Author Topic: The RP Fight  (Read 548 times)

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Offline Iaera

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The RP Fight
« on: 10/08/13, 05:15:07 PM »
I was (as I am frequently wont to do) idly watching various lightsaber duels, and it got me thinking about how I try to RP those duels in an environment like SWTOR. Which in turn got me thinking about it in a wider sense, and made me want to ask: How do you RP fight?

I wanted to talk a bit about the subject, both to explain the way I approach it and techniques I use, and to survey everyone else's thoughts on it and see if I could steal borrow some good ideas.

As some of you know, I tend to loathe dice-based systems and accept them only as a necessary evil. So I try to make up for it by being as interesting and cooperative as I can in an RP fight scenario. Mostly, I'm concerned with lightsaber duels, because I think they are a particularly intricate type of RP fight, but a lot of the techniques I like to use can be applied in a general sense to other types of RP fights.
  • I like to describe duel actions in wide, sweeping, general, and ambiguous terms, as opposed to a specific and detailed move.
While sometimes detail can help, I think that too much hinders. Too many RP fights, IMO, get distilled further and further down as they go on into action-counteraction-countercounteraction-andsoonandsoforth. It becomes too much about the specific swing of a weapon, the specific defence against that swing, the specific counter to that defence, etc. I feel that this hinders the flow of action, and tends to write the fight into a corner.

Rather, by describing the combat in more abstract terms, it allows the combat to "flow" more elegantly and imagination to trump minutiae. This is doubly important for lightsaber fighting, IMO! I'll explain why, but first I'd like to give an example:

Iaera whirls her lightsaber in a flurry of offensive cuts and slashes, advancing on Sithy McSithington.
Sithy McSithington backpedals, meeting the onslaught with a conservative series of deflections and subtle dodges.

This is more interesting, IMO, than:

Iaera adjusts her grip and aims a low horizontal slash at Sithy's forward knee, spinning into the aggressive attack.
Sithy McSithington leaps over the low slash, twisting in mid-air to aim a roundhouse kick at Iaera before landing back on the floor, ready with a follow-up overhead chop of his blade.

The latter example may be more detailed, but I think it inhibits the natural flow of a lightsaber duel. They're supposed to have a lot of give-and-take, often within the same second - one party narrowly dodging only to almost get past the other's block only to take a boot to the face only to backflip and turn it into a counterattack only to... and so on, at lightning speed. Minute move-for-move detail as in the latter example stifles this.

So the important part about the former example is that it includes not only several individual attacks, but it's also intentionally vague about what exactly each attack is supposed to accomplish. This allows the opponent to dodge one, parry another, counter-attack in between, and so on to help give the impression of a back-and-forth duel.

Specific and detailed moves make it hard for the opponent to do that. They're forced to respond to a very specific attack, so it's harder to slip in incidental kicks, minor flips, and other such fun little moves that don't necessarily have any major impact on the outcome of the fight.
  • Variation over tactics
It's probably tempting to just take the most logical, most tactical move at any given time in a fight. But that's not very cinematic! Even if, say, it makes tactical sense to Force push an opponent all day long, I prefer to save it only for "interesting" or "appropriate" intervals within the larger fight. The same goes for other attacks and defences. I like to mix it up with variety - flips, rolls, spins, and so on. Again, I think this helps provide a more imaginative overall picture when the RP fight is done.
  • Dynamic adjustment to the opponent.
This relates to something Semah mentioned awhile back: Adjusting a character's power level to scale with others' on a case-by-case basis. I think doing something similar often helps in an RP fight. I try to get a sense for what the other character is supposed to be in the situation: Raw and inexperienced? Trained and capable? Experienced and highly skilled? And I try to adjust my actions and response to fit. How easy (or how difficult) it is for my character to attack or defend, how much effort has to go into it, how successful my defences are, and so on.

If Iaera is sparring with a Jedi Initiate who hasn't had much lightsaber training, then I portray her as making things look comparatively effortless and casual (even if they're not). On the other hand, if Iaera were fighting, say, Aylaa, then I'd tend to portray every series of moves as extremely taxing and less likely to succeed. Example!

Iaera flicks her wrist, snapping off a rapid deflection before riposting with a series of precise cuts and thrusts.

Iaera narrowly ducks, furiously spinning her blade from point to point to meet each on-coming strike before slipping in a hasty counter-attack.

  • Tricks versus Discipline

This is a little more specific, as it tends to be a theme I specifically explore with Iaera's character. Thematically, a large part of Iaera is her martial discipline and focus. When it comes to a fight, I'm reminded of the Batman films:

Bruce "Throat-cancer" Wayne learns, over the course of the first film in particular, to not only be skilled and disciplined, but also to employ a great deal of "tricks." Smoke bombs, sneakiness, theatrics, psychology, etc., all serve to multiply Batman's effectiveness. He uses them to defeat entire groups of badguys, intimidate enemies, and generally be a more effective hero.

However, when he goes up against the Big Bad, these tricks lose a lot of their effectiveness. The Big Bad is usually too disciplined to fall for them, and this theme is explicitly explored in the third film with Bane ("You think the darkness is your ally? You merely adopted it, I was born in it."). Batman can't win with tricks against Bane - Batman just has to train harder, and fight harder to even stand a chance against him.

I view Iaera in a similar light. She is obsessive about martial discipline. Tricks don't work on her (well, generally speaking). It's an important theme of her character: Beating her requires superior discipline. I could go on about the duelling of philosophy and battle of minds that feeds into that, but that's just stuff that's specific to Iaera. The general point I am trying to make here is the way I treat tricks versus "skill" in a fight.
(free protip: never use trakata against Iaera)

So how do you RP fight? What techniques do you like to use? What do you put into it, what do you get out of it?
retired ~ ༼ つ ◕_◕ ༽つ

Offline NovaZero

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Re: The RP Fight
« Reply #1 on: 10/08/13, 10:15:19 PM »
        ((Pardon wall of text!))

        I actually come from a PvP forums background where our stats were only around to help determine our character's worth in comparison to another character. Forum RP sort of accentuates the need for a good description. I, like you, Iaera, absolutely abhor things dictated by an RNG.

        Let's hold that thought back there and before we start breeding definitions of what a good description is and have me dictate what I myself mean. A good description puts the point across so that the other person understands what you're trying to do. I find that the balance is rather delicate -- as fights tend to go on, engagements get protracted. Descriptions get convoluted. That's where, as you picked out, descriptions can hinder. In fact, they
do hinder. The simple why is this:
  • What you read is the same as what the other person reads. But how its interpreted is different.

I will say though, that often times when fights get to that point and when both people have the problem with it, it's because they've dropped respect and lost sight of what they're trying to do. I would recommend calling for a retcon and backing off before either of you offend one another and you get stuck in a sticky mess.

OOC, you and the other person needs to trust one another. That respect needs to also be there (you've heard me harp on it so many times before but I truly feel that seems to the overriding issue when there's a problem). SOME communication needs to be present. I myself prefer a constant OOC back and forth so we're both having a jovial time talking to each other while providing a means to verify if you or they have the right idea when someone's unsure. But in the briefest of instances it can be as simple as letting your intention OOC be known. "I don't want this character to die, I don't want him to suffer permanent wounds, I only have 20 minutes, my connection's shocking, english is a second language." to name a few.

On to the point.

Descriptions are necessary. Attach the attitude of your character into them and you'll have a quality RP fight. I can promise that. How your character(s) fight each other sets the scene in itself. There are a few things I would like to point out a few things to help keep it enjoyably:
  • Keep actions and their descriptions simple.
  • Use small words. Avoid big ones. (If I have to pull out a dictionary or look up the Jedi Path to find what the hell you're trying to do, that's time loss and slows the fight right down in a bad way. This isn't a geek dating site, I'm not here to be impressed by your command of Oxford English or Lore know-how. If I want that, I'll ask you out for a drink.)
  • Avoid protracted engagements. What I mean is, break contact from each other frequently. There's a few reasons why you should. It helps you both zero in on the scene so you're both fresh and ready to go back in it with minimal confusion as Iaera's pointed out, you can throw in some variety -- force pushing someone to throw them back? Excellent way to re-zero. And on the other side it allows for intermission interactions -- for example I had a character that wasn't exactly in a chatty mood when he fought Odon and would constantly re-engage every time they broke off, this helps make that fast-paced feel. In another example, I have a character that saps the other person's will to fight by talking to them (dun moch, for those with their "Jedi Path" handy) and this can be used to so many different effects and helps plunge you both head long into some character development. Which brings us to another point:
  • RP fighting is still RPing. It's not just a fight. You're both there to illustrate your character and their most present intentions to one another. If you're sparring, your character is there to learn their own limitations and that of the other person. If you're trying to kill each other.... well that speaks for itself.

I get into this because... if anyone's heard me say it, I've mentioned that Kyras is actually a quarter echani. That is just by genetic heritage. But in terms of culture, he's completely aware. By far my most enjoyable fight was with a Republic character called Vilinde (I know Kiive has met the player and I don't doubt so have many of you). Why is this important? Because as Echani, actions and combat is a language. How you fight and why you fight tell a lot about your character. The way we fought was rather free form -- we had rolls, to help determine success and failure -- how close your roll is to theirs determined degree of that success or failure. Win or lose didn't matter (I lie, I lost, just because I could never get a clear cut success roll that completely smashed hers :rage: RNG, I HATECHU!). What did matter was what we both took out from the fight. I was extremely impressed by the player's grasp of it all... her character:
  • Noticed Kyras didn't adapt.
  • Saw Kyras spot an opening but didn't act on it at least three times during the fight.
  • Saw how Kyras kept on using strength to push through her technique rather than beating her by using his own finesse -- which she spotted when he moved to grapple her to take away her advantage of speed.
  • Understood that Kyras wasn't failing to adapt, but that he was refusing to (there is a tremendous difference!).
And so her character came to the bottom line. Kyras was guarding his personality and his identity; that he is a pretender. Evidently more than the words he speaks, the games he plays or the titles he bears. In a single fight, her character learned more about my character than any three conversations my character's had with anyone else (Seiyd, dear, if you're reading this? Put your hand down please).

Now, I absolutely hate oversimplified descriptions. Telling me that:

  • JediKenobioftheGrandCouncil lets loose a series of sweeping slashes at SithDudefromSpace!GasStation.
  • SithDudefromSpace!GasStation parries the series of slashes and opens up his hand to forcepush JediKenobioftheGrandCouncil.
  • JediKenobioftheGrandCouncil is flung back and somersaults off the wall, jumps to the roof and switches to Soresu form.

Whether you choose to believe me or not, I took off my shorts, put it on my head and jumped up and down on my mattress trying to bring out my sports-voice while trying to read the above transcript (What? it's almost Summer here). Nope. Still boring.
It also tells me nothing. Okay. I'm being overzealous here -- it tells me little. On top of that putting down a sequence of actions has a very nasty side-effect... any of them are blocked or deflected or parried or whatever? You're denying the intricacies of cool you can lay out. It conveys little to nothing about your character and there is some stigma attached to that kind of writing and on that board where I started out, it was discussed at length between the effects of the writing style can have on another player despite being friends -- open-ended and close-ended. I'll be brief, but in short close-ended dictated a series of actions that made certain assumptions. Because people tend to approach their current post with the present state of mind, they automatically assume that what the person put down (hence the whole practice of people using past-tense in writing over present or future but that's its own topic) happened. With that, you can see how the stigma of god-modding can come in even though that's not what the writer intends (in theory, the close-ended RPer is inviting you to interrupt or carry or cut through any part of what they put down, in practice, it breaks the norm and on a RP PvP basis is frowned upon to the extent that I see quite a few outright ban it or consider it a form of godmodding).

You have to remember, you're setting a scene. Telling me that something looks like a restautant only gets me to ask for more info. If you told me that the restaurant was a small dimly lit Italian evening eatery in an alleyway filled with the scent of melted cheese and fresh flour, it would be as concise as saying that Jedi Anakin gave a small leap as he swung his right hand downwards into an over head slash. Sure, you could go into more detail. For example, what was Anakin was aiming for? Or you can go with it and in your counter post make it so that JediKenobiOfJediOrder steps forward and brings his foot high in an attempt to kick the aerial AnakinJediWannabeButEmoFailure in the chest. The point? Give something to work with. It doesn't need to be as described. It's also nicer to read. Compared to my italicized text I placed out earlier, which of these two descriptions can you actually illustrate in your mind? Which would you point out to what you would love to see happen?

((I feel like pizza now.))

Wow. I put more time into writing that than I thought I would. Sorry! But that's my take on it. I feel drawn to point it out because I know that RP fights aren't for everyone because people think it's just PvP. I do want to broach the idea that maybe we can move past that and see it as a collaborative take. Granted not everyone is going to have the skill to properly portray that character but I have to say it... it does require a bit of practice. And therefore commitment.

Waxing philosophical. Descriptions are important as is communication.
« Last Edit: 10/09/13, 12:06:29 AM by NovaZero »
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