In session 7 (stage 6) one or more of the PCs may end up in a duel. The winner of the duel is the one who draws first blood. In game mechanics I choose to interpret this as the combatant who damages their opponent first. Once first blood is drawn the loser can concede the duel or they can keep fighting. If they keep fighting the duel is then to the death.
If we run a one-on-one combat normally, the PC/NPC with a highest initiative has a huge advantage. In order to make dueling a bit more interesting I’m going to use active defenses during duels. I’ve written on this before in the article Let Players Roll More Dice. Here’s the nuts and bolts of how it works.
Defenses in 4e & D&D Next all begin at 10 and go up from there. Have you ever wondered why the system was set up this way? In the 3.5e PHB it explained that the base 10 represented an average defense roll, a “take 10” mentality to keep combat simple and eliminate unnecessary defensive rolls. But what if we make defending an active part of combat, at least for the PCs?
Rather than have an AC of 17, you’d have an AC of 7+1d20. Whenever anything attacked your AC you’d have to roll your defense. This means that your AC could be as low as 8 or as high as 27 in this example. On average your defenses would still round out in the 17 ballpark that you’re used to, but now the act of defending falls on your shoulders and required you to make a roll (or multiple rolls).
So to sum up, the defender takes their normal AC and subtracts 10. Whatever’s left is what they add to their d20 defense roll. The one thing to remember is that a tie goes to the attacker. If you want the tie to go to the defender then you have to subtract 11 from the starting AC. It may sound complicated but I ran a group through this week’s encounter already and tested this mechanic and it worked great. It does draw out combat but it makes the fight a lot more exciting, especially if the players describe their attacks and defenses.