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Rapier and Cloak

Looking through medieval swordfighting treatises, I found something inspiring. There are manuals from the renaissance on using a cloak in your offhand as a defensive weapon. I guess the dueling sword seems like it’s supposed to resemble a rapier, but what if you want to use your cape or cloak as a weapon? Here’s how I would design it:

Reach 1, 1H, 3[CD], Blinding, Fragile, Improvised, Nonlethal
Cost 1, Availability 1

Just for fun, here’s how I would design a rapier. The weapon’s main advantage is its length, which makes it nimble, even though, contrary to common conception, it’s no lighter than a longsword. Its thin construction, however, should make it more difficult to parry heftier weapons. It is not a battlefield weapon, and has little use against an armored opponent. It might have been used for self-defense or for honorable duels. This is a late medieval/renaissance weapon, so probably extremely rare at best in Hyborea.

Reach 3, 1H, 3[CD], Unforgiving
Cost 3, Availability 3
Special: A Swift Action taken to attack with the rapier does not increase the difficulty of the Melee test. If a Complication is rolled on a successful attack with this weapon, the blade has transfixed the target (or their armor, or shield, terrain, etc.) The weapon cannot be used to attack or to parry until the wielder extracts it with a Clear action (D0 Melee or Parry test). The GM is of course free to resolve the Complication in any other way they choose.

A cloak would have Reach 2 as it will be flung against the enemy, not only used wrapped around the arm as an impromptu armor - both uses are common in rapier and cloak fencing.
I’m not sure that Blinding fits the cloak at all. Only if you used your cloak as a thrown weapon which you will lose control of if thrown. In rapier fencing the cloak is used to ward off some thrusts and short cuts, it can be used to distract the opponent, and this would mean imposing a disadvantage on the opponent.
In that way, the cloak would be the narrative justification for a Momentum spend to increase the difficulty of an opponent’s parry. (And there could be a Talent that reduces the Momentum costs or imposes some additional effects on such an action.)
Alternatively, you could use the cloak as a narrative justification to make an Exploit Action using Melee instead of Observation.

As a spear fencer with some experience in rapier (and dagger) fencing myself, I cannot see a rapier having Reach 3. This is for VERY long weapons like polearms. A rapier is - depending on the actual type - quite long, but long for a one-handed bladed weapon, not as long as a spear.
Reach 2 is a much better fit. But as a rapier is a weapon for precise strikes, Piercing 1 wouldn’t be out of the question. And Unforgiving needs a rank, so maybe Unforgiving 1 to become more deadly after an Exploit Action (perhaps using a cloak) was performed.

For complications: any and all weapons used in a stabbing or thrusting mode could become stuck in a target. That is not a special case for a rapier - and considering the importance of stabbing with short swords, long swords, daggers, spears, pikes, etc., it is a very common complication (and even axes can become stuck in the torso of an opponent).

I think I saw Reach 1 as appropriate for the cloak, because I don’t see it being such a disadvantage to your attacker at the full length. The physical length of the object isn’t what should determine the Reach, in my opinion. It isn’t as if you’d be keeping a Guard up at the hem’s length, and you won’t be using it like a whip, striking with the hem, will you? I imagine with a long cloak, you’d either grip it at the center of the fabric, or doubled up in your hand. It might be physically as long as a Reach 2 weapon, but at what length is it a “threat,” (if such a thing can be said)? (If you had Adaptable Combatant talent, of course that’s a different story).

Blinding Quality… I should have read the Quality more carefully. I was imagining a momentary distraction, not considering the Blinding Quality states it lasts an entire scene unless cleared. That obviously doesn’t fit with what I had in mind at all.

I’m sure I haven’t seen any treatises recommending you throw your cloak over your opponent’s face, and that he’d go on fighting with it there! How comical!

But I like and agree with your thoughts on using it to hamper or impair the enemy through Momentum. In this vein, I still think it should be Reach 1, since this will increase the difficulty of attacking against heavier weapons, and I think this weapon should take a lot of skill to use.

Reconsidering, I’d go with something like this:

Reach 1, 3 [CD], Fragile, Improvised, Nonlethal, Parrying
Special: Momentum generated by the use of this weapon can be spent immediately to make an Exploit Action, using Melee or Parry in place of Observation.

Maybe it’s not quite nailed down yet, but the above is a weapon I’d actually like to use in game!

As for the rapier. I’m not versed in rapier fencing, I prefer arming sword. The Reach 3 is justified by looking at the historical context, as the main reason the rapier replaced the arming sword (which certainly has Reach 2) as the gentleman’s self-defense tool, aside from the cultural prestige, is its ability to threaten the opponent at a distance. Imagine, you take the same amount of steel used to forge a longsword blade, and make it much, much narrower. Why would you do that? Why, to make it longer, of course, so you can poke the longswordman before he can reach you!

As a rapier swordsman, what would you do against a weapon like a broadsword or axe? I imagine you’d take a long stance, attack with passes, keep the point at maximum range, knowing that if your opponent gets you within his reach (breaking guard), you’ll be at a huge disadvantage. Essentially, the idea is to give the wielder partial benefit of Adaptable Combatant, because this is how the weapon would typically be used. With Reach 2, there is no mechanical justification for including the rapier in the game, is its principle advantage over any other sword is lost from the representation.

I’m aware any weapon can get stuck in your opponent. I know REH was aware of this too, because it happens to Conan’s axe in Beyond the Black River. But with a long blade like rapier, this is a greater risk than usual. D. A. Kinsley’s book Swordsmen of the British Empire has true eye-witness accounts of rapier combatants facing multiple opponents, running through their first opponent, only to be injured by a second opponent (or in some cases the impaled victim) before the blade could be extracted. This is because the rapier’s long blade makes it take more time to free the weapon from an opponent. True, this happens with sabers and arming swords, according to accounts, but not quite as often (though there are 18th century manuals warning against “giving the point” with a cavalry sabre for the same reason). The length of the rapier’s blade and its role as a thrust-centric weapon create a greater risk of this happening. I’d argue this should also be a principle drawback to spears and lances in game, for the same reasons. But I didn’t write the Corebook, so that reality of combat is left to GM’s and players’ imaginations, maybe as it ought to be.

… But you’ll notice the wording in the description above does not suggest that other Complications can’t happen as well, or that the same Complication can’t happen with other weapons. The idea is to encourage the GM to go there, rather than the cringy Hollywood tropes like disarming a rapier (which should be very difficult, given the center of mass being at the hilt), or the even more offensive trope of the longsword chopping it in half like a piece of dry wood.

(Edited for grammar)

As for Piercing, I considered it, but didn’t decide to include it because A) There are enough Piercing weapons in the game already and B) I don’t like the representation of rapier being used against armored opponents. Historically, it was not a battlefield weapon, and would have typically been used in unarmored fights.

If you’re describing using it for precise strikes slipping through weak points in armor, you’re describing Unforgiving after an Exploit action. Piercing implies that it’s punching through plate and shields, which is not accurate.

My oversight. Though in most cases, the rules state that if a numerical rank is omitted from a ranked Quality, the default value is 1.

Even a Hatchet has Reach 2. Compare that to other Reach 1 weapons, they all are very short length weapons, weapons that protrude only a few inches from the bare fist, and unarmed fighting.
A cloak would be at Reach 1 if it was used like a buckler, that would mean, it is only wrapped around the arm to bolster it as an impromptu armor piece. If you would hold it loosely to fling it - as in rapier and cloak fencing, it would have a longer Reach. You actually actively fling and swing the cloak at your enemy, use it to cover the enemy’s blade, etc. This occurs a more than arm’s length, about at the length of half the cloak’s overall length.
Compare that to the stats for the net in Conan 2d20. A combat net as in ancient Roman gladiatorial combat is held and used very much like a cloak in rapier fencing, with the difference that the net is weighed to throw it. And the net has Reach 2 in the flexible weapons table.

That would mean to initiate a Swift Action for 2 Momentum, which you can always do, but at +1 Difficulty, so it would not be advisable to do this for the Exploit Action.
Using Melee or Parry in place of Observation for any normally started Standard Action (either the free one, or the Swift Action Momentum spend, or the one for spending a Fortune point) is usually not necessary to mention as a weapon quality or note, because it is always the GM’s decision to allow different skills that better fit the actual action in place of Observation for an Exploit Action.
There are many other narrative justifications to use Melee (a feint) or Parry (a bind to the opponent’s weapon) for an Exploit Action.

That you can do, but the Conan 2d20 game stats for weapons don’t do that - it seems, at all!
If you would give a rapier Reach 3, then what Reach should a polearm like a spear have, as they are of a clear reach advantage versus a rapier?
Conan 2d20 only has very few, VERY broad Reach categories.
Reach 1 is usually fist plus a few inches - dagger, buckler, sap, etc.
Reach 3 is usually for longer weapons like polearms or long reach weapons like whips.
Reach 4 is for weapons of very exaggerated length as the pike.
Everything else falls under the Reach 2 category.
As sad as it is, but having a short hatchet, a target shield and a farming flail at Reach 2, that shows that those real world distinctions are not modeled in Conan 2d20.

And which the Piercing quality in Conan 2d20 does not imply.
Piercing as weapon quality you get for punching through armor, on a handful of weapons, but the piercing quality and the Piercing Momentum spend and the Piercing quality added after a successful Exploit action are used for being able to use weaknesses in armored opponents, not to suddenly being able to make an “armor piercing” attack.
Piercing allows the attack to IGNORE a certain amount of armor soak. Ignore could be actually piercing through, but it could be circumventing the well-protected armor parts and going for the joints, exposed locations, etc.

Maybe we must agree to disagree there. My contention is that, as Reach helps a defender’s Guard, and this is principally a defensive weapon, Reach 2 does not make sense.

That might be a good point. Maybe the special Quality should also state that the Swift Action doesn’t increase the difficulty of the test, though I’d argue that a character with poor ranks in Observation but great skill in Parry or Melee could benefit from the trade-off. I’m envisioning this as a difficult weapon that takes a lot of Momentum to use properly, but has a worthwhile payoff in the hands of a skilled character.

I couldn’t disagree more. They’ve done an admirable job of considering the historical context for weapons in these rules. Corebook emphasizes the difference between battlefield weapons, cavalry or infantry weapons, or those used as sidearms or for daily self-defense. It does a better job than any medieval game I’ve seen giving shields a proper treatment, especially my favorite, the buckler (which, FYI, is a boss-grip shield, not strapped to the arm). Conan the Mercenary has specialized weapons like swordbreakers and mancatchers, presented in appropriate combat, Conan the Pirate goes into tactics for ship-board combat, presenting specialized weapons, and special penalties for weapons that would be at a disadvantage. I simply can’t see how you would say these rules don’t consider historical context “at all.” Even the Quality system itself is evidence of an attempt to represent the weapons in the historical context by giving them specialized uses and drawbacks, rather than the Gygaxian system of randomly applying different size dice and crit damage to them, and making shields passive pieces of armor hanging from your arm.

I understand completely what classes of weapons are given different Reach values and why. My argument remains the same: A rapier that has the same reach as a short sword is not worth including in the game. Its superior reach over other one-handed weapons is the only reason to have it instead of another one-handed weapon. Otherwise, it’s just a different weapon reskinned.

Consider the spear, which has reach 3. It’s Unbalanced, meaning it can be gripped in one or two hands. As a spear fencer, you must be able to appreciate this: If you grip a spear in one hand, where on the shaft do you grip it? If you have a spear and shield, and your opponent has a spear in 2 hands, who has the longer reach? Yet a spear in one hand still has Reach 3?

So clearly there are some blurred lines here. A rapier is a longer weapon, wielded in a way that maximizes its reach advantage. You shouldn’t need Adaptable Combatant to use it they it’s shown in the treatises.

By that logic, a dagger should have piercing. If you give a weapon Piercing, it becomes a battlefield weapon for killing armored opponents. That is not what the rapier is. A rapier swordsman is at a huge disadvantage against a knight, but a skilled and well-trained duelist could carefully identify the armor’s weak point and exploit it. That is not a weapon with Piercing, that is a skilled fighter using Exploit to overcome a disadvantage inherent in his weapon.