• The Infractions Forum is available for public view. Please note that if you have been suspended you will need to open a private/incognito browser window to view it.

What does a Fencing system need?

BASHMAN

Basic Action Games
Validated User
So in This Thread I asked people to help with a Fencing system for an rpg I am working on-- but I want to know also from the general gamers, what is it that they look for in an rpg with Fencing mechanics?

What has worked (and not worked) in the past?
 

Mailanka

Honest Eshu
Validated User
It should be fast, furious and cinematic.

It should display the variant techniques and signature styles of the characters. Fencing is really as close as most games set in western europe get to martial arts: Old fencing masters pass on their sure-win secrets to their students, every practitioner has their ultimate strategy, and we love to study the intricacy of the techniques (far more, it seems, than the "brutish" cut and thrust of knightly combat).

I think 7th Sea's swordsman schools proved popular for these reasons. You could really see that a foppish French nobleman fought in a completely different manner than the brutally efficient Italian duelist, or the precise and elegant Spaniard. It offered lots of specifics for people to argue about. Unfortunately, it didn't have the mechanical rigor to live up to its claims of awesome (Valroux was crap compared to Ambrogia. Kinda appropriate, but unfortunate from a balance perspective ("haha! You picked Valroux you LOSER!"))

So it needs to be balanced and it needs to live up to expectations. Ideally, I'd want to see something as cool and balanced as, say, the WotG martial arts (toned down, naturally), or GURPS martial arts (simplified for a rough-and-tumble swashbuckling crowd), or insert-your-favorite-wuxia-system here.

(Wuxia may seem like a strange inspiration, but most wuxia afficionados compare the genre to swashbuckling, arguing that Zorro, for example, is the best western example of Wuxia out there, followed shortly by Robin Hood. You might consider looking at some kung fu games, toning certain elements down and beefing certain elements up, to get the "feel" right.)
 

Shadowjack

Cartoon Poet
RPGnet Member
Validated User
One element I have rarely seen handled: giving and taking ground, which is oh so important to both real and cinematic fencing. A few systems represent the gaining of advantage abstractly, which helps. But you really want to be able to handle the man standing against the cliff's edge, or back to the wall, pressed by numbers—or backing your enemy into a corner, and then he kicks a stool at your face and slips to the side—or…
 

BASHMAN

Basic Action Games
Validated User
(Wuxia may seem like a strange inspiration, but most wuxia afficionados compare the genre to swashbuckling, arguing that Zorro, for example, is the best western example of Wuxia out there, followed shortly by Robin Hood. You might consider looking at some kung fu games, toning certain elements down and beefing certain elements up, to get the "feel" right.)
You need to see "The Musketeer". It is the crouching tiger hidden dragon of swashbuckling films.
 

selfcritical

Registered User
Validated User
It should be fast, furious and cinematic.

It should display the variant techniques and signature styles of the characters. Fencing is really as close as most games set in western europe get to martial arts: Old fencing masters pass on their sure-win secrets to their students, every practitioner has their ultimate strategy, and we love to study the intricacy of the techniques (far more, it seems, than the "brutish" cut and thrust of knightly combat).

.)
I should probably ask what you mean by "fencing" and what you mean by "martial art" here. I have a hard time of thinking of any definition of "martial art" that olympic fencing will meet while various western swordmanship methods will fail.
 

Mailanka

Honest Eshu
Validated User
I should probably ask what you mean by "fencing" and what you mean by "martial art" here. I have a hard time of thinking of any definition of "martial art" that olympic fencing will meet while various western swordmanship methods will fail.
Oh, _I_ don't think that, say, longsword fighting "fails" at the definition of martial arts and, say, rapier fighting "passes," I just meant that the average gamer accords fencing techniques more respect than they do more medieval styles. I guess in the popular imagination, knights beat each other over the head with sharpened clubs while fencers use clever tricks, ruses and feints to defeat their foe. Players expect more finnicky details with fencing than just "I roll to hit."

I'm not saying it's RIGHT (all combat techniques have a long, detailed and storied tradition, with a great deal of precision that a master could spend hours expounding upon), I'm just saying players will forgive a simple, hand-wavey fencing system less than they will forgive a simple, hand-wavey medieval combat system.

I'm sorry that wasn't really clear. I'm really not one of those people who think knights or gladiators were inelegant brutes.
 

Mailanka

Honest Eshu
Validated User
One element I have rarely seen handled: giving and taking ground, which is oh so important to both real and cinematic fencing. A few systems represent the gaining of advantage abstractly, which helps. But you really want to be able to handle the man standing against the cliff's edge, or back to the wall, pressed by numbers—or backing your enemy into a corner, and then he kicks a stool at your face and slips to the side—or…
A dynamic battlefield is important. Watch any fencing movie, and you'll see the fighters' situation in constant flux. Consider the blacksmith-set dueling scene between Will Turner and Jack Sparrow, or the barn-room battle in the Musketeer where the combatants found themselves see-sawing up and down on a par of planks. In on memorable 7th Sea battle, our party found themselves battling the musketeers in the middle of an Opera show, and we had to win without disrupting the opera itself, making use of the constantly flowing scenery and actors to win the day. That's the sort of stuff that makes a swashbuckling fight memorable, and it has to be quick and easy enough that the GM can grab for those elements without constantly looking up stuff in the book.
 

LeftWingPenguin

Dual-classed GM/Rabbi
Validated User
Well, it would be helpful to have a detailed social system for handling contacts and connections. Then as well, there should be some kind of random method of determining demand for various kinds of contraband, as well as the risks of being discovered by the police.






...What?
 

Cruton

Retired User
Unfortunately, I've never played with a good fencing system. But speaking as a recreational epeeist, one thing I'd call vital to any swordfighting system would be detailed called-shot effects. An attack on the hand has a much different effect and difficulty level than an attack on the kidneys, for example. If the game is supposed to focus heavily on fencing skill, then I think this is right up there with the effects of terrain and style. Actually, it could incorporate into style as a key component.

If we're focusing on European swordsmanship here, then one suggestion I'd have for a point of variation in the styles is use of right-of-way (perhaps a defense bonus -- my recent opinion is that foil is epee without the possibility of suicidal maneuvers), use of off-hand blade (bonus to parry?), lunge length and position (perhaps longer, deeper lunges provide an equivalent charge bonus, but require a standard action to recover from rather than a movement action -- if you haven't noticed, yes, I'm thinking of this is D&D terms), and a lines of defense (maybe a rock-paper-scissors, in which the line of each attack is defined and each style gets a defense bonus against attacks in certain lines).

I know what I'm talking about is more like sports fencing than rapier combat, but I think these are a valid points to consider -- real combat just thinks further outside the box in terms of possible maneuvers and outcomes.
 

Epoch

aka Mike Sullivan
Validated User
One element I have rarely seen handled: giving and taking ground, which is oh so important to both real and cinematic fencing. A few systems represent the gaining of advantage abstractly, which helps. But you really want to be able to handle the man standing against the cliff's edge, or back to the wall, pressed by numbers—or backing your enemy into a corner, and then he kicks a stool at your face and slips to the side—or…
Yeah, totally. Tying into this, I generally want to see some kind of mechanic to reflect the gaining of advantage in a fight without ablative damage.

In my mind, I have a fencing mechanic worked out where, basically:

1. The combatants test for initiative. Only the winner gets to attack.
2. The winner repeatedly attacks and the defender defends. The winner takes a cumulative penalty with each attack. The attack has a degree of success mechanic like: give the defender a penalty to defense, give the defender a higher penalty, score a minor hit and give the defender a higher penalty, score a life-threatening hit. The defender can reduce the degree of success that the winner scores by one level by giving ground, assuming that there is ground to give. If the attacker flat out misses, then we go back to initiative. If the attacker critically misses, the defender can riposte for a chance to automatically take initiative and become the attacker.

My problems with this system is that it doesn't leave much room for meaningful choices for the players, and that it's problematic to deal with fights that aren't 1 vs. 1.
 
Top Bottom