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Old 08-19-2016, 01:39 PM   #1
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: Cambridge, UK
Default [Basic] Skill of the week: Pressure Points and Pressure Secrets

Pressure Points is the IQ/H esoteric martial-arts skill of striking pressure points to disable. There is a prerequisite of Trained By A Master or Weapon Master, and no default, except possibly Esoteric Medicine-4 in a cinematic campaign. No skills default to Pressure Points. To use it, make a successful attack at -2 (plus any Hit Location modifiers) with Karate or an applicable weapon skill and get at least 1 point of damage past any DR, or successfully apply a Judo lock at -2 (see Technical Grappling). Then roll a Quick Contest between Pressure Points and the target's HT. If you win, you disable the target in a way, and for a duration, that depends on which part of their body you attacked. By default, the skill is specialised as Pressure Points (Unarmed), but other possible specialisations include (Bow), for blunt arrows, (Shortsword) for a baton or (Staff). Presumably, sharp weapons don't allow the effect to work, although it's not clear why.

Pressure Secrets is the IQ/VH esoteric martial-arts skill of striking pressure points to kill. It has prerequisites of Trained By A Master and Pressure Points at 16 or higher. There is no default, and no skills default to it. To use it, make an unarmed attack at -2 (plus Hit Location modifiers), or successfully apply a Judo lock at -2, then make a Pressure Secrets roll. If you succeed, damage (or pain, shock, etc. effects from a lock) is doubled. An attack to the vitals is possible, in which case damage is tripled. The skill is noted as unrealistic and potentially unbalancing.

Both of these skills seem to have first appeared in Martial Arts for GURPS 3e. They both take Physiology modifiers, but no other modifiers are noted. As usual for Physiology-modifier skills, you normally buy them for your own species, but it's possible to learn them for use on another species, if you can get the training.

Martial Arts is the main source for additional information on these skills. It's possible to be Resistant to them, and to use Body Control to resist Pressure Points. You can buy off the -2 to hit with them as a Technique, and they're subject to the Rule of 16. They may get to use Realistic Injury rules when other attacks don't, and Pressure Secrets can make small improvised weapons deadly. Both appear as cinematic skills in many of Martial Arts' styles.

These skills mostly appear on templates for cinematic martial artists; templates that use Pressure Points with weapons are rare. DF11 has the "Hand of Death", with a prerequisite of Pressure Secrets at 16+, while Low-Tech has equipment to boost Pressure Points and allows a First Aid technique to be based on the skill. Technical Grappling has more on both skills, and notes that Pressure Points is somewhat realistic, at least for inflicting pain, while Pressure Secrets is thoroughly cinematic. Yrth Fighting Styles covers several ways to run the interaction of chi powers and magic. Power-Ups 1: Imbuements doesn't actually modify these skills, but uses them as exemplars, while Power-Ups 2, 3 and 6 have examples of perks, talents and wildcard skills for them. Powers allows Pressure Secrets to attack the target's chi powers, and Chinese Elemental Powers expands on this, while Thaumatology offers Pressure Secrets as a highly alternative core skill for magic.

I've never used these skills, never having played a dedicated Martial Arts campaign. How effective are they in practice? How have you modified them?
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Old 08-19-2016, 02:07 PM   #2
Join Date: Jul 2014
Location: New Zealand.
Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Pressure Points and Pressure Secrets

I've used both skills to reflect the abilities of a slightly more than human fantasy assassin. It was used out of context with no Chi or eastern martial arts in than particular campaign.
Waiting for inspiration to strike......
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Old 08-19-2016, 07:00 PM   #3
Fred Brackin
Join Date: Aug 2007
Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Pressure Points and Pressure Secrets

Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
I've never used these skills, never having played a dedicated Martial Arts campaign. How effective are they in practice? How have you modified them?
You don't need a dedicated Martial arts game. I had one player in 3e Space game known as "Gloria Monday". Against HT 10 antagonists he achieved one shot wins with Pressure Points 3 times. Didn't even damage his target significantly in any lasting way. a shrewd choice for achieving such a goal.

This was 250pts Cinematic game and Pressure Points was the major extent of his TBAM abilities. There were small amounts of other abilities like Psionics at low values also.

Please note that I have constrained myself to the serious game mechanics. The Gloria Monday game being what it was the context in which Pressure Points was used was utterly ridiculous.
Fred Brackin
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Old 08-28-2016, 03:40 PM   #4
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Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: near London, UK
Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Pressure Points and Pressure Secrets

I think the concept lies in the idea of striking (relatively) superficial nerves to render specific muscle groups temporarily useless and given that this mostly comes out of martial arts developed in areas where carrying sharp weapons wasn't allowed, that's the basis on which it's built. A classic example is the brachial plexus, exposed under the muscles lying between shoulder and neck, where a hard blow can paralyse the arm for several seconds.

A cutting or impaling weapon doesn't produce anything like as much shock and disruption into the tissue mass without actually penetrating it, so you'd need a good solid hit to affect the nerves at all - at which point you'd sever them and it would be a crippling injury to that limb.
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Old 08-28-2016, 07:52 PM   #5
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Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Charlotte, NC, United States
Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Pressure Points and Pressure Secrets

How you explain PP/PS matters. If you explain them as precise manipulation of the nerves and other soft tissue systems via percussive and tensile force, you can justify PP as non-cinematic within the official canon depending on where you draw the line between "yeah, that's possible though difficult" and "nope, that's definitely movie magic." The debate about where one should draw that line has raged for years inside and outside the RPG community.

If you explain them as precise manipulation of qi meridians and gates in accordance with (primarily Chinese) mystic theory, most people would agree you've crossed the line into "movie magic" for all effects. Even so, there seems to be a second line between "that's cheesy but acceptable" and "that's just absurd," and that line seems arbitrarily drawn from person to person according to taste as much (or as little) as any other criterion.

I've struggled with PP/PS on and off literally for years, and I've so far concluded that as written, they do not serve my purpose. That's not a fault, however. As written, they work well enough for campaigns/chronicles that aren't meant to closely model specific source material. They are generic "kawng foo woo woo" traits in case you just want to include a little "kawng foo woo woo" in your game even if you don't call it "kawng foo woo woo" at all.

Tim Harris
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Saving the universe one planet at a time. Occasionally from my own mistakes. Oops.
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Old 08-28-2016, 08:40 PM   #6
Join Date: Feb 2009
Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Pressure Points and Pressure Secrets

The main issue is that usually anyone who would want to learn such is going to also be doing enough damage they are aiming for 'killing / crippling through raw damage'

Pressure Secrets is pretty cool though

Haven't actually, well, used any of them
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Old 08-29-2016, 06:03 AM   #7
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Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Denver, CO
Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Pressure Points and Pressure Secrets

I had a ninja in a supers campaign who used both skills. His only supernatural advantages were clinging and silence so I had a lot of points to use on skills. I found pressure points to be amazingly useful in that setting. I took out an enemy brick very quickly because his DR had the tough skin modifier. paralyzing limbs was great for taking prisoners, and I even used it once on someone we were rescuing. She was being uncooperative.

In the total amnesia space game I'm running right now, one of the characters has it due to her background in Kalarippayattu which lists the unusual training perk as part of the style. I don't expect it to be too useful in this setting as most serious opponents will be armored.
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