Three Fighting Arts for the Age of Gunpowder

I’ve been working on tons of Fighting Arts over the last few months, and I’ve managed to work up the courage to share some of the ones I’m most proud of–after we finally did some playtesting. Here are a few from a campaign set in a fantasy version of Colonial India, guided by the premise that the more powerful the Technique, the more awesome.

(I know Luke’s first rule in the Anthology is not to mix ranged and melee forms, but I couldn’t come up with a compelling way to replicate 18th Century fighting styles without doing just that. Please forgive me.)


The officer wields weapons both as a symbol of his rank and a last resort in times of crisis. In a perfect world he would command his men and never need deflect an incoming blow. Yet the officer is also a gentleman, an aristocrat, and a member of the Second Estate: therefore to know how to fight is also his special pride. He takes great dignity in fencing and marksmanship.

Exponent Forms Actions
2 Pistol, Hanger Block, Avoid, Strike, Aim, Shoot, and Reload
3 Light Saber, Smallsword
4 Heavy Saber
Techniques Instruction Ob Mastery Ob Practical Ob
Skirmish Training Instruction Ob 1 Tactics Ob 1 OS Ob 1
Dual Wielding Instruction Ob 2 Agility Ob 2 OS Ob 2
Snapshot Instruction Ob 1 Agility Ob 3 OS Ob 1
Battle Training Instruction Ob 3 Tactics Ob 3 OS Ob 3
Staff Officers Instruction Ob 4 Tactics Ob 4 OS Ob 3
Rally! Instruction Ob 3 Command Ob 5 OS Ob 6
Unto the Breach Instruction Ob 5 Steel Ob 6 OS Ob 5
To Me! Instruction Ob 6 Command Ob 6 OS Ob 7
  • Dual Wielding: You can wield a pistol in one hand and a sword in the other and swap between each freely, action to action, within Fight!.
  • Staff Officers: You know how to take good advice in stressful situations. You may receive assistance from two characters in R&C, rather than only one.
  • Rally!: The line will be held on your watch! Rally! reduces the actions required to use Command in Fight! by one, to one.
  • Unto the Breach: When leading your men in a charge, your morale is unbreakable. Add advantage to your Steel for every soldier under your direct command.
  • To Me!: Landing a MW on an enemy instantly ends all Hesitation for soldiers under your command and grants +3D of advantage to their next Steel tests.


The native firearms traditions of Ganarajya and its surrounding country are not as developed as that of the West, but they certainly still exist, distinctive from the ways of across the sea. The Eastern Isles Trading Company has long learned to fear the sound of jezail fire coming from the hills above.

Exponent Forms Actions
2 Matchlock Aim, Reload, Avoid, Fire Gun
3 Jezail
Techniques Instruction Ob Mastery Ob Practical Ob
Skirmish Training Instruction Ob 1 Perception Ob 1 EM Ob 1
Improvised Ammo Instruction Ob 3 Perception Ob 2 EM Ob 2
Burning Wick Instruction Ob 2 Forte Ob 2 EM Ob 1
Defensive Attacks Instruction Ob 2 Will Ob 3 EM Ob 2
Long Barrels Instruction Ob 3 Agility Ob 4 EM Ob 4
Mountain Pass Instruction Ob 2 Perception Ob 3 EM Ob 3
Whistling Shot. Instruction Ob 4 Steel Ob 5 EM Ob 4
Mankillers Instruction Ob 6 Perception Ob 6 EM Ob 7
  • Improvised Ammo: You have learned to load any ammunition in your firearms and have it still be deadly. You can never run out of bullets, although you still need black powder.
  • Burning Wick: Eastern Marksmen are experts in handling matchlock firearms. Eliminate the gunpowder die except in cases of failed tests.
  • Defensive Attacks: Traditionally, the firearms of the East have exceptionally long barrels and are fired from prone: this makes them excellent from static positions. When using the Hold Position maneuver in R&C, receive +1D.
  • Long Barrels: Jezails are not necessarily more accurate at long range than shorter Western rifles, but they fire larger projectiles at higher speeds. Suffer no penalty to the DoF at Extreme.
  • Mountain Pass: The fools of the AEITC will never forget the defeat inflicted upon them at the Viper Pass, where jezails outranged their muskets and slaughtered their redcoat infantry from afar. This Technique grants Ambush Training.
  • Whistling Shot: Fire from on-far is disheartening indeed. Any Steel test induced by the Eastern Marksmanship skill is made at +1Ob.
  • Mankillers: Easterns marksmen do not use firearms to hunt animals. They use them to kill their foes. You aim to put your enemy down with every shot. Adjust DoF values to: as Hunting Bow (1-2, 3-4, 5-6), rather than as Firearm. Do not adjust the values of the I/M/S.


Aristocrats wield expensive rifles and decorated muskets to go out and shoot game for the sport of it. Using Poor quality weapons with Sport Hunting imposes a +2Ob penalty. RoM imposes +1Ob. Sport Hunting can be FoRKed into Hunting when using a relevant Form.

Exponent Forms Actions
2 Musket, Rifle Avoid, Aim, Snapshot, Reload, and Fire Gun
3 Hunting Knives
4 Hunting Swords
Techniques Instruction Ob Mastery Ob Practical Ob
Strike Instruction Ob 1 Agility Ob 1 SH Ob 1
Animal Expertise Instruction Ob 2 Perception Ob 1 SH Ob 3
Shoot Her! Instruction Ob 4 Perception Ob 4 SH Ob 4
Manservants Instruction Ob 1 Circles Ob 4 SH Ob 2
Deadliest Prey Instruction Ob 5 Hunting Ob 3 SH Ob 4
Big Game Hunter Instruction Ob 3 Steel Ob 4 SH Ob 2
Fine Tastes Instruction Ob 7 Agility Ob 6 SH Ob 8
  • Animal Expertise: Your weapons have +1 Power when used against animals. Factor this as Weapon Power for melee weapons. For ranged weapons, increase the I/M/S directly: one step each.
  • Shoot Her!: Double Balance dice for melee weapons and quality dice for Superior firearms.
  • Manservants: A true Sport Hunter knows where to go to find the right retinue for his expeditions. Expand your Circles to one setting where you would like to be able to find stalwart manservants with skills relevant to hunting (carrying gear, tracking game, etc.).
  • Deadliest Prey: You can use the Hunting skill against human characters. Test Versus Will.
  • Big Game Hunter: Receive +1D to Steel tests caused by large animals.
  • Fine Tastes: When shooting a Superior quality firearm, you can choose to reroll all dice once per conflict (including successes and the die of fate). Doing so increases the Ob of the test by an additional one.

These look really quite cool.

I’m afraid I have to say I agree with Luke, and I’m unsure what you’re gaining by allowing the first Fighting Art of these three to do so much! The other two look splendid, although Sport Hunting need not have melee weapons in its Forms: it doesn’t give you techniques to use them, so I would just explicitly let the Techniques it does have apply to other Fighting Arts. I really like Sport Hunting and Eastern Marksmanship in general; they look cool and powerful without being overly so, and I’d want to play with them. I think some parts might skew a little too strong, but nothing stands out.

The Officer’s Sport style, on the other hand, I feel is trying to tell three different stories. I’d point out that you can definitely split these styles into a sword and a pistol style and you can keep the flavours distinct: famous duels happened by sword and by pistol, but there aren’t any duels I can bring quickly to mind that used both. Officers may have been trained to fight with sword in one hand holding the pistol in the other, but consider the pistol less a weapon and more a threat; your opponents will think twice before approaching if you can kill them without effort.
Putting the “charging” stuff on one of the weapons and expand the other to focus on a different area of combat than running in with your mates.
I might also switch the middle roll for Unto The Breach: if you can succeed on an Ob 6 Steel test you don’t really need the 8 Advantage dice; maybe use Will or even Command/Tactics/Forte?

Okay, there is a lot going into my decisions with Officer’s Sport. Let me see if I can articulate the thinking here:

European Officers in the 18th/19th Centuries fought with swords in one hand and pistols in the other. The sword is a symbol of rank, the pistol is your real weapon of self defense–but after you’ve fired your single shot, you’re going to need that sword.

From a mechanistic standpoint, I wanted to replicate this. I thought long and hard about how best to go about that. My conclusion was it’s best to make Fighting Arts self-contained, because it doesn’t make sense to say you get Dual Wielding from one Art, but then you’re using it to shoot the gun with a skill from another. Both weapons should be dual wielded with the same Art.

More importantly, though, Officer’s Sport is NOT a dueling skill. It’s a skill for leading men. Part of the context that’s been lost here is that I’ve actually designed two more Arts that I didn’t post: one is Pistoleering, and one is Military Fencing. Both are much more powerful for their respective purposes. If you find yourself in a battle, a veteran officer facing down a foe is going to want to shoot his gun with Pistoleering, then fence with Military Fencing–because its techniques are more potent and it gives access to way more actions. These are the skills preferable for duels. 50+ sessions into a campaign, a PC will probably have all three.

But it’s not practical to burn up PCs that have that many Techniques, or to expect NPCs to have mastered three separate Arts. It makes more sense to create a parallel art explicitly for leading men, that gives access to a broad array of Forms–but does not give any Techniques for mastering them. Its action selection is limited. It has no special abilities. What it does give is advantages to leading men in battle, and the ability to basically defend yourself in the way an officer would in this time period, and in a way that’s accessible to a single LP (Captain, say), through a single Fighting Art. I wanted to avoid giving any single LP more than one Art at all costs. I should also point out that while it looks like the Art gives a ton of different Forms, those are all just different types of swords–it’s actually kind of a downside to have to spend a bunch of RPs to nab them all in Burning.

Finally, this is primarily for R&C. That means it needs to be used in tandem with a ranged weapon. It just made sense to me to have that be pistols, while there were also some melee capabilities for close quarters.

If you haven’t burned up many human characters with Fighting Arts yet you might not realize how hard they are to advance. They soak up Skill Points like crazy. It isn’t realistic to expect an officer-concept PC to have more than one of them. For that reason alone I say he needs to have access to everything officers are conceptually expected to do, within a single Art. It’s fairly broad, but in exchange he loses access to actions and Techniques that are otherwise available to characters who specialize in dedicated fencing and shooting Arts.

The final point about Unto the Breach is excellent and I feel rather silly for not having it occur to me earlier. It should probably be Command.

As for Sport Hunting, it just seems silly to me to have a completely separate art for melee hunting–which isn’t going to be very common. One of the things about the new Form skill system is that it allows you to differentiate between weapons that were previous identical because they, like, looked similar, in BW:G. I designed new stats for Hunting Knives and Hunting Swords–they’re pretty good for hunting, but they’re not as good against humans (no VA, expensive, short). By including them in Sport Hunting I’ve created a system where you can use some melee in an emergency, with Strike and Avoid, in Fight!–but your action selection is still severely limited. You’re never going to be king of the Colosseum. I think that’s much simpler and way more elegant than needing to spend a bunch more skill points, a ton more RPs, and, more importantly, way more space on your character sheet opening an Art you’ll never use (and designing an Art no one wants).

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