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...breathes life into the character, providing him with a background and an environment through which he may claw his way to success.
Ultimately, 'success' is measured by 'social level.' The typical way for a character to attain (and maintain) social levels is to accumulate status points.* If, at the end of any given month, a character has accumulated a sufficient number of status points, his social level increases by one; however, if he does not have the minimum amount of status points to maintain his current social level, it decreases by one. Status points are exhausted at the end of every month, they do not carry over. Thus, every month every character must obtain status points to avoid the loss of a social level. (A social level can also be lost if a character fails to pay sufficient 'crowns' in a month to support his lifestyle; higher social levels require that more crowns be spent.)
The tables suggest that a social level of 24 is quite elevated and that few – if any – characters will achieve such a station. Regardless, there is no stated limit and En Garde has no proscribed end point. This is another reason that tends to qualify En Garde as a 'genuine' role-playing game. A characters has a starting social level based upon his father's (randomly determined) class and position; anywhere from 1 (a peasant's bastard son) to 12 (a count's first son). Technically, a character could begin with a higher social level if he starts with a title; however, the chance of starting with a title is slightly less than 1%. A standing of a character's father also determines the character's initial funds and the potential for a monthly allowance. It is possible that a character will begin the game as an orphan, thereby receiving an inheritance instead of an allowance or initial funds. Apparently, if a character is not an orphan at the beginning of the game he will not become one during the game.
In En Garde, each game week is considered an 'action.' For the sake of convenience: a month consists of four weeks, there are three months in a season, and four seasons make a year. Before deciding their characters' actions for any given game week, players engage in a brief “negotiation period.” Some activities require coordination among the players (such as when one character will be the guest of another character at a club). Much like Diplomacy, each player secretly writes down the character's action for the week; a player need not keep promises made to other players, but must follow through with what he or she wrote on the character's calendar.
For actions, there are several options available for characters, such as visiting a club. Part of the purpose of the negotiation period is “to arrange for duels.” Although not stated in the rules, I suppose that particular duels must be specified as part of a week's action. It does not seem to me that a duel would constitute an entire week's action. Do characters duel before their actions for the week or after? Regardless, characters may only duel if there is sufficient cause. The rules supply examples of “sufficient cause” for a duel, but I don't think that the examples are necessarily exhaustive. One of the examples is, “If a noble meets a non-noble who is four or more social levels above him.” If there is uncertainty whether cause exists in a particular situation, a vote is taken among all players whose characters “do not belong to the same regiments as the two estranged parties.” The decision that there is no cause must result from a unanimous vote. Therefore, if even one non-involved player deems that there is cause, then cause exists.
Characters lose status if they do not fight when they have cause and opportunity. Characters also lose status if they challenge without cause. Although not expressly stated in the rules, it seems that a challenge must predicate a duel. Let's take the example referenced above of the noble encountering the socially elevated non-noble. Does the non-noble have cause to challenge the noble or does only the noble have cause in this situation? If the two players are not disposed to having their characters duel and neither character challenges, do both characters lose status? I am of the opinion that the noble would lose status, but I am not certain about the non-noble.
A character whose endurance is less than half of its normal value may decline a duel without losing status. However, such a character gains status by accepting a duel whether or not he wins said duel. This brings up an interesting point. Duels are not necessarily fatal; surrender is one of the optional (dueling) actions and it must be respected by an opponent. From what I can tell by the rules, a character who loses a duel (and survives) only loses status if the duel was against a member of an 'enemy' regiment. There's nothing to stop a character from 'accepting' a duel only to surrender as his first action in the sequence. Of course, no gentleman would engage in such a craven tactic, but at what point is surrender an 'honorable' option? After so many sequences? After suffering a wound, no matter how slight? After one's weapon breaks? Is it ever acceptable for the challenger to surrender? I think that surrender would be acceptable for a character who loses more than half of the endurance with which he started the duel. After all, it would be proper to decline the duel initially in such a condition.
* Receiving a title (which is an infrequent occurrence) is the only other method by which social level is improved.