Monday, July 1, 2019

Martial Arts in GURPS Dungeon Fantasy

Two Swashbucklers going at it?
Back in 2015 into 2016, I ran a brief GURPS Dungeon Fantasy game in which the party's fighter and I came upon an interesting idea - finding a way to fit Martial Arts Styles into Dungeon Fantasy. It was to that end that we hammered out what a Style Perk should amount to and how to handle things like techniques within the simplified framework that is DF. Even though we didn't get a chance to implement it before university consumed my gaming time, I'll present it here as an untested idea that may prove useful to your own gaming, should you choose to include it.

What Is a Martial Art Style?

Martial arts styles are collections of skills, perks, and power-ups that help define a particular way of fighting. Every style has, at minimum, certain components:
  • Martial Arts Style Familiarity
  • Core Skills
  • Cinematic Skills
  • Perks
  • Power-Ups
Together, these five components provide a framework for fighting in this style. The core skills are those that the style teaches, and the cinematic skills represent the body of legend surrounding the style. Combat perks are often not restricted by class (see DF 11), but they are listed here for both completeness and as a guide to what is appropriate for the style. Lastly, power-ups those power-ups that can be bought, regardless of template that normally grants access. In fact, many power-ups do are not otherwise available to any class!

Style Familiarity

Of these, the Style Familiarityis among the most important; it grants access to all of the other features of style, regardless of template. It includes a number of benefits as described below:
  • Access to all of a style's associated skills, cinematic skills, power-ups, and perks. This only covers access, but does not fulfill prerequisites, such as Trained by a Master.
  • The effects of Claim to Hospitality from DF 11 on a roll of 6 or less.
  • Stylists gain a +1 bonus to rolls when interacting with co-stylists. This applies to obvious rolls like reaction and influence rolls, but also to the likes of Games, Interrogation, Merchant, etc. Treat this as a very narrow Reputation.
  • If you have Style Familiarity for all of your opponent's styles, you know his tricks. Reduce the defensive penalties from his feints and Deceptive Attacks by -1.
  • If the GM normally allows character points to be spent by certain templates mid-play, he should definitely allow stylists to spend points in a similar manner on style-related traits and skills.

Techniques as Power-Ups

Tracking individual technique levels, including defaults, and all of the finickiness this would introduce into the game, just isn't thematically appropriate for Dungeon Fantasy. But there are ways around this.

For starters, only those who have points in a technique can use it. Taking this a step further, each technique is bundled into a power-up that raises its score - preferably to that of the base skill. These power-ups also incorporate other traits to keep as many rolls as standard as possible - i.e., rolling at a +0 modifier as much as possible. And wherever possible, they also enhance the flavor and awesomeness of the underlying techniques by adding small benefits.

Finally, these power-ups are not universally available to all delvers. Only those who have invested a point in an appropriate Style Familiarity gain access to the power-ups covered by that specific style. These two tweaks cut down on the number of techniques floating around the game, place them in the same bin as any other power-up that the player has to track and remember how to use, and simplifies rolling by keeping everything as standardized as possible.

Future Work

I am currently continuing to expand my list of power-ups for this system and will be posting them here as they are completed. I hope you enjoy this add-on and will critique my builds in the comments. I always welcome feedback on this sort of thing!

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