Vanguards are accomplished with both weapons and spells. They also posses a number of signature class abilities and can combine raw spell power and combat ability into an effective and unified whole. This makes the vanguard versatile and, perhaps more importantly, highly adaptable to just about any situation, both in and out of combat. While the vanguard might not be able to match the raw damage output of a fighter or the pure spell potential of a wizard or sorcerer, he more than makes up for this in sheer flexibility. This is not to say that a vanguard fails to be a viable spellcaster or warrior, however! The vanguard can still rush into combat and bravely stand shoulder to shoulder with the fighter or paladin on the front line, although he will most likely not have the same resilience or staying power that they do. He can also sling arcane spells with enough skill to earn the respect of even the most jaded wizard or sorcerer, but he will certainly run out of his spells long before either of his purely magical companions do and he will never be able to learn their most powerful spells. The vanguard’s true power lies in the close synergy which comes from the merging of his combat prowess and arcane magic in altogether new, interesting, and unique ways.

The vanguard forms a deep and powerful arcane bond with his weapon and, over time, unlocks increasingly more formidable ways of combining his spells and fighting abilities. The specific type of arcane bond weapon chosen is extremely important and, once selected, cannot be changed. In fact, together with spell selection, it is the most important choice the vanguard must make and one that will profoundly impact the character for the whole of his career. The weapon selected greatly affects the overall feel the vanguard will have. This actually allows for a great deal of variation among different vanguard characters and helps to insure that no two vanguards are exactly the same. A vanguard that chooses the long bow for his arcane bond, for examples has a very different feel from one with a sword or for his arcane bond weapon, and one with a great axe would be different from either one!

Role: Vanguards rely on mobility and tactical knowledge as much as their skills with weapons and spells in combat. In fact, because of their typically high intelligence and keen battle sense, most vanguards tend to be very skilled tacticians. In combat, they carefully consider their many options before boldly executing a battle plan. Although rarely reckless, vanguards tend to be among the first into a battle, many times actually leading a charge (after first using protective and utility spells to their best advantage, of course). Very few vanguards are overtly boastful. However, they do often think of themselves as belonging to an elite class of warrior and often have a great deal of pride in themselves, their unique abilities, and the vanguard traditions.

While a vanguard can certainly take the role of a party’s main warrior or primary arcane spell caster, he is often much more effective in a group in which he can be flexible in how he supports the party, switching from a direct combat role to a spellcasting one as each situation warrants. Because the vanguard can deal considerable amounts of damage but lacks long-term staying power, he often takes the role of point-man. By being in front, the vanguard can use his spells, weapon, and armor to strike a harsh blow to an enemy force quickly, softening up major targets or eliminating minor enemies, thus clearing a path for his party’s main combatant to do severe damage to the major foes, and freeing his party’s main spellcaster to focus on complicated magics rather than worrying about crowd control.

Alignment: Any. While their flexible powers and independent nature often appeal strongly to chaotic characters, vanguards have no alignment restrictions.

Hit Die: d8.

Class Skills

The vanguard’s class skills are Appraise (Int), Climb (Str), Craft (Int), Fly (Dex), Handle Animal (Cha), Knowledge (arcana) (Int), Knowledge (dungeoneering) (Int), Knowledge (engineering) (Int), Knowledge (nature) (Int), Intimidate (Cha), Linguistics (Int), Perception (Wis), Profession (Wis), Ride (Dex), Spellcraft (Int), Stealth (Dex), Survival (Wis), and Swim (Str).

Skill Ranks per Level: 4 + Int modifier.

Table: Vanguard
Level Base Attack Bonus Fort Save Ref Save Will Save Special Spells per Day
1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th
1st +0 +2 +0 +2 Arcane bond weapon, arcane strike, cantrips 1
2nd +1 +3 +0 +3 Combat casting, iron grip 2
3rd +2 +3 +1 +3 Weapon channel (touch spells) 3
4th +3 +4 +1 +4 Bonus feat 3 1
5th +3 +4 +1 +4 Vanguard’s spell penetration 4 2
6th +4 +5 +2 +5 Swift spell 1/day 4 3
7th +5 +5 +2 +5 Spell block 4 3 1
8th +6/+1 +6 +2 +6 Arcane smite 4 4 2
9th +6/+1 +6 +3 +6 Enhance bond weapon, swift spell 2/day 5 4 3
10th +7/+2 +7 +3 +7 Bonus feat, weapon channel (save spell) 5 4 3 1
11th +8/+3 +7 +3 +7 Vanguard’s spell penetration +2 5 4 4 2
12th +9/+4 +8 +4 +8 Swift spell 3/day 5 5 4 3
13th +9/+4 +8 +4 +8 Spell sunder 5 5 4 3 1
14th +10/+5 +9 +4 +9 Weapon channel (full attack) 5 5 4 4 2
15th +11/+6/+1 +9 +5 +9 Swift spell 4/day 5 5 5 4 3
16th +12/+7/+2 +10 +5 +10 Bonus feat 5 5 5 4 3 1
17th +12/+7/+2 +10 +5 +10 Vanguard’s spell penetration +4 5 5 5 4 4 2
18th +13/+8/+3 +11 +6 +11 Swift spell 5/day 5 5 5 5 4 3
19th +14/+9/+4 +11 +6 +11 Spell grapple 5 5 5 5 5 4
20th +15/+10/+5 +12 +6 +12 Bond weapon mastery 5 5 5 5 5 5

Class Features

All of the following are class features of the vanguard.

Weapon and Armor Proficiency

A vanguard is proficient with all simple and martial weapons. Vanguards are also proficient with light armor and shields (except tower shields). A vanguard can cast spells while wearing light armor and carrying a shield (other than a tower shield) without incurring the normal arcane spell failure chance. Like any other arcane spellcaster, a vanguard wearing medium or heavy armor incurs a chance of arcane spell failure if the spell in question has a somatic component. A multiclass vanguard still incurs the normal arcane spell failure chance for arcane spells received from other classes.


A vanguard casts arcane spells drawn from the wizard/sorcerer spell list. He can cast any spell he knows without preparing it ahead of time. To learn or cast a spell, a vanguard must have a Charisma score equal to at least 10 + the spell level. The Difficulty Class for a saving throw against a vanguard‘s spell is 10 + the spell level + the vanguard’s Charisma modifier.

Like other spellcasters, a vanguard can cast only a certain number of spells of each spell level per day. His base daily spell allotment is shown on “Table 1: The Vanguard.” In addition, he receives bonus spells per day if he has a high Charisma score.

The vanguard’s selection of spells is limited. A vanguard begins play knowing four 0-level spells and two 1st-level spells of his choice. At each new vanguard level, he gains one or more new spells known, as indicated on Table: Vanguard Spells Known. (Unlike spells per day, the number of spells a vanguard knows is not affected by his Charisma score. The numbers on Table: Vanguard Spells Known are fixed.)

Upon reaching 5th level, and at every third vanguard level after that (8th, 11th, and so on), a vanguard can choose to learn a new spell in place of one he already knows. In effect, the vanguard “loses” the old spell in exchange for the new one. The new spell’s level must be the same as that of the spell being exchanged and it must be at least one level lower than the highest-level spell the vanguard can cast. A vanguard may swap only a single spell at a given level and must choose whether or not to swap the spell at the same time that he gains new spells known for that level.

A vanguard need not prepare his spells in advance. He can cast any spell he knows at any time, assuming he has not yet used up his allotment of spells per day for the spell’s level.


Vanguards learn a number of cantrips (or 0-level spells) as noted on Table: Vanguard Spells Known. These spells are cast like any other spell, but they do not consume any slots and may be used again.

Table: Vanguard Spells Known
Level Spells Known
0th 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th
1st 4 2
2nd 5 2
3rd 5 3
4th 5 3 2
5th 5 4 3
6th 5 4 4
7th 5 4 4 2
8th 5 5 4 3
9th 6 5 4 4
10th 6 5 4 4 2
11th 6 5 5 4 3
12th 6 5 5 4 4
13th 6 5 5 4 4 2
14th 6 5 5 5 4 3
15th 6 5 5 5 4 4
16th 6 5 5 5 4 4 2
17th 6 5 5 5 5 4 3
18th 6 5 5 5 5 4 4
19th 6 5 5 5 5 5 4
20th 6 5 5 5 5 5 5

Arcane Bond Weapon (Ex)

At 1st level, a vanguard forms a powerful bond with a specific weapon. Should the vanguard ever have to replace the weapon (see below), he must choose another weapon of the same kind (longsword, dagger, short bow, etc.). This bond allows the vanguard to meld his arcane powers with his fighting ability. It also serves as an increasingly powerful magical weapon.

The vanguard begins play with his bonded weapon at no cost. This weapon is of masterwork quality, although it is not made of any special material. The vanguard must wield his bonded weapon in order to make use of its abilities. If a vanguard ever attempts to cast a spell without having his bonded weapon in hand, he must make a concentration check or lose the spell. The DC for this check is equal to 20 + the spell’s level.

When holding his bonded weapon, the vanguard is treated as having the Eschew Materials feat, allowing him to cast any spell with a material component costing 1 gp or less without needing that component (his bonded weapon effectively takes the place of the material component). He may also cast spells that normally require somatic components solely through arcane gestures made using his bonded weapon. This allows the vanguard to cast spells while wielding his bonded weapon and still leaves his other hand free to handle a shield or other item.

Beginning at 5th level a vanguard can add additional magic abilities to his bonded weapon as if he had the Craft Magic Arms and Armor feat. This takes half the time of normal magic item creation but still incurs the full cost. The magic properties of a bonded weapon, including any magic abilities added to it, only function for the vanguard who owns it. If a bonded weapon’s owner dies, or the vanguard is separated from his bonded weapon and forced to replace it, the weapon reverts to being an ordinary masterwork weapon.

If a bonded weapon is damaged, it is restored to full hit points the next time the vanguard rests and regains his spell slots for the day. If the bonded weapon is lost or destroyed, it can be replaced after 1 week in a special ritual that costs 100 gp per vanguard level plus the cost of the masterwork weapon. This ritual takes 8 hours to complete. A weapon replaced in this way possesses all the additional enchantments of the previous bonded weapon. A vanguard can designate an existing magic weapon to be his bonded weapon. This functions in the same way as replacing a lost or destroyed item except that the new magic weapon retains its abilities while gaining the standard benefits and drawbacks of being a bonded weapon, however it does not gain any of the additional enhancements that had been placed on the old bonded weapon.

Arcane Strike

At 1st level, a vanguard gains Arcane Strike as a bonus feat.

Combat Casting

At 2nd level, a vanguard gains Combat Casting as a bonus feat.

Iron Grip (Ex)

At 2nd level vanguard adds a bonus equal to half his vanguard level to his CMD when defending against opponents’ attempts to disarm or sunder his bonded weapon.

Weapon Channel (Su)

As a standard action, a vanguard of 3rd level or higher can cast a spell with a range of touch and deliver it through an attack with his bonded weapon. Touch spells channeled in this way must have a casting time of one standard action or less. If the vanguard hits with his bonded weapon, he does damage normally and then the touch spell is resolved. If the vanguard’s attack misses, the spell is lost. Channeling touch spells in this way does not provoke an attack of opportunity. As with any touch spell, a channeled spell deals double damage on a successful critical hit. A channeled spell may not be enhanced or otherwise altered by metamagic feats.

At 10th level, a vanguard may make a concentration check as if casting defensively (DC 15 + double the spell’s level) in order to avoid losing the spell if the attack misses. The vanguard can make other attacks (using other weapons) and take other actions without using the touch spell, but if he casts another spell or stops wielding his bonded weapon, the channeled spell is lost.

At 14th level, a vanguard can use his weapon channel ability as part of a full attack action. The spell affects every target the weapon hits during the round and then concludes at the end of that round. In addition, spells the vanguard channels are no longer lost if the attack misses.

Bonus Feats

At 4th, 10th, and 16th level, a vanguard gains a bonus feat. At each such opportunity, he can choose a metamagic feat, a combat feat, or Spell Focus. The vanguard must still meet all prerequisites for a bonus feat, including caster level minimums. These bonus eats are in addition to the feats that a character of any class gets from advancing levels.

Vanguard’s Spell Penetration (Su)

At 5th level any enhancement bonus to attack rolls the vanguard has with his bonded weapon is also added to all caster level checks he makes to overcome a creature’s spell resistance. This bonus stacks with the Spell Penetration and Greater Spell Penetration feats. At 11th level, the vanguard gains an additional +2 bonus to caster level checks made to penetrate spell resistance when wielding his bonded weapon, and at 17th level this bonus increases to +4.

Swift Spell (Sp)

Beginning at 6th level, once per day a vanguard wielding his bonded weapon may cast a single spell that he knows as a swift action. Only spells with a casting time of one standard action or less may be cast in this way. He gains one additional daily use of this ability at 9th, 12th, 15th, and 18th level.

Spell Block (Su)

Beginning at 7th level, as an immediate action a vanguard can attempt to block certain spells with his arcane bond weapon. This is treated as though the vanguard was using a quickened dispel magic as a counterspell (see the dispel magic spell description). Only spells that directly target the vanguard can be blocked in this way.

The vanguard must make a dispel check (1d20 + caster level) with a DC equal to 11 + the caster level of the spell being blocked. If the check fails, the spell effects are resolved as normal against the vanguard. If the check is successful, the spell has no effect on the vanguard, although it could still affect others if they were also targets of the spell. The vanguard may use this ability a number of times per day equal to 3 + his Charisma modifier.

Arcane Smite (Su)

Beginning at 8th level, as a standard action a vanguard may expend any one spell he knows and is able to cast in order to store that raw magical energy in his bonded weapon. The next time he attacks with his bonded weapon, this magical energy is discharged, adding +1d6 damage to the attack per spell level expended (+1d6 for a first level spell, +2d6 for a second level spell, etc.). If the vanguard’s attack misses, the spell energy is expended with no effect. At 10th level, a vanguard can use Arcane Smite as a move action instead of a standard action. At 12th level, a vanguard can use Arcane Smite as a swift action.

Enhance Bond Weapon (Su)

As a standard action, a vanguard of 9th level or higher may enhance his bonded weapon by adding one of the following weapon qualities: defending, flaming, frost, ghost touch, shock or thundering. The vanguard may only have one such quality in effect at a time, though he can switch from one weapon quality to another as a move action. He may dismiss the enhancement entirely as a free action. The vanguard may use this ability for a number of rounds per day equal to his class level. These rounds do not need to be consecutive.

Spell Sunder (Su)

At 13th level, a vanguard can attempt to dispel spell effects with his arcane bonded weapon. As a standard action the vanguard attacks one target with his bonded weapon. If the attack succeeds, the weapon deals normal damage and the vanguard must make a dispel check (1d20 + caster level). This acts as the targeted dispel use of dispel magic. This counts as a use of the vanguard’s spell block ability.

Spell Grapple (Su)

At 19th level, when a vanguard successfully uses his spell block ability, he stores the blocked spell in his bonded weapon. As a full round action, the vanguard can release the stored spell, making all decisions necessary to cast it and using his own caster level and ability scores. The vanguard can only store a single spell in his bonded weapon at a time, and any stored spell is lost when the vanguard sleeps (or if he is knocked unconscious).


Spell Grapple – Does the Vanguard automatically know what spell he has stored in his weapon or is the Spellcraft check to identify the spell required to be made when it is cast?

He’d have to make a Spellcraft check, since the ability does not say otherwise.


Bond Weapon Mastery (Su)

A vanguard of 20th level or higher automatically confirms all critical threats with his bonded weapon. Also, his bonded weapon can no longer be the target of disarm or sunder attacks.

Favored Class Bonuses

Instead of receiving an additional skill rank or hit point whenever they gain a level in a Favored Class, some races have the option of choosing from a number of other bonuses, depending upon their Favored Classes. The following options are available to the listed race who have vanguards as their Favored Class, and unless otherwise stated, the bonus applies each time you select the listed Favored Class reward.

Race Bonus Source
Rogue Genius Games
Dwarves Increase by +1 your effective caster level for purpose of the Arcane Strike feat. RGG:EFCO
Half-Elves Add +1/6 of a daily use of the swift spell ability. (One additional use/day for every six times you select this option.) RGG:EFCO
Humans Add +1/2 to your CMD against grapple and trip maneuvers when you are wielding your bonded weapon. (+1 to CMD against grapple and trip maneuvers when you are wielding your bonded weapon for every two times you select this option.) RGG:EFCO
Lapith Gain SR equal to 5 + the number of times you select this option. RGG:HHO
Pipers Add +1/2 level to all Stealth and Survival checks. (+1 to these checks for every two times you select this option.) RGG:HHO

Archetypes & Alternate Class Features

When a character selects a class, he must choose to use the standard class features found or those listed in one of the archetypes presented here. Each alternate class feature replaces a specific class feature from its parent class. For example, the elemental fist class feature of the monk of the four winds replaces the stunning fist class feature of the monk. When an archetype includes multiple class features, a character must take all of them—often blocking the character from ever gaining certain familiar class features, but replacing them with equally powerful options. All of the other class features found in the core class and not mentioned among the alternate class features remain unchanged and are acquired normally when the character reaches the appropriate level (unless noted otherwise). A character who takes an alternate class feature does not count as having the class feature that was replaced when meeting any requirements or prerequisites.

A character can take more than one archetype and garner additional alternate class features, but none of the alternate class features can replace or alter the same class feature from the core class as another alternate class feature. For example, a paladin could not be both a hospitaler and an undead scourge since they both modify the smite evil class feature and both replace the aura of justice class feature. A paladin could, however, be both an undead scourge and a warrior of the holy light, since none of their new class features replace the same core class feature.

Archetypes are a quick and easy way to specialize characters of a given class, adding fun and flavorful new abilities to already established adventurers. Characters may take more than one archetype if they meet the requirements.

Table: Vanguard Archetypes / Alternate Class Features
Archetype / Alternate Class Feature Class Features Changed or Replaced
Class Skills Skill Ranks per Level Weapon & Armor Spells Cantrips Arcane Bond Weapon Arcane Strike Combat Casting Iron Grip Weapon Channel Bonus Feats Vanguard’s Spell Penetration Swift Spell Spell Block Arcane Smite Enhance Bond Weapon Spell Sunder Spell Grapple Bond Weapon Mastery
Base Ability Additional Magical Abilities Touch Spells Save Spell Full Attack 4 10 16 5 11 17 6 9 12 15 18 8 10 12
Rogue Genius Games
Blacksnake X X X X X X X
Cloakfighter X X X X X X X
Harrier X X X X X X X
Physical Exemplar X X X X X X X
Spellhammer X X X X X X X
Weapon Champion X X X X X X X
Youxia X X X X X X X
X=replaced, (X)=optional replacement, C=changed, 1=archetype package 1, 2=archetype package 2
Section 15: Copyright Notice

Genius Guide to: Expanded Favored Class Options. Copyright 2011, Rogue Genius Games. Author: Michael Kenway

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