Friday, September 30, 2016

Kirin, the Koi Goddess, the Light Magister of Tea, Immigration, Education, Etiquette, Koi Fish and Rain

The Chinese Unicorn, the k’i-lin, is one of the four animals of good omen; 
the others are the dragon, the phoenix, and the tortoise. 
The Unicorn is foremost of all the 360 creatures that live on land... 
Its appearance foretells the birth of an upright ruler. 
To wound the Chinese Unicorn or to come across its dead body is unlucky. 
The span of this animal’s natural life is a thousand years. 
-Jorge Luis Borges, the Book of Imaginary Beings

No Imperator is more beloved of Vancouver (and perhaps the world) than the beautiful Koi Goddess, Kirin. She is your dreams made flesh. She descended from her Island that Isn’t, the Mountain of Dreams, Peng Lai, and brought with her the promise of a better life. Her passage makes turns peasants into kings. A wish in one of her ponds can give you the most loving of wives. Invoking her name can substantially improve your efforts to find the cure to dangerous diseases. She has been worshiped throughout the world in a thousand small cults, by those who would be kings, or who would fall in love, or simply those who wanted a better life. Even so, the goddess of Rain struggles with a tragic existence. Peng Lai has been poisoned and cracked by saboteurs unseen, and now her precious Abigail Ng has been taken from her. Torment is often visited upon her, and she makes no secret that she believes this comes from her opposition to many of Lord Entropy’s Laws:
  • The Windflower Law: We must all learn to love
  • The Chestnut Law: We must learn to forgive
  • The Rule of Man: Humanity deserves our respect.
  • The Rule of War: Why must we make war on the Excrucians? Has none tried to understand their grievance?
  • The Crowfoot Law: Makes us all complicit in Entropy’s tyranny.
  • The Code for Humanity: Let humanity be as they would be.
Thus far, she merely voices her objections, but she has begun to grumble that Lord Entropy seeks to destroy her.

She has three powers.
  • Abigail Ng, the Power of Tea, who was always destined to be Kirin’s power, who brought solace to the the tormented Koi Goddess. She’s taking Abigail’s death pretty hard.
  • Bob, the Power of Immigration, a Zeta Reticulan who has forged a pact with Kirin to evacuate doomed humans from this world and resettle them elsewhere. In exchange, she allows him to smuggle aliens onto Earth.
  • Deirdre Brooks, PhD and the Power of Education, a Bodhisattva who transcended both life and academics to become Kirin’s most potent power.

Her Flowers are the Lotus (the Key of the Descending Angel) and the Star of Bethlehem (the Key of Something, Changed Forever)

Thursday, September 29, 2016

My feelings on GURPS Dungeon Fantasy

You've probably heard about the DF kickstarter already from better blogs.  I've been silent on it, mostly because I've been very busy with life (I actually had a few half-finished blog posts on it that I just couldn't get worked out).  I'll also confess to not backing the kickstarter at all, but to be fair, I've never backed a kickstarter (I lack a credit card).  That said, I did make a point of buying a GURPS book once I heard that funds from that would go to the kickstarter (I picked up a digital copy of GURPS Religion, which I already had a hard copy of.  I'll make use of it in Psi-Wars iteration 5 and 6).  But since Douglas Cole is going to make a giant pull of every GURPS blog post, I wanted this sitting at the top of mine.

Starfighter Tactics

Spaceships 4 already includes several maneuvers, which encourages starfighter pilots to hav their own unique approach to combat.  We can expand this out further, including techniques for gunnery and torpedos and tactics to create complete schools for starfighter pilots to follow!

As with military combat tactics, I don't recommend treating these as complete martial arts (though if I were, I'd make them work like gun-based martial arts, in that gaining style familiarity gives you cross-specialization with all appropriate starfighters).  Instead, use this as inspiration for creating standard/simple mook pilots, and to expand the Fighter Ace template.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Psionic Martial Arts

Pyramid #3-69 contains one of Christoper Rice's articles, Mind and Body, which details 3 psionic martial arts.  Those could certainly fit into Psi-Wars without much trouble.  We'd already looked at them briefly when analyzing existing GURPS martial arts.  Now, we can take a look at how those might actually play out in the form of signature moves.  As usual, these signature moves are not exhaustive.

We cannot use the Way of the Cerulean Blade, but we can cannibalize it for a new style.

These are not Psionic Styles.  That is, they are not studies of ways to be psionic, but instead, they are a study of ways to use psionics in combat. This does blend with studies of psionics themselves, but you'll have to wait until next week before we can look at psionic styles directly.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Unarmed Styles: Fancy Techniques

Martial Arts exist for more than just pure practicality.  They can express culture and beauty and, in a cinematic setting, those beautiful styles might exhibit profound and subtle power.  The following techniques generally focus more on style than on substance, though they still have some merits.

I've favored grappling techniques over striking techniques, because effective striking techniques against characters with DR 20-100 is very impractical.  Allow Breaking Blow to apply to characters in armor.  If you want to include a proper cinematic striking style, I recomment Wushu (the premier movie martial art), Wing Chun or Shaolin kung fu.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Unarmed Styles: Practical Techniques

Unarmed techniques often represent a tactic of last resort. Every weapon presented thus far does more damage and has far superior penetration to fists.  The only real advantages that unarmed techniques have is that they offer the best stealth, that they allow superior grappling, and that they cannot be taken from you.  They also offer a unique avenue of attack, given the presence of unarmed etiquette, and mastery of unarmed techniques grants a character both access to this avenue and defense from that avenue of attack.

The following styles focus on pragmatic unarmed martial arts, techniques that focus foremost on survival, stealth or grappling tactics without fancy flourishes.  Nearly any unarmed style will work in Psi-Wars, as nothing substantially has changed from TL 8 to TL 11 when it comes to purely unarmed techniques.

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Nemesis System

The Nemesis System

Properties of the Nemesis System

  • The Final Law: All Things End
  • The Law of Laws: Laws have physical weight, and must be followed.
  • The Law of the Black Sun: Only the truth may be spoken under the gaze of the black sun.

The Shape of the Nemesis System

The sun has a sinister twin, the Black Sun, the Occulted Star, which orbits at the rim of the Solar System. The Black Sun, also called Nemesis or the "Apocalypse Clock", travels on an elliptical, and its pertubation can send asteroids and comets cascading down upon the inner solar system. Nemesis, thus, determines the end of the world.

The detritus of slain worlds circles the yawning mouth of Nemesis, and the bones of dead civilizations decorate these free-floating boulders and world-fragments. Upon these, Azrael resides, gazing upon her Black Sun and waiting to be called to End All Things.

The Nemesis System houses
  • the Crossroads of Worlds
  • the Library of Truth
  • the Gaming Underworld
  • the Tomb of Azrael

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Armed Styled: Neurolash Techniques

Neuro-lash weaponry are found on UT 165. They inflict the neuro-lash effect (agony) on an HT-5(2) roll, and the effect in question (UT122) is Agony (B428). What does this look like? If a HT 10 character is hit and rolls a 10, he fails by 5, which means he’s unable to do anything for 5 minutes, and suffers Moderate Pain (-2) for another five minutes. For any ordinary characters, this is complete incapacitation. If you have a knife, you can finish the character off, should you be so inclined. DR is highly protective, though, as battleweave adds +10 to your roll.

Back in Iteration 3, I argued that the armor divisor should be raised to 5, to be consistent with the rest of the weapons of the setting, but what else can we do? Star Wars doesn’t really use neuro-lash technology, they use electro-stun technology. This stuns someone for only a few seconds, which is consistent with what we see on the screen.

I chose Neurolash technology because I’m running GURPS, not Star Wars, and Neurolash technology represents a superior technology to electro-stun weapons. Furthermore, it has superior DR and is a far more sinister form of control. But if we’re going to change the armor divisor, why not change more?
Star Wars is full of melee technology that can fight against a lightsaber without being a lightsaber (or as good as a lightsaber). The electro-stun weapons depicted in the series, both in Clone Wars and in the Force Awakens, regularly does so, hence the addition of the Nuerolash Field Parry perk. But given the absolute power of a neurolash weapon if it hits you, I’d like to make some further adjustments. First, side-effect rules give us a way to make it less all-or-nothing. Second, electro-shock weapons can give us some ideas on additional options we can use. Finally, we can attempt to emulate some of the elements we see in the movies, such as the dramatic knockback of these weapons.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Armed Styles: The Vibro-Blade

Back in Iteration 3, we halved the cost of of vibro-blades, but let’s go further: Let’s say that TL 11 weapons are super-fine for free, which means that a vibro-blade is “just” CF 9, rather than CF 29.

A vibro-weapon gains +1d cutting damage and applies the armor divisor of (5) to its cutting and impaling damage (this is not explicit in Ultra-Tech, but implied, and I’ll make it canon in Psi-Wars). This means that cutting damage for a vibro-weapon is superior to impaling damage, and it’s tempting to add the +1d to impaling as well, but that risks making impaling weapons, which are already generally superior to cutting weapons, even better. Vibro-Weapons require a ready maneuver to activate, or can be activated automatically with a Fast-Draw roll. I’m also going to allow characters with Lightning Fingers to turn it on or off as a free action, once per second. This is useful if you want to turn it on right before making a stealthy attack.

Touching or holding the blade interferes with the vibrations in the blade, which means maneuvers like armed grapples, arm locks and choke holds with your weapon cannot benefit from vibrating unless they cut you, thus it’s recommended that you do not use these maneuvers unless the blade has been turned off.

We can apply the vibro-mechanic to any weapon with a cutting or impaling edge, but I’m going to try to favor weapons that focus more on cutting damage over impaling damage. I've chosen the following weapons to discuss in detail:
  • The Vibro-Knife (A large knife with the vibro option)
  • The Vibro-Blade (a falchion with the vibro option)
  • The Vibro-Glaive (a dueling halberd with the vibro option)
Additional exemplars of the knife, shortsword or polearm could work for vibro-weapons. I have not touched on a vibro-sword or a vibro-axe.

A vibro-sword runs into the problem of high cost for a weapon inferior to a force-sword, the weapon that better fills it niche, and an inability to translate into another niche (eg it's not particularly stealthy). In effect, it becomes a poor-man's force-sword, which might be okay, but not worth getting into in this blog post. If you wished to create one, GURPS Martial Arts brims with sword-based styles, and I recommend converting nearly any sword (Broadsword, bastard sword, backsword, cavalry saber, greatsword, hook sword, etc), but the Katana, the Dao and the Large Falchion are especially interesting.

The vibro-axe actually makes a lot of sense, as it's primarily a cutting weapon, has a utilitarian argument, and is generally far cheaper than a sword: A default axe is nearly as cheap as a knife, and does a truly horrific amount of swing damage and is one-handed. A long axe is similarly terrifying, inflicts even more damage, and isn't much more expensive. Nearly any vibro-axe can be had for less than $1000. They're not stealthy weapons (you can't really hide a long axe on your person), and a force sword is generally a superior weapon, but a force sword also costs ten times as much, while a long axe deals (in the hands of an ST 12 character) around 2d+6(5) cutting damage, or ~65 points worth of armor penetration. Unfortunately for a martial art style, very few styles in the book focus on axe/mace as their core skill, which means you'd have to devise your own. I'd recommend feints, defensive attacks, followed up by committed swings of your unbalanced weapon (you can't parry with it anyway).

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

New Styles: Outlaw Tactics

Following up yesterday's post on ranged martial arts appropriate to military type characters, I have a series on "Outlaw"tactics, which represent the sort of tactics that criminals, bandits or lawmen might wield, with a primary focus on blaster pistols, blaster rifles and plasma shotguns.

This post does not include the additional rules from yesterday's post.  See that post if you need a reference to an unfamiliar perk.

Monday, September 19, 2016

New Styles: Military Tactics

As noted before, the purpose of designing martial arts is not just to create a style for someone to use in combat, but also to provide interesting tactics that unimportant NPCs can use: You just grab a few of the "signature moves" and slot them into the right NPC.  This is especially true of military tactics, as characters are less likely to see military training with a blaster as "a martial art."

Nonetheless, I plan on including a "Martial Artist!" powerset, which will allow character to focus even more intently on their training, and at least two of the styles below (Elite Gunner Training and Sniper) both suit that sort of player.  Style familiarity works differently for ranged combat styles, and this difference is defined in both Gun-Fu and Tactical shooting. I highly recommend both.

Note that despite the description above, this does post deals exclusively with ranged combat.  I expect soldiers may well learn some armed and unarmed styles as well. Those I've saved for a later post.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Alternate Force Swords

Star Wars includes a lot more than just generic lightsabers, and GURPS follows suit with a surprisingly rich variety of force swords, if you know where to look, and it also includes options for building our own variations.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

New Styles: Force-Swordsmanship 2

The Swift Form 2 points

Alternate Names: The Way of the Duelist, The Pure Techniques

Force-Swordmanship includes dual weapon techniques as standard, but most lightsaber combat I've seen focuses on a single weapon, and this bears out in GURPS too. The defensive grip is superior to the single-handed grip for everything but offense, as it gives you better parries, better weapon-retention and superior beats. GURPS Martial Arts also introduces a new weapon, noted below: the Force Saber. It uses a different skill, and gains the benefits of a fencing weapon (superior disarm, superior parry), but is an exclusively single-handed weapon, which suits a dual-weapon style much more.

Count Dooku
I built the Swift style around the fencing force saber and dual weapon combat. The result isn't terribly different from how Count Dooku fights, a style Star Wars calls “Makashi.” He doesn't use two blades, but his apprentice, Ventress, does. Several of the signature moves below (Pointed Critique, Gentleman's Victory and Dog's Defeat) could be used with a single weapon.

The Swift style is an aggressive style that focuses exclusively on defeating another opponent with a force sword. It turns defense into offense, and it attacks whenever it can, hoping to either wear one's opponent down or to force him to draw his defenses to the wrong point, at which point, it achieves victory either with a delicate disarm, or by ruthlessly killing its opponent. The Swift Form, like the Graceful Form, is a courtly technique. As a duelist style, it seeks to impress others in victory, and makes extensive use of Combat Art.

Skills: Force Saber
Techniques: Combat Art (Force Sword), Counter Attack (Force Sword), Disarm (Force Sword), Feint (Force Sword), Retain Weapon (Force Sword), Setup Attack (Force Sword), Targeted Attack (Force Sword/Vitals).
Cinematic Skills: Mental Strength, Power Blow, Precognitive Parry
Cinematic Techniques: Dual-Weapon Attack (Force Sword), Dual-Weapon Defense (Force Sword), Timed Defense (Force Sword)
Perks: No Nuisance Roll (Precognitive Defense), Off-Hand Weapon Training (Force Sword), Sure-Footed (Uneven), Sure-Footed (Slippery), Trademark Move (see below for ideas).
Optional Traits: Ambidexterity [5], Enhanced Parry (Force Sword) [5/level], Unfazeable [15]
Optional Skills: Armoury (Force Sword), Fast-Draw (Force Sword), Meditation, Savoir-Faire, Savoir-Faire (Dojo),

Signature Moves

Pointed Critique: The duelist deftly (and perhaps insultingly) tests his opponent's defenses. Make a defensive force sword art (-3) setup attack (-6). Roll Force Sword -9. If successful, opponent's next parry against you is at -2 and his dodge/block is at -1. Deal 7d-7(5) burn damage. You defend at +1 for the remainder of the turn. Garner a +1 reaction roll from the audience. Setup: Your opponent is defensive.

The Knightly Cross: The duelist dramatically crosses his sabers to defend against an attack and them immediately attacks as he uncrosses them. After making a cross-parry (using both weapons, +1 to defense) make a Dual-Weapon (-4) Counter Attack (-5). Roll Force Sword-9 twice. Opponent defends at -3. If successful, each attack deals deal 7d(5) burn damage. Setup: You cross-parried your opponent attacks.

Ribbons of Light: The Duelist launches a series of swift attacks while keeping one saber back for defense. Make a Committed (+2) Rapid Strike (-12 or -6) against his opponent. Roll 3 Force-Sword attacks at -10 or -4. Each deals 7d(5) burn damage. You may not parry with the sword you attacked with, but you may parry with your off-hand sword at -2 (-4 if no off-hand weapon training). Setup: None.

Gentleman's Victory: With a beautiful twist of his wrist and flip of his blade, the duelist deftly disarms his opponent. Make a Combat Art (-3) Disarm (+0) against your opponent. If you successfully strike, roll a contest of DX- or ST-based Disarm vs your opponent's DX- or ST-based Retain Weapon (he gains +2 if holding his weapon in a defensive grip). If successful, your opponent is disarmed. Gain +1 reaction from onlookers, and defend normally for the remainder of the turn. Setup: Your opponent is sufficiently regal or stylish that you wish to honor them.

Dog's Defeat: Setting aside pretense, the duelist buries his force saber deep into his opponent, completely focused on defeating them. Make an All-Out (+4) deceptive (-4) force saber attack for the vitals (-3). Roll at Force Saber-3. Your opponent defends at -2. If you hit, deal 7d(5) burn, x2 for striking the vitals. You may not defend for the remainder of the turn. Setup: After Pointed Critique or a Feint against an opponent unworthy of your time.

Rim Force-Swordsmanship 5 points

Alternate Names: The Way of the Rim Knight, The Bastard Techniques, the Cutting Dance.

Ahsoka Tano
The Furious Form arose naturally out of my design work. I began to see alternate possibilities and I remembered certain techniques and strategies that worked well in Cherry Blossom Rain. If the Serene Form is Iajutsu, and the Swift form is Nito Ryu, then the Furious Form is the other side of Nito Ryu. It furthermore blends some of the brutality of the Destructive Form, the two-handed speed of the Swift form, and the agility of the Graceful form into some kind of hodgepodge mix that might be closer to the “Juyo” form than the Destructive Form is, though if I'm honest, much of its imagery, for me, was drawn from Asoka Tano (though she rarely fights this brutally).

This mixture of techniques suggests bastardization, a rise of practicality over elegance. Its fighters use any means they can to win, but focus heavily on tricks, fighting where their opponent is least comfortable, and moving about until they find the ideal point from which to attack. Its lack of refinement will surely punish it compared to the more elegant styles, and if it cannot control positioning, its weakness in defense might seriously hurt it. Its bastardization of the Destructive Form, the Graceful Form and the Swift Form means that characters with this style can readily learn the techniques and approaches of those other styles and fold those techniques into its own.

Skills: Acrobatics, Force Saber, Karate, Jumping
Techniques: Acrobatic Stand, Counter Attack (Karate), Feint (Force Sword), Hammer Fist, Kick, Low Fighting (Force Sword or Karate), Reverse Grip (Force Saber), Targeted Attack (Hammer Fist/Face), Targeted Attack (Kick/Groin)
Cinematic Skills: Flying Leap, Kiai, Light Walk, Precognitive Parry
Cinematic Techniques: Dual-Weapon Attack (Force Sword), Dual-Weapon Defense (Force Sword), Springing Attack, Timed Defense (Force Sword)
Perks: Dirty Fighting, Graceful Glider, Light Walker, Off-Hand Weapon Training (Force Sword), Style Adaption (the Destructive Form, the Graceful Form, the Swift Form), Sure-Footed (Any), Trademark Move (see below for ideas).
Optional Traits: Ambidexterity [5], Basic Move [5/level], Enhanced Dodge [15], Perfect Balance [15]
Optional Skills: Armoury (Force Sword), Fast-Draw (Force Sword), Savoir-Faire (Dojo), Stealth

Signature Moves

Rim Tagging: After deftly blocking an attack, the Rim Knight steps into close combat and pummels his opponent. Step and make a Counter Attack (-5) Pummel (-1) against your opponents face (-5). Roll Karate-11. Opponent defends at -2 plus any close combat penalties. Deal thr(+karate bonuses) damage and any shock penalties force a Stun/Knockdown check. Defend normally. Setup: You defended against an attack while one yard away from your opponent or you made an Acrobatic Slip defense to get close to your opponent..

The Bastard's Dance: The Rim Knight suddenly shifts stance and steps body-to-body with his opponent while spinning his saber's into reverse strike position and makes two quick slashes. Instantly shift to Reverse Grip (Force Sword -6), Step into Close Combat and make a Deceptive (-2) Dual Weapon Attack (-4/-8) against your opponent. Roll Force-Sword -6 and -10. Your opponent defends at -3 plus any additional close combat penalties. Deal 7d-7(5) burn damage to the torso with each attack. Defend at -2 with Force Sword, or -1 with Karate. Setup: Your force sabers are in a normal grip and you are one hex away from your opponent who uses a reach 1 or longer weapon or you used an Acrobatic Slip against your opponent.

Fell Assault: The Rim Knight forces his opponent's guard down by beating with one force sword, and then instantly attacks with the other.  After you have parried an attack, make a Dual Weapon Attack (Force Sword) (-4 then -8), first to Beat (+0).  Roll ST-based Force Sword(-4) in a quick contest with the better of your opponent's ST- or DX-based Force Sword.  Apply the margin of success as a penalty to their attack and parry for the next full turn, or unready their weapon if you succeed by 5 or more.  Make a Force Sword attack(-0).  Deal 7d(5) burn damage.  You may defend normally. Setup: You parried an attack last turn or your opponent parried you last turn.

Fallen Knight: The Rim Knight, having found a secretive perch above his target, activates his force sabers and then drops on his opponent from above, attacking with just as his blades finish materializing. Roll a quick contest of Stealth vs your opponent's Observation, then drop. Make a Dual Weapon Attack (Force Sword) (-4 and -8) From Above (-2). Roll Force Sword -6 and -10. Your opponent defends at -2 (if he succeeded at the contest) and cannot defend if he didn't. Make a Breakfall roll to reduce falling damage and end in a crouch. You may defend normally (-2 for being in a crouch). Setup: You are above your opponent and your force sabers haven't been activated.

Fell Frenzy: The Rim Knight rises from a crouch to launch a furious attack on all of her opponents. Make a Deceptive (-2) All-Out (Double) Dual Weapon Attack (-4 and -8) Springing Attack (-2). Roll 3 attacks, the first Force Sword-4, the second Force Sword -4 and the third Force Sword -8.. If the first attack hits, it deals 7d+7(5) burn damage. If the attack misses, defend at -2 for the remaining of the turn. Your opponent defends at -1 against all three attacks. You may not defend. Setup: You crouched on the previous turn.

The Bastard's Retreat: The Rim Knight, outmatched, retreats from an attack with a flip, and continues to flip and tumble away from his opponent until he ends some distance from his opponent. Make an Acrobatic Movement (Tumble) backwards (this costs 2 move per yard). End movement in a Crouch. Attempts to hit you with ranged combat are -4 and you gain +2 on your first defense (and you may continue to retreat). Setup: You acrobatically dodged and retreated last turn.

The Defensive Form 5 points

Alternate Names: The Way of the Guardian, the Three Knightly Virtues

Dun Beltain
This is Force Sword-And-Buckler Combat from Pyramid #3-9, because that style works great as is. We do need a couple of minor changes to accommodate our new rules. First, replace the “Feint” technique with “Beat.” In perks, remove Chi Resistance and Grip Mastery (which should never have been in there) and add Finishing Move (Force Sword). In Optional Traits, remove Psionic Talents and Forceful Chi.

The result is a slow, patient and defensive form. The most comparable lightsaber form would be Form III, Soresu, which Obi-Wan used in Episode IV, that is, Obi-Wan was so slow and unspectacular because he was using a slow and modest style, not because he was, say, being played by an old gentleman. In a sense, it's not very different from the Destructive Form, in that both rely on a certain level of physicality and both focus on destroying the opponent's weapons.

The style description states that stylists focus on evaluates, waits, attacking opponent's weapons, beating with their shields, attacking limbs or weapons, and using their shields to Push. I've turned these into the signature moves below. Allow Force Sword-And-Buckler Combatants to learn trademark moves!

Signature Moves

Heroic Guardian Assault: Make a Move and Attack to Slam with your Force Shield. This requires a Shield (Force) roll at +0. Deal slam-damage +3, and your shield absorbs all damage from the attack. You may not block with your shield or retreat for the remainder of the turn.

Watchful Guardian Stance: Evaluate. This grants a +3 to your next attack and allows you to negate up to -3 in defense penalties from Feints or Deceptive Attacks. You may roll Tactics or Expert Skill (Hoplology) to gain some insight on your opponent's combat approach. If taken as a trademark move, improve the Tactics or Expert Skill (Hoplology) roll. Setup: Your opponent is defensive or used a tricky move last turn.

Defiant Guardian Stance: After Blocking a Slam or a Move and Attack (including Flying Attacks or Acrobatic attacks), make a Push attack with your Shield. Roll Swing+3 damage, inflicting no wound, and doubling the knockback effect. This move requires the Special Setup Perk (Push with Shield) and the Push skill. Setup: You Blocked a Slam or a Move and Attack.

Blade-Deflecting Stance: Make a rapid strike (-6 or -3) Beat opponent's force sword (make a contest of ST-based Shield (Force) vs the better of your opponent's ST- or DX-based combat skill), and then an rapid strike (-6 or -3) attack against your opponent's weapon-arm (-2). Success inflicts 8d(5) cutting damage on the arm. Setup: You blocked a melee attack with your shield.

Bristling Guardian Counter-Charge: Wait, with the stipulation that if your opponent attacks, you'll attack at the same time. If your opponent attacks, make a Stop Hit: Roll against Force Sword to hit. If you miss and your opponent hits, or you hit and your opponent hits at a larger margin, you block at -1 and dodge at -1 (with +3 from the DB of your shield). If you hit and your opponent hits with a smaller margin or misses, he defends at -1 (-3 if he wants to parry). Deal 8d(5) burn damage to the torso.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

New Styles: Force-Swordsmanship

The Destructive Form (3 points)

Alternate Names: The Way of the Reaper, The Seven Killing Strokes

Darth Vader at Bespin
Force-Swordsmanship, as written, includes a considerable emphasis on using your force sword to destroy your opponent’s weapon, which seems an exceptionally solid tactical concept. If we strip the style down to that concept alone, we get something reminiscent of how Darth Vader fought in the Empire Strikes Back, and to how Darth Maul fought in the Phantom Menace, what the Expanded Universe calls “Juyo.”

The Destructive Form focuses on destroying one's ability to fight. Against opponents armed with weapons other than force swords, the stylist focuses on destroying their weapons first. Against force-sword opponents, the same tactic results in beats that batter aside their opponent's weapon and opens them up to an attack. Against all opponents, the Destructive Form is patient. It seems to demolish defenses first, through a combination of eliminating weapons, pushing aside defenses, injuries to the arms or legs, shoves and stuns, and then goes in for the kill with a simple and direct attack.

The Destructive Form places a great deal of emphasis on personal strength over mobility or internal, emotional balance. Practitioners learn strikes (and sometimes kicks) to supplement their force sword attacks (and often have a reputation for being dirty fighters). Beats and shoves also place emphasis on strength. In addition to precognitive parries, practitioners of the destructive form perform feats of great strength and utter terrifying shouts. Some stylists expand their techniques with kicks or by throwing their force sword at more distant foes. The Destructive Form is preferred by psychokinetics, who can augment their own natural strength with their telekinesis, and they can quickly pull their thrown force sword back to them. Nonetheless, the style remains vulnerable to psionic powers and being outmaneuvered.

Skills: Force Sword, Brawling
Techniques: Beat, Elbow Strike, Force-Sword Shove, Hammer Fist, Targeted Attack (Force Sword/Arm), Targeted Attack (Force Sword/Leg), Targeted Attack (Force Sword/Weapon), Targeted Attack (Force Sword Pummel/Face), Targeted Attack (Karate Elbow Strike/Vitals)
Cinematic Skills: Immovable Stance, Kiai, Power Blow, Precognitive Parry
Cinematic Techniques: Dual-Weapon Defense (Force Sword), Timed Defense (Force Sword)
Perks: Dirty Fighting, Finishing Move (Force Sword), Grip Mastery (Force Sword), Special Setup (Power Blow works with Force Sword), Sure-Footed (Uneven), Sure-Footed (Slippery), Trademark Move (see below for ideas).
Optional Traits: Striking ST +1 to +2 [5 or 10], High Pain Threshold [10]
Optional Skills: Armoury (Force Sword), Fast-Draw (Force Sword), Savoir-Faire (Dojo), Thrown Weapon (Force Sword)
Optional Techniques: Kicking

New Skills and Techniques

Thrown Weapon (Force Sword) deal 8d(5) damage, with an Acc of 0, a 1/2D of 0.5xST and a max range of ST. If a character has TK-Tether for his sword he may return it to his hand from any distance after a throw with a Ready maneuver or a Fast-Draw roll of -4. If he has sufficient TK-Grab to lift his force sword, he may also return the weapon to his hand with a Ready, or a TK-Grab skill roll at -4.

Force Sword Shove: Hard. Defaults to Force Sword -2. After parrying or being parried by another force sword, instead of doing a beat, the character may shove the character. This works exactly like a beat, except its effects target the character's body. That is, the character is forcing the character off-balance.

Signature Moves

The Dignity-Killing Stroke: The Destructive Form begins on the offensive. In standard grip, make a rapid (-3 or -6) pummeling strike (Brawling-1 or Hammer Fist) vs target's face (-5). Roll Karate-9 or Hammer Fist-8. Deal thr(+karate bonuses) damage. If shock is inflicted, target must roll vs stun. Then make the second rapid strike against opponent's weapon with Force Sword. Roll Force Sword-4 (for long polearms or rifles) to -6 (for small weapons, like force sword hilts or pistols) and inflict 8d(5) damage. This counts a dirty trick. Setup: The first turn of combat.

The Patience-Killing Stroke: The Destructive Form pushes its opponent to parry or to attack, or risk losing their ability to dodge. In Defensive Grip (-2), make a deceptive (-2, though typically reduced to 12) defensive attack to the leg (-2). Roll Force Sword (-6) to hit. Deal 8d-8(5) burn damage to the leg. The stylist defends at +1 for the remainder of the turn, with an additional +1 against forward attacks. Setup: None, though typically if one’s opponent is defensive.

The Balance-Killing Stroke: The Destructive Form turns the tables on an aggressive opponent through strength. In defensive grip, make a Force Sword Shove (-2, with +2 from the two-handed grip). Roll ST-based Force-Sword+0 in a quick contest with your opponent’s ST-based Force Sword. If successful, apply the margin of victory as a penalty to opponent’s dodge and kicking skill. If success by 5 or more, inflict one yard of knockback. Setup: After making a successful parry.

The Spirit-Killing Stroke: The Destructive Form batters down its opponents defenses and then destroys his opponent’s ability to fight. In Defensive Grip (-2), Make a rapid-strike Beat (-6, or -3 with Weapon Master, +2 from two-handed grip). Roll ST-based force-sword skill (-4 or -1 with weapon master) with your opponent’s ST- or DX-based force-sword skill. Success applies margin of victory as a penalty to attack and defense, while success by 5 or more unreadies the weapon. Then make a second (-6 or -3 with Weapon Master) attack against the arm (-2) of the opponent. Roll Force-Sword (-10 or -7 with weapon master). Deal 8d(5) burn damage to the arm. Setup: Your opponent successfully parries your attack.

The Reaping Stroke: The Destructive Form has destroyed its opponents defenses, and then finishes off its opponent. Take a Step (while still keeping your opponent in one of your forward hexes) and use Grip Mastery to shift from Defensive Grip to Regular Grip, and then make an All-Out Attack to the Torso. As a special effect, this attack may be described as attacking the neck (this is cosmetic, so apply no hit location penalties, nor any hit location benefits). Roll Force Sword (+0). Deal 8d+8(5) damage. This is a Finishing Move. Setup: Opponent is stunned.

The Graceful Form

Obi-Wan vs Darth Maul
Alternate Names: The Way of the Dancer, the Courtly style, the Lunar Techniques, the Four Point Kata.

Force-Swordsmanship, as written, places a great deal of emphasis on the cinematic nature of the light-saber duel, with its flashy leaps and spinning flourishes. Those moves might not seem to make a lot of tactical sense, but it does make for an entertaining show. Nonetheless, the flashy leaps are certainly grounded in a serious tactical need to cover ground. A force sword is useless if it's not in melee. The more quickly you can get in touch with the enemy, the sooner you can bring your superior melee power to bear. And while we're studying leaping about, we might as well take advantage of that mobility to defeat our opponents with greater ease. And all that flashiness is very intimidating, which can persuade lesser opponents to quit the field. The resulting style is deliberately modeled on how Qui-Gonn and Obi-Wan fought in the Phantom Menace, using the so-called “Ataru” form, but I also drew inspiration from the other major cinematic style, Wushu

The Graceful Form focuses on mobility and theatricality to defeat its foes. The characters remain in near constant motion, and seek to gain an advantage on their opponent by moving to points where their opponent cannot defend well. It folds its antics into its techniques, so their opponents are never sure if they actually intend to attack or not. When they finish off their opponent, they generally do so as stylishly as possible and, if that is not possible, they'll pause after victory to demonstrate an artistic flourish. This makes the style a smash hit among spectators, making this a preferred technique for gladiators, duelists, or easily-impressed young men.

The style focuses on high speed, agility and dexterity. It also relies on its opponent's inferiority. A master of the Graceful form will tear apart a novice of another form with stylish ease, but he'll certainly lose against someone of greater skill than his own. This does make the Graceful form an excellent means of disposing of mooks, however.

Skills: Acrobatics, Force Sword, Jumping
Techniques: Acrobatic Stand, Combat Art (Force Sword), Evasion, Feint (Acrobatics or Force Sword), Spinning Attack (Force Sword)
Cinematic Skills: Flying Leap, Kiai, Power Blow, Precognitive Parry
Cinematic Techniques: Evasion Attack, Dual-Weapon Defense (Force Sword), Flying Strike, Timed Defense (Force Sword), Whirlwind Attack (Force Sword)
Perks: Acrobatic Feints, Flourish, Graceful Glider, Grip Mastery (Force Sword), Special Setup (Power Blow works with Force Sword), Sure Footed (Uneven), Sure-Footed (Slippery),
Optional Skills: Armoury (Force Sword), Dancing, Fast-Draw (Force Sword), Intimidation, Savoir-Faire (Dojo)

Signature Moves

The Flying Step (“Descend from Heaven”): The stylist sails gracefully into the air, force sword spinning, and then descends on his foe like a terrible meteor. After making a full run, make a Flying Leap roll (-5) and make an Committed Flying Strike (-4) (base jump distance is 2x your move) using Force Sword Art (-3) for a total of Force Sword-7. If you hit inflict 24d (5) burning damage and gain +1 reaction modifier. For the rest of the turn, you may not parry, and you dodge at -2 and may not retreat. Setup: You concentrated for one turn. This is best done as the battle is just beginning.

The Trickster's Step (“Transcend Lesser Troubles”): The stylist runs at his opponent, and then suddenly flips over the top of her, and attacks her from behind. After running full move, make an Flying Leap roll (-0, or no roll with Graceful Glider) to clear opponent's head. Then make an Acrobatic Attack (-1) to Spin to face your opponent and then make a Force Sword attack (-3) against the torso. Your first defense is at +2, but you may not retreat or parry with the weapon you attacked with. Setup: Initial attack.

The Counter Step (“Accept Adversity With Grace”): The Stylist parries an attack and uses that momentum to perform a pirouette, and uses that energy to create a new attack. When attacked, make an Acrobatics roll to spin around the attack and then defend against the attack (+2 from acrobatic parry) while making a side-slip (+2) with a riposte penalty (-4). Roll parry+0. On your turn, make a Spinning attack (-2) against your foe's torso. Apply margin of success+4 as a penalty to your opponent's defense. Setup: You are attacked.

The Playful Step (“Walk Among the Stars”): The Stylist spins or tumbles around his opponent similar to Accept Adversity with Grace, but instead of attacking, the display turns into pure acrobatics. Roll Acrobatics as a Defensive Attack (-2) replaced with a (normal) Feint. Defend at +1 for the remainder of the turn, and apply a +2 to your next defense. Setup: You have used the Counter Step or the Trickster's step previously in the fight.

The Final Step (“Dispense Justice Generously”): In the culmination of the Graceful Form, the stylist weaves a perfect four point kata that strikes all foes around him. Make a Whirlwind Attack(-5) using Force Sword Art (-3) for a total of -8. Attack each opponent that is one yard away in a clockwise order. If the character fails to miss (he may be parried), gain a +1 reaction modifier for onlookers. You may not defend. Setup: You have at least three opponents one yard away from you.

The Triumph (“Be Artful in All Things”): After defeating a foe, the stylist spins his force sword artfully. Make a Force Sword Art roll+4 (Force Sword+1) . This can either count as an intimidation roll or success adds a +1 to reaction rolls. Setup: You have defeated a foe or knocked a foe down, and you must have the Flourish perk.

The Serene Form 5 points

Alternate Names: Way of the Void, the Art of Stillness

Obi-Wan in Mos Eisley
Force-Swordsmanship is heavily inspired by kenjutsu, but why limit ourselves to just that style when it has so many cousins we can pilfer? In particular, Obi-Wan is able to rapidly draw his lightsaber and remove an alien's arm before nearly anyone can react, which sounds like iajutsu. He also fights patiently, defensively and slowly, as befits the aging actor who played him, but this style isn't inappropriate to star wars. Star Wars has two forms that focus on defensiveness: Soresu and Shien. The latter focuses on deflecting blasters, so we might say this is inspired by that technique.

I envision the Serene Form as a largely motionless technique. Its practitioners do not move, but allow others to come to them, and knows what to do with an opponent no matter what range he's at: Against blasters, he can parry and deflect them back. At near range, he can parry and counter attack. Against close-combatants, he can use Judo techniques, or even fight with his force-sword in very near quarters. The ability to fight anywhere further translates to fight anywhen. The stylist should be able to wait patiently and defeat his opponents simply by lasting longer than they do, but if their opponent is quick, their mastery of precognitive defense allows them to rapidly draw their force sword and defend from any circumstance, in any situation.

The Serene form is an intellectual technique. It benefits from high Will and high IQ, as many of its skills, cinematic skills and optional skills make use of IQ. The practitioners of this style are more likely to be ESPers than to follow any other psionic tradition.

Skills: Fast-Draw (Force Sword), Force Sword, Judo, Meditation
Techniques: Back Strike (Force Sword), Close Combat (Force Sword), Counter Attack (Force Sword), Breakfall (Judo), Low Combat, Reverse Grip (Force Sword), Targeted Attack (Force Sword/Arm), Targeted Attack (Force Sword/Leg), Trip (Judo).
Cinematic Skills: Blind Fighting, Immovable Stance, Mental Strength, Power Blow, Precognitive Parry
Cinematic Techniques: Dual-Weapon Defense (Force Sword), Precognitive Deflection, Precognitive Fast-Draw (Precognitive Parry), Springing Attack (Force Sword), Timed Defense (Force Sword),
Perks: Follow Through (Force Sword), Grip Mastery (Force Sword), No Nuisance Rolls (Precognitive Parry), Special Setup (Power Blow works with Force Sword), Sure-Footed (Uneven), Sure-Footed (Slippery), Technique Mastery (Precognitive Deflection), Trademark Move (see below for ideas).
Optional Traits: Danger Sense [15], Enhanced Parry (Force-sword) [5/level], Unfazeable [15]
Optional Skills: Armoury (Force Sword), Breath Control, Diplomacy, Expert Skill (Hoplology), Savoir-Faire (Dojo), Tactics

Signature Moves

The Void Endures: Evaluate opponent. Gain +3 to your next melee attack, and ignore up to -3 in defense penalties from deceptive attacks, feints or ruses. Make a free Tactics or Expert Skill (Hoplology) roll to gain some insight into your opponent's style or objectives. If taken as a trademark move, gain +1 to the free Tactics or Expert Skill (Hoplology) roll. Setup: Opponent is defensive.

Gaze into the Abyss: Make a Concentrate maneuver to initiate a Contest of Wills. If your opponent rejects it, he must succeed at a Will roll or be drawn in anyway. Once initiated, roll a Regular contest of Will, Mental Strength or Intimidation. The loser must either retreat, or apply the winner's margin of success as a penalty on all attack rolls. If taken as a trademark, apply the bonus to the Contest of Wills. Setup: Opponent Waits or Evaluates.

Serenity between Seconds: Make a Precognitive Fast-Draw (Roll Precognitive Fast-Draw, then Fast-Draw) to instantly draw and ready a force sword. Then make an Attack on the Arm (-2). Deal 8d(5) damage. If arm dismembered and you have the Follow-Up perk, spin your force sword and make a free Intimidation attempt, and then use Grip Mastery to enter a Defensive Grip. Setup: Your force sword is still sheathed and your opponent is armed.

Twinkling Starlight Defense: After successfully defending against a blaster or laser attack with Precognitive Parry, on your turn make a Precognitive Reflection roll (+0) to return the attack to the person who made it. Setup: You made an All-Out Defense against blaster fire on your previous turn.

The Sharp Edges of Emptiness: Switch from Standard to Reverse grip with the Reverse Grip technique (Force-sword -6) and then make a Counter(-5) Back Strike (-2) against the Torso (-0). Deal 8d+1(5) burn damage. Defend for the rest of the turn at -4. Setup: You made a Timed Defense against an attack from behind last turn.

Eternal Endings: Wait for your opponent to attack, with the stipulation that if he attacks, you'll attack at the same time. If your opponent attacks, make a Springing Attack Stop Hit (-2). If you miss and your opponent hits, you defend at -3 (-5 if you want to parry). If you hit and your opponent hits with a larger margin, defend with -1 (-3 if you want to parry). If you hit and your opponent hits with a smaller margin or misses, he defends at -1 (-3 if he wants to parry). Deal 8d+8(5) burn damage. Setup: You crouched (-2 to attack and defense) for at least one turn.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Designing New Martial Arts

Now that we know more-or-less how combat will work in the game, and we've collected enough material to know what Star Wars combat (and Psi-Wars combat) looks like, we can re-evaluate existing martial arts and, perhaps, create some new ones.

New Martial Arts

Star Wars has no less than seven lightsaber "forms" (and, alas, over the course of my investigation, I managed to memorize all seven, not that they were terribly helpful to me).  Why so many when GURPS has only one?

One could certainly be sufficient, depending on how much emphasis we wanted to place on martial arts.  In a setting where space knights are a minor part of the setting, then I suspect a single force-swordsmanship style is more than enough, in the same way that you don't need 4 fencing styles for a single swashbuckler class.

Having several martial arts means that characters can and will define themselves more precisely. Someone who has studied the art of of Praying Mantis Kung Fu differentiates himself from someone who has studied Pak Hok or Shaolin Kung Fu.  Some characters might learn several martial arts, such as a character who first learns Shaolin Kung Fu and then finds the hidden temple of the Dragon-Men and adds Dragon-Man Kung Fu to his growing collection of techniques.

To me, Star Wars (and by extension, Psi-Wars) is in the martial arts genre.  That's the reason Star Wars has seven lightsaber forms, so you can have comics where someone says things like "I have studied Makashi, yes, but I have also studied Djem So, and you would be a fool to underestimate me!" or "Shii-Cho may be a beginner's technique, but it has power far greater than you can comprehend!" or they can unveil secret new techniques, or climb mountains to learn secret or lost techniques.

If we're going to rewrite Force-Swordmanship, and we have to given the flaws it has and how substantially we've changed the rules for combat, why not take a moment to look at alternate forms of Force Swordsmanship?  We already have Force Sword-and-Buckler combat.  Why not create something darker and more sith-like?  Or something more fencing-like?  Why not create some secret styles?

Force-Swordsmanship isn't the only martial art in Psi-Wars, either.  When we examined our various tactics, a few assorted categories popped out.  I've created martial arts for:
  • Force-Swordsmanship
  • Military tactics
  • Ranged weapons
  • Unarmed combat
  • Other melee weapons
  • Psionic and other "Secret" styles
The intent here is to show how a variety of characters might fight, both PC and NPC.  Not all of the above will necessarily be full martial arts.  In particular, we expected ranged combatants to know a few techniques or tricks, but it's unlikely that they would call what they do a formal style.  They didn't learn it at a dojo, and someone doesn't look at Solo and think "Oh, a Corellian gunslinger, which is very different from a Rodian-style gunslinger!", but by examining how ranged combatants fight, we might create a collection of perks and techniques appropriate to various templates, ie, we can finally make the Bounty Hunter as cool as she should really be.

Building Martial Arts

Designing a Martial Art requires more than just the selection of skills, techniques and perks appropriate to the style.  You need a goal you're designing towards, a way of differentiating your new martial art from another martial art, a mechanical purpose to the technique, and a way of inspiring the players who take it, a sort of "imaginative signature" for the style.

In principle, you could simply take Force-Swordsmanship and give it a bunch of names ("Sith Force-Swordsmanship", "Jedi Force-Swordsmanship", "Cyborgian Force-Swordsmanship" and so on), all with the same skills and techniques, but with different names and Style Familiarity Perks (meaning that a character familiar with Jedi Force-Swordsmanship would be slightly better at fighting fellow Jedi than he would be at fighting the Sith), and you'd have sufficient differentiation of style.  GURPS Martial Arts actually does this.  There are several styles where there's, meaningfully, no mechanical difference, but the way the fighters might carry themselves or the specifics of how they use their skills and techniques might be sufficient different to warrant a new style familiarity (see Quarterstaff vs Bojutsu).

In practice, however, I find that most players find this a very unsatisfactory solution.  They want to know how Juyo is different from Ataru for them, mechanically.  This means alternate perks, techniques, etc.  It means a different design goal.  For example, Wookiepedia describes Juyo as the "Ferocity form" and says that it's brutal and aggressive, while it describes Ataru as acrobatic and flashy.  What does this mean for the specific characters?  It likely means that one focuses on offensive tricks, and the other definitely has Acrobatics and places an emphasis on it.  We begin to have a design goal, a way of differentiating one from the other, a signature.  We just need to build the techniques, skills and perks around that conceit and concept.

But will it be useful?  If Ataru is "flashy," that likely means it has flourishes and Combat Art.  But if a player puts his points into that while the other character puts his points into Juyo's aggressive techniques, will they be sufficiently equivalent that the Ataru player won't feel like he got screwed on the deal?  To find out, I prefer to use Signature Moves.

Signature Moves

Encourage “trademark moves.” Have each player work out a
few “standard operating procedures” in the form of an entire turn’s
worth of actions calculated in advance; e.g., “Committed Attack
(Strong) and Rapid Strike: thrust to the vitals at skill 13, then a
Deceptive swing to the torso for -2 defenses at skill 12.” These are
good “default” actions for the player who can’t make up his mind!
-GURPS Martial Arts, Faster Combat, page 126
This isn't my first martial art game, and when I ran Cherry Blossom Rain, I soon came to see the wisdom of those words.  A Signature Move is a standard, single-turn set of actions that a character can do (anything appropriate for the Trademark Move perk).  Martial arts tend to feature more than just techniques and skills, but preferred ways of using those techniques and skills.  A particular school might teach its fighters to perform an immediate counter-attack for the face after parrying, or to retreat with a side-step and make a feint in specific circumstances.  These strung together become kata, and by having those moves in your mind, a martial artist doesn't have to think and can simply act.

These signature moves give you a picture of how the style fights, and how the techniques and skills will work together.  As you build signature moves, you might start to see where you have holes in your style.  It encourages you to think about the style's strategy: "This technique uses X to become unstoppable!" It also lets your players see how it fights.  If they see that Ataru has lots of acrobatic dodges and feints and clever flourishes mid-combat, and they see the benefit of those, they'll grasp that Ataru is flashy and acrobatic.  If they see another style featuring Acrobatics, but that it uses that acrobatics for positioning and outmaneuvering an opponent to set up brutal attacks, they'll realize that the signature and approach of the style is substantially different, despite having similar skills.

The point of a kata is so that the martial artist doesn't need to think about his next move ("Wait, he just blocked.  Hmmm, perhaps I can push his hand aside and make a punch for his solar plexus?  Oh too late."), only in larger terms, about his broader strategy.  Signature moves do that for us too.  A player doesn't have to work his way through the details of how a particular move works, he just looks at the signature move on his sheet and uses it as written.

But they help us, as GMs, too.  Say you want to have soldiers who are more complex than "I stand there and shoot", what do you do?  Why, look at some of the signature moves from Infantry Training and give them a couple.  Now they can engage in Suppressive Fire or Concentrated Fire.  Instead of working through complex tactics for all your piles of NPCs and mooks and lieutenants, you have them already, and you can afford to have richer combats with less work, and those richer combats will make more sense.

Using My Styles

The following styles are either fully fleshed out, if they're new or sufficiently different from the original to justify it, or I simply discuss them and make notes on how they work.  In all cases, though, I include a list of 4-7 signature moves.  The point of those signature moves is to give you a starting point, not to be an exclusive list of all possible moves.  Feel free to add more.  Furthermore, each signature move includes a few notes/details on how it works in a generic fashion.  If you wish to note one on your sheet, adjust it to fit the particulars of your character.

Signature Moves don't cost anything, but all of them can be taken as Trademark Moves.  I recommend that you discourage players from taking the signature moves of a style that they do not know as signature moves.  A user of the Graceful Form can certainly chop off hands, but he's less likely to use it all the time then a user of the Destructive Form.

Several styles have access to perks.  This access is not exclusive.  That is, anyone can buy (for example) No Nuisance Roll (Precognitive Parry).  The advantage of having a perk in a style is that it lets you get around normal perk restrictions.  Let's say that a character can have no more than one perk per 50 points (that is, 6 perks for a starting Psi-Wars character) or one perk from a style for which he has Style Familiarity for every 10 points spent on skills, techniques or advantages from that style. Thus, characters have more ready access to their style perks than characters without the appropriate style familiarity.

Finally, the name I have chosen are explicitly generic.  I'm aware that "The Destructive Form" is less evocative than "Shii-Cho" or "Tiger Claw" or what have you, but these sorts of names depend heavily on setting choices.  Thus, I have chosen place-holder names that I feel capture what I'm going for.  I also want to note that these are first-pass designs.  Just like everything else in a game, you should ideally make several passes before they become "publishable."

Friday, September 9, 2016

Zee's Achievements

Zee fundamentally views the world as one would view a game.  She would even argue that she, and all other powers, are but characters in a larger game, and if the whole world is nothing but a game, then she can have profound control over the very fabric of the world itself, to shape it into what she thinks it should be.  Using the dark wizardry of the Konami Codex and spending days to concoct the right rituals, she has managed to weave a certain dharmic magic into the world, one which can empower her own ambitions and power, but one that can empower anyone's ambition and power, if they understand them and accept the Zee's premise that life is but a game.

This magic takes the forms of an achievement.  By accomplishing an achievement, one gains sudden dharmic weight.  Achievements lend meaning to the meaningless and that meaning can translate into the ability to move one's life forward and in a direction one wishes.

Anyone playing in the Price of Tea in Vancouver may choose to pursue achievements.  Successfully gaining an achievement grants you a single point of destiny that can be spent on any project you wish, however you must also fundamentally accept Zee's premise, which means any project that benefits from achievement destiny can be manipulated and controlled by Zee herself.  She promises that any changes she makes will be awesome and a total blast, though, so I'm sure you have nothing to worry about.

The Achievements

-Suffer a divine wound without dying

Blue Rose
-Give or recieve true love's kiss

Call of Duty
-Defeat an Excrucian

-Collect one million gold pieces

Crusader King
-Earn a Title

Dark Souls
-Condemn one soul to hell

Girlfriend Rescue
-Rescue a princess or be rescued by a knight

Love Plus
-Go on an official date!

Orcs Must Die!
-Kill one million enemies (humans, mannequins, robots, demons, zombies, etc)

-Unlock a bonus stage!

Progress Quest
-Complete one Project

-Set foot on a new world in the world tree

Time Splitters
-Travel through time

-Speak a Word of Power

-Roll a critical success!

Zee, the Marquesssa of Gaming

Ada McQueen had little time for life, preferring to lose herself in her beloved video games. Then she died.  The aneurism struck her in the midst of an epic, record-breaking gaming marathon.  As her body slowly cooled before the glow of her CRT, to the chiptune music blaring from her speakers, a yawning void opened behind her and Azrael, angel of Death herself stepped forth.

“Be thou not afraid” spoke the Angel with a voice that shook the earth itself “I am come to escort you to your final resting place.”

Zee suddenly sat bolt upright “Wait,” she said with furrowed brow “Don’t I get to challenge you to a game for my soul?”

And the angel did roll her eyes in a most exasperated manner and gestured dismissively with her bony hands and did say “Choose thy game, Mortal.”

Zee grinned and said: “Tekken Fighter Instinct Ultra: Hyper-Tournament Omega Edition – Limited.”
Only one copy existed.  With flashing fingers, Zee promptly defeated Azrael, who dashed her controller to the ground, drew herself to its full, majestic height and with the voice of a roaring ocean, did say unto Zee “Only by the whims of fortune was thy victory earned.  Also, Mortal, thy father did lie with a whore to bear thee into this world.”

Zee nodded patiently and said “So, double or nothing?”

Thus did Zee claim the Estate of Games and became Azrael’s second power.

Her rise has not been without controversy.  Zee believes in rules, but only in the rules she chooses to accept, and she prefers to have fun than to perform her obligations.

She has set aside the old “boring” games of yesteryear, like Chess, Checkers, Parcheesi and Monopoly and, in fact, her rise to Power has come with an equal rise in status for video games (allowing them to “rise to art”), and a new phase of boardgame/RPG development divorced from its past, while the old form of games become “solved problems” to sufficiently complex computers, gnawing at what it means to be a game.  This has earned her the ire of the old guard of her Estate, including the Black Bishop, a bane of her own estate who conspires to remove Ada from power and return the Estate back to Azrael.

Meanwhile, Zee was the first true gamer girl.  With her rise to the very essence of what it means to game, every other girl who wanted to “be a gamer” had a saintess they could bend knee to, and many did.  A cult grows up around her while the Inquisitors of the Old School, or the “Grognards” as some call them, serve the Black Bishop and make quiet war against one another.

They are not the only, for Zee’s reign has been tumultuous, marked by wars of consoles and even wars of fandom. For Zee is not only the Goddess of Gaming, she’s also a fan of gaming.  When she accepted her Estate, when Azrael introduced her to the other Imperators, Kirin bestowed a fragment of the shattered estates of Fashion, something new and unseen before: the Estate of Cosplay, and Zee enthusiastically embraced.  It forms a core element of her power now, giving her the ability to change into any video game character (though, for some reason, she only changes into a female-version of male video game characters).

Zee's flowers are the Star of Bethlehem (the Key to Something Changed Forever) and the Wild Rose (the Key to Something Different).  She follows the Song of the Wild.  Her Anchors are the Cult of the Gamer Girl, and the Gaming Underworld is her Sanctum (and the source of her opposition, the Black Bishop).

Estate of Cosplay

-Cosplay is the most beautiful form of fandom (3)
-Cosplay is totally impractical (1)
-Cosplay tries to bring fiction into the real world (2)

-Cosplay is just a fad; it cannot last (1)

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Rewriting Combat: The Cheat Sheet

It is my opinion and experience that if you're going to modify the combat system, and you want players to take advantage of that system, then you need to provide them with a solid understanding of the new rules you have included. Ideally, this should be a single A4 piece of paper with a distillation of all your roles in one place.  It doesn't have to exhaustive, but it should be enough that all the players' options are clear, and you have a master document available at your finger tips.

It is the nature of such documents that they necessarily summarize a lot of published GURPS rules..  I don't believe that the cheat sheet I have produced is sufficient to play GURPS without GURPS, so I feel that it's fair-use, but it's not my intent to pirate SJGames material, to make it available without you paying, or to claim that I created them (I have compiled this list and it does include some house rules, but the bulk of it repeats work that is not mine).  If SJGames disagrees, I will happily remove the document.

As I worked ahead on this topic, it came up that Tactical Shooting had a few rules that I found interesting as well, which I've included in this document but have not discussed previously.  It'll come up soon enough, though, I promise.

You can read it here.

The point is to offer you, dear reader, an example of what such a sheet might look like, and to give those of you who want to play Psi-Wars, a quick-glance summary of what you can and cannot do.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Rewriting Combat: Optional Rules

Martial Arts brims with optional rules, some of which we already have, but we also have plenty of new ones to tangle with.  I've gone through the book and examined each in turn, and selected the following based on advice from the Campaigns section of the book, my experience with Cherry Blossom Rain, and the results of the research over the past 3 weeks.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Rewriting Combat: Advantages, Skills and Techniques

Character traits serve as the basis for everything we do in GURPS.  If we're going to look at the new options from Martial Arts, it's a good idea to start by looking at the new traits it gives us, and re-examine the old traits we already had.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Rewriting Combat: The Intent

GURPS is a toolbox.  It brims with alternate rules that could work, depending on what you want out of your game.  Some games need to be ruthlessly realistic, or depressingly gory, or heroically cinematic.  The point of the research over the past 3 weeks has been in service of understanding what we want out of Psi-Wars combat.

Now that we have that, it's time to look through my favorite chapter of Martial Arts, Combat, and pick out what rules we want, and what rules we don't.  We know how combat should look (the first week), how GURPS tends to work by default (the second week), and how Psi-Wars works (the third week), so we should now be able to adjust everything to create a decent framework for Psi-Wars.

When we're finished, we should have a very specific and unique version of the combat rules, which I'll unveil on Thursday.

I should note that I won't be looking through Gun-Fu because most of its rules have already been folded into GURPS Action, which we'll be taking with us more-or-less as is.  In fact, before we begin, let's take a look at the legacy Action 2 and 3 leaves us with before we move on to actually making changes.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Deadwood, Marquis of Death

Walter "Deadwood" Fitch was a good-fer-nuthin' low-life, good at poker and bad with whiskey until he met a good christian woman who refused to back down when faced with his nonsense, so naturally he did the only thing he could and married her. He enjoyed his quiet life on a ranch, living a reasonable life until the Devil came, and took his bride away from him. So naturally, Walter did the only thing he could and went to rescue her. Faced with the power of Bhaal and his minions, Walter was soundly defeated, but not before stealing a precious treasure from the Devil, which he traded to Samuel Colt in exchange for crafting a revolver that could kill anything. So armed, Walter Fitch killed the Devil, but it was too late. His wife had been dragged to hell.

Lord Entropy arrested Walter Fitch and dragged him in chains before his court, for Deadwood had violated the law “Be as I would have you be,” and mortals should not, as a rule, be killing Imperators. But Azrael beheld Walter Fitch and his deeds and proclaimed “Lo, he follows a higher law!” and when asked what higher law he followed, she replied “Mine,” and took him as her Power. Thus, he fell under the Chestnut Law, and the death of Bhaal was no more than seven times worse than the kidnapping and enslavement of a wife but, frustrated at being overruled, Lord Entropy declared that if Fitch freed his wife, then he would be in violation of the Chestnut law. To serve the Imperators of Earth, Walter would have to give up his mortal life and accept his role as Death.

Deadwood has three anchors: the Colt, the Nameless Horse, and Persephone Cross (his ex-wife, separated by Death).  His flowers are Vervain, the Key of Something Powerful, and Mimulus, the Key of Something Restless.  Deadwood, particularly beloved by one or two of our players, has his own playlist.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Tactical Analysis: Monstrous Conflict

The previous two tactical analyses shouldn't read like anything new if you've ever run an Action game.  They only differ in the technologies offered, and even then, those have obvious parallels to real-world weapons.  But Psi-Wars offers us a unique opportunity in that allows us to fight inhuman opponents, such as robots and space monsters.

I have limited time and space to discuss these, so I'll bundle them up into a single place.  I'll do that because they have a single consistent thing: They will not fight like people do.  I don't actually have any space monsters, though we can easily derive some rough examples.  I do have robots, of course, and you can read up on them here.

Space Monster Tactics

by BrighterSuns
Space monsters vary greatly, and could be nearly anything, but we can grab a few "typical" GURPS examples.  Given that most space monsters seem to be giant beasts, we could use the Tyrannosaurus (from GURPS: Lands Out Of Time) as our basis for creatures like the Rancor, and the Insectoid out of GURPS Monster Hunters 5: Xenology for the creepy-crawly sort.  Later, in Iteration 5, I'd like to deal with this concept in more detail, but this will work for now.

Both the Tyrannosaurus and the Insectoid have enormous strength (thought the T-Rex isn't quite as high as you might expect) and built-in melee weapons, like claws, teeth and tails.  Despite this, neither does very much damage against armored opponents.  The insectoid deals an average of 11 cutting damage with an armor divisor of 2, which will barely penetrate a battle-weave long coat, while the T-Rex deals 3d+2 impaling or 3d+4 crushing with its tail, neither of which are very impressive compared to TL 11 armor.

Neither has very much armor.  The T-Rex has a DR of 2, and the Insectoid has a DR of 15.  Neither will slow down a blaster very much.

For both, instinct rules the day: Both have a low IQ but high Perception, and unique sensory abilities.  Both have a high move and a decent DX. I would expect "clever" but pre-defined tactics. Once you've figured out how an alien tiger hunts, you know how almost all alien tigers hunt.  Giant aliens like the Rancor will just try to use brute force, etc.  We'd also expect alien monsters to be very adept at using the environment they're adapted for (chameleon, sure-footed, night vision, etc).

Robotic Tactics

"My Robot Army" by daonovski11
In case you missed the link before, here it is again.

Robot armies tend to be broken down into battle bots as the main, brute-force line of infantry, and specialist robots used sparingly, as scalpels.  We expect them to march forward, unwaveringly, and open fire on the enemy when they see them.  They're BAD 10, so not a major threat, but they have considerable HP (13-20) and DR (25), though they're not quite as survivable as troopers.

The Heavy Battle-Bot combines the DR of an Assault Trooper with the firepower of a Heavy Trooper, with superior skill and vastly superior ST.  Like battle bots, he'll simply march forward, shrugging off return fire and blasting away, unless he can reach you, in which case he'll throttle or pummel you to death.

Warbots take all of this a step forward, between the "Heavy Infantry" of the Heavy Battle Bot, and a tank.  He sports even greater HP, up to 275 DR, loads of weapons, an extra attack, high speed and excellent senses. Its only real weakness is its unimaginative tactics.

Finally, we have the assassin-bot, which has low DR, superior HP (20), superior senses, superior stealth, and superior senses.  Unlike the other robots, he can engage in imaginative tactics, studying its prey, learning from them, and then ambushing them with its dangerous claws.

A typical robot army will likely send assassin-bots into the population, use them to infiltrate enemy ranks, or simply use them as recon/ambush parties.  Once actual battle is joined, they'll simply march lines of battle bots, with the occasional heavy bot and war-bot as additional support.
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