The character focus Needs No Weapons (Cypher System Rulebook, p. 153) represents a master of martial arts, someone whose entire character concept is based around their ability with unarmed combat. Some campaigns, though, might want everyone to have some martial arts ability which is where this flavor comes in.
The Basics: By default, unarmed attacks are light bludgeoning attacks. Since all character types are at least practiced in light weapons there is no penalty for attacking unarmed, although you often have more damaging options at your disposal. Likewise, no abilities that require bladed weapons, pointed weapons, or ranged weapons can be used with an unarmed attack. The abilities below give some unarmed abilities to PCs of all types, but warriors will still command the field when it comes to combat.
First-Tier Martial Arts Abilities
- Haymaker: When you make an unarmed attack (such as a punch or a kick), you can choose to count it as a heavy weapon instead of a light or medium weapon. Doing so means that you increase the difficulty of defense rolls by one step for the next round. Enabler.
- Knockdown (1 Might point): You hit your opponent with a stunning blow that sends them sprawling. Your attack inflicts 1 less point of damage than normal, but they are prone until they take an action to stand up.
- Living Weapon: When you make an unarmed attack (such as a punch or kick), it counts as a medium weapon instead of a light weapon. Enabler.
- Physical Training: You are trained in two skills in which you are not already trained. Choose two of the following: balancing, climbing, jumping, running, or swimming. You can select this ability multiple times. Each time you select it, you must choose two different skills. Enabler.
- Quick Reflexes: Even when you aren’t consciously aware of an enemy, you are prepared for an attack. The difficulty of the first defense roll you make in any encounter is reduced by one step. Enabler.
Second-Tier Martial Arts Abilities
- Breaking Blow (2 Might points): Your attacks can test weak points, allowing you to punch through boards and crack armor.
- Flying Kick (2 Might points): You jump through the air, charge across the ground, or otherwise move quickly towards your opponent, putting your momentum behind your attack. You must cover at least a short distance before you make your attack and your momentum inflicts a -1 penalty to your attack roll. On a successful hit, however, you deal 3 additional points of damage with your unarmed attack. Action.
- Flurry of Blows (1 Speed points): You attack the same target with two separate unarmed attacks. Make separate attack rolls for each attack, but both count as a single action in a single round. You remain limited in the amount of Effort you can apply on one action. Anything that modifies your attack or damage applies to both of these attacks. Action.
- Pressure Points (2 Intellect points): It’s not just about how hard you hit, it’s where you hit. By using your action to study your opponent, you can increase the damage dealt by your next successful unarmed attack (within the next ten minutes) by +3. Action.
- Trained Martial Artist: Choose any type of unarmed attack in which you are not already trained: light, medium, or heavy. You are trained in attacks with that style of unarmed attack. You can select this ability multiple times. Each time you select it, you must choose a different type of attack. Enabler.
Third-Tier Martial Arts Abilities
- Backflip (3 Might points): Dodging away from your attacker, you gain a better position. When you make a Speed or Might defense roll and spend 3 Might points, you flip, jump, or roll out of the way. If your defense roll is successful, you can move to another position within short range as part of the same reaction. Enabler.
- Counterstrike (3 Speed points): If a creature you attacked last round makes a melee attack against you, you decrease the difficulty of attacks against them by one step for the next round. Action to initiate.
- Disarm (3 or 4 Speed points): You might be skilled at martial arts but if your opponent has a weapon the fight can still be outmatched. Luckily, you know how to even the odds. With this Speed attack, you don’t deal any damage but you can successfully knock a weapon from your opponent’s hand. If you spend 4 Speed points, you instead grab the weapon away from them (assuming this is possible). Action.
- Rabbit Punch (2 Speed points): When you make an unarmed attack as a light or medium weapon, you can hit with a speed that is hard to defend against. The difficulty of the attack is decreased by one step. If the attack is successful, it deals 1 less point of damage than normal. Action.
- Throw (2 Might points): You hurl your opponent away from you. This attack increases the difficulty of the attack roll by one step. If your attack is successful, you throw the opponent a short distance away from you and they take an additional 2 points of damage. They aren’t prone unless you have another ability that would render them prone. Action.
Fourth-Tier Martial Arts Abilities
- Arm Lock (4 Speed points): When you make an unarmed Speed attack against a humanoid creature, you can choose to spend 4 Speed points and deal no damage. If you do, you instead twist the target’s arm behind their back, putting them in a hold that modifies the difficulty of any action they attempt (including breaking free) by one step to their detriment. You also can deal 2 points of damage to them as part of your action as long as you keep them in the hold. Action.
- Grab and Hold (4 Might points): When you make this attack, you don’t deal any damage to your opponent but you successfully grab them and hold them in a lock. While held like this, the difficulty of any task that opponent attempts (including breaking free) is modified by one step to their detriment. At the same time, any successful unarmed attacks you make against an opponent deals an additional 2 damage.
- Roundhouse (4 Speed points): You leap into the air and sweep your leg around to connect with any opponents within melee range. You make a separate unarmed Speed attack against up to three opponents you are able to reach, but all attacks count as one action this round. You remain limited by the amount of Effort you can apply on one action. Anything that modifies your attack or damage applies to all of these attacks. Action.
- Twist Free: When you make a Might or Speed check to break away from a hold or to dodge a grappling attack, you immediately gain a bonus action to make an unarmed attack against the opponent who you resisted. Enabler.
- Use the Room (4+ Might points): Not every unarmed engagement is flying kicks and elegant blocks. Sometimes you throw a lamp, tear down a curtain, or kick over a barstool. With this ability you can use some element of your environment as an improvised weapon. This improvised weapon can count as an unarmed attack for other abilities and will also provide an asset on one of the following action types: attack, defense, or movement. This asset, and the improvised action, will only last one round. You may spend a level of Effort to extend that by one round per point. Action to initiate.
Fifth-Tier Martial Arts Abilities
- Choke Hold (5 Might points): With a powerful sweep, you wrap your arm around your opponent’s throat and cut off their airway. On the target’s next action they can attempt to break free but if they don’t then they are rendered unconscious at the start of your next turn. Action.
- Disarm Block (5 or 6 Speed points): When your opponent attacks you in melee, you block their attack and grab their weapon at the same time. You successfully knock your opponent’s weapon from their hand as part of your defense roll. If you spend 6 Speed points, you instead grab the weapon away from them (assuming this is possible). Enabler.
- Lightning Punches (5 Speed points): You make four attacks against the same target with a single action. Make separate attack rolls for each attack and you remain limited in the amount of Effort you can apply on one action. Anything that modifies your attack or damage applies to all of these attacks. Action.
- Silencing Strike: You can increase the difficulty of an unarmed attack by one step to strike the target’s throat at the same time. They cannot speak above a whisper for the next 4 rounds. Enabler.
- Specialized Martial Artist: Choose any type of unarmed attack, even one in which you are already trained: light, medium, or heavy. You are trained in attacks with that style of unarmed attack. If you’re already trained in that type of attack, you instead are specialized in that type of attack. Enabler.
Sixth-Tier Martial Arts Abilities
- Broken Time (6+ Speed points): You move in an unpredictable way, shifting your rhythm to make it harder for opponents to target you. For the next round, you decrease the difficulty of all Speed defense rolls by one step. For each level of Effort you spend on this action you gain this benefit for another round. Action to initiate.
- Dizzying Strikes (6 Might points): When you make multiple attacks against the same target in a single turn, even if only one of the attacks hit, you gain a bonus action to stun them. Stunned targets cannot take any actions for a number of rounds equal to the number times you hit them. Action.
- Snap Arm (6 Might points): Your unarmed attack does an extra 2 points of damage and your opponent’s arm is snapped. The limb is useless and cannot be used for attacks (including two-handed weapon attacks) until it heals. Action.
- One-Inch Punch: You can increase the difficulty of an unarmed attack to ignore the target’s Armor rating. Enabler.
- Way of the Empty Hand: You are adept at avoiding attacks by armed opponents, while you yourself stay mobile and nimble. While you are unarmed and wearing no armor, the difficulty of Speed defense rolls against armed opponents is lowered by one step. Enabler.