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Blades of Glory
Author: Christoph Sticherling
This campaign takes place in a alternate history at a time similar to earth's 30-years war (1618-1648). The main difference is, that no black powder weapons are known. The advancements in mechanical engineering have instead produced some very capable crossbows which were able to drive the armoured knights to extinction and highly accurate ballistae and catapults even usable from the decks of ships on high seas.
This campaign takes place in a alternate history at a time similar to earth's
30-years war (1618-1648). The main difference is, that no black powder
weapons are known. The advancements in mechanical engineering have instead
produced some very capable crossbows which were able to drive the armoured
knights to extinction and highly accurate ballistae and catapults even
usable from the decks of ships on high seas.
The classical swashbuckling adventures can be played in this world
together with typical voyage adventures and crossing even into the mystical
world (GURPS Voodoo, presents a matching magical system). However
the original campaign is more like a traditional martial arts adventure
and the detailed mechanics of a fencing duel are elementary knowledge for
this game. Therefore PCs should be created with 150 to 200 points to reflect
their role as wizards with the blades.
Of course the ideas used in this article can also be used to add a
new flavor to a historical campaign placed in this time. Just a reminder,
the prices used here are in French livre which is equal to 5 normal $ in
a GURPS medieval setting (So average starting wealth is here 400
The Fencing Clubs
This are the places where the different Fencing styles are teached. Each
club is devoted to just one school and members of other clubs are only
respected if they use the same fencing school. It is common to have small
battles between two or more clubs often in greater cities but most of them
end not deadly. Members of a club (also called society, clan, brotherhood,
chapter or school) have to defend the honor of the club, their style, their
teachers and comrades. Also they never have to disgrace themselves or be
impolite to the teachers. The rules are strict but so is the bond of friendship
originating from these clubs. The cost depends on the reputation of the
club and its members and can range from 5 to 100 $ per month, entry fees
are 1 to 10 months payment in advance. Some very exclusive societies require
an invitation by a full member or at least a letter of recommendation.
This is an interesting campaign idea developed after a setting found in
the books from K. J. Parker (The Fencer Trilogy). Here the law system is
build around duels and any case is solved with a fencing fight if not settled
before outside the court. The Judge is nothing more then a referee of the
fight while the jury is only there to witness the fairness and outcome
of the fight. Depending on the case the involved parties have to fight
personally or can name an advocate to fight for them (women, elderly and
crippled people can always call an advocate). Fights to the death are only
needed in severe criminal cases or to defend your personal honor, however
any death occurring during that fights is legal and no prosecution or vendetta
is allowed. This system, far from being fair, is very entertaining for
the city crowd and a great opportunity for PCs. Playing a law-firm with
a mixed party of advocate-fencers, some scholars to negotiate salaries
and out-of-court settlements, a healer, a weaponsmith and some other useful
craftsmen or servants could be an interesting setting. Older advocates
retire either to become judge or enter a fencing club as instructor.
The Fencing Schools
In this campaign a lot of action will be solved by fencing. In general
we will have three levels of fencing abilities. First the normal fencing
learned at home from father, uncle or brothers or as a part of standard
military training in the armies or during the education as a noble. This
is just the plain regular fencing skill without any spectacular moves or
special tricks. It is represented with the normal fencing skill, specialized
for one of the three fencing weapons (foil, rapier, saber). This is the
skill level most NPCs will have (around skill level 12).
The second level is reached by the pupils of one of the three fencingschools
(the term "school" is here used similar to style in normal martial arts,
of course their are many places to learn fencing not just three, but any
teacher follows the style of one particular school). These are detailed
below. At that level special maneuvers and combat skills are learned together
even with some advantages (usually skill levels around 15).
The highest level in fencing is reached by the masters of the three
schools. They gain abilities only describable as cinematic and their reputation
is highly regarded (skill level 18 and above).
The oldest school, originating from the medieval sword and shield fighting.
It uses the saber as a weapon to both cut and thrust and a small round
shield (called buckler) or a heavy cloak at the other hand to block the
enemy. The power of the hit is more important then the speed and the cut
is favored over the thrust. This school is most popular in the army and
in the northern (uncivilized) countries.
Primary Skills: Fencing (Saber) [PA], Buckler [PE], Cloak [PA]
Secondary Skills: Fast Draw (Saber) [PE], Jumping [PE], Savoir
Faire (Fencers) [ME]
Maneuvers: Feint [H;W+0], Fleche [A;W-3], Lunge [A;W-2] Hit
Location [H;W-3], Ground Fighting [H;W-4], Spin Cut [A;W-3], Shield Punch
Advantages: Enhanced Block (+1), Combat Reflexes
This school is the most popular at the moment and it uses the rapier together
with the main gauche (a parrying dagger with the hilt and basket in size
and form like from a rapier). The thrust is most common because the swing
unbalances the rapier and prohibits its fast parrying. The philosophy of
this school is not to get hit first and then hit the enemy from a safe
Primary Skills: Fencing (Rapier) [PA], Main Gauche [PA], "Sai"
Secondary Skills: Fast Draw (Rapier) [PE], Fast Draw (Main Gauche)
[PE], Jumping [PE], Savoir Faire (Fencers) [ME]
Maneuvers: Feint [H;W+0], Fleche [A;W-3], Lunge [A;W-2], Close
Combat [A;W-2/-6], Corpse a Corpse [H;W+0], Hit Location [H;W-3], Aggressive
Parry [H;P-4], Dual Weapon Attack [A;W-4], Weapon Breaker [H;W-4]
Advantages: Ambidexterity, Combat Reflexes, Enhanced Parry (+1;
The youngest school uses the foil and has with it created a new battle
stance. Now the fencer rotates his body away from the enemy presenting
only the small side and not the bigger front as a target. With this style
the other hand becomes useless and is kept away from the battle. Quickness
is everything and multiple fast attacks and defenses are typical for this
style. It is difficult to learn but starts to be popular with the young
nobility as it looks quite impressive for the spectating young ladies (the
free hand then most of the time holds a rose or a scarf of the lady). At
the moment it is used for duels only.
Primary Skills: Fencing (Foil) [PA], Fast Draw (Foil) [PE]
Secondary Skills: Acrobatics [PH], Jumping [PE], Savoir Faire
Maneuvers: Feint [H;W+0], Fleche [A;W-3], Flour Lunge [H;W-4],
Lunge [A;W-2], Hit Location [H;W-3], Riposte [H;W-4], Stop Hit [H;W-4],
Initial Carving [A;W-4]
Advantages: Combat Reflexes, Enhanced Dodge (+1)
All schools have also use for the skills of Intimidating [MA], Armoury
(Fencing Weapons) [MA], Tournament Law (Fencing, Duels) [ME], Brawling
[PE], Carousing [MA], Tactics (Duels) [MH] and sometimes Teaching [MA]
or Leadership [MA]. Useful Advantages are High Pain Threshold, Fit and
Very Fit, Danger Sense, Rapid Healing, Toughness 1/2, Alertness, Reputation,
(Allies, Patron or Contacts in the club). Common Disadvantages are Gentleman
or Fencers Code of Honor, Bully, Bad Temper, Lecherousness, Overconfidence,
Reputation, Impulsiveness, Stubbornness (Enemies or Dependants in the club).
Bloodlust, Sadism and Berserk will get you killed very soon, Coward or
Laziness will get you thrown out of the club.
The individual teacher of a PC Fencer may of course have given some
variations especially in creating fanciful named maneuver-combinations.
But for game purpose the different schools should kept different for the
flavor of the campaign and the GM has to prohibit "power-players" to abuse
the rules. (So yes, a Foil-Fencer can learn to use a Main Gauche, but if
he uses it together with the Foil, he looses his enhanced dodge and cannot
perform certain maneuvers and surely none of the especially learned combinations).
The PCs should be encouraged to be creative within the system not in breaking
it. However it could be an interesting campaign of its own to play the
quest of a Fencer to learn all 3 schools (as he would be training with
former enemies and fight against former friends...).
The Weapon Masters [40 Pts each]
This fencers have mastered their weapon in every aspect and are now capable
to do unthinkable feats. This Advantage (not normally available for PCs
at the creation) includes many helpful abilities and the possibility to
learn more skills and maneuvers. However all these do not appear over night,
instead hundreds of hours of rigorous training is necessary to learn them.
So a PC may gain then during his career piece by piece and at the time
he has mastered everything he may call himself "master-fencer".
Master Skills: Body Language [MH], Blind Fighting [MVH], Drunken
Fighting [PH], Parry Missile Weapon [PH]
Master Maneuvers: Fighting while seated [H;W-2]
Master Advantages: For all: +1 DMG per 5 full skill level, Perfect
Balance. Saber-Master: Initiative +1 per 8 full skill level, swing
DMG +2, able to block at 2/3 skill instead of 1/2. Rapier-Master:
All active weapon-defenses +1 to parry at weapon skill level 16 and above,
swing never unready, +2 on roles to disarm or break weapon of enemy.Foil-Master:
+1 additional attack and parry each round at skill level 16 and above,
Hyper Reflexes (only during combat).
And then are there these rare individuals who can call themselves
really fencing masters. They have mastered all three schools and can use
all skills, maneuvers and advantages associated with the different aspects
of fencing. (Fencing Master Advantage includes all 3 Weapon Masters and
the schools as well as a very high Reputation) In a normal Campaign not
more then two or three of them should live in the same century.
||*: becomes unready after a swing
||uses Brawling skill
||gives PD 1
All the stats assume a standard (good) weapon quality with a normal
1 in 3 chance of breaking by contact with a heavier weapon (p. B74). Cheap
weapons (breaking 2 in 3) are uncommon and are most of the time older
neglected weapons. They cost only 40% of the normal price. A bit more common
because of the high demand are fine fencing weapons. They break
only at 1 in 6, add +1 to DMG and cost 4 times the normal price. However
the most famous fencers rely only on very fine weapons, as they
do not break and add +2 to the DMG. These weapons are made of the finest
steel available, build with more time and care and are also decorated from
the finest artists and jewelers. They do cost at least 20 times the standard
price. True master weapons smiths give their weapons abilities even beyond
that but more on that in the next chapter.
Other Melee Weapons
Here the standard GURPS weapon stats can be used for dagger, knife, club,
scimitar (curved broad sword), pike (or similar polearms), 2-H-sword, cutlass
(curved short sword), flail or morningstar (for rural adventures).
Besides the regular throwing weapons (knife, dagger, axe) the bow is most
common as a hunting tool or used in sporting. The military uses almost
exclusively the crossbow.
The heavy crossbow can shoot both bolts and rocks (or even small bottles
with Greek fire), in that use the range is reduced to 60%. Remember the
crossbow stats refer to the bows ST not necessarily the users ST. The loading
mechanism dictates how good the users ST can be used to cock the bow. If
a user is not strong enough the loading time for the crossbow is tripled.
||ST to use
||repetition by lever
The Master Smiths
These man are true artist with the steel and hammer. The weapons they created
make their names known for all eternity and small kingdoms have been sold
to get one of these rare weapons. They specialized in one weapon only and
their secrets died with them most of the times. Here are the most famous
Mastersmiths and the special features they gave their weapons. Of course
these men only build very fine fencing weapons and their names,
signs or initials are engraved on the hilt or blade of their weapons.
Arione de Nasradi: His specialty was the art to build rapiers so
graceful, that they become not unready after a swing and still can parry
in the same round after the cut. Depending on the decoration a rapier crafted
by him costs $2500-$3000. But after his death the prices are increasing
Mantuna Assandro di Ratano: He was able to create foils with a tip
so sharp that it surpassed any armor very easy. His foils reduce PD and
DR of its target by -2. Each of his 15 Foils made in his life will cost
at least $4500.
Garon Letaniar: He is known for his deadly sabers, which have a
+3 to DMG (thr and sw, in addition to the bonus for weapon quality). He
sells them for $4000 a piece.
Jerone D'Alsia: He creates matched pairs of rapier and main gauche
customized to give both weapons a +1 to any parry attempt, while the main
gauche gets also a +2 bonus on any disarm and weapon-break maneuvers. A
pair of these weapons costs $5000.
Jan Vanderson: He is the only mastersmith still living who has specialized
in making bucklers. Most of the time he is more jeweler than smith and
he creates marvelous artwork with gold and gemstones. However he also still
knows how to build very efficient combat bucklers and his creations give
PD 2 and a +1 to shield punch DMG. They also are nearly unbreakable. But
even without any valuable materials used he charges $1000 per combat-buckler.
Hasio Tanderhem: This eccentric old man is the only mastersmith
working on all kinds of fencing weapon. He makes custom weapons so precisely
matched on their owner that they give them a +2 to their fencing skill.
His price is similar breathtaking, between $6000 and $8000 and free room
and meals during his worktime (and both are better also from very fine
quality or one morning he leaves the house without finishing the work).
Hadib Kasar Al Zhahim: Originating from the south and traveled to
far lands in the East (on a far away island he learned a totally new kind
of bladesmithing) he is without doubt the best weaponsmith on earth. His
Rapiers not only are never unready they also give a +1 bonus to skill and
a +2 to DMG (thr and sw). Because of his long travels he only builds one
rapier each year and then sells it to the highest price (usually around
$7500 and more).
Casinus Donibertus: A monk who himself is not a mastersmith but
has taken the work to create a library about all the great mastersmiths
and their weapons. He knows the history about nearly all weapons build
by the above people from creation up to their present owner. There is a
rumor that he also has a secret book which includes all the experience,
knowledge and tricks used by those craftsmen, and any weaponsmith reading
it would be able to create a weapon with all their benefits together.
Raphael Comte de Bastogne: Also not a weaponsmith, he is nevertheless
well known to everyone with an interest in masterblades. He holds the greatest
collection on fencing weapons in the world and is the only known person
to have at least one weapon from each of the above named mastersmiths.
He also is a generous sponsor for young weaponsmiths and in his workshops
some high quality and expensive decorated blades are made. He is a close
friend of many masterfencers and their clubs even if he himself only is
of mediocre talent. He could serve as a patron or contact for any PCs involved
in the world of fencing.