Swordmages were powerful arcane spellcasters who blended martial combat with magic, often but not always elemental in nature. Ancient traditions of swordmages were common throughout Abeir and parts of Toril, such as Netheril and Evermeet, and were particularly common amongst eladrin, genasi, and githyanki. Wielding swords enchanted with spells, swordmages were powerful foes to cross, hardened through years of training in the melding of spell and blade.
The culture of the swordmage varied throughout the Realms but many archetypes existed. Most swordmages favored gods of magic such as Corellon or Selûne. Good-aligned swordmages often followed Torm and Tymora. Evil swordmages or those from Netheril were drawn to the worship of Shar, however, and had a more secretive bent in their traditions.
Genasi, with their elemental abilities and wild hearts, made excellent swordmages and were among the most common assault swordmages. Human and eladrin swordmages were also common, though more frequently they were shielding swordmages. Githyanki arcanists were frequently swordmages, having their own traditions similar to those of the shielding swordmage.
Much like fighters or paladins, swordmages were typically defensive in combat, serving to guard allies or distract enemies. The spells in which swordmages specialized often reflected this to some extent, such as the swordmage's warding ability, which enabled them to perpetually, while conscious and wielding a blade, maintain a field of magical force around them, making them harder to hit. Some swordmages extended this into the aegis of shielding spell, which allowed them to magically deflect an enemy's blows against an ally. An alternative spell was aegis of assault, which enabled the swordmage to teleport immediately to the location of an enemy that has attacked an ally. Some swordmages could even summon forth iridescent blades of pure magical energy, with the spell heritage of blades.
All swordmages maintained a close bond with their chosen blade, formed through one hour of meditation. This arcane bond allowed a swordmage to call his or her blade to them from a small distance or magically repair it through their arcane link over an hour-long period of meditation. In cases where the blade was broken, lost, or otherwise displaced a swordmage replaced it with a similar period of meditation, though this caused the old bond to dissolve.
As mages who specialized in melding arcane magic with melee combat, swordmages' characteristics differed greatly based upon the loosely-tied traditions and fighting styles they chose to employ. Most swordmages were practitioners of a distinct style, while others chose an eclectic blend of varied disciplines.
Assault swordmages held the philosophy that the best defense was a strong offense and protected their friends and allies through aggressive and flashy attacks. The traditions of the assault swordmage originated in Abeir, though since the Spellplague they have spread far and wide throughout Toril through the anarchs of Shyr. While they placed an extremely high value on intelligence, assault swordmages considered physical strength of utmost importance, using their strength of body and mind as one to enhance the potency of their attack spells. Typically, assault swordmages preferred the use of heavy blades such as falchions, though as a consequence they tended to put a smaller emphasis on their own defense. Typically, assault swordmages learned aegis of assault. Goliath swordmages often chose the assault style.
Where assault swordmages preferred brute force, shielding swordmages preferred the use of magic as a shield against harm. The traditions of the shielding swordmage style originated initially with the Coronal Guard, ancient protectors of Myth Drannor, and the tradition was passed on over millennia to the rest of the Realms. Like all swordmages, shielding swordmages were often extremely cunning foes, but they were are quite often immensely durable, a quality they use to enhance some of their spells while also allowing them to take blows that their allies would otherwise suffer. However, shielding swordmages did not solely rely on their constitution to preserve them and in all things they preferred a strong defense. As a result, shielding swordmages not only typically learned the aegis of shielding spell but also generally preferred one-handed blades such as longswords, allowing them to parry their foes more easily than a larger weapon would easily allow.
Wandering swordmages possessed a vast knowledge of a variety of subjects that spanned the Realms of Toril. They created their own style of fighting of based on insights they gleaned from these diverse cultures and learned spells that may not normally be uncovered by other swordmages. They were quick learners, wise enough to learn lessons from the histories of others and apply the knowledge to their own skill as combatants. Wandering swordmages saw events and conflicts from multiple points of view and gained perspective from every local fable, academic lesson, philosophical perspective or bit of lore they picked up in their travels.
Several traditions of swordmages existed in both Abeir and Toril, though Abeir seemed to have had more such arcanists. Many swordmages of these traditions from the primordial-dominated twin of Toril followed paths of arcane power that emulated the elemental fury wielded by primordials and dragons as well as the elementals from whom genasi are sired.
Three paths were predominantly used by swordmages, known as the "raging storm", the "burning blizzard", and the "astral fire". Swordmages of the raging storm used astrapomancy as the basis for their powers. Swordmages of the burning blizzard, on the other hand, specialized in nephomancy. The last of the common primordial paths was that of the astral fire and the swordmages who followed it used pyromancy as their primary weapon in battle.
- Rob Heinsoo, Logan Bonner, Robert J. Schwalb (September 2008). Forgotten Realms Player's Guide. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 24. ISBN 978-0-7869-4929-8.
- Rob Heinsoo, Logan Bonner, Robert J. Schwalb (September 2008). Forgotten Realms Player's Guide. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 25. ISBN 978-0-7869-4929-8.
- Rob Heinsoo, Logan Bonner, Robert J. Schwalb (September 2008). Forgotten Realms Player's Guide. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 24–25. ISBN 978-0-7869-4929-8.
- Rob Heinsoo, Logan Bonner, Robert J. Schwalb (September 2008). Forgotten Realms Player's Guide. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 26. ISBN 978-0-7869-4929-8.
- Rob Heinsoo, Logan Bonner, Robert J. Schwalb (September 2008). Forgotten Realms Player's Guide. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 26–27. ISBN 978-0-7869-4929-8.
- Rob Heinsoo, Logan Bonner, Robert J. Schwalb (September 2008). Forgotten Realms Player's Guide. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 68. ISBN 978-0-7869-4929-8.
- Andy Collins (December 2009). “Swordmage Essentials: Art of the Blade”. In Chris Youngs ed. Dragon #382 (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 17–24.
- Greg Bilsland (September 2008). “Class Acts: Primodial Paths”. In Chris Youngs ed. Dragon #367 (Wizards of the Coast), p. 61.