violent Duels of Wits

Does anyone use Duel of Wits rules to do violent arguments? I’m not talking about rules drift, just narrating the points, rebuttals etc. differently to punctuate them with physical combat. (And maybe sometimes getting Advantage dice because of your narration.)

There are of course numerous examples in movies/tv/fiction, e.g. Luke vs. Vader in Empires Strikes Back.

(I guess this thread could apply to BW just as well but I’m only playing BE right now.)

Mike Lucas

“Put the sunglasses on!” pile driver

“I ain’t putting those damn things on!” headlock


I think there’s definitely historical precedent.

Greatest Movie Ever. Hey… wait. Infiltrating aliens that look like people, taking over the planet by using their political clout to subvert other people. This is a Usurpation phase!

With Mr. Piper using a “take action” maneuver intent: “I am here to chew bubblegum and kick ass! And I’m all out of bubblegum!”.

I’ve often wondered this. There are basic scenarios, like when you just want to slap someone during a heated argument. (Perhaps that’s an Incite where you FoRK in Brawling?)

Over on the Indie RPG forum, Dave Lucas dreamed up an extreme version of this:

Remember Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon? I think most of their fights, if you ran it as BW, should have been resolved using a Duel of Wits. Maybe you could fork in your martial arts style if you invoke the spritual side of it, or whatever.

I thought this was a bit wacky at the time, but since then it’s got me wondering. There’s lots of movie duels where one combatant wants blood, while the other is fend them off while trying to persuade the aggressor otherwise. (e.g. “I am your father.”)

We’ve ForK’d in various social skills while doing Fight! in Burning Wheel, which is sorta like what you guys are talking about (though from another direction). BE has much more restrictive ForKing rules, though.

First you need to determine if you are having a real combat while words are being exchanged or a duel of wits that gets a little rough.

Duel of wits can be escalated to combat and the book provides rules for that p456 Violence.

Perhaps intimidation skill could cover minor ‘rough-housing’ from a wits duel perspective.

I think if the players and GM are both agreeable; go for it.

Sounds like an exciting and fun way to enhance combat to me and bottom line is we play for the fun of it. Even if we’re addicted…

What’s funny is that me and Mike both had the same idea without talking to each other about it.

You’d think we were brothers or something. :wink:

Ah… something just hit me. I’ve been thinking about this mostly from the perspective of, “If this happens mid-discussion, how do you go from there?” but I’m ignoring the OOC chatter where the participants are deciding what the scene will be like. Intent. The sorts of fights we’ve been describing would be entirely possible as Bloody Versus, where one side’s intent is to injure/kill, while the other side’s intent is to persuade.

Thanks for the comments guys.

Brothers? So that’s why you bought me Burning Empires as a gift!

Heh heh. It’s actually the fond remembrance of our old D&D games (with Dave as DM usually) from before we moved away from each other, and never being able to achieve that level of satisfaction/fun in new game groups, that got us onto games like Dogs in the Vineyard and now BE.

Cool … especially if by ‘real combat’ you mean ‘a combat in which the dice should be able to determine that one of the characters gets physically hurt’. I don’t think the DoW’s narration should be limited by how dangerous the fight is in the fiction of the game, but rather, by the players agreeing ahead of time that for the duration of the duel of wits at least, the story’s focus is on the argument and the fight is color. Of course, as per p.456 you mentioned, the fight can turn ‘hard’ after the DoW’s done…

You mean, one person rolls Close Combat and the other opposes with say Persuasion or Seduction or something? Cool. I think Dave might have done this in one of his games actually, with the stakes being something like “if you win, you beat the information out of her; if you lose you still get the info but your violence towards women becomes an important issue for your character (reflected in belief or instinct or whatever)”.

Mike Lucas

The breakdown really is along the lines of intent. When you’re fighting and talking, you need to ask “At the end of this, does either of us want the other dead?” If the answer is “yes,” it is a Firefight. You don’t want to kill him? Fine. But he wants to kill you, and unlike in Dogs in the Vineyard, in BE he does not have to listen to you (he does have to spend his scene to fight you, though). You have to stop him from killing you, and then you can talk at him.

If you want to fight, but you don’t really want the other one dead, then it could be a DoW, assuming you agree that the fighting is just color and the talking is what matters. If the fighting is the heart of the thing, then it’s probably still a Firefight, just with more Flanks and Advances than Direct Fires. But there’s no reason you can’t use fighting as color in a DoW, any more than you’re forbidden to use, I don’t know, fan language, or your noble’s fantastic orbital debate arena.

EDIT: Just wanted to add that I disagree with Fuseboy (well, or I’m misreading him): A Bloody Versus with Close Combat versus Persuasion or even Command (assuming it’s used to order the enemy to stand down rather than to rally your dudes) is not yours by right. Your opponent has every right to say “No, I’m gonna stab you no matter what you say” and that’s legit IMO. This is that intent->task thing: Your intent (stop him from stabbing me and get him to tell me whatever) is legit and subject to normal stakes-negotiation, but your task (talk him out of it before he stabs me) requires further buy-in.

Also, just to quibble with your example, the “DoW is not mind control” rules say that you cannot require any change to a belief as a result of a DoW, that is exclusively the province of Psychology.

Thanks for thoughts Devin.

Yeah, I’ll let Dave comment further since it was his game, but he said that he knew it was outside the rules, I think it was just an agreement between him and the player to put it on the character sheet because they both thought that would be cool.
The best way to represent this within the rules would be the trait vote I think, but you’d have to wait until the end of the phase for that. :frowning:

I’m in 100% agreement with the rest of your post, that’s exactly what I was getting at - the fight being just color. As to the Versus test though, I wouldn’t mind some clarification on this:

but your task (talk him out of it before he stabs me) requires further buy-in.
Do you mean, it’s one of the times during the game where someone’s narrating something a bit strange, so everyone (including the guy doing the close combat) should have the chance to veto it or at least ask for a good description of how it’s possible? I’m on board with that, although I think it might be possible to make an argument in the other direction (“but she’s so beautiful and seductive that how could you possibly get close enough to hit without being moved by her sensuality”).
Anyway, it’s definitely a case where people could lobby for advantage dice or whatnot.

  • Mike

If Dave set the stakes as “If I win, your character feels the impact of my words like bullets” and the player agreed and then said “Yeah, and he’s right, so I’m changing this belief” then that’s fine. I just wanted to note for any passerby that you can’t normally DoW for a belief.

And what I’m saying with the other is that if I spend a conflict scene to have a mini-firefight where I stab you, we start that mini-firefight. You don’t get to say “Oh no, you have to turn your scene into a DoW so I can talk you out of it.” You could then spend a scene of your own to preempt me, but remember the rules on DoW: When you declare that DoW, I can refuse to accept it and spend my conflict (which I was gonna spend anyway) to stab you.

Basically, you and I (but not necessarily any other player) need to agree that it’ll go down that way. You don’t get to tell me that my character is willing to stop and listen. You could always Overbear me and make me, though.

Seems to me there’s three ways this breaks down: Either you have something on me (I leap at you, you dodge and yell “Stop or your sister dies” and then tell me how you have her at a secure location etc) that makes me back off wanting to fight for sure, or you’ve got nothing and you plead helplessly while I shoot you, or you’ve got leverage but not a hold, which I think is what we’re talking about here. This means I think my character should listen to you, but don’t want to give without a struggle, so we roll it. This could be for in-game reasons (you’re my commanding officer, you’re a man of the cloth and I’m a pious fellow, whatever) or out-of-game ones (I, as a player, think your guy is cool enough to talk down an armed man, I want to see what you’ll say, I want the Artha for going against an instinct or I’m aiming for Moldbreaker).

What I’m working off of here are the rules for refusing a DoW in order to fight, and the scene currency rules. If you try to start a DoW, I can fight instead (by spending a scene), so I should get the same option if I try to start a fight and you want a DoW, especially because it’s my scene.

Hi Devin,
Thanks again for the clarification, that’s really good stuff. I am in total agreement with everything you said your last post … However, it seems like you’re talking about mini-firefight (i.e. conflict scenes) and not a regular Versus test in a building scene as Fuseboy originally mentioned. In fact, he wasn’t even talking about the Single Roll Combat on p.497, he was talking about Close Combat vs. Persuasion.

Now, the Close Combat skill doesn’t really say this is kosher, but because of the flexibility* of BW/BE I would still be inclined to allow it. But wait! I’m not saying the attacking player can’t still attack if he wants to! If the player says his character is just going to hum a little tune and lunge, ignoring the pleas of his victim, fine - Close Combat v. Persuasion will not be rolled. It’s a Single Roll Combat instead. (this is a lot clearer thanks to your posts)

But if the players (or player & GM) come to agreement about intents which can be served by CC vs Persuasion -type tasks, and that’s what they want, then great. Mostly this means the attacking player is okay with the other player’s “I talk you out of it” intent.

An example: PC1’s intent is to subdue/capture PC2, while PC2’s intent is to convince PC1 to leave him alone. Player 2 likes this because he knows he has a better chance of success - Persusasion is his best skill. Player 1 likes it because he knows he won’t get hurt, whereas if you go to the I Corner Him And Stab Him rules PC2 might draw a gun and things could get nasty.

What do you think? Would you ever allow CC vs. Persuasion?

  • what I mean by flexibility, is it seems BW is particularly good at letting you oppose any skill with any other as long as the task descriptions support it. For me anyway, this makes the game fun.
    Cheers, Mike

Sure. I need to re-read the one-roll combat rules, but I’d try and bring it as close to that as possible. If the attacking player were willing to compromise but wanted to test it out, I might just ask them to set the obstacle, or roll Will to set it, or something like that (with the CC following if they fail). Most likely I would try and make a fake maneuver for it, though, so instead of Overbear vs. Grenades it’d be like Talk Him Down vs. Grenades.

Alternately, it’d be pretty straightforward to just roll it as a Versus test and then apply the margin of sucess to the die of fate for the weapon if the CCer won.

Time to fess up that I wandered into the wrong forum; I was talking about Burning Wheel. :slight_smile: