Designers' Notes: GURPS Martial Arts

by Peter Dell'Orto & Sean Punch

Appropriately enough, GURPS Martial Arts was written by a tag team:

Peter was the book's lead author. Sure, Sean wrote lots of material, but that was almost entirely rules text. Peter did the hard work of researching print resources, interviewing martial artists, and actually fighting. He also wrote up all the styles and historical material . . . which is to say, the larger part of the book.

Sean was the project's designer and editor. Ultimately, it was his job to structure a rulebook around the research. Which isn't to say that Peter didn't do his share of the rules brainstorming, organizing, and trimming.

We're going to tell you the book's story from both perspectives.

Peter Takes a Trip . . .

Pai Mei: It is your wish to possess this kind of power?
The Bride: Yes!
Pai Mei: Your training begins . . . tomorrow.
-- Kill Bill: Vol. 2

I came home late one night in 2003 to find an e-mail from Sean titled "Wanna write a book?" My first thought was "No! Writing a book is a lot of work!" But this wasn't just an offer to write any book. It was a chance to work with Sean on GURPS Martial Arts for Fourth Edition. I'd be the subject-matter expert and he'd provide the rules expertise. I couldn't say no. I'd been playing combat-heavy GURPS games since Man to Man and doing martial arts since junior high school. I couldn't imagine letting anyone else write it!

I was living in New Jersey at the time, so I drove up to Montréal to visit Sean and draft the outline in person. It took a couple of days of systematic work, with breaks for local food and to watch an imported copy of Zhang Yimou's wuxia epic, Hero. The trip was dimmed by someone breaking into my car the night before I'd have left for home, forcing me to stay another day to get window repairs. (No, we didn't track the guy down and do a little reality checking on him.) But the important work was done: We'd outlined a major revision to a critical Fourth Edition book. It was the first step on a long journey. By the time we'd finished, I had moved to Japan and become an amateur fighter.

The Mission Statement

A crucial preliminary to writing the book was outlining our mission. Sean and I tossed around phrases like "GURPS Magic, but for fighters," "combat book," and "expanding the Basic Set" until we settled on the South Park-derived phrase "Fightin' Round the World." It was funny enough and it did summarize exactly what we wanted: to ensure that the book covered fighting from all over the world . . . from antiquity to modern day and beyond . . . armed and unarmed . . . from the hyper-realistic to comic-book ninjas and wuxia movies. We wanted to expand coverage of martial arts that were sadly overlooked in earlier editions of Martial Arts -- or that had expanded like wildfire since those were written. We also wanted to correct the perceived bias of previous editions toward barehanded martial arts from Asia, as well as the European armed-combat bias of GURPS Swashbucklers.

Early on, Sean decreed that techniques wouldn't be required purchases, which freed us to interpret each style's techniques list as both "recommended purchases" and "moves that gamers playing stylists should try to favor in play." I suggested that we include a paragraph of common tactics for each style in game terms, to make roleplaying a Goju Ryu karateka different from playing a Wushu practitioner or a Pankration stylist -- even if they all had the same skills. Sean thought this was a great idea, so in it went for every style! This was central to our goal of making the book a (hopefully!) complete roleplaying sourcebook for martial artists, not just a rulebook.

Reality Checking and Reliable Sources

"If the masters in the old days could really jump 30 feet high," he snarled, "then why the hell did they build staircases in their houses?"
-- Pan Qingfu to Mark Salzman, Iron and Silk

The first two editions of Martial Arts were great books. Two of my favorite books, and ones that heavily influenced GURPS. But they were relatively old.

The explosion of the Internet in the 1990s blew the doors off a vault holding a wealth of information about the martial arts. A trend emerged toward academically rigorous works and away from books based on hearsay and odd speculation. Lots of primary source material became available. Obscure fencing manuals once published solely in their original languages and accessible only to historians were translated by enthusiastic recreationists and published. Martial-arts styles virtually unknown 20 years ago became widespread. As the subject-matter expert of our tag-team pair, researching and reality checking this material fell to me. Reality checking was the easy part . . .

Our biggest problem was finding reliable, academically rigorous sources. Ad copy was commonly passed off as truth, while far too many books reported second-hand information as fact. Often, an assertion would be repeated across many works . . . all of which could be traced to a single source that provided no evidence to support its claim. "Common knowledge" was rampant, much of which was rumor cloaked in the guise of fact.

These obstacles to research afflicted the martial arts of every culture. Statements like "Boxers don't close their fists" and "Knights were honorable warriors but unsophisticated hackers" were as common as "Black belts must register their hands as lethal weapons" and "Ninjas hated samurai." Then there were the claims that Western martial arts are "pragmatic" while Eastern ones are "showy." Such myths are persistent and highly resistant to being debunked. We needed to separate fact from fiction, to back our facts with reliable sources. GURPS books are held to high standards, and this one was to be no exception!

This meant lots of research. I read or reread every book on the martial arts that I could get my hands on, and then read the books in their bibliographies. I borrowed DVDs and tapes from friends, and rented movies. I even bought a few important books for Sean so that I could have a second pair of eyes looking at critical sources.

I also grilled every knowledgeable person that I could find. I talked to USMC recruits and former hand-to-hand instructors, high-ranking karateka, competitive judo practitioners, BJJ stylists, professional fighters, and more. I contacted local and not-so-local schools and asked for permission to visit. With Sean's encouragement, I posted a message on the SJ Games forums looking for style experts to question. Then I researched again to confirm or refute everything I'd seen and heard.

The same went for equipment. I had weapon owners weigh their weapons, and I weighed mine as well. We checked training gear costs by comparison shopping on the net and picking representative prices.

Boss: Is that your blood?
Narrator: Some of it, yeah.
-- Fight Club

Interestingly, the schools tended to be dry wells. Some gave me a hard sell or flat-out ignored my requests to visit. Only two invited me in and freely answered my questions. One particular instructor in NJ, Phil Dunlap, opened his doors to me, inviting me to train at his school and ask any questions I had. He encouraged me to continue training mixed martial arts in Japan, and found me a school in my new town. This in turn led me to compete in amateur Shooto, a form of full-contact mixed martial arts. Try saying "No, thank you" to a group of enthusiastic Japanese gym buddies and you'll end up gloved-up as well! I'd like to think I'm the first GURPS author to score a knockout with a knee strike and call it "reality checking."

Reality checking was crucial. For both personal interest and reality-checking needs, I trained karate, two forms of mixed martial arts, muay thai, escrima, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, kendo, and more. Our pool of research experts added even more styles, providing vital feedback on styles that I couldn't try personally. We included experts and non-martial artists alike in the playtest to ensure accuracy, clarity, and ease of use. We needed to make sure that everything was accurate -- and more important, fun and playable!

In short, before we included a style, a weapon, or a technique, we insisted on checking the facts and the sources -- and if possible, reality checking it in person!

Combat Skills vs. Combat Art vs. Combat Sport

A GM who's designing a style needs to decide if it uses the basic combat skill, a Combat Art or Combat Sport variation, or some combination of the three. Sean and I had to decide this for every single style in the book. Martial skills, for game purposes, consist of three competing elements: form, distancing/timing, and power. Form is the elegance and attractiveness of the moves -- techniques with good form look good. Distancing is gauging where you and your weapons (hands, swords, whatever) are relative to the opponent, while timing is your ability to spot an opportunity and take advantage of it. Power is simply that -- strong techniques, delivered forcefully and efficiently to the target. Each of the three skill types emphasizes one or two of these at the cost of the rest:

I'm a chain belt in kung-fu!
-- Billy Ray Valentine, Trading Places

Combat skills emphasize power and distancing/timing at the expense of form. Any move that allows powerful strikes against a mobile, resisting foe gets used, regardless of attractiveness. Such things might not be pretty, or effective in a sporting situation, but they work.

Art skills emphasize form at the cost of power and distancing/timing. They sacrifice a lot, but form is outstanding. The moves might not work in a combat situation, but they look good -- and sometimes, especially on film or in certain competitions, that's all that matters.

Sport skills emphasize distancing/timing -- and to a lesser extent, form -- over power. Because sport events generally reward proper form over injury-causing attacks, power isn't a priority. But distancing is critical if one wants to score on a resisting opponent. Some sports forms do include powerful strikes, but these generally have a very limited target set (perhaps just one area of the body) or limit scoring to only one class of strikes. How pretty it looks is secondary, although it isn't ignored; many scoring systems only reward correct technique, but you still need to hit the target!

Thus, full-contact, limited-rules bouts where knockout is a real possibility use combat skills. At the resolution level of GURPS, if you can strike, grapple, or throw a resisting opponent with limited regard for his safety, then that's indistinguishable from combat! Safety gear, immediate medical support, matched opponents, and referee stoppages -- not the underlying skill -- are what changes the contest from combat to sport.

"Why is <style> so <good/bad> in GURPS?"

Martial artists often have very strong opinions about specific styles -- usually their own, but also others. These range from "This is the ultimate style!" to "That style sucks!" We tried to present a fair and reasonable description and rules treatment of each martial art. GURPS is a game, though, so we deliberately erred on the side of combat utility and function. Even the most questionable styles might have emerged from combat arts, may purport to teach combat-effective techniques, and are likely to be depicted as extremely deadly in the martial-arts fiction that people want to emulate in an RPG!

"Why did you call it that?"

We tried to use accurate names for all styles, but we favored the names most commonly found in widely available sources to make it easy to use Martial Arts to adapt real and fictional material. This led to a mishmash of two different transliteration methods for Chinese, complicated by styles having different names in Cantonese and Mandarin (with different transliterations for each one . . .). Other languages presented their own unique difficulties. For this reason, we often listed alternate names as well. Our main goal was to make it easy to find more information -- to give GMs and players the names they'd find on school signboards, book titles, and the Internet.

"Why did you cut <style>?"

Because we added so much to our edition of Martial Arts, a few styles presented in earlier versions didn't make it back into print. First, we cut many of the fictional martial arts, keeping only a small selection that covered a broad range of genres and play styles. It's easier for the GM to make up such styles than to research real ones, after all! Second, we cut a few historical styles. Generally, this was because we needed the space for another style that covered the same ground, geographically or otherwise -- but some were cut for being less-than-historical. The rundown:

An Ch'i -- This art was supposedly used by legendary Chinese gypsies, assassins, and proto-ninjas. It's an unverifiable style for unverifiable people. Amusingly, I own a book on the Chinese gypsies who supposedly used it . . . but even that book doesn't contain these techniques, nor does it provide any evidence beyond the author's assertions.

Kuk Sool Won -- Korean styles were possibly overrepresented in earlier books. More importantly, I had little access to solid information on this art. I was able to question a dedicated, willing practitioner of the widely available style of Hwa Rang Do, though, and I had numerous sources against which I could double-check his information. Thus, we chose to replace KSW with HRD.

Military Hand-to-Hand -- This became a greatly expanded section covering specific styles: the USMC's MCMAP, Israel's Krav Maga, and the combative version of Russia's Sambo. We also added a lens for converting any style to a military one.

Ninjutsu -- The biggest cut, but a necessary one. Ninjutsu isn't a martial-arts style. It's an occupational skill set that has a component fighting style, taijutsu, that we did include. The same goes for "Hashishin style" -- it's not a style, but a job for suicidal assassins who need Fanaticism and the willingness to take a few All-Out Attack maneuvers. There's no evidence that the Hashishin even trained in a dedicated system.

Police Hand-to-Hand -- This became a lens for just about any style.

Streetfighting -- This isn't a style. We replaced it with a lens for other styles and a discussion of "untrained" brawlers. This is both more accurate and easier on potential street-fightin' PCs.

Uechi Ryu -- A popular style, but . . . We needed to add Shotokan, founded by the man who brought karate to Japan. We wanted to add Kyokushin, because of its wide availability and colorful founder. We insisted on having Te, as it represented the root from which all karate sprung. Karate was overrepresented, so something had to go.

Wudong -- Wudong is a region, not a specific style. The Wudong family of martial arts consists of the Taoist styles, also known as the "internal" styles: T'ai Chi Chuan, Pa Kua Chuan, and Hsing I Chuan. We couldn't find verifiable sources on any style called "Wudong."

None of the above styles made it past the initial discussions, so they weren't converted to Fourth Edition. Don't look for them in the outtakes below!

. . . and Sean Snips

It's not daily increase but daily decrease -- hack away the unessential!
-- Bruce Lee, The Tao of Jeet Kune Do

A consequence of all this research and double-checking was that we had to snip some first-draft text that was merely "nice to have" in order to accommodate playtester recommendations for material that was necessary. Even with cuts, though, we were running long . . . until SJ Games decided that Martial Arts would have 256 pages instead of 240. This greatly reduced the number of necessary outtakes. There were still a few, however, as well as many rough write-ups proposed during the playtest that we lacked the time to properly test, or that overlapped existing material.

The remainder of this article is a mixture of things that had to come out and items that didn't quite make it in. Fair warning: we didn't spend much time playtesting rules that wouldn't fit. Anything involving game mechanics might need a little adjustment to be balanced in play!

Chapter 1 -- History

We made a concerted effort not to hack on this chapter. The styles in Chapter 5 were so heavily dependent on laying a solid historical groundwork that every word cut here meant adding a word in 10 places later in the book -- a false economy if there ever was one. The biographies, however, were mostly for color . . . so with great reluctance, we took a famous American fighter out of contention.

Martin "Farmer" Burns (1861-1937)

Martin Burns earned his nickname when he wrestled in a $25-prize challenge match in Chicago in 1889. His overalls and obvious rural upbringing marked him as someone from the sticks, hence the moniker. Burns wrestled two matches, winning both despite being outweighed by his professional opponents.

Burns continued to wrestle for the rest of his adult life, fighting an estimated 6,000 matches and losing only seven. He weighed a relatively modest 175 lbs. yet had a 20" neck. Pure muscle, Burns credited his development to a youth spent at hard labor and wrestling practice. He later came into demand as a trainer, and taught champion wrestlers such as Frank Gotch.

In the early 20th century, Burns published a mail-order fitness manual that he sold for the then-tremendous sum of $35. It covered weightlifting, calisthenics, and self-defense using wrestling and jujutsu. It also described the "deep breathing" that he believed was so critical. These breathing exercises and the benefits Burns claimed for them were almost indistinguishable from Chinese qi gong. Unlike jujutsu, qi gong was unknown in the West. Burns' explanations didn't mention chi, but rather the invigorating and strengthening effects of deep breathing!

Chapter 2 -- Characters

When it came to bulking up during the playtest, this was the only chapter that seriously challenged Chapter 4. At the request of the testers, we added a lot of notes on advantages and how to use them in Martial Arts campaigns, as well as several perks. Not everything made it in, though, and a few items had to come out to make room. The largest outtake was one of our sample NPCs.

João Dias (150 points)

João spent his childhood in a half-dozen Brazilian cities, dragged around by his mother, Ana, as she searched for "something better" -- which, as far as João could make out, meant "somewhere his father wasn't." Eventually, Ana got the cash to take her boy and move to the United States. Unfortunately, the money ran out shortly thereafter.

João's teenage years went by in a half-dozen American cities in which being a poor immigrant was grounds for prejudice and violence. Los Angeles was the low point -- Ana found work, but the gangs found João. He spent over two years not exactly on the street but not exactly doing anything with his life.

The day João's best friend, Roque, was shot by a fellow gang member was the day he vowed to get out of the life. As luck would have it, his roots provided the means: a Brazilian Jiu-jitsu school owner saw a bit of himself in João and decided to get him off the street. João trained with the dedication of a madman, and learned more about his culture during his training than he ever did busing between cities in Brazil.

Today, João is a serious contender. He's fast, hard to catch, and excellent at grappling. He has won seven local tournaments -- most by triangle choke -- and is ready to tackle a regional event. He plans to fight his way to the top through hard work, and refuses to do anything remotely questionable. His secret weapon against second thoughts is the ringing in his right ear . . . it's a constant reminder of the shot that killed Roque, and only training seems to drown it out.

João is his early 20s, and stands a fit 5'9" at 153 lbs. He was designed using the Contender template (p. 32), and practices Brazilian Jiu-jitsu (p. 167) with the "Street" lens (p. 145).

ST 11 [10]; DX 13 [60]; IQ 10 [0]; HT 13 [30].
Damage 1d-1/1d+1; BL 24 lbs.; HP 11 [0]; Will 10 [0]; Per 10 [0]; FP 13 [0].
Basic Speed 7.00 [10]; Basic Move 7 [0]; Dodge 11; Parry 12.

Social Background

TL: 8 [0].
CF: Latin [0]; Western [1].
Languages: English (Accented) [4]; Portuguese (Native) [0].

Advantages

Enhanced Dodge 1 [15]; Fit [5]. Perks: Ground Guard; Style Familiarity (Brazilian Jiu-jitsu). [2]

Disadvantages

Obsession (Win a title and get off the street) (12) [-5]; Overconfidence (12) [-5]; Pacifism (Cannot Kill) [-15]; Stubbornness [-5]; Workaholic [-5].

Quirks: Believes that most people are lazy, not that he pushes himself hard; Curses in English around Brazilians and in Portuguese around Americans; Hates being called "Joe"; Minor Addiction (Guarana); Minor Handicap (Tinnitus in right ear). [-5]

Skills

Brawling (E) DX [1]-13; Fast-Talk (A) IQ [2]-10; Intimidation (A) Will [2]-10; Judo (H) DX+5 [24]-18; Knife (E) DX [1]-13; Lifting (A) HT-1 [1]-12; Running (A) HT-1 [1]-12; Streetwise (A) IQ+1 [4]-11; Urban Survival (A) Per+1 [4]-11; Wrestling (A) DX+2 [8]-15.

Techniques: Triangle Choke (Judo) (H) [5]-18.

We also decided to cut one of our Innate Attack examples, since we felt that it was somewhat redundant with Flying Fists (p. 45). Still, it shows up in plenty of video games, and illustrates that not all chi attacks have to be "hard," damaging abilities.

Chi Shove (-50%): Crushing Attack 1d (Blockable, -10%; Costs Fatigue, 1 FP, -5%; Double Knockback, +20%; Low Signature, +10%; No Blunt Trauma, -20%; No Wounding, -50%; Variable, +5%) [3]. Notes: You can push around a distant target by miming a shove or a Judo Throw. If the victim has never witnessed this ability, he must make a Sense roll at -4 to realize that he's being attacked! (He may defend normally against later uses.) This is a standard ranged attack with Acc 3, 1/2D 10, Max 100, and RoF 1. It requires an Attack maneuver and a roll against Judo or Push to hit. On a hit, roll damage, double it, and assess knockback but no injury. 3 points.

The playtesters proposed a lot of additional Style Perks, and many of them went into the book -- including Clinch (p. 51), Neck Control (p. 50), and Strongbow (p. 51). Some didn't make it in, though. In most cases, this was because the testers felt that the proposed perk was unbalanced, or at least needed more testing than we could give it. One perk lost out by only a slim margin, largely because the playtest ended before the debate as to whether it was balanced.

Focused Fury

Unlike most fighters, you can combine Mighty Blows (p. B357) with Committed Attack (Strong), raising the damage bonus to +1 per die or a flat +2, whichever is better -- like All-Out Attack (Strong). You can also "stack" it with All-Out Attack (Strong), improving its damage bonus to the better of +2 per die or a flat +3. Either use costs 1 FP per blow.

Chapter 3 -- Techniques

This chapter was jam-packed even in the first draft, and the few techniques that the playtesters really felt needed to be added all ended up playtested and shoehorned in. Still, there was one outtake, cut mostly because not everyone agreed that we needed it in light of Counterattack (p. 70), Stop Hits (p. 108), and Riposte (p. 124).

Deceptive Parry

Hard

Default: prerequisite skill Parry-4.
Prerequisite: Any unarmed or Melee Weapon skill; cannot exceed prerequisite Parry.

This technique involves a risky defensive maneuver that opens up your attacker to a counter. In effect, you start your own attack early to take advantage of your parry . . . at the risk of failing to defend! You must declare this gambit before you defend against a given opponent. It gives you -4 to all defenses against that foe. Deceptive Parry lets you buy off this penalty for Parry, but not for Block or Dodge. If you successfully parry your enemy's melee attack, he has -4 to defend against your first attack if he tries to parry with the weapon or limb that you just parried. This has no effect on his other defenses, including parry attempts with other weapons or limbs.

Chapter 4 -- Combat

We were strongly opposed to outtakes here. Whenever several styles in Chapter 5 required the same special combat rule, it was more efficient simply to add it once in Chapter 4 . . . so as with Chapter 1, every word cut here meant several new words later on. Another way to put it would be to say that this part of the book represented a lot of research and rules design, and everything in it was something that we really wanted to include.

This was also the chapter that grew the most due to playtester-requested additions -- mostly, we agreed and added things. We decided not to include controversial items, though. The following optional rule is just one example.

Practice Makes Perfect

When rolling to hit with a technique, how you achieved your skill level is unimportant; e.g., a karateka with Karate at 18 and Jump Kick at default and one with Karate at 14 and 5 points in Jump Kick both have Jump Kick at 14. But constantly practicing one move toughens body parts and provides hard-won experience that accuracy doesn't really reflect. For every two full points in a technique, you get +1 on rolls to avoid any negative consequences it has (falls, self-inflicted harm, etc.), and on non-combat skill rolls required to set it up or recover from it. For instance, if you raise Flying Jump Kick from Karate-7 to Karate for 8 points, you get +4 to the DX or Jumping roll to set it up and the DX or Acrobatics roll to avoid falling if you fail. This bonus never modifies attack or defense rolls -- only incidental rolls.

Chapter 5 -- Styles

By now you're probably sensing a trend: "If the playtesters convinced us that something was necessary to make Martial Arts a complete work, we added it." Guilty as charged! And even with the extra 16 pages that a 256-page book gave us, we had to make space for all of this somewhere. Chapter 5 bore the brunt of the cutting simply because it was the longest chapter by far, and many of the styles it described were very similar to other styles.

Here are the missing styles in all their glory. These first two were originally part of Stickfighting (p. 157).

Egyptian Stickfighting

4 points

Ancient Egyptian tomb murals depict stickfighting done for the amusement of the pharaoh. They also show boys practicing stickfighting -- either as training for war or as a combat form in itself. Shields aren't in evidence, but warriors of that era would have used them in warfare.

Skills: Shield; Smallsword; Wrestling.
Techniques: Arm Lock (Wrestling); Armed Grapple (Smallsword); Disarming (Smallsword); Feint (Smallsword).

Optional Traits

Advantages: Combat Reflexes.

Tapado

3 points

Tapado is a form of Filipino stickfighting that uses a jo-like stick wielded in two hands. Practitioners usually study it in conjunction with other Filipino martial arts.

Skills: Staff; Two-Handed Sword.
Techniques: Disarming (Staff or Two-Handed Sword); Feint (Staff or Two-Handed Sword).
Perks: Form Mastery (Staff).

Optional Traits

Advantages: Enhanced Parry (Staff).

The third and final style we removed was part of Jujutsu (p. 166). As a matter of trivia, it was also the original inspiration for the Style˘ box on p. 27.

Small-Circle Jujitsu

4 points

Small-Circle Jujitsu is the style of Hawaiian judo and jujutsu master Wally Jay. It depends more on stand-up locks than on ground fighting and throws. Its name refers to the art's basic principle for manipulating an adversary's limbs or joints: the practitioner pushes the opponent with the thumb and hand while pulling with the arms, the resulting motion describing a small circle. This simultaneous push-pull action uses the victim's body to provide the leverage needed to throw him or place him in a lock.

Small-Circle Jujitsu emphasizes controlling the opponent via joint locks, finger locks, arm bars, and pain compliance. The stylist counters an assailant's strikes and grabs with locks and throws. He rarely lets go after a throw, instead holding on and following up with a painful lock. In a lethal situation, he might incapacitate his foe with chokes and damaging locks -- but the style stresses rendering the adversary helpless, not crippling him. This defensive emphasis is evident in the stylist's preferred maneuvers: Wait, All-Out Defense (Increased Parry), and Defensive Attack.

Cinematic Small-Circle Jujitsu masters have little access to chi abilities. They should have remarkably high levels of Judo, Arm Lock, and Finger Lock, however, and use the Technique Mastery perk to exceed the normal limits of those techniques!

Small-Circle Jujitsu has both combat and sport aspects. Fighters train for self-defense and uncontrolled conditions, but also learn to control or choke out an opponent safely in a dojo. Training covers reviving a partner rendered unconscious by jujitsu techniques, and many students go on to learn full-fledged first aid as well as basic CPR. Because of these factors -- and the style's emphasis on controlling an opponent with pain instead of injuring him -- Pacifism (Cannot Kill) suits many stylists.

Skills: Judo; Judo Sport; Savoir-Faire (Dojo).
Techniques: Arm Lock; Breakfall; Choke Hold; Finger Lock; Leg Lock.
Cinematic Skills: Mental Strength.
Perks: Technique Mastery (Arm Lock); Technique Mastery (Finger Lock).

Optional Traits

Advantages: Empathy.
Disadvantages: Pacifism (Cannot Kill).
Skills: First Aid; Judo Art; Karate.
Techniques: Leg Grapple.

As in earlier chapters, not every idea that came up during the playtest made it into print. Here's a small box that didn't quite make the grade. We thought it was kind of neat, because it really suited certain kinds of martial-arts fiction. The playtesters assured us that it was also rather obvious . . . so we quietly set it aside for this article.

Balanced Development

Meditation, Philosophy, Theology, and even Mathematics are core skills for styles with a strong intellectual element. In a game that favors this angle over violence, the GM may forbid warriors to learn combat skills at a higher level than their style's more intellectual skills. In return, Mental Strength and Tactics default to such cerebral skills at no penalty -- as does the Feint technique, making wise masters as tricky as agile ones.

Chapter 6 -- Weapons and Equipment

Needless to say, given Man's gift for coming up with new and brutal ways to kill his fellow man, weapons could have filled all 256 pages by themselves. The abbreviated glossary format let us include a lot of weapons. Then the day after we submitted the final draft, Sean saw a picture in his local paper and realized that he had left out one of his favorites . . .

Haladie -- India, Sudan. A knife with blades above and below the grip. Treat as a LARGE KNIFE (pp. B272, B276) that lets the user choose freely between the rules for a normal grip and a Reversed Grip (p. 111), as best suits the task at hand. It cannot pummel and gives -1 to skill. $80, 1.5 lbs.




Article publication date: July 13, 2007


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