I recently picked up the Feng Shui core book - I haven't played the game before.
On first reading, I'm having a bit of trouble distinguishing what should be a stunt, and what should be a schtick.
For example, let's say we have a Masked Mexican Wrestler who wants to execute a delayed vertical suplex on a mafioso thug.
Cinematically: he gets the mobster in a hold, and flips him up onto his shoulder; he keeps the struggling thug vertical (and inverted) for ten or twelve seconds, letting the blood rush to his head and make him dizzy, before slamming him down to the ground on his back.
Mechanically: Is this a combination of stunts, or a schtick?
For a simple wrestling hold, p140 suggests it's a stunt... but if I were to try to come up with mechanics for such a task, they'd probably look a whole lot like the Beak of the Crane fu schtick, which has a Chi cost.
Is the dizzying effect achievable as a stunt, or is that more the purview of a schtick like the Transformed Rat's Disorienting Strike?
The other stunt question I have regards reactive stunts; are they limited to defensive actions, or can they include offence? Is the 1-shot cost standard?
Example - the mobster goes to stab the wrestler with a knife. Can the wrestler attempt to grab his wrist and flip him onto his back as a reactive stunt? Would this be a 1-shot cost? Or is that too 'aggressive' for a reactive stunt?
p130 says: "When attacked, often the best thing to do is execute a stunt to not only prevent your opponent from attacking you, but to give yourself an advantage of some sort over that opponent."
p132 says: "If the opponent is dodging... [Dodge description]. Your opponent might also successfully execute a reactive stunt that prevents you from attacking him at all."
It's a stunt. A schtick is something the character buys, and can be classified as a Fu schtick, Gun schtick, Sorcery schtick, etc.
While the dizzying effect sounds quite colorful and creative, mechanically this stunt isn't anything other than a standard 3-shot martial arts attack. The GM could decide that the target of the attack is woozy, prone, stunned, etc., or he could also decide the target stands right back up and bodyslams the Mexican Wrestler.
A really good GM will weave the colorful narrative elements into the fight and either make it seem like they have a mechanical effect, or give bonuses to creative players for making the stunts more interesting.
As a plain ol' vanilla stunt, the effects shouldn't be the same as a level 3 Fu schtick. I'd allow anyone to attempt a hold, but the mechanics for getting out of it would be easier than Beak of the Crane. Either the pinned person would have to roll his Martial Arts vs. the wrestler's Strength, in which case even a Scrappy Kid could easily wriggle out with a standard 3-shot action, or Martial Arts vs. Martial Arts, which is a bit more of a crapshoot. I might also allow the pinned person to attack the wrestler (biting, kicking, bodyslam into a wall) under certain circumstances, maybe throw in a Willpower roll vs. Damage/Wounds to see if the wrestler holds on, but I'd essentially be winging it on-the-fly, based largely on the cinematic elements of the fight.
In general, status effects such as stunning, blinding, dizzying, poison, etc. require the use of a schtick (which provides rules for whatever the effect does). Unfortunately, there's no standardized list of effects... some schticks with similar effects use entirely different rules to resolve them.
When you bring in stunts that disable or distract rather than do damage (the Scrappy Kid and Everyman Hero can inspire all sorts of wacky tomfoolery), the GM has to kind of ad-lib them on the fly. He can do this fairly easily just by assigning temporary impairment (-1 or -2 on all rolls for a number of shots or sequences), assigning a modifier to certain stunts ("it's hard to punch people in handcuffs, -2 to all rolls involving your hands"), or just subtract a certain number of shots to allow the character to correct the problem (wipe his eyes out, remove the handcuffs, get out from under a pile of logs, etc.).
It helps if you can break the players out of the mindset that there are a static and limited number of combat options available, with rigid bonuses/penalties for a set list of circumstances. Combat should be fluid, colorful, and creative, with a heavy emphasis on cinematic style over mechanics.
This is one of those gray areas that requires a GM judgment call. Some players may try to maximize their defensive actions by turning them into a dodge+attack. There's a few different ways to handle this:
If you want to be a hard-nose, allow the defensive action, and treat the throw as "color commentary" with no game effect - the mobster is thrown onto his back, but immediately springs back up with no adverse effects, free to act again.
If the wrestler has enough shots, then allow him a 1-shot defensive action to parry the knife attack, and then on his next shot make him do a 3-shot martial arts attack to take care of the throw. Mechanics-wise, this is probably the easiest way to go, but you may run into problems if the wrestler has fewer than 4 shots, or if the mobster is able to act before the wrestler can throw him.
Allow the wrestler to combine the defensive action and the throw as a 1-shot stunt, making him roll a Martial Arts check against the mobster's DV, possibly with a penalty if the player is trying to bend the rules too much without being all that creative. In general, if a player is using a defensive action to gain a benefit other than just a dodge, you should consider asking for a skill check of some sort. ("Sorry, Bob, looks like you failed your Info/Beekeeping roll... you attempt to parry the samurai's katana with the hive, hoping he'd slice it open and get a face full of angry bees, but it slipped your mind that the unnaturally cold winter caused many bees to abandon their hives, including this one.")
If the defensive stunt is really creative and entertaining as all heck, then just allow it. If the GM finds it particularly clever, he might even give it a bonus.
Each GM will have a different style. I tend to approach every stunt with the question, "Could this happen in an action movie?" and lean towards the cinematic side of things.
Ah, ah! This demonstrates the problem with trying to understand the rules without having played.
I hadn't internalised what you just made obvious - as a general rule, the Action Value of an Attribute will be significantly lower than the Action Value of a Skill.
So when the schtick requires someone to pit Strength vs Martial Arts, it's a massive undertaking... whereas, as you say, Martial Arts vs Strength is a whole lot easier. The major advantage the schtick is conferring is not the ability to grab someone... it's the ability to make it damned hard for them to get loose!
Cool. I'd already spotted the Impairment rules, but wasn't certain if they were appropriate as the result of a stunt. Thanks.
Great - thanks for your time. This has been very helpful