Duel of Wits for One-on-One Social Conflicts

I’m certain this must have been discussed on this forum before, but my B3 Search-Fu brought up no successes.

It says in the book that Duel of Wits is meant to be used as a social conflict between two parties to convince a third party of a particular argument. Like, two courtiers each trying to win the fair lady’s favor, stuff like that. However, I have seen it suggested multiple times on this forum to go to Duel of Wits when two characters are arguing about something, and there is no third party to persuade.

How would this work?

I’m a bit confused about this. It seems that straight-up Persuade tests and such are meant for one-on-one conflicts. I like the idea of going to DoW – gives the PCs the chance to use those social skills against potentially easier Obs, gets a way deeper outcome, etc. – but I really don’t get how a one-on-one DoW would work. It seems like such a narrowly defined conflict system to me, that it really should only be used for when an audience is the one you’re trying to persuade, not the character you’re arguing with.

Can anybody explain this please? Or am I wrong that DoW can be used in this way?

I’ve used DoW many times when the goal is to persuade the other party. What’s important there is for both sides to agree to the stakes in advance–once those are locked in and the DoW starts, neither party can cry foul if they lose without compromise and have to accept the other side’s stakes in their entirety. They’re binding, and you already agreed to them.

Oftentimes, it’s better in that situation to aim for action rather than belief–in other words, to convince the other side to accept a given course of action because they lost the argument, rather than actually changing their minds.

I find that section extremely annoying. I wish it was evicerated when Luke came out with Gold, but there it is. I guess it protects the game from detractors who are opposed to social mechanics.

You will find a lot of examples of one-on-one DoW’s on this forum. I know the majority of times I’ve been in a DoW it hasn’t been about the audience. I know the majority of times I see DoW described, it’s about two players agreeing what their characters will do win or lose and the presence or absence of an audience is not the issue.

Hirram’s got it right. Everyone agrees to stakes they are comfortable with even if they lose utterly. The results are binding, but how you incorporate your actions into your character concept is open to interpretation. Go.

Yeah…I’ve never really gotten the “two parties are trying to convince a third” bit in DOW. What I did find super-interesting and a for-real revelation was finally understanding that it’s for disagreements between players, not characters. That was huge. Big step for me toward “don’t use the engine for every goddamned thing that happens”.

It’s both. It’s a useful tool for dealing with disagreements between players, but that’s just one aspect of it. The Duel of Wits in the Your Day in Court scenario s an example of using a Duel of Wits to sway a third-party audience. Another example happened in one of my games the other night, when a player character and an NPC ambassador from an expansionist empire debated before the city council on whether the city should go to war against the empire or become collaborators.

Sometimes the audience is simply the participants of the duel, which is fine. But that’s not every case.

True, but the text makes it seem like it is never the case.

Sometimes the participants are the audience, sometimes they’re playing to the crowd. That’s how we play it.

Isn’t this how the basic resolution mechanic works anyway though? Player states intent and task, GM states consequences of failure and sets the Ob. Go.

Maybe a better analogy would be to use DoW when the stakes are abnormally high, or when the possibility of compromise is interesting? And then also to resolve player disagreements, including when PCs don’t agree with the consequences of failure the GM sets. Physical consequences are more tangible, but social consequences are iffy, which sometimes calls for the subsystem to adjudicate, giving the possibility of compromise.

I am really pondering this, because it seems to me that there’s a real incentive for players to push for a DoW. Obstacles for regular social skill tests are tough for an “out of the box” character to beat. Push for a DoW, and you’ve suddenly got a chance to possibly pit your average social skills in versus tests, instead of just a static Ob. About half the actions in a DoW are versus tests, so that’s about 1.5 times the possibility of winning an argument, at the risk of about 1.5 times the chance of losing it, along with a much higher chance of getting routine tests in for advancement. It seems like a trade-off that benefits the PCs more than the NPCs. Should we perhaps mostly reserve DoW for when the players call for it?

In a one-on-one DoW, both sides are (when setting the stakes) agreeing that their target audience is the other person…

This also can make ties rather humorous, in the “You each convinced the other” mode.

Dean, there’s incentive for players to push for versus tests or DoW if they want something from an NPC. Of course, they are opening Themselves up to having to give up something if they lose.

Use DoW when the stakes feel meaty enough that everyone wants to spend time and focus on it. Use versus when you’re interested in bringing to dice but you want a quick resolution.

There’s no reason to restrict DoW to only when players call for it.

Actually, the best reason tactically speaking to push for a Dow is when you want to get a compromise. Versus tests are binary yes/no outcomes.

This makes sense.

(This is a Spark, but Aramis had a lovely idea which was to have compromises in versus tests also, using the winner’s successes as the body of argument, and the loser’s successes as the damage done. So if you beat someone 6 to 5, you owe them a major compromise as if you’d been beaten down to 1 point.)

That’s excellent! It’s the Bloody Versus version of DoW. It needs its own catchy name.

Interesting idea. When would you ever use the Duel of Wits system?

Witty Versus?

Duel of Wits alone vs audience:
I always found it interesting that in order to get a DoW you had to “trick” the person to talk to you in front of a crowd/in court. If you did it in the backroom there was much less guarantee that the other party would follow through. This makes the whole thing very Game of Thrones, Petyr Baelish etc. Puts more “meta” focus on honoring deals when others know.

Also make it much easier to “convince” the high will low social skill person infront of a crowd, than in his own study.

I make this decision the same way we do when we decide to use Bloody Versus or Fight - it’s about emphasis. Do we want to spend 10-15 minutes on this one social conflict? (Also, speaking as a GM whose group used one-roll resolution for 17 sessions, you get awful Fate bloat without the many rolls of the extended conflicts.)

This doesn’t sound right at all. DoW may have been formulated with big courtroom scenes or debates in mind, but the book clearly states that they do work one-on-one.

My take is this - the DoW chapter happens to be the place in the book where luke discusses how social tests work in Burning Wheel. If you happen to do a Persuasion versus test, the guidance in this chapter (e.g. argument, not mind control, but the consequences are binding OOC) fully apply in my opinion - otherwise what consequence do they have? You win a hollow victory, then the loser just does his own thing anyways? Simulating the social pressure to do things we don’t want to do is an amazing stepping stone to types of stories that just aren’t possible otherwise.

Witty Versus. I like it! Will have to try it out sometime. Thanks!

I like that title, too… So, I suppose it might make it into BWP…