Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Monk's Four Fields ~ Sorta

As I turn the monk over and over again in my thoughts, I find myself settling on the same four fields of endeavor, all of which were mentioned in the previous post.  I have no name for these.  I don't want to use either Chinese nor modern designations, which seems to leave out everything.  But that said, we have this:
  • Hostile or forceful action, fighting, combativeness or aggression: those abilities that apply directly to attack and damage, either in terms of how the fighting is done or how effective it is at reducing an enemy.
  • Resistance to the above, defensiveness, resiliance: those abilities that sustain the monk against the enemy, from hit points to saving throws, avoiding attacks or the reduction of the damage taken.
  • Consciousness of the self, things that apply to the body and mind of the monk: healing, meditation, inducing catalepsy, limitations, patience, equilibrium, fearlessness and fortitude - it is what causes monks to be deliberate enough to take careful actions, such as moving stealthily, that others cannot.
  • Awareness of the universe, that which applies to everything else, consciousness of all that is happening: that which keeps the monk from being surprise, that which makes the monk able to see the world as a construct rather than a sense of physical laws, as these laws can be broken (completely stolen by many films, not just the first one that the reader thought of just now).

I've been dissatisfied with the above, however, because they seem so murky ~ but also because they lack sub-categories, which I need to make the sage system work.  Every field has a group of studies, and every study has a group of abilities.  It's all well and good to say that a monk can scale the corner of a wall in three jumps like Jackie Chan, but what study does it fit in?  What other abilities does that study include?  What makes it distinct from other studies?  And does it belong in Consciousness, which enables the power to come from within, or does it come from Awareness, knowledge the world's laws can be overcome with training?  Perhaps it is resistance, as it is certainly a defensive movement in a crisis.  How do we know?

It is the categorization here that is the struggle.  Not what abilities does a monk have, but how do we separate them out so that we limit the players at low levels to just these abilities and not those.  We're not going to give the player everything.  Especially since "everything" will include a lot more than was conceived of in the original book, just as I have done for the other classes.

The Wuxia page from wikipedia has a useful list, which I will reorganize without the least respect to the original page (so the reader better follow the link if a legitimate list is wanted).  I am thinking only of my game, not a faithful representation of actual Wuxia.  Using the Chinese names:
  • Zhaoshi: real life Chinese martial arts, using a variety of weapons, intending for attacking the enemy and causing damage, but obviously also for defense and resistance against attack.
  • Qingdong: the physical capacity to exaggerate ordinary human limitations, enabling monks to circumvent gravity, fly, possess impossible balance and bring force to bear without the need of a solid platform from which to strike.
  • Neigong: internal skill and function, to possess superhuman strength, speed, stamina, durability, healing, control elemental forces, dodge or catch arrows and thrown weapons, break stones and bricks, shadow-blending, chasing down a horse, this sort of thing.
  • Dianxue: the use of super-precise attacks to kill, paralyze, stun or even manipulate characters by targeting their acupressure points with bare hands or weapons.  These techniques can be used to halt wounds, relieve pain, remove fear or restore consciousness.

This is a more precise list, but it is heavily weighted towards Neigong, whereas it would be better if the four fields had more balance (that is, the "power" field wasn't immediately obvious).  The second proposed list gives a better idea of what the studies might be, however ~ so if it were possible to somehow mix the first list of four fields with the second list, then come up with meaningful, somewhat game cool-sounding field names, I think I could start working on a list of studies and thereafter abilities to fit under those studies.

This is as far as I've gotten in my thoughts so far.


Embla Strand said...

I'm curious as to how "zhaoxi" differs from Puissance.

We could think of Qinggong and Neijigong as two sides of the same coin, your Awareness vs. Consciousness. Qinggong governs the externalization of internal power (so, arrow catching, wall-running, etc.) while Neijigong concerns the internalizations of internal power (stamina, durability, healing, etc.). The line between qinggong and neijigong is blurry, but it does more evenly disperse nejigong's abilities.

Perhaps you could think of: Martial Arts (or Puissance/Zhaoshi), Body Reinforcement (the externalization of qi), Body Lore (Dianxue), and Presence (the internalization of qi).

Alexis Smolensk said...

Zhaoxi would be similar to Puissance, for sure. However, there would be many options the fighter and the monk would not share. The sense for weapon skills were gained would be different: the fighter, because of strength, military training and heredity/nationalism, the monk from self-awareness, mind-and-body cohesion and ultimately qi (ki, chi).

I don't like the term "martial arts" because it was invented in 1909, associated with Japanese bujutsu. The whole history of combat practices, not just in the east, is such an immense muddle and filled with inconsistent, mythological origins and designs, that a phrase was needed to comprise them all. I understand, then, why WE use it.

But no one in the 1600s would have. The Chinese term shoubo from the Han Dynasty calls it "weaponless fighting" and "hand fighting." By the 16th and 17th centuries it was called Shaolin. This doesn't translate to anything in English except as a proper name. But the Chinese doesn't fit with the desire to make this universal, so that a European monk with the same abilities (fantasy world!) can call it by the one name it is known by everywhere, not just in China.

Impossible, I'm sure; and some may not understand why I feel this is an issue. Why not just call it "martial arts" and have done with it?

Alexis Smolensk said...

Ah. Shou bo (手搏} translates as "hand stroke." But I think that is out of the question.

PTR said...

I know you aren't interested in aping another game system. But as a thought provoking method, I think the game A Wanderers Romance by Sooga Games has an interesting approach. They use a "four elements" approach which then breaks down into broad areas of relevance:

Air - Wit, Willpower, Courage and Communica on. Inwards to the Mind and Self.
Earth - Resilience, Prac cality, Sensa on and Physicality. Outwards to Flesh and the World. Fire - Passion, Crea vity, Leadership and Drive. Hot Blood and Emo on.
Water - Control, Grace, Intui on and Ins nct. Cool Senses and Logic.

I wonder if perhaps your monk abilities would benefit from changing the "level" or "dimension" (forgive the terminology, I can't figure out the word I want) that you are considering the problem at?

Maliloki said...

What about this:

Mastery of Combat - Basically Zhaoshi, but add in the ability to dodge or catch arrows.

Mastery of Body - balance, bring force to bear without need of a solid platform, strength, speed, durability.

Mastery of Discipline - Basically Dianxue...probably needs a better name.

Mastery of Energy - Circumvent gravity, fly, healing, control element forces, shadow-blending.

My only issue with these categories is that they don't seem to leave room for "world-building" type of abilities, meaning knowledge skills, interpersonal abilities, or animal/plant based skills to sustain oneself/the monastery.

Sofia Viktorova Koleva said...

I think the Wuxia field names of the second list all sound cool and should be used. That they are specifically Chinese names gives them an authenticity that I think players creating monks will appreciate. There's no reason why we couldn't accept these ideas starting in the East and spreading to Europe, names intact.

I'd comment on the content of the lists, but I'm sure you're already further down the road in your thoughts than your writing so just await the writing to catch up.

Alexis Smolensk said...

I see that authenticity for a modern audience, Sofia, but I don't see it for a European early enlightenment that is yet ruled by both Protestant and Catholic theology. Europe is still too Eurocentric; the embrace of foreign terms did not begin until the late 18th century. It is clear from authors like Wilkie Collins (The Moonstone) that even in the early 19th such things were rare and more feared than embraced.

It is hard enough to make players believe they are in the 17th century as it is.

I am liking Maliloki's list. I'm not a fan of "mastery" but "way of the stick," "way of the stone," "way of the heart" and "way of the spirit" would conform to the four categories Maliloki described.

I would rather add strength/speed to the monk's combat and leave dodging to defensive; that ties in multiple attacks into the way of the stick nicely. Then we can take Embla's suggestions, making Maliloki's Discipline/way of the heart apply to Qinggong (outer qi) while the way of the spirit applies to the inner qi.

Thank you. These are good ideas. I think I can start to run with them.

Maliloki said...

Much better names. I wasn't much in love with them myself, but was hoping that what you were mulling around yourself plus the suggestions here might weave together into something workable.

Alexis Smolensk said...

I'm starting to build up an actual list of abilities as we speak.