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Old 10-27-2018, 03:35 PM   #1
RedDragon
 
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Default Advice on running a Wuxia game

I'm thinking of running a Wuxia Martial Arts campaign. I have a few questions for those who have run a similar game before.
1. What Optional Rules do you use? In a similar vein, what rules from the Basic Set do you not use? I'm thinking of using the selections recommended in GURPS Martial Arts as well as the BAD rules from Action. What else would fit? I'm hoping for something along the lines of a modern Jackie Chan film, but with a little more focus on combat than on comedy.
2. What starting Point Total do you recommend? I'm looking at starting the players at 400 points, because in my experience such a character has enough points for a good spread of combat skills, a number of perks, and some special powers, while still having room for background skills.
3. What exactly is a "respectable" skill level for something like this? I find that building NPCs with an unarmed skill and/or a weapon skill at 18 and another unarmed skill at 16 works well, but I haven't run any combat simulations so I'm not sure how well they would be able to do some of the cool things GURPS allows with high Skill levels. The Basic Set suggests a "Masterful" level at around 25. In a similar vein, have you instituted a damage cap? How much was the maximum, and how do battles work if people's damage is too high (or too low)?

Any other tips you have to offer would be greatly appreciated.
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Old 10-27-2018, 04:57 PM   #2
Kelly Pedersen
 
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Default Re: Advice on running a Wuxia game

I haven't precisely run a wuxia game, but I have run a high-powered martial arts game - the martial arts were just a bit more European flavored generally. But it definitely had some of that style, or at least was intended to, so I think some of the lessons I learned carry over.

For 1), I'd definitely use pretty much all the optional rules in the "Cinematic Combat" section of Martial Arts. I'd also say to lean hard on the suggestions in the "Faster Combat" box, though. GURPS combat with all the options available can slow right down, which is pretty antithetical to the wuxia feel, so use everything you can to speed it back up. To add to the suggestions, you might want to consider limiting people to only trying techniques (cinematic or otherwise) that are covered by the styles they use. That both cuts down on the options people have to consider, and makes stylists more distinctive.

Another good rules option to consider is allowing the No Nuisance Rolls perk (Power-Ups 2: Perks, p. 16) on "supporting" combat skills, even though the perk suggests avoiding that. What I mean by "supporting" here is any roll that isn't directly an attack or defense. So, for example, someone could take "No Nuisance Rolls: Power Blow", and, if their effective Power Blow skill was 16+, they wouldn't have to roll it. So if their skill was 20, they could just automatically do the Power Blow after concentrating for only 2 seconds (since that's a -4 penalty, leaving them at skill 16). This is because, when you start adding in cinematic skills, there can be a lot of extra rolls on any given turn, so reducing them is a good idea to speed things up. If you're worried about balance, I'd again suggest limiting this by style - effectively, each style would add No Nuisance Rolls perks for any skills or techniques that it covered.

Another good source of cinematic options are Imbuments (found in Power-Ups 1: Imbuements). Several of them are outright supernatural, of course, but a fair number fall into the area I'd classify as "believably cinematic", and in any case, wuxia actually often does fall onto the supernatural side anyway, so you can probably justify them. If you do use Imbuements, I strongly recommend allowing the No Nuisance Rolls perk for them, at least, since imbuements will bog down turns with extra rolling otherwise.

For 2), starting point total, I'd say you can actually get away with lower point values - 250 will produce some pretty effective characters, if a bit mono-focused on fighting. But in wuxia, that's not necessarily bad! In my experience with the genre, wuxia characters are often quite good at fighting in their preferred style, but kind of terrible in other circumstances - the fighting prodigy who has cripplingly-bad social skills, for example, and thus has to use those fighting skills all the time, is something of a genre cliche. Restricting the point values means less temptation to pour a bunch of points into DX or IQ, and thus get overly broad-competence characters. In fact, I'd say, even if you do allow a higher point total, I'd suggest putting a heavy limit on the max attributes, just to avoid this.

For 3), skill levels, wuxia certainly justifies fairly high levels in general. However, I'd caution against just allowing everyone to buy one skill up to something very high like 25 and just letting everything else stagnate. At the very least, they should be buying most of the skills in their preferred style up to close-to-equal levels. Fortunately, the cinematic skills will give most characters something to spend on, but this is still worth watching out for.

Another trick to avoid serious skill inflation is to make sure you're not over-skilling your opponents. If the "mook" level of skill stays at 11 or 12 through most of the game, there's a bit less pressure on the PCs to boost their own skills into the stratosphere, whereas if you start throwing opponents with skill 15 or 16 as the "warm up" enemies, your players are going to go for much higher skills just as a defense.


One other piece of advice: most PCs are probably going to have some version of either Weapon Master or Trained by a Master - it's pretty much an entry requirement if you're playing anything besides the "totally new apprentice" archetype. To avoid them all feeling too similar, you can tweak their benefits to be more appropriate for each character's chosen style. For example, Trained By A Master normally gives access to the Chambara Movement cinematic option (Martial Arts, pp. 128). That's fine for a Shaolin stylist, but what about Hung Gar style, which is much more focused on remaining in one place and dealing damage there? You could say that someone Trained By A Master of Hung Gar didn't get the Chambara Movement bonus, but instead got a damage bonus that applied when they used Counterattacks.
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Old 10-27-2018, 06:07 PM   #3
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Default Re: Advice on running a Wuxia game

I've been thinking about this casually here and there. Can't say what rules to use, but I've been keeping my eye out for items that could be useful. There is Chi Sorcery from Pyramid #3/105 and Thaumatology: Chinese Elemental Powers. For Chi Sorcery, you may want to pickup Thaumatology: Sorcery and Powers.
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Old 10-29-2018, 09:16 AM   #4
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Default Re: Advice on running a Wuxia game

I've never tried it myself, so it may be bad advice, but in the past I've heard people suggest halving the cost of martial techniques.

Why? Well, in a purely martial-arts-based campaign, you want each of the characters to have their own distinctive way of fighting. The same goes for the major NPCs.

Putting a cap on attributes is a good first step here, as Kelly Pedersen mentioned. That way, you don't just have everyone running around with DX 19, or similar.

Sometimes, though, the result is that everyone just ends up with super-high levels in Karate and Judo, and then defaults most of their maneuvers from that high base skill. This is because in 4E (unlike in 3E), one you've got a technique or two, it's almost always more efficient not to invest in additional techniques, but instead just to raise the base skill.

Now, for many campaigns this is a good thing, since it simplifies character sheets, cuts down on analysis paralysis, and speeds play. That may be exactly what you want - fast combat suits Wuxia! But if half the fun of the campaign is meant to come from dramatizing the differences between different fighters, then you might want to encourage more differentiation - and halving the cost of techniques would be one way to achieve that.

Again, I've never tried it myself; I'm not sure if it's the best way to achieve that end (actually, I'd be really interested to hear what other forumites think about this). But it's something to ponder.
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Old 10-29-2018, 09:34 AM   #5
RedDragon
 
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Default Re: Advice on running a Wuxia game

Thanks for all the replies, guys. I was already considering Attribute Caps. I think DX 14 is a perfect middle, since if you get (for example) Acrobatics and Jumping at DX level, you qualify both for the Chambara Combat rules (for having those skills at DX level) and for various Cinematic Skills (some of which require Acrobatics at 14+, for example). What about Damage Caps? I am a little worried that somebody with (for instance) a Very Fine Light Horse-Cutter and Weapon Master might just outpace the damage of somebody with a Jian, or even worse, unarmed fighters (I know that Unarmed fighters get Brawling/Karate/Sumo Wrestling/Wrestling Damage/ST bonuses, and that the Claws (Blunt) advantage is another cheap way to increase damage, but still). Does anything break down horribly if I allow these two to coexist?
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Old 10-29-2018, 09:56 AM   #6
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Default Re: Advice on running a Wuxia game

Super unhelpful, but my advice is don't. GURPS is not strong in this region of storytelling. There are a lot of games that would do that story better. If you feel like you must use GURPS then don't shackle yourself to GURPS Martial Arts. Even with cinematic rules Martial Arts is more Drunken Master, less Crouching Tiger. If you want the ability to run along the shafts of spears in a pitched battle or to tear a tent away from it's stakes and catch a barrage of arrows, shatter a sword with a punch, or leap gracefully from bamboo tree to bamboo tree, use Powers. Create power stunts, stat out point costs for martial arts moves like the thing where you use a spear like a jackhammer or doing a leg-sweep on a horse or whatever you envision would be cool. Create legendary weapons as advantages, give them reputations that effect the character.
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Old 10-29-2018, 10:22 AM   #7
Kelly Pedersen
 
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Default Re: Advice on running a Wuxia game

Quote:
Originally Posted by RedDragon View Post
What about Damage Caps? I am a little worried that somebody with (for instance) a Very Fine Light Horse-Cutter and Weapon Master might just outpace the damage of somebody with a Jian, or even worse, unarmed fighters (I know that Unarmed fighters get Brawling/Karate/Sumo Wrestling/Wrestling Damage/ST bonuses, and that the Claws (Blunt) advantage is another cheap way to increase damage, but still). Does anything break down horribly if I allow these two to coexist?
I wouldn't cap weapon damage - wuxia has too many prominent weapon users for a limitation on them to be appropriate, I think. For similar reasons, I wouldn't use the "Unarmed Etiquette" optional rule, which over-punishes armed fighters. However, some kind of bonus to unarmed fighters is definitely going to be necessary. Allowing cinematic perks like the various Iron Body Parts or Special Exercises should help. I'd also suggest simply ignoring the rules for injuring the defender's hand/limb on a failed unarmed parry. While a typical wuxia hero might have a very good unarmed parry, sooner or later they'll fail, and if you use the rules for injuring limbs, they'll probably lose a hand at that point.

Another idea for keeping unarmed fighters competitve with armed ones is to allow one of those alternate benefits for Trained by a Master I mentioned above to be "treat one of your unarmed attacks as if it were a Fine or Very Fine weapon", with the attendant damage bonuses. That would suit styles that were focused on power and precision.
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