The Ultimate Martial Artist is a complete guide to creating and using martial artists in any genre of roleplaying campaign, using the HERO System rules. You'll find over 100 different martial arts styles and variations, new rules for martial arts combat, rules for creating martial arts styles, over 100 martial arts weapons and much more.
Players should use this book as a reference for creating martial arts characters. Reading through the entire book is recommended, because you'll find lots of great ideas for characters in here. Any "real-world" style of martial arts you have heard of is probably listed in this book somewhere.
Gamemasters should also read all the way through this book, particularly to look at all of the new combat rules. It's important for the GM to decide which rules options will be used in his campaign, and (even more important) to tell the players about those choices. The section on Designing Martial Arts is highly recommended for creating new martial arts designed to fit your campaign.
The astute reader will quickly note that much of the most important material from Ninja Hero has been reprinted in this book. In some cases that material has been altered or supplemented, but in many cases it has not been. Thus, GMs and players need to decide for themselves what they wish to use from this book and what they would rather ignore. You may prefer the Ninja Hero way of doing something that is done differently in UMA; if so, go right ahead using whatever you like best—or even make up your own rules.
As you read this book, remember that some of the rules alterations, suggestions for "GMs' options," and similar material is made with superheroic characters in mind. Such material may not be appropriate for other types of campaigns; GMs are urged to examine the rules in this book carefully before allowing them to be used in their campaigns.
When this project was first announced, it was greeted in some circles with cries of trepidation and even outrage. Ninja Hero is widely acknowledged as one of the best, if not the best, supplement that Hero Games has ever published, and rightly so. Many HERO System gamers were disturbed by the thought of it being redone or altered in any way.
I, frankly, was one of those people. I was both flattered and honored when Hero Games offered this project to me, but the enormity of the undertaking was a little daunting. At times during the writing of the book, I felt a little like St. Jerome, as I tried to ensure that everything that I wanted to preserve came into this book intact and that every change that needed to be made or new rule that I needed to create was still within the spirit not only of the HERO System but of Ninja Hero as well.
As you will soon see, most of the changes I worked upon the material taken from Ninja Hero are rather slight. Many of the martial arts styles have been altered or added to; some new martial arts design elements have been created; and a few maneuvers, such as Grab and Throw, have undergone major changes, but that's about it. I hope that the doomsayers will now be saying that their worst fears have not come to pass; if yours have, just keep on doing things the way you have been and ignore what I've written here.
Many of the changes herein are the result of the book's focus on creating martial arts-using characters for any genre. Based on my experience and the stories I've heard from gamers all over the country, Ninja Hero is primarily used as a supplement for Champions and other HERO System genres, not as a stand-alone campaign book. This is not to say that there aren't gamers out there running martial arts campaigns—there are plenty of them, and it's a good thing—but with many people interested in martial arts for superheroes and other genres, it was important to provide source material and ideas for them to use, even if it meant making a few changes to what is otherwise "sacred text."
The Ultimate Martial Artist is by no means a repudiation or rejection of Ninja Hero—far from it. Instead, I think you will agree with me that it is in fact a tribute to a great roleplaying supplement that has provided so many of us with so many hours of gaming fun. After all, how many other Hero Games books have inspired this sort of extension and revision?
On that note, let me echo something that I said earlier—I owe Aaron Allston a great deal of thanks for his assistance with this project, which mainly consisted of stepping aside and letting me do the work as I preferred. I doubt I could have been as sanguine had our positions been reversed. His gracious assistance, clever ideas freely expressed and willingness to answer my seemingly endless stream of questions is deeply appreciated. Thanks, Aaron! I hope I wasn't too much of a "Consarned Whippersnapper."
I also owe a debt of thanks to the many "consultants" who helped me with this project; their names are listed in the "Additional Contributions" section on the dedication page. Their input on how different martial arts styles and maneuvers work and on what rules needed to be changed or added to the game system was invaluable. All mistakes are, however, entirely my own.
Chapter One: Martial Arts Styles And Maneuvers
This chapter presents a wealth of information on different martial arts styles and maneuvers. The first part covers the way the HERO System translates martial arts into game mechanics. The second part describes approximately fifty real-world styles (and many variants of those styles) from all over the globe. The third section includes approximately twenty fictional styles, of the sort often seen in comic books and martial arts movies. The fourth section discusses how martial arts are applied in various genres. The last section provides revised rules for designing new martial arts styles, including rules for applying Power Advantages to martial arts maneuvers.
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