Friday, 13 June 2008

Duelling Whist (II)

A duel example, following on from yesterday's post:

Genghis Khan and Michael Jackson sit down for a good, old-fashioned arm-wrestle. The loser will lose his head. It's a five-hand game, with the DM ruling that Genghis gets first pick at the trump.

Round 1
Genghis: JD, 10C, 6C, 5C, 5S
Michael Jackson: KC, 7C, 4C, 2C, 2S
Genghis picks Clubs as the trump.
Genghis plays 5C. Michael beats it with his 7C.
Michael plays KC. Genghis plays 6C, loses.
Michael plays 2C. Genghis plays 10C, wins.
Genghis plays JD. Michael plays 4C, wins.
Michael plays 2S, Genghis plays 5S, wins.

Michael won three tricks to Genghis' two, so Michael gets the pick of the next trump.

Round 2
Genghis: QD, 10D, 7S, 6C
Michael: JH, 9H, 5C, 3S
Michael picks hearts as the trump.
M's JH beats Genghis' 6C.
M's 9H beats Genghis' 7S.
M's 5C beats Genghis' 10D.
M's 3S beats Genghis' QD.

Michael Jackson wins. Genghis loses his head, and Michael is now the Great Khan of the Mongol Horde.

I like this. Admittedly it's rather unrealistic for Michael Jackson to beat Genghis Khan in an arm-wrestle, but not outside the realms of possibility if Michael is exceptionally lucky - as he was with the cards he was dealt and the fact that he won the trump in the second round. Maybe Genghis was distracted by a passing young mare.

What is needed now is a way of using the cards when there is only a very slim chance of one side prevailing. Like if Genghis challenged me to a beard-grooming competition.


  1. Just another comment from me on the duelling cards, with a caveat to start off: I am by no means one of those 3E/4E guys who thinks that using character stats to handle all game interactions is good. I generally side with the more OD&D philosophy that many things should be handled by the player (in the context of their character), especially things like solving riddles, dealing with NPCs, or even trap disarmament...but when it comes to combat (or in this case duels) I'm a little uncomfortable with the high level of luck involved and the fact that the character stats seem to have little involvment in the process.

    If I were to see Lancelot dueling with Agravain, for example, it wouldn't quite ring true to me to see Agravain handily win because he had better cards, or is a more strategic whist player. Lancelot, as a character, is the god of combat duels and should get some kind of advantage in the mechanics to reflect this. I'm not sure if simply picking trump would be enough. Could there also be some kind of mechanical adjustment to reflect disparities in the different characters skills that apply to the duel (whether it's seduction, combat, diplomacy, or whatever) such as a plus/minus interaction of some sort? Is this too pedantic? Probably! :)

    Anyway, I love the idea...keep it up!

  2. I actually was going to include something on that in this post, but couldn't make up my mind about it. So, in other words, I'm deferring to a later entry - i.e., when I've come up with something!

    In essence, you're right, and it's one of the system's key weaknesses.

    I'd be interested in anything you can suggest, of course. ;)

  3. Hmmm, is it too simple to just decide on a numeric value for the bonus that the character's related skill awards (i.e. Lancelot has the highest combat skill available, so he gets a +3 or something) and this bonus reflects the number of tricks his character wins by default (or conversely he can 'use up' the bonus after the fact for any tricks he loses up to the maximum number of the bonus, so if he plays his cards right he may not even need to use the bonus at all)?

  4. Something like that would work; the main point is getting the balance right, I suppose. Too many bonus tricks and it would become practically impossible to lose.