Design goals of the Kill / Drive Off conflict split?

The difference between the kill and drive off conflict types are clearly an inherent and intentional part of the game… but one that I find a little grating to my suspension of disbelief.

There are a couple reasons for this. RAW, the loser of a Drive Off contest is often in better shape than the winner, given that the winner may suffer various conditions (due to compromise), while the loser may (at GM’s discretion) just move to a new location in the dungeon, none the worse for wear.

Second, it seems very foreign to the “fantasy Vietnam” feel of the game and my understanding of human psychology (yes, I understand if you just rolled your eyes). But it feels to me like people run away when their friends start getting injured and killed, regardless of their intent when they entered a fight. This is especially true in a scary environment where you don’t know what additional dangers a conflict may bring down on your head.

I also find that the threat of half the party getting killed on only a moderate compromise doesn’t sit well with me.

Mechanically, I understand and like the Health/Will split of Kill vs Drive Off, and I understand that it makes very explicit the choice whether death is on the line.

Are there additional design goals for the distinction? What would break mechanically if all conflicts were treated as Drive Off (but with Dead as an allowed condition in compromises)? Would anything break if the loser of a DO conflict had to suffer conditions similar to a major compromise?

I see in the mid-level compromise section for Killing Is My Business that one or two members of the other team might die. So if you won with a mid-level compromise the GM could kill off two members of the party. But that would be pretty harsh and should probably be reserved for characters that are already injured. I would think that most GMs would employ one of the other listed compromises much more often. But yeah, it is scary.

That’s what I get from the rules. It is about the choice between:

Drive-Off is safer but only puts off the problem (EDIT:AKA challenge/obstacle), giving you time and space to formulate a final solution that puts you in a better position (or time to get your Murder-Hobo hands on whatever you came for and run).

Kill puts your life on the line (maybe, depending on relative Might ratings) but a Conflict Win removes them as an issue permanently (necromancy aside).

How permanent a Drive Off conflict win is really depends on its interpretation; it might very well lead to the creatures who lost leaving the dungeon. If it’s their home, it might be less probable, but otherwise what you risk losing might instead just be any valuables they carry on their person.

That being said, I think your question IS very interesting and I hope more people can chime in here.

One thing about the Kill conflict that irks me a bit is that it must be fought down to the last man. The monsters will never flee. One or more might be left for dead, but no more. Narratively, Kill and Drive Off feel very closely related and very likely to “bleed” into one another.

Well, a kill doesn’t have to be to the last man. If the losing side gets a decent compromise they can use it to survive but in pretty bad shape and maybe only part of their numbers. You could narrate that as them desperately fleeing at the end of the conflict. Once swords come out with killer intent there is a risk that anyone or even everyone could die.

It is a little odd that the players get to decide whether the monsters are at risk of dying or not. What if all they really want is for you to leave their home and then you come at them with killer intent. Well they’d rather flee than fight to the death. Then again, maybe it’s that things get over their head, they think that they’re just going to scare you off, but then you come in hacking off limbs and all they can hope to do is fight well enough that some of them get out alive.

Definitely makes it feel like drive-off shouldn’t be about exchanging blows then, though. Sounds like it should be more about posturing and intimidation, thematically and in terms of flavor text.

There’s not a lot that’s more intimidating than “holy crap, they just lopped off Bobby’s friggin’ head!” :wink:

Kill really does have to be to the last man standing for one side; either way you turn the compromises one side will either all be dead (most common) or possibly left for dead if really lucky (well, lucky is not exactly the word for it since you get ALL conditions and lose 1 pt from Resources and Circles)…

This is, of course, provided you play RAW. (Killing is our Business, p. 74)

I think there’s also a bit of narrative license involved. If the party is driven off, they obviously don’t get what they wanted, the enemy force is too great and they lose their ground. That’s pretty rough. If the monsters lose, they’re scattered, divided, and demoralized. Maybe some of their number flee further into the darkness and are no longer a presence in the dungeon. It doesn’t have to be a mechanical effect, after all.

As to player intent, my thought is, something like “We attack them” or “We fight for our lives!” or “I lash at him with my sword,” can lead to drive off conflicts, and unless the player’s description is something really strong and definitive, like “We slaughter them to the man,” or “Let’s end this,” or “I chop its head off,” you don’t break out the kill conflict.

Suppose the PCs have backed a monster into a corner (i.e. following a Pursue conflict, for example). The PCs do not intend to fight to the last man. The monster, being cornered, has no choice. What kind of conflict is it?

So, if one of the PCs gets dropped by that cornered monster, which of the other PCs are going to just leave him there and run? Those are the PCs that shouldn’t be in that Kill Conflict to begin with. It’s possible that might mean none of them are really dedicated to the cause. Perhaps they should just try to capture it, and then kill it when it’s safe to do so.

Being a member of a routed army is a very dangerous position. When lines break the real blood flow starts.

I have offered that up to Eric as colour of why monsters don’t get to flee, at least monsters that are willing to engage enough for a Drive Off. But it doesn’t ring true [enough] for him. shrug Verisimilitude can be a slippery SOB. :slight_smile:

I think down deep this has to do with the assumption that asymmetrical rules of engagement are not OUR reality, [which nearly everyone that isn’t named René Descartes does] . That laws of physics, and free will flowing from that (or from a soul, etc.), apply equally to everyone/thing. The game lives in “movie time”, really all do, and this detail happens to scratch at Eric (and others no doubt). The world is centered around the PCs, of course because that’s the perspective that we play from, and this is somewhere that that shines through a little more brightly.

Definitely makes it feel like drive-off shouldn’t be about exchanging blows then, though. Sounds like it should be more about posturing and intimidation, thematically and in terms of flavor text.

That’s why Defend/Maneuver uses Will, that’s the tip to me to colour this as also involves some posturing and neck-hair raising. :slight_smile: But the Conflict still uses Fight because that’s the closest fit to to showing “This is Serious Business, we know how to kill you if make us.” That’s how I read it.

Well, if it makes any difference, consider that the winner stuck around to fight, thus risking injury, while the losers fled, in order to avoid that injury. Perhaps that will soothe the cognitive dissonance somewhat.

FWIW bringing that rationalization into my mind causes cognitive dissonance flair-up for me, because it doesn’t match up with the Kill side of things for me. :smiley:

Even under the mid-level compromises someone from the losing side can survive. Granted it’s only one person, but still.

Maybe the concern is, why wouldn’t the PCs just intentionally lose the fight if they can’t win with full or close to full disposition so that they don’t take a condition?

In Mouse Guard if you state your conflict goal as “Drive them off” and succeed with a compromise you can end up in the same situation.

For me personally, it very much boils down to what the results of the Drive Off conflict are meant to be. Is it just pushing the creatures back to a deeper part of the dungeon, with a guarantee that they will be back? Or is it somewhat similar to a kill - they are gone for all intents and purposes, and all you missed out on was their personal belongings and the opportunity to dance on their graves.

Of course, there is also the difference in some creatures to consider when it comes to Drive Off vs Kill; some creatures are skittish, but will become enraged if injured, and some guard an area and are probably easier to kill than Drive Off. These distinctions are fun, I think, and I don’t advocate removing the distinction per se.

I’m just really interested in what motivates the distinctions, and specifically how the result of Drive Off should be interpreted. And this is actually from a more “gamey” aspect; I have some cognitive dissonance issues with these conflict rules and Kill conflicts in particular, but I don’t think that’s what this thread is about. It’s about design and intent.

The entire group being captured isn’t worse than an Injured status? OK, maybe the hobbit might want to throw it to get rid of his companions. Just make sure to not assign the hobbit player as Conflict Captain. :wink:

If I Were GM EDIT: If I clued in that someone was throwing a Conflict due to this I would take it as a clear sign I’d been failing in my creative duties and would endevor to correct that. With prejudice.

Loss without compromise? Uhh, no thanks!

Doesn’t this decision rest with the GM?

Perhaps, but given the style of the rules I’m certain there is a purpose behind splitting Drive Off and Kill, and I’d be very interested in knowing what. If the result of a Drive Off conflict is so fluid that it can include everything from the creatures moving to the next room to them leaving the dungeon, then it would be very dependent on the GM’s interpretation which conflict choice is the better one.