Circles vs. Skills

We were playing tonight, and discussing this issue took a little time away from the game.

I had my Vaylen Clan Leader (nice circles rating) dragged away as a prisoner as the result of a Duel of Wits.

The PC wanted to use Close Combat to kill him. I said, “Sure. I want to get away. I’ll use Circles to have these guys who are holding me be my Vaylen agents.”

Using Circles vs Close Combat in a Versus Test caused some discussion. My question: Is this a legal use of Circles?

it’s not a valid versus test.

see page 497 - I corner him and stab him in the face.

if your NPC had a instinct which allowed him to test his circles in that occasion, then it might have been kosher. he’d face a high circles obstacle to have that agent right there. the agent would then make the close combat test.

Hmm… that’s interesting.

Is the only valid intent when one person is trying to kill you to kill the other guy right back?

(As it happens, I failed and took a Superficial wound.)

Was it your NPC’s building scene?

I wouldn’t treat it as a Versus test but if my Vaylen character had any Building rolls left this maneuver I’d certainly allow a Circles roll prior to combat. I believe it’s +2Ob or something for it to occur at the start of a conflict (although, strictly speaking, ICHASHITF is itself a Building roll, not a Conflict).


Nope. Does that matter in Versus tests?

It matters only in terms of Building roll budget. Circling someone up is a fundamentally proactive roll, and requires a Building roll to do. Versus tests are proactive for the guy initiating the roll, and reactive for the other side (and therefore doesn’t use up a Building roll). All of which is moot since you can’t use Circles in a versus test.


So you can’t use Circles in Versus tests. Cool.

If one guy is using Close Combat to kill someone else, can the other guy say, “I am going to beg for mercy - I’ll use Persuasion to keep him from killing me.” Or something along those lines?

Heh, yeah, you can always try if you haven’t used up your side’s conflict(s) for the Maneuver. The thing about Duels of Wits is that they’re entirely voluntary: If both sides don’t like the stakes they’ve set in their Body of Argument, one side can always escalate to a Firefight! or an ICHASHITF (assuming you have a Conflict or Building roll, respectively). This also means the arguer didn’t use up their Conflict.

IMO the escalation system is the most interesting bit of scene economy timing a skilled player can exploit. It happens all the time in our campaign. During our last session, for example, I had the following sequence:

Inquisitor (PCFoN) shows up at Warlord’s (GMFoN) headquarters, intending to engage her in a DOW. The stakes: PCFoN wants the Warlord to register herself as a psychologist and submit to questioning back at his office. The GMFoN’s Belief kicks in (I must be the only psychologist; hunt and kill every other one I know about) and she declines the DOW, instead escalating to a Firefight!. The GMFoN has an “If attacked, fry their brains” Instinct, which pre-empts the Firefight!. He fries the Warlord’s 2iC (who still hasn’t used up either a Building or a Conflict roll), but the psychic battle doesn’t end well and the Firefight! is about to commence. The Inquisitor knows he’s outgunned, so he elects to cut and run, using a Building roll to start a chase. Ultimately he gets away.

Final scene economy cost for the PCFoN: nothing for the Fry Their Brains instinct (since Instincts can give you free rolls, even free Conflicts). One Building roll for the cut and run.

The final scene economy cost for the GMFoN: exactly nothing, since the DOW–>FF–>psychic DOW–>FF–>cut and run sequence meant she never actually engaged in a Conflict. If she’d been able to catch the Inquisitor, that would have been one Conflict and no Building rolls spent.


That’s cool, but I’m what I’m really getting at is “setting stakes” or intent for the other side in the conflict (not a conflict scene, just versus tests).

Can the guy who doesn’t initiate the conflict (that is, it’s not his building scene) declare his own intent for a versus test? Are there special rules (it seems so) for Stabbing in the Face?

We’ve been playing it so that both sides do indeed state intents and then we roll and see what happens. It’s working out for us, but I’d like to know if it’s kosher.

edit: Some background:

I had the Vaylen FoN initiate a conflict: a Duel of Wits with the PC-Forged Lord of the world. My intent was to get him kicked off-world, so that he lost all his authority and could no longer legally station his ships on world. The PC’s intent was to have my Vaylen FoN captured by his troops (they really hate this guy; it’s awesome).

We both tied at -1 after the second volley. Which was awesome.

The PC followed this up with a building scene where he tried to execute the Vaylen personally; and I tried to use my Circles to get free.

In a previous session, I activated the military junta (the Forged Lord’s dudes) for my side. I figured that was enough to say that we’ve infiltrated his troops with Vaylen, so a Circles roll made sense.

I believe the only intent of ICHASHITF is “I kill the other guy.”

But, yeah, in most cases each side of a versus test gets to state an intent.


Interesting. I wonder why?

I’m not sure we’ll play that way; I’ll pose the question to my group the next time it comes up.

The “corner him” rules are explicitly for the situation where you’re already up in each other’s grills, about to throw down. The time for parley is past. Now, there should likely have ben a time for parley before that, in the process of you getting in that corner.

Hey, Dave - thanks for clarifying. That was definitely a HIGH STAKES DoW. Here are some interesting things to consider: since you’re both at below zero in the DoW, neither player gets what they want, but there are major concessions either way. So your FoN didn’t really have to be captured (unless you agreed that both of you got your terms, and thus the forge lord was deposed and the Vaylen captured)

Having control of the junta does change the context for the situation. BUT what might have been most useful was having a GM circles reserve (pg. 356, I believe) - you could have bought an ally in the junta right there, who could have intervened in your behalf against the assassin.

Context is everything! Thanks for the edit.

In our game, if your side has activated a faction they’re yours for the Phase. Your toy. Total narrative authority within the limits of not being a dick.

If that didn’t feel comfortable to you, yeah, the GM’s Circles reserve is always there for an on-the-spot NPC.


Dave, this is the way I see it:

The use of of Cirles in a ICHASITF isn’t allowed. Howewer, there is a perfectly kosher way how to accomplish precisely the same thing you wanted in a different way:

Player states: “I’m gonna kill you” (I’d call this a conflict, not a building scene, because it’s quite important)
You say: “Ok, before the ICHASITF (your conflict scene) begins, I want a building scene. I’m rolling Circles to make these guys my servants in disguise.”

Remember, if the narrative allows, you can always slip your scene before an other scene. The actual play would look something like this:

  • Player states he wants to kill you
  • You make a Cirles roll (building scene) to see if the troops are actually your men or not. (with an increased obstacle for bringing help right before a conflict)
  • ICHASITF begins (conflict scene) and according to the results of the previous Cirles roll, the troops are either on your, or on the player’s side.

If you are out of building scenes… bad luck.

Does it make sense?