Fist of the Assassin is a martial arts rpg idea I've been kicking around for too long. It's been one of those "always in development, but never really in development" things, a game I always come back to and mess around with.
The blurb goes like this:
Fist of the Assassin
A game about Life, Death, and Kung Fu
It has always existed, just beyond the reach of civilization. It can be felt at the crossroads, on a storm-tossed ship at sea, in a windswept desert, and at the heart of an uprising.
It is home to heroes, masters, and boxers, to cultists, revolutionaries, and assassins, to villains, demons, and ghosts.
It is the martial world.
And it is your home.
A few months ago, I put together a rough draft document (thanks to some kind comments about the game made by Jonathan Walton), and I got some useful feedback in this thread started by Lukas Myhan at Story Games. At the time I got swept up in Game Chef and failed to respond properly to the thread, but I'm still thinking about revisions to account for the problems in the game as it stands right now.
The draft folks were working with is here.
The main current problem is pretty simple: the only smart thing to do is to turtle. There are too many defensive options and not enough offensive options. I've considered solutions that are based on reducing the number of options in play and handing them out by martial art style: so at base, the game might use only the numbers on the cards -- only simple, single card attacks and dodges. Suits are ignored. Then your style might give you a few strong attacks by allowing certain suits to be active for you. These strong attacks couldn't be dodged normally: they could only be stopped by playing blocks (cards of matching suits). Different styles would have access to different sets of strong suits and block suits. Combinations and reversals would be similarly restricted: you'd only get access to combinations and reversals for certain suits, ones granted by your style.
The advantage of this is to make styles matter in a fairly straightforward way. One disadvantage is that it ramps up the complexity of the core system, increasing how much you need to track to play the game. I'm not sure yet if it's a working solution.
Combinations need a buff up too, regardless of what is done with the styles. Right now, my idea for combinations is to make them more effective by stating that they cannot be dodged or blocked. Only a "reversal" (card of both higher rank and matching suit") could stop them, and it would only cancel them out -- not act as a counter-attack as it would against a single card. I think this helps offset the weakness of attacks, but only partially. I'm still working on the implications.