(This is a bonus post, one I wrote back in September of 2022. I found it unposted while cleaning up.)
Stephen Donaldson is known for using 10-dollar words when a single simple word would suffice. In his Mordant's Need series, the villain's right-hand man is The Monomach. He is one part warrior, one part assassin.Now I thought I knew what "monomach" meant, but it turns out I was totally wrong. I had thought it was related to nobility or being a monarch, making this guy "The Assassin King".
As a villain, a Monomachos only has one purpose... to cause death and terror before dying. But do they have to be the villain?
Well, it certainly makes things easy if they are all villains. But they are not all villains.
It was relatively easy to come up with superhero examples. Black Widow, Hawkeye, Daredevil, The Hulk, and so on come across as heroes who live for the thrill of the fight. To a lesser extent, you could add Tony Stark and Spider-Man to the list, but then also remove the MCU Black Widow because she was starting to believe the fight was too much of a bother. Hawkeye was also heading that way, only to be replaced by Kate Bishop which allowed him to leave the hero act behind. Baymax would be an interesting and scary addition to that list because he follows his programming as if it were a joy.
Oddly, the Punisher is not a Monomachos as he has a different purpose for what he is doing. Fighting and aggression are not really his "thing". He is sorting criminal corpses into their proper circle of hell. It's a completely different purpose. He doesn't have to fight, just kill.
So what about non-superheroes?
Well, the list is short. Peter Pan, The Three Musketeers, Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica, Legolas, and Glimly. And my brain screeches to a halt there. I guess I could name more, but that is good enough.
The surprising people from those two lists are Spider-Man and Peter Pan because they are characters who are loved by children. It doesn't mean their drives are kid-friendly. Parker is driven to take risks and engage in violence at great personal cost. Peter Pan is slightly more disturbing. He switches sides if the fight is too easy. He kills Hook and then forgets there was a Captain Hook to kill. Both do it for the same reasons, the drive to excel with their given skill set, that are in parallel with their personal goals.
So what commonality do these people have if we take away alignment?
Each person is an improviser. They may use traditional weapons but are fully capable of using a brick, a candlestick, and a doorknob if necessary. They are not subject to outside influences, such as social norms and certain types of magic. Being a bit of a sociopath helps. Oddly, this deviated personality may cause them to be in more control of their feelings and desires, leading them away from wasteful fights. If the fight isn't a challenge, why do it?
Poor or malformed social skills are a hallmark of every character listed.
None of these characters are especially good at ordinary, everyday skills. Peter Pan and Kate Bishop can't cook. Hawkeye tends to zone out at key moments and Bruce Banner retreats from the world. Stark is made of neuroses, everything from germaphobia to being a dick even when he means to help.
In-game, what sort of traits would these characters have?
They should be able to use any sort of weapon and armor, even if they don't personally like specific armor and weapon types. They can also use improvised weapons. It's not their first, best option but if there is a lot of rubble around, it's better than bruising your knuckles.
Next, they should have some unique combat skills.
The Monomachos should rarely be surprised in combat. Perhaps only a 1 in 6 chance and this is separate from the rest of the party's roll. They are itching for a fight in every situation. If the party is surprised and The Monomachos is not surprised, they move with the enemy. This could spoil their surprise round as there is one opposing person moving as they do. The enemy had to waste their surprise round to address the Monomachos.
Their third combat ability is to refuse contact. If the Monomachos has the initiative and makes a successful attack roll, they may either proceed to the damage roll OR spoil their attacker's next roll. This also allows them to turn and face another opponent. This prevents them from being flanked, it does not permit them an extra attack.
Fourth, they defy outside influences. They have trait that they can't utilize magic weapons to full effect. No bonuses, but the weapon still counts as magic to inflict damage. This is because they only rely on their own skills, not the assistance of a magic weapon. Of course, if the magic weapon has a secondary power or effect that is magical, like detecting evil or light, they can use that to the fullest. It's the assistive nature that they won't do.
Armor is different, they do receive bonuses as they can't undo or refuse its basic nature to protect.
Cursed weapons should fear the Monomachos character. These types of people aren't subject to outside influences, therefore a cursed weapon should be just as ineffective as a positive magic weapon. A cursed weapon should try to escape their clutches because the Momomachos may choose to sacrifice a weapon to win. Intelligent things fear destruction.
I wanted something like this when I created my Swashbuckler character class but in play testing it was impractical. Based on this new character type, I will rewrite that document.
To recap the character:
Surprised only on a 1 in 6. They move and attack during their opponent's surprise round if not surprised themselves.
Can use all weapons and armor, but receive no magical bonuses for weapons.
They are immune to cursed weapons.
They can also use improvised weapons if only to save their knuckles.
Foil attacks on a hit and turn to face other opponents instead of dealing damage.
Let me know what you think in the comments, especially if you have already purchased my Swashbuckler class.