Tag Archives: fightwrite answers

Choosing the Right Martial Art

This is more of a personal question but what MA you’d recommend to a 30 something? There’s krav maga courses at my city but I’m not sure if krav is actually good? I’ve read conflicting opinions on it

It its native environment, Krav Maga is very effective. Krav Maga was developed by the Israeli Defense Force and designed around combat in very tight quarters. It’s entirely built to operate in modern Israeli urban warfare. That’s also the problem.

Krav Maga was, originally, designed to kill opposing combatants. In its original form, it was ill suited for police or self defense roles, and would have been a disaster for sports and recreational martial artists.

What followed was that Krav Maga filtered out of the IDF. The martial art was revised and modified for people who had different needs. Police didn’t need a martial art that could kill people, they needed one that could keep the suspect alive. Recreational martial artists needed something they could practice safely. MMA fighters looked at the potential applications in sport.

So, roughly 50 years after Krav Maga escaped the IDF, there’s now multiple variants of the martial art. It’s not even that there’s a single sport variant, or a single self-defense variant, because each instructor is going to have a slightly different take on it, and that will filter down to their students. These tend to be almost imperceptible, initially, but when you’re talking over multiple decades, distinct schools of thought will start to emerge.

If someone is teaching Krav Maga as an exercise routine, that’s not going to be what you want if you’re looking for a self defense style. Beyond that, not all schools are created equal. You will find quality differences based on the skill of a school’s instructors. Two different schools practicing the same martial art could produce students of radically different proficiency.

This is where it’s a bit tricky for me. Because I don’t have a background in Krav Maga, I can’t tell you exactly what to look for in a school to immediately determine if it’s what you’re looking for.

Beyond that, a lot of recreational or sport schools will advertise themselves as, “self-defense.” The easy one to point out is Karate. 99 times out of 100, if a Karate school is offering itself as self-defense, it’s not going to deliver on that. It’s going to offer the recreational form of the martial art (because, that’s what actually exists), and at best may offer some practical self-defense considerations above that, but it’s not a good martial art for self defense (unless, you’re really worried about attacks from time traveling samurai from the 17th and 18th centuries.)

So, is Krav Maga a bad martial art? No. It’s an entirely legitimate choice. However, if you’re thinking you can take eight weeks of Krav Maga and come out the other side with hand to hand skills on par with IDF Special Forces, that’s not going to happen.

I’ll admit, I’m biased, but if you’re looking for self-defense training, my recommendation would be Judo as a base. Particularly the, “self-defense,” strand of Judo used by Law Enforcement, if you can find that. (Usually, this will be via police or sheriff’s department community outreach programs.) This is especially useful, because the most important part of self-defense isn’t the martial arts, it’s the threat management skills. Actually, a major red flag with a, “self-defense,” course is if there isn’t a priority given to non-combat skills, such as explaining threat psychology, or methods to make you less attractive as a potential victim. In self-defense, avoiding combat entirely is far safer, and thus more desirable, than testing your combat skills.

If you’re after something spiritual or physical exercise, you have a lot of options, and honestly, most schools will accommodate this goal pretty nicely. If you’ve got the option, Judo and Aikido are my first thoughts here, Karate isn’t a bad choice. There isn’t a categorically wrong answer. If you’re worried about your physical condition, then Tai Chi may a good choice.

If you’re looking to get into competitive martial arts (such as MMA), at your age, I’d strongly recommend against it. As we get older, our bodies slow down (a fact, I’m pretty sure you’re well aware of), and competitive fighting is something that takes an enormous toll on you. When you’re young, you don’t realize just how much damage you’re taking, but all that abuse stacks up. Starting older is an option, but you don’t have the benefit of being able to bounce back from that wear and tear. That said, Muay Thai has been extremely popular as of late. Though there are a lot of popular martial arts, and sport focused Krav Maga isn’t a bad option. The same technical considerations that make it an effective CQC martial art still work in a competitive bout.

If you need practical hand-to-hand training, you probably already have the contacts you’d need to get access to the military strand of Krav Maga, but, then again, if this was the case, you probably wouldn’t need to ask, “why do I see conflicting opinions on it?” You’d be buying a ticket to Israel. If that’s your goal, and you don’t have the contacts, you’re going to be disappointed. You’re unlikely to randomly come across a school teaching practical Krav Maga. Even if you did, it would not be the right choice for, “normal,” self-defense needs. If you want self-defense training, find an off-duty cop moonlighting as a martial arts instructor.


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Updating Mythic Heroes and The Importance of their Artifacts

While writing an adaptation of a character who in mythology time used a sword, I’m wondering would it be ineffective to still make them use a sword but a thinner flatter type. Or is it just better to just stick to a knife?

I’m not going to harp on it, but, “mythology time,” is a weird way to phrase it. Usually you’d say, “a character who used a sword in myth,” or. “in their myths,” not, “in mythology time.” This is because there is no fixed, “mythic era,” in history.

Myths vary, but it’s often impossible to pin down a specific moment they come from. The British give us a pair, one example and one counterexample. The myth of Robin Hood is remarkably easy to pin down, because it includes historical figures. It occurs sometime in the 12th century. (Worth noting, the written records regarding Robin Hood first pop up in the 14th century, so it may have been floating around in a oral form for a couple centuries before anyone recorded it, or none of the previous written records survived.) In contrast, it’s basically impossible to pin down a specific timeframe for the King Arthur legends, because there’s no historical frame of reference. There’s a lot of academic study on the subject, but while you can say that Robin Hood is set in the 1190s, you can’t say the same for King Arthur.

Mythic characters are a little tricky to work with. By their nature, they have a well established backstory and identity. Messing with that is feasible, but requires some care. It also requires passing familiarity with the myths they appear in.

For example: If you wanted to write a modern incarnation of Hercules, it would ring a bit off to have a character with a warm and loving parents.

Artificially creating a mythic character (for a fantasy setting) is a lot more complicated. This requires you to create a character who left enough of a legacy on their world that they’re still a household name millennia later, conveying those stories to the audience, and then also introducing a modern version of that character in the setting, without the entire work being very heavy handed or cliché, is quite difficult, and time consuming.

And, I still haven’t talked about your main question, their weapons.

The artifacts of mythic characters often have legacies that, in some cases, outstrip their owners. In spite of being inanimate objects, they’re characters, with their own identities, that extend far beyond simply being, “a sword.” I’m reminded of multiple starships in different settings named Excalibur, and even, just the name, is evocative.

This is where the real danger is, you’re talking an artifact, where the name alone, is (supposed) to be enough to cue the reader in to the significance of the object. (Having said that, I recently had to explain the significance of Gjallarhorn to a friend, so, depending on the object in question your results may vary. There are a lot of mythic artifacts, and not all of them carry the same name recognition.)

If your mythic hero has a sword, chances are it has a name, and probably a legacy of its own. Mythic artifacts in a modern setting may be the original object, or the, “soul,” of the artifact in a new object (the rules for this are dictated by the author), but, “downgrading,” a mythic artifact is something you probably don’t want to do without a lot of careful consideration.


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Starke is not a Real Doctor for Elves

Hi! I’m writing a short story in a fantasy universe where a character (an elf, hard to kill by human standards) is chained to a wall and then lifted up incredibly high by the unhumanly tall antagonist and let go. The back of his head hits the wall, he’s (possibly?) knocked out for an undescribed period of time. Would this cause brain damage? Specifically, damage to the cerebellum? If so, how would that affect the characters?

Yes, probably.

So, with humans, getting knocked out from blunt force is some degree of brain damage. In a best case scenario, there’s little (or no) detectible impairment, but we are talking about someone suffering a concussion serious enough to nearly kill them. Even in that best case scenario, getting back up afterwards would be extremely difficult and painful. In a less ideal scenario, there would also be some long term damage.

The problem is, your character isn’t human, and even when we’re talking about something like elves, there’s a very real potential for some seriously weird physiology going on there.

Setting that aside, for a human, you’re looking at all the normal symptoms of a concussion. Headaches, nausea, slurred speech, hypersensitivity to light and sound, cognitive impairment, and memory issues. I’m not 100% certain if that’s damage specifically to the cerebellum (though it’s certainly possible) or if those are just the greatest hits for bouncing your brain off bone.

Not everyone will experience all symptoms, not all symptoms will have equal intensity across all cases. Every concussion is a new and unique trauma.

You may notice I didn’t include loss of consciousness in the list above. It’s one of the more severe symptoms. Getting knocked out, especially for more than a few seconds, is a very serious medical situation. As in, “you could die, or be left a vegetable.”

Now, returning to what I mentioned earlier, it’s entirely possible that the elves in your setting are physiologically extremely different from humans, (at least neurologically, if not across the board.) It’s entirely possible they cannot suffer concussions at all, in which case the experience of having their head bounced off paving stones may be unpleasant but not particularly dangerous. This may even be likely if your elves are supposed to be that resilient, as the head and brain, are particularly vulnerable to injury.

As for getting knocked unconscious? With humans, that is brain damage, every time. And concussions are cumulative, meaning your average protagonist who gets clubbed over the head on a weekly basis would be dead in short order.


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No Such Thing as a +2 Chair Leg of Wounding

How distinct are weapons like clubs from improvised weapons? I have a player (in Pathfinder/3.P) who insists that since clubs have no cost (are easily made), any improvised weapon that could use club damage is a club (i.e., is as easy to use as a club, so no attack penalty). I can’t help but think that the improvised weapon rules exist to simulate something realistic, like balance in hand, but I know basically nothing about weapons in real life.


It really depends on the club, or the quality of the improvised weapon in question. I mean, there isn’t going to be a huge quality difference between a broken off chair leg, and cheap wooden club. But, at the same time we are talking about Pathfinder, so, realism isn’t exactly the highest priority.

In theory, Pathfinder’s (and D&D’s) improvised weapon rules are built around the idea that you’re just grabbing whatever is at hand. It probably doesn’t have a proper grip, it may be flimsy, it could still be attached to something in the environment. Whatever it is, it’s certainly not a weapon, and the rules are generally meant to reflect that. If he wants to convert a broken chair leg into a proper club, that’s what the Craft (Broken Chair Legs) skill is for.

You have is a player trying to minmax. I’m not 100% certain about Pathfinder’s improvised weapon rules, but in 3.5 it was a flat, you do not get proficiency from any improvised weapon. So, you take a -4 penalty on all rolls to hit. (There’s actually a boatload of additional rules which you can apply if you think the player is trying to pull a fast one, such as actually tracking hardness and item HP to destroy their, “club,” from use.)

That said, Pathfinder is a little different, because there are feats (Catch Off-Guard and Improvised Weapon Mastery) which ignores the non-proficient penalty, and grant bonuses to improvised weapons, there’s a level 1 spell that allows the caster to convert an improvised weapon into its simple or martial counterpart (Refine Improvised Weapon in the Wizard/Sorc, and Cleric spellbooks, among others,) there’s a PRC (the Nature Warden) that gains the ability to do the same as an Extraordinary Ability (meaning, it’s non-magical for them.) And, there’s an entire Rogue archetype that focuses on using improvised weapons (in the Melee Tactics Toolbox.) There’s probably a ton of other specific rule interactions with improvised weapons in Pathfinder I’m unaware of.

What you have is a player who is trying to circumvent the rules to munchkin their character. If they want their character to use improvised weapons on a regular basis, without taking a penalty on every attack roll, there are multiple, explicit, paths to achieving that, and I don’t know exactly what your player’s end goal is, but this is a case where they’re asking for a free feat. It’s okay to say, “no,” no matter how concrete their logic seems. If they want want to use Improvised Weapons, Catch Off-Guard exists for a reason and has no prerequisites.


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Firearms in Fantasy: A Deceptively Simple Concept

Hello. I don’t know if this belongs here but y’all know about weapons so maybe you’ve got ideas?

I’m writing a fantasy story that’s got some anachronistic elements but it leans towards futuristic or modern. However I have characters using swords even though logically they should be using firearms. There’s no lack of technology or resources limiting them from using guns so how can I explain the absence? What makes it trickier is certain firearm/projectile weapons do exist, like an arm cannon that shoots fire.

How can I make this work without implementing a system like the character job classes you find in RPGs?


So, the problem here is that firearms are, in their design, incredibly simple. At the simplest level, a firearm is just capping a tube, dropping something “chemically energetic” in, adding a projectile, and igniting the propellent.

If you have a setting with reasonably functional metallurgy, and flamethrowers, you have guns.

If you have a setting with the internal combustion engine, you have guns, because it is the exact same method of power generation, the only differences are in the chemicals used and the ignition method. After that, there is a difference in how the power is channeled and used, but they operate on the same intermingling of physics and chemistry.

This gets even worse when you start digging into chemistry. Gunpowder has been around for over a thousand years. The development of very basic powders came from the use of sulfur and potassium nitrate in early alchemical experiments. While modern accelerants are quite sophisticated, basic black powder can easily be produced with bronze age technology. In fact, it is easier to make gunpowder than a gun barrel that can withstand the resulting pressure.

Now, you might have guns that look very different from what we’re used to. Moving beyond a basic 14th century handcanon, there is a lot of iterative technology that has gone into firearms. Being able to open the breach, prepackaged cartridges, barrel rifling and replaceable magazines, are all quite modern innovations. We’ve had the gun for nearly a millennia, but those are (mostly) less than two centuries old.

How can I make this work without implementing a system like the character job classes you find in RPGs?

This would not work. I trust we’re all familiar with that scene from Indiana Jones. The problem with the firearm is it effectively negates other weapon options. In RPG terms, it hard counters nearly every non-gun build.

It doesn’t matter if your ageless swordsman has spent a thousand years studying the blade, they can’t stop a bullet, and very few people can continue to operate after you’ve pumped a couple rounds through them.

So, here’s where things get a bit more complicated. In fantasy you may have enemies who simply aren’t susceptible to gunshots. Vampires and Werewolves are the normal urban fantasy examples, though there’s certainly options for things like golems, demons, and other flavors of undead to simply not care about bullets at all. This is before you get into edge cases that might not be susceptible for other reasons, such as mages who are able to cast effective shields against gunfire, and creatures such as dragons who are supernaturally resistant to injury. I mean, if you’re going to go hunting dragons, taking a Glock is a phenomenally poor choice.

This leads to another possibility that probably shouldn’t be overlooked: Gun control. Just because the M82 exists, doesn’t mean you can get your hands on one. Even in the US, getting your hands on military hardware such as automatic firearms is prohibitively difficult and expensive. It’s not difficult to envision a society where even access to handguns is excruciatingly difficult. I say it’s not hard, because there are real-world examples like Japan or the UK, where private firearm ownership is excruciatingly difficult. Ironically, both Japan and the UK also heavily regulate possession of ammunition (not, only the firearm itself.)

Something that flies in the face of a lot of popular fantasy literature is how foundational the firearm is in our technological history. I don’t mean the effects of the gun, that caused massive sociopolitical changes, but how the technology itself contributed to overall technological advancement. Something that can be deceptively difficult when writing a fantasy setting, is understanding how one technological innovation lead to another, and the rather startling way that all of this advanced science as a whole.

You may also want to check out this article on warmages from a couple years ago, as it covers a few concepts we sort of skimmed over here.


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The Impracticality of a Climbing Axe in Combat

Hello! This may seem a bit odd and I’ve searched your page but nothing came up for it, apologies if you have answered this before.

But a character of mine uses an ice pickaxe/ice tool as a weapon, and often for climbing as well. As the hook is at an angle and the handle is curved, I was wondering the pros and cons as well as it would be handled as I’ve never handled one before.

Also, thank you for the content, it’s saved me quite a few times when learning how to make a realistic fight 🙂

We have covered this in the past. Specifically we did a post on the climbing axe a couple years ago.

The short answer is, it’s not a particularly good weapon of choice. It’s a survival tool first, and while you might be able to turn it into an improvised weapon with a well placed strike on a distracted (or unarmed) foe, it’s not designed to be a direct combat weapon, and doesn’t really support being used like one.

The problem with the angled hook is it robs the weapon of reach, meaning you basically need to be in hand to hand range. The curved handle on ice axes is supposed to reduce kinetic feedback into the user, so that’s not really relevant to combat one way or the other.

The basic process of using one would be to haul off and swing, sort of like how it’s used normally. The problem with that is it has a very clearly profiled strike in most cases (remember, the human eye tracks the edges of objects more easily than distinguishing what’s going on inside the profile, and this makes the strikes easier to defend against if the target can see the attacker’s limbs moving outside of their silhouette, which would happen here.) If the target can’t see the attack happening, then it will have some armor penetration (it is designed to punch through hardened surfaces.) However, if the attacker can see the strike, their reflexes would be able to respond faster than against a weapon striking from inside the attacker’s silhouette. Note that if the target is unarmed and unarmored, their only real option would be to get out of the strike’s path, but they’d still have an advantage to do so.

So, not a great weapon. Ice axes and climbing axes are not weapons. As improvised combat tools go, they’re reasonable choices. If your character doesn’t have access to legitimate weapons, these end up at the top of the heap for improvised weapons, along with things like crowbars. But if your character can get a legitimate weapon, the ice axe will be outclassed extremely quickly.


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A Quick Reference for How to Choose Your Weapon

you mentioned it in another post, so: do you perhaps know where your “how to pick a weapon for a character” post(s) is? i’ve used a bunch of keywords and searches and cant find it. thank you for your time!


It took a minute, and there are a couple associated posts.

Your Character’s Weapon is also a Character is probably the post you were looking for.

There’s also How Do You Choose A Martial Art, which isn’t about weapons but does go into more detail on the process of selecting a combat style for your characters, and by extension, the advice here will apply to your characters’ weapon choices.

There have been some more recent articles, like Weapon of Choice, but that’s a lot more focused.

If you have a more focused type of weapon in mind, (or set of weapons), then you may simply want to ask about those directly.


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Swords & Rapiers: A Singular Moment

Re. That Gideon question, were long swords and rapiers used concurrently in real life?

Yes, with a few minor caveats. The Rapier dates to the 16th and 17th century. By that point in history, the longsword was in the process of being replaced by the sabre as a military sidearm, but they still existed and saw use. This also puts the rapier in the same timeframe as the two handed swords (like the Zweihander and claymore.)

The tricky part about this is that the rapier was never a military weapon. Some did see battlefield use, but the rapier was designed as a civilian defense and dueling blade. The lighter weight even made rapiers attractive as fashion pieces for a few decades. In the 16th and 17th century, if you were part of the up and coming middle class, it was fashionable to carry a rapier as a sign of wealth.

In that sense, there is a reasonable attitude of someone with military training in the 17th century looking down on the rapier. It’s an incredibly lethal weapon in trained hands, but most of the people carrying them wouldn’t know how to use them effectively, and that could certainly reflect on an individual’s attitudes for the weapon as a whole.

If you’re a military veteran with decades of experience campaigning on the frontiers of the empire, who came home to see all those pretty boys and stuffed shirts flourishing ineffectively with “French needles,” you could easily think that the sword was as useless as it’s wielders.

The civilian applications of the rapier meant it stuck around after it was no longer viable on the battlefield. The 16th and 17th centuries are the tipping point for European gunpowder infantry. So, while the rapier continued as a fashion piece, soldiers were moving to muskets as their primary weapons, while their sabres were restricted to situational use, and (for officers) emphasizing orders.

I’m unsure on exactly when the longsword fell completely out of use. The problem is, longswords, sabres and greatswords moved into more ceremonial roles over time. Sabres are still used ceremonially today (technically, so are longswords), but the easiest one to track are the greatswords. Because they were a primary weapon (and not a sidearm), these only saw battlefield use for a few decades in the 16th century (I think it was ~1500-1550, but I could be off by a few decades.) So, we’re talking about a very specific moment in history there.

It’s also worth remembering that the term, “longsword,” encompasses over two dozen different major varieties of blades (ironically, this includes the greatswords, which is why I keep bringing them up), dating back to the 8th or 9th century, so while there were longswords that were contemporary with the rapier, some had fallen out of use centuries earlier, while others were relatively recent developments.

So, were they contemporary? Yeah, kinda. There were other swords that were contemporary with the rapier, but is one of the last iterations of the sword.


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Maybe Don’t Carry a Big Sword on Your Back

Why do characters in fantasy always carry longswords on their back? Then pluck them off to fight like the only thing holding the sword on his magnets or something. I cannot figure out how this works. It seems like it’d be rlly difficult to get a sword in and out of a scabbard that’s carried across the back. So how are longswords actually carried? Is the sword on back thing actually real? And if it is, how on earth does it work?


It’s real, but it is unusual. Normally, you would carry a scabbard on your hip. This has the downside of the sword hanging off your belt and potentially getting in the way (especially as a longsword is likely to protrude out in some direction, usually to the back), but it is extremely accessible.

As for why it’s so popular in fantasy, I’m not completely sure, and I suspect there isn’t a single, universal answer. In some cases, I’m sure it’s simply chosen because it looks cool. In others (particularly games) it gives the player the opportunity to see the weapon they’re carrying and about to draw. It also allows a character to sheathe a greatsword, which would be fairly difficult otherwise.

You can pull a longsword off your back, however it’s awkward. If the scabbard is articulated, and can swing away off the back, you can pull the sword forward, directed across your shoulder. In an emergency you could certainly get to it, but it would be less convenient than if you carried it on your hip. Putting it away is a similarly awkward process.

So, why is this a thing? Because in some situations you’d want to keep your sword on your person, but wouldn’t need to access it on short notice, and you may not have wanted the scabbard flapping about.

For example: If someone was traveling, they may sling their sword over their shoulder (they’d want it when they got to their destination), but when moving through crowds, having the scabbard bashing into members of the crowd could create an awkward situation. If they expected trouble, they’d be likely to unsling their sword and either return it to their hip, or carry it openly (depending on the situation.)

I know it’s real, but I’m not sure how widespread it ever was. I remember running across a historical manuscript which told readers that they should instruct their students not to carry their sword across the back. This sounds like the practice was fashionable at some point, but it could have been a singular example that pissed off the author.

If you were traveling, then you might carry your sword on your back, otherwise, you would be unlikely to do so, unless you were making some ill advised fashion statement.


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The Problem with Gideon The Ninth’s Space Necromancers

What would the transition be like going from Longsword to rapier? I’m reading Gideon the ninth and I’m curious how accurately it handled it, Gideon is used to a longsword and for plot reasons needs to shift to a rapier quickly, she has a teacher, and she’s not a master, but is 3 months believable to become passable with a rapier


Is it realistic? No, not really.

The problem with Gideon the Ninth’s training sequence is really the downplaying of Gideon’s opponent’s skills rather than Gideon herself. The irony is Gideon would be better off were she starting from zero rather than training over (or re-training) her current skill set. This is compounded by the novel desperately wanting to be realistic or, at the very least plausible, and leans hard into tropes from the martial arts genre (specifically anime and film) without really understanding those tropes or the purpose they serve within the narrative. Gideon tries very hard to escape the dreaded “You Trained for Five Minutes and Are Now Beating Seasoned Masters” while walking right into it.

We went over Gideon’s issues with the rapier at length in a previous post so I’m not going to cover it again. Gideon is a novel where you really need to keep your disbelief suspended. If you, the reader, can’t ride the Rule of Cool straight off into the sunset or insert yourself as Gideon into the narrative, the experience may not be enjoyable. There are a lot of aspects in the novel’s worldbuilding and the characters’ approach to their situations ultimately don’t make that much sense in context.

On the surface, Gideon the Ninth is high concept gold. The marketing hook is “lesbian necromancers in space” which perfectly sells itself. Everything after feels like a debut outing in execution (which is what the novel is) and, really, a “babby’s first.”

Necromancers in space may seem novel, but they’re really not. At least, if you’re familiar with the sci-fi, fantasy, and the science fantasy genre. The label for Science Fantasy is new, but the line between science fiction and fantasy has always been blurry. Any fiction chasing Star Wars regularly ends up straddling the two, along with martial arts and sword and sorcery genres. P&P RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons have their own science fantasy spin off worlds like Spacejammers, and tabletop strategy games like Warhammer 40k perfectly encapsulate that bleak, overly edgy to straight up edgelord, grimdark setting Gideon the Ninth is attempting to bring to life. Necromancers are all over science fiction in wide and varied fashion, from the flamboyant like Chronicles of Riddick’s Necromongers to the sinister like Dead Space’s Necromorphs, even when they’re spun as highly advanced, tech wizardry like The Borg from Star Trek. (Yes, The Borg are necromancers who practice space magic. Fight me.) To a very straightforward case in Babylon 5’s Soul Hunters. Warhammer 40k has at least four different necromancy variants from the sorcery practiced by the Eldar and Dark Eldar, to the more techy-magic done by the Imperium, and straight up borging by the Necrons where souls are uploaded into new robot bodies. There are more, a lot more, including Sith Sorcery, but if we sat around cataloguing every instance of necromancy and unnamed necromancy in sci-fi (before we move over to traditional fantasy) you’d be reading a full length encyclopedia.

You may wonder what this has to do with realism and Gideon’s training. Well, here’s the thing, the direction might make sense in a setting without necromancers, but we have necromancers. So, why is a living champion (especially a hastily retrained one who’d be subpar without the power of plot) necessary in the first place? I’m not suggesting they don’t need a champion to fight for them or a bodyguard to protect them while they cast lengthy spells. The question is: why does said champion need to be alive? Why go with a hastily retrained mortal champion who’d die from a little blood loss and you have to blackmail into serving you when you could have the greatest swordmaster of your house that’s been accumulating experience for the past thousand years? It’s not like there’s a shortage of highly trained, skilled, and successful warriors to choose from, especially when the barrier created by death is no longer a concern.

In a setting without necromancers, Gideon’s training creates a basic problem when fighting seasoned professionals and the problem results from being she’s already trained in a different kind of sword fighting. From a conventional wisdom standpoint, I’m sure this seems backwards. Writing advice will often hammer home that what a character needs is training and, often, writers with limited backgrounds misinterpret this as meaning any kind of training will do.

While it’s true that you’ll pick up on the basics faster, the minute details become the killer. It is actually more difficult to retrain the reflexes you’ve spent years developing than starting from scratch. The rapier and the longsword are both sword combat, they are just close enough to completely fuck with your brain’s trained understanding of how to hold the weapon, how to stand with the weapon, how to parry with the weapon, how to block with the weapon, how to counter and thrust, and the trained in reflexes associated with these techniques. The important thing to remember about training is that while your reflexes aren’t naturally automated, they become that way over time through arduous training. Teaching your body to react automatically to incoming stimuli to reduce reaction times is one reason behind that arduous technical repetition. When you’re transitioning from one similar skill set to another, these trained reflexes will conflict and compete over which fires first. In simplistic terms, the lizard portion of your brain goes, “a sword? I KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH A SWORD!” and proceeds on that trained trajectory until it is automatically stopped by your higher/conscious brain functions, or interrupted by the realization your body’s position is entirely off and it can’t execute the maneuver, or flies straight into the jaws of death. This isn’t so bad when you’re transitioning from karate to taekwondo and all you need to worry about is a slight variance in knee placement for a sidekick chamber. This is a real danger with weapons where you might accidentally suicide on a failed lunge.

Three months isn’t enough to prepare Gideon for a series of duels to the death with seasoned professionals who’ve made this type of dueling their specialty. Outside of a lucky first draw and YEETING into some beginners luck like a British soldier dueling a Frenchman in the after hours section of the Napoleonic War. (Yes, that actually happened. What, did you think Wellington’s ban on dueling served no practical purpose?) Beginner’s luck doesn’t survive the scrutiny of tiered competition, your future opponents are observing your fight and strategizing. For Gideon, the rapier training itself serves as back end narrative justification for Gideon’s presence in the story, even though it doesn’t address the basic question of why a living champion is necessary.

So, why risk it? Kill Gideon and import a more suitable, useful soul into her corpse. With enough practice, the rotting part becomes a question of aesthetics and nose tolerance to foul smells.

(And don’t give me that crap about the fear that other necromancers will interfere with the spells. There’s workarounds to interference. Gideon has no real defense or innate protections against magical interference from another necromancer, at least not as established by the novel prior to the tournament beginning and would be normal for cavaliers. And, in the grand scheme, when there’s bound to be cheating anyway, who suffers less from a spell to rot off an arm? A living person or a corpse that doesn’t feel pain? Necromancy affects living tissue too, energy, and also souls if souls aren’t classified as magical energy, depending on the rules. We know that the necromancers in Gideon’s setting can do some sort of permanent enchantments because most servants are the shambling dead, not alive. It doesn’t take much to jump onto the next step and it seems weird no currently practicing necromancer ever figured out how to make a phylactery, or a soul cage, or soul-swapping/body-hopping, energy leeching, reverse-decay, ascension to an energy being, becoming a licht, or any of the other methods the Average Joe necromancer uses to extend their life. Or, you know, all the sci-fi/space ways you can do it too like cryo freezes when travelling slowly between planets.)

And, you know what? Longswords are much better at dismembering corpses, especially ones that can’t bleed to death. So, why even bother with a rapier in the first place?


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