Witcher Fighting Arts: The Schools of the Wolf, Cat, Griffon, Manticore, and Bear

One of the first things that struck me about the new Fighting Arts system was how it might be used to replicate, on a single character, various methods of fighting to overcome different opponents–perhaps on an action-to-action level. This reminded me of the first Witcher game, where Geralt has three fighting styles to use based on who he’s pitched against in combat at any given moment.

I thought it might be fun to try replicating that system in Fighting Arts as an experiment. The Arts that follow are ludicrously powerful, but are intended to be used by literal superhumans, while unarmored. They have significant shortcomings in their action availability, and are thus intended to be used in conjunction with one another, the Witcher in question swapping from one skill to another mid-Fight! to cover for one style’s weakness with another’s strengths.

Would it work in play? I don’t know. I don’t intend to use these myself, but it was a fun experiment in any case. I’m still not sure how some of these passive Techniques would interact with each other, such as those that are intended for fighting monsters, and could be used against humans in a less-than-ideal scenario, but are technically always active anyway. Engagement in particular seems like it would become challenging when different Schools provide different advantages that are simultaneously active–that isn’t really the intention of the rules here.

Anyway, here they are!

WITCHER FIGHTING ARTS

Each Witcher school imparts special Fighting Arts unto its students, teaching them in their own ancient, narrow traditions. A well-rounded monster hunter will visit each school to learn their ways before venturing into the wilds, so he is always prepared–no matter what foe he finds himself against.

To learn a Witcher Fighting Art school, the player in question must have the Trial of the Grasses trait. Mundane humans cannot master these esoteric techniques. In general they are focused on swordsmanship and fighting unarmored, often against large groups, although there are exceptions.

SCHOOL OF THE WOLF
Agility

Witchers use the School of the Wolf to overcome human adversaries with weapons, particularly those armed and armored, while wielding their steel swords. It is optimal for duels and knightly contests, but also teaches the fundamentals of unarmed combat.

Exponent Forms Actions
2 Fists Strike, Block, Counterstrike, Beat, and Push
3 Steel Swords
5 Silver Swords
Techniques Instruction Ob Mastery Ob Practical Ob
Great Strike Instruction Ob 3 Power Ob 2 SotW Ob 3
Disarm Instruction Ob 3 Agility Ob 4 SotW Ob 4
Inward Reach Instruction Ob 3 Speed Ob 4 SotW Ob 4
Feint Instruction Ob 3 Agility Ob 4 SotW Ob 4
Parry Instruction Ob 6 Power Ob 5 SotW Ob 5
Charge Instruction Ob 1 Power Ob 3 SotW Ob 3
Shieldbreaker Instruction Ob 5 Speed Ob 5 SotW Ob 8
Lock Instruction Ob 3 Power Ob 4 SotW Ob 4
Skewer Instruction Ob 7 Speed Ob 6 SotW Ob 7
  • Inward Reach: The Witcher is adept at finding small gaps in armor and using them for his advantage. +2VA.
  • Parry: Your opponent always loses his next action on any successful Block, regardless of MoS, so long as his WL is greater than or equal to yours.
  • Shieldbreaker: Witchers know how to handle defensive fighters. Never suffer negative penalties for losing Strike to Block.
  • Skewer: Your Great Strikes bypass Avoid.

SCHOOL OF THE CAT
Speed

Witchers use the School of the Cat to handle lightly armored and lightly armed adversaries, particularly monsters who can move with supernatural speed.

Exponent Forms Actions
2 Knives Strike, Avoid, Aim, Reload, and Fire Crossbow
3 Steel Swords
4 Hand Crossbows
5 Silver Swords
Techniques Instruction Ob Mastery Ob Practical Ob
Blurred Blades Instruction Ob 2 Agility Ob 3 SotC Ob 3
Cat’s Dive Instruction Ob 1 Speed Ob 2 SotC Ob 1
Tiger’s Strike Instruction Ob 5 Stealthy Ob 4 SotC Ob 3
Nine Lives Instruction Ob 4 Speed Ob 6 SotC Ob 5
Unrelenting Assault Instruction Ob 4 Will Ob 4 SotC Ob 3
Pounce Instruction Ob 6 Speed Ob 5 SotC Ob 6
Velocity Instruction Ob 8 Speed Ob 6 SotC Ob 7
Time Dilation Instruction Ob 10 Speed Ob 8 SotC Ob 10
Deflection Instruction Ob 6 Agility Ob 7 SotC Ob 5
  • Blurred Blades: The Witcher strikes again and again without delay. +2WS with swords.
  • Cat’s Dive: Roll Avoid using the exponent of School of the Cat rather than Speed.
  • Tiger’s Strike: Any Strike made after a successful Avoid automatically bypasses Block.
  • Nine Lives: Receive no penalty to Avoid while in Aggressive Stance.
  • Unrelenting Assault: For each hit the Witcher successfully lands on his target, the target’s Hesitation is increased by one. A knight who has received four hits to the armor before receiving his first wound on the fifth will make his Steel test at +5Ob. This effect is reset when the Witcher misses a Strike–not when Steel is rolled.
  • Pounce: Ties on Positioning always go to you, regardless of WL.
  • Velocity: Witchers are very fast. The School of the Cat allows them to focus on nothing but speed. You may perform two actions simultaneously once per exchange (as if gray shade).
  • Time Dilation: You are no longer forced to distribute actions symmetrically throughout an exchange. Put them anywhere in any volley. You are still otherwise constrained by Reflexes, and there can only be up to three actions in a single volley. Have fun!
  • Deflection: Experts in the School of the Cat have such incredible reaction times that they can deflect missiles out of the air. Test SotC exponent vs. the incoming ranged attack at +1Ob. Must have a bladed weapon free and be otherwise unengaged.

SCHOOL OF THE GRIFFON
Agility

The School of the Griffon is a special Fighting Art used by supernaturally-enhanced Witchers to win fights while outnumbered.

Exponent Forms Actions
2 Knives Strike, Block, Avoid, Counterstrike, Beat, and Push
3 Steel Swords
5 Silver Swords
Techniques Instruction Ob Mastery Ob Practical Ob
Dual Wielding Instruction Ob 2 Agility Ob 2 SotG Ob 1
Quick Draw Instruction Ob 2 Speed Ob 2 SotG Ob 2
Flash of Lightning Instruction Ob 4 Agility Ob 3 SotG Ob 3
Crack of Thunder Instruction Ob 4 Agility Ob 3 SotG Ob 4
Defensive Tactics Instruction Ob 3 Agility Ob 3 SotG Ob 3
Snap Reposition Instruction Ob 4 Agility Ob 3 SotG Ob 4
Sweeping Strike Instruction Ob 5 Agility Ob 3 SotG Ob 5
Crowded Area Instruction Ob 5 Agility Ob 3 SotG Ob 4
Lion’s Jaws Instruction Ob 5 Agility Ob 3 SotG Ob 7
  • Quick Draw: The Witcher is ready to change his weapons at a moment’s notice. He needs only one action to draw.
  • Flash of Lightning: The Witcher can Block or Counterstrike multiple simultaneous incoming blows, as the Avoid action.
  • Crack of Thunder: The Witcher wields his blade in wide arcs, cleaving cleanly through flesh with perfect edge alignment. You may activate this technique before you roll an action that deals damage to declare +1 Power at the expense of -1VA, so long as you are wielding a weapon of WL = Long or longer.
  • Defensive Tactics: Defensive Stance grants you two additional dice, but you can no longer use Aggressive Stance.
  • Snap Reposition: After any successful Block, position at optimal for either wielded weapon against the involved enemies.
  • Sweeping Strike: While fighting with the School of the Griffon, receive an altered version of the Great Strike action: spend an action setting up an attack to then Strike all currently engaged enemies. No change to VA or Power. This action may be used in Defensive Stance at no penalty, but does not receive bonus dice.
  • Crowded Area: In Fight!, receive advantage to every roll you make for every two foemen that outnumber you (for four against one, take one extra die; for eleven against one, take five)
  • Lion’s Jaws: The Witcher steps forward, extending his body in a flash of preternatural speed, biting groups of enemies with his blade. +1WL for Knives and Swords.

SCHOOL OF THE MANTICORE
Speed

The School of the Manticore is designed for fighting monstrous creatures, rather than human or humanoid adversaries. It is focused on speed and agility–for any blow from a dragon is sure to be fatal, regardless of severity.

Exponent Forms Actions
2 Silver Swords Strike, Avoid, Counterstrike, and Beat
3 Spears, Hand Crossbows
5 Steel Swords
Techniques Instruction Ob Mastery Ob Practical Ob
Slippery Step Instruction Ob 2 Speed Ob 2 SotM Ob 2
Lumbering Gait Instruction Ob 2 Speed Ob 4 SotM Ob 3
Anatomical Expert Instruction Ob 4 Perception Ob 4 SotM Ob 2
Cool Headed Instruction Ob 5 SteelOb 4 SotM Ob 1
Disintegration of Another World Instruction Ob 4 Agility Ob 4 SotM Ob 4
Great Strike Instruction Ob 4 Agility Ob 3 SotM Ob 2
Near Miss Instruction Ob 4 SpeedOb 4 SotM Ob 6
Phantom Instruction Ob 6 SpeedOb 4 SotM Ob 5
  • Slippery Step: Winning the Positioning test confers +1Ob to all Strikes made against the Witcher, even if both characters are fighting at the same WL.
  • Lumbering Gait: Creatures of a greater Stature than you do not receive any benefits to their Weapon Length.
  • Anatomical Expert: Receive +1VA against all natural armors and +1D to Avoid attacks from natural weapons.
  • Cool Headed: Never take penalties to Steel due to exogenous supernatural presences.
  • Disintegration of Another World: Your silver weapons possess an additional +1 Power and +1VA against supernatural creatures.
  • Near Miss: A successful Avoid counts as the first action of Great Strike.
  • Phantom: Receive two extra dice to Speed for every level of Stature difference between you and your largest (or smallest) adversary.

SCHOOL OF THE BEAR
Forte

Closely related to the School of the Wolf, the School of the Bear teaches Witchers to harness their abilities and fight in armor.

Exponent Forms Actions
2 Fists Strike, Block, Counterstrike, Beat, and Push actions
3 Steel Swords
5 Silver Swords
Techniques Instruction Ob Mastery Ob Practical Ob
Armor Training Instruction Ob 2 Forte Ob 2 SotB Ob 1
Great Strike Instruction Ob 2 Agility Ob 3 SotB Ob 3
Charge Instruction Ob 3 Power Ob 2 SotB Ob 3
Punch Instruction Ob 2 Power Ob 4 SotB Ob 3
Mighty Roar Instruction Ob 2 Intimidation Ob 4 SotB Ob 3
Half Swording Instruction Ob 4 Power Ob 5 SotB Ob 5
Superhuman Endurance Instruction Ob 5 Forte Ob 6 SotB Ob 3
Heroes Don’t Wear Helmets Instruction Ob 5 Forte Ob 5 SotB Ob 4
  • Punch: Increase the power of your bare fists by 2.
  • Mighty Roar: Reduce the actions required for Intimidate to 1.
  • Half Swording: Double the effects of your Great Strike actions (+2 to Power or +2 to VA)
  • Superhuman Endurance: Negate Clumsy penalties for Speed and Agility for all armors.
  • Heroes Don’t Wear Helmets: Helmets impede your Witcherly senses. When forgoing any armor on the head and fighting in the School of the Bear, receive +1D to all tests made in Fight!.
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I just wanted to say these are excellent! I’ve been tinkering with a more through Witcher Hack for Burning Wheel since the official RPG came out and didn’t quite capture what I wanted it to. I was also thinking of how good the new fighting art system would be for this but you’ve made something really cool here already.

My only little criticism would be that the School of the Bear feels a little light compared to the others.

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Thanks! Bear was more of an afterthought, but being able to wear armor is itself such a huge advantage that I didn’t want to give much more than that and a decent selection of actions.

I’m not the biggest Witcher fan–I like the games–but I’ve always been convinced that Geralt is a BW character. His eternal belief is “I have no interest in politics; I just want to kill monsters,” but the goddamn GM won’t stop challenging it with diversions. He has G5 reflexes and uses his B7 Alchemy and B5 Enchanting to create loads of cool equipment from antecedents extracted from the creatures he kills. His character traits include Scarred, White Wolf, Laconic, and Debauched; he has Homme Fatale as a Call On for Seduction; and he has Quickened Pulse and Trial of the Grasses as DTs. The Resources Cycle is pretty short, so even though he’s constantly being dragged into shit he doesn’t want to deal with, he also needs to be always on the look-out for work in order to pay rent and maintain his expensive weapons (silver swords are +2Ob to maintenance).

As a side-note, I think I’ve worked out how to fix problems with engagement in the Fighting Arts system–and with actions like Avoid, which, if you can swap between Arts every beat in Fight!, are almost impossible to restrict the usage of except through armor. How I’d rule it is that you need to declare what Art you’re fighting in at the top of an Exchange: while Vying for Position, decide the skill. You then receive its relevant bonuses to engagement and are bound to using only the actions permitted by that Art until the next Exchange begins. You receive all Techniques you know for that Art, but none for any other. There’s no longer any ambiguity whatsoever for which passive Techniques are currently active.

This adds much-needed restriction to the rules in my opinion. Otherwise the lack of Block in School of the Cat accomplishes nothing so long as the character knows School of the Wolf at a reasonable exponent: he can simply say, “and now I drop into the Wolf, blocking this blow, before returning to Cat.” I’m not a fan of that; it muddies the purpose of limiting action selection. I dislike the subjective mid-fight, “is it within the task and intent?” test. That works okay for armor, but not for one-off action swaps. It makes the most sense to me to say that if you want the advantages from a single Art, you have to dedicate the entire Exchange to that Art–you can’t simply sidestep its drawbacks.

Also: new idea for School of the Griffon: remove Strike, but add a Technique that makes the Art immune to Feint? I think Griffon is too good against single targets right now.

It does encourage learning a variety of different arts, that’s true… :thinking: Can you tell me why this is a problem?

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It might be less of a problem with more mundane Arts, but when the skill is as obscenely powerful as School of the Cat, you want it to have drawbacks–there needs to be some way to defeat it. There won’t be if you can cover all bases so easily. You’d be able to mitigate the intended weaknesses of the Art not just largely, but entirely. The Arts I’ve lain out here aren’t interesting to me at all if you use the same one for every adversary because you’ve combined them into an optimal action selection; the point is they have different strengths and limitations. That’s what makes Fighting Arts engaging vs. the old rules.

But Block is a less egregious example. Think instead about Avoid. Wolf doesn’t give Avoid, but you as a player want access to that action. It tests Speed instead of the skill exponent, so you don’t even care about advancing it. So you open some other Art instead, leaving it at B2, just so you can roll your B8 Speed to Avoid while otherwise fighting entirely in the School of the Wolf. The same is true of Push and Charge.

In my opinion that goes completely against the spirit of the Fighting Art rules. It doesn’t really make sense, even though it’s permitted, and it isn’t mechanistically interesting.

This is all, again, without mentioning that there are a host of passive abilities within the Techniques that simply can’t be active simultaneously. It would be too good, but also they just don’t make sense together fictionally.

I think being able to swap skills between adversaries and situations–and gain access to FoRKs–is still a pretty strong incentive.

That’s worth considering. It seems like most of those passive abilities require significant investment. Some desired to be excluive might be better suited as stances. :thinking:

I’d prefer for some actions (Avoid, Charge/Tackle, Push, and Lock being) to be available to everyone even if they have no Fighting Art (Everyone Can Fight – Codex 193 is a good heading), so easy access to stat-tested actions (like Avoid) is something I’d prefer Fighting Arts be built around.

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Stances could work. I thought Thor’s new stances were interesting, but they seemed slightly cumbersome to me–it’s a lot to keep track of, especially if there’s more than one per Art.

It probably bears noting that realistically a Burned PC would find it hard to master one of these Arts, much less all five! This is really more of an exercise in what could be possible deep, deep into a campaign.

I agree with you halfway on actions. Push and Avoid I’m generous with for my normal Arts; I give them to ranged Arts, like my latest Bowyer and Ranger skills for Elven LPs, and pretty much everyone else, too. I prefer Lock and Charge/Tackle being restricted because I think they’re too good, used too frequently, and removing them is a way to make Fight! more interesting.

The thing is that I find removing Avoid and Push to be sometimes interesting, too. Would an Art for Spearbearers who fight in thick formations, wielding shields in one hand, shoulder-to-shoulder with comrades while in heavy armor, teach an elf to Avoid or Push? Really? I don’t think so.

Yeah, the player would have to really work for it. Which is one reason I’m nit super worried about them them to gettibg cool shit.

Lock and Charge lets everybody Fight. Charge is good, but it’s a gamble. And both Charge and Lock are poor tools against anything with greater reach than a knife. Against shorter ranged stuff, they’re still a bit of a gamble, but they can cause an upset. This is representitave of my martial experience.

Nah, but that’s why I’m saying regardless of any Fighting Art, I like people getting them. That is, no one needs to teach you how to yell, “Oh shit!” and leap away from an attack, which is what Avoid basically is. It’s just instinct. Arguably Avoid is a little too generous, but all it does is help keep you alive in a fight. You’ll never be able to win a Fight with Avoids unless you can Avoid long enough to Disengage and run away (and call that winning). Right now, I don’t like that – with Fighting Arts in play – two comlpletely unskilled fighters are worse than they are in the base game. How do you handle unskilled people in your game with Fighting Arts? Are their Avoids at Double Ob until they open a relevant Fighting Art? (If so, do they get the doubled Ob for Advancement on this non Beginner’s Luck stat test?) Is an unskilled person in a fight now just fucked?

Conversely to this, if you’re trsting a stat against a skill – Lock/Power vs Block/SPoA, for instance – you’re gonna get fried by the Double Ob penalty. That’s in vanilla BW. So if you’re using your base, instinctual moves – stats – against someone applying their training, you’re fucked. I like the idea that FAs which have these stat-based Actions on their list let you test the skill in place of the stat by default.

Anyway, that’s where my head’s at on Fighting Arts right now. I’ll also say that in my IRL exchanges, I don’t tend to have trouble techniques cross-discipline unless something in the technique requires a certain commitment – physical or mental – that is opposed to other techniques, hence my interest in the stance model. (I do realize their can be some clunk to that approach – fighting is fucking complex, man.)

EDIT: Let me say that the idea of Fighting Arts drilling shit out of you (like Avoids) is totally legit, and I have no argument against Arts that cut out actions like that once learned!

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We haven’t had to deal with unskilled FAs yet but I’m dreading the day. It’s something my group has discussed without coming to any conclusions yet. My preliminary call is: you can Avoid without double Ob, but it’s really messy if you do it that way (but not, I’ll point out, if you can only fight with one Art per exchange, because you’ll be stuck with BLing every other action in your volleys). Making all stat-based tests open to everyone regardless of Art would be the other obvious fix to this issue.

Double Ob vs. skill swap is a good point. There’s definitely something to that for designing new Arts. For my part, in my experience with BW fighting, most combat devolves into armor RNG, burning tons of Artha on Charge actions, knife cheese, and using Lock in not-very-interesting ways. Fights that go down like this are common and also boring. The frantic Star Wars-esq unarmored duels that last for two volleys, where every Strike could mean death, are way, way, way more exciting in my opinion, and so I like that FAs can be used to incentivize that sort of play instead.

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Yeah, man, it keeps me up at night.

Might I reccomend to you (or your opponents) putting a Push into this very predictable Charger’s way? The Charger has an advantage die (or two), but Push can test Brawling, inflicting Double Ob on the Charger. The Pusher is likely to win that, I reckon, especially if they can match Artha with Artha (and FoRK something in). If the Pusher wins by two, they can retake the Advantage at Long. Bonus points for scripting a Disarm right after to test that against Ob 1 and leaving the Charger unarmed at Long fighting distance.

Lock and Throw Person are similarly good against Charge for that reason – you can Vs Test with a skill for Double Ob.

Sorry if I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know.

It is true that wearing (strong) armor changes the meta around fighting. It’s actually one of the things about the system that makes me smile when I think of it. An armored fighter has a whole different modus operandi than an unarmored one. So cool.

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