Fighting Arts and Unlearned Forms

I’ve been playing around with the Anthology’s Fighting Art rules for our upcoming new campaign, as well as experimenting with some other ideas for arts to explore the system’s versatility (like Witcher-school arts based on TW1’s strong-fast-group styles, which I’m pretty happy with even if I’ll never work them into a game).

I understand as per this thread that the intention is for some arts to be BL-able and for others to require special instruction. This makes sense to me. But I’m struggling to wrap my head around Beginner’s Luck as it relates to Forms. Let me illustrate:

Sir Knightley is captured. Lord Evil tosses him into the Doomed Arena, where he is to either earn his freedom through single combat with a juvenile troll or amuse the masses by being pulverized. Unfortunately for Sir Knightley, he’s not especially good at fighting: his Seven Points of Agilities Exponent is only 4…and Lord Evil has decided this fight will be done with a polearm–a Form which he doesn’t know and can’t learn until he reaches Exponent 5.

…what happens?

There is no longer a “polearm” skill to Beginner’s Luck in Fight!. If Sir Knightley didn’t have SPoA at all he could BL the entire art and presumably Form restrictions would no longer concern him. But he would prefer if he kept his armor on for his upcoming battle, and his Great Strike Technique-training might come in handy against the heavy-hided troll.

This was the first scenario which came to my mind when I went over the new rules, but I don’t see any reference to something along these lines in the Anthology. What happens in these new rules when one is handed a weapon he doesn’t know how to use but must in a time of peril?

Sir Knightley could simply use SPoA but roll at double Ob penalty. This makes the most sense to me, although it’s a bit messy–I can’t think of any precedent in the rules for skills suffering double Ob off the top of my head. This resolution would suggest he still has access to his Techniques, but is fairly seriously impaired in his ability to land Strikes.

It might also be that Sir Knightley rolls SPoA’s root stat–Agility–as Beginner’s Luck. This is weird, though, because he’ll be earning advancement to a root stat, for BL, off a skill he already has, while not actually earning any advantages for using the skill itself, because if he’s not rolling SPoA he can’t benefit from its Techniques. He’s not even learning to use polearms through doing this, since the rules state clearly (p. 41) that the only way to master a new Form is through Practice. I don’t like this solution at all.

The other two outcomes seem to either be that Sir Knightley simply can’t use the polearm–which makes no sense–or that he has to BL some other Fighting Art which he doesn’t have, which also doesn’t make any sense. And what would it even mean to BL a Fighting Art while in armor, if you don’t have Armored Training for that art, but do have it for another, and the weapon you’re using is in both?!?

This leads to my other question about this chapter, which is what to do with “passive” benefits when the skill in question isn’t being used. For example in Thor’s Witch Hunter art it makes perfect sense that the Witch Hunter can dual wield (though to what benefit without Block and Strike we might debate) only when using the Fire Dancer skill. But what about a passive benefit like Iron Mind? Is it always active, like a Die Trait, even when the Witch Hunter is using Bretonnian Longswording as his skill in Fight!, or during an exchange in R&C when he’s using Reiklander Marksmanship with a musket?

My impression from this thread is that the answer is ‘use your brain but be strict,’ but it seems something worth asking anyway.

Hi Joseph,
Thanks for these questions!
I’ll let Thor answer the questions about his fighting arts, but I’ll take a crack at your questions about forms. Rather than the Double Ob pen, I would apply an obstacle penalty of 1 for each difference in the forms you know and the form you want to use. So if you have exponent 4 but want to use an exp 5 form, the character suffers a +1 Ob penalty. I would also be an exceptionally skeptical game master regarding intent/task—just to ensure that a player is living up to the spirit of the rules. Because it’s perfectly legitimate for a fighter to say “I don’t know how to use that weapon…” and then to find another way to fight.

Hopefully, the character can earn the advances necessary to gain the form.

Sort of adjacent to your point, you could (and should) also allow for those moments of crisis around a fighting art to be instances when one can test a required skill to learn a technique.

Hope that helps.

2 Likes

Thank you for the response, Luke!

I hadn’t considered this as an option, but looking back now it seems extremely elegant. One of my small gripes with BW was always that a master swordsman would be reduced to complete idiot whenever he tried to pick up a spear for the first time; using the Form list as an implicit ‘scale of difficulty’ for weapons when constructing Arts fixes this issue, along with so many others, in a really clean way. I can’t wait to try these rules out soon!

Lacking the proper tools imposes the double Ob penalty off the top of my head – the classic “pick a lock with a hair-pin”.

1 Like

I would say Iron Mind is always active once you achieve it. It’s not dependent on the weapons in your hands.

Re: Two-Fisted Fighting, it unlocks the Block & Strike maneuver. It replaces Two-Fisted Fighting Training (Burning Wheel, page 306).