Borderline Realism

This kind of game allows anything that doesn't actively challenge the players' willing suspension of disbelief - even if it isn't strictly realistic. What matters is the appearance of realism. Such a campaign follows the guidelines under Moderate Realism, except that it avoids all rules that add fine detail to combat and injury while permitting many options of debatable realism; e.g., Buying Success (p. B347), Extra Effort in Combat (p. B357), Dual-Weapon Attacks (p. B417), Acrobatic Movement (pp. 105-107), Acrobatic Attack (p. 107), Quick-Shooting Bows (pp. 119-120), and Tricky Shooting (p. 121).

Special-Case NPCs

Non-player characters should generally be subject to the same rules as PCs. Needlessly dangling options in front of the players that they can't exercise - but that the GM's alter egos can - erodes GM-player relations. There are situations where it's appropriate to make exceptions, however.

Cinematic NPCs in Realistic Games: A martial-arts master with cinematic abilities provides a handy way to segue from a realistic campaign to a hybrid or cinematic one. Often he's a teacher, helping the PCs develop cinematic abilities of their own. In a conspiracy or horror game - and even in some kinds of pulp and fantasy - a fighter with cinematic martial-arts abilities is a suitable opponent. In that case, it's crucial that the GM portray the villain's capabilities as mysterious and dangerous - like black magic - so that the players experience fear or moral superiority, not jealousy.

Realistic NPCs in Cinematic Games: In games where the PCs are bouncing off walls and swinging from chandeliers, it's traditional for "cannon fodder" NPCs to lack access to cinematic abilities and combat options that the PCs take for granted. If the campaign has horror overtones or focuses on epic moral conflict - both of which feature in many martial-arts movies -it's true-to-genre for certain foes to be dangerous because a number of realistic rules apply when fighting them. For instance, the faceless knights of the evil overlord might have no special skills and rely on armor for defense . . . but hitting them with bare fists hurts (Harsh Realism for Unarmed Fighters, p. 124) and they fight dirty, chopping off limbs and targeting vital areas (Realistic Injury, pp. 136-139).

Strengths: Gamers who like to play action heroes can pull it off by spending character points to buy successes or burning FP for extra effort. Players who prefer a trusty, no-frills sword or gun can have that, too - and the points they save by avoiding massive investments in flashy skills such as Acrobatics can buy combat skills that make them as effective as their showoff teammates. A fair compromise, but compare Rubber Realism (p. 240).

Weaknesses: Too cinematic for some diehard realists, who will see enough of the pro-realism bias in the combat system to want more. Those who like cinematic games may be frustrated at the "glass wall" between them and the really cool optional rules. Powerful borderline-realistic PCs can do through brute force much of what cinematic ones can do with special abilities, defeating the point of choosing a realistic campaign.

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