Thirteen Fists

Thirteen Fists – Mortal Martial Arts in Creation

Written by Chris Allen - No Infringement Intended - posted originally on the Ex3 Forum - Dude, you're bloody amazing.

Thirteen Fists is is an expansion to the martial arts rules given in Exalted 3rd edition, focusing on strange and powerful styles that are in the hands of mortals but which do not possess the sheer supernatural might of the Exalted. It includes thirteen styles and information on their practitioners across Creation.

Although each martial art includes details of a specific sect or tradition that teaches it, feel free to take any of the sample groups and adjust or drop them into a different part of the setting. There’s no reason why there couldn’t be Swooping Heron sohei aboard the ships of the West, or Venom Moth assassins plying their trade in the glittering courts of the South.

The purpose of these rules is to offer support for the more incredible and supernatural of the martial arts practices found in sources such as wuxia and putting them in mortal hands, allowing for schools, cults and temples of practitioners without requiring huge concentrations of Exalted power to exist. While potent for a mortal, these styles are costly; while they give a heroic mortal a significant boost, she won’t become a match for an Exalted.

Using Thirteen Fist Styles
A mortal can acquire any of these styles through purchasing a modified form of the Martial Artist merit. She must acquire this modified Merit for each and every one of these styles that she wants to practice, and unlike the normal Merit, each one only unlocks access to the Martial Arts skill for the specific style. For example, a character might buy Martial Artist (Swooping Heron), which would give her access to (and only to) the Martial Arts (Swooping Heron style) ability. The usual prerequisites and costs for the Martial Artist merit remain in place.

Acquiring one of these styles usually requires finding a teacher and undergoing what may be years of study. An Exalted can learn one of these styles in the same way as a mortal, through the modified merit, but while it requires a teacher, the training time is the same as for any other merit or ability she would buy. However, none of these styles lead onto martial arts charms, so few Exalted would bother.

Fivefold Righteous Scars Style

Known as the Crippled Monks, the initiates of the Zaraphur mountain temple in the Hundred Kingdoms practice one of the most taxing and agonising of all internal alchemical arts. Despite the moniker, Crippled Monks are neither crippled nor monks, although most bear any number of old wounds and the five Essence-wounding scars on their torso that signify mastery of the Five Righteous Scars style. Considered as an ancient tradition of excellent reputation, the Crippled Monks are found across the Hundred Kingdoms on the business of Zaraphur Temple, challenging the unrighteous and punishing the wicked.

Initiation into the Fivefold Righteous Scars style requires intense physical training and strengthening of both body and will in order to overcome the rigours that the style places on the body. Each Righteous Scar is incised into the body with thaumaturgical tools through a ritual that the sect carefully guards; the scars alter the flows of Essence through the body and the vital organs. The practitioner gains the ability to wound her own life energy and inflict that same horrendous damage onto others. Drawing on this power can be grisly - the Crippled Monk may strike his own pressure points or cough out blood as he prepares for battle. Not every candidate is strong enough to survive initiation, and the ritual mutilation of the body's Essence often leaves Crippled Monks with imbalanced emotions, hot-headed and quick to anger. A Crippled Monk usually lives a brief but bright life, furiously hunting evildoers before her body gives out under the stresses of the style and the dangers she puts herself through.

The elders of the sect in Zaraphur are martial artists of daunting power and skill, the toughest of the tough who have survived decades of practicing the self-scouring style. Even so, most are living on borrowed time, with wounded vital organs or cancers consuming their innards. Few regret the price paid for the accomplishments they have achieved, but the Zaraphur sect loses its greatest heroes and elders far too fast, and loses much wisdom in the process. Despite, or perhaps because of this, the sect is rigorous about screening and disciplining recruits - not only to ensure that only the virtuous are brought into the fold, but also to make sure that no would-be Crippled Monk makes a choice she will soon regret. Practicing the style comes at a price that cannot be handed back. There is no room for a Crippled Monk with regrets.

Zaraphur Temple is a massive complex high in a mountain. Once, the sect was far larger than it currently is, and only a small portion of the complex is in active, daily use. There is the sense that once the school was greater, but the hows and whys of its decline have been lost. Recently, the sect has begun to be troubled by ambitious sorcerers. Its terraced courtyards feature ancient occult structures that were once used for greater forms of Essence mutilation, tapping even deeper into the power of the Righteous Scars, but those practices were long ago discarded and purposefully forgotten by the school. Sadly, there are those beyond the sect who, having learned of this, desire to tap into that old power once again and, being sorcerers, are not used to being denied their desires by mere martial artists.

Style Weapons: Unarmed attacks only.

Style Armour: Unarmoured only.

Style Benefit: A Fivefold Righteous Scars stylist adds her current wound penalties as a bonus rather than as a penalty to her Withering attack damage rolls with the Martial Arts (Fivefold Righteous Scars) ability.
She also rerolls a number of failed damage dice on a Decisive attack with Martial Arts (Fivefold Righteous Scars) equal to that bonus. When making an attack with the ability, she may inflict 1 level of lethal damage on herself to turn her current wound penalties into a bonus to her accuracy with that attack, with an additional +1.

A Fivefold Righteous Scars stylist may also treat her current wound penalties as a bonus instead for rolls to resist toxins, poisons and diseases, although the bonus may not exceed her dots in Martial Arts (Fivefold Righteous Scars).

Flesh-Picking Vulture Style

Deep in the South, the Vultures stalk the land - mad-eyed martial adepts with haunting laughs and grins that stretch a little too wide. A Vulture cultist doesn't look like much to casual inspection, just shabby and travel-worn, but a closer look reveals the trinkets, the evil-warding talismans and the vulture-feather necklace. Bearing the favour of Shanashura, Southern God of Vultures, the cult are unlikely heroes doing their best to hunt evil - and the unquiet dead in particular. Vulture cultists root out blasphemous cults, raksha and mortals whose hearts have turned to darkness with a fearless tenacity. These martial practitioners make the best of everything they find in the harsh southern lands, whether that's a meal of dry carrion or patching together a new coat from the rags of the dead. Locals view the Vulture Cult as an uneasy contradiction - men and women who have forged themselves into hunters of evil but who have paid with more than a little of their sanity.

The Flesh-Picking Vulture style practiced by the cult relies on swift, vicious attacks that rend, tear and rip at the foe, while keeping swift and light on one's feet to dart back from attacks. Practitioners fight with patience, seeking to wear prey down through light injuries that sap strength and bleed. This alone makes the style a potent tool in the right hands, but Shanashura has taught the cult mantras and sutras that are woven into their practices, adding a brief touch of divine blessing to drive back the enemies of Creation. Vulture cultists are also encouraged to think laterally and be creative with whatever is to hand, often using improvised weapons, poisons, blinding powders or even flame pieces.

The cult operates openly out of several shrines and monasteries across the far South, each serving as a base for the itinerant cultists as they wander the region in small bands. It's a harsh life that usually calls only the righteous and the desperate but, from time to time, a lone rogue or group of heretics breaks off from the cult with the intent of carving out their own dominion. Vulture cultists rarely travel alone - where there's one, there's likely to be at least two or three more. The cult also has quite strong ties with many of the local terrestrial gods and is often willing to aid those who are faced with dangers or troubles, especially the ones who pay Shanashura due respect. In theory this puts the cult at odds with the Immaculate Faith but the theory is rarely tested this far from the Realm's reach.

Bad blood exists between the Flesh-Picking Vulture stylists and those of the Wretched Vagrant school. As the stories go, the Vultures were once a far Southern branch of the Vagrant Clan, but they were seduced away from caring for the common folk by Shanashura's promises (or, as the Vultures would have it, were shown the righteous path by the Southern God of Vultures). To this day, both schools hold the other in disdain.

Style Weapons: Unarmed attacks, tiger claws, khatar, hook swords, flame pieces.

Style Armour: Unarmoured or light armour only.

Style Benefit: A Flesh-Picking Vulture Stylist adds 1 die to her accuracy with Martial Arts (Flesh-Picking Vulture) attacks against enemies suffering wound penalties and against Creatures of Darkness. When she hits with a Decisive attack with the ability that wounds but does not incapacitate an enemy, she may roll her Martial Arts (Flesh-Picking Vulture) ability as a dice pool with every two successes increasing her Initiative by 1 after resetting to base.

A practitioner of this style also costs Shanashura the Southern Vulture God 5 fewer motes to target with her Charms. One of her Charms allows the blessed character to strike dematerialised enemies with his attacks, and another lets the blessed character consume spoilt or rotten meat without harm or ill health.

Golden Wheel Style

One of the most widespread martial arts in the near South, the sacred Golden Wheel style is also the most controversial amongst its own practitioners. No fewer than a dozen sects and major temples in the Direction all claim to be the style's birthplace. Since the legend of the style has its founder being directly blessed with revelation by the Elemental Dragon of Fire, this is a matter with serious pride on the line; several of the temples are engaged in a polite war of words and influence, each trying to convince the Immaculate faith to verify their version of events. The most famous sect of the Broken Wheel, as the feuding groups are known, is the Golden Glass Fane in Chiaroscuro, who hew to a fairly standard story of their Delzahn founder receiving revelation in the desert, but the largest and most powerful is the Varang branch of the cult.

The Golden Wheel style is focused on rapid, circular movements that mimic the coiling of a whirlwind, the sinuous motions of the desert viper and the metaphorical cycles of the heavens. it's a frenetic and energetic style, almost a spinning dance, building to an incredible tempo as the stylist swirls amidst her foes or hurls chakrams with incredible speed. The philosophy of the Golden Wheel is one of glory and triumph but not, notably, of killing - it trains the wielder in rapidly inflicting lesser wounds rather than terrible killing blows, with the intent of forcing an opponent to surrender rather than having to take their life. Golden Wheel stylists are taught to abhor killing except in the most dire of circumstances; the art is intended to be a martial expression of perfecting the wheel of reincarnation, not a tool for slaughter.

Golden Wheel style is popular across the region because of this spiritual side combined with its obvious martial applications; a student betters herself in the now so that the wheel of reincarnation will reflect her improvement. Practitioners are expected to live by a code that is virtuous and pious and, as a result, several temples have the official approval of the Immaculate faith. It is relatively easy for a would-be stylist to seek mentoring at one of the major temple schools. Unfortunately, the rivalries amongst the branches of the cult sometimes erupt into more overt violence, and even relatively minor misdemeanours by one sect are used as an excuse for censure and insult on the part of another.

Out in the desert, a few Delzahn elders pass down a different, heretical strain of Golden Wheel teachings. These wild, windswept elders have a different message for their pupils - that the cycle of existence tears down everything that it has built up, that the howling desert winds claim fertile land and turn it to dust, that they grind down even the great towers of man in time. The wild, savage cultists of this heresy seek self-perfection through destruction, and the blessings of old gods through the fall of civilisation.

Style Weapons: Wind and fire wheels, warfans, chakrams.

Style Armour: Unarmoured or light armour.

Style Benefit: Thrown Martial Art (Golden Wheel) attacks with a chakram allow the practitioner to reflexively draw another chakram. Additionally, whenever the stylist makes a successful attack with the Martial Art (Golden Wheel) ability having landed an attack in her previous round, she gains a bonus point of Initiative. This bonus stacks with each consecutive round of success, up to her dots in the ability; missing an attack causes the bonus to completely reset.

(Un)Holy Body Furnace Style

Great of body and of appetites, the practitioners of the Body Furnace style attune their inner flows of Essence through occult mudras and katas such that their very skin and flesh transform. The style is looked down on by other martial schools, seeing the practitioners as freakish or monstrous heretics practicing inhuman philosophies and bartering their souls away to demons. the Body Furnace style as discovered and developed by a cabal of sorcerers in the far North-East who gleaned their secrets of internal alchemy and Essence manipulation from summoned demons, irrevocably tainting the school that descended from their efforts. Martial artists usually call the style the Unholy Body Furnace even though a rare few of the school's branches learn their secrets from more benign spirits and elementals.

(Un)Holy Body Furnace is a powerful and merciless fighting style that uses punishing, crushing blows, letting the enemy's own assault merely open up their vulnerabilities as the stylist shrugs strikes off. The Body Furnace makes the stylist's own flesh seethe with Essence during battle, capturing it and transforming the practitioner's body where she is struck; her skin becomes brass, steel or marble depending on the particular tradition that she was taught. Moving too swiftly disrupts the Essence and so stylists prefer to let the foe come to them, advancing only with a steady but unstoppable stride. The style is immensely taxing to practice, and stylists usually experience incredible surges of appetite - both for food and sex - after using it, so the debauchery and decadence of Unholy Body Furnace martial artists is legendary. Transforming one's body into an Unholy Body Furnace is a long and arduous process involving mild poisons, meditation under the influence of exotic drugs and certain occult truths gleaned from spirits. While these latter secrets don't have to come from demons, the creatures of Hell are by far the most willing in divulging them, being outright eager to see this style spread.

Most Body Furnace practitioners are solitary and learn the style not as an end in itself but as a means to achieve their personal drives - it is a tool, not a philosophy to live one's life by. Teachers are few and far between, taking on small groups of pupils - not all of whom are likely to survive. Unholy Body Furnace is associated with the selfish and those who care little for the suffering of others in achieving their desires, and teachers are often the same, passing the art on in return for something they want. This often requires the pupil to make a sacrifice or undertake an endeavour to pay a demon whom the tutor is bargaining with.

Although originating in the North-West, the school has long since spread across Creation. Practitioners can be found working as thugs, killers-for-hire and mercenaries, as criminal lords or even tyrants at the helm of petty kingdoms in almost every Direction. The style is feared for its sheer power and obvious supernatural nature, and many believe that practitioners give up their humanity to sate their own desires and ambitions above all else. The cabal of sorcerers that founded the school are long since dead many generations ago, the great fortress-temple they raised up in the North-West ground to dust by other regional powers who tore the place down for fear of the revulsive and blasphemous rites committed there. Amidst the modern school, only a very few stylists break from the selfish, disturbing traditions of the art to become truly Holy Body Furnace practitioners.

Style Weapons: Unarmed attacks and cestuses.

Style Armour: Unarmoured only.

Style Benefit: Whenever a Body Furnace stylist makes a Martial Arts ((Un)Holy Body Furnace) attack, she adds her Stamina + Martial Arts ((Un)Holy Body Furnace) to her soak and Hardness until the beginning of her next turn. An attack that fails to deal damage to her while she benefits from this does not levy any onslaught penalty, and enemies gain no benefit from using the Chopping, Piercing or Smashing tags against her until the effect ends. Upon acquiring the Martial Artist ((Un)Holy Body Furnace) merit, all of the stylists Intimacies relating to basic vices and desires and to ambitions that may hurt others increase their strength by one step.

Jade Tomb Style

When the Amber Lady, notorious swordmistress and sorceress, fled from her assailants into the mountains of An-Teng, she came across a long-forgotten crypt. This strange tomb was overgrown with vines that her shining blade easily cut away, and from within came the sound of a million bee-wings humming in unison - for within the tomb, amongst its beautiful walls inlaid with jade, vast hives filled the inner spaces. The Amber Lady knew the secrets of the bees and so hid amongst them unharmed, but her would-be assassins were less fortunate. When the Lady's students crept out from hiding and came to find her, she met them at the tomb's entrance and stated that this would now be the home of their martial sect. Upon the walls of the ancient tomb, beyond the hives, she had found old teachings detailing a martial style of brilliant grace, a manual written on jade tablets, and the Amber Lady desired its mastery.

The Jade Tomb style, as it has become known, is an aesthetically beautiful and lethal sword-art but it is ultimately incomplete - some of the manual's jade tablets are missing. Practitioners wear long, flowing garments and move with swift, wave-like motions that set the strips of silk dancing in a confusing cascade of ripples. It's a disorienting and confusing style to fight, but much of its more aggressive stances and strikes are on the lost tablets. The Amber Lady has grudgingly woven some of the Amber Bee style's sword strikes into what she teaches her followers, although she resolutely reserves the occult style's more powerful secrets for herself. Now, Jade Tomb sect adepts travel far and wide on the trail of the missing tablets, duelling with distant martial sects and scouring ancient shrines for traces of the tablets' ultimate fates.

Jade Tomb style is powerful but relatively new; almost all of its martial artists are the direct pupils of the Amber Lady, a mortal sorceress and martial artist from An-Teng, and her personal disciples have taught few others. Created in the Shogunate Era and patched together with the recent (and vicious) techniques of the Amber Lady, the style could potentially make the sorceress a significant regional player if she could gather all of the missing parts. Unfortunately for the sect, looters sold the tablets to various buyers over a century ago - including collectors, other martial sects and, in one case, a tablet was apparently included as part of An-Teng's tribute to the Scarlet Empire.

Jade Tomb stylists have a poor reputation. In the South-West, many of the martial schools and sects have grudges or feuds with the arrogant Amber Lady for her depredations in earlier years as she sought to plunder whatever occult secrets she could get her hands on. Beyond that region, too many Jade Tomb agents reflect their mistress's arrogance and try to take missing tablets through demands or by force. The Amber Lady considers the ugly to be beneath her notice, and so her acolytes are often startlingly beautiful individuals, but this can only take them so far in the pursuit of the tablets. A small number of wiser, humbler stylists exist, but find their task to be greatly harder due to their arrogant brothers and sisters of the sect.

Style Weapons: Short sword, straight sword and needles.

Style Armour: Unarmoured only.

Style Benefit: Whenever the stylist is attacked, she suffers the onslaught penalty for that attack only against the DV that she defended with. This means that she has separate onslaught totals for her Evasion and her Parry; a Jade Tomb stylist shifts between the two defences for maximum effect. Additionally, she gains access to the Disarming and Piercing tags on all style weapons.

Lion-Breaking Hero (Villain) Style

The Lion-Breaking Hero style is an infamous martial art in the East and South. Its origins are virtuous, created by a simple villager faced with ravening lions that preyed upon his people and his herds. Though a mortal man, the famed Mulangasu carefully planned and formulated a series of techniques relying on his great strength and sturdy frame, before unlocking the true power of the Lion-Breaking Hero style by - if the tales are to be believed - literally grappling and choking a marauding lion to death. Using his newfound power, he drove the other lions away and finally challenged the maddened lion god behind the attacks. The spirit cursed Mulangasu in vengeance - for every man or woman taught the noble art that defeated it, the style would find its way to an unrighteous villain as well.

Lion-Breaking Hero style is focused around grabs, throws and chokes, in particular for keeping a weapon or claw pinned and unusable against the grappler. The style demands significant body strength rather than speed or agility and, traditionally, is performed not only unarmoured but more or less unclothed to give an opponent minimum possible purchase for a grab or grapple. Through contemplation and meditation, the style also allows the practitioner to draw on reserves of strength well beyond their normal capability.

Lion-Breaking Hero stylists are often righteous men and women possessing great physical prowess, wandering the regions where civilisation and wilds border and using their might to aid and protect the weak, However, a righteous practitioner only teaches it to a pupil who will truly use it for noble cause, and always with a heavy heart. The lion god's curse means that as soon as a pupil masters the style, someone somewhere who has unrighteous intent or villainous desire immediately gains mastery of it as well. Worse, they gain a Major Intimacy at that moment to see out and slay other practitioners of the style. In Harborhead, homeland of the style, a small sect of heroes donning lion furs as cloaks are trying to track down and kill such villainous practitioners before they can cause too much damage, and endeavour to set up a proper school in Mulangasu's memory. However, the volatile nature of Harborhead and the tendency of Lion-Breaking Heroes to strive against tyrants and oppressors has led to the Realm vigourously opposing the sect, to the point where a small band of Lion-Breaking Villain stylists have been given Imperial sanction by the governor. These rogues work against their own people, helping to suppress rebellions and hunt down their opposite numbers.

In the far North, something strange has happened. Faced with a ravening, man-eating beast from the frigid wastes, a young woman has spontaneously developed a powerful martial style of grapples, throws and chokes, letting her draw on strength far beyond her normal capability. She has no idea why this has happened or how, but having slain the bear-like predator, she plans to teach her revelation to others. Even as she does so, though, vengeful bear spirits descend upon her village's foes and mutter the self same secrets into their ears…

Style Weapons: Unarmed attacks, cestuses, clubs and tiger claws

Style Armour: Unarmoured.

Style Benefit: A Lion-Breaking Hero stylist adds one automatic success to any grapple gambit or control roll made with the Martial Art (Lion-Breaking Hero) ability, and adds 1 to her DV against grapple gambits. Attacks with natural or light weapons made by a victim caught in such a grapple suffer a -2 penalty rather than the usual -1.

Seven Steel Palms Style

The schools of the Seven Steel Palms, mostly concentrated in the North and North-East, are notorious for their harsh and merciless philosophies. Lauding strength, deriding weakness, Seven Steel Palms stylists believe in a variety of closely-related doctrines and tenets centred round the idea of the world as a forge in which the body and soul are beaten into shape. Stylists gather into ordered, hierarchical sects where everyone has their place firmly and brutally established, with advancement based on power and prowess. Rumours circle of horrifically punishing training regimens and bitter lessons, and the haughty cruelty of the style's practitioners only lends credence to them. There is no place on this path for the weak.

Learning the Seven Steel Palms is agonising. It is an uncompromising, aggressive style with hard strikes that can cripple and maim, and achieving the full potential the style offers requires that the practitioner make her own sacrifices. The least of these are the relentless, repeated kata that harden the hands through endless blows against stone pillars; the style also involves tempering the flesh and inner essence through acupuncture and herbal treatments that dull and ultimately kill most sensation in the hands - particularly that of pain. Further treatments of Essence chakras and nerve clusters deaden irritating senses such as pleasure, compassion or sympathy further. The perfected Seven Steel Palms stylist turns his body into a weapon directed purely by his will; the greatest practitioners are reputed to be able to catch or even break swords with their bare hands.

The Seven Steel Palms were originally developed by seven sages who allegedly achieved immortality and enlightenment through battling with one another, teaching the style to their closest acolytes before ascending to Heaven. Now, the seven great temples of the sect gather dozens of initiates every year, including tithes of recruits from some warlords and princes who want their own followers trained in the style. Seven Steel Palms stylists often possess precisely the brand of ruthlessness that makes them valued lieutenants and advisers to harsh or beleaguered rulers, and so the sect elders have students in positions of influence across the region.

Most stylists are viewed with fear by the common folk; an insulted or angry Seven Steel Palms master can quite easily cripple or kill anyone who irritates her, and few hesitate to do so if riled. The vaunted power and cruelty of the sect pales before the supernatural might of the Dragon-Blooded, however, and the sect elders have a standing policy of appeasing whichever Realm interested interfere with their area of influence and doing everything possible to turn the attention of the Exalted aside. This has recently suffered a significant set-back, though,as Barren Peak, the western-most of the seven great temples, has been condemned by a Dragon-Blooded Magistrate as being a nest of Yozi cultists. What will happen next isn't yet clear; the Magistrate is gathering forces to assault Barren Peak, where rumours fly of sorcerers amongst the cult conjuring up demons for its defence. The rest of the sect is frantically distancing itself from the Western branch, and its fearsome reputation is suffering in the process.

Style Weapons: Unarmed attacks.

Style Armour: Unarmoured, light or medium armour.

Style Benefit: A Seven Steel Palms stylist can apply the Chopping, Disarming, Piercing and Smashing tags to her unarmed attacks. Furthermore, she can deal Lethal damage with her unarmed attacks and, during any turn following an attack with the ability, she reduces any Wound Penalties she is suffering by 1.

Shattered Tongue Style

The foe-smiting priests of the Shattered Tongue claim to be the guardians of ancient wisdom and wardens against ancient evil. In a past age, so the cult’s tenets have it, the founders took the heart of a majestic yet terrible divinity in order to keep it banished and sealed away. This heart was a tablet upon which divine sutras were engraved. The righteous priests took their maces and shattered the tablet, before scattering to all the corners of Creation with a piece each. From the wisdom on the tablets, the cult gained great learning and enlightenment, yet always they have had to keep watch to ensure that the pieces are never brought together again – nor that they are destroyed, which would also release the crippled, primeval evil into the world as well.

Shattered Tongue style is a balanced art, combining powerful strikes with swift footwork. Practitioners are taught to be proud and stand tall, to not flinch before adversity and never seem anything less than confident of victory; every battle should be a chance to impart the wisdom and prowess of the divine sutra that the practitioner has learned. Speaking and breath are vital parts of the style’s techniques, using focusing words and aphorisms to emphasise the stylist enforcing her will on the world. Ultimately, when she strikes, she is expected to do so with overwhelming force that leaves the foe in no doubt of their impending defeat.

Another Each branch of the temple possesses a handful of different words and phrases from their piece of the divine tablet. Due to the importance of the cult’s task, sifus of the style seek the most upright and virtuous men and women to take on the mantle of guarding the tablets. Shattered Tongue priests live in austere manner, focusing on their spiritual development and greater understanding of the divine wisdom behind their particular pieces of the ancient litany. Priests are utterly forbidden from exchanging this wisdom with members of a different temple, lest the litany ever become complete once again.

The sect has several long-running feuds with other martial schools simply due to the interactions between practitioners over the centuries, but it also has to remain vigilant against demonic cultists who seek to steal its sacred treasures. Other interested parties seeking the occult secrets of the sutra would also try and steal them away - rumours circulate of Shattered tongue priests who have achieved immortality, are capable of incredible supernatural feats or who have ascended to Heaven itself, and such power is a lure. The Shattered Tongue is not pursuing an endless task, however; it has an end goal in mind. Eventually, a sage of each branch will come to true mastery of that branch’s fragment, freeing the divine wisdom in question from the malign taint of its originator and causing the fragment to collapse into nothingness. This has already occurred several times in the farthest reaches of Creation, each time permanently weakening the slumbering evil whose heart the litany serves as. However, as the sect slowly diminishes, so it becomes easier for the few remaining fragments to be reunited, unleashing a lessened but still wrathful horror on the world.

Style Weapons: Unarmed attacks, cestuses, maces, tetsubos.

Style Armour: Unarmoured or light armour.

Style Benefit: A Shattered Tongue stylist may use the Smashing tag without spending Initiative when making an attack with the Martial Art (Shattered Tongue) ability. Additionally, the stylist does not suffer the usual flurry penalties when flurrying a Martial Art (Shattered Tongue) attack and a Linguistics-based action.

Swooping Heron Style

The Swooping Heron sect of Haven produces renowned sohei, practitioners of the monastery's signature style adapted to the vertical nature of Haven's cliff-wall streets and the rocking, narrow battlefield of ship-to-ship boarding actions. Heron stylists are famed for the lethal grace of their naginata, their incredible sense of balance and the strong adherence to justice and fairness that the sect philosophy espouses. Although sect elders attempt to keep the order focused inwards on self-perfection and enlightenment, the troubles of Haven or the tumult of other nations inevitably impinges on the monastery's solitude.

The Swooping Heron style is unbelievably fast given the size and lethality of the polearms involves. Heron stylists keep constantly on the move, ideally using the vertical as well as the horizontal against the foe - leaping from above, striking up from lower platforms or even running up walls to outmanoeuvre the enemy. The style places great value on reflex training, as the practitioner needs to be able to manage a perfect balance between the weight of her weapon and the impetus of her own movement. Once achieved, this balance lets the sohei unleash deadly, stabbing strikes from unexpected angles as well as scything sweeps that can carve through groups of enemies with ease. A fellowship of Swooping Heron sohei clearing the deck of a pirate ship is frankly terrifying to behold.

Most Swooping Hawk practitioners come from the Heron monks of Haven and, being a monastic life, it espouses a distancing from material connections that drives off many would-be pupils of the art. A few splinters and smaller sects teach unorthodox variants of the style across the Dreaming Sea. Since stylists are highly valued by naval captains from all the varied empires of the region, a stylist has no trouble finding employ aon the sea. Some heretic sects even sell their services to marauders and reavers.

The origins of the order are attributed to several founding martial artists who sought to emulate the heron in forming a new animal style, and who came to Haven shortly after the Great Contagion had reduced the once-grand city to little more than an empty shell. One of the monastery's great heroes crafted several wondrous weapons for heroes of the Dreaming Sea in the early years of the Scarlet Empire, temporarily gaining the sect great fame and renown for his works; at least one glaive of his work is in the monastery's armoury. Curiously, while perfectly designed for use with the sect's style, the weapon is far too heavy for any mortal practitioner to actually wield as it is built from jade.

Style Weapons: Unarmed attacks and polearms.

Style Armour: Unarmoured or light armour.

Style Benefit: A Swooping Heron stylist may use the Chopping tag without spending Initiative when attacking with the Martial Art (Swooping Heron) ability and, when using the tag, adds the Size of any battlegroup she is attacking as bonus Withering damage dice.

Thousand Points Style

The ancient temples of the Thousand Points cult in the near-North regions have storied lineages going back to the earliest days of the Shogunate, The sect follows a philosophy of martial perfection unhampered by guilt, fear or other such emotional frailties, sacrificing individuality to render the the warrior part of a greater whole. Those who follow the art subsume themselves into the soldier fraternity, becoming one point amongst a thousand in perfect unity. Once, the Thousand Points temples worshipped gods and demons in their pursuit of destroying the self, but the Immaculate Order bloodily excised and purged these heresies many centuries ago.

Thousand Points style is serviceable enough as a spear-based fighting tradition when performed by a single martial artist, but every part of the style is designed to interlock with the actions of other warrior-practitioners to form a greater whole. The most basic practices work best performed alongside another stylist, while more advanced forms can be achieved by giving up as much independent thought as possible in favour of instinctual and memory-drilled reactions that let the stylist act in unison with any number of fellow fighters. An entire band of Thousand Points practitioners becomes a single-minded entity in action, unleashing techniques such as the Hundred Strikes Together or the Eight Directions Drag with unnatural co-ordination.

The cult of the Thousand Points offers anyone a chance at a new start, of losing their individual history to become part of the temples' greater whole. Initiates even set aside their old name, taking on a new one indicative of their rank. The intervention of the Immaculate faith that removed the cult's old patrons replaced them with worship of the Elemental Dragons, and crudely stitched a new philosophical rationale - that practitioners are low on the ladder of reincarnation but that by purging themselves of all self and serving temple and Immaculates, they purify their souls for their next reincarnation.

The temples are thoroughly under the control of the Immaculate Order in the modern age. Thousand Point bands are sometimes assigned to Wyld Hunts and to monks undertaking Order business in the north, but increasingly the temple 'exports' its services to Immaculates going further afield. Occasionally old, heretical splinters of the Thousand Points turn up, usually worshiping demons or similar malign entities. Rumours say that the greatest masters of the style actually shed their names and personalities entirely, becoming mysterious ciphers capable of turning up in any army anywhere, often taking crucial steps to ensure that a battle turns out according to their enigmatic desires

Style Weapons: Spear.

Style Armour: Any armour.

Style Benefit: A Thousand Points stylist may use the Piercing tag on her Martial Art (Thousand Points) attacks without spending a point of Initiative. If fighting as a battle-group of practitioners, Thousand Points stylists add the Size of the battlegroup to the amount of soak that their Piercing attacks with the ability ignore, as well as to any dice pools to resist fear.

Venom Moth Style

The nefarious Venom Moth sect stalks amongst courts and tea-houses in beautiful gowns and behind masks of bright powder and make-up, preferring to hide their lethal nature behind beauty to better entrance the prey. Branches of the sect exist in both the near-East and in the West, each practicing their own interpretation of the style. The two schools are technically at odds with one another, but simple geographical distance prevents this old feud - sparked by bad blood between the twin brothers who founded the style - from having any real fire to it. On rare occasions, Venom Moth assassins cross each others' paths in the Realm but tend to circle each other warily rather than attempt to settle such old, abstract scores. Venom Moths are feared, respected but never trusted, acknowledged as masters of poisonous arts and dark secrets best left in their care.

The Venom Moth style is simple and elegant, focused around speed, misdirection and efficient killing. Moth stylists practice the Flitting Wing Gesture, honing their fine reflexes and muscle memory to incredible levels so that they can outpace almost any opponent in those first, vital moments of a fight. The style focuses on small, concealable weapons and the use of various exotic poisons; practitioners hold that there is no need to fight fair or, ideally, for the enemy to know they are in a fight at all. Rather than garb chosen for stealth, Venom Moths lean towards bright colours and refined materials to give the appearance of a noblewoman or ranking bureaucrat. Their gaudy garb and facepaint is more than just an affectation; Moths tend to treat themselves with antidotes for various powdered poisons that they dust their clothes with, or oily venoms that they smear on their cheeks an lips, so that a mere brush of cloth or light kiss might bring low an enemy. In gatherings with other martial artists, Venom Moths stand out starkly.

Venom Moth schools are well-hidden and well-defended, both physically and socially; the sect's elders dwell in both hidden mountain monasteries and in serene city residences, with the efforts of allied nobles and officials put to keeping unwanted attention away. The sect is best known for its practitioners work as assassins for hire, but stylists also trade in favours and information relating to the upper and richer classes of the societies through which they move. Recruits are usually orphans or abandoned children taken in by the sect then given a place in the world, alongside the very best social and martial training; as a result, members are surprisingly loyal to the sect for their duplicitous and cunning personalities. The sect has won some admiration among other marital practitioners for acquiring a number of occult objects or secrets of dubious nature - usually associated with malevolent sorcerers the cult has assassinated - and then locking them away rather than drawing on the dark temptations that they represent.

There is a dark secret to the mastery of the Venom Moth style. To truly unlock its potential, the stylist must suffer grief and loss; she must be hurt not physically, but emotionally. This loss cannot be faked or artificially imposed by the sect. This is why it tends to recruit those who have lost their parents, having already experienced the tragedy or loss needed to unlock the deeper Essence flows that the Flitting Wing Gesture draws upon. Other recruits are often let loose into the world for a while and encouraged to live, love and experience what they can fully; the sect assumes they will inevitably experience tragedy or have their heart broken. For those who find happiness beyond the sect's walls, the Venom Moths wish them well and let them be, although are quick to remind them of old allegiances if a favour is needed. The entire style's foundation is based on the grievous split between the two brothers whose feud first created the rival East and West branches; if this rift were ever healed, the entire style would lose its power.

Style Weapons: Unarmed attacks, knives, darts, needles and shuriken.

Style Armour: Unarmoured.

Style Benefit: A Venom Moth stylist who beats all of her opponents on the Join Battle roll may immediately launch a Withering or Decisive attack with a light weapon before the first round begins. Additionally, her unarmed attacks gain the Poisonable tag.

Vermillion Chains Style

The Vermillion Chains style originated in the ports of the Inner Sea, first practiced by the brutal enforcers of the Crimson Spider Clan. This criminal cartel is said to have gotten its hands on something horrific dredged out of the sea, the carcass of a behemoth from some gods-forsaken age that had sometime survived the rigours of time. If rumour is true, the Clan's leaders ate of the behemoth's flesh and gained insight into the style. Now the style has spread, though it remains almost entirely in the hands of criminals, smugglers and lawbreakers.

Vermillion Chains style relies on a powerful, wide stance with oddly swinging movements of the limbs; the practice requires armour both because it supports the style's resilient approach to defence and because the stylist needs to protect herself from her own weapons. Hooks and chains wrap the forearms and lower legs, and the movements of these limbs allow the stylist to quickly strike out or reel the weapons back in from any of her extremities. The style largely focuses around pulling opponents off-guard so that they can be brutally lashed or flensed, it also builds the strength and reflexes needed to perform significant acts of athleticism even in heavier armour. A reputed schismatic sect has broken away from the Crimson Spider Clan and practices a lighter, faster form of the style, apparently having consumed some different part of the rotting behemoth that founded it.

Vermillion Chains practitioners are mostly decried as unorthodox, morally dubious sorts who are almost inevitably tied to organised crime. The style encourages the practitioner to revel in her physical power, to treat others as being akin to toys that can be dragged around and subjected to the stylist's desires. The sheer speed of the whirling, flickering chains and hooks makes it a visually striking style to observe, which only reinforces the reputation of the Crimson Spider Clan sifus and their students. The Clan is not interested in teaching just any old pupil - only those who serve the Clan, or who will owe it favour and who have the right connections that the cartel needs to draw upon.

While an extremely new style, some practitioners are already eager to pit themselves against more conventional martial artists to prove their superiority. Brash, swaggering thugs from the ports have started to challenge practitioners of other styles. As they do so, word of the style and its bizarre origins spread further through the martial world. Ambitious and powerful stylists of other sects now wonder whether they might steal away a gobbet of meat from the Crimson Spider Clan's hidden behemoth carcass to steal the style's power, or whether other behemoths and supernatural creatures might possess similar secrets in their flesh. Several have begun hunts for rare and exotic creatures in the hope of finding new secrets of external alchemy where their internal efforts have failed.

Style Weapons: Unarmed attacks, fighting chain and hook swords.

Style Armour: Medium or heavy armour.

Style Benefit: The Vermillion Chains stylist does not suffer a mobility penalty from her armour in any round following making an attack or gambit with the Martial Arts (Vermillion Chains) ability. If disarmed in the round following making such an attack she may reflexively draw a new weapon from amongst those coiled round her limbs. During a grapple where the stylist is using the Martial Art (Vermillion Chains) ability, the Restrain/Drag action costs her only one turn of grapple rather than two.

Wretched Vagrant Style

The typical Wretched Vagrant stylist doesn’t just look like a beggar, she is a beggar. This strange martial tradition grew up amongst beggars in the major ports of the Blessed Isle some few centuries ago, and has since spread to become perhaps the most powerful martial arts sect currently active around the Inner Sea. Wretched Vagrant stylists don’t embrace poverty out of a desire to detach themselves from the world’s passions, they’re just dirt poor – but they possess an incredible level of camaraderie and loyalty to the sect, along with the toughness and resilience imbued by a world that has never shown them mercy but has never broken their spirit.

The Wretched Vagrant style is designed to work with the sorts of tools that a beggar or wanderer is mostly likely to have to hand – cudgels, staves and the like, whether well-crafted or the leg of a broken bar stool. It’s a swift style based around rapid, beating strikes, leaning heavily towards giving opponents a bruising rather than killing them. A certain amount of misdirection and opportunistic resourcefulness is part and parcel of the style – Wretched Vagrants live by their wits and their street smarts, not just the rigid teachings of a martial practice.

Significant Wretched Vagrant clans exist in most major ports on the Inner Sea. These beggars and wanderers come together for mutual protection and to practice a surprisingly righteous code of behaviour, given their sheer poverty and place in the social totem pole. As a result, many a magnate has learned the hard way not to mistreat the poor too badly, lest some of the ruffians turn out to be sect members; no-one wants to be beaten like a dog then left trussed up outside the city hall for people to laugh at.

Wretched Vagrant clan members usually travel in groups - mess with one and you mess with all of them. Since a significant portion of the sect's membership keep on the move, it is sitting on a major network of information exchange across the Inner Sea. Some Vagrant stylists earn a trustworthy reputation as honourable couriers for other martial sects. Since fortunes wax and wane, plenty of stylists leave the beggar lifestyle eventually; they are called 'clean clothes brothers/sisters' by other Wretched Vagrant stylists, and are expected to help the clan extend its influence into areas of society where the ragged, uncouth beggars cannot usually go.

Style Weapons: Unarmed attacks, the seven-section staff, the staff and the club.

Style Armour: Unarmoured.

Style Benefit: A Wretched Vagrant stylist can flurry a Rush or Disengage action with a Martial Arts (Wretched Vagrant) attack without suffering the usual flurry penalty on either roll.

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