The aim of this book is to bring the flavour of real-world fighting - especially that of master swordsmen of ages gone by - to your fantasy combat. The aim is not so much realism, particularly as most attempts to do that serve merely to increase the complexity of game combat without really making it more enjoyable, but to create the flavour of the various styles and schools of thought available to those who regard swordfighting as an artform, not just a means of killing enemies. To do this, both strategy and tactics are explored, and characters given a wide range of options to use over and above the "Swing sword, roll d20, do damage" model of game combat.
The game mechanics used to accomplish this are quite straightforward, and presented in a modular manner, so that you can pick the ones you want and discard the rest - although there is a warning that if game balance is important to your group, using this system in its entirety is the best way to guarantee it. The core of the mechanic is a die pool which can be expended in various ways over the course of a round of combat, allowing a wide range of options to each character. To add to this, a range of martial feats are available to give you an even wider selection of actions. Weapons and armour are also discussed, to enable them to be utilised fully with this system.
The things you can do in a fight range from leaping into the fray to choosing to hang back and wait for opportunity to present itself. You can choose to target the weak points in a foe's armour or hack away trying to destroy his armour or weapon before closing in for the kill. Dramatic lunges and bewildering flurries of blows become not only possible but it's straightforward to judge the sucess of the action as well.
Overall, it is a well-considered variant combat system, well-rooted in real-world fighting skills - which are both quoted in the text and referenced for those who'd like to learn more. It has the potential to bring fresh enjoyment to fighting for those players who'd really rather role-play than just roll dice and consult tables when a brawl breaks out.
Return to Codex Martialis page.
Reviewed: 1 November 2008