Carpe Blogiem: The Middle Kingdom Primer – Chi Powers

Chi powers will be the “main attraction” of the Middle Kingdom. I decided early on that I wouldn’t be using the typical chi skills available in GURPS. I did this intentionally. I wanted more powers than there were skills and I wanted unique powers for each player (if they wanted them). To get the latter I needed to be able to assemble new powers fairly easily and trying to balance a unique skill like the chi skills is not an easy thing, thus I went with advantage-builds instead. I’d already done some work on this with Chi Sorcery from Pyramid #3/105: Cinematic Magic. But that system was not exactly what I wanted. The ability to improvise new powers (which is really what Sorcery is about) was not something I was interested in. Instead, I wanted powers with discrete levels and requiring a skill roll to use. . . what I wanted more or less was a framework kind of like GURPS Psionic Powers less psi techniques. I wanted a “power skill” that regulated the use of active abilities (and optional skills for passive powers), but I didn’t want “power techniques”. Techniques (as presented in Psionic Powers) shift around the base power too much for my liking. It works for psis who can use their power in new ways, but I felt chi powers were more…hmmm, stable? Static? Unchanging? One of those. I didn’t want to change the nature of the powers too much. Basically, I wanted them to do what they do and that’s more or less it.

I also wanted to classify each power according to the wu xing/godai, yin/yang, and, of course, body control/chi projection. That way each player could specialize in one of those or none of them as they liked. Chinese Elemental Powers was my first stop, but it didn’t have much in the way I could use. Yes, it modeled the wu xing fairly well, but it was…lacking in the spirit I felt would be necessary for the campaign. My next stop was Martial Arts to read for any relevant rules I might need. Psionic Powers provided me the model for the framework I was going for and it didn’t take long to create said framework and fill it out using my prebuilt powers from Pyramid #3/105: Cinematic Magic. The next thing I did was create a Power Modifier – I did make one major change because I like how it worked. Chi powers could benefit from being near dragon lines (i.e., ley lines) and similiar places of raw chi. Additionally, active chi powers would cost 1 FP per use/minute. All chi powers would require -10 points worth of disadvantages, and (another change) chi powers could be negated by those with special universal ki abilities, powerful artifacts, the will of the gods and so on. Finally, a critical failure on powers unbalanced the user’s chi in some way causing predetermined effects depending on the imbalance type (yin imbalance, yang imbalance, or unstable chi). This ended up with a -20% PM – one of the largest I’d built for a “base” system.

I also added prerequisites to powers – you couldn’t learn dim mak without knowing pressure secrets which required you learn pressure points first. This was effectively adding a 0-point feature, but I felt it worked very well to capture the spirit I was going for. Moreover, I decided that some powers would have harder or easier power skills associated with them and create modifier for it: Easy skills would add +10%, Average skills would add +5%, Hard skills would add +0%, and Very Hard skills would subtract -5%. Again, a subtle, but key flavoring for how the powers would come out. I also decided I’d use the following optional rules from GURPS Powers to build my framework:

  • Crippled Abilities (p. 156)
  • Defending with Powers (p. 167)
  • Abilities and Exertion (p. 159)
  • Power Skills (p. 162)
  • Power Techniques (p. 162)
  • Trading Fatigue for Effect (p. 160)
  • Trading Fatigue for Skill (p. 161)
  • Repeated Attempts (p. 159)

To that I added the following:

  • Effortless Mastery: A martial artist can opt to take a -5 to their roll to avoid the FP cost for a given ability. This allows martial artists to utilize their abilities without tiring and separates the masters from the mere students.

I added a dozen new chi powers, rules for building your own (which would become important for players), and that was that.

Picking Over the Bones

Whew. That was harder than I thought it would be. It’s difficult to articulate your decisions for doing something in a way that other folks can read and understand. I hope you folks are enjoying this series. Up next, magic!

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