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Codex Martialis (2008 Legacy Edition)

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Codex Martialis (2008 Legacy Edition)
Publisher: Codex Integrum LLC
by Matthew S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/26/2011 18:41:17

Author: Jean Henri Chandler. Contents: 40 portable document format black and white pages, 1 credit page, 2 contents pages, 4½ pages of rules, 9 pages of feats, 3½ pages of extracts, 6 pages of black and white illustrations, 10 pages of appendices, 1 character sheet page, 2 index pages, and 1 open game license page. Publisher: Ire Games Product Code: Not Applicable Retail Price: $12.00

Overview

At the time of the initial release of the third edition of Dungeons & Dragons there was a short run of articles on the Wizards of the Coast website entitled "weapons rack". Each presented statistics and design notes for a new weapon that was to be available in the game. As part of the article introducing the infamous two-bladed sword, Skip Williams explained that the weapon represented "several elements of the game's design philosophy at work: emphasize fantasy over history, make the world look cool, provide players with hard choices, and offer numerous ways to master the game (deciding exactly how to employ a two-bladed sword or any double weapon requires a good deal of thought)." The Codex Martialis is a combat rules supplement for D20/3e that not only makes the argument that historical arms and armour are "cool", but that authentic combat techniques and assumptions, translated faithfully into game rules, can potentially present a plethora of verisimilar opportunities to "master the game". For anybody dissatisfied with the design decision to "stray a bit from past editions and recognize that D&D isn't really a historical game, but a fantasy game", this alternative contention has a lot to recommend it.

For the D20/3e system, there are two major innovations introduced in the Codex Martialis that help increase the feeling for the participants that the game is emulating realistic combat. The first is that all weapons have three new numerical characteristics, reach, speed, and defence. Of these, reach is an attack bonus added at "onset" range, whilst speed is an attack bonus used primarily at "mêlée" range, and defence is a bonus added whenever the weapon is used to parry. So, for instance, a dagger might have the characteristics 1|5|1, whilst a spear has 7|1|3, making the former better at mêlée range and the latter at onset range. Generally, the more reach bonus a weapon has, the less speed bonus it has, and vice versa. The second is the use of a "martial dice pool" for combat actions, which ranges from one to four dice as determined by the base attack bonus of the character. A martial die is expended whenever an attack is made in a round; several can be used to increase the probability of a successful single attack, as well as individually used to make follow up attacks, or saved for use in defence. They are also used to change combat range from "onset" to "mêlée" to "grapple" and can be used to enhance saving throws as well.

Unsurprisingly, like most systems that purport to increase the realism of combat in Dungeons & Dragons, the Codex Martialis opts to treat armour as damage reduction, ranging from one to ten. As with the much praised D20 Conan system, though, attackers can choose to bypass armour, which translates as a penalty to hit or a defence modifier ranging from two to ten (which is to say, effectively an armour class). Ordinarily, a combatant has a passive defence of 8 + base attack bonus + dexterity modifier + shield bonus (which ranges from one to five); however, if the character has any unexpended martial dice left in the round he can use one or more to actively defend himself, rolling 1d20 in place of the static defence of 8, and optionally applying the defence modifier of his weapon in place of his shield bonus (though these can be added together with the appropriate feat). Since a shield also adds a die to an active defence roll, it is useful even if it contributes less defence bonus than the weapon it is used with. There is also a system for critical hits and "dynamic" critical hits in place, which increases the amount of damage done on a roll of a twenty, depending on the number of martial dice expended in the attack.

Perhaps the most substantial part of the Codex Martialis is the nine page section that details the basic and advanced "martial feats" intended to be used with the system. Here we find translations of the strikes and methods of extant medieval fight books, such as "durchwechseln", the "meisterhau", and "morstrosse" into game rules; the author suggests that one of these be gained for every point of base attack bonus advanced. In combination with the rules governing counterattacks and the various optional rules that provide additional detail, these are the features that give the system tactical diversity and flexibility, as well as the character customisation and predefinition that is at the core of the D20/3e system. Unlike the default rules, though, it presents very definite reasons to situationally shift between weapons; no player is likely to be left wondering why his character is carrying a dagger or wondering what possible use a spear might be when he has his trusty sword to hand. Indeed, there can be little doubt that the Codex Martialis successfully differentiates between weapons, assigning them authentic historical characteristics within the limits of the abstract D20/3e paradigm, but how does it play?

Criticism

Whilst Codex Martialis is at its strongest in its ideas, it is somewhat weaker when conveying them to the reader, especially with regard to how they interlock with the D20/3e system. To some extent this must be intentional, in that the author is allowing individual game masters considerable leeway when it comes to applying the rules of the supplement to their campaign. However, there are several points where confusion can arise, and it would seem that the work could have benefitted from some sort of "action table", perhaps analogous to the one in the default rules, spelling out what martial dice can be used for. For instance, it is not at all clear how a character might go about drawing a new weapon, in the default rules a move equivalent action or a free action with the appropriate feat. Is the martial pool grafted directly onto the action system, working in parallel with it so that it requires a standard action and a martial die to make an attack or does it replace the usual action system as implied on page nine? If so, how does a charge work? It may be that there is some nomenclature confusion between the "full attack" and "full round" actions, but it is just not clear from the text quite what is intended.

Although the quotations from medieval chronicles and sagas are interesting and set the mood, the space would have almost certainly have been better used for examples of the game rules in action. Such things are usually tedious to write and often unappealing on a first read through, but can be very useful when it comes to fully understanding the way the rules are intended to work. In particular, many martial feat entries could do with greater clarity and economy of language in order to facilitate comprehension of the various nuances that are not immediately apparent. These are concerns that can be easily addressed, and perhaps have been to some extent with the newest version. For instance, two orcs armed with daggers have one martial die each, whichever of them spends one to close to mêlée range is going to lose the initiative, so likely they will keep circling at onset range. This seems realistic, but on the other hand if one of the orcs has a base attack bonus of two, three, or four, he can potentially move to mêlée range and gain the bonus to hit from speed for up to three follow up attacks and the chance of his opponent counterattacking is slight. Is this intended? The difference between base attack bonus one and four seems very significant.

It is probably apparent to even the casual reader that the rules of Codex Martialis should not simply be grafted onto a regular D20/3e game and played with the usual expectations. This is not a problem for those who create their own campaigns whole cloth, but it limits the compatibility of the supplement with any existing campaign settings or adventure modules written for the default game. In that respect it is more like a prototype of something like Iron Heroes than a rules supplement for Dungeons & Dragons. This lack of compatibility is further exacerbated by the choice of terminology, which is more in line with what is current in medieval martial arts circles. Such a format is desirable for a supplement of this sort, but because the nomenclature is not directly transferable to Dungeons & Dragons it can be an obstacle. It would perhaps have been nice to have included an appendix using the standard game terminology with corresponding approximate characteristics for their use with the Codex Martialis rules, though perhaps antithetical to its purpose! At any rate, none of these concerns should deter anybody interested in giving their D20/3e game a more authentic combat vibe, even if only some of the ideas are incorporated.

Conclusion

The Codex Martialis is a fascinating supplement. It obviously owes a good deal to other games, such as the Riddle of Steel, but incorporating such ideas and systems into D20/3e is a very ambitious goal and on the whole seems to have been successfully achieved. Without further play testing and analysis of the results it would likely be premature to judge the system in detail. There are certainly concerns about how the various subsystems interact and the how the underlying mathematics works out, which is hard to judge when dealing with such dynamic dice pools. It is difficult to predict the difference between the probable outcome of a single three dice attack versus three single die attacks, particularly when they can be actively opposed by another die roll on the part of the defender. The author also suggests a hit point limit based on constitution for characters to further support the "grim & gritty" aesthetic of the supplement, which presumably would also have to be applied to monsters to some degree. Again, that is a concern for anybody who wishes to preserve game balance (what little there is of it in D20/3e) in, for instance, his third edition Forgotten Realms campaign, but the results would no doubt be interesting!

To judge by the newer versions of the Codex Martialis, this supplement is a work in progress, and at the moment in a constant state of improvement, as much with regard to artwork and layout as content, and that can only be for the good. Apart from the public domain illustrations, there are some strong and evocative pieces by Reynard Rochon. In particular, the wounded men on page eight give a good sense of the intended atmosphere of authentic medieval combat. Therein, maybe, lies a hint of the most suitable purpose to which this work might be put, which is to say not so much a conventional game of Dungeons & Dragons, but as a rules supplement for a D20 Past campaign; more Flesh & Blood than Hawk the Slayer perhaps. Nonetheless, if the above concerns are borne in mind, there is no compelling reason to dissuade anyone from using the Codex Martialis with a more conventional D20/3e campaign. Indeed, it is tempting to imagine how it might play out in the Caverns of the Snow Witch or the Warlock of Firetop Mountain. At the very least, such a trial would be entertaining for players and game master alike, historically minded or not, and when all is said and done that is the purpose of adventure games.

Author: Jean Henri Chandler. Contents: 108 portable document format black and white pages, 1 credit page, 5 contents pages, 12 pages of rules, 23 pages of feats, 56 pages of appendices, 4 bibliography and recommended media pages, 1 character sheet page, several full page illustrations, and 1 open game license page. Publisher: Ire Games Product Code: Not Applicable Retail Price: $10.00

Addendum

Included in the price of the original Codex Martialis is access to a revised and expanded version, which is also sold separately for a slightly lower price. Whilst the layout and fonts show signs of improvement, the overall production values remain those of an "amateur press" endeavour for the moment, as one would expect for an evolving product of this sort. The majority of the additional content is accounted for by four pages of bibliography and media recommendations, four pages of conversion notes for common D20/3e feats, four pages of mounted combat rules, eight pages of sample animal conversions, and eighteen pages of example characters. In the latter case it would have been nice to have seen these take advantage of the Codex Martialis character sheet. The combat rules and martial feats section have also been expanded, clarified and corrected to some degree, and whilst the work itself still lacks examples a number of these can be found on the supporting website. Several of these rules have been incorporated from the Mêlée Weapons supplement where they originally appeared. Additional interior illustrations have been provided, mostly public domain, as well as several anecdotal historical extracts of interest.

Even though this is a marked improvement upon the original, a number of questions still remain unanswered for the reader, whilst the answer as to how move equivalent actions are handled is a little unsatisfactory and vague. In the case of the latter it is left to the discretion of the game master as to how many martial dice are required to perform a move equivalent action, but one to two are suggested. This seems a little harsh for characters with one or no base attack bonus, and it would seem an advisable alternative to allow those who do not move in a round to take a move equivalent action without expending martial dice. It remains unstated how many martial dice are required to take a charge action, which is to say whether one or all of them. More significantly, it remains unclear from the text exactly when an active defence is declared (before or after an attack roll is made) and against which attacks it applies (the first made in the round, all attacks made in the round, or selectively against attacks nominated by the player). What is intended by the author can largely be inferred from the online examples, but still needs to be made clear in the rules themselves, if it is not be left at the discretion of individual game masters.

One new rule introduced is "desperation defence", which allows a character whose active defence has been overcome to reroll if he has any remaining martial dice, losing the initiative as a consequence or if already at that disadvantage losing one of his available martial dice for the following round. This seems to reduce the risk involved in holding back dice for a counterattack, and is a sensible solution. Other rules have been modified, such as no longer adding base attack bonus to initiative as an optional rule, instead the character with the highest base attack bonus in a mêlée gets to roll two dice and choose the best. Such a rule seems to be better fitted for an individual duel than for a larger mêlée. An optional rule for initiative modification by weapon length would also seem more reasonably applied at onset range, and weapon speed at mêlée range, but then optional rules are really more the province of individual preference and customisation. The missile weapon rules have been refined, and the corresponding exotic weapon table expanded to include the flat bow, the English "war bow", a "heavy" composite bow, and the Japanese yumi (弓), presumably the daikyū (大弓) rather than the hankyū (半弓), along with some notes for handling mounted archery.

A short appendix dealing with mounted combat introduces the "deluxe warhorse" template, along with five specific breeds and types of medieval horse, which is to say the destrier, the palfrey, the courser, the hobbie, and the jennet. These additions are typical of the modus operandi of the Codex Martialis, reducing the level of abstraction and including authentic historical details that give the participants more options and a greater sense of verisimilitude. Perhaps the only criticism worth making in that vein is that there is an unlimited transference of strength from mount to rider permitted, whereas in reality the size and strength of both are of great consequence in a mounted charge. By way of extreme example, one could hardly expect the strength of a destrier to be transferred through the arm of a child (or halfling), no matter how securely seated. Despite its title, this section has surprisingly few rules relating specifically to mounted combat outside of the horses themselves, and it would be reasonable to expect that this section of the rules will be revisited and expanded on in the near future. If not, then a supplement dealing with the rules for mounted combat as a whole in more detail will be much anticipated.

Whereas the earlier release of the Codex Martialis was more of a barebones affair, this is clearly a more developed version, but completely recognisable as having the same aesthetic, objectives and basic structure. It seems likely to be the result of considerable play testing, campaign development, continuing research, and feedback from a dedicated community. One of the more notable changes is that the damage reduction provided by armour types has been significantly reworked. Generally, these values have been increased, but they are also optionally categorised by attack forms P, C, and S (piercing, chopping and slashing), though a value for "B" (bludgeoning) appears to be lacking. As might be expected, some weapon characteristics have also been altered, but largely they conform to the same pattern as earlier, so the general result is that armour has been rendered more protective in this latest version of the supplement, which is also reflected in the modified bypass values. These are the sort of changes that are interesting to follow in a developing work, and it is to be imagined that further refinements, expansions, and alterations will continue to increase the sense of authenticity whilst preserving the underlying game structure intact.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Codex Martialis (2008 Legacy Edition)
Publisher: Codex Integrum LLC
by Pierre P. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/07/2010 03:18:27

This book has some very different, and in my view good ideas about how to handle combat in D&D. It outlines a system that takes combat from a mostly die-rolling exercise to one that requires more tactical decision making. The system is intended to be more realistic, which I prefer, and it is well-researched and presented. I haven't had a chance to fully play-test the system, but it doesn't seem to sacrifice fun or speed for the sake of realism. In addition to explaining the basic premise behind the system the book also details feats, armor and weapons, and includes very basic rules for integrating magic and other elements of combat. One difficulty I had in testing this system is that there aren't a lot of examples to show how it works which left me with unanswered questions. I went to the website which has quite a few topics and I found some answers there. My biggest frustration though is that I can't get registered on the website to ask questions of my own. I registered once, but did not get the activation email. Now when I try to register it indicates that my email is already registered and the account is inactive. Unfortunately there is no way to contact anyone to address this and attempts to resend the activation email get no response. Still I like the product enough to consider purchasing v2.3 of the rules with the hope that some of the details will be cleared up in this version. I just wish there was an upgrade option at a reduced price.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Creator Reply:
Glad to hear you liked the Codex. Sorry about your trouble with the websites, new registrations were shut down for a couple of weeks due to spam attacks, but the issue has been cleared up since we added a 'captcha'. You should be able to create an account there now. If you contact us on the site we will give you a free upgrade to the 2.3 version.
Codex Martialis (2008 Legacy Edition)
Publisher: Codex Integrum LLC
by Mark A. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/11/2009 20:03:01

This is now one of the essential books in my toolbox. You can use this book in many different ways. You can use the book in it's entirety, and practically turn your D20 games into a totally new tactical game. Or, you can simply pick and choose the parts you like the most and plug them into your game. I'm falling into the latter. I'll be using the martial pool mechanic (for both attacks and defense), and incoporating the rules for weapons characteristics (traits that make weapons work the way they were designed to work: i.e. damaging armor, etc.). If you want to add a healthy dose of "realism" and era appropriate combat to your games, this book is for you. If you want to seriously expand the tactical spectrum of your game, then this book is also for you. If you are just your average DM, happy with your game, but maybe interested in some interesting plug and play ideas and concepts to liven up your game a bit, then this book even works for you. If you are a 3E fan and a "rules tinkerer", this book is absolutely essential.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Codex Martialis (2008 Legacy Edition)
Publisher: Codex Integrum LLC
by Alberto G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/14/2009 13:14:52

I've playing for RPG since 1984. Yes, it is a loooooong time. As the majority of long playing gamers, I played D&D, AD&D, 3rdD&D and hated 4th D&D. I have spend a lot of time playing around and have learn a lot of human nature and desires playing role playing games. But there were a bunch of things that kept me away from calling d20 rules as the perfect ones for role playing.

Codex Martialis resolves one of the most persistant demanding I had as a role-player: realistic but interesting combat. No, you are not going to find a lot of new spells, items, unnatural feats in this book. You would find an interesting, simple and realistic combat system. Let me share a story:

I've brought this book several months ago. I get so excited that I've begun to prepare a new campaign with my roleplaying game group. Al of them started used lvl 3 characters, in a low magic enviroment, using the wonderful Black Company magic system, with a great emphasis in role playing above hacking and slashing. One of the PC was the town guard captain; a hardened veteran that have seen lots of fights. The traveling group was assaulted by a gang of kobolds. Kobolds!! Yes, you all konow them. 4hp, poor fighting capabilities, almost an amusement. The Guard's Captain said: "Don't worry. They are just kobolds".

No, man. Not using Codex Martialis rules. Now even kobolds have and edge in combat. Three of them really can take out a 3rd level character. As it happened. He died surprisingly quick by an attack of overconfidence. The hunter of the group saved the day using terrain and tactics in a very clever way. So I allways understood it is in real life.

That's something that Codex Martialis really mimicks very well. The author and contribuitors all know very well the fighting techniques of a contemporary ancient martial arts school. His effort to punt into d20 rules all the maneuvers, fighting and knowledge is really good.

First, Maneuvers. Here the author called them Martial Feats. Bad choice. It confused my players at the begining. I translate them to Trained Maneuvers and everithing went smoothly. Your PC will learn one Martial Feat (Trained Maneuver) per BAB point. There are several "branches" of Martial Feats that use combining maneuvers, all clearly worded and easy to imagine in movies and books. And even they are adding more and more with the help of contribuitors all around the world, emphasizing the regional and cultural difference. As in real life. You now can really have an "elf sword-fighting school", or a "high pass draven fighting style" or the "valley men fighting spear techniques".

Second, Combat. It is fast and lethal. They have came with a bright idea. Instead of getting a fixed number of movement and fighting actions in each round, characters have a dice martial pool. As you get levels, you gain d20 dice that you can use for several things. The number of dice you can have in this martial pool is recomended to be capped at 4, but you can cap it higher or lower depending of the epic and fantastic combat that you want. You can use each dice for moving, for changing weapon reach (onset, melee or close), keeping it for attacks of opportunity, using them for active defense (parring or blocking) or for focusing your attack (you can spend more than one d20 dice in your attack, keeping the highest roll). Simple but plentifull of tactical opportunities.

Third, Tools. No more you discard all the weapons but the scimitar or the long sword. Each weapon has his own set of simple numbers and maneuvers that makes you think how your character will fight. Lances has Armor Piercing capabilities and better reach, but unless you are trained properly, they fight poorly at closer ranges. Daggers, on the opposite, are lethal at close ranges, fast and easy to use against armor, but don't do a lot of damage. One of my PC used the tipical Sword and Shield fighting techniques, another has a 2 dagger close combat approach, and a third is a master of the quarterstaff. I could not say wich one is more lethal. They just simply use different approaches. Armor, efectively function as a damage reduction, but you can try to bypass armor if it is hard to damage your opponent.

If you are looking for a more real approach to fighting still usind d20 rules, this is your book. If you try to simulate low magic enviroment fights, this is your system. If you thought how could you use a combat system like The Riddle of Steel in d20 games, this is your manual.

You have a great ammount of information in the www.codexmartialis.com web page, as how to use this system with monster or animals, how to develop new Martial Feats, and so on. I wish they could finish the 2.0 version prior this summer holidays. I have a lot of time to enjoy!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Codex Martialis (2008 Legacy Edition)
Publisher: Codex Integrum LLC
by Jack G. J. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/16/2009 23:47:51

First of all, let me begin my review by saying that the Codex Martialis is simply one of the best-written gaming supplements I have ever read. It displays a high degree of professionalism in the effort.

As an example of this let me quote from the work itself:

"Thanks to the unique weapon characteristics the choice of weapons becomes a major tactical consideration rather than a cosmetic adornment for a character. Weapons are not just rated for damage, but also for reach, defensive value, speed in follow-up attacks, effectiveness against armor and suitability for different types of attacks. The selection of weapons becomes another major aspect of the basic combat strategy."

I have now had the opportunity to read through the entire work and to play test it several times. What follows is my review.

One of the great advantages of the supplement, once you become familiar with the basic concepts involved, is fluidity. It creates a sort of underlying fluidity by imposing a substratum of combat techniques which, once mastered, allows fluidity by changing the outcomes of in-game combat scenarios from being merely an attrition play of hit points into a play of weapon mastery and combat employment techniques. This does take getting used to in comparison to standard D&D combat practices, but the outcome is well worth the effort. Once one becomes accustomed to the work then it is possible to use it to create and display a large variety of effective attack and counter-attack measures in rapid succession which gives the feel of an intense, hotly contested combat, rather than a mere stale exercise in die-rolling and numbers crunching “fight or flight of the calculators.” And I guess this is what I like best about the entire supplement, it is geared less to constricting combat into an imaginary “clash of the Geeky Die Titans,” where game combat is a boringly insipid mathematical exercise, and is instead designed to imply that combat is really about tactical skill, flexibility, fluidity (in the sense of moving fluidly from one applicable and effective technique or maneuver to another), training, and innovative use of resources, capabilities, and tactics. The supplement implies by both design and technique, that combat is far less about bonuses and more about training, thought, innovation, and adaptability. That combat is a matter of the mind as well of the body, of tactic as well as blind chance, and of skill in battle and not just habitual bonus accumulation. Or in other words even in a game in which certain elements are determined by mechanisms of tempered chance, by no better method than a “roll of the die” it is still skill, training, innovation, cleverness, and persistence that overcomes the seemingly impossible obstacles of a dangerous combat and wins the day before sunset. Die rolls may hinder, or assist, but they are no real match for skill and capability and brilliance in determining actual outcomes. A well trained man with a host of options and inherent capabilities will make his own luck, and he who relies merely upon the fickle grace of fortune would do well to learn that wisdom is a far greater god in combat than chance. Fortune favors the well-prepared man, and it is easy to be brave when you are sure of your own adaptability in any situation. The idea behind the Codex implies that the game combatant does not have to rely upon chance, luck, the die, or even magic to turn the tides of battle. The combatant may turn the tide of battle by skill, training, tactic, and cunning. And that is the way things are, and should be. Chance turns the tide of the moment, good tactics, on both the part of the group, and the part of the individual, turn the tide of the battle.

The degree of relative realism in the work is highly evolved given the natural limitations of role play gaming combat (which can be “only so-real”) and given the fact that most role play games resolve combat and tactical issues by emulating friction and chance through die roll. But one thing I really, really enjoy about this work is that given those natural limitations the Codex takes away much of the chance element and returns tactical skill to combat encounter as a measure of training, accomplishment, perseverance, and maneuver. In a manner of speaking the Codex is attempting to bring “Role-Play” to combat rather than saying it is just an exercise of chance, or a practice of powers.

The Codex Combat System can also be rather easily modified to fit most other gaming systems which rely upon die-rolling as a reflection of how to resolve combat practices, and the whole work interjects some very creative and interesting ideas for how to resolve the actual process of in-game combat elements. I refer to both the [B]Martial Pool [/B]as a determination of how to enhance speed and flexibility to group combat, and to the various maneuver and practical engagement techniques such as the Martial Feats (I was particularly impressed by Feats such as Feint) that add a rich depth of combat possibilities. But to me the greatest strength of the entire work is that it takes combat away, whether this was the intention or not, from being merely an exercise in bootless chance and transforms combat into an interesting and varied practice in tactical choice, training, and personal player and character “fighting expression.”

The historical background presented within the work is also rather fascinating. A depth of historical material as well as pragmatic technique analogies are examined in detail, not as an historical work, but as reflective of how historical and real world elements of personal and tactical combat can be inter-woven into a fantasy game to create a far more rewarding experience than a mere combat re-enactment of, “magical boom-boom,” or “what power gives me the highest to-hit bonus.” In fact the supplement seems to purposely steer away from over reliance upon magic in game-combat fantasy tropes so as to intentionally explore the real potential of combat-fighters. It is not so much a work filled with trick maneuvers and rather unrealistic combat techniques that would be useless in an actual combat situation, but rather a thoughtful and measured examination of the “idea of real hand to hand combat as applied to a tactical wargaming paradigm.” A sort of well-imagined and cleverly constructed game interpretation of what really happens when men come to close quarters and grapple with each other, including aspects of why they move as they do, how they strike and defend as they do, why weapons behave as they do when yielded in such and such a manner, and so forth and so on. In short it is a well-conceived examination of both how to exploit trained character strengths and abilities, and of how to take advantage of built in limitations regarding the actualities of human (and by extension humanoid/non-human) weaponry and fighting capabilities in game combat situations.

To close my review let me briefly mention a few other points. Such as the Aescetics of the work. I especially liked the simple line drawings presented throughout the book. They matched the overall tone of the nature of the work, as well as allowing one to visualize basic points being discussed at issue. The illustrations matched the tone and atmosphere of the work as presenting realistic depictions of combat in game terms. They were “fitting” in my opinion. As were the historical references, which gave the work the feel of a more ancient text of advice about how to tactically overcome certain enemies. The references taken together with the various illustrations gave the entire Codex the feel of being “illuminated.”

Simplistically, but effectively.

The Appendixes were also valuable and useful, and much could be made of them in relation to the larger ideas presented in the Codex. The work even came with a Character Sheet specifically designed towards making good use of the various game combat advantages offered and described in the Codex.

As a suggestion for future works of this kind I would very much like to see the author and his team of co-designers develop a similar system for use in large-scale warfare, both on the tactical and strategic level. On the tactical level as an expression of maneuver and technique, similar in construction to the present work, but aimed more at small group combat and skirmishing encounters as applied to the battlefield. On the strategic level as a work that addresses matters of training, capability, and execution of large-scale group combat engagements. For instance in such a supplement geared to warfare-gaming, rather than to role play combat-gaming one might take the basic components and ideas of the Codex Martialis and expound upon them as they relate to issues such as logistics, technological advantage (due to armies possessing certain types of weapons, armor, and transport, and therefore possessing corresponding combat formations and techniques to accompany such advantages or disadvantages), tactical control of the battlefield (or lack thereof), terrain, unit and formation maneuver, espionage, morale, and so forth and so on. In other words I view the Codex Martialis as a sort of Gaming version of the Tacticon. I’d also suggest and would like to see a gaming version of the Strategicon.

If you would like more information on the Codex then I suggest purchasing the newest version of the work. I hope my review was useful to you.

Jack.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Codex Martialis (2008 Legacy Edition)
Publisher: Codex Integrum LLC
by Ryan J. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/06/2009 12:52:15

Many moons ago, a man named Gygax put the 'Advanced' into D&D. While not nearly the on the same scale, Codex Martialis similarly puts advanced techniques into standard D&D combat. While I cannot comment on how the system actually plays (we have yet to use the book around the table), I can and will comment on how the system reads: in a word, excellently. My group tired of d20 combat and decided to look around for a different, yet familiar, system. CM may be just that. The product is filled with Old World quotes, excellent 1E-style art, and packed with information within a two-column format. CM adds an interesting dimension to combat, quite literally, by adding a "third" range into d20's standard ranged and melee attacks. Combatants can now close one another to enter grapple range, wherein weapon speeds (remember 1E?) are more critical. This is offset by reach attack bonuses for hitting enemies at range, when they first close your position. No short review can do the material justice, because it is complex - but it's not complicated. If your players are the ones who have tired of the standard Improved Trip and Disarm routines, this book is for you. It allows you to play the game you know, but on a new, exciting, and extremely deep level. At least - that's my hope! We intend to try the system at our next session.

In summary, CM is highly recommended for those folks who need just a bit more variety and tactical complexity in their d20 combat.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Codex Martialis (2008 Legacy Edition)
Publisher: Codex Integrum LLC
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/24/2008 15:06:23

A fight in a d20 game is, at its heart, something of a bore. I don’t mean a combat encounter per se, but an actual melee battle between characters. Notwithstanding a couple of basic combat maneuvers (e.g. trip, disarm, etc.) and whatever feats the characters have, all they’re really doing is standing there and bashing each other until one falls over. There’s really nothing else to do but keep rolling your to-hit and, if successful, damage; it’s basically about attrition as much as anything else. It’s this problem of boring combat that the Codex Martialis looks to fix.

To be clear, the book isn’t trying to create a more realistic version of combat. Rather, it’s drawn inspiration from actual fighting to present new options and tactics to make combat more vibrant. In doing so, however, the basic rules for combat in the d20 System must be torn down to some degree, so that other options can be introduced. Perhaps the greatest change here is that of the Martial Pool. A Martial Pool is a small collection of d20’s (never more than four) that can be allocated for different things in each combat round. Do you want to make four attacks? Use one d20 for each. Do you want to make two attacks and have each stand a greater chance of hitting? Use 2d20 for each attack, dropping the lowest die roll in each case. Do you want to focus more on defense? You can use your d20’s for Active Defense (where you make a roll to defend) or even with your saving throws. It’s a great idea that unto itself adds a lot of options to even basic combat.

Of course, that’s only scratching the surface. In its opening pages, the book introduces concepts regarding how each weapon grants different bonuses to types of attack (attack types are redefined as Reach and Speed), as well as Weapon Defense. Weapons also have a Primary attack type, among other attack types they can do (a dagger can slash or pierce, but only the latter is the primary type, so only attacks of that type can score critical hits). There’s also rules on Counterattacking, the ranges at which combat occurs, Active or Passive Defense, and quite a bit more. After this is a series of feats that take advantage of these new rules, and several appendices covering things like spellcasting in battle, how animals fight, and tables with the revised statistics for weapons.

All of the above leads me to my major complaint about Codex Martialis: it feels fairly complicated. The important thing to take away from the previous sentence here is that the book FEELS complicated; it’s actually not that complicated once you get used to it. However, a lot of groups probably won’t get that far, because the series of new and revised combat options, statistics, and maneuvers are presented one right after another, and are fairly intimidating in doing so. There’s no examples given anywhere in the book to help walk you through what’s presented, nor is there any kind of quick- or –easy-reference charts or diagrams (save for the weapon statistics themselves in the appendix) to break down all the new maneuvers and ideas. All of this means that by the time the new rules are presented, they feel overbearing and scary. Luckily, most of them are modular (particularly the part with the Martial Pool, which is my favorite aspect of the book), but the above is still the book’s major weakness.

In terms of presentation, the Codex Martialis does fairly well for itself. The book is fairly unassuming in its presentation, with fairly few illustrations in its pages. What illustrations it does have though are fairly stark black and white pieces that use a heavy amount of grey shading, and almost feel like charcoal sketches in many instances. Most of the pages borders are very thin, save for one rather ostentatious color border that appears every few pages. The book also periodically has excerpts from historical writings regarding combat to open and close various sections, which make for a nice touch (though the font is a tad ornate). There are, however, no bookmarks, which is an oversight in a book this long.

The Codex Martialis is a book that completely succeeds in its goals of making d20 combat into a more dynamic, tactical exercise. The plethora of new rules and structures presented in how it reworks d20 combat are excellent, and their modular nature allows you to (most of the time) freely pick and choose what you want to adopt and not adopt. However, that’s only if you can make yourself wade through the rather hefty presentation and really absorb what’s presented here. The trick is not to be scared off after the initial read-through, and carefully go over what’s presented. It may take some work, particularly to get your entire group to adopt whatever rules you pick out (since added complexity is the trade-off for greater options), but if ordinary d20 combat is boring and no longer fun, this book is the answer.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Creator Reply:
Hey I just wanted to add to this review that a lot of the detailed explanation of the various concepts, 'fluff' etc. missing from the Codex which is short and fairly dense, can be found on the website: http://www.codexmartialis.com ..which is also listed in the PDF. There are sample combats, monsters converted to codex stats, and sample characters, plus new optional rules, new feats, stats available on how the martial pool affects die rolling odds, and a great deal of research and background material for your campaigns on weapons, martial arts and history, even magic.
Codex Martialis (2008 Legacy Edition)
Publisher: Codex Integrum LLC
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/01/2008 09:53:49

The aim of this book is to bring the flavour of real-world fighting - especially that of master swordsmen of ages gone by - to your fantasy combat. The aim is not so much realism, particularly as most attempts to do that serve merely to increase the complexity of game combat without really making it more enjoyable, but to create the flavour of the various styles and schools of thought available to those who regard swordfighting as an artform, not just a means of killing enemies. To do this, both strategy and tactics are explored, and characters given a wide range of options to use over and above the "Swing sword, roll d20, do damage" model of game combat.

The game mechanics used to accomplish this are quite straightforward, and presented in a modular manner, so that you can pick the ones you want and discard the rest - although there is a warning that if game balance is important to your group, using this system in its entirety is the best way to guarantee it. The core of the mechanic is a die pool which can be expended in various ways over the course of a round of combat, allowing a wide range of options to each character. To add to this, a range of martial feats are available to give you an even wider selection of actions. Weapons and armour are also discussed, to enable them to be utilised fully with this system.

The things you can do in a fight range from leaping into the fray to choosing to hang back and wait for opportunity to present itself. You can choose to target the weak points in a foe's armour or hack away trying to destroy his armour or weapon before closing in for the kill. Dramatic lunges and bewildering flurries of blows become not only possible but it's straightforward to judge the sucess of the action as well.

Overall, it is a well-considered variant combat system, well-rooted in real-world fighting skills - which are both quoted in the text and referenced for those who'd like to learn more. It has the potential to bring fresh enjoyment to fighting for those players who'd really rather role-play than just roll dice and consult tables when a brawl breaks out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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