Friday, March 11, 2011

Why aren't there any good rules for martial arts??

Since I'm a practitioner myself, and since I have been on a kung-fu movie spree of late, I've started to wonder why there are no rules for fluid, quick and colourful martial arts action?

The rules there are, in different rules sets, are are either too involved to feel at all like Brave Archer by Chang Cheh (like GURPS) or just to damn flavourless (like Rolemaster or unarmed combat in AD&D (the horror!)).

Are there any good wushu rules out there that is fun and quick, and wont bore me to tears or lull my non martial arts friends to sleep?

I'm thinking of dice, cards or something else unorthodox to base it off. Damned if I know what to make of it! I've even tried myself even if that was just a toss off first draft.


  1. I put together a kind of element-based system which we've used for our wushu campaign (you can find a pdf with the rules for that here:

    I also put together a list with commentary on all of the rpg games systems which had a deeper treatment of martial arts- you might find something interesting there:

  2. FBInc's MSPE's is interesting mechanically, but not full of flavour.
    --Perhaps adding off of that base would be a good start?


  3. @Timeshadows: Hmm. MSPE didn't ring a bell. I need to take a closer look at my copy. Thanks for the hint.

    @Lowell Francis: Cool! I've downloaded your system and will take a peek at that, and the list. Thanks!

  4. One problem is the type of stuff you see in movies doesn't work like that in real life, it's somewhat dependent on the scene being pre-determined, so a conflict resolution system in which you roll for the outcome and then narrate how you got there would be the most suitable for that.

    If you want to do something more realistic, like Sanshou or Muay Thai, or even Flashpoint/Sha Po Lang, then ORE is a good fit. You need to have speed linked to height instead of width though, and then have various stances that represent which targets are best protected and which ones are less protected.

    It ends up working quite well.

  5. Really good points. Also, ORE is an interesting suggestion. I haven't obsessed over ORE in a while. Maybe it's time for a revisit.

  6. Ooh, ooh, A Dirty World! :D
    --Best Noir yet. :D

  7. Pretty much the monk class, isn't it? Weird how in game stats many humanoids and demi-humans would be given 1d6 damage for "unarmed" attacks.

  8. I guess you need to think about how much of your game will focus on unarmed combat. You could save some effort by making a system that works for any armed and unarmed combat, or maybe a system that they all use but different tables / cards / whatever for each type of weapon (Blades, Polearms, Archery, Unarmed, etc.) or maybe a table etc. for each type of maneuver (grab, trip, push, strike, feint, absorb, deflect, redirect, tumble, pin, lock, etc.).

    Point is, if you want a game with social elements (convince the X to do Y, gain favor with Z, whatever) then you'll make social rules. If you want a game about running businesses (yakuza, merchants, rulers, etc) then you'll have business rules.

    You can afford to have complex rules in one place at the expense of complexity elsewhere. If you simply add complexity to one place it will just make the game harder to use. This shifting of the focus to a specific part is kind of like specializing in a type of medicine: you are a better doctor of the heart but you aren't as practiced in the medicine of the skin. You lose elsewhere when you specialize. If you try to specialize in too many areas you either fail outright (by becoming a generalist) or lose in other areas of your existence (a doctor with no personal life, a rule book with huge page count and little usability at the table).

    So please make sure that you evaluate your rule set from that perspective. You can make a game with really complete martial arts rules, but be careful you don't make the game unplayable under the extra burden nor too specialized to run as anything but a martial arts dueling simulator.

  9. I tried a mixture of poker hands and about five moves indexed by suit.

  10. True, oh so true. Frankly I think none but us martial arts nuts would bother with a fighting simulator, and not all of us would care for it either. A little bit of everything, but extra support for some things goes a long way.

    I'm beginning to think that the idea with different dice, cards or whatever might be a cool way to get some extra colour in the combat without adding too much crunch. Just tossing cards instead of dice might give some extra feel.

    Poker hands is an interesting option!

    Lots to chew on.


Copyright 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 Andreas Davour. All Rights Reserved. Powered by Blogger.