Thursday, September 18, 2014

Longsword Sport

So one of my friends sent along an excellent video about modern longsword competition.

Here is the video on youtube.

And here is the article.

It's pretty inspirational stuff for two-handed sword fighting. It gives you an idea of:

- how fast an exchange of blows is.

- how you can parry, attack, then parry in fractions of a second for each movement - especially check out this bit here, which makes the whole article for me.

- the sheer maneuverability of a two-handed sword. Lots of systems rate big swords as slow, clumsy hacking weapons. This is a good demonstration of something we found researching Martial Arts - the people who used such weapons in combat rated them highly as defensive, fast weapons.

How would Longpoint style fights look in GURPS?

This style of fighting would best be represented with either Two-Handed Sword Sport, or a style that teaches both Two-Handed Sword Sport and Two-Handed Sword. Most of those blows look potentially lethal and hard, but there is also a sports targeting aspect and safety restrictions that might hamper you in a fight, so Sport makes sense as a separate skill you'd learn. They don't seem to judge the blows on artistry alone, making Two-Handed Sword Art a bit unlikely. You can check out Art vs. Sport vs. Combat skill in the GURPS Martial Arts Designers Notes. You'd want Games (Longsword) as well, since understanding the written and unwritten rules and scoring system of a sport is critical to doing well in it. Knowing the history of the sport would help, too.

Just based on that one source (the video description), and the Longsword Fighting style from p. 180 of GURPS Martial Arts, you could make this fairly stripped down ring-ready version.

Longsword Sport

Skills: Games (Longsword), Two-Handed Sword, Two-Handed Sword Sport.
Techniques: Counterattack (Two-Handed Sword).
Cinematic Skills: Power Blow.
Cinematic Techniques: Timed Defense (Two-Handed Sword).
Perks: Grip Mastery (Longsword).

Optional Traits
Advantages: Enhanced Dodge; Enhanced Parry (Two-Handed Sword); Weapon Master (Two-Handed Sword).
Disadvantages: Delusions; Obsession (win tournaments).
Skills: Broadsword; History (European or German).
Perks: Weapon Bond.

I didn't list Targeted Attack, because it's not clear from the video what the valid targets are. I'll have to do a lot more reading to sketch out the rest of this. An enthusiast (or a PC, who reasonably expect to take this and use it in real fights) would do well to also learn Longsword Fighting, with its mix of strikes, grapples, armed, and unarmed techniques.

What this reminds me of a lot is full-contact and real-contact stickfighting. I did a lot of stuff copied from the Dog Brothers back in the day - my first experience with grappling and groundfighting, actually, was learning to do a fang choke (a stick-assisted choke) and a figure-four arm lock with a stick (aka a Kimura.) The guy who plays Chuck Morris in my current DF game once cracked me so hard it spun my fencing mask around and dented it so deeply it was hard to remove it. Ah, good times. In any case, it looks similar in some ways, although the Dog Brothers scoring is, uhm, broader and cruder. This doesn't look like a sport where parry-takedown-choke would win.

The scoring system is reminiscent of kendo - just hitting isn't enough, but the quality of the strike, the timing of the strike, and your demonstrated skill in execution and control are all important - although it clearly differs in many particulars.

I only wish more of this stuff was going on and was more widely available back in '04-'05 when GURPS Martial Arts was coming together. A lot was out, but the full wealth of manuals, practical feedback from sports competitors, and so on just wasn't as plentiful as it is now, 10 years on. Ten years earlier than that, even a smaller fraction of the material would have been available. The internet has made available an explosion of good research material and historically rigorous re-enactments and testing possible. And, naturally, competitive games based on it all. It's worth looking to see if someone has taken your favorite gaming weapon and tried it out with historically-based techniques or turned it into a contact sport. It really helps visualize what you are doing in play, and appreciate the skill and beauty of martial skills in action.


  1. It's not what we, in the gaming community, tend to think of as a longsword. But, then we are more about ranking things for gaming purposes, not practical, real world use.

    Five kinds of awesome.

    1. When I was a kid, I only knew "longsword" took one hand and did 1-8/1-12 damage and a broadsword did 2-8/2-7. So I took the better choice. I didn't know - and I doubt even a few people knew - that this was a misinterpretation of the weapon and what it was used for.

      Then you add in, "well, this one needs to be game mechanically different, and we'll call it (whatever)" and you get elves with longsword and shield.

      But hey, it happens. If I could re-do all the swords in GURPS, nevermind AD&D, I might do them a little differently know that we know so much more about how authors of Fechtbuchen showed them used and that research is so much more available.

    2. While this is set up for a combat supplement to d20 Jean Chandler does a killer job dilineating a ton of historical weapon in the "Codex Martialis: Weapons of the Ancient World" (, there are two parts one for weapona dn part 2 for armor. It's been forever since I've done GURPS but I'm sure you guys are experienced enough with it to use something like that for a baseline if you really wanted to go crazy on weapon varieties.

    3. I'll have to check that out. GURPS did add a lot of weapon in GURPS Martial Arts and then in GURPS Low-Tech (I did the weapons chapter in the latter, and contributed to my co-author's work on the former). So my only reservation is going to another game supplement instead of digging directly into research materials. But I will keep those on my "look into" list!

  2. I await televised competitive longsword fighting.

    1. I'd watch it.

      Well, not on TV. I only watch TV on the internet. But you get the point.

    2. The next livestream will be for IGX held near Boston on 9/27/14 -

  3. Re: "I didn't list Targeted Attack, because it's not clear from the video what the valid targets are." The rules vary by tournament, there is not single rules set (and we rather like it that way, actually, for multiple reasons) but generally the entire body is a valid target. In some cases certain areas might be called off-target for safety reasons (groin, back of the head, maybe hands) or there could be a weighted points system such that the head might be worth 3 points, torso 2 and limbs 1. Historically there were some rules for tournament fighting that were pretty heavily targeted, the aforementioned points system is one from Italy and if you search for Belgium Rules Longsword you may find another rather different system (kind of a King of the Hill format using the flat of the blade to strike at an ever higher target.) Many tournaments earlier in the Middle Ages would be in full armor and were more tests of endurance, essentially knockout fights (search for "William Marshall" for some good accounts of some of those). Hope that helps!

    1. Thanks, that does help. Targeted Attack would make sense, then, if people train specifically to strike for, say, the Arms, Legs, Neck, Face, or Skull with regularity. It's a question of target validity + lots of training by stylists to hit specific sub-sections of the body. If it's more of a "target of opportunity" thing generally it wouldn't get TA.

      But yeah, I do need to look into it.

      As for William Marshall, he's called out by name in GURPS Martial Arts - I've read a lot about that guy. :)


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