Fists of Infinity

Martial Arts and the Infinity Patrol

by Phil Masters

GURPS Infinite Worlds came out long before GURPS Martial Arts, and isn't primarily concerned with matters of low-tech combat. As such, the question of martial arts in Infinity Patrol games hasn't been addressed very much. However, now that both books are out, it's possible to look at the options.

Homeline is similar to our present-day Earth in many ways, which means it must have as full a collection of martial arts being studied and used as we have. In fact, there are probably a lot more. Since crosstime travel was developed, explorers, tourists, and entrepreneurs have visited dozens of timelines, and it's a fair bet that some of them took at least a passing interest in the martial arts. Even if they don't get much chance to study with local teachers, these people will have visited exhibitions, gladiatorial arenas, and battlefields, and even if they weren't expert observers, they can have come back with secretly shot videos for Homeline experts to analyze at leisure. Visits to echoes and close parallels could resolve any number of detailed arguments about "lost" historical techniques and even generate some footage of legendary masters in action, while similar trips to more divergent timelines could generate fascinating data on subtly divergent developments in the arts, and even whole new arts from cultures which didn't exist in our past. For example, there are the infamous Si Lei Li developed by the Irish Triads of Ming-3 (see GURPS Alternate Earths 2), the authentically oriental Baritsu of Sherlock-1, or the intricately brutal Savate variants of Bonaparte-4.

Naturally, as soon as these styles were reasonably documented, people would come along and try to recreate them on Homeline, albeit often in more or less sanitised "sport" forms where the originals were unrestrained killing arts. In any case, crosstime travelers can encounter any number of fighting arts on other timelines. Hence, there are numerous possibilities for incorporating martial arts action into Infinite Worlds games, from bruising encounters with unexpectedly skillful local thugs or duelists during undercover missions, through the inclusion of extraordinary "cinematic" fighters in ISWAT teams, to complete campaigns of martial arts crosstime tourism or research, with PC fighters seeking to learn the fighting secrets of a hundred worlds without attracting either the anger or the curiosity of the local experts who they necessarily have to meet.

However, this article deals with a particular aspect of this subject which can be brought into almost any Infinite Worlds game, and which can add color and detail to such games without overcomplicating things too much; the study of martial arts within the Infinity Patrol. What follows is designed to remain consistent with everything in GURPS Infinite Worlds, while permitting some interesting expansions.

The Basics

Although the Patrol isn't particularly obsessed with martial arts, it teaches its cadets some useful fighting skills, and it's certainly not without a few remarkably competent martial artists. To start with, its agents all had lives before they were recruited; some were cops or soldiers, while others were exactly the sort of people to make a study of some martial art as a serious hobby (and in quite a lot of cases, these were those "out-time" arts which have been recreated on Homeline). Hence, a Patrol member may know almost any art in addition to the standard "template" training -- and sensible patrol officers track the known special abilities of their agents, and sometimes try to assign people to tasks for which they're especially well suited. Furthermore, the Patrol can generally afford to hire the best instructors and experts to teach its recruits, and in the case of basic close combat training, that means some very good fighters, usually with police or special forces backgrounds. Hence, the Academy staff include a handful of people who can be really quite seriously dangerous in a brawl, and who pass a fraction of their skills onto new agents.

Prior and Basic Training

All I-Cops and Scouts receive intensive and efficient training in unarmed combat, represented by Karate skill; the Scouts, who are more likely to spend time undercover on low-tech worlds but who are initially selected slightly more for smarts over physical abilities than the I-Cops, receive more instruction. But in both cases, this is severely un-artistic stuff, partly intended to make them adequately dangerous in a pretty basic sort of way on those hopefully rare occasions on which they have to fight unarmed, and partly just to instil a degree of aggression and confidence. In addition, I-Cops are trained with the police-style baton, with the logical justification that they're cops and may have to function as such, using a training regime that conveniently also enables them to handle the sort of generic shortsword which visitors can often take to low-tech timelines as part of a local-style costume. Likewise, the Scouts, who as travelers and explorers are rarely without a standard survival knife, are trained in knife fighting.

None of this amounts to a style, though standard Infinity close- combat training is arguably analogous to a style with one of the lenses from pp. 144-5 of Martial Arts -- especially the Self-Defense lens. Most students don't acquire a Style Familiarity perk, but GMs who want to introduce this concept and emphasize the standardized nature of Patrol training can permit instructors and advanced students to acquire this perk for "Patrol Training." This gives a Claim to Hospitality of sorts among the instructors at the Patrol Academy (who'll remember a keen student), and grants the bonus to defend against feints and Deceptive Attack when fighting anyone who learned his combat skills there.

Also, cadets who take a special interest in combat skills, and who can somehow find the time (perhaps treating this as their Academy sport of choice) can usually persuade an instructor to teach them a style in addition to their basic training. This often means a Military Hand-to-Hand variant (see GURPS Martial Arts, pp. 182-5), but some of the instructors are dedicated students of other arts themselves, and in any case it's easier to claim a martial art as a competitive sport if it has some sort of appropriate rules and at least optional constraints, so students can also pick up various other arts if they wish -- though advancing very far in such things, in the limited free time available to a Patrol cadet, requires exceptional dedication and some natural talent.

And optionally, a GM can assume that the skills included in the Patrol templates reflects initial training towards a rather simple but effective martial art, pulled together by the Academy instructors to meet the requirements they'd been given and consolidated to make teaching easier. The full version of this art is as follows:

Infinity Patrol Martial Arts Program

3 points

"IP-MAP" (still an unofficial name, but increasingly widely known, and naturally pronounced "ipp-map" by any ex-US Marine instructors or agents) may be taught to students who show particular aptitude or enthusiasm in their basic combat classes. It's based on the skills which all agents learn, with a focus on techniques which are especially useful to field agents (close-quarters fighting in all situations and directions, weapon retention) and to those functioning as cops or needing to take prisoners (basic control-and-restraint methods). It adds options and Style Adaptations which many of the instructors are able and willing to pass on -- a mixture of close-quarters grappling methods, military-style fight-ending tricks, and less brutal police-style techniques. Users may also draw on contemporary police training for use of the side-handled baton. Anyone who acquires the associated Style Familiarity perk can apply it in combat against any product of the Patrol's standard training courses, as discussed above.

Even as an advanced, optional course, this is uncomplicated stuff, with no great associated mystique; while there are some colorful legends about Patrol fighting skills developing on Homeline, they're (supposedly) associated with a handful of freelance crosstime agents and strike teams, not the newest products of the Academy. On the other hand, it does permit quite a lot of cross-training! The Optional Traits given below are things especially closely associated with IP-MAP training, but it would be perfectly reasonable to add anything in the core I-Cop and Scout templates, or the Academy, Special Operations, or Search and Rescue Division Skills lists, to this section.

Skills: Karate; Knife or Shortsword.

Techniques: Back Kick; Back Strike (Karate, Knife, or Shortsword); Disarming (Shortsword); Ground Fighting (Karate); Handcuffing; Knee Strike; Low Fighting (Karate); Retain Weapon (Pistol or Shortsword).

Perks: Armor Familiarity (Karate); Ground Guard; Style Adaptation (Boxing, Dagger Fighting, Krav Maga, Kyokushin Karate, or MCMAP); Suit Familiarity (Vacc Suit).

Optional Traits

Advantages: Fit or Very Fit.

Disadvantages: Code of Honor (Patrol); Overconfidence; Workaholic.

Skills: Whichever of Knife or Shortsword wasn't taken as a mandatory skill; Boxing; Brawling; Fast-Draw (Knife, Pistol, Sword, or Tonfa); Liquid Projector (Sprayer); Tonfa; Wrestling.

Techniques: Arm or Wrist Lock (Wrestling); Breakfall; Retain Weapon (Rifle); Stamp Kick; Uppercut.

Optional Further Developments

Despite some rivalries (not always friendly, but never actually lethal) and some highly technical debates about comparative fighting styles, the close combat instructors at the Patrol Academy have built a fair degree of camaraderie and mutual respect, mostly based on being similar people stuck on an Ice Age world with a few hundred students to knock into shape. Naturally enough, they sometimes exchange ideas about their skills and compare experiences.

This has put these people on the way to synthesizing a comprehensive if bluntly straightforward fighting style. While this is still developing, a number of senior Patrol officers are actively encouraging the idea, and advocating that time should be allotted to teaching the style to some current field agents. In particular, some Special Operations actions might go off better as subtle "commando raids" rather than head-on assaults, for which purpose close combat skills are useful, while members of several other divisions, notably Nexus Oversight, Search and Rescue, and Survey, have also expressed an interest. Investigation, Infiltration, and Extraction would definitely also be potential users. The "art" under development will probably take something like the following form:

Infinity Patrol "Commando" Program

6 points

This style owes something to virtually every military style known to Homeline, and a bit to various advanced police training courses. Like most modern military styles, it concentrates on putting the opponent out of action as quickly as possible, with little regard for delicacy; however, because of its origins, it offers a lot of options -- possibly making it more complex and harder to teach than the Patrol really needs. The police training influence and the emphasis on taking prisoners shows up in some of the "softer" elements and the choice of optional weapons. Some people might call it over-refined for what it's meant to do, but others would call it impressively comprehensive. The art's creators assumed that users would usually be wearing high-tech armor, and so felt that no special attention to defense was necessary; fighters will often opt for All- Out or Committed Attacks, unless they can see that their opponents are as well equipped as themselves.

While this is a new, functional style with no body of legends, the Academy instructors have acquired a little mystique of their own, and anyone who learns it is going to be a tough member of an elite organization; there are a number of cinematic options listed below, and credible masters should also have good ST, DX, and HT.

Skills: Judo; Karate; Knife; Stealth; Wrestling.

Techniques: Arm or Wrist Lock (Judo); Breakfall; Choke Hold; Disarming (Judo); Ground Fighting (Karate); Handcuffing; Retain Weapon (Knife, Pistol, or Rifle); Stamp Kick; Targeted Attack (Knife Thrust/Neck); Targeted Attack (Knife Thrust/Vitals); Targeted Attack (Stamp Kick/Skull).

Cinematic Skills: Mental Strength; Power Blow; Pressure Points.

Cinematic Techniques: Binding; Lethal Kick; Lethal Strike.

Perks: Armor Familiarity (Judo or Karate); Ground Guard; Style Familiarity (IP-MAP); Suit Familiarity (Vacc Suit); Sure-Footed (Uneven).

Optional Traits

Advantages: Combat Reflexes; Fit; High Pain Threshold; Patrol Rank.

Disadvantages: Bloodlust; Code of Honor (Patrol); Fanaticism (The Secret); Overconfidence; Sense of Duty (Patrol or Homeline).

Skills: Boxing; Brawling; Guns/TL9 (Pistol); Intimidation; Liquid Projector (Sprayer); Spear; Tonfa; Shortsword.

Infinity's Enemies and the Martial Arts

Infinity's primary enemy across the Infinite Worlds has rather less interest in the martial arts than Infinity itself. Centrum is notoriously technocratic and rather prosaic by nature; doubtless that timeline and those which it now controls produced their share of martial arts in the past, but they appear mostly to have been smothered by the Centrum cultural hegemony. Ordinary Centrum agents can be effective enough in close combat, but they prefer to achieve this by using appropriate weapons and very basic brawling methods -- and the occasional cybernetic implant. However, Infinity agents who hope to take advantage of this by turning every encounter with Centrum into a fistfight will sooner or later suffer a painful reminder that those weapons are better than unarmed combat, all else being equal, and Centrum agents know how to use them. Furthermore, it's not impossible for an individual citizen of Centrum to pick up the equivalent of at least basic military/commando training; an Unattached agent especially might pursue this, for himself or as part of a project to give Interworld additional weapons for use against Infinity. Individual Centrans who've spent extended periods on low-tech timelines may also pick up local fighting styles for self-defense, as part of their cover story, or even out of simple curiosity.

Similarly, the troopers of SS Raven Division see themselves as high- tech soldiers, not "martial artists," the peculiarities of their service notwithstanding; most are competent bar-room brawlers but no more. Their timeline's SS has some elite commandos with quite deadly personal combat training, but these valued specimens don't get assigned to Burgundy. However, that said, Reich-5's Germany enthusiastically preserves much of the paraphernalia of traditional German militarism, including Schläger dueling and a certain amount of boxing and suchlike; the stereotypical university-educated Gestapo Amt Z agent knows how to use a broadsword or his fists, and some of these individuals, along with some Raven Division officers and their personal bodyguards and sidekicks, may demonstrate unexpected competence in hand-to-hand combat.

Lastly, the Cabal are a group of scholarly wizards at heart, not "vulgar brawlers"; they also display a peculiar disdain for oriental mysticism, including most theories about focused chi and suchlike. Apparently, their own concept of magic is explicitly European in its origins, and many of them are downright chauvinistic about it. All of that said, though, some of them seem to associate disciplines of the mind with disciplines of the body -- like many religious traditions, they may see physical fitness as a prerequisite for effective extended meditation -- and the classical European Hermetic tradition has some association with refined fencing styles such as La Verdadera Destreza (GURPS Martial Arts, p. 158). Thus, a few Cabalists are deft swordsmen, and most can deliver a quick dagger-thrust or staff-blow when the need arises. Some of them also employ guards or assistants whose job is to handle low-tech combat, and they're usually very good at it. More to the point, though, certain spells can make the scrawniest Hermetic wizard deadly at close quarters, at least until he wears himself out.

Proposed Variations

All of the above ideas are essentially unofficial or semi-official extensions of the Academy's basic training program. But the Patrol itself is seriously looking to go further.

The standard training regime is occasionally subject to review, ironically with a view to making it either more restrained and discreet or broader and probably more deadly. The contradiction arises from the ambiguous nature of Infinity's mission.

On the one hand, I-Cops especially tend to function as cops, arresting suspects and dealing with minor infractions of rules around Infinity installations. While they have to deal with far more than a regular police share of violent and dangerous offenders, there are a lot of cases where they have to restrain rather than cripple, for good legal, PR, and moral reasons. Even field agents -- I-Cops or Scouts -- on other timelines often have a bias in favor of minimum force, looking to capture opponents for interrogation or deal with merely inquisitive or misplaced locals without a bloodbath. This has led to several suggestions that the Academy should teach "softer" fighting styles, focusing on grappling and efficient defense rather than aggression; in GURPS terms, Judo or maybe Wrestling rather than Karate, and maybe specific Techniques such as Arm or Wrist Lock. The Academy instructors would certainly be capable of teaching such a revised curriculum, but have their own cultural bias which says that a good offense is the best defense, and are cautious about the danger of producing mediocre all-rounders rather than effective straightforward fighters. Still, there may be moves in that direction in the future, possibly leading to some future agents learning, say, styles such as Aikijutsu or Judo with the Police lens (GURPS Martial Arts, pp. 144-5) applied instead of the current template-standard Karate skill.

And on the other hand, there is a perceived growing need for Patrol agents to function as soldiers. Centrum has long been a ruthless enough opponent for any tastes; now, with Armanen Order Nazis loose on multiple timelines, a number of Patrol high-ups and Interworld Council politicians are muttering about the gloves being off, and looking for an increasingly militaristic regime at the Academy. This isn't moving very fast as yet -- in truth, the Academy produces pretty good soldiers as it is, and an outright crosstime war on any front would mean the involvement of contingents from national militaries rather than the militarization of the Patrol -- but the politics of the debate could, say, lead to the formalization and more widespread teaching of the IP-MAP style (above).

The Infinite Art

But all of this is rather elementary stuff. What is sometimes pointed out, at least in TV dramas and movies featuring square-jawed Infinity Patrolmen or suave crosstime spies, is that some interesting Patrol missions can call for really advanced knowledge of some kind of martial arts, armed as well as unarmed. Agents on many timelines have to dress as natives, which can sometimes mean no visible anachronistic firearms but maybe a functional sword or knife; they may also have a very special need for capture-for-interrogation techniques. And somehow, the heroes of those dramas are forever having to pass as knights, hoplites, duelists, samurai, or greenwood- dwelling Merry Men; this may or may not be typical of real Patrol missions, but it's widely seen as a possibility. Certainly, knowing how to handle local weapons with some conviction is a useful trick for any agent.

Whether or not this really has led to the secret development of a specialized, ultra-flexible Patrol martial art is up to the GM and may depend on the grittiness level of the campaign, but the following can represent what such an art might look like.


11 points

The key features of this training regime are versatility and sophistication. It applies the most advanced fighting techniques known to Homeline to a wide range of weapons and situations, and teaches the student to use anything in his environment to win the fight. Some agents are also said to have studied exotic combat styles on other timelines. In a game where Patrol agents achieve near-mythic status, they'll also look good in combat -- but very cool. The stereotypical Patrol super-agent is an analytical fighter -- essentially a scientific fencer, whatever weapon he's using -- but with a talent for humiliating clumsier foes. Even if it isn't available to the Patrol, this style might suit ISWAT agents whose extraordinary status derives from highly advanced martial arts training.

"Infinity-Fu" (an unofficial name, obviously) is a rather cinematic concept by definition, and so it naturally offers a variety of cinematic options. Despite that name, these tend to be a matter of formidable, uncanny skill rather than use of chi or other outright mystical concepts. ISWAT at least may include martial artists who do use "chi powers," but they should use another appropriate cinematic art.

Skills: Acrobatics; Boxing; Expert Skill (Hoplology); Judo; Karate; Knife; Main-Gauche; Rapier; Smallsword; Staff.

Techniques: Acrobatic Stand; Back Kick; Back Strike (Rapier); Back Strike (Staff); Bind Weapon (Main-Gauche); Bind Weapon (Rapier); Breakfall; Counterattack (Rapier); Disarming (Rapier); Elbow Strike (Karate); Evade; Feint (Any); Kicking; Quick Mount; Retain Weapon (Any); Spinning Strike (Rapier); Sweep (Staff).

Cinematic Skills: Mental Strength; Pressure Points; Sensitivity; Throwing Art.

Cinematic Techniques: Dual-Weapon Attack (Karate); Grand Disarm; Pole-Vault Kick; Pressure-Point Strike; Roll with Blow; Whirlwind Attack.

Perks: Acrobatic Kicks; Armor Familiarity (Rapier); Form Mastery (Spear); Ground Guard; Improvised Weapons (Any); Off-Hand Weapon Training (Any); Quick-Sheathe (Any); Quick-Swap (Knife); Suit Familiarity (Vacc Suit); Sure-Footed (Slippery or Uneven); Technique Adaptation (Any); Weapon Adaptation (Broadsword to Rapier); Weapon Adaptation (Polearm to Staff); Weapon Adaptation (Shortsword to Knife); Weapon Adaptation (Shortsword to Smallsword).

Optional Traits

Advantages: Charisma; Combat Reflexes; Cultural Adaptability; Enhanced Block (Shield); Enhanced Dodge; Enhanced Parry (All); Fearlessness.

Disadvantages: Code of Honor (Patrol); Overconfidence; Secret (Out-Time Super-Agent).

Skills: Armoury/TL4 (Melee Weapons); Axe/Mace; Broadsword; Crossbow; Fast-Draw (Knife or Sword); Cloak; History (Martial Arts of any one region or culture); Saber; Shield; Shortsword; Sleight of Hand; Stealth; Thrown Weapon (Knife).

Perks: Grip Mastery (Katana); Naval Training; Style Adaptation (Any); Style Familiarity (Any).

Article publication date: September 14, 2007

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