There is a difference in the types of combat found in Street Fighter and Ranma 1/2. Street fighters quickly realized that they were in an arena with a time limit and that the best way to defeat an opponent was to use a barrage of special maneuvers. In Ranma 1/2 however there are rarely any arenas and even more rarely any rules. Thus, combatants have developed different methods of combat. The Street Fighter source book only felt it necessary to distinguish between two types of actions : basic and special maneuvers. In Ranma 1/2 however there is a bit more of a complexity as more options are open to the characters. Also, some distinctions are necessary merely to understand the nature of the training a martial artist goes through.
What is a basic action? It is any action that we learn that does not require a methodological process to achieve the action. Basic actions are so simple that we usually can achieve them reflexively. These include actions such as walking or talking, actions which we might screw up every rare now and then but rarely indeed.
For a martial artist a basic action can also involve simple actions such as punches or jumps. In game terms a basic action can be achieved automatically though you will still have to roll for degree of success. For example : Ryouga can automatically punch at the wall but he still has to roll his strength to see how much damage he has done. Basic actions are those that are automatically accomplished, if any rolls are needed it is only for degree of success. Often this is even unnecessary.
Complex actions are those that must be done in methodical steps. Some are basic actions with secondary factors such as Ryouga punching a wall. Ryouga isn't doing anything special while trying to hit the wall but if he was aiming at a specific point it would become a complex action. Also, some actions such as leg sweeps which actually require several sequential actions to accomplish it are inherently complex.
Complex actions can be defined as actions that require rolls for acheiving success. Like basic actions some complex actions also require checking for degree of success. For example, the resulting action of a leg sweep is acheived by gravity not the martial artist so the success roll is also the indicator of degree of success. However, if the opponent was actively defending the Storyteller might rule that a contested strength roll was also necessary to determine degree of success.
Complex actions can be attempted with an attribute + technique or ability dice pool.
By definition a special maneuver is any action which the player purchases for a character with Power Points. Essentially Special Maneuvers are complex actions that the character has trained in so intensely that they can now perform it flawlessly and exactly the same every time. Some even utilize willpower and/or chi to accomplish actions normally impossible as complex actions. All special maneuvers are considered automatic actions, as if they had four successes. Because these actions are always performed the exact same way they can never gain any bonuses. Adds can never be used with special maneuvers.
So, why not just buy everything as Special Maneuvers so that you can't screw up? Well, there are several reasons. The first is that power points are expensive so you have to use them sparingly. Some things may just not be important enough to you to buy as Special Maneuvers. Secondly, most Special Maneuvers draw on the martial artist's life for and spending that should be a careful decision. That willpower point you spent in that pointless Spinning Foot Sweep could have made the difference if you had had it later for a Dragon Punch.
Normally anybody can attempt any complex action that they have at least one die in a dice pool for. The exception is actions that "violate" reality. Joe Schmoe can't just stand around and randomly try to toss fireballs. The exception to this rule is someone who already knows how to execute a Special Maneuver. Why would you want to do this? Well, although a Special Maneuver means that you will not fail it also means that you can not achieve exceptional success. There are times you might need to do this, such as Ryu's legendary scaring of Sagat's chest with a Dragon Punch. On these occasions adds can be used with the improvised maneuvers and characters can attempt to alter them in minor ways. Remember, just as you try for exceptional success you also risk failure. Chi and Willpower must be spent just as if they were attempting the special maneuver.
Now I must state that I fibbed a little earlier. Someone can attempt to improvise a maneuver they do not already know but such strenous actvity requires them to have at least a four in the Focus technique. This should be considered extremely dangerous. So why would someone want to do this? Well, sometimes there isn't a sensei to take you through the process of a technique. Ronins, those without masters, must learn from observation and experimentation. And others simply want to develop an ability no one has ever heard of before. For the ronin the more observation they do of a given maneuver the less risk they entail. The risk inherit in developing a new maneuver is the reason only masters of an art usually attempt it.
As a general rule the non-combatant should avoid physical conflict. One reason for this is that the character is unlikely to believe in physical force as a solution for conflicts. The second reason is that they will probably get their ass kicked. However there are times when one is forced to fight.
While combatants purchase techniques non-combatants are restricted to buying skills such as Judo or Karate. Thus while the combatant martial artist learns the basic theory of his form the non-combatant is only learning exercises and structured practices. This means that the true martial artist is free to improvise and use their techniques to develop unique maneuvers and master the special maneuvers which can _only_ be done with an understanding of the theories themselves. Those using the martial arts Skills however (non-combatants) are limited to the actions they are trained in for their appropriate level of expertise.
Most attempted actions will use Agility (or Quickness) + a Technique dice pool. Their martial arts Skills, and their level in them will determine the complexity and kinds of actions they can attempt.
There are six new techniques available for character purchase. See chapter ten for more information about how these are used. These techniques are oriented for use by characters using weapons in combat though they can be possessed by anyone. Some people are foolish enough to believe that Entangle and Parry are only useful in armed duels but skilled weapon users can use them as easily against an unarmed opponent as an armed combatant.
Throwing - the use of kenetic force to project a weapon through space whether it be a knife or a couch
Level 1 : Novice The softball doens't go very far. Level 2 : Practiced The baseball gets over home plate. Level 3 : Competent You have a wicked curveball. Level 4 : Expert Knives and other irregular shaped objects are no problem. Level 5 : Master Even playing cards can be deadly in you hands.
Parry - the deflecting an attack or redirecting of kenetic force
Level 1 : Novice You can slap away a very slow moving fist. Level 2 : Practiced You're ok but basically still blocking. Level 3 : Competent You're good at re-directing momentum. Level 4 : Expert You can bounce bullets back at people. Level 5 : Master They only hope they're punching you.
Entangle - the use of an object(s) to impede a target's free movement
Level 1 : Novice That butterfly net is pretty cool. Level 2 : Practiced Capturing moths in your hands. Level 3 : Competent You can make extra money catching flying fish with nets. Level 4 : Expert You use rubber bands to catch flys. Level 5 : Master The entire Swedish Bikini Team?!?! Well, if anyone can do it, its you.
Slashing - the performing of broad motions with an object
these usually cause great damage but leave the user open to attack
Level 1 : Novice You watch slasher horror films. Level 2 : Practiced Mom won't let you near knives. You are learning how to put force behind swings. Level 3 : Competent A scapel in your hands is deadly. You are now learning control. Level 4 : Expert Lorenna Bobbit. Level 5 : Master That bokken will shatter rock.
Thrusting - extending an object forward in order to project it at a specific point
Level 1 : Novice Poke, poke, poke. You learn arm positioning and movement. Level 2 : Practiced Jab, jab. You really annoy the other kids. You can give bruises; learning control and speed. Level 3 : Competent Stab, stab, stab. Pencils can do more than put eyes out. You have learned precision. Level 4 : Expert The Human Hole Puncher. You make money writing punch card instructions manually. Level 5 : Master Acupuncture? That's too clumsy.
Feint - the twisting of a weapon in a hand, repositioning it.
mainly a strategy technique
Level 1 : Novice You drop your bokken a lot. Level 2 : Practiced You come up with some evil ping pong tricks, using two texture paddles. Level 3 : Competent The hand is quicker than the eye. Level 4 : Expert "You think my weapon is trapped? I don't think it is....." Level 5 : Master A mere twist of your hand can throw an opponent's weapon.