Country of Origin: Vendel (any member of the Razors may learn the School for twenty-five HP, regardless of nationality. The Razors consider Argento their personal “secret style,” and unless another copy of the founder’s private diary falls into the hands of the public, it would be virtually impossible for anyone else to learn the school.)
Salon: None (the School is taught solely by Renato Marchello)
Description: Jorge Argento, arguably the finest Swordsman in the history of Castille, is as well-known for his disgust with foreign fencing styles as his excellence with the rapier. Many of his observations were published in his legendary work, Los Paradojos de Defensa, and the heated letters he exchanged with Geoffrey Donovan are studied by students of many nations, either for insight into the masters’ techniques, or (especially in Montaigne) as classic examples of cutting wordplay.
While it is well known that Master Argento never engaged in any duels himself, it is also known that he bore witness to dozens, if not hundreds of contests between Swordsmen of every nationality, sometimes traveling hundreds of miles to serve as a second or, more commonly, as an invited guest of those hoping to win his favor and a place in his salon. What no one but his most trusted students knew was that Argento kept copious mental notes on every duel he watched, transcribing these notes when he was alone and, ultimately, combining them into a private fencing manual. Upon Master Argento’s death (without an heir), his journals were auctioned off with the rest of his estate and were subsequently lost in one second-hand bookstore or another. One of these tomes, believed (but not proven) to be the only surviving copy, was eventually found by Veronica Ambrogia, who presented it as a gift to her henchman Renato Marchello, captain of the Razors.
Argento’s journal describes a method of fencing composed of little more than countermoves designed to defeat any opponent, based on his fighting style. Specific defenses and counterattacks for numerous established schools can be found within its pages, along with a description of general techniques for studying an opponent and combining two or more maneuvers to take advantage of his particular shortcomings, whether stylistic or personal in nature. Argento’s dedication to the “purity” of his chosen art are made clear in his private writings. While he would never disparage the techniques of his fellow Castillians in a public forum, he felt privately that they were no better than the frilly Montaigne or thuggish Eisen fighting schools, relying on ostentatious maneuvers and underhanded “sneakery” to out-cheat an opponent, rather than turning his attacks aside and defeating him by virtue of superior skill. Captain Marchello quickly mastered Argento’s fighting style, and shared it with the men and women under his command to help them carry out their duties as efficiently as possible.
Argento has no real weaknesses of its own; it is a school based on reaction and exploiting an opponent’s specific shortcomings. An opponent who realizes an Argento Swordsman is using his own school against him will routinely change his technique, or even abandon cohesive styles altogether, hoping to throw his opponent off with random, even illogical patterns of attack and defense.
It is rare (but not completely unheard of) for Grandmasters among the Razors to combine this school with another, and Swordsmen who do are certainly very dangerous. Interestingly, the diary that describes this fencing style is annotated as “Volume Two.” Those who have studied this book can only wonder what additional secrets the first volume holds, and Captain Marchello is constantly on the lookout for some clue as to its whereabouts.
Basic Curriculum: Athlete, Fencing
Knacks: Exploit Weakness (Swordsman School)
New Swordsman Knack: Exploit Weakness (Swordsman School). Once you have studied a School, you have not only learned its strengths, but its weaknesses as well. Whenever you face an opponent who is using a Swordsman School whose weaknesses you are familiar with, you may add twice your Rank in that Knack to all attack and Active Defense rolls you attempt against that opponent, even if you are not using that School yourself.
Razors can learn the Exploit Weakness Knack of any Guild-sanctioned school (with the possible exceptions of Villanova and Tricomi) without difficulty. If a member of the elite organization wishes to learn the Knack corresponding to a non-sanctioned school, special arrangements must be made, or favors must be called in (i.e., the opportunity must be earned through role-playing, or otherwise given at the Game Master’s discretion).
Apprentice: Apprentices of the Argento School receive one Exploit Weakness (Swordsman School) Knack of their choice at Rank 3, and may purchase up to three more (as Advanced Knacks) at regular cost. Exploit Weakness Knacks, whether corresponding to sanctioned or unsanctioned schools, are not considered Specialty Knacks for students of Argento as they are for other Swordsmen. Furthermore, Master Argento’s footwork techniques allow an Apprentice to not only maneuver himself into better position, but to exploit his new position with great speed and skill. If an Apprentice successfully executes an Active Defense using Footwork, he receives a Free Raise on his next Attack roll and a bonus to his Initiative Total equal to his Rank in Footwork. Both of these bonuses disappear at the end of the Phase.
Students of Argento do not receive membership in the Swordsman’s Guild for free (in fact, it is virtually certain that they are members of the Guild already). Instead, they receive an extra Rank in the Exploit Weakness Knack of their choice, subject to the restrictions above and the normal rules for Knacks for starting characters. The free Rank may be applied to one of the Knacks already purchased, or to a fifth Knack.
A Swordsman must have four Exploit Weakness Knacks at a Rank of four to become a Journeyman.
Journeyman: A Journeyman of Argento is skilled not only at avoiding an opponent’s basic strikes and penetrating his rudimentary defenses, but at avoiding even a Swordsman’s specialized techniques. Whenever an opponent attempts a roll using one of his Swordsman Knacks against the Journeyman, the TN of that roll is increased by twice the Journeyman’s Rank in the Exploit Weakness Knack corresponding to the opponent’s school.
Thus, if the Journeyman has a Rank of four in Exploit Weakness (Eisenfaust), his TN to be hit will be increased by eight if an Eisenfaust swordsman attempts a Beat, Bind, Disarm, or Sunder against him.
A Swordsman must have five Exploit Weakness Knacks at a Rank of five to become a Master.
Master: Masters of Argento have studied their founder’s works so closely, they are capable not only of identifying a style’s overall weaknesses, they can isolate and exacerbate the transient weaknesses due to a particular opponent’s injuries, training deficiencies, or other shortcomings. By making a successful Called Shot against an opponent, the Master immediately gains one Rank in a special Swordsman Knack: Exploit Weakness (Opponent’s Name). The effects of this specialized Knack are cumulative with the Exploit Weakness Knacks of any Swordsman schools used by that opponent, and may be used in conjunction with the Swordsman’s Journeyman technique. The Master receives a free Raise to his Attack roll for this Called Shot for every Dramatic Wound his target has suffered.
A Master of Argento can pick up a maximum number of Ranks in this Knack equal to the number of Raises required for the Called Shot. Thus, a Called Shot to a body part requiring two Raises will grant a first or a second Rank in the Exploit Weakness Knack, but not a third. The Knacks granted by this technique last until the end of the Act, at which point the opponent will have healed from his injuries or adapted his style to address the glaring holes in his technique.
Note: The cost of creating a Grandmaster combination of Argento and any School for which the Master has a Rank in Exploit Weakness is decreased by five times his Rank in that Knack. Thus, barring any other reductions, an Argento Master with a Rank of five in Exploit Weakness (Aldana) may become a Grandmaster in Aldana/Argento for only seventy-five Experience Points.