eta: By Rolling I mean “continuous” or “carrying over”, not “the act of rolling dice”. Oops, I should have seen the much more obvious meaning of the word.
Background and Motivation
I’ve been thinking about some of the other threads regarding different approaches to conflicts. I’ve had my own issue with conflicts in my one player sessions. My player hates them now. They take a long time and feel restrictive to her because once the conflict type is decided there’s no backing out until someone’s disposition hits zero. For her case, taking a long time may be a consequence of the fact that there are few participants in the conflict. Help adds to actions more than disposition, since you take more actions than you do disposition rolls. So the more help available, the faster a conflict goes.
What follows is a different approach to conflicts, for your consideration. Basically, I just can’t help but mod things
Conflicts are not discrete. Instead of having a single character (capture, kill, convince, etc.) a conflict can evolve as time goes on. Instead of having a discrete encounter with a disposition that must drop to 0 for the conflict to end, disposition is something you carry with you as you adventure. Think of it as your mood, your energy, your overall condition.
Disposition is a stat that you note on your character sheet and keep track of throughout the adventure.
Disposition can be refreshed in camp or when entering town using a check or when leaving town if the lifestyle test is passed in addition to the other leaving town outcomes. To refresh disposition roll both Health and Will, the number of successes is your disposition. Your maximum disposition is your Health+Will. When refreshing your minimum disposition is 1.
During the adventure phase if your Disposition is 0 you cannot test. You are in shock or barely conscious. You can refresh your disposition during the adventure phase but the GM will apply a condition to your character appropriate to the cause of your lost disposition.
Starting a Conflict
A conflict starts when any character, player or non, declares an aggressive or coercive action against another character. When this happens the GM declares that a conflict has started. The players select a conflict captain. Weapons are not selected, you have whatever weapons or items were currently in your hands to start the conflict. If there’s any disagreement, use what is listed under carried on the player’s sheet. If the player does not have a weapon listed under carried, they don’t have it drawn at the start of the conflict.
Sente is a term I’m taking from the game Go that means initiative. The side with sente chooses their action first, and it must be aggressive, or they must cede sente to their opponents. Whoever initiates a conflict starts with sente. If the conflict was the result of a twist the GM always starts with sente. If the players sought out the conflict (it was not a twist) then the players start with sente.
The captain side with sente selects a character to act or cedes sente to the other side. If both sides cede, then the conflict is over, see below. The acting character with sente must describe what aggressive action they are taking, they cannot defend. This could be swinging with a sword, starting an argument, or trying to grab someone to wrestle them to the ground. They place an attack, feint, or maneuver card face down on the table (or write it on a hidden piece of paper). The captain of the other side selects a character to react. They declare out loud how they are responding descriptively and then state whether they are attacking, defending, feinting, or maneuvering. The outcome of the exchange is determined as per the TB raw rules, with a few exceptions to follow.
What are you doing? Are you swinging with a sword? Then test fighter. Are you trying to outrun someone? Test Health or Rider. Are you trying to defend your point in an argument? Test Persuader. Conflicts rarely have one nature, you can have an argument while exchanging blows, and you can even decide to flee once things turn sour (though you’d better be better at fleeing than you are at fighting).
Sente has control: The person with sente each round effectively declares what type of conflict it is. You can only respond with an action appropriate to that conflict. You can’t defend an argument with a shield. You can’t just attack someone with a sword when they are fleeing.
Who Has Sente: If the exchange is a versus test, then the winner has sente next exchange. If it was independent tests, then sente does not change. If one side did not get to test (Defend vs Feint or Feint vs Attack) then the other side has sente next exchange.
Taking Sente: The reacting player can opt to take no action, causing the action being used against them to become independent. In exchange their team gets sente automatically for the following exchange. You would use this if you need to change the conflict type. For example, the fight may be going poorly, and you may want to flee instead of continuing to fight. You may be in the middle of an argument, realize you are losing, and decide it’s time to draw swords. However, by forcing the conflict to change course without having control over it, you leave yourself vulnerable to one good attack.
What a twist: You can only take actions in a twist conflict that are appropriate to the conflicts listed in your opponent’s disposition list. At the beginning of the conflict the GM should make it clear that you are surrounded and cannot flee, or that they are too angry to listen to your arguments.
Language wise: Still applies. No convincing things you cannot communicate with.
Maneuver: One margin of success in a Maneuver can also be used to draw or pick up a weapon.
Whose action is it anyway? Each character on a given side with disposition remaining must act once before any of those characters can act again. The captain of each side should write down who has acted as they act so that no member of a side is skipped.
Ending a Conflict
A conflict ends when everyone on one side is reduced to 0 disposition, one side surrenders, or both sides cede sente.
When one side surrenders the general expectations of their surrender. If the other side accepts that interpretation then the conflict is ended. If they do not, then the surrendering side loses sente and the conflict continues. For example. The orcs may decide to turn and flee, to which the players respond “We let them”. The players are surrendering and declaring their expectation that the orcs get away. If the orcs really were trying to get away, then the GM accepts this. If they were just regrouping, then the players lose sente and the orcs rejoin the conflict with an aggressive action.
If the players are reduced to zero disposition then they get a twist (the opposition gets what they wanted) and must refresh their disposition, earning a condition of the GM’s choice, in order to continue adventuring.
If the opposition is reduced to zero disposition then the players get what they wanted. The type of the last exchange determines the nature of the outcome. The GM can offer alternative outcomes based on the other exchange types in the conflict, in which case the conflict captain decided, but the players cannot lobby for a specific type of outcome. They may ask, but not present arguments.
If the conflict ends because both sides ceded sente, it essentially means that neither side wants the conflict to continue anymore. The GM should decide who was the main aggressor. They don’t get what they wanted, the status quo or state of affairs before the conflict started is preserved. The players cannot reengage in a conflict with those individuals again unless something significant changes. If you have sente and don’t want the conflict to end, then never cede sente. That may mean that you never get to defend, but that’s the risk you take.
As with TB raw, the turn counter is advanced only at the end of a conflict.
Compromises: Compromises are handled by the rolling disposition system. Having lost disposition means you have less for the next conflict, that’s your compromise. If a players disposition is very low and he doesn’t have checks, he’ll probably take a condition in order to refresh.
Argument Compromises? Yes, you can get a concession even if you lose a compromise. You get it when your opponent promises or agrees to something as a weapon during the argument. Those are effective weapons, so each side is encouraged to make these compromises as part of their strategy for overall victory. If they can win without those compromises it will be more grueling, but having not promised anything, they don’t have to deliver anything.
Encountering Obstacles in a Conflict
Did you burst down a door while running away only to find a room full of orcs? No problem, add them to the conflict.
Did your actions trigger a trap during the conflict? Make the Health test to avoid that poison gas and advance the turn counter, but it doesn’t interrupt the conflict. Your candle or torch may well go out as a result of this. You might want to use a margin of success from a maneuver action to light a new one… assuming someone in the party still has something lit. Thirsty? You might want to use a margin of success from a maneuver action to grab a quick drink. Generally good ideas are still good ideas in combat, but the GM is within his right to ask you to successfully maneuver in order to buy time to get what you want.
This will likely be significantly slower. The person with sente has to decide each round what they are doing, and the defender has to decide how they want to react. It’s much faster to decide three things up front without knowing what your enemy is doing, than to make decisions on the fly with knowledge. Expect longer conflicts, particularly if the players and GM aren’t keen on surrendering.
More disposition? There’s a decent chance that there’s a lot more disposition involved in a conflict, since each character has their own disposition. However, since A) we’re rolling the stats instead of adding one and B) refreshing disposition requires a check or condition, it might actually not be too bad. It might even be less disposition than TB raw, though probably only playtesting would tell for sure.
Advancement? Changing the conflict in the middle can lead to extra opportunities for advancement… possibly too many. Consider restricting every character to two marked tests for advancement during a conflict, unless they spend checks for more opportunities to advance.