I’ll admit, lightsabers aren’t necessarily magic items, but one does channel the force in order to use this weapon to its greatest affect. I also figured it would be fun to look at lightsabers since we just reviewed Star Wars: Force and Destiny (read it here) in celebration of May the 4th. Lightsaber combat has changed dramatically over the nine saga films, including a number of different lightsaber styles. So, we are going to dive into a few of the more common fighting styles used by both Sith and Jedi, as well as, the lightsaber that would best compliment that style. These forms may not have any special rule bonus in the tabletop RPG, but if a player makes an effort to incorporate a certain style into their character, than I would recommend home-brewing some rules or simply highlighting the style in combat. Adding role-play elements to swordplay is something all fantasy RPGs can learn from Star Wars.
1. Shii-Cho: Determination Form
The first form taught to padawans is the Shii-Cho form. Focusing on the mastery of simple, yet effective, tactics like blocks, parries, and a number of different strikes. While Shii-Cho is considered part of the basics, it also emphasizes movement and positioning. Grounded in a strong defense, the Jedi performs attacks via a number of counters. Drilling blocks and parries, these young combatants form a bond with their lightsaber. Intense training causes the Jedi to act reflexively, and allows them to be in the moment. This way the force can flow through the Jedi. Though, the Jedi must react quickly, this form relays on powerful strikes as well. Shii-Cho is a two-handed form that uses broad sweeping motions, however, far from wild swings, these motions are intended to fend off multiple attackers. Each swing is deliberate and uses the full weight of the Jedi to add power to the attack. The best example of Shii-Cho is when Luke first trains against the remote upon the Millennium Falcon.
Effective Weapon: Cross-Guard Saber (Kylo Ren) – Acting like a broadsword, this saber had a weight and power behind each swing.
- Block/Parry – When an enemy misses, describe how the shot/blow is blocked or parried by the character. Perhaps, a defensive stance that was drilled into the character, is what protected them.
- Counter – While this form may seem defensive, it’s used to setup wide strikes, so describe how the last block may have setup the character’s next attack. Even if it’s simply narrative flavor.
- Power – The two-handed style allows for power behind the blow, and the wide arching swings create an area of defense to fend off multiple enemies.
2: Makashi: Contention Form
While Shii-Cho provides the basics, it was developed in a time when the Jedi were peacekeepers. Once the Sith rose in power, however, there became a need to adapt to a new fighting style that specialized in lightsaber versus lightsaber combat. Focusing on countering force abilities by using a slew of feints, cuts, and thrusts in order to keep your opponent on the defensive. These quick attacks favored a single-handed style that emphasized more wrist control. Almost akin to fencing, this form is more of a duelist style and can be seen by Count Dooku in one of those Star Wars films we don’t speak of in polite company. The mark of a more experienced Jedi, the Makashi style is more clean and fluid. Though the blows may be less powerful, the lightsaber has the ability to harm the opponent by mere touch. This means that more precise motions can apply consistent pressure in combat, while probing the enemies defenses. This pressure also made it difficult for opponents to use their force abilities in combat, as they were busy defending from this quick strikes. In Empire Strikes Back, we see how Luke attempts to use Shii-Cho against Vader, but is too slow with his wider swings. Leaving Vader free to use all of the force powers at his disposal. Think if Luke had switched to Makashi, and was able to pressure Vader more with a constant stream of attacks.
Effective Weapon: Standard Lightsaber – An elegant weapon for a more civilized age.
- Precise/Subtle – Describe the quick motions, and almost explosion of movement from a resting position, into a number of quick thrusts.
- Pressure – If fighting a force user, play up the frustration as they attempt to cast or use the force in some way, but are unable due to these swift strikes.
- Clean/Efficient – This style is not flashy, and opponents may only see a flick of the wrist before the lightsaber moves. Describe the elegant nature of the character’s movements and saber use.
3: Soresu: Resilience Form
As blasters advanced from a technological standpoint, as well as, becoming more prevalent throughout the galaxy, a new more defensive fighting style was created. This became known as the Soresu form, which focuses on defending from both range and melee attacks. To accomplish this, the Jedi keeps his/her saber tight against the body, almost acting like a shield. Positioning and footwork become more important to move around the battlefield, though these motions are more calculated and come in shorter bursts. While Soresu is primarily defensive, it still uses the sweeping strikes of Shii-Cho, however, these attacks are not nearly as grand. In this form, the Jedi attacks in shorter arks in order to keep the blade close to the body at all times. Patience and cunning are the name of the game for this form, and one that can be seen used by Obi-Wan Kenobi in his fight against Vader in A New Hope. Soresu’s focus is on blocking, but future styles would use this as a base to master the technique of deflecting blaster fire back at the opponent.
Effective Weapon: Duel Wield Standard/Shoto Lightsabers – Using two sabers can increase the Jedi’s ability to deflect blaster fire. The Shoto saber, is a smaller, lighter saber that can be used in the off-hand.
- Patience – Describe the quick defensive motions as the Jedi keeps his weapon tight against his body. While searching for an opening, the Jedi waits for his opponent to close the distance, and come to them.
- Defensive – Jedi that use Soresu are wise masters that do not seek violence. This says something about the character’s values, as they only attack when they absolutely need to.
- Defuse – A strong defense will slow down combat, allowing the Jedi to speak to their opponent in hopes of defusing the situation.
4: Ataru: Aggression Form
At this time, the Jedi acted as peacekeepers, however, after a war with the Mandalorians, the Jedi found that sometimes fighting was the only way. This bloody conflict gave way to the development of the Ataru form. This highly aggressive fighting style relayed on high energy and a total commitment to attacking your opponent. Ataru is extremely difficult as it requires speed, acrobatics, but also force powers to amplify these natural abilities in the Jedi. This requires a highly trained Jedi, however, it’s also hard to maintain for a long duration. The best example of this aggressive form is Darth Maul from the only good part of the prequel films. During that fight scene, Maul is committed to attacking at all cost, because he knew it was kill or be killed. Using everything from flips and kicks to surprise and overwhelm your opponent. That being said, there is no room for error in Ataru, as one false move could leave you vulnerable to attack or say… being cut in half.
Effective Weapon: Double Bladed Lightsaber – Allowing for an onslaught of attacks from any number of angles. Plus it’s just cool.
- High Energy – A character using this form is completely committed to attacking with all of their force. Describe fast and relentless actions that almost breakdown the opponent.
- Force Augments – When committing their whole body, the Jedi will attempt flips, high jumps, and a number of other maneuvers to overwhelm the opponent. This is not only physical, but also requires a concentration of the force to boast these abilities.
- Exhausting – This style requires high energy, strong physicality, and force abilities. In short, everything the Jedi has. Play up the fatigue if a battle goes on to long, or perhaps how the character feels after a tough combat.
When researching, I found many other lightsaber forms with inspiration from books, games, and of course, the films. The fighting styles we covered above are the basic forms, and act as the beginning of a Jedi’s training with sabers. Though we are talking Star Wars, there is no reason why these forms can’t be used in a classic D&D setting. If you want to give your swordsman more character when fighting in combat, then use some of these forms to describe your attacks. There may not be a numerical bonus, but it will provide more entertainment at the table than simply saying “I attack”. If your a GM, reward these extra flavor bits when in combat. If a player describes how they parry a blow, and the enemy rolled really poor, let them get a free attack. “Using your Shii-Cho form, you parry the blow with such force that it opens your enemies side, and you come around slashing in a wide arc!” Moments like this are fantastic for role play and fun for players as well. So, enjoy your new combat forms, and may the force be with you!
If you enjoyed reading this article, let us know in the comments below, and maybe we can write up some additional Jedi forms!