Kicking Ass: Fighting Styles and Weapon Skills

Choosing a “Fighting Style”

(Or, 9 possible approaches to kicking ass)

The Cinematic System has three kinds of skills: [1] the skills normal 3.5 characters have (like climb and sense motive), which we refer to as standard skills, [2] the skills characters develop as they move through childhood (like climb (trees) and social engineering), which we refer to as background skills, [3] and the skills characters develop in weapons and armor, which we refer to as weapon skills. Of course, background skills and weapon skills are new additions to character generation introduced by the Cinematic System. In this section we’re going to explain the concept of weapon skills, partly because they are relatively easy to understand (and we’ve thrown a lot at you up to now), and partly because certain background skills refer to them.

Weapon skills work just like standard skills. Just as standard skills can be improved by placing skill points in them, so to can weapon skills be improved by placing weapon skill points in them. Just like standard skills, the maximum ranks you can have in weapon skills is equal to your level plus three.

The starting number of weapon skill points a character has is based on two things: their base attack bonus (BAB), and their Cinematic
Fighting Style. There are 9 possible Fighting Styles in the Cinematic System, each one corresponding to an ability score (also known as a base stat): Strength, intelligence, Wisdom, Dexterity, Constitution, Charisma, Comeliness, Speed, and Luck. This ability score is referred to as the “relevant stat” of the Fighting Style. Players select one fighting style for their characters: the consequences of this choice is described below…

  • Fighting style based on “Strength”: This is the standard fighting style, and as such there are no consequences, good or bad, for choosing it.
  • Fighting style based on “Intelligence”: Characters who base their fighting styles on this stat tend to have read more about fighting than actually have practiced the art, and rely on memory, experience, and training. They have a -2 to hit any given specific subtype of foe they have not successfully attacked in the past (like green dragons, mutant beavers, ghosts, etc.). For creatures with class levels, these segregate out by class as well (so fighting mutant beaver druids would be different than mutant beaver barbarians). Each time an Intelligence-based fighter lands a blow against a specific subtype of opponent, their penalty reduces 1.
  • Fighting style based on “Wisdom”: Characters who base their fighting styles on this stat rely on common sense, patience, force of will, and habitus to carry them through combat. Wisdom-based fighters suffer 150% the usual combat penalties (round up) when in states that disembody them, such as when they are sickened, stunned, dazzled, dazed, nauseated, or shaken (assume that any state that imposes a penalty to hit might disembody them – if there is some dispute, the character can make Wisdom checks at a DM given DC). However, their non-proficiency penalties are reduced one when using weapons “similar” to those they have weapons skills in (that is, they are of the same weapon tight group, a concept we will discuss later).
  • Fighting style based on “Dexterity”: Characters relying on their Dexterity focus on natural ability, on coordination and fast reflexes, rather than on training or experience. They suffer a -2 to hit with weapons that have a relevant stat based on Strength (we’ll explain this later too): each time they successfully hit an opponent in-game, in actual combat (lethal or non-lethal) with these weapons, reduce the penalty 1.
  • Fighting style based on “Constitution”: Characters who base their fighting style on this stat rely on fitness, stamina, and athleticism to carry them to victory. They can fight for twice as long as usual before needing Constitution checks to avoid exhaustion (as per the obscure Constitutional Fatigue Effect rule), but suffer a +1 penalty to all weapon speed factors (as they tend to let their opponents act before them).
  • Fighting style based on “Charisma”: Characters relying on their Charisma draw strength from the force of their personality, on emotions to carry them through. These are the sort of people who scream after a slam dunk and dance like they’re on fire after a touchdown. Their base attack bonus is contextually modified by their role-played intensity level (the DM will adjust their opponent’s defense roll appropriately, usually between +2 and -2). Their non-proficiency penalty increases by -1 as well.
  • Fighting style based on “Comeliness”: Characters relying on this stat try to look good when they fight; it just so happens that while imitating good form they pick up some positive traits. These characters likely used their good looks to get free training, or were placed in advanced military positions because they looked like confident, capable warriors. They suffer an extra -1 non-proficiency penalty, and battle as much with their egos as with their actual foes: each time they miss an opponent in combat, they suffer a cumulative -1 to hit that specific opponent. Each time they successfully strike an opponent in combat, they gain a cumulative +1 to hit. They can reset these bonuses and penalties to zero by spending a standard action and by passing a DC 20 Wisdom or Comeliness check.
  • Fighting style based on “Speed”: These characters rely on fast motion rather than learned accuracy. They tend to fatigue quicker in a fight, and can only fight for half as long as non-speed-based combatants before tiring. However, they can trade bonuses to hit (accuracy) for reductions in their weapon speed: for every -1 penalty they take on to hit rolls, they gain a -2 bonus on weapon speed factors for the round. They can take as great a penalty to hit as their Speed stat modifier.
  • Fighting style based on “Luck”: These characters rely on the factors of chance, on fate to somehow give them the opportunities they need to win. The skill points they receive can be thought of as a kind of Karma or “natural skill” rather than any real result of training. When these characters roll natural 1’s on attack or defense rolls, treat the roll as a -15 (rather than a -10), and when they roll natural 20s for these kinds of rolls treat them as a 35. These characters suffer an extra -2 non-proficiency penalty as well.

Once a player has chosen one of the 9 fighting styles, and once they know what their character’s BAB is going to be, they can use the following formula to calculate their starting number of weapon skill points


Where XW = 1 for the best BAB progression (like that of Fighters), 2 for the second best (like Clerics), and 3 for the worst BAB progression (like Wizards), and 4 for non-combatants (like NPC farmers). Let’s call Xthe weapon skill point constant.

The bottom line is this: if we couldn’t have THACO and negative numbers in the Cinematic System, we’re absolutely @#$%-ing adding some basic algebra.

Thus, if your character’s fighting style is based on Luck, and it has a Luck of 17, and it is a Cleric, it has ( [3 + 4] * 2) / 2 or 7 starting weapon skill points. A character with a fighting style based on a stat with a modifier of +4, with the best BAB, has ( [4 + 4] * 2) / 1 or 16 weapon skill points.

Typically, a player will select a fighting style according to where their character’s highest stat is (to maximize their initial number of weapon skill points). Feel free to avoid this kind of “max-maxing” (we dare you).

“Ok, so I have weapon skill points, now what…”

Each weapon and armor in the Cinematic System (that is, each weapon available to characters in your campaign) has its own weapon skill. The ranks a character has in any particular weapon or armor equates with certain benefits – these benefits are based on a collage of weapon progressions from earlier editions of the game (think specialization!), certain 3.5 feats (many of which no longer work with this system), and what seemed logical to us. While it would be interesting to have a separate rank-progression table for each weapon or armor in the game, we didn’t go that far (really). We developed rank-progression tables for the following weapon/armor categories: Melee Weapon, Pole Weapon, Bow Weapon, Crossbow Weapon, Pellet Bow Weapon, Thrown Weapon, Sling Weapon, Blow Weapon, Boomerang, Offensive Spell, Offensive Power, Firearm, Natural Weapon, Light Armor, Medium Armor, Heavy Armor, Force Armor, Natural Armor, Defensive Shield and Offensive Shield. These are lumped into the Cinematic supplement we call (and you can click on this title to go to the item) Cinematic Weapon Skills.

One of the more interesting aspects of weapon skills in 2nd Edition (they were called weapon proficiencies) was the inclusion of weapon groups. A weapon group is a group of weapons that are so similar, knowing how to use one would give insight into how to use them all. There were two kinds of weapon groups: broad groups (like “pole weapons”), and tight groups (like “short blades”). Broad groups naturally had more weapons “in” them, and were thus more “expensive” to study (they cost more weapon proficiency slots) than tight groups.

The Cinematic System embraces the concept of weapon groups. By spending three weapon skill points, you can “buy” 1 rank in a tight group of weapons. By spending six weapon skill points, you can purchase 1 rank in a broad group of weapons. If you have X ranks in weapon group, you are considered to have X ranks in each weapon in the group. These ranks stack with any ranks you may have in an individual weapon. Thus, if you had 1 rank in the broad weapon group “blades” (which includes most daggers and swords), and 4 ranks in longsword, you “actually” have 5 ranks in longsword. This weapon group rank-stacking-effect allows characters to get around the usual [level + 3] maximum ranks in a skill per level. A starting level one character could have 4 ranks in longsword and 4 ranks in broad group blades (if they happened to have 28 weapon skill points to spend) – notice that each individual skill abides by the max-ranks rule.

There are three kinds of armor broad groups as well – light, medium, and heavy. Achieving 1 rank in broad group light armor requires 6 weapon skill points. Armor tight groups might exist at the whim of the DM as well, combining up to 5 or 6 kinds of armor (usually in the same light, medium, or heavy category) into a logical grouping. For example, there could exist tight group chain armors that combined chainmail, augmented mail, bar mail, double mail, and chain hauberk into one category. As you might expect, achieving 1 rank in tight group chain armors would cost 3 weapon skill points. Other obvious tight groups would include tight group plate armors (combining full plate, field plate, three-quarters plate, plate mail, mail and plate, and half plate armoUrs), and tight group vestment armors (combining heavy coat, padded, quilted, jack coat, and leather armors).

The weapon broad and tight groups appear at the end of this chapter. Note that the Hodgepodge Tight Grouping feat allows characters to throw together and define their own “tight” weapon groups. The Cinematic System uses a unique set of weapons and armor available in these documents (you can click on them assuming we’ve got our @#$% together): Cinematic Weapon Notes and Cinematic Armor Notes.

There is a “conversion rate” between standard skill points and weapon skill points that is a function of base attack bonus. Characters with the best BAB (like rangers), can freely exchange weapon skill points for standard skill points (or vice versa) at a 1:1 ratio. Characters with the second-best BAB (like druids) have to spend 2 of one kind of skill point to get 1 of the other. Thus, a druid could spend 2 general skill points to buy 1 rank in longsword, or spend 2 weapon skill points to gain 1 rank in knowledge (religion). If this same druid wanted to raise a cross-class skill 1 rank using weapon skill points, she would have to spend 4 weapon skill points for 1 rank in the cross-class skill. Character with the worst BAB get really screwed: they have to spend 3 of one kind of skill point to get 1 of the other. Thus, a wizard would need to spend 3 standard skill points to gain 1 rank in dagger. It is worth noting that none of the weapon skills are cross-class for anyone. Also, standard skill points and weapon skill points never convert to background skill points (or vice versa).

You might be wondering: “How many weapon skill points do I get when I raise level?” This is also related to BAB: characters with the best BAB get 3 weapon skill points when they level, characters with the second-best gain 2, and those with the worst BAB gain only 1 weapon skill point per level.

You might also be wondering: “Does the usual -4 to hit non-proficiency penalty apply when a Cinematic System character uses a weapon they don’t have at least one rank in?” Answer: “sort of..” When using a weapon you don’t have at least 1 rank in, your non-proficiency penalty is equal to 5 – [the number of weapon skill points you get per level]. Thus, wizards have a – 4 non-proficiency penalty [5 – 1 = 4] and rangers have a -2 non-proficiency penalty. If for some reason a character were able to gain more weapon skill points per level (as with the More Weapon Skill Points feat), their non-proficiency penalty does not recalculate.

Unit Quiz: “Train A leaves Chicago carrying a level 6 Ranger with a fighting style based on Speed, a 12 Wisdom, a 16 Speed, and a magical sword +1, +3 versus complex rule systems. How many weapon skill points does the Ranger have when train B slams into his train, assuming his player wasn’t cheating?” Answer: 14 + [6 times 3] = 32.

“Key Abilities” for weapons: According to the standard rules, melee weapon hit rolls are modified by Strength and ranged weapon hit rolls are modified by Dexterity. In the Cinematic System, each individual weapon has a “key ability” associated with it which modifies a character’s hit rolls with that weapon. Whip, for example, is a Dexterity-based weapon, and a character’s Dexterity modifies their hit rolls with whips. Strength is still used as the basis for all weapon damage bonuses, except for those rare weapons (such as “Orkish War Jart”) that use Luck as their “key ability” (these also use a character’s Luck score to calculate damage bonus). The addition of a “key ability” for weapons evolved naturally out of the concept of weapon skills.

Miscellaneous weapon skill rules: The background skills archery, brawling, fencing, jousting, and wrestling can be improved with either background skill points, or with weapon skill points.

Remember – this section won’t make as much sense without the following other documents (you can click on these titles): Cinematic Weapon Skills, Cinematic Weapon Notes,
and Cinematic Armor Notes.

Back to the Cinematic System Chapter List

Weapon Broad Group Examples
Broad Group 0: None Ball and Chain, Bolas, Garrote, Pry Bar, Sap..
Broad Group 1: Cleaving/Crushing Battle Axe, Chain Flail, Club, Hand Axe, Sledge hammer
Broad Group 2: European/American Blades Bastard Sword, Bowie Knife, Claymore, Machete, Sabre
Broad Group 3: Pole Weapons Awl Pike, Chinese Hoe, Glaive, Halberd, Incan Bill Hook
Broad Group 4: Chain/Rope Combination Weapons Chain (Long), Chijikiri, Kawanga, Kusari-Gama, Nunchaku
Broad Group 5: Small Thrown Weapons African Throwing Knife, Chakram, Dagger (Thrown), Dart, Uchi-Ne
Broad Group 6: Arabic/Indian Blades Assamese Dao, Great Scimitar, Katar, Scimitar, Tulwar
Broad Group 7: Monk Weapons Bo Staff, Dragon Whisper Fork, Gold Coin Spade, Jitte, Tambo
Broad Group 8: Arena Weapons Cestus, Cleaver Sword, Lajatang, Madu, Whip
Broad Group 9: Special Campaign (Archelonia) Weapons Bi-Rapier, Druid’s Warclub, Horgard Sword, Longblade, Radial Blade
Broad Group 10: Asian Blades Dadao, Katana, Kris, Ninjato, Wakizashi
Broad Group 11: African Blades Flyssa Sword, Kaskara Sword, Khopesh Sword, Masai Sword, Telek Dagger
Broad Group 12: Pacific Island/Inuit/Iroquois Weapons Cane knife, Dao-Axe, Gilbert Island Shark-Tooth Sword, Tewhatewha, Weet-Weet
Broad Group 13: Black Powder Weapons Arquebus, Blunderbuss, Caliver, Flintlock Musket, Gun Shield
Broad Group 14: Pre-Metal Industry Weapons Antler Dirk, Celt, Iuak, Massim Sword Club, Tecpatl
Broad Group 15: Bows and Crossbows Longbow, Roman Arcus Bow, Chu-Ko-Nu, Crossbow, Pellet Bow
Broad Group 16: Large Thrown Weapons Falarica (Javelin), Harpoon, Pilum, Trident (Thrown), Manriki
Broad Group 17: Non-Bow Device Propelled Projectiles Blowgun, Chain of Maglax Orb, Hawaiian Braided Sling, Spun dart, Swiss Arrow
Broad Group 18: Ninja Weapons Kawanga, Kyoketsu-Shogi, Ninjato, Sai, Surujin
Broad Group 19: ?? Something YOU create!
Weapon Tight Group Examples
Tight Group 0: None Chain Brush (no shit), Cindai, Frying Pan (Combat), Iron Rings, Sap
Tight Group 1: Axes Bhuj, Hatchet, Mace-Axe, Ono Axe, Tomahawk
Tight Group 2: Clubs Eskrima Stick, Iroquois Club, Pry Bar, Tetsubo, Wahaika
Tight Group 3: Fencing Blades Cutlass, Estoc, Fencing Foil, Main-Gauche, Small Sword
Tight Group 4: Flails Chigiriki, Dire Flail, Flail (Heavy Ball), Flail (Light Ball), Grain Flail
Tight Group 5: Lances Lance (Contus), Lance (Heavy), Lance (Medium), Lance (Light), Longblade (Light)
Tight Group 6: Long European/Am. Blades Apa Sword, Balic Island Sword, Boar Sword, Flamberge, Longsword
Tight Group 7: Short European/Am. Blades Dagger, Dirk, Drusis, Gladius, Kopis Blade
Tight Group 8: Picks Farming Pick, Hakapik, Nanban Hachiwari, Pick, Toki
Tight Group 9: Spears Angon, Boarding Pike, Maori Stingray Spear, Sarissa, Spear (Heavy)
Tight Group 10: Sickles Falx, Kama, Scythe, Sickle, War Scythe
Tight Group 11: Whips Bullwhip, Cat O’ Nine Tails, Coach Whip, Signal Whip, Snake Whip
Tight Group 12: Poleaxes Bardiche, Bec de Corbin, Dolorie Axe, Halberd, Voulge
Tight Group 13: Spear Family Pole Arms Chancing Staff, Partisan, Ranseur, Spontoon, Yari (Kata-Kama)
Tight Group 14: Glaive/Bill Type Pole Arms Atgeirr, Bill (English), Fauchard, Glaive-Guisarme, Incan Bill Hook
Tight Group 15: Forks Bident, Military Fork, Sai, Trident, Wolf Teeth Fork
Tight Group 16: Agricultural Weapons Adze, Brishing Hook, Dolabra, Falx, Spade (Combat)
Tight Group 17: Hand Augmentation Arms Cestus, Gaff Hook, Karambit, Katar, Trench Dagger
Tight Group 18: Staves Bo Staff, Eku, Jo Staff, Monkey King Staff, Quarterstaff
Tight Group 19: Chains Chain Spear, Chui (linked), Kau Sin Ke, Meteor Hammer, Tabak-Toyok
Tight Group 20: Curved Arabic/Indian Blades Corvo Knife, Jambiya, Khanjar, Nagan Blade, Scimitar
Tight Group 21: Bows Assyrian Bow, Daikyū, Kenyan Longbow, Longbow, Turkish Bow
Tight Group 22: Crossbows Chu-Ko-Nu, Crossbow (Heavy), Disc Crossbow, Gastraphetes, Skane Lockbow
Tight Group 23: Throwing Blades African Throwing Knife, Dagger (Thrown), Flyssa Sword (Thrown), Thrombash, Throwing Knife
Tight Group 24: Thrown Pole Weapons Angon, Falarica (Javelin), Harpoon, Pilum, Vel Javelin
Tight Group 25: Star Shurikens and Chakrams Chakram, Cymbal, Iron Rings, Shaken, Star Shuriken
Tight Group 26: Boomerang / Throwing Sticks Boomerang, Hopi Throwing Stick, Weet-Weet, Etc.
Tight Group 27: Athasian Arena Weapons Crusher, Datchi Club, Gouge, Master’s Whip, Weighted Pike
Tight Group 28: Slings Kestros, Sling, Slingshot, Staff Sling, Whip Bow
Tight Group 29: Spun Rope/Chain Projectiles Flying Guillotine, Manriki, Slungshot, Spun Dart, Etc.
Tight Group 30: Darts Dart (Generic), Dart (Harpoon), Dart (War), Plumbata, Etc.
Tight Group 31: Blown Tube Weapons Blowgun, Fukibari (Mouth), Metsubishi (Blowbox), Monk’s Flute, Sakai Blowgun (Pellet Shot)
Tight Group 32: Pellet Bows/Crossbows Burmese Pellet Bow, Pellet Bow (1 string), Pellet Bow (2 string), Pellet Crossbow (Lead Shot or High Tech)
Tight Group 33: Angled-Forward Blades Adya Katti Sword, Falcata Blade, Falchion, Khopesh Sword, Kukri
Tight Group 34: Hand Match Firearms Bâton A Feu, Hand-Cannon, Pot-de-Fer (Fantasy), Etc.
Tight Group 35: Matchlock Firearms Bandukh Torador, Bastard Musket, Breach-Loading Matchlock, Revolving Matchlock, Etc.
Tight Group 36: Wheellock Firearms Gun Shield, “Dag” Pistol, Light Wheelock Pistol, Wheelock Carbine, Etc.
Tight Group 37: Snaplock Firearms English Six-Shot Snaphance Revolver, Pedrenyal Longpistol
Tight Group 38: Flintlock Firearms Blunderbuss (Coach Defender), Doglock Pistol, Flintlock Musket (Generic), Flintlock Volley Gun
Tight Group 39: Ahlspiess Family Pole Arms Ahlspiess, Goedendag, Pilum (Heavy and Light), Etc.
Tight Group 40: Japanese Blades Cron Warblade, Kaiken, Katana, Kogai, Tanto
Tight Group 41: Chinese Blades Dadao, Dao (Elephant), Dao (Nine Ring), Rooster Blade, Warring States Era Sword (Long)
Tight Group 42: Asian Pole Arms Bisento, Flying Fork, Guan Dao, Naginata, Woldo (we know where it is..)
Tight Group 43: Ork Fantasy Weapons Cleaver Sword, Double Hammer, Ironfang Dreadsword, Orkish Lawn Dart, Orion’s Dragon Axe
Tight Group 44: Southeast Asian Blades Barong Blade, Dha Sword, Kalis (Long), Kris, Urumi
Tight Group 45: Cloth-Based Weaponry Cindai, Net (Barbed), Net (Large), Tension Cloth, Etc.
Tight Group 46: Spun Ropes Dragon Beard Hook, Flying Weight, Kawanga, Rope Dart, Surujin
Tight Group 47: Half-Moon Weapons Bat’leth, Lajatang, Monk’s Spade, Sang Kauw, Sun Tooth Saber
Tight Group 48: Non-Lethal Pole Arms Goblin Stage Hook, Goblin Tripping Pole, Kakivak, Mancatcher, Etc.
Tight Group 49: Aztec/Mesoamerican/Incan Arms Huitzauhqui, Incan Bill Hook, Macana, Moche War-Mace, Macana
Tight Group 50: Hand-Held Arrow Weapons Emei Piercer, Fighting Iron, Hachiwara, Jitte, Yawara Stick
Tight Group 51: Proto-Swords Falx, Iuak, Malbar Chopper, Massim Sword Club, Otta (Curved Stick)
Tight Group 52: Pacific Island Weapons Barong Blade, Cane Knife, Fijian War Club, Maripi, Patu
Tight Group 53: Inuit Weapons Antler Dirk, Inuit Bone Dagger, Iuak, Kakivak, Ulu
Tight Group 54: Iroquois Weapons Druid’s Warclub, Iroquois Club, Plains Indian Stone-Headed Mace, Etc.
Tight Group 55: Stone Weapons Celt, Flint Dagger, Moche Spear-Mace, Stone Axe, Taiaha Staff
Tight Group 56: Straight Arabic/Indian Blades Choora Sword, Flyssa Sword, Kard, Patissa Sword, Quaddara Sword
Tight Group 57: Falx Weapons Falx, Norfork, Rhomphaia, Etc.
Tight Group 58: Bronze-Age Swords Antenna Sword, Apa Sword, Carp’s Tongue Sword, Swedish Curled Sword, Warring States Era Sword (Short)
Tight Group 59: Guan Dao Type Pole Arms Bisento, Danwoldo, Guan Dao, Ngaw, Woldo (found it again..)
Tight Group 60: Hammers Double Hammer, Maul Hammer, Sledge Hammer, War Hammer, Etc.
Tight Group 61: Maces Gada Mace, Mace (Civic), Mace (Light, Flanged), Mace-Axe, Sickle-Mace
Tight Group 62: Morningstars Golden Cactus Club, Morningstar (Heavy), Wolf Teeth Club, Etc.
Tight Group 63: Fire Arrows Bo-Hiya, Fire Lance, Hiya Zutsu, Singijeon, Etc.
Tight Group 64: Bola Weapons Bird Bolas, Bola, Incan Boleadoras, Nagyka, Etc.
Tight Group 65: Thrown Clubs and Blunts Druid’s Warclub, Incan Stick-Sling, Throwing Hammer, Yawara Stick
Tight Group 66: Thrown Axes Hurlbat, Nzappa-zap Axe, Throwing Axe, Tomahawk
Tight Group 67: War Fans Gunbai, Korean Feather Fan, Tessen, Etc.
Tight Group 68: Hand-Shaped Weapons Buddha Hand Spear, Zhua (3 types), that’s all!
Tight Group 69: Chinese Concealed Weaponry Cymbal, Damo Zhang, Fly Whisk, Iron Comb, Monk’s Flute (Iron)
Tight Group 70: Staff and Chain Arms Four Section Sickle, Nunchaku, Ten Section Chain Spear, Two-Section Staff, Etc.
Tight Group 71: Hooks Combat Boarding Hook, Gaff Hook, Kawanga, Mank’s Hook, Etc.
Tight Group 72: Cleaver Swords Anime, Heavy, Light, Orkish types, Kubikiri Sword
Tight Group 73: Spike Shurikens 64 types, all with hyper-esoteric names
Tight Group 74: Harpoons 8 types based on size
Tight Group 75: Firearm Combination Weapons Bayonets (8 types) and pistol-weapons
Tight Group: ?? Holy Damn we dare you to create more groups!