Stopwatch Dueling Game: Duels vs. NPCs

Here is the original. Last time was the universal resolution mechanic.

I still want the tense duel-feeling when you fight NPCs. But having the GM duel is weaksauce. Some GMs might be willing to bring their all to the duel and play it out right, but the incentives aren’t totally there.

In addition, I don’t want PCs to die to an NPC because of their lack of skill. If they die, it should be because of a choice they have made.


This procedure is for when a player character and an NPC or a group of NPCs fight. If the combat includes many player characters fighting many NPCs or groups of NPCs, the players decide how they wish to pair off with their enemies. Then use this procedure as many times as needed to resolve the combat.

When a PC fights an NPC or group of NPCs, the GM declares their Reaction Time, using the following as a guide:

  • Unskilled = 15
  • Skilled = 13
  • Dangerous = 11
  • Brutal = 10.5
  • Masterful = 10.3
  • Lethal = 10.1

The player says the following aloud and fills in the details:

  • “If I win, I will _____ my enemies.”
    • Humiliate
    • Impede
    • Capture
    • Incapacitate
    • Kill

The GM says:

  • “If you lose, your enemies will do the same to you.”

Then the GM hands them a watch. No speaking or making noise. Without looking at the display, the player starts and stops the watch when they choose. If the time reads between ten seconds flat (00’10.00”) and the enemy’s Reaction Time (in seconds), the player character succeeds. If not, the player character fails. Whatever the outcome, the GM immediately describes the impact.


Mugen is confronting a group of mooks.

“Why don’t you give the little lady back her shoes? Dirtbags like you wouldn’t be caught dead wearing something so dainty.”

“Yeah, punk? Why don’t you come make us? Who do you think you are, huh?”

The GM says, “They close in around you, drawing swords.”

Duel time.

The GM declares the group’s reaction time to be Skilled. They’re the hired guards of the town anyway. Mugen will need between a 10 and 13.

Mugen’s player says “These guys are a piece of cake. If I win, I will incapacitate my enemies.”

The GM hands him a watch.

“Don’t rush it,” says Jin’s player.

Mugen’s player grabs the stopwatch, turns the display down, and clicks start.

The table waits in anticipation.


“11.38. Got ’em.”

The GM says “You cut through them in one stroke of the blade. Their surprised expressions leave a lot to be desired. They crumble to the ground.”

“I take the shoes as a souvenir.”

Last thoughts

The player decides what level of risk they want to engage in. Which is cool, especially as the foes get closer to the Lethal level. “Do I risk wanna risk DYING on my ability to get between 10 and 10.3?” Which is turn means that dangerous NPCs are more likely to be recurring if the worst that happens to them is restraint.

I also love the humiliation option.

What if the player describes the impact of the duel if they win, and the GM describes the impact if they lose? It would read instead:

If the time reads between ten seconds flat (00’10.00”) and the enemy’s Reaction Time (in seconds), the player character succeeds and the player describes the impact. If not, the player character fails and the GM describes the impact.

Also, what if this were THE resolution mechanic for interacting with the world? What if setting a difficulty for the NPCs was the same as setting it for an obstacle or a social encounter? Discuss.

Is there a market for “Quick-Time Events: The Role-playing Game”?

Remember folks, this stuff is evolving. It mutates on the petri dish in front of our very eyes.

2 thoughts on “Stopwatch Dueling Game: Duels vs. NPCs

  1. interesting! I thought one of the goals was to not make it just a reaction-time thing? I would for-sure stick with determining the impacts and risks before the duel, if you don’t commit to the Kill, then you will Die.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.