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Appendix F: Dueling

Stare- and showdowns are really cool. While reading the amazing We Deal In Lead by Colin Le Sueur, I noticed the rules for (gun)duels involved (the system’s equivalent of) a WIL save, as “a gunslinger does not kill with their gun but kills with their heart”. Duels I’ve ran in the past focused a lot on DEX, as you’re either quick or dead, which got me thinking – what if duels involved all 3 of the attributes?

Dueling Saves

A duel consist of 3 contests:

  1. the staredown (WIL),
  2. the draw (DEX)
  3. the clash (STR)

During each contest, both individuals make a Save. The winner gets advantage (roll 2d20, take the most beneficial result) on the next Save. On a draw, no one gets advantage.

  • A combatant wins if they roll equal or under their Attribute while the opposing side rolls above their Attribute.
  • If both combatants roll above their Attribute, it’s a draw.
  • If both combatants roll equal or under their Attribute, the highest roll wins.
  • If both combatants roll equal or under their Attribute and roll an equal value, it’s a draw.

The Staredown

The battle of wills. Two opponents lock eyes, their hands hovering over their weapons. Children run to their parents, an eerie wind blows, a lone bird takes flight. A drop of sweat falls on the ground. The winner of this clash clearly has ice in their veins. However, in settings where dueling is illegal, losing the staredown might mean losing your cool, and snarling a death threat at your opponent, meaning your opponent now acts in self-defense.

The Draw

Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast – but sometimes, slow just means dead. Crossbows are leveled, bows aimed, rapiers drawn, swords unsheathed. The winner of this contest is just that split-second quicker – and primed to land a devastating blow.

The Clash

Speed is one thing, but landing a blow still requires a certain degree of physical control: a strong follow-through, a decisive slash, a punishing blow. If the duel is done with ranged weapons, you could consider leaving this step out – as the loser is likely to make a Critical Damage (STR) Save anyway.

The winner of this contest rolls their damage die and a d12 (as their attack is Enhanced), taking the highest result. The damage is done directly done to the loser’s STR (but reduced by any Armor worn).

Types of Duels

Consider any of the following dueling rulesets, depending on your setting:

  • Friendly Duel. Do not roll damage after the Clash – simply keep track of who could’ve landed a serious blow.
  • To The Death. After the Clash, both parties roll for initiative as per normal combat, and duke it out.
  • 3 Touches. After the Clash,  combatants are expected to retake their position and duel again, until one side scores 3 hits. Depending on whether the duel is friendly or not, this could be simply for points, or a case of  “the aim is to get 3 points, and not die”.
  • The Dramatic Climax. Use a ‘best out of 3’ structure. Damage is only done after one combatant wins the decisive clash – the duels leading up to it represent a dramatic clashing of blades, moments to spout dramatic exposition or vengeful monologues.