As much of a tactical game as The Fantasy Trip is, it is kinda generic when it comes to actual fighting. By that I mean it is pretty basic–warriors use the standard weapons against each other, they hit each other in hand-to-hand combat, and they have simple skills that allow them to do that. But it would be nice to add some kind of color to combat, something that adds some flair–something that can give players options. That’s where fighting styles comes in…
Why Have Fighting Styles?
First off, I do not want to propose hyper-realistic rules for Every Kind of Combat Fighting Known to Man. GUPRS already went that route, and while they have great source books for ideas and reference info, that is WAY overkill. (Still, I got this idea from GURPS Martial Arts, by the way).
No, what I want to do is lay out some simple guidelines for adding some color into TFT combat through the use of fighting styles. I want to keep things rules-light, so GMs and players can spend more time roleplaying and having fun than worrying about a thousand rules. There should be some reason, some encouragement, for players to use them–but also some boundaries that provide story hooks for future adventures.
Keep in mind, these are not intended for the general fighting man (or elf, or orc, or whatever). These are for specialized groups of fighters who train hard enough to earn the bonuses (and drawbacks) of their styles. Your average warrior would match the standard canon rules for TFT.
I also don’t want to force everyone to describe in excruciating detail how any style works. If anyone wants to do that, great! But that is not the point of what I want to lay out here–add color and roleplaying hooks, while keeping it simple. But what does that mean?
What Are Styles in Game Terms?
One things GURPS did right, I think, is to have these styles as a points cost. Buying a style is like buying a special background. You pay for it, but it gives you benefits or drawbacks–which affect how much it costs. These are not character classes, though… more like talents on steroids.
(I hate the idea of character classes, by the way–I hated them all the way back to learning to play AD&D back in the early 80s. The class concept seems to me to be far too limiting, too rigid, too… artificial).
My proposed guideline for a fighting style is to have them cost attribute points–0, 1 or 2 attribute points. That may seem steep for a 32 point character, but that is comparable to the cost of a 1 or 2 point talent. When buying a fighting style, one bought at character creation would lead to an interesting background; one bought after creation would be an adventure in itself!
Either way, the cost of a style would depend on the advantages or disadvantages the style would provide. Advantages could take the form of additional damage with a particular weapon, DX bonus when attacking, bonus when defending, etc. Disadvantages could include penalties with other weapons or even roleplaying forms such as oaths. It all depends on how much influence the style has on the game.
For example, a fighting style might focus on fancy sword work, give +2 damage with long or two handed swords, and +1 with knives. That might be a 1 pt style. Another that has a background that emphasizes axes may give +1d on damage rolls, plus a +2 DX on attack rolls, would be a 2 pt style–more benefits, more cost.
But yet another style that focuses on hand to hand fighting may give +2 damage in HTH, but -2 DX on all other weapons… That may be a 0 pt style because the benefits are offset by a significant drawback. Note: The risk with HTH styles is to not overshadow the normal Unarmed Combat talents–use those in conjunction with a style, not in place of them.
I would suggest not allowing styles that cost over 2 pt–that would keep the game balanced and stick to the original task: Have fighting styles that add color, and not be be rules heavy.
Also, either PCs or NPCs could have a given fighting style–a PC would have to learn that style somewhere, with others teaching her. The important thing is to create the story that goes with the style, to give the players the feeling that they are either encountering or part of something special or uncommon.
And that brings up the final part: roleplaying. Any fighting style that is defined needs to have a way to weave it into the campaign and the story of the character. This is where the real color comes in. For example, all of the fancy kicks and moves in Kung Fu movies are cool and all, but it’s the back stories about the Shou Lin temples, the ancient masters, the training–THAT is where the color is! Try to do the same for your styles.
Some Fighting Styles
So, how does this look all put together? Here are a couple fighting styles I am using in my campaign world:
Knights of Ossian
Description: The Knights of Ossian are the hand-picked bodyguard of King Urien, the head of Clan Ossian. The Knights have been a critical force in the ongoing war between the kingdom of Craigard and the evil forces of the winter giants and dark elves in the Northern Morrigan Mountains. They have a reputation as fierce fighters, and train relentlessly with their bastard and two-handed swords for war. They are known across the Isle for their swordplay, wading into their enemies and protecting the King with their lives. The Knights also are known for their ability to fight anywhere, taking the war to their enemies even in the very mountains they control. The Knights were formed over 200 years ago when the king of Craigard was slain in battle with dark elves and orcs who had attacked his caravan. As Clan Ossian gained control of the power in the kingdom, the Knights were formed to ensure the same thing did not happen to their clan chief. As such, the Knights do not marry, dedicating their lives to their order.
Location: The city of Windhall, in the kingdom of Craigard.
Size: 89 knights, plus servants and support.
Advantages: +2 damage with bastard or two-handed swords, +1 with short swords, -2 to hit when defending with swords.
Disadvantages: Vow to give their lives to protect their king and clan chief, Vow to not marry.
Required Talents: Obviously Sword, but also Climbing.
Allies: The Black Raven (a school of wizards); obviously the King and Clan.
Rivals: The Brotherhood of the Claw (a band of elite warriors who serve the rival Clan Leargyf).
Enemies: The winter giants and dark elves hate the Knights of Ossian with a passion, and will kill them without mercy.
Cost: Due to the damage bonuses, plus the defense bonuses: 2 attribute points.
The Order of the Fallen Ash
Description: The Order of the Fallen Ash is a group of warriors who protect the priests of the Bear, in Ealdmearc. The Order focuses on close fighting–unarmed combat and with knives. They are known in the southern lands as masters of the knife, including throwing them. The Order follows a mystical philosophy of belief in the Bear (an elemental god of earth), and take their vows to protect the Bear priests and priestesses with their lives. The existence of the Order goes back to the coming of the Younger Races to the Isle, and the fall of the great kingdom of Caerbourne. As the humans native to the Isle were pushed back to what is now Ealdmearc, the Order was formed to protect the holy ones of the Bear.
Location: Throughout Ealdmearc, but concentrated on the temples that are around the holdings and cities.
Size: 382 brothers and sisters.
Advantages: +1 damage with a knife (they already get +2 damage from UC II).
Disadvantages: -2 DX with other weapons, Vow of religious allegiance.
Required Talents: Unarmed Combat II, Knife, Thrown Weapons.
Allies: Priests and Priestesses of the Bear (the dominant religion in Ealdmearc); The Black Raven; the Order of the Stag (another school of wizards).
Rivals: None–they are firmly established as a part of the Ealdmearc religious structure.
Enemies: Priests and priestesses of the All-Mother (a religion in the neighboring kingdom that worships an elemental aspect of water).
Cost: 1 attribute point–much of the cost would already be included in UC II, and they have an off-setting penalty with other weapons.
One important thing to do is include some kind of story with each style… Something to explain what it is, why it has a reputation and something to provide story hooks for future adventures.
In the end, though, these rules are optional, and ultimately up to the judgement of the GM. I have tried to show that a number of factors can go into determining the cost of a given style. I want to keep things simple, within reason–and within game balance.
What do you think? Do you do anything similar in your campaign worlds? Let me know!