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I have been thinking about giving psychic duels from Occult Adventures book a try for the flavor of it. Despite people suggesting "just use hold person if you want a save-or-die spell", I think Psychic Duel has a cool concept sadly with a cumbersome system.

Right now I am having difficulty understanding action order in a Psychic Duel.

Rules say:

If the duel begins during combat, each of the dueling characters retains its initiative order and the psychic duel goes on in conjunction with the initial combat.

That makes sense, you are just changing the combat environment. But starting a Psychic Duel requires the person to cast Instigate Psychic Duel spell. If I understand this correctly, I need to use a 2nd level spell slot and overcome a will-save to start the duel. Even if that goes smoothly I am practically giving up my initiative order and letting my opponent attack me first in the mindscape I started because I already used my standard action.

This seems like too much hassle for too little reward (if any) to me. I would probably house-rule to give duel initiator first action on my games. What are your thoughts? Am I missing something here?

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If cast during combat, yes, your opponent moves first in the duel.

If cast outside of combat, you're allowed to make your first manifestation as a swift action, letting you move first.

SRD:

If the duel begins outside combat, the initiator can take a swift action to create a supernatural effect called a psychic manifestation (see below) upon entering the binary mindscape, before her opponent's first turn.

You can still use your swift action to set up a defensive manifestation even if you cast it during combat, though, and you retain your ability to use immediate action defenses as well, so you're not defenseless against their first attack.

(If cast outside of combat, your opponent IS defenseless against your swift-action attack, since they're flat-footed until their first turn, they can't use immediate actions and haven't had a turn to set up a swift defense.)

Don't forget that a major advantage of instigate psychic duel over hold person is that the opponent doesn't get to make a save every round to break it, but your allies can attack their nearly-helpless body without mercy.

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