Faster Combat

You can run extremely detailed fights using Martial Arts and the Basic Set, but most gamers find quicker combats more fun! Below are tips on how to speed up battle. They're advice, not rules

- the GM should use only the suggestions that suit his gaming group.

• Limit options. Let the players choose only those options that suit the kind of game you're running: realistic or cinematic, emphasizing unarmed martial arts or weapon styles, etc. Politely but firmly forbid the rest.

• Encourage options that lower defenses. Deceptive Attacks, feints, Ripostes, and Stop Hits add complexity . . . but reduced defenses increase the odds that a blow will land and end the fight. This keeps battles from taking forever because nobody ever fails a defense roll.

• Make a "cheat sheet." List modifiers and page numbers for all the optional rules you intend to use. An index card is ideal for this

- and doubles as a handy bookmark for a page of frequently used rules.

• Work out everything in advance. Somewhere on the character sheet of each PC or important NPC, note such things as allowed movement, modified skill, and damage with attacks; jumping distance; slam damage at full Move; and crippling thresholds (damage over HP/2 and HP/3).

• Require speedy decisions. Tell each player to have his actions ready when his turn comes. If he doesn't, he must take some "default" action agreed upon in advance: All-Out Defense, Do Nothing, repeat his previous action, etc. "My PC is a kung fu master! He'd know what to do!" doesn't hold water. A second is still a second, even for a kung fu master. There's plenty of time to weigh options while others are taking their turns.

• Encourage "trademark moves." Have each player work out a few "standard operating procedures" in the form of an entire turn's worth of actions calculated in advance; e.g., "Committed Attack (Strong) and Rapid Strike: thrust to the vitals at skill 13, then a Deceptive swing to the torso for -2 defenses at skill 12." These are good "default" actions for the player who can't make up his mind!

• Hold players responsible for remembering options. If you let the players use a specialized rule, make it their job to remember its details and location. If they can't remember the rule, their characters decide not to use the tactic.

• Have major wounds end fights. An NPC should flee or surrender if he takes a major wound (or crippling wound), unless he has a serious mental problem like Berserk. Don't keep going until everyone on one side is unconscious or dead. It takes forever and isn't especially realistic or cinematic.

Some optional rules offer additional detail that doesn't suit a fast-and-loose cinematic game, the worst offenders being Postures, Hit Locations, and Techniques (pp. 89-99), Fast-Draw from Odd Positions (pp. 103-104), A Matter of Inches (p. 110), Close Combat and Body Morphology (pp. 114-117), More Actions After a Grapple (pp. 117-119), and Fencing Parries (p. 122). Harsh Realism for Unarmed Fighters (p. 124) and Limiting Dodges (pp. 122-123) are meant for realistic characters, and would ruin the fun of cinematic warriors. Finally, Untrained Fighters (p. 113) doesn't suit PCs (even untrained ones) in a cinematic campaign - although it's a good option for "cannon fodder" NPCs!

Below are additional rules that can help build a cinematic feel. Except for Multiple Attacks, which appears here because it refers to several superhuman advantages, most of these are strictly cinematic. Use them in a realistic campaign at your peril!

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