On Fighters & Fighting: Part Two

Expanding On Style

The previous post on Fighters talked about the perception of the class as boring, or bland, and attempted to provide a context that shows off how interesting should probably be. This post is going to take that a step further, and look at making sure that Fighters are as engaging when throwing down as they deserve to be.

We all want combat to be something other than a drag, and for the people who play Fighters to feel like they’re doing more than hitting the “do damage” button, but there’s no universal fix or simple solution that will work for all – or even most – of the groups out there.

There are as many different ways to give added style and flavor to combat as there are people running games, and it would be a fruitless effort to try and condense all the best advice into one small blog post. Another author on this site even gave some very good advice on how to introduce memorable elements to otherwise mundane combat.

It’s for that reason that I’m going to pick one small battle and give you some – hopefully – fun tools that are flexible enough to assist anyone looking for a little help on this front.

Back In the Swing of Things

“I hit it with my axe.”

It’s got style, a certain straightforward confidence, as far as basic descriptions of a character action go. That said, it could get a little repetitive over time, right? Sure.

So the more heavily spiced the description is, the better, right? Not necessarily. Part of the reason that players and DMs eventually default to describing the attacks of various characters in such a terse way is that, over the course of a game session or campaign, the well of creative variations on a simple strike can run dry. Combat’s also not something every group wants to dwell on or draw out more than is absolutely necessary.

Which would seem to leave us in a tight spot, at least in terms of trying to strike a general balance that doesn’t leave Fighters – or other martial classes – coming off a bit bland when it comes to getting stuff done.

Luckily there is a middle ground: Personalizing a character’s Fighting Style in a way that is simple, but easy to use and perhaps even adding a fun layer to the character. The idea of a Fighting Style is that the Fighter learned a particular manner of engaging in combat that has its own benefits or drawbacks, most of which are obvious over the course of a given combat but can be mitigated by the pure power or skill of the character… and stand out far more when they are facing another opponent with a similar level of training.

Here’s how to put together, in just a few moments, the elements of such a skill.

Or, if you prefer, use the random generators that incorporate most of the elements in this post and add some extra flavor:
General Style Generator
Protection Style Generator
Dueling Style Generator
Great Weapons Style Generator
Two-Weapon Fighting Style Generator

First – Optionally, but encouraged, is coming up with a fun name for your character’s fighting style. This can be as simple as naming the style after an NPC from the character’s history, their home nation, or the capital city.

But more than a few ancient masters or martial organizations have taken a flair for the dramatic, and it’s in that spirit I’ve presented a way to randomly get an impressive title for your style.

Below are some Style Name elements that can be randomly rolled into a name, or used as a quick list to pick from.

d20 Name Element 1 Name Element 2 Name Element 3 Name Element 4
1 Order of the Hundred Broken Truth(s)
2 Manual of the Dozen Adamantine Blade(s)
3 Masters of the Six Golden Master(s)
4 School of the Three Silver Path(s)
5 Students of the Universal Enlightened Dance(s)
6 Brotherhood of the Nine Everlasting Touch(es)
7 Sisterhood of the Unbreakable Hidden Secret(s)
8 Disciples of the Geometrical Unyielding Whisper(s)
9 Practioners of the Holy Scholastic Laugh(s)
10 Children of the Damned Ancient Strike(s)
11 Opponents of the Utterly Breath Manuever(s)
12 Answer to the Half Heart Technique(s)
13 System of the Mistakenly Mountain Science(s)
14 Academy of the Once River Method(s)
15 Way of the Lost Brigand Question(s)
16 Army of the Predatory Stone Death(s)
17 Manual of the Bloody Correct Shield(s)
18 Order of the Dark [BEAST] Hammer(s)
19 School of the Drunken [MONSTER] Hand(s)
20 Academy of the Discovered Brilliant Ending(s)

Second – Think of how you are most likely to describe the character’s attacks. Is she generally more likely to savagely overpower opponents, driving them before her? Does he seem to always appear where he needs to be without moving, the master of subtle movements or precise strikes?

And how does the Fighter’s style cause them to move about the arena, or their favored action to take in combat other than a direct attack? This can be something that makes them stand out, and makes other styles stand out to them.

Quickly pick or randomly roll, your favorite from the lists below.

d20 Adjective Footwork Favored Combat Action
1 Subtle Cyclical Dash
2 Flashy Strategic Dash
3 Savage Dancing Dash
4 Calculated Staccato Insight
5 Reckless Flowing Grappling
6 Furious Minimal Grappling
7 Rapid-fire Leaping Grappling
8 Graceful Spinning Intimidation
9 Relentless Serpentine Shoving
10 Methodical Flamboyant Shoving
11 Quick Linear Shoving
12 Precise Rushing Climb
13 Smashing Hypnotic Dodge
14 Brutal Perpendicular Dodge
15 Silent Aggressive Dodge
16 Swift Evasive Help
17 Powerful Fluid Ready
18 Nimble Rigid Ready
19 Whirling Light Ready
20 Sweeping Firm Jump

Third – Suggested Characteristics, like Ideals or Bonds, make for a fun way to personalize the impression that learning this art has on its practitioners… or had on your character in any case. Pick or roll from one of those listed below.

d20 Suggested Characteristic
1 I am always calm, no matter the situation.
2 Never duel someone who has no chance of winning.
3 I am seeking revenge for the death of a loved one.
4 Every adult should know how to handle themselves in a fight.
5 The only authority I recognize is overwhelming force.
6 The world will know me as a Master-at-Arms.
7 I always note the exits and potential threats.
8 The secrets of my art will die with me.
9 I am searching for someone worthy of being my apprentice.
10 Honor means enduring not even the smallest slight.
11 My style’s reputation will be redeemed at my hand.
12 Someone I love died because I was not strong enough. Never again.
13 I love to go on at length about the minutia of fighting.
14 Taking a life is never to be done lightly.
15 I believe my wit is as deadly as my weapons.
16 Some are meant to live, some to die, and in battle I decide which.
17 My childhood was a fair price to pay for the skills I have today.
18 Someone I trusted has betrayed me, and I seek to settle that score.
19 In order to master my art I must always train & challenge myself.
20 The strongest bear the greatest responsibility to their fellows.

And simply record the choices on your character sheet, with the descriptive terms where they will be clearly visible whenever a character’s combat abilities will need to be referenced, so that whenever there is doubt as to how a character might react in a fight there are the foundational elements of their style sitting there waiting.

Just by adding these little touches a character’s actions become consistent rather than merely repetitive, and a springboard for further descriptions is readily available.

But you can go further, even beyond the extra details such as the fate of the style’s founder like I included in the generator.

Prepare to Die

What fun is being someone who has devoted their life to the practice of armed combat, and it is constant practice (there’s a reason the phrase “a lifetime to master” gets thrown around a good deal when it comes to sword-fighting), if there aren’t rivals to lord your style’s strengths over or enemies who challenge you by exploiting your style’s weaknesses?

Because new styles arise to combat other, more dominant, trends or adapt in order to destroy those who they despise this doesn’t just mean a character can come into the world with rivals or bitter enemies, it gives the player of a Fighter something to pay attention to when a named NPC starts making certain moves and an extra bit of the spotlight on their character’s flavor when appropriate.

Variant Rule: Rival Fighting Styles

When a player selects a Fighting Style for their character it represents the training they have received in a particular style that has been passed down through a specific Master or organization, and this style exists in an ecosystem of competing martial traditions. Every so often the DM may introduce other martial combatants who represent styles that are direct rivals of the player character’s.

Every style tends to be weak against some other style, usually represented by practitioners who have worked for that advantage and will exploit it to the fullest, and begins with Disadvantage on all attacks made against those who use it. These are, from the character’s point of view, adherents of a Dominant Style. This style is generated in by selecting a Name, a Fighting Style from p. 72 of the PHB, and three common mannerisms of those who practice it which a player might notice or a character would recognize with an appropriate check.

Luckily, every style also tends to be strong against another style, usually one practiced by those who the character’s school displaced or who are otherwise unworthy of calling themselves true warriors. These are, from the character’s point of view, adherents of a Lesser Style. When facing such foes the character begins with Advantage on all attacks made against those who use that style (which is generated the same way as the Dominant Style).

Final Words

This is all, clearly, something that won’t fit at every table but that should hopefully inspire enough ideas – or provide enough material – to be of use to anyone who wants to add some depth or flair to their Fighter’s day job.

I may have some thoughts on other details later, but I believe this post is long enough. Please let me know if you have any ideas or questions of your own regarding the idea of expanded styles.

In the meantime, here is a link to the Tables I based my random generators on!

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