Friday, July 18, 2014


Tonight we have another session of Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate and I have been thinking a lot about Kung Fu Techniques. In Ogre Gate, Kung Fu Techniques operate mechanically much like spells in Sertorius, except they are divided into four types of Kung Fu: Lightness (Qinggong), Internal (Neigong), External (Waijia) and Pressure-point (Dianxue).   Characters have ratings of 0-3 in each of these categories and that determines how well they can execute such techniques. I will do a separate blog entry on this system and on individual Kung Fu Techniques we created. For now, I just want to focus on how new Techniques are gained. 

Characters gain new Kung Fu Techniques through Experience Points and by finding a source to instruct them. Here is what the rules presently state on the subject: 

Gaining New Kung Fu TechniquesTechniques are gained by spending experience points AND through teachers, manuals or great individual training effort. Both requirements must be met for characters to learn new techniques. Teachers and manuals can instruct you in a given technique over the course of hours to weeks, while individual effort through training, meditation insight and other actions takes  months. In some cases, such as secret techniques, the presence of a teacher or manual is required. With GM approval characters can learn secret techniques on their own but only with years of effort.

Time to Learn Technique                    Method
Hours to Days                                    Teacher
Days to Weeks                                   Manual
Months                                               Individual Effort*

*This requires GM approval and should be rare.
Players must take an active role in obtaining new techniques. It is not enough to simply look through the rule book and spend XP. To gain new techniques start by finding teachers to instruct you or looking for manuals. As you meet people with greater martial skill than yourself, they may be willing to train you.

While the time increments are clearly not meant to reflect real world learning times, they are intended to reflect the accelerated learning rates seen in shows like Condor Heroes. The Gamemaster should determine the exact length based on the rarity, complexity and difficulty of the technique. The source of instruction may also be a factor. A Sifu who is particularly adept at teaching students, could help someone master a technique in less time than a Sifu who is difficult to work with.
In Wuxia television series, movies and books, obtaining new techniques serves an important function. Often times characters will face opponents too skilled for them to defeat. The enemy may have a particularly lethal attack that is hard to defend against, for example. Finding the right technique to overcome this enables heroes to defeat their foes in the end. 

But it also serves another purpose. Characters in Wuxia are always changing and evolving. That ultra powerful master who crippled the main character's uncle at the beginning of the story, may be quite weak in relation to all the other characters in the end. By the same token, a character with below average skills who is mocked by his fellow disciples, may discover the secret manual of the Storming Phoenix and learn its techniques to become one of the great masters. The point is characters are constantly in flux, so we wanted to bring that to the game both in terms of NPCs and PCs. 

I will give an example of how this might work based on our own campaign. Last session the characters were attacked by the Bronze Monks of Bao. They faced only one monk and he proved nearly impossible to defeat. They also learned that one of their enemies commands the monks and will likely keep sending them. This has the party on the run. Now there is tremendous pressure for them to seek out a master or manual with the right technique to make the monks less of a threat. There are a number of possibilities here, but the most favorable technique in the setting for their situation is The Third Fist of Yanshi, which enables practitioners to pulverize stone, metal and other solids with their fists. This is an Internal (Neigong) technique, and is only possessed by Master Yanshi (a man who does not teach his Kung Fu to just anyone). If the players really want this technique, they will need to seek out Master Yanshi and ask to learn his Third Fist Technique. Every master is different. Some are willing to share their knowledge, others require something of new students before training them, while some simply refuse (or have outrageous demands). 

As you can probably see, this makes the acquisition of new Techniques quite important to the focus of play. I liken it to gaining treasure in games oriented toward dungeon crawls or exploration. It becomes a driving force of adventure on its own. 

So far this has worked, but I after last session, when a character learned Tree Bounding Stride, I felt acquiring new techniques might need an additional mechanic to help determine success. This is just a thought at the moment, but presently I am leaning toward requiring a Skill roll for each increment of time it takes to know the technique (so learning from a teacher you might roll every hour or every day). When you get a Total Success (a result of 10) you know the technique. Here is what I have so far in rough (very rough) form: 

Mastering a new technique: For ease of play the GM may simply decide that at the end of a given period of training the new Technique has been mastered. However we recommend you require a single skill roll per increment of time it takes to learn (so one roll every hour, day, week, etc). This should be the skill used to perform the technique. The new Technique is learned when you get a Total Success on the Skill Roll.
This looks good on paper to me, but I need to actually see it in live play to know if it is workable. Should it prove successful in the next couple of sessions, we will discuss its merits and drawbacks (always with an aim for simplicity) and see what improvements should be made. 

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