Pyramid #3/61: Eidetic Memory – The Devil’s Fist

In Pyramid #3/61: The Way of the Warrior, we see a very, very focused set of articles: six articles plus +Steven Marsh‘s intro and Random Thought Table, contributed by five authors . . . and the lead article was co-authored!

That being said, this one was interesting. “How about a theme issue,” said Steven. BAM! And stuff rolled in. Lots and lots of it. The fact that we have two Martial Arts Designer’s Notes articles in here – long ones – only highlights the fun that is the other six.

This is the second issue I’ve done an article-by-article review on, and yes, that might have something to do with my having two pieces in it. Still, it’s very good, and very on-topic for me. So, here we go.

You can find my commentary on the first articles, More Power to Dungeon Warriors, and Takedown Sequences in previous posts.

Eidetic Memory – The Devil’s Fist ( +David Pulver )

The Devil’s fist is a martial arts style – but inverted. Sure, the style part of it is there, tucked into the last section of the text. But that’s not the point of this column.  The article is in five sections, four historical and one dedicated to the style itself. Each of the four historical sub-sections could be used to provide a grounding for using that style in the game-world for a particular era.

in a fun bit of color, each section seems to more-or-less end with someone involved with the art being dead. Mwa ha ha, etc.

Renaissance Origins: Ialporim Iadna Qvasb

Let’s get one thing out of the way first here: I have no idea how to pronounce Qvasb. There we go.

The first section talks about the legend of the founding of the style. The importance and prominence of the legend of how a martial art is founded is almost always vitally important (to practitioners) and a matter of great pride and often controversy. Insult the founder, start a fight. (Seen They Call Me Bruce? No? Too bad; that’s what I’m talking about.)

So during this period, an 80-year history of the underpinnings of the art in question, there’s actually no practitioners.

This is a fun bit of detail that could have been glossed over with one sentence, but I’m glad it wasn’t.

Devil Boxing

The dark and  evil manuscript must eventually be found, and the second section talks about that discovery and the establishment of the art. It covers only 15 years, but they’re 15 years in the heart of the early pulp and Victorian era setting, so that makes it great inspiration for a style for bad guys. Can’t you just see a buddy of Moriarty practicing this?

The Ordo Satanica and The Pugno del Diavolo

The next section brings the style into the present, with a violent satanic cult being formed around the rediscovered style. It’s got all the requisite creepy elements: the charismatic leader dabbling in mysticism (maybe more than dabbling!), the brushes and investigations by The Proper Authorities, and enough mysterious happenings to lend credence to all sorts of secret histories.

Conrad Bacon and the Dirty Warlock Dojo

Ah, factionalism! Something seemingly no martial art can be without. This chapter deals with an offshoot branch of the art where a disgruntled practitioner decides to take it “mainstream.” Wackiness ensues.

Marketing, memetics, and a violent challenge between two practitioners who may or may not be actually in congress with the Devil?

Bring it on.

Pugno del Diavolo

The final section is the style itself. In truth, it’s not much. Th basics of the style are Brawling, Karate, and Wrestling for unarmed elements, and Interrogation and Whip as additional primary skills, owing to the oddball and nasty nature of the teachings.

It focuses on the damage dealing capabilities quite a lot, with Wrench (Limb) and Neck Snap being prominent, which means you’re going to want to be strong to make use of this. Naturally, Power Grappling features prominently on the Perk list, and if your ST is higher than DX, you’ll take this.There’s also an intresting focus on bting.

The optional stuff is where it gets interesting and appropriately weird, with swords, magery, occultism, and theology all featured strongly.

As a style, it’s a bit of a grab-bag. As an outgrowth of the fairly lavishly described history, it fits perfectly.

Parting Shot

This is a fairly interesting approach to a style, one I’ve not seen before in GURPS. My own real-world style, Hwa Rang Do, has a fairly interesting history, which starts – according to our internal legends – with the Hwarang knights around 1,500 years ago. The style legend is an important part of it, and the history and “lineage” is as important to some as whether it’s “effective” or “technical” or “pure.”

David traces the lineage of this fictional martial art from its theoretical creation to final form in the present day. This gives great color, for artists and stylists to argue about, to form the basis of in-character discussion and argument, and to provide campaign seeds.

The internecine conflit described in The Devil’s Fist is as much a part of the history of martial arts as the style itself. Many arts – even such a non-confrontational art like Aikido! – split into factions and sub-styles. The Korean arts are quite the muddle this way, for example, with several attempts to unify the disparate arts falling apart for various reasons.

The article shows how much color can lie behind a style, even not dealing at all with the fighting and game-mechanical elements themselves. In fact, the history of the style as an organzation, rather than a fighting method, is the real meat of the article. The style itself, especially without the mystical elements, isn’t much.

Treat this as a subtle lesson in world-building. Take the exact same style (Te, for example, or Hapkido – absent from GURPS 4e – or even better, Kendo/Kenjutsu) and wrap different organizational histories around them, and you will have a different feel to each one. Take this history difference in conjunction with some choices in how a PC fights, and you have just more than tripled the depth inherent in the choices made.

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