Thursday, March 22, 2012

Roleplaying Lightsaber Combat in Star Wars SAGA

I was going to write this post on the SW:TOR forums, but I am not allowed to write there, currently.  So, this is entirely my commentary based on the knowledge I gathered over the years on Swordsmanship.  So, we better go over what makes Lightsabers so special.  Although originally thought of for TOR players, I adjusted this for SAGA players -- who might be the most to benefit.

The Sword
First of all, we need to look at the sword.  The sword has been around since at least the Bronze Age.  It's early form is that of a long dagger.  The sword requires a heavy hilt to balance it, but it is a misnomer that a broadsword is 50 pounds.  A well made steel broadsword is only 3 and half pounds at the most, this makes a fifty pound sword a theory, since the heaviest sword is the Scottish Claymore.  A treatise on sword weight is given on ARMA.

However, it is more fantastic to see a bronze age sword being made and a steal sword replica being forged.

Bronze Casting

The Lightsaber

The problem with the Lightsaber is that it's physics aren't properly understood according to how it functions.  Theoretically, it creates a blade of hard light that can cut through anything.  Physicists say it's anything from a blade of plasma to a blade of energy.  The result: you actually have a weapon that all of it's weight is in the hilt.  It is possible to have "hard" Energy.  For this you need to understand the physics of Energy and Matter.  If Matter is energy spent, then a Lightsaber is in-between energy spent and energy yet to be spent.  Since we don't understand the Lightsaber, it's physics are beyond our understanding.

The Lightsaber Forms

There are seven basic lightsaber forms, and thousands, if not millions, of styles built on each one.  Roleplaying a lightsaber form according to the various Roleplaying Games is up to the player and not up to the rules.  Never the less, this analysis isn't an expert's opinion, just a martial artist's.

The way of the Sarlacc/the way of the Man

Shii-Cho is the basic lightsaber form.  This is the form taught to all lightsaber duelists, whether you are Darth Revan or Luke Skywalker.  It's balanced and provides the Jedi some defense as well as offense.  It's a good beginning form.

Shii-Cho and the Real World:
In the real world, men started bronze casting swords out of copper and forging swords out of ore (iron) since the Flood.  It became a real industry during Nimrod's time (i.e. during the time of the Prophet Elias).
Therefore the first sword fighting forms were developed by the Sumerians, the Chinese, and Egyptians.  However, the civilization of "Bronze Age"America turned to iron, and little is known of their sword making techniques.

Many swordsmanship forms have been lost in the last seven(?) thousand years.  If Shii-Cho has a real world counterpart, you are looking at medieval swordsmanship. although this fight between Hector and Achilles can also demonstrate Shii-Cho.

I know I showed this before on my blog, but it really gives the point of Shii-Cho.  Although you are fighting with weapons that have no weight, Medieval European Swordsmanship is really much more elegant than we give it credit for.  Shii-Cho is best represented by Medieval European Swordsmanship.

Roleplaying a Jedi using Shii-Cho:  The player should describe his Jedi making a powerful stance and moves that relies on making cuts and blocking cuts.  Parrying in Shii-cho isn't about style, style comes later.   Parrying is preventing someone else's lightsaber from hitting you and cutting you with a blade that is as hot as the sun -- theoretically.

The Shii-Cho duelist is worried about surviving a fight rather than looking good.  Yet, European Swordsmanship does allow for some theatrics.  You can describe your blade twirling around, and you can throw your blade with some accuracy without the Force.  Dodging is your best friend when using Shii-Cho.

Suggested Feats: Combat Reflexes, Dodge, Melee Defense, Mobility

Associated Lightsaber Forms: Disarming Slash, Sarlacc Sweep

The Way of the Ysalamiri/the Way of the Crane

Just as the Arte of Defence in Europe is the evolution of Medieval Swordsmanship, so Makashi is to Shii-Cho.  Makashi is probably the ultimate in dueling.  Makashi depends on speed rather than pure strength like Shien does.  It's about making precise strikes and parrying those precise strikes.  It's all about lightsaber to lightsaber combat, as a Jedi and Sith fight, they fight with their lightsabers.

On Earth, the Art of Defense moved from parrying cuts to parrying piercing strikes.  Your weapons have changed also, as you went from flat cutting blades to little more than long pins that can penetrate your enemy.  Lightsaber wielders depend on parrying slashes and precise strikes when defending against Makashi wielders, as they use slashes and precision strikes.

Makashi can be excellently seen when watching the Princess Bride.

Roleplaying Makashi:  Makashi is a lightsaber form that relies on slashes and precision strikes.  As a player, you must make a lot of declared shots at specific parts of the body.  The heart, brain, eyes, wrists, throat and lungs are your primary targets.

Suggested Feats: Combat Reflexes, Improved Defenses, Improved Disarm, Rapid Strike

Associated Lightsaber Forms: Contentious Opportunity, Makashi Riposte

The Way of the Minoc/the Way of the Apatosaur

We are moving outside the realm of Terrestrial Martial Arts when we use Soresu, as it is based on parrying blaster bolts rather than lightsaber to lightsaber combat.  Since there is no weapon designed to parry bullets, and you can't see bullets anyway, it's best to think of Soresu as the pinnacle of defense.

The only example is to look at Obi-Wan Kenobi's lightsaber combat.

Roleplaying Soresu: You are defending yourself with your lightsaber against blaster bolts.  This requires quick reflexes and certain force powers and lightsaber forms.  A soresu specialist has high dexterity, so dexterity can't be your dump stat.  Soresu specialists are like Akido masters, they can handle many attacks at once.  Feats like Improved Defenses are critical to the Soresu specialist.

Suggested feats: Acrobatic Strike, Combat Refexes, Dodge, Improved Defenses, Melee Defense

Associated Lightsaber Forms: Circle of Shelter, Deflecting Slash

The Way of the Hawk Bat/the Way of the Monkey

We are moving away from Medieval Fighting Forms to the Oriental.  However, if Hercules/Heracles was a Jedi, he would specialize in Ataru.  This is because Ataru specialists rely on the entire human body in order to win the fight.  Ataru combatants give it their all.  It's the most acrobatic, and has as its' only analog among my knowledge Tai Chi Quan.

If focused, a Jedi master of Ataru is nigh unstoppable.  The form is designed to cut through many combatants at once while moving in a single direction.  You cannot stop an Ataru master if he's moving, even if he strikes at you little.  He is pure power, dexterity, and strength.  Here, in this clip from Hero, we demonstrate Ataru in the moves of Flying Snow and Broken Sword as they battle their way into the palace of Chinese Warlord Qin.

Another way of thinking about Ataru combat is to actually look at the Monkey style of Kung Fu.  The Style was developed by a prisoner who observed the monkeys and their society.  He learned a great deal from the animals and how they fought.   There are five styles of Monkey Kung Fu.  Perhaps the best way to learn Ataru fighting is to not only study the Hong Kong fight choreographers, but to watch the Forbidden Kingdom and take careful notes of Jackie's fight sequences in the film.

Roleplaying Ataru: Describe you fights as if you are giving your all.  Jump and run while you fight your enemies. While you can get away with whirlwind attack, in real life, a duelist can not take his eyes off his enemy.  But you are always in motion during a battle.  Dexerity and Strength are your most important stats when playing an Ataru duelist.

Suggested Feats: Acrobatic Strike, Cleave, Dodge, Improved Charge, Mobility, Power Attack, Running Attack

Associated Lightsaber Forms: Hawk-bat Swoop, Saber Swarm

The Way of the Krayat Dragon/The Way of the Tiger

In associated martial arts, we move away from the Chinese to the Japanese and their Kenjutsu.  However Japanese Kenjutsu has thousands of styles, and the Legend of the Five Rings: the fantasy of Rokugan has seven major Kenjutsu Styles -- from the Crane to the Lion and beyond.  However, in the world of Star Wars, Shien is manifested as one form.

This form is best seen in screen Kenjutsu.  Akira Kurosawa's the Seven Samurai has many scenes in which stage Kenjutsu is revealed.   This one shows the battle between a Kensai and an Upstart, that should give you the soul of what Shien/Djem-So is all about.

Roleplaying Shien: The Shien/Djem-So Duelist is all about strength and physical offensive force.  You make powerful cuts and powerful slashes at your enemy.  The Shien duelist has one thought in his mind: "The best defense is a good offense."  This is his lightsaber fighting philosophy.  He wants the battle to be over and quick, so he uses overwhelming force to defeat his opponent.  If a Roman Legionary or a Samurai from the Lion Clan of Rokugan was to become a Jedi, he would be training his student in Shien/Djem-So.

Suggested Feats: Power Attack is your most essential feat; then: Powerful Charge, Bantha Rush, Cleave, Great Cleave, Rapid Strike

Associated Lightsaber Forms: Barrier of Blades, Falling Avalanche, Fluid Riposte, Shien Deflection

The Way of the Rancor/The Way of the Dragon

Niman is what you get if a duelist learns Medieval Swordsmanship, the Arte of Defence, Tai-Chi Quan, and Kenjutsu all in one go and managed to piece everything together in one balanced whole.  The Niman duelist practices a fluid style that moves from form to form in almost imperceptible ways.

They also combine force based attacks in their fighting styles, as they are able to telekinetically pull and shove their enemy.  Niman specialists have a relaxed approach to swordsmanship.  Niman dueling is represented in Episode I.

Roleplaying the Niman Specialist: Niman is perfect for the Jedi Sage type character.  If you are building a Jedi Sage from SW:TOR, you rely on a balance of blade work and Force attacks, or do battle in favor of Force Attacks.  You use the Force to push your enemies away or to pull them in.  Your blade work is very fluid, but has a relaxed quality about it.  Your important stats are constitution, charisma, and dexterity.

Suggested Feats: Dodge, Follow Through, Mobility, Unswerving Resolve, Whirlwind Attack

Associated Lightsaber Forms: Draw Closer, Pushing Slash

The Way of the Vornskyr/The Way of the Lion

With Juyo, we finally come full circle.  This is Medieval Swordsmanship at it's worst, elevated (or delevated) to common Street Fighting.  It's all about dirty tricks, there is no honor in Juyo or Vaapad, or at least little of it.  You can hit below the belt, for instance.

Juyo's strongest analog is Gladiator training.  In Spartacus (Kurt Russel) they reconstruct Gladiator training, and at the end of the film, they were defeated by Roman Legionaries.  The problem with Gladiators is that they are trained extremely differently than Roman Legionaries.  This is not so with Juyo duelists.  The Sith Marauders are definitely organized in SW:TOR, and they did use their abilities to great effect.

Roleplaying a Juyo Specialist: One phrase sums up your combat: "anything goes."  You are straddling the line between the Light and the Dark Side when you use Juyo.  There is no honor in your fighting, and you fight dirty.  You look for anything that will give you an advantage.  You can throw dust in your opponent's eyes, for instance, and then cut him down.  Your targets are the Instant Kill zones, Cripple zones, and Slow Kill zones.  The first rule in Juyo dueling is go for the instant kill first.  You call the neck and the heart.  Second rule is to cripple your opponent by slashing off his arms or legs.  Third rule is to go for the slow kill, but you got to kill your opponent quickly or they can still kill you while they slowly die.

Suggested Feats: Power Attack, Dodge, Mobility, Cleave, Relentless Attack, Follow Through

Associated Lightsaber Forms: Assured Strike, Swift Flank, Tempered Aggression, Vornskr's Ferocity

1 comment:

Alexis Smolensk said...

Since we don't know ANYTHING about a light saber, we can suppose whatever we want. Ergo,

The lightsaber possesses what we would think of as an impossible density of energy, similar (but not as much as) the mass/energy ratio of a neutron star, except in this case the "weight" of the sword's energy/mass is exactly what the wielder needs it to be - it can never be too heavy or too light because the wielder's mind is the master of this energy. Thus the sword is always the PERFECT weight, perfect in a manner that manufacture cannot equal, as the sword is not made it is conceived. This conception, in turn, causes the energy to distribute itself along the weight of the weapon so as to create a perfect balance of action, so that the weight is not carried in the handle, it is carried at some point along the "blade" that exactly fits the requirement of the Jedi. As such, no weapon in existence can match the lightsaber as a potential extension of the user's arm and body. It only fails to seem as such in the films because films are inadequate to properly represent exactly how the movement of the lightsaber would appear in reality.

I so hate, hate, hate star wars.

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