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I've always liked the concept of using sorcery to enhance one's abilities while sword-fighting. For instance, increasing speed, casting waves of fire with the sword, making the sword cut through anything, etc.

But, if someone focused on learning just sorcery instead of both sorcery and sword-fighting, he/she will be able to learn more and therefore cast more powerful spells which will allow him/her to defeat enemies without the risk of being in a close quarters situation.

Obviously, using "utility sorcery" instead of "combat sorcery" can be very helpful in some situations. For instance, if you are an assassin and use sorcery to see in the dark, hide in the shadows, decrease your body temperature, etc. But I am thinking exclusively in sorcery used for combat, for instance, elite soldiers that know how to use sorcery to enhance their combat abilities.

So my question is, what are the benefits (if any) of learning both sword-fighting and combat sorcery instead of just focusing on sorcery?

EDIT: I'm going to try to be more specific:

  • I'm looking for benefits during combat only. Intimidation or any other uses outside combat are not considered.

  • Let's assume that magic is an infinite resource, only limited by the user's stamina (so basically, using magic makes the user get tired, like fighting with a sword)

  • Lets also assume that magic is powerful enough to kill someone instantly (incinerating the target or whatever).
  • I'm not looking for an excuse about why one specific character knows both arts, I'm looking for a general reason of why it is better or worse in combat than learning just sorcery.
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    $\begingroup$ Could you tell us more about the sourcery - one difference might be that it takes a moment to incant an invocation of power, or can it be more or less instant, at the speed of thought (speed of drawing a sword)? $\endgroup$ Apr 12, 2020 at 13:26
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    $\begingroup$ Without knowing what sorcery can do or what trade offs are involved this is pure opinion. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Apr 12, 2020 at 13:38
  • $\begingroup$ Who needs a knife in a nuke fight anyway. All you have to do is push a button. $\endgroup$
    – VLAZ
    Apr 12, 2020 at 16:19
  • $\begingroup$ does enhancing the sword require prolong stamina too ? if it not, i guess thats the reason the sorcerer using sword, because it take less energy. outside of versatility in range and close combat, for the fireball thrower type like dual wielding gun and sword, or at least mid range, something akin to hidden throwing weapon in weapon duel, so opponent need to be careful even in a safe distance in melee combat, assuming long range weapon exist. $\endgroup$
    – Li Jun
    Apr 12, 2020 at 17:46

8 Answers 8

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The OP edited and clarified the question after I answered. So:

  • Camouflage.
    You really don't want to be singled out by enemy mages as a priority target early on. So you carry a spear, sword, and shield like the other troops, and drill with them. A bit like my social point, earlier, except that this time it is tactical.
    In the real world, some military water trailers had false tarpaulins so they could blend into the general traffic.
  • Blood.
    There are nasty things a mage can do with a drop of an enemy's blood. Some possibilities open up when you have the enemy in your control (but then usually you don't need the drop of blood any more), other things become possible when the injured enemy is back in his camp, thinking he has got away. Tracking spells, surveillance spells, perhaps even mind control.
    Sure, you could order ordinary swordsmen to give you wipes from their sword, but if you want it done right, collect the sample yourself.
  • Cold Iron. Being stabbed with an iron blade disrupts magic. Enemy mages know that. Enemy soldiers do so, too. So it is a good thing if the mage can parry sword strikes at need.

  • Swordsmanship as Fitness Training.
    We think of wizards as old and not terribly fit, a result of all those decades spent in their Sorceror's Tower studying ancient manuscripts. For an adventuring wizard it certainly pays to stay in form, and if there is the choice between pumping iron, running in circles, or training with the sword, why not train with the sword?
  • Swords as a Backup.
    Many magical systems in fiction are somehow balanced by the need for mana, or however magic points are called in the setting. So it makes sense to spend a little time on learning a self-defense method which does not require the expense of magic points.
  • Swords to Impress Muggles.
    So you can throw an exploding fireball doing 6 dice of damage. You can't use that in a tavern unless you want to burn it down over your head, and the slightly bellicose drunk might not be impressed by your uttered "back off, or I will put a spell on you." Wear a serious-looking sword and people will take you seriously. And learn enough that you don't make yourself a fool when you draw it.
  • Swordsmanship as a Social Distinction.
    Say there are three kinds of people in your world. There are nobles, there are clerics/court wizards, and there are commoners. A male noble bears a sword and knows how to use it. So an adventuring wizard who does not want to be seen as a court wizard, and not as a commoner, needs a sword.
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  • $\begingroup$ Speaking of fitness. Chess grandmasters often burn +6000 on tournament days just from thinking really hard. I know Fabiano Caruana plays soccer as part of his chess training, to work up his physical endurance. Maybe sorcerers have the same problem. $\endgroup$
    – Ryan_L
    Apr 12, 2020 at 15:55
  • $\begingroup$ +1, I think you cover all that came to my mind. Only "shortcoming" I came up after actually thinking about it is that there are more benefits to the extra fitness and to having backup than you mention. But yeah that is just me nitpicking after actually thinking if you missed something. Well done. $\endgroup$ Apr 12, 2020 at 15:55
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    $\begingroup$ Adding to "as backup", in many settings there are often some ways or other to make magic limited in some situations: anti-magic zones, poisons that cripple your ability to cast spells precisely, volatile mana nodes where all magic is violently amplified, creatures that hunt the smell of magic, etc. $\endgroup$
    – Alice
    Apr 12, 2020 at 16:23
  • $\begingroup$ While this is a good answer, its not what I'm looking for. I edited my question to be more specific about what I'm looking for (sorry, I should have been more specific from the start!) $\endgroup$
    – Alvarorg
    Apr 12, 2020 at 16:33
  • $\begingroup$ This and Grand Phason's answer have very good and interesting ideas, I wish I could choose both as the accepted answer. $\endgroup$
    – Alvarorg
    Apr 12, 2020 at 20:25
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The sword is for self defence and skirmishing. Sorcery is for the battlefield.

A modestly skilled sorcerer can incinerate their opponent. However it takes much more skill to not incinerate yourself and everyone in a ten foot radius. That's what the sword is for. If you are attacked on the street with (a) nearby civilians or (b) have friends and enemies mixed up in the fight, the fireball is a bad option.

The sword has an extra use if you are attacked alone. Pull out the sword and point it at your opponent. This buys you a few moments while your opponent sizes you up, where you can cast fireball/shield/teleport/whatever.

On the battlefield you stand in the middle of the formation and lob fireballs at range into the middle of the enemy formation. The splash damage is a good thing.

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Combat versatility

Having access to multiple arts and forms of combat can give our hypothetical person multiple avenues in battle.

On one hand, our man would not be defenseless in battle if he were to lose his sword - he can still cast things like shield spells or a blinding spell to try and regain an edge.

On the other hand, he wouldn't be completely defenseless if his magical energy (mana) was drained.

Spells may be used tactically in order to confuse an unaware enemy, and does provide a quick way of changing the combat strategy.

Preserving magical energy/mana

If a sorcerer's energy is rather finite, knowing swordsmanship or other forms of armed combat can help the sorcerer to save on his magical energy. While a simple spell like throwing a fireball might cost little energy per fireball - if the battle were to drag on, even simple spells like fireballs could wind up losing our sorceror a lot of energy.

In short, the sorcerer can then rely on using "regular" forms of combat in order to preserve his mana reserves.

There is an additional thing that the sorcerer can use - his sword and gear can provide material for transmutation spells - instead of having to summon "bound" weapons, he can leverage the existing material in his already physical weapons and won't have to maintain the shape and function of a bound/ghost/ethereal weapon.

Weapons (and other gear) as vessels

The sorceror may have the possibility to leverage his weapons and gear as additional reserves of mana, or may have the option of enchanting them for added power in combat.


Especially if the sorcerer/magic user is somewhat weaker than his peers, or has limitations on use of magical energy - using swordfighting and other regular combat techniques can aid a lot in healing the user to save energy/mana, especially if the battle wears on over a long time.

In this context, the user does have a big advantage in having two energy resources to tap on: Mana for spells and incantations, as well as physical prowess and stamina for regular combat.

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Sorcery is hard! Swordfighting too.

Your double threat is not an especially skilled person. Not very strong or quick with the sword so no fancy stuff. Not that smart either; conjuring demons and raising the dead is tricky!

But good at figuring out angles and leveraging what she has got. A little from column A, a little from column B - and she is besting first rate swordsmen with the Flickerblade spell and running thru her mage opponents before they can get the whole Raise the Dead thing going.

Flickerblade was actually an accident - a mispronounced party trick spell to conjure a flock of illusory birds. But she saw the potential. Most of her magic is that way - self taught. The sword fighting too.

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  • $\begingroup$ I like this, but this only works for one character. I'm looking for a reason of why entire armies would want to have groups of soldiers trained in both arts. I will edit the question to make it clearer. $\endgroup$
    – Alvarorg
    Apr 12, 2020 at 16:12
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    $\begingroup$ Same principle - it is easier to be a mediocre swordsman who knows 2 spells that help with sword fighting than it is to be a master at either craft. These same guys are serviceable bowmen, can ride a horse and not fall off, can patch up a simple wound (and they know a third spell to help with that), and know 4 chords on the guitar. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Apr 12, 2020 at 19:20
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It really depends upon the nature of the magic system. If magic can really be used to duplicate all of the effects of a sword, then there is no good reason. If they have different types of effectiveness, then it gives the character another option.

I'd think of it this way. Is magic like a gun vs a sword or like a bow vs a sword? In the former case, there are very few good reasons to learn to use a sword outside of sport, which is what we see today. In the latter case, they are fundamentally different weapons that can be effective in different ways, which is why historically they were both used depending on context.

Zuko is a good example of a character that does this. He is both a talented sword fighter and a firebender. On more than one occasion he uses his swords instead of firebending largely because it allows him to conceal his identity, as well as during a solar eclipse when he is able to challenge an otherwise more powerful firebender while neither of them can use their normal powers.

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  • $\begingroup$ Hmm, it makes a lot of sense when you think it like this. In my case, magic vs weapon would be like gun vs weapon. $\endgroup$
    – Alvarorg
    Apr 12, 2020 at 16:18
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Capability to fight in magic-forbidden zones and

Capability to fight under magical influence that could silence spells

I think having learned both disciplines is really an instant edge against magic casters who could suppress another by forbidding the spellcaster directly or indirectly from using magic.

An example would be a basic silence spell that could prevent the caster from talking/speaking, or entanglement spells that could hamper the caster from using their hands and arms for gesturing complicated magical arts.


There might also be areas in your world where anti-magic fields exists. And if there is so, this could be a really, really big problem for spellcasters.

Imagine being tasked to infiltrate a non-magic zone. If you only know spellcasting, you're immediately faced with a very large obstacle. Unlike if you know other arts, it opens the other possibilities to carve your way in.


A mage silenced is like a walking target dummy, and your hybrid swordsman, by learning both swordsmanship and spellcasting, automatically rules him out of this equation, enabling him to fight foes with crippling magic and and to fight under special areas where magic is completely nullified.

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Enhancing cutting magic: Maybe using a sword combined with cutting magic has more attack power than using the same spell directly. Maybe it also costs less mana because it enhances the structural integrity of the spell, or something.

Backup weapon, in low mana zones: Maybe there are low mana zones in the world, and a sword is an adequate backup weapon.

Finishing move after disruption spell: Maybe there are low cost disruption spells that can disrupt other spells, and spells aren’t instant.

Then an assassin mage can sneak close to the enemy, fire a disruption bolt and then kill quickly with a sword (or crossbow).

Unusual barrier penetrating attack: If swords are rare because magic is so good, then maybe many defensive barrier spells are specialized for anti magic defense, and maybe are bad against swords.

Stealthy non-magic attack: Maybe other mages or enchantments can sense magic usage (comparison: guns are loud, knives are silent). Sword usage can then be more stealthy for assasination. If getting detected is very dangerous because of all the powerful enemy mages, then maybe it’s safer to try and use a more stealthy sword (or a crossbow) if possible.

Sword doesn't leave/broadcast a magic signature: Maybe using magic leaves a magic signature that can be traced back to the mage, while using a sword doesn't. So a sword might be better for a fugitive or a criminal.

Maybe while using magic the signature is broadcast so that pursuers can find the specific mage in a city, so maybe a sword is better for a fugitive in a city. Maybe weaker magic broadcasts a weaker signature signal.

edit: Spell stability mechanic: More stable spells are more resistant to spell disruption bolts or fields. Also might be more powerful or mana efficient.

Internal spells (body, swords, armor, wands, etc), enchantments and rituals are more stable. Already active spells might be slightly more resistant. External direct cast spells are still useful and powerful but they can sometimes be disrupted, especially in close range or medium range combat. Long range ritual artillery magic is more difficult to disrupt. Close range mages or infantry can often activate spell disruption field enchantments and then attack with swords or other non-magic attacks. Swords can also be used to carve ritual magic into the ground.

With this mechanic non-magic or internal-magic weapons improve the combat effectiveness of an army.

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  • $\begingroup$ Very interesting ideas too, sadly I can only choose one answer as the accepted one. $\endgroup$
    – Alvarorg
    Apr 12, 2020 at 20:26
  • $\begingroup$ Always worth waiting a couple days before choosing an Answer. $\endgroup$ Apr 13, 2020 at 0:58
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Defence

While a big part of swordfighting (or any other fighting) is about striking the opponent effectively, the other half of the coin (and often the largest one) is about defence techniques and movements to prevent being struck yourself.

If in your world magic does not easily grant invulnerability, and is not available as an instant, automatic split-second reaction, then a 'combat mage' may have all kinds of effective offensive and strategic magic abilities but if there's the slightest chance of getting attacked in close range they would still need to practice skills like observing and predicting the enemy, dodging and parrying, managing distance, position and tempo. Those all are classic "physical combat" skills that could and would be effectively trained and taught in the same way as swordplay for non-mages.

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