Thursday, September 10, 2015

Scarlet Heroes Homebrew: New Blademaster School, the Smoking Serpentine




The advent of firearms technology was a game-changer on the field of battle.  Its penetrative power against armor and faster training time than longbows made it easy to field peasant militias who could deliver devastating artillery in war.  Cannons replicated the devastating power wielded by magic-users, at the expense of storing volatile gunpowder in large amounts to work.  As the great empires of the world sought to journey beyond their home continent to unknown waters beyond, a new kind of adventurer quickly entered the scene: the privateer.

Tales of riches, global hegemony, and the desire to start a new society far from Old World, and the pursuit of knowledge fueled legions of ships to set sail for the islands at the edges of the known world.  Dangerous monsters and rival colonists facilitated need for ships of well-armed sailors and soldiers for defense, and the tropical climate and constant tilting of seabound vessels made heavy armor impractical.  The adventurers of these lands fought not with plate mail and axes, but with black powder and cutlasses.

Guns are a controversial aspect in Dungeons & Dragons, and those groups that do use them have many different rules facilitating their use.  This homebrew school was designed in mind with Age of Exploration firearms, the kind which are typically fired once during a battle before switching to another or closing in for melee.  I found the "once per fight/day" schematic to work very well with this, representing the often deadly uses for firearms in spite of their hindrances.

I utilized game mechanics from Scarlet Throne and Thrashing Dragon disciplines from Path of War, as well as the guidelines for making new Blademaster Arts and Schools in The Sandbox #2.  Regarding the school's name, in 14th century Europe a type of gunpowder used for cannons was called Serpentine due to its resemblance to hellfire and thus Satan.  The Devil is given snake-like characteristics in various forms of Christianity.  I figured that this would be a cool name for a homebrew fighting style.


School of Smoking Serpentine

The Smoking Serpentine is named after the serpentine fuel used for primitive cannons, and was mastered by a pirate lord who incorporated a mix of swordplay and firearms training to devastating effect in battle.  The fighting style was taught to other pirates, and in turn was copied by other martial disciples watching them in battle.

Mysteries of the Smoking Serpentine

Students of the Smoking Serpentine learn to take very good care of guns in their possession.  Firearms will not jam or break as long as they're wielded by them, and environmental conditions such as total immersion in water or rainstorms will not cause the weapon's mechanisms or gunpowder to be ruined or ignite.  If necessary, this can be explained as waterproof cartridges and pouches sewn from the hides of fire-resistant monsters.

Adepts of the Smoking Serpentine develop a certain dashing quality which seems to get them out of trouble more often than not.  They treat their Charisma score as 4 points higher (effective maximum 18) for the purposes of social interactions.

Masters of the Smoking Serpentine learn how to create a long-lasting chemical agent to deploy in battle.  Once per day they can replicate the effects of a Wall of Fire spell, although it is non-magical and the concentration for its duration is represented by the blademaster feeding the flames.

Arts of the Smoking Serpentine

Level One

Blade Bind
Instant  Once Per Fight

If an opponent fails to hit the blademaster with a melee attack, the blademaster maneuvers so that the strong portion of his weapon is pressing against the weaker portion of his opponent's weapon.  Said opponent cannot maneuver out of melee range without suffering a free attack from the blademaster (said free attack costs no action to use), but as long as the Blade Bind is kept neither opponent can move out of range or attack another opponent due to the concentration involved in keeping the bind.

Fire and Steel
Instant  Constant

The blademaster learns to be fast with his hands so as to adapt quickly to changing circumstances.  He can fight with a pistol in one hand and a one-handed weapon in the other at no penalty, and freely sheathe and withdraw either during the course of an action should a free hand be required for a task.

Hindering Strike
Action  Once Per Fight

The blademaster confounds an opponent in addition to damaging them.  On a successful attack the blademaster may opt to automatically disarm an opponent of their weapon or another worn item such as a pouch, belt buckle, hat, or other removable item (GM's discretion).  The blademaster can also choose to trip and knock prone their opponent instead of a disarm.

Powerful Shot
Action  Once Per Day

Due to the long reloading times of most firearms, the blademaster learns to make his only shot count.  The blademaster makes an attack roll with a firearm, and on a successful hit he deals an additional 2d6 points of damage in addition to the base weapon damage.

Level Two

Duck and Weave
Instant  Once Per Fight

The blademaster knows that a moving target is hard to hit, especially when going through friendly targets and behind environmental obstacles.  As long as the blademaster moves at least half his movement speed before making an attack, he gains a +4 bonus on her attack roll.  If he ends his movement in a space next to an enemy target, a piece of furniture, or another object which can reasonably prove a hindrance, he gains a -4 bonus to his Armor Class on attacks made against him.

Experimental Alchemy
Instant  Constant

The blademaster's study and handling of black powder grants insight into alternative fuel sources for his firearms.  At the start of each day the blademaster may load elemental powder into his firearms.  These firearms suffer a -2 penalty to hit, but their damage is treated as a certain common energy type (cold, fire, electricity, or other elemental damage forms in your Edition/retro-clone) for the purposes of attacks.  This also applies to any Arts or Mysteries of this School which utilize firearms or explosives.

Shoot and Slice
Action  Once Per Fight

The blademaster makes a melee attack against an opponent while using a pistol to shoot a nearby opponent within the first range increment of the weapon.  This is resolved as a single attack roll and the results are compared to the Armor Class of two different opponents; damage is rolled separately for each.

Shrapnel Blast
Action  Once Per Day

The blademaster loads their firearm with glass shards, shell fragments, and other sharp pieces into their firearm instead of normal bullets.  When fired, the attack is resolved as an area of effect attack in the shape of a 20 foot cone-shaped emanation.  Those within the burst radius must roll a saving throw or take the base weapon damage.

Level Three

Acrobatic Flair
Instant  Constant

When the blademaster fights, it is very hard for anyone to stand their ground.  The blademaster may move, attack an opponent, and move again up to their base movement speed as part of a round's worth of actions.  Additionally, any opponent he strikes has to move 10 feet in a direction of the opponent's choice if capable of doing so. This represents running for cover, trying to keep up with the blademaster, getting knocked back and tripped, and similar actions undertaken by the enemy.

Dazzling Flash
Action  Once Per Day

By appropriating fireworks intended for entertainment purposes, the blademaster can fire a bright flash of light as a 20 foot burst radius with a range increment of 30 feet.  Those within the radius must make a saving throw or take 2d6 damage, as well as being blinded for a number of rounds equal to the blademaster's level.

The Right Moment
Instant  Once Per Fight

The blademaster reads their opponent and reacts at the best possible time once they let their guard down.  The blademaster rolls their attack roll twice and keeps the better result.

Up Close and Personal
Action  Once Per Day

The blademaster makes a melee attack against their opponent.  If successful he discharges the contents of his firearm point-blank, dealing the damage of both weapons to the opponent.  This leaves a particularly painful gunshot wound, dealing 1d6 points of fire damage per round (or another damage type if using Experimental Alchemy), to a maximum number of rounds equal to the blademaster's level.

Level Four

All-Out
Action  Once Per Day

The blademaster throws caution to the wind and brings his full fury to bear.  He performs 3 attack rolls against an enemy.  For every result which hits, he deals his base weapon damage plus 4d6 points per successful hit (meaning the maximum damage can be 12d6 plus triple the base weapon damage).  At the end of this attack, the blademaster suffers a +4 penalty to his Armor Class and can only move at half speed during their next round.  This attack can be made with multiple loaded firearms if desired.

Peerless Charm
Instant  Constant

The blademaster is now an iconic swashbuckler, one of the greatest legends to sail the seas.  Attacks made by opponents with six or less hit dice than the blademaster's level only deal the minimum possible result on damage dice against him.  He can also treat his attack roll die result as a 10 and his damage dice as the maximum possible result against such opponents.

Reckless Destruction
Action  Once Per Day

The blademaster outmaneuvers his opponents to such an extent that they have trouble striking who they want.  All opponents within 30 feet of the blademaster must make a saving throw or suffer as though under the Confusion spell for the remainder of combat or until the blademaster is taken out of the fight, whichever comes first.  Opponents with 3 hit dice or less are automatically confused and cannot attempt a saving throw.