Way of Specialisations: Martial Artist part 1 – Skills and talents

As some might already know I have this Martial Arts specialist talent tree on dropbox. It started out as an idea for a Teräs Käsi expert talent tree. While this is a good idea – if I may say so myself – its kind of pricey and hard to make 20 talents specific for one martial arts style. So I started to plot in other talents inspired from other styles and old kung fu movies. The resulting talent tree is … well you can judge yourself, I’m not very satisfied (anymore), but I think it could work. It still needs some work – and the Stava talents are not elegant and I like elegant.

So how do I solve this, if I want to add in Stava, K’thri, K’tara, Echani and Teräs Käsi? I think I need to make a base talent tree, not unlike the one I already have, but which contains more generic non-original talents usable with Brawl. Let’s call this the Martial Art Initiate Specialisation.

Martial Arts Initiate Specialisation; skills

A martial artist knows how to fight, be ready for the unexpected, stay cool under pressure and take a beating. So giving the Initiate Brawl, Cool, Resilience and Vigilance as bonus career skills could work. It’s very combat oriented – but I think it shows how one school of thought can be applied to this initiate level trainee. One could also argue for Athletics, Coordination, Discipline and perhaps even Knowledge skills – and others. First off, I think Resilience is slightly misguided for an initiate level martial artist. This skill encompasses way too much, so we can throw that away. While Cool also can make sense, I think that its pointing in the wrong direction. Let’s remove that too. That leaves us with Brawl and Vigilance, and the other suggestions. From my own limited experience with Japanese and Chinese martial arts, I’d say Athletics is a good bet, or Coordination, I guess it depends on the style and nature of the art, but I’d go with Athletics – which is closer to endurance based activity like running, climbing, swimming, jumping etc. So for the fourth skill I’d like to add a Knowledge skill. I’m thinking of either Education, Lore or Xenology. Xenology is nice, but I feel it covers subjects that would not fit a martial arts initiate’s education. Education is very broad and perhaps not the best bet either – I think I’ll go with Lore, since that can cover the origin of the art, the myths and legends surrounding it and stuff like that. So in the end we have four bonus careers skills: Athletics, Brawl, Knowledge (Lore) and Vigilance.

With these skills serving as a basis we can move on to the more important stuff: talents.

Martial Arts Initiate Specialisation; talents

If we look through the beta-book there are a lot of talents that could be useful as they are, and some that could be useful if tweaked slightly: Anatomy lessons, Body Guard, Brace, Confidence, Convincing Demeanor, Crippling Blow, Deadly Accuracy, Defensive Stance, Disorient, Dodge, Durable, Feral Strength, Forager, Frenzied Attack, Grit, Hard Headed, Heightened Awareness, Heroic Fortitude, Intense Focus, Jump Up, Knowledge Specialisation, Lethal Blows, Master of Shadows, Mental Fortress, Natural Brawler, Nobody’s Fool, Precise Aim, Pressure Point, Quick Strike, Rapid Reaction, Rapid Recovery, Resilience (Now Enduring I believe), Resolve, Scathing Tirade, Second Wind, Side Step, Smooth Talker, Soft Spot, Stalker, Steely Nerves, Swift and Toughened. Now this list is way too long obviously, and some of those talents do the same, or have similar effects off different bases. Some are more fitting ninjas and assassins, than monkish type characters. Now. Here comes a design issue: what type of martial art initiate am I thinking of, what sort of martial arts stereotype do I want to make. Do I want the straight forward fighting type? No. I don’t. I want the wise, strong-willed and disciplined type. Bear in mind also that this is the initiate level – so no access to the deepest secrets or most powerful concepts yet. Still, it has to be useful and enjoyable to play – it needs to offer something for the players that would spend XP to pick this up, beyond the roleplaying and thematic aspect, but also a mechanical incentive.

I’ll start by adding Grit and Toughened – I’m not starting on the tree itself, only a list of 20 talents. Jump up and Swift are also very useful and thematically they fit. 16 left. Intense Focus seems like a good idea and reinforces the chi/ki/qi focus thing of the shaolin-stereotype monkish characters (at least some of them). So does Nobody’s Fool and Precise aim. I also add Dodge. That leaves 12 spaces for the rest. Brace is a nice fit, similar to Intense Focus. So is also Feral Strength, Frenzied Attack and Deadly Accuracy, not to mentioned Crippling Blow. I’ll add Crippling Blow, Frenzied Attack and Deadly Accuracy (although I’d like to modify this to apply automatically and only to Brawl – not now though, I’m trying to stay within the rules). I also think, despite already having Dodge, that this specialisation could benefit from having Defensive Stance. Additionally I’d like to add Disorient to increase the power of their punch in a non-damage way. Rapid Reaction and Quick Strike also could provide benefits. For the last four talents I think Natural Brawler, Resolve, Confidence and Lethal Blows. With the Natural Brawler they have a once per session chance to actually do some unarmed damage – which is low to begin with, even with two instances of Feral Strength the average human will have 4 base damage unarmed, not extremely high. Resolve lets the Initiate suffer less Strain from stun attacks and the like, something I think is fitting – I could have gone for the Enduring (Resilience) talent, but I feel that Resolve is more in line with what I’m going for. Confidence makes them more steady when confronted with dangerous situations, so I think that represents their strength of will and … confidence in their skills and capabilities (even when they should run). Lethal Blows was added to let them have a bonus if they actually managed to score a critical. Unarmed damage is low and has a high crit rating, thus you need lots of successes (to penetrate soak) and lots of advantages to score that crit.

So this leaves us with: Grit, Toughened, Jump up, Swift, Intense Focus, Nobody’s Fool, Precise Aim, Dodge, Brace, Crippling Blow, Frenzied Attack, Deadly Accuracy, Defensive Stance, Disorient, Rapid Reactions, Quick Strike, Natural Brawler, Resolve, Confidence and Lethal Blows. A long list, quite a few ranked talents – even if they only appear once.

Now, before I go ahead and put these into a tree, I’d like some comments. Are these the same talents you’d use? Which one would you change? What about those skills? I think, if you look at the dropbox specialist I link to above, you can see some similarities, except for the absence of new and original talents on this list. Also, if you have ideas of how to distribute these in the talent tree, please add that in a comment, with or without your suggested changes to the talent list itself.

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