Duelling

Questions from a couple of my players has encouraged me to think about duelling in a bit more depth. My ‘Stolen Lands’ game is heavily based on Paizo’s Kingmaker AP, which introduced the Aldori and their duelling style –  so duelling classes are important to the game.  We haven’t actually had any duels yet, but we are getting close to the point where I think we might – so I need to be prepared.

Styles

There are three duelling styles available to players in my world –

Aldori

Considered by many to be the most effective duelling style it was introduced by Sirian Aldori, the Sword Baron of Rostand. It is a delicate and acrobatic style based on a specialist ‘duelling’ sword and it taught in Brevoy (mainly in Restov and amongst the Khavortorov) and  Mivon by descendants of the original Aldori Swordlords.

There in no formal mention of a Real life equivalent – in my game the Duelling Sword is based  Katana and the fighting styles based in oriental martial arts.  The description of the duelling sword is katana-like and it fits the story given for Sirian Aldori.  He left Rostland in disgrace after he lost a duel, but then came back years later with a new and better style to reclaim his lands – and we know (from the Jade Regent AP)  that there is a path to oriental lands across the crown of the world.

The Duelling Sword is a ‘hand and a half’ weapon, that can be used in either one, or two hands. It is the ability to change grips, that gives the weapon it speeds and flexibility.  When duelling, the Aldori just use a single weapon and no shield.  Sometimes, when they are in combat, they might choose to use a second weapon in their ‘free’ hand, but their Duelling Sword becomes a lot less effective. Many of the  Aldori specialist archetypes, prestige classes, feats and traits become less effective when the Duellist is using a weapon or shield (including buckler) in their free hand.

An Aldori Duellist is just someone who fights in duels with an Aldori Duelling Sword –  however, the very best will have spent years following specialist training regimes.  A basic Aldori Duellist might just study for proficiency with a Duelling Sword, but to be recognized as a master, and a swordlord, is more difficult.  There are three main routes to becoming a Swordlord.

Swordlord (Fighter Archetype) – the mainstream approach used by the majority of Aldori  families and their troops.   When they achieve level five they are known as a Swordlord Elect (Think Brown Belt).  Level six gains them full Swordlord status  (Think Black belt)

Swordlord (Prestige Class) – The best route for anyone who didn’t follow the Swordlord  archetype – and even some that have.  Qualifying for and achieving a single level of the Swordlord Prestige Class earns you Swordlord Status.

Duellist (Prestige Class) –  An unusual way to qualify, but still possible.  Someone trained in a different class, but proficient with an Aldori Duelling Sword, may well be given Swordlord status when they qualify as a duellist.  However, they will have to prove their ability in a duel.

There are many  Feats and Traits are specifically helpful to Aldori Duellists. 

Traditional

A fast and furious fighting and duelling style from Taldan that is based on the Falcata and Buckler – it is also known as Rondolero. The style is common among fighting men across many areas where Taldan settled originally and is seen as a link to the ‘Old Days’.  However, duels are more gladiatorial than in the other styles.  It is taught in Silverhall, Restov and New Stetven.

Its real life equivalent has to be the Rodeleros of 16th century Spain, but with a nod towards the legionary soldiers of the Roman Empire.

A falcata is a fairly heavy slashing sword, an (in the games rules at least) a buckler is a small shield strapped to the arm.  Although you can grasp something in the Buckler hand –  you lose the defensive benefits of the buckler if you do that – and you also lose all the class benefits  that are based on the buckler.

A Traditional  Duellist is just someone who fights in duels with a buckler and falcata –  however, the very best will have spent years following specialist training regimes.  A basic Traditional Duellist might just study for proficiency with a falcate and buckler, but to be recognized as a master is more difficult.  There are not many ways to become a master duellist in the traditional style.

Buckler Duellist (Fighter Archetype) – the approach chosen by most characters who choose to make a career as a Traditional Duellist.  When they gain Level Six they are known as master Dualists.   

Duellist (Combat Feat) – This feat give a character with basic falcata and buckler skills a boost.  Someone with this feat and, at least, BAB 6 might be awarded Master Duellist status.

Modern

Also known as ‘The Light Blade Style’ in some areas. The rapier is the primary weapon of the Modern Duellist, but the style is flexible enough that it can be used with any light blade.  It doesn’t have the long history of the other two styles, but has been adopted by the aristocracy as a ‘Noble Sport’ and many young nobles get their first taste of swordplay in a duelling area.  Because of this it has become widespread and is available in many places, and is often learned by the middle classes as a way of showing their status.  General seen as the least effective style of Duelling, it tends to be looked down on by hard-core duellists.

Its ‘real life’ equivalent (in this game) is European duelling culture, and the fencing/duelling schools of the 17th and 18th century.

Based on the rapier and light weapons generally, the Modern Style lends itself well to two weapons fighting techniques.  Where a Traditional Duellist uses a Buckler in the off-hand, the  Modern Duellist can use a second weapon, although the Parrying Dagger is the favoured weapon, certainly among nobles and those who ape them.  Note that all the normal rules for two weapon fighting still apply.

A Modern Duellist is just someone who fights in duels with a light blade, most often a rapier. However, the very best will have spent years following specialist training regimes.  A basic modern Duellist might just be proficient with a rapier, or other light blade, but to be recognized as a master is more difficult.  There are not many ways to become a master duellist in the modern style.

Learned Duellist (Fighter Archetype) – This is a career path taken mainly by fighters with an aristocratic background, of one sort or another.  It is a good way to improve your status in aristocratic society.

Duellist (Prestige Class) –  this is the most common career path for a Modern Master Duellist, as it offers a straightforward route into high level duelling for characters from many classes.  Rogues and Bards are the obvious beneficiaries by any ‘combat’ character will have proficiency with rapiers and light blades, and most other classes can learn proficiency with at least one light blade. It is a common route for NPCs with the Aristocrat NPC class, as it can help them gain and maintain status in Aristocratic Circles.

There are many general feats and traits that will help a Modern Duellist improve their duelling ability.

Types of Duel

All duels follow the Paizo duelling rules – or they are not recognized as proper duels.  However, there are many ways they can be interpreted.

Sparring Duels

Duels intended for practice.  These are part of the everyday world of the duellist, and they help the duellist improve and learn better duelling techniques. They generally take place in a duelling salon somewhere in a duelling or sword school. They are fought to the first blood – and there is always a cleric or medic standing by.  Participants used matched weapons and rarely use armour – duelling salons normally provide a selection of weapons for participants to use.  More skilled duellist may use masterwork weapons –  however, both participants will use weapons of the same quality.

Formal Duel

Again, these may take place in a Duelling Salon although they may also happen under the watchful eye of a number of ‘seconds’.  While each participant supplies a second to support them – many duels are watched by a number of independent seconds, who can act as legal witnesses if the outcome of the duel is called into question.  Equipment is agreed between the participants, but should be equal or equivalent.  Formal duels can be fought to First Blood, Unconscious, or Death. 

In my games – first blood requires a medic present, unconscious requires the presence of a priest capable of raise dead or the equivalent, although ‘To the Death’ does not require any medical support available.  No formal duel can be started without the specific OOC consent of both players.

Combat Duel

If a Duel is called, and accepted, in a combat situation – weapons, armour and external assistance are only controlled by the ‘honour’ of the participants.  If an opponent cheats – so be it.

Peter Gasgano

Peter Gasgano first came to life back in 1999, as an NPC for a game I was running at a precursor to PlayByWeb, based on a home-brew Sage class. He became a PC in another game at RPoL running D&D 2.5 (Skills and Powers), before reverting to an NPC in a NWN persistent world, and eventually turning up in Pathfinder game I ran. In between he was a PC in a couple of ‘Tavern’ style games. Now he has grown powerful enough to be an Immortal in my latest game world.

This biography of my long-standing sage, has been ‘written by’ another long-standing character, who also has an interest in collecting information, and will probably serve as my ‘Senior Sage’ now that Gasgano is so important. I might write up Flower’s biography one day.


A biography of Peter Gasgano – as told by Flower Nightsky, Advisor and Librarian to Sir Joromi Doxaro, Lord of Holbridges.

I first met Peter when he come to Berghof to visit the Nightsky Monastary, in the hope of seeing their famous books of prophesy and, while he was refused access to the prophesies, he stayed with me for a few weeks, to learn what he could of the area and the order.  He was interested many things, his current field of study was people and societies – so he collected stories about individuals, groups and societies.  Eventually, he published a paper on the people and history of Berghof.  In return for my help, he told me about his long life and experiences – which I duly wrote down and published as a short biography. 

Peter, or as he is often known, Gasgano, is a small lithe man, not particularly strong, nor light on his feet – but gifted with love of knowledge and the ability to learn, with a knack of rooting out things that few others can find.   He isn’t particularly gregarious, although he is personable and people feel comfortable in talking to him.  Even when his notebook comes out and he starts writing things down.

His early years were spent on a farm, as a child of reasonably wealthy parents – who rented out their lands to tenant farmers.  While not robust, and not interested in the physical work of farming, Peter turned his mind to the academic side of farming.  Before long he had a good understanding of crop rotations, complementary planting, fertilizers and laboursaving systems.  He also had interest in herbs and, particularly, fungi.  Eventually, his father found him and apprenticeship with a sage called Reece, in Angasa.

He was soon sent to Galinia, to act as support for a group of adventurers who were clearing and exploring the land ready for recolonization.  Gasgano’s role was to bolster agricultural production for the clans that had remained behind and to offer support in the form of herbal remedies to the party, as well as recording the wildlife he encountered.  It went well, and he was eventually offered the role of Chief Herald for the newly reformed state.  All went well until, after a trip to Holy Isle to meet the Raven King of Armes, he returned to the land of his birth expecting to reconnect with his family.  Things did not go as planned, and he was caught up in a magical gate-trap which transported him to a different plane – and into the middle of a war between two competing religious factions.

Initially disappointed with their ‘catch’, his new colleagues realised Gasgano’s worth when they found a copy of the Book of the Dead, in the dungeons of a necromancer, and he was able to translate some of it.  That included a spell that allowed him to open a gate to the Paths of the Dead.  The Paths of the Dead surround a world and, if you know how, you can use them to travel rapidly from one point of the world to another.    However, he was soon scrabbling for other, defensive, spells as he and his group fought their way through The Paths to their enemy’s headquarters for the decisive battle.  His use of the book attracted the attention of Ankoo[i] (who is a servant of Aroon[ii], god of the underworld) who taught him how to use the book to travel between planes, and thus find a way home.  However, that made it easier for Gasgano to translate some of the more complex parts of the text, and he worked out how he could absorb some of the powers that were held in the book.

Eventually he summoned a Guiding Light, which led him from The Paths to The Boatman and eventually onto the realms of the goddess Takri[iii].  Takri’s role in her Pantheon is to ensure that souls got to their proper destination, and in this case, seeing as Peter wasn’t dead, he managed to convince her to allow a Guiding Light to show him the way back to his original plane.

He studied with a cleric of The Ruby Sorceress[iv] who sold resurrection to adventurers, and was at the destruction of an Artefact created  for a follower of the Four Horsemen[v] – then studied the religious library that priest had kept.

By this time he was well versed in the Paths of the Dead.  He could manipulate the borders with our world and move between those planes at ease.  He could also control the unquiet spirits of the paths and, if it was required, undead on this plane as well.  And he is the Master of Reincarnation.  Should he ever be killed, he was able to hold his spirit together, and then reform a new body 24 hours later.  He had become an immortal.

He must have sensed a kindred spirit in me, because he invited me to visit his home.  He lives on a permanent demi-plane, somewhere on the Astral Plane.  We travelled via the Path of the Dead, of course, and that alone was an experience worthy of note. The Paths are grey/green, with little or no other colour at all – it is a bit like looking at the word through a pair of heavily misted spectacles. They are full of the unquiet dead, souls who have not released their hold on the living world, or who do not have a coin to pay the ferryman. They clamour around trying to steal life essence, in the misguided belief that they can return to the living world, or trying to steal coins that they may pay their way forwards.  Gasgano constructed a barrier around us and they parted to leave us a way through, although they were always close and moaning softly  – although unable to reach us.  They, and their moaning, accompanied us all the time we were on the Paths of the Dead.

Then there was a very short trip into the Astral Plane, before Gasgano opened a way into his own home.  We entered into a small garden surrounded by fruit bushes and walls slung with climbing plants.  A shallow stream flowed from a wall fountain to make a pond in the middle of the garden, which was surrounded by trees, many bearing nuts, which obscured the sky and left us in dappled shade.  On one side a door leads into a small house.  There is a central living area a main suite for Gasgano and smaller rooms for guests.  While we needed to collect our own water and fruits from the garden, the house itself was kept clean and neat by an invisible servant. A flight of stairs led down …

Into the most comprehensive library I have ever seen.    Chambers filled with books and scrolls of all sorts – there is one with general works, another dedicated to natural sciences such as agriculture, herbs and fungi.  A third contains Gasgano’s own writings on the people and societies of our world, while another contains his books and research notes on death, the Paths of the Dead and other similar topics.  It was most impressive.

A door from the other side of the garden led to the Sunset Land.  A large red sun hung on the horizon, throwing the cool shadows of evening across a pleasant parkland dotted with large trees and small open air amphitheatres, all linked by narrow paths..    Small group of people congregated under trees to discuss lore and theories, while some of the amphitheatres hosted a ‘teacher’ holding forth of their favourite theories and philosophies.  Mostly this led to quiet debate, although occasionally voices were raised in fiercer debate of the finer or philosophical points of an argument.

We didn’t stop for long, before Gasgano returned us to this mundane world and the tasks of daily life.  However, that was a journey that I will never forget, and one that changed my outlook on life.  I have always followed a path of physical and mental development and trained both my mind and body to deal with the rigours of life – and my upbringing at the Nightsky monastery gave me a healthy respect for books and reading.  However, now I have taken the step of deliberately searching out new information and recording it as best I can, in the hope that one day I will be deemed suitable for an afterlife filled with gentle discussion and debate.  Who knows, one might still be able to grow and develop, even after one has died.


[i] Ankou, Breton Celtic: shepherd of souls.

[ii] Arawn, Welsh Celtic: God of the Underworld.

[iii] Takri, Valarez Pantheon: A bespoke Psycopomp written for a game set in Valerez, now translated to my New World Pantheon.

[iv] Wee Jas, Various D&D.  Shepherdess of the dead. She was the story-core behind the death system in NWN worlds that I worked on.

[v] The Four Horsemen, Pathfinder 1 Mythos.