The Hunter's Craft
A Martial Art for Monster Fighters
by Phil Masters
The fictitious martial art described below for GURPS use is derived from three assumptions: first, that more-or-less supernatural monsters exist in the game world, second, that some people set out to kill them, and third, that some of those people develop a set of fighting techniques, using low-tech weapons, which can be and are formalized as a style and taught to others. How enough monster-fighters survive long enough to manage all this, and how they tear themselves away from what's usually an obsessive career to take up teaching, may be an interesting question -- but the answers will depend on the game world. The form taken by the style is partly derived from the logic of the business of monster fighting, and partly based on the techniques used by various fictional monster fighters. In fact, the style has a range of options available, enabling it to be customized to fit with various different historical periods and cultures.
The Hunter's Craft
The basic, "realistic" form of this style is straightforward and practical, being based on two principles: (a) Know your enemy, and (b) Kill it as quickly and efficiently as possible. Occultism is taught as one of the style's core skills because too many monsters can't be killed in a conventional way; a stylist has to know their specific weaknesses to stand a chance. (A version of the style intended for use against one single monster type -- say, European vampires who all have the same weakness -- could drop this component, saving a point from the style cost.) Research is a strongly recommended optional addition for the same reason. A stylist should always fight carefully until he's decided what needs to be done, then do it, often very aggressively, although monster-fighters who want to survive will temper this approach with rational caution. Some like large weapons; others think that it's far too dangerous to rely on raw power, because monsters are always more powerful.
The exact form taken by the fighting style can vary considerably, mostly depending on the cultural background of the fighter and the game setting, which is why the style has such a range of options among its basic skills. Which ones to choose should usually be determined by the campaign, not by individual preference! The broadsword is a classic weapon for these purposes, being effective in attack and defense, versatile, and widely available, but some cultures may have a strong preference for the shortsword, while fighters from a swashbuckling background might favor fencing blades, "Eastern monk" types might prefer the staff, fighters who favor dishing out as much damage as possible per blow might opt for the two- handed axe, and some purists might emphasize the you're-never-unarmed ethos of open-hand training. However, stylists always master knife-fighting techniques, which can be used for sacred or magical daggers or small wooden stakes, depending on the monster; and also spear-like weapon fighting skills, used as often as not with larger stakes, but also good for holding monsters at a relatively safe distance. Many fighters survive desperate battles by using whatever comes to hand as a weapon, or learn to wield strange objects (such as crude stakes, domestic silverware, or church/temple decorations) in combat in order to exploit peculiar monster vulnerabilities; some learn to construct or adapt their own weapons, in case of emergencies or in response to specific problems.
Grappling is rather less heavily emphasized -- getting in close is too often grossly unwise with too many types of monster -- although some stylists learn how to break and escape monstrous death-grips. Likewise, trainees are carefully taught not to think much about choke holds or pressure points; too few monsters respond satisfyingly to such assaults. On the other hand, many of them are vulnerable to strikes to the heart, or to beheading, so training may focus on those sorts of attacks. (If a campaign features a monster type with some other specially vulnerable location, the style can add a Hit Location technique to target that.) Many schools teach practical hunting skills, appropriate ranged weapons, arcane treatments for supernatural infections, strange secrets about monsters, or additional defensive options. Thrown weapon skills are fairly rare, though; they can too easily leave a fighter without a weapon in hand at relatively close ranges, and too many monsters are quick to close that sort of gap.
The cinematic version of this style can be very flamboyant; such stylists tend to have Acrobatics at high levels and to be very mobile combatants, dodging multiple monster attacks or warding them off with open-hand defenses while using any weapons largely for offense. Many fighters are noted for devastating killing blows, unleashing near-superhuman power against monsters which won't die of anything less; hewing the thing's head off with a single stroke always looks good. Resistance to psychic assaults can be useful, too. Some stylists also learn to fight without even looking at their opponents, as can be necessary when dealing with the sorts of monsters which kill or paralyze by eye contact or by their mere appearance, or which use literally dark magics to make things difficult. Really flashy stylists may be self-confident enough to learn throwing skills after all, probably adding Fast-Draw to enable them to bring another weapon into play if the throw doesn't end the fight.
Lastly, the disadvantages associated with the style mostly reflect the motivations appropriate to a career monster-fighter, which vary considerably; some treat this as a high-risk, high-return profession, others as a sacred crusade, others again as something very personal. And while many of these warriors are fiercely defensive of humanity, some develop a cold detachment or a crazy edge after seeing too many mangled bodies. In fact, some may be downright crazy in a bad way; Battle not with monsters, lest you become a monster . . .
Skills: Knife; Occultism; Spear; and any two of Broadsword, Karate, Rapier, Saber, Staff, or Two-Handed Axe/Mace.
Techniques: Back Strike (Knife); Hammer Fist (Karate); Kicking (Karate); Retain Weapon (any); Spinning Strike (Broadsword, Saber, or Knife); Sweep (Staff or Two-Handed Axe/Mace); Targeted Attack (Broadsword Swing/Neck); Targeted Attack (Knife Thrust/Vitals); Targeted Attack (Saber Swing/Neck); Targeted Attack (Spear Thrust/Vitals); Targeted Attack (Two-Handed Axe Swing/Neck).
Cinematic Skills: Blind Fighting; Flying Leap; Mental Strength; Power Blow.
Cinematic Techniques: Dual-Weapon Attack (Knife); Roll with Blow (Karate); Springing Attack (Spear).
Perks: Armor Familiarity (any style skill); Improvised Weapons (any style skill); Off-Hand Weapon Training (Knife); Rapid Retraction (Kicks or Punches); Technique Adaptation (Back Strike).
Secondary Characteristics: Improved Per and Will.
Advantages: Combat Reflexes; Danger Sense; Enhanced Defenses; Fearlessness; Higher Purpose; Indomitable; Night Vision; True Faith; Unfazeable.
Disadvantages: Bloodlust; Callous; Charitable; Enemies (monster groups); Fanaticism; Greed; Intolerance; Nightmares; On the Edge; Sense of Duty.
Skills: Acrobatics; Armoury; Crossbow; Esoteric Medicine; Hidden Lore; Liquid Projector/TL; Observation; Research; Scrounging; Shield; Stealth; Tactics; Tracking; Weird Science; Wrestling.
Techniques: Acrobatic Stand; Breakfall (Acrobatics); Evade (Acrobatics); Targeted Attack (Crossbow/Vitals).
Cinematic Techniques: Roll with Blow (Acrobatics).
Article publication date: October 26, 2007
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