Are there actually such a thing as “dirty tricks” in fights? I mean, whatever makes you win, right?

Yeah, or at least sort of. Dirty tricks just mean you’re employing “dishonorable” methods to win. We’ve talked about honor in combat before, and we have an entire tag dedicated to the “only unfair fight is the one you loose” truism.

In case you didn’t follow either of those links, a quick short version is, a “dirty trick” is anything your opponent thinks is unfair. So… somewhat obviously, there’s a lot of potential for disagreements over what is, or isn’t, “dirty.”

Many people approach combat with the idea that there’s some kind of “honorable” way to comport yourself. Concepts like, “don’t strike your opponent in the genitals,” or “don’t shoot them in the back.” The historical basis for these concepts probably has a lot to do with historical European combat, where nobles were expected to participate directly, but were afforded special protections, and the rules of “honorable” combat evolved to reduce the risk of a peasant shock trooper accidentally waxing an opposing noble who could have been ransomed back after the battle.

Similarly deliberately maiming your opponent is also viewed as dirty. It’s not hard to guess that the origin is the same, though I have nothing to back up that suspicion. Some “dirty tricks” also simply fall under the heading of unsanitary. There’s many medical reasons you’d never want to tear a chunk out of someone with your teeth. Again, I’ve gone into this in a lot more detail in the past.

It’s probably worth remembering: Fights don’t occur in a discrete space away from the rest of your story, or your life. Sometimes, winning a fight by any means necessary is not worth it. The consequences of your decisions will follow you. You can win a fight by grabbing your foe’s head, and running your thumbs through their eye sockets, but you do need to step back and ask, “is this something you/your character can live with?”


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