Four years ago, as we saw the first hints of what 5e would become, I wrote about hoping for more engaging gameplay outside of combat for fighters, based on my experiences from LARPing. In this post, I’m looking at more ways to individuate warrior-types and potentially inform their roleplay. In two UA articles, we’ve seen Mearls experiment with fighter subclasses that reframe Battle Master-like mechanics, and that’s a big part of my underlying concept here.
There’s just two problems with that. I don’t really want a radical proliferation of fighter subclasses. The emerging dynamic of the subclasses is that the Champion has very little to manage, the Battle Master has more to manage, and the Eldritch Knight plays like a multiclassed fighter/wizard. I would rather find a way to branch directly off of the Battle Master. (Even if that takes this idea out of the OGL-friendly pool.)
The other problem is that I don’t really want to limit it to fighters. I would like a way for barbarians, Valor bards, War clerics, paladins, rangers, rogues, and Blade warlocks – everyone who relies first and foremost on being awesome with weapons – to get in on this. In part this is because King’s Gate and Dust to Dust have no concept of character class, so in imagining KG and DtD characters in 5e, some of them would be warrior classes other than fighter, and I wouldn’t want to hedge them out of martial schools as a result.
Also: 7th Sea recently released its second edition. You probably heard about this. Fencing schools are a big part of 7th Sea, and if you work at it, you could combine a fencing school with any other character-build element.
The good news is, Martial Adept is a feat that anyone could buy. It’s not really the centerpiece of anyone’s character build, because it’s once-per-short-rest and it’s just a d6 superiority die if you’re not already a Battle Master or a playtest subclass with superiority dice. It is a good way to add a tactical option to your play if you’re playing a class without a lot of those, or you just want to dip a toe into complexity.
I’ve used Martial Adept as my design container for this idea. I thought about storing all of this in a new feat that requires you to have at least one superiority die, but that pushes this character element out to 8th level if you aren’t a fighter or a variant human.
The martial schools listed below are a combination of King’s Gate, Dust to Dust, and Aurikesh groups. I’ve written a quick blurb about each below, since the Venn diagram of readers who know about all of these schools is in single digits. I do not own the King’s Gate names or concepts in any sense, and they are offered here as fan work.
Martial Adept (Alternate)
Add the following bullet point:
In addition to the maneuvers available to the Battle Master archetype, you may choose one of the following options. You may unlearn one of the maneuvers on this list to learn another maneuver on this list when you gain a level, if you satisfy teaching requirements within the story. You may never learn more than one of the maneuvers of this list at a time.
- Battaglia: When you hit a creature you can see with a dagger, you can spend one superiority die to add it to your damage roll. In addition, any die in this damage roll that results in its maximum value is rolled again, adding the result to the final damage dealt. A die rerolled through this feature that results in its maximum value cannot be rerolled again.
- Coudray: To use this maneuver, you must be wielding a shield. As a bonus action, spend and roll a superiority die. Until the beginning of your next turn, reduce the damage from all weapon attacks against you by the amount rolled.
- Kinsale: To use this maneuver, you must be wearing a cloak and have one hand empty. When you are hit by a melee weapon attack, spend a superiority die and add its result to your Armor Class. If this causes the attack to miss, the target must make a Strength saving throw. On a failed saving throw, the weapon used to attack you drops at the creature’s feet.
- Moriscato: To use this maneuver, you must wield two weapons, one of which is a dagger. When you attack with your dagger and have advantage, you may spend a superiority die to roll two dice of the same type and add them to your damage roll.
- Roux: When you roll a Dexterity or Intelligence saving throw, you may expend one superiority die to add it to that roll. When an ally adjacent to you rolls a Dexterity or Intelligence saving throw, you may expend a superiority die and add half its result to the roll.
- Rowan: When you roll a Strength or Constitution saving throw, you may expend one superiority die to add it to that roll. If you fail the roll anyway, you may take damage equal to the superiority die result to succeed instead. This damage may not be reduced or avoided, and goes to current hit points rather than temporary hit points.
- Displaced Hand/Vachir: When you roll initiative, you may spend a superiority die to attack with a ranged or thrown weapon. If this attack roll hits, the target takes damage equal to the amount rolled on the superiority die plus any bonuses from magical effects on the weapon.
- Dane’s Bulwark: To use this maneuver, you must be wielding a shield. When an effect would knock you prone or force you to move through any means other than teleportation, you may spend a superiority die. Add the result to any saving throw or ability check to resist this movement. If you fail the saving throw or ability check, you may spend your reaction to take damage equal to the superiority die result. If you do, you are not moved or knocked prone. This damage may not be reduced or avoided, and goes to current hit points rather than temporary hit points.
- Lost Blades of Mazhan: When you attack with an off-hand weapon as a bonus action, you may spend one superiority die. Roll one die of that type for each attack roll you have missed in this turn and add the result to the damage roll of your off-hand attack.
- Sand Spire: To use this maneuver, you must be wielding a spear, glaive, halberd, or pike. When an enemy you can see within your reach makes a weapon attack against one of your allies, you may spend a superiority die to make an opportunity attack against that enemy, adding the superiority die result to your damage roll.
- Shieldeaters: When you roll initiative and you are not wearing armor or wielding a shield, you may choose to expend a superiority die. For the duration of that encounter, your Armor Class is 10 + the die’s result + your Dexterity modifier.
- Silver Swordsmen: To use this maneuver, you must be wielding a silver, or silvered, weapon. When you are the target of an effect that deals necrotic damage, spend and roll a superiority die to add its result to your Armor Class (if this is a weapon or spell attack), or your next saving throw (if a saving throw is necessary).
- Iron Temple: When you roll a Wisdom or Charisma saving throw, you may expend one superiority die to add it to the roll. When an ally within 30 feet rolls a Wisdom or Charisma saving throw, you may use your reaction to expend a superiority die and add half its result to the roll.
- Sovereign Knights of the Council Fire: When an ally adjacent to you takes damage from a weapon or an effect that allows a Dexterity saving throw, you may expend a superiority die to reduce the damage taken by the die’s result. If you are wielding a shield, add the higher of your Strength bonus or Dexterity bonus.
- Tiger’s Claw: When you use the Attack action to make melee attacks with a one-handed weapon, you may spend a superiority die to fire a loaded flintlock pistol as a bonus action. You may expend a number of superiority dice up to the number of your melee attacks in this turn that hit; add the value of those dice to the damage of your flintlock pistol.
- Cursewardens: When you fail a saving throw against a spell of 1st level or higher, you may expend a superiority die to inflict that much necrotic damage to the spell’s caster.
King’s Gate Schools
Battaglia is a double-dagger school of assassins. In the hands of an Assassin rogue, this is horrifyingly powerful, since they’re already forcing critical hits on their surprise attacks. This could reasonably turn a critical attack of 22d6 + 2d4 + flat adds into 25d6 + 3d4 + flat adds. (That third d4 is being a little generous on probability, just as the absence of a twenty-fourth d6 is being faintly stingy on probability.)
Coudray is a school of the King’s bodyguards – honorable, sword-and-shield knights. The feature I’ve chosen for them here is potentially very good, depending on how much they can get enemies to focus fire on them with individual attacks. If this feature doesn’t float your boat, substitute in the Sovereign Knights of the Council Fire.
Kinsale is a cloak-and-single-sword school. They’re all about getting opponents to underestimate them. For most D&D warriors, an empty hand is wasted space, so I made this feature especially potent – it’s both a defense and a disarm, as you stop the enemy’s attack and wrap your cloak around the weapon.
Moriscato is a school for arrogant street bravos, fighting with rapier or longsword and dagger. The feature I’ve used here is specifically based on a power from KG called Shiv, a high-damage dagger attack that has to be delivered from behind.
Roux is, other than a cooking thing, a school of graceful fencers, closely related to courtly dancing. They fight with longsword and shortsword. This feature is a weaker Evasion, in a way, or a really really good way to make sure you get to use your Evasion feature if you have one. It also lets you help an ally, though much less reliably.
Rowan is a school of sword-and-shield berserkers. In KG, their signature move is ignoring wounds by banging or gnawing on their shields. Here, I’ve emphasized their incredible toughness and ability to reduce incoming damage.
Vachir is a school of archers who bind their souls to their bows. I’ve given them the same feature as the Displaced Hand from DtD (see below) because cool features specifically for archers is harder than it looks.
Dust to Dust Orders
I’ve left out several Orders from this list, because they don’t fit into D&D well – they either explicitly require a tie to magic, and thus should be stored in a different feat, or they require the homunculus race. I may revisit this in the future.
Displaced Hand is a school of trick-shot performers with any kind of ranged weapon. As mentioned, they share their feature with the Vachir of KG. Getting to act when they roll initiative, before initiative is even resolved, is huge, but they resolve the damage a little unusually to avoid some kinds of synergies (Assassin rogues in particular).
Dane’s Bulwark are Scandinavian-inspired shield fighters, wielding either a longsword or an axe. They have a feature based on holding a door against attackers, but door fights aren’t nearly as significant in tabletop games as they are in boffer LARPs, so I’ve turned that into resisting any kind of forced movement or the prone position.
Lost Blades of Mazhan are katana-and-wakizashi warrior-poets. The feature I’ve given them here is a conceptual adaptation of a power from DtD, in which they feint with the katana to deliver a devastating strike with the wakizashi. Obviously, it carries a lot more punch for actual Battle Master fighters than anyone else, since they have more and better superiority dice to spend.
Sand Spire are spear, glaive, or halberd-wielding soldiers. They are accustomed to fighting in formations and cooperating closely with their allies. Here, I’ve given them line-fighting ability – they can all use the Dodge feature and wait for an enemy to make an attack and expose themselves to devastating counterattacks. Superior polearm reach lets them focus even more attacks on a single enemy.
Shieldeaters are howling berserkers who disdain armor and shields. It’s not easy writing features for a concept so thoroughly covered in the Berserker barbarian subclass, but I figured a chance at a very high AC at the start of combat would appeal. (Imagining you’ve worked your way up to 16 Dex and d12 superiority dice… well, even a one-in-twelve shot at a 25 AC for a fight might be worth your time.)
Silver Swordsmen wield silver or silvered swords (shortsword, longsword, bastard sword – that’s a thing in DtD if not in 5e – or greatsword) to defend the land against the shadow creatures and werewolves that plague it. Here I’ve emphasized their ability to turn aside Shadow magic, which I’ve parsed as necrotic damage.
Aurikesh Warrior Societies
The warrior societies of Aurikesh were some of my earliest creations for the setting, and I’ve described them in much more detail here and here. It has bugged me for years that I haven’t had a good mechanical representation for them, so only a tiny number of characters have opted to join them. (I also haven’t made them a huge part of the setting, which is both cause and effect.)
The Iron Temple are pragmatic and strong-willed warriors, and perpetual underdogs in politics and their rivalry with the Sovereign Knights of the Council Fire. This feature represents their bull-headed nature, and they can pass on some of that benefit to allies.
The Sovereign Knights of the Council Fire are knights of high chivalry with a legalistic bent. I’ve made them active defenders of their allies, juicing up the Protection fighting style based on the currency cost.
The Tiger’s Claw favor scimitars and pistols. They serve a sinister wizard of the distant north. This feature is inspired by Warhammer: Age of Reckoning‘s Witch Hunter class, which built up points on an enemy through repeated hits before delivering a devastating finisher.
Cursewardens bear a curse that makes magic behave less predictably around them. This isn’t a punishing amount of damage compared to a failed saving throw, but it might immediately break a caster’s concentration – if that works even once, you’ll feel great about picking this up.