The English and German "Masters of Defence" were men who prided themselves on their expertise with a wide variety of weapons, civilian and military. Their art seems to have originated in the 15th century. It lasted until the late 17th century across most of Europe. As time wore on, the Masters - and students willing to train with them - became increasingly less common and ultimately disappeared entirely.

To learn this style, a would-be student had to find an accredited master and become his apprentice. Next came a lengthy training period, followed by tests - first to become a journeyman and eventually to qualify as a master. These would be excellent goals for a PC in a historical game.

A master of this style was expected to know all of its many weapons and be able to fight them in any combination. Fighters also learned unarmed techniques - especially those useful for dealing with armed foes. Some masters taught a substantial number of throws and locks; their schools would teach Judo rather than Wrestling. Practitioners didn't regard such unarmed methods as "dirty." Anything that worked was acceptable. Indeed, many masters lost eyes or digits proving their skill during certification tests or in subsequent duels. The one-eyed English Master of Defence was a common stereotype!

Tactics varied greatly depending on the weapons used. When wielding any weapon, though, stylists would mix armed techniques with unarmed ones intended to disarm the foe. Masters regarded such methods as crucial when disarmed - and as valuable additional means of defeating an armed opponent even when armed.

In a cinematic game, Masters of Defence make excellent Weapon Masters. The sheer breadth of their training means that they're fearsome fighters with almost any available weapon. There are tales of Masters standing off several adversaries at once, casually defeating skilled opponents (especially fencers and other foreigners!), and shearing men in half with tremendous blows.

Masters of Defence were commoners, not members of the upper class. This often led to social difficulties when dealing with their rapier-instructor contemporaries, who could simply ignore their challenges owing to the difference in status. Despite this, it's possible that some Masters learned the rapier - either to better defend against it or because they recognized its growing importance as a street weapon.

Skills: Brawling; Broadsword; Knife; Polearm; Shield; Shield (Buckler); Shortsword; Spear; Staff; Two-Handed Sword; Wrestling.

Techniques: Arm Lock; Armed Grapple (Polearm, Spear, Staff, or Two-Handed Sword); Disarming (Any skill in style); Feint (Any weapon skill in style); Hook (Polearm); Sweep (Polearm, Spear, Staff, or Two-Handed Sword).

Cinematic Skills: Kiai; Power Blow.

Cinematic Techniques: Dual-Weapon Attack (Shortsword); Grand Disarm (Staff or Two-Handed Sword); Whirlwind Attack (Staff or Two-Handed Sword).

Perks: Form Mastery (Spear); Grip Mastery (Two-Handed Sword); Off-Hand Weapon Training (Shortsword).

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