Ok we have had a nice long argument debate on what is wrong with the Martial vs Magic balance. We all agree something is wrong, and most people would agree that magic is more powerful in some way or another. Whether it be flexibility, power, or what not. What we seem to disagree on is how to fix the problem. Some people call for decreasing magic power, other only want to modify magic power or its spells, still others talk about boosting martial power. I find a fourth option appealing. Modify Martial power.
I propose a system of martial stances and maneuvers similar to the Book of Nine Swords, but less magical in nature.
There are a series of Disciplines to follow. Within each Discipline there are a series of stances. Each stance allows certain maneuvers.
Disciplines: Think of them like schools of martial arts. A fighter would train in a specific type, and at later levels can branch out and learn another schools. Like how a Kung Fu student knows Kung Fu but does not know Karate, but later he can go and learn Karate too.
Stances: This is the specific balance and footwork currently being used by the fighter. As he gains levels he gets more stances within his Discipline. At later levels when he gain access to more Discipline he can also choose stances from those Disciplines. To change what stance you are currently in takes 1 standard action.
Maneuvers: Depending which Stance you are in you have access to certain maneuvers. To learn a Maneuver there are two prerequisites. First you must have access to the Stance which the maneuver is under. Second you must be a high enough level. You can use a maneuver as often as you want so long as you are in the correct stance.
So how does this work? Starting at level 1 a player chooses a Discipline. This is the school of combat that he has trained in, like Kung Fu or Karate. Each Discipline has a number of stances in it, at level 1 a player gets 1 stance. As a character gains levels they train and learn more within their discipline and they get more stances (every 2 to 3 levels). At some point they become a good enough combatant that they can learn more than one Discipline. At this point (around level 7) they get a second discipline, and can choose to learn stances from that Discipline in addition to their original Discipline.
I have created a few example Disciplines, Stances, and Maneuvers. I have not designed what specific maneuvers do, but each stance has a general category of what type of maneuvers would be in it. As many will probably point out this is like Tomb of Battle: Book of Nine Swords, that is where I drew my inspiration from. However these stances are more mundane focused and less pseudo-magical, no flaming swords just because I will them.
Description: Strength of a bear, speed of a snake. Draws inspiration from animals and how they attack.
[Spoiler Animal Stances]Stance of the Snake: Maneuvers focus on quick strikes and give bonuses to hit.
Stance of the Bear: Maneuvers give bonuses to grapple and bull rush.
Stance of the Lion: Maneuvers give you, and later your allies, moral bonuses to saves, attacks, and defense. Other maneuvers demoralize foes.
Stance of the Mouse: Maneuvers focus on stealth and give bonuses if the foe is caught unaware.
Stance of the Tiger: Maneuvers focus on charging in quickly and overwhelming your foe before they have a chance to react.[/spoiler]
Description: Nothing is as terrifying as mother nature. Takes inspiration from the elements of mother nature.
[spoiler Elemental stances]Stance of the Wind: Maneuvers focus on hitting quickly and dodging, but the strikes lack power.
Stance of the Rain: Maneuvers focus on multiple unrelenting strikes that never allow your opponent to come off of the defensive. Only works with piercing weapons.
Stance of the Volcano: Maneuvers focus on single strikes, each strike is very powerful. No bonuses to hit though.
Stance of the Earth: Maneuvers focus on good solid hits and holding you ground against charging foe.
Stance of the Sun: Maneuvers focus on providing inspiration to allies and striking fear into enemies.[/spoiler]
Discipline: Dancing Sword
Description: Dance like a butterfly sting like a bee. All of these maneuvers require that you keep moving to maintain the stance but you will find that not only do you hit often, you are also hard to hit. Each of these stances is actually a specially designed battle dance.
[spoiler Dances of the Sword]Dance of the Blade: Maneuvers give multiple strikes, must move at least 5 feet each turn to maintain the stance.
Dance of the Falling Leaf: Maneuvers give large bonuses to dodge and attack, but damage suffers as a result. Must move at least 15 feet each turn, and in a non-straight line.
Dance of the Bee: Maneuvers are focused on wielding two light weapons, each maneuver gives multiple strikes with each weapon. Must move at least 5 feet each turn.
Dance of the Cherry Blossom: Maneuvers focus on feinting the opponent leaving them open for a vital strike, must move at least 10 feet each turn.
Dance to the Maiden: Maneuvers focus on a variety of effect from inspiring allies to feinting foes and going for deadly strikes.[/spoiler]
Description: Be like an unyielding wall which the waves of opposite will break up. To activate these stances you must not be moving, you loose Dexerity to armor but gain various other AC bonuses to that are greater. Most maneuvers require a shield to work properly.
[spoiler Stances of the Wall]Stance, Wall of Ages: Maneuvers give a very large bonus to AC and stops enemies from moving through your square. Very good at holding a position.
Stance, Wall of the Sea: Maneuvers give a large bonus to AC as well as a Damage reduction amount.
Stance, Wall of Sand: Maneuvers give a moderate bonus to AC but every time your are struck you get a retributive strike or strikes.
Stance, Wall of Spears: Maneuvers must use a reach weapon but you get multiple attacks of opportunity, good at holding a larger opening from advancing
foes. Other maneuvers focus on using a reach weapon in close combat.
Stance, Wall of Boulders: Maneuvers focus on crushing foes who get within range, often by using a shield bash and a weapon strike.[/spoiler]
edit: forgot to add, as you gain in level you get access to more maneuvers in a stance. Every level you gain at least 1 new maneuver(s) which you select from your known stances. Think of stances like Cleric domains you select a domain but instead of automatically getting the maneuvers as you level you have to pick which ones you want. The upside is that you get a lot of stances to choose from where as a cleric can only have one or two domains. By level 20 a martial character will probably have between 30 and 50 maneuvers, some will be weak first level maneuvers, other will be much more powerful.