Sunday, September 14, 2008

Kung-Fu: Uh... Kung-Fu, Actually

For whatever reason, I'm determined to go stuntless with this thing. I like stunts myself, on the whole, but I've heard "I like everything but the stunts" as a critique of SotC more than once. And maybe it's the repeated combing through the stunt list I did/do for "SotS," too -- I'm not really eager to go through that kind of work again. Above all, though, I want to keep a fast-and-loose feel for "Spirit of the Fist," so that players are encouraged to try whatever crazy nonsense they can think of without worrying about whether or not they have the stunt to do it. After all, even having one stunt that says "You can use skill X in place of skill Y in circumstance Z" implies that, without a stunt, you couldn't do that sort of thing, no matter what.

However, I still want characters to have some simple mechanical edges that set them apart from everyone else, which is why I'm using the Kung-Fu aspect as both an aspect and a sort of stunt. Originally, I was just going to make it just like Personal Gadget, with all "improvements" determined during character creation, but now I'm off on this idea of making each of the three improvements a little more distinctive.

Keep in mind that "kung-fu," or "gongfu," roughly translates as training or hard work. It's the thing you do best -- the thing to which you've dedicated a great deal of time and effort.

I've divided Kung-Fu improvements into three types: Always, With Element, and Fate Point.
  • Always: This improvement is always in effect, with no effort on the character's part. It should be a minor advantage that focuses one of the character's skills or reflects the basic nature of the Kung-Fu. Examples include +1 with Weapons when using a sword, +1 with Art when cooking with Jiansu cuisine, or +1 with Academics when dealing with history.
  • With Element: This improvement takes effect when the character's declared Element (still working on a better name for that) matches the Element of his Kung-Fu. It should be a step up from the Always improvement and something that encourages the character to favor his Kung-Fu's element. Skill substitution might be a good one for this, or a +2 in a specific circumstance, or a special effect of some kind. For instance, if your Thousand Blades Style Kung-Fu is associated with Metal and your declared Element is Metal, you might get an additional +2 when taking the Full Defense action. Other good ones might be using Art (via cooking) instead of Medicine to heal a condition (a la Chinese food therapy), or being able to strike incorporeal ghosts with a mundane weapon.
  • Fate Point: This improvement must be activated by spending a Fate Point. These would be on the level of some of the more powerful stunts, or at least go beyond bonuses, skill substitutions, minor special effects, and invoking for effect. Examples might include spending a Fate Point to not be ambushed or surprised in a scene, to fall a great distance without taking damage, to be able to choose the aspect revealed to someone who successfully reads you with Empathy, or to cause a psychological consequence instead of a physical consequence with Weapons or Fists. It also seems reasonable to include in this category skill substitutions that result in damage or are a little less intuitive -- ones that might raise an eyebrow or two. I'm thinking of things like using Spirit to inflict a consequence, or healing a wound with Fists, or defending against a physical attack with Spirit.

Remember, these Kung-Fu improvements are all determined at character generation. But it's not as restrictive as it might seem, since the stuntless rules allow for a lot of flexibility via invoking for effect. Of course, all improvements must be directly related to the Kung-Fu in question. And hopefully they'd be colorfully named, too.


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