Master of One
“How can these dabblers claim to have ‘mastered’ the Sublime Way? They jump and hide with their cowardly Shadow Hand techniques, swarm me with White Raven, leap around growling like idiots with Tiger Claw. I am a master of the true path of the Sublime Way—and that Way is Diamond Mind.”
—a Master of the Diamond Mind
Most practitioners of the Sublime Way seek to diversify their training through knowledge of as many disciplines as possible, some going so far as to call themselves Masters of Nine. However, there are some who claim that true mastery only comes through the complete knowledge of one school to the exclusion of all others—these are the Masters of One, and they have a talent with their chosen discipline that no other martial adept can match. Masters of One are fierce proponents of their chosen school and defend it at all costs; they almost never learn even a single maneuver of another school, believing it weakens them (though of course the more moderate Masters will dabble occasionally). The first Masters of One, many years ago, were those who did not share the vision of the Temple of the Nine Swords, but instead believed that each discipline should be taught separately and in secret and that obviously their discipline was superior to the rest; for this reason, Masters of One learn to overcome the weaknesses of their own disciplines and learn tricks to specifically counter other disciplines. (Strangely, all Masters of One seem to learn the same tricks against a given school no matter their chosen discipline; it is doubtful the original Masters of One would appreciate the irony.)
Rather than being simply a PrC for those who like one discipline, this is a PrC for those adepts absolutely obsessed with one and severely disdainful of others. It grants fairly powerful abilities at the cost of limiting a character to a single discipline, so the critique I'm most looking for is how the discipline-specific abilities work out for someone limited solely to that discipline; I've tried to give weaker disciplines stronger abilities and vice-versa, but I'm not sure how closely I've hit the mark.
Becoming a Master of One
A Master of One typically begins as a swordsage; due their large number of maneuvers known, swordsage Masters of One have the potential to learn every maneuver in their respective chosen schools. However, Masters of Iron Heart usually begin as warblades, and Masters of Devoted Spirit tend to begin as crusaders, for obvious reasons.
When becoming a Master of One, you must choose a favored discipline. This choice determines which skill and feats are involved in the prerequisites for the class, as well as some of your class abilities. A Master of One is thereafter known as a Master of his favored discipline, not a Master of One; for example, a Master of One specializing in White Raven as his favored discipline would simply be known as a Master of White Raven.
Skills: 12 ranks in the key skill of the favored discipline
Feats: Blade Meditation (favored discipline), Adaptive Style, favored discipline’s tactical feat
Martial Maneuvers: No more than 1 maneuver each from any discipline other than your favored discipline, and all maneuvers known of the two highest levels to which you have access must be from your favored discipline.
Special: If a potential Master of One cannot meet the Martial Maneuvers requirement, see Ex-Masters of One, below.
The Master of One
Hit Die: d8
Class Skills: Balance, Climb, Concentration, Craft, Diplomacy, Hide, Intimidate, Jump, Knowledge (history), Knowledge (local), Martial Lore, Sense Motive, Swim, Tumble
Skill Points per Level: 4 + Int modifier
The Master of One focuses on expanding his repertoire of maneuvers in his favored discipline as quickly as possible, as well as eliminating the weaknesses of his favored discipline. He also practices tricks to combat martial adepts using maneuvers of other disciplines and learns ways to get the most out of his favored discipline, so he can prove that his favored discipline is superior to all others.
Maneuvers: At each level, you learn two maneuvers from your favored discipline. You must still meet the maneuver’s prerequisite to learn it, and you add your full Master of One levels to your initiator level to determine your total initiator level and your highest level of maneuvers known. A Master of One may never learn a maneuver from a discipline other than his favored discipline, even through feats such as Martial Study.
Stances Known: At each level, you learn an additional stance from your favored discipline. You must still meet the stance’s prerequisite to learn it.
Focused Study (Ex): For the purposes of learning maneuvers from his chosen discipline, the Master of One's initiator level is treated as being one higher. Additionally, if a Master of One has learned every maneuver in his favored discipline, he may “re-learn” maneuvers to allow him to ready multiple copies of a given maneuver.
Unparalleled Prowess (Ex): A 2nd-level Master of One has such mastery of his favored discipline that he can ignore limitations to its use that would impede or thwart lesser adepts. He gains a benefit from the list below based on his favored discipline:
- Desert Wind: An adept of Desert Wind is normally at a loss when facing creatures resistant or immune to fire, but a Master’s flame can scorch even a fire elemental. The maneuvers of a Master of Desert Wind ignore a creature’s fire resistance; if a creature has fire immunity, he may still affect it, but it only takes half damage.
- Devoted Spirit: An adept of Devoted Spirit is limited morally and ethically in pursuit of his cause, but a Master’s devotion transcends alignment bounds. A Master of Devoted Spirit may ignore alignment requirements when learning a maneuver, and may treat targets of his maneuvers as whatever alignment would be most beneficial for the Master.
- Diamond Mind: Though all adepts have tremendous mental focus, a Master sees the entirety of combat as just another exercise of concentration. Before making any attack roll, a Master of Diamond Mind may choose to not automatically fail the attack roll on a natural 1, but should he do so, he does not automatically succeed on the attack roll if he rolls a natural 20.
- Iron Heart: Adepts of Iron Heart may be restrained in their power, but Masters cannot be stopped except by death. Masters of Iron Heart may initiate maneuvers even when normally unable to do so, such as if they are bound or charmed.
- Shadow Hand: Most Shadow Hand adepts are beaten when they cannot get the drop on their opponents, but a Master can sneak attack the invulnerable and surprise the imperturbable. A Master of Shadow Hand may ignore the requirement for an opponent to be flat-footed for purposes of initiating maneuvers (but not for sneak attacks, sudden strikes, or other similar abilities).
- Stone Dragon: If an adept of Stone Dragon is on any surface other than stone, he is usually powerless, but a Master takes the essence of stone with him wherever he goes. A Master of Stone Dragon may ignore the requirement to be standing on earth or stone to be able to initiate Stone Dragon maneuvers and may target any airborne or levitating enemies within reach.
- Setting Sun: While any adept of Setting Sun can apply leverage against his enemies, a Master can knock enemies over with an unbelievably small and precise application of force. When making opposed checks, such as grapple or trip checks, a Master of Setting Sun uses the higher of his Strength or Dexterity modifier and his opponent use the lower of its Strength or Dexterity modifier.
- Tiger Claw: Though most adepts of Tiger Claw fight with two weapons, a Master can strike with both weapons and have time left over. A Master may always attack with as many weapons he is holding as part of a strike, although unless the strike specifies use of multiple weapons only the first attack gains extra damage or other effects of the strike and the other attacks are made at the Master of One's lowest iterative attack bonus.
- White Raven: An adept of White Raven is normally greatly diminished when he has no allies to support with his maneuvers, but a Master is an army unto himself. A Master of White Raven may count himself as an ally for purposes of his maneuvers, in addition to any benefit he may gain as the maneuver’s initiator.
Discipline Strike (Ex): A 3rd-level Master of One has perfectly internalized the principles of his favored discipline. He takes techniques and footwork from various maneuvers and combines them to produce a strike that only an adept familiar with his favored discipline has a chance to counter. Whenever the Master of One makes a single melee attack which is not made in conjunction with (or granted by) a maneuver (such as a standard attack, an attack of opportunity, etc.), it gains a bonus equal to the number of strikes of his favored discipline he has readied, with the bonus divided between an attack bonus and a damage bonus as desired. For example, if a Master of Diamond Mind has readied 9 Diamond Mind strikes, the bonus would be +9; the Master could then make an attack with a +9 attack bonus, an attack that deals an extra 9 damage, or any combination of attack and damage totaling 9.
Focused Rivalry (Ex): A 4th-level Master of One learns special techniques to specifically thwart other paths of the Sublime Way and render several maneuvers entirely worthless, as he is determined that his favored discipline be proven the best of the nine. Each of the abilities in the list below overlays a stance; a Master of One may switch between the benefits of one of these abilities and a regular stance as if switching stances normally. A Master of One may not gain the ability associated with his favored discipline, due to his belief that it is the most perfect and therefore that one should never learn anything that might undermine it, but he may choose any two other abilities.
- Desert Wind: A Master of One using this ability gains immunity to fire damage.
- Devoted Spirit: A Master of One using this ability is treated as being whichever alignment is most beneficial to him for purposes of effects dependent on alignment.
- Diamond Mind: A Master of One using this ability takes normal damage from attacks that would deal multiplied damage (from critical hits, maneuvers specifying “2 x melee damage,” etc.).
- Iron Heart: If a Master of One using this ability is targeted by a strike allowing attacks against multiple opponents, and his opponent misses on one of the attacks, the Master of One’s opponent misses on all of them.
- Shadow Hand: A Master of One using this ability is never flat-footed and always retains his Dexterity bonus to AC.
- Stone Dragon: Any damage reduction a Master of One using this ability might have may not be ignored, and his possessions are immune to attempts to ignore hardness.
- Setting Sun: A Master of One using this ability is immune to being tripped.
- Tiger Claw: A Master of One using this ability may take an attack of opportunity against any opponent Jumping or Tumbling to, from, or through a square adjacent to him.
- White Raven: A Master of One using this ability only provokes attacks of opportunity when moving through threatened squares, not from other actions or strikes that cause him to provoke.
Absolute Mastery (Ex): A 5th-level Master of One has such skill with his favored discipline that his maneuvers are superior to those of any other martial adept. When initiating a strike, boost, or counter maneuver, a Master of One may either gain double the numerical benefits or halve any penalties associated with the maneuver; while in a stance, the Master of One may choose to either multiply its numerical benefits by 1.5 or remove any penalties. Variable bonuses are not multiplied, but static bonuses are, as normal. This ability may not be applied to maneuvers above 6th level.
Ex-Masters of One
If at any time a Master of One learns a maneuver from any discipline other than his favored discipline, he immediately loses all class abilities from his Master of One levels until and unless he retrains the maneuver to one from his chosen discipline, but he retains maneuvers readied and maneuvers and stances he learned as a Master of One. He may receive an atonement spell to lose the maneuvers of disciplines other than his favored discipline and regain his abilities. If a Master of One is ever under the effects of a spell, ability, or item that would temporarily allow him to initiate maneuvers of another discipline, such as a crown of white ravens or its derivatives, he loses access to his class abilities and readied maneuvers for as long as the effects last or as long as he wears the item and for 1 minute afterwards, as the knowledge of other fighting styles interferes with his focus.
If a martial adept wishes to become a Master of One but has already learned maneuvers of multiple disciplines, he may undergo a process known as the Epiphany of the Way. He must seek out a Master of the discipline he wishes to choose as his favored discipline as well as a cleric able to cast atonement; after 8 hours of meditation and the casting of atonement, the prospective Master of One may swap out any maneuvers from other disciplines for maneuvers from his new favored discipline (though he must still meet any and all prerequisites for the new maneuvers).
Playing a Master of One
To you, there is only one discipline worth learning, and only one true path to the Sublime Way. You might respect adepts of other disciplines, simply feeling pity for their misguided ways and acknowledging that while they aren’t as perfect as your favored discipline the other disciplines might show some slight promise, or you might arrogantly proclaim that your favored discipline is the only right path and any who prefer other disciplines are idiots and fools at best; most Masters of One in modern times tend towards the first approach, sometimes even learning a single technique from other schools to show that they haven't knocked them without trying them, but any who were trained by the original martial adepts from whom Reshar stole the secrets of their discipline (or the students of those adepts, or the students’ students, and so on) might tend toward the second. You are intensely driven, focused on mastering every technique of your favored discipline and perfecting every swing, every step, and every motion of those maneuvers. You can’t wait to demonstrate to other adepts their mistakes and show them the true path of the Sublime Way.
As a group, Masters of One have no formal organizations; indeed, as each believes his own favored discipline is superior to all the rest, Masters of One are their own eight worst enemies. They often work at cross-purposes, trying to bring over a majority of martial adepts to their way of thinking and even sometimes attempting to destroy all knowledge of other disciplines until theirs is the only one left, although such extreme Masters of One are quite rare.
You prefer to vanquish martial adepts who use other disciplines as quickly and decisively as possible, to prove your favored discipline’s superiority, but you don’t necessarily care if you have converted another student to the one true path of the Sublime Way or if you have simply removed an obstacle to your favored discipline’s preeminence.
Masters of One in the World
“I’ve heard of these so-called ‘masters of one’. They don’t sound so scary. Sure, there are rumors of adepts who can burn red dragons with their blows and kill people while bound hand and foot, but I don’t believe them. No crazy mental duelist can dodge my blows, and no fancy shadow swordsman can surprise me; do you really expect me to believe that obsessing over one combat style can let you do the impossible?”
—Galen Blackcloak, assassin, now deceased“Actually, yes.”
—a Master of Shadow Hand, right behind Galen
Masters of One are in many ways archetypal martial artists, perfecting their chosen style to the point that they can defeat any others. The best means of doing this is through adventuring, as the more opponents they face the better-honed their own abilities become. Masters of One enjoy dueling other martial adepts and proving their superiority.
Most people cannot tell the difference between Masters of One and any other adept of the Sublime Way, but some martial adepts consider them simply unreasonably obsessive adepts who don’t have enough skill to learn more than one kind of fighting—until, that is, they cross swords, in which case they either reassess their opinions upwards or don’t live to tell the tale. Most adepts appreciate their views, even if they don’t support or understand them; however, Masters of One are particular rivals of enemies of Masters of Nine, and both parties begin encounters with one another with an attitude one degree closer to hostile (the most extreme Masters of One sometimes attacking a Master of Nine on sight).
Master of One Lore
Characters with ranks in Martial Lore can attempt to learn more about Master of One.
DC 10: Though most martial adepts learn maneuvers of several schools, Masters of One focus on one favored discipline to the exclusion of all others, gaining benefits from their devotion.
DC 15: Masters of One believe their favored discipline is the only “true” path of the Sublime Way, and they learn special tricks and techniques to specifically counter other disciplines’ maneuvers and remove their own. favored discipline’s weaknesses.
DC 20: The maneuvers of a Master of Nine are more powerful and effective than the same maneuvers used by any other martial adept, and Masters of One have the potential to learn every single maneuver of their favored discipline, sometimes learning the same maneuvers more than once.
DC 30: Information about Masters of One in your campaign.