Designing Realistic Techniques

Every aspect of a realistic technique should make sense in real life. In particular, the tradeoffs should be logical. One could stack up any number of effects and work out the "fair" default . . . but that would be an abstract number shuffle and have little to do with reality. In general:

• Damage: For realistic punches, damage bonuses should come with drawbacks - most often high potential for self-inflicted injury. If a punch gets extra damage without such a limitation, base it on Committed Attack (Strong) or All-Out Attack (Strong).

Kicks can deliver extra damage with fewer drawbacks, or even with other bonuses. For instance, a high-powered kick that involves jumping at the foe might be parried at a penalty, as it's difficult to parry an entire person!

Weapon strikes that deliver extra damage involve exaggerated windups, awkward striking angles, or placing the weapon in contact with the target for a long time (e.g., a drawing or sawing cut). Any of these things should give the target a bonus to defend.

Extra-powerful kicks and weapon blows tend to open up the attacker's guard, giving him a penalty to his own defenses! Many are Committed or All-Out Attacks.

• Extra Movement: In realistic games, high-mobility attacks should be Committed or All-Out Attacks. Allowing fighters to buy off the -4 for Move and Attack is unrealistic - being able to run at top speed, attack at full skill, and still defend effectively is simply too much action for one second.

• Opponent's Defenses: Realistic bonuses to the target's defenses against an offensive technique shouldn't exceed +2. They make the most sense for haymaker punches, extra-damage weapon attacks, and other slow or clumsy strikes that are easy to see coming and avoid.

Penalties to an opponent's Parry - from offensive or defensive techniques - shouldn't be worse than -2. These mainly suit tricky "spinning" attacks, kicks that get their bonus damage from a jump (which can bash the defender's hand aside), and parries that involve moving inside the foe's guard . . . which tend to cause extra damage to the user if he fails! Few realistic techniques can justify a penalty to the defender's Block or Dodge. For that, use a feint or Deceptive Attack.

• Own Attack Roll: The bonus to hit with an attack that follows a defensive technique shouldn't exceed +2. Such techniques tend to be dangerous and should usually result in the defender taking extra damage if he fails.

• Own Defenses: A bonus to one's Block, Dodge, or Parry when using an offensive technique shouldn't exceed +2 for a realistic attack. This is typically a Parry bonus, and only benefits parries with the weapon used to attack. It represents a guarded blow calculated to "feel out" the foe in order to better respond to him - much like a Defensive Attack -and often comes with a reduction in damage. It wouldn't be unrealistic to tie +1 Parry to -1 damage and +2 Parry to -2 damage. Bonuses to other defenses when using a defensive technique should likewise not exceed +2.

Similarly, a penalty to all of one's own defenses when attacking likely represents an aggressive attack similar to Committed Attack. The GM might wish to make this penalty mandatory for techniques that get bonus damage. In any event, the defense penalty from a realistic offensive or defensive technique shouldn't be worse than -2.

• Special Benefits: Above all, these must make sense. For instance, a full-powered kick shouldn't be able to take "no DX roll to avoid falling on a miss" as a benefit. A kick that safe is likely low-powered, with a damage penalty . . . or has a balancing drawback, such as being a low kick that can only affect the feet and legs of a standing target. Removing the effective skill cap of 9 from a Wild Swing is realistic; many real-world martial arts teach precision strikes to the side and rear. Eliminating the same limit for a technique based on Move and Attack is highly unrealistic, however!

• Special Drawbacks: These, too, must be logical and fit in with the technique's other effects: a full turn of Ready to "wind up" before a high-damage attack, reduced reach for a cautious attack that gives the attacker a Parry bonus or a damage penalty, a Jumping roll to execute a dangerous kick (and a penalty to the DX roll if it misses), etc. The GM shouldn't permit "super-techniques" that give the attacker damage and defense bonuses, penalize the target's defenses, and offer many special benefits . . . and then "pay" for it all by piling on a dozen unrelated drawbacks.

Lastly, it's important to recognize that it isn't realistic to buy off every penalty. As noted above, no believable offensive technique should be able to eliminate the -4 for a Move and Attack - and of course any penalty that a cinematic technique can't handle (see below) is definitely beyond the reach of a realistic one!

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