I doubt I’ll actually make use of the style rules from Martial Arts in Sleepless Nights, but just as a small exercise, I decided to try and design an effective style with the single purpose of taking out vampires.
Secret Order Vampire Killing
This style was founded as the hand-to-hand training regimen of the Secret Order of Saints Cyprian and Justina, sometime in the 1710’s, in St. Petersburg. Its founder was a cavalry officer who had apparently learned of, and fought against, vampires in the Siberian provinces. He had been stationed in the newly founded city in 1708, where he in turn founded the Secret Order, named after two patron saints who protect against witches, ghosts, demons, and the living dead. The order drew its membership from officers and the lower ranks of the nobility, and waged a secret war against vampires not only in Russia, but also in Western Europe under the cover of Tsar Peter’s diplomatic and cultural missions. Its secondary purpose was to eradicate sorcery, under the assumption that human sorcerers would inevitably become the tools of vampires. The order dissolved gradually after a few generations, but its style was never completely lost.
Hand-to-hand combat is never the goal of the Secret Order’s vampire killers, but a last resort. If they find convincing evidence of a vampire, they seek to locate its lair, destroy it with explosives in the morning, and sift through the wreckage over the course of the day, exposing every conceivable hiding place to sunlight. They will carry guns (typically blunderbusses, or later shotguns) hoping to draw back if a vampire should emerge, and hasten its death with well-placed shots. Furthermore, they will always do their best to have the numbers on their side, so if the killing does come down to stabbing and biting, they will be able to surround and overwhelm the individually superior enemy.
The hand-to-hand tactics of the Secret Order take into account the lopsided nature of a fight between a mortal and a vampire. The monster is vastly stronger and faster than any hunter can hope to be, agile enough to make up for any likely difference in skill, and completely tireless; for these reasons, a prolonged encounter can only ever favor the enemy. Therefore, the vampire killer’s aim is to end the fight as quickly as possible by furiously attacking the monster’s weak points: its neck, and its vitals. The Secret Order trains to use Extra Effort liberally, both in offense and defense, and to favor Determined Attacks and even All-Out Attacks. Their favored weapon is the heavy cavalry saber (a type of thrusting broadsword rather than a fencing saber), but they also carry one or more knives for close-in work. All are men of means who spare no expense when it comes to their weapons, so Fine and even Very Fine blades are the rule.
Luckily, the vampiric resurrection imparts no additional skill or experience, so a vampire is typically very direct and overconfident: most attack with an All-Out Attack to grapple or a Flying Tackle, to be followed by a bite. A vampire killer expecting such a charge will take the All-Out Defense (Increased Parry) maneuver and attempt a Judo parry, with the Feverish Defense option and a retreat if possible. If successful, he will follow up with a Judo Throw, performed as an All-Out Attack (Determined), and rain down strikes on the fallen monster before it can recover its footing.
If grappled, the vampire killer will not waste time trying to break free. Instead, he will draw a knife and ferociously stab for the heart, and keep stabbing as long as he possibly can. Masters of the art learn special techniques for getting and maintaining control of their knives even in the vampire’s iron grip (Grapple Mitigation).
Another threat the Secret Order is well aware of is the vampire’s hypnotic gaze. Avoiding the enemy’s eyes is drilled into each recruit, and the most determined learn to harden their resolve against supernatural effects in general (Mental Strength) and vampiric mind control in particular (Gaze Avoidance).
- Skills: Broadsword; Fast-Draw (Knife); Judo; Knife; Occultism.
- Techniques: Feint (Any skill in style); Judo Throw; Targeted Attack (Broadsword Swing/Neck); Targeted Attack (Broadsword Thrust/Vitals); Targeted Attack (Knife Thrust/Vitals).
- Cinematic Skills: Blind Fighting; Mental Strength; Power Blow.
- Cinematic Techniques: Gaze Avoidance; Grapple Mitigation (Fast-Draw (Knife)); Grapple Mitigation (Knife).
- Perks: Armor Familiarity (Judo); Focused Fury; Teamwork; Technique Mastery (Feint); Technique Mastery (Judo Throw).
- Advantages: Combat Reflexes; Daredevil; Fearlessness; Higher Purpose (Destroy vampires); Resistant to Vampirism (+3); True Faith.
- Disadvantages: Code of Honor (Gentleman’s); Duty (Secret Order of Saints Cyprian and Justina); Obsession (Eradicate vampires); Overconfidence.
- Skills: Body Language; Exposives (Demolitions); Fast-Draw (Broadsword); Forced Entry; Guns; Saber; Tactics; Two-Handed Axe/Mace; Wrestling.
Gaze Avoidance (Cinematic)
- Default: Mental Strength.
- Prerequisite: Mental Strength; cannot exceed Mental Strength +4.
When attacked with any supernatural or superscience ability that is resisted by Will and has the Vision-Based modifier, you can replace Will with the Gaze Avoidance technique. Training involves carefully cultivating responsiveness to subliminal signs of malevolence and coercion in a person’s eyes. If you have at least 2 points in this technique and the Body Language skill at 12+, you may roll Body Language before your resistance roll; on a success, you get +1 to your Gaze Avoidance roll.
Grapple Mitigation (Cinematic)
- Default:prerequisite skill -4.
- Prerequisite: Any DX-based skill; cannot exceed prerequisite skill -2.
This technique lets you reduce the -4 DX penalty for being grappled, for a specific skill. Roll against Grapple Mitigation instead of the prerequisite skill when you are grappled and using that skill. In the case of a melee weapon skill or unarmed combat skill, also calculate your parry from Grapple Mitigation while grappled.
Well, there’s the style. Not too narrow, I think, and still focused on one goal. The new techniques were interesting to work on. Gaze Avoidance is pretty simple, but it’s not really a combat technique; equivalent Mental Strength techniques would make sense for other modalities, as would, I think, ones for specific powers.
Grapple Mitigation is another story entirely. Not only is it not canon, it’s been specifically advised against by Sean Punch, Douglas Cole, and Peter Dell’Orto. If that’s not a trifecta of authorities to set against a proposed grappling rule, I don’t know what would be! Their primary arguments were:
- that no one can learn to fight better while grappled than free to move (and I agree, and this version of the technique doesn’t do that, so no problem);
- and that the -4 DX penalty for being grappled is the whole (or at least foremost) point of grappling someone in the first place, so negating it doesn’t make sense as game design.
On point 2, I respectfully disagree: in my games, I see grapples to impose a penalty, yes, but more importantly to enable follow-ups like Arm Lock and Takedown, and to hold a mobile enemy still for you and your friends to stab at. I don’t see an additional 3-point investment in a skill to halve the penalty as unbalanced, or as particularly unrealistic when compared to Hand-Clap Parry, or Whirlwind Attack, or any other cinematic technique. So, here it is! But if you choose to use it, be mindful that you’re explicitly going against the high priests’ decree. 😉