Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Kung Fu Space Knight

A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, NEVER for attack. 
-Yoda, the Empire Strikes Back 

In our Huashan Sword School style Kung Fu, the key lies in the words ‘Inner Energy.’ Once your inner energy is developed with Qi-Gong practices, then regardless of what you use as your weapon, let be your fists and legs, or knives and swords, you will succeed whenever you go. That is the righteous way for training in our school. But among the senior grandmasters of our school, there were a group of people who believed that the key of our school’s Kung Fu lied in the word ‘Sword,’ and that once someone developed his sword skills, even with ordinary level of inner energy, he could still defeat the enemy. The main divergence between the righteous branch and the evil branch lies right here. 
-Yue Buqun, Smiling Proud Wanderer, the Lanny Lang Translation

Martial Arts mostly treats passive chi abilities as advantages (e.g., Resistant to Chi Abilities) while modeling active ones as cinematic skills – Lizard Climb, Power Blow, etc. – in order to make them easier to tie into the styles in Chapter 5. Comic books and video games, however, often depict all such capabilities as something akin to psi powers or super-powers. 
-Chi Powers for Martial Artists, Martial Arts, page 46

Cinematic Skills

For today's post, I'm going to limit myself to a discussion of Cinematic Skills as the basis for Chi Powers, not because there are no suggestions or thoughts on how I might handle Advantage-based Chi Powers, but because no existing framework of Chi Powers exists in Martial Arts. We'd have to build one, using the suggestions in the book, and if we were to build an advantage-based system from scratch, then that would defeat the point of trying to use as much generic GURPS resources as possible, and also, such a system would probably look rather similar to Psionic Powers, which we already have. I do actually have a Chi Powers system derived from the suggestions in GURPS Martial Arts, which I devised for Cherry Blossom Rain, but I don't think now is the time to introduce that.

Martial Arts breaks the cinematic skills into two categories, each associated with one talent (Both found on MA47): Forceful Chi (for the “External” powers), and Inner Balance (for the “Internal” powers). Now, we don't have an explicit “Light/Dark” split in these, but in keeping with the themes of Chi, this does have a “Yin/Yang” split, with Forceful Chi as Yang and Inner Balance as Yin. As Jedi tend to be more balanced and Sith tend to be more Forceful, I suggest we make our split thus: The “Light Side” is associated with Inner Balance and the “Dark Side” with Forceful Chi. Of course, I'm sure you already see a problem with assigning morality thus. There's nothing inherently evil about Forceful Chi, or righteous about Inner Balance, but that's also in keeping with the themes of Chi: Evil is found in disbalance and corruption, while righteousness is found in balance.

External Chi Powers

The “External” powers that leap out as particularly pertinent for Star Wars are: Flying Leap, Hypnotism (“Jedi Mind Trick”), Invisibility Art, Power Blow, Precognitive Parry, Pressure Points and Push.

Flying Leap works well as written to create leaping Jedi. Martial Arts offers additional rules so that characters can merely double their jumping distance and/or sacrifice their bonus to damage to get a significant bonus to skill.

Hypnotism can be used to put people to sleep or to put them in a highly suggestible state. The former occurs more often in the expanded universe, but Jedi certainly regularly put people into a highly suggestible state. This skill cannot be used against the unwilling except in highly cinematic games, but treating Hypnotism as a chi power certainly counts! Targets can resist at Will+5, which explains why only the weak willed tend to be affected, either that or Jedi tend to be highly skilled.

Invisibility Art might seem odd, but Obi-Wan was doing something to remain undetected on the Death Star. Plus it allows for Space Ninjas.

Power Blow isn't a power that we've strictly seen Jedi do, but it seems to fit, and it seems appropriate for allowing Jedi to deal insane damage. Note that this applies to Strength only. However, it seems appropriate to allow it to double the damage of a force sword, which means master Jedi can start to carve up even the most heavily armored opponents.

Precognitive Parry is, of course, an absolute must-have for Jedi.

Pressure Points are not something I would generally associate with Jedi, but note that applying pressure points to the torso can cause suffocation... just like Darth Vader's famous Force Choke. What if we treat it as “Pressure Points at a distance?” Thamautology has rules for “Adjustable spells,” allowing us to apply modifiers to spells. While cinematic skills aren't spells, both spells and cinematic skills are skills, so they follow similar-enough rules that I think I can make them work, especially if we use the “Technique” rule, which seems particularly appropriate. We can turn Pressure Points into a Malediction with a Pressure Points-10 (Average) Technique.

Push is definitely something I can see a Jedi doing, but rarely do we see a Jedi actually touch/push someone to move them around. However, we can still apply the same rule we do to Pressure Points to create a Malediction version by applying a -10 (Average) Technique.

The External Space Knight

Assuming Stats of 12, a Space Knight could expect to gain roughly the following for about 50 points

Forceful Chi +2 [30]
Hypnotism (H) IQ+2* [4]-14
Flying Leap (H) IQ+2* [4]-14
Power-Blow (H) Will+2* [4]-14
Precognitive Parry (H) IQ+2* [4]-14
Push (H) DX+2* [4]-14

This results in a modest package: The Force Knight has the capacity to use a Jedi Mind Trick, though he'll struggle on anyone with a Will of 9 or better, can fairly easily double his jumping distance, can reasonably double his damage if he takes a few moments to concentrate, can reliably block blaster fire, and can reach out to touch someone and deal an average of 12 points of knockback (which will push most people back one yard, and some smaller characters back two yards).

Internal Chi Powers

The “Internal” powers that seem most appropriate are Autohypnosis, Blind Fighting, Body Control, Body Language, Dreaming, Immovable Stance, Light Walk, Meditation, Mental Strength, Mind Block and Sensitivity.

Autohypnosis allows a Jedi to enter a “battle trance”, shrugging off wounds, or to improve his Will (always important to a Jedi), or to greatly focus on a long-term task.

Blind Fighting represents a Jedi's ability to sense danger coming and to fighting without seeing.

Body Control seems more implied than actually shown (though one could argue that Kylo Ren used it in the Force Awakens), but Jedi seem to be the same sort of ascetics that many kung fu monks are, suggesting they have an ability to reduce their metabolism, focus their will, perhaps even heal their wounds: I recommend using the optional rule that allows this to act as First Aid and Physician at TL 11 (for himself only) making this a most useful skill indeed. It also helps a Jedi resist attacks on his body, such as Pressure Point techniques.

Dreaming can be used as a divinitatory technique, and dreams seem to be the most common form of seeing the future in Star Wars.

Meditation is part and parcel of being a Jedi.

Mental Strength helps a Jedi resist mental attacks, like Hypnotism or Invisibility Art, in the same way that Body Control helps him resist physical attacks.

Sensitivity can represent the ability to read targets (especially when paired with Body Language), but once again, we don't expect a Jedi to make contact with his foe. However, the ability to “detect” him with Blind Fighting is sufficient: Our Space Knight relies on his “Chi Senses” to detect his foe, and then read his motions.

The Internal Space Knight

Assuming Stats of 12, a Space Knight could expect to gain roughly the following for about 50 points

Inner Balance +2 [30]
Blind Fighting (VH) Per+1* [4]-13
Body Control (VH) HT+1* [4]-13
Meditation (H) Will+2* [4]-14
Mental Strength (E) Will+4* [4]-16
Sensitivity (VH) Per+1* [4]-13

This character is less impressive than the External Jedi, but he has a reasonable chance of detecting his opponents in the dark, and gaining a bonus to defend himself against them. He can very rapidly recover from his wounds, shrug off many poisons and mental control, and can reasonably ask for moral guidance.


Some Cinematic Skills require multiple turns of concentration to avoid a significant penalty, while others do not. However, if we're going to add in these new “techniques,” it might make sense to allow similar extended turns of concentration and focus to gain access to additional bonuses. Thus, I propose a standard concentration bonus for chi powers that don't suffer from penalties for a lack of concentration (ie Push and Pressure Points):+0 if used instantly, +5 if 1 turn of concentration, +6 if two turns, +7 if four turns, +8 if 8 turns, +9 if 16 turns and +10 after 32 turns.  However, this can only be used to remove penalties, which is especially important if we're discussing things like contests (such as with Hypnotism), or damage derived from skill (such as with Push)

Chi vs Combat Mastery

Using Cinematic Skills as a basis for Chi-Powers presents an interesting conundrum: what is the difference between a character who is supremely skilled in the arts of war, and a character who is in tune with the Force?  Do we need Chi talents to learn them, or Trained by a Master, or both?

Consider precognitive parry. Why are Jedi able to block blasters, or even effectively wield a lightsaber? Is it because they have proper combat training, or because they have a deep connection with the Force? Surely, the latter is true: Precognitive Parry is an extension of their general precognitive powers. Likewise, Flying Leap, Blind Fighting and Hypnotism are all similarly associated with the Jedi. A non-Jedi character might be able to win a fight with a lightsaber, but he can never fully unlock its potential, never mind leap about or perform Jedi mind-Tricks.
On the other hand, we do expect characters with extensive training to perform nigh-super-human feats. Even the obviously-not-jedi gunslingers of Star Wars seem exceptionally mobile and agile, have uncanny reflexes, are surprisingly resistant to mental persuasion, shrug off wounds, and are adept at fighting in the dark.

So, do Cinematic Skills come from Weapon Master (ie, suficient training) or from Chi Talents? Well, in wuxia literature, these aren't two separate things. All beings have chi, but a martial artist cultivates his and develops techniques for better exploiting his chi. Any fighter will learn to focus his attention, weight, power and energy behind a single punch, knocking someone over. A cinematic martial artist exaggerates that into a full Power-Blow by, first, cultivating even more energy to put behind that punch, and then learns to leverage that greater energy into even greater thrust, and the results are devastating.

Does Star Wars work that way? Maybe. It seems that all characters have some connection to the Force, but some “have it more strongly than others.” There seem some implications, at least in the expanded universe, that all characters worth discussing in a narrative are all at least a little “Force sensitive,” that is, they have “more chi” than the average nameless Stormtrooper. On the other hand, the films make a point out of Leia having access to the Force, and Han, despite his luck, his bad feelings and his quick wits, clearly lacks a connection to the Force. Leia has the ability to explore her magic powers, while Han never will.  Is that due to philosophy (Han's dismissal of the Force) or genetics ("The Force is strong in my family")? Star Wars seems to treat connection to the Force more like Magery than like Trained by a Master: You are born with that ability or you are not.
If we follow suit and limit cinematic skills to those who have Chi Talents, what does that mean for our mundane gunslingers and vibro-fencers? Is that a divide we really want? And if we allow everyone to access these skills, what separates the Space Knight from the average gunslinger other than choice of weapon?

Chi Powers as Powers

Cinematic Skills pose another problem: Every other Power we've introduced, even magic, exists in a framework. They have countermeasures, standard rules for funny situations, consistent resources and so on. Our Cinematic Skills lack that framework. They have an implied one (many of them cost fatigue, and they have those consistent concentration times), and we could apply the Chi Modifier, from GURPS Martial Arts, to them, but this feels like a patch.

What we really need is a powers framework. Martial Arts does sketch out some basics, but it'll be up to use to put the framework together. We can do that (and, as noted, I have), or we can steal an existing one from GURPS: Chi Elemental Powers.
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