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Duels Basics

Duels is a rules supplement for Five Torches Deep and other fantasy rpgs. It gives structure and rules for blow by-blow duels, nuanced armor, advanced weapons, and options for any character who wants to specialize in combat.

Ideal Campaign

Duels is ideally suited for tables that want to focus on the mechanical nuance and tactics of sword fights. Fitting parties include a chivalric order, a band of mercenaries, or a clan out for bloody vengeance.

Not just for combat-centric campaigns, this supplement increases the narrative weight and mechanical heft of fights. Even if your party has avoided combat up until the final confrontation, this system makes the climactic duel all the more weighty.


Duels is designed for Five Torches Deep, but works with 5e and any classic-six stat RPG with swords and hit points.

Duel vs. Combat

The Combat system in Five Torches Deep has its own rules and phases of play. It relies on standard rules for initiative, turns, actions, attacks, and damage. This book instead focuses on Duels, a separate mode of play with different mechanics. The Duel rules are more mechanical and tactical than is typical in many OSR games.

When to Duel

A PC or the GM can declare that they enter a Duel at any time before or during COMBAT.

The GM can veto a player’s request to Duel, but only when the outcome of the fight isn’t worth the time or narrative focus. Duels are usually meaningful, challenging fights.

Confronting the evil warlord, fighting for honor before the emperor, making a last stand over the fallen bodies of the party, or other climactic moments are all fitting reasons to break out the Duel mechanics.

Some groups may want to Duel all the time.

There are further rules for Party Duels, with advice on how to incorporate dueling mechanics into large-scale fights.

Duel Sequence

Duels are run in a set sequence.

1. Declaration: A PC or GM starts a duel

2. Situation: A duel can only begin once the starting factors are determined:

  • Are both combatants aware
  • What weapons are drawn
  • What is the starting range

3. Initiative: Determine who acts first

  • Compare wielded weapon length
  • Longer goes first in reach range
  • Shorter goes first in close range
  • Ties are broken by DEX score

4. First Turn: The duelist with initiative gets to act first, and takes three actions.

  • 1 active action
  • 1 move action
  • 1 quick action

5. Situation 2: Repeat step 2, if needed.

6. Second Turn: The duelist without initiative takes three actions, as step 4.

7. Repeat step 2 through 6 until defeat.

Declaring a Duel

A PC can declare their intent to duel an enemy at any time before or during battle.

If the GM approves, the two combatants are engaged in duel-specific turn order. GMs may also declare a duel replaces COMBAT if it makes sense in the narrative or game’s pace.

The Situation

A duel can’t begin if the combatants aren’t aware and ready to fight one another. Battle situations over a larger field that require checks or tactics are better left as COMBAT.

If a Duel is initiated, the GM works with the PC to figure out the particulars. It’s best for the GM to describe this scene with a bit of narrative gravitas, calling out the duelists’ relative positions, what weapons they have drawn, and the general layout of the battle.

It’s important to clarify the starting RANGE and what weapons are drawn.

  • REACH range: Farther than 5’ apart
  • CLOSE range: 5’ or less apart


The duelist who holds INITIATIVE acts first, sets the pace, and can execute certain MANEUVERS that confound their opponent.

Each weapon has a LENGTH, a number which represents how long and wieldy it is. Higher is longer, which is advantageous in DUELS fought farther apart (and vice versa). If two weapons are wielded, use the longer.

Reach range: If more than 5’ apart, the duelist with a longer weapon has INITIATIVE CLOSE range: If 5’ or less apart, the duelist wielding a shorter weapon has INITIATIVE. Duelists wielding weapons of equal length instead compare DEX score, like in COMBAT.

A tie of DEX score then compares level. If all else fails the GM determines initiative. The GM is responsible for keeping track of initiative. It is often easiest to track with an icon or card. Initiative can’t change within a round; any effects that change initiative occur in Step 7 (re-evaluating the situation).

First & Second Turn

Each duelist gets one turn per round of a duel, and one turn consists of three actions.

This is identical to COMBAT.

Active actions: The most significant type of action, usually reserved for attacks or high-impact events. Usually, any time a PC rolls a d20 is considered an ACTIVE action.

Move actions: Try to change range or put yourself into a superior position. Sometimes these actions require a check.

Quick actions: Trigger special effects, attacks, or maneuvers with a quick action.

Also used to shake off conditions or effects.

Repeat Until Defeat

After each duelist has taken their turn, a new round begins and the process repeats.

Duelists hit with an attack take DAMAGE, just like in COMBAT. A duelist that surrenders, reaches 0 HP, or is somehow otherwise incapacitated is DEFEATED and the duel ends.

Active Actions

  • Attack
  • Chamber
  • Goad
  • Grapple
  • Parry Active action

Move Actions

  • Assess
  • Feint
  • Reposition
  • Shift Move action

Quick Actions

  • Maneuver
  • Recover
  • Switch Quick action

Duel Actions

Each turn, a duelist gets three ACTIONS, one each of active, move, and quick. The GM or player controlling the duelist must declare what action they are attempting with each type, and roll dice or checks as necessary.

Damage can be rolled with advantage (roll 2x, take the better result) or disadvantage (its inverse). Duelists can delay any actions until Step 6 but forfeit initiative if so.


Move action

The GM reveals one of the enemy’s stats of your choice: AC, attack bonus, HP, etc. This requires no check and can’t be stopped.


Active action

Attempt to strike an enemy with a WEAPON.

Meeting or beating the target’s AC is a HIT. A successful hit deals a weapon’s DAMAGE.

  • High HIT: All weapons that hit and roll a natural 15+ (the d20 result without mods), roll damage with advantage.
  • Multiple ATTACKS: Class or other features that grant multiple attacks multiply the damage dealt on a hit rather than multiple attack rolls. Two attacks is 2x damage, three is 3x, etc.


Active action

Parry (pg. 5) but at disadvantage. Success means you can ATTACK this round without using an action, and roll with advantage.


Move action


Opposed CHA or DEX check vs. enemy

You trick the enemy with body language.

The attacker must have INITIATIVE and make a successful CHA or DEX check. A successful FEINT grants advantage to your next ATTACK.


Active action

Opposed CHA check vs. enemy

You verbally or socially influence the enemy to surrender, hesitate, attack, or otherwise behave outside of their will. The GM must measure what’s possible and plausible in the context of the fiction and the duel.


Active action

Requires CLOSE range

Opposed STR or DEX check vs. enemy

You must be within CLOSE range of the enemy and make a STR or DEX check vs. the enemy’s check. Successfully grappled opponents can’t take any move actions other than a STR or DEX check to escape.

Maneuver (Weapon)

Quick action

Triggered based on the WEAPON wielded

Requires successful HIT to trigger

When you HIT an opponent, you can trigger a MANEUVER with a quick action. Each weapon has at least one maneuver detailed (pg. 8).


Active action

Attack vs. enemy attack

Use your WEAPON to block an enemy attack.

Make a check (as an attack) with your weapon which replaces your AC until the start of your next turn. You must use your PARRY check even if it is worse than your AC.


Quick action

Works better with INITIATIVE

If you have INITIATIVE, you can use a quick action to RECOVER and remove one negative CONDITION on you, effective immediately.

Without INITIATIVE, the condition is not removed until the start of your next turn.


Move action

Works better with INITIATIVE

Opposed STR or DEX check vs. enemy

Maintain range but get into a better tactical position. REPOSITION with advantage if you have INITIATIVE. Success causes the enemy’s next check to have disadvantage.


Move action

Works better with INITIATIVE

A duelist with INITIATIVE can SHIFT without making a check. A duelist without it must make an opposed STR or DEX check if the duelist with initiative contests the SHIFT.

The winner gets to pick the current RANGE.


Quick action

Use a quick action to SWITCH your wielded weapon or to change your weapon’s grip.

This can’t be used to pick up a disarmed weapon, only those which you have ready.

Armor & Damage

Duelists wear ARMOR, which functions largely the same as in COMBAT. AC and Durability are identical to Five Torches Deep.

However, the armor’s MATERIAL affects the damage dealt by a weapon’s DAMAGE TYPE.

On the table below, match the type of weapon to the armor material. If a duelist’s weapon hits against an effective material, the damage dealt is rolled at disadvantage.

  • Padded: Thick textile or woven armor
  • Mail: Interlocking riveted chains
  • Plate: Tempered single sheets of metal
  • Piercing: Stabbing, pointy weapons
  • Blunt: Smashing, edgeless weapons
  • Slashing: Blades, swords, choppers

All armor materials can apply to any AC or defenses (heavy armor could be padded while light armor could be plate). A duelist without armor has no impact on the damage rolled. The GM has the final say on what material a particular armor is. Assume that a weapon with two DAMAGE TYPES uses the better option against a given MATERIAL.










A duelist with a sword fights an enemy with plate armor. The duelist rolls to attack as normal and hits (as damage type has no bearing on to hit rolls).

The duelist rolls damage twice and takes the lesser result (the slashing sword has damage disadvantage against the plate armor).

Damage Type


Damage Roll

Weapon Attributes

Length (L, 1-10)

A number between 1 and 10, roughly equal to its length in feet. The higher the number, the longer the weapon is. A weapon’s length is the primary way to determine INITIATIVE.

Longer LENGTH has INITIATIVE in reach.

Shorter LENGTH has INITIATIVE in close.

Damage Type (P, B, S)

Weapons deal PIERCING, BLUNT, or SLASHING damage based on their form and function.

A weapon’s DAMAGE TYPE comes into play vs. an opponent’s ARMOR MATERIAL. Some weapons have more than one damage type; the duelist picks which applies for an attack.

Piercing is disadvantaged vs. Padded

Blunt is disadvantaged vs. MAIL

Slashing is disadvantaged vs. PLATE

Damage Dealt (XDN+Y)

A number of dice and ability modifiers based on the weapon’s lethality, rolled and summed and dealt to an enemy’s HP on a HIT. This is more nuanced than in core FTD.

Hands (1 or 2)

Some weapons can be used with 1 or 2 HANDS depending on the wielder’s choice of GRIP.


Nearly all weapons have more than one GRIP which defines the stance and hand posture used to effectively wield the weapon. Each GRIP can change other attributes.

Durability (1-5)

Just as in Five Torches Deep, weapons have DURABILITY which can be reduced through directly attacking or damaging the weapon.


The special effects the weapon can produce on a successful HIT and use of a quick action.

Unarmed Attacks

A duelist without a weapon is UNARMED and likely can’t continue in a DUEL. If the GM or PC insists, treat unarmed as a weapon of 0L, B, 1d4 + STR damage, no maneuvers.

Simple or Martial

Dueling weapons can be either SIMPLE or MARTIAL as in Five Torches Deep. Some GMs may reserve DUELS for martial PCs such as thieves and warriors. Each example weapon is noted as either SIMPLE or MARTIAL.

Dueling weapons are designed for melee combat, and have no ranged qualities. If a battle devolves into the use of non-melee, resort to COMBAT. Below are the weapon ATTRIBUTES.

Weapon Maneuvers

A weapon’s MANEUVERS are what make it distinct. A maneuver is triggered with a HIT and the use of the duelist’s quick action. A duelist chooses which maneuver applies if the weapon has more than one.

  • Daze Disadvantage to defends
  • Disarm Drop their wielded weapon
  • Hurt Disadvantage vs. non-attacks
  • Knock Change the duel’s range
  • Special Unique benefits (like magic)
  • Stagger Lose, can’t keep initiative
  • Stun Lose next quick action
  • Sunder Damage weapon or armor
  • Trip Prone, disadvantage to attacks
  • Wind Lose next move action


The hit duelist suffers disadvantage against the attacks targeting them until they use a quick action to RECOVER.


The hit duelist’s wielded weapon is dropped to the ground. The DISARMED duelist has to use a move action to retrieve the weapon or a quick action to draw a new weapon.


The hit duelist suffers disadvantage vs. any opposed, non-attack check (e.g. GRAPPLE), until they spend a quick action to RECOVER.


The attacker changes the duel’s RANGE. This can affect INITIATIVE in future rounds. An attacker that is grappled can’t use KNOCK.


Unique benefits from magic, techniques, or other sources that make a weapon a true artifact. These are often pulled from other games or sources, but should be used sparingly and reserved for powerful weapons.

Special maneuvers should rarely, if ever, deal additional damage but instead place a penalty or other condition on the target.


The hit duelist loses INITIATIVE, and can’t regain INITIATIVE until they RECOVER.


The hit duelist loses their next quick action.


The attacker deals 1 DURABILITY damage to their target’s weapon, armor, or shield. If an item is brought to 0 DUR, it can’t be used and no longer provides any benefits.


The hit duelist is prone. They can’t move while in the duel, and have disadvantage on attacks. Weapons of 6+ LENGTH can’t make attacks. Standing requires a move action.


The hit duelist loses their next move action.

A PC duelist attacks an with an active action and rolls over the enemy’s AC: A hit. The PC chooses to spend a quick action to activate a maneuver for their wielded arming sword: DISARM. The enemy’s bardiche is dropped; they will have to use a move action to pick it up.

A duelist can’t trigger more than a single maneuver in a single round, even if some ability were to grant them multiple hits or quick actions. However, a duelist can “hold” a quick action to be used with certain other actions (such as CHAMBER) which in turn can trigger a weapon’s MANEUVER.

Any held quick actions are lost once the next round starts. The GM has final say in what makes sense based on the duel’s fiction.

Multiple conditions can stack against the same target (e.g. prone and disarmed).

Note: Some Weapon Attributes (Such As Damage) Differ From Five Torches Deep

Example Weapons
Weapon Durability Complexity Grip 1 Grip 2
Arming Sword 3 Martial Dueling, 2h
1d8 + Str Mod, S/P, 4L
Soldier, 1h
1d6 + Str Mod, S/P, 5L
Bardiche 2 Martial Forward, 2h
2d6 + Str Mod, S, 7L
High, 2h
1d12 + Str Mod, S, 6L
Battleaxe 3 Martial Chopping, 2h
1d12 + Str Mod, S, 5L
Choked, 2h
1d10 + Str Mod, S, 3L
Billhook 3 Simple Hook, 2h
2d6 + Str Mod, S, 6L
Trip, Disarm
Spike, 2h
3d4 + Str Mod, P, 7L
Dagger 2 Simple Pointed, 1h
1d6 + Dex Mod, S/P, 2L
Stabbing, 1h
1d6 + Str Mod, P, 1L
Greatsword 4 Martial Dueling, 2h
1d12 + Str Mod, S/P, 7L
Halfswording, 2h
2d6 + Str Mod, P, 3L
Messer 3 Simple Dueling, 2h
1d10 + Str Mod, S, 5L
Soldier, 1h
1d8 + Str Mod, S/P, 6L
Mace 5 Simple Standard, 1h
1d8 + Str Mod, P/B, 2L
Wind, Stun
Maul 4 Simple Standard, 2h
1d12 + Str Mod, B, 4L
Knock, Stagger
Handaxe 3 Simple Standard, 1h
1d8 + Str Mod, S/B, 2L
Disarm, Sunder
Longsword 3 Martial Dueling, 2h
1d10 + Str Mod, S/P, 6L
Mordhau, 2h
2d4 + Str Mod, B, 3L
Halberd 2 Martial Axe, 2h
1d12 + Str Mod, S/P, 8L
Pike, 2h
1d10 + Int Mod, P/B, 10l
War Spear 2 Martial Extended, 2h
1d12 + Dex Mod, P, 10l Stagger
Choked, 2h
3d4 + Str Mod, S/P, 7L
Short Spear 3 Simple Standard, 2h
1d8 + Dex Mod, S/P, 6L
One Handed, 1h
1d6 + Str Mod, P, 7L
Warhammer 5 Martial Spike, 1h
1d8 + Str Mod, P, 2L
Hammer, 1h
1d8 + Str Mod, B, 2L
Poleaxe 4 Martial Front, 2h
1d10 + Dex Mod, S/P, 6L
Rear, 1h
1d10 + Str Mod, S/P, 6L
Shield (+2 AC) 3 Simple Defensive, 2h
1d4 + Dex Mod, B, 1L
Aggressive, 1h
1d6 + Str Mod, B, 2L
Staff 2 Simple Standard, 2h
1d8 + Int Mod, B, 6L
Disarm, Trip

Party Duels

There are a few ways to incorporate the DUEL mechanics into a larger party combat.

Pair Off

The easiest but most time-consuming method, each PC duelist pairs off with an enemy under the GM’s control. The GM completes one round of each DUEL until all PCs have had a chance to act.

This is only fitting if there’s a roughly equal amount of combatants on each side. The party facing off against a dragon or a horde of goblins doesn’t make sense in a DUEL.

If enough DUELS are won by the PCs, the GM can convert back into COMBAT once they have gained the upper hand. The one vs. one tactics deployed in a DUEL are no longer relevant with five PCs fighting two enemies.


Both DUEL and COMBAT happen in the battle simultaneously. Usually the majority of the party is in COMBAT with one PC in a DUEL.

The GM would rotate the spotlight between each half of the split, focusing for a round on the DUEL and then a round on COMBAT.

This is also beneficial in mixed level parties, as a PC significantly higher or lower than the rest of the party might split off and fight a more comparably skilled foe in a DUEL.


Essentially replaces COMBAT rules with the DUEL system. This treats every fight, even with multiple combatants against the party, as one massive series of duels. This should be reserved for groups that love fighting.

Range & Initiative

Each combatant’s range to the other must be tracked for INITIATIVE. In this case, multiple duelists could have INITIATIVE over an enemy. If multiple PCs have the advantage, high DEX (or level with a tie) goes first.

It’s likely that this can become bogged down if tracking many opponents with weapons of a similar length. In general the GM can just grant initiative based on what makes sense in the context of the fight, or favor the PCs.

Uneven Fights

If two or more duelists are targeting the same opponent, the GM can grant their checks and attacks advantage. If the terrain or situation eliminates this numbers benefit then the GM may not grant any advantage.

Stacking Conditions

The effects or conditions caused by actions or maneuvers (ex: STUN or STAGGER) can stack. However, stacks are limited to only one of each condition (e.g. a duelist couldn’t be affected by two STUNS). This forces tactical choice and variety in a fight.

Non-Duel Actions

Casting spells, climbing walls, etc. occur as COMBAT actions and are resolved as normal.

A warrior and a thief PC are dueling a single NPC villain. The warrior has a poleaxe, the thief a messer and shield, the villain a greatsword.

The warrior is in reach range to the villain, the thief in close. Villain uses the halfswording grip, which grants it initiative against the thief, but not the warrior. The warrior attacks the villain first (with advantage); it’s two vs. one.

Hit; quick action to STUN the villain.

The villain acts next: A move action to FEINT. The villain rolls a CHA check against the thief’s WIS check to resist, and succeeds. The villain attacks the thief with advantage, and hits. Since the villain is stunned it can’t use its quick action for a maneuver.

The thief goes last: A move action to ASSESS the villain’s HP. More than enough to live a messer hit. The thief uses an active action to GRAPPLE the villain instead, rolling a DEX check with advantage and succeeds. The villain can’t take a move action.

Being grappled, injured, and outnumbered, the warrior assumes that the villain is likely open to surrendering.

Rather than attack, the warrior rolls an active action to GOAD. The GM grants advantage given the circumstance, and the warrior succeeds: Forcing the villain to surrender and reveal its secret plans.

Dueling Monsters

The DUEL mechanics can apply to battles between PCs and monsters, including those that don’t normally confine to humanoid proportions, weapons, or tactics. There are a few elements to convert and consider:

Length & Monster Size

GMs determine a monster weapon’s LENGTH, even if the creature is using natural attacks (claws, tails, teeth, etc). Keep in mind that a weapon’s length is roughly equivalent in feet (5L is 5’), as such most unequipped monsters will have shorter “weapons.”

Truly massive (dragons, titans, etc.) or diminutive (pixies, imps, etc.) creatures likely shouldn’t be involved in a DUEL, but if so, special considerations to LENGTH and INITIATIVE can be deployed (e.g. a PC duelist always has initiative against a dragon, but must use 10L+ weapons to fight it).

Weird creatures with shapes that the GM can’t conceive or translate into a DUEL context can remain within COMBAT encounters. Likewise, certain DUEL actions or MANEUVERS may not work against creatures (TRIPPING an ooze or HURTING a stone golem, etc). However, your group may find a way to justify it in the fiction.

Monstrous Armor

Monster AC is the same as in COMBAT. But the monster’s armor MATERIAL should map to one of the three – determined by the GM – for what makes the most sense. A dire turtle might have PLATE while an ogre is PADDED.

Monstrous Weapons & Maneuvers

A monster’s various natural or wielded weapons can be converted into existing example weapons in this text, or use some combination of ATTRIBUTES as makes sense for their abilities. In general, GMs should give only one or two MANEUVERS to each monster, unless it is a “solo” creature that’s meant to challenge an entire party (such as a giant dragon or similar threat).

Multiple Attacks

Some monsters have superspeed or multiple attacks. The GM can multiply their damage as on pg. 4, or they can treat each attack as an individual “duelist.” This is common in monsters who have multiple limbs or heads that can attack simultaneously, and therefore can fight an entire party in “1v1” duels.

A PC duelist is battling a tentacled beast in a MONSTER DUEL. The beast is the size of a horse and shambles on the ground like an octopus. Its tentacles are about 6’ long, and so the GM gives its attacks 6L. Likewise, the monster has multiple tentacles, so the GM gives it two attacks at 2x damage to better represent the monster’s anatomy.

The beast’s gelatinous flesh is most similar to PADDED armor, and the GM gives its attacks the TRIP maneuver.

The battle begins with the PC winning initiative due to having a 7L bardiche.

The PC hits and triggers DISARM, the GM reasons that disarming this beast injures or amputates a tentacle, causing it to lose its double attack.

Once the tentacular creature acts, it still “wields” multiple tentacles, and while it can no longer attack twice, the GM still grants it the 2x damage for landing a hit. The monster attacks and hits the PC; dealing double damage and triggering the TRIP maneuver.


In some cases, a DUEL’s situation requires more tactically specific TERRAIN. Tables that want to incorporate the battlefield into their strategic choices can use these rules.

Surface & Footing

The ground beneath the duelists’ feet can play a major factor in the options available.

A GM can grant advantage or disadvantage as pertinent based upon the SURFACE.

  • Flat/Normal: No modifiers.
  • Leaden: Sucking mud or dense grass. A HIT duelist automatically goes PRONE. Any attempt to REPOSITION or KNOCK is made with disadvantage.
  • Pitted: Trenches, gopher holes, or a large pit. A duelist forced into such terrain can be knocked PRONE and take 1d6 damage for each 10’ they fall.
  • Shaky: Rope bridge or rotting roof. All attacks in REACH range are made with disadvantage. Both duelists go PRONE with an attempted GRAPPLE.
  • Slick: Oil or water atop hard ground.

Missing an attack changes the range.

Reposition is made with advantage.

  • Uneven: Loose stones or bramble roots. Any successful KNOCK also forces the defender to go PRONE. Any attack with TRIP is made with advantage.


Fighting within dense forests, a low hall, or narrow quarters favors some weapons.

  • Dense: No more than a foot or two of open space. Any attacks in REACH range are made with disadvantage. Any weapons of LENGTH 6+ can’t be used.
  • Low: Limited vertical movement such as a squat cave or a low ceiling. Weapons that require overhead strikes (e.g. SLASHING) have disadvantage.
  • Narrow: Limited horizontal space such as a hallway. Weapons of LENGTH 6+ (except PIERCING) have disadvantage.


Having a significant ELEVATION advantage (usually 2-3’ higher than the opponent) means that all damage is maxed (e.g. a 1d10 weapon would deal 10 damage on a hit). The GM determines when this applies.

Sometimes a difference in ELEVATION grants COVER (most of your body is blocked).


Fighting around walls, doorways, or other large obstacles can provide COVER, and works like a shield (+2 AC, which stacks).

Getting into cover requires a REPOSITION.

Visibility & Concealment

Any form of CONCEALMENT – such as from darkness, fog, rain, smoke – means that any attack from REACH has advantage, and that any attempt to FEINT has advantage. A duelist can’t attempt to ASSESS an opponent.

A duelist PC is fighting in fog-laden hills of leaden mud. The PC acts first but misses. The enemy NPC has a spear and uses this to gain advantage due to the fog. The PC is hit and goes PRONE.

The PC then successfully FEINTS while prone, which has advantage due to the fog. This cancels out the disadvantage to attacking from being PRONE. The PC attacks and hits the NPC, causing the enemy to also go PRONE.

Eventually both stand, fighting around several large ruined columns. The PC cleverly uses a column as COVER and the GM gives a bonus +2 to AC.

But, the NPC stands atop a ruined stair and gains ELEVATION, landing a hit and dealing max damage. The PC, badly wounded, retreats into the center of the ruin which is DENSE; limiting the spear the NPC enemy has been using.

Both drop their longer weapons and go to daggers, grappling to the death.

Duelist Archetype

Starting at level 3, a PC is able to take an ARCHETYPE. The DUELIST ARCHETYPE grants access to the below list of FEATURES which can be taken at level 3 and 7. If the GM permits, CLASS FEATURES (granted level 5 and 9) can be exchanged for more DUELIST FEATURES.

There are no requirements to qualify for the DUELIST, however if a PC lacks PROFICIENCY in a weapon, the PC can’t DUEL with it.

  • Nimble: You can REPOSITION as a QUICK action instead of MOVE
  • Deceptive: You have advantage to any attempt to FEINT
  • Riposte: You don’t have disadvantage when attempting to CHAMBER
  • Uberstrike: A natural roll of 13+ on a HIT rolls damage with advantage
  • Hip Check: You can try GRAPPLE with a MOVE instead of an ACTIVE action
  • Juggler: You can SWITCH once per turn for free instead of a QUICK action
  • Insightful: You can ASSESS as a QUICK instead of a MOVE action
  • Swift: You can SHIFT range without a check even if you don’t have INITIATIVE
  • Fearsome: You can GOAD with your STR mod instead of CHA mod
  • Iron Jaw: Your RECOVER removes CONDITIONS immediately, even when you don’t have INITIATIVE
  • Disarming Parry: If you succeed at a PARRY, you can spend a QUICK action to also DISARM the opponent
  • Steelbreaker: Any SUNDER deals 2 DURABILITY damage instead of 1
  • Bellringer: Any STUN also costs the opponent their next MOVE action
  • Wingspan: You can choose to extend a weapon’s LENGTH by +1 which can alter INITIATIVE in Step 2 or 7

Warrior PCs

The DUEL rules level the field between warriors and non-warriors; a necessary act to balance the subsystem within the typical three actions per turn structure of FTD.

That being said, some players might feel cheated that their character – who specializes in combat – is hardly any better than a lowly mage when it comes to DUELS. There are a few optional ways to make warriors and their ilk stand out without significantly altering the subsystem:

Favored Initiative

Warriors always win INITIATIVE when there’s a tie (such as weapons of equal length). Any checks to determine INITIATIVE are rolled with advantage for warriors. A warrior can alter their weapon’s effective LENGTH equal to their DEX modifier (shorter or longer) once per turn. This doesn’t take an action.

Damage Multiplier

A warrior duelist can multiply damage dealt by the number of attacks they get in a round on a HIT.

Easier High hit

A warrior PC that lands a hit can use a natural result of [15 – proficiency bonus] to determine a HIGH HIT, which allows damage to be rolled with advantage (ex: A level 1 warrior only needs to roll a 13 for a high hit).

This increases the warrior’s damage output and more reliably takes out weaker targets.

Applicable Features

Warrior class and archetype FEATURES can grant certain benefits or advantages to a DUEL when the GM believes them applicable.

For example, a warrior of the Barbarian archetype might use their +10’ movement speed to help establish starting range or to roll REPOSITION with advantage.

Duel Actions in Combat

Rather than make DUELS more favorable to warriors, this option makes COMBAT more like a DUEL. Warriors are the only class that can use DUEL actions (namely weapon MANEUVERS) during a regular COMBAT scene.

For example, a warrior PC is in COMBAT with the rest of their party. They get to use their quick action to apply the benefit of their longsword’s DISARM maneuver on a successful hit; while the mage PC wielding a staff doesn’t get to use DISARM during the COMBAT, regardless of their success.

Limiting Features

The GM can make the DUELIST archetype and its FEATURES limited strictly to warrior PCs, or those who have demonstrated significant in-fiction training and relevant DUELIST experience (such as a mage spending a year in-game time as a student in the Hall of Blades dueling academy).

A warrior PC has reached level 3, and the GM allows them to take the duelist archetype. Other non-warrior PCs are not able to take this archetype. Later, the party gets into a regular COMBAT.

The warrior fires a bow in the first round, which has no benefit from the duelist archetype. On their next turn, they enter into melee combat and can take advantage of their duelist features.

A thief PC is also in melee combat, and rolls to hit and deal damage as normal.

Once it is the warrior PC’s turn, they use their move action to FEINT the enemy (making a check) and succeed.

Note that initiative is not needed as it is tracked differently in COMBAT (turn based rather than “having” initiative).

The warrior’s active action is an attack with a longsword, achieving a high hit (rolling damage with advantage) and using a quick action to DISARM the enemy NPC.

When the NPC acts, still in COMBAT, they have to retrieve their weapon before being able to attack again. The GM also grants the other PCs advantage on their next attack during this round due to the warrior’s successful FEINT.

Mounted duels

When a combatant is atop a trained STEED, they gain access to a special kind of MOUNTED DUEL. General “fighting from horseback” is not covered in this subsystem, and instead should be used as in COMBAT.

While mounted, a DUELIST gains: DAMAGE: Damage dealt is maximized (1d10 deals 10 damage). Critical hits double as normal (a 1d10 critical deals 20 damage).

This applies even vs. mounted enemies.

Limited Actions: While MOUNTED vs. an enemy on foot, you can’t attempt to:

  • Nimble
  • Reposition
  • Feint

Advantage WHEN: While MOUNTED, you gain ADVANTAGE (with or without initiative) vs. unmounted enemies when attempting:

  • Shift
  • Goad
  • Attack

Charge: You can CHARGE on a steed in open areas. A hit is always a critical hit and always knocks the target PRONE, even if mounted.

Magic & duels

Five Torches Deep assumes that the characters have access to and command of powerful divine and arcane magic. It isn’t unnatural to assume that they’ll attempt to leverage that magic as part of their duel. In short, the GM can allow any spellcasting check to occur as part of a DUEL given its normal action costs (such as an active action or quick action, etc). Note that the intense nature of a DUEL prevents a character from maintaining concentration.

A spellcaster can use magic to alter the fiction in such a way so as to give them an advantage. The GM might wager that certain magical effects can knock an enemy duelist PRONE, STAGGER them, DISARM, or similar tactical maneuvers that would hamper the enemy or benefit the duelist using magic. Further, a GM can create MAGIC WEAPONS using the templates starting on pg 9. Stacking multiple MANEUVERS on a single quick action, dealing higher damage, flexible length, and similar “rule-breaking” effects make such weapons feel truly magical (e.g. a staff that deals slashing damage with 2-7L).

Quick Combat

Sometimes all of this focus on DUELS gives you less time to spend on every mundane fight that comes your way. While the normal COMBAT rules in FTD are pretty swift, this makes them even quicker.

Each PC combatant makes one “combat” check based on their approach. Usually with either STR or DEX modifiers plus proficiency bonuses. Compare each roll result to the abstracted combat’s DC, usually 11 but may fluctuate based on the odds of the fight. All PCs must roll or take an automatic 1 result.

So long as one PC was successful, the party achieves victory. Victory is described by GM fiat and usually results in the death, surrender, or routing of the enemy force. Any PCs that weren’t successful must suffer 1d6 damage for each point their check result was under the DC. This damage can’t be avoided or reduced in any way.

If all PCs fail the roll, each takes damage as appropriate for failure. The narrative circumstances change so that the enemy has the party in a precarious position of defeat: Surrender or death, as fitting the enemy.