Brawlers – I’ve Been Grappling With This One…
September 14, 2016
The boxer carefully parried the first punch out of the way and sized up his opponent. Just when another jab came toward his face, he deftly stepped out of the way and followed up with a huge haymaker.
It was easy to dismiss her petite frame and blindness as weaknesses, but combined with her short staff and her training, even the dragon’s bite found only the dirt under her feet. Her stance was strong, her reflexes fast, and her hands moved like water.
His hits weren’t hard, at least at first. His movements weren’t fast, at least at first. He didn’t look strong, at least at first. His opponents were powerful, at least at first.
She knew the honor she was undertaking. She had gone out into the wilds and found a great dire bear and brought it down with only her hands, and a little bit of her head. She had been given the graven axes of her fathers, and their fathers. She could feel the rage welling up inside as she accepted the mantle of Berserker.
These are among the numerous archetypes that fit within what I’m calling Brawlers. Brawlers are the third group of basic warriors that form the “apprentice classes” in levels one through three in my rewrite. While Fighters focus on Strength and landing harder hits and utilizing their expert training to exploit Opportunity Attacks, Rogues focus on Dexterity and seek to make more effective hits with critical attacks and exploit the damage caused by them, Brawlers are trained to hone their body into weapons and are granted more attacks than other classes. Their real place, though, is manipulating the Action Economy (something I’ll define in a later post, the short and dirty answer is what you can do in a single round as a character) by utilizing their attacks not only to do damage but also to defend themselves, defend allies, or punish their foes for taking certain actions.
Brawlers focus on Constitution, the stat that represents conditioning and health. Brawlers aren’t untrained, aren’t wild and unfocused fighters, and don’t require their hands to be empty. Brawling is just the oldest forms of combat that focus on the body first and foremost then focus on techniques and careful planning or focused attacks on vital areas. Brawlers, instead, condition their bodies to respond automatically in certain situations, repeating the same actions over and over again to “teach” their bodies to chain one attack into another, to grab incoming blows and direct them away from themselves, and to respond before their opponents realize that their attack has been turned around on them.
Brawlers replace the Monk and the Barbarian, among others, from Dungeons and Dragons’ long history in this rewrite. It combines the ideas of the open-hand fighter and the long history of martial artists training with weaponry with the ideas of the bar room brawler, the street fighter, the bare-knuckle boxer, and the natural combat savant. While the Brawler doesn’t have to fight without weapons, they are just as effective without them, depending on how their character is built.
Part of this will be a mechanic that every class will have access to but shines here. Fighters will have Weapon Specializations – categories of weapons that they have particular focus on, particular training with, that grants them extra options in combat. Rogues will have Exploits – both exploiting their opponent’s positioning and build to deal more damage and exploiting their attacks to hinder their opponents in some way, from poisons to crippling injuries. Brawlers, finally, have Styles. Styles don’t dictate what a Brawler can use, they instead give the Brawler extra options when using certain weapons (including bare hands) and let them “spend” their extra Attack actions every round on extra combat options, from increasing their Armor Class, parrying attacks, attacking more than one opponent near them, moving again, or even rescuing an ally from an attack.
All of that, though, will have to wait for when we dig into mechanics and rules. Right now, though, know that the Brawler is the martial artist of our “Physical” basic classes. Next time, we’ll start in on the truly fantastic classes with Arcanist and Intelligence.