Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Qi

I feel I'm getting steadily closer to a monk sage ability structure ~ I do not think there is going to be anything like the sort of leap that pulled together the bard, but the bard really did lack any meaning or connection to the idea of adventure whereas the monk does not.  We have all grown up on Chop Sockey in one form or another.  We're comfortable with the way of the loner warrior who challenges authority and adventures into the heart of darkness.

Before we can talk about that structure, however, I feel I should address the matter of qi.  I can't imagine an educated, present-day RPGer not knowing what this is, but I've linked it.  Apart from its association with martial arts, qi derives from the much older concept of atman, which is fundamentally the breath entering and leaving the body.  Stop, take a breath, and imagine that you have no modern concept of what is happening to the body (because we are going back thousands of years in human knowledge).  The emotional sense you have as breath enters, how a deep breath will seem to expand your consciousness, your energy, giving you life, filling you with the essence of the universe (as the source of the breath comes from outside the body) ~ that is atman.  It possessed a mystical quality that any person alive can experience, IF the effort is made to clear the mind and concentrate on the purely physical experience.

It is this experience that seems to give evidence that there must be gods, there must be a greater force in the universe outside ourselves, not because everything was made by something but because we are right now being kept alive by this force.  Breathing is life.  The absence of breathing is death.  This clear distinction is universal.

Qi, too, is defined as breath, or more figuratively as "material energy."  The body functions more powerfully as the amount of oxygen that can be taken in and burned off increases, so that martial arts focuses on breathing in order to strengthen the body and prolong endurance.  The imagination then carries this forward to where a body immensely strengthened can perform seemingly impossible feats, even magic, merely through comprehensive and committed training of the body.

Qi is almost perfectly designed for point-buy systems where the amount of qi can be measured and spent according to how much you have and what you wish your character to do.  A good example of this (and one I can find that everyone can read) is Palladium's Mystic China.  In it, the character calculates their "chi points," then spends tem according to what the character wants to do.  I hate this sort of system, but I appreciate the work behind this particular rule set ~ and I'll be stealing from it without hesitation.  I'll go through the book with a fine toothed comb, get rid of the chi buys, then redesign the abilities so that they are toned down and made into something that won't unbalance my game.

I have no interest in limiting the monk through any point system ~ though it has been recommended to me through the years.  I intend to limit it the way all the classes are limited; though the monk is going to be tricky.

In the early levels, a character will gain that one amateur study that will enable them to do a few things.  This will be limiting.  But I have found that by the time a character reaches 6-8th level, they are typically an amateur in everything, even outside their fields.  This is because the character gets 1d4-1 points (an average of 1.5) per level even in the unchosen studies.  1.5 x 6 is 9.  10 points are needed for becoming an amateur, so that by 7th the average for every study makes it better than average that the character will acquire that study.

The path from 1st to 7th level is, then, a rapid accumulation of very minor abilities, which as a group can be quite beneficial.  In creating those abilities, this must be kept in mind.  An amateur ability cannot be very important, else a whole pile of them will greatly overbalance the challenge needed to make the game work!

We don't expect the players to have a core set of super-powers and be ignorant about everything else.  We expect the character will have a core set of super-powers AND have a fair knowledge about everything else.  Trying to manage something like this with a point-buy system would be crazy.

Conversely, there are also games where a character has "positive" qi and "negative" qi, obviously confusing the concept of qi with karma.  My recent post about monks being evil was intended to emphasize that I won't be playing with any of that, either.

Therefore, I have no intention of making either qi or karma into game elements.  Qi would just be another version of the crummy point-buy system that created munchkins with 3rd edition, whereas karma is just another version of alignment.  Neither have any place in my game.  I felt I should make that clear.

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