If you’ve played one of the martial classes, you might wonder why spellcasters get all the cool new toys. Sure, playing a fighter or rogue or monk can be fun, but they pretty much always have the same options – melee attack, ranged attack, full attack. There are occasionally things to make those interesting, such as cleave or grapple, but those options aren’t always the best option.
So why should spellcasters and manifesters get all the fun abilities? Path of War provides fun, but balanced, options to the martial classes so that role-playing interactions aren’t the only time you get to do cool things with your character!
To put it simply, the Path of War is a new way to look at martial combat. At its basic roots, the Path of War allows for martially-inclined characters to harness new abilities to aid them in combat. These new abilities are known as maneuvers, a specific technique that allows a martial disciple to enact a powerful attack, erect a defense against an attack, or improve his overall fighting ability or the abilities of others. By initiating these in combat, the martial disciple has a powerful edge that can even rival the powers of the spellcasters of the world.
Maneuvers are grouped into disciplines, with each discipline having a group of associated weapons that fit the use of that discipline. In addition, disciplines have an associated skill that is often used with many of the maneuvers themselves.
Once used, a maneuver is considered expended, not unlike a prepared spell for spellcasters. But where the difference between a spell and a martial maneuver lies is the martial disciple’s ability to recover that expended maneuver for use again and again over the course of the day.
All characters have the potential to learn these maneuvers, either by being a martial disciple or by being someone who has taken up martial training in addition to their class’ normal training. Martial disciples are those who have taken the martial initiator classes listed below, and all others must learn martial maneuvers through training (such as by taking feats) or through specific training in their class (by taking up an archetype). Once learned, a character is forever a martial initiator, a warrior with skills beyond the abilities of most others of his kind, and the potential to master these arts lies before him along the Path of War.
The Path of War offers a number of new things that could fit into any campaign setting, from classes and archetypes, class templates, prestige classes, feats, skills, traits, items and monsters, to organizations that are fundamentally connected to cultures of martial disciples that have learned, developed, and spread disciplines of maneuvers to their members for mutual benefit. By adding the Path of War to your campaign, you’re adding an exciting wealth of new opportunities and options to the Pathfinder game system, breathing new life in to combat as well as into classic monsters that will suddenly have new tricks that veteran players will enjoy as much as new players.
Martial maneuvers are not something just anyone can easily do. It is a form of combat requiring extensive training to learn effectively, found by the new classes presented here. These new classes use different disciplines of martial maneuvers to perform their roles and engage their enemies, and some blend magical potential with swordplay and use martial skill as an enhancement or mnemonic for their supernatural prowess.
Harbinger: The harbinger is a mobile combatant that specializes in inflicting curses and manipulating their foes on the battlefield through use of maneuvers. They are specialists in channeling negative emotions as well as focusing on a singular discipline above and beyond the norm of other initiators.
Mystic: The mystic is a warrior filled with barely controlled arcane power. Through the use of unique glyphs and powerful animus, they channel this potent arcane energy to aid their allies both on and off the battlefield.
Stalker: A combination of combatant and stealthy scout, the stalker uses maneuvers that focus on close-quarters combat or thrown weapons, as well as those that channel supernatural energies.
Warder: The protector and strategist, the warder most often uses maneuvers that rely on shields and protecting others.
Warlord: Often fond of big, sweeping attacks, the warlord is a combat leader skilled at landing devastating strikes.
Zealot: The zealot is a leader and motivator on the battlefield. By binding their allies into a single collective, they can share the might of conviction and zeal to lead their allies to victory and ensure that they do not fall against even the toughest of foes.
Also, check out Martial Options for Other Classes.
All of these prestige classes require the character to have the ability to use maneuvers, although some, like the battle templar, require the ability to use maneuvers of a specific discipline.
Awakened Blade: Awakened blades, as they are called, learn to use their precognitive mastery as both offense and defense in pursuit of greater psionic knowledge and personal glory or power.
Battle Templar: Battle templars serve the role of both divine agent and warrior in times when the state of their religion or church is in danger.
Bladecaster: By fortifying the body with arcane might, the bladecaster can force his magic to augment his physical abilities and increase his martial capabilities to supernatural levels.
Dragon Fury: By devoting one’s self to the Thrashing Dragon discipline, the dragon fury learns many things on how best to emulate the dragon and its fighting style, and a dragon’s deep well of wrath lives within their hearts and pumps its fury to every inch of their body.
Landskneckt: The landskneckt brings a powerful boost to einhander combat styles and defensive abilities.
Mage Hunter: The path of the mage hunter is a dangerous one, combining skill at arms and stealth with a brand of sorcery that serves a singular purpose: slaying mages.
Umbral Blade: Every moon has a dark side, and in that darkness there is something waiting for those who are daring enough to tread upon that perilous path. By entering the shadow of the Veiled Moon, the so-called Umbral Blades find that this darkness possesses power at a price, and by making a deal with it, that power can be bought.