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metcalph

Gloranthan Martial Arts

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Just came across the following passage in RQG

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Different schools of Martial Arts exist in the Lunar Heartland, Loskalm, Seshnela, Teshnos, and Kralorela.

RuneQuest Glorantha p181

I can imagine the Loskalmi martial arts to be a version of Pankration https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pankration but anybody have any idea what the Seshnelan version is?

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25 minutes ago, metcalph said:

I can imagine the Loskalmi martial arts to be a version of Pankration https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pankration but anybody have any idea what the Seshnelan version is?

I realise that Chaosium has shifted Seshnela away from the previous Western European model, nevertheless, the Western martial arts were centred around the duelling arts among the wealthy, and the quarterstaff among the lowlier (which was easily adaptable to a martial use of farming implements).

The first at least would still feel appropriate for Seshnela. Why not the second too ?

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1 hour ago, Julian Lord said:

I realise that Chaosium has shifted Seshnela away from the previous Western European model, nevertheless, the Western martial arts were centred around the duelling arts among the wealthy, and the quarterstaff among the lowlier (which was easily adaptable to a martial use of farming implements).

The first at least would still feel appropriate for Seshnela. Why not the second too ?

That may be but the skill referred to unarmed combat use, like a fist or a kick.

It has occurred to me that there's one group of people in Seshnela who might use Martial Arts because they are forbidden to use weapons - the Wizards.  Perhaps it's intended to enhance their sorcery?

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Good question Metcalph.

The fact is that nothing very definitive about these things exists in the current literature, except the treatment of some Lunar cults for HQ in "Under the Red Moon".  Lunar martial arts include the mystic twin scimitar (and dodge reliant) school of Nathic Combat, as well as the pankration style fighting of the Gladiatorial Grevlar cult, and we catch a glimpse of an Falcon style in the worship of Undrendum the Red Falcon's leaping feats.  In many ways we know more about Lunar martial arts than we do about Kralori ones, which seems somehow "wrong" to me.

We know from history that martial arts of the unarmed variety primarily develop due to people of lower social status being denied access to weapons, due to fear from above that they will rebel.  Thus many martial arts have a subversive element to them.  A martial artist doesn't need to carry a weapon, they are the weapon, and so they are good freedom fighters and assassins.  Of course there is also the ascetic/mystic element to martial arts that ties them to monasteries of essentially peaceful faiths that still need to defend themselves.  Whatever the case, all martial arts exist for a specific cultural reason, albeit one that is often lost to history, and has evolved to be something quite different from its origins.  I notice that Vormain has been missed from the list, but I am certain they have a martial arts legacy too, and I will be stunned if Vithela doesn't have dozens of martial arts fighting styles of their own.  In fact I am sure than most Hsunchen tribes have an "animal style" of fighting that emphasizes their totemic animal, but because they aren't paid much attention to, we forget about them.  

For example, while the Kralori have 2 named styles of martial arts, being Dragon and Centipede, I am sure there are many others that go unmentioned, among the peasantry, and these two named styles are merely the state sanctioned styles.  I would assume that there is also Bear style, Tiger style, Crane style, Mantis style etc, all taught by people's secret Hsunchen affiliation.  

Now Loskalm, given its class mobility apparently based on merit, seems notably free of the usual class based conflicts that normally produce martial arts.  Now either we take the success of their meritocracy at face value, and assume that their martial arts are primarily a way of ensuring that their peasants are kept physically fit, and skilled enough in fighting that they can fill the ranks of the army if necessary.  I would assume that the Loskalmi martial arts would involve plenty of wrestling with an emphasis on limb locks and dodging, as that is a useful foundation that will stay valid even when you are wearing heavy armor.  I would assume that Loskalmi would want their people to know the use of the spear, and the bow, for militia purposes, and quite possibly some back woods skills, and stick fighting with shields that doubles as sword and mace training.  I have always viewed the Loskalmi as a bunch of boy scouts, and I would make their martial arts training a bit like a scout camp militia training.  On the other hand, every society has criminals, even the Loskalmi, and it is quite possible that Loskalmi martial arts are a development of dirty fighting techniques used by heretics, criminal gangs, and dissidents, so that they can hold their own against  the law.  Such a style would favor ambush and stealth, as well as no holds barred fighting like pankration.

As for Seshnela, well, I would love to see a quasi-bandit Robin Hood style of martial art with quarterstaffs, and bows, as well as perhaps a versatile athletic fighting style that hides its moves in folk dancing as a means of secret training. As Seshnela has an association with snakes, there is a good chance that brewing and curing poisons would be included.  Of course there would also be the upper class versions of the style.  Now, as we have moved from knights to cataphracts in our way of thinking about the Malkioni, then why not draw inspiration from Iranian martial arts such as koshti (wrestling style), varzesh-e bastani (mixed style involving maces, primarily for physical fitness), furusiyya (equestrian martial arts), and razmafzar (sword and buckler), many of which date to the time of the Parthians and Sassanids who pioneered cataphract combat.  I would imagine this could be quite widespread in the western cataphract cultures, and even travel as far as Carmania and the Marcher Barons.

Going by the cultural stereotypes, we might assume that Vithelan martial arts follow the Malay/Philipino culture and are styles akin to escrima and the various silats, no doubt incorporating a good deal of ancestral kris sword worship, but not as any Humakti would understand it.  It is worth noting that some silat styles incorporate training in the sea and on beaches, as well as on pitching ship decks, to build a more practical fighting style that can deal with adverse stance and mobility conditions.

As for Teshnos, well, we might assume that the Amazons of Trowjang have a fighting style that specializes in capturing male prisoners.  Drawing on Indian martial references, the number of bizarre weapons used in Indian martial arts is phenomenal, and often bizarre.  The whip-swords known as urumi are amongst the most sane.  We have chakram (Xena warrior princess throwing rings), katar (punch daggers), pata (gauntlet sword), the corded lance or mardhani khel but also included short range all-steel bows that shot darts very hard at short range, and oddly decorated staff-bows,  and even war adzes.  You get a bit of a glimpse of this in Herodotus when he describes the Persian army and its regional recruits, who all turned up with their cultural weapons, and often not so far away from India, either geographically or culturally.  Of course how much of this would apply to Teshnos, who is to say?

As for Vormain, well, I assume that the most logical style would be the precursor of all Japanese martial arts, namely Atemi Waza, which is an armored grappling style with an emphasis on delivering a coup de grace with a dagger known as a Yoroi-doshi or Hachiwara.  This was similar to the European use of the stiletto, to kill heavily armored but prone enemies during the late middle ages (a technique that would not be out of place in Malkioni styles).  Drawing on past RQ Japan supplements, the notion of iaijutsu and other mentioned variant rules wouldn't be out of place, but might be a bit overpowered.  In many ways Humakti with their two swords (daisho) and death worship make good samurai, just saying.

I have a bit of a criticism of the handling of martial arts in Glorantha, and in the game systems that surround them.  In many ways they should be treated as cults in their own rights, as they are fighting societies with their own etiquette, beliefs, internal hierarchy, and secrets.  We saw an interesting variant on the idea with the Mythras rules on cultural fighting styles, but that system had its own problems.  In the main, there should be rules governing specific techniques that particular schools train members to perform, and a skill progression that allows their adoption.  Now some of these could be spells, but most will just be physical techniques that are outgrowths of skills like dodge, or jump.  The notion of using the Faction system from Mongoose Publishing's RuneQuest 2 Empires as a basis isn't unthinkable as a starting position for creating martial arts schools.

 

Edited by Darius West
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5 hours ago, metcalph said:

That may be but the skill referred to unarmed combat use, like a fist or a kick.

I'd view that as an error, given that multiple RW martial arts are centred around weapons use.

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6 hours ago, Darius West said:

I notice that Vormain has been missed from the list, but I am certain they have a martial arts legacy too, and I will be stunned if Vithela doesn't have dozens of martial arts fighting styles of their own.

The Atrocity War/war of the Bolt (around the Dawn? Vithelan chronology is a bit "off" from the rest of the world) seems to have been fought by an army formed by martial arts adherents rather than specific nations, if I recall correctly. The power of Kabalt, the Liberating Bolt is both described as a weapon, but also seems be something several adherents could tap into or summon, which I interpreted as being a mystical-martial discipline when I read it.

There's also the Austerity Wars fought by Vormain against the demons in the northeastern sea of fogs, which, while it doesn't outright state any martial arts, does mention a lot of purification and discipline over many years (hence the name of the war), which to me seems to imply at least some level of intense martial arts practice.

6 hours ago, Darius West said:

As for Seshnela, well, I would love to see a quasi-bandit Robin Hood style of martial art with quarterstaffs, and bows, as well as perhaps a versatile athletic fighting style that hides its moves in folk dancing as a means of secret training.

I am definitely in favor of Indo-Talmudic peasant-caste capoeira being used to grapple cataphracts off their horses and render their heavy armor useless.

Edited by Sir_Godspeed
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This is a bit of an aside, but the daily life of a Pentan nomad could essentially be viewed as a martial art. The same techniques one uses to herd and to hunt are used to fight enemies. This is in an allegorical sense though, as I'm not sure if a nomad would see these things as "arts", as opposed to just necessary techniques any adult must learn.

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19 hours ago, Julian Lord said:

I'd view that as an error, given that multiple RW martial arts are centred around weapons use.

Aren't those just (in RQG terms) just weapon skills though, e.g quarterstaff in the case of your example?

The Martial Arts skill in RQG as written is referring to unarmed combat. Of course someone who studies this may well choose to practice some weapon stuff too, e.g. "weapons" that are laying around such as staves, smaller sticks, rice flail, etc, but those will be their own weapon skills.

 

Edited by Steve

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1 minute ago, Steve said:

Aren't those just (in RQG terms) just weapon skills though, e.g quarterstaff in the case of your example?

The Martial Arts skill in RQG as written is referring to unarmed combat. Of course someone who studies this may well choose to practice some weapon stuff too, e.g. "weapons" that are laying around such as staves, smaller sticks, rice flail, etx, but those will be their own weapon skills.

 

Yes.

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Special weapon feats may come as some form of magic. The eastern Martial Artists train both armed and unarmed combat, but few will approach a foe unarmed if they can avoid it. That said, kicks or barehanded attacks while weapons are locked are well within this scope.

Heroic leaps (possibly combined with kick attacks) might be another application of Martial Arts in normal combat.

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I imagine that the warrior societies of Seshnela may teach their members martial arts based upon their beast.

The Snake Society housed in Laraness could favour quick strikes, both with hand and blade, their martial arts designed to strike from angles their opponent wouldn't expect, or block blows by entwining limbs.

In comparison, Levane's Lion Society could be focused on brutal boxing techniques, designed to put people out of commission as fast as possible. Equally however, they could also be trained in Quickdraw, bringing their weapons to action in a single moment. Useful for bodyguards like Rodtakmar.

 

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2 hours ago, Tindalos said:

I imagine that the warrior societies of Seshnela may teach their members martial arts based upon their beast.

The Snake Society housed in Laraness could favour quick strikes, both with hand and blade, their martial arts designed to strike from angles their opponent wouldn't expect, or block blows by entwining limbs.

In comparison, Levane's Lion Society could be focused on brutal boxing techniques, designed to put people out of commission as fast as possible. Equally however, they could also be trained in Quickdraw, bringing their weapons to action in a single moment. Useful for bodyguards like Rodtakmar.

 

Of course, there's also the Peacock Society with their Antisocial Alarm Call attack....

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On 10/10/2018 at 1:02 AM, Ali the Helering said:

Peacock Society with their Antisocial Alarm Call attack

I once had an office that bordered on a courtyard inhabited by peacocks. So I heartedly endorse the comment. 

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6 hours ago, davecake said:

I once had an office that bordered on a courtyard inhabited by peacocks. So I heartedly endorse the comment. 

Look on the bright side...  at least you didn't have a bedroom that bordered on a courtyard inhabited by peacocks!

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Most RPGs are kinda silly with 'martial arts' - a martial art is just a system of fighting, no more and no less, and there are basically zero reasons to have special rules for it outside of the regular fighting skills. Most 'martial arts' skills in RPGs are weaksauce remnants of Kung Fu movies. If MMA teaches us anything, it's that there aren't any uber-cool schools with secret masteries or hidden devastating techniques - there's just fighting, more or less successfully, and plenty of martial arts are kinda crap in practice (like how Kung Fu is essentially useless in MMA).

Of course, in Glorantha this might not hold, as a Martial Art could well be a tradition with magical components to it. But even in this case, it's the magic that makes it different, not any physical prowess used. Pankration, for instance, is just wrestling and striking.

Edited by Akhôrahil
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5 hours ago, Akhôrahil said:

Most RPGs are kinda silly with 'martial arts' - a martial art is just a system of fighting, no more and no less, and there are basically zero reasons to have special rules for it outside of the regular fighting skills. Most 'martial arts' skills in RPGs are weaksauce remnants of Kung Fu movies. If MMA teaches us anything, it's that there aren't any uber-cool schools with secret masteries or hidden devastating techniques - there's just fighting, more or less successfully, and plenty of martial arts are kinda crap in practice (like how Kung Fu is essentially useless in MMA).

Of course, in Glorantha this might not hold, as a Martial Art could well be a tradition with magical components to it. But even in this case, it's the magic that makes it different, not any physical prowess used. Pankration, for instance, is just wrestling and striking.

The "mystique" of martial arts is that -- as a systematic and codified suite of intensively-studied and practiced techniques -- they sometimes produce very-lopsided encounters vs other systems with different systematics and codifications.  Plus of course the eastern-mysticism stuff -- ki/chi, etc...

But the difference of techniques is key.  Early MMA, I was hearing all about "shoot-fighters" as dominant... but look at what happened when the Gracie family brought BJJ to the MMA field... they dominated for years, until other MMA fighers figured out how to adapt.

RE MMA vs other styles, it's worth noting that "dueling-centric" (1:1) systems, particularly groundfighting ones like MMA, become much more dangerous to the user in s melee/battlefield situation, vs. that "duel" scenario.  Groundfighting is (broadly speaking) dominant vs. upright striking systems in a "ring" or other duel, but nobody wants to go to the ground on a battlefield...

 

Edited by g33k
striking vs groundfighting, duel v battle

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5 hours ago, g33k said:

But the difference of techniques is key.  Early MMA, I was hearing all about "shoot-fighters" as dominant... but look at what happened when the Gracie family brought BJJ to the MMA field... they dominated for years, until other MMA fighers figured out how to adapt.

That was UFC 1 - it was basically designed to show off Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, which was successful because it was pretty much the only martial art anywhere that hadn't lost contact with the demands of actually working (on the streetfighting scene of Brazil) - the story of essentially every martial art out there in the real world (at least up to the creation of MMA, which might have gotten some to take notice - it's been said that martial arts have progressed more in the last 25 years than in all of history before it) is degeneration into pure style and very limited practical usefulness.

And maybe people don't want to go to the ground in a battlefield, but it sure happens anyway, especially when people load up on armor. This is why both Samurai combat and knightly combat include a hefty dollop of grappling - you may get to the ground by accident, you may throw yourself down on top of an opponent who's gone to the ground by accident, you may have lost your weapon and initiate grappling, or grappling might be the only way to get a weapon through armor. 

Edited by Akhôrahil

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I would expect the Western military orders to have distinctive fighting styles, signature weapons/techniques, etc. They also might be something that a learned eye might recognize in action. I wholly expect some Talar-focused fighting styles that exclusively teach their "I'm totally not wielding a weapon, it's completely normal for scepters to be shaped like this. Look at the gold inlay and designs on my exquisite tiara, just mind the edge." not-arsenal.  The bloodier Safelstrian secret societies and groups like the Black Fang elsewhere no doubt teach a variety of dirty tricks.

If I were running an HQ game that put this sort of stuff at center stage, I'd have characters describe their fighting styles as a keyword, take a couple of signature strengths as breakouts, and give bonuses/penalties in play when specific situations played into or against those strengths. 

 

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Similarly, farmers there might well find ways - self-defence only, naturally! - to use farming implements that absolutely do not count as weapons, honest.

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12 hours ago, Akhôrahil said:

Similarly, farmers there might well find ways - self-defence only, naturally! - to use farming implements that absolutely do not count as weapons, honest.

In Peloria there's a whole bunch of secret Lodrilli combat arts...

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1 hour ago, jeffjerwin said:

In Peloria there's a whole bunch of secret Lodrilli combat arts...

and a lot of not so secret ones, after all Lodril is the spearman, too.

There will be wrestling, and use of all manner of digging and agricultural implements.

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