Friday, June 23, 2006

Blood and Fists: Master Edition sneak peek

So I wrote the introduction to the Master Edition today, the definitive martial arts sourcebook for d20 Modern.

Thought I would share it with you folks, since I wrote it more or less in a blog entry style anyway:

The d20 Modern Roleplaying Game handles martial arts well enough for games that focus on gunplay, driving, criminal shenanigans, getting your brain eaten by zombies, and all that other fun stuff, but in these games, combat with weapons is a preference, and a skill in unarmed combat is developed as a fallback position in case you are disarmed. Many people, however, enjoy watching movies with Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Jean-Claude van Damme, and others that feature a decided focus on unarmed combat. Blood and Fists allows you to bring these kinds of combat situations into your d20 Modern game. In addition to two-fisted, two-footed action scenes, Blood and Fists also gives you new rules for the more mystical side of the martial arts, abilities like Ki and Zen.

Those words, written three years, served both as a mission statement and a description of the original Blood and Fists. This book, the anniversary or “master” edition of that work represents something of a personal milestone for me, so I hope you’ll excuse a little self-indulgent trip down memory lane. After all, it isn’t every day a RPG book is reprinted three years after it first appears, especially not an RPG book by a small, independent company.

Almost three years ago to the day as I write this introduction, I had an idea. D20 Modern was a new system and Wizards was encouraging small 3rd-party companies like RPGObjects to support it as heavily as possible. They had fast-tracked the rules into the SRD and even given a small group of publishers (including us) access to the rules before the book was printed.

The first book we did, Blood and Relics, was successful enough both in terms of sales and critical response to be encouraging and so we decided to do more. As I became more experienced with the rules and ran the game more, I decided that what the game needed was a much more robust martial arts system than it currently possessed. My solution to improving upon the hand to hand combat feats in the core rules was to draw on the plethora of real world martial arts styles and philosophies, each with their own rich and varied history to make learning the martial arts much more than a choice of attack A or Defense B: it became a role-playing decision, something that said something about your character.

This idea was not very well in keeping with the conventional wisdom of what made a good martial arts supplement in third edition, where generic attacks and maneuvers had been the favored way to simulate martial arts in every single treatment of the subject to date. My idea was more in keeping with the martial arts sourcebooks done for the Hero and GURPs systems almost a decade before.

As we released the book, I remember watching the reaction with some anticipation. Since the book did use a different approach than people were used to, I expected the initial reaction to be negative despite my hopes that the book would find an audience who were as much a fan of the groundbreaking works of Aaron Allston as I was. I was thus pleasantly surprised that readers, both fans and critics seemed to “get” the book right away. They enjoyed learning the history of martial arts styles they were unfamiliar with, they enjoyed that not all the styles were Asian in origin but most of all, they enjoyed being able to choose an actual martial arts style. It turns out it was just more fun to kill someone with “Kung Fu” than it was with “Hard Kicking Mastery”.

The book went on to become one of the best selling books in RPGObjects’ history as well as receiving more than its share of critical acclaim, including a 2004 Ennies nomination for best rules supplement.

The system was so well received that, like the good martial arts movies it was designed to simulate, it spawned a franchise of sequels. In December of 2003 Blood and Fists collided with RPGObjects’ other popular franchise, Darwin’s World for a look at martial arts of the dark future, Wasteland Fury. This book looked at more fantastic martial arts based on the fragments of modern society surviving into the era beyond the end of the world.

In June of 2004, the first true sequel to the game was released: Blood and Fists: Hong Kong Knights. This book expanded on the number of real world styles, almost doubling the number from the original book and expanded the range of streetfighting, grappling and weapon options martial artists using these maneuvers possessed. It was accompanied by a new edition and edit of the original to make both works as clean and tight as possible.

Finally in September 2005 the final Blood and Fists product was released, Cosmic Fury, a work taking a similar approach to Wasteland Fury but looking at martial arts of a space opera future rather than those of an apocalyptic one.

This product brings the line full circle, printing all the material since the original edition, none of which had ever seen life outside of its electronic e-book form until now. Bringing the books under one cover will make life easier on those using martial arts as a focus for their character or even for an entire campaign, allowing the maximum number of options while also just being plain fun.

As the author of all four of the works brought together in Blood and Fists: Master Edition I hope you enjoy this definitive take on the martial arts system that promised to bring the world from Aikido to Zen into your modern games.

Chuck


Looking forward to this being in print again, thanks to everyone who supported the book and my writing in general.

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