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Martial Arts - HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts) for use with Robotech: Broadsword


Kaerri's Man. =)
Roleplay Availability
Roleplay Type(s)
HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts) - Western Fencing v1.31 (Tier 2 - Total Skill Cost = 4)


I mean this in the best and happiest way possible - I don't mind anyone using my Hand to Hand: HEMA, but would you provide credit? I'm kind of proud I wrote that up and that's mine.

Please ask me.

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“Some rely upon the spirit alone, which is a very dangerous concept, saying that courage and strength is all that is needed and that in duels and altercations there is no place for the observance of tempo and measure, which are merely subtleties and worthless outside of the salle. In order to prove this charming viewpoint they quickly cite the example of some master of arms who was killed by a simpleton. These people, who have such strange ideas inside their heads, deserve to be pitied more than they merit a response.

Courage and strength are natural gifts but it is easy to be equal to them. Whoever has a sense of honour will never be timid with shame and it is not necessary to have the arm of Rodomonte to reach your enemy’s vital organs.

If two people have to fight and one of them is weaker, according to these people he would not have any chance, a completely false idea. If a rough, strong man with no imaginable notion of how to conduct himself in attack were to arrive and fight with a sword and dagger against someone weaker but experienced in fencing, you would see who would be left dead in the field.

Understanding tempo and measure and knowing how to apply them is no mere subtlety. They are precise, dependable principles; nor do they have to be promoted with fine discourses and mellifluous words, they can be demonstrated with actions.

The example of a fencer killed by a simpleton is ridiculous. Since it happens only rarely, as if by a miracle, it is always recounted, whereas no-one speaks of those killed by fencers because it is an ordinary, unsurprising occurrence.”
-Francesco Ferdinando Alfieri (translation by Piermarco Terminiello) in the year 1640.
(Quote credit: Jared Kirby's page of Historical European Martial quotes: Strength or Skill?)

Modern Day
"These are my two big things. If you listen and work, I very quickly take notice." Eric Lowe, HEMA Instructor.

"Remember - if you don't put in the training, you won't get the result." - HEMA Instructor and Champion Nicole Smith

There are many different styles of Western fencing with many different types of weapons. As there are many different types of weapons, so are there many different types of HEMA (which is not to be confused with the Olympic sport of Fencing). For this Palladium game, I am mostly going with Canada's Blood & Iron Martial Arts School with their friendly, studious, and wide-ranging approach to European weapon-based martial arts with touches from other schools and other historical ways of thinking. For example, Spanish Destreza (using circular movements, like Destreza Verdadera or Destreza Falsa) and Italian fencing (which is more inclined to use lunge-based linear movements). Here they are together! And in case you're wondering, yes - women take up the challenge of HEMA too!

My goal is to provide Players with a strong European alternative to weapon-based fighting. Most of the Cyber-Knights I've seen in Rifts are students of the late Erick Wujcik's excellent Ninjas & Superspies' Zanji Shinjinken Ryu Japanese samurai martial art, regardless of the cultural background of the Characters. Why Zanji? Because it is one of, if not the, deadliest weapon-based martial arts in the Palladium gaming system.

To use Hand to Hand: HEMA in-game, a 1st level player-character and beginning HEMA practitioner gets to choose 1 of the 12 "Ways." Each of the Ways are Weapon Katas which add HEMA's Level Advancement bonus to Strike, Parry, Dodge, and Roll bonuses to each of the Weapon Proficiencies learned (example: HEMA bonuses stack with Strike and Parry bonuses from W.P. Sword). Each Way also comes with its own Special Technique unknown to outsiders. Masters know many such techniques.

As HEMA practitioners rise in level, they gain one additional Way with every level of experience. Eventually, they learn to combine the Ways together, and once all are mastered at 12th level, they can go about creating their very own Ways (Game Master's discretion applies)! Combine the bonuses for Hand to Hand: HEMA with multiple Weapon Katas and some experience levels together and soon, the true complexity, elegance, and power of the HEMA warrior can realized for what it is - a tremendously skilled human being who can fight like a force of nature with all manner of weapons!

So why go with HEMA? HEMA is based on sport and tournament fighting with serious dives into Real Life self-defense with both lethal and non-harmful techniques all based on martial techniques found in manuscripts of long-dead masters. HEMA covers a very broad array of fighting styles from rapier and cape, to sword and buckler, to cane-fighting (taken in part from Bartitsu) to staves, to two-handed swords (which, I've learned, is in some ways is easier to wield than some one-handed swords) and more! Also, I think HEMA and roleplaying games like Palladium work really well with each other. For example. With experience, can a cane-wielder attempt techniques used by axe-practitioners? I say, why not? Could a knife-wielder benefit from a cloak in their off-hand the way rapier artists do? Why not? This is a game! The idea is to have fun!

The system I've made here is that of a well-rounded HEMA practitioner with a few specialties and techniques (Weapon Katas) taken from different periods from European history. You might find a few surprises in here. For example, I had no idea some HEMA allow throws (some of which disarm the Attacker, some do not)! Did you?

Also, HEMA practitioners use a great deal of protective equipment both on their person (armor, gloves, helmets, etc.) and for or on their weapons (rubber caps on the points of weapons, rubber and wooden practice weapons). While they sometimes use real steel during sparring matches, much effort is made for everyone's safety. And there's nothing like the sound of steely exchanges! =)

Costume: Often little more is worn than street/workout clothing combined with a fencing mask with a mesh protector, protective gloves, and weapon of choice. Sometimes, full body armor is worn from the feet to the head.
Stance: There are many stances and many different variations on the names of techniques, each system is derived from all manner of masters both from the present and from centuries past. Fencing masters came from all over Europe (especially England, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, and Spain). Here is one person's Top-Nine list. =)
Philosophy/Religion: While some clubs uphold strong codes of conduct, most schools evidently require a healthy amount of honor and respect for oneself, one's school, one's fellow human beings, and the weapons and tools they work with.

Character Bonuses
Add 1 to M.E.
Add 2 to P.E.
Add 1 to P.P.
Add 1 to P.S.
Add 10 to S.D.C.

Important reminder: HEMA offers NO Martial Art Powers or Zenjoriki abilities. Its many masteries are based on canny and inventive weapon use with a few unarmed attacks and some grappling. Completely disarming a HEMA practitioner often leaves them at a great disadvantage, a fact they are well-aware of and well-defended against.

Combat Techniques
Attacks per Melee: 4
Escape Moves: Roll with Impact, Maintain Balance.
Basic Defenses: Parry, Dodge, Automatic Parry.
Advanced Defenses: Automatic Roll, Disarm, Circular Parry, Disengage (Special! A Dodge where the HEMA practitioner rapidly retreats, giving ground, if available. A successful Disengage forces a reroll for Initiative), Multiple Dodge.
Hand Attacks: Punch (d6), Slap (usually to the face, glove optional - d4). Special! Handle/Pommel Strike - Strikes with the guard or handle of your weapon cause d6+1 damage.
Foot Attacks: Kick (d8).
Jumping Attacks: None.
Grabs/Sweeps: Body Flip/Throw (1d6).
Special Techniques: Feint (Special! The HEMA practitioner rolls their Strike versus their opponent's Perception - if successful, the HEMA practitioner receives a +2 bonus to Damage on that Strike; if unsuccessful, their opponent adds a +1 bonus to a defensive Action of their choice which lasts until the attack is resolved).
Weapon Proficiencies: W.P. Blunt (includes practice weaponry), W.P. Sword (see Weapon Katas).

Choose 1 every level from the 12 Ways below. Note: A HEMA fencer uses one Weapon Kata at a time. Use the bonuses only for the Weapon Kata in use.
Way of the Bow/Crossbow - Add W.P. Archery. +1 to Initiative, +1 to Strike, +1 to Dodge. Special! Hobble - Successful Called Shots to an opponent's legs reduce the Speed of the target by 1/2 for 1d4+2 Actions. Successful Strike followed by a Save vs. Pain at 14+ to avoid reduction in Speed. Further Hobbles extend its duration. Fun bonus! Sword vs. arrow.
Way of the Cane/Mace/Hammer - +1 to Damage, Disarm, and Parry. Special! Head-ringer - Usable once per Round/2 HEMA levels, Strike with the end of your weapon for d6+1 damage. Each successful Head-ringer may stun the Defender for 1 Action. Roll a Saving Throw vs. Pain at 14+ to avoid being stunned.
Way of the Flail - add W.P. Chain, +1 to Disarm, Roll, and Strike. Special! Indirect Strike - A flail can be used to go over shields and guards, around corners, and strike at odd angles which can be both intimidating and difficult to defend against. As long as the HEMA practitioner has Initiative, the Defender takes a -2 to Parry.
Way of the Axe (includes battle axes, hand axes, and tomahawks) - add W.P. Axe, +2 to Damage, +1 to Strike. Special! Hack - Usable once per Round/2 HEMA levels, the Attacker can Strike with an especially damaging blow. Add +1 to Damage and +1 to the Natural Roll required to perform a Critical Strike.
Way of the (big) Knife - add W.P. Knife. +1 to Disarm, Parry, and Strike. Special! Disarm/Take-away - The HEMA practitioner slashes at the Defender's wrist as part of a Disarm attempt. If successful, roll Save vs. Pain at 14+. Failure indicates the HEMA Attacker has taken the Defender's weapon. The Attacker must have one hand free.
Way of the Polearm (halberd, mainly) - add W.P. Polearm, +1 to Damage, Disarm, and Initiative. Special! Cross-cut - Usable once per Round/2 HEMA levels, the Attacker can Strike with an especially devastating blow which adds +3 to Damage.
Way of the Single Sword/Rapier - +1 to Initiative, Parry, and Strike. In addition, when using Cloaks/Capes in off-hand, add +1 to Parry and Roll. Special! Lunge - A rapid forward thrust involving the entire body, excellent for sudden piercing attacks. The HEMA practitioner's Initiative total must be higher than their opponent's. As long as they have the higher Initiative total, add +1 to Strike and Damage with slashing/piercing attacks. In addition, when using Cloaks/Capes in off-hand, add +1 to Parry and Roll. Special! Cloak Toss - the HEMA practitioner throws cape at the face of their opponent. Successful Strike Blinds the opponent for 1d4+1 Actions. The HEMA practitioner loses the Cloak/Cape which likely falls to the ground.
Way of the Spear - add W.P. Spear, +1 to Damage, Initiative, and Strike. Special! Spear-aided takedown - use W.K. Spear bonuses to Body Flip/Throw the opponent.
Way of the Staff - +1 to Initiative, Parry, and Roll. Special! One-handed Stun - Usable once per Round/2 HEMA levels, if they have the higher Initiative total, the HEMA practitioner can send the staff forward in a powerful spinning motion, striking with the end. If the Strike is successful, it does d6+1 damage and may Stun the Defender for their next Action. Roll a Saving Throw vs. Pain at 14+ to avoid being stunned. Not usable when in close (punching or elbow/knee range).
Way of Sword and Shield - add W.P. Shield, +1 to Parry, Roll, and Strike. Special! Shield-Knock - Usable once per Round/2 HEMA levels, hit with rim of shield in the head for d6+1 damage. May Stun the Defender for their next Action. Roll a Saving Throw vs. Pain at 14+ to avoid being stunned.
Way of Two Swords as One - add W.P. Paired Weapons. +1 to Damage, Parry, and Strike. Special! Twin Slash/Stab - Usable once per Round/2 HEMA levels, +2 to Damage when using Paired Weapons Strike. This damage bonus applies to each weapon.
Way of the Two-handed Sword - +1 to Damage, Initiative, and Strike. Special! - Wrath Slash (from the German Zornhau technique). This is a very powerful two-handed over-the-shoulder stroke. Usable once per Round/2 HEMA levels, the Attacker must have Initiative. If the Strike is successful, add +2 to Damage and +1 to the Natural Roll required to Critical Strike. Fun video: "Like Battle Swords? Here you go!"

Level Advancement Bonuses
1st - +1 to Parry, +1 to Roll, +1 to Strike, Critical Strike from Behind.
2nd - +1 to Damage, +1 to Disarm/Feint. +2 to rolls against being Disarmed.
3rd - Add W.P. Paired Weapons (if not already gained via Weapon Kata). +1 to Dodge.
4th - +1 Attack per Round.
5th - +1 to Strike. +1 to Parry. +1 to Roll.
6th - Mix It Up (Special! With GM approval, the HEMA Fencer can now use any weapon they have proficiency in with any Weapon Kata they know. For example, they might wield a cane and use it with the Way of the Hand Axe or include a knife and Buckler instead of a Sword and Buckler with no penalties. Note: One may only receive bonuses from one Weapon Kata at a time). +1 Attack per Round.
7th - Critical Strike on a Natural 18, 19, or 20. +2 to rolls against being Disarmed.
8th - +1 Attack per Round. +1 to Strike.
9th - Double-up (Special! HEMA Fencer can combine all bonuses of two Ways if they are compatible. For example, Way of the (big) Knife with Way of the Sword and Dagger). +1 to Disarm/Feint.
10th - +1 to Body Flip/Throw. Knock-out/Stun on a Natural 19 or 20.
11th - +1 Attack per Round.
12th - +1 to Roll, +1 to Dodge.
13th - Having now mastered all existing Ways, create your own (requires GM approval)! Create your own Way. +1 to Strike. +1 to Parry.
14th - Create your own Way. +1 to Disarm/Feint. +1 to Dodge. +1 to Parry.
15th - Create your own Way. Knock-out/Stun on a Natural 18, 19, or 20.

Why study Historical European Martial Arts?
"I love the feeling of confidence and strength that comes from practicing a martial art. I love the feeling of accomplishment after pulling off that one amazing shot against an accomplished advisory. But I really love the way you relate to someone after you have fought with them. The conversation of the blades between two fencers is like no other. You really get to know someone on a different level when you fence them. It is hard to explain unless you have experienced it, but every martial artist that spars will know what I mean. I do it because I love it. So much so, that it has become my life’s work." - HEMA Instructor and Champion Nicole Smith.

A note on Olympic Fencing
"I am not afraid of anyone, because I've always believed that your opponent - your worst opponent - is yourself." - Valentina Vezzali (ITA), 6-time Olympic Fencing Champion

Olympic-style sport fencing is a point-based sport that uses foils, epees, and sabres and can be amazing to watch! But there is a large difference between Olympic and HEMA fencing.

HEMA and Olympic-style sport fencing are quite different. For those interested in Olympic-style fencing, their stance is often based with the feet flat against the floor. Heels are about shoulder-width apart with feet set in a perpendicular "L" stance with knees bent over the toes. The foot in front is the same as the hand wielding the sword. The sword, knee, and lead foot all face the opponent. The rear hand in back is held out to one side.

For those inclined to fight in an Olympic fashion (added to Hand to Hand: HEMA), here is a super-basic Weapon Kata. Fhere are three swords used in Olympic sports - the foil, the epee, and the sabre. Way of the Olympic Fencer (+1 to Initiative, Parry, and Strike. Fleche (Special! The "jump-kick" of Olympic fencing, this action is only usable at long/polearm range. The fencer performs a sudden horizontal dash combined with a lunge. The fencer rolls their Strike vs. their opponent's Perception - if successful, the fencer receives a +4 bonus to Damage on that Strike; if unsuccessful, the Defender adds a +1 bonus to a defensive Action of their choice until the attack is resolved).
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