Conceptual fundamentals of combat.

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Conceptual fundamentals of combat. Empty Conceptual fundamentals of combat.

Post by Fenris on Sat Feb 07, 2015 4:00 pm

A short guide on what I feel to be the fundamental and immaterial aspects of combat which dictate results and relate to individual implementation applied to all forms of combat. This is meant to be a broad overview that dissects the components that RP combat is comprised of, though much of this is taken from established theories and practical knowledge as applied in the real-world it is reconciled to relate to the game that many of us make use of. This is not meant to be an all inclusive guide to combat, or to establish technicalities in relation to specific forms of combat such as martial-arts, the use of firearms, and spellcraft etc, rather this relates in how to make effective use of those forms of combat on an individual level to refine ones capabilities. specific advice is meant to be minimal in this, this is meant to illustrate a broad over-view on mostly immaterial nuances rather than demonstrate technical knowledge pertaining to specific forms of combat.

I understand that much of this might be considered "vague" but it is impossible to demonstrate the concepts written about in this guide in narrower terms, and as mentioned it is meant to illustrate conceptual ways and methods of thinking, rather than specifying methods, techniques, or implementations, or applications. While many might consider this guide "vague" others might consider it exceedingly obvious and intuitive, and of course some might consider it all non-sense.

Essentially I feel that all RP-combat is governed by base factors, whether it be martial ,tactical, metaphysical, deceptive, or etc. All forms of combative interaction can benefit from this thought-process but it is fundamentally tactical and may not be practical or appropriate for all players or characters.  Some people or characters can in fact adopt different combat interpretations, and might not be tactically inclined, preferring to adapt as things come, though this can also be applied to this school of thought and in my opinion can supplement it and be supplemented by it, while such a short-sighted approach can lead to stagnation or passivity if one waits for the opposition too dictate the terms of the engagement, while in contrast such a method can still be effective in the hands of certain individuals. In short this is my opinion and not necessarily anyone elses while it might not even be well suited for everyone either. No two people fight a like, and no one should seek to fight like anyone else though one can draw inspiration or ideas from others and make use of proven and tested methods to facilitate ones advancement as an RP combatant. This is only one part of a whole, and I plan on adding other guides at my leisure.


The first thing one should do as a fighter in my opinion is prioritize their characters nature. What do they fight for? Survival? To overwhelm and destroy their opponent? How do they go about this? Each person and character has a different and unique "presence" that when honed; allows the individual to freely express their qualities as a combatant uniquely. It is up to the player to interpret what works best for them and their character and then learning how to apply ones presence effectively. This comes in three parts.


Intent is the skeletal foundation/framework of ones nature, the governing idea that drives ones devices and techniques, which dictates the fundamental approach to a situation.

For example aikido is a passive ideology that relies on using an opponents aggression against them to subdue them, that is its intent.

Muay-Thai is an aggressive style that works on overwhelming the opposition to destroy them, that is its intent.

It is essentially "what you want to do as a combatant." in general terms and how you carry yourself as a combatant. These are merely examples for melee though, and another example of this can be even broader or easily applied outside of melee combat such as someone who prefers to be stealthy and not fight directly or to escape rather than defeat the opposition, or someone who wishes to use overwhelming "firepower" or any other amount of approaches to combat.


Methodology is the meat and muscle that refines intent, the means through which one impliments their intent.

Muay-Thai for instance implements its aggression by hitting hard and fast, while diversifying the weapons at ones disposal by making use of all the joints of the body as weapons.

Aikido makes use of leverage, and exploits anatomical mechanics to subdue the opposition by using their movements and body against them.

The basic methodology is the technical aspect of how you implement your intent and dictates the effectiveness, efficiency, flexibility, power, etc of your intent benefiting from common sense and technical knowledge. It is the refinement of your intent, the personalization of your approach to combat. It is the skeletal system that decides the limitations of your intent.


Understanding and being objective in that understanding of ones nature is essential. All Natures have weaknesses, and being able to protect those weaknesses, while knowing they exist is essential presence is essentially the combination of Intent, and Methodology, the end product or result of your knowledge and presence which is a reflection of your individuality optimized for what you have built.


Broad-Factoring is a term used to describe the primary factors of the situation and of the opponent, Observing the qualities and profiling the opposition based on knowledge. It is important not to confuse a hypothesis or theory about ones opposition until one is sure of their capabilities and habits.

A skilled user can deduce multiple factors about the opposition and situation from a single engagement or even before an engagement begins. Broad observation relies on ones "perception".

Perception in his context is the sum of perceived knowledge your character recognizes and shares with the player. It relies on fore-knowledge of various principals and factors which supplements ones ability to read ones opponent. Thus this aspect of observation is both dependent on ones own knowledge and application and their oppositions own qualities. Knowing ones capabilities  and the governing factors behind all actions and reactions as well as likely outcomes allows one read and predict the flow of events or establishing an understanding of the situation in relation to your own capabilities.

(A): For example in melee if your character steps left and attacks from their own left to right you and the character can generally predict the opponents actions by relating them to your characters own movements and the geometry of the situation. Generally this will limit your opponent to a set number of responses, narrowing down variables and allowing you to act accordingly within the pace you yourself have set. Of course this is just an example and a cunning or resourceful opponent can still surprise you, but every action you take should be "layered" having multiple factors bolstering the intent of the action or reaction whether it be "defense" or "offense" or a combination of both.  (More on layering actions later.)

(B) For example in meta a character having foreknowledge on the interaction of mechanics, forces, energies, etc might send an attack at an opponent knowing or having a good idea of how they might respond and thus tailor their attack to react a certain way to the oppositions defense or counter using it a catalyst.

One you have a fundamental understanding of certain truths, and universal factors you can relate them to your opposition and apply them to the situation at hand in order too perceive their intentions and capabilities. You relate this to your character by shared experience between player knowledge and character knowledge, but it is important not to metagame by allowing your character more knowledge than they have the right to know such as knowledge of techniques they have never been exposed too, or the perception of factors they have no way of knowing etc.

It is also important to understand the "terms" on which you and your opponent are fighting, and it is worth noting that sometimes you are simply at a disadvantage and many times in order to escape defeat you must understand the terms of your opponent and the engagement, many times it is simply more prudent to avoid fighting on certain terms altogether and to bide ones time. This is established in "The Art of War" in various places, which teaches that engaging an enemy at the wrong time or place, or on bad-terms should be avoided when at all possible unless one can turn the odds in their favor. Many times results are decided before combat even begins, or outside of combat, and understanding this can have long-term benefits when pursuing a goal or maintaining ones interests. In contrast understanding this and allowing an opponent to fight on your own terms can make combat much more easier for you. To quote the fictional tactician Obi-Wan Kenobi "A fight is never a true goal in that of itself, sometimes it is merely a distraction from a goal, and is best countered with a larger distraction." while simple in its spirit, this advice can be extremely helpful and knowing "how" to deal with oppositions even beyond direct engagement can be essential to victory.  It is worth noting that many times that fighting on bad terms cannot be avoided and when this is the case individual skill and judgement can help one overcome adversity, but it is always best to establish and work within the path of least resistance. For instance if your goal was too invade an area but were blocked by a resilient wall, you are best served trying to get around the obstacle rather than trying to directly destroy it, or seeking a different method of destruction rather than simply hitting it. (Though this can be applicable if one is "built" for this, this example serves to demonstrate on how to follow the path of least resistance.)

Once you have mastered this ability you can then move onto applying this in "The Flow".

(The Flow)

The flow is a term used to describe the pace of combat, action, reaction, cause, and effect. When one understands and perceives the situation and can factor the variables at hand one can dictate the pace of the fight accordingly through various means. It allows one to always be acting and never reacting, dictating the terms of an engagement in various ways such as keeping an opponent off-balance with a constant offense, or maintaining a defense and forcing an opponent to come to you and fight on your own terms etc. The applications and methods of manipulating the flow are vast and when one is skilled at this,


Layering actions is a subtle-skill that is somewhat passive. It is a fundamental technique that involves passively giving multiple-purposes to your actions. In example (A) the simple movement has multiple intents. It can subtly force the opposition to respond in a certain way, while allowing you to dictate their responses to an extent. This means they will most likely be at your characters right side, making it more likely any attack will come from that direction, or that the opposition might try to re-align or move to maintain a direct method of engagement, or take advantage and try to step around you, or step away and gain ground etc. This thereby allows you to plan for those possibilities within the limits of your characters capabilities giving defensive viability by allowing you to dictate how your opponent might pursue you and allowing you to pre-emptively prepare a defensive measure, or even a counter or offensive measure.


Technical knowledge relates to the application of technique in a given situation so as to manipulate mechanics within an instance or situation to your advantage whether metaphysically, tactically, or martially. This can allow you to more efficiently and effectively maintain your characters presence in an engagement and compensate or overwhelm the opponents own capabilities or methods by superior technical skill or unconventional responses.

Tactical and Strategic Application:

TaS Application is the prioritization of intent and method. It is the difference between knowing "how" to do something, and "when" to do something, and when utilized correctly allows you to use the most appropriate method at your characters disposal to deal with a situation or how to use your characters capabilities efficiently and effectively in relation to the situation at hand. It essentially is a combination of judgement, and experience. It can relate to broad or more narrow aspects of your characters capacities, such as adopting an offensive or defensive approach to the situation, and what method to utilize when implementing either approach. This also includes a "passive" approach to the situation or an "active" one, or coming up with a broad plan for the situation at hand, and narrowing it down appropriately as the situation progresses.


Avoiding is a passive-ability that allows you to circumvent an oppositions offensive or debilitating devices by realizing how not to get into a situation when those factors can be used against you in the first place. It is a fairly advanced method but can be reached through a variety of methods. Examples include maintaining a strong offense so as not to give the opposition time to respond, or attacking and interrupting, or moving in such a way that an opponent has to work harder to do what they want, or not allowing an opponent to get into position to implement their intent or methodology. It is essentially the art of not allowing yourself to be put into a bad situation, rather than dealing with a bad-situation. This is in the writers view is the most effective expression of pure defense one can possibly use as it is immaterial and therefore cannot be directly stopped or overcome, instead forcing the opposition to change their approach to the situation or utilizing an unconventional method to circumvent it. It is not unbeatable as it is limited by ones own perceptions and knowledge and ability to make use of that knowledge to effectively avoid danger and minimize risk in ones own devices.


Exploitation is a broad term pertaining to ones ability to make use of specific factors in relation to the opposition or the environment itself. It is a commonly understood aspect of combat, but is no less important due to this. Exploitation can include making use of an opponents own nature and build to strike where they are weak and avoiding where they are strong, or making use of the environment to give yourself an advantage and or put your opponent at a disadvantage, or exploiting the timing of their action and etc. This can be utilized in a prolonged conflict as a strategy or used as needed as a sudden adaptation to the situation. Understanding what is exploitable and what is not is fundamental to utilizing this and it can be applied actively or passively.


Adaptation is an active and passive ability that can be separated from the other aforementioned  aspects of working within "The Flow". It is ones ability to think on their feet and recover from disadvantages, or learning to establish an advantage as needed. Not all are skilled at adaptation which can be applied offensively or defensively, but if one can master this ability it can fundamentally support ones survivability and effectiveness. In contrast many rely on adaptation as the primary aspect which drives both offense and defense. In the writers opinion a middle-ground is the most sensible way to implement ones ability to adapt which can also benefit highly from technical and tactical knowledge in many situations and can be used in conjunction with many other aspects.


Misdirection is a deceptive aspect that can utilized too manipulate an opponent into an action. This can be passively or actively applied, and involves understanding how an opponent will respond to a misdirection and preparing to act accordingly. This can be applied in narrower technical terms such as concepts like "feinting" but also in broader strategic terms.


Prepared measures involve setting up an action before its implementation, by discerning an opponents response before it happens, or knowing how an opponent will act before they do so. This can be applied defensively or offensively and works with "layering" as a sustained "plan". This greatly benefits by being flexible and fluid in your own actions and responses and having versatility in your capabilities allowing you more options even when you are not actively preparing to use those options.


Timed-Coordination is the bread and butter of The Flow. This involves precision and efficiency making use of the established time-flow and "riding" it to the desired destination. It is also tricky to interpret and requires knowledge and proper interpretation of the specific sequence of events, and factoring in how the established time-line relates to the actions or reactions one is making. Commonly this factor can be misinterpreted, misunderstood, or completely ignored which even more commonly leads too disagreements.  Working within the established time-line is essential to maintain coherence in an engagement, as well as actually winning the engagement. One must always be mindful of the timing of things, and their oppositions own capabilities which can in fact modify viability in ones actions or reactions but this is important to not be abused. Once an action is established it is done with little exception. Think of each move you make being akin to a chess-piece, once you enter in your post, you have "taken the hand off the piece" and though there are exceptions that allow one some leeway in altering their own actions to an extent, this can be very tricky, and typically it is best to work within established actions, and making sure those actions will be effective and safe before implimenting them, rather than hastily trying too recover from a bad move. It should be worth noting that "wording" can be a very important factor in how timing works, and one should be mindful of the wording of both their post and their opponents.

(The Full Circle):

1. Establish an intent for your characters combat approach and then the methods of which they implement that approach. Supplement this basic idea behind your character with technical knowledge to refine the approach and establish a structure that your character can follow while being mindful of the universal and specific factors involved in combat.

2. Once you have established your approach, and refined it with technical knowledge you should be able to have a fundamental understanding of how your character operates which will lend itself to maintaining a stable (or unstable) "skeleton" or "engine" that drives your characters combat. This can be likened too the concept of a martial artist or combatant "understanding themselves" as in the possibly paraphrased words of Tsun-Zu "Not being defeated lies in knowledge of ones self.". Once these two factors have been established, a fighter should have a solid frame-work and be fairly competent in common terms.

3.  Once you have an understanding of your capacities, capabilities, qualities, and limitations as a combatant, and once you have honed those capabilities you establish a strong frame-work to work within. You must then learn to understand your opposition and the situation at hand, and relate it to your own nature as a fighter. This is also similar to the concept of Tsun-Zu's acknowledgement that "Victory lies in the actions of the opponent." once you learn too exploit and control the opponents actions while maintaining your own interests in combat by being mindful of your own nature and protecting its weaknesses you can then maintain your "presence" in the flow.

(Establish your characters nature.)--->

(Refine your understanding of that nature and of universal factors by studying technical knowledge.)--->

(Learn to relate your knowledge to different situations or the situation at hand.)--->

(Apply that knowledge accordingly.)

Last edited by Fenris on Fri Jul 03, 2015 2:17 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Conceptual fundamentals of combat. Empty Re: Conceptual fundamentals of combat.

Post by MysteriousStranger on Sat Jun 20, 2015 10:12 pm

You know you borderline all but say a common thing I've heard in a strategic card game:

How do you win at magic the gathering?
Play Blue

I'd argue the opposite should be said.

Natural Character reactions over strategy

It is what the character would do should be able to be said of every post.

Staying true to character knowledge is another one. You learn a lot about this when you have good tabletop dms. A good example of this would be in The Gamers: Dorkness Rising
[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

Notice how the DM has to bring them back to reality at times
"No, he doesn't know it is you because you are different characters."

The essence of tabletop rp is actually at it's core storytelling or 'role play' with fairness mechanisms to balance.

Now to bring this together to make it relevant for text base in a manifesto for combat which you may or may not agree with. Mind you it's not that the things on the right have no value it's just that when there's a choice the one on the left is preferential.

Natural character reactions over fancy real life martial arts
Natural character knowledge over real life knowledge
Storytelling over long drawn out scenes
Detail over vagueness


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Post by Fenris on Wed Jul 01, 2015 5:21 pm

Improvisation is pretty essential, maybe I didn't give it enough credit, but strategy/tactics along with adaptive improvisation is something some people might be better or less better at. (IE someone might be better at Improvisation than Strategy or vice-versa while ideally I consider I myself to balance both out.)

And you have a point in having natural character "reactions" being a factor, you can't metagame or have your character always be a step ahead in every situation. However I was pointing out that a character oriented for direct combat and worth their salt would know its best to "always be acting and never reacting.", there's a difference between "responding" and "reacting" and even someone who does not make use of strategy could and should be able to dictate their own responses, and force their opposition to act accordingly. If your character is FORCED to react that's another thing entirely, and such actions are dictated by the specifics of w/e situation and the characters.

IE if you're playing a berzerker right, he won't exactly be thinking much, but if you are good at playing the zerker then another person will be hard-pressed to deal with them and do more than react rather than to *respond*. While your playing of the zerker will fit into the characters actual personality/capabilities anyway. This does not mean the zerker will always be able to bring his advantages to bear, but knowing how to capitalize on those advantages helps, and correlates to a characters experience, since why would a seasoned berserker not know how to make the most of his capabilities?

Also when you are decent enough at playing a character you don't need to metagame cause you and the character will already act according to the character, it's just a matter of refining how the character actually plays. I also did mention that it is IMPORTANT not to metagame and act out of the confines of your characters knowledge/capabilities, and how to achieve a certain amount of synergy between player and character without compromising the 4th wall.

You have points, but I was never trying to argue against the things you have said, simply talking about another aspect of things. I never meant to imply that you should simply always do the best thing if your character does not know better. I was merely showing how to make the most of your character based on their own attributes and how they can be used most effectively.

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