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How to duel

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  • How to duel

    I have been asked to write a general manual about duels of honor. It appears that this would be useful to make public.

    Why would you duel?
    Duels are conducted to save honor. When someone calls your honor into question, you must defend your honor, or you loose it. Honor is extremely important in all aspects of life.

    Who should duel?
    Duels are conducted by individuals who are centered around their honor. These would either be individuals of social rank, or individuals working for an organization which is centered around honor, such as one of the great houses.
    Typically, individuals ranked squire or above would duel when their personal honor is called into question. Typically, any member of a Great House that is challenged will duel (or have someone duel in their place) so the house does not appear poorly. Typically, commoners would not duel each other, but instead, if violence is necessary, would resort to fists and brawling.

    When can you duel?
    You can challenge someone to a duel if they give insult to you or to your House. You can only challenge them to a duel if they are approximately three "ranks" or less above or below yourself. This means a commoner could challenge a reeve. A squire could challenge armigerous gentry. A reeve could challenge a knight, and so on. [OOC: for a listing of the ranks, see this thread:]

    What counts as an insult?
    Insults are statements of opinion that are unjust and derisive.
    Statements of fact can not be considered insults. Occasionally insults are given as if they are fact. In those situations, it can be asked that the speaker clarifies what they intended, and if necessary, apologizes for any insult that was taken.

    Let me give an example.
    If you were to say "Lord Mercutio never does any paperwork, but makes Scudiero Brumble do it all" that would be a statement of fact. If it is untrue, it could be challenged and you would either have to state that you were mistaken, and I do do paperwork. If it is true, then there is no insult.
    If it is a true statement, and I claimed that it is untrue, then that is a stain upon my honor.

    Now, if you were to say "Lord Mercutio IS LAZY and never does any paperwork" you are issuing an insult upon me. My squire (or others who work for me) would be just in demanding an apology, or issuing a duel.

    If you were to say "The Rinaldi are lazy and never do any paperwork" you are issuing an insult upon my house, and any member of the Rinaldi would be just in demanding an apology or issuing a duel.

    If you were to insult my squire, as he carries my honor, then that is also an insult upon me. If you were to insult a general member of the house, then it would not be an insult upon me, unless you also insulted the house as a whole.

    Who can fight?
    There are situations when others can fight on behalf of each individual. The individual issuing a challenge always has to fight. Other people may issue a duel on your behalf, but only if they may fight on your behalf. If a duel is issued against you, you may accept it, or someone that may duel on your behalf may accept it.
    There are complicated rules about who can duel on your behalf. The rule of thumb is "anyone who carries your honor" may duel on your behalf. My squire, for example, carries my honor. If he is disgraced, then so am I. The reverse is also true, so either of us may duel on the others behalf.
    Anyone from the same guild or house may duel on behalf of another member from their guild - they must be an actual member of the guild or house, and not hired for the duel.
    Anyone who is (a male member of the) family may duel on behalf of a cripple or woman from their family.

    What happens when issuing a duel
    When issuing a duel, the individual issuing the duel must state their grievances. Their grievances are the complaints that caused them to issue a duel.
    The person who has been challenged, if accepting the duel, may also issue any grievances they may have against the challenger.
    Once a duel is accepted, the individuals that are dueling should attempt to have as little contact with each other as possible, until the actual day of the duel. Both individuals should attempt to find "a second" or, at the very least, an adjudicator, who both individuals agree will behave honorably.

    What happens if you do not accept a duel?
    If someone walks away from a duel, it could mean one of two things. It could mean that they are socially so far above the issuer that they have no need to duel over trivial matters. Usually four "major social ranks" is enough that no duels should be fought. That would mean that commoners would not duel with knights, and gentry would not duel with most nobles. A gentry issuing a duel to a knight, or a knight issuing a duel to a noble could not be ignored.

    The other reason to walk away from a duel would be that you accept your words were in error, or you are not prepared to back up your honor with steel. In this case, it is reasonable to post a public notice explaining the duel and the charges. This is the equivalent of the person who walks away having accepted defeat, and stating that their honor does not have worth. It is much more honorable to give an apology than to walk away from a reasonably issued duel.

    What happens during the duel?
    When it is time for the duel, the two duelists will meet. Their seconds will also be present. If one or both of the duelists does not have a second, then there must also be a neutral adjudicator.
    If one of the parties (either the challenged or challenger) is not present, then their second must duel in their place.
    There is no backing out of a duel, once it has been accepted, without a complete loss of honor.
    The grievances are spoken by the seconds. This is the final opportunity to state whether apology is offered for the insult, or whether the duelists stand by any insult they have given.
    The duelists then agree on how the duel will be completed. The usual options are:
    "to three touches" - the first to tap the other three times during a duel - stopping after each tap, then resuming the duel - is declared the victor.
    "to the blood" - the first to draw blood in the other is declared the victor.
    "to the death" - the first to kill the opponent is declared the victor.

    Often this condition is declared as the duel is issued. If that was done ("I challenge you to a duel to the death") then the matter has already been decided. If the type of duel was not yet decided, then the duelists choose what option to use. The least dangerous option is the one that is used. So if there was a challenge, but it was not specified to the death, and on the day one duelist wants to fight to the death, while another only wishes to fight to the blood, then the duel would be conducted to the blood.

    At any point in a duel one of the duelists may offer surrender. There is no obligation for the other duelist to accept the surrender, and they may, instead, decide to conclude the duel. Most often surrender is offered during a duel to the death, once the outcome is obvious. There is no loss of honor to decide not to accept the surrender, and instead, to conclude the duel.

    What happens after the duel?
    After the duel one of the duelists will have been declared the victor. The other duelist must then take actions to address their grievances. If the grievance was that they were insulted, then an apology (public, if requested) must be given, and given with good grace. The same behavior or insult must not be issued a second time.

    Is this legal?
    The killing of other citizens is, of course, not legal. Duels to the touch are legal. Duels to the blood could be considered assault, although why someone would press a charge of assault, after challenging or accepting a duel, is beyond me and would show a lack of honor. Duels to the death are, of course, illegal.
    Having said that, honor is a high ideal, and many would consider proper and honorable conduct to be more important than following the laws. Yes, challenging or accepting a duel may be an action that leads to legal consequences. The question is whether your honor is important enough to justify that risk. It is for this reason that duels to the death are often conducted clandestinely.

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