Battle of Wits – How would you do it?

Hey there readers

So in going over some older materials I ran into some concepts in gaming that I think it might be fun to see more of. AKA the battle of wits, damaging repartee, the verbal @#$%& slap that puts your foe so far down that their reputation, or maybe even their health is destroyed by the power of your words.

Now then wayyyy back in Dragon Magazine #60 ….

..there was a character class published called the Jester. It was updated and changed for D&D 3.5 in the Dragon Compendium…


…however the class was changed it still had one goal. And that was to act much like a Bard, but with a focus on wit and antics that could be distracting. Some of their special abilities could actually turn their words into weapons (so to speak) and cause the jokes and barbs they tossed to cause physical damage or require saving throws.

Now then Hero Games actually published something along a similar vein in their Adventurers Club Quarterly Magazine #27.


An article on the power or Repartee. How to build powers that represent the use of words in high society to damage reputations and destroy a persons self confidence. Using the model though it is easy to see tons of ways to modify this into a power that causes physical damage too.

Now then I also know that games like Toon and Tales from the Floating Vagabond have elements like this. But those games are set to be very comedic in tone. They are intended to be light hearted and make everything feel like a joke if at all possible.

What I am interested in knowing dear readers is how you would put something like this into a more serious game? The potential antics of the Jester from D&D can be comedic, but the words can also have an insidious impact. Jokes can kill. Is this the moment someone grabs the gaming materials at hand and makes a Jester for Joker and an urban Ranger/Monk for Batman and things get out of hand? Maybe.

With the Hero Games materials they built up a framework so that your repartee can drain the will of others, or destroy reputations, with a few well placed words. They even show you how to use a power add on called Damage Shield to help create a character that is always ready, or just witty enough, to always have a comeback on hand. The immediate impact seems more mature and more serious. But it can still easily be taken for comedy.

I do like the Hero Games version because you can take that model down to a level where you can use it to simulate the power of bullying on someone else. If you drain someone low enough in regards to a stat like Ego, or Intelligence, you may have the chance to kill someone. Or if you put it as physical damage with a delayed effect that would be when someone hears everything and goes home and hurts themselves.

I dont want to make this a completely dark post by focusing on the power of words and quips to hurt. Because the opposite is also true. Words can invigorate. A few well chosen words can inspire, heal hearts, and give someone the opportunity to go home and make things better for someone else.

And any of these, when played seriously can also be played for laughs. Both by the players and in the game worlds they are in. So really we need to look for a mechanic that is very versatile. Something that can have both positive and negative impacts. Something that can heal or harm depending on the words you choose. Something that can be very serious and yet can also be played for comedy. It is also going to need to be something that is not just offensive. I mean how many times have you seen something go down where one person tosses an insult or a quip and another just completely turns it around and so the person tossing the insult has it slapped back into them like some form of verbal Judo. Or maybe you can see a situation where a number of people team up and lay on insult after insult or complement after compliment and things just build and build. We should really take into account how to defend against it too… I mean I know some folks who are just not fast enough on the uptake to understand a joke. I also know people to whom social standing means nothing. Would they be immune?

So what I am asking readers is how would you do it? Would you set up a class? Maybe make it a feat? Would you build a power point structure? Would you make it a standard skill in the game engine you use so that everyone could have it? Can you get magic or tech armor to stop it?

I had a couple of ideas for modern versions… like having Snopes on your phone so you can say “Lets fact check that should we?” and get an immediate bonus to counter. Being so far outside a culture that the comments dont mater. And a few others.

So tell me… how would you do it?


Now gimme the dice I need to roll up a comeback…

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