Lets talk about asymetric conflicts

To what extent do the players and GM talk about what’s at stake? There’s no writing down conflict goals in this game. On the players side the GM gets to determine the conflict type to match and represent the player’s stake.

Is the GM’s stake the same thing as what the monsters want or is it something approriate to the conflict that the GM wants to happen in the game?

You’re getting tripped up by BW/Mouse Guard here. The players have an intent, as described in Intent on page 67.

The GM interprets the players’ stated actions to determine what type of conflict it is.

If the GM wins, you may affect the players based on the type of conflict. See GM Wins on page 72.

If the GM loses but gets a compromise, see GM Loses ​on page 73.

So here’s the example that’s tripping me up.

A hungry Big Ass Monster shows up and wants to eat the adventurers or, I dont know, slaughter them in revenge for killing Mom. They try to drive it off. They lose, don’t touch its disposition. Does the BAM get a tasty meal for its effort?

Again, you’re getting tripped up by Mouse Guard. In Torchbearer, the monster shows up, that’s it. Players decide how they’ll deal with it.

For example, in one of our playtests, we were ambushed by cultists (Might 2). We chose to slaughter them and we lost horribly. We should have died except that our wizard, Cisneros, had cast Destiny of Heroes on us before the fight. So we had effective Might 4 vs their effective Might 2. Even though they should have killed us, the spell prevented that result. According to our relative Mights, the best they could do was run us off.

Hope that helps,

That’s tripping me up, too. Or something like the reverse:

Say the PCs are trying to kill a squad of 4 kobolds (just 4 so their Might doesn’t increase to 2 with swarming). What happens if the PCs just totally blow all their rolls and the kobolds win?

No. The table on page 73 suggests that if the GM wins, the monster either drives them off, or it captures them. You’re welcome to come up with some other result too, but killing them is not an option (however, if one or more of them has the Injured condition, you could potentially kill those characters as a result, even in a drive off conflict). If it wants to eat them, perhaps it captures them and brings them back to its lair to devour at its leisure. Depending on the level of compromise, perhaps it injures them or makes them afraid too (see Applying Conditions as Part of a Compromise on page 79). Only when they’re injured or when they try to kill is death on the line.

The kobolds injure them, capture them, drive them into a more dangerous monster, force them into an unexplored part of the dungeon, drop them down a well…pretty much anything but kill them outright. I favor injuring the party and putting them in a nasty situation that involves physical danger. (basically they get the breathing room of making one difficult roll before they die; if they fail that roll, that’s it).

That clarifies things a lot for me. Thanks!

Sometimes it’s harder to unlearn than learn. It was bound to happen.

Killing’s too easy. Capturing is what throws me off. So here’s my current understanding…

Thugs approach the PCs at the gate with cudgels and chains, intending (for all the good it will do them) to capture the PCs.

The PCs choose to Drive them Off. The PCs fail utterly and completely, but the Thugs, now realizing that they’re in over their heads and have no hope of capturing the PCs, instead Drive the PCs Off, or better yet, rob the PCs of any dice of wealth, or maybe weapons or some other equipment (Twist?).

Actually, by the chart on page 73, if the GM wins a Drive Off conflict he can capture the PCs, so I guess in this case the thugs get what they wanted.

Yeah, but that’s why it’s “or” (and just a suggestion). If they can’t do it, they can’t do it. In the previous kobold example that Luke gave, by the rules, the kobolds should have murdered the PCs in the Kill conflict… except they can’t, because they’re kobolds, so the kobolds drove the PCs off instead.

The problem here is your order of operations. In TB, it’s the following:

  1. Thugs approach characters with cudgels and chains, and say “'Ey, you. Elfie. You have some bills to pay.”
  2. The players describe their characters laughing and running away.
  3. The GM declares a flee conflict.
  4. The players lose, but earn a compromise: They’re surrounded in a farm house outside of town.
  5. The GM says, “Great. That night, you see a group approaching the picket with torches…”

Can you hear the deafening full stop silence that occurs between points 1 and 2? The GM describes the world. Period. The players describe their reaction to the world. THEN the GM assign a game system to arbitrate the situation.
You’re headed down the wrong track if your GM controlled entities are “intending” to do anything.


Well, that’s why I used a lowercase “capture”. Perhaps I should have said “apprehend”. They brought those chains for a reason, after all.

Anyway, point taken. :slight_smile:

I think for me, the greatest BW unlearning is not so much bringing a monsters intent to bear prior to assigning a game system to arbitrate the situation, but rather learning how to choose a game system to resolve a conflict given both the player’s actions and the monster’s want.

Give every single creature in your adventure a want. Some will want something from the adventurers: their flesh, their souls, their help, etc. Some will want something from the adventure area: a lonely ghost wandering around trying to find his lost boots, kobolds who covet the dragon’s hoard, a giant spider waiting for orcs to blunder into its web.

The system chosen by the GM to resolve a conflict is first tempered by the player’s description and your understanding of what the monster’s instinct / want is. It helps you portray the monster, not determine the players conflict obstacle to overcome (prior to them encountering the beastie). The emergent story will do all that!

The text on p125 quoted doesn’t say anything about interacting with the PCs - it’s only general GM advice (i.e. don’t put a giant spider into a room just to have a giant spider but give it a reason). But when the monster meets the party, it is the party’s reaction that determines the conflict type, not the monster’s intent.

Yeah, even if it’s a case of “the thugs want to capture the adventurers”, what it boils down to is “so this is what’s doing down; what are you doing about it?” And that’s how you set Dispositions and the type of conflict.

And really, that section on monster-wants is mostly about creating an avenue for PCs to pursue Convince/Riddle Conflicts, or even just avoid a conflict entirely if they’re clever.

Can a kill conflict be the result of an all-out loss of a flee conflict? For example, the players attempt to flee from a big baddie and fail all out – the baddie loses no disposition. Could the GM simply say “It corners you in a dead end tunnel and blocks the only escape. A tense moment passes and it’s eyes steel over as it moves in for the kill.” and bam killing is my business? (evil, I know)

This would be an asymmetric conflict of a might 6 baddie vs. might 3 adventurers

If the monser wins a conflict in which the players flee then the players are captured.

The looks close enough to be a monster twist in which you are able to have the creature engage in a conflict that it has a stated disposition for. But you determine which one by the players actions. So if they are cornered and the character draw swords and describe stabbing it’d happen as you describe.

What happens if the players have their characters flee from goblins? They can’t capture the adventurers due to insufficient might.