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The Difference

Brawl is about using your body to hurt people.

Martial Arts are about applying physical principles to hurt people.

Likewise, supernatural Brawl is about using your body better, or making your body better; supernatural MA is about applying supernatural principles, or using physical principles in unnaturally effective ways.

This allows us to make a distinction between the two methods of fighting: There is a corpus of maneuvers that can be performed unarmed; the 'special unarmed combat maneuvers' in the combat chapter of the corebook are a subset of these. An examination of the combat mechanics and some real-world fighting techniques (capoeira and aikido are fresh in my mind) show that some of these techniques are abstracted out into the system or represented via Stunts, while others have maneuvers attached. Assume that these maneuvers can be characterized by their physical qualities, via a set of binary features.

Brawlers don't consciously use these features; they have a 'vocabulary' of techniques they have learned, with no principled distinction between those and those that they have not learned. Martial Artists, on the other hand, learn a repertoire of principles, and are capable of using a technique when they can use the principles it applies. Then we can define styles by their repertoire of principles, and so some styles will be perpetually unable to do certain things while specializing in others, while a master brawler has unlimited flexibility in learning techniques as he sees fit. We can use weapons as techniques here and explain how hookswords are different than estocs and shamshirs in reference to their geometry, and have an implicit definition of compatible weapons of an MA style as 'weapons that use the same principles as the style'.

The strength of this is that it gives us a line between Brawl and MA at the natural rather than supernatural level, at the cost of rather intense complexity.


A brawler (or combatant trained in any of the weapon methods) has access to all the basic maneuvers, in addition to the Brawling-specific benefit of the improvised weapon. A martial artist has access to the underlying principles that his style teaches him, and can freely combine principles to produce complex maneuvers. In exchange, martial artists do not get the automatic usage of improvised weaponry, and in general a brawler's flexibility can be described as 'broad', while that of a martial artist is 'deep'.

The Principles of Combat

Principle of Impact: This teaches that a force applied to a stationary object can damage it, and the methodology of the unarmed attack.
Principle of Obstruction: This teaches that opposing forces cancel each other, and the block maneuver.
Principle of Appropriate Action: This teaches that the rightness of an action can depend on the rightness of the time, and the initiative delay.
Principle of the Rootless Tree: This is the wellspring of the Sweep maneuver, with the knowledge that nothing can stand without something beneath to support it.
Principle of the Bull's Horns: This knowledge allows the Gentle Throw to be performed, using the skills of applying force to move mass. (The Gentle Throw moves the target as an ordinary Throw but does no damage or knockdown.)
Principle of the Grasping Hand: This builds on the Principle of Obstruction, saying that, like two motions cancelling one another, a stillness can prevent a motion from being born. It is applied in the Hold maneuver.
Principle of the Wooden Fist Implementation: This teaches the warrior that any object can be used as an extension of himself, and the capability to improvise weapons. Generally, an improvised weapon allows the combatant to deal lethan damage.
Principle of Likely Steel Implementation: The combatant learns that some things are simply meant to be weaponry; this teaches the use of brawling aids or martial arts weaponry. These generally have some weaponry properties that are described.
Principle of the Mantis Palm Implementation: The combatant learns the usage of a single weapon, along with esoteric techniques to maximize its utility. With this principle, a martial artist gains a style-specific benefit to a single weapon. This principle does not provide brawlers with any benefit.
Principle of the Bee's Eye: This principle teaches that a small action can have a large effect; it teaches the simple called shots (the small target and the mark).
Principle of the Hunted Stag: This gives the understanding that sometimes, one may be attacked by a pack of wolves, and respond to many things at once; it permits the splitting of actions.

Combining Principles

A number of maneuvers in the book, and a number of others, are the result of combinations of principles. Assume that the combinations in the book are correct; other combinations follow the rules below.

The benefits of combining maneuvers are generally additive, though this is not necessarily true. The difficulty of combined techniques is likewise additive (minimum +1 difficulty per added Principle), and each effect of the complex maneuver is resisted by the victim separately. Weaponry is an exception to this; it adds difficulty to respond to weaponry, but not to use it, and weaponry effects are always inescapably tied to some other effect. The Hunted Stag carries its own difficulty penalties in the multiple-action rules. Some examples follow.

Defined Techniques

The Pulled Blow: This is requires knowledge of the Bee's Eye and the Implementation.
The Disarm: This requires the Bee's Eye, the Implementation, and the Bull's Horns.
The Clinch: This requires the Impact and the Grasping Hand.
The Tackle: This requires the Impact and either the Rootless Tree or the Bull's Horns.
The Throw: This requires the Impact, the Rootless Tree, and the Bull's Horns.

New Techniques

These can be created arbitrarily.

The Projection: This is identical to the Throw, but causes no damage. It does not require the Impact.
The Counterstrike: This technique permits the combatant to place an action (which he must have) so that it occurs in response to the action of another; it happens after the first effect is resolved but before its effects take place. This requires the Appropriate Action and the Principles for whatever action is being performed.


Generally, a Martial Arts style has a built in repertoire of some subset of the principles; the martial artist can combine only as many principles in a single technique as he has dots in that style. If a martial artist knows several styles, then he cannot normally combine their principles to perform 'cross-style' techniques; he may do this if he has at least three dots in each style. Martial arts styles are like Crafts; each must be learned separately. On the other hand, the requirements for Charms count a summation of dots, not dots in a particular style. A brawler has access to all the simple maneuvers, and as many complex maneuvers as he has dots in Brawl. He may also pay 1 experience point to learn a complex technique.

An Example Style

Cerulean Lute of Harmony Style is a strictly defensive style; it never permits its exponents to perform attacks. Likewise, it has these principles: Obstruction, Appropriate Action, Rootless Tree, Bull's Horns, Grasping Hand, Mantis Palm Implementation (staff, adds 2 to Defense), and Hunted Stag.\\ Some complex maneuvers that Cerulean Lute adepts can perform are the Projection, the Counterthrow (a Gentle Throw or Projection in response to an attack), the Immobilization (a hold which leaves the victim prone), and the Weapon Lock (a hold applied to a weapon rather than a person).

If I follow you here, you're proposing increasing the number of unarmed manuvers, and then... what now?

Give Brawl access to all of them, and let MAs design a style with some subset of them and the ability to learn more with alternate styles? Balanced, I presume, by MAs have MA weapons as a part of their styles?

Or am I misreading it, and what you're proposing fundamentally more of the same line of reasoning that keeps Brawl and MA mechanically identical, and thereby fails to address the actual issue? ("The strength of this is that it gives us a line between Brawl and MA at the natural rather than supernatural level, at the cost of rather intense complexity." is what leads me to think that.)

Examples, por favor. - DariusSolluman

I filled out the top sections with information regarding this; hopefully it helps. - FourWillowsWeeping

While I see the line (and like it) thematically, I'm just not seeing how it's being translated into mechanics very well.\\ Maybe an example of a Brawl "style" as it were, or some Brawl "maneuvers" using these ideas and pointing out how they differ from what Martial Arts would be able to do?\\ ~*~Braydz~*~

I think that anything that sounds pretty can be made to work though mechanics. I really like the differences here, and agree with them. I definitely think that depth vs breadth is a good way to describe the difference. - Morpheus

Yeah, I really like your approach here, willows. I would point out that, at least in terms of canonical Charms, Brawl is really the "deeper" ability (focusing intensely on dealing damage and a tiny bit on speed and really on nothing else), and Martial Arts is the "broader" one (focusing on damn near everything under the sun, from athletics to stealth to dodge to weapons to teleportation). But as I said, I like this approach better. - SilverMeerKat

It's broader in that it is alot more flexible... you can use alot of strange weapons with brawl. It has unusual effects that are very not Martial Arts (Writhing Blood Chain Technique comes to mind). Martial Arts is deep. It's very powerful in the prinicples of a style, but you're limited within the style. Styles generally are not as "mix friendly" as Brawl. You can, just there's limitations to it. Instead you tend to need to make an entirely new style to meet your requirements. - haren