OnomatopeiaIn a World
: Don't worry Brauno, they usually challenge you to duel first, and they'll leave you alone if you win.
where Card Games
, Foo Fu
, or What Have You is Serious Business
resolution often boils down to a Card Game, Mon-battle, Foo-off, or what-have-you-bout.
Every problem will inevitably lead to a climactic battle of Mahjong
, or Uno, or the like. Is The Hero
facing the threat of war? A terrible plague? An economic recession? Inevitably, there's a tangible villain responsible for it and the solution is for the hero to confront them and show them that his Kung Fu is Stronger Than Theirs
. If you're watching Tales of the Knights of St. Bob
you're probably looking at a swordfight waiting to happen, but it's equally possible that you're watching something like Super Table Football Superstar
and after an interminable mutual glare, one party will dramatically challenge the other to a game of table football
Everyone has absolute respect for the authority of the fu-du-jour
to decide who gets to walk away the winner. If the "Foo" in Foo Fu
is arm wrestling, after Bob
has won and is walking away, Alice
will not even contemplate the possibility of shooting him in the back
. If it's psychic manipulation and Alice has just won a tiring Battle in the Center of the Mind
, it will not occur to Bob to jump at her, pin her to the floor and start punching her in the face. And, yes, even if Bob has just lost a game of table football
he will just helplessly stand there, shaking his fist in frustration- because, well, what can he do? He's been beaten in a game of table football. Game over for him, really. The best he can hope for is a rematch. Fighting Alice in any way that doesn't involve table football doesn't cross his mind.
This extends beyond just getting the defeated party out of the picture. If the Big Bad
has been bested, their whole evil operation will fold up on itself and disappear within the day
. The Evil Army
will not rally. There is no plan B. The superweapon The Hero
managed to destroy while Storming the Castle
will have No Plans, No Prototype and No Backup
. It's as if some cosmic force had decreed that this conflict be settled with Combat by Champion
. Whether the stakes are trivial or world-shatteringly huge, Duels Decide Everything
Anime and Manga
- One Judge Dredd comic included a heavily satirical televised battle between the Soviet and American cities. Each battle is five-on-five, no holds barred, and the winner is awarded a piece of territory. This form of warfare works for a while, but does not prevent a nuclear war later on.
- Similarly, an issue of Transformers has an ancient Autobot overlord attempt to get two warring city-states to settle their differences through gladiatorial games. As you might expect, it didn't work out as much as he hoped it would.
- In Uncanny X-Men #201, the question of who was going to lead the X-Men was not decided by e. g. putting it up to the members' vote, but in a Danger Room duel between Cyclops and Storm.
- The 1998 Made-for-TV Movie FutureSport, where the title game was invented as a substitution for gang violence, and ends up being used to avoid a war.
- The Karate Kid: Battle with karate.
- In The Luck of the Irish, Kyle tries to trick an evil leprechaun named Seamus McTiernan by betting that he can beat the guy at sports. Seamus agrees (being unable to resist a bet) but chooses "traditional Irish sports" like hurling, step-dancing, wrestling, and javelin-throwing. Surprisingly, Kyle manages to tie the leprechaun, but Seamus insists that a tie is not "beating" him, so Kyle bets his freedom on a game of basketball. Of course, he realizes that he doesn't need the titular luck after all and beats the bad guy.
- The film Robot Jox is based around a series of mecha battles between the USA and USSR to decide who gets Alaska.
- General Patton in Patton wishes World War 2 could be decided like this.
"You know, Dick, if I had my way, I'd meet Rommel face to face; him in his tank and me in mine. We'd meet out there somewhere... salute each other, maybe drink a toast, then we'd button up and do battle. The winner would decide the outcome of the entire war."
- Whilst guns and such DO make the occasional appearance, most of the problems in The Fast and the Furious series are solved by car racing ...somehow.
- In the prologue of Knife of Dreams Galad Damodred has dug up a half-forgotten law that gives him the right to Trial by Combat and which, if he wins, should give him command of an army. Subverted when some of the officers of said army accuses him of blatant Loophole Abuse and try to arrest him. Double-subverted when the Commander is so amused by his cockiness that he lets him proceed as planned.
- In the Codex Alera series, which is based on a Lost Roman Legion/Pokemon crossover, Citizens have the legal right to a "juris macto" - a duel to the death to settle disputes out of court. It is often threatened but only explicitly happens twice in the series.
- Like the The Wheel of Time example, most Westerosi cultures in A Song of Ice and Fire have a tradition of Trial by Combat which can be invoked by any defendant of noble blood. No matter how obviously guilty the defendant is, if they (or their appointed champion) wins the trial, all parties are honor-bound to respect the decision.
- In a bit of a subversion, there is also a tradition of Combat by Champion, but it only applies if both parties agree to it, and the superior force never agrees because their victory is near-assured so they have nothing to gain. On the one occasion where it's offered by the superior force, the inferior force refuses on the grounds that they can't trust the superior force to honor the agreement.
- Back when the Upright Citizens Brigade had their own Comedy Central show, a third season episode centered on a small town which solved their disputes with log-rolling contests, from "Peanut Butter vs. Jelly" up to "Good vs. Evil."
- In the 1970 TV movie "The Challenge" Darren Mc Gavin is a rogue soldier sent onto an island for a one on one guerilla war with an Asian soldier (Mako) to settle a dispute that could otherwise lead to nuclear war. Of course both sides cheat like crazy and eventually Mc Gavin decides to let it end in a technical tie. A common trope that the combatants decide they are not working for "The Man" anymore
- In another 1970 TV movie ("The Love War") two alien races vie for control of the Earth by sending in a set number of soldiers to a deserted town to fight it out. Of course the "bad" aliens cheat their way to victory, dooming the human race
- Changeling: The Lost: The true fae are Reality Warpers so any duel actually does decide everything, Changelings on the other hand are stuck with less powerful versions.
- The Dungeons & Dragons (joke) sourcebook The Book of Wondrous Inventions describes a game called "pinkill," a Glantrian sport something like bowling created to resolve disputes between wizards (the previous dispute resolution system, murder, being too prone to cause Collateral Damage when powerful wizards were involved). Wizards being wizards, the game components were usually so heavily and destructively enchanted that it often caused as much real estate damage as direct combat would have.
- In BattleTech, Clan society revolves around various trials to settle everything. When a Clan wants something from another Clan they decree a Trial of Possession for it. Most trials follow a set of rules called zellbrigen which mechwarriors must follow to prevent trials from devolving to an all out free for all, and save resources.
- Cyrano de Bergerac: Given that the play is a Swashbuckler, this trope would be expected, but then is averted and invoked
- Averted at Act I Scene I: there is a duel between gentlemen, but they lampshade is only a passtime and definitely doesn't decide anything.
- Averted at Act I Scene IV: Cyrano and De Valvert engage in a Sword Fight. This doesn’t decide anything but set Cyrano as the Spanner in the Works for De Guiche’s plans.
- Invoked at Act V Scene V: Cyrano invokes a Sword Fight with his old enemies (Falsehood, Treachery, Compromise, Prejudice and Folly) and then with Death itself… but Cyrano admits that he has already lost.
- In BIONICLE, the residents of Bara Magna decide who owns resources by having gladiator battles (which are more like tournaments, rather than a fight to the death.) Justified, since it prevents the villages from going to war with one another.
- This has occasionally occurred in real life, where combat between two champions has been used to reach a decision in a dispute. A legal example are judicial duels, which were not always to the death.
- The original rationale behind duels was to contain possibly huge family feuds into more manageable one-on-one battles that would settle the issue(s). Well, at least before dueling took on a life of its own.