Beginning Students as PCs

The guidelines in this chapter assume that the PCs are experienced fighters, but it can be fun to play martial artists who are just starting out. If all the PCs are students, the GM may require everyone to start with the Student template (pp. 38-40) - or his own variation on it - and study the same style under a common master. Whatever ground rules the GM sets, the heroes should be low-powered. As the template suggests, 75 points is typical. Anything over 100 points is cinematic ... for a student.

The fun of student PCs is that the players get to see them grow during play, painstakingly advancing in ability as they adventure. From a game-mechanical standpoint, the gradual introduction of new abilities and the associated optional combat rules enables players who are unfamiliar with Martial Arts to learn the rules in play. How quickly the students develop their skills is up to the GM.

If the GM religiously enforces Improvement Through Study (p. B292) and requires that even earned points be spent at the rates given there, it will take the students many game sessions to master their style. Since campaigns often don't last that long and because many players only enjoy the "absolute beginners" theme in small doses, the GM should consider using Intensive Training (p. B293) to keep things interesting. This isn't the only option, though - even if it's the most realistic one. The GM may let the heroes learn as described in The Training Sequence (p. 147), which abstracts long, possibly realistic training times as a die roll and a few minutes of play. In a cinematic game, the GM might even let the players spend earned points to increase their skills without pausing to train at all!

Alternatively, the students might be otherwise competent at their careers but beginners at the martial arts. The only limit on such PCs is that they can't have more points in their martial-arts abilities than indicated on the Student template. The heroes might even know nothing about the martial arts, in which case they must learn them in play - see Learning New Styles During Play (pp. 146-147). This is another good place for a training sequence; e.g., for spies learning to be ninja in a week . . .

To get a feel closer to a swashbuckling or sword-and-sorcery tale, allow superhuman attribute, secondary characteristic, and skill levels - and perhaps one or two levels of an exotic advantage like Damage Resistance or Striking Strength - but not cinematic skills. The heroes' feats are larger-than-life because the PCs are extraordinary raw material. There's nothing mystical afoot. The strong man has ST 25, not Power Blow. The rapier fighter can strike twice per second because his skill is high enough to absorb the -6 for Rapid Strike, not because Trained by a Master lets him halve the penalty. And so on.

Allowing all of the above - and most of the cinematic advantages under Advantages (pp. 42-53) besides - brings the campaign closer to a wuxia or chambara movie. Still, the heroes are limited to abilities from traditional martial-arts myth. They fly by projecting chi using Flying Leap. Their fists have DR because they punched iron for 10 years. They don't possess superpowers. They're legendary martial artists . . . but they're still martial artists.

Throwing in exotic and supernatural advantages in general turns the campaign into a video game or superhero comic book that's only loosely martial arts-based. The heroes do possess super-powers - they fly, shoot fire

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