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Merit: Fighting Styles (Part 1 of 2)

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Merit: Fighting Styles (Part 1 of 2)

Fighting Style Merits

Dots purchased in a Fighting Style Merit provide access to special combat maneuvers. Each maneuver is a prerequisite for the next. For example, if you purchase the Fighting Style: Archery Merit for your character, he can’t have “Rapid Nock” until he has “Draw and Loose.”

Combined Maneuvers
Unless the text specifically notes otherwise, Fighting Style maneuvers don’t stack. If multiple maneuvers provide the same benefit within the game system (a Defense bonus or dicepool bonus, for instance), your character only benefits from the best of the lot.

When it comes to benefits that manipulate the success/reroll mechanics, you may only pick one option out of those available to your character. These benefits include 8 again, 9 again, the rote quality and automatic successes. For instance, if your character could benefit from the 8 again or automatic successes using the same action, you must choose one of these perks. The other one doesn’t apply.

Benefits that provide multiple attacks also cannot be stacked.  The techniques that allow multiple attacks are mutually exclusive and using one would prevent the use of another technique that allows extra attacks in the same round.

Outside of these provisions, you may combine the benefits of multiple Fighting Styles. However, if a maneuver imposes multiple drawbacks, mechanically distinct disadvantages all apply simultaneously, while instances of the same type of drawback impose the worst of any given disadvantage. For example, if your character can benefit from a maneuver that imposes a –2 to Defense and the inability to move, and one that makes it impossible for you to use your Defense score at all, he loses his Defense completely and can’t move, either.

One exception to this is the need to sacrifice your character’s Defense in order to perform a maneuver. If a maneuver specifies that Defense must be sacrificed in order to use the maneuver, you may not combine this with another maneuver (or special attack) that also requires your character to lose his Defense.

For instance, your character cannot charge and make an "All-Out Attack" in the same action. Nor can he charge and perform any other special attack that requires him to give up his Defense as a drawback to the maneuver. He can perform one maneuver or the other.

Fighting Styles and the Supernatural
Many supernatural powers do stack with Fighting Style maneuvers. They don’t eliminate the drawbacks of any particular maneuver unless these the Storyteller decides that they would due to their nature. For example, the ability to levitate may nullify a drawback that forces your character to stand still. Powers that simply apply penalties to attacks aren't affected by maneuvers that modify Defense unless the power is described as something that directly adjusts it – not something that just subtracts from the attack dicepool.  (In other words, the penalties for attacking someone with active Celerity cannot be negated by Fighting Style maneuvers.)

Some supernatural abilities do not stack. These include powers that grant multiple attacks in a turn or manipulate the dice mechanics with 8 again, 9 again, or automatic successes. In these cases, choose the best available options and the worst disadvantages, just as if you’re stacking maneuvers.

Unless the text says otherwise, Fighting Styles rely on a human-like shape to use. Your character can’t bust out Kung Fu in wolf form. The Storyteller arbitrates whether or not a given body shape can support a Fighting Style.

Some maneuvers also exploit the target’s presumably human physiology. The text often points out these instances, but the Storyteller will ultimately decide whether a maneuver would apply.

Fighting Style: Aikido (• to •••••)
Prerequisites: Dexterity 2, Wits 2 and Brawl 2
Effect: Your character is a skilled practitioner of aikido, or another martial art that emphasizes throwing the opponent. He knows how to blend with the force of an attack and amplify it to send his enemy sprawling.

Aikido maneuvers are based on the Brawl Skill and work in conjunction with unarmed combat. (Some aspects of traditional aikido involve a weapon, but they are beyond the specific purview of this Merit).

Ukemi (“Receiving;” 1 dot): Your character knows how to fall properly and get up quickly. He may stand up from a prone position (but not both) once per turn as a reflexive action, and is considered to have one point of armor against bashing damage caused by falls – but not other sources.

Aiki (“Harmonious Energy;” 2 dots): Your character is skilled enough to defend with a throw by avoiding the attack and seizing his opponent’s balance. If he forgoes his standard Defense, roll Dexterity + Brawl; if the result exceeds the opponent’s damage the character suffers no damage and immediately applies a grappling hold or (once he attains the third maneuver) shihonage. He may employ this maneuver against Brawl, Weaponry or close-range Firearms attacks. Drawback: This maneuver constitutes your character’s action for the turn. (Note: This maneuver cannot be combined with any other maneuver which requires your character to sacrifice his Defense.)

Shihonage (“Four Directions Throw;” 3 dots): The character can throw an opponent quickly and forcefully, without getting tangled up in a clinch. Treat a shihonage throw like a standard Brawl strike attack, except that it also knocks the opponent prone up to as many feet away as your Size + Brawl successes in any direction the character prefers.

Renzoku-waza (“Combination Techniques;” 4 dots): The character can attempt multiple grappling or shihonage attacks per turn, or he can defend with multiple throws using the Aiki maneuver. He may make one additional grapple or shihonage at Dexterity 3 and two additional grapples or shihonage at Dexterity 5.  Each extra action receives a cumulative –1 modifier. Thus, he can attempt two grapples or shihonage at Dexterity 3 (with the second at a –1 modifier) and three at Dexterity 5 (at a 0, –1 then –2 modifier to dice rolls). Drawback: If the character’s first action is anything but a grapple or shihonage attempt he cannot use this benefit.

Kokyu-ho (“Breath Power;” 5 dots): Your character’s throws are so strong that he can either throw someone double the usual distance with his shihonage, or inflict lethal damage with it. Drawback: Spend one Willpower point per attack. Note that this Willpower expenditure does not add +3 to the attack.

Fighting Style: Archery (• to ••••)
Prerequisites: Strength 2, Dexterity 2, Athletics 2
Effect: Your character has devoted years of practice to the bow. He may be a competitive archer, a low-tech hunter or a medieval history enthusiast.

All of the following maneuvers work only with bows.

Draw and Loose (1 dot): Your character’s arm muscles are well-toned for the demanding task of repeatedly drawing a heavy bow. His Strength is considered one dot higher for the purposes calculating any penalties for bow’s minimum Strength.  In other words, if your character’s Strength is 3, he may use a professional bow without penalty or a specialty bow with a -2 penalty.

Rapid Nock (2 dots): Your character can maintain a withering rate of fire. Once per turn, he may “reload” a bow as a reflexive action.

Arcing Fire (3 dots): Arrows, like all other projectiles, travel in ballistic arcs. Your character is a master of estimating range, wind and other factors to arc shots much farther than they would travel if fired directly. Double the Ranges of any bow your character uses.

Plunging Fire (4 dots): Your character can eschew direct attacks in favor of launching arrows high into the air to plummet straight down on hapless victims. Your character’s bow attacks suffer no penalties for target concealment behind solid objects, so long as the target lacks overhead protection and your character can see any part of the target by which to gauge his location. For example, a target hiding behind a log with his foot sticking out applies no penalty, but a character in a fetal curl on a van’s floorboards receives normal protection. Drawback: Your character may use this maneuver only outdoors or in enclosed spaces large enough to provide for several hundred feet of vertical flight (e.g., football stadiums).

Fighting Style: Boxing (• to •••••)
Prerequisites: Strength 3, Stamina 2 and Brawl 2
Effect: Your character is trained in the art of boxing, able to deliver swift, powerful punches, and to duck and weave away from opponents' attacks. He might have participated in the sport in high school or college, or made a go of it professionally. Or he might have taken some classes at the local health club as a form of exercise.

The maneuvers and their effects are described below, most of which are based on the Brawl Skill. (Note: Boxing cannot be combined with any kind of supernatural attack such as Claws of the Wild or Touch of the Morrigan.)

Body Blow (1 dot): Your character can deliver powerful blows that leave opponents reeling and gasping for air. If successes inflicted in a single Brawl attack equal or exceed a target's Size, the victim loses his next action. (Note: Vampires do not need to breathe and are immune to this maneuver.)

Duck and Weave (2 dots): Your character is trained to instinctively duck and evade an opponent's blows. Use the higher of your character's Dexterity or Wits to determine his Defense when dealing with Brawl-based attacks only (not against Weaponry attacks). If a combination of Brawl- and Weaponry-based attacks is focused on your character in the same turn, use his normal Defense against both.

Combination Blows (3 dots): Your character's training and experience allow him to devastate opponents with a flurry of rapid blows. He can make two Brawl attacks against the same target in a single action. The second attack suffers a -1 penalty. Drawback: Your character cannot use his Defense against any attack in the same turn in which he intends to use this maneuver. If he uses Defense against attacks that occur earlier in the Initiative roster, before he can perform this maneuver, he cannot perform the maneuver in the turn. He is too busy bobbing and weaving out of the way of attacks. (Note: This maneuver cannot be combined with any other maneuver which requires your character to sacrifice his Defense.)

Haymaker (4 dots): Your character can deliver powerful, accurate blows capable of knocking an opponent unconscious with a single punch. A single Brawl attack that equals or exceeds the target's Size in damage might knock him unconscious. A Stamina roll is made for the victim. If it succeeds, he is conscious but he still loses his next action due to the Body Blow (see above). If it fails, he is unconscious for a number of turns equal to the damage done. Drawback: Your character cannot use his Defense against any attack in the same turn in which he intends to use this maneuver. If he uses Defense against attacks that occur earlier in the Initiative roster, before he can perform this maneuver, he cannot perform the maneuver in the turn. He is too busy bobbing and weaving out of the way of attacks. (Note: This maneuver cannot be combined with any other maneuver which requires your character to sacrifice his Defense. Also, vampires cannot be knocked unconscious and are immune to this maneuver.)

Brutal Blow (5 dots): Your character's accuracy and power are such that his fists are lethal weapons, able to injure or kill opponents. A brutal blow inflicts lethal instead of bashing damage. Drawback: Spend one Willpower point per attack. Note that this Willpower expenditure does not add +3 to the attack.

Fighting Style: Chain Weapons (• to ••••)
Prerequisites: Strength 2, Dexterity 3, Weaponry 3
Effect: Your character is trained in the difficult art of fighting with chain weapons. Chain weapons are notoriously unpredictable unless mastered — a poorly skilled fighter is as likely to tangle or cut himself as he is to harm an opponent. Your character’s training is likely to have been formalized, having learned the skill at a martial arts dojo or perhaps in stage combat for the theater. (Note that a character using chained weapons who possesses no Dots in this Merit suffers an automatic –2 to all attack rolls.)

All maneuvers are based upon the Weaponry Skill.

Impenetrable Defense (1 dot): Your character may choose not to attack in a given turn, and instead whirl the chain in the direction of his opponent (or opponents). During the entire turn, regardless of Initiative, you may add +2 to your character’s Defense to deflect incoming blows. Your character also takes no penalty for defending against multiple opponents until he faces three attacks. The first and second attacks made against him cause no negative modifiers to his Defense.

Hand Bind (2 dots): This defensive maneuver is made against an incoming attack (Brawl or Weaponry-based). When a foe attacks with a weapon or with his body, your character wraps the attacking limb with the chain, grappling it with a Strength + Weaponry attack. The foe’s Defense is not subtracted from this roll, but his successes on the attack roll are. If your character is successful, the limb is bound with the chain, and the opponent can attempt to escape this next turn with a Strength + Brawl roll. If the foe achieved more successes on his attack, his attack is still diminished by whatever successes you drew on the Hand Bind roll. This maneuver must be done on the attacker’s Initiative turn, and performing this action means your character cannot make an attack this turn.

Outside Choke (3 dots): Your character attempts to wrap the chain around his opponent’s neck. Roll Strength + Weaponry. The victim may attempt to free himself on his next action with a Strength + Brawl roll, which is reduced by your character’s Strength +1. This maneuver is not to cause damage or kill the opponent — this maneuver is to render him unconscious by pressing the chain against the arteries of his neck, thus halting blood flow to his brain. If your character is successful on the grapple, he can begin to choke the victim on the following turn. For every turn that the choke hold is not broken, the victim suffers an additional –1 on all rolls to resist. When your character has accumulated a number of uninterrupted turns equal to the victim’s Stamina, he falls unconscious. This maneuver, when complete, causes a single point of bashing damage to the victim. This combat maneuver is ineffective against characters who need not breathe.

Whirl and Thrust (4 dots): Your character at this level is highly adept at using chains, and can make focused attacks with any part of the weapon. By whirling the chain a few times, he can build momentum on a single attack, which can be made with startling accuracy. On a targeted attack, you can ignore up to –2 of penalties associated with directed attacks. In other words, attacks to an opponent’s torso or limbs are done at no penalty, attacks the head would be at –1, to the hand –2 and to the eye –3. Drawback: Your character negates his Defense for the rest of the turn. If your character has applied his Defense against any incoming attack before his turn, he may not perform this maneuver. (Note: This maneuver cannot be combined with any other maneuver which requires your character to sacrifice his Defense.)

F/S: Combat Marksmanship (• to •••••)
Prerequisites: Strength 2, Dexterity 2, Composure 3, and Firearms 2
Effect: Your character is not only proficient with firearms, but has trained extensively to maintain his accuracy in the stress of combat (see “Marksmanship in Combat,” the World of Darkness Rulebook, p.51, for a discussion of these challenges). He most likely has experience in law enforcement or the military, though he may simply be a self-defense advocate or a dedicated hobbyist with uncommon self-possession.

The maneuvers and their effects are described below, most of which are based on the Firearms Skill.

Shoot First (1 dot): Your character’s trained reflexes give him a split-second edge in a gunfight. Whenever he begins a combat with a firearm already in his hand, he gains a bonus to his Initiative roll equal to his Firearms Skill. If he also has the Quick Draw Merit for firearms (see the World of Darkness Rulebook, p. 113) and draws a firearm during the first turn of combat, this bonus is added retroactively, starting at the beginning of the second turn of combat.

Tactical Reload (2 dots): Your character’s muscle memory enables him to reload without conscious thought. Once per turn, he may reload a firearm that feeds from a detachable magazine or use a speedloader to reload a revolver, as a reflexive action.

Double Tap (3 dots): When using a lever-action, pump-action or semi-automatic firearm, your character may make short burst attacks as if his gun were capable of autofire.

Bayonet Range (4 dots): Your character can maintain accuracy and control even when facing an opponent at arm’s length. The target’s Defense does not apply to firearm attacks your character makes within close-combat range (see the World of Darkness Rulebook, p. 155).

Rapid Fire (5 dots): Your character’s concentration is such that he can unleash a hail of bullets. In a single action, he can make one extra Firearms attack if he has Composure 3 or two extra Firearms attacks if he has Composure 5. Each extra attack is made at a cumulative -1 modifier. Thus, he can perform a total of two attacks at Composure 3 (the second of which is at -1), and three attacks at Composure 5 (the third of which is at -2). He must declare the targets of all attacks before drawing the first one. Each attack not directed against his initial target suffers an additional –1 penalty. All attacks made with this maneuver must be single shots. Drawback: Your character cannot use his Defense against any attack in the same turn in which he intends to use this maneuver. If he uses Defense against attacks that occur earlier in the Initiative roster, before he can perform this maneuver, he cannot use Rapid Fire this turn. In addition, your character may not use this maneuver with bolt-action or break-action firearms. (Note: This maneuver cannot be combined with any other maneuver which requires your character to sacrifice his Defense.)

Fighting Style: Fencing (• to ••••)
Prerequisites: Dexterity 3, Weaponry 3
Effect: Your character is trained in the art of fencing. He likely learned this skill at a fencing academy, and is familiar with the sport in more than a passing capacity.

Dots purchased with this Merit allow access to unique combat maneuvers using fencing weapons. All maneuvers are based upon the Weaponry Skill.

Fencing is meant to be performed with specific swords. The maneuvers below can be used without penalty provided your character is using one of the following swords: curved sword, fencing sword, rapier or sword cane. Any other type of sword incurs a –1 penalty against any of the maneuvers listed below.

Thrust (1 dot): The thrust is a simple yet powerful attack. A fencer’s stance (one leg anchoring your character’s position and the other leg lunging him forward) gives this attack extra force. When your character makes a thrust attack, plunging the blade toward an opponent, he does so with a +1 bonus.

Feint (2 dots): Your character knows how to make a fake attack intended to throw off an opponent. Make a “normal” attack roll (Strength + Weaponry), and this roll is penalized by the opponent’s Defense, par usual. This attack is fake; it does not strike the foe or do any damage. If your character achieves even a single success, however, the opponent is momentarily confused and off-balance, and may not apply his Defense against the next attack he suffers (which may be from your character the following turn or may be from some other source beforehand).

Riposte (3 dots): A Riposte requires an attack to be made against your character. He steps out of the way of the attack using his Dodge (i.e., his Defense, doubled). While his opponent is open, he can then make a sudden and quick attack, which is performed at a –1 penalty. However, the opponent’s Defense does not further penalize the attack roll. Drawback: Spend one Willpower point as soon as you decide your character will apply twice his Defense to an incoming enemy attack. Note that this Willpower expenditure does not add +3 to the subsequent Riposte attack.  If your character suffers any further attacks on a turn where he has used Riposte, he cannot apply his Defense against them. (Note: This maneuver cannot be combined with any other maneuver which requires your character to sacrifice his Defense.)

Moulinet (4 dots): If your character makes a successful hit on an adversary with his sword, he may then rotate his wrist and perform a quick spiral cut with the tip of the weapon. This additional cut requires no additional roll; the cut does lethal damage to the opponent equal to the damage of the original attack, up to a maximum of your character’s Dexterity. Drawback: To perform this maneuver, the character must spend a Willpower point before he makes his initial attack roll. The Willpower does not grant him the additional +3 to attack. If the initial attack roll fails, the Willpower point is wasted and the Moulinet may not be added.

Fighting Style: Grappling (• to ••••)
Prerequisites: Strength 2, Dexterity 3, Stamina 3 and Brawl 2
Effect: Your character has trained to grapple using old school, no holds barred catch wrestling. He uses leverage and positioning to out-grapple opponents.

Sprawl (1 dot): Your character knows how to “sprawl” and sink his weight to avoid being overpowered in a grapple. Subtract the higher of Strength +1 or Dexterity +1 from dicepools to overpower him in a grapple. This doesn't apply to the initial hold, but subsequent attacks from the grip.

Takedown/Throw (2 dots): Your character knows how to rapidly close with your enemy and take him to the ground. In lieu of securing a grappling hold, he can immediately render the opponent prone (see the World of Darkness Rulebook, p. 157 and 164). Furthermore, if he takes an opponent down this way, he can choose whether or not to go prone with the target. Mixed martial arts fighters take a crouching (but still standing) position from him and deliver vicious beatings with their hands – a technique called “ground and pound.”

Chokehold (3 dots): Your character can efficiently choke enemies by cutting off blood flow to their brains. If he overpowers an opponent in a grapple, he can start the choke. The choke inflicts a cumulative –1 dicepool penalty to the opponent’s actions for each turn it’s maintained. The victim falls unconscious if he endures a choking attack for a number of consecutive turns equal to his Stamina. Your character can continue choking an unconscious victim. This inflicts lethal damage equal to the attacker’s Strength + Brawl successes every turn.

Chokeholds don’t work on opponents who don’t need to breathe.

Submission Hold (4 dots): Opponents caught in your joint locks can’t escape without injuring themselves. If your character scores more successes than his opponent’s Size in an immobilization attempt, the victim can’t attempt any physical action – including breaking free – without suffering a point of lethal damage. This penalty lasts from the moment of immobilization to end of the next turn. Furthermore, your character can always choose to inflict one point of lethal damage whenever he damages an opponent with an Overpowering roll. The character’s first Strength + Brawl success inflicts a point of lethal damage; subsequent successes inflict bashing damage.

Submission holds don’t work on creatures that don’t have bones.

Fighting Style: Iaido (• to •••••)
Prerequisites: Strength 2, Dexterity 3, Composure 3, Weaponry 3, Quick Draw [Melee Weapons]
Effect: Your character has studied the art of iaido, focusing his awareness of his surroundings and his ability to respond to a threat to the razor’s edge. He has learned to draw a blade at a moment’s notice, and has internalized kata focused on swiping the blade across his opponent’s vitals.

Practitioners of iaido often cultivate the Wits Attribute, as speed of thought and awareness of one’s surroundings are valued by adherents of the style.

Dots purchased in this Merit provide access to special combat maneuvers. Iaido maneuvers are based on the Weaponry Skill and are used with a curved sword, most commonly the katana.

Tsuki Kage (“Draw and Cut;” 1 dot): The character sharpens his already capable ability to quickly enter combat. If the character begins combat with his weapon sheathed, he adds his rating in the Weaponry Skill to his Initiative modifier. Drawback: The character must commit to an attack against an opponent during the first turn of combat to gain the advantage of this maneuver.

Zanshin (“Awareness;” 2 dots): While honing the speed of one’s reactions can save one’s life, better still to be constantly vigilant. The character strives to remain ever aware of his surroundings, that he may never be taken by surprise. The character gains a +2 bonus to all dicepools to avoid an impending ambush. This Merit duplicates the effect of the Danger Sense Merit, and a character with both Merits gains a total +4 on rolls to avoid being surprised. Such characters are paragons of self-awareness.

Tachi-Sabaki (“Movement of the Sword;” 3 dots): The character has mastered defensive kata designed to intercept incoming attacks and deflect them with the blade of the weapon. The character relies as much on the quality of his sword as he does his own speed of thought and motion. The character adds his weapon bonus (the weapon’s damage rating) to his Dodge value when taking a fully defensive action. A character may benefit from this Merit while utilizing the Weaponry Dodge Merit (though not the Brawling Dodge Merit). Drawback: The character only benefits from this Merit when taking a full Dodge action.

Kan Ken No Metsuke (“Seeing with Eyes and Mind;” 4 dots): The character’s speed gives him a small but potentially important edge over other combatants. If the character’s initiative roll results in a tie with another character involved in combat, the character automatically acts before his opponents and allies. Initiative Modifiers are not compared and initiative is never determined by a roll-off (though if multiple characters aside from the iaido practitioner drew the same initiative, their initiative ratings are resolved as normal). If two characters possess this maneuver, they act at the same time, each resolving their action as if the other had not yet acted. This can result in two characters killing each other in the same heated moment.

Uke Nagashi (“Catch and Slide Off;” 5 dots): The character’s ability to move defensively and counter an attack with one of his own has been perfected. If the character’s weapon is sheathed, he can declare a Dodge action at any point during a turn, assuming he has not yet acted. His Defense is doubled as usual, though he may not utilize Weaponry Dodge or Tachi-Sabaki against attacks. However, the character can choose any opponent who is making an attack against him to perform a counter attack against. In a single swift motion, the character draws his blade, parries his enemy’s blow, and attacks his opponent. The character’s Weaponry Dodge (if he possesses it) and Tachi-Sabaki maneuver apply against the opponent’s attack (and only against this opponent). The character makes an immediate reflexive attack against the opponent at a –1 penalty. After making his counter-attack, the character’s Defense applies as normal to further attacks made against him during the turn (i.e., his Defense is not doubled). Defense penalties for being attacked multiple times during a single turn are not affected by this maneuver in any way. Drawback: The character spends one Willpower point per turn using this maneuver.

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