The Form is Formless

April 14, 2017

Brawlers, unlike the Rogues and Fighters, do not rely on Tricks or Strategems going into combat. Instead, they have practiced combat from every angle, in so many situations, that they rely intently on their natural responses. They do not think, they have trained their body beyond thinking. They do not plan, they have honed their minds into the moment where plans are not needed. They do not hesitate, they have trained themselves to trust their body’s actions and follow through. They use Forms to plan their actions in the grandest sense, placing their bodies in positions to take advantage of their extensive experience.

Whether the monk trained high in the mountains in a solitary monastery, the street fighter who learned in bars and alleys, or the warrior raised in the rings of gladiatorial championships, the Brawler’s senses have extended past their eyes and hands into their very muscles. They don’t have a sixth sense, rather they’ve trained their five senses to be incredibly sensitive and reactive.

Forms reflect this mechanically – they tell the story about the bodies of the Brawlers directly. Their initial forms, though, are very basic. They’re reflections of the first steps of a Brawler down the path of perfecting the body. Activating any Form is a Fast Action, though true masters are known to use some of their full actions to drop into another Form on purpose, using their speed for flexibility in the moment.

Here’s some examples of starting Forms for the Brawler

Fists First – Level 1 Brawler Form

There’s no such thing as blocking, dodging, parrying, or avoiding. The real trick is hitting them hard, and then hitting them harder. The Brawler gains 2 to Physical Avoidance due to their dramatic and dynamic nature while swinging all out, and every Attack action gets a bonus attack at Disadvantage.

There Is Only Air – Level 1 Brawler Form

No one has ever struck you. Between convenient furniture, practiced awareness, and quick hands you’ve ensured that you’ve never had to suffer the pain of being struck while still giving yourself the opportunity to attack. The Brawler gains their Constitution modifier to Physical Avoidance so long as they have an Action left. Whenever an attack misses, the Brawler loses an Action.

Painbringer – Level 1 Brawler Form

You like hurting people. So you became very good at it. You might have been an enforcer for a local gang, or you might have just enjoyed making the bad guys hurt. What matters is you learned how to really make someone feel pain when you strike them. All attacks get a +1 Accuracy Bonus (A bonus to hit). The Brawler also strikes with a Flinch attack against Physical Resistance. Flinch is a Lasting Effect that causes -2 to Attack rolls and reduces Movement by 1. On a Critical Strike, the Flinch attack automatically succeeds.

Stop Hitting Yourself – Level 1 Brawler Form

You don’t like getting hit, and you’re not fond of hitting others. That doesn’t mean, however, that you won’t let them hit themselves. Either by running themselves into a wall or the ground, or by sending their own weapons into their own flesh, you are a master of redirecting your opponents. The Brawler gains +2 to Physical Avoidance. Any attack that misses the Brawler causes the Brawler to make a Grapple attempt with Disadvantage. If the Grapple succeeds, the Brawler may attempt a Simple Strike roll with Disadvantage.

These, though, are only the most basic Forms, with each path the Brawler takes beyond their initial entry into the world of open-hand combat expanding their stable of forms. Some are based on animals, some elements, and some even on complex philosophical concepts. They are, however, rooted in hard training and physical insight. Something that only the Brawler deeply understands.

As an aside, a further combat concept I want to talk about – Physical Avoidance, Physical Defense, and Physical Resistance. In traditional Dungeons and Dragons, these would be called “Armor Class”, “Fortitude Save”, and “Damage Resistance” respectively.

Physical Avoidance is the character’s ability to dodge, parry, and shrug off physical attacks. These are any kind of personal attack, whether from a weapon or from empty hands, and includes arrows and bullets (from slings to primitive firearms). While larger weapons, like ballistae or battering rams, can’t just be shrugged off the in same way, other abilities are focused on avoiding these kinds of attacks. If Physical Avoidance is breached (that is, if the Character rolls under the foe’s Attack or if the Character rolls over the foe’s Defense) then damage is rolled.

Physical Defense, on the other hand, is resisting an attack on the body directly. This can be poison, acid, or a powerful strike on the body. This is added to any roll to resist being dazed, being crippled, or being eaten away bodily. Foes, though, don’t receive these same kind of bonuses because the heroes (as they are the actors in the story) roll against their simple Defense rating.

Finally, Physical Resistance. Physical Resistance is the capability to simply ignore things that are damaging. This isn’t fighting through the pain or just shrugging it off, this is ignoring how much it might hurt. This could be due to magical, rapid healing, this could be due to a powerful physique, or this could be due to training on how to take blows reducing the amount of damage received when hit. The ultimate effect is when something physical strikes you, you reduce the amount of damage you take by your Physical Resistance.

All of these matter in a tactical combat game, like D&D. Once we get through all this complicated combat stuff, though, we can get into magic, and then into why roleplaying matters even in a combat game.

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