First, two turns of phrase: the Duel of Roses and the Duel of Leaves. Damn. I’m using those, but there’s no way I can do them justice. If you want to steal those phrases and rerender them into something more fabulous, please do.
Duels should break up the dances/discussion that make up most of normal play. Ideally they can act as a relaxing interlude (the players can be entertained, the GM isn’t constrained by the question-and-answer, and the overall affair is rather quick). Ideally it should also raise the tension about what’s going on during the dance, and give people a chance to revisit their choices. (I’m also trying to avoid adding more rules. In doing so I don’t think I’ll establish mechanical differences between these two duels.)
Here’s how I imagine it happens:
- The Narrator (as the Queen of Ice) will pick two of the Lords of Ash to duel, with some goal in mind at why this duel has been chosen. (“This duel will force the Lady Bishop to reconsider her attachment to the Lord Rook.”) The Narrator may take suggestions from the Ladies, but it’s her call.
- The Narrator will narrate the back-and-forth of the duel, taking pauses for the players to throw their favor behind one Lord or the other; the Narrator should given that Lord a little more advantage as a result.
- However, the final result is still up to the Narrator. A Lord that loses a Duel must skip the next dance (but will never be forced to Duel again).
It’s arbitrary, but much of the game plays on playing amidst that arbitrariness, and it’s an interlude anyway.