On the Combat Skill II

Continued from part I here. . .

There's an opportunity there.

The old 'martial arts' skills were always overpowered. poorly designed, shoehorned into the weapon proficiency/non-weapon proficiency system. This was particularly egregious with the Hackmaster martial arts system, requiring both master in the skill, and mastery of each technique, though it did separate the martial arts skill from level.

Here's my position. If a fifth level mage can fireball a group of guys, and a tenth level mage can disintegrate a dragon, I am totally down with a circle kick doing double damage.

Each style has specific restrictions, whether weapon restrictions or who they affect. I think it is superior to think of these as magical paths, like very restrictive spell lists for fighters instead of mages. I think role-playing restrictions are something to be considered, a fighting style really defines a character above and beyond a mechanical increase. If you take Karate, what school did you learn it from? Who was your teacher?

This is not a new idea, indeed Book of Weaboo Mag- Nine Swords has fighters structured this way, and 4th edition has similar powers for fighters.

In general form, the Martial Art Style works like a normal skill in the way it is gained and learned. But it is not rolled.

  • Only one may be selected until reaching name level, at which point a second may be learned. 
  • Every even rank (or 10% points) you receive a new ability. 
  • Every odd rank (or values of the skill that end in 5%) you gain something specific via the skill. 
  • There are three tiers of ability. Tier one abilities can be picked till rank 6 (0-30%). Tier 2 from rank 7-12 (31-60%), and tier 3 from rank 13 or higher (61%+). 
  • Abilities replace your actions for the round unless noted otherwise. 
  • In systems without skill ranks (like ACKS) take the style as a proficiency and consider twice your level as your rank.
  • In a system like Skills: the Middle road (i.e. basic/expert/master) Consider having the skill at basic, giving you ranks equal to your level, expert giving you ranks equal to 3/2 your level, and master giving you ranks equal to twice your level. (i.e. a fifth level expert would have eight ranks, an eighth level expert would have 12). 

It is written down on the sheet like a normal weapon skill, with the specific abilities listed below it.

BP Cost
Relevant Abilities
Mastery Die
Course Prerequisite
Course Cost
Course Difficulty
Savage Healing

Karate Style

A punch should stay like a treasure in the sleeve. It should not be used indiscriminately.” – Chotoku Kyan

Karate is an "Empty Hand" Style, focusing on hard strikes and kicks. It is the physicality of emptiness. Practitioners strive to purge their minds of selfishness and approach all situations with a clear mind and conscience. The physical art is only applied in situations where one must down another or be downed by him.

Restrictions: Karate can only be used empty handed. Armor may not be worn. You must not be Chaotic or Evil.

When you are using Karate Style, your base stats are as follows.
Att/Round Damage AC Principal Attack
1/1 1-6 8 Hand

Rank Increases: Use the following increases at odd ranks.
Percentage Att/Round Damage AC
5% 3/2 - -
15% - 1-6+1 -
25% - - 7
35% 2/1 - -
45% - 1-8 -
55% - - 6
65% 5/2 - -
75% - 1-8+1 -
85% - - 5
95% 3/1 1-8+2 4

Abilities: These are learned at each even rank (% multiple of 10, e.g. 10%, 20%, etc.). You are limited to which you can select by your skill.

Tier 1:

  • Circle Kick: If you hit with this kick, you do double damage. If you miss, you lose your next single attack. (e.g. if you have 2/1, and you circle kick in a round instead of making two attacks, then next round you will only make a single attack)
  • Iron Fist: Your hand strikes do an additional 2 points of damage. 
  • Crushing Blow: You may strike objects and ignore their hardness. 
  • Feint: Use a single melee attack to feint. Your next strike will be at +2 to hit
  • Meditation: 1 hour of meditation is equal to 2 hours of sleep. While meditating, you do not suffer from heat, cold, hunger or thirst. You remain aware of your surroundings and do not suffer penalties on surprise or initiative. 
Tier 2:
  • Eagle Claw: uses a devastating strike to do crush stones, shatter weapons, or do damage. The martial artist can make a single attack against an opponent. If it hits, it does 3-30 damage. This is the only attack that can be made. No strength bonuses or other increases can be applied to the damage. 
  • Defensive Strike: If you choose total defense as an option, you may attack any opponent that attacks you and misses with a +4 bonus to hit.
  • Flying Kick: With a charge, you can jump in the air and do a flying kick. If this attack hits, you do triple damage, and your opponent must save versus paralyzation with a penalty equal to your level or fall prone (with appropriate modifiers applied for stability) and be knocked back up to 1 foot per point of damage at your discretion. If this fails, you land prone next to your opponent. 
  • Empty Mind: You gain a +4 on saves versus all mental, charm, psionic, or fear attacks.
Tier 3:
  • Blinding Nerve Strike: When you attack a humanoid opponent, every time you hit, they must save versus paralyzation or become blinded for 1 turn. Only one nerve strike can be used on an attack.
  • Stunning Nerve Strike: When you attack a humanoid opponent, every time you hit, they must save versus paralyzation or become stunned. Only one nerve strike can be used on an attack for 1 round. 
  • Iron Body: All attacks that hit you have their damage reduced by 2.
  • Steel Skin: Increase the damage die of your physical strikes from 1d8 to 1d10. 

Kenjutsu Style

"The primary thing when you take a sword in your hands is your intention to cut the enemy, whatever the means. Whenever you parry, hit, spring, strike or touch the enemy's cutting sword, you must cut the enemy in the same movement. It is essential to attain this. If you think only of hitting, springing, striking or touching the enemy, you will not be able actually to cut him."― Miyamoto Musashi

Kendo is the way of the sword.

Restrictions: You must wield a long blade with two hands.

When you are using Kenjutsu Style, your base stats are as follows.
Att/Round Damage AC Principal Attack
1/1 As Sword As Armor Sword

Rank Increases: Each odd rank increases the damage you do with the sword by 1 i.e. at rank 11 (55%) you would do +6 damage with your blade.

Abilities: These are learned at each even rank (% multiple of 10, e.g. 10%, 20%, etc.). You are limited to which you can select by your skill.

Tier 1:

  • Weapon Proficiency: You are treated as having weapon proficiency in the sword. This grants you multiple attacks as a fighter of your level. This does not stack with normal specialization and does not need to be selected if you already have proficiency with the sword and/or you are a fighter.
  • Jaguar Stance: While in this stance, gain a +2 bonus to your armor class, and to saves made to dodge or avoid spells. Only one stance may be used at a time.
  • Turtle Stance: While in this stance , gain a +2 bonus to your armor class. and reduce all damage you take by 1.
  • Wind Strike: As a full round action, you may attack any opponent within 6".
  • Spirit Blade: Any sword you wield counts as magic for damaging creatures.

Tier 2:

  • Folded Step: Dimension door (transport to any location in sight) instantly 1/day. This can be done instantly, i.e. between attacks.
  • Multiplicity of Forms: Mirror Image 1/day.
  • Movement Strike: On a strike you miss, move up to your movement.
  • Preemptive Strike: 1/day, strike an opponent before they attack you.
  • Defense Strike: While using the total defense action, you may strike any opponent that makes an attack against you.
  • T'ien-lung Stance: You gain a +2 bonus to hit, and levitate 1" off the ground. Your movement does not interfere with your ability to make attacks.

Tier 3:

  • Desert Wind: Move up to double your full movement. You may strike each target you are adjacent to one time.
  • Ki Shout: Improve your attack, damage and armor class by 1/2 your level for 1 turn once a day.
  • Ghost Blade: You ignore armor and attack all opponents with touch attacks when using your sword.
  • Leaping Revenge: If attacked at range, you move adjacent to the target and strike if you are within 20". This can trigger once per attack you get per round, and does not count against your attacks per round. (i.e. if you have 3/1 attacks, and you get attacked by three different ranged attackers, you may move next to each and strike them. When your turn arrives you may take it as normal)

Savage Healing

"The art of healing comes from nature, not from the physician. Therefore the physician must start from nature, with an open mind."

Savage healing is an art of being at one with nature, and understanding how those processes affect the body.

Restriction: Savage healers cannot use a shield, nor any armor heavier than leather. Savage healers must be expert natural healers (10 ranks in healing or 50%+ in healing). Savage Healers must not be able to heal via magic.

When you are using Savage Healing Style, your base stats are as follows.
Principal Attack
1/1 As Weapons As Armor Staff
Healing touch: All Savage healers gain a number of healing dice (d4) equal to their level. These refresh after a rest. They may heal any creature by taking a full turn, and using as many of their dice as they wish to heal the creature.

Rank Increases: Each rank increase grants an additional healing die.

Abilities: These are learned at each even rank (% multiple of 10, e.g. 10%, 20%, etc.). You are limited to which you can select by your skill.

Tier 1:
  • Stunning touch: Savage healers can use their healing dice to deal subdual damage to creatures. They must strike, bare-handed, and hit successfully. 
  • Sickening touch: Savage healers can use their healing dice to apply a penalty to creatures. For every die expanded, the target takes a -1 penalty on attacks, skills, damage, and initiative. This sickness lasts for a full day. The savage healer must strike, bare-handed, and hit and the target must fail a save versus poison.
  • Healing Aura: Once a day, a savage healer can expand healing dice equal to 1/2 her character level. For every healing die expanded, all allies within 6" heal 1 hit point per healing die per round. e.g. if a Savage Healer expends 3 dice, then for one turn, all allies within 6" heal 3 hit points a round. 
  • Cure Poison: The Savage Healer can expend 2 dice to grant someone another save versus poison with a +4 bonus.
Tier 2:
  • Strong Healing: Your healing dice are d6's
  • Fast Healing: You can now heal people more quickly, taking only one round.
  • Healing Vigor: Your healing dice can now provide bonus temporary hit points. Any excess overhealing is temporary hit points that last one turn. These cannot exceed one half the creatures natural hit point total.
  • Natural Awareness: While awake, the Savage Healer can see 360 degrees around him and is immune to surprise.
  • Cure Disease: The Savage Healer can expend 4 dice to Cure Disease as the spell
Tier 3:
  • Healing Burst: once a day, a savage healer can heal all allies within 6" with as many healing dice as she wishes to use.
  • Healing Shield: If the save healer concentrates taking no other action, and is within 4" of an ally, they can use their healing dice to nullify damage the ally takes. On a hit, they may expend as many dice as they wish to negate damage. The dice are rolled, and the damage is reduced by the total on the healing dice.
  • Fast Healing: The Savage Healer is so in tune with nature that she gains the ability to regenerate 1 point of damage per round. This requires the healer to be conscious.
  • Savage Purity: Become immune to all disease and poison. You may not become undead. All natural animals treat the Savage Priest as friendly. They begin to age more slowly.

Some notes: Any class may take this, provided they can find someone to teach them. Only one style can be selected, simplifying the choices. Within that style their are less than seven options at any given time. The space it takes up on the sheet is marginal, and far less than any sort of spell list.

In play, you would record it like this
Karate (47%): 2/1, 1-8+2 damage, AC 7
    Circle Kick: x2 damage, lose next attack if miss
    Iron Fist: +2 melee damage (noted above)
    Feint: Trade attack for +2 bonus to hit on next
    Flying Kick: Charge, 3x damage, save vs. para or opponent is prone + move 1' per point of damage

Savage Healer (66%): 15d6 healing dice
   Stunning Touch: Use dice to deal extra subdual on bare hand attack
   Healing Aura: 1/day spend up to 4 dice for healing allies within 6" for 4hp/round
   Cure Poison: 2 dice to give save vs. poison @ +4
   Strong Healing: Use d6 as healing die
   Fast Healing: Heal as a full round action
   Healing Vigor: Healing overcharge gives temporary hit points


  1. I don't really understand how the % thing works. Is there a reason why you don't just get an extra ability per level, or something like that?

    Also, does this imply that a vanilla fighter is going to be strictly less powerful than, say, a kendo fighter? Like, all the kendo abilities are on top of standard fighter, right? So, it would always make sense for a fighter to choose a specialization?

    (I'm probably missing something that was covered in a previous post.)

    1. Skills in Hackmaster are d100 style skills. Your base is the stat, plus a single roll of the skill die + honor die.

      Every additional time you take the skill, you recieve another roll of the skill die plus your honor die.

      You take the skill during character creation using Build Points (BP) or during the game by actually studying. Each attempt to learn takes one week, and costs the gold value.

      Skills are traditionally rolled with "roll-under" percentiles, but for these skills, instead of rolling, each 5% increase is a breakpoint.

      Of course if you're using 3.x, each rank is a rank.

    2. And you of course noted the imbalance of kendo.

      I address this tangentially earlier in the article.

      Are role-playing restrictions effective? Perhaps, but only if they are enforced. So, really, I would think it would be up to the Dungeon master to address. There are certainly plenty of options.

      Finding a kendo master is necessary. History seems to imply that to advance past a certain point, complete withdrawal from society is necessary; this translates well to wealth and magic item restrictions. I could also see certain weapon or armor restrictions.

      Yes, it is strictly better, in the same sense of white room design. (like wizards are strictly better than sorcerers) But the realities of the situation and the campaign would be the necessary limiting factors.

    3. Ah, % thing makes sense now.

      I don't think the overlay design (kendo master being fighter+) is necessarily bad, but I do think that it means that combat style or specialization or whatever will probably be something that all fighters will choose. I don't think roleplaying restrictions serve as a balance here (or that "restrictions" is really the right word, as it is really atmosphere that is just as likely to be fun as it is to decrease player choice or provide more trade-offs in any given context).

      The original 5E approach to this was pretty elegant, and I still think it's a good idea. Background was what you did, class is the kind of thing you do, and theme was how you do it (in that scheme, kendo master would be a theme). The current 5E approach is more complicated though, replacing theme with several big feats (in order to support more character-build oriented play, I suspect).

      This is a tangent now, but I don't agree that wizards are strictly better than sorcerers in 3E. Sorcerers have the benefit of not needing to prepare spells beforehand (thus being more flexible in some contexts), and have more weapon proficiencies (though this difference boils down to being able to do 1d8 damage in melee rather than 1d6, most of the time, but the point is that while an argument could be made for the wizard in many situations, they are not strictly commensurable in the way that fighter and fighter/kendo master are).

    4. You would say that!

      The white room example includes using wealth by level to craft wands with the extra wizard feats, nullifying the sorcerer's advantage. That combined with earlier spell acquisition and fewer limits are the spherical cow tipping points. I should know, I was in the 300 page thread.

  2. I can't comment too much on the rules, but I would suggest you use the term "kenjutsu" instead of "kendo." Kendo is purely a term for the sport version of swordsmanship. Kenjutsu is the broad term for Japanese sword fighting.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...