Warrior-Monks and Martial Arts (Part Two)

So, in Part One of this two-part post, I sort of went over my history with martial arts and the AD&D monk. It’s been a long one, and as someone who studied a couple of different styles of martial arts, I always had problems with many of the ways things were handled. Oriental Adventures went a long way to solving the problem, and then a series of articles from The Dragon magazine filled in large numbers of the holes. For those that are interested the articles are as follows:

  • Marshalling the Martial Arts: Twelve martial arts styles for Oriental characters by Wayne Goldsmith and Dan Salas (Issue #122)
  • A Menagerie of Martial Arts: Twenty martial art styles based on man, nature, and animal by Len Carpenter (Issue #127
  • Flying Feet and Lightning Hands: Special maneuvers for Oriental Adventures martial arts by Len Carpenter (Issue #164)
  • Things Your Sensei Never Taught You: Add some kick to Oriental Adventures martial arts by Rudy Thauberger (Issue #164)

A couple of basic ideas when it comes to unarmed combat. An unarmed, essentially untrained individual does 1d2 damage with a punch or 1d4 with a kick. They can punch twice in a melee round or kick once – and fighter types with multiple attacks can mix in kicks with his punches at higher levels. People can also choose to grapple for 1d2 points of damage, which also immobilizes people and prevents them from attacking with anything larger than a dagger. Targets can then make a grapple roll to either grapple back, or escape. Finally, characters can attempt to throw, push, overbear or otherwise knock someone to the ground. This does no damage, but forces the opponent to use an action to get back to their feet. Fighting on the ground or while grappling is at a -2 to Hit and Damage without special training (aka Martial Arts). In all cases, Strength and Dexterity bonuses apply. Yes, people can Specialize (or Double Specialize) in Unarmed Combat without studying a martial art – and this is the most common way people get better at it…

Now, with the martial arts, things are a bit different. First I modified the chart from page 102 in Oriental Adventuresto create a bit more range in options, and second I codified the rules a bit on martial arts attacks. This creates a range of up to an AC9 to AC5, from 1d2 to 1d8 damage with an attack, and between 1/1 attacks to 5/1 attacks per round. Martial Artists have two basic attacks. The first is that they can strike for whatever damage that they do using the principle body part. The second is that they can throw (trip, sweep, etc) a target to the ground (this also results in normal striking damage if a save vs. Paralyzation is failed). On a Natural 20, the attack of the Martial Artist will stun the target for 1d3 rounds if they fail a save vs. Paralyzation (in addition to the normal doubled damage).

A Martial Artist can grapple like an untrained combatant, but this removes many options for most Techniques so unless they have studied a grappling art they will avoid it.

Taking pages from the articles, I expanded the martial arts listing of Techniques (aka “Special Maneuvers”):


  • Grappling: 1: Choke Hold – 2: Locking Block – 3: Incapacitating Grasp – 4: Immobilizing Grasp  – 5: Crushing Hug
  • Movement: 1: Feint – 2: Prone-Fighting – 3: Immovability – 4: Missile Deflection – 5: Leap – 6: Flowing Water – 7: Great Shield
  • Push: 1: Concentrated Push – 2: Sticking Touch – 3: One Finger – 4: Charge Breaker
  • Strike: 1: Iron Fist – 2: Crushing Blow – 3: Eagle Claw – 4: Thunderpunch – 5: Thunderclap
  • Throw: 1: Fall – 2: Instant Stand – 3: Hurl – 4: Great Throw – 5: Crushing Drop
  • Vital Area: 1: Destruction Block – 2: Pain Touch – 3: Stunning Touch – 4: Paralyzing Touch – 5: Shattertouch – 6: Poison Chi – 7: Distance Death – 8: Death Touch
  • Weapon: 1: Sweep – 2: Weapon Break – 3: Throwing Mastery – 4: Arrow Cutting – 5: Steel Cloth
  • Slash: 1: Disarm – 2: Blind – 3: Vein – 4: Artery
  • Blunt: 1: Heavy Blow – 2: Limb Paralysis – 3: Stunning Blow – 4: Great Blow
  • Mental Training: 1: Meditation – 2: All-Around Sight – 3: Pause & Silence – 4: Blind Fighting – 5: Mental Resistance – 6: Stillness – 7: Balance
  • Physical Training: 1: Quick Strike – 2: Controlled Breathing – 3: Featherwalk – 4: Summon Strength – 5: Focus Dexterity – 6: Speed – 7: Contortion
  • Mystical Training: 1: Meridian – 2: Suppressed Desire – 3: Inner Flame – 4: Ironskin – 5: Levitation – 6: Slow Resistance – 7: Slowed Aging – 8: Invulnerability

From there, the other significant change is that instead of forcing martial artists to spend proficiencies on learning Techniques, martial artists simply learn a new special maneuver each level. Yes, this makes people who learn martial arts somewhat “powerful” but I like four-color games and I control who gets to learn martial arts so it isn’t horribly unbalancing. Plus, I can throw in any number of specifications to individual martial arts – that restrict the ability to learn Techniques. So from there we have martial arts like the following:

Endorian Dragon Style: AC7 – Attacks: 3/1 for 1d3 each
Mystic: 1,4,7 – Push: 2 – Grappling: 1,2,3,4 – Kick: 1,2,3- Mental: 1,4,5 – Movement: 4 – Strike: 1,2
Those who study Endorian Dragon Style must be Lawful in Alignment, those who do not meet the statistic requirements for a Warrior-Monk may not learn any Technique greater than Difficulty 3.


Endorian Cat Style: AC6 – Attacks: 4/1 for 1d2 each
Movement: 1,2,5 – Throw: 1,2 – Push: 2 – Kick: 3 – Physical: 1,3,5 – Mental 2,4,6,7
Those who study Endorian Cat Style must have a Dexterity of 12 to learn the basic Art, a Dexterity of 13 to learn Difficulty 1 Techniques, a Dexterity 14 to learn Difficulty 2 Techniques, a Dexterity 15 to learn Difficulty 3 techniques, Dexterity 16 to learn Difficulty 4 Techniques, Dexterity 17 to learn Difficulty 5 Techniques, and Dexterity 18 to learn Difficulty 6 & 7 Techniques.

The Techniques must also be learned in a specific order – from lowest Difficulty to highest, and from “left to right”. In Cat Style, Movement 1 is learned before Throw 1, and then finally Physical 1 is learned – only then is Movement 2 learned, then Throw 2, then Push 2, then Mental 2. For those who study multiple martial arts, if a Technique is learned in one Art, then it can “leapfrogged” in another Art. So someone who studied Cat Style and had learned Kick 3 would not have to learn it again in the study of Endorian Dragon Style, they would automatically leap to Mystic 4 (following the normal model of progression). Warrior-Monks automatically have some abilities that duplicate Techniques and they get to treat these as “already learned” – notably Meditation and Missile Deflection.

For Weapon Forms, things are basically the same save that Attacks and Damage is treated a bit differently. In all cases, the number of attacks is the same for character class. For Soft Styles, there is no bonus to hit or damage, for Mixed Styles it is +1/+1, and for Hard Styles it is +2/+2.  They are also able to either fight with no armour and a certain base AC, or possibly gain Armour Optimization (ganked from Dark Sun)  with certain classes of armour (or possibly even specific types). So, here is a pretty typical version of a somewhat common fighting style:

Tyrsfarian Knife-Fighting: AC8 or Armour Optimization (+1 to AC) with Light Armour – Attacks as Class at +2/+2
Slash: 1,2,3,4 – Movement: 1 – Weapon: 1,2,3 – Mental: 2,3,4 – Physical: 1,2,5,6
Tyrsfarian Knife-Fighting can only be learned by characters with a Strength and Dexterity of 13+, it requires a Dexterity of 15 to learn Difficulty 3 Techniques, and a Dexterity of 18 to learn Difficulty 6 Techniques. It may only be used with Daggers (all types) and Shortswords (Great Khuri only). Tyrsfarian Knife-Fighters are most commonly Fighters or Gladiators, though the style is also studied by Rogues of all types – and those who are generally considered the greatest masters are Duelists.

It is matched with proficiencies in Dagger and Two-Weapon: Dagger/Dagger, plus Specialization in Dagger if they have the slots to spare. Plus, often, taking a proficiency in Shortsword as well when they get the chance. Tyrsfarian Knifefighting came about from a bit martial arts geekery as I contemplated what the “best” sort of dagger I could envision would be and came up with a Gurka Khukuri that was also sharpened along the first half of the spine – probably as I think of it with a few more years of experience and knowledge now, at least a hint of a swage and trailing point, and likely a gut hook in there somewhere and certainly finger grooves for a better grip as well as at least some examples having a forward finger ring (rather than a rear/bolster ring like a kerambit) – it does 2-7/2-5 damage and sits rights at the 14″ of overall length that is the limit for daggers.



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