Holmgang Dueling Rules


Starting a Duel

The rules for a duel are usually quite simple, but might vary if all of the participants are of a particular class or if all of the participants agree on specific restrictions or guidelines. Such discussions typically happen before the duel, allowing both sides to properly prepare, but as with all elements of a duel, this is not always the case. Most duels utilize the following simple rules.

  • Each participant must fight alone and can receive no help from outside sources, with the exception of other creatures who are taking part in the duel, If the duel consists of more than one participant on a side, those fighting alongside one another are free to aid each other.
  • The types of weapons that can be used in the duel are agreed upon before the duel begins. In a Holmgang these are always melee weapons and cannot be magical or made of a special materials, however masterwork versions of the weapons are allowed.
  • The duel usually lasts until one of the combatants has been knocked unconscious or otherwise prevented from continuing, first blood, first strike, or a number of successful attacks. These latter types of duels are usually intended to settle disputes where a creature’s death is not the required end result.
  • Duels prohibit the use of magic that affects other participants, as well as spells that enhance any duellist.
  • Three shield are used in a Holmgang however the number may vary dependant on the agreed rules of the participants, these shields are always traditional wooden shields.

A duel functions much like ordinary combat, with a few notable exceptions.

At the start of the duel, each participant makes an initiative check, just like in standard combat. Because duels are always planned and expected, there is never a surprise round. Alternatively, some duels start off with each side facing off, waiting for the other to flinch or break resolve. In such cases, substitute a Bluff, Intimidate, or Sense Motive check in place of the standard initiative check. The skill used is decided by the individual participants and is reflective of their approach to the duel.

At the beginning of each round, the participants check the status of the duel (the GM may want to mark the beginning of each round in some way during initiative tracking as a reminder to check this status). So long as all participants agree to continue dueling, the duel goes on. If any one of the participants withdraws from the duel, the duel immediately ends for all participants, even those who would see it continue. The participant or side that ended the duel is considered the loser of the duel. The duel’s remaining participants can, among themselves, agree to resume the duel, but this is considered a separate duel from the previous one and does not involve those who withdrew from the duel.

Each participant in a duel can act normally on his turn, but his actions must target or affect either himself or one of the other duel participants (either an ally or an opponent). After an attack is made a participant may make a free parry attempt using his shield, this attempt is made at a +5 to the attack roll for the first parry in a round, +0 at the second, and a culmative -5 to each parry after that. If a defender successfully parries a blow the attacker may make a free sunder item attack against the shield that doesn’t provoke an attack of opportunity.

If a shield is sundered then the round immediatley ends, a new shield is retrieved and and combat starts again. If a combatant is out of shields (based on the agreed number before the duel) he must continue without one and subsiquently loses his free parry.

Holmgang Dueling Rules

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