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Martial Arts expansion beyond hit/miss


steamcraft

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I have been working on a set up custom rules for martial arts.  The idea is to make it less than a hit/miss mechanic.  I am thinking of this not just to make it more exciting, but because of an idea I have for a Chinese influenced fantasy RPG setting.  Martial arts is central to the genre.  I have three models I am working with as the baseline.  I am hoping to get people’s thoughts on it.

Descriptive

The descriptive model is the most basic.  The idea is that the player describes what he is going to do.  The GM then determines the damage based on the type of attack and then applies bonuses/penalties based on what the player is describing. 

For example, the player can say he is going to jab the target.  This would be a simple punching damage and no real bonuses or penalties apply.  On the other hand, a spinning round kick would do significantly more damage, but a miss would result in a penalty that would either hurt next rounds initiative or grant a bonus for the target to hit the PC.  A flying jump kick would do a lot of damage, but might have a penalty to hit and a miss would incur a penalty.  So it would really just be a chart that details out damage by type, e.g. hand, head, elbow, knee, foot, etc.  and then another chart with bonuses/penalties to hit based on description, and then guidance about what to do in case of misses. 

Martial Art Styles as Weapon

The second method would detail a lot of styles.  Each style would do certain amounts/type of damage.  There might be bonuses/penalties for certain styles.  The key thing is that the PC would have like the Snake style, which would be X damage, and then there is the Monkey style that does Y damage.  Switching a style would be like switching weapons.  It results in different damage and/or effects on the target.  I would likely make the PC train each of these as a separate skill, but it might not be necessary.  It would just be that the PC would need to have learned these during the course of the game, but they all have the same Martial Arts check to hit. 

Martial Arts as Spell

The third model has the PC learn attacks just like magic users learn spells.  Each attach does a certain amount of damage or has effects.  For example, a leg sweep would cause X damage, and then the target would on its back with a penalty to initiative next round.  Chain punches would be that the target is hit by multiple (say 1d10) punches that each causes a minor amount of damage.  A nerve punch might paralyze an arm for 1d4 rounds. 

Do any of these models seem like a good basis for building a martial arts system? 

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You can use the three models at the same time. Indeed, this is what GURPS does.

  • Generic maneuvers with their own modifications to the ordinary attack or defense (all-out attack, all-out defense, deceptive attack ...) and generic techniques which can be bought (as skills): arm lock, back kick, choke hold, disarming ...
  • Different martial arts styles which describe their favorite maneuvers and techniques and give some more precisions and specific rules when required.
  • And martial art spells (called advantages or perks, in GURPS), which allow to focus chi (or whatever else) and get cinematic super effects.

But it is a huge work! And it supposes to know a lot of different martial arts and how they work ... Peter Del Orto and Sean Punch, the two authors of GURPS Martial Arts, did an amazing amount of research before writing that book. And the result is really outstanding. I'm learning two of the martial arts that they described and what I can read in their book is both true and accurate (as far as I can tell) ... So, the best thing to do, in my humble opinion, is to begin with the first step: generic maneuvers and techniques which are easy to understand, to describe and to use.

Something like ... All-out attack: You give up your defense to focus on attack and get either a bonus to that attack (+30%) or to damage (increase your damage bonus by one step).

Edited by Gollum
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11 hours ago, Questbird said:

I believe Dragon Lines explores BRP martial arts in the way you're thinking about, but I don't think it's available any more :mellow: 

Not sure if this is the same Dragon Lines book or not, but it is a BRP book, sounds like it could be in the description and is available over at Paizo.
Dragon Lines: Guardians of the Forbidden City (BRP)

I also saw that it was available over on DriveThruRPG when I did a search for it.

Edited by Skunkape

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Dragon Lines is no longer available on DriveThruRPG. I wonder what engine you used for the search.

Paizo labels it as "Discontinued", like all of its sibling titles. Local game stores here and there might have copies left if you are lucky, but no Alephtar BRP title is still distributed to shops or online stores. Period. No exceptions.

For this specific title, the idea that the Author and I have is to repropose it, but with another game system. Chinese and Japanese Martial Arts will probably be covered in a new edition of The Celestial Empire, but I have no confirmed ETA for this book - it is not even sure that it will appear at all.

A basic Martial Art systems will be present in the core Revolution D100 SRD, probably available online in August.

 

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1 hour ago, RosenMcStern said:

... no Alephtar BRP title is still distributed to shops or online stores. Period. No exceptions.

However, a couple of online stores, including Amazon in Germany, still seem to have some copies of Dragon Lines available, at least they still offer them.

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10 minutes ago, RosenMcStern said:

Amazon is a retailer, exactly like your FLGS. Just a little bigger than your FLGS...

Living in a little town in the Alps with no brick and mortar FLGS anywhere near, Amazon actually is my FLGS ... :lol:

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I haven't been able to find Dragon Lines on DTRPG.  I find this odd because the company still has other products, so why not make this available?  I suppose I could spend $0.18 and buy a used physical copy on Amazon. 

 I do not like the GURPS options listed and it does not exactly fit the three models I propose.  When I say style as a weapon, then it is just that style that will do things.  There won't be additional sub-skills.  This is different from GURPS which just lists the style and then offensive and defensive skills that the style covers.  Then GURPS also want to turn all of these into skills.

Also, when I say style, I am thinking less in terms of say large schools like jujitsu, but rather a special small section of kungfu.  The idea would be that there is already a basic kungfu style that covers most things, but using crane would be like switching your polearm for a sword.  It is still just a melee attack, but it will be a little different because of the weapon.  Having martial art abilities like spells would just be using an already existing mechanic and therefore not adding additional crunch to the game. 

I want something interesting and semi-meaningful, but I do not want things to be overly complicated or time consuming.  I also want other people besides me to find such a style worth playing an interesting. 

Ignoring what Dragon Lines has or has not done, which of the three methods do you prefer and why?  I am a light to medium crunch type of person.

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1 hour ago, steamcraft said:

I do not like the GURPS options listed and it does not exactly fit the three models I propose.  When I say style as a weapon, then it is just that style that will do things.  There won't be additional sub-skills.  This is different from GURPS which just lists the style and then offensive and defensive skills that the style covers.  Then GURPS also want to turn all of these into skills.

Not really.

Of course, you're right, GURPS uses a lot of skills. One for each weapon. But almost as BRP does. GURPS also uses techniques which can be interpreted as sub-skills. - though they are not really a skill because they are linked to a skill; when this skill improves, the technique also improves. Now, GURPS martial art rules are much more rich than that. They also give a lot of advantages, disadvantages and perks (especially recently: perks have been developed outstandingly) that give fixed bonuses or penalties to the skill rolls. And, above all, maneuvers are not skills. They can be used with any combat skill. They just precise how exactly you attack or defend and give bonus or penalties to your skill roll or damage roll. All-out attack, strong, for instance, make you give up your defense to strike stronger and get a bonus to your damage. Deceptive attack make you choose a penalty to your skill roll, knowing that your opponent will have half this penalty to his defense roll. And so on.

Having said that, I can understand that you don't like GURPS. There are so many options and possibilities that it makes the game very crunchy. And sometimes a bit hard to play ... And BRP players love simplicity!

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13 hours ago, steamcraft said:

I want something interesting and semi-meaningful, but I do not want things to be overly complicated or time consuming.  I also want other people besides me to find such a style worth playing an interesting.

Yes. I better understand what you want now. And indeed, GURPS is not the best model to follow.

Edited by Gollum
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8 hours ago, steamcraft said:

The idea would be that there is already a basic kungfu style that covers most things, but using crane would be like switching your polearm for a sword.  It is still just a melee attack, but it will be a little different because of the weapon.

 

Hmmmm.  OK, this makes me think of something different...  What about just "special" results on crits/impales?  Extra damage, knockback, disarming, etc etc etc...  An ordinary hit is just unarmed / open-hand damage.  Each "special technique" offers a different suite of special results.  "Yang/hard" styles tend toward damage/knockback & other dramatic & "aggressive" effects; "Yin/soft" styles tend toward defensive, subtler results.

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If you can find it, you may have a look at The Celestial Empire. Martials arts are handled with powers powered by the Qi, from the BGB (like super skills) or specific to the setting (like blind fighting). Then you have martial arts schools teaching some of these powers. If you want a fantasy genre like in wuxia films, this works well, and it allows to introduce non-hitting technics like leap, acute awareness, etc.

It depends also if you want the different styles being cosmetic (a Wushu Kick or a Karate Kick have the same effect, just the description is different), or if you want to detail different effects. g33k's suggestion may be the easiest, and you can even decide to apply the results on a normal roll. You may write a list of effects (crushing, knockback, stunning, entangling and some setting specific effects like blinding...) and each technic (sweeping kick, direct punch, hand blade, snake hit in the eyes...) allows one of these effects. And you alocate these technics to the appropriate styles (or schools), every style teaching only some of these technics.

For the yang/yin styles, you can also impose some DEX/STR requirements for each specific technic, like for the weapons: not any style fits better to everyone.

However, from my point of vue, you should not detail so much. A martial art is a bunch of technics which you use according to the immediate situation and the opennings: you rarely decide to use that or that kick before the chance arises, but you can decide which general tactics you use (attack, counter, defense...) and for which goal (wound, neutralize...). So I would rather limit the list of single technics and gather them into a more general skill. You may then have one skill (e.g. wushu) giving some advantages and allowing some effects, and sub-styles allowing some additionnal effects or enhancing some of them, while decreasing or forbidding some others.

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2 hours ago, Zit said:

However, from my point of vue, you should not detail so much. A martial art is a bunch of technics which you use according to the immediate situation and the opennings: you rarely decide to use that or that kick before the chance arises, but you can decide which general tactics you use (attack, counter, defense...) and for which goal (wound, neutralize...). So I would rather limit the list of single technics and gather them into a more general skill. You may then have one skill (e.g. wushu) giving some advantages and allowing some effects, and sub-styles allowing some additionnal effects or enhancing some of them, while decreasing or forbidding some others.

I see your point and I mostly agree.  However, I have this problem.  Melee combat/fighter classes = boring.  Compare this with a magic user who gets to do many different types of effects.  Martial Arts can be exciting.  The problem is that if you just limit a player to a role to hit/miss then it is still boring and the character type is very limited.  I also do not like random GM narration as an attempt to make a numbers game seem more interesting, i.e. the PC hits and then the GM says you give the person a bloody lip.  I am looking for more control and more options for the player.  I just do not want it to be overly complicated or time consuming.  I also want to minimize any min/max on the players part.  I want them to think tactical and/or theatrical. 

For example, the PC does an attack to temporarily paralyze an arm to make the target drop his weapon, or a knock back attack to temporarily stun the target for the rest of the round so other PCs can subdue the target or do massive damage because the target cannot protect himself. 

What I do not want is choose X style and gain +Y damage and -Z defense.  To me, that is just a numbers game and if I want to stick with only numbers, I would just go with hit/miss. 

I would go with a style option.  That sets base damage range.  It then has a list of special abilities that can be learned.  Each one has a chance to doing an additional affect if successful. 

It looks like The Celestial Empire is just as unavailable as Dragon Lines.  Seems like I should have had an interest in all of this 5 years ago. 

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15 minutes ago, steamcraft said:

I see your point and I mostly agree.  However, I have this problem.  Melee combat/fighter classes = boring.  Compare this with a magic user who gets to do many different types of effects.  Martial Arts can be exciting.  The problem is that if you just limit a player to a role to hit/miss then it is still boring and the character type is very limited.  I also do not like random GM narration as an attempt to make a numbers game seem more interesting, i.e. the PC hits and then the GM says you give the person a bloody lip.  I am looking for more control and more options for the player.  I just do not want it to be overly complicated or time consuming.  I also want to minimize any min/max on the players part.  I want them to think tactical and/or theatrical. 

For example, the PC does an attack to temporarily paralyze an arm to make the target drop his weapon, or a knock back attack to temporarily stun the target for the rest of the round so other PCs can subdue the target or do massive damage because the target cannot protect himself.

Well, but if your problem is this, the solution is extremely simple: to prevent "fighter boredom", you do not need to imagine new rules. You simply need to switch from a classic BRP ruleset to one that uses Combat Effects.

Mythras Imperative is available as a free PDF now. Revolution D100 is available as a 50% complete free online SRD, with the combat chapter due to appear in one month. They should be largely enough to introduce you to effect-based combat. The complete versions of both books are on the way, scheduled to appear later this year. Both combat engines do exactly what you are looking for: provide options to fighters which are not limited to "I do more damage".

Quote

I would go with a style option.  That sets base damage range.  It then has a list of special abilities that can be learned.  Each one has a chance to doing an additional affect if successful. 

This specific approach is not present in the basic combat engine of Mythras or Revolution. All options are available to all fighters, with the exception of a few (impale, sunder, entangle, slash, etc...) that must be "allowed" by the weapon used.

However, the Revolution rules are specifically crafted to let you design martial arts systems that work exactly in this way, with the "stunt" rules. It is just that the core book only includes a reduced set of such stunts in order to encourage you to design a set of martial arts, both armed and unarmed, that better fits the specific setting you are using - or to leave room for more detailed rules in supplements. However, the rules encourage you to "Link" as many effects as you want to weapon stunts that you must learn separately.

Quote

It looks like The Celestial Empire is just as unavailable as Dragon Lines.  Seems like I should have had an interest in all of this 5 years ago. 

I am sorry for this inconvenience. The authors and I would like to keep products available for as long as possible, possibly forever, but sometimes the legal obligations that come with the choice of using someone else's copyrights and trademarks get in the way and prevent you from keeping customers happy.

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Just to be more explicit: this is the martial arts section that will soon appear in the Revolution SRD. The rest of the rules are already online in the Skill List. As you can see, it is mainly a stub, designed for each group to expand it in the preferred way.

Martial Arts stunts

The following stunts try to represent somehow “realistic” martial arts and thus only Focus has been listed as costing extra Life Points. In some settings it might be appropriate to require the expenditure of one Life Point per each use of a Martial Arts stunt – which represents the martial artist tapping into his or her Qì life force reserves, as taught by the philosophy at the root of most Oriental Martial Arts.

Acrobatics

Schools: Capoeira

This stunt allows the martial artist to combine Instinctive Parry with Regain Footing and Change Range when dodging. If can also be used to perform incredible acrobatic feats in or out of combat.

Deflect

Schools: Karate, Wushu

This stunt increases the Parry score of a Martial Artist fist to 2, rendering an unarmed parry as effective as a light sword parry.

Evade

Schools: Capoeira, Karate, Muay Thai, Wushu

This stunt allows the user to Dodge an armed opponent when unarmed. It reduces the cost of Dodge to 4 SR against other unarmed opponents.

Focus

Schools: Karate, Muay Thai, Wushu

This stunt adds one point of Might to a Martial Arts attack per Might Level. Each application of extra damage costs one Life Point. The Stunt also avoids damage to limbs due to the extra force of the blow.

In some settings, a Martial Artist may subsequently acquire further levels of Focus, allowing the addition of extra Might. However, in order to avoid excessive deadliness, we recommend that the Life Point cost be equal to the square of the extra Might (1 for Might 1, 4 for Might 2, 9 for Might 3, and so on).

Kickboxing

Schools: Capoeira, Karate, Kung Fu, Muay Thai, Savate

This stunt is the default stunt for most Martial Arts, including some Western ones like French Savate or Brazilian Capoeira. It allows the martial artist to hit with a kick instead of a fist without any penalty. The Kick attack has a Reach equal to the creature’s Size Class (thus 3 for a normal human) instead of the zero reach for a Punch or Bite, costs 5 SR in advanced combat and provides a +1 to Might.

An unarmed fighter willing to learn to kick in an environment where oriental-style martial arts are not common may acquire this stunt as a Brawl stunt. However, learning Savate or Capoeira would be much more effective as it would save a slot.

Read Intentions

Schools: Karate, Wushu

By understanding when the firer is about to pull the trigger, this extremely difficult stunt allows you to dodge any kind of projectile, including beam weapons, at full effectiveness.

 

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23 hours ago, rust said:

Living in a little town in the Alps with no brick and mortar FLGS anywhere near, Amazon actually is my FLGS ... :lol:

I live in Dallas - want to trade? :-)

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On 7/28/2016 at 10:02 AM, RosenMcStern said:

Dragon Lines is no longer available on DriveThruRPG. I wonder what engine you used for the search.

Paizo labels it as "Discontinued", like all of its sibling titles. Local game stores here and there might have copies left if you are lucky, but no Alephtar BRP title is still distributed to shops or online stores. Period. No exceptions.

For this specific title, the idea that the Author and I have is to repropose it, but with another game system. Chinese and Japanese Martial Arts will probably be covered in a new edition of The Celestial Empire, but I have no confirmed ETA for this book - it is not even sure that it will appear at all.

A basic Martial Art systems will be present in the core Revolution D100 SRD, probably available online in August.

 

I have copies of both Dragon Lines and The Celestial Empire that are new and unused.  PM if interested.

Note: I am in the US.

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15 hours ago, rsanford said:

I live in Dallas - want to trade? :-)

Trade you for Brisbane AU; it can't be worse for rpg exposure...

Edited by Mankcam
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22 hours ago, RosenMcStern said:

Well, but if your problem is this, the solution is extremely simple: to prevent "fighter boredom", you do not need to imagine new rules. You simply need to switch from a classic BRP ruleset to one that uses Combat Effects.

Mythras Imperative is available as a free PDF now. Revolution D100 is available as a 50% complete free online SRD, with the combat chapter due to appear in one month. They should be largely enough to introduce you to effect-based combat. The complete versions of both books are on the way, scheduled to appear later this year. Both combat engines do exactly what you are looking for: provide options to fighters which are not limited to "I do more damage".

I took a look at Mythras Imperative.  I like the direction you are going with the combat effects.  I just do not how they are triggered.  I think opposing roles often make sense in terms of game mechanics, but in terms of mechanics I prefer fewer roles.  I would rather just a single role and that determines things with the possibility of a save.

Thinking about this thread, I think I am leaning towards the more spell like approach.  It seems the closest to accomplishing what I want.  Of course if I ever get a hold of the OOP books I might take a different approach. 

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30 minutes ago, steamcraft said:

I took a look at Mythras Imperative.  I like the direction you are going with the combat effects.  I just do not how they are triggered.  I think opposing roles often make sense in terms of game mechanics, but in terms of mechanics I prefer fewer roles.  I would rather just a single role and that determines things with the possibility of a save.

This is exactly how it works. Whoever rolled higher on his "to hit/to parry" roll gets an effect, and offensive effects like Trip or Disarm allow the target to make a save.

It works in a slightly different way in Mythras: there, you need a full level of success of advantage to trigger an effect. And the saving throw is opposed to the initial roll. But the core concept is similar: the "to hit" roll may trigger an effect.

You should really try one of the two systems, at least with one mock combat, before you start reinventing the wheel. A lot of people use effect-based combat in their d100 games nowadays, and most of them are happy.

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The thing about Martial arts is that a particular Martial Art is no better no worse than another or than normal fighting.

What is different is that the techniques in Martial Arts are codified and the participants are trained. A Western Medieval Knight would be as good a swordsman as a Medieval Samurai, both would be better swordsmen than a self-taught peasant. A professional Turkish Wrestler would be as good in a grappling/throwing contest as someone trained in Judo/JuJitsu/Aikido.

Also, different Martial Arts have different techniques that are not commonly taught. So, Judo, JuJitsu and Aikido have a number of throws, locks and so on that normal people just wouldn't know.

 

From a gaming point of view, I would use something like Mythras, but would give each Martial Art technique a Special Effect and would detail the techniques taught by a certain Martial Arts school.

So, Savate might have Kicking and Punching, Shin-Kicking would have Kicking, Karate might have Punching, Blocking and Kicking, Judo might have Grappling, Throwing and Restraining and so on. The hardest and most controversial thing would be to classify each Martial Art style, I wouldn't ask the participants as they always say their style is better than anyone else's, I'd just check on Wikipedia and see what they use.

Different techniques might include punching, kicking, elbowing, kneeing, butting, slapping, blocking, grappling, throwing, avoiding, nerve strikes, restraining, knife combat, sword combat, stick combat and so on. Different Martial Arts might have different Special Effects, so Karate might have Kicking (Long, High), Savate and Shin-Kicking might have Kicking (Low) and Ecky Thump would have Black Pudding (Stun).

 

If you want magical effects for Martial Arts then they are also taught techniques that are only available to certain Schools. Many Chinese and Japanese Martial Arts use Qi/Ki to provide more energy and pseudo-magical effects. Indian Martial Arts might use similar energy through Yoga techniques. However, these are simply extra techniques with special effects.

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