combat styles for fighters
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  1. #1

    combat styles for fighters

    I started working on this a while back, and I've been doodling a little here and there since. It's based on the old 2E combat styles - I have double weapon, mounted combat, single weapon, sword and shield, two-hander, and two weapon combat styles. Each has three tiers, and you gain "levels" in the combat style as you gain levels in your class (only fighters can take these styles) on a 1:1 basis (that is, Herne the Ftr 4 has 3 levels in Single Weapon Style; he gains Ftr 5, and also gains SWS 4). Anyway, the Single Weapon Style is the only one I've got completely done, and I wanted to post it here and see what people thought of it, since they're always complaining that fighters have little going for them.

    In order to learn a fighting style, the character must first fulfill all of the requirements. Assuming he can find someone to teach him, he then must spend a month in training, whereupon he is considered 1st tier in the style and gains his first ability. Thereafter, he gains a new ability at every odd tier (3, 5, 7, etc.).

    The abilities listed below each have a level listing (L1, L2, L3). This is what tier the ability belongs to. Most 2nd- and 3rd-tier abilities have prereqs, usually with a 1st-tier ability included. Each five levels of training, you gain Style Focus, Specialization, or Expertise (in that order), and can then choose abilities from the next higher tier. I might try to come up with 4th-tier abilities, if I could get some ideas. I also haven't figured out what to grant for Style Specialization and Style Expertise :/

    Single Weapon Style

    Single Weapon Style emphasizes speed and grace over power and strength. Specialists in this style dance around the battlefield, striking here, dodging a blow, then moving around to strike from a different direction. They are renowned for acrobatic stunts like swinging from ropes and chandeliers, diving from rooftops, and running up a wall to flip over an opponent and strike from behind.

    Many Single Weapon specialists are duelists, though they are by no means restricted to this group. Rogues often choose this fighting style, as do lightly-armored fighters and some bards. Elves and half-elves are common among the ranks, as are humans and the odd halfling.

    Requirements
    To qualify to learn the Single Weapon Style, the character must fulfill the following criteria.

    Combat Expertise

    Proficiency with one of the following weapons: bokken, dagger, hand axe, katana, kukri, longsword, nunchaku, rapier, sai, scimitar, short sword, wakizashi, or whip.

    Special: Must seek out someone with Single Weapon Style Focus and learn the rudiments of this fighting style.

    Restrictions: At first level of this combat style (effectively, in training), the character must select one of the weapons listed above (or any one-handed weapon that qualifies) as a chosen weapon. All of the abilities below can only be used when the character is wearing light or no armor and wielding her chosen weapon - which must be one of those noted above - except where noted.

    Style Abilities:

    Acrobatics (L1): The character gains a +2 competence bonus to any two of the following: Balance, Climb, Jump, or Tumble checks. Prereq: Dex 15.

    Ambidexterity (L1): The character can use her weapon in either hand without penalty. This does not grant her the ability to use two weapons at the same time; rather, she can switch her weapon between hands. Many fighters use this for show more than anything, but it has its uses, like when the character's main hand/arm is disabled for some reason. Prereq: Dex 13

    Blinding Strike (L1): The character gains the Quick Draw feat applied to her chosen weapon only.

    Bonus Feat: The character may choose a bonus feat related to the single weapon style. These bonus feats are in addition to the feat that a character of any class gets from advancing levels. The character must still meet all prerequisites for a bonus feat, including ability score and base attack bonus minimums. These feats may be used normally they do not fall under the restrictions for the single weapon fighting style.

    The character can choose from the following feats: Blind-Fight, Combat Reflexes, Dodge (Mobility, Spring Attack), Improved Critical, Improved Disarm, Improved Feint, Improved Initiative, Improved Trip, Lightning Reflexes, Persuasive, Quick Draw, Weapon Finesse, and Whirlwind Attack.

    Greater Disarm (L2): When disarming a foe, the character can choose to make the weapon go in a certain direction for instance, she can make her opponent's dagger fly through the air to strike someone else (requires an attack roll at 4), or throw a sword up into the air so that she can catch it herself (requires a DC 20 Dex check). Obviously, the size of the weapon being disarmed limits what can be done with it; a good rule of thumb is that Light weapons can be used to make ranged attacks, Medium weapons can be directed in a particular direction up to 10 feet away (but not as a ranged attack), and Large weapons can be directed up to 5 feet away. This ability works only when the character is using her chosen weapon. Prereqs: Improved Disarm.

    Improved Acrobatics (L2): The character gains a +4 competence bonus to Balance, Climb, Jump, and Tumble checks. This overlaps with the bonus gained from Acrobatics. Prereq: Dex 15, Acrobatics.

    Improved Ambidexterity (L2): A character can change his weapon between hands as a free action once per round. So, for example, he could make an attack with one hand on someone to his right, toss the weapon to the other hand, and make an attack against someone to his left. Switching the weapon in this manner is the equivalent of a feint; the opponent must make an opposed Sense Motive check vs. the characters Bluff roll, or be caught flat-footed for that attack. This ability can be used only once per opponent per combat; after the first such attack, the opponent wises up to the move and cannot be caught by it again. Prereqs: Dex 15, Ambidexterity

    Improved Blinding Strike (L2): Once per combat, as her first attack, the character may draw her weapon and make a single attack as a free action, at her highest base attack bonus. This counts as one of her attacks for the round. Prereq: Blinding Strike.

    Improved Disarm (L2): The character gains the Improved Disarm feat, even if she does not fulfill all of the requirements, but only when using her chosen weapon.
    Mobile Defense (L2): A character in light or no armor and fighting with a single weapon gains a dodge bonus to her AC equal to +1 per 3 tiers of the Single Weapon Fighting style she has attained. Prereq: Acrobatics, Single Weapon Defense.

    Off-Hand Attack (L1): When wielding wielding a single-handed weapon, the character can make an unarmed attack or grapple attack with her off hand in melee combat without provoking an attack of opportunity. This attack takes the place of one of her normal attacks for the round and uses that attacks bonus. This attack can also be used to grab or manipulate an item outside of the combat, such as the rope to a chandelier, or an object that the character can throw. Prereq: Dex 15, Improved Unarmed Strike.

    Single Weapon Defense (L1): When wielding her chosen weapon, the character gains an additional +1 dodge bonus to her AC when fighting defensively or using the full defense action.

    Superior Acrobatics (L3): The character can take 10 on any Balance Climb, Jump, or Tumble check, even under less than ideal conditions. Prereqs: Dex 15, Acrobatics, Improved Acrobatics

    Superior Blinding Strike (L3): Once per day per point of her Dex bonus, the character may make an attack with her weapon before any other attacks are made during an encounter. In order to use this ability, the character must not be surprised, must be within 5 feet of an opponent (i.e., she may make a 5-foot step to attack), and cannot already be engaged. This attack is made at her highest attack bonus, and is exclusive of any other attacks made that round. Prereqs: Blinding Strike, Improved Blinding Strike, Improved Initiative

    Superior Disarm (L3): The penalties for disarming a weapon of another size are halved, as are any bonuses the opponent receives from holding the weapon with two hands. The DC for catching another weapon is reduced to 17, and the penalty for making ranged attacks with Light weapons is reduced to -2. Prereqs: Improved Disarm, Greater Disarm.

    Superior Off-hand Attack (L3): The off-hand attack can be made in addition to the normal number of attacks per round, at the characters highest base attack bonus. Prereqs: Dex 15, Improved Unarmed Strike, Improved Grapple.

    Style Focus (L1): The character gains Single Weapon Style Focus. When wielding her chosen weapon, she gains an additional +1 bonus per five tiers to all maneuvers made with that weapon (attack rolls, parries, disarm attempts, etc., but not damage). Prereq: Must have attained five levels of training.

    Style Specialization (L2): The character gains Single Weapon Style Specialization.
    Prereqs: Must have attained 10 levels of training.

    Style Mastery (L3): The character has attained the pinnacle of the fighting style; she gains Single Weapon Style Mastery.
    Prereq: Must have attained 15 levels of training.
    Last edited by Kerrick; Thursday, 16th June, 2005 at 10:55 PM.

  2. #2
    I like the idea, but that seems a bit much.

    If I were making combat styles for 3.5E, I'd probably make feats like those in Complete Warrior. Most of those require two weapons, and a few require a two-handed weapon, but one could certainly make a combat style feat for a one-handed weapon and nothing else.

    Not to say your system won't work out, but there's quite a bit going into that style, and if you create analogous styles, you'll find yourself with a small book about how one fights beyond what is already written.

  3. #3
    I don't know... I didn't really like the feat-based "styles" that much - I wanted something that could do more. I mean, fighters already gain feats - that's their whole shtick. Boooring. With a true combat style, they can do neat stuff, and also gain feats to augment their abilities, making the high-level fighter a true threat able to hold his own in a party of like-levelled characters.

    Not to say your system won't work out, but there's quite a bit going into that style, and if you create analogous styles, you'll find yourself with a small book about how one fights beyond what is already written.
    That's okay... I was originally planning to do a whole book, with new weapons, the combat styles, new feats, etc., but kind of gave that up and just went for the styles instead. A lot of the things I come up with are things I need for my characters - one of them was a fighter who fought with only a longsword, so I decided to come up with a real fighting style for her, instead of just a bunch of feats. Never did get to try it out, since that campaign ended, but I still have this system, and I really like it. Our group has pages and pages of stuff we use in our games (most of it isn't printed out) that we've written, so 15 or 20 pages of fighting styles aren't any big deal.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kerrick
    I mean, fighters already gain feats - that's their whole shtick. Boooring.
    That would be like saying Wizards are booooring because all they do is gain spells.

    The problem is, that those Feats are... shallow.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by sfedi
    The problem is, that those Feats are... shallow.
    That's why you have to make better ones...

    But yeah, the CW feats aren't everything...I like the style of Kerrick's styles better, but I feel somewhat that they should be more general. While one could make an excellent and thought-out system based on the above, I know I'd have difficulty remembering everything that each style did without cheat sheets for each one.

    You should take what you have and run with it though, I say. However, I'll probably use a shallower system just for the sake of simplicity. I had actually thought recently about different fighting styles, but I was leaning more towards the CW feats, but perhaps more...flavored. They could have more powerful effects, but create a weakness for the fighter using them, for instance.

  6. #6
    MGP's Quint. Fighter has combat styles that stack with feats. You DO have to spend exp to gain a level in the style (5 levels total), but it gives some interesting abilities (high level lance users can mimic the Mage hand spell [max weight 10 lbs]).

    Don't have the book in fromt of me. I'll list more if you're interested.

  7. #7
    Rather than basing styles solely off of the tools a fighter uses, how about generalizing the tactics? In other words, instead of designing combat styles related to specific weapon, shield, and armor combinations, why not go for the general "philosophy" of fighting? Even limiting the choice of weapons to one thing opens a plethora of possibilities. Does the style focus on defense or offense? Is it passive or aggressive? How does the style achieve victory? To what extent do they rely on agility, brute strength, endurance, or outwitting opponents? What weaknesses does each style have? Which weaknesses in the other styles does each style address (if at all)? Think of the animals emulated in kung fu. Monkey and Tiger do not just use different maneuvers; each style's approach to combat is entirely different. If I tell you about a fighter whose tactics focused on agility and misdirection, would that be more like a tiger or a monkey? This approach colors not just specific techniques but also the tools likely to be used. A style emphasizing quick, precise strikes would eschew being bogged down with large weapons and heavy armor. A fighter focusing on a style that believes that the best way to win in combat is to kill his opponents before they have a chance to get near him would favor ranged weapons and staying away from the reach of his enemies.

    The mechanics are going to be the hard part. Do you go the Oriental Adventures route and have style benefits based on the feats and skills chosen, or do you have styles as a class feature available from 1st level? If you want an added layer of flavor or complexity, provide titles to describe each level of competence according to level or a certain number of favored feats in the style. For instance: Initiate (level 1+ or 2 feats), Disciple (level 6+ or 5 feats), Veteran (level 11+ or 8 feats), and Master (level 16+ or 11 feats). At each level of competence, you gain a style-related benefit.

    At the very least, I think this could make things a bit more evocative.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Afrodyte
    The mechanics are going to be the hard part. Do you go the Oriental Adventures route and have style benefits based on the feats and skills chosen, or do you have styles as a class feature available from 1st level? If you want an added layer of flavor or complexity, provide titles to describe each level of competence according to level or a certain number of favored feats in the style. For instance: Initiate (level 1+ or 2 feats), Disciple (level 6+ or 5 feats), Veteran (level 11+ or 8 feats), and Master (level 16+ or 11 feats). At each level of competence, you gain a style-related benefit.
    I've been thinking about an approach on just these lines, too -- how about having feat synergies like OA martial arts styles, but also require fighter levels as prerequisites?

  9. #9
    Rather than basing styles solely off of the tools a fighter uses, how about generalizing the tactics?
    Interesting idea... very interesting. You could have the "agile style," the "power style," the "defensive style," the "riding? style," etc. The ones I have now are Double Weapon, Mounted, Single Weapon, Sword and Shield, Two-hander, and Two-Weapon, but I could likely translate them into more general styles.

    The mechanics are going to be the hard part. Do you go the Oriental Adventures route and have style benefits based on the feats and skills chosen, or do you have styles as a class feature available from 1st level?
    I was discussing this the other day with a friend; I had originally planned to make it accessible to all classes from level 1, but they gain "levels" in the style based on their BAB (the rate of gain varies), then I changed it to fighter-only. He suggested making it so that fighters can take them for free, but other classes must use a feat to start learning a style, which I kind of liked. I also like the titles.

    MGP's Quint. Fighter has combat styles that stack with feats. You DO have to spend exp to gain a level in the style (5 levels total), but it gives some interesting abilities (high level lance users can mimic the Mage hand spell [max weight 10 lbs]).
    I was going to have it where you gained "levels" in the style, concurrent with your normal levels - that is, XP gained applies to both equally, but how much XP you gain for the style is modified by your BAB. I ditched that after I realized the logistical problems of keeping track of two different XP totals, and trying to figure out how much you get. I'd like to see what they did, but I also don't want to accidentally steal their ideas.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Afrodyte
    Rather than basing styles solely off of the tools a fighter uses, how about generalizing the tactics?
    That's the conclusion I was coming to, but I felt like I was treading on Power Attack and Expertise. Of course, there are possible combinations of gain and loss not covered by those; if one can trade attack bonus for damage, and one can trade attack bonus for armor bonus, maybe one should be able to trade damage for armor, and armor for damage. Of course, this is still Kerrick's thread, so I'm not sure how something Power Attack/Expertise-ish would progress over levels.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kerrick
    they gain "levels" in the style based on their BAB (the rate of gain varies)
    Hmm...I hadn't thought of that method before, and I like it. Fighters and other full BAB classes will still be the masters, but other classes can use at least some styles. Maybe you should limit how far a class can advance in a style according to their BAB. For example, if you have three levels of skill in a style, full BAB classes (fighter) could learn all three levels of a style, moderate BAB classes (rogue) could learn two, and the low BAB classes (wizard) could learn the first only.

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