By Thilo Graf
This pdf is 18 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD and two pages of advertisements. That leaves us with 13 pages of content, let’s get it on.
The Secrets of Martial Mastery contains a plethora of new combat manoeuvres akin to classics like feint and bull rush. (7 pages) The new manoeuvres are:
- Arm Lock – Deals unarmed damage and causes sickened effect. Initiated in a grapple.
- Blind Opponent – You attempt to blind your opponent for 1 or more rounds. (By throwing sand in their face, poking their eyes etc.)
- Bypass Armour – You exploit a weak spot in their armour, if you succeed they lose their armour vs. your next attack. Surprisingly, this also works against natural armor
- Confuse Opponent – You attempt to hit the opponent in a way that is dazes/confuses them. Deals half damage and causes brief confusion.
- Corps-à-Corps – You lock weapons with the opponent and move close to them, setting them up for other combat manoeuvres.
- Create Opening – Lowers the opponent’s AC for your next attack.
- Cut Clothing – Do the Zorro! Cut clothing off your opponent, carve your name, attack items etc. – Mages will hate this one.
- Disorient Opponent – If this attack works, the enemy takes a -2 to attack, INT and several skill checks based on movement for a short amount of time.
- Entangle Opponent – You use an object to entangle your opponent by ropes, cutting branches, throwing furniture etc.
- Enemy Cover – You move into the blind spot of e.g. other enemies by moving with the opponent targeted, using your foe as cover against themselves and their allies.
- Force Movement – Force an opponent to move 5-10ft in the direction of your choosing without having to run him over.
- Garrotte Opponent – You strangle the enemy from behind, assassin-style. The attack is sufficiently lethal, causes damage and eventually forces the target to save or fall unconscious and die.
- Hinder Natural Attack – You strike at a natural weapon, making your foe unable to use that specific attack for 1 or more rounds.
- Hinder Special Ability – Works just like Hinder Natural Attack, but thankfully only works when there is an obvious attack like a breath weapon, webs and the like.
- Impede Movement – The little brother of the good ol’ classic “Sever Sinews” – your attack lowers the movement of the enemy by 5ft on a success.
- Joint Strike – In contrast to the others, this one is rather bland, it does 1 point of ability damage to STR or DEX.
- Low Blow – Strike at the vital areas of male/female anatomy to really make your enemy appreciate you. If you’re successful, the target is dazed for 1 or more rounds. Obviously doesn’t work against all critters out there.
- Nauseate Opponent – Karate-chop to the ear or similar attacks cause the victim to be nauseated for 1 or more rounds.
- Paralyze Opponent – If you are successful, you can paralyze your opponent briefly.
- Parry Attack – This blocks the next incoming melee attack by your chosen target by using one of your AoOs.
- Rope-a-Dope –Tire out your opponent for a brief amount of time by applying pressure while keeping your defensive stance.
- Sacrificial Critical – Open yourself wide for an automatic critical by your enemy to get an attack that automatically threatens a critical hit if successful.
- Sap – A successful hit with this manoeuvre causes your enemy to save or be knocked unconscious for a brief amount of time, potentially long enough to capture him/her/it.
- Scar Opponent – The stuff revenge-stories are made of, this humiliation deals 1 point of damage and a scar that can only be healed by magic. [GREAT for low-magic campaigns or if the DM rules that the scar remains even if the damage is healed…]
- Seize Massive Attack – As part of a readied action, you attempt to latch onto a large or larger creature. Ever wanted to latch onto a charging Gorgon or a swooping dragon with one hand while desperately trying to hack it to pieces? There you go.
- Taunt Opponent – The “Yo mama!” of combat manoeuvres, this causes the targets to attack you for one or more rounds in a fit of rage, potentially ignoring your meek fireball-casting sorcerer-buddy.
- Throw Opponent – Initiated as a part of a grapple, you throw an opponent 5ft or more, doing 1d6+STR damage and fling them potentially off of cliffs, balconies, etc.
- Torment Opponent – Inflict a traumatizing blow on your enemy, causing massive pain and leaving them with -4 to attack rolls and some skill checks.
- Unbalance Opponent – You try to knock your foe off balance, leaving him without DEX-mod for 1 or more rounds or hamper his REF-save.
While some of the manoeuvres might seem strong, they are balanced by saves, half damage and a limited amount of time for their effects. All maneuvers have additional effects if you beat the opponent by 10+ or fail by an equal margin.
New Feats (3.5 pages): After the manoeuvres, we get a whole bunch of new feats, one general “Improved [Combat maneuver]”-feat-template and several non-generic “Greater”-variants of the manoeuvres. Taunt Opponent, Hinder Special Ability, Corps-à-Corps and Arm Lock don’t get their own “Greater”-version though.
Finally, we get a new prestige class, the Master of the Arts, that gets two and a half pages:
The class has d10, 4+INT skills, good BAB, medium FORT save, bad REF and WIL saves and details a teacher of combat maneuvers who can both utilize maneuvers, deflect arrows and the like and even control his/her inflicted damage for training/capture/ whatever purposes. The class also features a short glossary of Questhaven.
The b/w-art ranges from fair to “meh” and is partly public domain, I found one editing glitch (double sentence) and 2 typos in the book, but not enough to severely detract from its appeal. Why? Because it is so concisely written and because, even though it is setting-neutral, made me envision or remember all the times when I have already house-ruled situations like the ones the manoeuvres address. Combat should be exciting, dynamic and cool and fighter-types should have more options than “I attack with power attack +3” and “I trip. Again.” If you’re like me and love swashbuckling, Errol Flynn style, if you are into martial artist flicks from the east, hell, if you just simply want more options for your fighters that are not necessarily just more feats, more options for any character that is even remotely martially bent, this pdf is for you. For the cheap price of 3 bucks, you get a file that is guaranteed to enrich your gaming experience in a more than positive way. Due to the cheap price that almost makes up for the minor editing glitches, I’ll rate this file 4.5 stars, for the purpose of this platform rounded up to 5.