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.
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:
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"**.
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.