Exploring Specialized Fighting Styles

All right, lets play catch-up! I owe you ladies and gentlegamers a post in regards to Specialized Combat Styles! Now this assumes that you know how Weapon Proficiencies work, but it works just slightly different. Dedicating 1 Weapon Proficiency slot to a fighting style means that you are now specialized in its use. Most of the time only straight up Fighters can specialize in anything (Rangers & Paladins may not specialize as they are a sub-class) however fighting styles are a bit different, so it pays to go back and look at the previous post here.

One-Handed Fighting Style

Folks who are specialized in this method of combat, are tricky fighters! They are much better at blocking and parrying then unspecialized characters, and this grants them a bonus of 1 to their Armor Class.

A Fighter may spend a 2nd slot on this fighting style and gain a bonus of 2 to AC but that is the limit.

In order to qualify for this bonus, you can’t be using a shield, but this does allow you to have a free hand to grab objects, or punch people square in the face if you’ve got them pinned down with your weapon.

2-Hander Fighting Style

Folks who are specialists of this style are much faster in combat then others are, the benefit is that the player shaves 3 points off of his weapon speed. This bonus only applies to fighting with weapons which either require two hands to operate, or can be used two handed (i.e. bastard sword). Of course to gain any benefits from this, one has to be applying weapon speeds to their initiative.

Additionally, most folks don’t realize that lots of weapons can be used two-handed, if a player states that he is doing this, and he is specialized in this fighting style, he gains a +1 to damage.

Weapon & Shield Fighting Style

This is the one that got me confused, because I already wrote about this, but I’ll list it again. Specialists of this fighting style can chose to make an additional attack with a shield punch. When doing this, you don’t gain the AC bonus for the shield for that round, additionally you suffer a –2 to attack with your weapon, and a –4 to attack with your shield. If you put an additional slot dedicated to this fighting style, your weapon attacks normally, and you only suffer a –2 to attack with your shield.

For more information on shields click here.

Two Weapon Fighting Style

As a general rule, we only want Rangers to attack with two weapons without penalties because this is a class bonus specific to that sub-class, thus we want to keep it that way. However! How we fix this is that we demand that the weapon in the characters off hand must be a size smaller then the one in the characters favored hand. Now the Complete Fighters Handbook disrespects this rule, so here I will be drift away from its suggestions, but I realize that not everybody has my mentality thus as an option, a specialized fighter can wield weapons of equal size, and only suffer a –2 to the off hand attack.

I don’t follow those rules because I feel that this steps on the toes of all Rangers, I do however grant the normal attack, and –2 penalty (unspecialized fighters make attacks with –2 penalty to their favored hand, and –4 to attack with their off hand)

What this also allows, is for a fighter to make two separate tactical attacks, if he chooses too, he can parry with his off hand (+1 to AC) or pin with his good hand and attack with his off hand. Whatever he wants to do, if the 2 attacks are different from each other, he’ll give up a –1 to all attacks just because he is watching for 2 different things.

It should also be stated right here that a Ranger who chooses to specialize in this fighting style does not gain bonuses to attacks, he can’t improve his natural ability of two-handed awesomeness, thus he is already specialized in this attack form and can choose one of the other fighting styles to specialize in if he wishes to.


All of this stuff is advanced, but it does fit well in the core rules. Advanced players use this kind of stuff because after a while, standard combat can get boring as heck! If you want to make the game more challenging or different, then I suggest paying more attention to fighting styles, a good DM will also apply this to their NPCs, monsters who only attack with their fists could qualify for different attacks. Take the Flesh Golem for instance. Anybody that ever read Frankenstein knows that the monster was much more entertaining then simply rolling dice to determine hits and damage, spice it up some by letting them interact with their environment!

Fighting styles aren’t just limited to what I’ve put forth from the Complete Fighters Handbook, we can also come up with our own, all we need is an idea and to come up with an effect. PC characters won’t have access to all of them, don’t be afraid to try new things, if they don’t work then just don’t do it again or try and tweak it until you find the right recipe. As long as we are having fun, then we are doing it right.


Anonymous said...

Tacoma Says: (It won't let me post except as Anonymous!)
Have you considered instead of a "weapon handling type" fighting style, something more like the martial arts styles from the Ninja Handbook?

You'd have each style give a special bonus when using approved weapons. The Ninja Handbook was pretty vague on this and a player making up his own style could just say it worked with all weapons and unarmed. There wasn't a rule against it.

Some examples:

Swashbuckler Style: +4 Movement once per three rounds, +2 AC against Swashbuckler weapons. Allowed: Dagger, Rapier, Saber, Main-Gauche, Buckler, Non-Bulky Armor.

Skirmisher Style: Movement penalties due to terrain are halved. Movement is +1. Allowed: Weapons 3 pounds and under, Buckler, Non-Bulky Armor.

Shield Maiden Style: Universal shield bonus (you get your shield bonus against attacks from all sides), Shield Other (you can give your shield bonus to an adjacent friend once per round). Allowed: Any.

Of course this can easily drift into becoming a feat system. But it's conditional and exclusive: you don't get it in every circumstance and you have to choose which way you will fight on a round to round basis.

Then again, one could argue that proficiencies with passive effects are much like feats (Tumble giving a bonus in unarmed fighting and when falling, Juggling allowing you to catch thrown missiles).

I'm just thinking something along the lines of expanding the Bladesong / Martial Arts systems as a way to spend Weapon Prof slots, available to all classes (though based on weapon/armor restrictions some will take better advantage of each). The trick is that you can't just learn any style, and you don't start the game with a catalogue of the styles. You fight someone who knows it, you watch an arena match and find out about it, or it's mentioned in your week of training for your next level. It's something extra you have to go out and bargain or sieze - a new type of treasure.

One could expand the PO:S&M thing for spellcasters with their Signature Spell and such, giving benefits in spell duels if you have the right style. Again, this might bleed into feat territory, but not so much if you make it conditional and exclusive like a fighting style.

RipperX said...

Hey Tacoma, sorry about the server being picky.

I must admit that I've never read the Complete Ninja Handbook, when it came out I thought that it looked like a waste of money, as you know, TSR was putting out lots of books, regardless of quality or usefulness that they actually were, this just seemed to be one of those weird things that would just anger me, so I didn't pick it up. I do own it now . . . but ummmmmm, I've never actually read it. Shameful isn't it?

I don't think that I'd replace the original system, but I would like to replace that clunky Martial Arts chart. I've never been happy with how the system handles unarmed combat, but I just don't have the brains to think of a better system . . . well, and one that is compatable with the rules.

Consider Ninga guide on my reading list, I really don't want to comment to much about it until after I've read it.

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