Martial Artist (3.5e Class)

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Martial Artist[edit]

A martial artist is a person that has taken the training and conditioning of his body and mind to the greatest attainable heights. Through honing and steeling himself, he has gained prowess in the art of fighting that other characters cannot fathom. Martial artists fight unarmed or with a simple assortment of efficient weapons that aid them in battle

Making a Martial Artist[edit]

Martial artists are strong, conditioned, agile and adaptive, and have a great many skills. On the field of battle, they are difficult to outwit or outmaneuver, but most of a martial artist's skill is geared towards close or mid-range battle.

Abilities: Mastering martial arts requires a healthy body, a versatile, skillful mind, but most of all agility and insight. The most important ability scores for a martial artist are Dexterity and Intelligence. Strength and Constitution provide much-needed durability and power to the martial artist's fighting arsenal.

Races: True martial artists in any fashion are reasonably rare. Most races instinctively prefer things that they can see over things that they can't, and it is natural for those races to rely overmuch on such superficial things like physical strength. Even humans, one of the most versatile of races, much sooner become fighters or barbarians. Still, in cultures influenced by centuries of war, or that are open to the metaphysical and possess opportunities for physical and spiritual enlightenment, the path of martial arts exist.

Alignment: Any. Martial artists are not monks. Some follow the tenets of the dojo where they train, and yet others abide by their own code. Martial artists are as varied as the reasons for which they've taken up their art.

Starting Gold: 2d4×10 gp (50 gp).

Starting Age: Complex.

Table: The Martial Artist

Hit Dice: d8

Level Base
Attack Bonus
Saving Throws Special Fighting Style
Fort Ref Will Techniques
Max. Maneuver
1st +1 +2 +2 +0 AC Bonus, Discipline (Concentration), The Art of Fighting 3 3 1 1st
2nd +2 +3 +3 +0 4 3 1 1st
3rd +3 +3 +3 +1 Evasion 5 3 2 1st
4th +4 +4 +4 +1 Flurry, Bonus Feat 6 4 2 1st
5th +5 +4 +4 +1 6 4 2 2nd
6th +6/+1 +5 +5 +2 Martial Defense 7 4 2 2nd
7th +7/+2 +5 +5 +2 8 4 3 2nd
8th +8/+3 +6 +6 +2 Bonus Feat 9 5 3 2nd
9th +9/+4 +6 +6 +3 9 5 3 3rd
10th +10/+5 +7 +7 +3 Greater Flurry 10 5 3 3rd
11th +11/+6/+1 +7 +7 +3 Improved Evasion 11 5 4 3rd
12th +12/+7/+2 +8 +8 +4 Improved Martial Defense, Bonus Feat 12 6 4 3rd
13th +13/+8/+3 +8 +8 +4 12 6 4 4th
14th +14/+9/+4 +9 +9 +4 13 6 4 4th
15th +15/+10/+5 +9 +9 +5 14 6 5 4th
16th +16/+11/+6/+1 +10 +10 +5 Master Flurry, Bonus Feat 15 7 5 4th
17th +17/+12/+7/+2 +10 +10 +5 15 7 5 5th
18th +18/+13/+8/+3 +11 +11 +6 Greater Martial Defense 16 7 5 5th
19th +19/+14/+9/+4 +11 +11 +6 17 7 6 5th
20th +20/+15/+10/+5 +12 +12 +6 Bonus Feat 18 8 6 5th

Class Skills (6 + Int modifier per level, ×4 at 1st level)
Balance (Dex), Bluff (Cha), Climb (Str), Concentration (Con), Craft (Int), Escape Artist (Dex), Hide (Dex), Intimidate (Cha), Jump (Str), Knowledge (history) (Int), Knowledge (local) (Int), Listen (Wis), Martial LoreToB (Int), Move Silently (Dex), Profession (Wis), Search (Int), Sense Motive (Wis), Sleight Of Hand (Dex), Spot (Wis), Swim (Str), Tumble (Dex), Use Rope (Dex).

Class Features[edit]

All of the following are class features of the martial artist.

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: The martial artist is proficient with all simple weapons, as well as all light, or double martial weapons. He may choose 2 light or double exotic weapons to be proficient with at 1st level, and furthermore increases his ability with weapons as he trains. For the purpose of a martial artist's weapon proficiency, 'light weapon' extends to any weapon that qualifies for use with Weapon Finesse, even if that weapon is two-handed. At every three levels after 1st (4th, 7th, 10th, etc.), a martial artist may automatically become proficient with a new light or double weapon of his choosing. If that weapon is exotic, he gains Exotic Weapon Proficiency for the weapon for free.

A martial artist is not proficient with any armor or shields.

The Art of Fighting: A martial artist has a body trained to deliver quick and well-honed strikes, both with his weapons and his bare hands. He has the Weapon Finesse and the Improved Unarmed Strike feat, and his unarmed strikes do a base damage of 1d8 (or either 1d6 if the character is Small or 2d6 if he is Large A martial artist’s attacks may be with either fist interchangeably or even from elbows, knees, and feet. This means that a martial artist may even make unarmed strikes with his hands full. There is no such thing as an off-hand attack for a martial artist striking either unarmed or with weapons. As such, if he uses a two-handed weapon with which he is proficient, he adds twice his Strength modifier to damage rolls.

A martial artist qualifies for fighter feats as a fighter of four levels lower (for instance, allowing him to take Greater Weapon Focus at 12th level).

Usually a martial artist’s unarmed strikes deal lethal damage, but he can choose to deal nonlethal damage instead with no penalty on his attack roll. He has the same choice to deal lethal or nonlethal damage while grappling.

A Martial Artist unarmed strikes progress in power like a monk one size category larger then themselves. Any feats that would make a monk deal unarmed damage as monk of a higher level affect this as well.

Unarmed Damage
Level Medium Large
1st-3rd 1d8 2d6
4th-7th 2d6 2d8
8th-11th 2d8 3d6
12th-15th 3d6 3d8
16th-19th 3d8 4d8
20th 4d8 5d8

Fighting Style: You begin your career in martial arts with knowledge of four martial arts maneuvers. All different flows of martial arts (that is to say Active, Aggressive, Hard, Reactive, Soft and Tempered) are open to you. For more information on the particular 'flows', see Martial Arts Maneuvers below.

Once you know a martial arts maneuver, you must ready it before you can use it (see Maneuvers Readied below). A martial arts maneuver is always considered a extraordinary ability. Martial arts maneuvers are not affected by spell resistance, and you do not provoke attacks of opportunity when you initiate one. You learn additional martial arts maneuvers at higher levels, as shown on Table: The Martial Artist. You must meet a martial arts maneuver's prerequisite to learn it. The table also shows the highest-level maneuvers you can learn.

Upon reaching 4th level, and at every even-numbered martial artist level after that, you can choose to learn a new maneuver in place of one you already know. In effect, you lose the old maneuver in exchange for a new one. You can choose a new maneuver of any level you like, as long as you observe your restriction on the highest-level maneuvers you know; you need not replace the old maneuver with a maneuver of the same level. You can swap only a single maneuver at any given level.

Maneuvers Readied: You can ready three of the martial arts maneuvers you know at 1st level. You ready your maneuvers by exercising for 5 minutes. The maneuvers you choose remain readied until you decide to exercise again and change them. You need not sleep or rest for any long period of time to ready your maneuvers; any time you spend 5 minutes in practice, you can change your readied maneuvers.

You begin an encounter with all your readied maneuvers unexpended, regardless of how many times you might have already used them since you chose them. When you initiate a maneuver, you expend it for the current encounter, so each of your readied maneuvers can be used once per encounter (until you recover them, as described below).

You can recover all expended maneuvers with a single swift action, which must be immediately followed in the same round with a melee attack or using a standard action to do nothing else in the round (such as executing a simple martial arts kata or a flourish with a weapon). You can not initiate a maneuver or change your stance while you are recovering your expended maneuvers, but you can remain in the stance in which you began your turn.

Maneuvers are not like spells or powers, and are initiated rather than cast or activated. A martial artist has an initiator level equal to his class level.

Stances Known: You begin play with knowledge of one 1st level stance from any flow of martial arts. At 3rd, 7th, 11th, 15th and 19th level, you can choose additional stances. Unlike maneuvers, stances are not expended, and you do not have to ready them. All the stances you know are available to you at all times, and you can change the stance you are currently using as a swift action. A stance always is an extraordinary ability.

Unlike with maneuvers, you cannot learn a stance at higher levels in place of one you already know.

AC Bonus: A martial artist has a highly developed personal defense. He adds his Intelligence bonus to Armor Class. In addition, the martial artist gains a defense bonus to AC. This defense bonus starts out at +1 at 2nd level, and increases by another +1 every three levels after that (+2 at 5th, +3 at 8th, +4 at 11th, and so on).

Discipline: A martial artist gains his Intelligence bonus as a bonus to Concentration checks.

Bonus Feat: A martial artist gains a bonus feat at 4th, 8th, 12th ,16th and 20th levels. He may choose any of the feats from the following list, provided he meets the prerequisites: Combat Expertise, Deflect Arrows, Dodge, Improved Disarm, Improved Feint, Improved Grapple, Improved Trip, Mobility, Snatch Arrows, Spring Attack, Weapon Focus, Power Attack Whirlwind Attack, Improved Initiative, Acrobatic, Acrobatic Attack, Acrobatic Defense, Combat Precision, Combat Reflexes, Double Kick, Lightning Parry.

Evasion (Ex): At 3rd level or higher if a martial artist makes a successful Reflex saving throw against an attack that normally deals half damage on a successful save, he instead takes no damage. Evasion can be used only if a martial artist is wearing light armor or no armor. A helpless martial artist does not gain the benefit of evasion.

Flurry (Ex): At 4th level, when a martial artist fights either unarmed or interchangeably with unarmed strike and one or more light, double or thrown weapons, he gains an extra attack as per the Two-Weapon Fighting feat. This attack can be either an unarmed strike, a melee attack or a thrown ranged attack. At 10th level, the martial artist's flurry gains a second extra attack, as per Improved Two-Weapon Fighting, and at 16th it gains a third attack, as per Greater Two-Weapon Fighting.

Martial Defense (Ex): As a martial artist grows in skill, his self-defense becomes more advanced and eventually, almost physically and mentally reflex-intuitive. At 6th level, a martial artist gains a martial defense. Martial defense is the equivalent of spell resistance for maneuvers. A character that uses maneuvers (like the classes from Tome of Battle, or other martial artists) must make an initiator level check against the martial artist's martial defense whenever he attempts a maneuver that specifically targets the martial artist. If the opponent fails this check, his maneuver fails to take effect (but he still deals normal damage if he beats the martial artist's AC). At first, this martial defense is 5 + class level. At 12th level, a martial artist's martial defense becomes 10 + class level. At 18th level, it becomes (and stays) 15 + class level.

Improved Evasion (Ex): At 11th level, a martial artist’s evasion ability improves. He still takes no damage on a successful Reflex saving throw against attacks, but henceforth he takes only half damage on a failed save. A helpless martial artist does not gain the benefit of improved evasion.

Martial Arts Maneuvers[edit]

Maneuvers are the meat and bones of a martial artist's ability. A martial artist's fighting style consists of maneuvers that are divided up into techniques and stances. They often say that the fighting style defines the martial artist, and matures as the martial artist develops his skills. Martial arts maneuvers come in various shapes and sizes, and are divided into 5 levels. Higher level maneuvers are correspondingly more powerful than lower level maneuvers and are learned over time. A martial artist has a maximum number of techniques readied (see Table: The Martial Artist.

Techniques: A technique is a maneuver that is consciously activated during battle. Techniques are divided into action techniques and counter techniques. Action technique include attacks, movements and boosts and are always activated during the martial artist's turn. Attack actions require a standard action to initiate unless their description says otherwise, whereas Movement and Boost actions usually require a move action. Counter techniques are always immediate actions, that can be activated in response to actions taken by an opponent. A martial artist can employ a maximum of one action technique and one counter technique per round.

Stances: A stance is not so much a maneuver, but rather a position or a range of positions your body gets into in order to better focus its power or abilities. Stances have no fixed duration and can remain active for lengthy periods of time, although certain stances are dropped when you take specific actions. Assuming or switching stances requires a swift action.


Martial arts techniques are divided into several substrata called flows. A martial artist naturally possesses certain personality traits, and as such he is limited to a small number of styles and philosophies to convert into fighting skill. Certain flows focus on dealing massive damage and crippling the opponent, whether others seek to be more reactive or attempt to strike more surgically. Flows come in opposites. All six of these flows are open to the martial artist, but focusing on specific flows for his fighting style nets the martial artist bonuses in and out of combat. Furthermore, focusing on one or two of the six flows will allow the martial artist to better qualify for the most powerful 5th level maneuvers at high levels.

Hard / Soft: Hard flow focuses the power of the body outward, culminating it in powerful strikes that damage the enemy. Hard flow is associated with the fist, and superficial damage. On the other hand, soft flow focuses the power of the body inward. Soft flow is associated with the palm, and internal damage.

Aggressive / Tempered: Aggressive flow focuses on unrelenting assault, often attempting to overwhelm the enemy by denying him the time to recover. Aggressive flow contains relatively many boost action techniques. Tempered flow is more patient, focusing on moving as little as possible, or making as few attacks as possible with the greatest possible effect.

Active / Reactive: These two opposed flows both deal with taking charge of the battlefield. Active flow signifies action before reaction, and deals with taking the initiative to strike effectively and with conquering the opponent through those means. Reactive flow prefers to let the enemy act first, and deals with allowing you to react accordingly.

Martial Arts Maneuvers[edit]

You will find a comprehensive collection of the martial artist's maneuvers here. Every list entry contains the following.

Note: Only a fraction of the overall maneuvers are finished. In the end, I wish to end up with about 120 maneuvers in all, with slightly fewer high level maneuvers than low level ones. All of the six flows will be roughly equal in variety by that time. If you have special ideas for maneuvers, please let me know :). If you feel like making up maneuvers by (or for) yourself, you can of course use this preload.


Viper's Lash

Descriptive Blurb[edit]

Your limbs lengthen like a cobra stretching to attack.


Tempered 1




Dex 16


Increase the area you threaten by 5 feet while the stance lasts. For instance, if you normally threaten a 5-foot-radius area (normal for a Medium creature), you now threaten a 10-foot-radius area; your space/reach is now 5 ft./10 ft.


If you move more than 5 feet while this stance is active, the stance is automatically dropped.

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