The PCs might be students. They might practice at a dojo, kwoon, salle, or boxing gym . . . or belong to a gladiator school . . . or train under a wizened old master in his remote hideout (or suburban home). Or perhaps they are the instructors. Whatever the situation, the campaign focuses primarily on the students' training and advancement.
This type of game works well in settings where inter- or intra-school competition can turn violent, or where martial-arts academies are centers of political intrigue. Even in a modern-day campaign, street fights between schools can occur. Realistic rivalries are mostly friendly; rivals might compete and then go out together after the tournament to celebrate. But cinematic (and many historical) settings feature more violent relationships.
The Shaolin Temple is the most famous martial-arts school of all time. Scores if not hundreds of movies have featured students training there. Historically, the Temple was a refuge for rebels and wanderers, and was ultimately destroyed by a besieging army. This catapulted its surviving students into a life on the run - a desperate situation, but an ideal premise for an adventure-filled campaign.
This theme often segues into others. If the school teaches fighters for competition, the campaign can cross over with The Contender (p. 250) theme. If events force the academy underground, the game will take on elements of Wanted! (see below).
The Karate Kid illustrates this theme well: a bullied teen in a new town pairs up with a wise old master. The Paladin, by C.J. Cherryh, is another example. It later adds elements of War is Hell (p. 248) and The Quest (p. 247), all in the same story!
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