View Full Version : Mechanics for Duels-- system independent

2013-06-06, 01:08 PM
I was watching some Errol Flynn fight scenes (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L10fR31jC1w), and I was struck by how poorly RPGs emulate them. Not just D&D, with its static melee combat, but everything I've ever played works really poorly for a one-on-one martial battle. So, think I, why not try to write something better?

Initiative (Optional)
During a duel, each character receives one action per turn. This action may be used to attack or withdraw.

Dueling uses special movement rules. Divide the duel area into any number of zones. A zone is an abstract area of space of the same type-- a flight of stairs, a patch of pavement, the floorspace around a table, and so on. In general, zones fall into three categories:

Blank Zones are simply empty space, with no special properties.
Occupied Zones contain furniture, uncertain footing, or other obstacles on which a duelist might get fouled up. They can be dangerous to a fighter who enters them unwillingly.
Danger Zones contain pitfalls, jets of steam, and other active hazards. They can be dangerous to both fighters. These environmental hazards are handled as per the system's normal rules.

Both fighters must occupy the same zone.

Duelists don't stand in one place and hack at each other until one falls over, dead. Instead, the fight flows back and forth, as first one fighter, than the other, gain the upper hand, driving his foe back.

To "attack", a duelist makes a single melee attack, as normal per the system. If he succeeds, he moves the fight to an adjacent zone of his choice. He counts as having entered the zone willingly, while his opponent does not.

Duelists tend not to inflict wounds on their foes. Instead, they gain the upper hand before finishing the fight in one fell swoop. A duelist achieves advantage in one of three ways:

Forcing a foe into an Occupied Zone
If a foe is damaged by an environmental hazard in a Danger Zone
If a foe is disarmed, prone, blinded, or otherwise penalized

If a duelist begins his turn with Advantage, a successful attack check enables him to win the duel*.

A single Occupied Zone cannot be used twice consecutively-- the duelists are paying too much attention to it.

*Alternate rule: A successful attack check here inflicts a wound on the target. A wounded target takes a system-appropriate penalty (say, -2 for a d20 system) to all his rolls. A target must be wounded a certain number of times (say, two) before the killing stroke may be administered.

While a character does not inflict damage in a duel, he may use non-attack options, such as trip attempts, disarm attempts, and so on. Special attack powers, such as tactical feats or maneuvers in 3.5 D&D, powers in 4e D&D, powers in Mutants and Masterminds, and so on may be used as well, with appropriate GM arbitration.

A duelist may attempt to remove his foe's Advantage by fighting defensively and seeking to regain his balance. As his action, he may make a attack check, as normal per the system. If he succeeds, his foe no longer has advantage, and the fight moves to an adjacent zone. The duelist withdrawing picks the zone, but both characters count as having entered the zone willingly.

I'm... not quite sure how to adjudicate this. One approach would be to allow them freely, with no penalties (such as provoking attacks of opportunity) applying... but runs the risk of the duel turning into "stand and trip attempt, stand and trip attempt, stand and trip attempt..." The flip side would be to ban them completely, forcing a reliance on Occupied Zones.

Multi-Person Duels
It's possible to have a duel involving three or more combatants, although at a certain point it's better to just use the system's standard combat mode. But if such an event occurs, all normal rules apply.

All three fighters move together, and take turns attacking or withdrawing.
Duelists grant Advantage to all opponents

Optional Rule
For systems like D&D, which use a variable attack against a static defense, groups may choose to use opposed attack rolls instead of attack-verses-static defense in duels.

2013-06-06, 08:03 PM
I suggest you look into 7th Sea; it feels very swashbucklery.

Someone wrote up a "2nd edition", that was essentially a big ol' fix. If I can find it, I'll link it.

EDIT: It was hard, but here it is. (http://1-media-cdn.foolz.us/ffuuka/board/tg/image/1362/85/1362858201488.pdf)

2013-06-07, 08:38 PM
Thanks for the link.

In any case, my brother and I playtested a short duel using 6th level 3.5 characters, and it worked really well. An interesting battle arena is important, mind you, but even the hastily-drawn dining hall worked out decently-- we battled up and down the hall, tripped over chairs, crashed into a suit of armor, and finally got pinned down against a table and killed. It was far more dynamic than any one-on-one fight I've done in a tabletop before, short of M&M superhero fights. I added a few minor changes based on what I found.

2013-06-07, 09:10 PM
Well, that was weird. I just (literally a few hours ago) thought up some rudimentary duel rules. Grod, you're a mind reader. This is much better than mine though. Bookmarked!

2013-06-08, 10:39 AM
I rather like this... are you planning to expand it?

2013-06-08, 12:25 PM
I rather like this... are you planning to expand it?
I could probably go into a bit more detail if I specified, say, 3.5, but I was trying to keep things vague so that it could be used in multiple systems. If I think of more I'll add it, but... (Also, probably best to keep things simple, for a subsystem)