So I’m trying to wrap my head around conflicts and what team actions mean for individual characters.
If I’m GM’ing a group of 2 or 3 mice who are all on the same team (they’ve helped with the disposition roll, first of all; second, they WANT to help!), they only do actions AS a team. But inevitably as soon as the decisions about action cards start it becomes evident that each mouse wants to do something different: One wants to try and get up on the creature’s back and stab, one wants to distract the creature, one wants to defend the bystanders, etc.
Because each mouse is acting at the same time, I tend to think that I shouldn’t assign each mouse to a card, as those are representing 3 consecutive actions, not 3 simultaneous ones. So what I’m left with are 2-3 mice doing different things, and no real good idea as to what action card they should choose.
Well, if you’re GM you don’t assign mice to cards, the players do. They decide what each exchange will be, let’s say they decide to maneuver, attack, defend. Ham takes the first exchange and describes jumping onto the creatures back as his maneuver, the other players help. Maybe Seth describes a viscious sword attack to draw the creature’s attention away from Ham. Maybe Kherri helps by pushing ham up as he climbs onto the creature. Then it’s Kherri’s action. She attacks, which in a Drive Off could be charging with her spear, she gets an extra die from Ham’s maneuver last exchange, plus Ham helps in her exchange by throwing his cloak over the creature’s eyes and Seth kicks over a table in the creature’s path. So she’s rolling three extra dice. Sherri’s attack removes two dispo and the You describe the creature falling back before the onslaught.
I think you have a misunderstanding about the flow of conflict. The actions are not simultaneous, you wouldn’t be able to help.
Thanks for the reply. Actually I probably worded it wrong; I understand that the actions are not simultaneous, and I also know that as GM I don’t assign the cards. Maybe I can explain my question this way:
If there are three mice, and each has been assigned an action (Ham takes maneuver, Kherri takes attack, Seth takes defend). My assumption is that they still all act together as a team, even though they are all “assigned” different actions during the conflict. As you illustrated, when Ham takes the maneuver, it’s up to the other two players to describe how they help doing the maneuver action, and even if one of the characters is described poking and slashing with his sword it is not an “actual” attack, it is part of the overall maneuver action. So everything the mice do as a team has to be described in a way that, despite “sounding” more like an attack or defend or feint on an individual basis, has an end result = Maneuver action. Does that make sense?
I think how you answered lets me know I might be on the right track.
I think the mice might be inclined to work as 2-3 “teams” of individuals, with each wanting to do their own series of actions, rather than all of them working as a single team. My players, for the most part, will have come from a D&D background so the teamwork may feel and play out strangely to them, with 3 mice declaring one coordinated action at a time. I picture each mouse wanting to act individually as a “team” unto themselves, which I’m afraid would turn into complete chaos. Any suggestions on that…?
Thanks for the reply!!
Okay, I understand the concerns, but I think a lot of this comes from picturing things in your head rather than playing. The reason things don’t turn into complete chaos is you’re there to reign things in. Let’s say it’s the first exchange in a drive off conflict against a Badger. Ham reveals his Maneuver and you reveal your badger’s Attack. Ham describes trying to get around to flank the Badger and you say something like “The badger backs you into a corner, cutting you off from your other team members.” Sounds pretty aggressive, considering you haven’t rolled dice yet. But, it’s fine. Ham’s in no worse position than he was before, really. You turn to Kherri and ask what she’s doing to help while this is happening and she describes rushing the badger waving her weapon at it. And then you turn to Seth and ask if he’s helping. He says “I stab the bastard in the side.” Okay, that would definitely help. Ham takes their helping dice and rolls, and wins, Gaining Position on the Badger. Now, you can just ask the player how he gets past the badger. Maybe he says something cool like he slides between the badger’s legs runs up the chasm wall and does a backflip onto the badger’s back. Now, you get to go full GM and recount what’s just happened for everyone. “Okay,” you say “the badger gets Ham trapped in a corner, but Kherri charges him and he reels to the side. Then Seth sticks him on the other side with his spear, the pain distracts him and he wheels the other direction. Ham takes the opportunity to slide between the badger’s legs. The badger’s completely caught off guard and is completely confused when it feels the thump of Ham landing square on it’s back.”
We’re in the next exchange. It’s Kherri’s attack and you reveal that the Badger’s got maneuver scripted. So, you say the badger takes this opportunity to roll, trying to dislodge Ham. Kherri makes her attack which, let’s say, is prodding at the Badger with her sword. She gets the benefit of Ham’s successful action, which is easily incorporated from the fiction as described. Ham helps from his perch on top of the Badger kicking it in the ribs. You turn to Seth and ask how he’s helping. Then you roll the dice. Narrate the results in a way that integrates all the action. And then, move to the next exchange.
Wow. You probably GM the hell out of this game for your players. That was described beautifully.
Thank you for the clarification. MG is definitely a different sort of RPG, and as Luke told me once awhile ago, it uses some different muscles in the brain.
I’m dying to play. Thanks for the help!
Fairly complex; sorry to have delayed so long. I’ve marked some topic breaks to attempt answering in portions.
(1): The team formation, Conflict Captain, Conflict Goal, and Team Disposition are reasonably well documented in the rules text, so I won’t spend time copying that. My advice in this portion of the GM Turn is to start by describing the overall hazard, such as ‘there seems to be a group of raccoons (mother and kits) scampering into town at dusk and breaking into homes to get at mouse food storage; no one has been eaten yet, but there have been several serious injuries as settlement mice try desperately to defend their home and goods.’ There’s something to set the scene, and something of what the overall hazard is: animals taking from mice and causing fights that leave mice injured (maybe the raccoons get injuries too, but that’s not a critical portion of the staging scene). As GM, you feel confident the raccoons will engage in a Fight Animal Conflict if confronted by the Guard, just as they are causing confrontations with local mice; also, the raccoons would probably engage in Chase, Negotiation (as long as Loremouse is used to talk things out), and maybe Science or War conflicts if needed.
Now, the patrol should be having loads of table chatter right away, and they might well discuss many ways of approaching (or avoiding) the situation. Yes, it’s valid for the patrol to attempt avoidance; not perhaps common, but valid. The table chatter can quickly indicate what sort of challenge will be needed and what the actual obstacle will be. So, such as, “we’ve talked about a plan to lead a surprise assault on the raccoons just at the edge of town at dusk, so we’ll have to prepare a few townsfolk for the frightening possibility of being bystanders and perhaps could prepare a small team of responders in town who can support any injured mice.” That’s some good table chatter and seems like Fight Animal Conflict is a good way to play that out. The preparation can be played as Disposition actions/Helpers or could be tested before the Conflict, or could be just narration.
(2): The team must begin with the Goal in mind. Not every action must lead to the Goal, but they should be careful to provide supporting actions that build toward the Goal. If they’ve come through table chatter to form a team, designate a Conflict Captain, write a Conflict Goal, and generate Team Dispo, yet afterward seem to diverge from that into each mouse acting for their own self, that’s a place to draw in the slack as GM, as in, to restrict the narrated actions a bit. That might be revising the authorship, “I’m climbing onto a high tower and firing arrows into the eyes and face of the beast! It howls in fury while arrows impale it’s beedy eye and strike sharply into its lips! I’m a heroic figure starkly lit against the setting sun which young mice look to in awe and joy! (Helping with Hunter)” becomes (after some GM revision), “Right, you climb to a high point and take aim with bow and arrow to harass the animal; that offers a Hunter Helper.” In that way, gone is the declaration that they’ve landed impaling arrows and gained the adoration of onlookers. It also clarifies that, yes, they are offering a Helper Die to whomever is conducting the action. That patrol mate still can choose not to have the Helper–not often, but optional. It could also be revising the mechanics: “I’ll offer my talent in medicine to save that injured mouse from dying of their wounds; offering Healer as Helper.” becomes, “Right, you know lots, but there’s so little time; everything happens in a heartbeat’s pause; you could offer a Fighter Helper to protect the mouse from further harm, while the patrol mates are dealing an Attack of Hunter.” In that way, you revise the mechanics to fit the available choices."
At times, a patrol mate simply cannot offer the proper Skill/Ability or other assistance. It’s totally okay to admit they’re being supportive even when they don’t have the capacity to offer a Helper Die.
Each team member offering Helper has two clarifications to consider; they still need to offer a Skill or Ability that is a valid Helper support–so if the action during a Fight Animal exchange is Hunter Vs Nature (animal) it’s totally valid to offer Hunter as a Helper in order to distract or join in assault, yet defending bystanders (maybe using Fighter) maybe isn’t a proper Helper in that moment. That can depend–I’d probably allow it, but that doesn’t assure their bystanders are surviving the overall conflict. As a Helper, the patrol mate/player should be anticipating a bit lower authorship to assure their Help action is effective, productive, or operational. Mostly they are being Helpful, and the test, with a roll of dice, will be a strong indicator of effectiveness, productiveness, and operational function. As GM, you can have a multi-character team also offering Helper dice to one another, so keep in mind that is a good time to lead by example. You could narrate the primary character’s action, then give a one-liner about the Helpers in that. So, the two clarifications are: right skill/ability; concise, simple support.
(3): During any specific action exchange, each patrol mate might be doing different things, some (most) will opt for doing things that support the action; because, that supports the Goal. Also, During any specific volley of actions, each patrol mate might take action which supports a different moment of the conflict scene. So, that table chatter plan should inform the selection of actions in the volley and assigning those to the patrol mate who will carry it forward. In a Fight Animal Conflict, each patrol mate could easily do different things during specific actions or in the volley of actions. Leaping on the creature to make an assault seems good as Attack w/ Fighter; distracting the animal seems a good Maneuver w/ Nature [hiding, escaping]; protecting a bystander seems a good Nature [hiding, escaping].
I feel the best course of action for the patrol is to very promptly select actions in the volley with a small snippet of table chatter, then confirm that’s the Skill/Ability they want to test, then have the Conflict Captain confirm the choice of action and assignment in the volley. The Conflict Captain can handle the action volley with the GM. During each action, players can offer their Helper support and the mouse who is leading that action can decide if that works as a Helper or not. A bit of short table chatter can confirm the right assistance and acceptance of it.
(4): When players pile up action as Helpers that are fitting as specific actions, that’s a good moment to review about how much time is passing in each action exchange. For Fight and Fight Animal, those actions might be eye-blinks or heartbeats; actions in War or Science could be brief or last days and nights. Actions in each Conflict type are fluid, but there might as well be some common expectations that a GM can express to players. I recall in D&D, many DMs described a turn in initiative as 7-10sec of time passing. Some fights, that made sense, but others it seemed actions of a longer time would feel more logical. Similarly in MG Conflicts, the fluid nature of the action exchange is meant to give a GM and players a tool in sensory immersion. Some conflicts are fast-paced, and some are slow-paced.
Each action and Helper might be distinct, and I generally assume the volley of actions is sequential rather than simultaneous. The Helpers are acting mostly concurrent, though some actions ight be slightly different in time; this is all the more reason to have a fluid sense of the pace for action volleys.
(5): The players should be assigned to a specific action, which is chosen before the action volley begins, and revealed only when/if that action exchange plays out. The GM has chosen actions, assigned the NPCs to a specific action, and kept things hidden too. GM reveals first, then the player-side team Conflict Captain reveals. Each action exchange is distinct and autonomous. As in, don’t retroactively back-pedal a previous action exchange after the dice are rolled and results narrated. The narration has to do with the pacing, so fast-paced conflicts have brief description of what is happening, a dice roll, and a brief description of results; the next action volley comes right on the heels of the previous action exchange. This is also true in slow-paced conflicts such as perhaps War conflict–you could be narrating days of story per action exchange, but there are not days of non-conflict story between one action exchange and the next action exchange–in other words, once started into a conflict, stay immersed in it.
So, just to clarify: the GM action and Player action are happening nearly simultaneous (maybe slightly sequential, but not totally cause-effect); the Helpers in an action are simultaneous (possibly some sequential, but not very much and certainly never cause-effect); the next action exchange (GM Action against Player Action) is sequential to the first, and this may display some cause-effect relationship.
I’ll give an example in a Speech Conflict:
GM: The nefarious Rodger stands before the crowd and boasts of having seen the patrol at their weakest moment, when he assisted them surviving in the wilderness when they would have starved without his assistance. (Playing an Attack using Orator)
Player: Recalls for the crowd the patrol was worried about Rodger before meeting him due to a letter sent from a local baker who reported having been strong-armed into giving up daily bread to Rodger in exchange for special protection by his fellow rough-pawed thugs. (Playing Attack using Orator w/ Evidence too)
So, that’s the action exchange, kinda sequential, but certainly not a case of, ‘I said such-n-such in response to him’.
GM: Rodger’s close associate calls out that report of behavior to be an honorable retelling of his concern for community safety and involvement, rather than casting it as a topic related to racketeering and extortion. (Playing Maneuver using Deceiver)
Player: Explains the unusual case of finding the patrol away in the wilderness acting as guides to a group of caravan mice who were waylaid by armed and dangerous weasels; they needed more food than what was carried; because, they had given their rations to the caravan mice who were truly starving. (Playing Defend using Orator)
So, here in the second exchange we see the responses to the first exchange. In this case, I of course scripted that the patrol had an Attack, Defend script and that Rodger had Attack, Maneuver script. Still, the task is to work with the script–even not knowing for certain whether it fits–and fit the narration to the circumstance of mechanics.
(6): So, you actually should be looking at the scenario in the other direction. You should be able to say, as GM, I’ve got my side of the conflict, and team, and goal; the players have their side, team, goal. Now that we’ve got sides, teams, and goals, we can roll dispo and privately select the actions to play against one another, assign those actions to members of the, note the skill/ability required to play out the action, and return to looking eye-to-eye as we begin to reveal one action at a time.
Sometimes this will mean that the action exchange looks far different in play than in prediction. During table chatter it might be easy to say, "I’ve got this great skill, and that’s going to be perfect for our opening Attack, yet later find the dice acting coward and throwing the whole strategy for a major loop. The prediction was grand, but once into the conflict, contact with the enemy required nible rewriting of the story–but the mechanics of choosing actions and sticking with the actions, skills, and helpers build creative boudaries that you should stick to closely.
In the end, the players should be feeling out whether they can use the scenario, action, skill/ability, and Helpers to develop the story. But do hold them closely to upholding the assigned action, the required skill, and valid helpers/gear. Don’t rewrite mechanics when the narration seems to be misaligned–instead, step back and revise the narration to best reflect the mechanics.
Think of it as playing by the rules, even when it requires that you look at the story more creatively in order to play by the rules.