Combat Roleplay: Types of Combat Situations, Part Four.
Rogues, Hunters, Adventurers, and other Indirect Combatants.
Hello, and welcome back to the fourth installment of my window into different Types of Combat Situations!
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Last time the topic of dealing damage from a distance was our primary concern. We showed awesome fighters who specialized in ranged weapons throughout different historical periods. Starting from the classical, we went through the medieval and up to the modern period. We may have gestured to some thoughts on our contemporary soldiers today. But, largely, we went over a lot of fun ideas for how to build a good fighter using ranged weapon forms of all sorts.
And we didn't once mention hunters specifically as an example; we focused on how these ranged units could function in an up-front conflict, with no hiding or running about.
If you're asking why we did that, well, that's because today we have an entirely new section completely devoted to those kinds of fighters, and more.
One of my first guides that I wrote was specifically with regards on how to indicate your character's focus. In that guide I mention that a fighter-rogue hybrid and a rogue-fighter hybrid may not be the same. That specializing in one aspect immediately changes the magnitude of the other, and attempting a perfect hybrid is difficult - or not always desirable. This is important to note, as I don't differentiate a 'fighter' themed character from a 'rogue' themed character based on their tanky-ness, or their 'DPS', or whether or not they get an exclusive backstab ability.
No. You can have all of those things, and be a squishy - lightly armored fighter in my book. A fighter is a character who engages in conflict directly, with premeditation. They are, for the most part, specialized for this task. A rogue, or for this guide we will say Indirect Combatant, is a person who avoids a direct conflict - or is specialized for things outside of combat - who only gets their hands dirty when aptly necessary.
So, with this definition for an indirect combatant, you can make a massive list for this. But, I've personally included a number of those I find particularly pertinent for most roleplaying systems. Each will occupy a major section of the guide, save the first, where I'll continue discussing why I label these persons as indirect combatants. Though I will say, I hope the first two sections don't end up reading redundant.
These sections are:
I'm Not a Fighter, I Just Kill People: Identifying the Martial Participation of Various Alternative Combatants.
Don't Pull Aggro: Fighting as Rogues, Thieves, and Assassins.
Fool! You've Activated My Trap Card!: Fighting as Opportunists and Charlatans.
No, I Do Not Have a 'Summon Familiar' Spell: Fighting as Rangers and Hunters.
Which One of You is the Real Dirty Dan?: Fighting as a Policemen, Bounty-Hunters, and Slavers.
Ancient Ruins, Sunken Treasure, Nathan Drake-ing: Fighting as Explorers and Adventurers.
Such Talking is Not Worth a Butterfly!: Fighting as Travelers, Pilgrims, and Guides.
I have ze Ubercharge!: Fighting as a Corpsman, Medic, or Healer.
I Can't Have Rum While on Duty: Fighting as Sailors, Pirates, and Marines.
So, without further assassination plots, we should continue!
I'm Not a Fighter, I Just Kill People!
Identifying the Martial Participation of Various Alternative Combatants.
"How many edgy movie or video game assassins have to explain killing as an act separate from a fight for you to get it?"
It takes a lot to really substantiate those characters who view killing as an act separate from fighting in these games. Mostly for the fact of they insist on fighting all the way up until that point. If they didn't, it would be much simpler to take their side and accept it.
So, what's with this section, and why am I discussing this basic idea again? Well, simply because while I think most roleplayers understand it, I feel there are some who don't, and that's because most games don't get it at all.
In most games, the rogue is a specialized fighter who fights at super close range, deals a ton of damage, wears no armor, and can use a sneak attack. The rogue is just as familiar and professional a fighting unit in most cases as the tank, but sometimes wish 'dirty fighting' mechanics, or being a specialized duelist, or using items such as poison. We can diverge this to other character types like the ranger, or the bard, who have some unique abilities that play out as necessary. Some of these give flavor, and might suit some of the positions here.
But, I still stand by the statement that in numerous games, most of these characters are equally geared towards fighting as the specific soldier classes. They thrive, in many cases, in open confrontation. Some don't, but most do, especially when magic damage classes are considered.
I feel that it's worth denoting that these characters arise out of a need to emphasize other qualities other than maximal effectiveness in combat. An assassin, as noted, is intended to be an effective unit that can kill someone without having to fight them beforehand. A hunter is a person who is intended to search for, stalk, and strike prey without being noticed so that they might harvest it, or protect themselves by dealing with a dangerous entity before being noticed. Such entities might include most of the others in this list, or in lists prior.
So, by all means, consider playing an Assassin-Fighter, or a Fighter-Assassin, but remember that attempting to achieve the highest virtues of an assassin does not mean mastering - or even really being all too familiar really - with the activities of a fighter.
Don't Pull Aggro!
Fighting as Rogues, Thieves, and Assassins.
"Assassins aren't trained, they're born. If you're born able to hold a knife, you're good. Walk in with your sneak, and then burst with your high damage. Just keep using those. You only need to go back into sneak if all your other stuff is on cooldown."
I hope these discouraging remarks don't give anyone a poor opinion of anyone who wants to play a rogue character. I just find some endless joy in poking fun at how non-Rogue some of the popular rogue archetypes of today are. If the concerns of the Thief reboot are to be believed, perhaps I'm already preaching to the choir.
We discussed some of this in the previous section, but it may be worth restating if only for the premise that someone might've skipped it. A fighter is a character who is primarily disposed towards direct, physical confrontation. That being the case, I find very few characters are pure fighters, and even pure fighters will take advantage of an unsuspecting opponent - which could be considered a slightly less-than-pure direct form.
What I consider a rogue to be, in its pure idealistic state, is a character that is primarily disposed towards indirect confrontation, which may not even be physical in nature. One type of rogue, a thief, may be considerably more pure as a rogue than perhaps most fighters. Some thieves have no interest in holding someone at weapon point, or even engaging in a physical altercation at all. Some would much rather purloin something without being noticed, and abandon the scene before they're noticed. This is a form of confrontation perhaps, a conflict over material wealth, but where neither person has come to a physical - or perhaps even verbal - confrontation.
Decidedly little can be said different for assassins in the more traditional sense of the profession. The goal of that assassin is not to appear in an area, and fight someone with a lot of highly deadly attacks before disappearing. Instead, the goal of most assassins are to arrive within reach of a target undetected, dispatch them efficiently with minimal well-placed attacks that enables them little opportunity to struggle, and then hopefully abandon the scene before they are noticed.
But, there's wiggle room for thieves and assassins both. Just as with a fighter, there's no need to be a pure rogue in such a form. Though, I value the ability to perceive where your strengths are, and how best to portray them.
We could generate some random, plucky rogue character. We'll call him a scoundrel. Down on his luck, unsympathetic, and ready to take what he wants. He's a bit of a tough guy, but not terrifically so. So, he's happy with easy marks where he can just lift a coin-purse or steal someone's stuff without them noticing. He's also happy to deal with someone using a quick cut when the circumstances are worth it. But, if some other thieves, or a well-to-do merchant, are just a bit too lucky some days, he is interested in being able to potentially thrash them for the right to keep the loot. That, and being able to win some occasional barfights are beneficial as well. I'm still happy to call our Scoundrel a rogue, but not a pure rogue, and that's okay. He might not be as good at being a thief as our dedicated thief, but that's okay, he doesn't have to be.
It's all about the character that you want to play. Whether that's a sneaky rogue, a fighty rogue, a sneaky fighter, or a fighty fighter. There's tons of variability in these character ideas, and what you can accomplish. These guys are to hopefully lend some ideas in those regards.
Fool! You've Activated My Trap Card!
Fighting as Opportunists and Charlatans.
"Some of you may die, but that is a price I am willing to pay."
So, we just finished talking about rogues for the eleven-millionth time! How much more can I possibly have to say?
Well, despite how similar the names and titles might be, not much more. I view these as a special subset of our plucky interlopers!
There's a certain love for the rambunctious, mischievous, fool-hardy fellow with a glint-in-his-eye. Maybe he has a heart of gold, maybe not, but he has that certain swagger that announces to you that he thinks he's going to win before he even knows what the contest is. He's content to play the game, and play you, until he's won. It's a classic archetype, and I think ladies pull it off nicely too.
But, we already talked about rogues already as indirect combatants. Adding flare does nothing but some trivial Hollywood theatrics, yes?
Almost, but I want to differentiate these rogues from the others by a particular feature. Whereas the other rogues made use of a situation to take advantage of you, these are the rogues that manipulate the situation itself to take care of you with little to no interaction on their part.
These dastardly rogues, who I enjoy calling opportunists, but may be called anything that you could think to compliment them with. Charlatans, cheaters, schemers, tricksters, and a whole bunch more. Those familiar with A Song of Ice and Fire may consider Little Finger in this role to be particularly masterful. Though, numerous activities could be included in these rolls at lower levels. Feigning surrender, injury, or death to a hostile force either actively in a fight or as they pass through an area. Manipulating the opinion of those around you to perceive things the way you want them to, perhaps making people think you're a distinguished fighter or scholar in place of a low-down, dirty deceiver.
This type of rogue is not necessarily the one skulking around on his own, or stabbing people in the back. Though one probably could, it's not their specialty in their pure form. It would be getting something else to do that for them, keeping the conflict far, far away, like a dirty politician.
While perhaps less interesting to play in a typical roleplaying environment, this could likely have some uses in specific areas. Even more so, I feel this type of rogue is not only very easy to play, but very popular, in a less pure form. Having a rogue who can sneak about deftly, who is very knowledgeable in remaining undetected, who can also direct the unsuspecting mass to their interest is highly effective. These skills typically overlap. I wager that having a seasoned commander who can direct his men appropriately can draw from this, perhaps at times discarding their concerns with quick deflections and astute military observations. Not to mention one who can thoroughly outwit the enemy with a cunning ploy.
The iconic underdog swordsman or gunman of Hollywood seems to draw on these elements a lot. Substituting maximal skill in whatever fighting form they have, with an ability to improvise and catch their opponent off-guard through a well placed deception. Though, they tend to have this in a much lighter quality. The stone-cold manipulator is a somewhat rare protagonist.
Was it really worth differentiating between these rogues, and those prior? I think so. They are two different skill sets, which can result in different approaches in different situations, as well as different capabilities for those within those situations. So, I like highlighting these approaches as different from being really good at sneaking and backstabbing.
No, I Do Not Have a 'Summon Familiar' Spell.
Fighting as Rangers and Hunters.
"I can be a houndsperson, I can be an archer, I can be mounted rider, and I can even be a friggen spear guy. I can pretty much do anything!"
Indeed, our hunter friend is very efficient, and a valued member of every party.
Can we elucidate what a hunter is? Well, that can depend. HISTORICALLY a hunter was many things, as there were many types of hunters. As our quote illustrates. Having a group while hunting can be vastly different to hunting alone and these can also vary depending on the location in which your hunt takes place, and what you're hunting. Just imagine the medieval forest, groomed around civilization to great degree where there were enough people to handle. Quite different than a primeval forest, or a marsh, or a jungle. These activities, with different needs, at different times, with different groups, result in vastly different activities being performed.
These considerations imply significant difference between our various means of determining a successful hunter. Most imagine the typical bowman, sneakily creeping through the forest, before releasing a well placed - powerfully drawn - arrow into their quarry. And that too is accurate! Indeed, even perhaps the far-flung idea in RPGs of having a spell to 'summon familiar' may not be so different from hunters who tame wild beasts for patrons, or utilize beasts to assist in the hunt - such as hounds or pigs.
Were some more common than others? In different times, in different places, and for different reasons - yes. In the high or late medieval times, professional hunters were the norm, with typical laypeople not doing their own hunting unless they were poachers. Earlier, hunting was a viable profession for different persons for different reasons. In frontier regions, hunting was a valuable trade, which attracted the skilled and the hopeful alike. In our modern world, it is both a necessary need for society to maintain healthy animal populations, as well as a pastime for those in applicable areas. It's just as easy to portray a distinct type of hunter based off of the needs of their situation, so in many cases, a hunter is very easy to roleplay.
Now, with how common these different roles were, how much fighting would they get in, or how would they treat a fight? Well, that's a good question as well.
Typically, almost all hunters went with no armor, or absolutely minimal armor, for the purpose of being mobile and harder to detect. Though, with quite the array of weapons. Some were mounted even, though most appear to be on foot. What we know quite well is that the hunt was used as a way to train people for war, as the hunt can resemble warfare in several ways: circumstances that can be truly threatening, real chance to kill a live animal, of which people are animals. Not to mention pursuit, extended periods of peak activity, as well as allowing you the chance to deal with an opponent that will not cooperate with you at all.
So, in some ways, being a hunter is a really great way to prepare you for warfare, or combat in general.
But some methods are more direct in fighting than others. Using the spear, whether mounted or on foot, allows you the direct comparison of damaging your opponent with a melee weapon as some knights might do. Using the bow, whether mounted or not, could yield the same, though typically war bows are much stronger than bows used for hunting. Some swords were used for hunting, though they differ from those used in war by some margin. But, there could still be some universal tenants to the use of a similar weapon.
Though, some might argue, the need to be undetected for at least a period of time limits the effectiveness of these abilities in a fight, learning to keep aware and press your advantage when you receive it (and at that particular moment) can be valuable as well. That would be my suggestion as to what the sneakiest hunters would be best about, that particular ability to work towards a goal undetected, and exploit a preplanned scenario, not unlike the previously covered assassin type rogues. Though, these ones may differ in having a good bit of familiarity with life-or-death struggle situations.
This is one of the reasons I am always interested in hunter characters no matter how many I tend to find in roleplay. They have the potential to be diverse, differently effective, and entirely unique in and of themselves. I would also definitely say that these skills don't only manifest in indirect combatants, they can be equally valid and apparent in direct combatants as well, even if that means they aren't some mythical 100% pure fighter.
So, hunters are totally awesome. They are quite flexible. And how they're portrayed in media hasn't required me to list a dozen corrections this time! Huzzah!
Which One of You is the Real Dirty Dan?
Fighting as a Policemen, Bounty-Hunters, and Slavers.
"Bill! Bill, I've come for you. Bill Williamson! Come out here right now."
Never take mixed memes from strangers. There's no telling what you could get. This section should likely be brief. The hunter perhaps could've been, but quantifying my statements demanded a more verbose reply.
There typically isn't a lot of differentiation between people who fight with the intent to kill, and those who fight with the intent to capture. I argue that it's rather hard to portray, especially in most competitive or numerically intensive game avenues. Dungeons and Dragons has tried it, as have other tabletop games, giving complicated rules to make the capturing a little bit more technical than killing. Typically this involves obtuse actions, additional equipment outside of the combat to persistently restrain someone, or institutions like dungeons and prisons to keep those captured in check.
I think this partially misses the mark. I think that there's a range of character oriented traits and skills that involve methods of indirect combat to take someone into custody. I also think they can be implemented non-intrusively in theory. Obviously trying to contain another player character is always going to be a bit touch and go, but such is how it is.
Though, let's consider who we're talking about, and why I'm classing them as having some indirect combatant traits. Our guide cites numerous characters who could want to detain someone in place out killing them or significantly wounding them outright. Policemen are one, more commonly known in roleplaying environments as guards, who in many places should function differently than a professional soldier (the likes of which may be rare and expensive in that environment.) They may be a medieval bailiff of some sort, or otherwise related, or function in the respective role on behalf of someone else. Bringing in troublemakers for recompense may be much more desirable than killing them, especially in small, close-knit community.
On the opposite end, slavers are probably the opposite. People of certain fighting capacity who have decided that taking 'personnel resources' ends up being more profitable than trying to beat the snot out of their peers. Just like any commodity, it needs to be in pleasing condition, maintained, kept secure, transported, and typically lack any sort of serious maiming. Really, this gives us a... professional, who really has the task of presenting a certain amount of physical force, but can effectively utilize a certain amount to maximize their profit margins.
Other characters can run the gambit. Bounty-hunters are often a good example, both for how common they are in narrative, how relatable they can be, and for the role they occupy. They can at times be professional combatants, engaging in direct and indirect combat with adversaries. Obviously, like with anyone in a combat situation, staying alive is a serious (and probably the most pressing) concern. Sometimes these encounters can be lethal, other times non-lethal. The context plays an important part, and may influence the character's actions just as much as otherwise. I feel this is also much more apt in realistic situations, where many RPGs opt to idly disperse many violent encounters as almost always ending in the death of the enemy. Though with lethal weapons this will happen, and it is much more preferable than doing the dying yourself. That being said, I don't think you'd automatically pull the fatality on every single guy you fought, especially if you both were in a position to walk away. Sometimes though, it might be best, and in your interests, to restrain and contain them afterwards.
And that is primarily why I feature this as its own functional character type. As, these skills can be applied by almost anyone. Being able to keep people in check, control their movement, disable them without killing them, or manipulate them by either physical or threatening means. All of these skills do not necessarily imply that one have to be a hunter of men, or a slaver, or any such means. Just as anyone can seemingly take advantage of the natural benefits of stabbing someone in the back. Mount & Blade had a nice skill for Prisoner Management that I think covered some of these traits.
So, while perhaps not a particularly broad set of skills. Ones that can be applied neatly across groups and some that can be specialized into a unique role all its own.
Ancient Ruins, Sunken Treasure, Nathan Drake-ing.
Fighting as Explorers and Adventurers.
"I manage to swing across cliff faces, break through walls and floors, get into fights, and avoid succumbing to exposure with just my sword."
Don't you just love running through a vibrant open world, diving into the unknown, looking for adventure and discovery?
Well, not everyone does, but lots of people do. Being an explorer, or an adventurer of some kind, makes for a lot of fun roles in roleplaying scenarios. Adventurers are the brave, daring, and sometimes the most capable people out in the world, doing grand deeds. But, what makes an adventurer, and how does one operate as such?
Well, adventurers are... adventurous! They typically see a profit to be made, or a great deed to be done, but usually a mix of both, and set out to do so. They are not estranged from hard work, typically very self-sufficient, with the capability to handle themselves and all of their gear personally. These opportunities may take them to great kingdoms and the largest cities; other may take them to unsettled lands at the edges of the currently known maps. Rarely are they purely a soldier, spurned onto great deeds, but when the need is dire enough - perhaps it could be so!
Our history records some adventurers better than others, but New World explorers tend to get a lot of press for sailing out into the unknown. Though, some of them were less pleasant than others by far. These explorers were typically well trained, well read, and well armed. They could defend themselves, but were also cunning enough to make due in these lands that lacked civilization as they knew it. Though, they did not come so armored, it seems, to wear the most complete armors of the day. Even in the earlier periods, where armor might've been completely reasonable and in fashion, being armored to such a degree might not have been in their preference.
Norse merchant-venturers, and later raiders, would travel with their armor as well. That being said, this was typically a helmet and maille shirt. Perhaps a maille aventail. They would not have carried plate, or any apparel that they couldn't equip on their own. Maille also does rather little to restrict movement, even if it is a bit heavy. Maille could also potentially be shed in an emergency situation, such as if you fell into a river, whereas plate might take much longer to get off.
Though, some explorers famously used components of plate armor, particularly those prepared to dish out a thrashing, such as the conquistadors. As we've covered earlier, heavy armor doesn't make you a bumbling brute, but it does encumber you. People tend to prefer being as minimally encumbered as possible, so the necessity of the armor as to your function will likely be a big part. Though we've looked at a few historical examples, fantasy adventurers tend to abound even more when there are ripe worlds in your corebooks, and valuable goods to be sought after on your loot table.
I tend to put them on a spectrum, one end being that a raw explorer. Similar to the hunter and a number of others, their primary pursuit is that of surviving in a specific function, and that function is surviving in a primarily hostile environment lacking in civilization. There are many skills thusly associated with this position, most of them related in something generally thought of as survival: acquiring food, finding a water source, maintaining shelter, navigating all manner of terrain, interacting with wildlife, becoming familiar with the region, and many more things. Most of the combat for this person would be in the interacting with wildlife category. While armor could be helpful, it may in fact hinder all of those other things if only slightly for want of being less encumbered. Using a spear to defend yourself, or present a means of hunting wildlife, is rather effective. Other weapons could potentially help in specific situations, but the spear alone presents the primary means many would suggest taking for their 'interacting with wildlife' needs.
The towards the middle of the spectrum in my book is typically that of the treasure hunter. The spiritual archetype of Nathan Drake, amongst many others. We have no issues imagining mercenaries, hunting people and beatings for a flick of coin. Why not those brave and intrepid, daring off the corners of the Earth to make profits? Many pioneering merchants might fall into this bracket, as someone has to blaze the trail first, and prove that it can be done. And, as a result, they tend to reap the immense profits of such. These people have similar skills more often than not. Most of the ones above can fit easily into their repertoire, but they won't be the only skills. These adventurers are creatures with a greater investment of the world of men. Some may be more glib, others more learned and discerning, and others more capable at 'interacting with wildlife' when that wildlife attempts to cheat them out of their gains for a bigger share. Typically for a broader set of skills, they are less impressive in complete capacity, but more rounded. These characters may also, being more invested in the actions of other men, be more invested in defending themselves against the actions of other men.
At the furthest end of the spectrum are what I would identify quite loosely as that of a raider. Going a bit further than Nathan, or our raw survivalist, these are people who are going into the unknown looking to claim and take. They will acquire resources by any means, and they are entirely prepared to directly seize them from anything that currently might hold them. Typically well enough off to afford means by which to defend themselves, if not assemble men to direct around them, as well as perhaps expertise in how to handle valuables, wealth, and equipment. Some are not, though, starting from the bottom and moving up. Some might be worldlier than others, the value of being able to survive in the area being juxtaposed against the ability to make the area tame by force. Glibness may suffice in some situations, but enough force may accomplish this as well - to some degree. The Norse raider might easily have been in this category, or in the one prior, depending on their specific focus. It might primarily be determined based on how quickly the group automatically decides to use their axes, over other means, to acquire wealth. You could also have foreign soldiers attempting to mitigate their needs through 'thrifty' officers, such as these.
As for the combat experience of an adventurer, it can vary almost all across the board. Adventuring is an unknown, it’s dangerous, and it calls to fantasy as much as it does desperation. Why risk everything on a seemingly foolish expedition if you have a trade that makes you enough to get by? Why abandon your family, or uproot your family, potentially risking more than just your life? Why live a hard life of action, where perhaps a sedentary life might be more comfortably paced? Realistically, it takes a certain spot of character to be an adventurer, and I think most people who roleplay them get this. Some may be more innately focused on some specific non-combat activities, such as climbing cliff faces, tracking animals, investigating plants for poison, or identifying valuable materials. Others may have been so far as professional soldiers before their time as adventurers, well trained and drilled, expert combatants with some other skills to guide them along the journey. A group of adventurers can thusly be quite varied solely amongst themselves, with each team member covering skills that the other doesn't.
So, with that, continue to roleplay adventurers! They're straightforward, a lot of fun, and very flexible characters!
Such Talking is Not Worth a Butterfly!
Fighting as Travelers, Pilgrims, and Guides.
"I have renounced all violence in the name of Holy-Good-Alignment-Deity. So I- oh. Look! Bandits! Die! Die you KNAVES!!"
Sounds like every MMO priest ever, right?
But, why am I including this? Well, this is a tagalong to the adventurer section, and one that is blatantly historical. People did travel in medieval times, as with almost all of human existence. Movement is important. Not everyone who travels is a soldier, or a guard, or some alternate type of fighter that can handle themselves already. Some are, in ways harking back to the very first guide we wrote on this stuff, just normal people who might need to defend themselves.
This isn't a very important section, but it’s worth bringing up for the purpose of approximate completeness. A number of RPG characters can start as a basic traveler, not yet an adventurer, or some might be familiar with moving from place to place as an outcast vagabond. Pilgrims, I've included specifically, as they appear quite frequently in some historical documents, and tend to be of a stripe unique to their own. Though, they are not so dissimilar from other travelers as a whole.
The name of the game, as we've said before, is being appropriately outfitted for the job. People don't like tagging along largely unnecessary things, or being unable to perform their primary function. If in an age before the automobile, you are without a wagon of your own, you'll need to carry all of your things. So, a certain amount of kit might be desirable, but too much will quickly be noticeable, especially as you work to cover a certain distance during the day. The more stuff you wear, typically, the slower you are, and the more frequently you will need to rest. Fairly obvious stuff, but always worth remembering when we look at our characters as real people.
Though, those familiar with the labors of the road. Erecting camp, carrying their gear, being active, all will be far more effective at carrying more things than not. Similarly so, these persons seem to have had a certain exposure to defending themselves on the road. Historically, the prior mentioned pilgrims appear prominently in the Canterbury Tales, wielding sword and buckler. In the Tower Fechtbook, considered the earliest extent medieval fencing treatise, the characters are partly referred to as priests. This has always struck me a bit in the nostalgia, as I think of Link in the Legend of Zelda. A character who must initial travel away from his home with a sword and rudimentary shield, perhaps viewed in some cases as a pilgrim on a sacred journey. Deep man.
But, we have more examples than sword and buckler. We have examples throughout history of quarter-staves of many names being famed and preferred for a man travelling. A large stick, it allows you a large benefit in range, without having to deal with the issues of such while typically being on the road. So long as you are careful, at least. Though lacking the mortal efficacy of an edged and pointed weapon, it is cheap, socially acceptable, relatively easy to wield while outside, and quite sizable compared to other self-defense weapons. It's a trade-off, but reasonable one. Though the addition of a spearhead on the end might not be such a far stretch, it can perhaps detract from the non-lethality of the thing, the ease of access, and may not be necessarily present yourself the way you'd like to be seen. That point may suggest to some that you are prepared to kill someone, whereas without it, you are perhaps less likely to aggress upon someone's life.
Obviously though, pretty much any form of knife or dagger might be seen, liably to be paired with a sword if need should arise. Though not terribly common due to better martial components, it's possible that a skilled fencer may elect to carry two swords for a similar purpose. Though some might argue for the buckler, the dagger, or another parry object for greater historical authenticity. Ranged weapons might be viable for those travelling on the road, but caring for it and the ammunition may take up a good bit of your storage capacity. Though, you could potential scoop up food, if you don't mind potentially bordering on poaching.
But, it's a bag you can pick and choose from. Armor typically seems to be the cloth armor, or some of the lightest armor that could easily be worn around. Padded doublets, arming jackets, and things of that nature. Maille could be done in small amounts perhaps, like a haubergeon or jack over the torso to protect the vitals. I don't think I'd recommend it for the arms or legs, for a more civilian context as such. The only plate I would suggest might be a minimal headpiece, such as a skullcap or period-appropriate kettle-helmet.
And now you're ready to travel around! I apologize if most of this seemed unnecessary. But I like to suggest this role when players have the space and reason to give this a shot. It's a nice place to start, and it can definitely inspire room to grow!
I have ze Ubercharge!
Fighting as a Corpsman, Medic, or Healer.
"I am the combat medic. My job is to treat peoples' injuries, in combat. This means I may have to inflict injuries on other people."
Team Fortress 2, Hat Simulator, am I right?
Though this will likely be an inordinately brief section, this is one I did choose to add after giving some consideration. Medical professionals seem to have existed in combat situations going back quite a long time. Likely dating back to those earliest assistants of a noble, who would ferry him to safety in the event of injury. Having someone nearby who was perhaps a professional on the ground could be invaluable, particularly one that could be brought on a campaign offensive. Though, with medicine being an imprecise art for a long time, and treatments varying, the level of care conceivable at most points in time render this rather hard to present.
Though, we do know that some different forms of first aid seem to have existed in period. Cutting into the body seems to exist in cultural taboos through much of history likely out of a fear of infection. Still, there is evidence that this was done on occasion at least into the medieval period, if not the Roman. Most of the time, the medical professionals were kept away from the field, at least for proper treatment. But aids and hands to assist noble fighters have existed since conflicts between men first began. In fantasy worlds where certain healing arts or medicinal practices might be available, these motivations all draw me to highlight how these professionals might function on the field.
First, to note from today's military, the corpsman is a highly respected position. You defend your corpsman, you do what he needs you to do, and you share a soda with him back at camp. He helps keep you all alive, or in the best shape he can, on campaign. A seemingly invaluable part of a unit, often the medic has this unifying effect, making them all the better as a support unit. Often they have a certain amount of familiarity with people, and handling stressful situations. Gotta' figure, putting people back together might have working with people as a prerequisite in successful cases.
A number of times, particularly in the modern, see these healers armed. We see this in our fantasy games too, where we have some of our more damage oriented healers. One might be able to hone combat skills in addition to their medical prowess, given sufficient instruction. Though, it would be important to denote a separation between their duty as a support role, and the need for a committed offensive. Again, if that corpsman goes down, the unit may be in a worse position than if it were infantryman Jenkins.
There's an additional point to consider as well. It might be a bit of a conflict to see your medical professional have little issue resorting to violence, inflicting death on other people, when they are supposed to be aiding the wounded on your side. If not for those around the medical professional, which can be something noted historically, than the stress from the moral dilemma that such a situation might result in. Similar issues might come in when dealing with an ally of yours whom is too far gone to be saved, or whose injuries pose a direct threat to the mission.
In the end, I feel the majority of these units, regardless of their place or final function in history/fantasy, revolve around these factors. They are typically people who know how to deal with people, who are a supporting structure for their group, who have to come to terms with the whole of what their position implies.
As for what arms might be suggested for a medical professional in a military situation, it seems to run the gambit a little. In earlier periods, it would likely be down to the sidearm for those who are most medically inclined, while those who might just have some first-aid responsibility (if only in their own mind) could potentially be found amongst any of the soldiery. Modern militaries see medics armed fully on their own, but with the size of melee weapons in earlier periods, as well as early firearms, I am uncertain that this would be the case. Firearms streamline their need for weaponry, seeing as how they shouldn't be the ones pounding hardest on the front, though a weapon to defend themselves may be quite valuable. This is all for the fact of the medical professional, or the fantasy first-responder requiring some access to kit in some cases. Being encumbered with particularly sizable weapons might put a hamper on that.
So, a small section, but an interesting one. Healers tend to automatically get wrung into the casters. Though, I find them to be a handy addition to any given group for their want of keeping alive out there. Invite the non-magey ones to join your party too!
I Can't Have Rum While on Duty!
Fighting as Sailors, Pirates, and Marines
"Arr, ye' want the Cap'n to string me 'pon the bow fer' bein' right sloshed on the early call? Get outta' me sight!"
No, enough of that. But, I wanted to save one of the least used, most wrongfully interpreted, and perhaps one of the more memorable non-direct combatants. Those of our friends who sail the seas, for adventure through profit and plunder. Well, that and a lot of other things.
I suppose we should move to begin with a blank canvas. Sailing has existed for a very long time. Piracy did not start with the Golden Age of Piracy in the Renaissance, even though perhaps some of the imagery started there. You've gotta' figure, piracy requires boats and people. We've had those for a very, very long time. How does piracy get started? Well, I gotta' figure, one group of people with a boat is making money by traveling, and trading, for valuable things. Another group of people, also with a boat, is not making as much money, but figures they have better fighting order on their ship. So, they're just going to stop the boat making a lot of money from getting where it's going, either to its destination, or back from it. Whichever is most efficient and most secure.
Now, this implies that there are some fighting folk aboard these vessels. Indeed! Though, most often, sailors are primarily concerned with the art of sailing. Even those dastardly pirates, who believe they themselves to be the better combatants, must be worthy to sail the seas. It wasn't like a Prius fitted up with a GPS; you have to have a crew that can operate a ship as large as they have. This means being able to handle rigging, keep order on the deck, remain attentive, direct the sails, row oars, perform idle chores, and several other things. Hard and tricky work. All while out at sea.
So, suffice to say, that's why most sailors we see are probably rather lightly clad. They have to have clothes that'll work as hard as they will, without making it harder on them. It's a twenty-four-seven job out at sea, until they dock down. Spread it out over enough hands, and it’s not so bad on a given day. Though, I have to imagine, most sailors probably earned their stripes. Particularly those who had to contend with pirates.
What kind of combat familiarity could we expect from a given sailor? Honestly, just about anything. Pacifists to military men, to ex-military men to landed lords. The seas were ways of transit for many, and they also had prizes that attracted all sorts. Of the equipment known to be used by mariners of all kinds, there is one notable point. Armor is minimal. Padded clothing seems to be mostly the extent after the classical period. Why might this have been? For the obvious fear of drowning is my best postulation. Metal armor is a weight, and while you may not instantly be drowned (though a helmet may help with that), it will make any dip into the water very perilous. When out on already perilous seas, it could be an outright death sentence. Some metal armor could be afforded. In the classical period, it seems more were willing to risk it in the laminated Greek armors, with bronze helmets. I'm unaware of this Greek armor would float or sink, but it also seems like it might not be terribly difficult to remove either. Simple open face helmets could be doffed more easily than a closed counterpart. Some men of later period were known to put wet rags underneath of their hats as to pad themselves against cuts and percussive strikes.
So that's a healthy portion of the people and the armor, but what about weapons? Well, it seems as if almost every weapon was viable onboard a vessel in the right context. Many boats involve close quarters, and having small weapons to use in such confined spaces are valuable. We see this in the swords of the period, short sabers known as hangers, later cutlasses, some smaller rapiers, and swords of quite fair length as well. Pistols were quite handy for this as well, some naval combatants choosing to wield several on their belt for rapid succession. Some specify boarding axes, though their use is a bit murky, but well mentioned all the same. So, are long weapons completely out of the picture? No, in fact, some absolutely battle-changing uses of long weapons appear in our historical documents. For one, weapons could be worn on the person, or stored somewhere on ship. A weapon worn personally might pretty much have to be of the short variety, but of the weapons stored away for an emergency... they could be quite large, and be placed to strategically make use of the space on a ship.
One example of this is when a band of ronin, or similar eastern warrior from Japan attempted to raid a western vessel looking to pass into trade zones. The eastern warriors were fearsome up close, but the men rallied to their stow of boarding pikes near the entrance to the lower decks. They reformed, and cornered the invaders, killing them to the last man when they had the advantage of range with their polearms. Making effective use of their space with larger weapons could be done, and it might be that there is room for other such examples of bold fighting.
But, you may ask, would it not be more sensible just to take some dedicated fighters with you on journey, and let the sailors just focus on sailing? Maybe, but that'd be an ineffective use of hands, and perhaps invite more cargo aboard the ship than necessary. Some of the more space effective means of keeping people and their things on a sailing vessel weren't adapted until rather late period. It seems that hammock arrangements on a boat don't seem to emerge until after contact with the Aztec civilization, though they were used in the Old World long beforehand. Additionally, wood and other typical weapons tend to deteriorate faster due to the moisture at sea. Typically equipment you would want for sailing would be constructed somewhat differently for peak effectiveness.
So, when in doubt, if you need sailing done, whether for good reasons, or for outright piracy, there's a lot of badass options open to you.
I think we've done it. We've covered a ton of material, discussing all sorts of great combat oriented situations you can find yourself in. This ongoing project of trying to discuss and suggest numerous interesting situations to build characters around has been a ton of fun.
This might be the final installment of this series. There may be another if enough suggestions are made for other unique positions, or a new area of interest is suggested. The only other one I can think of presently right now is mages, but I don't have the desire or confidence in my own knowledge to compile such a thing right now. I also think that going about magic, in my perspective, would require a few other posts on said topics.
So, I hope this has been able to help someone, or have been an interesting read for what it's worth. I really hope that you all enjoy your time out there roleplaying, whatever you decide to be!
For those brave souls who fought before us.
Farewell, Peers and Masters!