Fight to Survive and Chasing Reality
Updated: Mar 6
The development blog of table-top role-playing game "Fight to Survive: Martial Arts Meets Heart" by James Kerr
Fight to Survive is a ttrpg about fighting, born partially out of a dissatisfaction with how martial arts and unarmed combat is treated in all other ttrpgs. There was a big hole, I felt, in the table-top experience where it came to fighting actually feel like being in a fight. Fighting, in reality, is an ugly, sickening thing, both exhilarating in the moment and fear-numbing. How do you emulate something decidedly not-fun, where the goal is to have fun?
Fight to Survive does not present itself to be “real”. Or represent what “really happens” in a fist fight. It does try to responsibly track the repercussions of violence in great detail, and—perhaps more ambitiously—to chase the complicated, upsetting feeling of being in a fight. It’s messy, it’s cruel. You fear for your health or your life. For some people it’s a glorious event, and for other people they just want to escape. For most it’s both.
A “real” fight is embarrassing. Nobody feels good about it; not the winner or the loser, if those distinctions even exist. People sometimes build up a framework of pride around violence, but it’s a sham. People don’t want to hurt other people. When they do, it’s out of their own pain, shame, and insecurities. If there is any such thing as a “warrior’s spirit”, I’ve never seen it. Most fights I’ve been in, or I’ve seen, or I’ve otherwise known, have been the culmination of bad choices, something jumping the gap to unfortunate violence, and everyone comes away with as many emotional wounds as physical, and spends ten times longer than the fight itself brooding over it, picking it apart, and nursing their heart. Humans are emotional animals.
So why on earth do we want to go through all that in a RPG? Well, there are other considerations for a fight. Competition is fun. The matching of skill under almost any context is great sport.
The second big reason for going through all this is the fictional sentiment of glorious martial heroism. I want this game to be an overlapping venn diagram between how miserable violence can be (and how addictive that is) and the attractive nature of the false god that is represented in martial arts fiction.
Are martial arts movies responsible with the ramifications of violence? No. But if we were to be absolutely responsible with the ramifications of violence, a fluke punch can rob you of your sense of smell; a fall down the stares because you were carrying a load of laundry can mess up your back; the wrong twist of your neck on incoming pressure and you can die, immediately die. Humans bodies are fragile. There is no need to emulate the repercussions of violence with the true severity of reality. However, I think there’s a lot of middle-ground to explore.
Fight to Survive offers us an opportunity to explore violence, both doling it out and its effects, in a way that is both glorious and fun in a genre-emulating sense, and makes you think about the impacts of it in a (more or less) emotional sense. You can see the strings, you can see the stage, but by its design choices the idea is that you feel the reality of it. This is all shadows on a cave wall anyway, so it does not have to aspire to be as close to reality as possible. It can pick a safe distance, and from there—in full admittance of what it is—make an emotional impact through your imagined perceptions.
That's the idea, anyway.
Fight to Survive's Kickstarter is currently in pre-launch, and you can sign up to be notified of its launch here.