Dueling Protocol & Etiquette

The Offense

When a noble is given offense, whether real or imagined, or when their lord or domain is the target of such insult or slander, he may respond by challenging the offender, lest the insult go unanswered. There are no codified or specific rules for what sort of offenses are worthy of a duel. Each offense is judged individually, and often each domain, family, or local lord will have a different idea of what kinds of insults require redress. A duel is an appropriate response for a situation in which a noble’s reputation has been compromised. The challenge is expected to lay out the nature of the grievances and the terms of satisfaction.

The Challenge

There are a few situations where challenges can be refused or ignored. If the challenger is of significantly lower social station (two or more ranks of Title), the challenged can opt to simply dismiss his accusations. In some cases, however, a higher-Status noble may choose to accept the duel anyway in order to defeat and humiliate the one who dared to challenge him. Frivolous challenges may be refused, though refusing challenges on these grounds can compound the original insult, damage the reputation of the refuser through the appearance of cowardice, or both. Even if refusing the duel is not an option, the offending noble can often avoid a duel by publicly retracting the original insult and offering some manner of restitution. Of course, some proud nobles might prefer to fight a duel rather than admit a mistake.

Protocol & Etiquette

Once a challenge has been issued and accepted, the duelists decide upon the form of duel.

Rights of the Challenger: The offended party is afforded the right to specify the terms of their satisfaction and sets the terms for the duel’s conclusion. Duels are not always to the death. Nobles are not supposed to throw their lives away without cause, and when the insult or offense which caused the duel is not of great magnitude, a duel to first blood, or until one combatant acknowledges defeat, will be considered sufficient. When the insult is serious enough, however, duels are lethal, and end only when one (or both) participants are dead.

  • First blood: The duel ends as soon as one duelist is wounded, even minorly.
  • Submission: The duel ends as soon as one duelist concedes.
  • Incapacitation: The duel ends when one duelist is physically incapable of continuing
  • Death: The duel ends only when one of the duelists is mortally wounded.

Rights of the Challenged: The noble being challenged may decide the time and place for the duel to take place, and the weapons used in the duel. Being supernatural creatures capable of incredible power, “weapons” in this case can extend to such powers as well. The challenged noble often uses these terms to gain as much of an advantage as possible in the ensuing conflict, but taking unreasonable advantage of this opportunity can be seen as a sign of cowardice, poor etiquette, or both. In theory, any time within a year and any place within Dischordia is acceptable. In practice, delaying a duel for a long time can be seen as cowardice, barring unusual circumstances. Most duels to first blood take place the day of the challenge, and lethal duels can commence as soon as the necessary authorization can be sought.

Unconventional Duels: Duels of combat are considered the true and proper form of dueling but, on occasion, another method is chosen. A challenge between two archers may be resolved with bows rather than swords, and a challenge between magically adept nobles can be fought with Certamen. Challenges of wit, oratory, or craftsmanship are not unheard of. In reality, nobles may engage in any contest of skill. While the challenged noble is permitted the choice of weapon, an unconventional choice must be agreed upon by both parties.

Seconds: Optionally, duelists can agree to appoint trusted representatives to act as Seconds, who will negotiate all necessary arrangements in an effort to ensure that neither side gains an unfair advantage. Appointing such representatives demonstrates impeccable etiquette, but nobles may be unwilling to leave their lives in another’s hands, as the results of their negotiation are binding upon both duelists.

Champions: Any noble, either challenger or challenged, can call for a champion to fight on his behalf. Any other noble, usually a vassal or ally, can agree to fight on their behalf. If no one agrees to serve as their champion, they may call upon their vassals to do so, or they may petition for their lord to supply a champion for their duel. Once the duel is resolved, the losing party is expected to share the fate of their champion, including death. A noble’s chosen Second may serve as the Champion, or it may be two different people.

Authorization: Duels must be authorized by higher authority. Typically, this requires approval of a ranking Imperial noble, but Sanctum Magistrates also have the power to authorize duels as well. Etiquette demands that duels to the death petition their lord for permission. A noble’s life belongs to his lord, after all. In most cases, authorization is routine and a mere formality, but a lord can refuse. Duels can be fought without such permission, especially where noble passions become involved, but such duels are considered scandalous and improper.

The Judge: In addition to the challenger, the challenged, and any champions, most duels call for an impartial judge who oversees the proceedings. The choice of judge is important. Once a duel is proposed and accepted, the first priority for both contestants is to find a mutually acceptable third party whose decisions will bind both of them. The ideal judge is someone whom both duelists regard as someone of impeccable etiquette. It is preferable that the judge has some expertise in the chosen dueling method, but it is not necessary. For a duel whose outcome is clear and objective, the judge is largely a formality. In any subjective competition, however, the judge’s role is one of paramount importance. A wise judge will insist on having as many commonalities as possible on which to make a sound comparative judgment. The Judge may insist on refinements and addenda to the duelists' initial agreement, for his own sake.

The Duel

Once the judge and both duelists arrive at the assigned time and place, any preparation may take place. It is this judge’s responsibility to make certain all proper dueling protocol is carried out and that the duel is fair... or at least sufficiently entertaining for any observers. In cases where legal proceedings are involved, the presiding magistrate will serve as judge of the duel. Regardless, the judge is responsible for inspecting the area where the duel will take place, making certain it is suitable, as well as observing the match itself to make sure it is fought properly and without interference.

Formal duels begin with the judge announcing the names and titles of the challenger and challenged, listing the offense(s) which led to the duel. The challenged is then given one final chance to retract his offense and offer restitution, and the challenger a final chance to withdraw his challenge. The judge then announces to those assembled the terms for concluding the duel, and that the results of the duel are binding and the matter will be settled once it is complete. The judge may then ask if either duelist has anything to say before the duel commences.

The Aftermath

Once the duel has fulfilled the terms set forth in the challenge, or as declared such by the judge, the duel is considered concluded. If the duel was to the death and the loser is still alive, they are expected to kill themselves, or to subject themselves to execution by the Sanctum. For duels to first blood, the loser must shed blood, mimicking the wound suffered by their Champion.

Officially, once a duel is resolved, so is the issue which caused it. Insults are retracted or endured, and testimony is proven or disproven. The agreed upon terms, if any, must be fulfilled, including any restitution. Etiquette dictates that the results of a duel are final and cannot be disputed. However, not all Dischordian can accept a result that brings defeat to them or their domain. Far from settling the matter, some duels result in long-term animosity.