Many Paths, One Fist
The people of Wune have had to defend themselves from their enemies long before the hammer and anvil were invented. Most were content to keep predators at bay with torches and simple tools pressed into service as makeshift weapons, and wild animals soon learned to fear and avoid those who wielded them. For some, this was not enough. Not all predators walked on four legs, and although true warfare was in its infancy, the use of force to take what one wanted was not. These few chose to hone their natural weapons- fists, feet, elbows, knees and reflexes- until they were a match for the primitive spears and rough blades used by their contemporaries. As iron would be tempered into steel and crude instruments were transformed into true arms and armor, so too did those that largely eschewed them refine their techniques to keep up with advances in combat. Over the course of centuries of evolution, dozens of war-monasteries- informally referred to as Traditions- were born.
Although it is highly regarded among their people, few True Elves have the time or inclination to study the intricacies of ritual hand to hand combat. Several simple yet ruthlessly effective styles have instead found great popularity with their half-human get, who find it is one of the few ways to gain respect within such an insular society. Common Elves jealously hold on to these arts as one of the few keepsakes of their heritage, and masters are paid handsomely to train the children of the affluent. Non-elven students are accepted as well, albeit at truly exorbitant rates. Either in imitation or innovation, humans have produced more Traditions than any other race on Wune. Few of these styles last more than a generation or three, but the most popular have become so widespread they are no longer styles that can be considered indicative of humanity alone, with scores of practitioners of all races across the land.
Half Orcs rarely possess the mental discipline to become Traditional monks. However, their orc brethren often force them to learn the basics of a particularly brutal style of wrestling that revolves around forcing ones opponent onto the ground and tearing out their throat. Universally dismissed as primitive and savage, its half-orc practitioners argue that there is in fact a very complex formality surrounding the sport, and that the grisly fatalities that do occur result more from ignorance on the part of the deceased than the victor’s blood-thirst. In contrast, the respect for strength and reverence for hierarchy common to many Half Dragons meshes well with the teacher-student format of the Traditions. Unfortunately, few follow this path for a great length of time as the disparity between their physical gifts and those of their instructor eventually becomes too great for their draconic instincts to ignore, and an impromptu duel with the student “accidentally” dispatching the master is a tragically common occurrence.
Despite their admiration for the ascetic lifestyle espoused by most Traditions, few dwarves study under monks. As a people, they love the forge too much to abandon its offerings to the extent this class does. Halflings also respect monks as people, but on the whole find their lifestyle far too boring to ever emulate it. Still, there are individual members of these races who wish to take their prowess with the preferred weapons of their people to new heights. These zealots train with a dedication equal to that of any monk, although their occasionally boorish attitude with respect to other races alienates many and embarrasses their kin.
Although their alignment and skill set are often defined by the monastery that trained them, there is no such thing as the “average” monk. Even disciples that trained at the same location can take very different approaches to life’s challenges. For example, one could be a simple healer apt at defending himself without weapons, while another student he trained with might roam the world as a hired assassin with a smattering of herb lore that adds a veneer of legitimacy to his income. While either would be welcome in adventuring fellowships, monks primarily join parties when they wish to accomplish something they feel they cannot complete on their own. It is up to the individual monk to determine their role in a party, but on the whole monks prefer to keep people who can do things they cannot in their company. Magic users of all sorts are the most desired in this sense, although monks rarely enjoy being the beneficiary of non-healing magics, preferring instead to trust in their own abilities. Fellow warriors are welcome companions as well, but only if the monk is certain that said warrior is possessed of greater skill than they themselves possess. Evil and chaotic monks cannot be bothered to protect those that cannot protect themselves, while lawful and even good monks would rather learn from those around them than be forced to save them when trouble crops up.
As described in the SRD.
DM’s Option: The Traditions
The fighting styles referenced in the above article can be implemented in game by making a few changes to the base Monk entry in the SRD.
The Old Way
This acrobatic style of fighting revolves around using deceptively slow movements to get past an enemy’s guard to strike at their weak points, disabling without killing. Originally created by the Shuu as a way to peacefully settle disputes; it is better suited for duels as opposed to mass combat due to its emphasis on creating negative status effects. Influences include Aikido and Ba Kua/Pa Kua/Baguazhang.
Alignment: Any Neutral
Weapon Proficiency: Crossbow, Hand axe, Javelin; Flurry of Blows, Ki Strike (all), Unarmored Speed Bonus, Greater Flurry, Quivering Palm at level 15.
Stunning Fist at level 1(see below), Quivering Palm at level 10
Stunning Fist- Monks trained in this style receive Stunning Fist as a class ability at first level. It functions in all ways like the feat except that every four levels the monk can choose another status in addition to Stunned. The conditions available are Blinded, Deafened, Confused, Fatigued, Exhausted (monk must already have Fatigued, which this condition replaces), Nauseated, or Sickened (monk must already have Nauseated, which this condition replaces). The afflicted individual must make a save for each condition that the monk inflicts, and all conditions end on the monk’s next round as per the feat.
Balance, Diplomacy, Heal, Jump, Knowledge (Arcana), Knowledge (any other than religion) Listen, Spot, Sense Motive, Tumble
Level 1: Dodge or Improved Initiative
Level 2: Snatch Arrows or Combat Expertise
Level 6: Improved Feint or Improved Trip
The Empty Hand
One of the more popular fighting styles on Wune, this style transforms its practitioners into living weapons. It is unparalleled at dealing raw damage to both living creatures and objects. Unfortunately, the punishing training takes its toll on the body and the style lacks many of the esoteric abilities associated with more introspective Traditions. Influences include Kyokushin(kai) Karate and Krav Maga.
Alignment: Any Lawful
All Weapon Proficiencies, Unarmed Damage for Medium sized creatures (or Small sized creatures if monk is Small), Abundant Step, Ki Strike(Magic) at level 4, Purity of Body at level 5, Ki Strike (Lawful) at level 10, Diamond Body at level 11, Diamond Soul, Tongue of the Sun and Moon, Timeless Body, Empty Body, and Ki Strike(Adamantine) at level 16.
Unarmed Damage for a Large monk if monk is Medium (or for a Medium monk if monk is Small), Improved Sunder at level 1, Ki Strike(Magic) at level 2, Ki Strike(Lawful) at level 6, Purity of Body OR Diamond Body at level 7, Ki Strike(Adamantine) at level 12, Wholeness of Body at level 14.
Note: A monk trained in this style cannot choose to have damage from Quivering Palm take place up to a week in the future. It takes place immediately.
Balance, Climb, Heal, Intimidate, Jump, Tumble
Level 1: Great Fortitude or Iron Will
Level 2: Power Attack or Stunning Fist
Level 6: Diehard or Improved Critical- Unarmed Strike
Orc wrestling only sees regular practice in the areas they claim as their own. Few non-orcs are capable of truly mastering this style due to their lack of tusks. Influences include Pankration and Vale Tudo.
Alignment: Any non-Lawful
Unarmed Strike, Ki Strike(all), Flurry of Blows, Wholeness of Body, Improved Evasion, Slow Fall, Abundant Step, Greater Flurry, Diamond Soul, Tongue of the Sun and Moon, Quivering Palm, Empty Body, Perfect Self.
Unarmed Strike (see below), Improved Grapple at Level 1, Unarmed Strike (see below), Ki Strike (Magic) at level 6, Ki Strike (Adamantine) at level 12 (see below).
Unarmed Strike: This style of fighting is based on grappling. When in normal melee combat, a monk trained in this style only deals subdual damage as normal when fighting unarmed. The increased unarmed damage associated with this class is only done when the monk is in a grapple, and represents the monk biting their opponent. Character that lacks a natural bite attack cannot do this improved damage, however they can do lethal damage (as they still have teeth) while within a grapple without a penalty to the attack roll.
Ki Strike: The Ki Strike class ability associated with this style refers to the vicious biting that practitioners use in grapples. If a character with levels in this class that studies this style lacks a bite attack, then they cannot use this special ability.
Balance, Climb, Diplomacy/Intimidate*, Escape Artist, Survival, Tumble
* The points put into the Intimidate skill represent the complex ritualized/formalized style of almost non-verbal communication within the art. It is considered Diplomacy for those who have levels in this style, and Intimidation for those who do not.
Level 1: Improved Unarmed Strike or Weapon Focus- Bite
Level 2: Mobility or Toughness
Level 6: Spring Attack (when initiating unarmed attacks or grapples only) or Improved Critical- Bite
Admiring the discipline of the monk but not their affinity for unarmed combat, some decide to focus their skill on a particular weapon. Among the Second Races, this is either an exotic or racial weapon. They channel their abilities through their chosen weapon, without which they must rely on more mundane abilities. Influences include Bartitsu, Escrima and Tojutsu.
Race: If a racial weapon is chosen, the monk must be of the same race.
All Weapon Proficiencies, Unarmed Damage, Purity of Body, Wholeness of Body, Diamond Body, Diamond Soul, Timeless Body, Tongue of the Sun and Moon, Perfect Self
Weapon Proficiency in any one exotic or racial weapon.
Class Skills: Craft, Jump, Knowledge (any), Knowledge (metals) Perform, Profession(smith), Spot, Tumble
Level 1: Weapon Focus (chosen weapon) OR Improved Disarm
Level 2: Weapon Specialization (chosen weapon) OR Improved Initiative
Level 6: Greater Weapon Focus (chosen weapon) OR Improved Trip
Although they skilled herbalists and alchemists, the members of this perhaps misleadingly named tradition are most famously known and zealously sought out for their ability to heal even grievous injuries without the use of magic by tapping into the natural energies of the humanoid body. Naturally, good apothecaries use their abilities to heal, while evil ones usually become assassins par excellence. Although they are highly skilled, there are other styles that possess more potent offensive and defensive abilities. Influences include Fong Sei Yuk, Shaolin Kung Fu, Tai Chi, and Ninjitsu.
Remove: Slow Fall (all past 30 feet), Ki Strike (Lawful), Ki Strike (Adamantine) AC Bonus, Speed Bonus (all past 20 feet), Improved Evasion, Greater Flurry, Wholeness of Body at level 7, Diamond Body at level 11, Abundant Step at level 12.
Add: Wholeness of Body at level 1 (see below), Diamond Body at level 7, Abundant Step at level 9.
Wholeness of Body- A monk trained in this style can use the Wholeness of Body special ability to heal others. This is done simply through skin to skin contact and a potentially lengthy period of meditation, as it heals but a single point of damage per round. Despite this, a healing session counts as a single use of the special ability for that day as if the monk were healing themselves.
Class Skills: Balance, Climb, Concentration, Heal, Hide, Jump, Knowledge (Arcana), Move Silently, Profession, Sense Motive, Spot, Swim, Tumble
Level 1: Skill Focus (Heal) or Self Sufficient
Level 2: Blind Fight or Diehard
Level 6: Stunning Fist