Group Manipulation

The party’s leader finds herself in a difficult station, facing more than a dozen kobolds alone, with the rest of the crew just behind. The Elf gets an idea and uses Dance of the Fireflies, taps his nature to sing an elven battle song, and make as much commotion as possible while he and the Wizard charge into the room. I rule that it’s a manipulator test to scare off some of the kobolds. Manipulator is a vs… so is it versus each kobold, making it very easy to scare them all off, or is it a a single versus test with all of the kobolds helping making it very likely that none of them will be scared off? I went with a versus test for each kobold but gave them each a bonus for having lots of allies around. What would you have done?

I would have made it a single versus test with helping dice for the kobolds, maybe capping it at 5-6D worth of help. But I almost always err on the side of the fewest dice rolls.

Also, I probably would have had the beasties scatter in groups, and given everyone conditions - IMO, driving off the enemy is really just kicking the can as far down the road as possible and hoping that you can loot and escape the dungeon before the monsters can regroup. Scattering them means that they’re still lingering around, waiting for someone to fail a roll so they can be re-introduced as a twist.

Like Shaun if you handle this as one test - I would have allowed them to charge into that room without testing to initiate a full Drive off conflict - I suggest using Nature + 1D/helper but would allow the PCs to add +1s as they are of higher Order of Might. Failing that test could possibly get them in an Kill conflict…


To me, that sounds either like a Trick (“we’re being invaded!”) or a Drive Off (the group hits them hard and fast, getting them to run for it before they know what’s happened). I’d probably ask a few questions first: Are you trying to make them think there are a lot more of you than there really are? Or are you trying to overawe them with your power or what?

The Trick idea is interesting. If I decide that’s what’s happening, then I probably would have about half the kobolds go haring off as a result of the Fireflies before I even pick up the dice. I wouldn’t do that with orcs, but kobolds are pretty high strung. Then I’d go into the Trick conflict as normal.

If I went with the Drive Off conflict, I would allow the elf to use Dance of the Fireflies as a weapon once for a single action. It just seems right in this case.

Kobolds don’t have Drive Off as a listed conflict, so unless you roll nearly all successes, it would naturally limit the number of kobolds in the conflict. Let’s say there were 15 total kobolds in the room. You roll a total of 16D for their disposition (base nature of 2 + 14 helping dice). I just did it and got 8 successes. So their disposition is 10. You can get 10 total kobolds into the conflict (the other 5 go running immediately). Your first action, you’ll be slinging 11 total dice (base 2 + 9 helpers). It seems like a lot, but each kobold only has one stone of disposition. Your group can knock half or more of them out with a single action if they choose actions well.

Hmmm, I didn’t want to do a conflict because the intent of the players was to try and scare as many off as possible preemptively before any conflict starts, sending them into a conflict with only a one time use weapon doesn’t seem to respect their intention. Perhaps I should have made it a single test Ob2 (for the nature of a kobold) and treat the margin of successes as a penalty for the disposition of the kobolds in the proceeding drive off conflict… that might have been more appropriate than individual tests which made it to easy or a single doom test which would be impossible.

I thought the GM decides when and if a conflict has begun, no?

Absolutely, but based on the actions the players take. Look at it this way, if their plan failed and they ran into the room to see 16 kobolds still standing there ready to fight, I don’t think they would stick around for an entire drive off, a flee would probably be their choice. If I forced them into a drive off then I would be forcing them to lie and justify why they are swinging swords to win a conflict when what they really want to do is beat feet and run. If their intention wasn’t to drive off the enemy with martial skill they I certainly shouldn’t be forcing that on them, if the intimidate fails they should still have the option of how they deal with the kobolds since that plan didn’t work.

I suppose I could have done a whole trick conflict… but what’s the second action? So they lead with an attack using the dancing lights as a weapon, but after that’s over, if they haven’t won or lost then they’re out in the room. What next? They’re stuck in the position of justifying a continued trick that has already essentially failed because now their enemy can see that they aren’t an army of adventurers. I just think a conflict isn’t always the first thing you should jump to when the players describe what they are doing. That might trap them in a drawn out event that they didn’t really intend to be a part of anyway.

I would have set a flat obstacle there and asked for them to hit. You aptly point out that neither versus nor independent tests really work. The Margin of Success idea is a good one! But I would have set the obstacle a little higher—based on the outlandish improbability of the plan. Shouting “woo woo” and flashing some lights isn’t necessarily scary to some…

It was tapping elven nature to sing a song of battle that sold it for me. But yeah, I was thinking of setting a flat obstacle, but I wasn’t really sure how to factor it. Anyway, I think it worked out okay, the session ended shortly after, but it’s only a matter of time before the kobolds regroup, they certainly haven’t seen the last of them.

I’d still do it as a Trick conflict. If the players win, the kobolds run for it. If the players lose with some level of compromise, they run off a number of the kobolds based on the compromise and dive immediately into a Drive Off conflict.

Good Idea! Xd6 kobolds flee the room? A little lame, but it might have worked as a quick house rule.

The margin of failure option seems more elegant, though.

Stay cool :cool: