So last night the two cavaliers in my Southern Reaches campaign finally reached the snapping point in smack talking at each other and a challenge was issued (see SR 43: Showdown at the River when I finally get it typed up). The two cavaliers lined up against each other at an improvised list...and suddenly I needed jousting rules.
Now I could have used the combat system in the Pathfinder RPG rules and run it that way, but that seemed wrong - initiative and to hit rolls just don't work when the action is supposed to be simultaneous. So after some quick thought, here's what I came up with:
Assumption: Cavaliers have trained specifically to ride at someone and hit them with a lance, so they are very competent at it.
Conclusion: Rolling initiative and to hit is pointless, therefore they are skipped. Only damage and a Ride check to stay on matter.
Step 1: Describe cavaliers taking place at each end of the list.
Step 2: Describe them riding pell-mell at each other and hitting in the center (just like in the movies).
Step 3: Both players roll damage, remembering multipliers for lances in a charge.
Step 4: Divide damage by 5 (round down) and apply it as a negative modifier for the opponent's Ride check.
Step 5: Both players make a DC 20 Ride check, including the penalties from their opponent.
Step 6: Check results:
Both make Ride check: both stay mounted - apply damage (non-lethal if blunted tips were used) and line up again for another pass.
One makes Ride check: successful rider stays on and wins, the other falls to the ground and loses.
Both fail Ride check: both knocked to ground - apply damage and check to see who's conscious:
Both conscious: remount and repeat process
Only one conscious: conscious one is winner, other loser
Both unconscious: both fail and lose honor
This gives a fairly quick resolution and makes the Ride skill just that more valuable to a cavalier, which it should be. Running a joust this way levels the playing field and gets rid of a bunch of extraneous stuff that would hamper the scene. Initiative is meaningless when the two combatants are, by definition, moving at the same time. To-hit rolls are also meaningless for several reasons. The only critical parts are "how hard did you hit" and "can you stay on". Experienced jousters will have more ranks in Ride and be better at staying on their mount, plus have feats to improve their capabilities at jousting. Less experienced riders won't and it will show.
Not needing to roll to hit is from the Streetfighter RPG, which uses the assumption that streetfighters are competent and can hit anyone they want, the real question is how hard. Dividing the damage by 5 is from the Hero System, where dividing by five to get a modifier is fairly standard for many situations, plus it gives some good modifiers without wiping out the skill of the rider.
This worked out really well in-game and I'll use it in the future when I run some sort of jousting tourney in-game.