Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Standard Spell List as Fighter Techniques

Spells are the problem-solving tools of higher level D&D moreso than inventory items(magic items aside). Though mundane items are not obsoleted, ropes are less important when someone can turn into a flying beast to carry the party, torches are less important when Continual Light becomes a thing, having holy water for undead is less important when you can just hold the line for a few rounds while the wizards chuck their artillery spells, etc etc. It makes me feel like the thieves and fighters get left out a little, even with my various houserules that buffed the non-magic user classes.

So I decided to try to turn a lot of classic spells into weeaboo fightan magic wuxia-style fighter techniques, with the idea that fighters learn one and go through 'em one per round in combat, starting with the lower level spells and going up the list, since of course you can't use your ultimate move first.

This could also work for a Fighter/MU spell aesthetics or a special class of their own I expect. Or maybe it could be good for a classless system where cleric spells are herbs and wizard spells are tricks to be taught by ancient mountaintop masters. Though I did include a few cleric spells in here too, healing spells were not included since these techniques are potentially usable every fight.

Level 1/Opener Techniques
Oath of Merciful Indenture(Charm Person)-
You can hold someone at swordpoint/arrowpoint/gunpoint etc and demand they surrender and serve you, or perish! This is limited to humanoids of 4hd or less- other things are unlikely to know of this Saresaren custom, be too physiologically different to feel threatened enough by this, or just be too much of a badass to consider it. As per regular Charm Person, this just makes someone your ally, not your mind-slave- treating them poorly will make them decide they'll risk your wrath and try to betray, flee, or otherwise escape from you. Contrary to Charm Person, things get a +5 to the save if it's used NOT in combat, or in a combat that you started, as starting a fight to try to coerce people isn't really mercy.

Sense Killing Intent (Detect Evil)- Simply put, this lets you sense hostility in the form of body language, pheromones, or other ridiculous but semi-plausible ideas. As a limitation, it may not work on things with twice your HD due to being able to conceal their own killing intent, or this technique might be reversible as Hide Killing Intent. One thing I actually think is fun from 3.5 is the 'Overwhelming Evil' effect of stunning characters under 7th level for 1 round if they are exposed to a sufficiently high level of evil (though of course in this case it would be anything with 11+HD and murderous intent). Another possible reversal would be Project Killing Intent which acts as Cause Fear.

Tiger-Climbing Tree (Spiderclimb/Featherfall)- allows one to climb sheer surfaces by driving ones blades/hands into a surface to get a grip, and to slow ones fall if you can reach a surface as you fall (or maybe just roll upon landing and be miraculously unharmed)

Spark-Flinging Edge (Light)-  by dragging your sword ominously across the ground, you can create sparks to illuminate your surroundings, or have each clash of your blade with the enemy's own blades or teeth or whatever send sparks flying to keep the place illuminated

Dust-Kick (Darkness)- Simply put, you kick up dust (or throw an improvised smoke bomb as appropriate) to hide an area in swirling dust or whatever context appropriate substance is handy, like leaves or flour or whatever. Can be targeted at eyes to blind people temporarily. I feel like you should probably allow this sort of thing already, even if it's limited to a single round or requires an attack roll.

Hundred-Merciful Fist(Sleep)- You leap into action and choke/concuss 2d4HD worth targets into unconsciousness(assuming they fail the save of course). It is of course highly dishonorable to slit their throats afterwards, so ideally you will tie them up or stuff them into a locked broom closet.

Perfect Shot (Magic Missile)- You fling/fire some darts, daggers, kunai, shuriken, pebbles, slingstones, etc to strike unerringly at the weak points of a target, like through a knight's visor or down the trachea of a roaring beast or whatever.

Perfect Parry (Shield)- Grants +3AC against melee attacks and +6 AC against ranged attacks, though only frontally. Blocks Magic Missile and Perfect Shots.

Pointed Message (Magic Mouth)- by leaving a head on a pike, particular slash marks on a tree, arrow with an actual message, you can communicate a short message to particular people the message is meant for.... actually nah, forget this one.

Burning Blood (Protection from Cold)-
A must for shirtless loincloth barbarians from the Far North™

Grease- Just throw a flask of oil okay not everything needs to be a secret technique

Level 2 Techniques
Get Serious (Bless)-
Applying a +1 to hit and morale is subtle, but good enough that I think having it be a level 1 spell as in AD&D makes it a no brainer option. That aside, clearly you have to gauge your opponents powerlevel before realizing you have to get serious, so it can't happen on the first round of combat.

Paralyzing Pressure Points (Hold Person)- Familiarity with human(oid) anatomy allows you to strike someone to temporarily paralyze them, forcing a save at -2, or to go ham with flurrying blows or thrown needles and try to take down multiple targets (up to 3) without the save penalty.

Beast Stare (Charm/Speak With Animal)- Familiarity with animal body language and being able to show them that you are the alpha wolf or whatever can let you communicate nonhostility and intent nonverbally, and maybe even get them to assist you, or at least leave you be.

Predict Moves (ESP)- Though normally a low-key explanation for how you're so much more dangerous than a 1HD person with a knife, you can read the body language of people you are battling to predict more than the steps of battle, but also what they are planning to do on a more abstract level as their surface thoughts are reflected in their moves. Could also come off as having the mental acumen to provoke them into spilling secrets in the heat of battle, or perhaps extract information via intimidation post-battle with nothing but a promise of mercy if they talk and an ominous cracking of knuckles or something

Assassination Step (Invisibility)-  Moving too fast and skillfully for the opponents eye to follow, they must rely on their other senses to track you, at least until you finally make your attack. Also works for evading combat to some degree I suppose.

Swallow's Perch (Levitation)- Supreme master of the balance of the body allows you to stand atop ten foot poles, swords, and (if further height is required) ridiculous towers of assorted objects. As an alternate take, it could represent holding onto a rope attached via a grapple or be a sort of spider climb, or if you don't mind more silliness, it could be vertical levitation obtained via helicoptering a blade at ludicrous speeds, in which case it should probably be called Bee's Ascent or something

Afterimages(Mirror Image)- Simply put, you start to move so fast you leave 1d4+1 afterimages people may mistakenly attack due to their deceived eyes or slow reflexes.

Raider's Knock (Knock)- Kick down a door, locked chest, or other comparable barrier... A bit questionable here, I dunno, I don't like Knock on the best of days.

Sword Divination (Locate Object)- Y'know that scene where Inigo Montoya prays for his father's sword to guide him to the secret door in the tree? Yeah... though it may not make sense if these spells are supposed to come about in combat and be limited by combat rounds rather than out of combat and be limited by uses per day. Whatever

Copious Sweat (Protection From Fire)-  a must have for sweaty, shirtless barbarians in volcano temples and dragon caves and the like

Web- probably just throw a net, or have a bunch of hired net-throwers.

3rd Level Techniques
Death Richochet(Lightning Bolt), A fired arrow/thrown javelin/etc pierces targets for terrible damage. Bounces off surfaces, 1d6 damage per level, save for half, a classic. 

Whirlwind Spin Attack(Fireball)- d6 damage per level save for half, but centered on you rather than lobbed (personal immunity tho, since it needs something to compensate for losing the range). Could also be like a giant hammer smash or a deafening shout or something.

Lungs of Beowulf (Waterbreathing/Water Walking)- Just, hold your breath for hours while you wrestle a monsters momma, easy peasy. Clearly you need the adrenaline to fuel anaerobic exercise or something so it's only lasts through the crisis situation... or maybe this is a bad idea and it should just be 'run across water' instead.

Beast Baffling Blow (Hold Animal)- as Hold Person but now you have the anatomical knowledge to do it with animals. Wait no that's not what I-

Wind Step (Fly)- just leap through the air astounding distances, or jump off of the wind itself, idk. Really there's no excuse for not just pulling out a bow so this is a bit redundant but I think it's probably fine.

H-Hayai/Osoi- (Haste/Slow)- As spells these are mass buffs, but I think it more appropriate to just have it function as Hasting the warrior in question.

Zatoichi's Training(Infravision/Darkvision)- Your other senses and awareness of the battlefield are not sight dependent, so you can operate blind as if sighted, with the usual limitations of not being able to read and so on.

Arrow Catching (Protection from normal missiles)- Basically you catch/cut all normal projectiles headed your way, a necessity for becoming immune to army squads of archers like a proper immortal hero type.

Spell Slay (Dispel magic/remove curse)- allows you to strike at and slay a magical effect (or multiple effects clustered in an area like buffs/curses on one individual. Only relatively 'weak' effects can be killed like this, with proper curses that can only be lifted one way and so on being unaffected. Also would allow you to counter an incoming spell I expect, slashing it in two as it arrives.

Mutilate- (Cause Blindness/Deafness/Bestow Curse)- Lets you strike a blow that causes permanent bodily harm- cutting out eyes, damaging the throat, removing a hand or foot or reducing a stat by 4 all are probably appropriate moves to pull with this, though of course a save is given.

4th Level Techniques

Lightning Catching Blade(Protection from Lightning)
- A must for people who thought the lightning- catching jump from Sekiro was the coolest thing ever. I think the protection techniques are a little lame but they are easy to write.... Probably should all be level 1 if the goal is to have each round of combat correspond to a higher level technique.

Monster Master (Charm Monster)- As Charm Animal, but with all manner of monsters, because high level fighters should be able to have dragon mounts too c'mon

Flash Step (Dimension Door)- 'teleport' (actually just move in a burst of speed) to anywhere within 200' that could be reached normally via running, jumping, climbing, swimming, maybe just a bit of flying. Unknown areas cannot be teleported to.

High Swashbucklery(Confusion)- Via incredible skill and probably chandelier swinging, you bamboozle your enemies into running around like headless chickens, accidentally hitting each other, getting faked out and running the wrong way, tripping over the environment, etc etc. A must have for 'lone warrior vs horde' situations.

Beast Style(Polymorph Self)- Via emulating monsters you have encountered and either defeated or been defeated by in your travels, you may emulate the attack patterns, AC, and movement of beasts by not transforming physically, just changing your style to something superhuman. Other capabilities may be simulated as well via silly things like wielding double-ended ropes tied to your limbs for Kraken Style or whatever

Wave Cleaving Strike(Lower Water)- smack water with a sword to part it like moses parting the red sea, it makes total sense.

Line In The Sand/Iaido (Wall of Fire)- Anyone crossing the area you designate (usually by drawing a line on the ground) takes 2d6+Level damage from your immediate punishment via fired arrows or a quickdraw of a sheathed sword, and those lingering too close to the line (about 10-20 feet) can be struck for half damage. Lasts as long as you concentrate on it. An alternate version, Lonely Phalanx(Wall of Ice),  does no damage but prevents things from passing through as though there were a wall of thick ice there- if something is powerful enough to get through it takes 2 damage per level but then the defense and the shield is broken.

Level 5+ Techniques that I definitely lost enthusiasm for writing

Monster Immobilizing Strike (Hold Monster)- As Hold Animal but with all the monsters. Considerably less cool than Charm Monster but it's potentially multi-target and if single target has a save, so while I always thought it was weird that this was higher level than Charm Monster, I kinda get it now that I think of Charm as just 'make friends' and not 'mind slave.

Let Your Fists Do The Talking (Speak With Monster)- By engaging in battle, you can communicate more clearly than words ever could transcending the language barrier through yadda yadda you get it

Weeping Earth Blow (Wall of Stone)- strikes the earth to collapse a hallway, or forcibly shove the ground into a raised cliff to end pursuit, create an arena, etc etc

Belch Of The Drunken Master (Cloudkill)- A farcical technique, this is a poison belch that creates a 15' cloud of heavier than air death poison that kills anything with 4HD or less no save, allows a save for 5HD monsters, and 6HD monsters are unaffected (but begin taking 1d10 damage per round after the first 'free' round if they stay in it, a change mentioned in the AD&D DMG that I am sure was meant to prevent high level adventurers from chilling in their own cloudkill)
Atomic Slash (Disintegrate)- Target saves or is cut into shreds akin to motes of drifting dust, with perhaps a bloody mist remaining, by a truly gratuitous number of instantaneous slashes.

Circle of Steel (Blade Barrier)- caster surrounded by a ring flickering swordcuts(or whatever weapon is favored) of radius up to 5' per two levels that deals Leveld6 damage to all attempting to cross lasting Level rounds and being immobile. It also provides +4AC against all attacks attempting to cross the whirling barrier.

Forbidden Technique(Death Spell)- kills 3d12HD of living enemies of under 8HD with no save via means so forbidden that I'm sure they depend on the individual school of martial arts, or are unique capabilities.

I'm sure a few spells I skipped could be adapted to be a physical act with a sword somehow, but honestly a lot of spells start to be 'exotic way to disable someone' and 'way to counter/cure exotic status ailment' or things like Floating Disk which all I could think of was like, hacky sack with a shield laden with goods which was too silly even for a silly post. Maybe I'll come back to this and update it with missing spells if inspiration strikes, but probably not.


  1. Simple but amazing idea. Thank you very much.

  2. In the quick-and-dirty hack I'm currently bashing away at, all PCs use magic - in fact, the ability to use magic is what marks one as a special person.

    The difference is that the traditionally "magical" classes use it much the same, channeling magic to produce supernatural or unprecedented effects, the traditionally "martial" classes channel that magic through themselves to enhance their abilitities and push past the limits of normal human behaviour.

    Barbarians are literally supernaturally tough. Rogues actually do become harder to see. Fighters leaping 40 feet clear into the middle of a horde of enemies and turning into a living blender as their two swords move faster than the eye can follow is entirely believable, because of course someone who dedicates their entire power to combat would be able to do things unrealistic for a normal humanoid.

    This approach also allows things like spell-like abilitities to be more easily integrated into what would have been in D&D a mundane humanoid.

    It also makes multiclassing easy, since it's just expressing your extant power differently, without having to invent convoluted reasons why your ranger who can't actually read is suddenly becoming a class that you have to study books for years to be able to understand the rudiments of.