02 February 2019

Non-Equatable Skills

There was once a time where I'd thought that my skill with sword and shield from The SCA meant that I'd be good at fencing saber.

I was dissuaded of that notion nearly instantly.

A sword is a sword, no?

GURPS even makes them different skills.

Fencing as a sport isn't a melee weapon skill at all, in fact.  It's Combat Sport (fencing weapon) as opposed to Melee Weapon (fencing weapon).  They have the same difficulty and default to each other at -3.

What I was trying to do was to use my Melee Weapon (Broadsword) for Combat Sport (Saber).  There's no direct default between these skills.  It's skill -4 to go from Melee Weapon (Broadsword) to Melee Weapon (Saber) and another -3 to go from Melee Weapon (Saber) to Combat Sport (Saber); so a -7 to Broadsword if the GM allows it.

I wasn't very good at Melee Weapon (Broadsword) to begin with...  Prolly a skill of 10 or 11 max.  So a 3 or 4 with a fencing saber.

The same divide is present between Kendo and Kenjutsu where Kendo is a combat sport skill and using a war katana is Melee Weapon (Broadsword) or (Two-Handed Sword).


  1. Completely different styles. SCA is roughly hack-and-slash or machete fighting. Chop-chop.

    Fencing, especially competition strip fencing, is much more gun-fighting with a long needle. Point-and-thrust so to speak.

    Small sword or Epee, real epee, fighting is much more like a combo of strip-fencing and dagger fighting. Lots of swirly movement designed to open up a hole to stab or slash through. The SCA heavy equivalent would be point-only spear (block, block, pary, thrust - SCORE!!!)

    Regarding the two styles, read a book a bazillion years ago about the English Navy fighting Pirates. One captain equipped his sailors and marines with epees, figuring that the lighter weapons would be a detriment at the beginning of a fight with cutlass (think heavy machetes) armed pirates, but that the cutlasses would tire out poorly trained pirates quickly, giving his epee-equipped men a better chance in the second half of the fight.

    Also seen in the Liam Neelson "Rob Roy" movie, where broadsword armed Rob is at a severe disadvantage to the small-sword armed opponent, until Rob just brutally chops the dude.

    Sword and shield have their place in tight quarters. For broken field and sword-sniping the saber or epee is better (against unarmored individuals, that is...)

    Well, that's my opinion. And, as a pretty good SCA spear guy, I also was a decent rapier guy (the few times I picked it up, that is.)

    1. Our group in Ames was blessed to have Dr Madison who tracked down all kinds of period texts on fighting with various weapons. They're hard to follow since they show pictures of the start and end with damn little between.

      I hear the Royal Armouries have the same problems interpreting them.

      But we did figure stuff out and got a bit better than machete fighting with the information.

      It's where I learned that a halberd could be used at short ranges. Once I got rated for a thrusting tip I was nigh unstoppable!

      Which backfired on me at Pennsic '87. I managed to keep advancing while the rest of my side bogged down. All alone and surrounded... I couldn't even rhino-hide out of that!

    2. AMES, with Seosaidh? Did a couple of their faires.

      Used to go to his house and beat up on the Joe-Bots.

      And nothing sucks more than being The One. One time, under my previous administration, at a Gulf War, the previous administration had me running with Blacksword. They ran, I plodded, they got farther away, I bent over to wheeze, saw a unit, joined up, looked over, said, "Good afternoon, your Majesty," and pegged the King of Ansteora. Then died a right-murderous death.

      Miss fighting. Dangit.

  2. In my readings of history, it seems that men who knew where their opponents had to come from preferred long thrusting weapons. A man on a dueling ground, or one serving in a shield wall, a phalanx, or a Roman legion had faith that the danger would come from the front. He would use a spear or a stabbing sword. The men who expected to fight in a melee would want a broadsword or an axe, so as to be able to strike hard to either side and in close quarters. I'm sure you know about the difficulty of infighting with a long stabbing weapon.

    1. In SCA I got surprisingly good in close quarters with a halberd.

    2. The glaive. A fun pokey whacking weapon. One of my favorites.

  3. There is a YouTube channel scholagladiatoria where some interesting points are made.


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