Here’s one of the more fun snippets from the World of Warcraft role-playing game. “The elders of a tribe resolve most issues, or two tauren may resolve a conflict with a ritual challenge resembling a duel.”
Sweet! Ritual duelling! Bring it!
So, how can we do this? Here are some thoughts.
How is such a challenge issued?
I can’t really see tauren just marching up with his supporters behind him, before declaring, “Challenge.” While it’s a cool image, and it’s something I could see the humans, dwarves or orcs doing, it doesn’t fit the tauren.
Part of me wonders if there isn’t a very ritualistic way this could be done as well, a calling out that is negotiated through the elders. This would also make sense since it gives the elders a chance to negotiate something better, which is very suited to the tauren mentality of caution and care. If you have a third party who can play the ‘arbiter’ in the conflict, then use them.
Have both of you approach the person you have a conflict with. You remain silent. The arbiter does all the speaking. He ritually states the terms of the grievance, and asks reparations. (These may not be even possible to meet, a conflict over a wrongful death could well be, “He asks you return his father to life, and give him back to him.”) If the demands are not met, then the arbiter states that the other party is challenged. Perhaps words such as, “If you can not make this right, then this conflict must end. Stand your ground and fight.”
The arbiter then states the terms of the conflict. And here’s where it gets really fun.
How do you run a ritual duel?
That’s the great thing about it. It’s a ritual challenge. There’s a whole heap of ceremony about it.
First off, the arbiter should nearly always /yell out what’s going on. Get witnesses who can cheer on a winner or loser, or maybe even participate. (Depending on how role-play centric your server is, but most players on even half-way role-play tolerant realms will surely cheer on a fight.) Then, the arbiter should make some weird twist to the duel. This works best if it can somehow mimic the issue the conflict is over, but failing that, there are plenty of options. Here are a few, sorted by the tauren classes. These are delivered in character.
Druids – In all forms
“We take on the shapes of the animals so that we may have their eyes and see all perspectives. If you will fight, then you will be made wise as you fight! Three duels. First in bear, second in cat, third on two legs. You may not change forms during the fight itself! Whoever surrenders twice will cede this argument and agree to all conditions of the victor. You fight on three. One… two…”
Mechanics: Just like it sounds. Best of three one in each form. You are able to fully heal yourself between duels. If someone wins the first two, the third isn’t called. If one of the two is feral and one isn’t, it may be best to make it first on two legs, then in cat, then in bear.
Hunter – A battle of nerves
“To be a hunter is a great responsibility, one that requires restraint even when the rage is hottest. Each of you will stand on one fire. You will not leave it, even though it burns you. Neither wear any protective clothing. The last to fall is the victor. But the last to shoot gains honour. You may fire when you feel you must.”
Mechanics: A variation on the classic Wild West duel. Create two campfires a good distance apart. Stand on them. As you take little bits of damage, the chance of a breakthrough win with quick shots increases. Note: This works better, of course, with lower-level characters, but even at the high levels there’s a strong advantage in shooting first, so the basic tension mechanic still works.
Shaman – Wisdom and strength.
“Might in battle and might in mind go hand in hand for the shamans. Each of you will wear no armour of any sort. Take the biggest weapon you have. I will ask you each a question. It may be on the spirits. On us. On the Earthmother’s world. The crowd will make its suggestions, but I will have final say. Who answers best, strikes once. The first one to fall loses, and cedes to the other’s demands. This is the first question…”
Mechanics: You may need to alter this one a bit so that it doesn’t drag on too long, perhaps make it three hits or such. Either way, the idea is simple: Wisdom is rewarded, but so is a really strong axe-arm.
Warrior – Tenacity and versatility
“You are our guardians. We require you to adapt to any threat, and be tireless. You will fight three times, first with staff, then with dagger, then with fists. There will be but time to bandage a single wound between fights. The winner of the last fight wins, and sets terms. Fight on three. One, two…”
Mechanics: Three quick duels, one after the other, but in between the two combatants each get one identical bandage and that is it. As soon as they’re bandaged (assistants should bandage as swiftly as possible as the duel ends) the next duel should begin immediately. Dawdling will result in a forfeit. The two fighters use identical weapons, cheap ones bought in the city they’re in. Perhaps, once again, no armour. That means no statistics bonuses of any sort, the only unfair advantage would be a level advantage.
And then what?
As the fight resolves, the arbiter should acknowledge the winner. That winner should set down terms, to be observed by all. The loser should, of course, agree to every last one of them unconditionally, or lose great honour.
But what if the conditions are unreasonable? Well, that’s the risk you take in a duel. But one always hears of a second challenge, maybe even years down the road, where the conditions of failure may just be, “Admit your dishonourable conduct all those years ago…”