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A (Hopefully Mostly Correct) Partial Duel Example


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.”

The Duel Begins

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.

Gurney Goes First

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.

Paul’s Turn

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.

Gurney’s Turn

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.

Paul’s Turn

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’s Turn

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.]

Paul’s Turn

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.

Gurney’s 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.

Paul’s Turn

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


I’m still waiting for my book to arrive, but when it does I am sure this will be helpful. Thank you.


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This is fantastic! I had two comments (possible corrections?)

  • I think Tim kept the initiative twice in a row. You can only do it once before handing over. Also, you have +1 difficulty when you take that second turn.
  • I’m not sure when defensive assets affect your moves. You have them making it harder to move into their zones. Is this right or should it be when moving from their zones (or both?).

Again, many thanks for this!

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Thanks for correcting me! Part of my goal in posting this was to get feedback from others to make sure that I understood the rules. I knew I had to have made a a few errors in there somewhere.

  • You’re right–Tim did keep the advantage twice in one turn. He did it once after moving boldy at a cost of 2 Momentum and then again because he moved subtly and it was free to do. I didn’t notice that there was a hard limit to how many times one could do it in a turn. I’m away from my book right now but you are probably right.
  • Good catch on not increasing the Difficulty of the attack action. I did it correctly the first time he kept the initiative but forgot it the second time.
  • On the moving vs defensive assets point. Now that you mention it, I don’t really know! My assumption is that a rapier in a Guard zone provides a first barrier of defense. The shield in the Target zone provides another so you should need to overcome each in order to move into its zone. I guess the shield would do double duty in that case because you’d also be dealing with it when you try to attack with an asset in while in the Target zone.
    I can totally see it the other way though and it feels a little more like real life that way. You can easily move an asset into a guard zone with a rapier in it but it’s job is to prevent you from getting close to the body (the Target zone) by increasing the Difficulty to advance. The shield wouldn’t come into play until you tried to attack then.
    However, it would also mean that moving your asset away from the Target zone would be more difficult. Almost like your weapon is partially stuck in the shield as you’re trying to pull it away. I don’t know! Good question!
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@Highground , will you be updating the example with any corrections? When you do, let me know if you want, and I’ll pop it in to a formatted PDF for folks to download and print.

Definitely. I’ll try to update it tonight.

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I think you’re probably right about increasing the difficulty of moving to a zone with a defensive asset in it (rather than from it). Certainly the discussion in Espionage is couched around moving into a guarded area being harder rather than moving out of the area.

I suppose my reasoning had been that the enemy asset was a trait of the area you started in and made your move action more difficult…. But that argument could equally apply to the destination zone (as in your example).

I updated it a bit. Give it a look.

I updated the post and tried to correct a few things based on your input. I left the difficulty of moving based on the assets present in the zone one is moving into until we hear otherwise.

I re-read the Defensive Assets section on p. 168 and have another possibility altogether: it says "The attacker’s final Difficulty increases by +1 for each defensive asset in the target’s zone. Essentially, a defensive asset is a trait that can be used to increase the Difficulty of any attack to that zone.

It seems possible that defensive assets only increase the Difficulty of Attacks in that zone and don’t increase the Difficulty Moving assets at all?

I’m not going to be the best to look at it given I’m awaiting delivery of my book, but when the consensus seems to be that it’s all good, I’ll PDF it all up.

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The effect of defensive assets on movement is a bit vague. It’s (as you note) unclear if that section refers to attacking or more generally. The font suggests that it’s not part of the attacking “section”, but the use of the term “attacker” suggests it is…

Of course if defensive assets don’t slow movement, it’s not very clear what the point of a half-shield is!

Your example looks good now (IMHO), except I don’t see why Gurney’s shield’s quality impacts the move difficulty; I think it’s just +1 per asset (quality comes into play in attacks).

I feel like the duel zones are only useful if a defensive asset does increase move difficulty, otherwise every duel would basically play out the same

Yup a defensive asset does increase difficulty.
Assets and traits always do one of two things - make a test possible or increase/decrease the difficulty.

Btw - I keep trying to find a moment to have a proper read but its looking good from a quick scan.

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Hey, Andy. Thanks for taking a look. I’m looking forward to your assessment.

So the defensive assets do increase difficulty to move into them. Do they increase it by their Quality rating or just +1 per defensive asset in the zone?

Just being devil’s advocate here… say you did a skirmish: 4 PCs versus 4 NPCs. Each group is in a separate zone, with the two zones connected. Would it be +4 difficulty for a combatant to move to the opposing side’s zone?

Drawing from this conversation, I think, if you were taking @Modiphius-Nathan’s position, if wouldn’t be a test to simply move your character from one zone to another unless you were doing it boldly or subtly.

I see your point though. If you’re in a skirmish level conflict and you move into an enemy’s zone, do any defensive assets hinder you? It doesn’t seem like they should. In your example, say all 4 of those NPCs have shields and rapiers (each at Quality 1 just to keep things easy). That’s 8 defensive assets in the zone. Therefore moving a character or asset into that zone would be +8 wouldn’t it? That’s what you’re questioning, right?

It does seem like the defensive assets increasing Difficulty for moving into zones really only makes sense in a duel to me which means that something is probably off. I know the systems were designed to be pretty much the same no matter what scope you’re playing in.

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I think with the Nathan interpretation, you still make a roll to “free” move when there’s an asset there, so his rule would make this a difficulty 4 free move…

It’s a bit of a muddle. On the strength of the book (ignoring forum discussions), I would have read it as assets only affecting attacks (not moves), except in the special case of espionage (where it’s specifically mentioned).

I guess you kind of want them to impede movement in duels as well, but probably not skirmishes…

How and when assets and traits apply their effects is largely left up to GM discretion, though some consistency in application is obviously valuable for player agency and intentionality. I played out a test duel the other day as an example on another forum, and for that example, I ruled that while moving into a zone with defensive assets didn’t affect difficulty, moving out of them did - in essence, for the purposes of movement, count only the assets in your current zone.

So, if you’re moving from your guard zone to your opponent’s guard zone facing it, and you’re not moving Boldly or Subtly, then it’s free - you’re advancing into their guard, putting your blade closer to theirs. But try and move that blade past theirs (to the zone behind), or try and move a blade away to capitalise on an opening, and suddenly the asset’s effect applies…

This could be varied based on what it is the asset represents: if you’re playing out a warfare scene, a minefield asset could reasonably be applied to the difficulty of assets moving into the zone, for example, as could defensive measures like locks and security systems in Espionage. In the case of a duel, it made more sense to me in that moment to have the assets impair moving away from a defensive asset rather than moving towards one (similar to Attacks of Opportunity in D&D, or tackle zones in Blood Bowl - no penalty to step into your foe’s reach, but a risk when you try to step away or past). I’d be wary about applying the effects of assets in both the origin and destination zones, though, as that feels like it would be too easy to stack too much


Just checking (still waiting for the book…) if any of the feedback will change the example before I PDF it.

We’ll … if @Highground hasn’t tired of it, I’d guess that making the move penalties based on the from locations (rather than to) would bring it in lane with @Modiphius-Nathan ’s example (although out of line with espionage…)