View Single Post
Old 06-02-2021, 12:15 PM   #1
Michael Thayne
Michael Thayne's Avatar
Join Date: May 2010
Default Opinions on cinematic martial arts skills?

There's been a lot of debate over GURPS Magic, with complaints that it seems to have never really been "4e-ified" the way say the psionics system has. But somewhat surprisingly, I've never seen similar arguments about cinematic martial arts skills (i.e. skills with TbaM as a prerequisite, which is basically all cinematic skills except Computer Hacking and the various skills aimed at fantasy bards). Because let's face it they have some odd features.

Four of the skills in question—Breaking Blow, Flying Leap, Power Blow, and Zen Archery—have a whopping -10 penalty to use instantaneously, and require 32 seconds of concentration to use with no penalty. This doesn't actually seem very "cinematic", unless perhaps those 32 seconds are being used for a flashback or vision involving the martial artist's mentor. Arguably, this gets even stranger if you use an Unusual Training perk to take a supposedly more limited and realistic version of one of these skills, since I'm pretty sure students of karate showing off board breaking gain nothing from pausing for 32 seconds in between strikes. And the possibility of buying these skills (particularly Power Blow) is, if not exactly unbalanced, then at least something that occupies an odd place in the space of player options, since it's arguably the best way to build a "budget brick" in a low-end supers game.

Then there's the issue of what D&D players call MAD or Multi-Attribute Dependency. It's odd to think that a wuxia hero might be able to reliably use Light Walk and Lizard Climb (both DX-based skills) but struggle with Flying Leap, even when using the optional rules on Martial Arts p. 129, because Flying Leap is IQ-based. Similarly, if your character concept is first and foremost "cinematically stealthy", it becomes awfully inconvenient that while Light Walk is DX-based, Invisibility Art is IQ-based. If your concept calls for little in the way of IQ-based skills with the exception of Blind Fighting, you might wonder why you don't just buy Dark Vision, Vibration Sense, or even Sonar. Other posters might be able to generate more examples. Published Talents help somewhat with this, but they don't feel like a complete solution.

Part of me is tempted to come up with replace them with powers wholesale, as suggested in the "Chi Sorcery" article in Pyramid #3/105. But when I try to put myself in a player's shoes, I worry about players being unsatisfied with replacements. Thoughts? Who's had good experiences playing with these skills, either as a play or GM?
Michael Thayne is offline   Reply With Quote