Saturday, October 4, 2014

Martial Arts in Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate

I've touched on this before but would like to write about it in more depth because it has come up in discussions with play testers. In Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate, the martial arts system is modeled on wuxia film and television series rather than real-world martial arts or fighting. That means we emulate the gravity defying (and sometimes logic defying) feats you see on screen. It also means we are not particularly worried about real  technique. This is a game where a character can lay on the ground and dodge sword blows by rolling, squirming and doing handstands. It is a game where characters can channel energy blasts and leap on a person's sword blade to deliver their own lethal attack. 

I participated in martial arts regularly for many years and it was a passion of mine that only ended because I developed complications from Crohn's Disease that required I stop intense physical activity. This was good for Ogre Gate. Prior to that, I had a lot of difficulty developing martial arts systems because I was so focused on what I learned from sparring and competition. Time away gave me the distance I needed to take a more laid back approach that emulated the highly stylized stuff you see on the screen. Also being unable to do the kinds of daily exercise and training I was accustomed rekindled my interest in wuxia in general, because wuxia is a genre where characters are physically unbound and transcend such limitations. It had a new appeal to me and I found the grittier martial arts movies (which I also enjoy) started to have less of an appeal. I've gone back and forth over the years and expect to in the future but presently wuxia gets more screen in my household. 

So now when I show people the Kung Fu Techniques in the book, I explain that these are not meant to reflect realistic combat. For Ogre Gate, I don't care about that. I care about being able to do the stuff Jet Li does in the Swordsman. There is an internal logic to it of course. These things are not created whole cloth. For example characters being able to leap up and walk on a sword blade to strike their foe happens because the setting has lightness Kung Fu where characters can shift their body weight and make themselves lighter (this is why characters in martial arts films glide over lakes or leap over twenty foot walls). By the same token, blasting your foes with red energy is there because the setting includes Chi and internal martial arts. 

Rather than describe this, I would rather show you what I mean through some clips. I chose these mainly because they were easy to find in a search. The first clip is from New Dragon Gate Inn (which I reviewed HERE). I personally rather like this scene so I'm glad it was easy to find when I searched it. This is gives you some idea of wuxia swordplay. 

The second clip is from a series I haven't seen. I've seen the 2003 version but this is the 2009 version of Heavenly Sword and Dragon Sabre. I liked the 2003 series, however (can't say if the 2009 series is good or not). This scene gives a pretty good sense of open handed technique in the genre and some of the stylistic elements surrounding that. 

The third clip is from a series I quite like, the 2006 Return of Condor Heroes. I was hoping to find another battle from the show but this one still illustrates my point. It is a good example of some of the more fantastical stuff you see in wuxia like spinning blades suspended in the air and using ribbons of cloth like spider webs.

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