Martial Arts (5A)

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As players around here do not like wearing armor, the following martial arts option is included. As any master will teach you, defense is the basis of offense, for without survival there can be no offense. There are six schools of martial arts defense, each based around different principles, methods, and abilities. They are described here, in order of how esoteric they are, from the most spiritual to the most physical.

Martial Arts Defense

When getting your first armor or shield proficiency, usually at 1st level, you can decide to be a martial artist and pick a stye of martial arts. This reduces your starting money by half (if taken at 1st level) and modifies the effect of all armor proficiencies you have. You keep the proficiencies, but do not gain any of the usual benefits. Instead, you gain benefits depending on your martial arts style and what armor proficiencies you have.

Class abilities that limit armor, such as the bladesinger wizard, cannot exceed those limits through martial arts. You can use martial arts equivalent of permitted armor, but no more than that.

Way of the Void

Prerequisite: You need a Wisdom of 14 or more to use Way of the Void.

Also know as the weirding way or the path of spirit, the way of the void is a mystic form of defense. Monks practice this style. You merge your consciousness with the universe and move in just the right way to deflect or avoid attacks, seemingly without effort. This is an art based on wisdom and insight. It requires the utmost balance and ease of movement, and is thus incompatible with wearing armor or a shield of any kind and with many weapons. A monk starts with this style of martial arts and the equivalent of proficiency in light and medium armor. A monk that gains proficiency in heavy armor can ignore the limitations on usable weapons in monk class abilities.

  • Light Armor: You gain an Armor Class of 12 + your Dexterity bonus. You lose this bonus when you wear armor, use a shield, carry a heavy load, or use a weapon with the two-handed or heavy property.
  • Medium Armor: You gain an Armor Class of 10 + your Dexterity bonus + your Wisdom bonus. You lose this bonus when you wear armor, use a shield, carry a heavy load, or use a weapon with the two-handed or heavy property.
  • Heavy Armor: Does not give a further bonus to Armor Class, but you can now use any weapon and still get the armor class bonus.
  • Shield: Does not give a bonus to Armor Class. Instead, you can use your action to end one effect on yourself that is causing you to be charmed or frightened. This is the same as the monk's Stillness of Mind ability.

Way of Life

Prerequisite: You need a Charisma of 14 or more to use Way of the Void.

Also known as animal style martial arts or fighting panache, this energetic path is based on awe and movement. Some disciples channel the energy of life to fight like an animal, with constant acrobatic moves and antics. Others develop an aura of invincibility, moving slowly and deliberately trough danger that makes others cringe. Not quite as demanding as the way of the void, the way of life still demands that you refrain from using armor or shields.

  • Light Armor: You gain armor class of 12 + your Dexterity bonus. You lose this bonus when you wear armor, use a shield, or when carrying a heavy load.
  • Medium Armor: You gain an Armor Class of 10 + your Dexterity bonus + your Charisma bonus. You lose this bonus when you wear armor, use a shield, or carry a heavy load.
  • Heavy Armor: You gain an Armor Class of 15 + your Charisma bonus. You lose this bonus when you wear armor, use a shield, or carry a heavy load.
  • Shield: With Shield proficiency you gain a +1 bonus to Armor Class. You lose this bonus when you use a shield.

Way of the Mind

Prerequisite: You need an Intelligence of 14 or more to use Way of the Void.

Also known as canny defense or fencing, this style uses trained reflexes and cunning guile for defense, concealing the practitioner in a web of dodges and parries. It is based on an intellectual understanding of the physics of fighting, and often uses a pattern for its attacks and defenses. This pattern can be geometric, working in circles or along an imaginary line, or it can be based on a rhythm such as that of a song or mathematical formula. Way of the Mind favors the rapier and other finesse weapons, but a master can use it with any melee weapon. Their focus on melee weapons limits their use of two-handed missile weapons, but thrown weapons and one-handed missile weapons such as throwing weapons, hand crossbows, and pistols are popular.

  • Light Armor: You gain armor class of 12 + your Dexterity bonus. To gain this bonus, you must be unarmed or wield a melee weapon with the finesse property. You lose this bonus if you wear armor or carry a heavy load.
  • Medium Armor: You have an Armor Class of 10 + your Dexterity bonus + your Intelligence bonus. To gain this bonus, you must be unarmed or wield a melee weapon with the finesse property. You lose this bonus when you wear armor or carry a heavy load.
  • Heavy Armor: The benefit is the same as that of Medium Armor, except that you can use any weapon and keep the bonus.
  • Shield: You gain a +1 bonus to Armor Class, but only when unarmed or using a single 1-handed melee weapon. If you lack proficiency in heavy armor, the single melee weapon must have the finesse property. You can hold something in the other hand, as long as it is not a melee weapon or shield. You can instead use a shield with normal benefits.

Way of the Body

Prerequisite: You need a Constitution of 14 or more to use Way of the Void.

This is the most earthly of the martial arts defense styles. Gladiators, boxers, and sumotori follow this path. It is based on long and punishing training where the student builds ligaments, muscle, and fat into an armored screen that protects from blows. This often makes them big and heavy, with large calloused hands and lots of scars. Practitioners of this style deflect some blows, and due to their high constitution they can take immense punishment even from the blows they fail to deflect. This is the style barbarians use - tough they do not give up the use of armor. Those of the way of the body tend to be big and strong and favor big two-handed weapons. Some use shields for a more defensive combat style. Others are cat-like and use finesse weapons.

  • Light Armor: You gain an armor class of 12 + your Dexterity bonus. You lose this bonus when you wear armor or carry a heavy load.
  • Medium Armor: You gain an Armor Class of 10 + your Dexterity bonus + your Constitution bonus. You lose this bonus when you wear armor or carry a heavy load.
  • Heavy Armor: You gain an Armor Class of 15 + your Constitution bonus. You lose this bonus when you wear armor or carry a heavy load.
  • Shield: A Way of Body martial artist can use shields to normal effect.

Way of Force

Prerequisite: Spell slots of 1st level.

This is the magician's way of defending himself, with protective force field. Mage armor is the most common spell of this path. Not constantly up and possible to dispel, such armor still offers good protection without sacrificing mobility. Force warriors use the same weapons as normal warrior—that is any weapon at all. Many combine this with spells for a very volatile style. Some practitioners can create weapons out of force, but this is not a part of the Way of Force itself.

  • Light Armor: You learn the Mage Armor spell. Mage Armor is always prepared or known to you, without counting against your limitation on spells known or spells prepared.
  • Medium Armor: As long as you are using force armor, you gain a stacking +1 bonus to Armor Class.
  • Heavy Armor: As long as you are using force armor, you gain a further stacking +1 bonus to Armor Class.
  • Shield: You learn the shield spell. This spell is always prepared or part of your spells known, but does not count against your limit of prepared or known spells.

Way of Armor

Encasing the body in armor of leather or steel is a defense not one to be scoffed at, but carries little prestige in the martial arts world. Way of Armor is what a polite martial artist calls the regular warrior, it is not a martial arts system as recognized by the rules. Some call it the path of strength, as it takes great strength to carry heavy armor without encumbrance. In many places, wearing armor marks you as either a noble, soldier, or outlaw, making its use impractical if you are or pretend to be nobody special. The way of armor is usually the strongest, in terms of pure Armor Class. Its main weaknesses are cost, weight, and clumsiness.

Feat

Martial Versatility

You can switch between using martial arts and armor at will. Barbarians have this ability as a part of their class, but do not get the Dexterity bonus.

  • Increase your Dexterity by +1, to a maximum of 20.
  • Select one style of Martial Arts Defense. When fulfilling the prerequisites of your style, you gain the benefits of the style.
  • You can wear any armor you are proficient with, but when you do, you cannot use your style of martial arts.