The Advancing Warrior Part IV – Two Weapon Fighter, Sword and Board Fighter, One-Handed Fighter, and Critical Fisher Fighters.

The Two-Weapon Fighter:

The point of two-weapon fighting is to get extra attacks with a secondary weapon because you’re using both hands. That seemed reasonable when it was introduced and the choices were basically “Two-Handed Weapon, Weapon and Shield, or Two Weapons” – but then the roster of playable races expanded to include races with more arms, or prehensile tails, or tentacles, or whatever and we started seeing weapons that provided shield bonuses, and rules for using shields as weapons, and ways to use a shield without having to carry it (such as Force Shield Rings, Animated Shields, and the Shieldbearer spell). We even started seeing dual-shield builds, although it’s rather hard to justify those historically.

That’s why later effects that provide more limbs – such as Girallon’s Blessing and various other polymorph effects – only provide a greater number of weapon options instead of extra attacks. After all, the d20 combat system is highly abstracted; it is assumed that characters are fighting to the best of their ability, and that – if a good chance comes up – they will use a secondary weapon, kick an opponents knee, bash them with a shield, or pull whatever “dirty trick” they can. Of course, it’s also assumed that most such maneuvers are simply used to create openings for your primary mode of attack. Like Attacks of Opportunity, if you’re holding multiple weapons… you can exploit your opening with whatever weapon suits you and all that activity is simply assumed to be going on in the background.

Eclipse does not care what you use to attack with; if you wish to buy a damage die for your long, flowing, hair and use it to attack people as a natural weapon, then so be it. If you also have six arms and a prehensile tail and are holding four weapons, two shields, and an unconscious companion… then your attacks are made with whichever of those best suits you at the moment. I do tend to allow you your best shield bonus and a +2 circumstance bonus on your AC if you are using two shields, and a +3 circumstance bonus for three or more – but that’s just me, not an “official rule”. Still, that’s the sort of thing that Circumstance Bonuses are for.

Thus, in Eclipse, classical two-weapon fighting is simple: you buy extra attacks (bump your BAB or buy Bonus Attack, Rapid Attack, Opportunist, et al) and other special weapon abilities – limited so that you cannot have a shield bonus or use a two-handed weapon and have to be holding at least one extra weapon when you use them . That will make getting those extra attacks cheaper – so that you can afford to buy bonuses to your defenses and to the damage you inflict, making up for not using a two-handed weapon. Between that and a Martial Art a lot of the “two weapon fighting feats” become irrelevant: your strength modifier applies normally in the first place, you don’t have to worry about complicated “secondary weapon” penalties, the Eclipse version of Power Attack (Expertise) works the same way for both one- and two-handed weapons, getting an extra attack after (say) disarming someone is simply Opportunist and doesn’t require using a second weapon, being able to Feint as an Attack is just Opportunist again, and so on.

If you want to use two weapons rather than a two-handed weapon… it’s really mostly a matter of style. It might take three or four levels to purchase everything you want – but this is really only a minor variation on the basic Smasher build.

The Sword-and-Board Fighter:

Sword-and-Board – or, more generally, one-handed weapon and shield with armor as available – was pretty much THE favored military melee combat style for thousands of years across multiple continents. There are excellent reasons for that; it’s much easier to focus on a single weapon in your dominant hand than on two weapons, a lot of the use of a shield can be handled by basic reflexes, shields can provide quite a bit of protection for a fairly small investment, shields are a lot easier to pick up than armor is to don, lighter weapons are quicker to train with and cheaper to get. Thus you had the basic selection of Spear-and-Shield, Axe-or-Mace-and-Shield, Shortsword-and-Shield, and even Javelin-and-Shield. That pretty much amounted to Thrust or Trip, Smash or Throw, Thrust or Slash, and Thrust or Throw… and Shield. Straightforward, near-instinctive, and so easily trained. After all, in the real world, where people have messy biology instead of masses of “hit points”… a short sword in the gut was generally every bit as incapacitating and mortal as a mighty blow from a two handed axe. Who cared if your fallen and incapacitated opponent might live a few moments longer after the shortsword thrust? You’d won. In d20 though… opponents can fight on at full strength despite massive wounds. Thus in baseline d20 sacrificing offensive power in favor of a defensive boost is generally a poor idea since it lets your enemies survive long enough to do more damage anyway. So shield users tend to get outclassed by other styles.

For good or ill, however, this is d20 – wherein none of these practicalities have much influence on Adventurers – who are exceptional people to start with and have all kinds of incredible (and often nonsensical) abilities That’s especially true in Eclipse, where offensive fighting power is limited by what the game master is willing to put up with, not by style.

In Eclipse Sword-and-Board is just as simple as Two Weapons: You’re trading in a part of your damage potential for an improved armor class. The trick here is that – in Eclipse – it’s not very hard to get your damage output up to effective levels with pretty much any weapon. It will cost a little more if you start off with a weaker weapon, but the limitation lies in what the game master is willing to put up with, not in your ability to stack up damage bonuses – and what the game master is willing to put up with doesn’t really depend much on whether or not you’re using a two-handed weapon. Sword-and-Board was the historical standard for a very long time. Eclipse makes it the standard again since it gets you improved defenses at very little actual cost. All you need to do is restrict a chunk of your tricks to only be usable with a limited set of favored weapons, and there you are.

The One-Handed Fighter:

One-Handed Fighters are slightly trickier. The major historical reason for such styles was social; if you were somewhere where major weapons, shields, and armor were inappropriate you’d probably only have a single, relatively light, weapon. In later history, you might be keeping one hand free to get out a pistol, bomb, or some other unsporting trick. You might even want to be able to defend yourself while shoving someone behind you, or carrying something you’d stolen, or even while hanging onto a rope, railing, or tree branch. In d20, you might also want a hand free for spellcasting, or tossing out alchemical items, or to use some special power. In Eclipse this is functionally virtually identical to a two-weapon fighter build; you cannot have a shield bonus or use a two-handed weapon while using whatever one-handed fighter tricks you buy.

Critical Fishers come in two basic subtypes.

Massive Damage Critical Fishers:

These builds want a big critical multiplier. At it’s simplest… a +4 Strength Modifier and a Heavy Pick (1d6, 20/x4). Use Improved Critical and Lethal to get it up to 19-20/x5 (12 CP), then throw in Luck with +12 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / only for melee attacks with your pick (8 CP). Add a Martial Art (at +8 total for +3 Power and some other benefit – perhaps an extra 5′ Reach?) and Aggressive Strike (6 CP) and you can now automatically score a critical hit in melee combat for (1d12+19) x 5 damage a dozen times a day. At a total cost of 26 CP you can afford to buy the entire package at level one. It would be two levels worth of purchases later on though. Three if you want to spend (6 CP) upgrade Aggressive Strike to allow up to (-20) on your AC to get +60 damage instead of the +15 I figured in before, raising the total to up to (1d12 + 64) x 5 damage. And this version can still use a shield just fine.

For further advancement? More bonus uses on the Luck (+12 for +6 CP) and either Imbuement (6-18 CP) or a genuine Magic Weapon. If you want to get elaborate throw in Whirlwind and Lunge (Both specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / Whirlwind counts as a standard attack, Lunge provides +15′ Reach) / only with a Pick, damage is divided by the user as desired (instead of all of it to each target) – although choices like “enough to take the target down” are valid (12 CP). That way you can perform your five-hundred point swing of your pick and take out whole swaths of minor opponents.

You’ll need about five levels worth of purchases to fill out the Massive Damage Critical Fisher build – but it will also make a fine substitute for the practical charger builds: all it NEEDS is a single attack.

As usual in Eclipse, the trick is not building an effective – or even a far over-optimized – fighter. It’s in limiting things so as to set up a character who will be fun for everyone – player, game master, and other players – to have in the game. That’s one reason that “optimization” in Eclipse is easy. Why waste time on that instead of actually playing the game?

The Effects Monger Critical Fisher:

These builds are characters who specialize in doing odd things to their targets. That idea actually dates back to first edition, where it was (to go with the much less detailed rules) informal; when someone said “I’m going to try and cripple the dragons leg!” or “Can I hit their head and stun them?” the usual answer was “you can try! Roll your attack at (a large penalty)!” – with the result contingent on the attack check, the level of damage inflicted, and GM whimsy.

In Eclipse this is the fighter version of “save or suck!” effects. While even the basic Martial Arts rules include a selection of “special effect on a critical” abilities, the big item in this area is the “Trick” ability (6 CP, or 4 CP if corrupted to only work with a particular weapon, per instance). It basically says that either three times per day or under special circumstances (defined in consultation with the GM with lesser effects calling for easier conditions) you can make a special attack that forces a save to avoid a dangerous special effect. For a popular example, buy:

  • Dolorous Stroke: Trick (6 CP): Either 3/Day or on a Confirmed Critical against a creature vulnerable to critical hits (user’s choice) your attack inflicts an effect equivalent to Bestow Curse or Blindness/Deafness on the creature struck if it fails to save (Will Save DC 10 + Level/2 + Str Mod). Such a “curse” will go away in 1d10 days thanks to the remarkable healing abilities of d20 characters or can be removed immediately by Healing effects of level three or more or in 1d4+1 rounds by a Heal check against the original save DC. Go ahead and Corrupt this to limit it to your favorite weapon and get it down to (4 CP).

A Death Strike – basically the equivalent of an Assassin’s Death Attack – is similar. It’s either 3/Day or calls for three rounds of study before it can be used, but if your target fails to save… they die. Does your attack leave the victim Paralyzed or Unconscious? Since those conditions are really just another way of saying “I Win!” they’ll be tricky to pull off too – but there are plenty of ways to make them work.

Perhaps Nerve Block prevents the use of spellcasting and psionics for 3d6 hours. Withering Palm dissipates the victims Mana reserves (should they happen to have any). Agony leaves the victim at a -6 on all rolls for 2d4 hours and can be used for interrogation. Petit Mal causes the victim to “lose” 1d4+4 rounds without being aware of it. Amnesia causes the victim to lose his or her memory for 3d6 hours and even after recovery 1d4 hours just before the strike will remain blank.

Depending on the effect, “on a critical hit” – or perhaps “on a hit that would be a critical against an opponent vulnerable to critical hits” – can be a quite reasonable trigger. Want to do some attribute damage? Half an opponents movement? Send outsiders back to their home planes? Cause massive bleeding? Inflict effects such as Sickened, Staggered, Exhausted, or Diseased? Why not?

What you’ll want in this case is a weapon with a good critical range. If you’re going by the basic weapon lists, that will usually be a Kukri, Scimitar, Rapier, or Falchion for a base of 18-20. Buy Superior Improved Critical for your choice of weapon (12 CP) which doubles the threat range and lets that doubling stack with one magical enhancement to the threat range. With Keen (most cheaply available through Use of Charms and Talismans to get a Rune Weapon, 6 CP) that will get you up to a threat range of 12-20. You will then want Specialized Luck (roll twice to confirm critical hits and take the best result, 6 CP). You can Corrupt that down to (4 CP) by limiting it to your favored weapon if you wish. Throw in Dolorous Stroke for your favored weapon (4 CP) and for a total cost of 26 CP – another package a dedicated Fighter could afford to buy at level one – you can inflict some pretty good debuffs on your opponents in every battle. To continue further, you’ll probably simply want to get more Tricks, increase your base attack bonus, and develop your martial arts so that you hit more often and can take advantage of your tricks. Note that nothing prevents you from using more than one Trick at a time if their activation conditions are compatible.

2 Responses

  1. […] Part IV: Two Weapons, Sword and Board, One-Handed, Massive Damage and Effects Monger Critical Fisher […]

  2. […] Part IV: Two Weapons, Sword and Board, One-Handed, Massive Damage and Effects Monger Critical Fisher […]

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