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Complete Arcane introduced a spell dueling system that takes advantage of counterspelling. Here’s how it works.
Arcane spellcasters frequently come up against each other in the course of adventuring, but the chaos of the battlefield makes an accurate measure of skill impossible. For a true test of arcane ability, a single mage meets another mage in a ritual spell duel that observes ancient and honorable formalities. At its basic level, a spell duel is an agreement between two spellcasters to follow the format of the duel. No magic enforces compliance, and dishonorable spellcasters can and do break the rules.
Once a challenge has been made and accepted, the two duelists must agree on a place and time for their encounter, as well as on whether the duel will be lethal or nonlethal. The choice of the dueling ground is traditionally the prerogative of the challenged party. On the day of the duel, both combatants follow specific procedures.
1. Neither party is permitted to be under the effect of any spell or any magic item until the time of the duel.
2. At the appointed hour, the presiding judge or official gives some sign that the duel has begun. Roll initiative.
3. First round: Each duelist casts any spell that can be cast so as to affect only himself. Most duelists use this round to prepare the best magical defense they can manage.
4. Second round: Each duelist readies an action, usually to counterspell in the following round.
5. Third round: Begin dueling.
6. The duel ends when one of the combatants yields, is knocked unconscious, or is otherwise rendered unable to continue.
The duel is structured so that each participant is guaranteed an opportunity to prepare a defense and can get ready to counter an enemy’s first spell, regardless of who wins initiative. Of course, a duelist might not actually use a readied action to counterspell during the third round. The winner of initiative probably launches an attack instead. But the point is that neither duelist is finished by simply losing initiative—if you go second in a spell duel, you still have the opportunity to cast a defensive spell, and you have the opportunity to snuff out whatever spell your faster opponent tries first by using your readied counterspell.
In some dueling traditions, the official declares mandatory pauses in the duel after every three attack spells exchanged, providing both combatants with an opportunity to tend to their defenses again or ready another action to counterspell.


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