Tome of Battle: The Book of Nine Swords by Kurieg
The Book of Weeaboo Fightin MagicOriginal SA post
Tome of Battle: The Book of Nine Swords
The Book of Nine Swords is from late in 3.5's life cycle, around the same time as Tome of Magic (which I reviewed previously) and Magic of Incarnum (which is a pile of fiddly min-maxing bad ideas and I might get around to it at some point). Most importantly Bo9S is good, rather than introduce a bunch of feats or prestige classes to plaster a functioning but restrictive build over the fighter or barbarian, it introduced three brand new classes that have special abilities that fit into 9 tiers of increasing power. If that sounds similar to Vancian magic, well, it is. That's not a bad thing. But grognards completely lost their minds and derided the book as the "Book of Weeaboo Fightin Magic".
But fuck those guys, this book is awesome and I'm here to tell you why.
The book opens up with some fluff that sets up how Martial Adepts are different from Fighters or Paladins, including a rather hilarious bit of tripping over their own feet trying to explain that having a bunch of Bonus Feats is an "Array of special maneuvers and attacks". But Adepts use the Sublime Way. The Way isn't magical, at least not really. A master of the Ways can perform martial feats that are superhuman, or supernatural, but they aren't spells.
Instead they are called Maneuvers, like spells they're one-shot effects that require an action to initiate. Unlike spells they aren't used up over the course of a day. Each encounter the adept has all the maneuvers that they prepared that day ready for use(though they can change which ones they have prepared any time they have 5 minutes to focus), once expended it's used up for that encounter until they take an action to recover their maneuvers. There are three basic types. Boosts augment a user's abilities, usually an attack, in some manner. Counters are reactions to an opponents attacks. And Strikes are attacks themselves. Adepts also have access to Stances which grant special benefits and options, though only one can be maintained at a time they have access to all stances they know throughout the day.
All maneuvers are divided up into one of nine Disciplines, each of which has one associated "Key Skill" and some Favored Weapons which are important for some class features but not necessarily for this review.
Desert Wind is about speed and mobility, also about fire. Lots and Lots of fire. This is perhaps the most overtly supernatural of the nine disciplines. It's key skill is Tumble.
Devoted Spirit is about faith and piety. Not necessarily to good, but definitely to an alignment, there are good/evil and law/chaos options in this discipline, but also some rather potent healing abilities. It's key skill is Intimidate.
Diamond Mind is about mind over matter, sometimes literally. Through feats of concentration you can move faster than other people, ignore pain, and seemingly stop time. Unsurprisingly it's key skill is Concentration.
Iron Heart You're good with weapons, no you're really good with weapons. You're so good with weapons you can hurl them like boomerangs and do whirlwind attacks that would make a Diablo 3 Barbarian blush. You're likely the best straight up warrior on any battlefield you are on. It's key skill is Balance.
Setting Sun is basically Ju Jitsu. Using your opponent's force against them through throws or imitative strikes. Sense Motive is it's key skill.
Shadow Hand the other overtly supernatural discipline, it focuses on cold, darkness, ninja shit. One of the stances gives you sneak attack damage. things like that. It's key skill is Hide.
Stone Dragon evokes the Strength and Endurance of the mountains. From a more metagamey standpoint it's the lowest common denominator of the Disciplines, every Martial Adept class has access to Stone Dragon maneuvers, they're functional but usually not the best or flashiest thing in your arsenal. It's key skill is also Balance for some reason.
Tiger Claw is about fighting like an animal, sometimes literally. It emphasizes dual-wielding, or triple, quadruple, etc, wielding if you can figure out how. It emphasizes strength and speed so it's key skill is Jump.
White Raven is about leadership. Almost none of the White Raven maneuvers do anything if you're fighting on your own, they're force multipliers rather than enhancements to yourself. Diplomacy is it's key skill.
The crusader is roughly the Paladin stand in. Their ability to use Maneuvers comes primarily from their faith in their Divine cause. They are not trained, the ability cannot be taught anyways, so they wield their powers in a raw, untamed manner. The only restriction placed on Crusaders is that they cannot be neutral. They get Paladin weapon/armor proficiencies, A good Fort save, a D10 hit die, Full BAB, and 4+int skill points.
As far as Disciplines are concerned they have access to Stone Dragon and White Raven, as well as exclusive access to Devoted Spirit. They also use maneuvers in a rather.. unique way. You prepare your maneuvers for the day as normal, but you get them at random. For example, a starting crusader can ready 5 maneuvers, but only starts combat with 2 readied at random, the next round the third is granted to you, then the next round the fourth, and the next round the fifth. When the next round starts the cycle begins again. Regardless of whether or not you had any maneuvers readied or not they're 'shuffled' and you get another 2 at random. The game heavily suggests using index cards or something similar. I think this is something of a balancing choice because the Devoted Spirit maneuvers are pretty good, including healing, and giving a class unlimited use healing that they could use at will was probably a step too far for 3.5e.
The other claim to fame of the Crusader is a delayed damage pool called Steely Resolve. You can store incoming damage in reserve to take effect at the end of your next turn, up to 5 total at first level, increasing to 30 at max level. This, theoretically, gives you something of a buffer to smooth out incoming healing, but you also get a bonus on attack and damage rolls equal to your Delayed Damage divided by 5.
For additional notable class features they eventually get Mettle(Basically Evasion for fortitude and will saves) and Smite Anything(but only usable twice a day).
The book describes Swordsages as "Blade Wizards" which i guess is as good a description as any. Unlike the Crusader that has a very limited selection of disciplines, the Swordsage has the largest. Desert Wind, Diamond Mind, Setting Sun, Shadow Hand, Stone Dragon, and Tiger Claw. They're also the only ones who have access to Desert Wind, Setting Sun, and Shadow Hand. They also have the largest number of maneuvers and stances known, but the most restrictive method of recovering Maneuvers in combat. They can spend a Full Round Action doing nothing else but recovering a single maneuver. It's not great.
They get proficiency in simple/martial weapons and light armor (but not shields), a D8 hit die, good reflex and will saves, 3/4ths BAB, and 6+int skill points.
As they level up they get their wisdom bonus to AC, a stacking bonus to initiative checks, the ability to identify magic weapons or armor, evasion and improved evasion. They can also choose to specialize in disciplines as they level up, and their level 20 capstone ability is the ability to use two boosts at once 3 times per day (you can normally only use one).
All in All they're not my favorite class, but they're versatile, depending on how you build them they can be Wizards, monks, or rogues in function.
We have arrived.
WOTC has tried multiple times in 3.5 to "fix" Fighters, the Warblade is probably the only time they actually succeeded. In they process they lost the ability to use Heavy Armor, but within the context of the Bo9S Crusaders are the Tanks. Swordsages are the mystics either conjuring fire or sneaking around to kill priority targets. Warblades are the guys at the front line smashing peoples face in with a large sword, cackling like a loon as enemies fall before him like wheat at the scythe.
Like I mentioned they're proficient in simple and martial melee weapons(and anything that can be thrown), light and medium armor, and all shields but tower shields. They have a d12 hit die, full BAB, good Fort saves, and 4+int skill points. They have access to Diamond mind, stone dragon, tiger claw, white raven, and exclusive access to Iron Heart. They're basically in a middle-ground between Crusaders and Swordsages when it comes to Maneuvers, they don't have to jump through hoops with their 'deck' of maneuvers to get access to them, and they can recover them all at once with a swift action followed by a standard action either making a single melee attack or a standard action to flourish your weapon. They can't use any other martial anythings during the round they refresh but they get back everything they've used so far.
They start out with Battle Clarity which gives you a bonus equal to your Int modifier on reflex saves as long as you aren't flat footed, and Weapon Aptitude, which might as well be titled "Hey we fixed fighter!" Weapon aptitude gives you two things. 1) It makes you count as a fighter of your level-2 to qualify for Fighter feats. 2)It lets you swap out what weapon you've chosen for feats like Weapon Focus/Specialization. In addition they get bonus feats from a rather abbreviated list at 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter.
At second level they get Uncanny Dodge which Improves at 6th level. At 3rd level Battle Clarity expands to give you your int bonus to confirm critical hits. At 7th level you get your int bonus on damage rolls against flat footed or flanked opponents. At 11th level you get your int bonus against opposed rolls to resist a bull rush, disarm, feint, overrun, sunder, or trip. At 15th level you get your int bonus on attack and damage rolls when making an attack of opportunity. And their level 20 capstone ability is the ability to maintain two stances at once.
You can tell I'm slightly biased towards the Warblade (I played one in a high level campaign, it was a blast), but all three of the classes have niches to fill. Most importantly none of them are objectively bad like the Truenamer or the Divine Mind, or the Soulborn.
That's it for the first chapter, though.
Next Time: We'll talk about Skills and Feats
Happy New Year Goons.
Skills, Feats, etc.Original SA post
Part 2: Skills, Feats, etc.
Let's start off with Skills
Yes yes, Intimidate already exists, but now you can use it to initiate a DUEL OF WILLS!
Er... no, but good effort.
A Duel of Wills is when two fighters lock eyes across the battlefield and size each other up, attempting to awe the other into submission. You insitgate the duel by fixing a cold steely stare on an opponent with an Int Score of at least 3. They then have 3 options. Submit: they take a -2 penalty to init and a -1 penalty on attack rolls against you in the first round of combat. Ignore: You make a DC15 intimidate check and if you succeed you get a +1 morale bonus on atttack rolls against them for one round. Participate: Make opposed intimidate checks, the winner gets +1 attack and damage against the loser, and the loser get -1 against the winner for the encounter. This is basically a one-sided prisoner's dilemma, i can't think of a situation where choosing Ignore isn't the best option almost all of the time. But whatever
You can use this to locate local centers of Martial training like you could use Know(Arcane) to find a local wizard college. Sure I guess.
Martial Lore(Int: Trained only)
It's spellcraft but with a find replace of "Wizard Shit" for "Martial Shit".
This lets a Martial Adept swap out their readied maneuvers as a full round action. It doesn't actually require you to change your maneuvers though so a Swordsage could use this to turn their "Full round action to recover one move" into "Full round action to recover ALL moves".
If you're good you can smite Evil Outsiders! Just evil outsiders though.
Get an untyped bonus on damage rolls with a selected school's weapon group and a +2 bonus on their associated skill. Also increase the Save DC of moves from that school by 1. it doesn't say you can take this multiple times so while this is giving you a bunch of varied bonuses it's kind of a wash as to if you want the bonus to be towards a weapon you'd actually use, or towards a skill you need to pump for some of you rmoves.
If you move at least 10 feet away from your starting square you can deal 1d6 fire damage on a desert wind strike!
Desert Wind Dodge
If you move at least 10 feet away from your starting square you get a +1 dodge bonus to AC and deal 1 point of fire damage with <GET DESERT WIND WEAPONS>, this, like a couple of other feats, can substitude for other feats in pre-requisites for Prestige Classes, other feats, etc. But this one substitutes for "Dodge", and doesn't strictly state, but implies that you can't ahve both this feat and Dodge at the same time.
If you have a devoted spirit maneuver you get a +1 morale bonus to AC after an enemy hits you with a melee attack that lasts until the end of your next turn.
While in a divine spirit stance you can spend uses of turn undead to heal for less than that other divine feat that lets you spend uses of turn undead to heal.
When you're given an opening to make an attack of opportunity, you can instead make a 5 foot step. This feat can substitute for combat reflexes and you can theoretically take both.11
Extra Granted Maneuver
Your crusader has one extra maneuver granted when his maneuvers refresh, you can only take this feat once.
Extra Readied Maneuver
Your swordsage can ready one extra maneuver. You can only take this feat once.
Falling Sun Attack
If you deliver a setting sun strike with an unarmed strike and also make that a stunning fist attack you can increase the save DC of the strike and the stun by one. woo.
3 times per day you can become instantly psionically focused after initiating a martial strike. This seems remarkably pointless! It also counts as Psionic Meditation, and you could theoretically take both.
While in an Iron heart stance adjacent allies get a +2 bonus on saving throws, not bad.
Martial Study and Martial Stance
Martial Study lets you choose a discipline of martial maneuvers, gain it's key skill as a class skill for all your classes, and gain one of it's maneuvers(if you meet it's prerequisites). If you aren't a martial adept you can use it once per combat at a level equal to half your character level. If you are a martial adept you choose one of your classes to add this to as one of your maneuvers known. But you can only take Martial Study 3 times. Martial Stance lets you learn any stance that you meet the prerequisites for. But that's theoretically enough maneuvers to get the level 9 Devoted Spirit strike onto a Warblade. If you're willing to put 4 feats into it.
You can recover any expended maneuver by expending your psionic focus... and power points equal to it's level. Next
In the first round of combat you deal +1d6 damage! Next.
Scribe Martial Script
Crusaders and Swordsages(but not Warblades for some reason) can make "Martial adept scrolls" basically.
While in a Shadow Hand Stance and using <GET SHADOW HAND WEAPONS> you can add your dexterity modifier to damage rolls in addition to your strength modifier. You can subsitute this feat for weapon finesse but if you do then any feats that key off of finesse weapons only apply to <SHADOW HAND WEAPONS>.
While you're in a shadow hand stance you get a +2 DC bonus to the saves of illusion spells you cast and a +2 bonus when making a sneak attack, sudden strike, or flanking an opponent. Which is odd because this feat requires a caster level to take, but oh well.
Song of the White Raven
You can activate Inspire Courage as a swift action while in a White Raven stance and your crusader and warblade levels stack with Bard to determine how strong your inspire courage is.
If you take a -2 penalty to all your attacks in a round, you can make one extra unarmed strike.
You can take a penalty on attack rolls to get temporary hit points for a round. This feat can substitute for power attack. and you could theoretically also take power attack.
Once per day as a swift action you can instantly ready(and grant if necessary) one martial maneuver.
Superior Unarmed Strike
This gives non-monks something akin to Monk damage progression with unarmed strikes, and gives monk a +4 bonus to their level when determining unarmed strike damage.
If you're in a rage, shifted, or wild shaped you can knock a creature your size or smaller back 5 feet when you hit them with a tiger claw strike unless they make a fort save.
You can use concentration instead of intimidate in a duel of wills, get a +4 bonus on skill checks to resolve them, and a +2 morale bonus on attack rolls against people who ignore them.
You heal a small amount of damage once per combat when you recover maneuvers.
White Raven Defense
While in a White Raven stance and adjacent to an ally you get a +1 bonus to AC, if you're holding <WHITE RAVEN WEAPONS> adjacent allies get +1 bonus to AC.
There's also a bunch of Tactical Feats, which means they're fiddly as hell and of questionable usefulness. For completeness' sake let's discuss the one that has an image associated with it.
Yes, now you can break down doors even harder, and ignore a rather substantial penalty to hit if you manage a 5% chance, or overcome damage reduction... next turn.
SHARDS OF GRANITE
Like the great Stone Dragon, you hammer through your opponents’ defenses using raw, brutal strength. Each blow sunders steel, shatters bone, and cleaves through flesh. With each successive attack you make, you hit with greater force.
Prerequisite: Stone Power, base attack bonus +6, two Stone Dragon maneuvers.
Benefit: The Shards of Granite feat enables the use of three tactical options.
Battering Smash: To use this option, you must make a successful melee attack using one of the preferred weapons of the Stone Dragon discipline (greatsword, greataxe, heavy mace, or unarmed strike) and take a –5 penalty on the attack roll using your Stone Power feat. If
you hit, you ignore the target’s hardness (if any).
Eviscerating Strike: To use this option, you must hit the same creature at least two times in the same round using one of the preferred weapons of the Stone Dragon discipline
(greatsword, greataxe, heavy mace, or unarmed strike). On your next turn, you ignore any penalty you take on your attack roll from your Stone Power feat when making a roll to
confirm a critical hit.
Unstoppable Onslaught: To use this option, you must make a successful melee attack using
one of the preferred weapons of the Stone Dragon discipline (greatsword, greataxe, heavy
mace, or unarmed strike), and take a –5 penalty on the attack roll using your Stone
Power feat. If you hit, your melee attacks against that creature on your next turn overcomes its damage reduction (if any).
This is a short chapter going over the mechanics of how Maneuvers work. Most of which I've gone over already in some form or another. You need to be able to move to initiate a maneuver, but you don't need to be able to speak. Initiating Boosts and stances requires a Swift action, and you can only use one Swift action a turn. Now go back and look at all those feats that are less attractive to Martial Adepts because of this. You stay in a stance indefinitely until you are rendered helpless for any reason, or until you use a swift action to change to a different stance. Or a swift action to end your current stance without entering another one I guess.
One wrinkle is that multiclassing for Martial Adepts is kind of dumb. Your track your readied maneuvers separately for your two classes, and each class counts at half it's levels for the other class to determine what maneuver levels you're able to choose on level up.
There's also rules for creating new maneuvers if your DM is insane and allows you to do that, but it's basically "Work with your DM, it'll definitely require an insane skill check and for you to dish out XP to do it, otherwise here be dragons." There, is, however, some sweet art of the various Discipline users next to the descriptions of the disciplines, which they're giving us, again.
Desert Wind, Devoted Spirit, Diamond Mind (Holy crap a drow. neat)
Iron Heart, Setting Sun, Shadow Hand
Tiger Claw, Stone Heart, White Ravephffffft oh my god what is wrong with that Avoral, he looks so hideously off model and emaciated, like someone used photoshop on him, badly. Also why is this one out of order going bottom to top rather than top to bottom?
Next Time: Barfing dragons from our swords
Maneuvers and StancesOriginal SA post
Part 3: Maneuvers and Stances
Since I've been covering multiple chapters at a time I have not been showing you the title art for every chapter.
It's Wayne England art.
Just let that seep into your eyes.
RIP Wayne. He did some good art but he did not draw humans well
I'll be doing a rough summary of all of the disciplines but there's very little that holds true to all of them. Mainly there is at least one Maneuver and one Stance at level 1 for every discipline, and every discipline has exactly one level 9 Maneuver.
Desert Wind Maneuvers
Desert Wind is all about fire damage. Most of the maneuvers and boosts just let you deal extra fire damage on one strike, one of the boosts gives you rapid shot for melee attacks for one round(one extra attack but all of them are at -2). One of them lets you mark an enemy and cause them to erupt in a giant pillar of flame that's larger the bigger they are. Another lets you charge around the battlefield like a madman and leave behind a wall of fire in your wake. The stances aren't much to talk about except for the Rising Phoenix Stance, which lets you fly like a Phoenix. Apparently this means Phoenixes can't fly more than 10 feet above the ground and if they ever try they plummet to the ground and the stance ends. If you do a full attack while in the rising phoenix stance the super-heated column of air you're flying on literally bursts into flames and hurts people though. Which is neat.
The level 9 strike causes you to make a party unfriendly 60 foot radius burst of exactly 100 fire damage, reflex half.
I feel like I need to go buy a van just so I can have this airbrushed on it.
Devoted spirit has all the healing strikes. They aren't much, the level 6 strike is just a Mass Cure Serious Wounds, and all of them require you to hit an opponent who opposes you on at least one alignment axis. Except the level 9 strike, which is heal if you hit someone who opposes your alignment.
Devoted spirit is also unique in that it has a stance and a charge for each of the four alignments. The good stance lets you heal other people when you hit with attacks. The Evil stance lets you leech health at a 50% return from your allies. The Law stance lets you say that a d20 is an 11 before you roll it once per round. But the Chaos Stance, Aura of Chaos, makes all of your damage dice explode if you roll max on them. The charges are all "If your charge hits an opponent who is the opposite of this move's alignment, you deal extra damage and get a bonus for one round."
There are also some tanking tools. A Stance that lets you ignore going below 1 HP so long as you can keep making your fortitude saves (Though you automatically exit the stance after making your third save), a stance that lets you ignore the 5-foot step and withdrawl when making attacks of opportunity, because all squares next to you are considered threatened. A Strike that slows people down. And a few strikes that just deal a respectable amount of damage because you're a Crusader and you don't really have access to those otherwise.
Diamond Mind is the Mind over Matter discipline. You crush your inferior human foes with the power of
There's a series of strikes that require you to make a concentration check before your attack with a DC of the opponent's AC. If you succeed, and the attack hits, you deal extra damage, up to 4x damage with the level 8 strike. There's a series of counters that let you substitute Concentration checks for Fort, Reflex, or Will saves, with a capstone counter that lets you add your initiator level to a single save. The stances are all pretty defensive, one makes you harder to hit for each time you are missed in a single round. One gives you blindsense, another gives you a bonus to attacks and defense against one opponent in exchange for penalties to everyone else.
There's two more strikes to talk about. One lets you make attacks at a stacking -4 penalty(rather than -5) until you miss or your opponent dies. The level 9 strike, Time Stands Still, lets you take two full attack actions as a full round action. I take this time to remind you that the warblade gets full BAB.
Iron Heart is all about being the best damn Swordsperson on the battlefield. Just to start, Adamantine Hurricane(lvl 8) lets you make two attacks at +4 to everyone enemy adjacent to you. There's a stance that gives you reach, a stance that gives you +10 to your movement speed(and an AC bonus if you actually move 10 feet) Counters that let you reroll attacks and saves. Boosts that let you heal yourself if you're below half HP. "Finishing Move" that deals extra damage the more wounded your opponent is. And the ability to throw your weapon in a line and attack everyone in it for a bunch of extra damage. The level 9 strike is just a single attack for +100 damage.
Then there's Iron Heart Surge.
The old Charop boards noted that a Drow Warblade with this boost could, rules as written, end sunlight.
Your fighting spirit, dedication, and training allow you to overcome almost anything to defeat your enemies. When you use this maneuver, select one spell, effect, or other condition currently affecting you and with a duration of 1 or more rounds. That effect ends immediately. You also surge with confidence and vengeance against your enemies, gaining a +2 morale bonus on attack rolls until the end of your next turn.
Setting sun is hard to pin down. It's a bunch of counters, stances and some strikes under the vague umbrella of "defensive" moves, several of which are better if your opponent is larger than you.
There's a series of strikes, including the level 9 strike, that let you trip and throw your opponent. The level 9 strike lets you run around the battlefield tripping and throwing everyone around you. It's really incongruous with the rest of the theme and I really just don't get what Setting Sun is supposed to be.
Shadow Hand is general darkness/shadow/negative energy/ninja shit. Most of them rely or enable the ability to become invisible, concealed, stealthed, etc. Which is good because there's a stance that gives you +2d6 sneak attack damage. There's a stance that lets you walk on air, some boosts that let you teleport through shadows. Strikes that poison, strikes that bleed, etc.
The level 9 strike is.. uhh... FIVE-SHADOW CREEPING ICE ENERVATION STRIKE Where you strike your opponent in the heart with the POWER OF SHADOW which creeps into their body inflicting ability score damage and inflicting a temporary additional effect.
Stone Dragon is like Setting Sun in that it's kind of thematically all over the place, this is more because it's the workhorse discipline for all three martial classes. Notably there are a few strikes that let you deal bonus damage to creatures or objects and ignore DR and hardness. There are some defensive strikes and stances that give you DR or immunity to critical hits.
The level 9 strike is just a regular melee attack... that deals 2d6 con damage.
Tiger Claw is focused on two things. Making lots of consecutive attacks in a turn, and jumping over your opponent and attacking while midair. There are some outliers, like the "Rabid <ANIMAL> Strikes" that basically give you a guaranteed hit with extra damage, but give you a malus to your AC for a turn. The stances are mostly utility, one that gives you a +10 bonus to jump, one that gives you a stacking +1 to attack and damage rolls as long as you keep critting, one that lets you... grapple people with your weapons(?).. and one that lets you slowly work your way around your opponent as you attack them.
Gorillion Windmill Flesh Rip is a boost that deals extra damage to your opponent depending on how many times you successfully attacked them in the round, topping off at 20d6 damage if you somehow hit them 8 times. Then there's Feral Death Blow
Why yes, that is a level 9 Save or Die spell keyed to Strength.
You leap upon your opponent, rending and tearing with your weapons in an attempt to kill him with a brutally overwhelming assault. You grab onto your foe as you slash and hack at his neck, face, and other vulnerable areas.
To use this maneuver, you must be adjacent to your intended target. As part of this maneuver, make a Jump check with a DC equal to your opponent’s AC. If the check succeeds, you can then make a single melee attack against your foe, also as part of this maneuver. The target is considered fl at-footed against this attack. If your attack deals damage, your target must attempt a Fortitude save (DC 19 + your Str modifier). If this save fails, your
target is instantly slain (his hit points drop to –10). If the save is successful, you deal an extra 20d6 points of damage to the target in addition to your normal weapon damage. Creatures immune to critical hits are immune to the death effect of this strike.
If your Jump check fails, you can make a single attack normally. The maneuver is still considered expended.
White raven is a weird mixture of tank abilities and things that would later manifest in the Warlord in 4e. Attacking and giving your allies bonuses on attacks, keeping an opponent from making AoOs, charging into battle and giving bonuses.
The level 9 strike lets you and everyone in 30 yards charge a single opponent all at once, you don't block LOS for determining charge targets, and for each person who charges you get a cumulative +2 bonus to attack rolls and everyone gets a flat bonus to damage. It's decent but hard to set off.
Next Time: Prestige Classes, yes of course there are fucking prestige classes.
The Rest of the BookOriginal SA post
Part 4: The Rest of the Book
I'm gonna be honest here, they're not good. The Martial Adept classes are finely tuned engines that work very well with the tools they possess, but since they all get strikes and stances at different rates, and from different pools, the prestige classes have to break that somewhat. At specific levels within the different Prestige Classes you'll just learn a move from one of that prestige class' schools. At specific levels you'll get an extra readied maneuver (and if you're a crusader, an extra granted maneuver), and for some classes you'll sometimes get extra stances. A lot of the abilities in here require you to expend a maneuver to power them, and the prestige class specific stances require you to be in a stance of another discipline, and you supplant it's benefits with the ones from the stance.
"But Kurieg," I hear you asking, "How do they work if you don't have martial adept levels and instead cheated your way in with feats." The answer is like a car wreck. You get extra moves but you can't ready them except with the extra slots the prestige class gives you and you can't recharge them in any fashion whatsoever, even if you subsequently get martial adept levels. Which, considering the prestige class abilities trigger based on your Manuvers, isn't good. Save everyone the headache and take a 1 level dip in Swordsage or something.
The Tiger Claw prestige class, in fact you gain the ability to shift like an Eberron shifter (Razorclaw, naturally) You eventually gain the ability to Pounce and Rend, but they require you to expend tiger claw maneuvers to get them to function. This is only a 5 level Prestige Class so honestly this seems like a good prestige class for a Longtooth Shifter Warblade to go into before he transitions into the Weretouched Master to complete his ascendance into a murderous deathball.
The Iron Heart prestige class, which bizarrely is based all around chucking your weapon at your enemies. You can expend maneuvers to give your weapon the returning ability, but by 4th level it just automatically bounces back to you so you can make full attacks with a single weapon mixing melee and thrown strikes. Beyond that you can spend your swift action to treat all your ranged attacks like melee attacks (So you don't need Dex). And you can use Iron Heart maneuvers at range. And you can attack everyone within 30 feet of you at once, and make them bleed. Like this is actually a very good class that fills a niche that no one thought they needed filled. By 6th level you're suddenly an Exalted PC Using Heavenly Thrown Fullblade Mantra or something like that.
The.. Stone Dragon prestige class? Kind of? More specifically it's "The Dwarf Prestige Class" that specializes almost exclusively in stone dragon shit. Also it's another 5 level Class. That said the abilities you do get are somewhat thematic. The main thrust of this class is the Mountain Fortress Stance, which puts you on top of a 5 foot pillar surrounded by difficult terrain. The pillar moves with you but if you move more than 5 feet in a round it disappears. You can end the stance and charge down the collapsing tower to smash into someone and deal extra damage. You can also curse someone with stone which causes them to slow down, summon 10 foot pillars of earth, or cause a localized earthquake. Other than the fact that it's basically worthless if you aren't in an area with a stone/earth floor, and highly specialized to work in underground tunnels (You're meant to create a literal wall that prevents people from doing anything but funneling towards you) I like it, it's thematic.
The uhh, elf prestige class? Though it's also sort of the "Diamond Mind" Prestige class though you can also gain access to it with devoted spirit maneuvers. But it's strictly an elf only club, not even half elves may apply.
The Gimmick/Story of the class is that they're actually a super ancient order that used to serve Corellon Larethian directly, but they grew haughty and aloof and fell out of favor and people stopped answering the call. And I mean that rather literally, the spirits of the ancient Blades visit prospective members and manifest as tangible trainers. In fact they also drill them in their sleep, letting them gain access to feats and manuvers that they shouldn't otherwise have. They get some other abilities that are mostly defensive in nature cause they've got an elf spirit on their shoulder watching out for them, but at level 10 once per encounter they can just go "Oh hey I'm taking an extra turn right the hell now." and take an extra turn, then proceed to have their turn again normally at their normal initiative position. It's neat, but gimmicky, and I'm not sure it's worth the 10 level investment.
Jade Phoenix Mage
Sort of the Desert Wind class but definitely the arcane caster gish class. You need a strike and a stance to get into it but it can be any strike and stance, you also need to be non-evil, have 2nd level arcane spells, and have concentration 9 so they're basically saying "Go 5 levels in wizard or sorcerer, take a one level dip in something, then go into this." because the feat investment to make this function without adept levels would be kind of absurd for a caster to even pull off.
You can learn new manuevers as you level up from the Desert Wind or Devote Spirit disciplines, but most of their abilities are focused towards casting. They get a special stance that gives them a caster level boost and +2 dodge to AC, and they can expend a spell slot going into it to get DR/Evil. They also get another stance that increases their caster level but only for fire spells. There's some other abilities that let you empower/quicken spells once per encounter after you hit with a strike, or expend a spell to empower a strike. The Capstone ability is that once per week you can just fucking explode, dealing 20d6 damage to every enemy in a 20 foot radius, and re-appearing 1d6 rounds later completely healed of everything with all the stuff you were carrying.
It's not the worst Arcane+<WHATEVER THIS BOOK IS ABOUT> Class i've ever seen, but that doesn't mean it's good.
Master of Nine
You learn a bunch of new maneuvers from any of the 9 disciplines, and gain an extra readied maneuver at every level, but it's only a 5 level class. That's not really enough to get all the good maneuvers and stances that you would want, and because the assumed method of entry into this class is 7 levels of swordsage devoting every single one of your feats to the pre-requisites you don't really have the health or attack bonus to capitalize on the devoted spirit, white raven, or iron heart strikes. And the other class abilities aren't that great either. Just stay in your lane and ignore this class.
Skills: 10 ranks in four key discipline skills.
Feats: Adaptive Style, Dodge, Blind-Fight, Improved
Initiative, Improved Unarmed Strike.
Martial Maneuvers: Must know at least one maneuver from
six different disciplines.
Ruby Knight Vindicator
The "Divine Caster+<THIS BOOK>" Prestige class, also the devoted spirit one. Also it's Wee Jas specific, though the game straight up said that this is hideously limiting and other lawful gods would also work(Hilariously, the example character is a Lawful Evil worshipper of St. Cuthbert), because this class lets you freely multiclass with Paladin! (also they don't want you getting Aura of Chaos) Though interesting enough you can learn Shadow Hand maneuvers and stances from this class.
Other than that the class features let you trade in rebuke attempts for readied maneuvers, extra swift actions, or to boost strikes. Also you gain the ability to ignore armor check penalties on Hide rolls but not move silently(??????????????????????). It's interesting but not superbly great.
Shadow Sun Ninja
Ugh. This is a Setting Sun/Shadow Hand/Monk prestige class, and is all about the balance of light and shadow. You use something "Shadowy" on one round so you can do something "light" on the next or vice versa. It sounds neat, but in practice it means that just the mechanics of this class take up four pages, and most of the abilities are hideously clunky and not worth it. For example let's just quote the capstone ability.
Imagine 9 other levels full of abilities like this one.
Balance of Light and Dark (Su): As a Shadow Sun ninja,
you strive to control your dark side, even as you use it to power
your martial arts. Sometimes, particularly when you face a
truly daunting foe, you can allow your inner shadow to run
rampant. In such cases, you undergo a terrible transformation.
When you adopt this wrathful battle aspect, your foes
are doomed. Yet, each time you use this ability, you teeter
closer to damnation.
At 10th level, once per day as a swift action, you can
transform into a creature of pure darkness for 1 minute.
Your body and all items you carry when you
transform become a deep, inky black. You gain
immunity to critical hits, mind-affecting
abilities, death attacks, energy drain,
and poison. You also gain a +8 bonus
on Hide checks. Negative energy
attacks, such as inf lict spells, heal
rather than harm you. You gain a +4
bonus on attacks against creatures
in areas of darkness or
In addition to these benefi
ts, with each successful
unarmed attack you make,
you can choose to bestow
one negative level on your
opponent. You heal 5 points
of damage for each negative level
you bestow. These negative levels
disappear in 1 hour.
If the subject has at least as
many negative levels as HD, it
dies. Each negative level gives
a creature a –1 penalty on attack
rolls, saving throws, skill
checks, ability checks, and effective
level (for determining
the power, duration, DC, and
other details of spells or special
abilities). Additionally, a spellcaster
loses one spell or spell slot
from her highest available level.
Negative levels stack.
At the end of your transformation, you take 1 point of
Constitution damage per negative level you bestowed. If
this damage drops your Constitution to 0 or lower, your
body dissipates into an inky cloud. Unless you are restored
to life by true resurrection, you rise in 1d4 days as a vampire.
Your alignment becomes evil, though your alignment on the
law–chaos axis remains the same. You are now a dedicated
champion of evil and an NPC. You retain access to all your
abilities in this prestige class and lack a normal vampire’s
vulnerability to sunlight. Your vampiric body forms in the
spot where your mortal form perished.
Legend holds that the souls of Shadow Sun ninjas who are
corrupted in this manner are imprisoned within the Iron
City of Dis, Dispater’s capital within the depths of Hell. A
successful quest to free the soul from its prison cell destroys
the vampire and restores the Shadow Sun ninja to life. Legend
holds that several mighty Shadow Sun heroes languish within
Dispater’s prison, waiting to be freed.
The Nine Swords
The next chapter includes the rules for the titular nine swords. Which are nine magic weapons that each embody one of the nine disciplines. In the lore they're the 9 swords that Reshar gathered before he created the Monastery where he trained people in the nine disciplines.
Also I was sort of fibbing earlier when I said they were magic weapons. They are in fact WEAPONS OF LEGACY!!!
The short version of Weapons of Legacy is that they're predefined magic weapons that actually get more powerful, letting you keep one weapon throughout your entire adventuring career. However to keep this up, it inflicts penalties on you, in the form of penalties to your BAB, your saves, lost hit points, etc. And these don't go away if you lose the weapon for some reason. Also you need to undertake highly specific quests with rather expensive GP Costs (and expend the time, energy, and resources to meet the Knowledge check DCs to learn what these rituals entail) and most of the high level rituals are the kind of thing that you'd require 9th level spells to achieve/survive. Thankfully at least they all go up to level 20 so you aren't going to outgrow them like some of the weapons of legacy. (Yes, the designers expected you to give up 1 point of BAB and 10 hit points forever for a weapon you'd only use from levels 5-10. Weapons of Legacy is a bad book)
So unfortunately that means that they all suck and are not worth the investment to actually use them.
Which sucks because some of the backstories are kind of neat. I'll admit I stole one of them more or less verbatim for the backstory of my Warblade. But the time and energy it would take me to summarize/recount them all is just not really worth it in any fashion.
Martial Scripts are Maneuver Scrolls, more or less. You need to be able to read the alphabet they're written in, not specifically the language (Dwarves can read scripts written in giant, as an example) if you can't then you need to make a martial lore check to read them. Once read you gain the ability to use that maneuver for one encounter. You can hold it in your memory for an hour, and once used you can recover it as usual, but it's gone after the encounter you use it in. They require the Scribe martial Script feat, and have an XP Cost to make, but... the most expensive martial script (a level 9 strike at initiator 20) only costs 900 gp, the xp cost of making one at that level is 36. At that point why even bother having one?
Aptitude Weapon Do you have Weapon Focus, Specialization, Or something like that? It applies to this weapon!
Martial Discipline Weapon it's a +1 bonus cost to give a wielder a +1 bonus on attack rolls if they know a maneuver of the chosen discipline, and a +3 bonus if they're actively using one. This counts Stances. So someone with a +5 Devoted Spirit Iron Heart Greatsword would have a +11 bonus to an attacks with adamantine whirlwind while in Aura of Chaos stance. If you used the remaining +3 bonus space to tack on additional disciplines you could pump that to +14
Why yes this is broken as shit why do you ask?
Crown of the White Ravens or Desert Wind Cloak or Devoted Spirit Amulet or Diamond Mind Ring etc etc etc. They give you a maneuver as long as you're wearing it for at least 24 hours, some of them are more useful than others which is why they occupy different body slots. It's rather fiddly to me and I'd rather just have a backpack full of Martial Scripts.
Nine Swords Monsters
Because of course there are monsters.
Are actually sort of neat, because they play around with the design space of the game. They don't use maneuvers like players do, instead they have four "Style Shapes" that they can shapeshift into, that give them a bonus, a stance, and two maneuvers. Earth Serpent gives them +2 natural armor, the strength of stone stance, and the Mountain Hammer and Charging Minotaur strikes. Which is neat. Lorewise they're important because a Rakshasa stealing the Diamond Mind Weapon of Legacy is what brought about the Downfall of the Temple of Nine Swords. Somehow, the game doesn't elaborate.
Long ago a race of mortal warriors known as the Reh Dekala sold their souls to an infernal power in exchange for the ability to destroy all who opposed them. But in death their souls belonged to the devil, so once he had an appropriately sized army of immortal devil warriors he set them against their mortal descendants. They rebelled and killed the Devil before taking his place on the throne of Acheron.
This was also a very bad idea because with his dying breath the devil cursed the Reth Dekala to burn eternally with corrupt tormenting flames until their final decree is carried out and they kill every one of their mortal descendants. Except that was millennia ago and their descendants did a lot of fucking in the meantime, so they sell their services to other evil races as mercenaries, capitalizing on the chance to kill their descendants if they find them.
And for all that really neat backstory they're just firey devils that happen to know some maneuvers and stances.
Uhh... It's a not-angel with martial adept abilities.
Probably the only interesting thing about them is their outlook and behavior which is a little different than what you're probably expecting given Valkyries.
They're CN, they just like fighting, they like it a lot. They like it so much. Come on dude why are you resting KEEP FIGHTING UNTIL YOU DIE!
Fight Club (EL 14): Two valkyries took a wounded paladin
from a battle in which he single-handedly fought a group of
marauding trolls. Now one valkyrie guards the paladin as he
rests in a nearby cavern while the other valkyrie seeks another
opponent to fi ght. The guarding valkyrie refuses to give up the
paladin unless a PC is willing to enter into single combat with
her. The returning valkyrie immediately attacks when she sees
a battle, dropping her catch—the leader of the trolls—to battle
a PC. The valkyries attack the PCs using the tactics described
above, while the troll leader takes the opportunity to fi nish off
the paladin before turning on the PCs. Use the statistics for
the troll hunter (MM 247) for the troll leader. For the paladin,
use the statistics for the half-celestial 9th-level human paladin
(MM 145). The paladin is out of spells and has used his lay on
hands ability for the day, leaving him with 70 hit points.
And that's it, that's the BO9S. Keep the Martial Adept classes, and the maneuvers, because they're good, easily the best thing to come out of 3.5. Take or leave the prestige classes, leave the rest (except for that one weapon, if you hate your DM).