Conflicts and "fortune in the middle"

I was thinking of the test mechanics in Burning Wheel and how they are not exactly a “conflict resolution”. To me they’re more of a hybrid between a task resolution system and a conflict resolutions system. I mean it in a good way: the game can be played both styles at once. Also I do not like games where there is too much stakes setting quibbling outside of the fiction. OTOH, I like when conflicts escalate to higher stakes and players accept more severe consequences for failure. This is to me the very essence of “fighting for what you (really) believe”.

By the rules, when you call for a test, you declare in advance intent and outcomes/complications (this sounds to me a sort of stakes setting, albeit more implicit than in other games) and gather beforehand all of the dice you can trough arguing, in the form of FoRKs, Helps, Advantages, Call-ons, Die traits, Instructions and so on. After the dice are rolled and the result is known, the outcome has been already set and there’s no way a character can modify it. This is clearly a “fortune in the end” type of mechanic. Maybe Artha could be considered a sort of exception to this, since it can be spent after the roll (not all Artha, just Fate and Deeds), but it’s an exception nonetheless. I think this subtracts some thrilling potential to the conflict itself.

Then I realized many times I used those “dice arguing” as a sort of FitM mechanic on important conflicts. This added a lot to the emotional impact of the conflict itself, and also sped up the game a lot (arguing over advantages ahead of a conflict can lead to breaking the game cycle and delay timing - but it is perfectly understandable if a player tries to gather any advantage he can before rolling for an important test).
Sometimes however I did it differently. We set up the conflict (I’m talking here of active oppositions, then Bloody Versus & Versus only), I exorted the player to gather the basic dice he could think of (generally from the skill or stat involved) and then we rolled for them. Then I had the character and the opposing NPC throwing in other dice as they could think of a good reason to justify them. When describing the conflict, sometimes the description itself bears to mind other ways to involve tangential knowledge (FoRKs), advantages, and so on. Then I let sometimes other characters to step in and help during a conflict even if they didn’t in the first place.

This can be theoretically pushed as far as adding in whole new pools from other stat, following the description and evolution of the conflict. Is a sort of escalation mechanic like in Dogs in the Vineyard. Altough I never used this and it is not in the rules (handling escalation could be done with separate tests or linked tests) I can see some advantages in both approaches.

What do you think of this techniques?

That’s very interesting…the main problem I have is that in Dogs, you escalate by crossing lines–you step things up to a level that can’t be ignored. That doesn’t seem to fit how FoRKing and helping usually work. That said…

I think this could be a great way to handle a Bloody Versus equivalent for Duel of Wits. Explain that any Wise you FoRK in has to leverage a fact that you’ve learned about the situation or about someone present. So before a conflict, you could have discovered some dirty Family Secrets, which means that when you reveal those secrets to a wider audience or otherwise first use them for leverage, you can roll that die in.

Then things like threats, bribery, etc., can be made into advantages if you escalate them in. Helping just means that you’re implicating more characters into the argument, binding them by the same terms.

For DoW, I tell people “Reveal, Roleplay, Roll (and then Results).” This frames the action, gives the player a chance to organically incorporate system elements and then we see the results of their action in the roll. You might call it Fortune-at-the-End, but regardless it’s a meld of system and performance all the way down.

Well I do think actually both Fight!, RaC and DoW, being they break down the action in smaller chunks allowing for diverse strategy changes, are sort of fortune-in-the-middle systems. Yes, the actual roll for any single test is F-a-t-E, but the whole conflict resolution mechanic is not. In a DoW, if you’re losing body of argument at your opponent, you can change tactic, escalate to more effective and dangerous “attacks” (incite, dismiss). The same you can do in a Fight! The fight isn’t over till it’s over. May weel be the very last shot which decides the outcome of a sniping duel or a bloody battle…