Sunday, September 21, 2014

Melee Academy: Mage-Blade Duelling

Inspired by +Peter V. Dell'Orto and +Douglas Cole posts (here, here, and here) on "Longsword Sport" I wonder if the style is portable to less modern settings...and what's more, what if it were more than just a sport? But a way of two mages to settle a point of contention without spells?

The Style
I'm totally riffing off of what Peter put together in his post, so this isn't my own material, but his.

Mage-Blade Duelling 
4 points*
This is similar to Longsword Fighting (GURPS Martial Arts, pp. 180-182), but uses nonlethal weapons that drain FP instead of causing HP injury. It emphasizes striking with a sword, but also teaches how to turn a parry from your weapon into a move that is more or less a Judo Throw (to better toss your opponent out of the duelling circle).

Skills: Games (Mage-Blade Duelling); Two-Handed Sword; Two-Handed Sword Sport.
Techniques: Counterattack (Two-Handed Sword); Disarm (Two-Handed Sword); Feint Two-Handed Sword);
Cinematic Skills: Mental Strength; Power Blow.
Cinematic Techniques: Timed Defense (Two-Handed Sword).
Perks: Grip Mastery (Longsword); Special Exercises (Will); Special Setup (Two-Handed Sword Parry > Judo Throw).

Optional Traits
Advantages: Enhanced Dodge; Enhanced Parry (Two-Handed Sword); Mind Shield; Weapon Master (Two-Handed Sword).
Disadvantages: Delusions; Obsession (win duels).
Skills: Broadsword; Judo; Thaumatology.
Perks: Weapon Bond.
* If the GM allows those with Magery to buy Mental Strength without Trained by a Master or Weapon Master - most this skill to the required skills and increase the style's cost to 5 points.

The Weapon
All mage-blades have the following modifier and many of them are also Fine or Very Fine, Balanced, and/or Presentation Quality/Decorated.

Mage-Duelling Weapon: Your weapon doesn't cause actual damage, instead it inflicts damage on your foe's FP (see below). This damage is based on your Will score instead of your ST score and each level of Magery you possess adds to Will for this purpose only. FP lost this way cannot be regained by magical means - you must rest normally! +29 CF.

The Duel
Duellists fight within a consecrated circle (which can be anything from a hasty put together rope or a more permanent one carved into a stone floor and inlaid with jewels) which must be set using both Symbol-Drawing and Thaumatology. Once within the circle a dome-like field surrounds the duellists which only comes down when one of them forfeits by leaving, is thrown outside the field, or passes out from FP-loss. The circle prevents those from inside casting magic as well as those from outside interfering. All strikes with a mage-duelling weapon (see above) reduce the duellists FP score, not his HP score. Optionally, he may make a special Active Defense using his Will/2 +3 (Mental Strength can be used if better), success means he reduces the damage he takes by 1 point per point of Margin of Success. This often looks the duellist was hit - he just didn't take (much) damage. Physical contact with anything other than the duelling weapons is frowned upon, but allowed unless both duellists decide otherwise. 

Picking Over the Bones
If the GM wants duels to be deadly, he can simply decree that for every two points of FP lost duellists also lost one HP or even a 1:1 ratio. If he does this, both duelists should agree to the terms as it represents a real danger of death, rather than embarrassment or loss. Such "lethal duels" are rarely fought and only end with the death of one of the duellists or one of them granting mercy to the other. The GM is free to change the weapon to something more traditional, like staves or canes, if that better fits his campaign setting.


  1. That duel-circle is a tremendously powerful defensive mechanism for a wizard's tower of Mages' Guildhall.

    1. That' a good point. I'd say that it requires anyone using it or observing it to agree to it. That is, it cannot be used in the manner you describe. It's sort of like "Utter Dome by consensus." If you can't agree to the duel (fighting or observing), then you can't observe it because otherwise you'd be able to interfere.