MoonHunter Sayeth 20180223

MoonHunter

Game Guru-Thread Shepherd
RPGnet Member
Validated User
#1
Fist and Foot - Martial Arts Summary Post
Let me explain... no that will take too long (tl;dr) let me summarize about martial arts genre and style.

There will of course be a setting, because I have a couple of those spread through dozens of setting spread over the site.

Fist Punk

They gave us gleaming towers to keep us safe from Outside, when the Outside became "harsh". They gave us things to have, places to go, food to eat, and things to watch. Slowly over time The Owners have kept things from the rest of us... like immortality (Longevity really). They started reducing our rations, our electrical power, our water, and kept the things to watch going just to keep us distracted. They get so much more, because they can take it from us. They stopped the replicators from making weapons a long time ago, for everyone's safety.

They never thought about taking away our access to most of the knowledge banks... only their secrets. (And you can see their secrets by seeing what is missing). First, we learned that we had to make our bodies strong with "exercises" and our minds and bodies strong with "meditation". (This is part of the secrets immortality/longevity smuggled out to us by sympathizers). The information was still there, probably forgotten by The Owners. That was the beginning. We had to learn to fight for what we believed in. We saw how to protest. Protests were met with stun batons and gas. We learned how to make ourselves living weapons. Ancient videos taught us how to "work hard" and how to become "warriors". We have learned Kung Fu and Chi. We are taking the fight to them. Their security officers are no match for us now. We will restore the balance. We will take back what is ours by rights. We will stop the abominations that seek to rule forever.

We are the NeoShaolin Warriors of the 34th Floor.
Our first set of bad guys will be guys with batons and eventually riot shields (no body wants to make guns and put it in the hands of proles and let the NeoShaolin take them. We will eventually have bad guys who were NeoShaolin who scrubbed out or were kicked out for abusing their skills. The Neo Shaolin will be trying to take the food processing and water processing center. If they can really push it they will work for the power center. Eventually Owners will have to take these people seriously. (Really, I would just cut off their air)
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Okay, so lets review our example settings:
Studio of the Spiral Dragon: Martial Chronicle in an Urban Fantasy setting
Pentagon Rising: Martial Tournament in Space x2
Hoods : The Hoods are sneaking and thieving, with the occasional martial fight while taking down the oppressors. Ninja-esk rangers
Fist Punk/ NeoShaolin: - This is about mangling bad guys on your way to objectives.
Of the Blood: Fencing Heroes, Blooded Companions, and Courtly Intrigue. (Yes, this is added on, but it is also a magic system piece too).
Star Wars: Mystic Warriors of high skill and a cool weapon taking on the Empire
The Three Musketeers: Some of the best swordsmen in France defend The King. Some version are very martial arts/ fencing forward, while others are not.

If you want to start from the beginning of the series, click here.
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Genre vs Style

Genre: Now there are dozens of definitions of genres that gamers and authors use. I don't want to go on and on about that. For the purpose of this piece, the genre defines the dominant plot lines, the tropes, and the emphasis of the characters.

Style: A style is an "add on". It takes a specific genre and tweaks it, changing the base genre and setting and adding strong secondary elements - so the secondary plot lines, some skills the characters should take, and maybe a trope or two added on. So this would be things like Urban Fantasy with a Martial Arts style or Fantasy with a Western Style. Note: some alternate terms for this would be a Slice or Side or Inset Genre.

Now the setting being used, should have a way to support the genre in question, and should need no or minimal tweaking to accept a style. If it isn't, both the GM and the Players will have an awful experience trying to shoehorn what they need in and have a complicated play experience.
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The last few posts has touched upon what you need to have a Martial Arts Chronicle.
  • Why Martial Arts in the Chronicle/ Setting?
  • Why not Guns (for some settings this is important)?
  • Reminders about the (lack of) importance of combat and combat roleplaying?
  • System considerations
  • How to play it such a chronicle out.
  • Weapon use and how it is also martial arts)
  • Niche protection
  • (Side notes on Sentai gaming is very much like MA gaming).

These are points to be considered in a gaming a Martial Arts Chronicle.

Genre and Style determine emphasis for the chronicle/ story. The Genre is The Dominant and Primary influence on the chronicle. The Genre determines the types of action/ drama scenes that are present in the chronicle and and importance of certain story elements. It "makes the story ... what it is". Depending on the chronicle framework you choose, there is a great deal of wiggle room inside each Genre in terms of events, plots, and things of note. As you could probably figure out, Styles are lesser emphasis in the chronicle/ story. You could say they are the back up genre or flavor genre for the piece.

So for a given chronicle, you need to determine if The Martial Arts is The Genre you want to use or just a Style to add to it. If it is the Genre, there will be martial arts skills for almost every protagonist character, the plot lines will center around The Arts. If it is the style, then there will be frequent martial arts skills and the occasional plot line related to the martial arts.

The setting blurb (or character/ chronicle framework) does a good job of defining the genre (and style), but sometimes it needs to be spelled out as the same settings and character/ chronicle frameworks could be either way. The Character/ Chronicle Framework, how the characters start out and what the GM expects the characters to be like, needs to change with the genre (and style).

Do you want some examples? Of course you do.

Let us go with my favorite example, The # Musketeers. It is a story we are all generally familiar with. We have all seen various movies, tv shows, and cartoons, with their unique takes on it. Depending on what emphasis they want , the genre could be steampunkesk, military, espionage, adventure, historical romance, or martial arts. These could all be styles added on to other genres. (If you change the setting out of Dumas' France, then there are more options). Now The Musketeer and or the 73 Musketeer Series are very much in the Martial Genre. The 2011 movie is an espionage piece with a martial arts style (or steampunk style or both). The Disney Version was simply an action genre piece. The television shows were all over the place. Same basic story, different emphasis.

While many people see the Jedi journeys key to Star Wars Sagas, thus the movies as martial arts genre, most see it as an adventure series with a martial arts style (using light sabers). Now many chronicles set in the Star Wars Galaxy (so far, far away) have different emphasis than the movies. More Jedi or Force sensitives might bring more martial arts, while a smuggler/ thief game would be a heist genre, or you could have political intrigue, or a star fighter/ squadron based chronicle. These other games might or might not have a martial arts style (depending on the Force presence or how you want to do the Star Fighter)

Of the Blood, is mostly a courtly drama with a martial arts style (thus the competition between swordsmen). With a slightly different character/ chronicle framework, it could be a series all about the competition of duelists and how they are developing their styles and rivalries.

NeoShaolin chronicles are all about the martial arts, advancement and development. The chronicle blurb is so thin, it only implies this one set up. You could shift the genre of the game to a political/ dramatic piece where the important conflict is about “the direction and coordination of all the people and warriors”, and the fighting is secondary or could even happen off screen.

The Hoods chronicle is a sentai designed chronicle, so it follows most of the martial arts tropes, but with different genre conventions. You could change the genre around to a more serious stealth/ thieving based chronicle or one where they fight more for the hearts and minds of the downtrodden populace than the enemies.

The default chronicle for Pentagon Rising is 100% marital arts genre. Still, different character frameworks could make it a police procedural, a rescue show, or a night time drama… with all that martial arts stuff in the background.

Studio of the Spiral Dragon could change its genre to urban fantasy. The presence of magic users, monsters, and other things that go bump in the night, could be emphasized. The martial fighting just becomes a few things to roll to “do the magic” to stop the monsters. This chronicle could easily go either way, Urban Fantasy with a Martial Arts style or Martial Arts chronicle in an Urban Fantasy setting. Choose your genre emphasis and any styles (and how important the styles are.... as the style in this chronicle is almost as important as the genre.)
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If the chronicle is to be a Martial Arts chronicle, the GM needs to define the genre well and set your player’s expectations at character creation and during play. (They also need to ensure that everything else needed for a Martial Arts chronicle is in place.)

Again, it is about assigning it to The Martial Arts Genre with the emphasis on the martial arts story lines, the use of the skills, plot lines personal and otherwise that revolve around the arts and advancement, and all the appropriate places (dojos/ temples, back alleys to fight, arenas) for characters to use their arts. Now other elements are possible, providing styles to the game (After all a Martial Arts Urban Fantasy would have “magic punches” and “magical martial arts abilities”). The characters have to fit the genre and fit into the chronicle. This takes a little work on the players' and the GM's part.

If Martial Arts is the style or an available style for the chronicle, make sure that the players have opportunities to take martial arts abilities without eliminating their abilities to take other things they need for their character.
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I hope this little foray into Martial Arts gaming might make you want to run a Martial Arts chronicle of your own, play in one, or dust off a Feng Shui/ Bushido book and play that.
 

MoonHunter

Game Guru-Thread Shepherd
RPGnet Member
Validated User
#3
Roleplaying Combat

You can get some of the details of martial arts by simply increasing the roleplaying/ description with each action. If you make "detailed description" as part of combat action... feeling those kung fu movie moments... the squint of th eye, the sweep and positioning of the feet, wipe of the blood of your lip, the dropped hammer lead punch striking with the reverse elbow to the plexus, the side slip dodge that avoids the blade by a finger width, and so on.

There are great moment that are cool. There are basic descriptions of moves that are taught. Use what seems appropriate. Visualize the combat. Give it the gravitas, the drama, it deserves. If you a slashing through mooks, enough to be interesting. In a duel against a great foe... describe it.... feel it... live it. Every moment is great. Just like you roleplay it.

We call it roleplaying combat. To get you on the road, require it on each round or take a -3 MOD (or notable mod) on your next action. It re-enforces the play style. It keeps the players focused on it (and learning things for action movies, kung fu flicks, and those classic fencing pieces like Robin Hood or Captain Blood).

The concept is good. Do your initial description, roll you dice (and opponents defense) and damage, then finish the description. This way you can finish the move appropriately to any damage.

Players that go, a step beyond in their description, and the table all gets that "cool moment at the movies" can be rewarded with drama/ player points.

Bonus Points - Not a required meta currency, but a tool and reward.

I was giving out player points (bonus points that followed the players around (not their characters) that allowed for rerolls.) since 1976. We would call them Drama Points or Bonus Points these days. Players received a point for above play every few sessions or so, bonus points for notable actions or scenes. Everyone seemed to have 1 or 2 hanging around in my play groups. These rerolls have made a difference for some situations. Yes, this was pre-any game system having these kind of points. (amended Top Secret of the day some bonus points.) Players liked having this safety net. They could try things they normally wouldn't because they knew a player point would give them a chance to do it right (the next time).

Drama Points have always been awarded for good play, including good character set up. They have been withheld when players don't roleplay up to my minimum standards or don't participate.

Drama Points work for me. I liked to give them immediately for good play. It is visible and obvious to everyone at the table. That way they are immediate and learning rewards. Once it clicks for the troupe for what gets rewarded, they start playing/ performing to earn them. (Cinematic Action, Genre relation action, and fun roleplay) My players turned it into a competition. (They also liked it when we converted "extra points" into extra EPs. This worked for me as a GM, as I did not have to keep of roleplay xp except in the most general way.)

You tend to get the play you actively reward. Players learned quickly that doing all this character stuff and doing story stuff netted them more player points and more starting EPs than just killing things or what ever earns EPs in the system.

Each group of players quickly realized that the person who was using their character background and working with the GM on and with the setting, was getting more spotlight time and a lion's share of EPs/ Drama Points. Pretty much everyone was on board by their second or third character. ( They also realized what happened when I did a plot to them it was often brutal or unintresting, rather than when they initiated plot lines they were interesting in.

So... incorporting drama points to any system you choose is a great thing.
 
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