An RPG of heartbreaking, struggling, mundane, down-and-dirty martial artists in the 20th century. It seeks to capture the spirit of 20th century martial arts action cinema, with all its sincerity and emotion. It's a game about tough guys and ferocious gals in low-stakes adventures of down-to-earth urban try-and-die martial arts where most situations are violent and usually end in sadness.

Nominated for the 2023 Indie Groundbreaker "Best Setting" award!

Frail heroes in a desperate world.

Throwing punches.

Throwing kicks.

Throwing away their lives.

Fight to Survive Book With Splayed Pages

Fight to Survive includes:

  • 1 complete, original, set of easy-to-learn rules
  • 5 ready-made fighters
  • 50+ martial arts
  • 30+ opponents
  • 10 districts in New Hope City
  • 100 years of martial history and lore
  • 3 years of pre-made adventures
  • Shawscope full-colour interior

Take a foray onto the mean streets of New Hope City where your guts and your fists are all you have to fight, survive.

The Game Banner

System at a Glance

For the system junkies out there, Fight to Survive is:

  • Multi-generational: Each game session advances the in-game calendar by one to three years. While it is possible to hold on to a single PC throughout most of the century, it is equally possible to go through a series of characters, exploring the 20th century through a martial lineage.
  • Rules-medium: The weight of these rules are a firm “medium” in terms of their crunch and complexity, if we take the current iteration of the world’s most popular RPG as being rules medium-to-heavy.
  • Theatre of the Mind: No maps, and no miniatures needed, however, you may want to refer to a map of New Hope City from time to time.

Mechanics at a Glance

  • Fights & Other Conflicts: The outcome of fights is determined by comparing moves, with certain moves trumping others, back and forth until there’s a winner—kind of like rock-paper-scissors. The system is diceless, with all other conflict resolution using a comparison of relevant numbers with the highest number winning.
  • Harm & Hardship: There are no “hit points”. Instead, Harm and Hardship—metrics that describe the lousiness of a PC’s life—are governed by a complex series of checkboxes and brackets. If either of these meters are exceeded, the character exits the game.
  • Comforts: These are the people, places, and things a character seeks out to make them feel better. Keep in good with your Comforts to make sure you can rely on them to reduce your Hardship.

Setting at a Glance

  • The Mundane and the Sad: This game is not a power fantasy. Stakes are personal and low. Fight to Survive runs on a vicious cycle of street fights and misery. The only way out is to die, go crazy, or pass on the cycle of violence to the next generation.
  • Historical Accuracy: Historical events relevant to the “Martial World” are important, but Fight to Survive fiddles with the details. Events that actually happened across the continent—in New York, San Francisco, or Toronto—instead happen in the single fictional location of New Hope City, located “where-ever west”. New Hope City acts as a kind of North American Hong Kong, a tremendous hub of cultural diversity where all things intersect.
  • Character Diversity: Districts in New Hope City act as cultural and economic boundaries. Accordingly, the game is ripe for exploring issues of systemic oppression, racism, colonialism, and social and economic hardship. Even if your group doesn’t want to tackle those issues, the game in no way assumes middle-class, straight, white, male, European-descended, American protagonists. A plethora of distinct cultural voices and backgrounds works best and is more in keeping with the state of martial arts throughout the 20th century, anyway.

Inspiration Banner

Design Goals

In brief, my design goals were pretty specific with Fight to Survive. I wanted a system:

  • About martial arts where the players didn’t have to know martial arts in order to play and enjoy it, but which would also give people who know martial arts the ability to make meaningful choices.
  • Where fighting feels like how getting into a fight really feels. This game does not seek to emulate reality, but rather to achieve a feeling of verisimilitude, so there are a number of potentially counter-intuitive design decisions intended to get you into the right head-space and give you choices indicative of the game’s wider themes.
  • That captures the melodramatic emotional side of martial arts movies mechanically relevant to a table-top RPG experience.

Fight to Survive Title Banner

Format 5.5 x 8.5 softcover
Type Core Rules
Pages 330
Rule System/Engine Fight to Survive - a diceless rules medium engine

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Fight to Survive: Martial Arts Meets Heart

  • £27.00

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Tags: Radio James Games, Martial Arts, Dice-less, Kung-Fu, Action Films, Groundbreaker