How can I describe combat where player characters face multiple opponents? For example, in 7th Sea there are up to six brutes in a squad. I'd like to have some inspiration for how to describe the actions of the brute squad. Do you describe every attack or do you describe their action in one sentence?
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If I correctly understand the question being asked, you are asking us for effective techniquest to use in describing combat against multiple oponents.
I could answer this in an system-agnostic manner, as Im not very familiar with 7th sea, but Im sure you will be able to relate my advice to this system.
What is important for mass combat, I dont think you should elaborate on every single swing that is being made in the fight. It will make an unnatural, chronicle-like feeling, It will feel like a chore. Also, it will slow down the pace of combat - and combat should be dynamic, fast, interesting and involving.
In order to achieve the necessary swiftness, try emphasising the manouvers of the enemy. They could be doing various things, they could try to circle around the hero, get him from the flank, attack from a few directions at once. One opponent could feign an attack just to leap back at the last moment, letting his comrade hit you from an unexpected angle.
The players character cant reliably control what all their opponents are doing all the time, so you dont have to describe it so either. The PC could feel a slash on her forearm and not know from where it came!~
A few fast examples:
or even shorter:
Those could be a lot better. Before setting up such a fight in your campaign, you could think of some typical moves or tactics the players oponnents typically use. You could trywriting a lot of good, dynamic descriptions of such attacks. Later, when you will have to improvise during actual play, youll head will have those good techniques "imprinted" somewhere.
If I am to do the GM job for a swordsmanship-heavy setting, and I think there's gonna be a lot of fighting, I like to read a fight or two from some of my favorite fantasy writers. It inspires me and sometimes makes idea pop out themselves during fights. I particularly like fighting scenes in R.A. Salvatores's and A.Sapkowski's books (the last is best read in Polish, but English was quite good too).
Actually, all that has been said on writing good fighting scenes applies here as well! You could try searching Writers.SE for such questions. Also, I have found a great interview with R.A. Salvatore on fighting scenes:
A few excerpts, just in case the link goes dead:
The question is very broad and quite subjective, but I hope I helped!