[7:32 PM] James Kerr: Hello folks thank you for having me. I’m James Kerr. By day I’m a magazine publisher and by night, for the last 4 years, I’ve been the paid-kind of table-top RPG publisher. (There was a small window in there where I was doing ttrpgs full-time.) Most of my work has been for Pendelhaven Press who does Fate of the Norns: Ragnarok. I’m Canadian, they’re Canadian, it was a good fit. Good people. I did 6 books for them.
[7:33 PM] James Kerr: Now I’m doing my own thing with my company called Radio James Games, and we’re launching a Kickstarter March 24th for FIGHT TO SURVIVE: Role-playing Martial Arts Meets Heart, a ttrpg about 20th Century martial artists. It’s mundane, sad, and gritty, and passionate. It’s kind of like Mouse Guard meets Jean-Claude Van Damme’s Bloodsport (1988).
[7:33 PM] James Kerr: If you feel so inspired by this Q&A that you want to run out and sign up for the mailing list to be notified when it launches on March 24th, then the link is here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jameskerr/fight-to-survive
[7:33 PM] James Kerr: (done)
[7:33 PM] Dan Davenport: Thanks, @James Kerr! The floor is open to questions!
[7:33 PM] Dan Davenport: Does the game take place in the 80s?
@Dan DavenportDoes the game take place in the 80s?[7:35 PM] James Kerr: Yes, and so much more! The game can take place at any point in the 20th Century. One of its inspiration is the Charles Bronson film Hard Times (1975) about a down-on-his-luck street fighter in 1933. The game is multi-generational. Every play session takes you through 1 to 3 years, so you progress through the 20th Century gradually.
[7:35 PM] Dan Davenport: Huh. Interesting approach!
[7:35 PM] LaSquida: So I’m taking Bloodsport is the touchstone here; what others do you think make good inspiration (f’rex, I’m assuming the average Jackie Chan movie doesn’t fit here.)
[7:36 PM] Lanky Irish: Can you use any kind of martial art?
@Dan DavenportHuh. Interesting approach![7:36 PM] James Kerr: I was inspired by the quick time progression of Greg Stafford’s King Arthur Pendragon and how you can be part of a chain of people all connected.4
@James KerrI was inspired by the quick time progression of Greg Stafford’s King Arthur Pendragon and how you can be part of a chain of people all connected.[7:36 PM] Dan Davenport: A worthy source of inspiration, certainly!
[7:36 PM] Dan Davenport: You can’t beat The Stafford.
[7:37 PM] Dan Davenport: (He was a guest here, by the way. Perhaps the best we’ve had.)
@Dan DavenportYou can’t beat The Stafford.[7:37 PM] ModusPwnens: I’m with you on that one. Glorantha is one of my favourite’s all time.
[7:37 PM] Lanky Irish: Nice!
[7:37 PM] Lanky Irish: You said that its kind of a gritty game… what makes it gritty?
[7:38 PM] Lanky Irish: or how are we defining gritty?
[7:38 PM] Dan Davenport: (Question pause while @James Kerr catches up, please. )
@LaSquidaSo I’m taking Bloodsport is the touchstone here; what others do you think make good inspiration (f’rex, I’m assuming the average Jackie Chan movie doesn’t fit here.)[7:38 PM] James Kerr: A Jackie Chan movie absolutely fits here; you can use the whole thing for any Shaw Brothers or Golden Harvest film that is set in a contemporary time period. I do. I draw inspiration mostly from mid 70s to mid 90s American Martial Arts films like Kickboxer or Best of the Best but I have a super weakness for a lot of Hong Kong cinema…anything from Once Upon a Time in China to Yes, Madam fits in this game super well.1
@Lanky IrishCan you use any kind of martial art?[7:39 PM] James Kerr: I have more than 50 martial arts detailed in the core rules. The quickstart will be released with 5 broad basic martial arts: Kung fu, Karate, Kickboxing, Boxing, Wrestling, and the art of not having an art, Street Fighting.
[7:40 PM] Dan Davenport: 50? Wow!
[7:40 PM] Lanky Irish: So you could potentially do Greco Roman Wrestling?… if you were so inclined.
@Lanky IrishYou said that its kind of a gritty game… what makes it gritty?[7:40 PM] James Kerr: Combat is a dangerous thing. If you are getting into combat you always run the risk of injury or death – that’s the gitty. It’s mundane. There’s no fireballs; it’s down-to-earth; all grit.
[7:41 PM] LibrariaNPC: So how is the game mechanically, and how does it add to the feel and themes and the game?
[7:41 PM] Dan Davenport: And before you get into the details of the system, do you have a character sheet that we can see?
@Dan Davenport50? Wow![7:42 PM] James Kerr: Yeah it’s a lot, but my thought was the kind of people who want a martial arts game, the first thing they’re going to ask is if the obscure martial art they know about is in there or not. The mechanics on determining a martial art are pretty tight in Fight to Survive, so it just took a lot of research.2
@Dan DavenportAnd before you get into the details of the system, do you have a character sheet that we can see?[7:42 PM] James Kerr: Sure just let me export it from InDesign.
[7:44 PM] James Kerr: I want to stress through that one of the design approaches for this game was to make something where you get to be a martial artist but don’t have to be a martial artist to play it. That was one of the challenges with Erick Wujcik’s Ninjas and Superspies….lots of martial arts, but you have to have such a detailed knowledge of their tactical approach that it’s at the very least intimidating. I didn’t want the people who know martial arts to have huge advantages over those that didn’t; the game needed to be tactical but abstracted down to be rewarding for intuitive play as well.2
@Lanky IrishSo you could potentially do Greco Roman Wrestling?… if you were so inclined.[7:44 PM] James Kerr: Yes, you can differentiate Greco-Roman Wrestling from 80s Neon Pro-Wrestling in a relevant way within the game mechanics.
[7:45 PM] Lanky Irish: So how do the fights work? Like DND with single attacks and such?>
[7:45 PM] SirSureal | Cleric: To broaden that slightly, what is the action economy of a turn looking like?1
@Lanky IrishSo how do the fights work? Like DND with single attacks and such?>[7:47 PM] James Kerr: Each character has a score in the same 5 Moves: Grapple, Punch, Kick, Block, and Footwork. Each Round of a fight they pick a few of these, usually 3, and they’re compared against what the opponent picked one at a time. So, as the Round progresses you scratch off the Moves you’ve used until there are none left, and the winner is decided.
[7:48 PM] James Kerr: Now, that structure can apply more broadly. Instead of fighting one guy you could be fighting “a gang of street thungs”, and they’re still represented under the same structure; Moves comparison.
[7:48 PM] Dan Davenport: Reminds me a bit of Burning Wheel.
@SirSureal | ClericTo broaden that slightly, what is the action economy of a turn looking like?[7:49 PM] James Kerr: Given the subject matter a turn is a highly variable piece of time. It could be that it takes a second or it takes a couple of months. Turn order is determined by Build – smallest characters go first and biggest characters go last, because they’re slower. Everyone picks one thing that they do that has to last until the longest length of time determined by the player’s involved and by the circumstance. If there are fights to resolve that turn, each Round of combat is counted as a turn. Does that answer your question? (edited)
[7:50 PM] SirSureal | Cleric: Yes
@Dan DavenportReminds me a bit of Burning Wheel.[7:50 PM] James Kerr: The other comparison people make is to Mouse Guard‘s combat structure. (edited)
@James KerrThe other comparison people make is to Mouse Guard‘s combat structure. (edited)[7:50 PM] Dan Davenport: Isn’t Mouse Guard based on Burning Wheel?
[7:51 PM] Dan Davenport: I forget.
@Dan DavenportIsn’t Mouse Guard based on Burning Wheel?[7:51 PM] James Kerr: Yes…yes it is. Maybe I just hang around more Mouse Guard people than Burning Wheel people.
@Lanky Irishor how are we defining gritty?[7:51 PM] ModusPwnens: If the five moves (block, footwork) aren’t unique across the fighting styles, how do the fighting styles (Roman grecco vs tai chi vs boxing) come into play?
[7:51 PM] Dan Davenport: Good question, @ModusPwnens.
[7:52 PM] SirSureal | Cleric: Very good question
@ModusPwnensIf the five moves (block, footwork) aren’t unique across the fighting styles, how do the fighting styles (Roman grecco vs tai chi vs boxing) come into play?[7:54 PM] James Kerr: I’ll try to keep this brief. For context, I know the smatterings of a few martial arts and I’ve taught different styles of kung fu on and off for 15 years, so I have to avoid approaching this as too much of a martial arts geek and have made it the singular mission to keep this game feeling intuitive. I approached it in terms of Bruce Lee’s quote “I don’t believe in different ways of fighting now. I mean, unless human beings have 3 arms and 3 legs, then we will have a different way of fighting.” So, if we assume that a person is ultimately going to fight like an individual, (and therefore your choice in martial art is not like a “class” – you may switch it several times over your life, how could it be?) then the Moves are universal, but it’s the training that makes martial arts distinct.
[7:55 PM] James Kerr: All martial arts follow a different “training regime” (fulfilling the other design goal of making training and down-time relevant and interesting, so the game can feel like the middle of Rocky IV) of giving you different bonus’ to train up your Technique and Force of different Moves.
[7:55 PM] James Kerr: Technique is the numerical score used for a tie breaker when Moves are compared that don’t beat each other – Kick vs. Kick, for example; the winner is determined by who has the higher Technique. Force is how much damage each Move can do.
[7:57 PM] James Kerr: So if you learn Greco-Roman Wrestling your teacher may start you off with a bonus to your Grapple technique because it’s most important to learn the technical skills. For flashy 80’s Pro-Wrestling it may be that the teacher considers your endurance more important and has you increase your Block Technique.
[7:57 PM] James Kerr: You have to invest points in the Comfort of your teacher, or the Comfort of the place where you train, in order to unlock more bonus’ for the martial art each time you train, so, learning is a many, many years investment.
[7:58 PM] James Kerr: And all the martial arts, while codified in the system clearly, are easily adaptable if you have differing opinions about the course structure of Goju Ruy Karate, for instance.
[7:58 PM] James Kerr: I hope I expressed that clearly enough.
[7:58 PM] James Kerr: (done)
[7:58 PM] Lanky Irish: Does the health system work like Vampire?
[7:58 PM] Lanky Irish: I noticed the check boxes…
@Lanky IrishDoes the health system work like Vampire?[7:59 PM] James Kerr: I played Vampire like twice. It was the 90s. I don’t remember how that works. But I’ll tell you how this works…but first any questions on martial arts? Because I know that’s a big topic.
[8:00 PM] Dan Davenport: I’m still trying to get a handle on what makes the different styles unique. Is a karate punch different from a kung fu punch?
[8:00 PM] Dan Davenport: (Sorry if I’m being dense here.)
@Dan DavenportI’m still trying to get a handle on what makes the different styles unique. Is a karate punch different from a kung fu punch?[8:03 PM] James Kerr: No a karate punch is not different form a kung fu punch, ultimately. But how you got there could have been very different, and you had to take each step along the way. If your Kung fu guy gets +2 Technique to train Punch every time he trains Punch (because let’s assume a really punchy kung fu like Choi Lay Fut) then the player is incentivized to invest more in the training of their Punch and get a higher Technique, making it more likely their Punch will triumph in combat when compared with other Moves. Your Karate guy might also have ended up at +2 Technique for when he trains Punch because his sensei made him go out into the woods and punch trees, but maybe it took different years and different routes for them to land there. A lot happens in the journey of learning.
[8:05 PM] James Kerr: Some martial arts do have weapons training as part of their curriculum and some do not. At higher level play (there aren’t levels in this game I’m just using it colloquially) there are “special moves” that are different for each martial art. But ultimately the 5 standard Moves are standard Moves.
[8:06 PM] Dan Davenport: Now, understandably, the character sheet appears hyper-focused on combat. Is there a task resolution mechanic for non-combat activities, or are those simply abstracted in this game?
[8:06 PM] LaSquida: Are there tools or advice for folks who want to play the game but don’t know a lot about martial arts to help them pick out styles?
[8:08 PM] Mechanovaking (E.P.): very important question
@Dan DavenportNow, understandably, the character sheet appears hyper-focused on combat. Is there a task resolution mechanic for non-combat activities, or are those simply abstracted in this game?[8:10 PM] James Kerr: Ahhhh now that’s an interesting point. It appears hyper-focused on combat because when you have a hammer all things look like nails. If you are martial artists then your thinking is streamlined through your notion of martial ability. So, it’s to get you into the right mindset. The task resolution mechanic that dominates most of the game outside of combat is a diceless comparison of Move’s Technique (using your Footwork to dance, or using your Kick to just be flashy and a show-off as a person) or of a Comfort – the people, places, and things that are important to you. Comforts can be a bigger part of the game than fighting. If you have a Comfort for “Joe, my neighbour”, for instance, you could call on your Joe +3 to go resolve a conflict (see “Challenges” on the character sheet) that is within his ability. It depends on the temperament of the group but I’ve run several games of Fight to Survive without combat at all; the drama of the in-game world just soaked up all the time.
@LaSquidaAre there tools or advice for folks who want to play the game but don’t know a lot about martial arts to help them pick out styles?[8:12 PM] James Kerr: Absolutely. Some really basic martial arts are presented as beginner friendly and easy to get into, and apply to any year in the 20th Century – boxing, wrestling, kickboxing, kung fu, and karate. Or, you can always not choose a martial art and make finding one part of your character’s journey. I highly recommend that. And, the martial arts are also chopped down into the years they’d be most commonly known, so if you’re starting a game in the 1920s, for instance, there’s only so many martial arts that your GM might say are reasonable for where you are.
[8:13 PM] Dan Davenport: You said that out-of-combat task resolution is diceless. I take it that in-combat task resolution is not?
@Dan DavenportNow, understandably, the character sheet appears hyper-focused on combat. Is there a task resolution mechanic for non-combat activities, or are those simply abstracted in this game?[8:13 PM] James Kerr: To answer your question again I’ll bring up the Pendragon example again. How important combat is to a knight in that is about how important it is to a martial artist here, and similarly if you throw yourself into every fight you’re just going to get yourself killed and hope that you’ve already got a successor ready to inherit your martial lineage.
@Dan DavenportYou said that out-of-combat task resolution is diceless. I take it that in-combat task resolution is not?[8:14 PM] James Kerr: Correct, there are no dice in the game.
[8:14 PM] Dan Davenport: Oh, combat is diceless as well? I stand corrected!
[8:14 PM] Dan Davenport: (Sorry, I didn’t phrase that question very clearly.)
@Dan DavenportOh, combat is diceless as well? I stand corrected![8:15 PM] James Kerr: Oh it’s fine. So, for example, say you’re getting into a fight with a Kickboxer. You can assume they’re going to kick a lot. Checking the chart, you know that Grapple beats Kick, every time. Now you’re supposed to choose the Moves you’ll want to use in the round of combat. You choose Grapple, Grapple, Punch. Just for a little variety. The Kickboxer starts off, and comes at you with a Kick. You respond with a Grapple, which beats the Kick.
[8:16 PM] James Kerr: But little did you know the Kickboxer, in preparing their own Moves, figured you’d have thought of Grappling, and they prepared a Punch. They Punch you. Punch beats Grapple.
[8:16 PM] James Kerr: And so on and so forth until the Moves run out and we see if someone was hit, and for how much.
[8:16 PM] James Kerr: It’s quick, it’s simple, and when you get a group that knows what they’re doing it’s speedy.
[8:17 PM] Dan Davenport: What happens if someone pulls a gun?
[8:17 PM] ModusPwnens: Everyone knows that you don’t bring a gun to a knife fight Dan11
[8:19 PM] James Kerr: Players bring guns into Fight to Survive all the time. I wanted to be able to emulate Streets of Fire (1984), and that’s probably more shooting than punching, anyway. Gun combat is dealt with just like weapons combat – instead of Grapple, Punch, Kick, Block, Footwork, they have their own words for those 6 Moves, but the relationship is the exact same. Where Kick beats Punch, a martial artist’s Kick will beat a gun’s “Carefully Aim & Shoot” (which is gun’s Punch).
[8:20 PM] James Kerr: The descriptions of gun combat, outnumbered combat, improvised combat, are all on the character sheet just under the unarmed combat moves (you just can’t see them on the screen shot I took of the character sheet.) The difference with guns is the training you need to have with the gun in order to use it as effectively as you would your unarmed moves, and also that guns do a lot of damage.
[8:20 PM] Dan Davenport: Streets of Fire is an awesome flick.
[8:20 PM] James Kerr: Yeah the single biggest inspiration for this outside of Bloodsport is Streets of Fire.
[8:21 PM] Dan Davenport: Really? I never really thought of Streets of Fire as being that fighting-heavy.
[8:21 PM] Dan Davenport: Interesting.
[8:23 PM] James Kerr: Walter Hill directed Hard Times, The Warriors, and Streets of Fire. Streets of Fire was the direct inspiration for the video game Final Fight. Hard Times was ripped off repeatedly in the making of Street Fighter II. We kind of owe Walter Hill a lot for the beat ’em up and fighting video game genres. I wanted to reel in that whole structure back to something more down-to-earth, but if I can – capture the electricity of Streets of Fire, and the sequels it never had. (edited)
[8:24 PM] SirSureal | Cleric: So let’s say I want to do a tetsuzanko, which isn’t really any of the basic moves best I can tell, do I pick the closest?
@SirSureal | ClericSo let’s say I want to do a tetsuzanko, which isn’t really any of the basic moves best I can tell, do I pick the closest?[8:25 PM] James Kerr: Tetsuzanko is covered by the special moves that you get if you get your character up to the prime of their fighting career. You can also pass those special moves on to the next character. Rather than flat out tetsuzanko I was thinking more along the lines of Mas Oyama’s shadowless kick – Mas Oyama the karate godhand who was the basis of Ryu – but the way it’s described and the hurricane kick are effectively the same.
[8:26 PM] James Kerr: Special moves are “exceptions” to the normal course of the 5 standard moves. So, ordinarily Grapple beats Kick. But you could make (or be taught) a special move that uses your Kick (and all the Technique you’ve spent years training in it) but beats Grapple.
[8:27 PM] SirSureal | Cleric: So elbows, shoulders, and knees are all special in this system?
[8:28 PM] James Kerr: There’s still room for a bit of whimsy in Fight to Survive. I wanted people to be able to play with Count Dante’s Dim Mak technique as advertised in Marvel Comic’s Spider-Man. I just wanted the nature of combat to be more grounded than hurling shockwaves, causing small earthquakes and having glowing light eyes. So, we’re thinking Bloodsport, here.
[8:28 PM] ModusPwnens: Is there a mechanic in the system for dealing with social confrontation like early west side story style?
@ModusPwnensIs there a mechanic in the system for dealing with social confrontation like early west side story style?[8:28 PM] Dan Davenport: Like with snapping?
@SirSureal | ClericSo elbows, shoulders, and knees are all special in this system?[8:29 PM] James Kerr: Elbows, shoulders, knees, any attack from the distance of the centre-line out to the elbow-length is considered “Grapple”. Grapple covers in-fighting. I just had to call it Grapple to get people off and going on these martial concepts, but really the 5 Moves are different measurements of distance.
@Dan DavenportLike with snapping?[8:29 PM] ModusPwnens: Snapping gets a plus two2
@ModusPwnensIs there a mechanic in the system for dealing with social confrontation like early west side story style?[8:30 PM] James Kerr: Each of the 5 Moves has a social application. If, for instance, your favourite bar is going under because it can’t make back-payments and you want to rally its drunken patrons to go do a fundraiser, and you make a rousing speech to appeal to them, you’re using “Heart”, which is Punch, and so using Punch’s Technique. That number gets compared with the Challenges chart to see how successful you are.
[8:31 PM] James Kerr: Alternatively you could call on your Thing of your day job and see you could scounge up enough cash yourself, matching that number to the same Challenges chart.
[8:31 PM] SirSureal | Cleric: So… these stats are abstract? Like really abstract?
[8:31 PM] SirSureal | Cleric: Punching being heart and such
@SirSureal | ClericSo… these stats are abstract? Like really abstract?[8:32 PM] James Kerr: They’re meant to tie to a modern version of the ancient martial virtues, so they’re about as abstract as that. Socially, they’re very abstract. Heart could be courage, it could be passionate truths, it could be pouring your heart out, etc.
[8:33 PM] James Kerr: But as abstract as they are, they’re curated to lead play down certain paths…you end up with a very direct-to-VHS emotional story punctuated by dramatic fights.
[8:34 PM] Dan Davenport: Does this game have a “mook” mechanic?
[8:34 PM] James Kerr: I think the plots of 70s Shaw Brothers kung fu movies are also a great parallel to the kind of place play ends up.
@Dan DavenportDoes this game have a “mook” mechanic?[8:35 PM] James Kerr: Yes. It couldn’t very well be a martial arts game unless I could seamlessly recreate Bruce Lee entering the Japanese dojo in Fist of Fury. An outnumbered group simply has their 5 Moves renamed – gang up on, spread out, attack one at a time, etc., and the 5 normal Moves relate to those in the same way.
[8:36 PM] James Kerr: So, you can look pretty impressive taking on a group…but the difference is when you’re outnumbered, they’re getting more Moves in the Round than you, so you’re a lot more likely to get hit, and getting hit really hurts.
[8:36 PM] Lanky Irish: that brings uis back to the health?>
@Lanky Irishthat brings uis back to the health?>[8:37 PM] James Kerr: I suppose it does. So, this is a little “different”, so bare with me. Most unarmed hits to I tick of damage. You go to health and check off the left-most box. You are now “Bruised”. The next time you get hit (or if you’re taking more than 1 tick) you get a choice, as the player taking the hit. You can either fill in the box directly to the right of the one you filled in, or you can move up a bracket.
[8:38 PM] James Kerr: The key here is that: * All of the 1st position boxes in each bracket heal really easily. * All of the second position checkboxes are difficult to heal. * All the third checkboxes in each bracket almost never heal. (edited)
[8:39 PM] James Kerr: So, when you get hit – in that split second – you’re deciding (subconsciously?) if you want to stay in the fight longer, knowing you’re going to take that much longer to heal up, or if you’re going to just let it go, and stay down, and be ready to fight another day.
[8:39 PM] James Kerr: Getting knocked out actually works how getting knocked out actually works – to protect you from further harm. When you get to that bracket, you can choose to just get knocked out. Sometimes it’s the right choice.
[8:39 PM] James Kerr: (done)
[8:40 PM] Dan Davenport: Does this game have its own setting, or is that left up to the GM?
[8:41 PM] Dan Davenport: I mean, besides “20th century”.
[8:42 PM] James Kerr: The default setting is a city called “Metro City”. It has districts each with their own cultural and economic boundaries and territorial pride. You can certainly still leave Metro City – travel to the Philippines or something – but the idea behind the city was that it had more than enough going on, and you want your characters to have a sense of home. Since so many of the mechanics deal with the fighters using the things in their daily life in the mechanics (the back yard where I train, my girlfriend Cindy, my teacher who lives above the bowling alley) leaving the city – or even just getting across the city – can be a big deal.
[8:43 PM] James Kerr: Narratively it’s taking place in Metro City as a way for all the martial arts events of the 20th Century that happen in different places – San Francisco, New York, Toronto – to all happen in one location, so to make it easier on the GM, and for the players to find it easy to be motivated about what’s going on.
[8:45 PM] SirSureal | Cleric: My background is more in the fighting game genre than from movies. Will a world travelling tournament arc function within this system or is it meant to function on a local level?
@SirSureal | ClericMy background is more in the fighting game genre than from movies. Will a world travelling tournament arc function within this system or is it meant to function on a local level?[8:46 PM] ModusPwnens: Great question
@SirSureal | ClericMy background is more in the fighting game genre than from movies. Will a world travelling tournament arc function within this system or is it meant to function on a local level?[8:46 PM] James Kerr: It’s meant to function at a local level. A good video game parallel is 1991’s Fatal Fury all taking place in South Town. Metro City itself is the name from Final Fight. You absolutely can do a world warrior style travel around, but that would be super, super hard on the character without access to the facilities to train or the support of their teacher, coach, etc., so it would kind of look like when Rocky goes to Russia in Rocky IV.
[8:48 PM] ModusPwnens: A spin off/mini series session of travelling to fight in Village X would be awesome, especially if getting injured before travelling back home has implications.
@ModusPwnensA spin off/mini series session of travelling to fight in Village X would be awesome, especially if getting injured before travelling back home has implications.[8:50 PM] James Kerr: I mean I have players leave the city now and again in the normal course of games, and it is awesome. Because a game session represents between 1 and 3 years, it’s easy to say “tonight we need to go to Hong Kong because your Sigung is passing and wants to name the successor of the martial lineage” (promptly attacked by a rival suitor the lineage, limp home.)
[8:50 PM] James Kerr: So, travelling feels like you’re actually going somewhere, you’re out of your element, it’s exciting, but you have unknown dangers.
[8:51 PM] Dan Davenport: Is this a one-off or the start of a game line? And if the latter, what’s next?
@Dan DavenportIs this a one-off or the start of a game line? And if the latter, what’s next?[8:52 PM] James Kerr: This is a complete, core book. There are many expansions planned in the line – for instance, a whole book just geared towards 70s Shaw Brothers Kung Fu flicks, so you can play a Master of the Flying Guillotine style game or a 36th Chamber of the Shaolin type game.
[8:53 PM] James Kerr: This is like the broad, purely actionable overview of what is possible. Each of the smaller books will capture a smaller time frame and expand on martial arts and expanded structures, like deeper tournament rules or expanded weapons rules for those who want to get persnickety.
[8:53 PM] SirSureal | Cleric: So recreating the plot of The Karate Kid and The Karate Kid II is still very doable even though they take place in different locations. Good to hear.
@SirSureal | ClericSo recreating the plot of The Karate Kid and The Karate Kid II is still very doable even though they take place in different locations. Good to hear.[8:54 PM] James Kerr: Absolutely. Karate Kid is perfect for this, you just choose to spend more time on the out of combat resolution and go into more detail with it. Cobra Kai is also a perfect analogy for what’s going on here – exciting combat but couched in a lot of meaningful steps to get you there. (edited)
[8:55 PM] James Kerr: Karate Kid II does not get enough love.1
[8:55 PM] ModusPwnens: Thanks everyone but O have to run for the night. Thank you @James Kerr for the introduction and it was lovely to meet many of you! Can’t wait to see my next one 🙂
@ModusPwnensThanks everyone but O have to run for the night. Thank you @James Kerr for the introduction and it was lovely to meet many of you! Can’t wait to see my next one 🙂[8:55 PM] James Kerr: Thanks man have a good night.
[8:56 PM] Dan Davenport: Take care, @ModusPwnens! Come by any time!
[8:57 PM] Dan Davenport: Is this kind of strongly focused game the type you prefer to design, or is this a special case?
@Dan DavenportIs this kind of strongly focused game the type you prefer to design, or is this a special case?[8:59 PM] James Kerr: I much prefer to design strongly focused games around a particular design goal. I think there are lots of great generic or framework game systems out there, I don’t really need to add to them. But I think where design can go is to new places where it hasn’t before, like trying to relevantly re-create the drama of martial arts plots.
[9:02 PM] James Kerr: I see my role in design as doing new things. There are a few fighting-game anime-inspired martial arts ttrpgs out there, but nothing that makes me feel like I’m playing as Cythia Rothrock beat up a local crooked town sherif, and makes that action relevant. Martial arts in ttrpgs has always gone one of two courses – either so heavily abstracted that it loses relevance, or becomes a shopping list of separate powers, of which you get like 30, and have to memorise them all. I wanted it to be easier for people to get into the action, for it to feel real, and have meaning. (edited)
[9:02 PM] James Kerr: (done)
[9:03 PM] Dan Davenport: No game is perfect. What is your least favorite aspect of this game?
@Dan DavenportNo game is perfect. What is your least favorite aspect of this game?[9:04 PM] James Kerr: Trying to explain the mechanics to people. It’s not that they’re that complex – people get it when the play it, and I’d say this is “rules medium” – it’s that they’re very different than what people are used to. (edited)
[9:05 PM] James Kerr: Being at a con trying to explain how the escalating checkboxes of health work when people are expecting HP can be challenging.
[9:05 PM] Dan Davenport: Yeah, I can see that…
[9:06 PM] James Kerr: The character sheet is a little overwhelming at first, but it’s the whole game. Still, it’s a hurtle in presenting the game to people.
[9:06 PM] Dan Davenport: nods
[9:07 PM] James Kerr: Also some people just cannot make heads or tails out of the… Punch beats Grapple Grapple beats Kick Kick beats Punch …structure, no matter how I present it. I settled on the diamond chart in the middle of the character sheet, in the end.
[9:09 PM] James Kerr: So, every game has challenges – and this being niche of niche content AND having super strange indie mechanics is not super helpful for me trying to market it, but, if you want a game that gives you martial arts action in the way it feels watching the drama (and poor dialogue, depending on your players) of a martial arts story, then it works very well.
[9:09 PM] James Kerr: (done)
[9:10 PM] Dan Davenport: I think that’s all the questions I have… In the time remaining, is there anything we haven’t covered that you’d like to bring up?
[9:10 PM] James Kerr: I could share some art?
[9:10 PM] Dan Davenport: Sure!
[9:11 PM] James Kerr: I’ve got a great artist in Ian MacLean who has worked in ttrpgs for the last 20 years. He’s done some Call of Cuthulu books, some work for Pathfinder, and more.
[9:12 PM] James Kerr: We spent a long time getting the vibe of the cover right, because the material is inherently a little cheesy – but we wanted to do it with a straight face, so to speak. Let’s indulge in this stuff that’s maybe a little cheesy and see what kind of play experience we can get from it. How do you communicate that on a cover? Well, we kind of had to dial back what would basically be SNES cover art. I think we got it.1
[9:14 PM] James Kerr: The main promotional image we’ve been using is this guy putting up his dukes. I wanted them to be a little bloodied because – well, getting into a fight sucks, it hurts and its messy and it’s not something you want to do, but there’s also this tension of a violent lifestyle pulling you back in – in this case mechanically. I wanted to try and communicate that tension with each of the images.
[9:14 PM] James Kerr: I may have gotten a little too “fun” with the logo, but, the game is ultimately fun.
[9:16 PM] James Kerr: The quickstart rules will be available pretty soon after Fight to Survive‘s Kickstarter launches on March 24th. The stock characters included for play in the quickstart have some great art to them, and help represent the range of what you can do in the system. Each PC has to be a different “Build”, so, one person is Small, another Thin, another Medium Build, another Tall / Muscular, and another can be Huge. This determines a few things in a fight, but one of them is Turn Order. Smaller characters are faster, bigger characters hit harder. These stock PCs represent the range of Builds.
[9:17 PM] James Kerr: I’ve been releasing the stock PCs in a series of social media posts these last couple days, so two of these are actually seeing the light of day for the first time right here.
[9:18 PM] Dan Davenport: Cool!
[9:19 PM] James Kerr: The last bit of art I’ll share is from the Kickstarter page, which is just to say – the layouts are done. I’m a layout artist as well as a writer, developer, etc. (I just don’t have the illustrative talent Ian has!) This is already my day job, I just get to do it about something I love.
[9:20 PM] Dan Davenport: Great art!
[9:20 PM] Dan Davenport: Thanks very much for joining us, @James Kerr!
[9:20 PM] James Kerr: Thank you very much for having me, @Dan Davenport. I’ve followed your posts on different RPG forums for years, it was a pleasure to finally meet you. (edited)
[9:21 PM] Dan Davenport: Oh, likewise! That’s very kind of you to say.
[9:21 PM] Dan Davenport: Usual reminder: If you’ve enjoyed this Q&A and would like to treat me to a coffee or two, you can do so at https://www.ko-fi.com/gmshoe. Anything’s appreciated! Ko-fiBuy Dan Davenport a Coffee. ko-fi.com/gmshoeBecome a supporter of Dan Davenport today! ❤️ Ko-fi lets you support the creators you love with no fees on donations.
[9:21 PM] Dan Davenport: Now, if you’ll give me a minute, I’ll get the chat logged and link you!