Does the Bladesinger Need Fixing?

There is much online discussion about fixing the Bladesinger; but does it really need fixing? The big ask from a lot of folks is to let bladesingers use INT as their attack and damage modifier, justifying this by citing that the Hexblade Warlock is able to use CHA. There’s a basic issue with that: the bladesinger is still a wizard. Hexblade gets to be better at stabbing because Hexblade has two spell slots at level 5 when a bladesinger has… nine; by level 10 that’s fifteen for the bladesinger but the Hexblade has… yep, still two.

So the problem folks have with the Bladesinger is that it’s not broken; it’s not a super-wizard-fighter-combination-chaos-banger. That’s not a thing on purpose.

The mechanics of the Bladesinger are fine. It’s a fun class with a lot of different, creative ways to play, that can tie in with your character’s story. Combat is extra fun, especially in small parties as the bladesinger can take different roles depending on the situation. Just like any class, it can be overpowered or underpowered depending on the player and the situation. What matters is the weaving of your creativity into the gameplay; and the Bladesinger can make combat feel like RP; it’s fantastic.

That’s why the problem with the Bladesinger is thematic. Bladesong has some deep, expandable lore. There are fighting styles, magic preferences and animal tattoos based on the master or school under whom the bladesinger trained, allowing players an extra level of customization. Your character has learned this secret elegant “dance” with a blade—so fast that it sings—developed by the elves over centuries.

“In combat, a bladesinger uses a series of intricate, elegant maneuvers that fend off harm and allow the bladesinger to channel magic into devastating attacks and a cunning defense.”

But then…

“From its inception as a martial and magical art, Bladesinging has been tied to the sword, more specifically the longsword.”

…a strength weapon.

An ancient art, developed by elves, as an elegant dance, with a blade moving so fast that it makes a harmonic sound… isn’t finesse? It’s the definition of finesse. The effectiveness of a weapon—any weaponused in this way would be dependent on the technique, not the weight. I can’t know the reasoning behind the lore mis-match here, but likely it’s just a gap in the evolution of the game where lore and mechanics didn’t line up exactly across editions, and WoTC just assumes you’ll figure it out at the table.

The result for a lot of bladesingers is that the rapier seems to be the only viable option, which is boring. There’s an easy fix and it doesn’t affect the balance of the class.

“You gain proficiency with light armor, and you gain proficiency with one type of one-handed melee weapon of your choice. This weapon type gains the finesse property for you.”

Conveniently, since you only pick up one weapon proficiency with Bladesong (this art takes decades, possibly centuries to learn with one weapon) there’s not much room for abuse here. The balance doesn’t change at all since folks can always choose a rapier and use the d8 damage die—the biggest damage die for a one-handed melee weapon. Now they just don’t have to.

Additionally, it makes the longsword which is the OG weapon of Bladesong a viable choice, along with the hafted weapons of the bird-schools. A hand-axe throwing Eagle-style bladesinger!? So cool, but RAW you have to jack up your STR… so, I guess it’s rapier again? Most players (certainly at our table) will totally sacrifice a die-level of damage for theme but adding another attribute to an already MAD class can hamper your options and make playing the character less fun.

Giving the Bladesinger finesse on their one, one-handed melee weapon is simple, balance-safe and fun. Like a pillow-party*.

*I don’t actually know what that is.

Bladesong School of the Shadowsnake

This Shadar-Kai school of Bladesong is intertwined with the very nature of the forsaken elves of Shadowfell. The Shadowsnake trains in the heritage weapon of the Shadar-Kai; a two-meter chain with spikes on alternating links and blades on either end as unique as each bladesinger. The Shadowsnake uses the innate teleportation of the Shadar-Kai to attack from the flank and confound much stronger adversaries. Born of the weave in the Shadowfell, a Shadowsnake leans towards spells of necrotic and psychic damage; using cold magic to slow their enemies before attacking with speed.

Artwork by: Elisa Serio

Tattoo

The Shadowsnake carries their tattoo in plain sight, sometimes covering their entire arms or neck. The ink is so closely matched to the Shadar-Kai’s ghostly complexion that it is only visible when the light hits it just right, revealing what appears to be the scales of a ghostly serpent.

Weapon

Every spiked chain is unique. As the Shadowsnake bladesingers train over centuries they develop and modify their chains. The movement of Bladesong requires they become one with the weapon, and it’s said each chain is more attached to the bladesinger than their tattoo. Each link can be customized per the style and preference of the wielder. Heavier ends, bladed links, split in the middle to use in either hand, hooks, spikes, even magically imbued links have been added.

A Shadar-Kai on the material plane will have difficulty locating a true weapon of their realm. Most smiths capable of forging standard weaponry can produce a reasonable facsimile.

Name Damage Weight Properties
Shadar-Kai Spiked Chain 1d6 piercing 6 lb. Reach
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