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locust shell

Slightly crunchier one-roll Iai duels

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I'm not super satisfied with the RAW for dueling when it comes to Iaijutsu duels to first strike/first blood. These are supposed to be the most common types of duel fluff-wise, with the goal of "one perfect cut," but as written, starting characters seem to mostly end up swinging wildly and whiffing for several rounds, in quite a time-consuming way...

In any case, I've been messing around with a way to use the one-roll rules for single-strike Iaijutsu duels, but make it a bit more crunchy, so people who've invested in being good at the rings and techniques associated with "duelists" actually benefit from that.

Here's what I've got at the moment. I'm pretty happy with it, but I'm not sure whether it has weird bugs hiding somewhere that I haven't noticed yet. Thoughts?

 

Quote

One-Strike Iaijutsu Duels


Challenge and Focus
Duelists begin the duel at Range 1 from one another, with their swords sheathed (ie. not readied).


[OPTIONAL ADDITION: Each duelist enters the Void stance and takes the Center action for one turn.]

 

Each duelist suffers one Strife as they stare down their opponent.

Strike
Each duelist declares the Stance they will take for the duel. Duelists who do not have a way to ready a weapon as part of an attack action (such as an Iaijutsu Cut kata) must declare Water stance if they wish to make a weapon attack within the single round of the duel.

Any duelist in Water stance may take their bonus action before the Strike roll. (This might mean readying a weapon.)

Each duelist then makes the competitive duel check. This is a Martial Arts [Melee] check using the Ring of the duelist's current stance. The TN is the opponent's Focus/2 (rounded up). Any effect that modifies this TN, such as Air Stance or a condition afflicting the duelist, applies as normal. This check is treated as an Attack action check targeting the duelist's opponent for the purposes of abilities.

Resolution:
The character who has more bonus successes strikes first, becoming victorious in the duel.

In a duel using live weapons, the victor inflicts a critical strike with severity equal to twice their weapon’s deadliness, plus their bonus successes, upon their foe. The enemy can resist as usual (see page 270). In a duel with blunted or practice swords, the victor scores a clear hit but may choose to reduce the critical strike to severity 2 ("Close Call").
[The rest of this section is identical to the last 2 paragraphs of the RAW for one-roll duels, dealing with cases where no one passed the check or the check was tied.]

 

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It does make some stances rather useless (earth?) and also some techniques like "battle in the mind" not usable and also makes then endurance and composure stats trivial.

While I think the idea of allowing a critical strike that bypass the earth stance effect (my main grip with duels as is, fluff wise) is Great, you probably need to polish your rule a slight bit to allow all stances some kind of "style" or purpose so not all duelists end up the same.

 

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Posted (edited)

Battle in the Mind isn't on my radar as much, I confess, because I'm looking at lower level PCs and it's a Rank 3 tech, so players are presumably going to fight a respectable number of duels before it ever even comes up. But I think it would be easy, and change almost nothing else, to add an initiative roll before the duel if techs and Distinctions that key off initiative were relevant (or if a duel of this kind were going to be incorporated into a battle scene--in that case I'd do as 4E does and have the strike round take place on the slower PC's initiative).

The strike in the one-roll duel as it's included in the RAW is more or less the same as the Finishing Blow from the multi-round duel, and both of those also ignore Earth stance and endurance, so I can't really take any credit for that. 😆

Thinking of how a variety of builds could work in this mechanic... I think there's still a payoff to all stances--Air increases defensive TN and Fire gives you bonus successes, so those are obvious. Void will always still be good if you're low on Composure coming in. Earth lets you spend opportunity to weaken crits against you, which matters a lot if the strike roll ties, and it still stops the other person from hitting you with conditions using their techs (also, the Earth approach really shouldn't be especially favored in a duel format based on quickness, reaction, and misdirection, imo). Water lets you draw and cut if you haven't got the specialized training for it, and otherwise lets you de-strife yourself and potentially do other stuff with your extra action. But if folks have suggestions for ways to tweak them, I'd be interested.

Several other School Abilities and techniques could be applied to the attack roll as well (basically anything that would otherwise be useful in a single-round combat against one opponent).

RE: composure and endurance... to be honest, one of the things I dislike most about the RAW duel mechanic is that as written, characters heavy on Earth and Water--Crab etc--end up doing better in an actual iai duel than, say, Kakita Duelists, because Composure is designed such that classic Crane style courtier-duelists are terrible at it. (Their higher Vigilance doesn't really save them, because for every 1-point leg up they get in initiative, their opponent probably has a 2-point advantage in strife threshold....). So yes, I've purposefully swapped Composure for Focus as the derived attribute taking center stage in the duel, because that makes more sense to me.

Endurance, imo, shouldn't be of much relevance in a first touch/first blood iaijutsu duel, since it's meant to be over in one cut. In my experience so far, using the RAW lower-level PCs mostly just flail around wildly, doing minimum or no Fatigue damage at all to their opponents, as they fish desperately for opportunity symbols until somebody runs out of strife. 🤣

 

Edited by locust shell

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Posted (edited)

That all make sense.

And yes, duels to first strike/blood, are off. For MANY reason (earth ring, iai kata can't crit, center/predict being garbage, especially).

Edited by Avatar111

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How about giving a Strife penalty for a missed strike? 

If a duelist takes opponent's Vigilance in Strife when he misses a strike then it will a) speed up duels, addressing the time consuming part of the issue and b) penalize duelists who slash wildly fishing for opps, so that addresses the 'this doesn't look very cinematic' part of the issue and c) make underused stat Vigilance have a small opportunity to shine. 

Makes Center more of a usable action as well. 

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1 hour ago, Miwt said:

How about giving a Strife penalty for a missed strike? 

If a duelist takes opponent's Vigilance in Strife when he misses a strike then it will a) speed up duels, addressing the time consuming part of the issue and b) penalize duelists who slash wildly fishing for opps, so that addresses the 'this doesn't look very cinematic' part of the issue and c) make underused stat Vigilance have a small opportunity to shine. 

Makes Center more of a usable action as well. 

Interesting.

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I wouldn’t say earth stance is useless. You can use it to reduce critical strikes against you. And it gives you composure, which is vital at all times, if not explicitly called out in the duel. 

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