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Hans Hellinger

Shorter version, slightly less informal:

What is Codex Martialis?

Codex Martialis is a combat system designed between 2008-2010, by martial artists active in the emerging HEMA tournament scene. For us, combat in most RPG’s boils down to repetitive die rolling and a gradual whittling away of points, often relying on magic or special powers to make it interesting.

Real fighting with weapons isn’t like that. You don’t just whittle away chunks of your enemy like two carrots fighting with potato peelers, or stagger back and forth wielding swords like crowbars. Your weapon is flexible and supple. You use it for defense as well as offense, to feint, to probe. You parry, twist and wind, and seek openings while displacing your enemy’s attacks, as you bar the deadly point and edge of their blade from slicing into your flesh. You move your own body in and out of range, to void their attacks, to grapple, to seize their weapon, and throw your opponent to the ground.

The purpose of the Codex is not to imitate history for the sake of being realistic, it is the opposite: To borrow elements of real fighting, weapons, armor and martial arts, in order to make combat in RPG’s more fun. And in order to be fun, in order to feel like a fight, combat has to be fast. That means mapping out everything to do with hand combat and boiling it down to the key elements. The give and take of movement and momentum. The reach and speed of weapons. Their merit as tools of defense, so often neglected in game systems. The real world physics of tools of war such as swords, axes, knives, armor, shields, guns and crossbows.

And layered on top of these key elements, we introduce the techniques of the fencing masters, the martial artists, the warriors of the ancient world. These come in groups of related competencies, or one at a time, and they enhance the luck of the fighter in certain situations, with certain weapons, or across the board. In our roll many / keep one system, these learned abilities augment your fighting prowess. This is what separates the experienced fencer from the neophyte. There is no certainty in a fight, but skill and training can really improve your odds.

With the Codex, you can specialize how you fight. A dagger is very effective close in, a spear is better at a distance, and a sword is the versatile middle ground. Axes cause devastating injuries, maces and hammers can harm people through armor. All of these weapons lend themselves more or less to different techniques that your character can learn, and gradually build as you develop them into a truly dangerous opponent. In this system, all of your decisions have real consequences.

So what is Codex Martialis? It is a system which makes combat just a bit more like what you were hoping it would be like the first time you tried to play an RPG.

Codex Martialis is a combat system only, designed for use with the OGL system, though new sourcebooks are now being introduced which expand the system into other realms. Stand by for more, and check in with us at to find out the latest!