Working with Touch Attacks

Rogue from X-Men

This is probably a fairly niche concept.  Let me first explain what I mean by touch attacks:

A touch attack is usually a power or spell that is triggered by physical contact.  For example, Rogue’s energy draining ability.  This cannot be done from long distance and it typically requires skin contact.  Not always the skin of the target, but definitely the one who has the power or spell.

That covers the general idea and shows why you don’t see them very often.  There are a lot of downsides to a touch attack.  The character needs to get in close and be able to grab their target.  If it isn’t an immediate effect, they would need to maintain their grip until they are finished.  Normally, an enemy won’t stand there and let you do this.  If only they were all this guy:

Pressure point attacks probably fall under this as well.  These might have an advantage over anything that requires long contact.  A quick jab should be enough, but it really depends on the author.  Either way, you still have that issue of getting within reach of an enemy.  If you can hit them then they can hit you.  So, what is the point of having touch attacks at all?

Well, they work slightly better for villains from what I’ve seen.  Heroes having to stay out of reach of the bad guys means that they are at a disadvantage.  Now, that downside I mentioned is on the evil side and turned into a positive.  Villains tend to be fairly eager to draw a hero into their grasp and their touch attacks can be nasty.  Rotting touch, infections, life draining, and the list can keep going.  In fact, one could see how these abilities and spells are geared more towards the darker characters.  Authors tend to use this delivery for sinister effects.

The exception would be healing, but that’s done to allies.  You don’t have a threat of getting punched when you’re tending to the wounded.  Then again, this isn’t even an attack unless it’s on an undead.  Of course, now we’re back to the same downside.  I’m really running in circles here.

I know in a D&D situation, touch attacks are a common thing.  Although, I’ve been in many games where nobody pays attention to that issue.  You also can have plenty of time between your attack and the enemy retaliating.  If your friends take the enemy down or move them away, you’re no longer at risk.  This is why turn-based systems can shield you from the dangers that would appear in a story.  Someone who plays the games might not realize this too.

There are some character types that can make great use out of this school of attacks.  An assassin or anyone depending on stealth would be trying to get close to a target.  In a world where fingerprinting isn’t a thing, a touch attack would be a feasible tool.  This could mean that thieves would have them as well in order to get out of trouble, especially if there are paralysis or sleep attacks they can learn.  So, a stealthy kill or a quick escape are some potential areas where this can be done.

What do you think of touch attacks?  Is it worth even discussing?  I mean, I’ll be doing a 7 tips post on them this Wednesday, so we’ll see what happens.

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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11 Responses to Working with Touch Attacks

  1. L. Marie says:

    This is definitely worth discussing. I can’t help thinking of The Last Airbender because of Ty Lee’s ability to inhibit a person’s bending ability by touching certain areas on that person. That was extremely debilitating! It made for great episodes in the series. This ability also forces a hero to rethink some strategies, especially if that person has a tendency to be complacent about his or her ability.


  2. L. Marie says:

    It’s possible, since it started in 2005 while the Naruto anime I think started in 2002.


  3. Never thought about touch attacks before. There is so much learning here.


  4. I’d think this works best for unarmed combat, Monks and such. Does a bear-hug or twisting the arm back count as a touch attack?


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