Game: Martial Arts Mayhem
Publisher: The Game Mechanics
Series: D20 Modern
Review Dated: 9th, February 2004
Reviewer’s Rating: 7/10 [ Good ]
Total Score: 7
Average Score: 7.00
There aren’t that many publishers catering to the d20 modern market at all. The Game Mechanics are certainly one of them, they have the advantage of their association with Green Ronin and of their initial d20 modern experience at Wizards of the Coast. There’s also RPGObjects who publisher first to PDF, sometimes only to PDF, and don’t have the benefit of a few famous names. Nevertheless it has been RPGObjects who’ve successfully trail blazed much of the d20 modern path. It was inevitable that both companies would put out a similar product; especially given that d20 modern didn’t explore martial arts as much as it could have.
Martial Arts Mayhem is The Game Mechanics’ martial arts offering and it comes out several months after RPGObjects’ Blood and Fists. Rather than really competing and fighting over the same corner in a niche market Martial Arts Mayhem makes the right choice and works with Blood and Fists. No, Martial Arts Mayhem isn’t a second level supplement or more of the same but it does acknowledge Blood and Fists, explains where that supplement would fit into the Martial Arts Mayhem discussion and as well as taking some feats from the SRD this supplement uses some feats from Blood and Fists too. The formula works, if you’ve already got Blood and Fists then you can safely get your money worth from Martial Arts Mayhem, if you’ve never heard of Blood and Fists then it doesn’t matter and if you choose to buy Blood and Fists after reading Martial Arts Mayhem then you’re likely to be playing and buying d20 modern stuff for just a little while longer. I don’t have to mention the rival product any more in this review either. It’s worth noting that Martial Arts Mayhem makes references to other publishers too, The Other Game Company for example, and this works for me. Link as many of my purchases together into one useful mega-resource and I’d be very happy.
Early on in Martial Arts Mayhem the author comments that the term Game Balance is banded around an awful lot. I agree. I think it is used incorrectly more often than not too. Game Balance is a microcosm; it only applies to your game, your campaign world and your player character party at any given time. Got that? Game Balance is subjective. Hopefully you’re prepared, as I am, to accept that the martial art schools in this supplement just give away extra feats. It’s a reward system. If you are willing to full all the requirements for the martial art school then you’ll be able to access the perks. This is levelled too; you’ve more powerful benefits available to players who fulfil the higher requirements. There’s a whole bunch of different schools in the book and this must be one of the most important successes in Martial Arts Mayhem. This RPG supplement will bring martial arts to a wide range of different game genres. You don’t have to be playing ninja or spy games as you can even use Martial Arts Mayhem to find something suitable for your post apocalyptic game. Admittedly, the pressing desire to get a smooth but effective set of martial art rules isn’t quite fundamental in post apocalyptic games.
There are plenty of new feats in Martial Arts Mayhem. There are new feats which are open to more or less anyone who meets the requirements and then there are the Secret Techniques. It’s the mastery of the martial schools which open up the Secret Techniques to the players. However, unlike benefits, Secret Techniques aren’t just given out as a bonus for dedication and must be picked up as any other feat would be.
There’s a chapter of weapons. Then, surprisingly, there is a chapter of campaign models. Honest. No fooling. I mentioned that Martial Arts Mayhem could be used to help out in a post apocalyptic game and so it could – that’s one of the campaign models discussed in the latter pages of the book. I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of this to begin with. I prefer for game meal, especially over crunch, and that’s exactly what I’m getting here. On the other hand this does equate to quite a few pages of increasingly off topic information. Presumably you’ve already got a campaign idea and know what (where, why and how) you want to do with the martial arts. You just wanted this supplement for the actual high-kicking rules. Then again; maybe not, maybe you just like martial arts and different suggestions as to how to use them are a welcome surprise. I tend to read a book twice, leaving a decent gap between reads, before reviewing the product and on my second read I’d come around to the campaign models. I’m glad they’re there.
I’m not so glad the strange illustrated-over-photographs are in the book though. They’re not quite photographs but they’re not quite illustrations either and I don’t think they fit. There are products which use fully fledged photographs quite effectively in d20 modern but you don’t get that effect here. I suppose the idea is to realistically show which poses and stances are actually possible in martial arts.
This review won’t end on a low. I think Martial Arts Mayhem is good value for money. It’s US $14.95 for 64 pages and even if you’ve no care for the campaign models at all the book is still jammed full with extremely well crafted rules and additions. Inserting Martial Arts Mayhem into your d20 modern game is easy; these rules will slide seamlessly into place.