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Tips for the Duelist

The Right Way to Slap With a Glove
Where and When
On the Use of Second
To the Death?


Beyond Sabers at Dawn:
Corsican Mug Fighting
The Bear Pit
The Dagger Duel

The Swashbuckling genre lends itself well to live roleplaying, but not all forms of live roleplaying lend themselves well to the Swashbuckling genre. Clunky combat resolution systems make the genre's trademark action packed, viewer friendly, suspense filled dramas become slow moving, game master mediated, boring interludes about rules. Conflict and the swift change of fortunes are at the heart of this style of game, and it demands a combat system that can support its story telling challenges. In this humble (stick jock) opinion, Live Combat is the perfect companion for a swashbuckling game if for no other reason than it allows, as no other combat system can, the possibility for believable duels. A good duel involves not just the combatants but the entire game, some as spectators, some as marshals or seconds.

The Right Way to Slap With a Glove: Since most live roleplaying games I have ever been in prohibit contact of any kind between players care must be taken if you want to properly challenge someone to a duel. Even live combat games usually mandate weapon to weapon contact only, which ostensibly makes the traditional slap across the face with a glove unviable. However with care it can still be done, creating a wonderfully dramatic moment. Take a glove, preferably leather, and hold it loosely in your hand like a bouquet of flowers, with the fingers of the glove left to dangle free from the ends of your fist. When you approach the person you wish to challenge to a duel hold the glove so that they can see it. Your grand challenge speech should leave no doubt as to the fact that the glove is coming for them. Do not surprise them with the hit. The key to doing this safely is making sure that the person being slapped knows that the blow is coming and that they can see where the glove is at all times. Be aware that the person you are aiming for may find that level of realism too intimidating. If they shake their head at you or step out of your range, do NOT follow through with the slap, but save the dramatic moment by throwing the glove at their feet and delivering the challenge that way. When you deliver the slap, aim for the fleshy part of the face below the cheek line with the glove's fingers. Do not wind your arm back like a baseball player, you should not be hitting the person hard. Often the sound of the leather fingers hitting each other will convey the sound of the slap and make it look like you hit much harder than you did. Neither do you have to hit fast, just bring the glove tips across the face. With the slap delivered, hurl the glove to the floor between you disdainfully and name the time and place.
If you are the one being challenged and you do not want the glove to connect with your face there are many ways to convey this to the person who is standing there holding the glove without having to break character and tell the player that you don't want to go that far. You can shake your head slightly at the player, effectively waving them off from the action. You can take one step back so that you are out of range. If the player with the glove fails to understand that you don't want to be hit, catch the end of the gloves in mid flight and hold it, or put up your arm and allow the glove to strike your arm instead of your face.
If you don't mind receiving the slap, turn your cheek away from the slap at the moment of impact. It will lessen the force of the blow, which should not be great in any case, and make it look like the gloves connected with force. Any physical contact with another player needs to be negotiated ahead of time if possible. However, the inherent nature of duels often means that things will build to a head before the players have had the opportunity to discuss how they feel about it. Play safe, play smart, listen to each other's verbal cues, watch each other carefully and you can have a successful, dramatic moment that will be the highlight of your game.

Where and When: Traditionally the challenger determines the where and when of the bout and the challenged gets to select the weapons. Pick a time for the fight that is likely to work for the Game Master. Also, bear in mind that a duel is very much a spectator sport. Unless it is illegal to duel in character, your duel should be public and well publicized to let as much of the game participate as possible. Pick a time when you are likely to get a good crowd. Choose a spot for the fight that is level, that leaves you both room to maneuver and also has enough space to accommodate your seconds, your adoring fans and the game photographer. The GM is going to want to get a good shot of this. You are going to want to figure all this out before you challenge so you can have a snappy answer when your enemy responds to your challenge with "Name the time and place!"

On the Use of Seconds: Selecting a "squire" or a "second" is as vital to a duel as selecting the proper weapon. From a meta perspective, it gets another player directly involved in the action of the duel, spreading the fun around a little. From a purely practical standpoint, you will need someone to hold your cloak, your doublet and your hat. Your second can check your armor for gaps and the dueling ground for dangerous terrain. Of course if you loose, he will be able to safeguard your effects from the dishonorable bastard who ran you through and arrange for the proper disposal of your remains. You want to make sure that the person you pick is as good as or better than you with a weapon, because if you were to suddenly become incapacitated before the combat, this person will be fighting instead of you. You donšt want to be sending your buddy to an early grave because you fell and twisted your ankle on the way to the duel.

To the Death?: Make the terms of your duel very carefully. You do not need to declare to what length the duel will go at the time of the challenge. This is another reason to pick your second carefully, because they can negotiate how far this duel is going to go while you are busy staring down your opponent menacingly. You donšt always have to fight to the death, just until you are satisfied that honor has been served. That can be until first blood, until one of you agrees to yield the fight to the other, or by any of the methods listed below.

Beyond Sabers at Dawn:
Corsican Mug Fighting:
Each duelist is armed with a single short sword in his or her primary hand. In the off hand the duelists are armed only with a mug half to three quarters full of "beer"**. I recommend metal or hardened leather mugs, something that will not break if it hits the ground forcefully. The object is to kill your opponent in between sips of your "beer" using only your sword and your witty repartee to defend yourself. You may not spill more than three drops of your "beer". However, just chugging your drink and advancing with an empty mug at your opponent is considered poor form. This type of duel requires close attention by the marshal for counting spills. Extra credit should be given for style.
**Not real beer of course, because I know that none of our readers would ever be stupid enough to drink and fight. Oh no. Never.

The Bear Pit: This is basically what happens when a lone fighter challenges her three or four combatants to honorable combat. The challenger and her first opponent engage while the others wait their turn and observe without interfering. The challenger proves her point if she can make it through all comers without dying, keeping her wounds through all the bouts. This duel can be run several ways including having the wounds seen to between bouts, and rather than having the duel end with a loss on the part of the challenger, each loss brings a removal of an item of clothing. When the challenge is run in this fashion, the name is usually changed to "The Bare Pit"**.
**Please donšt run these types of fights when I am around. I have seen enough terrible fighters who think they are studly to last me a lifetime.

The Dagger Duel: Not all duels happen between knights or characters who can afford a sword. A dagger fight between two peasants or street urchins can be just as exciting as a bout between a Musketeer and a Cardinalšs Guard. Live combat dagger fighting is swift and vicious. However the gypsy tradition that calls for the two fighters to be tied together at the wrist during a knife fight just does not work with boff weapons. You just end up cutting off the arm that is tied to you and that is the end of it. Boring fight. It also breaks the no physical contact rule. However, if you have seen that Michael Jackson video one too many times and just have to try it, declare the arms that are tied together off target. At least this way the fight will last longer and be more interesting to watch.