Tuesday, March 9, 2021

GLΔG: Knife-Fighting

 A shorter triangle-GLOG, since the other two are very long.


Anyone can use a knife: they're the most ubiquitous weapon, and any fighter worth their salt knows how to use one. 

Some people learn knife-fighting in fancy schools, but most people learn them the old-fashioned way: by getting in lots of knife-fights, and probably getting cut up a bunch in the process.

Every knife-fight has requirements: complete the requirements, and you can fight that way. Requirements are in italics.

They're numbered, as normal; you need one from the current rank to unlock one of the next.

(0) Learn the Hard Way
Lose at least one finger to a knife—a foe's knife or your own.
You know how to safely handle a knife with the hand that's missing a finger: how to hold it, cut with it, carve with it, stab with it, threaten with it, guard with it, and all the other snazzy things anyone skilled can do with a knife. You're very good at the knife-finger game, and know a seemingly-endless number of tricks with a butterfly knife.

If you're down a finger on each hand, you can wield two knives simultaneously, ambidextrously.

(1) Sneaky Bastard
Smuggle a dozen knives into somewhere very high-security, like a castle or noble's party.
If you have no knives, you can always produce one knife. Maybe it was hidden down your boot, maybe it was beneath the pillow, maybe it was from your enemy's belt, maybe it's magic. But you've always got a knife.

(1) Dance the Finger-Dance
Win a game of knife-throwing against a circus performer, a street kid, and a military veteran.
When you throw a knife, you can always decide exactly which end of the knife (the stabby end or the blunt end) will connect with the target. You're very good at throwing knives.

You're also very good at catching knives. If you see a knife flying towards you (either because you're juggling or because someone's trying to kill you), you can always catch it. 

If you can't see it coming or if it's attached to something solid—like, say, the arm of a murderer—it's much dicier.

(2) Blink of an Eye
Escape a pair of handcuffs using only a knife and your wits.
If you have a knife in one hand, you can always get it to the other hand, and you can do it more or less instantaneously. This works even if you're, say, bound on a cross, or have one hand in an alligator's mouth. Again, maybe it's clever legerdemain, maybe there was a second knife, maybe it's magic.

(2) Knife to a Sword-Fight
In cold blood, slit the throat of someone who didn't deserve it.
Your knives' blades can reach an extra couple of inches past where it seems they like should be able to. Imagine a three-inch knife, but it cuts like a six-inch knife, somehow.

This lets them stab very deep into stuff, obviously, but also makes them very useful for: snagging objects that are far away, poking at dangerous things from a distance, or winning odd bets.

(3) Twisty-Stabby-No-Release-y
Kill a bear (or something bear-sized) by stabbing it once, and then hanging onto that one stab for the rest of the fight until eventually it bleeds to death.
If you stab your knife into something—flesh, wood, ice, etc.—and then twist it, your knife will never come loose, unless you want it to. 

This doesn't stop the thing your knife is stabbed into from coming loose—like a single brick coming dislodged from the rest of the wall—but your knife itself won't ever come out until you want it to.

(3) Doesn't Seem So Bad
Lose an eye and an ear, get your nose and tongue split in twain, and lose at least six square inches of skin—all from knives.
At your option, when you cut someone with a knife, you can delay the damage. This means that for about 10 seconds (give or take), there won't be any blood, they continue to function normally, and they don't feel any pain.

The cut's still there, obviously, like you can touch the cut-mark and feel the flap of skin and everything, it just takes a bit for the target's brain to realize something's wrong.

(4) Only Friend You Can Trust
Successfully fake your own death.
You can't be killed by knives. You can still get horribly wounded and mangled and cut up, but the knife-blows themselves won't kill you. 

That said, if you get stabbed thirty times and then get hit once with a rock, you'll be a goner for sure.


Trying out more martial ideas for GLΔG. Not entirely sure how I feel about this one, but it's got some interesting ideas. Also, none of these are "essentials" or "freebies" in the same way some of the pyromancies and disciplines are.

Largely inspired by the "stereotypical rogue," Carcer from Night Watch, and that one Donnie Yen alleyway knife-fight scene.


In general, I think part of the issue with Martials With Deltas is that traditionally, Fighters et al. get "system-crunch" abilities. If you imagine the four-to-five fundamental categories of D&D ability as:
  • Physical (fly, grow or shrink, etc.)
  • Social (lie, convince people, etc.)
  • Intellectual/Informational (learn secrets, get bonus info, etc.)
  • ""Magical"" (non-specific world-manipulation stuff, like Wish or w/e)
  • System Crunch/Combat (+1 to hit, bonus HP on rest, etc.)
Fighter-type characters almost exclusively fall in the last category. This isn't an exhaustive statement by any means, but I've noticed that in nearly all trad systems and many OSR systems, Fighters are the ones who get the most system-crunchy abilities. They get bonuses to hit, extra HP, better stats, more attacks, more feats, all that classic D&D crunch. This is fine, mostly, since in typical D&D it just transforms them into the "badass normals" of the group, and some players (like me!) are into that kind of angle.

For my nascent little GLΔG project here, though, where I'm trying to avoid any and all systems or systemic terminology, that gets a little dicier. How do you explain "you're really good at killing people with a sword" diegetically? How do you "make the Fighter interesting"?

Well, I don't really know. My instinct is to expand into the other categories, and give the Fighter-types perks from the other categories (my Ranger does this, sorta, in that it's a "martial class" but its abilities are largely informational-focused), but I'm also not 100% convinced that this is the best path forward. Obviously, there are some social and knowledgeable perks a Fighter can get, and plenty of physical ones, but it's hard to describe being good at combat in a way that A) doesn't descend into fiddly minutiae and B) doesn't invalidate a bunch of what it feels like others should be able to do anyway.

I'm going to keep noodling around with this sort of thing. As always, if you want to hack/remix/alter any of this, please go ahead—and tell me! I'm very curious about how to develop diegetic fighters. 


  1. Yeah, this is good. All the things Fighters can do are "possible". Like, if there is a Trip Attack feat in the game, then suddenly the DM has to a) make it improbably difficult to trip enemies without it or b) invalidate the choice of someone taking the Trip Attack feat. All these things are just a little *impossible*, just enough to make them useful without invalidating clever positioning, creative gameplay or just good choices. "Blink of an Eye" is definitely an exceptionally good power for this, my favourite yet I think.

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