Sunday, January 14, 2018

Fencing in Lords of Creation

Art by Dave Sutherland

The third issue of Avalon Hill's Heroes magazine proclaims on the cover:
Special 12-page Pull Out Game:
& Crimson Pirates
The word “game” implies that it is a complete game.  However, the first page of the twelve page section has the subtitle, “Dueling Rules For Lords Of Creation™.”  So, the “game” is a merely a supplement to the Lords of Creation combat rules.

For purposes of dueling, a Lords of Creation GAME TURN consists of six segments.  In each segment, each duelist performs a maneuver.  Before each GAME TURN, duelists purchase the maneuvers they intend to use.  (The maneuvers selected for a given turn comprise the duelist's maneuver pool.)  Each manuever costs a number of 'segment points'.  (I have no idea why they weren’t called maneuver points.)

Each GAME TURN, a duelist has a number of segment points equal to the sum of his or her INITIATIVE ROLL and the product of his or her number of attacks and the appropriate skill level.  To put it another way:

(1d10 + Initiative Bonus) + (skill × # of attacks) = segment points

If the duelist is using two weapons (such as a dagger and rapier), the average of the two skills is used.  Anyway, six maneuvers are selected, purchased, and written down in secret.  Maneuvers can be performed in any order.  Any given maneuver in the maneuver pool can be performed once (unless the duelist purchased the maneuver more than once).  A duelist with two attacks per turn need only select five maneuvers in advance; a sixth maneuver can be purchased and performed on any segment.  Similarly, a duelist with three attacks per turn need only select four maneuvers in advance.

For a given segment, one duelist announces which attack maneuver he or she performs and the other duelist (if able) responds with an appropriate maneuver.  The duelist with the higher initiative on the first turn has advantage and the option of being the attacker on the first segment.  Depending on which maneuvers the duelists perform in a given segment, advantage can be transferred back-and-forth between the duelists.  On the second and later turns, the duelist who has advantage on the first segment is determined by the maneuvers performed on the last segment of the previous turn.  Initiative is rolled, but only to determine respective amounts of segment points.

There are dozens of maneuvers and each is categorized as either an attack, a defense, a 'gaining the advantage', or a counter attack.  Combat rolls are not made during a duel.  An attack is automatically successful unless the defending duelist can perform a maneuver that works against that specific attack.  A defense maneuver cancels an attack but does not transfer advantage.  A 'gaining the advantage' maneuver cancels an attack and (appropriately) transfers advantage.  A counter attack maneuver cancels an attack, transfers advantage, and launches an attack which the other duelist must attempt to cancel with his or her next maneuver.

Each attack maneuver has an associated defense maneuver, a 'gaining the advantage' maneuver, and a counter attack maneuver.  For example, against a 'thrust' attack, the defense maneuver is 'parry', the 'gaining the advantage' maneuver is 'circular parry', and the counter attack maneuver is 'riposte'.  Also, a 'dodge' maneuver can be used as a defense against most attacks and an 'inquartata' maneuver can be used as 'gaining the advantage' against most attacks.  A duelist targeted by a thrust is hit and suffers damage unless he or she performs a parry, circular parry, riposte, dodge, or inquartata.

Not only are there dozens of maneuvers, but when any maneuver (except, presumably, dodge or inquartata) is purchased, a target (body) area must be selected for that maneuver.  The nine target areas are:  head, chest, abdomen, left arm, right arm, left leg, right leg, left foot, and right foot.  So, against a 'thrust (left leg)' attack, possible response maneuvers are parry (left leg), circular parry (left leg), riposte (left leg), dodge, or inquartata.

The maneuvers a duelist can perform are limited by the 'position' the duelist and his (or her) opponent occupy.  'Position' refers to the distance between characters in a duel.  There are four positions.  Position A is the closest two duelists can be (and still be in a duel).  It is too close for swordplay; the only permitted attacks are punch, kick, and dagger thrust.  Position D is the furthest two duelists can be.  In this position, “The only kind of attack possible is a running attack which automatically carries the duelist closer to his opponent, or a thrown dagger.”  Position B seems to be the default position and offers the most maneuvers.

After purchasing six (or five or four) maneuvers for a given turn, any remaining segment points are 'reserve points'.  Duelists who only needed to acquire four or five maneuvers in advance can use reserve points to purchase their additional maneuvers.  One reserve point can be used to advance or retreat by one position.  One reserve point can be used to alter a maneuver's target area to an “adjacent” area.  (The illustration above shows 'transition areas' that can be used in changing target areas.  For instance, changing from left arm to left leg costs two points.)  Lastly, reserve points can be used to 'delay' a response maneuver so that it can be used against attacks from positions C and D.

Once per combat, a character can perform a Foul Trick, an attack against which there is no normal defense.  The target of a foul trick can spend two reserve points to attempt a Luck roll; if successful, the target takes no damage.  A duelist with a sufficiently high skill has a Secret Attack, which is like an 'honorable' foul trick except the Luck roll attempt costs three reserve points.  Foul tricks and secret attacks can only be used three times (each) by any given character.  Moldvay explains:
In a swashbuckling campaign, any duelist who uses either a foul trick or secret attack a total of three times (each) loses the ability to use that special attack.  In the one case, the duelist gets the reputation as a knave or a blackguard and everyone is thereafter on guard against foul tricks.  In the other case, the secret attack is no longer secret and is, hence, useless.
With the introduction of 'hit locations' to Lords of Creation combat, different effects manifest with different target areas.  Luck rolls can ameliorate these effects.  For instance, hits to the chest cause double damage; with a successful Luck roll, damage is not doubled.  Damage to an arm is halved; unless a Luck roll is successful, an attack to a weapon arm causes the weapon to be dropped.

If a duelist faces more than one opponent at a time, “the single duelist splits his segment points any way he wishes and fights each combat as simultaneous single combats.”

Moldvay offers the following comments:
          I tried to keep the dueling rules from becoming cumbersome.  Emphasis was placed on rapier combat.  The Game Master can alter the dueling rules for other circumstances if he wants.  He could interpose dueling with regular combat.  Thus, opposing musketeers might fire their muskets at duelists; or a pirate might fire a brace of pistols before a duel began.  The GM might add other weapons to the duel.  Pikes (long spears) and a variety of pole arms were common in the Swashbuckling Era.  A Pike would mainly be a thrusting weapon while a pole arm could both thrust and slash.  The Swashbuckling Era also saw strange variations of “weapons” such as rapier and cloak, rapier and bar stool, or rapier and lantern.  If the GM wanted to duplicate ship boarding actions, he could throw in the use of crude black powder grenades or even cannon fire.


  1. Actually sounds kind of fun despite the complexity. Swashbuckling duels call for more than "I rolled 15, did I hit?"

    1. I would hope for a sweet spot somewhere in between.

    2. We already have that, it's called Flashing Blades.