Friday, August 28, 2015

Scarlet Heroes Homebrew: New Blademaster School, the Iron Hand

Scene from Shadow Skill Anime

Kevin Crawford of Sine Nomine Publishing has a free magazine called The Sandbox, where he displays miscellaneous gaming ideas and tools for fans of his work and other old-school games.  His latest issue contained a new class for Scarlet Heroes, the Blademaster.  Due to inter-connectivity, it can be adapted to other Basic D&D style retroclones.

What caught me off guard about the Blademaster was that it took some clear inspiration from 3rd Edition's Tome of Battle, which is best described as "Vancian casting for martials" without necessarily being magical (at least not most of the time).  Although the maneuver system spawned by the book is very popular, it has its fair share of critics who feel that its design principles run counter to their playing style.  Adapting it for an OSR fanbase would be a risky venture, but of all the designers out there to do it there are few better choices than Kevin Crawford.

The Blademaster is a scholar of war who can master the techniques of various fighting Schools.  They learn special abilities known as Arts, some of which are constant in duration, others can be used once per battle (or once with a 15 minute cooldown period outside of battle), and some can only be used once per day.  Like spells they are graded by level, with certain arts only capable of being learned by higher-level Blademasters.

Arts are like spells, Schools are like, well, schools of magic.  There are many sample Arts and two Schools provided, but Crawford provides guidelines for Game Masters wishing to adapt and create their own Blademaster techniques for their home setting.

It goes without saying that I'm a big fan of Tome of Battle and Sine Nomine Publishing, so this motivated me to come up with some Schools and Arts of my own which I'll be displaying as part of a series.  Many of them take inspiration and in some cases convert game mechanics from existing material.  In the case of the Iron Hand, I went with a fighting style which relies on fighting unarmed and with improvised weapons in cases where a full armament is not an option.  I took ideas from Path of War and Tome of Battle, such as the Broken Blade school for unarmed fighting, Solar Wind and Thrashing Dragon for thrown weapons, and the Crusader and Warder classes for shrugging off physical punishment.

School of the Iron Hand

Not all warriors can afford to own and train with proper weapons.  Many of them use their own hands or make do with common farming instruments.  Blademasters initiated into this school learn to look upon the environment around them and their own bodies to defeat their enemies in lieu of common arms and armor.

In modern times the Iron Hand is favored among ascetic monks, bare-knuckle brawlers, and peasant rebels.

Mysteries of the Iron Hand

Students of the Iron Hand are more than capable of fighting with no weapons at all.  They deal either 1d6 points of damage or their base weapon damage with unarmed attacks and common farming tools (whichever is greater), and they do 1d4 points of damage or the base weapon damage (whichever is greater) with improvised throwing weapons such as rocks and sewing needles.

Adepts of the Iron Hand learn to harness their bodies and minimize environmental harm.  They ignore the first 10 feet of falling damage per Blademaster level and land on their feet if they do not take any damage at all.

Masters of the Iron Hand are intimately familiar with the vital flow of life and animating forces that hold physical shells together.  Once per day they can touch a target resolved as a melee attack.  If the touch hits and the target fails a saving throw, they die or become inanimate depending on the nature of said target.

Arts of the Iron Hand

Level One

Fighting Dirty
Action  Once Per Day

The blademaster delivers a sharp blow to an opponent's weak spots, causing the opponent to be unable to do anything on their next action due to the staggering pain.

Guided Hand
Instant  Constant

The blademaster feels the wind upon the air and the dynamic properties of the objects they wield in their hands.  They may increase the range of thrown missile weapons such as darts and javelins by 30 feet.

Parrying Counter
Instant  Constant

The blademaster learns to use his own hands to parry blows, granting him the AC benefits of wielding a shield as long as he has one free hand.

Rapid Assault
Action  Once Per Fight

The blademaster makes two rapid strikes against his opponent, resolving this art as two attacks which can be made against one or two targets within reach of his melee attack.

Level Two

Disorienting Blow
Instant  Once Per Day

The blademaster knows that an opponent who loses their sight or hearing is greatly weakened.  Upon a successful melee attack, the blademaster can blind or deafen an opponent for 1 minute.

Ricochet Strike
Action  Once Per Fight

The blademaster can fling a thrown weapon in such a way that it rebounds off of surfaces and opponents, striking up to two targets within the first range increment and returning to the blademaster's hand at the end of the attack.  The attack roll is resolved only once and compared separately, dealing 2d6 points of bonus damage to each target.  This art can be used to strike out of sight opponents provided the blademaster can accurately pinpoint their location.

Instant  Once Per Fight

If a target fails to hit the blademaster in melee, the blademaster can grab their opponent and hurl them through the air.  This inflicts the blademaster's normal unarmed strike damage and moves their opponent up to 10 feet away in a direction of their choice.

Instant Constant

Through punishing trials and focusing their energies, the blademaster's limbs become superhumanly tough.  They can deal damage to opponents who would otherwise normally be immune to physical attacks due to material properties, such as a werewolf and silver or a golem and magic weapons.  They can also bend iron bars or punch a hole through three feet of solid stone, but cannot affect material harder or thicker than this.

Level 3

Adamantine Kick
Instant Once Per Fight

As part of a successful melee attack, the blademaster deals an additional 3d6 points of damage.

Earth Lift
Action Once Per Day

Through sheer strength the blademaster picks up an incredibly heavy object, sometimes even the very ground under him, and darkens the sky with a frightening throw.  The blademaster may make a thrown attack with a 20 foot range and a 10 to 30 foot radius (depending on the relative size of said object).  Any opponents within this radius take 1d6 damage per blademaster level on a failed saving throw, half damage (round down) on a successful save.

The attack need not be a single object; it can be a flurry of furniture, boulders, and the like, but its mechanical effects remain the same.

Instant Once Per Day

The blademaster is capable of pushing their body past its natural limit for punishment.  Should a blademaster be reduced to 0 or fewer hit points, they can still move and act for a number of rounds equal to their blademaster level before they succumb.  Any further damage during this time is negated, but the blademaster must receive healing before this art's duration ends should they wish to avoid death's embrace.

Flowing Grace
Instant Constant

The blademaster hones their body to move across their environment with sublime dexterity, unhindered by the chaos of battle.  The blademaster's base movement speed doubles, and they can move across water, fragile tree branches, and other surfaces normally too weak to hold their weight.  They cannot use this ability to walk on gaseous or insubstantial terrain.

Level Four

Body of Iron
Instant Constant

Enduring things even veteran warriors never experienced, the blademaster is a living armor of sheer will.  They are treated as wearing plate mail (or the retro-clone's best equivalent armor) for the purposes of Armor Class while suffering none of the negative effects.  They can also reroll any failed saving throw, but must abide by the result of the reroll even if it's worse than the original roll.

Hurricane Kick
Action Once Per Day

With a singular rapid spin, the blademaster creates a cyclone 30 feet in radius.  Any target within the area takes 1d6 points of damage per blademaster level, and the blademaster can place the opponents anywhere within the radius upon resolution of the attack.  This last part represents the battering winds tossing people about the place, and targets cannot end up in the same space as part of this art.

Lingering Wound
Action Once Per Day

Upon resolution of a successful attack, the blademaster can deal significant internal injury to an opponent.  The opponent suffers 4d6 points of damage the following round, and another 4d6 the round after that.