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