Eclipse, Paths and Powers: Martial Arts

Martial Arts is a bit of a weird path. It’s sorta similar in design to Mystic Artist, but… still it’s own beast.

Martial Arts cost no CP. I mean, you can spent CP, but that is not the way it is intended to be used, from what I could see. You buy it with Skill Points… As a high-int character of character utilizing Finess or Augmented Bonus for more SP.

While it doesn’t grant the biggest of boni (most of the time) it is insanely efficient, even if you have to buy it with CP, which… you just shouldn’t. Really, if you just have a little innate enchantment you can buy +2 Int for basically nothing. Or whatever you Finesse for it…

Look, bottom-line: If you want to use weapons, you’ll want Martial Arts. Most of the time, it costs basically nothing. Heck, if you just want to be a skillmonkey, then just develop a martial art that gives a +2 synergy to Hide, Move Silently, Open Lock and Sleight of Hand and pump the rest into Sneak Attack and you’ll equal out for the first 8 SP.

It’s essentially free! Free. Stuff.

Ok… So, the basic options explain themselves fairly easy: Boost your attack rolls, your AC, your damage and your DR. Synergy gives skill boni and Strike let’s you change damage from lethal to nonlethal.

Now let’s look at the advanced techiques:


Battlecry allow you to inspire fear, forcing a save that is, interestingly enough, based on your Constitution. This isn’t the best ability, but nice to have if you fight low level enemies. Sadly, you cannot use this ability more than once per encounter, so unless you have a different means of escalating fear, it will be nothing but a minor debuff, if your enemies aren’t of the immune variety.

Blinding Strike:

Ok, before we do anything else, I just want to point something out to you. There is a weapon in the Arms and Equipment guide called “Knife, Stump”. This weapon crits on a 19-20 UNLESS you already hit the person you want to hit with this weapon, in which case it becomes a 17-20. Now, if we make that Keen and use the stacking crit-range improvement from Eclipse, that would change into a 15-20 and then a 9-20, meaning after one hit it has a higher chance to crit than to deal damage normally. Just as a little reminder for crit-based abilities.

So, Blinding Strike, like Battlecry, cannot affect all targets and has a few things listed below that would be immune. Still, if you fight against a different being, this ability is powerful. The -2 to AC and some rolls are one thing. The 20% spell failure chance, however, is immense. You have a 20% chance to make a caster loose his action. That’s rather good. One of the must-takes, in my opinion, because even if you fight no caster, the -2 to saves would make the use of other Martial Arts-abilities much easier.


Breaking helps you with… Breaking objects. It’s not really exciting, good at what it does though, so if you want to make it part of your routine, go right ahead.


This allows you to give up your bonus damage in favor of ability damage. You can only choose physical attributes, which is kind of a shame, but at higher levels 1d4 Constitution damage can be pretty harsh. Seems worth it if you already have a lot of multipliers outside of critical hits.

Instant Stand:

Getting the obvious stuff out of the way: You still provoke an AoO. The reason why you’ll want this is not the Full-Attack, it’s the fact that you can take as many free actions as you want. Normally, you can try to stand up two times per turn and that’s it. With this, you can stand up all the time… Even if it makes you eat the appropriate AoO.

Mighty Blow:

The opposite of instant stand, Mighty Blow let’s you knock someone prone on a critical hit. The reason you are doing this is to get an AoO off of the poor sob you just hit.

Mind Like Moon:

Basically, this allows you to act during the surprise round. This is really valuable, simply because it’s an additional round of actions you can take instead of just getting beaten. This is great for casters too. As a matter of fact, pumping Synergy, Defense and MLM is one of the best examples of a Martial Art I know.

Prone Combat:

This negates all penalities for being prone… Which, interestingly enough, means that you gain +4 AC against ranged attacks while prone without any of the downsides. Now, instead of eating the AoO from using Instant Stand you can lie down and beat you enemies. The most interesting use I can come up with right now is to specialize it against ranged touch attack spells and get a nice +8.


We are talking 5 feet free range. This sounds good, but keep in mind that it means you cannot attack adjecent opponents anymore. Not sure if it’s the Spiked Chain-type of reach either, so you may loose the ability to threaten a few squares you want to control too. It’s very nice to have with some synergies as a secondary Martial Art though.

Sneak Attack:

Free damage dice. You can’t actually go too wrong with this one. As a matter of fact, it encourages to feint in combat (and to take reflex training for it), which is something I always agree on. Up to 4 (6/8/12) damage dice, depending on how and if you specialize or corrupt them, can decide a fight. This goes great with Bluff-Synergy.

Versatility and Weapon Kata:

Both of these are abilities you will probably not see in too many martial arts. The reason for that is the fact that Strike doesn’t count against the Advanced Techique limit and does the same as Versatility (which does) and that if you are already deciding on a Martial Art to take, you should have a basic idea of what weapon you want to use.


Master Techniques are 3.0 feats. I will not cover them here, but here are a few quick tips:

Combat Reflexes are a must have for more AoOs and is very cheap. I suggest to pick it up.

Deflect Arrows negates all damage instead of reducing it like Block does.

Quick Draw is great when surprised (unless you have your weapon drawn all the time, in which case… why do the guards even let you into the city?).


This brings us to the final set of Martial Arts abilities: The Occult Techniques.

Occult Techniques will probably remind you of other abilities in the book. The reason for that is… That they kinda are said abilities. Keep in mind that they cost Constitution, so doing it too often is suicidal (you literally kill yourself).

Focused Blow:

Focused Blow is pretty much the Crushing Enhanced Strike. If you use this ability, the creature you hit pretty much dies. This is especially nice with the vanilla Greater Cleave that let’s you make your attacks with the same modifiers the previous attack had… including the Focused Blow. My tip is to use this in a Spiked Chain Martial Art to have a big threatened area to Cleave in.

Healing Hand:

This is a healing ability (who would have thought?). It’s versatile and covers all the basics, but nothing I would immediately prefer to a different ability.

Which brings me to a point about Occult Techniques: You do not buy a Martial Art for them. Occult Techniques are an improvement to their Martial Arts, not the main reason to take them. If you really want to use them, then I suggest Finesse for your hit points…

Inner Strenght:

You gain 6 points to spent on Occult Techniques. These heal like normal attributes, which means very slowly. It’s pretty much necessary if you plan on using your Occult Techniques, but even with it it’s nothing you’ll be doing regulary.

Iron Skin:

This is better, as it gives boni for a period of time. +4 to natural armor is kinda nice. Still, normally you are here for Ghost Touch. And still, it might not be the best technique for that…

Ki Block:

Ki Block is a bit confusing and depends on your DMs interpretation. Assuming you’ve reached this point of Martial Arts, you’ll be of a high-enough level that giving up two Constitution points for a Block (Greater Immunity) is kinda questionable… Unless you Finesse it, of course. On the other hand, it tells that you can dodge for a fixed DC…

Honestly, it seems like it negates all damage instead of providing Immunity, which makes it good at higher levels. It also allows you to basically make autosave on a Reflex Save, so there’s that. The DCs are both fixed, so…

Yeah, take it. It’s a solid ability.

Ki Focus:

Ki Focus is nice, cheap and flexible. I suggest you take it. It’s the kind of ability you use when you are low on hp and need some more or when you have to make that skill check. If worst comes to worst, have it add +2 to your Initiative. This is always a good idea to have.

Light Foot:

It reduces fall damage, increases your speed and let’s you make a great jump or balance check for and additional Constitution point. I don’t like this ability that much, but I cannot deny that it’s a good choice for the same reason Iron Skin is: You may not need it all the time, but when you need it, it’s cheap for what it allows you to do.

One Finger:

Melee Attacks at range. Cheap for 1 Constitution. It’s a nice option, yes. Still, keep in mind that you cannot heal this Constitution damage. You won’t be able to do it all day.


This has your opponent make a Will Save. If he fails, he looses a turn. The reason this might be better than the next ability is the fact that unconsciousness is a status that is hardly ever resisted. Ever. The second reason is the fact that it blocks manifesters or spellcasters that don’t require components.


This has your opponent make a Fortitude Save. If he fails, he looses 10 to 60 turns. Impressive, right? Well, there are two reasons this could be considered inferior to the above. First off it doesn’t block people that don’t have to move. Secondly , Fortitude tends to be a good save for Martial Artists anyway. Finally, paralysis is more commonly resisted then unconsciousness…

Resist Pain:

…unless you have this ability right here, which blocks unconsciousness for 1d6 minutes and grants a bit of DR. It also grants immunity to pain and stun based effects. This should be self-explanatory: A few immunities, DR/- that stacks with MA Thoughness and it substitutes an ability. In this specific case, the ability it substitutes isn’t actually better than this, given that 10 to 60 rounds are more than enough to finish combat.

Serpent Strike:

Save against attribute damage. I would like to say it’s very good… but there are better abilities. A fact remains that you deal about as much damage to yourself as you deal to the opponent. I can appreciate this ability… Yet I wouldn’t choose to use it myself, especially since it allows for a save, and not a very high one at that.

Touch Strike:

Allows you to make an attack as a touch attack. This is pretty amazing and only costs one point. So yeah, take this. It’s pretty great and cheap too.


Ok, so I had to read this ability multiple times. What is a One-Round Move Action? What does it have to do with Time Stop again? What does instant mean?

So from what I could gather, it’s like this: You make an immediate Full-Round Move (a double move, so to say) which doesn’t cout against your action limit while you and your enemies have the respective immunity against each others actions as if you were using Time Stop.

That makes it pretty good. Consider it a better, but more expensive version of Ki Block.


Force damage affects incorporeal creatures. And it’s an elemental damage type in Eclipse. This makes this nearly straight-up better at hurting incorporeals than Iron Skin. This ability really shines when you use it in a Martial Art specialized to affect specific Subtypes, since that allows you to deal more damage.

Other than that, it allows for resistance, in which case, you may prefer something more common like fire… or something nearly unheard of like Force Resistance.



That’s it for the overview of Martial Arts. Cheap and effective.

Still, if you want to make use of Occult Techniques, I’d always suggest you first Finesse your Fortitude Saves and Hit Points.



3 thoughts on “Eclipse, Paths and Powers: Martial Arts

  1. Ah, Martial Arts. Primarily a boost for the direct fighter types of course, simply because they’re the ones who will make the most use of it.

    In simulationist terms, the Martial Arts were designed to bridge some of the gap between the broad-based combat abilities of d20 (and many other games) and reality. Broad-based games provide broad categories of weapons, and combat “skills” (such as the “base attack bonus”) so generic that characters are likely to be able to use a huge range of weapons with near-equal skill. Other games use far more precise categories. Sadly, both of those approaches, at least by themselves. lead to unrealistic results – either creating characters who are equally skilled with an immense variety of weapons, including many they’ve never seen before, or creating characters who are immensely skilled with particular weapons such as “Longswords” but who are quite incapable of using a stick even by opting to wield it like a light blunt sword. To be realistic, there’s plenty of overlap between weapon and combat skills, and yet there are still a lot of techniques particular to specific weapons and unarmed styles.

    Ergo, the martial arts system adds specifics to the broad-based combat abilities of the standard d20 rules. That lets characters develop broad competence in combat – being able to make reasonably effective use of a wide variety of weapons and moves – while still allowing them to learn specific techniques associated with particular weapons and styles.

    Secondarily, as always, it was intended to be simple to use. Those few pages and the ten sample martial arts in the book have proven quite popular.

    So to consider the individual elements…

    The only basic one worth an explanatory note is Strike. Yes, it lets you change your weapons damage from lethal to nonlethal with no penalty – but it also lets you change your normally-nonlethal unarmed damage to lethal so that you never count as unarmed even if your martial art doesn’t require that. Obviously enough, unless you are really interested in knocking your opponents out (in which case you probably have a Merciful weapon anyway) this usually appears in unarmed styles. Law enforcement types tend to like it though.

    Advanced Techniques is where it starts to go realistic AND cinematic. It’s not too hard to do both when the combat system is so abstracted to begin with. They offer a lot more options than “so many hit points worth of damage”.

    Battlecry, of course, exists to encourage characters to go ahead and scream war cries before attacking shield walls and other defensive positions. Sadly, even if you yell REALLY loudly… “Shaken” is about the best that you can expect from shouting at enemy troops, even if it IS “Blood and Souls for My Lord Arioch!”. Of course, if your entire charging line is screaming war cries along the way… no opponent is likely to make THAT many saves. I’ve seen a few combatants who thought it was worthwhile to take Opportunist or Reflex Training (Specialized and Corrupted to be usable once per battle, only for battlecries, 2 CP) to be able to shout their warcry while closing without taking up an action. It’s not a BIG debuff, but the cost is very small.

    Blinding Strike is a good, if unreliable, way to put opponents at a disadvantage – a way around the “But you took a huge blow to the head!” “Why should that hinder me? I still have hit points left!” dynamic of “wounds cause no penalties”. Sadly it’s less effective against opposing spellcasters than you’d think simply because – if a skilled warrior-type is scoring critical hits on most spellcasters – said spellcasters are already in deep trouble anyway.

    Do feel free to vary the special effects though. Disorienting blows to the head, knocking all the air out of someone’s lungs, and so on are all have roughly the same effects – “that actually hurt!”

    Breaking, of course, is fun when you want to break free of some manacles, slam your fist through a door, or show off by smashing boulders with your forehead.

    Crippling is mostly a way to let the combatants try to do something other than grinding through an opponents hit points – allowing for “I hit his leg to cut down on his mobility (Dex Damage), internal injuries and bleeding (Con Damage), and damaged joints and muscles (Str Damage). It also produces wounds that are a bit harder to fix than trotting out the “Cure Light Wounds” wands.

    Instant Stand is, of course, the old reliable “flip myself back onto my feet” maneuver you see in so many movies. Especially handy if you’ve been prone and sniping and the enemy is closing in.

    Mighty Blow also allows you to take a free action worth of gloating over your fallen foe if you are so inclined! More seriously… it’s “When I critical, I get another shot and put you at a disadvantage”. More of “being hit does more than drain your hit points”.

    Mind Like Moon… well, there are a number of ways to bypass Surprise, but this is a cheap and easy one. It’s also a bit of skepticism about “surprise”. Veterans may develop reflexive responses to being surprised, especially if they are now, or have recently been, in a combat zone. It can be very bad to have a practiced fighter mistake your surprise party for an ambush.

    Prone Combat is for all those “Drunken Master” and similar styles – the ones where you often fight from the ground with kicks as you roll and spin around.

    With Reach there’s an important distinction; per the SRD a Creature with Reach is not treated the same way as a Weapon with Reach; “Unlike when someone uses a reach weapon, a creature with greater than normal natural reach (more than 5 feet) still threatens squares adjacent to it”. Since this ability effectively makes you a creature with a greater than normal reach, you continue to threaten adjacent squares.

    Sneak Attack is simply handy – and, as you note, can be Specialized of Corrupted in a wide variety of ways.

    Versatility doesn’t pay a big role in most games – but when it does, it’s generally not the ability to shift between lethal and nonlethal damage that matters. It’s the ability to shift the damage type you inflict between bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing. There aren’t too many common monsters that matters with, although there are some (like the Half Clay Golem) – but a lot can depend on what sourcebooks, and firearms rules (if any) the game master is using.

    It’s still fun to bludgeon someone into unconsciousness with bullets without injuring them though

    Finally Weapon Kata is important when you want an art to cover both armed and unarmed combat, or if you want it to be compatible with two different weapons – perhaps for a classic sword-and-pistol type. If a combatant has sunk 15 skill points, Skill Focus (6 CP), Skill Emphasis (3 CP), Professional/Martial Arts (6 CP), and Augmented Bonus (6 CP) into his or her hyped-up Rapier art… it may be well worth taking Weapon Kata (Pistols) to apply those same bonuses to a secondary weapon rather than starting over from the beginning with another martial art.

    Among the Master Techniques…

    Characters may or may not want to take Combat Reflexes in their martial art. After all, if they do… it only applies when they’re using that particular “Art”. Many fighters prefer to spend a bit more and just take Reflex Training / the Combat Reflexes variant. That way it applies to everything – and it’s more efficient to do it that way if you want three or more martial arts anyway.

    Deflect Arrows is most convenient for unarmed fighters since you do need a free hand – but a lot of GM’s won’t let you deflect bullets. Best to ask first if the game has guns. Secondarily, of course, like several of the other combat feats… in my experience it’s rarely used outside of very focused builds. Most of the players seem to prefer to invest in “go first and hit harder so they don’t get a chance to hurt you in the first place”. Ergo, the Martial Arts provides a much “cheaper” version of several combat feats to encourage people to take them.

    Quick Draw always did seem like it should go with individual weapons. After all, a lot of Samurai practiced quick drawing their Katanas. Few learned to quick draw Tetsubo or Naginatas. Similarly… most western gunfighters could quick draw pistols, but would think you were insane if you wanted them to quick draw a Glaive or a Claymore. Of course, in standard d20 it would then be a very under-powered feat. Thus the Martial Arts version for single weapons drops the effective prove to 2 Skill Points

    While most of the available combat feats (Blind-Fight, Dodge, (Combat) Expertise, Improved Bull Rush, Improved Disarm, Improved Trip, Mobility, Rapid Shot, Sunder, and Whirlwind Attack) have been discussed endlessly in a lot of places already, it’s worth noting that taking them through a Martial Art evades prerequisites other than the martial art itself. That can be quite handy when you want to use Whirlwind Attack or Rapid Shot (also things that seem like they should go with particular weapons, but would not then be worth a feat).

    Basically, a lot of stuff that either 1) people only took as a prerequisite or 2) seemed like it should go with particular weapons was shuffled off into the Master Techniques to 1) encourage it’s use since Eclipse isn’t nearly as big on pointless prerequisites as d20, or 2) to make single-weapon variants cheap enough to be worth taking.

    The fact that it encourages the use of very different styles to go with different weapons is a bonus.

    Occult Techniques are the really over-the-top martial arts techniques you find in Hong Kong Action Cinema – and may be the most powerful “magic” available to characters in settings like Dragon Fist. If you want to use them more… get Mana with the Resilience option (usually specialized just for that). It still won’t be an all-day-every-day thing, but it can be “a dozen tricks every day” ability.

    Sadly the Greater Cleave trick may not work; “The same weapon and the same bonus” doesn’t necessarily mean “and with the same poison effects, touch spells, or other one-shot enhancements”.

    Healing Hand is usually found in secondary defense/utility martial arts as you’re quite right; it’s rarely a primary offensive choice. It’s often specialized for double effect (requires lengthy sessions of acupuncture or something) since = in martial arts games – it may be pretty much the only healing power available. You’re spot on about the Occult Techniques not being the real point of the martial arts though.

    Iron Skin is particularly good if you want to grapple ethereal targets or hold a ghost still for the exorcism – and the AC bonus never hurts, especially since it is fully effective against the usual incorporeal touch attacks.

    Ki Block does indeed negate all damage. It’s there to allow the “Martial Artist covers his face with his arms and blocks/leaps through the evil sorcerers massive blasts of magical power unharmed” trope.

    Ki Focus is just generically handy – although a lot of characters specialize it in a limited set of bonuses to double the effect. One point for a +8 attribute bonus which is almost certain to last the full length of a fight is not at all bad.

    Light Foot was just too classic not to include; it simply shows up in far, FAR, too many martial arts stories to leave out. It isn’t all that exciting though, even if the wire work looks good on film.

    One Finger is another technique that supposedly actually exists (I have my doubts). It is pretty straightforward though.

    Overburden… well, the Knockout Blow/Vulcan Neck Pinch/Nerve Strike trope is awfully common – and fairly realistic; people can easily knock themselves out briefly by just hitting their heads straightening up under a low overhang. Still, if you let people do it all the time, hit points will become quite irrelevant. Ergo an advanced technique with a very limiting cost to compromise between reality and playability.

    Paralysis is good of course – but there are a lot of ways to get rid of Paralysis, you can use mental powers anyway, and Freedom of Movement is commonly interpreted as negating it. Still a good trick though.

    I think you’ve pretty well covered Resist Pain. It is pretty popular for wading through mooks though.

    Serpent Strike is the classical “nerve strike” or “ki blocking strike” from martial arts fiction. Unfortunately, in most of that fiction… it is FAR too powerful. Ergo this version is somewhat nerfed. Oddly enough, it’s seen the most use in things like “crippling a captured spellcaster by taking their casting attribute below ten” and such, rather than in combat.

    Touch Strike is very straightforward and quite useful – especially if you combo it with Focused Blow. Another trope really – the finishing blow (or would-be finishing blow) that bypasses or smashes right through physical armor.

    Vanishing… you do have it right; you get spend the points as an immediate action and get a full move in your own private instant of time.

    Basically this is another action movie trope; the camera momentarily dwells on you as you backflip across the battle, or dive and roll past everyone to confront the main bad guy, or somehow outrun that massive explosion (or do your magical girl transformation sequence with a vague suggestion of momentary nudity) – and no one ever interferes with that. Very useful – but, as you note, very expensive.

    Wrath is better at damaging (if not at restraining) incorporeal creatures than Iron Skin – but it is primarily yet another martial artist trope, to allow for some of the really silly martial arts effects from Jademan Comics and similar productions and for the “so enraged I burst into flames” sort of stunts.

    Overall, Martial arts is very helpful to any direct combatant – but the Occult Techniques only really shine in settings where true magic isn’t usually allowed. Otherwise they can be helpful and convenient at times, but you can’t routinely rely on them.

    Now to go completely over the top… go to the Legendary Martial Arts ( ) and start competing with the primary spellcasters.


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