Choosing a Style

Every would-be student asks, "Which style should I study?" The answer depends in part on that to a more fundamental question: "What do I want to do?" Possibilities include getting in shape, competing, fending off muggers, fighting crime, and killing enemy soldiers. It's tempting to select a style whose history and reputation seem compatible with your objectives, but it's crucial to realize that the goals of the school you choose, and of its teachers, are far more important than the style itself. The police academy and YWCA anti-rape program might both teach "karate" - and even share instructors - but you can be sure that the two courses are very different!

The short answer, then, is that nearly any style will do -if your instructor puts the right "spin" on it. Pick a style that's common in your game world . . . or one you've heard of in real life . . . or simply one that sounds interesting. It really doesn't matter, as long as your choice isn't too outlandish (e.g., Yabusame - horse archery - isn't practical for self-defense!). Then modify the style's training with the "lens" below that best matches your goals. All of these style variations, being practical, automatically exclude cinematic skills and techniques.

Military: Start with any non-military style and spend an extra point on each of Knife and Spear. If the style includes Combat Art/Sport, Games, or Savoir-Faire (Dojo), make these skills optional - although services that encourage competition might teach Combat Sport or Games. Add Retain Weapon for Knife, Pistol, and Rifle to the style's techniques. Remove any "fancy" technique that would be difficult to teach usefully in a few weeks of training; this includes any Average technique with a default penalty of -5 or worse and any Hard technique with a default of -4 or worse. The result is a no-nonsense variation on the local fighting style. In affluent nations, recruits might learn a dedicated military style instead; see Styles for Soldiers (p. 145).

Police: Start with any style and spend two extra points: one on Judo or Wrestling, one on Shortsword or Tonfa. Combat Art/Sport, Games, and Savoir-Faire (Dojo) become optional skills - officers may learn them on their own time. Some instructors integrate Guns (Pistol), Guns (Shotgun), and Liquid Projector (Sprayer) into the training. Add Handcuffing and Retain Weapon (with any weapon your department issues) to the style's techniques. Omit Average techniques with a default penalty of -5 or worse and Hard

Ultimate Styles

In some game worlds, Style vs. Style (p. 143) is hokum. There is an "ultimate" style (or styles - some settings have several), and it's the wellspring of all other martial arts. Other styles are merely aspects of the True Way. The ultimate style is the True Way.

Trained by a Master is always a prerequisite for learning an ultimate style. By definition, anyone who knows the ultimate source of the martial arts is a master! Weapon Master is suitable for an armed ultimate style -although most ultimate styles profess that "a true master needs no weapons" and provide the ability to back up the claim. Those trained in an ultimate style are familiar with every style derived from it and must purchase a 20-point Unusual Background that counts as Style Familiarity with all styles.

An ultimate style contains all techniques and all of the skills from which they default, as well as all cinematic skills. It may also contain a few "invincible" or "unstoppable" moves with ludicrously steep default penalties; design these using Creating New Techniques (p. 89-95). It sometimes contains Combat Art and Sport versions of its combat skills, but a master can usually get by on defaults from his extraordinarily high combat skills. The GM might even consider using Wildcard Skills for Styles (p. 60).

Fictional ultimate styles include Sumito (from Steven Perry's "Matador Series") and Sinanju (from Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir's Destroyer books). Some people claim that certain real-world styles are ultimate styles. T'ai Chi Chuan (pp. 200-201), Shaolin Kung Fu (p. 194),

Ninjutsu (see Ninja and Ninjutsu, p. 202), and Te (pp. 169170) would all work as the basis for an ultimate style. So would Pankration (pp. 188-189), which some speculate came to India with Alexander the Great and went on to China. In all cases, use the details below and ignore the entry for the style's realistic version (which might still exist for use by lesser martial artists).

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