The Art of Fighting Section 10: Vis - Part 2

Copyright Johs. Sondrup © 2012

Edited by Peter Mork for The Guild Companion

"The practitioner may brush, knead, roll/press and rub the areas between each of the joints to open the body's flow of Vis."

Editor's Note: The following is the tenth in a series of 13 articles that enhance the combat rules for Rolemaster (RM2). It is our intention to publish another article in this series every month for the next year. This month's article completes the discussion of vis, a pervasive life energy that can fuel extraordinary abilities. Next month we turn our attention to skills, including martial arts styles and formation fighting.

Vis Technique

Vis Technique is a specialized form of meditation designed to concentrate a person's Vis using energy-channeling hand positions. Unless stated in the description of a Martial Arts Style, Vis Technique can only be learned by finding a teacher willing to teach the character.

Each hand posture is called a technique. That means that the character has to use both hands, which have to be empty. It also makes it obvious that the character is using Vis Technique.

Vis Techniques are rolled like all other meditations with a static action roll modified by the characters bonus in Vis Technique and the technique's difficulty modifier. It takes time to meditate before the technique is activated. This time is shown below in the time to activate column.

Techniques also use Vis-points, as noted below. Please note that the technique is not active until the meditation time is complete, but once activated the duration is 15 minutes per level, unless otherwise noted. The character can end a technique at any time, unless the description says otherwise. Vis Calligraphy? indicates if the Vis power can be used with Vis calligraphy. See Vis Calligraphy for more details about Vis calligraphy.

*Calligraphy Note: When using Vis calligraphy, the duration is determined by the Vis-points the artist spent when making the Vis calligraphy. If a Vis power has a duration, most artists will place enough Vis-points in the calligraphy for it to be used for at least two rounds (or minutes, if the duration is determined in minutes), but there is no way of knowing how many Vis-points the artist has used, unless it's noted somewhere on the paper.

Vis Technique Time to Activate Difficulty Vis-points Duration Vis Calligraphy? Description
Cleansing 1 minute -20 3/minute *Most artists place at least nine Vis-points in the calligraphy. Similar to Karmic Purge, this Vis technique is designed to cleanse the body, but unlike the Vis power it is aimed more on possessing entities and parasites, than on toxins and diseases. For each minute this technique is activated, all foreign entities must make a RR with a - 20 penalty or be ejected from the character.
Clean the Mind 1 minute -10 1 Yes This Vis technique is designed to clean the mind of fear or confusion. Penalties for either are negated. This includes phobias of various kinds. While the technique is maintained, the character gets a +25 bonus to all RRs against attacks that cause fear or confusion, including dragon fear and demon fear. This power can only be used with positive Vis.
Cold Protection 1 minute -50 8 1 minute per level Yes While maintaining this Vis technique the character is somewhat protected from supernatural cold. This gives a +20 bonus against all spells involving ice or cold (+20 DB against elemental spells and deduct 20 from all Cold criticals).
Earth Blood 1 minute -40 3 Yes If this Vis technique is activated within an Earth Node or Ley Line, the character can absorb one PP per minute while this technique is maintained. If the character absorbs more power points than his maximum, he will suffer from burnout.
Fire Protection 1 minute -50 8 1 minute per level Yes While maintaining this Vis technique the character is somewhat protected from supernatural heat and flames. This gives a +20 bonus against all spells involving heat or flames (+20 DB against elemental spells and deduct 20 from all Heat criticals).
Food of the Forest 1 minute -10 4 Yes Using Vis, the character is able to draw nutrition (both food and water) from the ground like a tree. It takes 15 minutes spent in meditation, which must be done in a place where the soil can support trees and the character must be seated on the ground while meditating. This power can only be used with positive Vis.
Insulate Body (Protection against Electricity) 1 minute -50 8 1 minute per level Yes While maintaining this Vis technique the character is somewhat protected from supernatural electricity. This gives a +20 bonus against all spells involving electricity (+20 DB against elemental spells and deduct 20 from all Electricity criticals).
Iron Mind (Protection against Mental attacks) 1 minute -40 8 1 minute per level Yes This Vis technique is designed to protect the mind against any attacks or outside influences. While maintained, the character has a +50 bonus against any kind of magical or psionic mind attacks and direct mind-to-mind communication. The drawback of this technique is that the character cannot engage in combat or any other form of hard physical activity.
Keeping the Vis 1 minute -20 5 2 per round *Most artists place at least ten Vis-points in the calligraphy. By strengthening the Vis inside the body, the character can protect it from the negative Vis of undead. This translates into a +30 bonus to RRs against Con drain. This power can only be used with positive Vis.
Magic Energy 2 minutes -40 9 Yes This Vis technique converts Vis into magical power that can be used to cast spells. For every two Vis-points used, one PP is gained. The amount of power points gained cannot exceed the character's normal amount. (In some settings, where Channeling users get their power points from the gods, this might not be appropriate for Channeling power points, but only for Arcane, Essence or Mentalism power.) This can be reversed to gain Vis from power points. For every two PP used in this way, one Vis-point is gained. As before, the amount of Vis gained cannot exceed the character's normal amount.
Magic Protection 1 minute - 40 5 1 minute per level Yes At the time of activation, the character decides on a realm and while this Vis technique is active, the character has a +25 bonus to RRs against that realm.
Mental Energy 2 minutes -40 9 Yes This technique converts Vis into psionic power that can be used to cast psions. For every two Vis-points used, one psion PP is gained. The amount of psionic power points gained cannot exceed the character's normal amount. This can be reversed to gain Vis from psionic power points. For every two PP used in this way, one Vis-point is gained. As before, the amount of Vis gained cannot exceed the character's normal amount.
Peace of Mind 1 minute -10 1 Yes This Vis technique enables the character to ignore noise from the outside world and concentrate on meditation, without loosing his awareness of the surroundings. This means that the character can meditate right next to people who train without being disturbed, but still being able to react if anything happens. This is often the first technique taught to students.
Power Nap 2 minutes -20 4 Yes By using Vis, the character is able to refresh himself as if he had a good night's sleep in just two hours. There is a limit to this, as PP of any kind are not restored.
Purge the Body 2 minutes -30 3 Yes This Vis technique enables the user to cleanse the body of toxins and diseases. All toxins and diseases in the character's system must resist versus the characters level at -30 or be destroyed. Magical infections or diseases get a RR against the character's level.
Soul Protection 1 minute -30 4 2 minutes per level Yes While the Vis technique is maintained, the character gets a +25 bonus to all RRs against attacks that cause the soul to be banished or driven out of the body.
Tough Body 1 minute -60 12 + 1 per 10 hit points 5 minutes per level *Most artists place at least twenty Vis-points in the calligraphy. By strengthening the flow of Vis in his body, the character is able to take more damage than he normally could. For each Vis-point used this way beyond the 12 needed to activate this power, the character is able to take an additional 10 hits. These extra hits cannot exceed his normal hits. E.g., if the character has 110 hits, then he can spend up to 23 Vis-points to gain 110 additional hits. The hits gained from Tough Body are deducted before the character's own hit points.
Trance of Clay 2 minutes -30 2 per hour 2 hours per level No This Vis technique allows the character to enter a death-like trance in which he cannot move. During the trance the character need not breathe and needs no food or water. It takes 1 minute to get out of the trance.
Trance of Stone 4 minutes -50 3 per hour 3 hours per level No This Vis technique allows the character to enter a death-like trance in which he cannot move. During the trance the character need not breathe, does not need any food or water and does not age. In this state only the character's sense of hearing functions. All other senses are shut down. It takes 4 minutes to get out of the trance.
Trance of Trees 1 minute -20 1 per hour 1 hour per level *Most artists place at least eight Vis-points in the calligraphy. This Vis technique allows the character to enter a death-like trance in which he cannot move. During this trance the character takes only one shallow breath per minute and needs no food or water. The amount of air the character uses while in this trance is one tenth of normal. It takes 3 rounds to get out of the trance.

Vis Calligraphy

Vis calligraphy is a special form of calligraphy, wherein the artist stores Vis powers and techniques in written form on a special kind of paper, known as Vis-paper. Vis-paper is designed to be burned and as it burns it releases the power or technique to the person holding the paper. Burning the Vis-paper takes one round (10 seconds), but any activation times must still be observed.

Making Vis Calligraphy

While Vis calligraphy might look like magic, the only power in them is Vis. Therefore, it takes no spells to create Vis calligraphy, only the power (Draw Vis Calligraphy), skill (at least one rank of Crafting - Calligraphy per Vis-point to be stored), time (one hour per Vis-point), and Vis. The Artist must have the Vis power or technique that he is writing down.

Example:
An 8th level scholar, with 15 ranks of Crafting - Calligraphy (+76), 10 ranks of Meditation - Vis (+70) and the Draw Vis Calligraphy power, decides to make Vis Calligraphy. He knows the techniques Iron Mind and Healing Vis and has 24 Vis-points. First, he buys some Vis-paper from the local store, at the cost of one silver per piece of paper. Then, he sits down by his writing table, takes out his calligraphy set and starts working on the Iron Mind Vis technique. After five rounds of preparation, he activates the Draw Vis Calligraphy power, using 6 Vis-points. The roll is 36, which is added to the bonus of 70 and then 50 more is added for the preparation time, for a total of 156. Even with the -30 difficulty modifier for Draw Vis Calligraphy, the total result is 126 and a success. Then it's time for the Calligraphy skill roll. The roll is 54 for a total of 130 - a success. Iron Mind costs 8 Vis-points, so for the next 8 hours, the artist carefully inscribes the sign for the technique on the Vis-paper, spending 8 Vis in the process (for a total of 14 Vis-points). After that, the Vis calligraphy is done.

Using Vis Calligraphy

Using Vis calligraphy doesn't take any skill beyond that of setting fire to a piece of paper. Vis paper burns easily and once on fire it will be consumed in 10 seconds, releasing the Vis in the predetermined way. If the Vis calligraphy in the example were used, it would start in the round after the Vis-paper was burned, but because Iron Mind has an activation time of 2 minutes, the person activating it must still concentrate for two minutes, before the benefits of Iron Mind kick in. The level of the Vis calligraphy is the same as the level of the creator at the time he or she created it. It is entirely possible for a character to activate a Vis calligraphy whose effect the character doesn't know.

In game settings treat Vis calligraphy the same way as you treat runes: It is up to the GM to decide on availability. In low magic settings, it is recommended that Draw Vis Calligraphy be restricted to non-player characters. Another way of regulating Vis calligraphy is by making Vis-paper more or less rare and or expensive. The cost of Vis-paper should be at least one silver per piece of paper, with the cost of a finished Vis calligraphy being no less than 3 silver.

Vis and Healing

As Vis is the life-force of a person, it is vital in healing and the knowledge of affecting the flow of Vis in the body greatly influence the health of a person.

For each rank of Meditation-Vis add +1 to the character's RRs vs. non-magical diseases.

In traditional Chinese medicine, the body is seen as a delicate balance of two opposing and inseparable forces: yin and yang. Yin represents cold, slow, or passive aspects of the person, while yang represents hot, excited, or active aspects. A major theory is that health is achieved through balancing yin and yang and disease is caused by an imbalance leading to a blockage or disturbance in the flow of Vis in the body. There are also some Special Attacks (in a future article) that can affect the flow of Vis in the body and the only way for others to treat them is by using Vis-related healing. There are many forms for treatment, but only three of them are used in this system.

Zhongyao: Chinese Herb Lore

Zhongyao is an important aspect of traditional Chinese medicine. Each herbal medicine prescription is a cocktail of many herbs tailored to the individual patient. The practitioner usually designs a remedy using one or two main ingredients that target the illness and then adds many other ingredients to adjust the formula to the patient's yin/yang conditions. Sometimes, ingredients are needed to cancel out toxicity or side-effects of the main ingredients and the balance and interaction of all the ingredients are considered more important than the effect of individual ingredients. A key to success in Zhongyao is the treatment of each patient as an individual, which also means that medicine that works for one patient, might not work for another patient. Note: This skill is Herb Lore, adjusted for culture.

Zhen Jiu: Acupuncture

Practiced in China and other Asian countries (especially Korea and Japan) for thousands of years, acupuncture is one of the key components of traditional Chinese medicine. The theory is that many illnesses are caused by a slowing or blocking of the flow of Vis in the body. Vis can be unblocked by using acupuncture at certain points on the body that connect with these meridians. Sources vary on the number of meridians, with numbers ranging from 14 to 20. One commonly cited source describes meridians as 14 main channels "connecting the body in a web-like interconnecting matrix" of at least 2,000 acupuncture points. Most of the main acupuncture points are found on the "twelve main meridians", which are described in classical and traditional Chinese medical texts as pathways through which Vis and Blood flow. Other tender points (known as "ashi points") may also be needled as they are believed to be stagnation points. The movement of Vis through each of the twelve channels comprises an internal and an external pathway. The external pathway is what is normally shown on an acupuncture chart and is relatively superficial. All of the acupuncture points of a channel lie on its external pathway. The internal pathways are the deep course of the channel where it enters the body cavities and related organs. The superficial pathways of the twelve channels describe three complete circuits of the body. Note: This skill is Second Aid, adjusted for culture.

Tui na: Massage

Tui na is a hands-on-body treatment using acupressure to bring the body into balance. The practitioner may brush, knead, roll/press and rub the areas between each of the joints (known as the eight gates) to open the body's flow of Vis and get the energy moving in both the meridians and the muscles. Tui na methods include the use of hand techniques to massage the soft tissue (muscles and tendons) of the body, acupressure techniques to directly affect the flow of Vis , and manipulation techniques to realign the musculoskeletal relationships. Tui na is an integral part of traditional Chinese medicine and is taught in schools as part of formal training in Oriental medicine. Many martial arts schools also teach Tui na to their advanced students for the treatment and management of injury and pain due to training. Note: This skill is Craft-Massage, adjusted for culture.

Game Considerations

There are several ways of using Vis-abilities in the game and some considerations that should be made before using them. Perhaps the most important consideration is how the use of Vis-abilities will affect the setting. The use of Vis-abilities should not really upset the balance in a setting that uses the RM2 spell system because Vis-abilities are relatively low powered and require the use of skills. The disrupting aspect is that Vis-abilities cannot be detected by magic, which will tend to make spell-users paranoid. Vis can, however, be detected by people with Vis-Awareness, which can be an important part of a plot or story.

Some of the Vis-abilities might seem high-powered, but spells can do the same for fewer power points and at a lower level, except for a few of the powers that cost a lot of Vis, like Demon Grip, and these generally have a large difficulty modifier . Vis-abilities can also be used in a low-magic setting instead of magic or as special powers in a martial arts setting, where the character can search for Vis powers and techniques as a special reward/treasure. Vis-abilities are also well-suited for Manga-style and for Space Master in a Star Wars setting.