Warrior-Monks and Martial Arts (Part One)

I always loved the AD&D Monk class, and would certainly agree with arguments that it is somewhat misplaced in the nominally “European” setting of standard AD&D. Plus, I always thought is was incredibly poorly though-out class based on what seemed to be arbitrary and illogical rulings – no Strength or Dexterity bonuses, etc. I quickly moved to a conception of the Warrior-Monk that had more in common with the “wierding ways” of the Bene Gesserit and the ferocity of the Freman and the Sardaukar – combined with a more widely encompassing vision of the weapons available to martial artists.

So, the Player’s Handbook vision of the “monk” was tweaked early on and the “Endorian Warrior-Monks” were born – the Masters of Endorian Dragon Style. There were some quick changes that were made immediately – Warrior-Monks were given Strength and Dexterity modifiers, were allowed Percentile Strength like a Fighter and given the Constitution bonuses of a Fighter as well. I also gave them d6 for Hit Dice instead of d4. What was taken away was the abilities to Open Locks and Find/Remove Traps – and instead the ability to Track like a Ranger was given, plus an ability called “Aura Sense” (40% Base, +5% per level as the notes in my PH indicate) – this was essentially a True Sight style ability back in the day and it has been somewhat downgraded at this point. Instead of Special Ability A as listed they instead had Warmth as the ring (the Endor Monestary is way up in the peaks of some nasty cold mountains), they had the ability to do a Suggestion in addition to Special Ability D at 6th Level (ala the Voice), and finally the other major change was that 8th level, Special Ability F was replaced with Fire Resistance (again, as the ring). They were also allowed to use short swords and shortbows as weapons of proficiency and lost crossbow and javelin. My vision the Endorian Warrior-Monks were of a reclusive and self-reliant group of religious warrior mystics – not …whatever it was that they were modeled on in the PH.

I think I also let them strike creatures that were only hit with magical weapons like they were a monster with Hit Dice equal to their level. All of this actually made a monk class that was fun to play. I know that I experimented with the Monk from Dragon Magazine #53, possibly as some other order of monks someplace, but I don’t remember anyone ever actually playing with them. The only other martial artists for years were the Lictors (aka the Ninja from the Best of Dragon Vol. 2), but that all changed when Oriental Adventures came out…

Ok, there were also the Feyhd, my homage to the Fremen. They were all “monks” as well, but I don’t think anyone ever played one. Plus there was the mysterious and terrifying “Old Race” that haunted the Outer Planes.

Suddenly there was a way for anyone to learn martial arts, and it was merely monks who were vastly better at them. Plus, the “base” martial arts weren’t so horribly underpowered as to make it worthless to use. Plus martial artists of all stripes had all sorts of very cool things that they could learn how to do if they wanted to invest the proficiencies into them. Quickly I had Tyrsfarian Knife-Fighters (with the special Tyrsfarian Khuri), the sworn brotherhood of the Black Watch with their bastard swords, the Battledancers of Ulstem and Ith, and a host of places where people could learn all sorts of martial art styles.

But other problems raised their head.

For one, studying martial arts was far too much of an investment of proficiencies. It was kind of ridiculous actually, the sheer amount of “time and energy” a monk, let alone a non-monk, had to put into learning the “cool stuff”. Second, it was basically impossible to model any sort of martial art weapon style in this system. Now, some articles in Dragon Magazine helped round these things out (and birthed the Tyrsfarian Knife-Fighters for that matter), but it was still a pretty broken system in some respects.

Some folks would also point at the martial arts rules as being the ancestor of Feats – and I wouldn’t disagree. In my home-brew rules engine I essentially adapted these rules into “fighting styles” for all sorts of weapons. It was learning and mastering them that made you an effective fighter. It was also a far too complicated system in many respects – and there is a large part of me that is happy to never look at that home-brew ever again. But from there is where the various martial arts of the Dakini, the Tantric-Assassins, were first spawned, along with the deadly arts of the Bloodmoon Adepts (the title ganked from an old Citybook from Flying Buffalo).

Next up: How do we make it work?

TTFN!

D.

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Categories: Game Design, Game Play, House Rules | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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