Performance Check

Superstition and the Starscarred Fighter

Quite some time ago, I was having a discussion with some friends regarding arcane hybrids. I’ll spare you all the tedious details, but a side discussion broke out around the archetypes of fighters. One friend commented that he believed it was incredibly difficult to create new fighter archetypes without leaning into magical concepts. Instead of rolling them under fighter, the magic comes to the forefront, and we see a bevy of arcane fighters. It’s not that I don’t understand the difficulties of design. I’ve always thought it would be interesting if fighters leaned the other way in a super-magical setting. To cope in a world of extreme magic, these fighters might develop sets of specific superstitions and training that reflect their experiences of being non-magical dudes in a world full of magical dudes. With that in mind, let’s take a look at superstition and the Starscarred fighter.

Previous Discussions: The Zodiac and the Celestial Sorcerer | Aberrations and the Circle of the Zodiac Druids | Dendar the Night Serpent and the Path of Nightmares Barbarians | Living Stars, Blazozoids, and Zodiac Patron Warlocks | Singing Stars, Erinyes, and the Bardic College of Kindly Song | Bitheism, Clerics, and the Service Domain

 

Very Superstitious

Superstition is a funny thing. Even the most ration, science-driven person I know has one or two superstitions they can’t – or don’t want – to shake. Be it kissing your hand and putting your hand on your car roof while driving through a yellow light, sitting in a specific spot and holding a specific thing while your team attempts to comeback in a game they are losing, or dice-shaming because those dice just keep rolling them 1’s and 2’s – despite that probably not being the case. Athletes are regularly portrayed as having specific actions they perform in order to keeping streaks alive – wearing your hat strangely, not washing articles of clothing, and so on. Hell, kids learn rhymes like “step on a crack, break your mother’s back,” or the one about the carrion crow.

This is to say nothing of the common superstition and folk beliefs we share. Walking under a ladder, black cats crossing your path, finding a penny tails up, the number 13, and mirrors breaking are all omens of bad luck. Four leaf clovers, finding a penny heads up, the number 7, eating collard greens/black-eyed peas/pork on New Year’s Day, shooting stars, and countless others are omens of good luck. While these vary from region to region and country to country, the point here is folk beliefs persist into the modern day.

Better education and technology isn’t the answer for less superstition, either. Superstition attribution does not change with our ever-increasing understanding of the world. Our expanding knowledge – and ready access to that knowledge – creates situations where we can’t easily explain what and why something is happening more likely to stick out as an anomaly two us. The way we develop superstitions in the first place contributes to this.

But Why?

Humans tend to have a desire to exert control over their surroundings. I get it, feeling helpless or at-fault aren’t the best feelings in the world, for sure. The more unlikely an event is, the more likely we attribute it to an a supernatural/superstitious cause. As a personal example of this, I am superstitious about the month of October. I only get speeding tickets in that month, and the only times I have ever been in accidents have been in that month – people like not look and hit me when I am at a complete stop and obeying traffic laws, for some reason.

Even at my job, things tend to go off the rails in spectacularly bad fashion during the month of October – buildings burning down from random lightning strikes, normally dependable applications I support breaking in catastrophic fashion at the same time, etc. As a result, I believe  I need to do everything in my power to be extra proactive during the month to get ahead of the assuredly-looming disaster.

Rationally, I know the month this isn’t true, but that doesn’t stop how I feel about the matter. From a work perspective, it makes sense that we’d have more trouble in October. People return from their vacations and work to complete things before the holiday season – and subsequent environment freeze – starts. The companies we support gear up for the holiday season, and want all upgrades, tests, and features to provide the best experience for customers during their busiest time of the year. As far as driving goes, the weather is really nice that time of year. It’s easy to get lost in driving with your window down, music up, and just relaxing – and going faster than you thought you were going. I know these things.. However, I also feel – from the bottom of my heart – that the month is a curse upon me.

Blood and Baseball

The other side is the attribution of negative events to supernatural/superstitious causes rather than positive events. This speaks to the “at-fault” point I make above. In baseball you have the Curse of the Bambino and the Curse of the Billy Goat. Since I’ve been a lifelong Red Sox fan – that’s what happens when your dad is from Queens, you hate the Yankees and love the Red Sox and Mets – let’s jump in there. The curse appears at the beginning of 1920, when Babe Ruth became a New York Yankee. Owner Harry Frazee wanted to finance a Broadway musical. The truth is that it was probably for a non-musical play, and he often sold players and even mortgaged Fenway to pay for them.

Common lore holds that the Babe was the cause of the Red Sox’s championships, and that when he went to the Yankees, his luck went with him. This is bolstered by the cold, hard facts that in the intervening 86 years, the Red Sox went to – and lost – four World Series, each in seven games. During that same stretch, the Yankees went to a whopping 39 World Series – picking up 26 wins. nevermind the fact the curse wasn’t mentioned for the first time until the Buckner debacle in 1986.

Of course, when the team won the championship in 2004 it was because of the strength of the team and Theo Epstein’s work in the front office in rebuilding how the foundation of the team operated. For some reason, it wasn’t about Curt Schilling’s bloody sock. The bloody sock was a good luck talisman that appeared in game 6 of the ALCS against the Yankees, which at one point the Red Sox trailed three games to none – a deficit no team had ever overcome before. Schilling was pitching on an injured ankle – something obvious in the shelling he received in his game one outing – and the sutures used in a medical procedure to help the injury ruptured and his sock became soaked with blood.

This occurred again in game two of the world series with a different sock. The second sock was even memorialized in the Hall of Fame. The bloody sock was seen as a good luck charm by the team and fans alike. So why then isn’t the breaking of the curse and subsequent titles over the last decade and a half attributed to the bloody sock? Well, this theory supposes it’s because this is a positive outcome rather than a negative one.

Superstition and the Starscarred Fighter

Seeing as superstition is alive and well in the modern day, it’s not difficult to imagine it playing a large role in a setting where the Zodiac protects the world from the horrors of the aberrations and forgotten elder things of the Far Realm. The Far Realm being a major focus of a setting would naturally change a lot of the settings feel. The constant threat of horrors as yet unknown to mankind and beings that literally manipulate and feast upon your mind is enough to give anyone the heebeegeebees.

The Starscarred are the Soldiers of the Southern Sky who brand or tattoo themselves with depictions of the constellations on certain parts of their bodies. They do so believing this will cause the constellations to look over them, and grant them portions of their strength during times of need. These fighters learn specific techniques and chants to accompany each tattoo or brand, creating bonds between those who happen to bear the same marks. The Soldiers of the Southern Sky recognize this comradery, and entire units are formed based on the marks the soldiers bear. Not all of the Soldiers of the Southern Sky are Starscarred, but it is quite rare to find those Starscarred who are not now – or once were – among their ranks.

Starscarred

There are those who look up at the stars and find themselves staring in wonder at the seemingly endless beauty of the night sky. Then there are the Starscarred. They stare up at the night sky, but they aren’t thinking of how beautiful it is. They are thinking about how the sky is going to give them the strength to rip off the squishy mouth-flaps or snaking tentacle of those unspeakable abominations from the Far Realm. That’s why they carry the Zodiac with them wherever they go – branded or tattooed upon their flesh. That’s why they learn the chants and arts passed down from a time where the Zodiac visited the world, and shared their secrets with all of the good folk living upon it.

Starscarred tend to gravitate to other Starscarred who share the same depictions upon their flesh. Each tattoo or brand is chosen from those of the Zodiac bound together in duty and purpose. The fighter chooses from one of each from duty, honor, knowledge, and prowess. To select more than one of the Zodiac who represents the same purpose is unthinkable – to do so would be to deny the purpose of the other members of the Zodiac. Each purpose is represented by a portion of the body – arms, legs, chest, and back. As the Starscarred masters more techniques, the more of their body is covered in the signs of the stars.

Starscarred Features

 

Fighter Level Feature
3rd Mark of Prowess, Sign of Respect
7th Soldier’s Pastime
10th Mark of Knowledge
15th Mark of Duty
18th Mark of Honor

 

Mark of Prowess

Beginning at 3rd level, you receive tattoos or brands on your arms to illustrate your mastery of and dedication to the chants and techniques left behind by one of the Zodiac who champion prowess. Choose one of the following when you gain this feature:

Teachings of the Forge. You have trained tirelessly while working at the heels of a smith, and have learned to strike with great force and block out the pain of searing flames. When you hit a creature, you may choose to roll one of the weapon’s damage dice an additional time and add it as additional bludgeoning damage to your hit. When you reach 15th level, you may roll one of the weapon’s damage dice two additional times, instead of one. 

Additionally, when you suffer fire damage, you may spend your reaction to gain resistance to the damage. 

You may use either of these a combined amount equal to your choice of your Strength or Dexterity modifier (minimum of one). Once you have done so, you may not do so again until you complete a long or short rest.

Teachings of the Jade General. You have learned to bolster your comrades through the teaching and chants of the Jade General. When hit a creature you may choose to grant an ally you can see within 30 feet the ability to roll one of their weapon’s damage dice and add it as additional damage on their next successful attack. As a reaction to an ally within 30 feet of you being attacked, you may bolster their confidence and grant them temporary hit points equal to 5 + half your fighter level.

You may use either of these a combined amount equal to your choice of your Strength or Dexterity modifier (minimum of one). Once you have done so, you may not do so again until you complete a long or short rest.

Teachings of the Silver Bear. You have been conditioned and learned chants to aid you in blocking out the pain of injuries, and in punishing those that attack your allies. As a bonus action, you may choose to gain resistance to all damage except poison. Once you suffer damage, this resistance fades at the end of your next turn. As a reaction to a creature attacking an ally you can see within 30 feet, you may attack the creature attacking your ally. If you hit the creature, you may roll one of your weapon’s damage dice and add it as additional damage to the attack, and the creature suffers disadvantage on its next weapon attack.

You may use either of these a combined amount equal to your choice of your Strength or Dexterity modifier (minimum of one). Once you have done so, you may not do so again until you complete a long or short rest.

Sign of Respect

Starting at 3rd level, you have learned to master one of the methods of artistry practiced by the Starscarred. You gain a tool proficiency in your choice of alchemist’s supplies or calligrapher’s supplies. Starscarred traditionally use alchemist’s supplies in branding, while calligrapher’s supplies are used in tattooing.

Soldier’s Pastime

Upon reaching 7th level, you have grown accustomed to filling your free hours talking with your comrades-in-arms and telling old lies to pass the time. You may choose to learn a language (your choice), gain proficiency with tools: gaming set (your choice), gain proficiency with tools: musical instrument (your choice), gain proficiency in Charisma (Deception), gain proficiency in Charisma (Performance), or gain proficiency in Charisma (Persuasion).


When making a check with any of the skills or tools selected from this feature, you may choose to gain expertise with the skill or tool. Once you have done so, you may not do so again until you take a long or short rest.

Mark of Knowledge

When you reach 10th level, you receive tattoos or brands on your legs to illustrate your mastery of and dedication to the chants and techniques left behind by one of the Zodiac who champion knowledge. Choose one of the following when you gain this feature:

Teaching of the Guiding Arrow. You have studied under scouts and trackers, learning wilderness traditions. You have a ritual book holding two 1st-level druid spells of your choice. Choose your spells from the druid spell list, and the spells you choose must have the ritual tag. You spellcasting ability for these spells is Wisdom. If you come across a spell in written form, such as a magical spell scroll, you might be able to add it to your ritual book. The spell must be on the spell list for the class you chose, the spell’s level can be no higher than half your level (rounded up), and it must have the ritual tag.

The process of copying the spell into your ritual book takes 2 hours per level of the spell, and costs 50 gp per level. The cost represents material components you expend as you experiment with the spell to master it, as well as the fine inks you need to record it.

Teaching of the Lost Father. You have studied under those have a natural kinship to the stars. You have a ritual book holding two 1st-level spells of your choice. Choose one of the following classes: bard, or sorcerer. Choose your spells from that class’s spell list, and the spells you choose must have the ritual tag.Your spellcasting ability for these spells is Charisma. If you come across a spell in written form, such as a magical spell scroll, you might be able to add it to your ritual book. The spell must be on the spell list for the class you chose, the spell’s level can be no higher than half your level (rounded up), and it must have the ritual tag.

The process of copying the spell into your ritual book takes 2 hours per level of the spell, and costs 50 gp per level. The cost represents material components you expend as you experiment with the spell to master it, as well as the fine inks you need to record it.

Teachings of the Wandering Scholar. You have studied under arcane scholars, assisting them in rites and research. You have a ritual book holding two 1st-level spells of your choice. Choose one of the following classes: warlock, or wizard. Choose your spells from that class’s spell list, and the spells you choose must have the ritual tag. The class you choose also determines your spellcasting ability for these spells: Charisma for warlock; or Intelligence for wizard. If you come across a spell in written form, such as a magical spell scroll or a wizard’s spellbook, you might be able to add it to your ritual book. The spell must be on the spell list for the class you chose, the spell’s level can be no higher than half your level (rounded up), and it must have the ritual tag.

The process of copying the spell into your ritual book takes 2 hours per level of the spell, and costs 50 gp per level. The cost represents material components you expend as you experiment with the spell to master it, as well as the fine inks you need to record it.

Mark of Duty

Upon reaching 15th level, you receive tattoos or brands on your back to illustrate your mastery of and dedication to the chants and techniques left behind by one of the Zodiac who champion duty. Choose one of the following when you gain this feature:

Teachings of the Binder. You have studied techniques and learned chants to help you focus on binding and restricting your foes. Creatures you have grappled suffer disadvantage on their attack rolls and saving throws.

Additionally, at the beginning of its turn, the grappled creature suffers bludgeoning damage equal to twice your choice of your Strength or Dexterity modifier.  

Teachings of the Long Shroud. You have studied techniques and learned chants to aid you in stealthy combat. When attacking a foe who cannot see you or that you have advantage against, you deal additional damage equal to you twice your choice of your Strength or Dexterity modifier. Once you have dealt this damage once, you may not do so again until the beginning of your next turn.

Additionally, after you have rolled initiative, Wisdom (Perception) ability checks made to detect you are made with disadvantage.

Teachings of the Merciful Whip. You have studied techniques and learned chants to aid you in the use of traditionally eschewed weaponry. When you deal damage with a weapon that deals 1d4 damage, you may roll an additional weapon die when dealing damage with this weapon.

Additionally, whenever you deal damage that results in a death saving throw occurring, the creature makes the saving throw with disadvantage.

Mark of Honor

Starting at 18th level, you receive tattoos or brands on your chest to illustrate your mastery of and dedication to the chants and techniques left behind by one of the Zodiac who champion honor. Choose one of the following when you gain this feature:

Teachings of the Red Hunter. You have studied the techniques and chants centered around bringing down a single foe. As a reaction to rolling initiative, choose a creature you can see. When you deal damage to that creature, you deal an additional 1d6 damage. When that creature is reduced to 0 hit points, you may spend your reaction to gain temporary hit points equal to your fighter level.

Teachings of the Red Knight. You have studied the techniques and chants centered around protecting your allies in combat. As a reaction to rolling initiative, choose an ally you can see. As long as you remain within 5 feet of them, whenever your ally is hit with an attack you may spend your reaction to reduce the damage of the attack by your fighter level. After you have done so, you suffer half of the remaining damage (rounded up), and your ally suffers the other half (rounded down). You cannot reduce or avoid this damage by any means. If your ally is reduced to 0 hit points, as long as you are within 5 feet of them, the ally has advantage on death saving throws, and attacks against them are made with disadvantage.

Teachings of the Red Monk. You have studied the techniques and chants centered around assisting your allies in combat. As a reaction to rolling initiative, choose an ally you can see. You may use the Help action as a bonus action to aid that ally. That ally deals an additional 1d4 damage with any successful attacks they make after you Help them. Additionally, whenever you spend your second wind, your chosen ally regains hit points equal to the hit points you regain.

 

Shares
Shares