Sectarian Styles

The martial art forms pioneered by the druids of the Aureshan Empire are part of a long and rich tradition. Rife with conflict between the Imperial government and the stern and secretive druidic abbots whose power often stretched across vast swathes of the countryside throughout the Imperial provinces, the history of sectarian martial arts is half-obscured by a veil of druidic uprisings, Imperial suppressions at the hands of the legions, and violent disputes between rival sects. These styles are now widespread, and their influence is frequently present in the training of martial artists outside of the sect which gave rise to them. They are practiced not only in the far-flung monasteries that have harbored them since their earliest development, but also by solitary hermits and wandering adventurers. Many of these schools require training in the druidic mysteries to master. Advanced practitioners of the sectarian styles frequently expand the boundaries of the wild shape ability, or learn to channel their spells into devastating unarmed strikes.

Ankheg

Feats: Improved Unarmed Strike, Improved Grapple, Improved Initiative, Improved Trip, Stunning Fist

Skills: Hide 5 ranks, Knowledge (arcana) 5 ranks

Special: Able to use wild shape to assume the form of a Large animal

Spells: Able to cast giant vermin

Mastery Benefit: Masters of the Ankheg style can assume the form of an ankheg when using the wild shape ability. When they are not in ankheg form, they can spend a daily use of their Stunning Fist ability to add 1d6 points of acid damage to their unarmed attacks for 1 round

Notes: This form is practiced by the Earth Speakers sect in their subterranean monastery of Car Howtarn, which lies between the large cities of Floresta and Pianura to the northeast and southeast, respectively, from Auresh. Its emphasis on stealthy infiltration and sneak attacks has made the druidic monks of the Earth Speakers famous as authorities on guerilla warfare at the tactical level. In centuries past, this reputation has deterred paranoid emperors from sending the Imperial Legions to suppress the sect; at this point the Earth Speakers actually provide the Legions with skilled trainers for special units in exchange for control of a fairly large zone of wilderness around Car Howtarn.

Car Howtarn also is famed for its bestiary, which includes specimens of a wide variety of animals and magical beasts. These creatures are subject to detailed study, and the monks extract poisons and other substances from some them. Unconfirmed rumors hold that some of the masters of the Ankheg style use the fruits of this program to serve as assassins at the behest of the sect's general leadership, and even suggest that the Earth Speakers have been known to hire out their services to close allies of the sect-including the emperors. Mages, independent druids, druids of other sects, and scholars who have been granted access to the bestiary all are quick to scoff at these rumors.

Blink Dog

Feats: Improved Unarmed Strike, Improved Trip, Stunning Fist, Spirit Strike, Track

Skills: Concentration 11 ranks, Hide 10 ranks, Listen 15 ranks, Sense Motive 10 ranks, Spot 15 ranks, Survival 15 ranks, Spellcraft 11 ranks

Special: Able to use wild shape to assume the form of a Large animal, able to use the abundant step supernatural ability

Mastery Benefit: You can assume the form of a blink dog in addition to the other shapes granted by the wild shape ability. While in blink dog form, you gain access to its supernatural abilities in addition to the normal effects of wild shape.

Notes: Several days' hard travel to the south from the metropolis of Verdena in the Aureshan Empire live the druid-monks of the Flickering, a large and powerful sect that emphasizes the martial arts above and beyond druidic mysteries. True masters of the Blink Dog style achieve extraordinary attunement with the Ethereal Plane, allowing them not only to take on the attributes of the totem beast that inspires their martial training, but also to make use of the blink dog's supernatural ability to step out of phase with the mortal world.

The Flickering's monastery of Car Gren is the site of an ancient shrine where the monks venerate the memory of their dead abbots in an unbroken line extending back for the past thousand years. Car Gren towers above the plains of the southern Empire, and the grandmasters of the sect have several times fended off siege when the emperors of Auresh, jealous of the shrine and of the monastery's command of the surrounding countryside, have sent the Imperial Legions to try to seize these holy sites. The past three centuries have been relatively peaceful because the most recent attempt ended with the utter destruction of the elite Seventeenth Legion. Polite but unaffectionate peace has characterized relations between the capital and the monks ever since.

Fire Heart

Feats: Agile Flames, Blistering Heat, Combat Reflexes, Dodge, Improved Unarmed Strike, Mobility, Spring Attack, Stunning Fist, Weapon Finesse

Skills: Concentration 10 ranks, Perform (dance) 5 ranks, Spellcraft 10 ranks

Special: Ability to use wild shape to assume the form of a Large fire elemental

Mastery Benefit: Masters of the Fire Heart style who are able to use wild shape to assume the form of a Large fire elemental can opt to assume the form of a Huge fire elemental instead. The save DC against the burn extraordinary ability gained during a wild shape into this form gains a +4 bonus

Notes: The druids of the plains eastward from the town of Stogna are among the oldest fire elementalists of the Aureshan Empire, having gained a healthy respect and admiration for the power of flame from the ravages of wildfire on the prairie. The Fire Heart style, inspired by the conflagrations that sweep the region in late summer, is by far the best known of all the sectarian styles because the basics of the form are easily grasped by almost anyone capable of casting spells.

Because of the adaptability of the style's techniques and the central location of the monasteries that gave birth to it, disaffected monks find it easy to leave and set themselves up as independent teachers. Martially minded sorcerers, wizards, and even clerics often learn the basics of the Fire Heart form by training as monks, but only a monastic druid can truly master it. Several druidic sects practice the Fire Heart style, including the Daughters of the Efreeti, a cloistered order of nuns whose annual dance-procession across the plains near their motherhouse, Tar Viwa, draws pilgrims from across the Empire to meditate on the glorious power of fire.

Manticore Spine

Feats: Point Blank Shot, Quick Draw, Rapid Shot, Manticore Tail, Weapon Focus (spear), proficient with javelin and spear

Skills: Jump 10 ranks, Listen 5 ranks, Spot 10 ranks

Special: Flurry of blows ability

Mastery Benefit: You can throw multiple darts, javelins, longspears, shortspears, or spears simultaneously against a nearby target, as if you had the Manyshot feat

Notes: Unusually for a sectarian martial art, the Manticore Spine style emphasizes weaponry over unarmed combat, and can be mastered by individuals who have not been trained as druids. Instead of serving as the core of a meditation regimen on a set of druidic mysteries, as would be the case for many of the sectarian styles, the Manticore Spine techniques are studied by monks and monk-rangers who serve as shrine guards for the Ancestral Thunder sect in the Anasylvan Mountain range in the far northern reaches of the Aureshan Empire.

Scorpion

Feats: Blind-Fight, Exotic Weapon Proficiency: Spiked Chain, Improved Grapple, Improved Unarmed Strike, Power Attack, Whirling Chain, Weapon Focus: Spiked Chain

Skills: Hide 5 ranks, Listen 5 ranks

Mastery Benefit: You treat the spiked chain as a light weapon for the purpose of determining whether it can be used in a grapple. If you are able to cast spells, you can channel the effect of a poison spell through your spiked chain

Notes: The Scorpion form is peculiar to the north-western part of the Empire, and has enjoyed a relatively peaceful coexistence with the Empire to date partly because Arentine Province is mostly badlands, and undesirable for mass settlement because it offers little in the way of farmland to support a large population. The practitioners of the Scorpion school have remained relatively undisturbed to date. The style's chief practitioners are warlike hermits and monks who inhabit the caves that honeycomb the hills, meditating on the precarious balance of nature which allows life to exist in the rocky, cactus-riddled landscape. For the Watchers in the Hills, the scorpion serves as a perfect symbol of this balance with its natural gift for ambush, its poisonous sting, and its sensitivity to the sounds and vibrations of the world around it.

Squid

Feats: Blind-Fight, Choke-Hold, Improved Grapple, Improved Unarmed Strike, Power Attack

Skills: Swim 8 ranks

Special: Ability to use wild shape

Mastery Benefit: You ignore the concealment provided by your own ink cloud when you use wild shape to assume the form of a Medium squid or a giant squid

Notes: This style is one of the most ancient of the sectarian schools, and widely believed to be extinct in its pure form. The basis of the Squid style is very simple, emphasizing the use of extremely adaptable close-quarters techniques like grappling, so it was widespread before its destruction during a large sectarian revolt against the Imperial government. A vast array of hybrid styles include the Squid form in their ancestry. The truth is that the style is alive and well. Many of its least accomplished students were exterminated in combat with the Imperial Legion, but its masters easily retreated into the ocean, having only to leap into the sea and take on the form of a squid to make their escapes. A variation of the form is practiced among the merfolk tribes offshore from the Empire's northwestern coast, and capable humanoid practitioners of the style appear from time to time in the Imperial port cities of Auresh, Sabbia, and Wellen.

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