Martial Artist is a skill that's going to wind up having more than one meaning. We'll start with the default that we have been using for years, and then we will get a little hinky. It is perfectly fine if you do not get into the complicated stuff with one (or several) of your characters!
As the book tells us, Martial Artist represents a high level of proficiency with the comic book staple of a physical fight, with or without melee weapons. This skill often does NOT represent what we might call "Oriental martial arts"! Wrestling falls under Martial Artist. So does "wrasslin'," as in what they do on the telly. So does Dambe. So does the Soviet martial art called "Sambo". So does USA-style boxing. So does MMA championship ring fighting. So does capoeira. So does the fine old tradition of the bar brawl!
So when we say that Martial Artist can never be used "unskilled", that means it only applies to characters who have taken some time to really learn how to fight (and NOT just read up or watched videos!). It does not mean that the character must have undergone formal training in a salle or dojo or gym, with an official instructor or coach!
The game mechanics of MA work thusly: once per initiative round (in theory!), a character can substitute her APs of Martial Artist for:
- AV (Action Value, meaning in combat situations, "how likely are you to connect?")
- EV (Effect Value, meaning in combat situations, "how solidly did you connect?")
- OV (Opposing Value, meaning in combat situations, "how good are you at being where the punch is not?")
- RV (Resistance Value, meaning in combat situations, "how good are you at not taking damage in the first place?")
So if Don Blake tries to sock Thunderstrike in the jaw, Don could decide to use his Martial Artist skill of 5 APs to either substitute for Don's Dexterity (his AV to punch) or his Strength (his EV to make Thunderstrike feel that). Don's actual Attributes are both 3 so where he puts his MA depends on how likely he thinks it is that Thunderstrike is still gaping in astonishment.
O'course, Thunderstrike has a Dexterity of 6, a Body of 8, no armor on his chin or his entire head for that matter, a Weaponry (Melee Weapons) skill of 8, and a Martial Artist skill of 6. Even while he's slack-jawed in astonishment because "how can my younger brother DON BLAKE be standing in front of me and swinging that silly haymaker?!?", Thunderstrike has no need to use his MA as a substitute for his Attributes. If Don rolls an 18 or higher, Thunderstrike MIGHT have felt that!
Fine-Tuning the Fighting: Subskills
Now, we have been going along for over a decade with the idea that a character either "Has Learned Fighty Stuff", or "Has Not Learned Fighty Stuff". Player and GM agree on a particular melee style, but that specifically comes out in roleplay rather than have any actual game mechanic involved. In the sequel edition Blood of Heroes, most skills got a layer of complexity added for people who want to get specific.
In any one combat phase -- from the Initiative roll until the next time the GM calls for Initiative -- any one character can use any one of the four substitution Subskills. But, more importantly! A character can have Martial Artist (Blocking) for a lot less points than the whole skill, and not really know how to properly throw a punch.
is the Subskill for AV substitution. It's landing the punch, placing the kick, aiming the forehead for a headbutt, grabbing the limb for a pin, landing the sweet spot of the baton on the pressure point.
is the Subskill for EV substitution. It's not about getting the attack there, it's about precision delivery of impact to cause damage. Battery is the exact angle of the heel striking a joint, or lining up the baton just right so the force of the hit goes between muscles instead of mostly landing on them, or punching through a target instead of at it.
Remember that heroes do not kill! Boy howdy, though, nerve strikes can mess an opponent up.
is the Subskill that does exactly what it says on the tin. It substitutes for OV.
Acrobatics (Dodge) is actually the skill of getting completely out of the way; this is the skill of preventing a blow from landing. The incoming attack only has to be redirected away by centimeters to count as a "miss", after all.
is the Subskill for RV substitution. Knowing how to take a blow, how to roll with a punch or tense a muscle group to protect a nerve, is all Defense.
is the Subskill that does not quite fit with the rest of the bunch.
We will write about that more later. The Techniques Subskill may represent highly trained finesse at holds and throws, Concentrated Attacks, and many of the other fine options available under Combat Maneuvers and Defensive Maneuvers.
Techniques may be compatible with the other Subskills, depending on the Character's story to date and on the action in progress.
This Skill cannot be used via defaulting to an Attribute: a Character must have spent Hero Points to buy the Skill, or else they must do without.
Many characters do not pick up the Martial Artist Skill at all, and go along just fine.
For reference in determining the comparative level of a character's training:
- The Penguin has a Martial Artist Skill of 5 APs
- Trickshot has a Martial Artist Skill of 9 APs
- Batman has a Martial Artist Skill of 9 APs
Since we all agree that Trickshot is not as skilled a martial artist as Batman, we can only remember that an AP rating covers a range of capability.
Originally from a combination of page 77 in the
DC Heroes Roleplaying Game Second Edition
DC Heroes Roleplaying Game Second Edition
published by Mayfair Games
plus expanded rules on page 112 in Blood of Heroes