We have also have a few different discussions floating around the community on how in-character combat situations should be handled; Thorson's ICPvP and You guide, and Skeleton City's The Dice and You: A Treatise on Robustness and /Rollery.
Liuva's forum works can be found linked to this bottom of this post. Without further ado, click the jump to learn about the very basics of writing combat scenes in a roleplay context!
While I have been discussing some of the more advanced concepts of combat like armor rating and the mechanics behind duel wielding, this will inevitably leave certain people in the dust - those that do not have a lot of experience with fighting with swords or RPing it. Others have also talked about etiquette and the virtue of cooperation but a lot of this doesn't mean much without proper context. And that's what this article will be all about: the basics.
In essence, RP combat is a back to back chat altercation between two players and their characters. As such the most important weapon you can arm yourself with is a strong fighting vocabulary.
Here's just a small list for you containing some of the most common fighting terms:
Advance: Any movement forward, towards the opponentAttack: The initial offensive action, this word should be avoided as much as possible. "Liuva attacks her opponent" is very economical and conveys Liuva's intention but it doesn't provide nearly enough information for the opponent to react to.Beat: A beat is an attempt to knock the opponent's weapon aside or offline. To beat a weapon you would use an emote something like this, "Liuva attempted to beat her opponent's weapon with her guard of her sword". Using what section of you weapon is being used to accomplish the beat can be important. One, it adds more details and helps to convey the distance the opponent's are standing at. Two, beats with the bottom (forte) and guard of the blade will be more successful than beats made with the top (foible) of the blade.Bind: Technically this is an action that forces the opponent's weapon into a diagonally opposite line. For the purposes of RP this is generally accepted as having both weapons jammed against each other.Counter-attack: This is not an action that counters an opponent's attack. It is any attack made after the opponent's attack.Disengage: Any small motion of the blade that causes the opponent's parry to miss, or changes the line of attack of your weapon.Drawing (1): Pulling a sword from its sheath or scabbardDrawing (2): Pulling the bowstring backEngagement: When both weapons are in contact with each other. Not commonly used in RP, but still an important term for discussion OOC.En Garde, En Guarde, On Guard: The 'ready' position a fighter assumes when ready to fight or in between attacks and parries.False, Falso, Feint: An action that is made with the intention of failing and switching lines mid attack. Used to get an incorrect reaction from the opponent and leaving your intended target undefended.Flick: A a cut like action that lands with the point, often involving a whipping motion with the wrist.Guard (1): The metal pieces of a weapon that protect the user's hand and can be used to manipulate an opponent's blade. In ESO most weapons use crossguards, or guards that run perpendicular to the blade.Guard (2): Any position similar to the En Garde position that places the blade in an advantageous position to block attacks from that angle. A high guard place the blade vertically or rarely horizontally just above the head, blocking high attacks. A low guard place the weapon low to block attacks on the legs. Most fencing and combat systems have their own unique names and styles of guards.Hilt: The handle of the weaponInfighting: Any distance between two combatants where neither can make an attack without pulling their weapons back first to threaten the target with their tip. Generally this is the point grappling and pommeling each other starts.Inside: The area of space that intersects the front of your body, starting from the near side of your weapon and expanding infinitely away in that direction.Invitation: Intentionally leaving a section of your body open to attackLine: The main direction of attack (high/low inside/outside left/right etc)Loosing: Releasing a drawn bowstring, shooting the arrowLunge: An explosive forward attack made by extending the rear leg and landing on a bent front leg.Mal-parry: Not commonly used in RP. A parry that fails to prevent an attack from landingMeasure: The correct term for distance between two combatants. Not commonly used in RP. Described as close or near measure (The middle of both blades have passed each other , far measure (the tips of both blades have passed each other), and out of measure (the tops of the blades have not passed each other OR the combatants are at such a distance that any attack would fail to reach to the target).Nocking an Arrow: Fitting the arrow into the bow stringOutside: The area of space to the side of your weapon that is farthest away from your bodyParry: A defensive action made with the weapon that deflects the opponent's weaponPommel: The fastener at the bottom of a sword that attaches the grip to the blade. Also the name for an action where you punch someone with the pommel of a blade.Retreat: Any movement backwardsRiposte: An attack made immediately after or with the parry of an opponent's bladeSide-step: Any movement that moves your character sideways to the opponentTarget: The opponent, or the position on the opponent you intend to hit.
The flow of combat and way an attack is to be delivered is best described as a dance. The lead or first player initiates the original action, the second player reacts to the original action, the first player reacts to the second action, and the cycle repeats. This is the highest form of RP combat; where both players are actively responding to and considering the actions of the other player in their own character's actions. Fights like these can be exciting and with the proper OOC communication they generally have happy resolutions for both parties.
On the other side of the spectrum, you have a jumbled mess of both players ignoring or misunderstanding the other character's actions and attacking and defending without considering the other person. These fights almost always teeter on the cusp of godmoding if not ending up in blatantly forcing the other character to take hits. These fights never have a happy ending, and they're completely avoidable by maintaining OOC communication with the other player.
A player should always consider a character's strength and weaknesses before engaging in RP combat. Liuva, for example, is a hardened Dunmer veteran with a vast amount of experience in battle. Her main weapon of choice has always been a sword and shield and as such has developed her combat style well beyond her years as an apprentice. She is however no prodigy with a sword, and favors her shield as an offensive weapon. Due to her sex and race, she can be vulnerable against brute force and larger opponents and will be overpowered if she tries to directly oppose her opponent's attack. She also has only a rudimentary grasp of destruction and restoration magic and has neglected the study of all other schools. She is competent with a two handed weapon, but her lack of experience with one leaves her with a low defense, the same applies to wielding a mace or ax. As a heavily armored fighter by experience she excels at wearing plate armor and is much more attuned to fighting with the added weight. She is capable and just as a deadly outside of armor but she may not give an opponent's attack the increased level of credence it deserves being unarmored. She is especially vulnerable to grappling outside of armor due to the different flow of hand to hand fighting outside of armor.
You needn't be as detailed as this is, but to be fair in an RP fight you need to know your character to be able to judge what hits they should take and what hits they should block. 99.9% of characters should receive glancing hits and even more direct hits that lead to damage every fight.
Beyond that RP combat is a poetry. Some poems is epic and hyper realistic, while others are simple to the bone while still getting the message across. There is no right way to do it and no one can tell you otherwise. There are however wrong ways to do it- and no combat article would be complete without that fact.
Godmoding is the act of forcing your actions on another opponent. Things such as "Liuva slashed at her opponent, the blow landing hard severing the opponent's arm from his torso". It also includes treating your character as invincible, refusing to take any blows at all, and doing actions akin to having godlike powers or can only be completed by using metaknowledge only you as a player would know OOC. Godmoding is one of the quickest ways to be shunned from the community- avoid it at all costs. Even if your opponent reveals themselves to be a godmoder, stay true to your character and remove yourself from the situation as quickly as possible.
If you would like to learn more about the art of combat, I run a series in the General Forums about more advanced topics, drawing from historical and contemporary sources.