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Duel Arcane as Fantastical Over the Top Chases

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  • Duel Arcane as Fantastical Over the Top Chases

    A few years ago I made a ruleset for running the Duel Arcane using the chase ruleset, with the aesthetics of the duels being giant over the top wizard battles. Since someone else posted their own version, thought it'd be good to post my own. My group found using this system a lot funner than the default, and it was even used in the Occultist's Anonymous's 'The Rookery' podcast after they felt the default system just wasn't what they were looking for. Link to the pdf.

    Duel Arcane
    While mages sometimes fight using normal spells, some situations call for something more meaningful than simply flinging the elements at each other or cursing enemies from the safety of your sanctum. By using the Display of Power spell, the wise have developed a method of combat that pits one mages soul against another in the supernal world. During these duels, the participants form imagos that represent their will and draw forth their nimbus to create grand attacks and mighty wards in the supernal, but they do not cast any distinct spells during this battle.

    Duel Basics
    • Set the Terms: Start by having it clear what each party desires and stakes on his duel. These stakes are often over things like territories and mentors, but can be anything from love or what approach should be used to study a certain artefact. Once this is done, each character must separately determine how many successes they’ll need to be considered the victor of the duel. By default, each party requires ten total successes to prevail. Apply modifiers to this total as follows. If a supernal entity is your opponent treat their Gnosis as equalling twice their rank for the purpose of these modifiers, and are considered to have Enlightened Wisdom.
      • Opponent’s Gnosis is higher than yours +1
      • Opponent’s Gnosis is twice yours +3
      • Opponents Wisdom is a tier higher than yours +1
      • Opponents Wisdom is two tiers higher than yours +2
      • Opponent is in love with you -1
      • Opponent is or was your mentor +1
      • Opponent is from an allied sect +1
      • Opponent is from a hostile sect +2
      • Opponent is considered your rival +1
      • You have declared your intention to destroy your opponent as a result of the duel +1
      • Surrounding environment is appropriate for the opponent’s path +1
    • Determine the Edge: As mages fight their duel, they will reshape the supernal world within the Display of Power through their imago and nimbus. Whoever has better manipulated the supernal environment, terrain, and circumstances to his advantage based on the ever-changing situation is considered to have the Edge. To determine who has the Edge at the start of a Duel Arcana, each party makes contested a Gnosis + Arcana roll, but the Arcana being used in the dicepool must being one of their Ruling Arcana. As the context of the scene changes significantly, re-determine who has the Edge.
    • Turns: Each turn represents roughly 30 seconds to a minute of performing strikes and constructing defences, though some fights might be more fitting for each turn to be whole hours, or even days. The character with the Edge rolls first, and on the first turn choose if they will be using the Sword or Shield action. If she accumulates the requisite total successes before others have a chance to roll, she wins immediately. The character without Edge is forced to use whichever of Sword or Shield actions that the character with Edge didn’t choose. Each turn, which character uses Sword or Shield is swapped.
    Swords and Shields
    Both Sword and Shield use the same duel action but each represents very different types of magic.

    Using the Sword action in a Duel Arcane means that you draw upon elements of your path, nimbus, and Arcana to attack your enemy in some way. For example an Obrimos might conjure forth an exquisite golden spear with just the exact perfect length to strike at their opponents directly or they could warp the gravity around their enemy to create a black hole with the aim of crushing them. Thrysus could transform a nearby spider into a colossal monster of primal cunning, or they could have the stones beneath their opponents feet transform into hungry spirit maws. One of the Mastigos might draw a nightmare out of their mind and forge it into a hellish whip that disturbs any that even look at it, or perhaps they’ll make their opponent coexistent with everything in the nearby area at once separating them into infinite isolated fragments.

    Using the Shield action in a Duel Arcane means that you use those same elements as you would for Sword, but instead make it so you are more difficult to harm. For example, a Moros might hide their death inside an object somewhere in the area turning them intangible and deathly, or they could raise a seemingly indestructible fortress of lead from the deep within the earth. An Acanthus may try to frustrate their enemies by trying to endlessly rewind whenever attacked so they can be in a different position. The Obrimos might transform themselves into a divine form that matches their shadow-name, complete with deific regalia allowing them to block with shields of myth and have the endurance of heroes.

    It’s generally best to limit your descriptions of Sword and Shield actions to path tools and the practices that you have available for whatever Arcana is in the dicepool, though you can take those practices to lengths far grander than you could in the phenomenal world. Storytellers should let players be pretty free with this though as long as it makes thematic and symbolic sense to the
    situation.

    Action: Instant
    Dice Pool: Appropriate Attribute (maximum of your Gnosis score) + Appropriate Arcana. You cannot use the same attribute in consecutive dicepools. If you don’t have the Edge and the description of your duel action isn’t appropriate for defending against their Sword action or getting past their Shield action, you lose the 10-again quality on your roll and suffer a cumulative two-die penalty that increases each turn you don’t have the Edge and use the wrong pool. These turns don’t have to be consecutive. If you have Falling Wisdom, the cumulative die penalty is treated as if it were only half as much when using the Sword Action because of the ease with which your soul releases magic into the world.

    Roll Results
    Success: You overcome the immediate challenge and make headway. Add rolled successes to your running total.
    Exceptional Success: As success, and reduce your cumulative dice penalty by 1.
    Failure: Lose a single dot in the arcana used in the dicepool for the duration of the duel arcane.
    Dramatic Failure: As failure, except they lose all their dots in the Arcana used instead of just a single dot. You cannot choose to take this dramatic failure for a beat if you only had a single dot remaining in the Arcana to be lost.

    Negotiations
    Whenever it is your turn in the duel arcane and you lack the Edge, you can put an offer on the table before you perform your Sword or Shield action. These are promises mystically sealed by the Prime magic that fuels the duelling space, and as a result, are never made or accepted lightly. After making the offer, your dicepool takes a -2 penalty that round or you can forgo your turn. If the offer is accepted then you immediately gain 1 success. The offer doesn’t need to be accepted immediately, once the offer is made it can be accepted at any time during the duel.

    Victory
    No matter what the terms of the Duel, when enough successes are gained for one of the duellists, his opponent's soul is laid bare and they as good as spiritually destroyed. He is helpless against his opponent and has spent himself. At that moment, the Duel ends, the magical space created by it fades, and the mages’ view of the Fallen World returns. The victorious character refreshes Willpower to full, and gains the Triumphant Condition. The loser loses as many points of Willpower as she lost Arcana dots, and suffers the Defeated Condition. If the terms of the Duel were “to the death” or something equally drastic, an execution may proceed — but it happens in the Fallen World, outside of the sacred duelling space.


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  • #2
    Ooh… this looks nice…


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    • #3
      I miss the option of using skills, maybe in lieu of using Attributes. I picture it easier the characters applying their actual knowledge of things to their Imagos, like using Craft to build a fortress or Medicine to concoct a virulent plague.

      But aside that, really liked it! The rules are simple and focus on the players describing what their battle looks like, and I think that is a very nice touch.


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      • #4
        I really like this; it’s much more like what I imagine / look for in a wizard’s duel.

        I was hoping to see a bit more discussion on Seizing the Edge, how to shift the scenario, and the back and forth of attack and defense.

        Like, I can easily imagine a duel in which one participant takes the Edge and presents a scenario / attacks (“I could do this to you”), and even if the defender can overcome it, the attacker keeps piling on, using the same scenario repeatedly for new and ever worsening obstacles.
        Just as easily, there can be a round where the defender not only deals with the scenario, but totally overwhelms it and gets a chance to go on the offensive.

        Hmm, kind of spitballing here, but maybe there could be a component of having to constantly escalate (to keep the Edge), instead of falling back on your next best arcana. Like, you can keep the Edge as long as you can create a bigger dice pool than your previous, while staying in the same scenario.
        That would play in to using Skills, as well as choosing to limit their Arcana for an early volley (“I have Forces 4, but I’ll start off using only 2nd level spells”). Pulling out all the stops could earn a quick win, but guarantees the Edge will change hands often.
        Meanwhile, something like “an Exceptional shield action automatically takes the Edge” or something.

        Originally posted by monteparnas View Post
        I miss the option of using skills, maybe in lieu of using Attributes. I picture it easier the characters applying their actual knowledge of things to their Imagos, like using Craft to build a fortress or Medicine to concoct a virulent plague.
        I definitely agree with this
        Last edited by Seraph Kitty; 01-03-2022, 05:40 PM.


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