Thursday, August 11, 2016

Martial Arts in Psi-Wars

Let's take a break from powers to look at our other framework: Combat.  The real purpose behind this iteration, beyond introducing kewl powerz, is working out how characters will play with the setting.  In a sense, this is a continuation of Iteration 2 (which is hardly surprising, as we keep making call-backs to the rules of Iteration 2).  Here, we're going to do the same, by taking a long, hard look at GURPS Martial Arts, GURPS Gun Fu, and a few Pyramid articles, figure out what we need to make martial arts feel appropriate to Psi-Wars, and then write it all out.


Alright, alright.  I've been diving into a lot of detail over this iteration, but that's because I personally love to do so, I'm a chronic over-preparer, and by diving deep into a topic, I really come to understand it.  Furthermore, most of these posts are for you, dear reader.  When I'm writing my own material, I don't think "You know what I need?  Four sets of articles on alternate models of the Force!" That sort of thing floats around in my head, and I might read a few things, experiment a bit, then settle on something and move on. Thus, by writing all of this out, I'm hoping to kickstart your own inspiration, or to show you a few techniques you can use yourself.

That said, if we really don't have time, we can skip all of this.  Just like back in Iteration 1, we pointed to a few things and said "Those, we want to use those." What could we use in Psi-Wars?

Psi-Wars Martial Arts, Sub-Iteration 1

The Martial Arts of Psi-Wars
  • Force Swordsmanship (Martial Arts 209).  This style is a deliberate knock-off of Star Wars lightsaber combat.
  • Force Sword-and-Shield Combat (Pyramid #3-9, page 27-28). This doesn't explicitly capture anything from Star Wars, but it fits how Dun fights, and thus fits our setting.
  • Way of the Galaxy (Gun Fu page 35). This style explicitly captures the feel of how Han Solo fights.
  • Third-Eye Fighting (Pyramid #3-69, page 15). This style doesn't capture anything, but if we're going to have psychic characters, we might as well have a martial art that allows them to make the most of their technique.

The Rules of Psi-Wars Martial Arts

GURPS Action 2 already gives us fairly dramatic and appropriate combat, and some pretty good rules.  GURPS Action 3 - Furious Fists tackles adding melee martial arts into the trigger-happy world of GURPS Action, and thus perfect for our purposes.  Some rules I recommend:
  • Acrobatic Stand (page 23)
  • Acrobatics Galore (Page 23)
  • Don't Shoot! (Page 23)
  • Extra-Effort in Combat (Page 23-24)
  • Extra-Steps (Page 24)
  • Kayo (Page 24)
  • Very Rapid Strikes (Page 25)
I also recommend a read through Some Bulletproof Advice on page 24, especially "Cinematic Combat Rules."

There, that should give us a perfectly acceptable set of Martial Arts and a decent way to run them for Psi-Wars, certainly on par with everything we've seen since Iteration 2.

Psi-Wars Martial Arts, Sub-Iteration 2

Alright, now that we've established that, why go further?  First, we have fairly limited material.  Only four martial arts isn't much.  A corollary to this is that what we've grabbed is ultimately arbitrary, based on what was available and fit our technology and power-choices.  For example, we have no non-psionic hand-to-hand!  We have no "Vibro-glaive" martial art.  Is that a problem?  We don't know, because that leads us to our next problem: We don't know what we want.  Furthermor, GURPS Martial Arts is piled sky-high with optional rules.  We should probably switch some on, but again, we don't know what we want.  Finally, Star Wars expects extreme detail.  It's not just an Action Game, but a full-on martial arts game, filled with secret techniques and style-vs-style match-ups.  Psi-Wars should follow suit.

Not knowing what we want is the largest problem any creative endeavor faces. Before we can start to (better) define martial arts, we need to know what sorts of martial arts we need.  We need to do our homework.  The intent here is to better understand what we're trying to emulate, what tools we have at our disposal to do so, and how we want to turn it into the ideal game.  After we've seen all these things, we'll have a pretty good idea of what new martial arts we'll need, what adjustments we can make to existing martial arts, and what optional rules we should use.

We have three tools we can use to solve these problems:
  • Better understand our Source Material: We want to emulate Star Wars, but how does a lightsaber fight actually work? In GURPS terms?  Is there a lot of Evaluating or Feinting?  How about acrobatics?  Does saber-length matter?  Do they use Chambara rules?  What about extreme injury?  The answer will surely vary from series to series, so we should look at different depictions and decide which we like best.
  • Better understand GURPS: We've picked four martial arts... but what do they mean?  What do their rules actually say?  Do they actually work the way they think we do?  What will they say about the setting?  If we include optional rules, will they do what we think they do?  And if we're going to expand, what ground is already covered within the martial arts we have (ie, how many sub-schools of Force Swordsmanship can we make, and do we actually need a full, alternate style?)
  • Better understand Psi-Wars: Psi-Wars already largely exists.  For example, we know what sorts of tactics most enemies will use, how most of the universe fights, what sorts of weapons are available, etc.  Martial arts tend to naturally flow from the tactical situation of their world.  That's why modern soldiers don't learn as much about the sword, and the spear, bow and sling were such a big deal for a long time.  By understanding how combat already works in Psi-Wars, we can start to see how martial arts will fit in... and what holes we might have.
Over the next few weeks, I'm going to take a look at each one, to get our bearings, then we'll apply further alternate rules from Martial Arts, expand any holes we find in our martial arts, and then finish things off with a Martial Arts "Power" package and a template: the Assassin.
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