Impressions of Conflict System

I’ve found it very easy mechanically, not hard conceptually, but not overly easy conceptually, either.

Even if they all have the same base intent, dividing up is sometimes worthwhile.

The hardest parts for my players were:
(1) setting sufficiently high intent stakes.
(2) reading what I was going to do.
(3) Narrating help dice.

1 took a couple weeks. 3 took another couple weeks to get comfy.

2 never happened. Every time one would read me right, another would read me wrong and argue it… this went back and forth since mid december that way…

The D&D crowd really only have to learn that there is no intermediate effects in a 1 on 1 combat until someone is out of dispo. Get creative, narrate it as a series of non-telling blows until someone drops to 0. But it is the same issue in a number of games. Heck, to a small extent, its true of D&D 4… a major blow in 4E might drop you to 1 or 2 HP left, and a second wind have you back to 20 in the next, or your paladin hit you for +10.

THe lack of absolute positioning is no big deal, either… T&T has done that for 30+ years… as have many people’s D&D games.

The thing is, you can go far beyond combat with conflict. I had one session where they moved a behive… as a conflict. Attack was Apiarist, Defend was loremouse or nature, feint was Apiarist, and maneuver was Loremouse or nature. Worked great, once they started describing in terms of Defend being calming the bees and keeping from getting stung, and attacks being provoking the bees to follow… it was a hoot. (ISTR writing it up around here…)

Building that bridge across the raging river is doable, too… Carpenter or Stonemason for Attack and Feint, healer or orator for defend and maneuver. Roll the season’s nature for the weather opposing.

It is massively flexible.

It works great, so long as everyone describes what’s being done.

Thanks for pulling this out into a new thread, Aramis! And also thank you for your responses!

Correct me if I’m wrong (since I’m still working without a rulebook here), but those two are directed to setting the goals for the conflict, right? Are these goals set independently (in secret)? Or are they collaborated … and does the GM let the players know about the opposing goal prior to the players making their goal?

THe lack of absolute positioning is no big deal, either… T&T has done that for 30+ years… as have many people’s D&D games.

Yeah, I have no problem with that either. I blame 3E for having made that a formal part of roleplaying. I’m actually more used to relying on the GM to adjudicate my actions.

Going back to the combat-oriented conflict mechanics …

I predict that my players and I will have a problem with item #1 “setting sufficiently high intent stakes.” I haven’t done any BurningX, and D&D has been the biggest portion of my roleplaying experience. Breaking out of that “rush into combat” mold and taking the time to set goals first will be tough.

Intent-setting in scripted conflicts – that is, situations where you might have to compromise – is, to me, one of the Big Challenges of learning BW-style play.

Setting a suitable intent means aiming for IMO a rather narrow window. Set the intent too low, and there’s no tension. Also, it’s very difficult to come up with a compromise because the stakes are already so low. Set it too high, and you run the risk of tripping the players’ risk aversion.

Unfortunately, you also really only get one shot: If you offer up an unsuitable intent and then start negotiating up or down, you’ve effectively begun the conflict resolution process without engaging with the system. And I think we all know that, in BW-think, that’s the Original Sin.

What also makes that tough is that there’s no single right answer for every group. Some players are way, way more risk-averse than others. It might be totally awesome to set an intent at the level of “if we win this War conflict, the weasels are driven from the territories for a generation; if you win, Lockhaven is destroyed!” But that might be too radical or large an outcome for some groups.

Very tough call. I’ve been playing for years and still come up against this issue.


They’re independent in a sense. Goals are devised independently but are explicitly stated. Compromises are also offered openly and agreed upon by both the players and GM, with the winner of the conflict having a bit more leeway in setting terms of the compromise.

Not necessarily prior, but together. All goals are stated very openly: “This snake’s goal is to drive you away from its nest,” “This skunk is trying to spray you all to drive you away” or "Having damaged public property, Mayor Buzz says, ‘You must leave the town immediately.’ "

Consequences of failure are not stated or negotiated before a test in Mouse Guard.

Yeah, my brain’s been on BWR lately. :slight_smile: Realized after I posted that, in MG, it’s almost impossible for consequences of failure to be known beforehand since they will likely involve either an appropriate condition of the GM’s choice or a compromise which, by its nature, can’t be worked out prior to the situation resolving itself. I’ll edit that part out of my post above.

As a first-time MG person, and having never seen any BurningX stuff, learning about this makes me both scared and excited.

On the surface (having quickly skimmed through the rulebook while trying to avoid the gaze of the bookstore employees) – Mouse Guard’s conflict mechanism is a refreshing breeze after years of D&D. As both a player and a GM in D&D, I’ve often wondered at the “ease” of directing a combat and the difficulty in directing a non-combat conflict. So I welcome having a tool that turns both into an abstraction and approaches it in a unified way.

I can easily see using the conflict mechanism for a non-combat conflict … and that’s probably because it has added structure to an area of D&D roleplaying that I’ve always felt has lacked structure.

D&D’s combat, on the other hand, already has structure; and the mechanics of that has been so prevalent that many people (myself included) are essentially brainwashed into it. So I think it will take some time to “undo” old ways of thinking, and bring the new paradigm into play.

Yes, yes, yes. My thoughts exactly. Now that I’ve encountered Burning Wheel - at least the small view I get from Mouse Guard - I don’t think I’ll ever return to games that don’t offer the same conflict resolution mechanics. I’m all about story - in a big way - and MG’s mechanics actually build and promote story in an exciting way. Even as the GM I don’t know what’s going to happen. Damn I love that. And yes, I know this can be done with most other RPGs, but somehow it just feels more “natural” in MG.

And hey - it’s got freakin’ mice with swords. :wink:

I agree with this. For MG, I (and my never-gamed-before girlfriend and her friend) found it every easy to get into and I love how all four actions apply across the board for situations. It’s definitely a switch of mindset, with roleplaying and intent happening before dice are rolled as opposed to added as a flourish (if added at all) after the dice are rolled.

Well… BWR and MG share the same idea for their conflict systems, but BWR has three distinct ones (Duel of Wits, Range and Cover and Fight!) with different actions and minor rules changes for each. If you like the conflict system in MG, though, you’ll likely enjoy those for BWR (once you work through them a few times to get familiar and comfy with them).

This reminds me of the battlecry in Disney’s An American Tail…

“Are we men, or are we mice?”
“MICE!” charge!!

I’m all about story - in a big way - and MG’s mechanics actually build and promote story in an exciting way. Even as the GM I don’t know what’s going to happen.

I gotta echo that. I think we – both players and GMs – have gotten “lazy” since we’ve become inundated with campaign books, source books, and novels.

There’s another thread somewhere in these forums where someone was asking about future MG products. And my initial reaction was “oh yeah, i want more too!”

But now that I know more about what BurningX and MGrpg are about, the opportunity to build a journey with my players has become so much more enticing.

Good point. For many of my campaigns I’ll script months and months worth of campaign events. I know everything that’s going to happen - which almost requires me to railroad my players. With MG I don’t do that. I have two paragraphs of notes - one for each obstacle for the GM’s Turn - and that’s it. I sit back and let the dice and players’ actions tell me a story.

Ahhh, it is a good time to be a gamer.

True… and that, too, is something that is jarring in MG; Conflict is intent driven, nothing else is.

They are often evident from the scene. Whomever decides it’s a conflict set the first intent, then everyone else gets to decide what to set for intent, or to help someone else’s intent. Each person who doesn’t help, they get their own intent with a disposition, or may even stay out of it if not included in someone else’s intent.

It’s kind of a verbal free-for-all, and often took my group up to 2 minutes of chatter. I usually either had set first, and announced, or set mine in response to the first declared intent.

EG:Me: You caught up with them in the far end of the escape tunnel. 5 mice, armed and armored.
Steve: I’m shooting to prevent them from getting out the end of the tunnel.
Steph: what?
Me: Ok, two intents… Group B is 3 mice, and is attempting to drive back and kill you all. Group B is trying to get out the Door.
Crystal: Kill ‘Em. Kill them all.’
Tam: I’m helping Steve
Steph: then I’ll help Crystal.
We all then roll the available dispos…
I roll for groups A & B; Steve, with Tam’s Lieam’s help die, rolls for Alexi and Lieam as a team; Crystal rolls for Baroness and Nola as a team, with Nola’s help die from Steph.

As a side note, the thing I most frequently get 3rd Edition D&D players telling me is their most hated aspect of 4th is the added detailed rule system (Skill Challenges) for resolving non-combat events. They find the notion offensive. My biggest issue with it is that the system they defined is a different one then used in the combat, a flaw MG nicely avoided… One of the big goals in 3rd had been to unify the mechanics, and now 4th goes and renews the mistake.

To my understanding, 4th just codifies how you were supposed to do such things in 3rd a bit. But anyways, grognards who don’t want social rules will likely find many other things in MG they also don’t like.

4E “Skill Challenges” are an extended resolution mechanic with a complexity which determines the # of rolls. C1 is 4s before 2f. Each roll may be on any of several skills. Difficulty of each roll is set separately.

D&D Skill Challenge: D&D Skill Roll :: MG Conflict : MG Vs Test

D&D 4E Challenges table
C:   S   F
1:   4   2
2:   6   3
3:   8   4
4:  10   5
5:  12   6