Equally at home in a one-on-one duel over honor, the gladiatorial arena against a gang of thugs, or in the urban jungle of a city, the Duelist might seem out of place in Wraeclast at first glance. Often suave, charming, debonair, and as skillful at cutting people with their words as with their blades, they’re perhaps the character with the most social backstory in Path of Exile, other than the Scion. Still, they shouldn’t be discounted by any measure; becoming an expert in the art of combat means they have the lean strength and agility necessary to survive the dangers the cursed land can throw at them.
Halfway between the warrior might of the Marauder and the agile grace of the Ranger, the Duelist rarely cares for magic unless it can hone their skill as a warrior. Whether they began as a noble looking for sport, a commoner blessed with natural gifts of physical speed and power, or someone who tries to fall back on the sword only when their tongue fails to get them out of trouble, Duelists rarely back down from a fight.
Sample Duelists include the Noble Gladiator, who took up the art of the duel to find a way to enliven their life; the Dancer, who came from a life of poverty and won fame and fortune with charm and lethality; and the Charming Vagabond, who prefers to charm people first and resort to violence only when their charm fails to get them their way. Plenty of others exist, of course, but Duelists will generally be people familiar with the ways of civilized bloodshed common to the upper echelon of Oriath’s society.
High Aspects will reflect the origin of a Duelist and the reason they fight; Thrillseeker With A Sword or Honor’s Grand Champion might fit a Noble Gladiator. Grace With A Razor’s Edge or Steel Ribbon-Dancer might fit a Dancer kind of character. Silver-Tongued Stranger or Just Another Charming Knave might fit the Vagabond.
Troubles will tend to be things that the Duelist brings upon themselves; a Noble Gladiator might have My Family Spoke Against Me At Trial or Fallen Into Disgrace, a Dancer might have A Magpie’s Eyes or Gracelessly Debauched as possibilities, and a Vagabond might have something like Running From My Past or Manners Like A Drunken Goat as a difficulty.
Only The Finest Blade, Captain Of My Own Soul, and Born With A Silver Spoon all work as possible added Aspects for a Gladiator, while Quicker Than The Eye, I Don’t Know Nuffin’, and As Wary As An Alley Cat all work for a Dancer, and A Winestain Birthmark, Widely-Traveled Heathen, and I Always Cut Deep make appropriate options for a Vagabond.
Fight is a given as a prime skill for a Duelist, along with Physique and Athletics. Rapport, Empathy, Provoke, and Deceive are all useful skills for the charming Duelist who prefers to try to talk more intelligent foes down, strike up conversations with those creatures who can talk, or harass a potential foe until they lash out and given the Duelist an advantage in the resulting fight. Contacts, Notice, Will, and Stealth are all good additional choices, depending on the flavor of the Duelist.
Stunts will tend to echo a Duelist’s focus on wit and skill. In Honor’s Name might grant an additional two shifts once per scene on a successful Fight roll against an enemy with an Aspect indicating they’re dishonorable. On The Razor’s Edge grants a +2 on Athletics rolls when moving along dangerously narrow places, like tightropes and narrow ledges. Clever As A Raven grants a +2 when using Provoke to annoy someone into attacking the Duelist while making it look as if the Duelist is blameless.
Duelists are a good choice for anyone who likes the idea of a charming rogue who isn’t afraid of a fight, whether they’re going to be the gung-ho sort who demands a duel to satisfy honor at the drop of a hat, a showy actor who thrives on adulation, or the disarmingly friendly stranger who only reluctantly strikes opponents down.
Next time, we’ll look at the Shadow, the next to last of the class options from Path of Exile – a character somewhere between a thief and an assassin, as complex as the shades of moral grey that fill their world.