Varieties of martial arts

A martial arts ďschoolĒ is a body of knowledge that, at the very least, defines a certain style of fighting. Some schools go further by seeing the martial arts as defining an approach to life in general. The constant practice rituals strengthen the body and the mind, while the quest to perfect oneís art holds deeper philosophical truths. Of course, not all schools are like this; many are purely practical.

A place where a school is taught is known as an academy or a dojo. It is possible for an academy to teach many schools, if it is sufficiently large; and it is possible for a school to be taught at many academies, if it is sufficiently popular. In fact, the largest academies may churn out dozens if not hundreds of students each year from many different schools. Most will know only the basics of their art, but the best students will command knowledge far beyond their peers. At the other end of the scale, a school without an academy might have only a few wandering masters, who choose carefully the students to whom they impart their knowledge. Such a school could be even more famous (or infamous) than one that is taught at multiple academies.

Mastering a School

A martial artist must be at least 6th character level before she can gain the benefits of mastering a school, even if she manages to meet the prerequisites beforehand. The benefits accrue once the character has satisfied all the prerequisites, and spends at least six months training under the guidance of a master. The training need not be continuous, but any significant break requires the character to start over at the beginning. As a rule, this should happen with any interruption longer than a month, or if more than 50% of the characterís time is spent away from training; however, the DM has final say on what counts as a significant break.

ďMasteryĒ of a school represents mastering the basic techniques taught by the school. These are techniques that potentially anyone can learn, if they complete the required training. At the DMís option, a school may also contain more advanced learning, reserved for the most exceptional individuals. Such knowledge would be represented by taking a martial arts prestige class that expands on the abilities given here, culminating in grand mastery of a school. You cannot become a grand master simply by accumulating more martial artist levels (or levels in any other base class) or by gaining feats. A prestige class is necessary because learning these secrets takes much more dedication than mastering the basics: if you are to finish the journey, you canít afford to stray off the path.

A martial artist doesnít have to have studied at an academy, or attained mastery of a pre-existing school. Many martial artists learn facets of different schools throughout their careers, mixing and matching techniques to come up with a style thatís uniquely their own. In the right circumstances, such a character may be even more dangerous than someone who is technically a ďmasterĒ.

Creating a School

Here are some guidelines when creating new benefits for mastering a school. Most of these have been said before in other contexts, but they bear repeating.


Existing Martial Arts Schools

Following are some schools that I've created. Feel free to pick them to bits, use these in your campaign, fold, spindle or mutilate them into something completely different, or whatever.


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