Country of Origin: Western Théah, in what would eventually become Montaigne
Founded: Unknown, but probably sometime in the late Seventh Century A.V.
Description: When Imperator Carleman sought to conquer Western Théah, he was opposed primarily by two groups: the descendants of Senator Octavius Montanus (and their armies) who practiced Porté Sorcery, and the descendants of Senator Aurelia Luceata (and their armies) who practiced Mirage. The Montanus family was the dominant power, and Carleman threw only a token force at them to keep them occupied while he turned his attention to conquering the Luceata family. That family, desperate for any edge in the struggle (as their Sorcery did not lend itself to combat as readily as Porté) threw together a collection of Swordsman tricks and assembled a rough School to teach its warriors. The leaders of these forces, Fully-Blooded in Mirage, added a few Sorcerous techniques to the mix, creating the hybrid Sorcery-and-steel Speculo School. The Luceata family was almost completely wiped out in 698 A.V., and both the Sorcery and their signature School were lost for many centuries. A few isolated Mirage Sorcerers have since been discovered in Avalon and Montaigne, but the secrets of the Swordsman School remain lost, hidden in some buried ruin in the lands that once belonged to the Luceata family.
Students of this School learned a variety of stances, attack lines, and movements, so that they could effectively mirror their opponents’ fighting styles. If an opponent presented his right side with his left arm bent, the Swordsman presented his left side with his right arm bent. By countering each of his opponent’s moves with a parallel countermove, a Speculo Swordsman could maintain a fight indefinitely, never giving his opponent a clear opening to attack. Speculo was originally designed for use with a silvered Numan gladius, Modern swordsmen could substitute a smallsword and still use the School effectively, but at a penalty of one Unkept Die (-1k0) on all rolls (except Damage Rolls) using the modern weapon. Speculo Swordsmen (regardless of the weapon used) kept their blades highly polished to a mirror shine so that, in a pinch, they could use them with their Mirage Sorcery.
The singular flaw in mirroring an opponent’s stance was that, just as it denied an opponent an opportunity to attack, it also restricted the Swordsman’s offense. Before striking, the Speculo Swordsman needed to shift his stance or reposition his blade, providing a clue that an attack was forthcoming.
Note that a Swordsman must have Mirage Sorcery to use the School’s Apprentice level technique, and must be an Adept or Master to use the School’s Journeyman level technique.
Basic Curriculum: Courtier, Gladius
Knacks: Corps-á-Corps, Exploit Weakness (Speculo), Reflect (Gladius), Riposte (Gladius), Tagging (Gladius)
New Swordsman Knack: Reflect. You attempt to mirror your opponent’s style and form: you may attempt to use one of his Swordsman Knacks against him as if you had that Knack yourself. The first time he uses a Knack, you may make a Wits check with a TN equal to your opponent’s rank in the Knack times five. If you succeed at the check, you gain the Knack at Rank one for the duration of the Scene. Each time thereafter that he uses the same Knack against you in that Scene, you may make another Wits check. Success improves your skill in that Knack by another Rank. The maximum gain is your Mastery Level in Speculo or your opponent’s Rank in his Knack (whichever is lower). This only applies for one Knack against one opponent due to your intense focus on his moves.
You do not retain the Knacks; you merely imitate them. At the end of the Scene, you lose all of the Ranks you have gained against that opponent. Generally, this Knack can only be used against an opponent bearing same type of weapon as the student. (It is useless, for instance, to copy the moves of a staff or Panzerhand with a fencing weapon.) However, when using this School, the Swordsman may use this Knack against an opponent using a Fencing Knack, and if armed with a smallsword instead of a gladius, the Swordsman does not suffer the typical Unkept Die (-1k0) penalty when using the Fencing Knack.
Apprentice: Since a Speculo Swordsman’s stance is the mirror image of his opponent’s, he must be prepared to wield his weapon in either hand. The off-hand penalty is negated when a Swordsman wields his weapon in his nondominant hand, and he gains the benefits of the Left Handed Advantage when his weapon is held in that hand. Additionally, he is used to speaking in a hypnotic tone to enrapture a victim with a mirror using his Mesmerize Knack, and he may add his Rank in that Knack to any Repartee Actions he attempts while in combat.
Speculo has not (and never will be) submitted for Guild sanction. As a result, its students receive a free Rank in one of their Swordsman Knacks in lieu of Guild membership.
Journeyman: An experienced Mirage Sorcerer has spent countless hours viewing the future in one mirror or another. It is only natural that he should occasionally come across a situation he remembers from his visions. At the beginning of the third Round of any combat, the Journeyman receives a number of Vision Dice equal to his Rank in the Farsight Knack. Vision Dice are nonexploding, Unkept Dice (+1k0) that may be added to any Attack roll (including the use of a Swordsman Knack) or Active Defense the Journeyman attempts. The use of the Dice must be declared before the roll is made, and they disappear at the end of the Scene.
Master: A Master Speculo Swordsman has become so skilled at countering his opponent’s style that he may shut down a Swordsman’s raw abilities, not just his tricky attacks and defenses. When he attacks or is attacked by another Swordsman, the opponent loses the benefit of any Techniques gained at one-half the Speculo Swordsman’s Mastery Level (rounded down). Thus, a Swordsman may not use his Apprentice Technique against a Master of Speculo. Should a Swordsman ever achieve Grandmastery in Speculo and another School, he could deny an opponent access to his Journeyman Techniques, as well.
Note: A gladius is a short, double-edged weapon popular in Numan lands centuries ago. It is always a Masterwork weapon, and has a Damage Rating of 2k2. Gladius is a Martial Skill consisting solely of the Basic Knacks Attack (Gladius) and Parry (Gladius).