Fitting Martial Arts Into Your Campaign

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This section is meant to offer suggestions on how to incorporate martial arts into the campaign. Because the average martial arts specialist character can spend up to half his development points per level in refining his martial arts skills, it is important ensure the player will have ample opportunity for character development and role playing. Each player should have a share of the story and plot of the campaign. For a more in-depth discussion of campaign management and character development, the interested reader should refer to Gamemaster Law.

All too often, the martial artist is relegated to the position of an outsider within the campaign structure since he usually comes from an exotic or distant culture. By definition an outsider is disconnected from the normal flow of events. This can make playing martial artists difficult when the campaign setting has a strong influence on the involvement of the players. These circumstances make it easy to fall into the role of observing the campaign rather than participating directly in it. The player of the martial artist should not need to totally rely on his character's combat skills as the only way to interact in the campaign. Some of the ideas and suggestions presented in this section offer ways for the Gamemaster to incorporate martial arts into his campaign without relegating the martial artist to the unenviable position of the outsider.

Sometimes Gamemasters ban martial arts from their campaigns because they simply do not have a good idea on how to integrate martial arts into their current campaign. Section 3.4, which details how to create new martial arts cultures, should give the overworked Gamemaster some ideas for creating new societies that support martial arts. Section 11.5 on player concepts should also give the Gamemaster some story ideas and plot hooks that can be used to allow the martial arts character to be integrated with the current gaming group. There are some more general topics that concern the overall campaign theme and campaign metabolism that need to be addressed as well. This section will attempt to answer some of the complexities that arise when including martial arts into a current campaign setting.

♦ 3.1 ♦ integrating into current campaigns

Depending on the general campaign theme, the Game-master can incorporate martial arts in a variety of ways into the campaign. It can be very beneficial to have the martial artist integrated into the campaign in some other manner than fighting or hired muscle. Here are some common general campaign themes and ideas on how to incorporate martial arts into them.

Free-Form Adventure Campaigns

Free-form adventure campaigns are the most common type of campaign. In this type of campaign, player actions determine more of the plot than Gamemaster scheming. The Gamemaster tailors his campaign style to play to his player's desires and goals. In this type of campaign, martial arts can become an easy fit. The martial artist simply brings another set of skills to the player group that can help them accomplish their goals. Other than creating the cultural background for the martial artist (if none existed in the campaign before this), the Gamemaster does not have to do very much more than manage the group as before.

Mystery Campaigns

Mystery campaigns are a little more rare than other types of campaigns as they require a significant amount of advance preparation by the Gamemaster to ensure that the campaign flows smoothly. In most cases, mystery campaigns revolve around many non-combat skills. This can put the dedicated martial artist at a disadvantage since he must spend more development points than most other types of characters to have effective combat skills. In the case of mystery campaigns, it is might be best to have the martial artist's homeland located fairly nearby. The reasoning behind this is that, in order for the martial artist to have equal story leverage with the other characters in the party, it will probably be necessary to have the martial artist's order or organization involved in the mystery to some degree. Another possible avenue is to have the martial artist have personal contacts with important figures in the involved mystery. Perhaps the martial artist once served as their bodyguard or taught them martial arts at some point in the campaign. In this way, the martial artist can use his contacts or his organization to help the party solve the mystery. In the case of the mystery campaign where the martial artist's order or organization plays a role, it is very important that the Gamemaster put a fair amount of time into creating the organization, culture, or order from which the martial artist learned his skills. It is not always necessary for the order or organization to be directly involved with the campaign-spanning mystery; they may only have a piece of the puzzle. For example, the martial artist's order or organization could simply point towards the involvement of another martial order or organization that is truly involved.

Political Campaigns

Political campaigns are probably the rarest type of campaign as they take the most effort in terms of world creation and plotting on the part of the Gamemaster. Like mystery campaigns, political campaigns revolve around non-combat skills. Intrigue skills and role playing become important for every character whose player wishes to have the character fully involved in this aspect of the campaign. Many of the suggestions outlined for mystery campaigns iliiiiiliiilililiiililiiiiiiililiiiliiiliiiiiiiiiliiiliiiiilililiiiliiiliiii can be followed for political campaigns. In some ways, a martial artist is out-of-place in political campaigns, since many political campaigns de-emphasize combat. Since a martial artist must spend a significant portion of his development points to keep his combat skills effective, it may be more appropriate to play another profession like a Rogue or Thief. However, with a little extra effort by the Game-master, this does not have to be the case. Again we turn to the order or organization that trained the martial artist, perhaps the martial artist can gain real power by challenging his superiors to ritual combat to take their position in the organization. By linking the martial artist with the political power of his organization, he can compete on an equal basis with the other players. Or perhaps the martial artist can serve as the bodyguard to a powerful NPC that can afford him access to the NPC's resources and backing. Perhaps the current campaign setting allows dueling and challenges and the martial artist is a feared duelist who is employed by other powerful organizations to further their own interests? The possibilities are endless if the Game-master and player should sit down before the start of the campaign and discuss how this character can fit into the overall campaign theme.

Quest Campaigns

Quest campaigns are probably the most common campaign type encountered next to the Free-Form campaign. Quest campaigns have the benefit of focused structure and common goals. The martial artist's combat skills can be useful as the party attempts to overcome obstacles that hinder their success. It is also important to have the martial artist's culture or organization involved in the overall quest plot line. The martial artist's contacts and knowledge of his organization and culture should prove important to the eventual success of the party's quest. Some of the ideas listed in the mystery and political campaign types may prove useful in quest campaigns as well.

These suggestions are of course not only for martial artists. Other professions and character types should also be integrated into the campaign structure similarly.

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