Jiàn wǔ (or sword-dancing) is an ancient fighting style employed by elven nobles and their personal guard. The winner of a jiàn wǔ match is determined by a judge who utilizes a complicated point system. However, in that sword-dancing is as much a spectator sport as it is a disciplined martial sport, the mood of the crowd often influences the momentum of the competitors, so it is almost as important to be a good showman as it is to be a good swordsman.
While normally an elven tradition, anyone can participate in a sword dance (or even become a sword dancer). In fact, the sport has become quite popular among young human nobles.
Traditionally, sword-dancers (jiàn wǔ zhě) compete as representatives of their lords and ladies. This might be a bond of loyalty and respect, servitude, debt bondage or even outright slavery. Wandering sword-dancers have no master but neither have a home and must compete at festivals and other celebrations to make enough coin to live. (Or become adventurers.)
While technically a fight, and sword-dance is different from a fight conflict. For one, the casual sword dancing duel isn’t to the death. It is decided either when one competitor loses by stepping outside the circle or, should that not happen in the allotted time, by the reaction of the crowd. So, even “heel” sword dancers want the crowd behind them.
So, you determine Disposition for a normal sword-dancing duel by rolling your Orator skill and adding the result to your Will score, to represent getting the crowd behind you before the duel. Actions are Fighter for Attack and Defend (attacking and parrying with your weapon), and Orator for Maneuver and Feint (using the crowd to distract your opponent). Otherwise, it is considered a fight conflict as far as weapons are concerned. (For that matter, though they are called sword dancers, some use other melee weapons. Some prefer pole arms, battle axes and even exotic weapons.)
Compromises are usually conditions placed upon the competitors based on their degree of loss or victory. However, if they are representing a master, the compromise would likely be the master of the losing sword-dancer being at a disadvantage in any interactions made with the master of the winner (whether it be anything from a simple bet to the execution of the losing master).
On that note, it should be noted that some rare sword-dances are fought to the death. This could be simply be the result of bad blood between the competitors or their lords but, more often than not, it is the duelists representing others in a trial by combat. However, they come about, these deadly duels depend less on the crowd and more on the skill of the competitors. Thus, Disposition is determined with Fighter and Will instead of Orator and Will. If there is a crowd involved, Orator is still used for Maneuver and Feint. If it is a private duel, observed (at most) by the duelists’ masters, Will is used in place of Orator. Compromises from these duels are the same as Kill conflicts with the added possibility of consequences to the loss or victory.
Three examples of sword dances are explained below, in order of the severity of the consequences:
Situation 1: Festival Display
Kyle and Khayla Dokken are twin human criminals who have a favorite con: Kyle, small and spry but a skilled and charismatic swordsman, puts on a sword-dancing display challenging local arms men who often underestimate him due to his size. While having fun with the friendly duel, Khayla, even smaller her brother and easy to miss, wanders the crowd picking the pockets of the onlookers.
This is a normal sword-dance. Disposition is determined with Orator+Will and Orator is used for Feint and Maneuver, with Fighter used for Attack and Defend. If Kyle wins the fight, they might walk away with a few coins or gems. If he loses, the compromise might be that they get nothing or even get caught.
Situation 2: Land Dispute
Tanallaia Fellhaven is a half-elf sword dancer that was banished from her homeland when she killed her abusive elven lover in self defense. She now serves a human lord who is at odds with a neighboring county over a plot of land. Negotiations went nowhere as both lords had legitimate claim to the land. Tanallaia’s lord proposed a bet, with each lord picking a warrior to represent him in a sword-dance, with the winner getting the rights to the land.
This is a private duel, with only the rival lords and their few retainers to watch. There is not enough of a crowd to utilize Orator, so Disposition is determined with Fighter+Will and Will is used for Feint and Maneuver. If Tanallaia wins, her lord would get the land and Tanallaia would gain a bit of fame, maybe a few coins as a reward from her master. If she loses, her lord loses the land and Tanallaia might be banished (or worse).
Situation 3: Trial by Combat
Sir Martin Skysdale, a powerful lord of the realm, is facing a scandal. His son, Phillip, is accused of the murder of wealthy businessman’s daughter. The boy did it. Sir Martin knows he did it. Hells, everyone knows he did it. Sir Martin is sure that if it goes to trial, no amount of money will buy a verdict and his son will be sentenced to death. So, the lord tells Phillip to ask for a Trial by Combat. Sir Martin has on retainer Ralton Darkfeather, one of the best human sword dancers in the lands. He is sure that, no matter who the girl’s father brings to the Circle, Darkfeather will win and prove his son innocent in the eyes of the gods.
Little does Sir Martin know, but Lady Arenaria Kingfisher, the famous elven master sword-dancer, was traveling through his territory when she heard rumor of his son’s wicked deeds. On the chance that the lord’s son would ask for ask for a Trial by Combat, the Kingfisher offered her services to the victim’s family. Arenaria is aware of Ralton Darkfeather’s reputation for cruelty and bloodlust. She is not surprised that the match is declared to-the-death.
Though not particularly private, a death-duel is a somber event, especially when the result will determine justice for one family or death for another. Thus, the crowd remains quiet and plays little effect in the duel. Disposition is determined with Fighter+Will and Will is used for Feint and Maneuver. There are no points and the only result of stepping outside the circle is that it is dishonorable to do so. If the Kingfisher wins this duel, Darkfeather will be dead and Phillip Skysdale will be executed. If she loses, she will be dead and there will be no justice for the victim’s family. Phillip will walk free, innocent in the eyes of the gods. Other compromises are determined as a normal Kill conflict.