Any tips on write about whip fights? One character has a whip and the other doesn’t

The thing about a whip is: it’s not really a weapon. I mean, that is “kind of” the closest, convenient description, but fundamentally whips are just a tool designed to inflict pain. You can hurt your victim without significantly harming them. Unfortunately, that’s the real problem; a weapon needs to be able to injure the enemy, not just hurt them.

The thing about whip fights is: they look really cool. Even when used properly, a whip creates visually dynamic strikes nearly every time. It’s a very sensationalist weapon, in the literal sense. You can receive a lot of strikes from one, and suffer, what basically amounts to cosmetic damage. The pain may be extreme, but it’s not like a sword or handgun, where a good connecting blow will end the fight.

For gladiatorial combat, where the goal is to prolong combat, get as much blood on the arena floor as you can, and give the audience a show? The whip is an excellent choice. It will kill, eventually, but it will be a death of attrition. The whip will wear down the opponent during a prolonged fight, not in a quick decisive bout.

Incidentally, whips were used by specific classes of Roman gladiators, but as far as I know, they were only used in gladiator versus animal matches. That said, I’m not an expert on gladiatorial combat, so it may have seen other uses.

Whips also works well for TV and Films, because, while the goals aren’t identical to gladiatorial combat, there is a lot of common ground. The fight needs to be visually interesting, and benefits from being able to inflict minor injuries without killing one of the participants and ending the scene. Even when those “injuries” are just makeup and the deaths are feigned. The whip gives the stunt actors a lot more freedom to screw around, and choreograph, and then execute, a very dynamic fight on film. Also, ironically, a remarkably safe weapon to play with. Before someone takes issue with that, remember, you can still kill people with these things, you just have a lot more leeway than you would with a more conventional weapon.

Whips don’t work well for actual combat, where you need to kill someone as quickly as possible. You’re not being graded on how cool it looked, just: Are you still standing? Is your opponent still trying to kill you? No marks awarded for partial completion.

There are modifications to the basic design that help, but don’t really get past the basic issues with it. Things like barbed hooks on the end will result in more lacerations and bleeding, but they still won’t kill your opponent quickly. I suppose you could poison them, but then we’re already tracking into the range of a weapon that is as dangerous to the wielder as the foe.

I can’t shake the recollection of the Star Wars EU’s Lightsaber Whip from the back of my mind. Which, yes, if you have precognitive superpowers, and a blade that will cut through anything, then it starts to look like a plausible option. As much as any of the weirder lightsaber variants look plausible.

I’m kind of partial to Shadowrun’s Monofilament Whips. Same basic idea, the “whip” is a single strand of monomolecular wire that will cut through just about anything. Including the wielder. Not something I’d actually use in a game, (or real life, if I had access to it,) but I can honestly say, “it’s a weapon.” And I might consider giving something similar to a character in a setting where it wouldn’t be out of place.

Now, as an additional defensive tool, a whip can have some use in combat. If you’re using it to supplement a knife or other weapon, you can use it to distract your foe. We are literally talking about annoying your opponent until they die, but if you’ve got a rapier in your other hand, it could be enough to get the upper hand. Otherwise, you’re back to needing to wear down your opponent.

It’s also worth mentioning that whips require a fair amount of space to work. They can be anywhere from 6 to 18 feet long. While you don’t need 20 feet of clear space in every direction; using one in tight quarters isn’t happening. Also, striking at someone who is standing close to anything that the whip could catch on can lead to tangles, potentially taking the whip out of the fight.

As a quick aside, I am aware of the people that claim to hunt with whips. No, I don’t know how that works, and the cases I am familiar with leave me a little skeptical. There may be a quick and reliable way to kill someone with a whip, but, I’ve never heard of it.

-Starke

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