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En Garde!

by Cindi Rice

"You know the rules?" Fernando asked his opponent, his four eyestalks studying the other man intently. He paid no attention to the young woman tracing a large circle around them in the sand, nor to the people filling the street around them.

Julian nodded slightly. "Don't leave the circle, and don't use any magic. I know how to duel," he replied, irritation in his voice. He impatiently wiped his large hands on his bright red pants and turned away.

"And no Legacies, right?" Fernando said, smiling as he tied a dark grey handkerchief on his head and covered it with his wide-brimmed leather hat. The younger man wheeled angrily and spat, "I am protected by Bozdogan. Only heathens have Legacies - only hideous monsters like you."

Fernando closed his front two eyes as if he'd been slapped. "I would have thought that Bozdogan would have also taught you respect," he said slowly.

"Aren't you in enough trouble already, boy?"

"I do not consider a foolish buzzard like yourself any trouble at all. Now, can we get on with this, or do you have more bragging?" Julian said. Fernando turned and gestured to the young woman, who carried two thin swords into the circle. Julian inspected each and chose one for himself. Fernando made a few trial swings with the remaining weapon and turned to face the other man.

The crowd grew quiet as Fernando spoke in a loud voice. "Julian Cortez, you have been charged with the murders of four innocents - people whose only crime was to be afflicted by the Red Curse. For these crimes, you are sentenced to die. As a constabulary for Sir John, I will carry out this sentence. Do you have anything to say?"

"Only that you will be number five, you disgusting fiend," Julian said as he raised his sword.

Welcome to the Savage Coast, a land of power and intrigue, high adventure and ultimate danger. Here, a curse inflicts hideous mutations while simultaneously bestowing magical abilities. Unique races and civilisations struggle for power, and swashbucklers dazzle commoners with their daring feats.

The Red Curse actually comprises several different magical components that result in both Legacies and Afflictions. Those who live on the Savage Coast all eventually acquire Legacies. These spell-like abilities do not come without a price, however, for they are usually accompanied by horrible Afflictions.

The Savage Coast setting also boasts many unusual inhabitants. Though the eastern sections of the coast are inhabited mostly by humans, the western areas are home to several other races. The most prevalent creatures include the feline rakastas, the canine lupins, and the turtle-like tortles.

A few simple mechanics greatly enhance the swashbuckling flavour of the setting. For example, PCs can now accumulate Panache Points and Gauche Points. These mechanics reflect the luck and caprice of the swashbuckling lifestyle. When a PC performs a particularly flashy or daring act, he is rewarded with Panache Points. He can later spend these points to improve his chances of accomplishing other actions. He can even spend more Panache Points than he has accumulated, but then he must accept an equal number of Gauche Points. The DM can then spend these points to foil the PC's plans.

Secret passes

One of the most important elements of swashbuckling is duelling. A new secret pass system heightens the excitement of these types of encounters. With this new system, PCs can join fighting schools to learn secret fencing moves and strategies.

Secret passes are fighting manoeuvres that PCs must spend a great deal of time learning and perfecting. In the example above, Fernando is a member of the Cavalcante fighting school. He has mastered nine of their secret passes and has even instructed at least a dozen students in the Cavalcante philosophy and fighting method. As easy as he makes fencing look, learning these techniques requires a great deal of hard work and discipline; it has taken him over 10 years to reach his level of expertise. Still, the hard work pays of grandly in the end. These special manoeuvres can mean the difference between a mundane win and a grandiose victory - and sometimes even between life and death.

The secret pass system should be used instead of (not in addition to) the critical hit system. Secret passes each cost one weapon or non-weapon proficiency slot. A PC may begin play with one secret pass only if he is a full member of a fighting school. (See "Fighting Schools" below for more details.) These passes can be performed only against humanoids or other creatures using weapons (DM's call otherwise). The DM should also feel free to expand the list of passes for each school or add new schools, using these as guidelines.

Learning secret passes

Any PC can learn a secret pass if he joins a fighting school. A PC must accumulate one month's training with a master and make a successful Intelligence check to learn the pass. If the check fails, the PC cannot try to learn that pass again until the next level of experience, but the proficiency slot is not lost. A PC learns a pass only on a specific weapon. Once a PC has learned a pass, however, spending one more proficiency slot on it would allow him to perform that pass with any one-handed sword with which he is already proficient.

To learn a Difficult Pass, a PC must have already mastered two Basic Passes. To learn a Master Stroke, he must have already mastered two Difficult Passes. To learn a Death Move, he must have already mastered two Master Strokes. A PC can never have more Difficult Passes than Basic Passes, more Master Strokes than Difficult Passes, or more Death Moves than Master Strokes. To determine which pass a PC's master chooses to teach him, refer to the list of passes for his school and roll the appropriate die. If it is his first pass, roll for a Basic Pass. If he already knows two Basic Passes, roll for either a Basic Pass or a Difficult Pass (PC's choice). A PC can always go back and learn a lower level pass. Fernando trained with the Cavalcante school for eight years before finally learning the Death Move, Surgeon's Knife. After that, he still went on to learn the Battle Royale even though it is only a Difficult Pass.

These special combat moves are almost always taught by a master swordsman. A PC cannot teach a move until he has known it for at least five levels of experience, and even then he must acquire permission from his school.

Stealing secret passes

Secret passes are just that - secret. One does not want to use them in public for fear that another swordsman might see and copy them. Generally, a swordsman would use such moves only in combats to the death, or at least duels held in secret.

Allowing someone to steal a move is not only dishonourable, but it can also be grounds for punishment by that school. Stealing passes, while not dishonourable, does anger the members of the school from which it is stolen. A PC can steal only moves he would be capable of learning. For example, a PC who knows only one Basic Pass could not steal a Master Stroke. In order to steal someone's move, the PC must see the pass used firsthand with no distractions (such as being in battle). A PC fighting nearby could not see the pass well enough to copy it. Even if it was used against him personally, a PC would not be able to duplicate the move. The PC must also be proficient in the weapon that was observed.

If all of these qualifications are met, then the PC can attempt an Intelligence check to see if he understands the move; if this check is successful, the PC must practice the move until he reaches the next level of experience. At that point, the PC must make another Intelligence check at a -4 penalty to actually master the move. If this check is successful, the PC has completely mastered that secret pass. If this check fails, however, the PC must continue the training and attempt another Intelligence check at a -3 penalty upon reaching the next level. The attempt gets easier each time. A stolen pass still requires spending a proficiency slot. If the PC does not have one available at the time, he must wait until he does to master the move.

Using secret passes

The rapier is the most appropriate weapon for these moves, but any one-handed sword will suffice (subject to DM approval). Rapiers receive no penalty; other swords receive a -1 penalty to all secret pass attacks. DMs must use common sense in deciding which passes can be performed with some swords.

When a player rolls at least five points higher than his target number in an attack, this counts as an exceptional hit. In combat, any time a PC makes an exceptional hit against an opponent, he has the option to use a secret pass. The degree of success necessary for each type of move is given in Table 1. A player doesn't declare before rolling that he intends to use a secret pass. By rolling well in combat, the PC creates an opening for one of these manoeuvres, and he may then choose whether to take it. If too many people are around or he doesn't have an appropriate move available, he may choose to score a normal hit on the opponent.

The effect of a secret pass is always in addition to normal damage unless otherwise specified in the description. Some of the passes require a special condition, such as the use of a shield or second weapon or the presence of a certain object.

For example, Fernando (an 11th-level fighter) has a THAC0 of 10 with his rapier. Julian has an Armour Class of 3 due to his Dexterity and ring of protection +3, so Fernando needs a roll of 7 to strike him successfully. An attack roll of 15 succeeds by 8 points, so Fernando can then choose to land a normal hit on Julian or use any Basic or Difficult Pass, Master Stroke, or Death Move that he has learned. Fernando, having already been severely wounded, decides to perform the Surgeon's Knife, killing Julian and ending the duel.

Fighting schools

Secret passes differ according to school. The four most famous fighting schools on the Savage Coast are the Dominguez, Cavalcante, Moncorvo, and Verdegeld schools. No one is ever allowed to join more than one school. These schools distinguish themselves by their differing philosophies. Each school has its own set of secret passes, though some of the basic ones are similar. The schools each employ a few masters, who learn all the passes, and some instructors, who learn most of them.

Very selective in choosing their students, these schools often require applicants to pass a test (or series of tests) before joining. Most schools also charge dues to their members, usually around 100 gp per year. This amount does not include any fee or demand made by the specific instructor before revealing a secret pass. The price of learning an individual pass can be as high as 200 gp per level of the pass.

The schools each have a secret phrase or signal that lets members identify one another. Someone who performs a secret pass and cannot identify himself as a member of that school could be in a bit of trouble!

Dominguez school

The Dominguez fighting school originated in Torreón, but it has also become the most popular school in Renardy. It focuses on the two-weapon fighting style, so to be a member of this school, a PC must spend an additional proficiency slot in that style. Dominguez members do not receive the typical -2 penalty to their secondary weapon attacks.

Dominguez secret passes

Basic passes


1 Torreóner two-step: This attack can be used only on the swordsman's first attack (in any given round). With it, the swordsman sets up his next attack, which he will use to throw his secondary weapon at a +2 bonus to hit.

2 Swift sting: This attack inflicts a wound to the opponent's sword arm. Foe fights at an attack penalty of -2 until damage is healed. (Effect is cumulative with each secret pass until -10; then, the foe loses all use of that arm).

3 Slow counter-step: This attack automatically puts the opponent off balance until the end of the following round; he has a +2 AC penalty (AC 5 becomes AC 7). This attack inflicts no damage.

4 Dominguez double-dive: This pass can be used only on the swordsman's first attack in any given round. This move is actually two successful attacks, so it also takes the place of the second attack. Damage for both attacks is rolled at a +1 bonus.

Difficult pass


1-2 Kiss of steel: The swordsman hits opponent with weapon hilt; opponent must make a successful Constitution check at a -6 penalty or be stunned, losing all attacks for one round.

3-4 Morales ironsnap: The swordsman pins foe's weapon. If used against an opponent fighting with one weapon, the next attack automatically hits for maximum damage unless the opponent uses his initiative (if he hasn't already used it) to make a successful Strength check, freeing his weapon. If the Strength check fails, his weapon must successfully save vs. crushing blow or break. This attack inflicts no damage.

5-6 Two-handed farewell: No matter which attack it is performed with, this pass inflicts maximum damage for both weapons. This does not negate any other attacks.

Master strokes


1-2 Torreóner block and strike: This attack must be on the first attack in any given round. The first weapon inflicts no damage, but the second weapon does maximum damage if it hits. The swordsman also automatically gains initiative in the next round. If the opponent has not attacked this round, his next hit is effectively parried.

3-4 Manzanas blurring tower: The swordsman whirls blades so quickly that the opponent is confused, missing all attacks until the end of the next round and suffering a +2 AC penalty.

Death move

Dominguez necktie: The swordsman strikes with both weapons, opening the arteries in the foe's neck. Opponent can no longer fight and dies in 2d4 rounds if a healing spell (cure serious wounds or better) is not used within that time.

Cavalcante school

The Cavalcante school originated in Texeiras but is becoming popular throughout the Savage Baronies. This school focuses on force. Practitioners prefer moves that display strength and power. To be a member of this school, a PC must have a Strength of at least 13.

Cavalcante Secret Passes

Basic passes


1 Agueira's salute: This attack is a crushing blow to the opponent's head. It gives a +2 bonus to damage; the opponent must make a successful Constitution check at a -4 penalty or be stunned, automatically missing his next attack.

2 Cavalcante's charge: The swordsman implements a forceful forward attack. The opponent must make a Strength check at a -4 penalty or be forced backward 1d4+2 steps. This is especially useful when fighting on a ledge or cliff.

3 Baronial masquerade: The swordsman distracts the opponent and rushes in, knocking foe's weapon to the ground. The swordsman automatically gains initiative next round and a +2 bonus on his next attack. This attack inflicts no damage.

4 Texeiran trounce: The swordsman attacks forcefully enough to knock foe off balance. The opponent must make a successful Strength check at a -4 penalty or be thrown to the ground. His next initiative must be spent picking himself up.

Difficult pass


1-2 Iron lunge: The swordsman doubles the damage rolled for this attack and adds +2.

3-4 Battle royale: The swordsman runs his sword through the opponent, doing maximum damage. The opponent must make a successful save vs. paralysation at a -2 penalty or flee.

5-6 Shattering ram: The swordsman strikes foe's weapon with his own sword, using massive force. The opponent's weapon must successfully save vs. crushing blow or be shattered. This attack inflicts no damage.

Master stroke


1-2 Scarlet veil: The swordsman gouges out one of the foe's eyes. Opponent receives a -2 penalty to all attacks and initiative rolls and a +2 AC rating penalty until the eye is magically regenerated. If both eyes are gouged out, the foe suffers a 4-point penalty to all the above.

3-4 Sudden squall: The swordsman successfully hits for maximum damage and grabs a nearby object, hitting the opponent for an additional 1d8 hp damage plus any Strength bonus.

Death move

Surgeon's knife: The swordsman disembowels foe. Opponent can no longer fight and will die in 2d4 rounds. Only healing spells (cure serious wounds or better) can be used to repair this damage.

Moncorvo school

The Moncorvo fighting school is a favourite of swashbucklers all over the Savage Coast. This school originated in Vilaverde and still has its headquarters there. To be a member of this school, a PC must either have the tumbling proficiency or a Dexterity of 13. This school also favours the use of a buckler.

Moncorvo Secret Passes

Basic passes


1 Hidalgo death wish: This attack inflicts a wound to the opponent's side. Foe suffers an AC penalty of +2 until the wound is healed. (Effect is cumulative with each pass until the opponent's AC is 10; then, the attack inflicts double damage.)

2 Rapier's harvest: The swordsman can cut any single non-living object within reach, such as a pouch, rope, candle, belt, or any object that can normally be cut by a rapier. This attack inflicts no damage.

3 Baronial panache: The swordsman's spectacular skill requires foe to make a successful save vs. paralysation or flee.

4 Silk and steel: This attack lets the swordsman swirl a cloak to confuse his foe and entangle opponent's weapon, causing him to automatically miss the next attack.

Difficult passes


1-2 Master seal: The swordsman carves a personal mark into the foe's forehead or clothing. Scar requires regeneration to erase.

3-4 Swordsman's gambit: The swordsman tumbles under the foe's weapon and adds an extra 1d6 damage on this attack.

5-6 Vilaverdan slip: The swordsman skilfully steps around a foe blocking the way (including through a doorway), automatically gaining initiative in the next round and a +2 bonus on his next attack roll.

Master strokes


1-2 Inigo's rebuke: Swordsman creates an opening for 1d3 extra attacks, which he must apply immediately.

3-4 Swashbuckler's eyebrow: The swordsman slashes the opponent on the forehead, inflicting maximum damage and temporarily blinding foe, who attacks with a -2 penalty for the next two rounds.

Death move

Moncorvo's Heartbreak: The swordsman pierces foe through the chest. Opponent can no longer fight and dies within 2d4 rounds if not healed magically (cure serious wounds or better).

Verdegild school

The Verdegild fighting school originated in Eusdria. Popular with both paladins and honourbound, this school teaches that superior skill is shown through control. Anyone can kill an opponent, but a superior swordsman can prove his skill without causing death. A duel ends when an opponent is disarmed or, occasionally, at first blood. Though practitioners of this style do not like to kill, they will defend themselves to the death if no other alternative presents itself.

Verdegild secret passes

Basic pass


1 Corsair's handshake: This disarm attack works even against an opponent using the two-weapon fighting style. Opponent must make a successful Strength check at a -4 penalty or drop all weapons he is currently holding. This attack inflicts no damage.

2 Paladin's reverence: This attack inflicts a wound to the opponent's leg. Foe suffers a -2 penalty to initiative rolls until the leg is healed. (Effect is cumulative with each pass up to a -10 penalty; then, the opponent loses use of the leg.)

3 Swordsman's slice: The swordsman can cut any single non-living object within reach, such as a pouch, rope, candle, belt, or other object which can normally be cut with a rapier. This attack inflicts no damage.

4 Show of force: The swordsman unbalances foe and forces him backward. Opponent must make a successful Dexterity check at a -4 penalty or be knocked to the ground. His next action must be used to pick himself up. The swordsman can choose to execute this attack for no damage.

Difficult pass


1-2 Royal display: The swordsman makes a flourish with his blade, demonstrating such superior ability that his opponent must make a successful save vs. paralysation at a -2 penalty or surrender.

3-4 Knight's accolade: This attack inflicts damage to the opponent's sword arm. Foe fights at a -4 penalty to all attack rolls until arm is healed. (Effects are cumulative the first two times this is used; after that, the opponent can no longer use that arm.)

5-6 Eusdrian standoff: The swordsman locks swords with the opponent, closing in until they are face to face. This effectively prevents any sword attacks by either of them until someone steps away. If the opponent steps away first, the swordsman automatically gains the next initiative with a +2 bonus on his attack roll. However, the opponent can attempt a Strength check at a -6 penalty to push the swordsman away; if he succeeds, neither receive any subsequent bonuses.

Master stroke


1-2 Musketeer sundown: This attack inflicts a hard blow to the side of the opponent's head. Foe must make a successful Constitution check at a -8 penalty or fall unconscious. This attack inflicts half damage.

3-4 Honourbounds courtesy: The swordsman disarms the opponent and shreds his garments over a vital area. The opponent must make a successful save vs. paralysation at a -4 penalty or flee (if there is room) or surrender. The swordsman can choose to execute this attack for no damage.

Death move

Verdegild's sentence: The swordsman severs (or at least completely disables) opponent's sword arm at the elbow; opponent's hit points are automatically halved, and he must make a successful system shock roll or fall unconscious. He will bleed to death in 1d4 hours if not healed, magically or otherwise.

Savage Coast Online

The Savage Coast campaign setting is TSR's first online game world. The Savage Coast products listed in the TSR Catalogue will appear only on America Online (AOL), Genie, and the Internet - they won't be available in stores. The Savage Coast Campaign Book, the Savage Coast Monstrous Compendium Appendix, and Orc's Head (an accessory and adventure) will be available in July, September, and November, respectively. Each is accompanied by separate files containing maps and art, including the covers. The Black Vessel, a Savage Coast novel, will be published conventionally.

Finding the files

On AOL, just look for the Download of the Month Library in the TSR Online forum (keyword: TSR).

On Genie, find the TSR Online Roundtable Software Library (type m125;3) and look for the Savage Coast Topic on the TSR Bulletin Board (Genie, page 125, menu option 1, Category 18/Topic 4). To make things simpler, you can also use the keyword "TSR" and then select the menu options.

On the Internet, ftp to Log in as "anonymous", use your e-mail address as your password, and look in the /Gaming/ADND/Worlds/SavageCoast directory.) E-mail any questions about downloading these files to

Cindi grew up in New Mexico but moved to the United States at the tender age of 21. After eluding federal immigration authorities for months, she finally married U.S. citizen Wayne Rice and was safe at last. This article marks her first appearance in Dragon Magazine.