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There's something of a trope in fiction, with one of the most famous examples being the Final Fantasy Dragoon, of a character jumping superhumanly high into the air and then coming down on their opponent with a big attack assisted by the force of their initial jump converted into gravity.

enter image description here

Setting aside the vast variety of physics issues that I'm sure make a mockery of this idea, the biggest practical issue with this attack style that comes to mind with me is how insanely telegraphed such an attack would be. The higher they jump, the longer it takes to hit the ground, and thus the more time the enemy has to recognize the attack and dodge. Sure, maybe you could make this the opening move of an ambush, but beyond that this style of attack seems entirely implausible in a straight-up fight.

But maybe I just haven't thought hard enough about strategies such jump-attackers could come up with to make their attacks more difficult to dodge.

What measures could a user of a superhuman jump attack take to make the attack less telegraphed, and harder to dodge?

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    $\begingroup$ Yet the in-game effect is completely opposite... the Dragoon becomes unhittable, and I haven't really seen enemies dodge the actual attack. $\endgroup$
    – Nelson
    Commented Apr 26, 2023 at 6:25
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    $\begingroup$ Another question would be: how can the superhuman jump break only the enemy bones, and not the attacker ones also? $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 26, 2023 at 16:17
  • $\begingroup$ Note that you have to jump off the ground with the same (or actually greater) force than with which you'll land (because conservation of energy), meaning the move is no stronger than simply attacking from the ground (at least from a pure power perspective - there may be some tactical or other advantages... but probably more tactical disadvantages). If you strap a jetpack on your back, however... $\endgroup$
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Apr 27, 2023 at 12:18
  • $\begingroup$ @NotThatGuy Not strictly true - if you use your arms to increase your jump height and also use them in bringing down the sword in a more forceful strike, then you use your arms to add power twice, something you couldn't do in a single move. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 27, 2023 at 13:44
  • $\begingroup$ @LioElbammalf Or maybe I should say it's not any more powerful than a short horizontal lunge (the increased leverage you'd get from jumping straight up is probably more than counteracted by the loss of speed from air resistance). But there's a reason people don't really lunge in real-world combat (that I know of, except in the occasional fancy Hollywood fight, and in typically-unarmed brawls where you're not as worried about getting stabbed in the face): losing control and leverage is far too big of a disadvantage to counteract whatever tactical advantage a lunge might provide. $\endgroup$
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Apr 27, 2023 at 14:05

13 Answers 13

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For his Neutral Special, he wields a gun

A lot of the answers so far have been focused on mitigating the weakness of the jump attack, so I would like to note the advantages of such an absurd maneuver instead:

1. The real Dragoons

The Real Dragoons

  • Super-high jumps are basically budget flights, which means that while airborne, you have the high ground to everyone else not flying. This does not mean much for close-quarter attacks, but if your character has any ranged options, this allows you to shoot over most covers, which is excellent. In fact, on the way down, the Dragoon is basically a humanoid dive bomber

Line of Sight at various points of the jump arc

Line of Sight at various points of the jump arc

  • If a gun is a bit too modern for your fantasy setting, you can replace it with javelins for a similar effect, and still keep the general spear theme of the class

Genitour - Age of Empires II

From Genitour - Age of Empires II


2. Catch me if you can

  • Unlike a permanently flying character, which often follows direct trajectories, leaving them open to getting shot themselves, anyone trying to shoot at you that's not your target is going to have a hard time trying to track your parabolic trajectory

Crashhopper - Ben 10

From Crashhopper - Ben 10

  • And hopefully, your target is too afraid of the impact to fire back.

Batman: The Animated Series

From Batman: The Animated Series

  • To capitalize on it, your character should have some form of propulsion on their own, so as to be able to vary their timing and approaches. Otherwise, convenient obstacles to push off of will do. In fact, I found a good example here. Assuming that the tail and fins aren't for shows (they look very much not to my eyes, but good enough), no wonder nobody can dodge this guy, he's almost a human guided missile

Final Fantasy Dragoon


3. Amateurs talk strategy. Professionals talk logistics

  • This part is the most subjective of the three, so I will leave it here. Unlike a true flyer, which needs to account for every ounce of equipment they bring to the sky against their propulsion, a jumper can carry somewhat heavier gears, so long as they can still achieve lift-off.
  • Thanks to that, they can freely be a bit more well-armed and armored, and bring a bit more projectile to the fight. This synergy greatly affects the previous 2 points, letting you hit harder and get into the fray, knowing that safety and resupply can be a hop away. It also explains why you can have medium armors and lances in-game, as well.

Side note

  • Such a Dragoon will have a big problem of having to rely on super sensory abilities or friendly scouts to let them know where to attack. If they are staying in cover before a jump, they would be hidden from enemies, but they are hidden from the character, as well. In a game, that is no problem, since they are guided by the omnipresent player, who can see everything at once. Outside of that, perhaps that's why they have a small dragon, to fly up and point things out to them, like falconry?

Final Fantasy Dragoon

  • And with everything combined, we get:

Spider-Man

Is the Mouse hiring?

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    $\begingroup$ At least one Final Fantazy dragoon had an option of throwing spears from the sky, so a good canonical suggestion. Disagree on parabolical trajectory being hard to predict. Humans (and most animals) are very good at that, having dealt with thrown crap their whole life. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 26, 2023 at 18:17
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    $\begingroup$ Parabolic trajectories are easy to predict if you are in the way, but hard to hit from the sides, that's why people sometimes jump sideways when they move through camped corners in CS. Note that I said "anyone trying to shoot at you that's not your target", so they're shooting at you from the sides $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 26, 2023 at 19:30
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    $\begingroup$ @Revolver_Ocelot Nope, humans are ridiculously bad at that. We're moderately acceptable at predicting when/if it's going to get to us, with practise, but we're lousy on predicting trajectories. That's why skeet shooting takes a lot of training - and that's with a shotgun which scatters pellets over a fairly wide area and has a high muzzle velocity. With a bow where you would also need to predict the parabolic trajectory of your arrow, you can simply forget about it. Archers were infamously ineffective firing uphill at stationary targets, never mind moving ones. $\endgroup$
    – Graham
    Commented Apr 27, 2023 at 13:04
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    $\begingroup$ To add to the Parabolic trajectory thing. People who have not actively played Baseball before who try to play an outfield position will often miss guess where a ball will land by as much as 5-10 meters... so while we can train to get good at it, it's not a natural skill. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Commented Apr 27, 2023 at 15:20
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The jumping "up" is just to brag about their ability and intimidate the opponent.

When they want to attack, they jump "horizontally": they find a suitable support and use the jump to actually dash toward their target.

More correctly, instead of acting like a mortar, going on a lob to hit, they should act like a cannon.

Their high velocity will give the opponent little to no time to react.

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    $\begingroup$ Or the opponent just need to point their lance/sword towards the leaper and wait they impale themselves. At best they kill each others, which is not a smart move if you intend to reuse it later. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 25, 2023 at 15:06
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    $\begingroup$ A horizontal jump!? I have heard of an age-old, real world technique called a lunge! 🤣 Joking aside, that's more or less the purpose of lunging in combat: to quickly close space with little time for reactions. This is just the super version of it. $\endgroup$
    – PipperChip
    Commented Apr 25, 2023 at 17:16
  • $\begingroup$ Jumping up makes you subject to basic ballistic movement, which is really predictable. Any decent juggler makes these predictions multiple times a second. Instead, jump horizontally, like you said, and tackle the opponent, thrust/swing with a weapon, or something else in a timespan that's not easy to counter. And this appropriately uses the arms and legs for power and speed. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 27, 2023 at 17:40
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"Don't look at the sun, idiot."

While a jump-attack is generally ineffective and relies on your opponent staying in one place, the one benefit that comes from swooping down from the sky is to blind your opponent. Usually this involves performing the move on a sunny summer day but it can also work with street lamps during the night. Kung Fu Panda showcased this move pretty well in the climactic fight scene of the first movie as it was the first move Tai Lung pulled against his former master, taking advantage of his poor eyesight (and the dramatic thunder storm).

Please note that even if the move misses making the opponent look directly at a bright light will still hamper their vision for a few seconds, giving plenty of opportunity for a follow-up attack.

All in all, it's not a bad move per se but it does work a lot better in a confined space with lots of walls and ceilings to use as footing.

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Simple machine in a foxhole + enough force to propel a man tens of meters into the air = stone age artillery.

If we guess that our man can launch himself 30m into the air, and he weighs 1000N, he has a 30kJ jump and a roughly 25m/s leg extension. Give him a simple machine with a 1-to-10 mechanical advantage and as little moment of inertia as possible, and with a suitably heavy object bracing his shoulders on one side and the machine on the other, he can launch somewhat less than 1kg (he has to pay for the energy dissipated by the machine) at 250m/s as fast as his loader can put new projectiles in the launcher and he can flex his legs. I would recommend canister or chainshot, as this is unlikely to be especially precise.

I have prepared a detailed scientific diagram of this procedure below, using a lever for an example. enter image description here

Note:

You may also wish to issue your guy a really big spade, so he can dig his foxhole in two or three big leg-powered scoops. Perhaps it breaks down and can be reassembled into his simple machine launcher!

L.Dutch really has the correct answer, but I couldn't help but take "they should act like a cannon" and run with it.

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    $\begingroup$ Using such incredible photorealistic art skills to illustrate your answer feels like cheating. $\endgroup$
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Apr 26, 2023 at 13:53
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You turn invisible while doing it

Since you said

” Setting aside the vast variety of physics issues ”

I’ll file your you turn invisible as a physics issue and leave it at that. Retro-reflective suit? Fancy tech thing they did in Mission Impossible 4 (might be a one on one limiter)? What these guys suggest?

As you said in the question,

” Sure, maybe you could make this the opening move of an ambush ”

Which would definitely work if you’re invisible. Jeff the Drug Dealer doesn't stand a chance if he’s hit by a magically reinforced human fist at sufficient speeds.

If you prefer it to be a mid-fight move, maybe said person can angle their punch, so even if Jeff runs, you Superman fly towards him with a hand-waved-magic-gliding-ability.

Bonus points for going faster than sound so they don't hear you coming (and you get to hit them harder because F=ma, and your “a” is pretty high at that point).

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    $\begingroup$ If you're invisible the whole fight, it is not anymore an ambush strike but a simple battle against a blinded opponent 🦋. Very effective overall even without jumping, and the jump could squeeze out that little more power to take down sturdier foes. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 25, 2023 at 15:10
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    $\begingroup$ @Tortliena, I guess you could be invisible the whole time. What I had thought was that when you jump, said muscles allow you to go invisible or something (I filed it under a physics issue for a reason: I don’t know how to selectively invisiblized someone) $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 25, 2023 at 15:43
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    $\begingroup$ Turning invisible is hard. There is a trope with a suit of armor which projects the image of whatever's on the opposite side, but parallax kills this idea quickly... except when whatever's on the opposite side is a fairly uniform color. And luckily for us, the sky is of a relatively uniform color, and ceilings tend to be too! It won't be full invisibility, but in a battlefield with lots of things to keep track of, focusing on the blue-on-blue guy who jumped to check if it's going towards you means losing track of the rest, and that's just as lethal. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 26, 2023 at 13:11
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    $\begingroup$ I would say the hardness of the hit will depend on your energy and not on your acceleration. A car hitting you at constant 200 km/h (and a=0) also hits hard. $\endgroup$
    – wimi
    Commented Apr 27, 2023 at 6:39
  • $\begingroup$ @MatthieuM. - The example in the question was Final Fantasy, so I am pretty sure we can say that a wizard takes care of any practical issues with invisibility. $\endgroup$
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Apr 27, 2023 at 7:02
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Pin the enemy down with other fighters

The purpose of your dragoon is not to fight one-on-one. It is to break defensive formations. Give him some way to control his movement mid-air (so he would threaten a certain radius instead of a point) and enemy would have a choice: get hit by a dragoon, or quickly move away from dangerous area, either opening themselves to other attacks, or giving away tactical advantage.

Works wonders for getting enemies away from door leading to safety, disrupting a shield wall, or helping friendly cavalry to not die to the wall of pikes.

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    $\begingroup$ This is almost a frame challenge, but honestly I really like this. Especially since both the FF dragoons and the character I have who prompted this question work in teams. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 25, 2023 at 23:14
  • $\begingroup$ This is the answer I was thinking about writing. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 27, 2023 at 15:18
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The answer is actually quite simple. The old adage "What goes up must come down" actually only tells part of the story - that which goes up, must come down at the same speed. Every point of a vertical jump matches the point at the same height on the return trip, at the same speed but opposite direction.

When the dragoon attacks, an outside viewer sees a tremendous leap into the air, followed with a heavy strike on a target. The reality is, the dragoon used the majority of the power from the leap during the up portion of the jump, landing a terrible blow while moving upwards. The downward strike can then be a flashy "finishing move," not intended as a powerful strike, but either an aimed attack to finish off the likely stunned target or a grand gesture to strike fear in the hearts of others.

  1. The dragoon leaps into the air with tremendous force
  2. Almost immediately, the dragoon transfers most of that force into an attack, such as an uppercut or upwards slash, striking the opponent
  3. The dragoon follows through, continuing into the air
  4. The dragoon arcs through the air, peaks, then falls back down towards the target
  5. With the remaining energy from the jump, the dragoon strikes the target a second time; the target is either too disoriented from the first blow to dodge or raise much of a counter-attack, or the time in the air gave the dragoon plenty of time to see that the target was not as stunned as hoped, and simply parry a counterattack and land safely

It is important to point out that a humanoid figure that can leap, strike a target, then continue into the air 2-3 body lengths is incredibly strong, and would hit a target in much the same way as a large truck at highway speeds would.

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Air control

This is a common concept in 2d video games, and it could easily be adapted to a narrative. It's hard to put a jet on a person that's good enough to lift them off the ground, but allowing a person to adjust their location by a body length or two shouldn't be too hard.

You can use aerodynamics to do this, too. Also, the person could use their giant honking sword, shield, or rifle as a counterweight.

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Gravity Magic

While strictly speaking not a technique, a superpower/magic that increases gravity, even just at 'low' multipliers, would benefit the Dragoon. Both to speed their attack up and to slow the opponent's dodge down.

Gravity magic on self

When falling, it is not your mass that causes the speed of your acceleration, since that just influences your max speed. The pull of gravity is what does so. At an acceleration of about 9.81 m/s^2, it means you can't accelerate your fall faster than that without cheating. If you'd instead affect yourself with gravity magic, doubling the effect of gravity on yourself, you could speed up at 19.62 m/s^2.

Doubling the force of gravity acting on you would not halve your falling time. Instead, it would reduce your falling time by a factor of √2(approximately 1.414). Not bad, as a 10 seconds fall would suddenly take about 7.1 seconds. It would also increase the force at which you would impact (which would double at 2x gravity).

While the shorter fall times would scale proportionally(square root of the multiplier) to the gravity scaling, the force increases at 1 to 1. The force increase doesn't make it harder to dodge but would mean you could decrease the jump height for decreased fall time while keeping the force the same. Of course, the increased force while keeping the same jump height would be nice too instead.

Do note that you would need to use the power AFTER you already are airborne, or it would decrease jump height.

Opponent

Affecting your opponent would make their movement harder in turn. Double the way gravity affects them, and you would double their weight. That would make it way harder to move, and thus harder to react. If you can't double their weight, even a small increase impedes them. Possibly forcing them to take the hit. Their weapons could become too heavy to hold, their reaction time would be slowed significantly, and more.

What would be even better is if you could affect both yourself and your opponent. Either by affecting both, or just affecting an area containing both within a single gravitational field. Your opponent would slow down or be locked into place, while you would accelerate faster and hit with more force.

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Avoid the problem by being an area effect weapon

The wider the area that your opponent has to avoid, the harder you are to dodge, and the harder it is for someone else nearby to retaliate. A spear makes for a lousy dragoon weapon - it's hard to hit with, easy to avoid, and in any case can only spear one target and not your target's mate stood next to him who'll stick you as soon as you touch down.

A deployable chrysanthemum of blades would make you very much more effective. Anything under that circle of blades gets sliced-and-diced when you land. The only solution for a non-armoured target is to not be there. Anyone you land on is injured or dead, and the width of the blades gives a space between you and anyone who could retaliate. If the "chrysanthemum" is a kind of platform you sling underneath you mid-air and stand on as you come down, then it also acts as a shield to protect you from opportunistic opponents with raised spears.

For armoured targets, they won't be sliced in the same way, but the lesson for armour has always been that kinetic energy will liquidise the meatbag inside, regardless of whether you penetrate the armour or not. You're essentially hitting your opponent with a 100kg rock falling from 50 feet up, and that only ends one way.

Of course if you land in the middle of a formation of troops then there are going to be more people around you who can turn and attack, so it's still fairly risky for you, but if you're part of a unit dropping on the enemy then it gives you all more of a chance. Plus you only need to defend yourself as you recover and jump again.

You can also push the odds more in your favour by scattering a bag of ball bearings, lead shot or just pebbles whilst you're at the peak of your trajectory. So at the same time as you're crashing down on one or more opponents and taking them out, your opponents' friends are dealing with the shock of having a barrage of lead shot hitting them. It won't necessarily be enough to kill, but it's certainly enough to injure, stun or at least distract. That buys you extra time to recover and jump again.

Combined tactics

You don't have to jump in on your own. If your unit is charging an enemy unit, you time your jump so that you're coming down at the same time as your front line hits the enemy. One of the big lessons of fighting is that humans have frontal eyes and can only look in a fairly small cone. If you're trying to look in several directions at once, you can't do either properly and you lose. This is why flank or rear attacks were historically so deadly.

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The attacker could carry something extremely heavy (for example heavy shoes, heavy armor, or any object that is much heavier than it looks). Then the jump would look quite small and non-threatening, but come down with a lot of energy. Due to being less high, the jump would also end sooner, making it more difficult to evade.

The attacker should learn to pretend that the object isn't heavy, or pick the object up stealthily or suddenly. And the forces between the object and the attacker should be transferred over a large area, so that the object doesn't hurt the attacker.

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Dragoons are soldiers, not duelists

The greatest asset of dragoonS ... down on enemIES

The problem with the OP's assumptions about telegraphing a leap attack is that he's considering it in a 1 on 1 context. Yes, in a duel, in a wide open arena, it would be worse than useless to perform a leap attack. However, Dragoons are not duelists or lone heroes. They are soldiers, and soldiers don't do what makes since in a 1 on 1 fight. They do what makes since on a battlefield.

In pretty much every setting that mixes melee units (legionaries, pikemen, knights, etc.) and ranged units (archers, crossbowmen, musketeers, etc), a ranged unit it best until the melee unit can close range with it. Otherwise, there would be no reason to field both kinds of units at all. This means that generals will typically try to put thier ranged units somewhere out of reach of enemy melee units, but somewhere they can still attack from. This could be at the top of a steep cliff, or on a wall, or separated by some kind of ditch or mote, or places such that your melee units can intercept enemy melee units before they can reach you ranged units.

A "jump attack" defeats all of these strategies. You can leap over walls, motes, pits, cliffs, and enemy infantry to attack the enemy ranged units directly. Even if you spend a few seconds in the air, it's still much faster than a knight on horseback could close range with enemy archers, and history tells us that when a knight has a clear path to archers, that the archers loose horribly. So, once your dragoons are inside the ranged unit's formation, their specialized melee gear puts them at a distinct advantage.

Furthermore, when talking about battle formations instead of individuals, your ranged units will not actually have a lot of room to get out of the way. In fact, when you have a crowd of ranged units trying not to get hit by a crowd of leaping dragoons, trying to dodge is worse than just standing your ground because it means all of your ranged units will be running into each other trying not to get impaled keeping anyone from effectively shooting back. So the "telegraphed" nature of the attack actually serves to disrupt the enemy formation prior to actually slamming down on thier heads. Since your dragoons have lances, even if a ranged unit gets out of the way of being crushed, the crowd is too thick to move far enough to escape the lance; so, like a heavy cavalry charge, the initial landing will impale some enemies and crush others under your boots. leaving the rest of the scattered, frightened, and confused enemies to face your superior melee weapons and armor.

Of course, this also goes both ways. Your Dragoons will likely need to sacrifice some armor and weapon-power for that power jump equipment meaning that when the heavy infantry shows up to help the ranged units, you can also jump back out of the melee to safety.

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Final Fantasy Tactics offers something of an In-Canon answer to this question.

  • Main point: Final Fantasy games are usually 2D, Final Fantasy Tactics = 3D

Benefits re: the telegraphic issue

  • You can start attacking from places that normal characters cannot observe
  • In a two-step jump, you can start from a much higher elevation
  • You can achieve extremely steep trajectories, where by the time you are targetable, you're already rapidly moving downward.

Such as:

FFT Lancer Jumping

In the above image, from a realistic perspective, the Black Mage, Lancer, and Knight in the lower region would have little chance to respond before the attack lands, and may not even be aware of the attacker (spot someone on a cliff directly above you).

Other In-Canon Benefits:

  • High Mobility - Horizontal / Vertical Jump 8, and Ignore Terrain Height
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