Circles = Free Checks All Around?


I’ve been beating up my players a lot more recently, which has caused many of them to be Sick and Injured by the time they get to a Player Turn. They obviously want to go find a healer to heal themselves up. A player will use their check to find a Healer and, on success, they get the healer to make a free healer test on their behalf (pg. 239). This makes the other players ask “Can that healer do a free healer check for me too?”

I’m not really sure. I can imagine three possible rulings for this:

  1. Yes, once an NPC is brought in via a successful Circles test, they can perform however many tests the players want for free. This makes Circles incredibly powerful.
  2. Yes, but all other players wishing to utilize the NPC need to spend a Check to do so. This seems a bit more balanced, but I don’t feel like that’s what Checks are supposed to do.
  3. No, one successful Circles test = One Free Test. If the other players wish to use that same healer, then they must also spend a check to perform a Circles test and find them. Maybe they had to rush off to deliver a baby after healing the first player.

Thanks, and sorry if this has already been answered elsewhere.

I have always treated it as (1). They spend one Check for the Circles test; which has a risk of Twist or Success w/ Condition or could be placed at risk of Enmity Clause. I prefer creating a new enemy or bringing an existing enemy rather than Success w/ Condition. The idea of having a limited time to provide treatment before having to rush away for some other emergency is a great potential Twist when the Circles tests turns out coward dice. That allows more agility from a GM who feels a reasonable need to constrain the patrol members to spend additional checks.

So, if the test is successful, they’ve got an NPC who is likely to provide several services and will make those tests–even allowing the patrol mates to serve as Helpers–which offers flexibility for a GM while avoiding the player characters to track additional tests for advancement. This gives flexibility to place the patrol mates under a bit of obligation or debt. The test itself is not without risk, whether for the player characters or for the NPC(s) involved. So, this is a chance to leverage that risk into the obligation expected of the patrol mates.

If they are seeking treatment, a single Circle test could readily place them face-to-face with a willing provider, and they will owe something comensurate in exchange for services. Even if this is merely, “Spend a Check to make a Resources test,” for handling payment, you have flexibility to drive that obligation into risk placed on the shoulders of the player characters.

If the test is unsuccessful, that potential Twist mentioned earlier might force the patrol mates to select who gets care, then requires another Circles test to find care for the others in need. See, more flexibility for the GM. Or, perhaps the Twist is being asked to get involved in something much more challenging than a payment by Resources. You can use that moment of Twist to introduce an issue of Mice, Animals, Weather, or Wilderness.

Additionally, the NPC can be placed at risk of Success w/ Condition or Twist if you like. It can further deepen a troubling mess if the care provider must make excuses to rest or recuperate between treatments.

Thanks for the in depth reply.

I didn’t even think about the ‘paying for services’ angle. In that situation, would you make the act of getting services a linked test for the first player using a check? Circles + Resources, or require another check for the resource check-one per player who wishes to use the service?

Take a look at this thread and Luke’s answer in the second post.

My reading: In general, if you need something done, circle someone up up and he will make one test for you. If the enmity clause gets invoked or the fiction demands it, you may well have to make another test to convince or pay him or something.

In your example, you circle up an old pal who happens to be a healer; he would certainly be willing to help you for free. He may, however, then turn around to the other guardmice and go “That was on the house. Now, what may I do for you?”

If you circle up a goldsmith because you need an expensive gift for some weasel king, you probably won’t get it for free.

If the Circles test (costing one Check) were successful, I’d most likely give the first Healer test by the NPC freely–it might turn out cowards or might turnout successes. If the entire patrol were getting treatment, I would describe the obligation to compensate the provider, but I wouldn’t absolutely require that as Resources; I would let the patrol mates discuss and describe how they work out compensation–might be a Resources test is the best way to handle that.

If the Circles test were unsuccessful, I would likely use Enmity Clause or a Twist; in both ways, they meet a care provider who will give one free Healer test, and they’ll need to think of compensation, but the Twist would give me agility to delay or defer additional Healer tests until the Twist is dealt with–it could be anything. Using that Twist in the Player Turn means it will probably cost one or more Checks to resolve the Twist and return to the care provider. The Enmity Clause would give me the flexibility to test once for Healer, then emphasize the obligation, or debt, owed to this unwanted benefactor; that would be about the extent of the scene. It still offers flexibility to extend care to additional patrol mates to bring more of them into the obligation.

If one Check were spent to test Circles, I would not also call a Resources test associated with the same Check scene. Table chatter would determine if a Resources test is proper, and that would require an additional Check. Table chatter might indicate Haggler, Resources, foraging, or maybe other tests are appropriate to handle the obligation owed.

Think about the example of Martin or of Loretta from Deliver the Mail. Martin is interested in making a request with such intent that he would engage in a Conflict, like Negotiation or Argument, to get the patrol convinced to serve his request. How the patrol mates fulfill an agreement (if an agreement comes about) might create the basis for an entire mission, a complex obstacle, or a simple obstacle. Table chatter becomes a force for determination. Loretta doesn’t make a request of the patrol mates; she just tends to stand out from the crowd of mail recipients; the patrol mates could ask her about what’s up or not. If a GM wants to pressure some Checks, this might be a moment in which a single Persuader/Manipulator test is warranted, or even a Negotiation or Argument Conflict to convince Loretta of something–maybe she doesn’t want to accept an escort; because she feels it will bind her to an obligation to the Guard and Lockhaven that she does not want or could not fulfill. Perhaps she is just really shy and doesn’t feel her social position warrants asking for assistance from the Guard. Table chatter is a determining element.

So, short answer: one Check should provide one test of an Ability or Skill for the player character–even if the NPC could do additional things that do not provide advancement for the player character. (I mean, that test for advancement is my primary logic in giving one Check = one test; because even if they launch a Conflict, the rules provide them only one logged test for advancement).

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