[Steampunk] Martial Artist class?

Jack Daniel

I'm just tossing out ideas here, but I do know that my steampunk campaign is in dire need of a martial artist. Vocations are probably pretty easy to come up with (monk, ninja, black belt, mystic), but I'm going to need some help eyeballing the balance aspect.

LV  BAB         F/R/W  SPECIAL
1   +0          +1     Starting Vocation, Unarmed Strike (1d6)
2   +1          +2     Two-Handed Fighting
3   +2          +2     --
4   +3          +2     Unarmed Strike (1d8)
5   +3          +3     Talent or Trait, Bonus Feat
6   +4          +3     Improved Two-Handed Fighting
7   +5          +4     --
8   +6/+1       +4     Talent or Trait, Unarmed Strike (1d10)
9   +6/+1       +4     --
10  +7/+2       +5     Bonus Feat
11  +8/+3       +5     Talent or Trait
12  +9/+4       +6     Unarmed Strike (2d6)
13  +9/+4       +6     Evasion
14  +10/+5      +6     Talent or Trait
15  +11/+6/+1   +7     Bonus Feat
16  +12/+7/+2   +7     Unarmed Strike (2d8)
17  +12/+7/+2   +8     Talent or Trait
18  +13/+8/+3   +8     --
19  +14/+9/+4   +8     Five-Finger Exploding Heart Attack
20  +15/+10/+5  +9     Talent or Trait, Bonus Feat,
                       Unarmed Strike (2d10)

LV  UBAB              DV  REP
1   +0                +2  +0  
2   +1                +3  +0
3   +2                +3  +1
4   +3                +4  +1
5   +3                +4  +1
6   +4/+1             +5  +2
7   +5/+2             +5  +2
8   +6/+3             +6  +2
9   +6/+3             +6  +3
10  +7/+4/+1          +7  +3
11  +8/+5/+2          +7  +3
12  +9/+6/+3          +8  +4
13  +9/+6/+3          +8  +4
14  +10/+7/+4/+1      +9  +4
15  +11/+8/+5/+2      +9  +5
16  +12/+9/+6/+3      +10 +5
17  +12/+9/+6/+3      +10 +5
18  +13/+10/+7/+4/+1  +11 +6
19  +14/+11/+8/+5/+2  +11 +6
20  +15/+12/+9/+6/+3  +12 +6

Hit Die: d8 + Con modifier
Skill Points: 4 + Int modifier

Class Skills: (I'll do this part later.)
Bonus Feat List: (This too. In fact, I'll probably just copy both from the D20 Modern martial artist.)

Unarmed Strike: Works just like the D&D monk's unarmed strike ability, except without all that vaguery surrounding off-hand attacks. Just for the record (and this is true in D&D too, at least as far as v3.5 is concerned), yes, unarmed monks can make off-hand unarmed strikes.

Unarmed Base Attack Bonus: When attacking with unarmed strikes, quarterstaff, kama, nunchaks, &c., the martial artist's multiple attacks come at iterations of -3 rather than -5. A multiclassed martial artist simply piles his other classes' attack bonuses on top of this and continues iterating at -5, if possible, so a level 10 martial artist/level 10 adventurer would have an unarmed attack bonus of +17/+14/+11/+6/+1.

Two-Handed Fighting: When unarmored, the martial artist is treated as having the Two-Weapon Fighting feat. From 6th level onward, the martial artist is considered to have Improved Two-Weapon Fighting when unarmored, which allows an additional off-hand attack at -3 with an unarmed strike or special martial artist weapon (or, when BAB reaches +6, at -5 with a normal weapon).

Evasion: A 13th-level martial artist receives Evasion, or Improved Evasion if already in possession of the Evasion talent.

Five-Finger Exploding Heart Attack: Same as the D&D Quivering Palm, but with a much catchier name.

Vocations: The martial artist's vocations (which I'll flesh out some other time) are the black belt, monk, mystic, and ninja.

--Black Belt: Until the 1970s, the only martial art that any Westerners were even passing familiar with was judo. In a game set in the 1800s, it's very unlikely that someone not from the Far East would know any other martial art, so this one gets its own vocation, purely for flavor purposes (and because it's pretty easy to come up with talents designed around throwing, grappling, & tripping).

--Monk: The standard kung-fu expert, talents will concentrate more on feats of amazing athleticism & combat skill than anything supernatural.

--Mysitc: The Kwai-Chang Kaine knock-off. Here's where you'll find wuxia flying, Hadoken waves, and those funky high-level D&D-monk abilities.

--Ninja: Heavy on the bonus class skills, talents are obviously going to involve sneak-attacking, assassinating, and poison-use. I might also give ninja access to the Ritual (Enticement) skill, since ninjas ought to have access to at least Illusion-type magic.


The only suggestion I would make is to call the 'Five Fingered Exploding Heart Attack' something a bit less bad-martial-arts-movie sounding. Not all of us love the things (I don't). Give it a more generic name, even the very simple 'Death Attack' and it might be more widely accepted. This is the same reason I don't allow monks in my D&D game, there is no 'East' in the sense of people ninjing around in my game world. Even for the Iron Kingdoms game, where monks are allowed I changed the names of the class features to be more consistent with the world. Fist of Menoth instead of Quivering Palm, etc.

The Oriental martial arts have political roots that are not reflected in many game worlds. (Much of it coming down to who could carry weapons, who couldn't carry weapons, what was a weapon, etc.)

The Auld Grump, plus there is the temptation to call it the 'Nine Fingered ***** Hawk Attack'... Sorry...


How can you not love bad kung-fu movies? Granted, kung fu doesn't really have a place in any Tolkein-derived world, of which there doesn't seem to be any shortage...

But in a world with death rays and secret societies, the name of "Fu Manchu" must ring a bell. I'll grant you, Fu Manchu wasn't exactly known for Wire-Fu, but his minions were doubtlessly pretty good at it.


Not if you read the books... Sax Rohmer never even really touched on martial arts. (But ya gotta give Fu Manchu credit, it takes chutzpa to create two doses of a longevity potion - and give the second dose to your arch enemy...

Nor for that matter did Jules Verne, who is my vote for Patron Saint of Steampunk.

The Auld Grump, who didn't like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon either - but liked Chinese Ghost Story.


Jack, go with whatever you think best fits your game. I think the class is pretty good, though I have not yet really gone over it with a fine tooth comb. Those players of yours who like the name can keep it, those who do not can switch it. After all, we are not really going for historical accuracy are we? Otherwise might as well put in templar knights who have intimate relations with stone idols, homosexual priests, anti-christ worshipping freemasons (who also have similar relations with stone idols that their predecessors did), a truly barabric western world, slavery, ill-treatment of women, etc etc. :)


Sorry, my reply was snarkier than intended. While I really don't like kung fu movie style ability names the class itself does not seem too unbalanced. I wouldn't want it in my game, but that is purely a matter of taste. I am sure that it would work fine for a Shanghai Noon or Kung Fu game.

The Auld Grump, too much turkey, falling asleezzzzzzzzzzz