Conflicts vs Versus Tests

Hello all,

Im currently preparing for my first Torchbearer game since playing when the book first released. Since then I have really sunk my teeth into Burning Wheel with my group and in the year of 2014 became serious familiar with the ‘way to play’ BW.

So now during a BW break, a new group approached me and I’ve really wanted to sink my teeth into a great game of Torchbearer. I just have a few questions about Conflicts and Overcoming Obstacles.

Is it that any Obstacle versus the environment is rolled with a single test, but any Obstacle against another living thing (monster, NPC, other character), must by Conflict rules?

For example: The party of adventures are plumbing through a long ago abandoned temple, which is now being fought over by waring tribes of kobolds and goblins, when they come upon a lone kobold who obviously slacking on his sentry duty. The players advice they want to convince this kobold that they are willing to help them fight the goblins, if only they promise safe passage through the kobold part of the ruined temple. The players want the lone kobold to bring them to his leader so that they may negotiate terms.

Is this something that would have to be settled with a conflict? Or could it be possible to do in a more BW style? Could I call for a simple Persuader test vs Ob 2 (equal to the Kobold’s Convince rating)?

Trust and believe I intend to use the Conflict rules when the party attempts to convince the Kobold leader!

On a similar note…

In the same ruined temple the adventurers are attempting to climb vertically down a rock face deeper into the sunken citadel. As part of a twist for the failure consequence, the characters on the rope fall to the ground and are immediately swarmed by giant rats, loving a chance to nibble at the characters’ faces.

The player describes the want to unsheathe his sword and loud and boisterously, ‘drive off’ the giant rats with his sword and torch. Could I do the same here as above and call for a simple Fighter vs. Ob 3 (or maybe 4; equal to the rats drive off rating)?

I guess that I ask this because Im a little worried that we could quickly become bogged down with conflicts one after another, and I’ve had times in the past (the first time I played), where the group got lost in a constant revolving cycle using attacks and defends lower the enemies disposition raising theirs and wash and repeat for some conflicts taking 30-45 minutes alone!

I was thinking of perhaps using the single obstacles for non-belief and non-goal oriented obstacles, and use the conflicts more as if a DoW, or Fight! in BW.

Is this ok per the rules? Am I really off base here?

I believe it’s fine to just roll versus.

It’s fine to use single tests rather than full conflicts, though note this will give players fewer opportunities to earn checks and to spend Rewards. The game is really geared for an average of three to four conflicts per session (which is generally four hours at our table).

If you do end up using a single test, just note that it shouldn’t be a flat obstacle. You should roll for the monster. In the case of the kobold, the player would roll their character’s Persuader and you would roll the kobold’s Nature. Unfortunately for the kobold, a discussion of this sort is outside it’s Nature (Trapping, Lurking, Swarming), so it would roll 1D rather than its normal 2D (see Descriptors on page 149). In the case of the Giant Rats, it would be the character’s Fighter versus 2D from the rat’s Nature (plus help, if appropriate).

In general though, I prefer to turn to conflicts for these encounters or simply invoke the Good Idea rule. I would gently suggest that if your players are tossing out frequent Defends, you could get a little meaner and start using some Feints. If I had to ballpark it, I’d say most of my conflicts run between 3 minutes and 10 minutes. Usually only big, crazy fights go longer.