Roleplaying Feats of Skill: Sword Fighting

(Some highlights reposted from the past)

Subject: Re: RPing Feats of Skill
From: (EdxArcher)
Date: 20 Feb 2002 23:47:44 EST

Well, there are several things to consider in a fight (not just swords).

For a fight, I consider several aspects of a weapon:

  1. The size of the impact zone. This is basically, what part of the weapon is dangerous.
  2. The type of damage the weapon should do and, possibly, can do. This means, you can hit the guy with a sword, but also the butt of the hilt.
  3. How often the weapon can be swung/fired. It's a combination of the weight of the weapon as well as weapon danger zone along with impact zone. If a crossbow/arrow the weight of the weapon is the pull of the bow.
  4. AKP; "butt"-kicking potential. Basically, if you get hit with the weapon, where are YOUR sweetspots and where are the WEAPON's sweetspots and how badly you will get hurt if both meet.

All of these together considered make interesting fight potential.

There is also...special stuff.

You take each of those aspects and you can generally mix them with how cool your character is. You probably won't be backflipping with a sledgehammer in your hand. Stuff like that.

Subject: Re: RPing Feats of Skill
From: (Cinnucatte)
Date: 21 Feb 2002 08:25:36 EST

I actually fenced for a few years. I had a friend in high school who ended up going to the Olympics and all of us thought it would be great fun. Not to mention how good we would look in those white outfits.

Fencing isn't swordfighting, but I take some of that into consideration when I rp a sword scene out. I also look in a mirror while I rp. Habit from writing, but if I want to describe something, much like an artist and a self-portrait, I will mimic it for the mirror. If anyone watched me rp, they'd think I was seriously deranged, but I at least get an indea of what it should look like. When Cinny is involved in hand to hand I take my years of dancing into consideration. How do muscles move when I move. I boxed for a few years as a form of self defense (Nothing gets anger out better than hitting someone over and over again) and I use that as well. When you make a fist, the thumb should be outside the first or you'll break it. When you hit, you put your weight into the punch. I watch my dogs play, see how Willie uses his sheer weight advantage to knock Pica down. I watch her use speed and agility to compensate (Nothing funnier than a puppy running under a larger dog and the larger dog ending up on his back because he can't somersault).

I also use writing exercises to to help in describing things. I describe an object and it becomes easier to describe an action.

Pick up some wrapping paper, good short sword, and swing it a few times. Watch the way your body moves in a mirror.

Cinny uses a large two-handed sword. The momentum of swinging that sword would throw her off if she didn't know about it and compensate for it. Watch 'Charlie's Angels' (the movie).While the fighting is quite exagerrated, it also shows the movement and how to get from point a to point b, or at least a decent version of it.

Subject: Re: RPing Feats of Skill
From: (Raziel Caine)
Date: 21 Feb 2002 19:19:17 EST

Fencing isn't swordfighting.

Don't take this the wrong way, but I can't believe you said that. Now, I'll grant you, Olympic fencing is not what I would call swordfighting... it's a sport. However, where fencing came from, basically what you see and read in Three Musketeers, is sword fighting and fencing.

I took a semester, and will be taking another in the fall, of fencing. My professor was a Russian Grand Master with the sabre. I've always considered myself fairly good with a blade. I did knife and stick fighting for about 5 years, and that helped me when going to fencing, but at the end of the semster, my Prof. took all comers....I beat everybody in my class mind you, being 6'5" helps, but my Prof. took me down in about 10 seconds.

Now, like I said, Olympic style fencing is a sport, but had this been real, I have no doubt that my Prof would have killed me just as easily. The first thing he showed us was the killing edges of each weapon. Not just in the sport, but in real life.

Kill zones weren't as necessary to teach, but he did teach to disarm and taught us to fence like our lives depended on it. Told us you fought better if you actually thought you could be hurt.

All I can say is that when trying to write out a fight scene, especially with a weapon, be realistic. Movies to watch are 'The Swordsman' with Lorenzo Lamas. That movie, while the plot kinda sux, actually has some pretty good fight scenes. Any of the Highlander movies, with the exception of the second one are pretty good. Keep an eye on Adrian Paul (Duncan) if you watch the series or 'End Game.'

Oh, and good luck.


Subject: Re: RPing Feats of Skill
From: (Jason Ramire)
Date: 21 Feb 2002 19:26:26 EST

It's been a few years since I've hefted a sword, but for about 5 years I practiced a half-breed of kendo and kenjitsu (the kendo I was instructed in the kenjitsu I picked up from reprints of antique manuals). When I was a senior in highschool the kickboxing school I lived at 10 to 14 hours a week taught filipino escrima and kali, two very brutual arts which are practiced with sticks but translate into knife, dagger (significant difference), beer bottels, sticks, and short/light swords.

Yes, sometimes I scare myself too.

The Sword and the Body

The sword swing, when executedly propely, starts not in the arms, not the shoulders, but the hips. The hips must be directly beneath the head in order to acheive a proper cutting motion. The sword is not gripped with the hand, but with the balls of and lower regions of the middle, ring, and small finger, with the smallest finger bearing the greatest amount of control on the sword itself. You can tell a swordfighter's hands by the shake, they'll have heavy callouses around the base of those said fingers. When holding a sword with two hands and feet on line, the suprior hand (top) supplies the speed and guidance while the bottom hand provides the power. When either foot is backwards the forward foot hand provides the power. Feet. The fighter moves on the balls of their feet. Some schools cross their feet when moving I highly recomend against this (it has to do with misaligning the hips and the head and potential puts your back to your opponent). The feet should be shoulder with apart, some defensive postures go further but I warn against it (often the fighter will have to life a foot to move and with the legs spread apart, so is their weight).

Sword Postures

While there are many edged sword postures there are four that are primarily operated from. You might recognize some of these from Phantom Menance which used a beautifully choreographed kendo-take-off. The first stance is often just refered to as "stance". With the hips square to the opponent, feet spread equal distance apart, and just about shoulder with, the sword is gripped with one hand or two at roughly the navel level. The sword's blade leans leans out from the body at roughly a 65 degree angle. This is a one or two handed posture. The second posture, called high posture, has the fighter assume the same stance as the first. Only when in high posture, the arms are raised so that the elbows are almost on an even plane with the shoulders. The sword blade should be either vertical or leaning back over the head of the fighter, edge pointed towards the heavens. Again, this is a one or two handed posture. The third, or high side posture, or as I was taught "mountain" is a prefered posture for taller fighters (unless in doors). This posture puts the superior hand hip facing towards the opponent. The superior hand foot points forward and is placed without weight on it in front of the body. The body's wieght is bourne on the rear foot, which points out at a ninety degree angle. The sword is held on the bottom hand side with the tsuba (handguard) almost parallel to the eyes. While this stance limits the attacking strikes to coming from one side it parries strong and the fighter can recoil into secondary or kill strikes with extreme ease by retreating the superior hand foot. The fourth stance, low or "valley" stance, places the body in much the same posture as the mountain stance. The main difference is that the tip of the sword rests almost in the dirt, the arms extended. Do not mistake this for a defensive stance, attacks from valley are quick and slash into the guard, attacking the hands, abdomen, arms, and upper legs with ease. While these are seldom killing blows they will severly hamper your attacks.

A note on stances: Stance are not held for long. A good fighter can flow from stance to stance as the fight progresses. An cutting stroke from mountain met with a downward perry should have the fighter retreating his superior hand foot and then rise from a mirrored valley stance in an upward arcing slice.

Swinging the Sword

As I noted earlier, the sword swing is begun with the hips. On an upward swing the hips bottom hand hip rises with the blade. On a declinging swing the bottom hand (and foot) retreats with the swing. The forearm (outer and inner), biceps, triceps, lats, trapz, and rhomboids all are used when swinging a sword. A sword runs a sever risk of not slicing if the blade does not impact the traget at a 45 degree angle. Sword move in a circle, fighters move in a circle, you circle away from your opponents bottom hand. The sword slashes at any angle, but it only cuts at four; it only cuts through bone at four; it only kills at four. Those four are when the blade travels from upper-left to lower-right at a 45, upper-right to lower-left at 45, lower-right to upper-left at 45, lower-left to upper-right at 45. Think of a giant x. If the blade travels along that x, bye bye bad guy. If not, he'll just bleed, maybe loose function, but he's not dead yet. Yes, this does acount for heads too, a straight shot and you're going to catch your blade on spinal column. Most people fight with their left hand on the bottom.


The first rule of parrying is that the fighter parrys away from their body. With edged weapons there are three types of parries. The first is the block. The block is horrible for your blade, often leaving gashes it in. As the name suggest the block completely stops the opponents sword. This is usually done by counterswinging with about equal force. The second is the guiding parry. The guiding parrry operates along the same logic of the block, only instead of stoping the sword with brute force you change its direction, usually down towards the ground. This is the most common parry. A proper guiding parry upwards and toward the superior hand's thumb will wrench the opponent's sword from his hand. The last, and most prefered parry (read hardest to accomplish) is the carrying parry. The carrying parry adds force to the opponents swing by riding the back of his blade with the fighters and carrying his sword away from your body. This parry almost always involves a step back with the superior hand and rotating the blade parallel to the body. This parry opens up the side and head of the opponent because the force of their swing draws them along with their sword.

Creative Sword Work

Jorge loves to 'hourglass.' I've seen him do it hundreds of times. I think everyone does it. What is it? Hourglassing is a pure finesse maneuver which almost exclusively relies on the wrist of the bottom hand. To properly hourglass, the bottom hand reverses grip and the superior hand is removed from the hilt. This places the thumb and the pommel of the sword towards the heavens, the tip of the sword to the ground. The tip of the sword is then flung outwards, the wrist curled in towards the body and moving down, the elbow bent. This moves the tip of the sword in a large arc, shaped like half of an hourglass. When the elbow returns to the hip and the wrist pulls up and outwards the blade mirrors the first arc, and done with speed travels in an hourglass pattern. This looks damn cool but it as also an excellent way to tranfer from stance to stance, prevent an opponents flurry and switching to 'oar' postures.

Another tranistory move that I worked out on my own was the back hand roll. Transfering to oar posture while fighting one handed can be a difficult (if not impossible task) when attempting to do so without a second hand (ie when holding a second weapon). The back hand roll is a move that takes a great deal of practice and faith. While holding the sword with one hand, the tip towards the heavens or even tilted towards the outside of your body quickly snap the sword in a circular manner parallel with your body and in the direction of your thumb twisting your wrist with the sword as it moves. When the blade crosses the 180 degree mark (right before your wrist stops turning) let go of the sword. If your snap placed enough torque on the blade the circle will continue and the hilt of the sword will roll across the back of your hand, switching to oar stance.

Oar Stance

Oar stance is almost entirely a defensive posture. It's used a great deal in movies because when operated from it simply looks dangerous. Oar stance means that the blade is carried opposite of how it would seem natural to. When gripped so as to have the blade point heaven-ward normally, in oar the blade points towards the ground. Fighting in Oar stance uses the blade as a 'shield' with the hands held high and the blade proving a screen over the body. This is where most blocks and guiding parrys come from. To revert to normal fighting posture the back hand roll and hour-glassing can both be used.


Most don't last longer than 15 seconds of actual violence. One strike parried and then a kill strike from inside. For dramatic purposes, they can last much longer.


Subject: Re: RPing Feats of Skill
From: (Cinnucatte)
Date: 22 Feb 2002 11:16:09 EST

>>Fencing isn't swordfighting
>>Don't take this the wrong way, but I can't believe you said that.

Because a foil or epee, are lighter based and not swords in a convential sense. Even sabres, while far heavier, aren't swords in the conventional sense. The way I move with a sabre is different from the way I move with a two-handed sword. Cinn uses a 2-hander, she is 6 feet tall, and has had a sword in hand since she could walk. Another character of mine uses a rapier. She's small, wouldn't have the force necessary to us a 2-hander, and relatively speaking only just recently picked up a sword.