The origins of Five Morph Kung Fu are deliberately shrouded in mystery. Exalted Morph Lords may know the origins, but they aren't sharing and actively discourage research in the area. Some scholars suggest it developed from any of several Old Earth martial arts schools that moved off-world during the early Diaspora, or one of the many minor Penglai sects and secret societies that left their home world. Another hypothesis is that they were simply one of many small mercenary guilds, and that only later they developed a mystical overlay.
Five Morph Cosmology
Five Morph martial philosophy rests on the concept of ch'i. In Neotaoist philosophy it is believed that the whole universe is pervaded by ch'i, life force or energy. Ch'i could be built up by a martial arts style. The amount of chi that a martial artist can access is dependent on his skill in that style and how complex a style it is. With chi properly channeled, a sufficiently skilled martial artist can achieve incredible physical feats. Ch'i that pervades the universe takes on five archetypal attributes, as defined in the Five States of Change, or Wu Xing,
Neotaoism, sees reality as a complex system of systems, interlocking processes that create new forms according to certain emergent rules. This is at the root of Five Morph, with the martial artists modifying themselves, perfecting themselves with respect to each of the Five States as a morph. Since technology has evolved into five major areas, the neotaoists (and Five Morph practitioners in particular) they have found correspondences between the states and the technologies, allowing each morph to specialize.
The correspondences between morph, state and technology are shown in the following table.
Every team of Five Morph fighters is called a Cell, always with five fighters, and each fighter could be one of five possible configurations. These configurations, or Morphs, are Negotiator, Battleborg, Infiltrator, Berserker and Mesh-hacker. Each configuration corresponds to one of the five Old Chinese States of Change, to a particular weapon type, fighting style and technology.
|Direction||Galactic Center||Counter-spinwards||Spinward||Galactic North||Galactic South|
|Appearance||Charismatic & androgynous||Massive, intimidating androgynous male||Athletic feminine female||Robust masculine male||Gracile androgynous female|
|Favored Weapon||Meme||Heavy ordnance||Phage||Close quarters weapon, disease and poison||ECM & computer virus|
|Offensive Style||Negotiation, deception and surprise||Overwhelm||Stealth & treachery||Speed & close quarters||Deception & systems perversion|
|Defensive Style||Negotiation, escape & evasion||Armor & countermeasures||Escape, evasion & countermeasures||Adapt, endure & escape||ECCM & security|
The Chinese have their own variant on the knight-errant, called the xieh. The xieh is a knight and swashbuckler, but differs from the knight in his lustiness, and the swashbuckler in his viciousness. An expert fighter, he will pursue the vendettas of the wronged, steal from the rich and give to the poor, and will fight tirelessly against tyranny. He will also get blind drunk in the filthiest dives, make unwelcome advances upon his preferred gender, and "mercy" is not in his vocabulary.
Central to Five Morph training and mastery was the ability to change between each Morph, so as to master each. This involves tremendous somatic transformation, including surgical procedures, and there were few morphs who became adept in more than two or three. Those who mastered all Five Morphs were revered teachers, known as Morph Lords. Until recently (fifteen hundred years ago) only a Morph Lord was allowed to initiate a new Morph Cell.
The Late Diaspora and early Settlement eras were the high point for the Five Morph. Since settlement often outran legal jurisdictions, the governments and corporations o of the era often needed muscle that could deal with any situation, and do it in a way that ensured things did not splash over the local media the following day…or fifty years later for that matter. More even than their mutability and efficiency, the code of honor the Five Morph followed made them attractive. The Five Morph could be relied on never to betray their employers. All cell members carried an explosive charge, phage capsule, one shot inversion bomb, or some other nasty device, which would be detonated upon capture, killing not only the Morph but their captors as well. Small isolated communities also found that they could hire a Five Morph cell to defend them against criminals, rivals, and raiders when the local authorities proved incompetent or lacked the jurisdiction to act.
Popular interactives elevated the Five Morph into sympathetic anti-heroes, overcoming all odds and all opponents to achieve their goals, or sacrificing themselves heroically for honor. Their employers would often play on this meme - whoever employs Morph is a good guy as well.
The reality was more complex. Five Morph fighters frequently carried out criminal acts for their employers. Some were sometimes criminals (either actual or ideological), and faced heavy penalties and extended prison terms by local authorities. In fact, many of them prosecuted anyone who hired a Five Morph cell and any of their known associates. This only added to the appeal of the Five Morph, as these governments were seen as uninterested in the fate of the common man.
Soon, budding martial artists everywhere wanted to learn Five Morph Kung Fu, and new Cells were growing up everywhere, as the style grew in power and wealth. The Five Morph in fact became so rich they could afford their own interstellar travel, and it was not unknown for a Morph Cell to defend a harassed colony without even asking any payment from the grateful colonists.
The Five Morph are reluctant to use mechanical implants because they believe that implants interfere with the flow of ch'i and the reflexes of a fighter. Instead they use symbiotes, drugs, nanotech and especially bionanotech Still, the Battleborg with its armored body enhancements and heavy weapons requires cybernetic implants. In that case the fighter uses special exercises, involving visualization and the circulation of ch'i energy, to reroute the body's natural ch'i flow to circumvent the blockages and master the implants.
The popular image is that no Cell would fight another Cell, and while it may have been true in the beginning, by the start of the 3rd millennium post Diaspora, the Cells would indeed fight each other. The reasons ranged from employer, causes, revenge for actions by a cell, to the schools that each Cell trained in.
Masters of the Five Morph art are still found throughout the civilized universe, where the majority teach a modernist Five Morph as a means of somatic self-mastery and self defense. A minority continue to secretly teach it as military art and practice it as such.
However, the Five Morph Guild distributes a list of accredited Cells and it is strongly recommended that anyone interested in approaching the Art should access this first. Guild Membership is highly prized and displayed among Morph teachers, as it is a seal of authenticity. And if that weren't enough, many Morph Lords and their students take matters into their own hands to discredit or destroy such 'cancerous' Cells. Despite some elements of unity, the traditionalists disparage the modernists as teaching a "Five Morph for Proles" - techniques that even a prole could learn them with little training or modification.
In Sufficiently Advanced, this style is 'common' among the Stardwellers and Replicants - the ones that can most easily transform to move from morph to morph. It is rarer elsewhere throughout the universe, and non-existent among the Cargo Cults and Old Worlders.
Core Value: Martial Neotaoism. Neotaoism sees reality as a complex system of systems, interlocking processes that create new forms according to certain emergent rules, emphasizing self-organization and creating harmony. It also has views on how to engineer it; it is a form of constructivist Taoism: the world is perfect in itself, but it can be perfected further. For Five Morph, this means that a human being can be enhanced (and thus perfected) according to those emergent rules, thus the Five Morphs. It also informs and influences their strategies and tactics.
Benefit: The overall benefit of Five Morph Kung Fu, is a +1 to the member's Soldier and Athlete Professions when working with other Morphs in a cell. Therefore, 3 Battleborgs working together would not get the bonus, but a Negotiator, Mesh-hacker and Infiltrator would. There are also benefits that vary from Morph to Morph. Members must have a neural mesh.
|Intriguer/Negotiator||Can exceed Civilization's Meta value by 1 without import penalty. 1 free Metatech item or technique.|
|Battleborg||Can exceed Civilization's String value by 2 without suffering import penalty. 1 free Stringtech item|
|Infiltrator||Can exceed Civilization's Nano value by 1 without suffering import penalty. Free spy lens and free Nanotech item.|
|Xieh||Can exceed Civilization's Bio value by 1 without import penalty. 1 free Biotech item.|
|Mesh-hacker||Can exceed Civilization's Cognitech value by 1 without import penalty. 1 Free Cognitech item.|