Tim (a player) and Frank (the GM) have sat down together for a session of Dune: Adventures in the Imperium. Tim’s character Paul, heir to House Atreides, is training with the House Warmaster, Gurney Halleck (an NPC).
Paul and Gurney have been sparring lightly. Paul’s body shield is already active. He makes a playful attack with a training rapier against Gurney who casually dodges it. “Speed, excellent,” he said. “But you were wide open for an underhanded counter with a slip-tip… I’ve warned you that not even in play do you let a man inside your guard with death in his hand.”
Sensing the situation becoming gravely serious Paul replies “I guess I’m not in the mood for it today.”
“Mood?” Gurney’s voice betrays his outrage. “What has mood to do with it? You fight when the necessity arises–no matter the mood!”
Paul attempts to deescalate the situation. “I’m sorry, Gurney.”
Until this point, the two characters haven’t really been committed to their attack and defense. It’s been more of a playful exchange, bantering with blades. Now a real Conflict (Duel) begins.
There are a few ways this conflict can be handled. As this is a non-lethal contest, it could end when one of the combatants is first able to successfully move their offensive asset into the opponent’s personal zone and demand that the opponent yield. Because we’re exploring combat, Frank and Tim agree that “damage” being done is going to be narratively handled as exhaustion and fatigue.
Paul, as the player character, has 6 Momentum from prior actions in the scene. Gurney as NPC has 5 threat (2 because Atreides is a Major House and, ironically, because of his Unquestionable Loyalty talent). Gurney has 3 assets in play at this point: a body shield (Quality 2) in his Target zone, a rapier (Quality 1) in his Right Guard zone, and a kindjal (Quality 1) in his Left Guard zone. Paul has just 2: his body shield (Quality 2) in his Target zone and a training rapier (Quality 1) in his Right Guard zone.
According to the CRB p. 165, the player generally goes first but, because Frank thinks it would serve the scene better, he spends 2 of his threat for Gurney to take action first.
"You’re not sorry enough!” Gurney activates his shield and crouches with a kindjal outthrust in his left hand and rapier poised high in his right. “Now I say guard yourself for true!” he shouts as he leaps forward with a furious attack.
Frank decides that Gurney will boldly move his rapier asset in his Right Guard zone into Paul’s Left Guard zone. Frank decides that Gurney is using Duty in combination with Move for the test and rolls 2d20 against a target number of 14 (Duty 8, Move 6). He is successful and scores two successes (6 and 12), because he moved boldly (p.166), he decides to move Paul’s rapier asset from Paul’s Right Guard zone to his Left–probably trying to set him up for an attack sinister with the kindjal.
Paul falls back, parrying and wondering at the sudden intensity of his teacher.
Tim, realizing that Gurney has Paul outgunned a bit, decides to create another asset. According to the CRB p. 168, doing so can be done with a Difficulty 2 test. Tim and Frank agree that this is most likely a Battle test. Tim decides that while Paul is a little taken aback by Gurney’s zeal, this is still a training match and so uses Faith as the test’s drive. (It is not clear to me whether or not Paul’s focus on Short Blades applies here so I’m ignoring it) Tim decides that this is important enough to spend one of his Momentum to buy another die. On p. 152 of the CRB it says that this can be done with 1 momentum for the 1st die. Tim rolls 3d20 against a target of 13 (Faith 7, Battle 6) and scores 2 successes; a 6, 15 and a 2. If we were taking his focus into account, the roll would have scored 4 successes. Paul now reveals that he had a quality 0 bodkin on his person.
Paul drops a bodkin from its wrist sheath into his left hand.
Frank decides to ratchet up the pressure. He decides that Gurney will use Truth and Communicate to create and apply the intangible asset “uncertain” on Paul. This is identical to the process Tim used to create his bodkin asset and the rules are also found on p.152. More information about creating assets in duels can be found on p.173. Frank decides to spend 1 Threat to buy an extra die for this test. He rolls 3d20 against a target of 12 (Truth 6, Communicate 6). He nets 3 successes: a 1 (which counts as 2), a 10 and a 16. The trait is applied.
“You see a need for an extra blade, eh?” Halleck grunted.
Tim decides that this fight is going to be uphill without the extra asset against him and decides to get rid of it immediately. Frank and Tim agree that Tim can target the new intangible asset (see p.168) using Paul’s Truth and Understand skill for a Difficulty 2 test (NOTE: if this had been a tangible asset wielded by Gurney, this would have been a contest and not a simple test). Tim rolls 2d20 against a target number of 14 and easily succeeds with a 1 (which counts as 2 successes), and a 9. 3 successes! Tim banks another Momentum.
Is this betrayal? Paul wondered. Surely not Gurney!
Around the room they fight–thrust and parry, feint and counter-feint. The air within their shield bubbles grew stale from the demands on it that the slow interchange along barrier edges could not replenish.
Gurney has the opportunity to act. Frank decides that Gurney will attempt to subtly move his kindjal to Paul’s undefended Right Guard zone (both of Paul’s weapon assets are still in his left guard zone). If he is successful, Gurney will be able to keep the initiative at no cost. Frank uses Duty with Move for this Difficulty 2 test. He rolls 2d20 against a target of 14 (Duty 8, Move 6). Improbably, Gurney fails with a 17 and a 20. Thanks to the 20, Gurney suffers the complication “Off-Balance”. The CRB p. 153 says that the GM can buy off an NPC’s complication by spending 2 threat. Frank has 2 threat left in his pool and decides to do that immediately.
Because Gurney failed his Move test, Paul may immediately move one asset. Tim chooses to move Paul’s rapier from his left guard zone to his right guard zone.]
The action passes to Paul. Tim decides to press an attack. First he needs to move an asset into position. Paul boldly moves his rapier from his own Right Guard zone into Gurney’s Left Guard zone. The Difficulty will be 3 (2 as the standard Move Asset Difficulty + 1 for Gurney’s Defensive Asset). Tim rolls 2d20 against a target of 12 (Faith 7, Move 5). He scores a 1 and a 10 which net him 3 successes (The 1 is a critical success and counts as 2).
Because he moved boldly, he can move one of Gurney’s assets. He chooses to move Gurney’s rapier from Paul’s Left Guard zone to Gurney’s Right Guard zone (this could be narrated as Paul making an obvious but threatening attack forcing Gurney to Parry thus removing the weapon’s immediate threat to Paul). Tim decides to keep the initiative (p. 165) by spending 2 points of Momentum. He then decides to subtly move his bodkin from his Left Guard zone to Gurney’s Right Guard zone. Gurney’s rapier has a quality of 1 so Paul’s Move Difficulty is 3 instead of 2. However, because Paul kept the initiative and then moved himself rather than passing it onto an ally, his difficulty is upgraded one more time for a total difficulty of 4. Tim decides to spend 1 Momentum to buy an additional die. Because of this, Paul can activate his talent, The Slow Blade (p.131) to ignore one asset in the same zone as his own asset. This brings the difficulty back down to 3. Tim rolls 3d20 against a target of 12 (Faith 7, Move 5). Luckily, all three dice turn up successes: 11, 5, 10. Paul successfully and subtly moves his bodkin into Gurney’s Right Guard zone.
According to p.166 of the CRB, you may spend 2 Momentum to move a chosen asset one additional zone or move a second asset one zone. Tim decides to press his bodkin ahead into Gurney’s Personal zone by spending 2 Momentum. This doesn’t require a new Move roll regardless of the fact that Gurney’s Target zone has a personal body shield with a quality of 2. Even though he moved subtly, he cannot keep the initiative until at least one enemy character takes a turn of their own (p.165). He will have to surrender action to Gurney but he is well positioned for an attack on his next turn.
Ever the warrior, Gurney goes on the offense. He strikes out, boldy moving his rapier asset from his Right Guard zone to Paul’s unguarded Left Guard zone. Because Paul has no defensive assets in that zone, Gurney faces a Difficulty 2 test. He rolls 2d20 against a target of 14 (Duty 8, Move 6) and nets 3 successes: 1 (a critical success), 7. Frank adds 1 point of threat to his pool. Gurney’s rapier is now in Paul’s Left Guard zone but he lacks enough threat to move this asset an additional zone into Paul’s Target zone. He can, however, move one of Paul’s assets. He chooses to move Paul’s bodkin from Gurney’s Target zone to his Right Guard zone. Paul’s assault falters during Gurney’s onslaught. Frank lacks the Threat needed to Keep the Initiative and surrenders the action to Tim.
Tim decides that Paul will renew his offensive. He decides to subtly move his bodkin back into position in Gurney’s Target zone. This is a Difficulty 4 test (2 base Difficulty + 2 for Gurney’s shield belt (quality 2). Time decides to spend a Momentum to buy another die and enabling him to use The Slow Blade lowering the Difficulty back to 2. He rolls 3d20 at a target of 12 (Faith 7, Move 5) and gets 3 successes: 11, 4, 5. He successfully moves his bodkin into his opponent’s Target zone and picking up another point of Momentum.
Because Paul moved subtly, he can keep the initiative at no cost. He decides to take the opportunity to make an attack. An attack is an application of Use an Asset on p.166. Tim declares that Paul will use his Quality 0 bodkin currently in Gurney’s Target zone to attack Gurney. As it states in the rules “actions which directly affect a specific opponent are contests rather than tests. Gurney rolls 2d20 against a target of 16 (Duty 8, Battle 8). He nets two successes: 3 (which counts as 2 successes due to Gurney’s focus on short blades) and 17. This sets the base difficulty to 2 plus 1 because Paul is acting after keeping the initiative plus the value of Gurney’s defensive assets in his Target zone; a personal body shield with a Quality of 2. The total Difficulty for his attack is now 5!
Paul decides to spend 1 Momentum to buy another die activating The Slow Blade talent to ignore Gurney’s defensive asset. This brings the Difficulty back down to 3. Tim rolls 3d20 against a target of 13. He rolls 3, 14 and 5. Due to Paul’s focus in Short Blades, the 3 and 5 net 2 successes each–1 more than needed to be successful. Paul’s bodkin asset is Quality 0. The base damage for an asset is 2 + its quality. This means that Paul’s strike deals 2 damage to Gurney (whatever the GM and players decide that means in the context of the current conflict). The other success adds another Momentum to Tim’s pool. If Tim had 2 Momentum in his pool, he could have spent them to increase the quality of his bodkin by +1 (for this attack only) thereby increasing the damage done by 1 (p. 167).
If Gurney was a minor NPC, he would have been defeated at this point. Because he’s a major character, defeating Gurney is an extended task with a requirement equal to his Battle skill of 8 (p.167) plus the value of his defensive assets (shield belt Quality 2) for a total 10 . Paul will need to net 8 more successes before Gurney can score 8 (Paul’s own Battle skill plus his own shield belt of Quality 2) against him.
The battle continues. The dice have been on Tim’s side thus far but Paul has nearly run out of Momentum and Frank will need to prioritize moving Paul’s bodkin away from Gurney’s Target zone as soon as possible…
Please feel free to correct me wherever I’m off track. or to continue the combat.
Edited to take Tupper's feedback on 24/8/21 into account