Duelling in the Earth empire is seen as part of the great and noble tradition of settling disputes. The practice was originally resurrected to ease tensions between the noble houses, but has grown considerably in scope and ritual since then.

It became a required safety valve for imperial politics, where the noble families wielded massive economic, political and military power, yet were unable to move against each other openly. What this led to is the classic feuds from the tales of old earth where families would spite each other as far as they dared for generations, to the determinant of the empire as a whole. By resurrection the ancient and noble tradition of trial by combat the nobility gained a way to bring disputes into the open and, to use the vernacular, have it out, in a controlled fashion that did not drag entire systems into the dispute.

While it started for grievance resolution, duelling grew rapidly in popularity throughout the entire and is considered a high sport. Numerous salons exist in every civilised bastion of imperial space to cater for all abilities from the occasional fighter, who is mostly going for the cucumber sandwiches and social gossip over gin and tonic, to the professional duellist who lives and, in some cases, dies by their skill with the blade. A respected university would be expected to sport duelling teams in several leagues and there will usually be at least one alternate dueling society practicing an unofficial standard, of which single sword is the most popular (the exact sword varies over time: rapiers are currently the in thing, but everyone expects broadsword to make a comeback soon). Zero G duelling is popular with universities and installations that are primarily spacebound though the tactics and combat are so different that it has a much smaller following than those with feet on the ground.

A professional duellist is seen as a fine career choice for a young noble who is out of line for succession, it is seen as an aspiring career for the common classes. As a rule, each social strata will hire duellists from their strata, so provided they can afford to learn the skills, those of the lower classes can make an excellent living.

Sporting duels between professionals are broadcast empire wide with famous duelists becoming household names. Some maintain duelling only in such a way, but for most their performance on the public sporting circuit is advertising for being hired to represent someone in a dispute. The better they are, the better clients come to them.

Sufficient fame can sometimes gain limited social mobility for the very best. While it will not make you a noble, the most skilled duelists are in great demand and gain social perks commensurate with that. Many a young commoner boy dreams of the day his star on the circuit has risen high enough to be invited to all the best parties to discuss the ins and outs of parrying with the lords, and maybe meet the eyes of a young barons daughter across a crowded room. The latter may be very rare, but young boys can dream.

Friendly duels as part of competition and general one-upmanship are common, as to duel is part of the tradition of being one of the nobility, and is a particularly popular way of keeping score among the younger generations.

Under imperial law, any noble can declare a duel and demand satisfaction from any other given a suitable grievance. The definition of what is “suitable” is open to a lot of debate, and the reasons given may impact substantially on one's reputation in court. While any noble can be challenged, that does not mean they have to fight, and if one has not professed to being an excellent duellist it is acceptable, and in fact expected to hire a suitable professional to represent in a grievance. Of course a noble who does brag about their skills with the blade who gets another to fight in their stead can expect questions being asked about their true ability.

To be considered an official duel to resolve a grievance the duel must be registered with and witnessed by a suitable authority, this will make the duel outcome legally binding. The party must be one of sufficient station (usually the next level of nobility) and independent of the grievance. While not legally binding, duels without such a party will often be socially binding, depending on who is there to witness it.

It is rare for the entitled noble to whom the petition is made to actually be the witnessing party in person, for smaller estates they will usually hire a professional duelling administrator or perhaps a delegate junior family member, larger estates often have a retainer whose sole remit is to be their official witness.

As with all things, the fashions of the nobility set the standards for the empire to follow and duelling is also practiced by commoners for similar reasons. The range of ritual among the common classes varies from upper middle classes who do their best to imitate the practice of the nobility to the lowest levels that are one step above a brawl. A noble calling a commoner out is legal but incredibly rare as the social harm it does would outweigh any perceptible gain.

Bravo sir! Such courage. Pray, what salon did your opponent learn the blades at? Doesn't even own a pair of daggers? Surely she can afford the very best to stand for her though, yes? No? No. Still. Very brave sir, very brave

-Unknown butler to his lord on learning that he had formally called out a commoner over a perceived insult.

Legal Standing

Provided the correct motions have been followed among the nobility a duel can create a legally binding resolution to an issue. A commoner cannot initiate a legally binding duel over a grievance, but again following the example set, it is socially very bad to go against the outcome of one.

For all levels of society duels can be used in the legal system to resolve civil cases provided both parties agree (and expensive as they are, duelists fees will often be more attractive than legal bills for a prolonged case). In such cases a presiding magistrate usually acts as witnessing authority.

Duels are rarely allowed for criminal cases, though this has not stopped angry plaintiffs calling out the appointed prosecutor from time to time. One should be cautious with one's tongue, as the Crown Prosecution Service and any law firm worth its overpriced letterhead maintain standing contracts with the very best duelling salons to defend their honour.

Duelling to the death is legal, provided it has been officially announced as such As this will involve the death of an imperial subject there will be a police investigation afterwards, so the reason for the grievance needs to be proportionate or the victor can expect to be treated as a common murderer.

While this is of course unusual my Lord, on behalf of Merrill Auskaga and Finch, our chosen duellist will be happy to meet you upon the field of honour in one hour. Would you like to merely settle the matter of insult, or also resolve this case over the separation of your estate?

-Hon. Gareth Martin QC. When challenged during a divorce trial.

The Mechanics of the Duel


A duel will start with a formal declaration of challenge, clearly stating the reason for the grievance. Ideally this is in person, but in cases where this is not possible most imperial law firms will deliver an official statement of challenge. The witnessing party should be informed of the intent of challenge immediately, they have the option of denying the duel at this point, though that privilege is rarely invoked. The parties will then appoint and announce their Seconds, announce if they are to duel themselves or be represented by another and agree terms. The agreement of terms is usually handled by the seconds.


The core rules of the duel, as set forth in The Noble Art of Combat, 8th edition by Subaru Arasaka, which is considered the foremost authority on dueling tradition:

The duel shall be fought in the presence of suitable witnesses by combatants of sound mind and body until one such combatant either yields or is rendered incapable of continuing, in which case their duly appointed Second has the responsibility to yield for them.

The combatants shall armed with short blades, sharpened, clean and coated with no ignoble substances that would hamper the opponent.

The combatants shall be armoured only with bracers which shall extend no further forward than the wrist and no further back than the elbow.

Following the conclusion of the combat, the matter is considered settled and both combatants shall accept this and retire with decorum.

These may be changed by agreement of both parties, typical topics negotiated on are the use of neuro-external powers, differing weapons, what counts as “short” (which is traditionally is no longer than 18” but cunning duelists have noted that the base rules leave this up to interpretation), what shall count as a conclusion and if there are specific rules upon a hit - a “break and reset” style or a continuous battle. For duels in imperial space, it is generally implicit that the law of the land must be upheld, so the use of Clamp in the duel is illegal. A drug test before and after is not unknown to enforce this. The agreement of terms can be a difficult process depending on the preferred styles of the fighters. All other things being equal, and provided their terms are considered reasonable, social pressure favours the terms of the duellist answering the grievance rather than the one who made it. It is thus astute to try to goad ones opponents into making the challenge to get more favourable terms.


Once terms and a time are set, the parties will gather at the appointed place. The duelists will face off at a distance of not less than 15 paces with their seconds standing with them. The witnessing party will stand between and formally announce the duel, the grievance, the parties, the duelists (if different), the seconds and the agreed terms of the duel. The duelists and parties will confirm their assent.

The duelists will then change into suitable attire, this will usually involve the removal of various extraneous items of clothing and the attachment of their bracers, many duelists have formed their own ritual around being ceremonially clothed to enter battle. The seconds will then confirm the duelists adherence to the rules - primarily checking for concealed armour or weapons.

The default method as described by The Noble Art of Combat: Simultaneously the Seconds shall approach the duelists until they are standing before the combatant. The duellist or his nominated assistant shall present them all weapons for inspection, following inspection the Second shall return the weapons before ascertaining the honour of the duellist themselves.

They shall lightly place their outstretched hands on the duelists shoulders, as one would gesture solidarity. They shall then lightly grasp the upper arms in a similar gesture. Going down to one knee they shall then place one hand on the outside of each thigh, then on each shin. Rising to regain eye contact they shall place their open palm gently upon the stomach area then forming a straight knife-hand place their fingertips between the breasts, over the heart. Care should be taken here with those duelists who are endowed, as taking advantage of this process is the height of bad manners and easily sufficient grievance for a duelling challenge. The Second shall then walk around to behind the duelist and place an open palm against the small of their back and between the shoulder blades. The Second shall then return to their position facing the duellist and announce clearly, “I hereby vouch that this man/woman/person honours the terms of the duel as has been agreed.” When both Seconds have completed this declaration they may retire.

Should the Second feel something unexpected they shall politely ask the duellist to reveal the affected area and examine in more detail. Discovery of anything contravening the agreed rules is a damning indictment of the duellists character and must be removed immediately or suffer forfeit.

This is also a way of complimenting or insulting the combatant. For the second to face the duelist, and announce that they vouch for their adherence to the rules with no inspection is seen as a high compliment of respect for the integrity of the duelist. On the other hand a thorough pat-down indicates that you consider the duelist to be without honour or decency.


The duelists shall take up their weapons, salute each other, and the witnessing party will announce the start of the duel.

The duel will commence. It is possible that one of the duelists will have slipped something past the seconds, usually in the form of additional weapons or NX powers. This is considered to be unsporting, however legitimate under the code of dueling provided it does not violate any of the rules agreed, if it violates the agreed upon rules then it counts as a forfeit. Remaining within the rules is seen as a sign of cunning and bound to generate a lot of gossip in social circles, even if it is unsporting. The witnessing party has the final say.

In the event that one party is cheating, the witnessing party has the right to call upon both seconds and any others present to end the duel.


Following the conclusion of the duel, the witnessing party will officially announce the result and the parties shall with decorum acknowledge the duell result and settlement of the matter (there may a pause while medical attention is applied). This is considered a vitally important part of respect for the process - to fail act appropriately is seen is ignoble and either results in the loss of any face gained for the victor, or compounds the shame for the loser.

dueling.txt · Last modified: 2016/11/21 16:29 by drac
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