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Spheres of Might

The rules presented here offers a new way to create and play martial/combat-focused characters in your 5e fantasy games, expanding not only what they can do, but also how combats flow and what sorts of characters you can play.

These rules make use of very few new mechanics (all of which are introduced below), instead opting to use the core mechanics in new and interesting ways to make combat a more cinematic experience. Instead of simply trading blows, these rules give characters an array of new tricks, tactics, and techniques so they can empower their allies, debilitate their foes, and make combat a fun and engaging part of their stories.

Like S.o.P., the alternative magic system, these rules is a concept-based approach to character creation. Rather than simply picking a class and being tied to that style of play (rogues for skills, fighters for damage, barbarian for absorbing damage, etc.), characters can combine spheres and talents to craft a much more exact replica of the idea in their head. And while class certainly plays a part in creating that image, it is by no means the only determining choice.

The rest of this introduction details some of the different rules and terms required to use these rules, as well as a walkthrough for how to build a S.o.M. character.

These rules are very similar to the core experience, but are still presented below in order to be as explicit as possible.

Martial Spheres and Martial Talents

The abilities listed in this book are divided into spheres. A sphere is a group of abilities based on a theme. Each sphere has an ability or abilities granted by the base sphere and can be expanded upon with the talents in that sphere.

There are 22 martial spheres: Alchemy, Athletics, Barrage, Barroom, Beastmastery, Berserker, Brute, Counter, Dual-Wielding, Equipment, Fencing, Gladiator, Guardian, Leadership, Scoundrel, Scout, Shield, Sniper, Tinkerer, Trap, Warleader, and Wrestling.

Martial spheres grant powerful techniques but are separate from spellcasting ability. Whenever a character gains a martial talent, they may spend it in one of two ways: to gain a new base martial sphere or to gain a talent associated with a martial sphere they already possess. The number of martial talents a character gains differs between classes. Once a talent is spent, it cannot be changed unless retraining is allowed.

Some class features or other options grant you a bonus sphere or a particular bonus talent. If you ever gain a sphere or talent which you already possess, you may gain a talent of your choice from the same sphere instead.

Legendary Talents: Basic Talents may be taken by any character that possesses the sphere the talent belongs to, but legendary talents are different in many key ways. First, Legendary talents have prerequisites that a character must possess to take them. Second, while basic talents are appropriate for virtually any gritty, realistic setting, legendary talents are different.

Legendary talents allow a martial character to perform inhuman feats of power, such as leaping over mountains or striking so powerfully that it rips holes through dimensions.

As such, legendary talents might not be appropriate for all games and therefore require GM permission to use.

New Rules and Terms

Martial Focus

A character who has a martial tradition or possesses martial talents can achieve martial focus. Characters gain their martial focus after a minute of rest, or by taking the Dodge action.

You may not by any means regain focus more than once per round.

When you have martial focus, you can expend your focus before making any single Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution saving throw to treat the die as if it had rolled a 10. You can also expend your martial focus to gain the benefit of certain martial talents and class features, as described in their entry, while other talents and abilities may require you to currently have martial focus.

Once you have gained martial focus, you remain focused until you expend your focus, become unconscious, or go to sleep (or enter a meditative trance).

Practitioner

Practitioners are characters who train in martial spheres.

Whenever a sphere or ability refers to the practitioner, it is referring to the individual creature using that sphere or talent.

Saving Throw Difficulty Class

Whenever a martial sphere ability calls for a saving throw, the Difficulty Class (DC) for that saving throw is equal to 8 + your proficiency bonus + their tradition’s key ability modifier.

If the targeted creature meets or exceeds this number with their saving throw, they often reduce or negate the effect.

If a character does not possess a martial tradition, they default to using Wisdom as their key ability modifier.

Special Attack

A special attack represents a unique method of making an attack. A special attack augments the attack you make when making the Attack action; you cannot make multiple special attacks in a round, and if you can make multiple attacks, this augments only one. Special Attacks are granted by certain spheres.

Other Rules

Doubling Proficiency Bonus

A proficiency bonus cannot be more than doubled. If a class, sphere, or other ability allows you to double a proficiency bonus (such as to a skill, similar to the expertise rogue or bard class feature), this cannot be doubled again, even if the character also has the expertise class feature.

Multiclassing

If using the optional multiclassing rules, the new classes presented in this book use the following as their multiclassing prerequisites:

Proficiencies

No classes in this book grant additional weapon or armor proficiencies when taken after the first level, though such proficiencies may be gained from a martial tradition if one was not already possessed.

Weapon Damage Die Sizes

Some classes, features, or sphere talents and abilities can change how much damage a weapon or attack deals, decreasing or increasing its damage die size by one or more steps. This table should be used as a reference guide for such occasions when no such information is provided.

Damage Dice Progression

1 -> 1d4 -> 1d6 -> 1d8 -> 1d10 -> 2d6 (or 1d12) -> 2d8 -> 3d6 -> 3d8

Class Options

Characters with levels in a martial class (barbarian, fighter, monk, paladin, ranger, or rogue) or any other class with GM permission may trade out their subclass for martial talents, gaining 2 martial talents instead of their subclass feature at any level that they would normally gain a subclass feature.

Fighting Style Options

1st-level or higher feature (enhances Fighting Style)

When you gain the Fighting Style feature, the Martial Spheres Apprentice style is also added to the list of style options available to you.

Martial Spheres Apprentice

You gain a bonus martial talent. If you don’t possess it already, you gain the ability to achieve martial focus.

How to Build a Character

S.o.M. grants a degree of flexibility that can make creating a character for the first time more time consuming. This is less of an issue when one is experienced with the system, but for new players, the following advice may prove helpful. The following guide demonstrates how to build a character from concept to final creation, accounting for these additional choices.

The process for building a character is, roughly:

  1. Concept
  2. Race and Class
  3. Background and Tradition
  4. Attributes and Proficiencies
  5. Talents and Feats

Building Indira

Each step of building a character includes an example of that step, with a player named Allison building her half-orc character, Indira.

Concept

What is your idea for the character? What can they do and how do they do it? Is your character a skilled swordsman, a muscular brute, or a wise mystic? Are they an inventor, a performer, or something else entirely? Once you know what type of character you wish to create, many of the other choices will flow easily. Note that some concepts will play better or worse in different games and settings. Please speak to your Game Master about what type of game you’ll be playing and what sorts of concepts would be most appropriate.

Building Indira, Step 1

Allison decides that she would like to create a practitioner.

She decides that she wants to play an intimidating pirate who is as competent with words as she is with the large two-handed blade that she wields.

Race and Class

Now, look at the races and classes to see what ones give the most fitting set of abilities. Core classes can buy into Spheres as explained under ‘class options’ on the previous page, or through the use of several new classes, such as the Alter Ego, the Armiger, the Artisan, the Commander, the Conscript, the Scholar, and the Striker.

Building Indira, Step 2

Allison wants her pirate to be a powerful half-0rc, and makes the appropriate notes on her character sheet. As for a class, she knows that she could very well simply use the fighter, ranger, or rogue class, but she wants more control over what her character can do and would like to have lots of spheres and talents baked in. Thus, she looks at the classes and subclasses in S.o.M., finding that the armiger, commander, and conscript are each appropriate. Allison ends up choosing the conscript because she really likes the look of all those talents, and selects the fury combat specialization to complement her character concept. She makes Indira a conscript and notes the class’s proficiencies and 1st-level class features on her character sheet; Including the Martial Training feature that grants Indira a bonus martial talent of her choice.

As a 1st-level conscript, Indira has 1 Hit Die—a d10—and starts with hit points equal to 10 + her Constitution modifier. Allison notes this and will record the final number after she determines Indira’s Constitution score. Allison also notes that the proficiency bonus for a 1st-level character, which is +2.

Backgrounds and Tradition

In addition to the usual benefits of choosing a background, when using S.o.M., backgrounds might give you access to a martial tradition, which expands what skills and abilities your background have given you. Each background includes a variety of potential martial traditions, so pick the one that best matches your concept. More information about martial traditions can be found in chapter 2 of this book.

Building Indira, Step 3

Allison decides that Indira was not raised among other orcs, let alone on the land, but instead raised on the sea as a mariner.

Allison decides that Sailor is the obvious fit for a background, and while the Pirate variant fits her original concept, she feels that the Ship’s Passage background feature is too good to pass up. She notes the proficiencies and special features this background gives her.

For personality traits, Allison decides that because Indira should have a way with words, she should generally be described as a leader capable of delegating to get ‘a job well done’. Indira believes in the ideal of ‘freedom’ with strong bonds to whatever ship she is attached to. Not only does she have loyalty to her ship, but she also respects the chain of command aboard the vessel, obeying most orders even if they don’t reflect her personal moral compass.

Allison’s table allows only martial traditions published in S.o.M.. Allison looks through the available martial traditions that the Sailor background offers (Petty Officer, Pirate, and Rager), and settles on Pirate to further accentuate the fact that Indira spends most of her time at sea in the company of pirates, rather than getting drunk in port or aboard law-abiding vessels. She notes that her key ability score is Charisma and notes the martial talents that she begins with: Equipment sphere (Pirate Training, Unarmored Training), Fencing sphere, and her choice of either the Athletics or Gladiator sphere. Finally, Allison writes down the starting equipment from her background and martial tradition. Her starting equipment so far includes a rapier, 2 daggers, a shortbow (and 20 arrows), a flask of alcohol, a belaying pin (club), 50 feet of silk rope, a lucky charm (a topaz that glows faintly in stormy weather), a set of common clothes, and a pouch containing 10 gp.

Attributes and Proficiencies

Now it is time to finish the rest of your character’s starting information. Generate and distribute your attributes per the method you are using in your game, then select variable proficiencies from your background, martial tradition, and class.

Building Indira, Step 4

Allison decides to use the standard set of scores (15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8) for Indira’s abilities. Since she’s first and foremost a melee combatant, she puts her highest score 15, in Strength.

Her next highest, 14 goes in Charisma (her key ability score).

Indira being unarmored wants to have a decent Dexterity and Constitution, so she allocates the next two highest there. After applying his racial benefits (increasing Indira’s Strength by 2 and Constitution by 1), Indira’s ability scores and modifiers look like this: Strength 17 (+3), Dexterity 12 (+1), Constitution 14 (+2), Intelligence 10 (+0), Wisdom 8 (-1), Charisma 14 (+2).

Allison fills in Indira’s final hit points: 10 + Con (+2) = 12 hit points.

Allison reviews the proficiencies granted by her race, background, and tradition before deciding on what proficiencies to gain from the conscript class. Indira’s proficiencies so far are as follows, Armor (light), Saving Throws (Charisma and Constitution), Skills (Athletics, Intimidation, Perception, Persuasion, and Survival), Tools (Carpenter tools, Navigator’s tools, and vehicles (water)), Weapons (Rapier, shortsword, scimitar, trident, net, hand crossbow, war pick, and all Simple weapons).

Talents and Feat

Now that you know your character’s concept and class, you can begin choosing their spheres and talents, which determines their capabilities. If you are using the optional feat rules, you may also choose appropriate feats to fit your character concept.

Your choice of martial tradition will have already granted you some beginning talents, while your choice of class will determine how many talents you gain and at which levels, including if you gain any additional talents at 1st level. You may spend a talent to unlock a new sphere to gain new abilities, or to gain a new talent in a sphere you already possess, expanding the power and capabilities you gain through that sphere. Keep in mind the exploration and social aspects of the game, as well as having options for combat. Focusing too heavily on one area may leave you with limited options when that one thing is not relevant. If you use martial spheres, consider how often you will expend focus and consider picking an ability to regain it more easily.

Building Indira, Step 5

From steps 2 and 3, Allison knows that Indira has the Pirate Training and Unarmored Training talents from the Equipment sphere, the Fencing sphere, and the Scoundrel sphere from the Pirate martial tradition, and one talent of her choice from the conscript class. Because Indira is supposed to wield a large two-handed sword, she looks through the Equipment sphere to see what (discipline) talents grant proficiency with the greatsword. Allison uses her one martial talent from the conscript to purchase the Bushido Training (discipline) talent.

Allison writes down that Indira has the following martial sphere talents and abilities:

Equipment sphere. – Talents (discipline) Bushido Training, Pirate Training; (other) Unarmored Training

  • discipline (Bushido, Pirate); proficient with katana (longsword), longbow, naginata (glaive), nodachi (greatsword), rapier, shortsword, scimitar, trident, net, hand crossbow, wakizashi (shortsword), and war pick
  • Unarmored Training; AC 13 = 10 + Dexterity modifier (+1) + Key ability modifier (+2) while unarmored

Fencing sphere – Talents none; fatal thrust, feint, (30 ft.), DC 12, instantaneous or 1 round

  • Fatal Thrust; When making a melee attack that has advantage, you may reroll one of the dice once.
  • Feint; Help action to grant yourself or another ally within 5 feet advantage on their next attack roll.

Scoundrel sphere – Talents (trick) Twist The Knife; Proficiency (Sleight of Hand), DC 12, instantaneous or varies (1 round or minute)

  • Dirty Trick or Steal; When you perform a dirty trick or steal, you can apply one (trick) talent.
  • trick; (Twist The Knife) You can make a single attack against that target.

Now review the character and evaluate the result. You may want to go back and tweak things or even start over with a different concept, possibly inspired by options you found during the creation process.

Section 15: Copyright Notice

Spheres of Might, Copyright 2021, Drop Dead Studios, Authors: Adam Meyers, Derfael Oliveira, Andrew Stoeckle