Musings on how to integrate kung fu powers with 4E

In previous versions of Dragon In Ninth Heaven, all characters were granted powers based on the type of kung fu style they knew.

  • the d20 edition gave bonuses, base powers and unique powers
  • the True20 edition used two feats per style to capture the powers

In both these editions, the powers are common across styles, with the power source of the style deciding which power is available. I prefer the way the True20 edition handled the powers, turning them into feats and keeping the overall character simpler.

For the new edition I still have several possibilities that are not decided. I still want each kung fu style to be built from a combination of power sources, and those power sources to provide powers. Here’s a list of the chi concentrations which form the basis of kung fu styles:

  • Spirit
    • Building Chi
    • Chi Control
    • Focusing Chi
  • Body
    • Power
    • Toughness
    • Speed
  • Mind
    • Meditation
    • Awareness
    • Mysticism

Each style is built using one or two of the concentrations at the second level of the list, and each concentration grants two powers that a character may learn. Some styles restrict the power that can be learnt.
Here’s an example of two of the powers from a previous edition:

Invulnerability [Chi Concentration]
Prerequisites: kung fu
Benefit: Characters who has mastered the art of Invulnerability can focus all their chi into a single point on their body during the instant that an opponent strikes them. This power can be used once per round and only applies to a single strike, but gives a +10 bonus to the Toughness save against that attack for a cost of 10 CHI.
Chi Speed [Chi Concentration]
Prerequisites: kung fu
Benefit: The character has the ability to instantly travel to anywhere they could normally move to (which may include climbing or jumping) which is within 10 foot per character level and in line of sight. Each use of this power costs 5 CHI. Using Chi Speed is a move action.

Moving to 4th edition


So now I want to find a way to build kung fu styles and powers into the classes for 4th Edition D&D. The tools that I see for this edition are:

  • Feats
  • Class features
  • Exploits/Prayers/Spells
  • Racial powers

Although I have used feats for previous editions of Dragon In Ninth Heaven, I don’t really want to do that again for kung fu powers. It really feels like just bolting something onto the system, and I have always needed to add the ability to purchase more feats to do it.

Class features are an appealing way to handle these kung fu powers. A good parallel is the Channel Divinity class feature that Clerics and Paladins share. This grants the ability to use other powers once per encounter – and those powers are available from a list based on the class/role/deity of the character. Using this mechanic would allow me to include a class feature with each class that granted access to kung fu powers – potentially different powers or a different number of uses based on the class. I could see a doctor of traditional medicine knowing one kung fu power while a travelling warrior monk would have access to two powers due to the level of focus the class has on kung fu.

Class exploits will be used for kung fu powers, but I don’t like the idea of the fundamental abilities granted by a style being provided as exploits. This is because all classes would share the same ones, and that is something that D&D avoids in the core rulebooks. Class exploits are designed to be specific to that class, and I want to keep the distinction clear.

Racial powers are an interesting place to put powers. I haven’t thought too much about the races, other than the fact that all characters are basically human. Given that kung fu is a trained ability, I can’t see a logical reason to link it to racial powers. It might be a neat idea to have cultural kung fu techniques available because of a base racial stock though. I’ll explore this more another time.

Decision time. I’m going to use class features for kung fu styles, and all classes will have them. The basic class feature will be kung fu, and that will require the choice of a kung fu style. This will grant access to kung fu feats (like Channel Divinity) which may be used once per encounter. Some classes will be granted access to more than one feat, and be able to use the kung fu feat up to twice per encounter.


3 Responses to “Musings on how to integrate kung fu powers with 4E”

  1. 1 Cy
    September 2, 2009 at 10:15 PM

    I know you are keen to stick to the core rule books as much as possible. But once again I want to point you towards ddi to have a look at another option. I’m not saying it’s better that using class features.. in truth I still haven’t got a real good grasp on the advantages of having powers available to all classes, are they all going to be based around similar stats or allow the use of multiple stats for their bonuses?

    Anyhow back to the reason for the post. Have a look at skill powers – a players handbook 3 example article. A similar idea could be used for your kung fu styles. Not really class features and not really skills. Or I guess you could say your class features allows you to pick a style for a list then each style gives you access to those powers that can be used instead of your class powers. Humm.. is that what you were getting at?

  2. 2 antonyball
    September 2, 2009 at 10:38 PM

    Hi Cy,

    I just had a look at skill powers, and that’s a neat idea. It is clearly aimed at utility powers rather than attack powers, and that lends itself really well to use for the chi skills in Dragon In Ninth Heaven.
    I have Lightfoot, Chi awareness, Chi channelling and other skills that I was unsure of how to translate. It looks like this may be a good way to allow utility powers rather than attack powers. I may still need to use feats for static bonuses, but I think that will require a full examination of the kung fu styles and the bonuses that each brings.

    Yes, the basic idea is that a class feature allows choice of a kung fu style, and then selection of powers from a list for that style. That could include attack or utility powers, or a static bonus (probably modelled as a feat in that case). These are additional to class powers, in the same way that the Channel Divinity class feature adds additional powers to the character.

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