Martial Arts in Traveller
By Jacob DC Ross
Whether an alien fighting master or a human mystic warrior, martial artists have long held a place in science fiction. This article introduces new options for players who want to train their characters in the way of unarmed combat. The hard-brawling thug and the wise pacifist will both find ways below to resolve a conflict with their bare hands.
To take a martial arts style, simply choose the appropriate style skill, as listed below, whenever a character has the opportunity to take Melee (any) or Melee (unarmed) by substituting Melee (style). With the referee’s permission, aliens with Natural Weapons may choose one style to be usable with the Melee (natural weapons) skill. A character may know multiple styles, but may not use more than one in a round.
Offensive styles are based primarily on attacks, although defense and strategy are also factors. Offensive styles include boxing, savate de rue and karate. A practitioner of offensive styles may use Strength or Dexterity as modifiers when rolling to hit or for damage.
Grappling styles are based on getting close to an opponent and immobilizing them. Such styles include sumo and Greco-Roman wrestling. Grapplers only use Strength for their style. Grapplers add their Strength DM to all damage done during a grapple, and gain a cumulative +2 DM to their Melee (grappling style) rolls made to control a grapple for every round they have controlled the grapple consecutively.
Soft styles focus on throws and other less-damaging strikes. Judo is a prime example of a soft style. Soft styles may only use Dexterity as their relevant characteristic. Soft practitioners double their Dexterity DM for the purpose of winning control of a grapple, but cannot chose the option of inflicting damage equal to 2+Effect, and damage from throws and unarmed strikes is halved. Changing stances from prone after being thrown or knocked prone by a soft practitioner is a significant action.
Defensive styles teach patience, waiting to strike until the perfect opportunity presents itself while blocking incoming attacks. Jeet kune do is an example of a defensive style. Defensive styles use either Strength or Dexterity when rolling to hit or for damage. A defensive martial artist may dodge or parry in combat once per round without taking the penalty to subsequent actions.
Acrobatic styles stress incredible maneuvers that allow the practitioner to place themselves in advantageous positions. Parkour and capoeira are acrobatic styles. Acrobatics use Strength or Dexterity. As a significant action, a practitioner may make a daring dash or leap, rolling Melee (acrobatic style) 8+ and adding the Effect to their Initiative on the next round, as well as half the Effect as a negative DM to hit them. In order to use this technique at greater than Personal range, a character must move on their minor action before attempting the leap or dash. Any character may use Athletics (acrobatics) or Art (dance) in this manner, but may never use those skills to strike in combat.
This rare art is taught to combatants who find themselves frequently opposed by cyborgs. Anti-cybernetic styles use either Strength or Dexterity. When an anti-cybernetic practitioner strikes a cyborg with a melee attack, the cyborg must throw Endurance with a negative DM equal to the Effect of the attack or have one of their augmentations temporarily go offline. Unless the cyborg has self-repairing augmentations, the damage lasts until minor repairs can be made.
Psionic fighters concentrate on anticipating their opponent’s actions and enhancing their own capabilities to attain victory. This style grants the psionic martial artist a new Talent that includes the Enhanced Awareness, Tactical Awareness, Psionically Enhanced Strength, and Body Armour powers.
Cestae: Battle gloves made from leather at TL 1 to high-density diamond thread weave at TL 10. Cestae add +2 damage to unarmed strikes and do not count as a carried weapon. They allow for parrying of most bladed weapons, with the TL 10 version capable of parrying a mono blade. Cost: Cr. 10 for TL 1 and Cr. 250 for TL 10.
What follows are a few ideas for a martial arts-themed tournament adventure, as well as some complications which can result. Players can participate in any of these tournaments and reap the rewards that come with victory or feel the crush of defeat.
The tournament is an assemblage of martial artists, each striving for the championship, in order to prove the worth of themselves and of their styles. Tournaments can take many forms:
1. A one-on-one single-elimination tournament between members of many species, akin to the Olympics of Earth. Combatant NPCs should be of all races imaginable, perhaps many not yet encountered by the players. Players fight in front of judges who assign points based on hits, with three consecutive hits, throws or successful grapple rounds counting as a point. First to three points wins, but must win by at least two points.
2. A one-on-one single-elimination match in a zero-g cage. Obstacles, both static and dynamic, are in place, imposing a difficult (-2 DM) penalty on all actions within the cage. Combat continues until one player is incapacitated or quits.
3. A tag-team or one-on-one single-elimination wrestling match held in a square ring. Teammates must tag one another via touch to switch out, and teammates cannot act together in the ring against a lone opponent, although the referee can be distracted against penalising cheaters. The match continues until one player is successfully held prone in a grapple for three consecutive rounds.
4. A rare psionic tournament, where psions are allowed to use their abilities. It can take the form of any of the other tournament formats.
5. A simultaneous team-on-team single-elimination tournament pitting equal teams against each other. The match continues until all contestants on one team submit or are incapacitated
6. A free-for-all among all competitors, with victory going to the last man standing.
Not every tournament is as it seems. The complications below can spice up a game or surprise players.
1. The tournament organizers approach the players, demanding they throw a specified match. Acceptance of their demands will gain Cr. 10,000. Defiance will earn Enemies among the local organized crime syndicates.
2. Government agents recruit the players to infiltrate the tournament, suspecting the organizer of being a multi-system crime lord. The players must gain access to his inner circle.
3. As above, but the organizer is a master psionic combatant who plans to take telepathic control of the victor’s body for his own use.
4. One of the combatants is a Rival or Enemy of a player, or is acting on that antagonist’s behalf. The fighter will show no mercy to the player, and will not stop fighting if he has won and the player submits. If he loses, the player had better watch their back…
5. A mysterious, masked competitor is actually a prominent noble. The players are charged with protecting him during the match, by taking out the most dangerous opponents first, depending on tournament format. The noble might be itching for a real fight, or he might take vengeance on anyone who defeats him in combat some time after the tournament is over.
6. It is said that a secret master of a player’s style is going to be present. He may pass on secret techniques to those he judges worthy.