Ability Scores: I started with the most obvious one first: an 18 in Intelligence, along with the +2 racial bonus to bring it to 20 and a +5 bonus. If there’s a better choice for a swordmage, I don’t know what it is.
To some degree, this makes every other ability a dump stat. I had already decided I needed at least a +1 in Strength, for Greenflame Blade. This led me to seriously consider the feat Armour Proficiency (Hide) which requires Strength 13 and Constitution 13. That left me with enough points for two 10s and an 8; after a bit of thought, I put the 8 into everyone’s favourite dump stat: Charisma. But it probably could have ended up in Dexterity or Wisdom without significantly impacting the character.
Skills: This consisted of choosing four skills out of six. I decided to avoid the two Charisma-based skills. My swordmage would be smart and lethal, but still socially-awkward, much like zombie Einstein.
Feats: Even with an extra human feat, this was still a tough decision. In the end, I took Armour Proficiency (Hide), to gain another point on my Armour Class. I knew I’d be in close combat a lot, and every little bit would help. It brought my AC up to 21, which is respectible for a 1st-level character.
I spent the other feat on Weapon Proficiency in Bastard Sword. I knew I’d be using Weapon damage a fair bit, and I wanted to be able to hurt things when I hit them. In effect, a +1 to damage.
In retrospect, I may have been better off going with Intelligent Blademaster and Action Surge. Still, there’s something settling and fulfilling about knowing what sort of armour and weapon you’ll be using for the next 30 levels. It does make magic item shopping easier.
That pretty much brings us to the end of character generation. You can check out his character sheet, depicting him about halfway through level 1.
Subsequent leveling choices: My swordmage didn’t stay at 1st-level, of course. There were a lot fewer choices to be made at levels 2 and 3, but they still had a significant impact on playing him.
Level 2: The 1/2-level bonus to (almost) everything goes up — hurrah! I also got to choose a feat and a utility power.
For the feat, I (finally) picked up Intelligent Blademaster. I was getting a fair number of basic attacks in, between charging and opportunity attacks and Aegis of Assault, so it made good sense.
For the utility power, I tend to consider the Encounter powers before I look at the Daily powers. And one of them, Dimensional Warp, is excellent. I knew it’d be good before I played it — but I was surprised by just how good it is.
Level 3: Time to get another encounter power. By this point I’d been having so much fun with teleportation that I couldn’t resist picking up Transposing Lunge. It’d be good as a 1[W] power, let alone at 2[W].
About 3rd level I also managed to pick up a 6th-level magic item. Our DM gives us free rein to pick out whatever we like. After some pondering, I realized I’d be foolish not to pick up a weapon with the biggest bonus I could find. This left me with a +2 bastard sword with a property of Dynamic or Sacrificial. Sacrificial was and is still tempting, but I decided to go with Dynamic. I thought it might be useful once in a blue moon; I was in for a pleasant surprise.