Country of Origin: Eisen (the style is open only to the Nibelungen, though any of the smiths trained in Eisenfaust may purchase the Gauss style for only twenty HP)
Salon: None (the style is taught exclusively by the Nibelungen)
Description:The War of the Cross was a brutal time for the people of Eisen. Any war was horrific, but this was a civil war of the worst kind, pitting neighbor against neighbor, brother against brother, Eisen against Eisen, all in the name of religion.
Had the bloodshed stopped there, the situation would have been bad enough. However, it did not take long for Eisen’s more mercenary neighbors to profit from the carnage. Heartless nations like Vendel and Vodacce reaped enormous profits, selling arms and supplies to one side or the other (or, as often as not, both). Meanwhile, mercenary forces from Castille and Montaigne lined their pockets by spilling Eisen blood onto Eisen soil, and churning it into mud with their fashionable boots. Many Eisen citizens, proud as they were, were content to rend their nation asunder, so long as their enemies fell alongside their crumbling empire. One group, however, was not: the Nibelungen.
The Imperator and his Objectionist enemies were loyal primarily to their faiths. The soldiers were loyal to the generals and lesser nobles they served, and the foreigners were loyal to whichever side made them the best offer. But the Nibelungen, above all, were loyal to Eisen. For generations, they had relied on the protection of the Imperator and his lieutenants, but the war forced the mysterious smiths to face a harsh truth: political favor was fleeting. There was no guarantee that the men and women they had served for so many years would still be in power when the conflict finally ended. Indeed, they had begun to wonder whether Eisen would remain an independent nation at all.
In the end, the Nibelungen refused to take the Imperator’s side in his battle against his own people. Reifenstahl was livid, and the smiths’ simultaneous refusal to offer aid to the Objectionist forces was the only thing that prevented him from condemning them as traitors and rounding them up to be executed. Left with no way to maintain the unity of their beloved nation, they resolved to do what they could to keep it from falling entirely into the hands of foreign powers. To that end, they turned to the only people they knew they could trust: themselves.
The leaders of the order gathered in a secret location, somewhere in the mountains of Hainzl. They summoned the bravest and strongest members of their order, particularly those who had studied Eisenfaust or other formal styles of combat. These men and women were given a sacred task: to develop their own fighting art and use it to protect their nation. Weapon masters pooled their knowledge of the modern fighting techniques of Eisen and its neighbors, as well as the more archaic styles that stressed grappling alongside swordplay. Mountain forges glowed red as weapons and armor were crafted for the Nibelungen’s new, elite warriors, and dozens of promising fighters trained for their part in the coming battles. It took less than a year to perfect the new style, named for the oldest and most respected living member of the order: Friedrich Gauss.
Gauss fighters did not enter the war as active participants. The Nibelungen still refused to throw their support behind one side or the other, and their numbers were far too small to have any direct, measurable effect. However, the warriors were dispatched in bands of three or four, journeying to provinces that had so far remained untouched and rallying local citizens in defense of their homes. When forces loyal to either side marched too close to areas that had fallen under the smiths’ protection, retaliation was swift, terrible, and deadly. Larger groups, numbering as many as twenty members and trained in guerilla tactics, were sent to harass any armies that had been particularly brutal or thoughtless during their forays into Eisen territory.
Towards the end of the war, when Castillian and Montaigne forces moved into Eisen en masse, the Nibelungen’s soldiers did what they could to inconvenience the invaders, despite their overwhelming numbers. Meanwhile, the order’s non-combatants met with the Imperator regularly, pressuring him to end the conflict with the Objectionists and unite against the foreigners (and suggesting that they were prepared to call in their elite troops and have him removed, as a threat to Eisen, if he refused). They were not the deciding factor, but their threat helped persuade Reifenstahl that the time for fighting was over, leading to the signing of the Treaty of Weissberg. With the war’s end, the Nibelungen retreated back into their mysterious world, and the Gauss style become another of its secrets, passed on to a select few smiths every generation.
A Gauss fighter is an offensive powerhouse, wielding his Nibelungen hammer in one hand and a broadsword in the other. Either weapon may be used to attack or defend, so an opponent can never be sure which weapon will deliver the next strike. In true Eisen style (and because the single-handed use of their heavy weapons generates so much momentum), students of Gauss tend to press forward with every attack, forcing their opponents to backpedal in order to avoid the deadly swings of hammer and blade. Woe to the poor fellow who stands his ground (or worse, trips and falls prone), as a Gauss fighter will be quick to put him out of his misery. On the other hand, a Gauss fighter’s tendency to charge with every swing leaves him particularly vulnerable to anyone who relies on lateral or circular movement. A cagey opponent will move to the side as he retreats from each attack, forcing the Gauss fighter to work against inertia to turn his body and shift his attacks into a new plane. It requires a momentary pause to reestablish his offensive position; prior to that, his attacks are easier to avoid, and in the moment itself, the student of Gauss is vulnerable to counterattacks.
Basic Curriculum: Heavy Weapon, Wrestling
Knacks: Beat (Heavy Weapon), Charge (Heavy Weapon), Double Parry (Heavy Weapon/Heavy Weapon), Exploit Weakness (Gauss), Sunder (Heavy Weapon)
New Swordsman Knack: Sunder. When making an attack, you can choose to strike at an enemy’s weapon, hoping to break it and leave your opponent defenseless. To make this attack, you roll Finesse + Sunder, taking two Raises to target the enemy’s weapon. If your hit is successful, roll damage as normal; this damage is not applied to the opponent, but compared against the following chart to see if the opponent’s weapon breaks:
|Type of Weapon||TN to Sunder|
|Dagger, Knife, Main Gauche||20|
Game Masters should use their discretion in applying the Sunder Knack to other kinds of weapons. These Target Numbers can be adjusted by the following modifiers:
|Weapon Quality||TN Adjustment|
|Inferior Weapon or Shield||-5|
|Quality Weapon or Shield||+5|
|Djinn or Sidhe Weapon||+15|
Revised Swordsman Knack: Beat. When attacking an enemy, you can declare a Beat. You roll Brawn + Beat, and must roll a number of Raises equal to your enemy’s Brawn in order for your Beat to be successful. If you are successful, he cannot avoid the attack using any Active Defense. The Raises taken on this roll add Unkept Dice to your damage roll as usual.
Apprentice: A Gauss fighter presses forward with every attack, and never hesitates when presented with the opportunity to charge forward and strike the first blow. As an Apprentice, the Gauss fighter receives the ability to use his Charge Knack before every Round of combat, not just the first Round.
The Nibelungen have no intention of ever offering Gauss up for Guild membership, as it is a secret style, exclusive to them. Instead of receiving membership in the Swordsman’s Guild, by virtue of their advanced training, Nibelungen fighters receive the ability to use a broad sword in their off-hand with no penalties (for either off-hand or single-handed use).
Journeyman: Gauss Journeymen perfect the art of sundering an opponent’s armaments with a well-placed hammer blow to an appropriate stress point. The Journeyman receives a free Rank in his Sunder (Heavy Weapon) Knack. This may increase the Knack to a six. If it doesn’t, the Gauss fighter may increase it from a five to a six later by paying twenty-five Experience Points.
Master: The rare Gauss fighter who reaches the Master level of ability has proven himself to be a tireless defender of the Nibelungen, and more importantly, of the nation they serve. In tribute to these Master warriors, the most senior smiths of the order pool their talents to provide a gift worthy of such a hero. Upon reaching the Master level of ability, the Gauss fighter is summoned to the Nibelungen’s mountain lair, and in a formal ceremony before the entire order, he is presented with a breastplate of the finest Dracheneisen. Engraved with the seal of Eisen, the coat of arms of the Imperator, the seal of the Nibelungen, and a personal crest chosen for the Master, the breastplate is worth seven armor points (see the rules for Dracheneisen), yet it is thin enough to be worn beneath an ordinary shirt. When displaying the breastplate, Masters receive an extra Reputation die among Eisen commoners, two extra dice among Eisen nobility, and three extra dice among the Nibelungen themselves.
Like his Nibelungen hammer, the Master’s breastplate is not passed down to his heirs; when the Master is laid to rest, he will be interred in his armor. Should anyone other than the intended recipient come into possession of one of these breastplates, any Nibelungen who become aware of the fact will demand its immediate surrender. If this demand is refused, the order will put political pressure on the leaders of Eisen to apprehend the thief, and will mobilize every warrior the order has to offer, if necessary, to see the item returned to its proper owner.