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  • Writer's pictureKL Forslund

Dueling Steampunks

Captain Locke leaned against the oak tree, while Winston, his second, spoke to his counterpart. The pre-dawn fog masked any sign of Lord Swillsbury, the offending party to this lethal dance. Once the seconds completed trying to seek a peaceful resolution, Swillsbury would pay for his insulting words at the party last night. To imply the gears on Locke’s uniform were glued on was false and slanderous. They were sewn on, of course!

Rubberband pistols are the weapon of choice for the discerning steampunk

Dueling: The Ancient Art of Settling Matters With Organized Violence

Disputes between men have always devolved to fighting. Eventually, men who strove to be more dignified, calling themselves gentleman, created a set of rules for coordinating the violence, and preempting it with reconciliation.

Enter the Code Duello

In 1777, some fine Irish gentleman created the Code Duello, 27 rules for handling a dispute or defending honor. It included steps for apologizing or withdrawing the offense before bloodshed, and sleeping on it, before heated tempers went too far.

When Steampunks Collide

The Code Duello is quite sufficient for a lethal settling of honor, providing one has no qualms ending in a policeman’s cuffs. As such, steampunks need something with just as much flair, but none of the illegality or lethality. Herein, we have the opportunity for some fun.

The Challenge

Steampunks are an agreeable sort most of the time, but now and then, a dispute might arise., “Who gets the last crumpet?” “You spilled jam on my Iambic Pentometer.” Worst of all is “It looks like you just glued some gears on it.”

Some uncomplimentary words might follow in response, leading to the eventual challenge of a duel. The words “I challenge you to a duel.” are sufficient.

At that point, seconds are appointed and the principals of the dispute are separated. In the Code Duello, the seconds must come to agreement on who caused the First Offence, and seek to get the offender to apologize. There’s also waiting until the next day for the duel. That wouldn’t be very entertaining for our fellow steampunks, so we’ll skip all that.

The role of a second is to ensure the duel takes place and that it is entertaining to everyone at a steampunk event.


The seconds need to agree upon a suitable challenge to pit the two rivals. The simplest is taking 1-3 shots at each other with a Nerf gun, or tiddly winks. Other options might include a splendid teapot race or tea-dueling. Something should be chosen that both parties can do, the means is available and doesn’t take longer than half an hour to resolve. The seconds also need to make sure everybody knows when and where the duel will take place.

The Duel

If need be, the seconds should designate a Master of Ceremonies, to officiate the duel. Someone who can add an air of of formality and color commentary to keep things entertaining for the crowd.

For Nerf(TM) weapons, ensure the duelists have eye protection. Set the number of paces equal to one quarter of the average range. The seconds should determine this in advance when sourcing dueling pistols. The two stand back to back and the MC counts out paces. Then they turn and fire at one another within moments. They may not move from their spot. They may have up to three shots, the first to hit wins the duel.

The Outcome

The loser shakes the hand of the winner and both never speak of the offending incident again. Ideally, everybody had fun.

The rising sun burned away the fog and the sting of yesterday’s insult. Lord Swillsbury was on his knees, cradling his hand. “It stings, it stings.” Locke stood over him, looking at the injury. “It’ll be fine. Just glue some gears on it.”

Follow the link for other articles in my Steampunk Gentleman series:


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