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Inspired by the golden age of martial arts movies, Fight to Survive is an action-packed tabletop RPG with a time-skipping twist

Martial arts through the ages.

A new tabletop RPG will see players fight through the ages in a world inspired by the greats of action-movie cinema.

Fight to Survive’s focus on martial arts draws from the action movies of influential Hong Kong studios Shaw Brothers and Golden Harvest, known for their key role in the careers of stars such as Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, as well as influential 1970s releases including The 36th Chamber of Shaolin. Creator James Kerr cites ‘80s Jean-Claude Van Damme vehicle Bloodsport and Wong Yuk-long’s long-running comic series Oriental Heroes as central influences on the RPG.

The upcoming RPG uses a diceless system to capture the sparring nature of hand-to-hand fights. Players compare moves in a format akin to rock-paper-scissors, with specific moves counteracting or besting others before assigning a number to the strength of each successful blow.

Instead of taking damage as hit points, characters take on harm and hardship, representing the increasing toll of fighting. When either harm or hardship passes a given limit, the character is removed from the game. Hardship can be reduced through comforts, such as people and places, specific to each character.

Rather than individual playthroughs taking place immediately after one another, Fight to Survive introduces an in-game time skip that sees sessions jump up to three years within the setting’s timeline. Influenced by the generation-spanning storytelling of Greg Stafford’s epic Arthurian fantasy RPG Pendragon, Kerr said that players could play a single character across several decades, or swap between multiple characters as the 20th century progresses.

The time-skipping martial arts of Fight to Survive may put some players in mind of Sifu, the beat-’em-up video game released earlier this year in which the main character ages with each in-game death. (Here's what our friends at Eurogamer thought.) Kerr acknowledged the comparison to the recent release’s use of time jumps, but stated that Fight to Survive’s gameplay rules were completed several years ago, so Sifu had not been a direct influence on the tabletop RPG.

Fight to Survive is currently live on Kickstarter, aiming to crowdfund a digital PDF and print-on-demand physical book for release this summer. According to Kerr, the Kickstarter will also fund a number of sensitivity readers to ensure the RPG’s fictional setting of Metro City - described as “a kind of North American Hong Kong” inhabited by citizens from a number of cultures and backgrounds - and its allusions to real historical events are depicted correctly.

“The material walks a tightrope when dealing with matters of immigration, and social and economic oppression,” Kerr acknowledged, adding that several cultural consultants were in line to read over the book before its release.

“I really want Fight to Survive to present its subject matter with respect and care, and this is something I'm taking very seriously.”

Kerr revealed plans to follow the standalone core rulebook with at least five expansion books and additional adventures, offering further detail on the timeline of Metro City, a roster of period-appropriate playable characters, information on specific martial arts forms and extra settings for players to use in their games.


About the Author

Matt Jarvis avatar

Matt Jarvis

Editor-in-chief, Dicebreaker

After starting his career writing about music, films and video games for various places, Matt spent many years as a technology, PC and video game journalist before writing about tabletop games as the editor of Tabletop Gaming magazine. He joined Dicebreaker as editor-in-chief in 2019, and has been trying to convince the rest of the team to play Diplomacy since.

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