As my girlfriend miss_discord said, "Ninjas for C'thulhu! Why protect a Lesser Evil?!?"
Ok, it's taken me some time to get to this topic. I've been thinking quite a bit about the language of combat recently, especially as it pertains to RPGs and ED in particular. What we have in ED is a magically active fantasy combat simulation (at points in the game). So we should look to RL combat for some of the descriptive terms. This becomes harder and harder as each "school" of martial arts and "fighting" sports has it's own terminology and names for techniques, etc. Add to this that once combat starts iRL, your language-using, symbol manipulating, rational 3rd circuit brain takes a step back, meaning that your sense of time becomes skewed, things seem to happen "all-at-once" and your ingrained reflexes take over. While there is some fore-thought and planning involved while actually experiencing combat, I'd say only about 20% or less of it is conscious.
So, our descriptions should try to capture that feeling of swift moving action, almost carrying the player faster than they can handle, with lulls at random moments to let the player catch his/her breath and stare in awe at what's going on around his/her character. To get RPG combat to that point you almost have to get to the point that the rules are as memorized and ingrained as the techniques a martial artist uses. Appropriate language, as well as familiarity with the rules by everyone playing will help. Don't worry if you've got new players in the group, as by "familiarity with the rules" I mean that everyone should have a similar understanding, and those witha better understanding help and focus the other players when a rules question comes up.
Ok, now that we've gotten the overview out of the way, lets talk about how we talk about ACTION!
I have a few core concepts from my own martial arts training (Pele-Kai: a blend between Kali Escrima and Hawaiian Kung Fu, I've also studied a few other styles, such as Aikido), and have begun to realize that the core concepts transfer between styles quite easily once you overlook the different names the techniques have. Ok, so I'm going to be talking primarily about Movement, Range, and Direction of Attack. I'll try to dig up some illustrations to better communicate these concepts.
- Movement (Dynamic and Technical)
- We break movement into two phases, dynamic and technical. Dynamic movement involves a motion of convergence, it describes how the opponent moves to close the distance between himself, and the targeted body-part he's attacking. Even if comparatively close to you, the opponent has to take a step, or lean forward, twist, or turn in order to be in a position to attack. The technical stage of movement consists of the particular form the attack will assume - punch, kick, slap, horizontal rapier slash to the neck, etc. Movement, at it's most basic abstract level, we can call either Linear or Circular.
- Linear Convergence: Used when an attack has been committed to instantly. The actual attack technique may come in the form of a side-swing or diagonal swipe, but the main point is that your opponent is moving to close in a direct, rapid, and linear fashion. Examples include a charging Calvary-Man, a Swordsmaster performing a straight lunge, or the classic "charge at'em like a dumb football player" move. Positives: Generate lots of quick forward movement and lots of force suddenly, may take opponent off guard or unable to react fast enough. Negatives: Some-one prepared to meet a Linearly-converged attack has many option to disrupt it and use the attackers force against him. This usually begins by moving in a circular or spiral fashion, or somehow moving out of the line of attack, and then applying the force generated by that circular movement to alter the path the opponent travels, either blocking the weapon, grounding out the energy by spinning the opponent down into a ground lock, by spinning the opponents energy back into him in an upright lock, or by adding force and spinning the opponent out and away, which usually results in a throw or push, and a knockdown. Interestingly enough, if you want to take an actual combat art, and make it into a sport, the first thing done is to limit movement to a linear direction. Think of kendo, and Olympic fencing. Then you generally concern yourself with "point-hits".
- Circular Convergence: While usually slower than a Linear Convergence, the Circular (or Spiral) Convergence allows the attacker to keep greater stability, and to choose from among multiple possible angles of attack. The key here is that the opponent moves in a generally circular or spiral fashion around the defender, which continues until the attacker is in range to launch a technique. A little more difficult to anticipate where/when attack will occur, but the attack has less force overall, as the body's momentum has been used to get closer, but also to orbit around the opponent and choose an opening.
- Range(Largo Mano [Long Range], Medio [Medium Range], Corto [Close Range])
Most Kali Escrima systems recognize that the technical nature of combat changes drastically as the distance between opponents changes, and generally classify the ranges into at least three categories. Each range has its characteristic techniques and footwork. Of course, some systems place more emphasis on certain ranges than others, but almost all recognize that being able to work in and control any range essential.
In order to control the range, and for numerous other purposes, good footwork is essential. Most Eskrima systems explain their footwork in terms of triangles: normally two feet occupy two corners of the triangle and the step is to the third corner. The shape and size of the triangle must of course be adapted to the particular situation. The style of footwork and the standing position vary greatly from school to school and from practitioner to practitioner. For a very traditional school, very conscious of battlefield necessities, stances will usually be very low, often with one knee on the ground, and footwork will be complex, involving many careful cross-steps to allow practitioners to cope with multiple opponents. The Villabrille and San Miguel systems are usually taught in this way. Systems that have been adapted to duels or sporting matches usually use simpler footwork, focusing on a single opponent. North American schools tend to use much more upright stances, as this is much easier for the legs. There are, of course, many exceptions. The primary ranges are Largo Mano (Long Range), Medio (Medium Range), and Corto (Close Range).
- I'm primarily going to talk about ranges in melee combat, and use the models I've gotten from Kali Escrima to explain them. Now, the important thing to understand about the 3 ranges that Kali teaches lies in the distance from the tip of your weapon at natural extension to your opponent.
You find yourself at Long Range(Longa) when the longest range strike you can make would hit the opponents hand as the opponent extends for a strike. This is the range that most weapon-on-weapon play occurs. So, long range is from when the weapon tips can touch to when either opponent can hit the other's hand.
Medium Range(Medio) happens when either combatant can hit from the opponent's hand to the torso (or, foot to hips if intercepting a kick) with the leading part of the weapon. Close Range(Corto) occurs when you can strike the torso or head with the butt of your weapon, where elbow, knee, and other short range strikes are most effective. Long weapons (longer then short sword or wakizashi) seem cumbersome and unwieldy unless special techniques are used. Corto flows into grapple range, and ground fighting work. The outer edge of Longa includes the "out of range"-range. In the picture shown below the opponents are both within Medio to each other, and have probably just flowed in from Longa.
Wow, people. That seems like enough typing for now, and if I expect you to absorb any of it, I should dole it out in digestible lumps. Next post I'll talk about [b]Direction of Attack[/b], as I said above, and probably comment on the [b]Block-Check-Strike[/b] trinity that you can find inherent in nearly any martial arts technique.
-Telarus, KSC, Episkopos of the Amorphous Dreams Cabal, Keeper of the Contradictory Cephalopod, Tender to the Edible Zen Garden
Feel free to comment.