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The Way of the Sword: Gritty, realistic Medieval combat for Dungeons & Dragons
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The Way of the Sword: Gritty, realistic Medieval combat for Dungeons & Dragons

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I knock his thrust aside with an upwards arc of my blade, then step forward, using the momentum of my parry to snap the blade around and slice his ear. Withdrawing the sword and moving a hand to the blade, I twist back in the other direction, pressing the pomel into his neck. The blow rings hollow off his armor, so I plant my foot behind his and keep pressure on, driving him off balance and knocking him prone. I spin, stepping over him to regain my own footing, and pivot the sword downwards. With both hands on the hilt, I drive it into his gut.

What is a game of Dungeons & Dragons without the epic clash of steel against steel? Drawing on real historical sword techniques, The Way of the Sword presents a varient ruleset for combat in D&D 5e that encourages tense, lethal, tactical combat at all levels of play. With just a few tweaks to how combat works, a system emerges that enables and organically encourages a fighting style that mixes swordplay with grappling, disarming, and other fighting tricks.

Chapter one is a crash-course in historical swordplay based on the teachings of the German grandmaster Johannes Liechtenauer. Chapter two presents a variant combat system that adapts these principles for use in D&D 5e. Finally, chapter three offers some advice and rules suggestions geared toward keeping the action flowing during combat.

Whether you are looking to spice up stale combat encounters, or just interested in learning a little about this history of Medieval swordplay, The Way of the Sword has something for you. Feedback is always appreciated, so please leave a comment if you have a question or a suggestion for improvement.

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Reviews (2)
Discussions (4)
Customer avatar
Laurent S November 14, 2017 11:06 am UTC
Great work. It makes the game much more interesting to play. For years, I have been looking for a more realistic and balanced combat system for D&D with minimals modifications to the existing rules. So really good work.
If I may, I have some feedbacks on the way I am using it:
1) For the AC Range, I add half the proficiency bonus rounded down (if allowed to apply it to the wielded weapon) to the lower number. It is a kind of armed stance.
Taking the example of Qiang on page 11, the range would be 13-20 for the first case and 11-20 for the second one. With a proficiency bonus of 3, the respectives ranges would be 13-21 and 11-21, with a proficiency bonus of 4, they would be 14-22 and 12-22 and so on.

With the Defensive Duelest Feat, you may be allowed to add the other half rounded up as a reaction.

2) For the special combat actions; I allowed them only if beating the standard 5e AC (18 in case of Qiang).
The same when adapting to your system the combat maneuvers...See more
Customer avatar
Gadget B September 25, 2017 2:08 pm UTC
I really like the concept in the first section for DM's to flesh out combat however (unless the playing a fighter) I think that this is too close to PCs 'calling shots' if they dictate the flow of combat and does not take into account the opponent's training, reactions or movement.

The mechanics for stamina and health I think are well thought out and make much more sense (and realism) with the 'short rest' and 'full rest' mechanic of vanilla 5e. Same with healing.

I see where the AC range fits in with your concept, but you pay the price of an added layer of complexity for realism. Personally I use this as DM flavor to decide how/where the damage is stopped with different styles stacking the defenses in different ways.

Your 'special combat actions' are opening up the fighter's maneuvers to anyone who picks up a sword, which I don't really agree with; the damage inflicted to your opponent could be a cut, could be impacting the armor into the body, could be a strike with...See more
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Jerry B September 25, 2017 8:31 pm UTC
Where are the critical hit/fumble tables? link?
Customer avatar
Gadget B September 25, 2017 9:52 pm UTC
Customer avatar
Jerry B September 15, 2017 9:07 pm UTC
OK, I love the separate HP stats (Stamina & Health) and the AC Range (Miss vs Bounced/Blocked)!
An interesting addition may be, instead of crit hit just doing extra damage, have a crit hit table that more represents either getting an extra good hit or having some kind of situational advantage (to next hits?). The extra damage normal result could be the most likely thing on the table? Dice and effects that would have effected crit damage could be converted to a modifier to the crit table roll.
Also, adding a crit miss table to represent a blunder that gives your opponent an opportunity would be great too.

I don't like the new Special Combat Action being called "disengage" (since that is already used in 5e to mean opening up the range) Looking at the effect, maybe it should be called "Bind" or "krieg" as it feels like you are forgoing attack damage to control their blade for a future attack (maybe even an off-hand attack the same turn).

For...See more
Customer avatar
Andrew W September 19, 2017 4:51 pm UTC
Thanks a bunch for your suggestions - I'm glad you like it! You're absolutely right about the disengage, I feel a bit silly that we missed that. Specifically, the action is supposed to refer to the moment when your initial attack is bound, so you avoid/escape the bind and then re-attack. I had initially avoided the term changing-through (Durchwechsein) to emphasize the fact that this is often used in rapier fencing more than in longsword, but perhaps either changing-through, or else bind as you suggest (I'm trying to avoid German terms for accessibility's sake), since the action is initiated on the attacker's side...

As for crit tables, I didn't add them in mostly out of personal preference, but you rightly point out that they can be inserted without damaging the system at all. In particular, crit tables that allow the possibility of damaging weapons or armor could really reinforce the 'gritty' and 'realistic' themes.

Finally, healing was absolutely the most contentious point during playtesting....See more
Customer avatar
Jerry B September 15, 2017 12:48 am UTC
I am a HEMA member and actually own an English translation of the Recital of the Chivalric Art of Fencing of the Grand Master Johannes Liechtenauer. I have been trying to figure out a good way of doing exactly this. I would like to play test it with my group for a while longer, but are you open to some comments?
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File Last Updated:
September 01, 2017
This title was added to our catalog on September 01, 2017.