Drachenreich - A 7th Sea Campaign
Description of Swordsman's Knacks
Here is a handy reference and descriptive guide to all the swordsman knacks.
Arc: No matter how much they look like a straight line, every projectile moves in a curve. Faster ones make a closer approximation of straightness, but even the fastest bullet has a bit of a curve in its path. As you improve your skill in this knack, you learn to control this. It may seem like you’re aiming above your target’s head, but when the bullet eventually comes down, it comes down in the right place.
Attack: There are a very limited number of ways to attack; either you extend the point straight out through your opponent, or you cut down with a sharp edge and sever. Within that, though, there are many tricks you can use. As you gain skill in attacking, you learn how to go around, or through, parries, how to convince your opponent to guard high when you attack low, and how to control tempo and distance enough to drive your point home. At rank one you can hit your basic target. By three you can go around simple parries with ease, and by four you can aim for specific freckles at will. At rank five you’re hitting before your opponent is fully aware that you moved.
Beat: There are two types of beats; hard and light. The light beat, ironically enough, is covered under Feint; this knack deals with heavy beats. The idea behind a heavy beat is to hit their sword with enough force to leave their sword in a useless position, at least for the fraction of a second it’ll take to hit them. The trick to doing a beat properly is to keep the motion in your hand so that it’s fast enough and subtle enough to hit and to not leave you very far open in case you miss.
Bind: While a good bind will leave your opponent with a useless weapon for the rest of the fight, its main purpose is to make an opening into which you can attack. When using a Panzerhand or your bare hands, the goal is to get a good grip on the weapon (or its handle or their hand) and hold on tight. When using a buckler, dagger, or sword to bind, it’s more a matter of pushing the blade into a position from which it can not be easily withdrawn. Usually, if you calm down and look at this situation, it’s easy to escape from a bind. So don’t give your opponent time to think. Putting your opponent in a bind forces him to spend actions getting free. Let them. Spend an action or two to strengthen if you wish, but concentrate instead on pounding them while they’re bound.
Bob-n-Weave/Sidestep: These two are essentially the same knack; the difference comes down to flavor. Bob-n-weave is more a boxing thing; when they punch, duck under it (bob) and come up to the side (weave). Or just step to the side and forward or back as needed (sidestep). Either leaves you in a more advantageous position while your opponent is still recovering from their attack, allowing you to attack sooner. If you’re good enough at either of these, or you go to a fun school like Torres, this can give you a large number of actions which are suddenly current. And, since they just spent an action, your opponent probably won’t be ready to parry all of them. So side step and then unload on the fool. Probably deserves it anyway for missing.
Corps-a-corps: The most traditional form of this attack is a good old fashioned shoulder check. But there’s no reason you can’t do it with a good punch to the chin or a kick to other portions of the anatomy, for that matter. Regardless, you will leave your opponent in a little bit of pain and laid out nicely on the ground. Might I suggest now would be a wonderful time to attack as hard as possible? The main trick behind this knack is getting close enough to hit without being stabbed. But that shouldn’t be too hard.
Disarm: There are a number of ways to disarm your opponent. You can grab the weapon and pull it out of their hand, you can apply enough force to the blade to send it flying (a good beat will do the trick, in fact), or you can apply leverage in just the right way that the sword pops out of the grip. One of the best ways of doing this is to start a big circle at the tip of your opponent’s blade which becomes a much smaller circle as you reach the handle. Pick whichever way works best for your weapon, and send the blade flying. This typically works best when your opponent has just missed you, as they’ll be at full extension and your sword will be in contact with theirs (usually), but it can be done at other times as well, with effort.
Double Attack: For obvious reasons, this is only possible with two weapons. Normally it’s one quick slash with each weapon, but it is possible, especially with a knife, to make two attacks with the same knife. The objective here is not truly to cause massive damage, but to get in two small, quick hits. Sadly, the knack as written doesn’t reflect this. As is, it’s one of the most dangerous knacks in the game because it doubles your offensive Panache. Keep Double Attacking and you can beat almost any opponent. Regardless, remember the secret here is speed.
Double Parry: This can be the traditional “X” parry, or you can just push to the side with both weapons. Either way, this presents great opportunity. The reason this grants a Drama Die, and the reason it’s so temporary, is that one blade (or shield or cloak) can be used to hold the parry while the other one is used to attack. An excellent and very powerful technique, spend that Drama Die right away and attack into the opening you’ve created.
Feint: This knack, more than any except perhaps Parry, covers a huge number of techniques which are all designed to do one thing: get your opponent to parry when you want, where you want, and how you want. Of course, since you’ll be expecting this, you can attack somewhere else and hit while they’re busy parrying the wrong attack. Some feints are actually attacks upon the blade, like a light beat, which say to your opponent, “Hey, I’m going to attack you now!” Some are just the beginning of an attack in one line followed by a quick shift to a different line. Either way, when done properly your opponent will be hit before even realizing they didn’t parry your attack.
The question has been asked, why bother using Beat or Feint when I can make a normal attack and use those raises for damage instead? The answer is simple; as good as you may be at hitting someone, there will be someone out there who is even better at parrying your attack. If you can’t hit, you can’t inflict damage and so, no matter how many raises you call for damage, you’ll never win. Even if your feints and beats are hitting lightly, they’ll build up after a while. Besides that, it makes all those points your opponent spent on Riposte suddenly become useless. As a house rule, though, consider saying that a Beat or Feint which misses the necessary number of raises but hits the base TN will hit as a normal attack.
Fortitude: Not so much a skill as a learned level of toughness, fortitude is the result of years of conditioning and physical abuse. Some of my instructors in unarmed combat tell stories of wrapping pieces of wood or metal in rope and spending hours beating on them in a variety of ways to build toughness. Some schools teach that every morning before breakfast you should slap your entire body roughly, quite roughly in fact. That is how you learn Fortitude.
Hook: A boxing term, but one that applies to any barehanded combat (or gauntlets, like Panzerhands, which work similarly). By twisting your body into the strike, your body weight and back and leg muscles add to the power of the blow. Such a little ingrained addition, but it makes a big difference.
Lunge: Every fencer lunges; it has the advantages of covering ground quickly in an attack and allowing for speedy recovery. Some, however, are faster, hit harder, or cover a lot more ground. These are the people who Lunge! The only problem with a good lunge is it leaves you spread out; if you don’t hit, you’re wide open for any attacks which may come your way. So pick up that front foot, throw it forward at top speed, hit, and then recover to your guard stance as fast as you can.
Parry: There is a difference between a parry, which redirects an attack, and a block, which absorbs the force. But it’s not such an important difference that most people worry about it. Usually you parry a thrust and block a cut, although a hard enough cut might need to be redirected if you use a light sword. At rank one you know all the basic parries and how to move from one to the other. By rank two you have more than one parry you can use from any given position, using a combination of straight, circular, diagonal, semi-circular, seated, and counter parries. By rank three you’re probably even doing them correctly. Rank four you’re not parrying until the last possible second to prevent a feint, and you’re probably tangling their tip in your shirt from time to time, too. At rank five you make it look effortless, barely even moving to turn the fiercest thrust.
Pin: Few things in the world are more fun than tossing a knife (or shooting an arrow for that matter) with enough accuracy to pin your opponent’s arm to the nearest wall. Well, their shirt, but it’s still fun to watch them feel all embarrassed. Normally this is used to slow your opponent long enough that you can run away, but don’t underestimate the usefulness of pinning 3 or 4 limbs and sending the next knife into a nicely immobilized target.
Pommel Strike: Most people don’t worry about the pommel of the sword; after all, it’s not sharp so how much can it hurt? So when it hits them, right in the face, too, they’re left nicely surprised. Besides, getting hit in the nose is distracting. Leaves you nicely dazed for a few seconds. Traditionally this is done with the hilt (or pommel; go figure) of a sword, but there’s no reason it can’t be done with any blunt object.
Pommel Strike and Corps-a-corps both provide excellent opportunities to make attacks on your opponent with many raises. While the temptation is great to use these for damage, don’t overlook the other knacks which require many raises to work effectively; Beat, Feint, Throat Strike, Eye Gouge, and Ear Clap are all wonderful follow-up attacks, as you can execute these about as easily as you could normally hit them (and don’t forget; in this game, hitting frequently is often better than hitting hard).
Riposte: There is a wide range of feelings about what constitutes a “true” riposte. In its simplest form, a riposte is a parry followed by a quick counter attack. What separates “riposte” from “parry/counter attack” is just a matter of timing; riposte happens more quickly. At the highest levels, it is essentially one motion, and how you execute the parry impacts how well you counterattack. While many purists define riposte such that parry and attack must be done with the same blade, it is this writer’s opinion that riposte is more a functional definition; parry followed by attack. This means you can parry with your sword and attack with an off-hand weapon, or vice versa. This even means you can dodge out of the way of the thrust and attack while your opponent is extended. However, primarily how one performs a riposte depends on how they have been taught by their school. Habits are powerful.
Stop-Thrust: If your opponent makes the mistake of telegraphing their attack or using sloppy form, and many people do, you can take advantage of the situation by thrusting into their attack. When done right, your extension will block them from finishing their attack, or at least they’ll be in too much pain to finish it. The trick to doing this properly is to shut out, or close, the line your opponent is attempting to use. That way they’ll be sitting there looking silly with your point in their flesh and their sword feeling useless. Like riposte, the difference between stop thrust and a parry/counterattack usually comes down to a matter of timing.
Tagging: Less, almost, a move and more a frame of mind, Tagging is used to point out to your opponent exactly where you could have hit them, were you not feeling so generous at the moment. Cutting clothing or facial hair are common, but tagging can just as easily be a thrust which stops a hair’s width away from a vital point, while you stand with a grin on your face. Any school which teaches tagging should use it extensively. Build a large pool of Drama Dice, and feel free to use them when needed. Or tag with all but one action in a round, and with that last one call many raises and spend all your dice. Given a Master who rolls 9k4 on attacks and has a Panache of 5, that’s a 10k7 attack. Rolling that much, you can easily afford enough raises to roll over on damage.
Throw: What it sounds like. There are different techniques for throwing weapons, based on what type of knife or axe or whatever and how you normally use it.
Trick Shooting: Sure, you can throw a knife, or shoot a bow, but can you bounce it off the pot hanging on the wall, make it go through the open window, and hit that guy in the foot? Of course you can! Trick shooting just makes it a little easier to make those impossible shots that no sane person would attempt.
Wall of Steel: [Note that it is very important to pronounce this in a very impressive basso profundo at all times] Your parries have become so solid that most people would rather insult a king than try to get around them. Either you parry so well and so quickly that getting an attack in is useless or you keep moving your sword so unpredictably (but controlled enough that you can still parry) that they have no idea when it’s safe to attack. It’s quite possible to do this with any blade or parrying device, but if it is done with a buckler or cloak it might be more appropriate to call it “Wall of Hide” or “Wall of Cloth”. As a note, the same basic thing done with footwork is the Gallegos master technique; with just a little twist, the blade passes harmlessly past and it almost looks like you didn’t even move.
Whirl: Extend swords out on either side of you and twirl rapidly. Or just go into a flurry of attacks and motion. Depending on the school teaching it, this is either a dancer’s graceful pirouette, only more dangerous, or an angry cat’s blind rage. These aren’t strong attacks, or terribly effective, but against some opponents that’s all you need.