Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Duelist Career - House Rule

In Honor+Intrigue, the Career path of a hero represents all of his upbringing and experience and therefore can be used to help determine everything he knows: his skills, his knowledge, his expertise and his influence. Having a Career gives the character a general knowledge of anything to do with the Career, such as who would hold high positions within the profession, where to find a guild, how to find employment in the Career, etc. This is in addition to the skills that the Career entails.

One area of exception is combat. Proficiency in combat is based not on a character’s Career but on the characters Brawl, Melee, Ranged, and Defense abilities. In general, careers have little effect in combat. On occasion, a Career will give some bonus in combat. This bonus can be used once during the combat and only in times where the GM deems it appropriate. The Career bonus applies either to a Hit roll or a Damage roll, declared by the player in advance. 

Most careers have significant and sometimes wide ranging uses. Oddly, the one exception we’ve found is the Duelist Career. The occasional one-time combat bonus isn’t a significant advantage which leaves the players feeling like points put in the Duelist Career are a bit of a waste. As a GM and as a player, I’d like all the Careers to matter and to be significant in their area.

One idea I considered was making ranks in the Duelist Career a prerequisite for mastering dueling styles. Finding a balance between too easy and too restrictive was difficult; adding an exception-based prerequisite feels a bit fiddly; and a penalty or negative incentive for dueling mastery didn’t really feel right for a heroic swashbuckling game. 

Recently I came up with another idea, which was to tie the mastery to the Dueling Career in a positive way. I decided that for any situation where a duelist could use his ability to intimidate an opponent, that the character could add 1 for each dueling style they had mastered up to their rank in the Duelist Career. The rationale is that the Duelist Career represents a certain notoriety and an ability in either showmanship or a steely glance or thousand yard stare that makes the character more intimidating in a duel  or one-on-one sword fight.

Example 1: The daring spy, Guy de Bourge has mastered both the French and Spanish dueling styles. He is about to fight a duel with the Chevalier de Branville and Guy wants to try to intimidate Branville to get a bonus during their duel. However Guy doesn’t have the Duelist career so he can’t add anything for his two masteries. He is limited to adding only a Quality (probably Flair) to his intimidation roll. Fortunately Guy has a Flair of 3 so he can add +3 to his roll. His roll of 6+3-1 for Branville’s Daring 1 gives him an 8 total, which is not good enough to frighten the annoying Branville.

Example 2: Captain Gaston Thibeault is a skilled duelist. He has mastered three dueling styles, Italian, Old, and Morgan and he has 2 ranks in the Duelist Career. He wants to intimidate the swordsman who has foolishly challenged Gaston to a duel. He can add +2 for his Duelist ranks, +2 for 2 of his three masteries, +1 for his Flair 1. His roll of 6+2+2+1-2 for the swordsman’s Daring gives him a total of 9 so the swordsman is daunted by Gaston’s steely gaze causing him to nervously clutch at his sword hilt as he takes an involuntary step backwards. Unless he decides to back down, the swordsman will have a -1 on his actions during the upcoming duel. 

Note 1: If Gaston increases his ranks in Duelist to 3 he would then be able to add in all three Dueling Style masteries plus +3 for his Career. This gives a reasonable incentive for Gaston to put points to the Duelist career instead of just increasing combat abilities, which is exactly the effect I wanted from the new rule.

I came up with the house rule just before our last play session. I ran it by the players who were in favor or uncaring, so we'll give it a try. There should be an opportunity next session to try it out.

Note 2The photo is from the 1977 Ridley Scott film, The Duellists. It stars Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel as the duelists. And if you haven't seen it, you should. It is a thoughtful look at the obsession with honor and dueling that is part of the swashbuckling genre and well worth a viewing.

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