At the end of the magic chapter there's an intermission blargh from some movie, or anime, or something, that I don't recognize. Then we're on the sword schools.
Fluff goobery intro.
Your matrial adept level is the highest level of any of your sword schools. Unlike magic where every spell is neatly in it's own school you can freely mix and match stuff between sword schools. The whole next couple of pages tells you that you're pretty much building special attacks from scratch and how to do that.
When you take a level in a magic school you pay a chunk of xp, get another die to roll cor casting tests, and learn a spell. When you take a level in a sword school you get diddly except a higher 'rank', 'adept level', or whatever you want to call it. You have to pay more xp to get a maneuver. On the plus side there's no warp crap involved.
Building your special moves involves taking advanteages and restrictions off a list and then paying 50xp per advanatge. You get to pick a number of advantages up to your adept level, after that you have to offset each advantage with a restriction. A few advantages and restrictions are worth more than one 'point' or level thingy. Tucked away somewhere in there is a note that you can only use these with melee attacks, but I ignore that. You also can't combine things that logically shouldn't work. Like using a 'no armor pentration' restriction maneuver with a weapon that doesn't have any penatration any ways, or stacking the 'not if you used it last round' resstriction with the 'only once per scene' restriction.
Building your special move: you pick an action to do the move with, the standard single attacks is always an option but each school adds another action available. Like desert wind lets you build maneuvers based on either the called shot or the standard action, so you can choose to have a called shot maneuver or a standard attack maneuver. Let's say you pick called shot, the maneuver will only work with called shots. Then each school gives you a weapon type, you can use that weapon type for maneuvers, these all stack. If you know three sword schools that let you use say, brawling, chain weapons, and ordinary weapons in maneuvers than you acn use any maneuver yuou know with any of those weapons. If you only know the desert wind school, which uses syrneth weapons, then you can only use your maneuvers with syrneth weapons.
Then you choose your advantages, off setting them with restrictions if you want more advanatages than your highest sword school level. Each sword school has it's own advanatages, with more unlocked per level, in addition to the universal ones. Universal are +1k0 damage, +0k1 damage (counts as 3), +1k0 attack, +0k1 attack (counts as 2), +2 penetration. And yes, you can stack them. The universal restrictions are the opposite for attack and damage (the -0k1 damage only counts as 2 though and the armor penetration reduction is all the way to zero), plus 'can't use this maneuver if you used it last round', and 'con only use thsi maneuver once per scene' (counts as 2).
Say you want, for whatever reason, a killer called shot maneuver. Take one rank in the desert wind sword school, that lets you make maneuvers for called shots but only lets you use maneuvers with syrneth weapons. Add the +1k0 attack twice and the +0k1 attack once, that's +2k1 attack as 4 advantages. You only have one dot in desert wind so you have to off set 3 of the points with restrictions. Take the 'once per scene' and -1k0 damage ones. With 4 advantages you get to pay 200xp for the maneuver.
Since sword schools sort of stack in a manner that magic doesn't lets say you get three dots in devoted spirit later. You can just flat out upgrade that maneuver, and use it with flails too. Since 3/4 of the advantages in the original maneuver were off est with restrictions you can add 2 more advantages without restrictions (because you're martial adept level is 3, the highest of your sowrd schools) plus you devoted spirit 3 gives you new advantage and restriction options. So add another +0k1 dice on the attack roll (total +2k2 attack now), the devoted spirit 'revitalizing strike' where an adjacent ally heals a HP when you hit, and a new restriction of having to make a medic check against the target's static defense in order to make the attack work. That's 3 more advantages (because the +0k1 attack counts as 2) so pay another 150xp.
That fancy-dancy maneuver now looks like -> on a called shot in melee with a syrneth or flail weapon, roll a medicine check vs. the target's static defense, if that succeeds make the called shot attack at +2k2 to hit and -1k0 damage, if you hit one aldjacent ally heals one HP, this can only be done once per scene. This means that if you're 3rd level, using a syrneth monofilament scythe it looks like -> medic + wisdom vs. static defense (say 7k3r1), then a called shot attack at [called shot -2k0, maneuver +2k2, level 3, weaponry 4, specialization] = 7k6r1. The scythe is a 4k2 rending, penetration 8, melee weapon. That gives us [strength (say 3) + 4k2 - 1k0] = 6k2 damage, armor penetration 8, choose your hit location, and an adjacent ally heals a hit point. But you can only try this once a fight (usually a fight will be a scene). Of course this cost us 4 points in two sword schools plus another 350xp.
Perhaps for that price a straight +1k0 on attack and +0k2 damage might be nicer. 7k3r1 medic check, 6k4r1 attack, 7k4 R pen 8 damage, choose hit location (head, because... head). Going from a bit under 20 damage to a bit under 35 damage. Well, your judgement call.
So, safer than magic. More limited (combat attacks & actions that deal with attacks). Overall more expensive in the long run. Still the 4th level of each sword school gives your character a unique and permanent boost.
Here, I'll cover desert wind.
Desert wind sword school.
L1: Use maneuvers with syrneth weapons and called shots.
L2: -2 restriction - attack does no damage, this can't be used with non-damaging actions (aim, parry, etc.).
+1 advantage - on a hit the target is dazzled (-1k0 to all rolls plus additional -1k0 to sight perception) for a round per raise that you hit them by.
L3: -1 restrction - add an athletics + strength check in addition to the attack roll to hit.
+1 advantage - deal energy damage with the attack.
L4: +1 advantage - teleport 5m immedately before or after the attack.
Bonus - When charging you don't have to move in straight lines.
L5: +4 advantage - everyone within 2m of you takes 2k2 energy damage, if you moved then everyone you came within 2m of takes the damage (they can only be affected once).
I think that the reason this school's maneuver action isn't charging is because white raven already took that one and they didn't want to double up on the actions. Hm, I'll try to keep that in mind when I get to the white raven stuff, maybe that would be better using a different sction than charging.
The attack doing no damage could be useful for needlers since they can also inject a toxin or drug. No, wait, melee only (by the book). Um... if you can get them to parry a power weapon with a normal weapon you check for breaking the normal weapon. Or the officer's cutlass can deliver an electric shock. Other than that you'll have to combo it with another school's on-hit effects or the dazzle thing. Well I suppose that's something, a +1k1 standard attack that dazzles for a round per +5 on the to-hit roll but does no damage, costs 200xp base & 300xp worth of sword school though. And it's still a bit 'meh'.
The athletics restriction might be nice. All the book says is that you have to make the roll in order to make the attack (effectively an additional 'attack' roll). You could say that the initiator gets the usual results of such a roll as well. That could allow for some climbing/jumping/swimming actions during the attack. It might be a nice boost to the sword schools to do that. I think I'll adopt it as a house rule.
Energy damage may have better crit effects, depending on what you want to do to someone. Spend 50xp to always be able to choose to do energy type damage on standard attacks with your sword school weapons. Not bad.
The teleport isn't stackable, but it's pretty awesome. I'd personally allow that immedately before to give a +1k0 or something advantage on the attack roll for popping in right behind someone, at least the first time. And you can always do one where you get to scream "Death from above!", since higher ground is +1k0 anyways.
I'm not sold on that level 5 ability though. 2k2 is a bit low, the +4 (200xp) cost is a bit steep, and you aren't moving on standard attacks or called shots unless there's a pretty good stunt going on.