Training Skill: Fighting Styles

I’ve long imagined a perceptive player noticing that every time they face the Goblin Horde, the goblins use a very similar set of actions in Fight! Strike, block, push, let’s say. This player, in having noticed this, suddenly becomes a brilliant goblin-fighter, almost seeming to predict their moves before they use them!

In any military, it is incredibly difficult to teach thousands of warriors to become great improvisational fighters in a short period of time. It is far easier to teach them a set of actions, reactions, and movements that have been tried and tested, and then throw them en masse at the enemy. I want to be able to simulate this simplified combat training with a new kind of training skill: the fighting style.

These styles would work like any other training skill: takes two ranks to open it, then it’s done. The result would be that whenever the character with the training uses the EXACT actions with the EXACT weapons described by the skill in a fight! round, they get a bonus die on each action.

Northern Mountain Wall of Death Style
Weapon: Spear
Actions: Counterstrike -> Strike -> Strike OR (if has 4 reflexes) Counterstrike -> Strike, Set -> Great Strike

A player using this style would get a +1D on each action in the round if it is obeyed perfectly.

This system has several primary features: NPCs have an incentive to use the style, simplifying the GM’s job; Players have an incentive to pay attention to what NPCs are doing to try to figure out how they fight; Players will deliberately seek out masters to gain the benefit of their training (instant plot hooks); and different styles will grant some cool differentiation to how PCs see combat.

Thoughts on variations of this rule:

  • if the +1D/action is too powerful, it could be a single bonus die put into any one action throughout the round.
  • styles could have a few different action sets if they are more comprehensive, which would prevent combat from being too repetitive. There would likely be rules regarding how difficult it is to learn a style based on how versatile it is.
  • similar weapons might be able to substitute for a different one in a pinch (spear for staff, say)

What do you guys think?


I guess the question to start with - are your players the types who WILL pay attention? There’s always some types of players that don’t care how easy, obvious, or beneficial the thing is, they simply will never bother to think of it that way. (“Look, just move your guy over 1 square, and you’re flanking. It gives us +2 to hit.” “Huh? I just want to hit the guy…”) If you’re dealing with these kinds of players, nothing will actually get them to pay attention.

It’s also worth noting, that while the execution of a given style is simple, as a GM, you’re going to be:
a) producing new styles (and what if a style has more than 1 option? …)
b) having to navigate your notes for those styles
c) having to make styles valuable enough for players to want to learn them yet not so overpowering as to break the game
d) Waiting for your players to navigate the styles they know (are they organized, do they make quick decisions? There’s already a lot of choices in a Fight! as RAW.), then dealing with players who end up doing the same thing over and over because they’re too lazy to think outside of it…

Not saying don’t do it at all, just saying, better make sure those players would be into it, otherwise, it’s work for nothing.

What might just be an easier logistical call is to make a few patterns for NPCs you plan on using and having the players who have appropriate skills (“Legion-wise”, “Duellist-wise”) make rolls and just inform them stuff about it - “The Legion’s raw recruits will Strike, Block, Strike, every time. It’s an easy test to see if you’re dealing with a rookie or a veteran- because the latter will change up according to the situation…”.


Haha, GMing is ALL work for nothing! Only half of the things I write or do actually get used immediately, I just like messing around with RPG rules. Even if my players don’t use this immediately, it’s there if they ever want it, and it would actually decrease the amount of work I have to do for mooks’ fight! actions. I like having background options for players, in case I get someone particularly ambitious or creative, and nothing would change for your average BW bear. Also, I like that this reminds me a little of martial arts styles, and I would LOVE to have some crazy eastern kung fu flavor at my disposal, should I ever need it.

I like this. I’d stick the bonus to the last action of the series, otherwise it’s too easy to cheat.

Neat idea!

I think you could add the bonus to every action, but you have to script the whole series and you should write it into the NPC stats as an assumption. You said it’s harder to teach recruits to be good improvisational fighters than to teach them a few good routines. Lower their weapon skills by 1 universally, then give a +1D bonus when they do these routines. That way there’s nothing abusive about this. You could even add that they won’t benefit anyone with more than a B3 skill.

I’d plot a couple routines to reflect their training, like this…
Attack! (aggressive stance, strike, push, strike)
Support! (block, assist strike, assist push, strike)
Receive charge! (defensive stance, block, counterstrike, neutral stance)

You could add these to the little block of NPC stats at the bottom, then just note which one each soldier is doing.

This is an absolutely awesome idea. Perhaps more versatile styles would have a few different moves to choose from at a given point. Maybe it’s always Block-something, but the something could be a strike, charge, or lock, so you have an option or two, but still get the bonus. Perhaps the size of the advantage is related to the length of the string of moves.

There could also be conversational styles…

“Unless the enemy has studied his Agrippa”
I’d say you can’t claim a style bonus against someone who had the same training, as you’re both used to fighting opponents trained that way.

Bonuses to beginners are OK, but I think later on you’d have to nix them or do something else.

This also introduces the opportunity that you might have people introduce Fighting-Style-Wise, and claim FoRK’s from that when fighting styles they know [lnked test, rarer styles higher Ob to get the FoRK].

This could get interesting, but you need to limit bonuses and things.

I’m intrigued by the idea to make fighting-styles as C-O and Dt Traits. You might say the “Monkey-Style” Trait acts as a C-O for Avoid, and the “Monkey-Style Master” Dt Trait might mitigate penalties to attack made in the same Volley as an Avoid. “Drunken-Style” might be a call on for Health and Forte Rolls while drunk, “Iron-Mountain-Axe-Style” gives a bonus +1VA when great striking with your Axe skill, etc.

Might not be useful to your thread discussion, but ideas are banging around in my head.

My point of view:

Same as Durand. Make fighting styles (why not?), but forget the bonus die. If you train hard enough, eventually you can earn a new trait. I dont’ thing knowing a set of actions make you a better combatant.

But really, I’m not a soldier, so…

I’m mostly drawing on my background in martial arts for the basis of this idea. The principle of learning a “form” in kung fu, say, is that you will have a set of movements that you practice over and over, which are applicable in as many situations as possible. Being able to throw a punch very accurately or hard or fast is useless if you don’t know how to get your damn opponents’ hands out of the way.

The core notion is that when you are in a fight, you have to rely on your training, your reflexes, and your muscle memory of all those movements that your master had you perfect with thousands of repetitions.

I have no problem with two people using the same fighting style against each other while still claiming bonuses. Odds are the movements will not sync very well, and they’ll end up knocking each other out, which is what should happen if two idiots don’t think to change up what they’re doing when they know what their opponent’s actions will be. Personally, I would not allow fighting-style-wise, as knowing what the actions of the style are alone is an enormous advantage already. Additionally, one of my main goals is to make these styles attractive to players (gotta catch 'em all!), and having them fizzle out after B3 or so seriously decreases that attractiveness. I like the idea of a B8 swordsman with six or seven styles under his belt able to pull something out for any situation.

Exactly. There is a point where the instinct of muscle memory kicks in and before you know it you’ve downed an opponent. I’ve accidentally been on both ends of that. Tip: Never grab a drunk Singaporean commando by the shoulder while out drinking, even when he is your mate. Real masters get to keep the speed of that instinct but also get to control the action.

My limited experience with being taken to a Fiore class by friends included a metric shit-load of counters. Basically there were counters for every move your opponent could throw at you, and counter-counters. It was an essential part of the training. Against an opponent who didn’t know the counters you had a big advantage, but you also were training to counter the particular moves of the style.

It’s restrict the wise too. I don’t like game breaker wises.

The rate of return on a particular 1D bonus is decreasing as skill returns, so it don’t think that’s an issue. However, when you’re stacking your form bonus with FoRK’s, it is a big bonus for a beginner. I like the idea that you only get the bonus on a final action for the form, so knowing multiple forms would give you greater flexibility to surprise your opponent.

Still, as a 2pt training it’s not unreasonable, as mechanically in game that time would probably have been better spent working on improving the basic skill for a beginner. In that it makes the training much more valuable to a master who understood all the basics with his B8 skill, and could get a cheap easy bonus if he could find someone to teach him the Seagull Strike form after a couple months training.

I’m pretty sure a B8 swordsman will be able to pull something out for any situation.

From this post I thought you wanted a system to reflect simple combat drills taught to levies rather than highly developed martial arts taught to professional killers, but now you seem to be moving toward something like “Agrippa” or “Di Luca” or “Florentine” (which apparently didn’t exist). Dueling styles for professional swordsmen.

But the thing is, professional swordsmen would vary their approach and would be great improvisational fighters, right? Maybe as Durand Durand is saying, make the fighting styles traits, and let the traits affect the “signature moves” of the school. For example, maybe the Hanover Style is known for powerful blocks and dominating the center of the duel, so it gives bonus dice to Block and Beat. The Oskarian School teaches students to give ground and conserve energy for a single powerful thrust, so it allows you to change an unannounced action to Avoid at any time, and Great Strikes can do +2 Power instead of +1 Power.

Oh, and there should probably be conditions to using the style’s bonuses. The Hanover Style is a longsword style and often requires two hands, so you must have a longsword or greatsword and an empty off-hand. The Oskarian Style uses an arming sword and never adopts the Aggressive Stance, so you can’t use its benefits in the Aggressive Stance. Something like that.

I’m interested to see where this goes. I may use the original levy drill idea for undead Union soldiers’ bayonet drills in my Weird West game.

This is a cool idea. I’ve been thinking of something similar actually, related to pulling off combos in Fight.

Here is how I would tweak it:

  1. Specific maneuvers are training skills. Fighting styles are traits. If you gain enough maneuver training skills of the same type, you gain a C-O trait for that fighting style.

  2. Each maneuver is only two or three actions long. You gain the +1D bonus to the last action. Maneuvers can be performed back to back, to gain bonuses to consecutive actions after the first initiating action (when using two-action maneuvers)

  3. Most intelligent and well-trained NPCs who are trained in a fighting style, will also be trained in a fighting used to counter that maneuver’s counter. If that makes any sense…

For example:

Northern Mountain Style (the C-O trait’s name)

Wall of Death
Weapon: Spear
Actions: Counterstrike --> Strike

Mountain of Death
Weapon: Spear
Actions: Strike --> Set --> Great Strike

Rain of Death
Weapon: Spear
Actions: Great Strike --> Counterstrike

To script for a Ref 4 NPC, I’d simply write down “Northern Mountain Style”. This is a standard script of “Wall of Death” plus “Mountain of Death”, with a lead-in to “Rain of Death” next exchange. I could use my C-O trait as well.
V1: Counterstrike
V2: Strike (+1D)
v3: Set, Great Strike (+1D)
V1: Counterstrike (+1D)

This may sound needlessly complicated, but I don’t think it is, really. It allows changing actions mid-exchange, which is something that could cause problems in the default rules of this variant. (ie. in default, you could script the maneuver, perform the first action with +1D, then change actions. Alternatively, you could script the maneuver to start in the middle of an exchange, to be continued in the next exchange, but then not script the extension.) Also, you could create a series of different 2-action maneuvers that can be swapped out, to make the combat a little less predictable.

Now I can see where Giordanisti was going with this. This is looking cool.

The skill point investment in training is heavy, so the bonuses are not going to kick in for real beginners, but it adequately shows how a master of a style gets arse-kicking done with aplomb.

I’m somewhat torn between this being a training skill and this being a trait. Traits give you C-Os or maybe extra things with a Dt, but can only be brought in at a trait vote, whereas training skills can be learned on your own time but are limited in what they can do. Or is my idea of what training skills can do wrong?

I think Skill trainings can function in a variety of ways. If we look at trainings in the book, Two-Fisted and Shield Training open up extra manoeuvres and equipment bonuses to manoeuvre in Fight!, Armour training eliminates penalties to action, Formation Fighting allows you to aid another in Steel manoeuvres and reduces outnumbered penalties, Antiphon Union allows you to enchant stuff.

Geometry & Sprint training were transmogrified into Traits in Gold, but they did different things.

I wouldn’t sweat it.

I also thought they could even be normal skills. An excellent swordsman might not know Sword, but might know multiple different styles at lower levels, and that can be forked into each other.

This is really interesting. If nothing else, I like the idea of having conscripts use repetitive/ingrained actions, bonus or no. A bit more flavour and advantage to those that pay attention, but not so much as to force a huge change.

That said, I really like the idea of chaining together these different maneuvers in so many ways. Would take a lot of skill points, or time training, but that could lead to a lot of fun for players who want more variety in their Fight! scenes.

Ray, please don’t commit threadcromancy: