Sword Fightin’ In Style

One aspect of Robert Jordan’s mega Wheel of Time series that I enjoy is its description of dueling, or “dancing the forms” as he calls sword-fighting is called.  A lot of attention is paid in these novels to a blademaster’s maneuvers: each combination of swing and footwork has a fantastical name that evokes an animal and its environment with names like “wind follows the loon” or “heron in the rushes”.  In Jordan’s world, a blade master has learned hundreds of special forms and knows when to use a particular one to counter his opponent’s.

In 4th edition there is a lack of a  a good blade-master class. It’s absence makes me miss the old class kits from 2e, although those were usually associated with the Fighter. In 4th Edition, a Defender Fighter is built to soak up damage: a sword & board type of warrior. I think that my desired type of  sword-master would be more of a striker, like a two weapon ranger, except specializing in one type of sword. The big difference between my vision and what is available is the lack of specialized powers that represent the sword master moves. Martial Power 2 comes close with Combat Styles, although that seems more like different Eastern fighting schools than special individual forms.

Although I probably wouldn’t opt for it in my own games due to the time issues at the table, it would be neat to see some kind of system for more expressive combat: sword forms and dueling. For instance, if an opponent were to attack with a “Fox stalks the Seagull” maneuver, it would be nice to have a list of counter moves to choose from. I don’t know if you’ve played Monkey Island with its unique fight by insulting mechanic, but basically you get a list of responses to given attack and have to choose the most appropriate one. I think I would give that kind of mechanic a go to see how it feels.

Are there any 4e powers or combat variations that put the strategy into individual swings of the sword, rather than the move/damage type strategy of the standard powers?

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4 thoughts on “Sword Fightin’ In Style

  1. I completely disagree. The Two-Handed Weapon Fighter is a great model for exactly this kind of thing, as I see it. Hit points are an abstract model of toughness and endurance anyway, so there’s no reason for them not to include the hero’s ability to dance the blades as well, parrying and dodging and sidestepping.

    Likewise, when 4E was first previewed, Jordan’s blademasters was the thing I thought of first. Even without re-skinning power names, the evocative, descriptive names given to exploits for the martial characters makes them particularly well suited for Jordan’s kind of style. And for the exploits that seem a little mundane, simply renaming the power and leaving the mechanics intact solves the issue. There’s no reason that a “Brutal Smash” has to be that when the character uses it in combat. To one style of fighting it might be “Boar Rushes Down The Mountain” and another style might name the same maneuver “Dragon Claw Slash”, etc.

  2. I think the Essentials fighter hits this idea right with its usage of at-will stances, especially the slayer which is a striker. You go into a pose, strike and move or switch out of a pose, so on and so forth. You can always change the name for the stances that you go into and call your moves attacks, parries and whatever you may like.

  3. @Jason,
    That’s a good point. I hadn’t really thought of it that way. When I envision Jordan’s sword fighting I think of moves and counter moves, instead the 4e powers feel like independent attacks. However maybe just reframing it might make it feel more that way. Thanks.

    @OpenPalm,
    I look forward to seeing the new fighter build in the Essentials. I hope it’s as colorful to play as it sounds.

  4. I agree. I would love to see more specialized powers being implemented when opponents square off. This would definitetly be more expressive and realisticly determine the outcome of the duel. I think parrying, dodging and side step movements could be incorporated with the game play.

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