Spars and fights

  • Admin

    I didn't want to derail the thread where "emote fighting" came up, but basically it was discussing the way we were handling sparring and fights between PCs back in the day in one MU*.

    Here's the thing - how do you like to handle this kind of thing? That is, two characters meet and decide to have a friendly (?) bout; for the purposes of this let's assume they're both played by reasonable people who won't lose their shit if their PC loses, who are willing to communicate with each other and generally this is done for fun.

    But how do you handle the fight? For example do you predetermine the whole outcome ahead of time? Do you do individual rolls per action until a certain number of hit points (or whatever) is reached? Do you allow mechanics to decide the result or do you wing it based on just the poses?

    What's your preference in this kind of setup?

  • Pitcrew

    How you handle a fight depends on the audience. Is it just you and one other person? Is it you two and spectators? Is the purpose of this fight to be an RP centerpiece or going on in the background? What system are you using is it a singular competitive roll or multiple? So on so forth?


    For sparring run all code then do a summary pose from both people with the loser going first to choose how they were bested.

    For viewed fights that are not the centerpiece of a scene I think that you should go to a significant point, pause to pose, then continue to the most significant point. Systems kind of determine this so significant is contextual.

    For spectacle fights that are a centerpiece I think you should run code to completion in front of the crowd as quickly as possible and then coordinate with your opponent to do back and forth rounds. I think this will be an unpopular decision but if we are focusing on RP and enjoyability making the crowd wait for segements and posts is less satisfying in my opinion than giving them a fluid experience.

  • Coming from a mostly comic MU background I've always just rolled with whatever. We'd either decide who would win and why ahead of time and work our way to that point or wait till we were deep in the fight and figure out who should win based on RP. It could get hairy when you're the hero and the villain doesn't want to get captured but, most of the time, we'd work things out. The important thing was that the end of the RP, regardless of who "won", both(or all) characters should have open avenues to future RP as a result of the scene.

  • Pitcrew

  • Pitcrew

    Usually, I'd do round by round vs rolls, but as I start to think about it more, I honestly think three rolls at the beginning, best of three takes it, and then you can narrate the fight however you like for as long as you like as long as the person who won the dice contest comes out on top in the end.

    Assuming that you don't just talk it out and decide how it goes.

  • @Jeshin said in Spars and fights:

    How you handle a fight depends on the audience.

    I concur, but write separately to add the following.

    How you handle a fight also depends on the purpose. If you are challenging the players as a staffer, using the system is a way for the players to show off or test themselves out; let them do that. If you are telling a story, you may want to just let them narrate their way through the fight, if that works for them.

    If you are having a sparring bout as a means to RP together -- I've done this an awful lot with the Shrike and the Murdermau5 -- then the players can decide it among themselves. I prefer to pose over roll because it just seems more RP-friendly that way, but using the system is also fun because funny results happen.

    What's fun for the moment is probably the best, but vaguest answer.

  • Pitcrew

    My general attitude about fights in rp are that they need to be cinematic. You need to be able to picture the fight in your head, and you have to acknowledge that cinematic fights have beats. I try to focus on the beats, aand group smaller exchanges that lead up to those beats together, rather than each individual exchange of blows, which becomes tedious.

    Lifting her leg parallel to her hip, Suzie unleashes a flurry of kicks Bob, aiming for his torso.

    Bob advances on Suzie, the pair exchanging blows that each one blocks as she moves back as he presses forward.

    Suzie senses Bob's energy is flagging, and uses the moment to her advantage. Breaking the grapple, she climbs him as if he were a wall, wrapping her legs around his neck and using her inertia to take him off his feet, swing him into the air, and lay him flat with her on top of him. <-- this is definitely a "beat".

  • Pitcrew

    @Arkandel Like @Jeshin mentioned, I think a lot of this depends on the purpose of the fight.

    If you're two reasonable people just out to have fun, then I like to just pose the combat, like the emote fights of old. Sadly(?), this is a bit of a lost art, and I haven't found many people still interested in this sort of thing.

    If you're two reasonable people whose characters have something on the line in the fight (a grudge match, a bet, whatever), then I like to either use the combat system or just roll skill vs skill each round to see who wins each round. We'll either let RP decide when to stop, or go to a certain number of rounds won.

    I like the uncertainty and tension of not knowing the result of the fight until it happens.

  • Pitcrew

    I concur with know your audience. 1 on 1? Whatever you want, including rolling/code out the gills, negotiating ooc and hamming it up, whatever! If it's a group of other enthusiasts, go for whatever. If you are trying to liven up a scene in progress that you find boring, maybe keep a finger on whether or not it is welcome or if you might have just disrupted the flow of the scene which is now boring to everyone else. (Reverse is true, too, please for the love of god do not stroll into a sparring/combat area and then pout and oocly give people a hard time for "being boring" as they RP...combat.)

    I personally prefer some dice rolling, though unless I know I'm around other dice enthusiasts I will often suggest that we keep it to private rolls so as to not clutter up people's RP with a shitload of combat/dice code spam if there is other RP going on, or people want to see the dice spam (some people do!)

  • Tutorialist

    Also remember that systems are an abstraction. Two people rarely stand face to face and swing swords at each other in succession, and 'attacks per round' is really more 'maximum hits per round'. Make it entertaining. Have them swing and parry, or make some flourishes.

    Avoid mortal wounds unless you take them down to dying health. Most HP damage can be expressed as smaller cuts and bruises, burns, whatev.

  • I generally tend to lose emote fights if they aren't based on mechanical decision-making, because I'm usually the person who cares less about the outcome.

    I really, really enjoy a good emote fight. It's honestly one of my favourite things to RP. I have a lot of martial arts experience IRL, so I also think I tend to be pretty good at it in terms of portraying realism. (I will freely admit I also tend to give other people the side-eye, secretly, when I feel their fights lack this.)

    A good emote fight should be dynamic, gritty, and convey a sense of the characters involved.

    [ Disclaimer: this is my personal preference and I am not trying to wrongfun. ] I do not enjoy superhero movies at all and when it comes to RP, I find superhero-style fights to be an absolute snorefest too. I don't want to read/participate in an emote involving big dramatic fireballs and sonic rays or whatever behind hurled across a city by perfect people with perfect bodies. I want to write fights that are up close and personal, involving characters who are getting sweaty, tired, frustrated, and with every second that passes by there is an increasing risk that they're going to slip up, lose their concentration and momentum, and fail to block or connect. I want to see characters resorting to dirty tactics like pulling the other person's hair, going for the groin or throwing sand in their eyes. I want to see them getting bruised and ugly. And I want a heavy focus to be on how that makes them feel, their facial expressions: is there fear in their eyes? Are they ashamed of their performance? Are they getting mad? Do they hate the other person? Or is it a playful sexy fight and is hair falling in front of their eyes?

    Who actually wins the fight matters less to me than all of that. If I'm RPing with a friend I usually defer to them and ask if they want to do this with dice/code etc. or if they'd rather freestyle it. I find most people tend to want to rely on code (possibly because they're more likely to be guaranteed a win vs. me this way as I don't often make strong combat characters), but I'm usually always secretly hoping they choose freestyle. I don't want the outcome determined ahead, I want it determined over the course of the fight based on whatever feels right in the moment. Realistically, the winner should usually whoever's character is portrayed as having more experience. If I'm playing an international spy trained in krav maga and you're playing a socialite, I expect you to use common sense and respect my portrayal of their fighting know-how, and not try to get away with just getting lucky.

    However, as I find most people really like winning and will write in a way more focused on making their character look good, it usually just naturally occurs that I've spent more time writing about how my character is getting tired, sweaty and nervous, and so by default the fights don't read in my character's favour, comparatively.

    I do enjoy other people's approval, so my personal "win" is being appreciated, having my writing style praised, and being thanked or talked-up for a good scene. So I'm not trying to say I don't have an ego on the line here, I just derive it through other means.

    Overly detailed combat systems that tell you which body part you've hit and rely on a specific weapon tend to fall short for my tastes because they can very quickly get very stale.

    I enjoy a bar fight where we're moving from one room to the other, one moment using a stool for a shield, a fist for a weapon, and the next leaping onto the counter for a kick or trying to strike with a bottle over the head. These kinds of organic, dynamic, improvisational fighting styles aren't really possible if you're having to rely on your best weapon stat etc. There isn't room for intermission, playful banter etc., because doing so means you're wasting your turn.

    This is one of my all-time favourite fight scenes from one of my all-time favourite movies, Atomic Blonde. Which probably gives a good idea of what I like to see. I love the little details, for example where both opponents keep trying to stand because it's a life-or-death situation, but they're so dizzy from blood loss and blunt trauma they keep falling over. They murder each other through what amounts to a drunken haze.

    But for a more light-hearted, playful fight, there's also this entertaining scene from Pirates of the Caribbean. It has everything I mentioned liking about the characters making good use of their environment, adapting to changing circumstances, moving around rather than just standing there hitting each other, etc.

  • Pitcrew

    I tend to prefer to dice out fights ahead of time - the entire fight if it's just one or two people, or at least round-by-round before posing (as opposed to the roll/pose-roll/pose rhythm)
    For sparring, especially if it's stripped down (no powers or magic items or whatnot), usually just dice it all out ahead of time - because, especially with supers, that can get hilarious. (Without powers or special items, watching combat monsters getting nothing more than a chance die to hit)
    That way if actually rolling the fight would be nothing but an exercise in futility, you can cut it and just decide what happens before spending too long (doing 0-1 HL of damage per round, etc), or would be overwhelmingly unbalanced to one side.

  • Pitcrew

    I like it when game creators are coding-capable enough to automate the system and I don't have to juggle dice when all I came to do was RP.

  • Pitcrew

    Going to somewhat echo the "depends on the audience" answer that was given here. To use Arx as an example, I think a Champions duel pretty much mandates a "live RNG" aspect to it; for me the majority of its charm is to not know the outcome in advance. In a more serious (not GM'd) matter I can see the outcome being worked out in advance, simply so that both sides know what they're in for and can start processing the result, especially if PC death is a possibility.

    It all depends on the circumstances and who is involved, really.

    That said, I cannot RP out a physical combat, in detail, to save my life , so I lean strongly towards wanting to preordain a given physical fight. (I'm reasonably sure this is from WM PTSD.) I just can't picture the movements, the stances, etc., for some reason. Magical combat? YES PLEASE. I could probably do that all day long, figuratively speaking, but I kind of veer away from physical.

  • Admin

    Let me ask a different question for the thread.

    Is 'knowing how to fight iRL' - having some kind of background in martial arts, or even just watching MMA stuff on TV - an advantage to roleplaying such scenes?

  • @Kestrel said in Spars and fights:

    I generally tend to lose emote fights if they aren't based on mechanical decision-making, because I'm usually the person who cares less about the outcome.

    This was me on a consent-based games where all the sparring-type outcomes were entirely posed. I like dice now! I tend toward opposed rolls or combat with a pre-determined end, on something like FS3.

  • Pitcrew

    @Arkandel said in Spars and fights:

    Let me ask a different question for the thread.

    Is 'knowing how to fight iRL' - having some kind of background in martial arts, or even just watching MMA stuff on TV - an advantage to roleplaying such scenes?

    Depends on what you mean by advantage. My answer is yes and no. I do think you get a better idea of how it would play out (mentally choreographing it and the realism aspect), but I think it safe to say that having that knowledge and, more importantly, the communication of that knowledge are two very different things when it concerns roleplaying it out. Some people with the background in martial arts would be better suited for advising a LARP, for example, because of being able to physically demonstrate and/or correct postures and movements, but if you asked them to do it in writing you might get less than you expected, simply because they can't translate their thoughts into writing.

  • @Arkandel said in Spars and fights:

    Is 'knowing how to fight iRL' - having some kind of background in martial arts, or even just watching MMA stuff on TV - an advantage to roleplaying such scenes?

    Honestly, that’s like asking if knowing how to practice law makes roleplaying courtroom scenes easier.

    Maybe, but that doesn’t make the subject matter any less boring.

    Fuck, I’m also pretty good at going down on a girl, but I’m not sure if I’m any better at hot lesbian action than someone else.

    So, maybe? But I really don’t fight and I like my fight scenes.

  • @Arkandel said in Spars and fights:

    Let me ask a different question for the thread.

    Is 'knowing how to fight iRL' - having some kind of background in martial arts, or even just watching MMA stuff on TV - an advantage to roleplaying such scenes?

    Yes, absolutely.

    I mean I'm biased because I already pretty much said this in my previous post, but to elaborate, and emphatically echo my sentiment:

    Yes, absolutely.

    A few of my favourite people to RP fight scenes with tend to also be people who either have a background in martial arts, or grew up rough and have at the very least been in fights at some point in their lives. I also find they tend to be the people most consistently praised by others for it.

    It's painfully obvious to me when I'm reading poses from a combat character whose player has probably never actually been hit in their life. I find they're far more likely to RP ignoring pain, and their combat writing tends to come across as very robotic. Ironically, they tend to focus a lot more on technique — x slashes y with a sword. x steps forward. x punches y. They don't consider things like 'how long can I keep going before I get exhausted', 'how much did that actually hurt', 'what does it feel like to be in this much pain and how is it going to affect my ability to hit back'.

    If I'm playing a character who should realistically know how to fight, I certainly do tend to make use of real-life knowledge, but that — the techniques — are not the main thing. I find a marked difference in the emotive aspect of how people who have at the very least been in real fights know how to write fights.

    For me, it's a much more immersive experience. Most people tend to focus on the attacks and the action. I'm more interested in how the action makes your character feel.

  • Pitcrew

    I've always seen RL training as a sort of double edged sword. I used to do emote fighting all the time (though with dice/some sort of mechanics to be a neutral factor in determining outcome) and never really like people being too detailed in techniques. Saying you throw a punch to someone's face is fine, don't need to elaborate on how you rotate the arm and align the proper knuckles to strike, unless you purposefully want to highlight how you aren't doing that to get yourself a broken hand.

    It's why "pronate" "supinate" thing amused me so much. Chances are the people involved aren't master swordsman and probably have no idea what's actually involved with the mechanics of edge and flat alignment or the strong and weak, etc etc. I remember we had a player that was a high belt of some sort in aikido and used to always do these elaborate aikido poses that no one could figure out what he was trying to accomplish because the style is so complicated and makes a lot of assumptions on the other persons reactions.

    It's a hard thing to get right and need to decide if you want realism, a more cinematic experience or a balance of the two.

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