Hulling PC's

I’m running Fires Over Omac on Saturday, and this is the only little part of the game that’s still tickling my brain. It’s likely that it won’t come up in the demo, but I want to know, because it’s the only bit that I feel I would still hold back as GM, and I don’t want to hold back:

In short, What’s the deal with hulling PC’s? In the “Hulling” section (194-198) it details how to hull someone (Ob 2 or 4 Surgery test), and it mentions a player’s options once his PC is hulled, but it doesn’t say what a GM needs to do to be able to hull a PC. Do I simply have to have a Building scene and roll my surgery and then, BAM!, PC’s a worm?

Hmm, writing this is making me think. Okay, it’s not so simple: because one of my GMFON’s or whoever has to first capture or corral or convince the PC to be subjugated, and THEN the hulling can happen. It doesn’t feel as unfair that way, though it’s still only like 2 building rolls, so it seems a titch easy. Am I missing something here, rules-wise? Am I missing something about the emergent play because I haven’t played it?

EDIT: Is this my answer–capturing or corralling or convincing a PC to be subjugated/imprisoned is likely not a small matter, and so it probably takes a Duel of Wits, Psychic Duel, or Firefight to capture a PC. Right? This doesn’t seem unfair at all, and I would go for the throat as Danica during play.

Quoting Luke from this thread on Story Games:

You use your GM building scenes to simply and directly attack the PCs – the single most efficient builder in BE is Observation/Security to find a PC, Close Combat to kidnap him, and Surgery to hull him. One savage scene later, pass or fail, you’ve changed the game.


As a PC there is no way I’d ever agree to being captured like that as stakes for a one roll close combat. I’d insist on a full conflict.

Good thing there are no stakes setting negotiations in Burning Wheel!

Yeah, the player can’t do this, right? I never got the impression reading the book that a player or GM could invalidate a test just based on the fact that they don’t agree to it. I mean, there’s walking away in a Duel of Wits, but this is different.

Hmm, so it is that easy to Hull a PC. Well, looking at her Beliefs, Danica’s going to hull…wait, the Baron Zdrajca? Hmm, this is interesting!

Fast to attempt. Success not guaranteed.

EDIT: I personally like a bit more of a chase, a build up of fiction as I terrorize them and turn them against each other first. As a bonus if you can pull in other PCs trying to save your target you can get a 2 for 1 deal. But I’m a wimp.

I always thought the one roll close combat and things like rolling persuasion versus will were a simple way to resolve things that were not important enough to warrant a full conflict. I don’t see how you can say capturing a PC, for any reason not just hulling, is not important enough to require a conflict.

Edit: I think the issue of what is or is not too much for a building scene will ultimately come down to a decision each individual group. Aside from that, would the target of the observe/close combat/surgery still have the option to “cut and run” before the close combat roll even though it isn’t a conflict?

Well a LOT of things have to lead up to that moment. I don’t know that just declaring a security/observation roll, out of context with the game’s actual fictional details, would be enough when I run BE. It hasn’t been so far. I mean, there’s more going on than simple engagement with the mechanics.

Page 298 implies otherwise for BE, yet again showing BE isn’t BW proper, but it’s own game:

And the stakes setting is really a fun part of it, even if it isn’t implicly so…

I think Luke was being sarcastic

I wholeheartedly regret the use of the term “stakes” in that game. I did not use the term in the spirit its been read. Basically I’m talking about roleplaying in that section and I muck it up with jargon.

None the less, agreement of the involved parties is requisite as written in BE, with the group as appeal for “Is he being unreasonable?”

It’s utterly unlike BW or MG on that score. In BW, the GM is the final arbiter of all intents and tasks. In MG as well. In BE, it’s the group. Stakes is the best word. That particular section of advice to players uses the best terms for what is described more mechanically on the prior page; each side in the intent step is setting the stakes for the tasks which follow from those conflicting intents.

Back on topic, however, the victim always has the option to walk away; see p292…

So, by the letter, if the GM says he’s gonna hull X, X has the option to accept the intent, to twist the intent on resist, or to walk away… scene over. If the question becomes “Who’s being the dick?” it’s a group decision

Mm, note that the passage you quoted has the player walking away as the active party. If you set up a conflict scene, and you roll up on my secret base, and then you notice the minefield and AA batteries, you can walk away. It doesn’t say that you have the option to walk away from someone else’s scene.

I believe there is language like that in the DoW section, but I don’t think it’s present for Firefight or ICHASHITF. Don’t have my books, though, so can’t quote for you.

In addition, the passage doesn’t explicitly note that not all options may be available in all situations, but the presence of an escalation condition does implicitly establish that: You can escalate a DoW to a fight, and you can even escalate some fights to bigger fights, but there are certainly conflicts that are already as big as they can get. If not all conflicts can be escalated, it’s also possible that not all conflicts can be walked away from without handing over your opponent’s intent.

I think we all know that to be true, really. If you’re on trial, your options are a DoW with the prosecution or a guilty plea. Sure, you could go nolo contendere or just refuse to plead, but ultimately that hands over your opponent’s intent just the same. If you draw down on me, I don’t really get to say “No, you can’t shoot me, I stroll calmly out the door.”

totally, Devin. What you’re saying makes sense, Aramis, but in the end it doesn’t sit well. If we’re competing, and the GM is trying to hull my character in a building scene, I as the player can’t just say, “nuh uh. I won’t allow that. It doesn’t happen.” Otherwise, the game wouldn’t go anywhere. The point of playing BE, to me, is that the GM is going to (try to) do shit to my characters that I don’t like, and vice versa.

Devin, it points out the victim has those options, as well as the aggressor; a conflict however, is a different matter. If you’re spending a side’s one conflict, and the victim decides to walk away before it begins, that’s often being a dick, since it’s an involved bit of story, and a great way to get something odd you want.

It all boils down to Rule #1 for BWHQ products: Don’t be a dick.

Walking away, if its because the GM is trying to de-PC you, isn’t being a dick; it’s quite possibly saying, “Find a more interesting way to handle it and give me a fair shot at making it dramatic, at least!”

Once it escalates to a conflict scene, with the relevant series of rolls it means at least two scenes being used: the conflict to deliver the PC, AND a following builder to actually hull the captive. With a possibility of a hastily erected conflict or builder to rescue said PC before the GM can actually hull him.

Going the other way, tho’ if it’s not a GMPC/FON, (IE, the PC’s are Valen), it might not be worth it dramatically.

Hey Aramis, I don’t have time right now to go through the book to support it, but I don’t think you’re interpreting this correctly. At the very least it is definitely counter to our intent. The game was not meant to support the idea that players can veto another player from attempting something simply because they don’t like the ramifications.

Walking away only applies to conflicts, as in Duels of Wits and Firefights. By the rules, if a player with a fighting forces wants to use his scene for a Firefight to take over your space station, you can choose to walk away. If you do so, the other player gets your space station without a fight and without using up his conflict scene.

If Devin used his conflict scene as the GM for a Firefight with the goal of running your character to ground and capturing you, you have a few options. One, you can fight and see what happens. Two, if you still have your Building Scene, you can trigger that and use your rolls to try to escape so he can’t shoot at you. Three, you can choose the walk away option. If you do that, then Devin captures you without a fight.

To put it colloquially; Say “Yes” or roll is applicable in both directions in Burning Empires.

If I remember correctly, I Wont Fight you was added to ensure that you could eject from a scene you initiated, one that headed in an unintended direction. You roll up to my doctor’s office. We’re all Vaylen here. Maybe you won’t get that cyberarm installed. You jet. Done, no Resources test for you for tech. Your building scene is done. I dispatch goons for the kidnap attempt. You run. It’s my building scene. We test.

Anyway, the language is hugely problematic. It was an attempt to codify how you roleplay in Burning Wheel games – we talk back and forth until we have context to make a test. It backfired completely. Players either think that BE is a game of total democracy or that you don’t roleplay in the game at all. Ah well.

Note that Mouse Guard refines the language and rules. Still not perfect – since we get asked once a day what you do between the rolls in Mouse Guard – but better. Maybe we’ll get it next time.

This is very much the short version of how we deal with rolling in BE (not BW).

The GM wants to do something? The players Say Yes to it 'til they don’t like what they hear, and if they have a scene left and the GM isn’t being a dick about it, they interrupt the GM’s efforts and make him roll the dice.

The players want to do something? The GM Says Yes to it 'til he doesn’t like what he hears, and if he has a scene left and the player isn’t being a dick about it, he interrupts the player’s efforts and make him roll the dice.

Add in a general “don’t go looking for reasons to use every damned scene you have just because you have them” ethic and things can get slippery. But somehow we’ve made it work out here.

Paul, could you clarify for me what this looks like in play? Is it: The GM gets what she wants in her Color/Interstitial scenes until the players say, “hell no! We’re opposing that!” and someone takes a Builder/Conflict to oppose it?

That’s how I understood it, more or less. The text says, “If a player finds himself heading towards a conflict he doesn’t want to be in, he has three options…”

Key: “If a player finds himself heading towards a conflict he doesn’t want to be in”, not “if a player gets embroiled in a conflict he doesn’t like.”