Welcome to Martial Action Week! A little over a year ago, we released A Necromancer’s Grimoire: The Book of Martial Action, which explored the possibility of martial characters being able to perform complex and cinematic techniques much like how wizards cast flashy spells. With 50 feats that facilitated the use of martial action techniques, and numerous archetypes to make it more accessible and beneficial at the table, we felt we did a pretty good job of supporting the concept, and making martial action a fun alternative to the usual “charge or full-attack” style of fighting.
We wanted more, though, and judging from the success of the original, so did all of you. So, we went to work on a sequel that would more than double the fun and excitement offered by the original, and I’m pretty happy to say that I think we succeeded. A Necromancer’s Grimoire: The Book of Martial Action II comes out today, and it not only features over 50 brand new technique feats and five new martial-action-themed base classes, it also introduces the concept of fighting styles into the equation, with the feats and classes each belonging to one of five martial action styles.
Each of these styles has a tight mechanical and flavorful identity, and encourages players to delve deep into a single style. Dabblers will be glad to know, however, that the feats nonetheless remain available to all characters, allowing you to mix-and-match freely between styles as well.
There will be an introduction to each of the five schools tomorrow, but for today, let me show you the base class associated with one of my favorite schools: the golden soul acolyte.
Golden Soul Acolyte
So you have come to learn the ways of the golden soul, have you? The training is not easy; one must master not only the techniques of the body, but also achieve true harmony of the mind and spirit. Through meditation and focus, you will learn to unlock your inner potential and become much more than a mere warrior.
~Guon Shi, Disciple of the Golden Soul
Golden soul acolytes are warriors and spiritualists who have devoted themselves to the achievement of enlightenment through martial skill. They are accomplished fighters in every regard, but also concern themselves with matters of the soul, looking to further their path to personal perfection by exploring all aspects of mortal existence.
Unlike traditional martial artists, the golden soul acolyte is chiefly concerned with personal perfection and attaining his ultimate state, rather than on merely mastering the best ways to slay his foes. A golden soul acolyte practices a number of potent meditative techniques that allow him to tap his inner power to achieve superhuman feats. The core skills of the golden soul acolyte focus on personal protection, healing, and empowerment, working in tandem with complementary martial techniques which produce deadly and extremely resilient fighters.
Making a Golden Soul Acolyte
In some respects, a golden soul acolyte is very similar to a fighter. He needs to be strong and healthy in order to live a fulfilling existence, and his primary role in any party is likely to be combat-related. However, a golden soul acolyte also has a lot in common with the typical monk, placing a great deal of emphasis on meditation, athletics, and quasi-magical powers. Golden soul acolytes fulfill both roles well, though not as well as the more specialized classes can.
Abilities: As martial artists, the golden soul acolyte’s primary role in any group is melee combat; as such, a high Strength score is of chief importance to golden soul acolytes who need to be able to hit reliably and do exceptional damage. Unlike monks, golden soul acolytes are capable of wearing the very heaviest of armor, and often do so while training. Because of this, they rely less on Dexterity to avoid being hit in combat. A high Constitution score is less important to golden soul acolytes than to other characters. While they do need a high Constitution score to provide additional hit points and a high Fortitude saving throw, the more powerful a golden soul acolyte becomes, the less he needs such things in abundance, as he gains the ability to heal his own damage and cure certain adverse conditions. A high Intelligence score is important to golden soul acolytes who intend to take Combat Expertise and related feats, as well as those who wish to supplement the low skill point total they normally receive. A golden soul acolyte does well to be wise, as a high Wisdom score grants him additional martial action points and influences some of his other class features. Like many martially-oriented characters, he is particularly exposed to harm from mental domination spells. When they aren’t busy fighting, golden soul acolytes spend much of their time keeping to themselves or in cloistered monasteries, and thus a high Charisma is rarely a chief concern.
Alignment: A golden soul acolyte can be of any non-chaotic alignment. The path of the golden soul is a difficult one, requiring strict discipline and a commitment to finding harmony and balance within oneself. Most followers of the golden soul are lawful neutral or true neutral, depending on whether the golden soul acolyte chooses to focus more on achieving perfect discipline or perfect harmony, though members of other alignments are far from unheard of. The way of the golden soul does not believe in good and evil, and instead focuses on the actions of individuals and their emotions, believing that by bringing all together they can find balance and achieve perfection, an ideal which appeals to both good and evil individuals.
The golden soul acolyte’s class skills are Acrobatics (Dex), Climb (Str), Craft (Int), Intimidate (Cha), Knowledge (history) (Int), Knowledge (nobility) (Int), Perception (Wis), Profession (Wis), Ride (Dex), Sense Motive (Wis), Stealth (Dex), and Swim (Str).
Skill Ranks Per Level: 2+ Intelligence modifier.
All of the following are class features of the golden soul acolyte.
Weapon and Armor Proficiencies: Golden soul acolytes are proficient with all simple and martial weapons, as well as with the kama, nunchaku, siangham, and shuriken, and with all types of armor (heavy, light, and medium) and shields, but not tower shields.
Bonus Feat: Golden soul acolytes are practiced in the ways of the golden soul. At 1st level, the golden soul acolyte gains the Combat Artist feat, as well as either the Gilt Swing feat or the Golden Focus feat as bonus feats. At 4th level, and every four levels thereafter, the golden soul acolyte receives a new golden soul technique feat as a bonus feat. He must still meet all prerequisites necessary to gain the chosen feat.
Golden Soul Style (Ex): As experts in the golden soul style, golden soul acolytes are better at using the school’s techniques and stances than their peers. Beginning at 2nd level, the golden soul acolyte is treated as though he had more golden soul technique feats than he actually possesses for the purposes of feats and abilities that rely on the number of golden soul technique feats he possesses. For every two golden soul technique feats the golden soul acolyte possesses, he is treated as though he possesses one more golden soul technique feat for the purposes of such feats and abilities.
Soul’s Awakening (Ex): As a golden soul acolyte continues to train in the ways of the golden soul, his soul is revitalized, allowing him to fuel his martial skill with his very spirit. Beginning at 3rd level, the number of martial action points a golden soul acolyte can have in his martial action point pool is increased by an amount equal to his Wisdom modifier.
Golden Mastery (Ex): As a golden soul acolyte’s skill and expertise in the ways of the golden soul increase over time, he learns to use those skills with greater efficiency. Beginning at 5th level, whenever the golden soul acolyte uses a golden soul technique feat, he needs to spend 1 less martial action point to do so than he otherwise would. This cannot reduce the cost below 1 point. At 10th level, and every 5 levels thereafter, the cost is decreased by an additional martial action point.
Golden Body (Ex): A golden soul acolyte learns secret meditative techniques which allow him to access his inner strength and greatly enhance his ability to perform certain tasks. Beginning at 6th level, the golden soul acolyte can spend any number of martial action points (up to his base attack bonus) as a swift action. For each martial action point spent this way, he gains a +2 competence bonus on all Strength- and Dexterity-based skill checks for a number of rounds equal to his Wisdom modifier.
Meditations of the Soul (Ex): A golden soul acolyte’s intense focus on martial meditations allows him to recover his focus and strength at an alarming rate. Beginning at 7th level, as a standard action, a golden soul acolyte can recover a number of martial action points equal to 1/2 his class level, rounded down. He can use this ability a number of times per day equal to his Wisdom modifier (minimum 1).
The Healing Soul (Ex): A golden soul acolyte can meditate and focus on his body in order to knit together his own skin, effectively healing himself at incredible speed. Beginning at 9th level, a golden soul acolyte can spend any number of martial action points as a move action; if he does, he recovers 2 hit points per martial action point spent this way.
Enlightenment of the Soul (Ex): As a golden soul acolyte’s training progresses, he gains insight into his own abilities and can exercise more control over himself. Beginning at 11th level, the number of martial action points a golden soul acolyte can spend each round is increased by an amount equal to his Wisdom modifier.
Golden Recovery (Ex): A golden soul acolyte can spend a short time to meditate and cure himself of deadly ailments. Beginning at 13th level, as a full-round action the golden soul acolyte can spend 3 martial action points to cure himself of any of the following conditions: fatigued, sickened, shaken or staggered. By spending 5 points, he can cure himself of the blinded, dazed, deafened, or exhausted conditions, or cure himself of any diseases or poisons from which he is currently suffering. By spending 10 martial action points, he cures himself of all of the preceding conditions and ailments from which he might be suffering, and also recovers from the confused condition.
Protection of the Soul (Ex): A golden soul acolyte can focus on his soul in order to channel his inner power to protect himself against magic attacks. Beginning at 14th level, a golden soul acolyte can spend any number of martial action points as a swift action. If he does, he gains an amount of spell resistance equal to 5 + the number of points spent this way for a number of rounds equal to his Wisdom modifier (minimum 1).
Soul’s Emergence (Ex): Near the end of his training, a golden soul acolyte learns to fully channel his inner self to empower his outer self. Beginning at 17th level, the golden soul acolyte chooses one of two benefits to gain. He can choose a defensive bonus, in which case he gains a dodge bonus to AC equal to his Wisdom modifier, as well as a competence bonus on all saving throws equal to his Wisdom modifier. Alternatively, he can gain an offensive bonus, in which case he gains a competency bonus on all attack rolls and weapon damage rolls equal to his Wisdom modifier.
Swift Meditation (Ex): Beginning at 18th level, a golden soul acolyte can use his meditations of the soul class features as a swift action, instead of a standard action.
Soul’s Ascension (Ex): As a golden soul acolyte’s training nears completion, he achieves a greater awareness of himself and his martial skill. Beginning at 19th level, a golden soul acolyte adds twice his Wisdom modifier to the number of martial action points he can have in his pool and spend each round, instead of adding his Wisdom modifier.
Playing a Golden Soul Acolyte
Golden soul acolytes are warriors who focus their entire beings on their journey towards personal perfection. They give everything they have in order to be the best at whatever they do and will stop at nothing to achieve their goals. Driven and highly disciplined, a golden soul acolyte is a very serious character who has little time for nonsense.
Golden soul acolytes view everything as an opportunity to improve and to reinforce their training. They view all tasks with the stoic and disciplined mind of a warrior monk. Their obsession with personal perfection makes them stern and difficult to get along with, though those that put in the time find that there are no more loyal or trustworthy allies.
Races: Like most high martial arts, the tradition of the golden soul stems from humanity, and it is most common for humans to walk the path of the golden soul acolyte. It is not particularly uncommon to find members of other races among the golden soul’s ranks, however. Dwarves in particular find that they excel as golden soul acolytes due to their natural inclinations towards wisdom, contemplation and defense. Elves find that the golden soul offers a very civilized approach to martial combat, and many leave the venerable martial traditions of their own people hoping to achieve closeness with their gods and ancestors as they travel the path of the enlightened sword. Half-elves or half-orcs join the order of the golden soul in order to find belonging or to find themselves along its mystical road. Halflings and gnomes rarely find the patience for the golden soul’s slow, contemplative approach, and fighters of those races tend to prefer more adventurous and daring styles.
Religion: The golden soul is very much like a religion, though it has no gods to worship and does not restrict its members from practicing whatever faith they desire. The strict tenets and rigid philosophies of the golden soul provide a dogma of discipline and personal perfection that leaves little time for relationships with churches or deities. Rather, followers of the golden soul focus primarily on achieving their own personal enlightenment, and everything they do is in furtherance of that singular goal.
Other Classes: Golden soul acolytes get along well with monks and paladins chiefly because members of those classes share their intense appreciation for discipline, order, and martial skill. Many who follow the way of the golden soul belong to those classes, and so it is natural for them to fall in with golden soul acolytes. Golden soul acolytes care little for barbarians or what they view as mindless fighters, considering such so-called martial artists to be beneath them and detrimental to achieving their own goals. Similarly, golden soul acolytes often spurn the company of healers such as clerics and druids; since they can heal themselves, they believe that relying on such individuals makes them weak and therefore unworthy of walking the path they are on. Many golden soul acolytes recruit arcane spellcasters to expedite travel or otherwise deal with the mundane tasks of adventuring.
Golden Soul Acolytes in the World
Their methods are unusual, but in a way, the followers of the Golden Soul find their own kind of spiritual enlightenment. Though I suspect it is a lonely life without the comfort of devotion to one’s gods, the results that members of such disciplines are able to find is undeniable, as is their fabled skill in battle.
~Eridilis, Elven Cleric
Golden soul acolytes devote their lives to personal perfection. They spend most of their lives apart from the world, considering matters of their own mind, body and spirit, and learning to bring those forces into balance. As such, most have little time for the world at large and tend to view it mostly in contrast with themselves. A few golden soul acolytes disagree with this position and feel that a deep connection to the world is important to understanding themselves and achieving true enlightenment. Such individuals often become adventurers.
Daily Life: Golden soul acolytes adhere to a strict and rigid lifestyle, dominated by training and meditation. Most spend their lives in and around monasteries devoted to the ideals of personal enlightenment and martial training. In these monasteries, life is organized by the most skilled and experienced member, who does his best to train the others under him so that they may one day achieve their aims. Because training is left up to these masters, the experience varies wildly, and some followers of the golden soul spend their time traveling and seeking one who could prove to be their ultimate teacher.
Notables: The greatest of the golden soul masters still living is a woman named Nori Hazu, who runs a formal school for martial training in the distant Koziri Mountains. The school grounds cover much of the heavy jungle and remote mountains, and the students and their families are the only civilized people to inhabit the region. Nori Hazu herself claims to have come close to achieving enlightenment, and can boast that she has never been defeated in combat. Her most famous exploit, outside of those learned in the ways of the golden soul, is the defeat of the demon knight Sheribo and his army of ogres, which threatened her school nearly a decade ago. After she rallied her students to a firm defense, she personally slew Sheribo and led her students to victory over his ogres without suffering a single casualty.
The founder of the golden soul tradition and its greatest master was a man named Pi, who wandered the planes from parts unknown over 300 years ago. Not quite human, Pi was a warrior of immense skill and artistry who was well along the path to what he called “ascension through the sword”—a philosophy still practiced within the order of the golden soul to this day—when he met a human swordsman who challenged him to a duel. That warrior was actually Fredrik Gerand, an accomplished swordsman of the then well-established iron ram school of martial combat. Fredrik ultimately won the duel, a fact which still incenses many of the golden soul to this day. Following the duel, Pi had a revelation about martial combat and in the space of three days created every technique known to the golden soul. Before his ascension, he taught his skills and philosophy to those warriors he had met in his travels who had proved themselves of sound mind and noble purpose, effectively founding the golden soul as we know them today.
Organizations: The golden soul is a loosely organized martial order, centered around local schools and monasteries devoted to the tradition. These local chapters are each run by a master who instructs the senior students, who instruct the junior students, who assess potential new members. Everything is arranged according to skill at the golden soul techniques and understanding of the philosophy behind them, which tends to vary slightly from master to master. One thing which rarely changes is that absolute obedience is expected to be given to your superiors.
The largest school currently in existence is run by Nori Hazu, and the school grounds and surrounding village (which is home to the families of students and to those who can profit off the school) cover nearly an entire mountain. The village and the school are both governed by Nori herself, who stresses that her students focus on the basics and that meditation and practice will reveal the more advanced secrets of the world in due time.
NPC Reactions: Golden soul acolytes are generally very poorly received by the rest of the world, who disapprove of their surly and self-important manners. Still, many seeking enlightenment, training or both flock to the golden soul in droves seeking to prove their own worth and reach those lofty goals.