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Author Topic: A Guide To Lightsabers: Lore, Core Construction, and Fighting Styles  (Read 2767 times)

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Offline Malkerik

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I decided to do this up back in 2013 when I first started puttering on SWTOR. Now that I've come on over to BC, I figured I'd cross post it here for anyone looking into the basics of Lightsaber construction, Lightsaber Combat, and some of the lore behind these instruments of AWESOMESAUCE. Enjoy! And if you find any errors, leave them down below and I'll confirm and correct them in the guide. Let's make this an excellent community resource for Jedi and Sith RPers!


The Lightsaber: A tool of the Jedi, and a weapon of the Sith. Powerful in its purpose and enigmatic in its design, the construction of such a weapon is a closely guarded secret of the Jedi and Sith, passed down through the years from Master to Student since the days of the original Tython. An elegant weapon, melding the beauty of technology and the intuition of the force. But never in history have we seen a tool so capable of causing such untold destruction and woe.
- Jedi Master Jinkai To



History

The modern lightsaber, as we know it, didn't come into being on its own. The earliest version was a sort of plasma-blade like object which had a belt mounted power pack to feed it energy. Developed by the Rakata, these 'forcesabers' worked by arcing a beam of energy back on its power source to make an energy circuit, causing massive power drains for the bulky power pack and becoming highly unstable. These forcesabers would easily overheat, and they were traditionally used as ceremonial objects or siege weapons later in their development.

Eventually, this forcesaber technology was refined, giving way to the more modern design of typical lightsabers. However, due to power issues, the belt battery pack was still required to be worn. They saw much more use in the field, and gave their users a greater advantage in hand-to-hand combat.

The modern lightsaber was, unsurprisingly, developed by the Sith Empire. By introducing an internal superconductor, the blade would only expend energy when the energy circuit was broken (ie, blocking blaster fire or cutting things) and the size of the battery pack could be reduced, managing to fit into a hilt. With this improvement, more advanced lightsaber combat and designs began to emerge, such as the Juyo form of combat and the double-bladed saberstaff (However the Sith were the first to adopt the double-bladed style blade into regular combat).

The Jedi began to create their own lightsabers, though they did not start putting double-bladed lightsaber styles into use until the Jedi Civil war. Though widely wielded now in the Great War, Jedi use of the double blades and other exotic hilt styles did not reach popularity until very recently.

Mechanics and Parts

Each lightsaber is made up of basically the same parts though most of these parts are typically personalized to the users’ specific needs (ie. Crystal Color, hilt length and style). The typical lightsaber consists of a hilt to house the mechanics (emitter, super conductor, etcetera), a Diatium power cell to create the energy beam, and a focusing lens to turn it into physical plasma. Secondarily, the plasma would be focused through a series of focusing crystals that arced the energy into the lightsaber blade, and allowed for the adjustment of blade length and the distortion of the energy through the emitter. Normally three focusing crystals were used allowing for very personal color schemes though there are many saberists known for using only one crystal.

There are two types of lightsaber crystals. There are naturally occurring crystals which form over time in crystal caves, such as on Ilum, and can come in a variety of colours and a variety of strengths (more conducive beams, greater force aptitude, etcetera). However, there are also synthetic crystals (or Synth-crystals) that are created by a crystal forge, employing the same geological processes to create the focusing crystals at an advanced rate, taking anywhere from a few hours to multiple days to create them.

While Synth-crystals became red during creation, the crystal color could be changed through heavy meditation during the forging process. However, improperly forged Synth-crystals can short out or become unstable, causing lightsabers to fail and be unusable for some time.

Typically, crystal forges can be found on Sith controlled worlds, most notably Korriban. Crystal caves can be found in the Adega System, Ilum and Dantooine.

With the beam focused through a series of field energizers and modulation circuitry within an emitter matrix, it turns the beam into the blade that lightsabers are infamous for, extending about a meter from the emitter before arcing back, travelling along the same route to complete the circuit into the power cell, constantly circulating energy. When the blade hits something the circuit is broken and the power cell emits energy to continue the circuit. When activated, the blade itself weighs nothing though the hilt maintains the same weight, often confusing those unused to the weapon and making more advanced fighting attacks awkward with the different point of balance.

A lightsaber blade is a mass-less cutting edge (think electricity; it's energy without mass in open air), and does not expend heat or energy until it comes into contact with something solid, breaking its current. Injuries sustained by a lightsaber rarely bleed, as the intense heat emitted by the blade’s plasma arc cauterizes the wound. While known for being able to cut through almost everything, the speed of the blade passing through objects is dependent on the density of the material being cut through.

Very rarely, electromagnetic fields and some rare materials can pass through the lightsaber and force them to short out the arc running through the blade, disabling the plasma arc. Other electromagnetic fields and coherent energy, however, can be repelled by a lightsaber's arc, including most force fields, blaster bolts, and of course, other lightsaber blades.

As well, lightsabers can be constructed to be 'Dual-phased.' While many had a built in way to adjust the length, dual-phase lightsabers allow for rapid transition between two pre-set blade lengths, allowing one to take an opponent by surprise with a quick adjustment of the length

Lightsaber Resistance

Besides another lightsaber, there are some materials that can repel lightsaber blades with varying degrees of success. However, at the time of the Great War, there is nothing that can completely negate the damage a lightsaber can cause.

Cortosis, a very rare and highly expensive metal, is a popular defence against the weapon, usually employed by very rich Sith Lords, Jedi, and Bounty Hunters pursuing force users. The ore has the ability to momentarily short out a lightsaber blade, though Mestare type lightsaber crystals are immune to the effect. Cortosis alloys, sturdier and impure ore, are capable of deflecting a lightsaber blade, but cannot deactivate it.

Mandalorian iron and Armorweave cloth are known to repel lightsaber blades as well, though Armorweave affords little protection against the strength behind the lightsaber blow.

Sith alchemy, the dark art of weaving the force and biology together is known to imbue metals with the ability to counter the deadly lightsaber. However, in the present era of the Sith Empire, Sith alchemy is rarely studied, only the darkest of force users knowing how to master the powerful energies of the Dark side.

Unless specifically designed to repel it, all lightsabers will short out when introduced to or submerged in water, due to rapid chain reactions ad the distortion of the plasma arc. In rain most sabers are unaffected when ignited, as the lightsaber's arcing blade will heat whatever they touch on contact, water will evaporate harmlessly due to the arc when active, though activating a lightsaber after prolonged time in a storm may cause difficulties.

Types of Lightsabers

While every lightsaber is personalized to the wielder's requirements, there are many archetypes of blades.

The only difference between 'standard' lightsabers and Electrum lightsabers are that the casing for the hilt is built of the golden electrum metal. While purely cosmetic, Electrum lightsabers are typically only used by those of high stature within the Jedi Order and the Sith Empire, and are bestowed instead of personally forged. Many sabers are adorned with similar trophies or coatings such as wood, rare metals, or hilt decorations such as syandanas.

The double bladed saberstaff has multiple varieties of construction. While the singular housing and singular hilt style was most common, some lightsaber combatants choose to weld two single-bladed style blades together, bottom to bottom, to deal with the largest issue facing the blade: cutting it in half would destroy the power pack and cause both ends to short out. Others can be held by a locking system, or with a fiber cord (think nunchaku). With these construction types, if it was cut in half the other 'half' of the blade will still function (Remember Phantom Menace, when Maul's blade was cut in half? He used that construction method, welding two singular lightsabers together to create a double-bladed lightsaber).

Shoto sabers are typically used as off-hand weapons or weapons for more diminutive Sith or Jedi. Consisting of a smaller hilt, the blade is also smaller than average. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Lightclub is a massive lightsaber with an oversized blade mainly constructed for very large duellists, such as those the size of Gamorreans.

Crossguard lightsabers (see Kylo Ren), Tonfa-style Lightsabers (see Maris Brood from the Force Unleashed games), and the curved-hilt lightsaber allow for more precise movements in very specific forms. However, multiple blades could still be emitted from a single-bladed style lightsaber, such as the Crossguard lightsaber, which used an arc around the wielder's hand to protect it from lightsabers and blaster bolts.

Lightsaber pikes, though while in existence are not commonly used, resemble more spear-like weapons with a handle that is typically two meters long and a shorter than average blade. Even rarer to see, lightsaber whips (or Lightwhips) are not typically used in the present Great War (outside of some slaver circles). Created by emitters extending from the hilt, the beam is more flexible though they are weaker than coherent beams and offer little in the way of defence.

Lightsaber Combat

There are seven lightsaber forms traditionally used and studied, that have been developed since the first creation of the lightsaber. Though while varied, many saberists and warriors learn a wide variety of forms to remain agile and varied. However, there are many saberists who also focus specifically on one Form, learning to counter every other form with it. These 'Masters' take many years to fully and completely learn their form of choice, and will rarely dip into other forms while they are learning to master their form.

During formal training, students learn about 'Body Target Zones,' marking individual parts of the body and learning to defend and attack them. At the same time, they learn about the 'Three Rings of Defense' to protect themselves at varying ranges, and 'Marks of Contact' to learn about fighting physically against a wide variety of forms.

Formal training also consists about learning about various stances, though each Form typically has its own ready stance for combat. While Jedi meditate to focus in combat, Sith may also meditate though many will rely on their powerful emotions for clarity or strength in combat.

Individual Fighting Forms

There are several main lightsaber forms that are taught in the current era, though there are others that exist that are not typically trained in a formal setting, or are considered unorthodox. The following forms are listed with a notable practitioner from a similar era for visual study if you seek to incorporate or use that style in your roleplay.

Form I: Shii-Cho
Notable Practicioners: Kit Fisto (Pre-Galactic Empire)

Shii-Cho was the very first style of fighting designed in the history of the lightsaber, dating back to the forcesaber. Very simplistic, Shii-Cho is the most balanced form of offence and defence, and is usually taught first when learning about lightsaber combat, as its basics are required for other forms. In the hands of a master, the bladework is described as "like watching water flow over the falls," though less adept practitioners displayed much more basic and almost clumsy performance.

Shii-Cho encourages very deliberate tactics in combat, calling for step-by-step advancement while cutting off an opponent’s advantages with sweeping attacks. The Form itself is specialized against attacking multiple adversaries, though in one-on-one duels and combat, opponents can easily find gaps and flaws in clumsy bladework. Known for fostering an emotionally heated mindset, Shii-Cho is infamous for creating a considerable temptation to kill, despite the style’s design of disarming and subduing. While some Sith cannot find the will to resist the temptation, masters of the form can easily conquer it, leaving killing and destruction until after they have systematically destroyed their foes.

The most infamous attack that was used in practice with the Shii-Cho was the Sun Djem, a strike directed at an opponent’s weapon to disarm them, or destroy the weapon.

Form II: Makashi
Notable Practicioners: Count Dooku, Asajj Ventress

Makashi is the most duelling-centric of the forms, created for battling opponents in one-on-one combat. Created in the time of the first Great Schism, it was designed specifically to counter Shii-Cho. Focusing on protecting one's weapon against being disarmed, it relied on very precise swordplay to counter the sweeping movements of Shii-Cho. Emphasizing fluid motion and anticipation of an opponent’s action, timing, accuracy, and skill were far more important with this form than raw strength.

Masters of this form are elegant, precise, and deadly, remaining calm in fights to the point of near-arrogance, almost appearing as dance like as if they were using Ataru. Masters also train themselves to avoid dedication to just the one form, as such enslavement opened the practitioner to be predictable and easily read in combat.

Due to the emphasis on blade manipulation, many practitioners of this form use specially designed lightsabers, such as curved-hilt lightsabers, to work in tandem with their motions and gain better control and precision. Crossguard lightsabers are not uncommon in use with Makashi, and those who readily used it tended to decorate their blades to an extent.

Form III: Soresu
Notable Practicioners: Obi-wan Kenobi, Darth Zannah

Soresu was originally designed to counter blaster fire, as the previous styles focused more on lightsaber duelling than ranged combatants. Becoming the most defensive of the seven forms, Soresu utilizes tight movements, such as subtle dodges and short sweeps, to provide maximum defensive coverage, thus reducing the duellist's exposure to ranged weapons. Eventually, Soresu developed past this origin, and became an expression of the Jedi's non-aggressive philosophy. Using tight motions that occurred close to the body, practitioners can achieve almost complete protection and expend minimal amounts of energy while executing movements.

Stressing quick reflects, and quick positional transition, Soresu in duelling traditionally requires much prior studying of an opponent’s movements. When used without this prior knowledge of an opponent, Soresu can be used to safely engage in prolonged combat while studying movements, or go down multiple routes in combat, either killing or disarming both viable options when the upper hand is attained with Soresu.

Soresu Masters are powerful enough to win a battle using nothing else but the form, able to quickly move and entrap opponents. However, those inexperienced with the form can still create a formidable defence, not normally having the experience with the form to rigorously attack with the tight movements Soresu requires. As the form mainly centres around the core of the body, those who cannot defend themselves when an attack was turned could easily find themselves severely injured.

Form IV: Ataru
Notable Practicioners: Yoda, Ashoka Tano

Ataru is an aggressive combat style, relying on a combination of power, strength, and most importantly, speed. Practitioners of Ataru are always on the offensive, attacking with wide, fast, and powerful swings, constantly calling upon the Force to aid in empowering their physical attacks. By using the Force in such a way, they can overcome physical limitations which could otherwise be seen as impossible (such as a Juggernaut being able to flip over someone while wearing heavy plate, or an old man being able to engage in rapid, brutal lightsaber combat). Using the Force in tandem with Ataru, practitioners can be near untouchable, forcing an opponent to constantly go on the defensive.

Standard components of Ataru focus on transition of movement on three axis in a three-dimensional space, mainly spinning, somersaults, and cartwheels. Using these, a practitioner can attack, literally, from almost every possible angle, either on the ground or in the air.

Masters of Ataru can appear like a blur to their opponents, using the force not just to enhance their abilities, but to allow them a near omnipresent focus in combat, moving with such speed it's hard to believe. They also use the Force to guide their actions in combat, often transferring kinetic energy into rolls and other flips.

Form V: Shien and Djem So
Notable Practicioners: Anakin Skywalker, Darth Vader, Galen Marek

Form V was created by Soresu masters who desired a more offensive style of fighting, as Soresu could lead to more prolonged combat, often dooming those who were not masters. Combining the defensive strategies of Soresu, and the offensive style of Makashi, Form V blends defense with offense fluidly, though it is 'looser' in appearance than Shii-Cho.

Form V required a higher level of physical strength than other lightsaber forms (even Ataru), as the philosophy behind it is meant to dominate opponents either with powerful and deft attacks or by defending themselves and exploiting a foe’s weaknesses. Form V has two different variations, Shien and Djem So, but they can be seamlessly combined together in battlefield situations.

Shien, or 'Classic Form V,' was first developed as a way to counter blaster fire and strikes without hindering one's ability to launch powerful counterattacks. With this focus, Shien kept in mind that wielders were often outmatched by their opponents and needed to defend themselves while retaining all their offensive capabilities. However Shien has a failing in that it lacks offensiveness against singular opponents. Utilizers of Shien are known to favor, or at least be able to use reversed grips, putting the cutting edge of the lightsaber back against one's arm and providing a more easily utilizable edge for defense.

Djem So, developed later, focuses more on the aspects of lightsaber dueling. Utilizing blocks and parries, a Djem So practitioner maintains proper defensive foundations, while actively pressing the offense. Placing a heavy focus on brute strength, Djem So utilizes wide, powerful, wide strikes and parries. Attacks from Djem So users can even knock opponents back through sheer kinetic force, throwing them off balance and leaving an opportunity to further cripple an opponent.

Masters of both variations of Form V can blend the two seamlessly in battlefield scenarios, becoming powerful offensive combatants. With heavy armour and a personal shield generator, Form V masters can be as sturdy as Soresu masters, while still maintaining a powerful offence. Most masters will use unconventional lightsaber types or grips, or will switch grips mid-fight to upset an opponent’s strategy. They actively seek to cripple an opponent and dominate them in combat with crushing blows

Form VI: Niman
Notable Practitioners: General Greivous, Exar Kun

Niman, the 'Dual Blade style' was named for the dual triumvate of the Kashi deities. First adopted by the Dark Siders responsible for the First Great Schism, the Jedi soon picked it up after defeating them, eventually refining it into the sixth form of combat.

Niman attempts to balance all of the elements of lightsaber combat, combining techniques from all of the previous forms in a less physically demanding combat style, such as Ataru and Form V. Creating a combination of all forms (Shii-Cho, Mikashi, Soresu, and Form V), it blends them together evenly, using each of them in moderation. With this, there is a loss of originality and individuality in the Forms, but strengths are evenly spread out, and there are very few weaknesses.

Masters of this form typically are diplomats, who prefer to use their time practicing negotiating than lightsaber combat. Due to its even balance, and many opportunities for Force usage, Sith Inquisitors tend to pick it up as well. Masters are well known for their creativity in combat, as well as their intuition and improvisation, all necessities to excel in using Niman extensively.

Form VII: Juyo
Notable Practitioners: Darth Maul, Mace Windu (perfected the Vaapad technique)

While not well known, and rarely practiced, Juyo is described as the most vicious form of lightsaber combat, and is said to be filled with both fury and 'malignant grace.' Known for being the most difficult and demanding form in all of saber combat, Masters of the form are said to be able to eviscerate a lone enemy. Keeping the improvisational nature of Niman, Juyo can be seen by many as chaotic and erratic, but the most powerful in the way of offense.

Juyo movements are far more open and kinetic than the motions from Form V, but they are less elaborate and dance-like than Ataru. Appearing more like an 'unconnected staccato' of sequences, Juyo focuses mainly on savage strength and unpredictability.

Masters of Juyo have almost limitless potentials of energy, as it requires even more energy that both variations of Form V. Almost predominately used by the Sith, Juyo requires a broader wielding of a user's focus, and a deep emotional link, often drawing on powerful, dark emotions to fuel attacks.

Many Masters are experts at using the Vaapad technique, turning an opponent’s fury back upon them like an electric current, fueling themselves with the dark emotions of their opponent to bolster their own strength. Using Vaapad requires a constant stream of Force energy, while also using barely contained explosions of Force power that are required in use with all variations of Juyo.

Many Juyo users focus on crushing opponents and destroying them, rather than wasting energy in crippling them. Practitioners who cannot keep up their physical, emotional, or Force strength in Juyo quickly find themselves overwhelmed by other forms, as Juyo's high intensity movements are useless without the strength of the wielder. When using Juyo, time is always of the essence.

Unorthodox Fighting Techniques and Methods

While the forms for lightsaber combat are the basis of a duelist’s abilities, many advanced fighters employ unorthodox methods and techniques in their fighting. Every Acolyte or Padawan under training will be encouraged to learn a bit of as many forms as they can to complement their primary Form, often creating their own personal style once they have reached the pinnacle of their training. However, battles can sway either in the favor of a form specialist, or in one who works with many different forms, depending on various outlying factors.

Trispzest is a type of aerial lightsaber combat, first developed by force-sensitive aerial beings. The basis of this method is to allow an aerial opponent a distinct advantage against grounded units. However, the fatal flaw of Trispzest is that the user was open to attacks from directly below him by grounded units.

Tràkata is a technique based around the ability of lightsabers to turn off and on, activating and deactivating the blade to slip past a foe’s defences. Many Sith have difficulties with this technique, as they will use their passion and rage to fuel them during combat, and lose some notions of level-headed tactical ingenuity. Also, deactivating one's lightsaber during combat offers greater control over the force due to the removed distraction.

Sokan is a method based around using the environment to one’s advantage. Designed for out-maneuvering opponents, those who use the Sokan method will close the distance rapidly and inflict massive damage as an opponent weaves in and out of terrain. Practitioners of Ataru tend to be very good at doing this.

Telekenetic Lightsaber Combat is a technique that was used almost by every being that used their lightsaber as a projectile weapon (ie. throwing lightsabers). The technique was extremely difficult, and required a great aptitude in Force application. However, Masters of this technique could levitate multiple lightsabers, using them to engage a foe while physically not needing to do anything. One such user was recorded as being able to wield nearly fifty lightsabers at once, and create a "storm of energy" when massacring singular foes.

Dun Möch is a traditional Sith tactic based around psychological warfare. Mainly relying on taunts that exposed doubts and weaknesses, the tactic is used mainly to disrupt concentration. Proper execution of Dun Möch requires great patience and control, a rare trait among Sith of the current Era.

More information can be found at the sources for this post:
http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Lightsaber
http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Lightsaber_combat
http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Lightsaber_crystal


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