Eclipse d20 and Exotic Martial Arts

Today it’s an offline question.

What are the limits of Eclipse’s Martial Arts? The rules list a specific set of Feats and Abilities that can be used to build a style – but some of the styles you’ve posted include things that aren’t on the list. Are there limits or not?

Well… Eclipse specifically allows variants, so the basic answer to all of these questions is pretty much “whatever the game master will let you get away with”.

So yes, depending on the nature of the game and the generosity of the game master, Eclipse Martial Arts can range from fairly realistic packages of combat training on up through minor schools of magic in themselves – just as they do in martial arts movies and comic books. After all, the continuum there ranges from “Walker Texas Ranger” and “Rumble In The Bronx” on up through “Kung Fu Hustle” and “Journey To The West”.

So how about a few more esoteric styles? I’ll make them Charisma based, just for fun.

First up, it’s a style for a minor superhero focused on positive-energy channeling and light magic:

Midnight Sun Style (Cha):

Most who channel positive energy, the searing radiance of the light, do so only in passing. Few indeed are those who seek to become one with the light, to infuse their very flesh with the inward fire of the light and its purifying radiance. Those few have chosen to bear the light into the darkness where none expect it.

The Midnight Sun Style focuses on subtly enhancing the user’s body and on filling it with sacred power. As such, it is very much an inward, “soft”, style like Tai Chi, more concerned with meditative states and the flow of the user’s inner power than with direct martial maneuvers.

  • Requires: Ability to Channel Positive Energy at least five times per day and at least +2 Intensity.
  • Basic Abilities:
    • Tempering The Flesh (Toughness 4)
    • Radiant Strike (Power 1)
    • Sacred Fist (Attack 1, Specialized for Increased Effect (The user’s blows are considered Holy) / only versus creatures of darkness or negative energy, not against creatures that simply happen to be evil)
    • Hand Of Light (Strike).
    • The Inner Eye (Synergy 4: Athletics, Insight, Perception, and Stealth).
  • Advanced Techniques:
    • The Illumination Of The Entire Earth (Mind Like Moon).
    • The Sun Within (Channeling/Sacred Hand; the user no longer need a holy symbol to use Channeling)
    • Wheel Of Light (A spiral of radiance spins out to strike down the foe / Whirlwind Attack).
    • Armed With Light (Channeling/Glorious Touch, only to boost unarmed attacks and personal defenses).
  • Occult Techniques:
    • Light Eternal (Inner Strength)
    • Speed Of Thought (Vanishing Technique)
    • Radiant Touch (Healing Hand)
    • Swallow The Sun (Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, Corrupted for Increased Effect (Can be used to restore Inner Strength), Specialized for Reduced Cost / Only to restore inner strength).

This art stretches things a bit. Still, while stuffing Channeling feats into a martial art is questionable, Sacred Hand is more of a style thing anyway (after all, you could put a holy symbol on a ring or get one as a tattoo or buy one for a tiny fraction of a point worth of Innate Enchantmant) and Glorious Touch is a good deal less useful when you can’t readily build on it – as well as being a way for a “sacred style” martial artist to empower himself with enough holy energy to actually hit various supernatural creatures effectively. Just recite the proper prayer or mantra and suddenly you can effectively punch out weird mystical beings – at least if you picked the right enhancement(s) to give yourself. Bad luck if you didn’t.

Now “Swallow The Sun” is a bit harder to justify, but most serious martial artists will pick it – or some similar ability – up in any case, and saving 3 CP after investing in a style on up through the Occult Techniques isn’t a particularly big deal, especially since “bare-fisted brawler with the supernatural” really isn’t a very well optimized career path to begin with. Overall, this is relatively reasonable for a martial art focused on developing an ability that doesn’t actually exist in reality. I wouldn’t expect a draconic martial art focusing on enhancing their breath weapons to restrict itself to the usual list of physical maneuvers either.

Overall, this one is entirely suitable for the setting – and shouldn’t be a problem for anything short of really low magic settings; it’s not too hard to come by magic weapons in most basic settings anyway.

Demon Fiddler Style (Cha):

“I guess you didn’t know it but I’m a fiddle player too
And if you’d care to take a dare, I’ll make a bet with you
Now you play a pretty good fiddle, boy
But give the devil his due
I’ll bet a fiddle of gold against your soul
‘Cause I think I’m better than you”

-The Devil Went Down To Georgia, Charlie Daniels

The violin wails like a chorus of the damned as the frantic speed of the user’s bow draws howling notes from the strings, a music that hammers against the boundaries of sanity like a battering ram, drifting upon the wind to pull forth rare insights into the true madness of reality. The Demon Fiddler style is not actually evil – but it requires a rare dedication to the art of the violin and access to rare energies to channel through it.

Obviously enough, this is a musical style – a physical absurdity, but hardly out of bounds for most d20 games.

  • Requires: Perform/Strings total of 10+, Mystic Artist (Strings), +3 Speciality in Fiddles, a GM who allows Theran Channeling (Mind) and access to an appropriate power source of mental magical energy to draw upon.
  • Basic Techniques:
    • Chorus Of Demons / Power 4 (Variant, adds to Charisma for musical purposes).
    • Joined Right In / Synergy 2 (Perform/Strings and/or Perform/Vocal).
    • Sounded Like This / Defenses 4 (+2 to saves versus sonic attacks per level).
    • Give The Devil His Due / Strike (Musical Assault, 1d5+Cha Mod lethal or nonlethal damage to listeners). It’s a bit of a stretch to make this area effect – but the damage is low and most of the time you’ll be hitting your allies too.
  • Advanced and Master Techniques:
    • Echoes In The Hollows / Great Projection.
    • House Of The Rising Sun / Channeling (Theran Mind Channeling, 3 + Cha Mod uses, 6 CP)
    • Luck Of El Diablo / Luck with +8 Bonus Uses (Specialized and Corrupted/only for Theran Channeling effects, 6 CP)
    • Rosin Up Your Bow / +4 Bonus Uses of Mystic Artist (Strings) (6 CP).
  • Occult Techniques:
    • Fire Flew From His Fingertips / Inner Strength II
    • It Made An Evil Hiss / Ki Focus (Adds to Charisma)
    • He Knew That He’d Been Beat / Vanishing.

Now this style is pretty much a small magic system in itself – granting a fiddle-playing Mystic Artist access to a a variety of mind-altering affects through his or her music. Of course, it’s only going to work in a setting that allows Theran Channeling (which is kind of rare) and in a game high-powered enough that the game master lets you get away with shoving four mystic artist bonuses into a martial art. Sure, that’s appropriate enough if you allow a musical martial art in the first place, and it is fairly limited use – but it’s a whole new power set that’s available for thirty-odd skill points and a decent charisma bonus.

I’d go for it – it is fairly creative, very thematic, and promises to be fun, which is, after all, the entire point of playing – but it opens the way for a bunch of other musical arts and magical duels winding up being settled by rock-offs. Now there’s nothing wrong with that (if the trope was good enough for Tolkien, it is good enough for most games) but it will make for some awfully literal battles of the bands.

Finally, we have the…

Radiant (or Vedic) Master Style (Cha)

Many Martial Arts focus on focusing C’hi, the power of the user’s life force – but that is merely the user’s fund of Positive Energy. It is possible to use those same techniques to better focus the positive energy one taps into through the disciplines of Channeling. The Radiant Master style is so focused, and it’s user’s are easily recognized by the burning radiance which blazes around them when they tap into positive energy plane.

  • Requires: Ability to Channel Positive Energy at least five times per day and at least +2 Intensity.
  • Basics:
    • Meditations Upon The Light / Power 4 (Adds to Channeling Intensity).
    • The Illuminating Mantra / Defense 4 (Adds to AC and Saves versus Undead – but only versus undead)
    • Truths Upon The Wind / Synergy/Religion, and Synergy/Turning Checks.
  • Advanced and Master Techniques:
    • Drinking Down The Light / Augment Magnitude +2d6 (subject to normal maximums, 6 CP)
    • Light Pierces Darkness / Mind Like Moon
    • Bhumisparsa Mudra / Sacred Hand (Does not require a Holy Symbol)
    • Bodhyangi Mudra / Radiant Channel (When the user channels positive energy it also produces a Light-based spell effect of up to level (Intensity-4)/4.
  • Occult Techniques:
    • Gayatri Mantra / Inner Strength II
    • Heart Sutra Bodhi Svaha / Ki Focus (+4 to Magnitude and Intensity)
    • Tandava Shiva Mantra / Wrath (Positive Energy, Provides protection from Negative Energy).

While superficially similar to the Midnight Sun Style and the Demon Fiddler Style, this one is actually quite a bit more problematic; rather than boosting a not-especially optimal combat style like the Midnight Sun Style, or providing an entirely new suite of mid-range abilities like the Demon Fiddler Style, this focuses on boosting Channeling – already a major power source. Up to +2 to Checks, +8 Intensity, +(2d6+4) Magnitude, and a bonus spell – possibly of fairly high level – cast with every use of Channeling is a pretty sizeable boost and will affect pretty much every other Channeling ability the user takes. For a Channeling specialist – or even a dabbler – this (or some variant) is pretty much a “must take” skill if the game master allows it.

And like most “must take” items, it’s really only suited to extremely high-powered games. That’s exactly where it originated of course; a way to bump a companion in a really high powered game up to the point where it could do something reasonably effective. I probably wouldn’t allow it into more reasonable games though.

It isn’t always easy to decide whether or not to allow a particular item in Eclipse. Just remember, it is entirely fair to say “I’m allowing this on an experimental basis. If it makes a mess of the game, or just doesn’t add to the fun, I’m reserving the right to revise or even reject it – although you can then spend those points on something else”. After all, the point is to have fun. If something is spoiling that fun never hesitate to throw it out.

2 Responses

  1. Not sure what to think of the swallowing the sun vs. alternative methods of powering that sort of effect – To compare…
    5d6 inner strength point regen, 1d6 per few min. (17)
    Inner Strength (specialized [and corrupted?]) / limited as rite of chi 12 / 18
    …Oh actually that works nicely – and the comparison with buying something like a power pool w/ mana and actually using rite of chi for that – and I suppose that ‘behaves about as if you had fiddled about in the system and made a weird mess of standard option’ is a good sign that something makes sense.

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