, duels are usually fought with a specific prize in mind. Arcane academies are known for having duels to determine important faculty positions and as competitions between students for social standing and prizes. In some places, duels are so common that special areas are constructed specifically for duels. Such dueling yards are sometimes made with special enchantments that can be turned on for dueling competitions. Such fields typically convert all damage to nonlethal damage and prevent magic that instantly slays a foe or does permanent harm. That is not to say that accidents don’t happen, and more than one student has lost a limb or even her life while within such “safe” fields.

Fighters, paladins, cavaliers, and other characters that primarily rely on weapon attacks usually engage in duels to settle points of honor, but can also be rather particular in choosing their dueling space.

Regardless of the conditions, most duels are serious affairs, with each side putting pride, honor, treasure, and even their lives on the line to win the day. While villains might try to cheat the rules and exploit every advantage, nobler duelists see the competition as a chance to prove their superiority on the field of battle using only their skills and wits, rather than chance or superior numbers.

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