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
- Duel Masters
- The Legend of Koizumi: Mahjong decides the fate of ENTIRE NATIONS!
- Mobile Fighter G Gundam: Every four years, countries all over the world get to use their shiny new Gundams and send out different fighters to beat the ever living tar out of each other so one country can rule everyone else for four years. It's worked for sixty years, except for that one time where Neo-England decided to invoke Never Bring a Knife to a Gun Fight for three fights straight and nearly brought things to a halt.
- Mildly justified by being Combat by Champion, and better than actual wars. Less justified when a country might have a strong fighter but an incompetent (or Obviously Evil in the case of Neo-Hong Kong) government.
- Pokémon: Get monsters to fight each other. Prime example: In his first encounter with Team Rocket, Ash tries to engage them in a fist fight. They quickly invoke the trope and state that all their battles can only be with Pokémon.
- Justified, however, in Pokémon Special: Trainers often fight along side or in tandem with their monsters, and the full consequences of superpowered pocket monsters is explored. Why use a missile when Hyper Beam works just as well? Or why kill a trainer when you can just freeze him in a block of ice?
- Ranma ˝ plays with this. On the one hand, as much as the main characters often try to invoke this trope, it's shown to never actually work — so, for example, Mousse's efforts to make Shampoo fall in love with him by beating Ranma's head in never make her change her feelings. On the other hand, most of the filler stories do revolve around characters sorting their problems out by who wins or loses a fight.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! in all its incarnations. This reaches the point where, in the anniversary movie, the villain tries to go back in time to prevent the spread of Duel Monsters by killing Pegasus...and he willingly stakes his mission on the outcome of a duel with Yugi, Jaden and Yusei. So basically, he tried to stop Duel Monsters...using Duel Monsters.
- Which, in a way, is Fridge Brilliance. After all, Yugi's title of "King of Games" suddenly becomes really important when you realize that being the best duelist means you could get away with doing whatever you want.
- Ironically enough, the original manga series and first anime series subvert this somehow. Yami Yugi had demonic powers which he could use to punish anyone he defeated in a test of luck or skill (including himself, if he lostnote ). Therefore, the demonic powers are what controls the world (which makes sense, considering they can bend reality), and the duels are just a requirement to activate them. (besides being cooler)
- Occasionally, this gets more or less ridiculous, which leads to Yusei and Jack outright lampshading this in one episode.
Jack: "You're going to convince the geezer to leave his home if you defeat him in a duel?"
Yusei: "Hey, you and I have dueled for sillier reasons, Jack."
- To be clear: they don't just lampshade it in the Gag Dub. The original acknowledges just how ridiculous it can get.
- In the very first episode of 5D's, Yusei tries to distract the police while his friends get to safety. One of the officers, who just so happens to be a duelist, challenges Yusei to a Riding Duel, and if Yusei wins, he gets to go free, despite being accused of having stolen a computer chip for his D-Wheel. Yes, that's right. Thieves are exempt from punishment if they can defeat an officer in CARD GAMES ON MOTORCYCLES!!!
- He does it again later, when he breaks into the Public Security Maintenance Bureau's warehouse to steal his own D-Wheel back, and the very same officer as in episode 1 with the same stakes. If Yusei wins, he won't be punished for stealing his illegally built D-Wheel.
- Suddenly subverted when two guards try to block the way to Godwin's box but get taken down in a few blows. Even more surprising, the one who subverted it this time was Yusei.
- And ultimately, in the big, climactic battle between Yusei and Z-ONE, the fate of Neo Domino City comes down to a Card Game on Flying Motorcycles! Even the original Yu-Gi-Oh! didn't take card-games this far (or to the very extremes, such as what can only be summarized as "Card Games on Flying Golden Motorcycles IN SPACE!!!").
- Actually subverted, it was going to crash into New Domino City anyway and it took a Heroic Sacrifice (Albeit one inspired by a duel) to save the city.
- Yu-Gi-Oh does have a sort of explanation. The first duel monsters were made of the darkness in human hearts or from human souls given life back in Egypt. So it is sort of ingrained into every living person to play Duel Monsters.
- Bakugan. Seriously, find a better way to prove something in that show.
- 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.
- While the story plays this trope straight a few chapters later, the four-series Yu-Gi-Oh! crossover fanfic Yu-Gi-Oh! 4D Love Surpassing Time subverts it briefly in Chapter 3: Zaman tricks Yuma into accepting a Duel, then speeds himself up, knocks Yuma down, and kidnaps Kotori without following through with the challenge.
- 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.
- Again partially Subverted because it's more Leprechaun magic being invoked. Once the terms of a Magically-Binding Contract made with Leprechaun magic are defined, they're unable to be broken - it just so happened that the terms were whomever wins the contests.
- 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.
- At least one large English town attempted to invoke this trope to get its teenage chav and goth population to stop having vicious fistfights in the mall and occasionally stabbing each other by getting them to settle their differences with paintball.