Epic Duels/Showdowns in Efforts?



Hi everyone! I wanted to know how you handle epic duels like from Clint Eastwood cowboy showdowns or samurai duels that are intense. Any move could be your last.

I have ran a game in the past where one of my PCs was separated and went up against a 1v1 with an enemy. My PC eventually died and I felt bad because I felt like this moment could’ve been AWESOME. It just felt a little underwhelming.

Please leave your advice on how to handle showdowns and to that extent even PvP moments.

Thanks everyone!


Could you give us a few more details on that event? Maybe I can help! :smiley:


There’s a really cool rule in Whitehack* that I tend to use for “who draws first” situations: the auction. In a contest between two people where success is mutually exclusive, they make bids for the action by raising the target number until one of them folds. The highest bidder then makes the action, rolling to beat the target number that was their bid. If they succeed, they succeed. If they fail, the lower bidder succeeds without any further die rolls.

So A says 10, B 11, A, 13, B 15, A passes. B then makes the roll, and hopes to beat 15.

I think this would work really well for a gun duel, for a samurai showdown I’m not sure.

  • It’s probably from an older game, like James Bond, originally.


That’s a cool game mechanic.


The situation with one of my players was a mage battle akin to Voldermort and Harry’s fight. Just blasting magic back and forth in an arena. I want to know how to go about setting up the tension of the duel. Hopefully that’s enough info. :smiley:


So the two opposing parties bids their target number? How do you apply any bonuses if any?


Same as always: you roll d20 + stat if you roll. This will give the character with the higher stat more confidence in bidding because they know that any given target number will be easier for them to beat than for their opponent.


I know Deadlands Reloaded broke a showdown into several parts, where you have the part that the two participants try to provoke, intimidate, or harangue each other into a misstep, then it goes into a texas hold 'em game in which the river (the three shared cards in the middle) are revealed, and whomever wins that gets to do there attack with a lot of extra damage. It’s all too complicated for me to reproduce here, and it may be too much to reproduce effectively at the table, but it might give you some ideas.


I like what you and @Olav have provided here. I’ll consider this method for sure, because even if you have a higher stat the duel/showdown can go either way because of the bet. Thank you!


I would keep it super simple; d20 roll off. Both parties have to drop dice at the exact same time. Winner takes all. Perhaps to raise the tension you both roll underneath a cup and can’t see the result right away.

I saw a youtube video (I think It was a video, maybe a blog post) where the DM had two stop watches. Whoever stopped their watch closest to ten seconds wins. Might not work for everyone but it sounds like a great idea to me! Really simulates the quick reflexes. And the DM and player could be staring each other down as the clock ticks down.


That sounds pretty cool. I feel like I’m thinking too much here too. ICRPG is a really simple and modular system so it shouldn’t be too hard with all the advice here and what I can come up with. Thank you!


Hands-down, the best mechanic I’ve seen for the classic samurai duel was in the Usagi Yojimbo RPG (the original Fuzion Lite version). It involved three combat postures: Total Attack (balls-to-the-wall screaming charge, no thought to defense), Partial Attack (more cautious, probing & testing), and Total Defense (what it sounds like). Total Attack vs Total Defense was a wash; the defender could deflect the obvious attack. Total Attack vs Partial Attack could (depending on rolls) leave one hurt & one dead; I think the TA did extra damage. Total Defense vs Total Defense, nothing happens. Partial Attack vs Partial Attack, both sides could get hurt. Total Attack vs Total Attack, massive damage from whoever hits; if they both hit, everybody could die.

That should be pretty easy to shoehorn into ICRPG, I think.