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Ascarel

What's up with dueling?

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Posted (edited)

In the same spirit as this other thread I made a while ago, I thought I'd go on with another discussion of theme and game design interaction in the context of L5R. Some disclaimer:

  1. I still love L5R as much as before, perhaps more so.
  2. I am going to write about something I don't like to the point of being borderline NPE.
  3. This is still not a rant. See #1.

I've come to believe that the design of duels in L5R has missed its mark and fails to live up to its thematic underpinnings -- resoundingly so.

By default, when initiating a duel, a player chooses both characters involved in the duel. In practice, this makes the vast majority of duels what's been called "bully duels". Players will set up their duels to be won easily, if not with certainty. Many cards actually encourage this, especially that combo of Iaijutsu Master/Mirumoto Daisho that I've seen too often on Jigoku for my taste, but both cards individually carry the same spirit. And actually nobody needs to go that far, because the mere fact of choosing a weaker opponent is what irks me and make me roll my eyes. And because this is a choice players will often make and often actively work toward, most duels 1) bring no tension to the game as a result, 2) have a completely skewed risk/reward ratio for the initiator. 

Sure, in so doing the players follow the rules, but to my mind, such duels are completely.... dishonorable. 

Yep, I really went there. 😉

Bully duels are inherently dishonorable, plain and simple.

Competitive players are all Scorpions at heart, I guess. 😉

In terms of game design vs theme, there is a conundrum here. I was told that in the old lore, a character like Toshimoko never lost a duel. I have no problem with that, but that's one character alone, not a whole game mechanic going in a dubious direction.

I would also counter with the following. There is very little glory in being the best duelist against weaker opponents. In being the best, Toshimoko should win duels against a buffed up Kisada with little sweat -- but that is not what the game is allowing at all.

To follow the theme more closely, I would have enjoyed being granted a choice like that given by Arbiter of Authority but at all times -- I don't want to duel you, but I will dishonor my character for refusing. Or maybe there should have been some additional cost added to initiate an easy duel. Or maybe a character not meant for dueling should not be challenged at all? Just let _duelists_ do their thing amongst themselves? Just thinking out loud here. Anyway, I feel that so much more could have been done around that mechanic in relation to the theme. The more I think of it, the more being a good duelist should mean that yes, you should win more easily against strong characters -- but not necessarily against everyone. It feels wrong. It's a loophole. And as long as it is there, I guess Scoprions people will exploit it. :P 

Alright, so that was it. Discuss!

 

Edited by Ascarel

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In Rokugan, dueling is an oppressive tool, and many duels are thrown against weaker opponents. It is a bullying tool. And Cranes are masters in using it that way. 

It's true, most duellers will optimize their chances to win by buffing their guys with weapons, events or honor tokens and target low skills opponents. but I guess every tower deck does. 

When I play a duel card, I expect to win it with minimal honor exchange. To be fair, I'd rather have a strong card with directly an ability, restricted to Duelists than having to buff my guy and play the honor dial minigame. 

In that, it's true that dueling isn't that glorious moment where all odds can turn, high stakes will be played and the gods will favor the braves. 

But I don't think it is supposed to be.

It's a dirty business, as war, politics and killing  are. 

Funny entertaining high stakes duels may happen, like buffed Kisada against buffed honored Toshimoko with iaijutsu Master on defense on the stronghold. 

Such fight could happen on a batlefield, but maybe not a ritualized Iai duel. And while Toshimoko will most indubitably strike first and strike true, Kisada won't die on the spot and retaliate with a Killing Blow. Might even survive with a permanent wound. 

In game terms, it ends to whoever buffs first at max before the resolution of the conflict and how much honor can one spend/lose. 

As long as I can spend two honor, I just need 3 skill above my target to bid 3 and sure win. 

I'm not going to duel your 7+ skill with my 4 skill for the sake of giving you the opportunity to bid just 3 and win, except if the shift of two honor is at stake for you, so that's bullying too anyway. 

Duelling comes from card abilities so duel refusal or cancels should come from card abilities (like conditions included in the initiated duel) and not be part of a framework, like stay your hand, or upcoming Crane kill duel, which is a bully force dishonor or bully dishonored kill. 

Funny you refer to scorpions using this as amongst the decks I play, my Scorpion is a non duelling at all scorpion KB Shinobi with lowering skills tools using stay your hand to reject duels, and Toshimoko for example isn't an issue, he can double coverted when needed. 

But my honorable Kakita are dirty bully duelers preying on weaker skill characters and messing with your honor. 

In Dragon, well as I go mighty towers and try to overpower opponents characters, might as well take advantage of it and use duelling, with box and attachs you should have 3-4 more than most anyway. 

I like and play dueling decks, but I agree it's a convoluted minigame of overpowering the other characters to minimize the risk and not an all or nothing spotlight moment. And it ends up as "bullying" most of the time. 

But it takes work, and can somehow be played around or fail. 

I don't know how they could have implemented it differently because if the initiator risks losing an effect or letting opponent resolve it by playing this duel card, he just won't play it. 

I believe the honor exchange may have been a limitation during testing, but now this as become part of the honor pressure arsenal. 

 

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Posted (edited)

Ffg has already addressed the bully dueling with the new duels. You can take the duel or refuse and be dishonored (just being able to refuse with nothing happening wouldnt make sense) and theres a duel cancel, which, as far as I know, is the only cancel in the game that works against events and character abilities other than ready for battle, so thats there too. Also theres that duelist that lets the winner draw two cards, and its a political duel on a 2pol character that cant enter military duels (so as to have easier bullying) and is assassinable, so theres some actualnrisk in using it, and requires some more investment to secure a win.

I dont think duels shouldnt be bully duels. Players invest in the bully and spend cards and fate on him. Expecting that investment to have even a 50/50 chance of winning wpuld suck. And if Im investing 3+ cards for a duel, I expect it to win. I dont think its wrong that it shouldnt be that way. I agree that it should be controlled and tempered, and I think ffg has done a good job at it so far fixing it. But at the same time i think if duels were non bully they simply wouldnt work.

Also, doing a duel has other costs, namely the cons of having tower characters, and the fact the conflict deck loses space for other things.

Also, there are many cards that deal with attachments, to control attachment based duels or buffs, holdings (both in events, other holdings in case of phoenix, and characters with the new lion guy) to control holding based duels, and characters to control character based duels (cloud the mind, send home abilities like rout or outwit or kachiko or the orator), or "make thebtext blank" or "cannot be targeted" abilities

I think its just a matter of adapting to a duel focused deck and taking some tools to deal with the situation in as much measure as you see fit. Basically, adapting to a meta

Edited by RafaelNN

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14 hours ago, Nitenman said:

I don't know how they could have implemented it differently because if the initiator risks losing an effect or letting opponent resolve it by playing this duel card, he just won't play it.

Spot on. You don't play a card (or use an ability) if you don't believe it will give you an advantage.

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Thanks guys for your input. I appreciate it.

15 hours ago, Nitenman said:

In Rokugan, dueling is an oppressive tool, and many duels are thrown against weaker opponents. It is a bullying tool. And Cranes are masters in using it that way. 

This I find is interesting. In some ways, it's the best argument that can convince me to start accepting duels as they are. Why? Because this reminds me of the RPG's ethos as expounded by FFG (no idea about past editions) -- everyone needs to maintain an honorable façade but nobody really does it all the time. So by accepting duels as an oppressive tool, this is a tacit admission that honorable behaviour is more theory than practice.

I can get behind that for the sake of theme. The only caveat I would point out is that even in this context, you would normally "cheat" when people are not looking, hoping to keep your public face intact. But bully duels are the opposite of that. Thematically speaking, I really have a hard time with it. 😕

15 hours ago, Nitenman said:

Funny you refer to scorpions using this as amongst the decks I play, my Scorpion is a non duelling at all scorpion

I did not refer to specific decks, just that doing something dishonorable is Scorpion-like behaviour. 😉

 

15 hours ago, RafaelNN said:

Ffg has already addressed the bully dueling with the new duels. You can take the duel or refuse and be dishonored (just being able to refuse with nothing happening wouldnt make sense) 

I have no idea what you are talking about. There is no refusal allowed in the Dueling framework.

 

58 minutes ago, Khudzlin said:

Spot on. You don't play a card (or use an ability) if you don't believe it will give you an advantage.

I don't disagree with that. I guess my feeling is that genuine dueling does not fit this requirement.

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Posted (edited)

Ah, I don't recall any other than Arbiter of Authority, to be honest. They still seem to be in the minority. If we see more in the future, this will be a positive development in my view. 

Edited by Ascarel

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Posted (edited)

I am torn on duels. For those curious - in the old system, each conflict card had a number at the bottom of it. When a duel began, players would place conflict cards into the "focus pool" (or you could do it blind from the top of your deck) and then those numbers on the bottom were added to the duel value to determine winner.

It was clunky (I am leaving out a LOT of details) but I must admit that it felt very much like a duel. I do enjoy how streamlined the new system is, but must admit it doesn't always feel like a duel. The honor wager seems like a good idea in theory, but feels pointless in execution.

I think there's potential in it, but it still feels undercooked as a mechanic.

Edited by Simplegarak

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9 minutes ago, Simplegarak said:

I am torn on duels. For those curious - in the old system, each conflict card had a number at the bottom of it. When a duel began, players would place conflict cards into the "focus pool" (or you could do it blind from the top of your deck) and then those numbers on the bottom were added to the duel value to determine winner.

It was clunky (I am leaving out a LOT of details) but I must admit that it felt very much like a duel. I do enjoy how streamlined the new system is, but must admit it doesn't always feel like a duel. The honor wager seems like a good idea in theory, but feels pointless in execution.

I think there's potential in it, but it still feels undercooked as a mechanic.

Part of the issue is the general nature of dueling and any card mechanic in any game.  If you aren't geared to win why are you using the action, most CCG era decks were either you didn't run duels because why play a card that may backfire on me, or you were all in on duels and every trick that went with them because why play a card that may backfire on me.  You don't play half measures cause that just leads to a diluted deck that doesn't win games consistently.

At least with the new dueling system you can use it a as a tool to honor pressure.  With this challenge that my opponent is only up by 1 or 2 you have to decide is he trying to get the effect off or does he want me to bid higher in the hopes of winning and only bid 1 himself to drain some honor from me.  Similarly I may be willing to sacrifice some honor to guarantee a clutch secondary effect like getting a bow or kill effect off.  New dueling at least since it doesn't require me to have built specifically to counter duels to have a chance to interact with the dial feels more relevant and generally a little less feels bad to be on the receiving end all the time.

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Posted (edited)

I would like to preface by requesting you read my entire post before the bbq begins. 

I don’t honestly think there is a problem with dueling inherently. The mechanic is pretty sound and thematic. In an even match, if both parties are even in their strike. The duel in a tie. If one is less honorable, they stand a better chance to win but must do so at the cost of honor... etcetera... it even goes that within a few similar numbers, the more skilled participant should win but can be beaten, if honor is sacrificed. 

The issue I perceive is that while duels are traditionally, conceptually between two parties and conflicts are between any number of parties, why do we use the same stats? I do think making more duels refusable for a cost is good. But additionally I think duels based on base stat or even more appropriately, glory would be better and more thematic. Base stat allows for closer stats. Doesn’t prevent bully dueling but definitely limits it. Glory, though, that is a whole different ballgame. It is more personal to the character, it isn’t modified by status, and it’s number range is most of the time between 0-4. Yes there are outliers (the emperor, Satorii, Isawa Mori Seido...), but in most honest cases I think it would be more balanced and allow for more diverse bidding, allowing for increased interactivity in duels. Just some thoughts.

Edited by Strange1

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5 minutes ago, Strange1 said:

I would like to preface by requesting you read my entire post before the bbq begins. 

I don’t honestly think there is a problem with dueling inherently. The mechanic is pretty sound and thematic. In an even match, if both parties are even in their strike. The duel in a tie. If one is less honorable, they stand a better chance to win but must do so at the cost of honor... etcetera... it even goes that within a few similar numbers, the more skilled participant should win but can be beaten, if honor is sacrificed. 

The issue I perceive is that while duels are traditionally, conceptually between two parties and conflicts are between any number of parties, why do we use the same stats? I do think making more duels refusable for a cost is good. But additionally I think duels based on base stat or even more appropriately, glory would be better and more thematic. Base stat allows for closer stats. Doesn’t prevent bully dueling but definitely limits it. Glory, though, that is a whole different ballgame. It is more personal to the character, it isn’t modified by status, and it’s number range is most of the time between 0-4. Yes there are outliers (the emperor, Satorii, Isawa Mori Seido...), but in most honest cases I think it would be more balanced and allow for more diverse bidding, allowing for increased interactivity in duels. Just some thoughts.

The issue is that Glory is not applied to characters evenly as a reflection of skill its an example of honor and notoriety.  Take for example Hida Kisada.  He is a skilled fighter and can certainly hold himself well in any martial duel if required, but he has 0 glory because he frankly doesn't care about honor and many of the bushido tenants he is pragmatism and duty and pretty much nothing else.  All of a sudden you've made him into a dueling chump where as in most martial duels opponents should be very worried about facing him.

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FWIW in the recent fiction with Kuzunobu, he effectively shuts down Lion interference with the Fox Clan (during a "political conflict" no less!) by threatening to use Kaezin for a military bully duel. The Crane are clearly no strangers to leveraging their duelists to bully others into giving them what they want. 

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I agree glory isnt a good reflexion ofnthe character for duels. I think having some duels be unavoidable, and having some (more than currently available) be avoidable with a cost (like being fishonored, or losing fate, or paying fate, etc) is a good solution. It avoids bully dueling, gives some agency to the duels target, but at the same time gives something to the player who initiates the duel -even if its not as good as the duel itself- to compensate the investment. That, with more duel control and cancel cards would be a very good solution imo

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2 hours ago, Strange1 said:

But additionally I think duels based on base stat or even more appropriately, glory would be better and more thematic.

Good news, everyone!

Taryu-Jiai

;) 

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Posted (edited)
14 minutes ago, Tonbo Karasu said:

I realise that this is just a typo, but it made me laugh out loud.  I wonder, is that what happens when you use Benten's Blessing on a Ningyo?

I can mever type correctly with the iphone keyboards. And autocorrect sucks

Edited by RafaelNN

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1 minute ago, RafaelNN said:

I can mever type correctly with the iphone keyboards. And autocorrect sucks

Auto-correct definitely sucks, but today it made my life happier in a small way.

If people don't mind me veering off dramatically, I remember reading an article almost 30 years ago where an author complained about what auto-correct did to his classical concert reviews.  The Ring Cycle, by Wager, starts with Dad Rhine Gold continues with Die Walker proceeds to Dear Ring Dies Nibbling and concludes with Rotterdam.

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18 hours ago, Tonbo Karasu said:

I realise that this is just a typo, but it made me laugh out loud.  I wonder, is that what happens when you use Benten's Blessing on a Ningyo?

No, it's what happens when a senior Crane diplomat calls the Scorpion imperial chancellor a fishmonger in full court. At Winter Court.

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Currently dueling mechanic is used too carefree...
Especially with new Crane Stronghold, win or lose I get honored.
Its not punishing, crane can trigger duels for free, with holding and whatever happens get free honored char to pump voice or just for sake of having better stats.
From what I have played in Jigoku and with our local group, duels are becoming more and more out of the boundaries of game...

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37 minutes ago, JudgeRedeemer said:

Currently dueling mechanic is used too carefree...
Especially with new Crane Stronghold, win or lose I get honored.
Its not punishing, crane can trigger duels for free, with holding and whatever happens get free honored char to pump voice or just for sake of having better stats.
From what I have played in Jigoku and with our local group, duels are becoming more and more out of the boundaries of game...

I don't really like dueling, but I fail to see how the current duels are outside of the boundaries of the game.

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Well duel should be kinda meaningful, like courtier on courtier or bushi on bushi...
Not like my huge club wielding samurai will challenge your 0 mil skill courtier...
I have total skill 8, and can bid 1, you on the other hand can do jack squat...
Its pointless and often just meh...
And its especially going bad now with duel crane...

Somewhere along these lines:

 

Edited by JudgeRedeemer

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How is it not meaningful when Toshimoko stonewalls a whole conflict? Or when Kisada with a Tetsubo makes playing an event in a conflict risky. Or Hitomi with a Daisho threatening to dishonor you. Most duels only work in conflicts and can be played around. If you don't want your Swordsmith with one fate to eat a Raitsugu duel, you have the option to not attack into him.

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Yeah, not attacking cause duel, not defending cause duel, why play then?
When he triggers first duel on mil 10 kisada with tetsubo you say gg and go home? I mean it is a valid plan, saves you all the trouble and saves all the time it might have been lost in one sided match....

When you look at that, like 95% works only in conflict...
Overusing duels to mitigate all that is not the point of them.

Edited by JudgeRedeemer

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You are free to attack or defend, but you then have to live with the consequences. Especially as second player you can lessen the impact of Raitsugu. Dueling effects (without M. Daisho) are only opressive if you need your character in a specific conflict (Lion, Unicorn) or if you don't respect them.

Only working in conflicts is the point of duels, so you can play around it. If I have an important event, I will need to make a risk/reward analysis before playing it in a conflict against a Keeper deck with a character that has a high mil value. Same story as with all the other cancels.

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Still, putting high mil char in pol. duel just to bow or discard your character kinda negates the whole point, you found weaker opponent and beat him to a pulp....
For example last game I had daidoji uji in pol conflict, dueling me mil, and bowing, honoring himself and breaking the province...
And since my char had - for mil it was disaster in advance...

You cant say its ok, its not...
It need to get revisited and possibly polished some more.
 

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