Disposition breakdown p150

Hey there! Second topic for another question!

Disposition Breakdown p150
Each monster is listed with three to five dispositions broken
down like so: One strength equal to double its Nature plus
bonuses from weapons, one secondary strength equal to
Nature plus half Nature, one competency equal to only its
Nature, and a weakness equal to half Nature. […]

What do you mean by strength and weakness?

Let’s take a look at Lizard Men (p156): they have a Nature of 4, and a Disposition of 9 in Capture, with Nets as a weapon for this type of conflict, and a Disposition of 2 in Convince. So, it looks like Capture conflicts are their strength and Convince conflicts their weakness. Yup, that’s consistent when you see their instinct: “Capture my prey for the feast later”, and the “Slow Thinker” weapon.

I guess that from the Lizard Men point of view, strength is what they’re good at doing: capturing, because they have nets and it’s their thing. They can capture better than they can convince. From a PC point of view, strength would mean what they’re hard to take on. As it’s harder to capture Lizard Men than to convince them. Hence the dispositions.
But, in the case Lizard Men want to capture PCs, the latter can choose what type of conflict they want through description of their intent. They could choose to flee, to drive them off, to convince them not to, to kill them, or even to capture them (“Ha! Finally they’re onto us, let’s capture them while they’re here!”). Except in the last case, Lizard Men would never get the chance to use these nets, and to be at their “strongest”. Is it intended? Do you see many PCs trying to capture something that tries to capture them? That could be the case, this example is the one which led me to that question about the meaning of strength and weakness.

Here are other examples I thought about before writing that topic.

Let’s take an eel. It is very slippery. So, it’s very hard to catch with bare hands. I guess that would make Capture conflict the strength for an eel. But, it may not be very good at capturing. Same with a hedgehog. You could say it’s hard to capture but it’s not good at capturing. What would you do? Would you say Capture conflict is their strength because they’re hard to capture? Or would you set something else, something they’re good at doing against the PCs (not something like “I’m good at not being captured”)?

Last example I also thought about: rabbits are good at running, especially fleeing, but they may not be very good at pursuing. How would you translate this in a Flee Disposition? With a special rule? “When it comes to running, Rabbits don’t pursue, they only flee”?

It’s made clear in the rules that conflicts can be asymmetrical. An eel could be trying to kill while the party is trying to capture. More likely, the dragon is trying to kill while the party is trying to flee. This makes sense, but I’ve never really understood how it’s supposed to work in practice. If the dragon is trying to kill do you use its weapons/disposition for a kill conflict, or do you use its disposition for a flee conflict, since the party is trying to flee?

Yeah, and I read many topics dealing about this.

Well I believe the game and its rules revolve around the PCs. So, I think I would use weapons and dispo for a flee conflict if the party is trying to flee. But maybe I’d say that, if the party loses, they’re killed by the dragon, as it was its objective to begin with… I guess? I don’t know yet. Depends on what makes sense and what seems to be the most fun.

The Conflict occurs from point of view of PCs; so, the conflict scene can be asymmetrical, yes, but it will be only a single type of Conflict aligned with the actions of the player characters.

Some examples:
Adventurers cautiously delve into a dragon’s lair; the beast is resting, but awake and sufficiently alert that it startles and rouses. The adventurers have touched nothing yet, and have not made any sudden moves to brandish a weapon. The dragon pauses, and lets a grumbling, raspy hoot of laughter at the confrontation. What do you do?

If you answer, “we better turn and run!” the GM may have a Chase Conflict in mind; the adventurers are the runners and the dragon is the pursuer. The adventurers are attempting everything to get away, and the dragon is attempting everything to … well, that’s murky. If we follow the rule described in, “Killing is my Business,” we should easily find the dragon may place a goal to kill the intruders; however, if the players do not choose a goal which includes killing the dragon, they are not subject to death! It is unavailable to a GM (aside from PCs gaining the Condition when they already have Injured status–possibly a different thread for that issue). In that sense, the narrative behind the dragon’s actions may be filled with a great deal more violence and cruelty than the narrative of the adventurers’ actions. Similarly, in a Compromise, the GM might be more intense about leaving the adventurers with Injured, and possibly also Tired, Afraid, and/or Hungry/Thirsty; those states being filled brings the adventurers closer to death anyway.

The adventurers are making their way across rugged terrain, have no remaining fresh rations, and have all gained Hungry/Thirsty in the recent delving. With lengthy trekking ahead to reach the next town, a player considers some hunting during a camp phase. As the scene begins to unfold, it becomes clear this is a great spot to offer a complex scene in which the hunting involves chase, capture, and kill of a modestly sized elk. To best describe the difficulty of the desperation, GM permits insists first there must be a Chase Conflict to get the elk positioned in a spot from which it cannot easily escape. Otherwise, it cannot be captured and killed. Within the Compromise, GM permits the follow-on Kill Conflict to commence (let’s all imagine the initial chase went very well for the players). A second Conflict is guided by the player character perspective–the elk is not trying to kill the adventurers, but is still attempting to get away alive. Again, it is asymmetrical in the sense of how the narrative is expressed. Let’s assume the players are gathered, and as the intent to kill this beast is on the table, and the adventurers are suffering under a few Conditions, having a kill-or-die-trying moment seems fitting despite being extremely risky. In such a case, I’d consider that PC at risk of death if the Conflict went entirely coward even though the elk would not be creating a goal to kill the hunter. It would have to be fairly extreme loss to indicate the kill-or-die-trying scene actually ended in the hunter dying-trying.

Similarly, in the case of the eel, we can presume the eel isn’t trying to capture or chase the player characters under normal circumstances. It behaves within its nature, which doesn’t really lead it to acting out against the adventuring group (unless there are fishmen among the adventurers, which might be fair reason for an eel to attempt eating the PC).

The asymmetry occurs in the fact that animals, beasts, monsters, and other NPCs are simply behaving in accordance with Nature unless there is a reasonable circumstance causing them to confront the adventurers differently. And, in those cases, it is thrust upon the player characters to determine the response, and the response indicates the type of Conflict. It also indicates when no Conflict exists.

For example:
Adventurers cautiously delve into a dragon’s lair; the beast is resting, but awake and sufficiently alert that it startles and rouses. The adventurers have touched nothing yet, and have not made any sudden moves to brandish a weapon. The dragon pauses, and lets a grumbling, raspy hoot of laughter at the confrontation. What do you do?

If you answer, “We’d better introduce ourselves and offer our sincere worship to this mighty immortal,” then GM may be inclined to offer no Conflict at all, but instead offer a patron quest-giver. Even if the dragon were inclined to kill the adventurers as intruders, the player character response dictates, GM had better be more clear about the violent nature of the encounter if he wants them to brandish weapons ready to slay a dragon!

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The PCs can state what kind of conflict they want, if they’re the ones initiating the conflict, but the GM decides what kind of conflict it is. (pg 67 - “That’s right, the GM picks.”) If the players fail a roll for making safe camp or sneaking through the swamp, the GM has the power to introduce a Capture conflict with lizard men as a twist (for example) and let the players fight or flee their way out of it. The lizard men got the jump and despite what the players want, they’re being captured now. With nets and everything. Good luck.

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Separately, the asymmetry comes in when the players are trying to do something beyond their order of might. The example in the book is a good one, where they can enter a Kill conflict with a dragon, even though they have no hope of killing one. Even if they win, the result is not the death of the dragon. They can’t. So they drive it off or flee with their lives; whatever’s appropriate. It’s not a Flee/Kill conflict, it’s still a Kill conflict (using the dispositions and weapons for Kill on both sides). The type is singular, even though the potential of the results is asymmetric. (pg 149 - Asymmetric Conflict Goals)

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Exactly. So, if PCs wanted to capture a hedgehog or an eel, I’d give these animals a disposition and weapons that reflect their strong ability at not being captured. It is not easy to capture a spiky animal nor a slippery fish with bare hands. PCs point of view. Right? If PCs succeed, the animal is captured. It they fail, they’re driven off or the animal escaped. If the animal tries to convince them to stop and the PCs listen, I’d call for a Convince conflict…
What I don’t understand (or didn’t, now that I almost finished writing my reply) is the Disposition breakdown and its different applications. Disposition breakdown is supposed to reflect strengths and weaknesses of a monster. It tells me, from a PCs point of view, when a monster is easy to take on, and what a monster is good at. However, in some cases, I have troubles translating the information.

A spider is really good at capturing, so I could say Capture is its strength in term of conflict. But because monsters never choose the conflict they’ll be engaged in, they’re likely to not benefit from their strength (well, especially when it comes to capture I think). So, instead, I could say that a spider is well disposed in a Flee conflict, because if it wins, it can capture the PCs, and that would make sense because, well, it’s a spider, and spider capture their preys. Whereas in a Capture conflict, if the spider wins, the PCs are driven off, or the spider escaped, because Capture was the intent of the PCs, not the spider’s.

Edit: except I realised the results for a monster’s win/loss in a conflict is totally up to the GM, so I don’t need to switch its strengths and weaknesses; Lizard Men/spider’s win in a Capture conflict could result in the PCs being captured by what they wanted to capture, if I did say that it was the monster’s intent.

Example:

  • A group of Lizard Men are sitting around a fire, and PCs are hidden behind bushes. PCs decide they want to capture one of the Lizard Men at least, and engage them. I’d call for a Capture conflict. Too bad for PCs, Lizard Men are well versed in this kind of conflict, and they decided they wanted to capture the aggressors. Lizard Men win without compromises, PCs are captured. PCs win without compromise, Lizard Men are captured. If there was to be a compromise, it could be something like each party succeeded in capturing an enemy and now both parties have to negotiate to free their respective ally… or not.

I think I got it now.

Actually, it’s not really murky. The game kinda revolves around PCs, as worthless as they are. The dragon is attempting everything to get what it wants (or what the GM wants for the dragon, and the PCs), except killing, because this option is unavailable according to the rules. It’s fine! As a GM, I don’t think I should reward a smart decision (running away from a dragon, as opposed to fighting it) with death by fire during a chase. If there was some extra in the party, unimportant characters, NPCs, they could die because yeah a dragon is a dragon and it can kill during a chase. Anything but the PCs. I think I want my players to try everything they can before they actually die. If they lose the Flee conflict, the rules tell us they’re still alive (unless they die because of Conditions), so I’d like them to keep trying until they die or escape alive.

I like this! Having to do one conflict after another to really get what you want could be fun in some cases!

Yes! I agree. And I understand better now. Thank you.
In my example above, I could say the Lizard Men are not trying to capture their aggressors, only to drive them off, but in case of a major compromise I could say they captured a PC.

Thanks for reminding me of that. I forgot the GM has the final word. However, even in a twist, players get to choose what they want among the listed conflicts of the monsters (“Rawr! Monster Twists” - p151). And because the Conflict occurs from a PCs point of view, it would be kind of unfair from me to declare a Capture conflict when the PCs are trying to flee or drive off the monsters that want to capture them.

If I did declare that Capture conflict anyway, it could lead to a situation where the players describe their characters trying to drive off the Lizard Men (or flee if they have the initiative and have been noticed), while the monsters are trying to capture them. We’d have the asymmetrical goals. Thus, the result could either be “PCs drive the Lizard Men off” or “Lizard Men capture PCs”. But as I said, I think it’s unfair, and that it doesn’t respect the rules (I know I could break them, but they’re here for a reason) . I’d rather let the PCs have their Drive Off or Flee conflict, because it corresponds to their intent, whereas Capture corresponds to the monsters intent.

But then, I find it a bit weird to see “Nets” as a weapon for Lizard Men in a Capture conflict, and to see Capture conflict as their strength. If PCs have the initiative (not a twist), and want to capture Lizard Men, why would Lizard Men be at their best when they’re not the ones capturing. Or because they’re specialised in capturing, does it mean they know how not get captured themselves? Now that I think about it, it makes sense, and, I just remembered the table p73 is only a suggestion… So. That’s that! I could’ve both parties trying to capture one another then.

Yes! I’m fine with that. I really like the idea of letting PCs try to do something where they have no chance of success.

I think I found the answer to my question! Thank you both for taking the time to answer, I really appreciate it! I wish you exciting adventures, be it in a dragon’s lair or somewhere else!