Realism Level

The power levels discussed on p. B487 remain valid for both part-time and full-time martial artists. Some guidelines:

Feeble (under 25 points): No successful career martial artist will have so few points! Those in other professions will need their points for job skills - they won't have enough left over for martial-arts abilities. This level best suits the legions of hopeless goons that action heroes wade through in martial-arts movies.

Average (25-50 points): Too low for a dedicated martial artist other than a youth who's just starting out. "Ordinary folks" at this level can spare a point or two for martial-arts lessons, but dangerous occupations that include martial arts as on-the-job training remain out of reach.

Competent (50-75 points): This is probably the lowest level where a dedicated martial artist can work as an adventurer - and only if he takes a few disadvantages and focuses exclusively on the martial arts. Green military or police recruits will have enough points to cover their basic job skills and still learn the rudiments of a martial art.

Exceptional (75-100 points): At this level, it's possible to create a respectable career martial artist, although being a "star" requires extra points from disadvantages and leaves little room for other skills. A cop, soldier, etc., could be good at his job and have enough points left over to be competent at the martial arts, too.

Heroic (100-200 points): Most famous real-world martial artists are at this level. If they focus on the martial arts, they'll be very good - but many spread their points across abilities useful for acting, teaching, or writing. Individuals in other professions will have enough points to perform solidly at a job and a martial art. This level is ideal for realistic Martial Arts games. It lets the PCs be capable without being godlike or one-dimensional.

Larger-than-Life (200-300 points): As the Basic Set says, this level suits the leading roles in kung fu movies! Those with ordinary jobs can afford to be world-class in their field and heroic martial artists. Both character types are only borderline-realistic, but this is a good starting level for cinematic Martial Arts games and action-movie campaigns.

Legendary (300-500 points): Any character who starts out this powerful and has more than a few points in martial-arts skills will be an adept martial artist - even if ostensibly something else - unless intentionally designed to be physically incompetent. This level is suitable for style founders and the heroes of wuxia and chambara movies.

Superhuman/Godlike (500+ points): This is the realm of comics and video games, where "martial arts" is often code for "super-powers." Superhuman attributes and exotic advantages don't have to overshadow skills, though. By requiring the PCs to spend their many points on believable attribute levels and mundane traits, with the only exceptions being cinematic martial-arts skills and the special advantages in this chapter, the GM can run a campaign that's truly superheroic but nothing like "mutants in tights."

Few fields are as fertile ground for extravagant claims as the martial arts. Such claims, in turn, drive skeptics to doubt even believable, well-documented feats, further obscuring matters. Fortunately, the GM has the final say about what's "real" in his campaign - which is as important as the power level.

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