Hacking 4e: Martial Schools, Part 1 3

I wanted to do something kind of big and special for my 50th post in this blog, but I’ve had some trouble deciding between the various post topics bouncing around in my head. I chose this topic firstly because it was the one that Kainenchen was the most enthusiastic about, and secondly because if the idea goes well, it will become the part of an ongoing series… because, well, it’s a pretty damn deep hack of 4e.
Martial Schools
One of the systemic innovations that King’s Gate brought to the Chimera Interactive rules set was martial schools. The details of how these work is not really germane to the topic here; the relevant point is that these martial schools gave richer rules support to thematic fighting styles. I think swordplay is cool, and I think that each martial school could be a class in itself. I also really like the active defenses of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 3e, because these evoke for me a feeling of cut-and-thrust combat.
There are some additional changes that I would make, beyond just introducing new classes, in the core of the game system to support these ideas. Some of these changes I’ve discussed previously, such as wanting swordsmen to feel like they need to seek out masters of their art for teaching. Also, factoring in scaling bonuses to attack and damage to a character’s level progression, rather than requiring them to acquire ever better magic weapons, armor, and neck slot items. (Magic items for these slots still exist, but they are only the adjective part, not the static bonus part – it’s a flaming longsword, not a +2 flaming longsword.) This change is important because I would eventually like to reintroduce mechanics for disarming an opponent, and possibly breaking an enemy’s weapon. To do this, I’d like to shift as much of the math as possible off of the weapon or other piece of gear.
The change that is really a big deal, but necessary to get the math right some of the other things I’d like to do, is that all defenses, including AC, go down by 2. This will allow me to put more relative importance on powers that improve defenses temporarily.
Further changes will be explained as I proceed. Without further ado, I present a class adapted from King’s Gate, for the simple reason that I wanted to start with something familiar to me. (I do not own any part of King’s Gate, and if I piss one of my friends off with this, I’m sure they’ll let me know.) Swordsmen of the Roux martial school are lightly-armored duelists who fight with one longsword and one shortsword, and the school emphasizes grace and footwork.
Roux Swordsman
Role: Striker, secondary Defender
Power Source: Martial
Key Abilities: Strength, and Dexterity or… maybe Charisma
Armor Proficiencies: Cloth, Leather, Hide, Chain
Weapon Proficiencies: Simple melee, simple ranged, longsword, shortsword, rapier
Bonus to Defense: +2 Reflex
Hit Points at First Level: (fill this in later; as fighter)
Hit Points Per Level Gained: (as fighter)
Healing Surges Per Day: (as fighter)
Trained Skills (Choose Four): Acrobatics, Athletics, Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate, Perception, Streetwise
Class Features: Bonus Feats: Two-Weapon Fighting, Two-Weapon Defense. Probably more stuff TBD.

Strike Aside the Blade – Roux Swordsman Attack 1

At-Will – Martial, Weapon, Middle

Standard Action               Melee weapon

Target: One creature

Attack: Str vs. AC

Hit: [W] + Str damage, and opponent takes a penalty to attacks with the Weapon keyword equal to your Dex modifier to his next attack.

Advantage of Reach – Roux Swordsman Attack 1

You execute a quick stop-thrust to your opponent’s leading leg.

At-Will – Martial, Weapon, Low

Standard Action               Melee weapon

Target: One creature

Attack: Str vs. AC

Hit: [W] + Str damage

Lesser Blade – Roux Swordsman Attack 1

It’s to your advantage to let opponents think of the shortsword as “just a blocking weapon.”

At-Will – Martial, Weapon, Middle

Minor Action                     Melee weapon

Target: One creature

Attack: Dex vs. AC

Hit: [W] + Dex damage

Special: You must use a shortsword for this attack.

Crossed Blades – Roux Swordsman Defense 1

You cross your blades before you, a screen of metal against any attacker.

At-Will – Martial, Weapon, Middle

Minor Action

Effect: Gain a +2 shield bonus to AC until the beginning of your next turn, and gain a bonus equal to your Dex bonus on any attack roll you make as part of the Contour power before the beginning of your next turn.

Contour – Roux Swordsman Attack 1

Perceiving the incoming attack, you retaliate even before it has landed.

Encounter – Martial, Weapon, Special

Immediate Interrupt

Trigger: An enemy you can see hits you with a melee attack

Target: The triggering enemy

Attack: Dex vs. AC

Hit: [W] damage (shortsword only)

Special: At the time you use this power, it takes on the location descriptor (High, Middle, Low) of the triggering attack. Refresh this power after you score a critical hit. (By spending a feat, you can additionally refresh this power when you spend your second wind.)

Bloody Lunge – Roux Swordsman Attack 1

Looking to end the fight quickly, you lunge with deadly quickness.

Daily – Martial, Weapon, High

Standard Action               Melee weapon + 1

Target: One creature

Attack: Shift up to two squares before the attack. Str vs. AC

Hit: 2[W] + Str damage.

Miss: Half damage, and you may place yourself on the other side of your opponent as a shift if your opponent is size Large or smaller. Edited (thanks, Ben!): Half damage, and you may shift up to 3 squares.  You may shift through the target creature’s space.  You must end this shift adjacent to the target creature.

Ready and Waiting – Roux Swordsman Defense 2

With finely-honed senses and lightning reflexes, you prepare yourself for your enemies’ attacks.

At-Will – Martial

Minor Action

Effect: Take an additional immediate action during your opponents’ turn. You must use this immediate action before the beginning of your next turn; if you do not, it is lost. You may still take this immediate action if you dazed.

High Cross – Roux Swordsman Defense 2

You cross your blades overhead, ready to catch an opponent’s high strike.

Encounter – Martial, High

Minor Action

Effect: Gain a +4 shield bonus to AC and Fortitude against attacks with the High descriptor, and a +2 shield bonus to AC and Fortitude against attacks with the Middle descriptor. When a High attack misses you before the end of your next turn, you may shift 1 square.

So what’s with these new descriptors?
I felt like the AC-granting attacks and utilities of the core rules applied in a blanket fashion, rather than feeling tactical in the way I want for this hack. Therefore, attacks can have the High, Middle, or Low descriptor, and this affects how they interact with defenses. High and Low attacks are primarily available to trained warriors; other classes (and unclassed creatures) make Middle attacks by default.
Attacks and Utilities I recognize; what do you mean by “Defense?”
Because I don’t want players using, say, Crossed Blades and High Cross at the same time (pretend for a moment that they don’t obviously fail to stack for virtue of being shield bonuses), I’ve added a category called Defense. These are things your character does actively to defend himself from attacks. A character may not have more than one Defense at a time. (Defensive effects granted by another character, such as defensive magic, will remain Utilities for this reason.) Defenses are typically minor actions, and the flow of combat for most characters is attacking with a standard action and defending with a minor action (but one of the thematic parts of the Roux Swordsman is the offhand weapon, with which they can attack as a minor action if they don’t need to concentrate on defense, or if they are not moving). You can, of course, spend your move action as a minor action.
How many of these do I get, and when?
I’m still working on nailing that down, but my thinking is that characters would get two at-will standard actions, one at-will minor action, one encounter power, and one daily power at 1st level. At 2nd level, they would add one defense or utility power. At third, they would add one more encounter power (which could be an attack or a defense). At fifth, a new daily power. “Spending down” to pick up a power from your class that you qualified for at a lower level but didn’t choose would probably be more common in this version than it is in core rules.
There’s not a lot here.
Yeah, well, still working on that… future posts on this topic will include more powers for Roux Swordsmen, other martial schools, and so forth. Find them all quickly with the Swordplay tag.

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3 thoughts on “Hacking 4e: Martial Schools, Part 1

  • Kainenchen

    I'd play this class, though I'm curious to see the rest. I am also interested to see how this would change box/creature design, if at all (yes, I saw the comment about most unclassed creatures making middle attacks). Also, though it is not a KG school, I really want to see Mikaeta. And maybe also Matara. 😀

  • Lee Hammock

    I would totally love to see 4E developed more in this direction. Getting combat that is fast but allows for regular use of counters is something that I would love. This furthers my thoughts on using 4E to run kung-fu games.

  • Shieldhaven


    In the theoretical future, I would certainly be inclined to include Combat Disciplines such as Mikaeta, Matara, and Kataya that cross genres pretty easily.


    As with all ongoing-series posts in this blog, I'll be adding new things sporadically, interspersed with all of my other topics. This one is at least fun right now. =)