Duels

A duel is a special kind of fight, separate from ordinary combat. They occur in pivotal and dramatic moments, when two champions face off against each other in a conflict that is as much mental and metaphysical as it is physical. Ritual combat between the king’s champion and a mysterious intruder, the final showdown between rival archmages, and the tense silence as two master archers stare each other down - each knowing that as soon as a hand twitches for an arrow, it will be over in a matter of seconds. These are all classic examples where these rules can be used.

Melee Duels

Preparation. Both warriors prepare themselves for an honourable duel. Exactly what this means may vary. Certain weapons may be restricted; armour is often forbidden, but not always - knights generally duel in armour. Sorcery and enchantment is almost always forbidden.

Mental Combat. The warriors face off, only a few feet from each other. This may last seconds, minutes or even hours. Perhaps they are silent and still, with eyes locked. Perhaps they are slowly circling each other. Perhaps one is talking trash, while the other waits in stony silence. Each warrior selects a skill - such as Battle, Intimidate or Taunt - and they make an opposed roll. This counts as a Test, and is affected by any relevant Edges that apply.

Engagement. Suddenly, the warriors surge forward, weapons flashing. The winner of the mental combat strikes first; they get a +2 bonus to their Fighting roll, or a +4 if they won with a raise. If it was a tie, the warriors strike simultaneously. Resolve this as normal combat; special options, such as Wild Attack or Called Shot, are available as usual.

Melee. If the duel isn’t resolved after the initial bout, it devolves into a more traditional battle. Action cards are drawn normally, and the duel is treated as an ordinary combat.

It may seem strange that Spirits or Smarts-based skills are used to determine who gains the advantage, instead of something like Athletics. However, duels aren’t about who is faster; they’re a head game. Dueling is a form of ritual combat, and being good at killing doesn’t guarantee that you’re a good duelist (though it sure does help).

Ranged Duels

Preparation. Trial by ranged combat is unheard of in places where guns aren’t common, and ranged duels are almost exclusively fought with pistols. Since most pistols can only be fired once, duelists are usually armed with a pair of loaded guns, in case the first shots miss.

Mental Combat. Duels generally begin at the limit of Short range, but there is a mental component that occurs before the first shots are fired. Each warrior selects a skill - such as Battle, Intimidate or Taunt - and they make an opposed roll. This counts as a Test, and is affected by any relevant Edges that apply. The loser gets a -2 penalty to their Shooting roll.

Fire! Each duelist must select an option: speed or accuracy. If both choose speed, they make an opposed Athletics roll to see who acts first. If both choose accuracy, they fire simultaneously with a +2 bonus to their Shooting roll. Otherwise, the fast duelist shoots first, but the accurate duelist gets a +2 bonus to their Shooting roll.

Aftermath. What happens next depends on the nature of the duel. Most duels are to first blood, so if both sides miss the duel starts over. If both parties got hit, it’s generally declared a draw - though if one got a bullet in the foot and the other got one between the eyes, there’s generally a clear winner. If it’s more of a “this town ain’t big enough for the both of us” duel, the aftermath usually involves action cards and combat.

Arcane Duels

Though much rarer, ritual combat between two magic-users isn’t fundamentally different from a ranged duel. However, they do differ in one respect: the ability to counterspell using the Dispel power. If one or both mages has access to this power, they can try to use it to block their opponent’s magic in addition to casting their own.

This works the same as an ordinary ranged duel. However, in the Fire! phase, the mage can choose to take a -2 multi-action penalty to cast Dispel before unleashing their own power. Edges such as Counterspell will make this more effective by removing the penalty.