Martial Arts Guidebook (PFRPG)

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Hey, you! Yeah, you with the swords!

You asked for nice things, and we listened...

Like a lovingly forged and carefully honed weapon, the Martial Arts Guidebook offers you the chance to employ 59 new martial arts-themed Techniques: methods for your characters to do something more on the battlefield. It also explores the use of arcane, ki, and grit points to perform awesome martial arts techniques. In addition, it brings you six detailed martial schools, complete with descriptions, adventure seeds, boons and associated NPCs—almost twenty personalities to fill out the ranks, along with new feats and new magical items, all with a combat bent.

Why should rogues and wizards get all the fun? This is about giving your game not only a lot of options for the battlefield, but creating martial organizations for your game world. You don't have to just be former member of the guard or a retired military man, or a mercenary without a company. You can be part of a subcultures of warriors who band together in schools for exotic reasons and pursue evocative goals.

Crafted by the dedicated collective of Timothy Wallace, Matthew Stinson, William Senn, Mike Wice, Aaron Phelps and ENnie-award winner Ben McFarland, the Martial Arts Guidebook gives you something to strive towards, something to fight for, and a stylish sense of cinematic panache while you're at it.

Authors: Timothy Wallace, Matthew Stinson, William Senn, Ben McFarland, Mike Wice, Aaron Phelps
Cover Artist: Juan Diego Dianderes
Pages: 59

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What more can I say?


Our friendly neighborhood reviewer Mr. E.Z. Geist has already reviewed this book two years ago. I just received it for Christmas as a lucky gift and am taking the advice of the gift-giver to review this. So here's my commentary:

The Martial Arts Guidebook is a true pleasure to read. Too often, books come out that are strongly focused on the crunch of their ideas. More feats, more archetypes, more numbers...these are good things, to be sure, but not the totality of the game. Some books go the other way: tons of evocative ideas and description, and the only numbers to be had are things like "the city's population is 53,000 people, rising to nearly double that during trading season" or sucklike. It's too rare to find a book that gives the reader both well-detailed locations/people as well as solidly-designed new gaming material.

This book delivers on both, in spades.

Each school is a unique creation, with its own background and story. The martial arts styles feel and look very different in the mind's eye as you read about each one. It's been a few years since this book premiered and it still fills an important, relevant niche in gameplay. With new classes coming along from time to time, integrating older material into the game can be difficult sometimes. But the Martial Arts Guidebook gives multiple different paths to bringing the material to the game and to life.

I've never had the opportunity to play in a game centered around martial artists (something I'd love to try!), but if I did, this book would be one of two that I would absolutely want to integrate into my campaign of all third-party products. I cannot recommend it strongly enough as a tool for making combat more interesting while still adding to the campaign world you set your games within.

Community Manager

Now available!

Boom! Excited to see this live. :D

So, what is this exactly? As far as player options go.

Malwing wrote:
So, what is this exactly? As far as player options go.

This was a collection of nice things for martials, crossed with some foundational organizations to provide them-- if you need something like that to incorporate combat techniques in your game.

It gives a variety of maneuvers for characters to use in combat, and it gives three different ways to incorporate them: as point-cost techniques (for classes that use grit, ki, or the steel resolve created here), as individual feats, or as abilities unlocked simply through possessing other feats, BAB, and possibly other abilities. For instance, you might have access to one if you had BAB +3, Improved Unarmed Strike, and Improved Trip, allowing you to throw someone to the ground with a successful touch attack-- that's not one of them, but an example of how they work. Each one is set up that way, so there's a lot of flexibility.

We created these techniques for a wide variety of martial styles, from wuxia, to zweihander, to duelists, to marksmen, to magical warriors, and I think there's another style in there. It's not all wuxia, it covers a lot of ground.


Free Preview

A great 5-star review for this showed up at DriveThruRPG. I'm quite pleased to see it appears to have hit the mark we set for it.

Check it out and leave your thoughts!


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Here is a free web enhancement I posted today of a prestige class I created for the book but we didn't have enough room to fit in.


A review of this was posted by Endzeitgeist!

5 Stars, seal of approval, and potential top 10 of 2015!

Well done, all!


1 person marked this as a favorite.

This is going straight on the wishlist. High hopes for this one, especially after End's review. Been looking for something like this...

I checked the indiegogo campaign page and it mention way different schools, two base classes (contender and onmyoji), cross-over with psionics, and a plethora of archetypes; but in the book description there is no mention of any of that. What was retained from the indiegogo campaign pitch?

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Reviewed first on, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted ehre, on OBS and's shop.

@The Xiao: No, the classes were scrapped in favor of a modular system that can be applied to any table no matter the power-level - which, in this case, I applaud. The techniques are grouped by schools, though, and each school has an extensive background - which you obviously are free to ignore. ;)

1 person marked this as a favorite.
the xiao wrote:
I checked the indiegogo campaign page and it mention way different schools, two base classes (contender and onmyoji), cross-over with psionics, and a plethora of archetypes; but in the book description there is no mention of any of that. What was retained from the indiegogo campaign pitch?

We didn't hit complete funding, and so didn't end up covering all of the points noted in the pitch.

What we ended up creating was a set of martial schools and techniques usable for any character. We created sample NPCs for those schools, magic items, story seeds and boons. It wasn't entirely the book we hoped to write when we started out, but with less funds available, we had to make some decisions, and focused on the schools and techniques.


Community Manager

Softcover now available for preorder!

Softcover now available :)

The softcover is very nice. Picked mine up a few weeks ago.

Brother Fen wrote:
The softcover is very nice. Picked mine up a few weeks ago.

Excellent glad your enjoying it.

So I was looking at this, it has great reviews, and the blade singing inspired art looks quite interesting.

But today is a post path of war and spheres of might world, so there are multiple ways to get cool tricks for warrior types.

So you folks using this in addition to or instead of those other expansions?

You can use this along with the other books. Most players don't want to dedicate feats to it, so I allow them to learn one maneuver (ala POW) from NPCs from time to time. This method allows the GM to regulate it and slowly introduce elements into the campaign in an unobtrusive manner.

Grand Lodge

I don't care for the sphere's system or Path of War, and run a limited book setting, so this fits in really well.

GarnathFrostmantle wrote:
I don't care for the sphere's system or Path of War, and run a limited book setting, so this fits in really well.

Okay, thank you.

Would it be too much to ask what you like better here? Easier to integrate, simpler, less over the top, cooler options, what?

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@StSword: Martial Arts presented here can act as either something you gain via play, or as feats, etc., which makes it pretty easy to integrate into ongoing campaigns. (You just didn't know that fighting school...) A GM has pretty tight control over the acquisition of the techniques herein.

So, as far as I'm concerned, this is pretty non-intrusive compared to extra systems.

As for comparisons with SoM and Path of War: I am not yet finished with my analysis of SoM and hence can't comment on it.

The differences to Path of War are VERY pronounced.

Path of War is geared, per default, to a high-powered, high-fantasy game-play that changes a lot of assumptions about how PFRPG operates. Resources, damage-types, damage output, etc.

The Martial Arts Guidebook is more Conan/down-to-earth and less over-the-top. It also won't necessitate rebalancing encounters, in case you're preferring a more gritty playstyle. A downside of the book is its size - I wish it was longer (though we got twice the page-count of what was funded...), as there are not that many traditions. It is more of a toolkit to build on than Path of War.

To give you an idea: When I'm going for a more anime-like, high-powered aesthetic, I'd use Path of War.

When trying to make fighting styles matter in a Sword & Sorcery context, I'd use Martial Arts Guidebook.

When I want a new, powerful system and significant PC power-increase, I use Path of War.

When I want pretty seamless integration into ongoing campaigns and local variations of fighting styles between orders, dojos, etc., I tend to use/work with this book.

As an aside: It also works rather well in conjunction with Little Red's Dragon Tiger Ox. (Which represents a more down to earth WuXia-sourcebook.)

This book and Path of War are two completely different approaches to the subject matter and imho don't have overlap in what what they try to do.

I hope this helps!

Fun fact. There are maybe 20? printed copies of this one around, unless it's set up as POD (which I kind of hope it is). If not, well, that's a small small pool of printed copies.

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