Building Scenes - how hard can I push?

I know it’s possible to kill a major character with one roll in a Building Scene (the daintily named “I corner him and shoot him in the face!” rule). But can I convince a major character of something in a Building Scene?

I ask because of a very specific situation that came up in play which summed up a lot of the problems I’ve been having with Building Scenes: My Vaylen Figure of Note’s self-hating psychologist turncoat was meeting with a player-character, herself a psychologist, Freya the ducal courtesan. I frankly bobbled this scene because I framed into it without having a clear idea of what I wanted out of it, so sheer sloppy stupidity on my part is a contributing factor to the confusion. But as I improvised, I realized that my character wanted Freya’s help in breaking quarantine, under cover of getting Church-interdicted medical equipment on planet (long story).

Except that I needed my one Conflict Scene for later, so I couldn’t initiate a Duel of Wits. I was stuck with a Builder. Which left me, rather lamely, making a Circles roll for this character to represent his efforts to find any kind of contacts on his own (and failing), with his conversation with the player-character being basically color. (He also made a Psychology roll to read her mind about her loyalties).

How could I have handled this better? There’s no “I corner him and convince him to betray his father!” rule. Could I have made a single Persuasion roll to try to force the player-character to help? If so, what’s the point of the Duel of Wits? If not, how do characters interact meaningfully outside of a Conflict scene?

interesting Sydney, makes me think about the restrictions that the scene economy forces on you and also makes me think I better have a clear idea of my plan during the maneuver (maybe the “duh! I should have asked for THAT or darn! I just realized I really want THAT” could be used for a latter maneuver?)

typically, in my experience/opinion, you can make a persuasion roll to convince NPCs of something but it’d be a little bogus to use it against PCs. (

here’s one way you could have used your building scene.

in your first building scene, you circles up someone to help you break quarenteen.

say you fail, fine, they players envoke the enmity clause (ie. you allow the guy you were trying to convince to break quarenteed to leak the info back to them, making them suspect your FON of something foul)

in your second building scene you can have your FON make a persuasion roll vs. the circles’d up ‘enemy’ to convince him to do as you’d like. you have to overcome his will (most likely a 3 or 4) with your persuasion or seduction or whatever method you’re good at.

the way you could have spun the ‘getting the PCs help’ was to ask them for a helping die. if they felt it was justified, great, they give their enemy a die. cool beans. if not, you try (and maybe fail) on your own. remember to explain to the player that giving you a helping die counts as a test for their circles… that might make them help you justify it in a cool way.


you could have decided, ‘hey, this is a cooler conflict for me, forget about what i was planning, i’m gonna let this escalate into a conflict’

some of the best duel of wits in BE happen unexpectedly. planning is all well and good, but it’s the unexpected that makes the game pop.

Oh, I did ask the player for a helping die, but I didn’t make a very good case, and received the scoffing I deserved.

I guess the answer I’m getting is, “No, you can’t convince a player character (or a GM figure of note) of a damned thing with a single roll in a building scene, that’s what Duels of Wits are for.”

The oddity that’s making me scratch my head is that you can commit acts of lethal violence towards a major character within a Building Scene (ICHASHITF!), but you can’t do anything social.

Of course you can. Work up stakes and test it out. It’s just not as nuanced as a fullblown DoW.

Okay, cool. How?

I mean, seriously, what would really help me is an example of meaningful social interactions between major characters that are determined by dice rolls in a Building Scene.

Personally? I’d absolutely require a Duel of Wits to convince anyone other than an unnamed mook to do anything special. I’m not feeling a one-die resolution to something that so directly attacks player primacy.

Given that I’d require a DoW for this, I’d also allow the players (and remind them if need be) that they’re allowed to have a second conflict in the Maneuver. If that’s still not enough conflicts, tough shit. Playing two Maneuvers in a session helps smooth this out: If you can’t get what you need done in FOUR conflicts, you’re doing too much.

On that note, I would also absolutely require a mini-Firefight ICHASHITF against a FoN. Maybe…maybe not against an XO, bodyguard, stentor, whatever. But against a FoN? Absolutely.


This is how I, personally, would do it:

DM: “Help me break quarantine.”
Player: “No way. You slut.”
DM: You want to roll for this? I want to convince you to help me.
Player: I don’t like those stakes. If you want that, I want a Duel of Wits.
DM: Okay… I’ll just walk away. “Fine! There will be consequences for this. Bitch.” I’m going to stick it to Freya now. Who do you care about most? The Duke? Okay, I am going to try and get close to him. And stab him in the face. That’s what Freya gets for pissing her off.


wipes tears away

Dude, Dave nailed it!

Sydney, you’re right, you can’t “convince” a PC of something in a builder by using a single roll resolution system. Why? Old school RPGism. The system holds sacrosanct the player’s control over his character’s mind, thoughts and emotions. The system supports forcing a player to do something against his will, but only when there is a possibility of mechanically enforced compromise (or even outright reversal). One roll can’t bring the nuance necessary for this outcome.

I think what you bumped up against was a pure scene economy issue. Which is awesome! You were torn: You wanted to have a DoW with the player you were interacting with, but you also felt like you “should” save it for another player later in the maneuver.

That’s where Dave’s example comes in. You don’t want to spend your scene. So goad your opponent to spend hers. If not? Walk away!

Or – check THIS out – you got into the situation and felt the pressing need for this DoW. Fuck it, go for it! It feels right and it’s going to be cool. You can save that other DoW for the next maneuver.

Play fast. Play hard.

I ponder.

Okay. Let’s equate “I convince you to do something you don’t want to do in a Duel of Wits” to “I achieve an Objective in Firefight.”

Now, working backwards, what’s the social equivalent to “I corner you and shoot you in the face”? What kind of one-roll social conflict, staying short of the all-out “I convince you to do something,” can we do in a Building Scene?

I’m thinking things such as

  • I figure out your true loyalty to the Duke (possibly through Psychology, possibly not)
  • I successfully lie to you about Lord Sebastian’s involvement with the smugglers
  • I humiliate you in front of the Duchess
  • I reduce you to tears
  • I explain the Duel of Wits mechanic to you so you really understand it

Or am I totally off base?

I’m going to pull a Ron Edwards. Check it out: Yeah, those are cool building scenes (though some are problematic), but they’re not what’s important right now. The scene economy is the real issue.


If you’re using one-roll resolution against only unnamed NPCs, as I strongly advise you do, I can’t think of a limit to what you could ask for. The GM can raise the stakes as well, right?

In our last game, our social combat monster had only moderate Circles but killer persuasion and intimidation. So it worked out pretty good for him to Circles up someone very important but not-so-loyal…disloyal, even, in one case. He’d then do a one-roll Persuasion/Intimidation versus whatever seemed appropriate (usually Will if I couldn’t think of good counterstakes: “lalalala I can’t hear you!”), with stakes set around gaining their temporary loyalty:

  • Do me a favor and report back whatever rumors you hear about X
  • Deliver this thing for me but make sure the recipient doesn’t know where it came from
  • Go convince your pals to vote in my favor at the next Senate

Stuff like that.

IMO you can avoid this whole conversation by using one-roll resolutions only against the unnamed. Think of it this way: would you want YOUR character puppeteered after one roll didn’t go your way?

Didn’t think so.


And I’ve started a new thread trying to figure out the scene economy. I whine and snivel for help.