Arguments & Player Turn questions

I ran my third MG session with my two kids (9 and 11), which they really enjoyed, even though I muffed a couple of things.

First, I had a conflict (argument) that I struggled with. For one, I went completely blank on whether they could use any aids on the disposition roll. I had to stop and confirm in the book, which was frustrating. We also struggled role-playing the argument because we were too vague about the argumentative equivalents of feint and maneuver. It wound up breaking the flow. I know what the book says (feint = misleading statement to lead to a foolish statement; maneuver = "confusing rhetoric), but the kids had a tough time with those definitions. To make it worse, their Persuader skills were awful (2).

If anyone has great examples of verbal feint and maneuver that would work with kids, I welcome them. I can think of them for adults. In hindsight, I should have asked them to play what they would say in addition to selecting an action, though I don’t think that would help with the definitions, but it would require them to know what they’d say before the turns in the conflict.

FWIW, one thing that went well with the conflict was when they tried to avoid it. The conflict is that their escort wanted to stop and camp for the night, and they wanted to push on to the next town. At first they agreed. I immediately made a wolf sound that changed their minds about camping there. Though they lost the argument, they agreed on a compromise that involved them carrying the escorted mouse on their backs. It had a fun, animated ending.

The second thing wasn’t entirely frustrating and was probably their favorite part of the session, but I thought I could have done better. I ended the GM Turn with them arriving in Darkwater and seeing two mice (a boatmouse and a town captain) arguing loudly. The Players’ Turn seems to be an open part so I let the game go a bit, though I wasn’t sure where to end it.

My son failed to remove his Tired condition, and my daughter successfully removed hers. They had no other Checks to use. I explained what all they could do in the Players’ Turn. And I had in mind certain obstacles and conflicts. As a little background, the boatmouse wanted the captain to arrest a newcomer at the inn, blaming him for some property damage. Any attempt to argue with the captain or boatmouse would be another conflict. Looking for clues would require skills tests.

Instead, they merely questioned the boatmouse and talked with a couple of other mice. We probably had a good 30 minutes of different conversations in which they learned some background. I might have made them into Circles tests, but I didn’t see any obstacle in what they were doing because they were interacting with friendly mice.

The problem IMO was that I somewhat arbitrarily ended the Players’ Turn. I had a list of a dozen mice in Darkwater that they could have met, but I stopped it for two reasons: 1) They hit a slight lull in conversation and activity, and 2) they were getting close to doing things that I thought would require tests or a conflict. The kids were okay where we stopped it, but I can see where things can really stretch out if a GM lets them. Still, I wouldn’t have wanted to cut off their conversations, which were fun.

When I read the book, the Players’ Turn seems to be somewhat open–that can include restocking, initiating conflicts, removing conditions “addition to taking care of other, miscellaneous business.” Have others allowed a bit of dialogue in the Players’ Turn? If so, how did you find a good stopping point?

At the end, I think we have a nice set up for the next session. The boatmouse had made an ultimatum to arrest Greyhand, the newcomer mouse, or he would report to the Harbor Master with some vague political threat. The goal will be to help the captain resolve the dispute, but I’m thinking about giving them some room as how to do this with multiple possible test or conflicts.

One last thing: In a Conflict, do the successes and failures count towards advancing their skills? If so, would they get a check for each Action in the conflict? Or one overall for the conflict?

I’ll leave the maneuver RP advice to others.

Sounds like you ran the PT just fine. You absolutely should talk and explore, but under a limited test budget. So as the GM, you shouldn’t push for conflicts. If the players do, you should inform them they’ll need to spend a check to make a roll to get what they want.

You get one test per ability used in a conflict.

Some kind of guideline for when I end the Player’s Turn:

  • The Checks are up.
  • The Players’ Characters are going towards something that’s hard to do or important for the story and therefore needs a Test/Conflict or if the gaming world is closing in on the Players’ Characters and thereby a Test/Conflict is needed (I often have quite active Non Player Characters with their own agendas).

If these two comes into action it’s time for a new session. I probably have alot of other ‘‘smaller’’ rules that I use more or less conscious but those are the big ones.

when moving a patrol through some roleplay of an arguement, negotiation, or speech conflict, I encouraged the player of each action to say a few words before rolling or after rolling (not during the roll). I made sure that I did the same and always showed my roll before theirs. It doesn’t require a 20 minute speech on the part of the player–one or two sentences shoudl be enough to define their action. Also, feint and manuever in these conflicts was rare IME. Most frequently it was placing and supporting one’s topic (defend) or detracting from an opposing topic (attack). Once players are accustomed to this, they may begin to consider suggesting sideline topics (feint) and excessive rhetoric (manuever).

I’m surprised that you would have made a conflict of arguing with the boatmouse or captain; because, it appears their motives were not exposed to the characters completely. They might have, similar to the escorted mouse wanting to stop, agreed initially with one perspective or another. In fact, they could have gone about doing the deed of arresting Greyhand while leaving the boatmouse and captain to argue amongst themselves.

In the case of differing opinions, I begin by describing a Persuader vs Will test. I ask the player if they feel the issue is something that their mouse feels stronger about than just one roll. If the player feels it can be best represented by one roll, then the conflict is overly long in describing the arguement over differences. If the player feels their mouse would maintain a strong difference of opinion, or would like the chance to possibly change someone’s mind in the process, that makes a good candidate for a complete conflict. (This questioning can be reversed in the case of NPCs).

For example, in the sample mission of the mail bag, the patrol quickly agreed to listen to Martin’s request, but didn’t want to agree to his plan. Rather than make a full conflict, they were more interested in preventing Martin from making the attempt alone. This made it a good candidate for a conflict; because, they were not simply saying, ‘I disagree.’ They opened with an overpowering Feint by lying about a Guard report of Walnutpeck having been completely razed and burned.

However, the young lady mouse that was expecting a letter spurred more interest and they wanted to help. They agreed she should travel, but asked if they could escort her safely. They explained that they simply needed to use a route by which they would pass through a few other settlements which Gwendolyn wanted them to scout instead of using a more direct route. This was best represented in a single test; because they would have allowed her to make the attempt alone, but were interested in offering help if she would accept the delays of a longer route.

So, I may not be seeing everything you exposed to the players in the arguement between the boatmouse and captain. Initially, I didn’t see where this conflicted with the patrol, but I’m sure you know better how it tapped into their interests. I have no doubt that the patrol’s connection to the short arguement had meaning.

@Luke: Thanks. That makes me feel better.

@illern: That makes sense, and I think I was sort of following the second point, ending before any serious or important part.

@kendesign: I like the starting with just attack or defend for an argument. However, because their Persuader was only 2, they had a low Disposition, and I didn’t want it to end too quickly. So, I let them use the others, especially because Feint can be a big advantage if you’re lucky (which they were for the third action, requiring a second round of actions, which gave them a glimmer of hope that I dashed in the second round of actions. :slight_smile:

As for the conflict with captain or boatmouse, I planned to use that only after they knew the motives. As it happens, when they talked to other mice and then to the boatmouse and captain, they became aware of the motivations: The boatmouse wanted Greyhand arrested, and the captain required more evidence. So, had the players had the Checks, they might have initiated a conflict with either, depending on what they wanted to argue. But they didn’t get that far, as they only asked questions to learn more. In the next session, I think it’s set up well that if they try to talk to the boatmouse, a conflict argument will arise regardless (because the boatmouse is now quite angry and frustrated with the lack of immediate satisfaction).

And you’re right: they could have let them argue and arrest the Greyhand mouse themselves, though I think that would be considered intrusive and overstepping their bounds, which should probably lead to an obstacle with the captain. It might lead to an interesting discussion of authority (local vs mouse guard). As a GM, I want to be open to several possible actions and reactions, to give the players freedom and choice. So, I try to have ready possible conflicts or be ready to think on my feet. The kids have come up with great ideas in other RPGs.

I really like your idea about the simple test argument vs conflict argument because it’s based on the players’ stake and interest in the argument.