Paying Twists with Conditions

After reading this thread I started thinking in Torchbearer tests dynamics.

I love the idea of players negotiating in the game table, and in my experience players tend to feel Conditions as punishment for their tests, so the idea is:

Test procedure:
The GM asks for a test with a clear idea about what’s at stake and a prepared twist. The player can accept this twist or propose a Condition. The GM can accept this Condition or push for a different one. The player can then accept the final Condition or settle for the twist.

It’s a small “hack”, but I feel it will have a deep impact in how the table sees tests and Conditions. The only rule I feel “interferes” in intent with this is the Don’t Negotiate rule, but I see that it focuses in a different problem (players hindering the pace of the game by looking for the best course of action, sucking the spotlight).

Is there something I’m not seeing? A breakable mechanic?

Stay cool :cool:

I sort of do this already sometimes. When my players do something risky I’ll sometimes ask them what their top priority is. “How cautious are you being as you cross this rope bridge, do you really want to get to the other side or are you more concerned with the bridge not breaking.” Then if they fail I’ll know whether to give them a condition but let them get across the bridge or a twist, like the bridge collapsing. I’ve also done this after the fact too. A player was jumping over the pit holding the only lit torch. He failed the test. I said “you can drop the torch and try to grab the edge, otherwise it looks like you’re going in the pit.” He dropped the torch.

eta: other times I just make the decision myself, but when it feels appropriate, like they could or should have some say, I’ll give them a chance to influence the failure outcome.

Yes, I tend to do the same, but I found two problems with this:

-Players have no idea what is on my mind, and things that might seem easy from their character’s point of view can be risky from the GM’s point of view.
-Sometimes a dungeon has a theme in common, which means similar Conditions (if they are searching for the lost temple of Shub Niggurath they’ll come across a lot of Afraid Conditions). This, I found out, can affect severely a character with a low corresponding recover ability (happened to me in the Ancient’s Crypt). This way players will push for the most favorable Conditions and have an edge in Camp Phase (as long as their argument makes sense).

I’m looking to give my players more power when taking the dice for a test, but also more responsibilities, they are not depending on ONE person’s arbitrary decision. Also I feel that it will enrich the fiction’s outcome (“How exactly does reading the lost confesion of Athammaus makes you Angry?”).

Stay cool :cool:

I wasn’t with you until the last sentence. I do like the notion of having players own the outcomes. On the other hand, I would worry about whether the players would own the outcome or just use the extra control to their advantage playing the meta-game instead of the roleplaying game. Plus the GM may have a really juicy twist in mind that would help the story, the players wouldn’t know that and might choose a condition. In certain situations I could see this being interesting, but I don’t know that I’d want to adopt it as a general rule.

Hmmm. What about something like this…

Change Your Fate: If you fail a roll that would produce a Twist, you may spend a Fate point to take a Condition of your choice (except Hungry and Thirsty) instead. If you fail a roll that would give you a Condition, you may spend a Fate point to make the GM choose a Twist instead.

No idea how that would change the dynamic of things, though.

Not 100% sure. I really like the idea of the characters spending something for the benefit of taking control over the outcome of a test, but I feel that:

-They would never spend their rewards for something that already “punish” them. They are not only gaining a condition but also lost a Fate point in the process (a Fate point they could risk to pass the test).
-There is no negotiation, the player just states what condition he wants regardless of how logical it is for the situation, and since he’s spending something, he’s more entitled to choose.

Also I don’t like the idea of forcing the GM to come up with a twist on the fly. I feel like it is harder to introduce an interesting twist if taken by surprise.

Maybe a check instead of a Fate point?

Stay cool :cool:

I don’t know, I would never let my players just state something without some narrative explanation. Do your players describe how they use their traits? Would you let them use honest to help them lie to and manipulate someone? If they offered a good explanation, sure. I would think the same would apply to this. They’d have to describe how they got the condition, which ties in with your notion that you want them to own their outcome and explain why they got angry or how they got injured.

I’m glad you said that you think it’s too harsh, because I was worried it was too generous. I feel like my players need more opportunities to use Fate points. Right now it’s just expanding 6’s (and if they roll a bunch of 6’s at low level that usually means they’re passing the test already, it seems to be rare that they roll 6’s and don’t pass… actually they just don’t seem to roll a lot of sixes) or rerolling failures related to a wise. I’m sure they’d use the latter frequently except that humans starting out only have 1 wise.

It’s kind of an interesting notion, if I continue having a problem with Fate points I might try it out.

Yeah, I think I’ll go with CarpeGuitarrem’s take, only with more emphasis in negotiating the Condition. It seems more… round. I will apply this house rule after they finish this dungeon, so I can have more experience with the game as written.

Also I love the name :wink:

Stay cool :cool:

I’m (obviously) not Thor, but:

a) I think it also interferes with Describe to Live. The basic fabric of the game is “players describe what their characters do, GM acts as the interface for the world.” This is why the GM is the one who calls for tests, not players - there’s no “I want to make a Scavenger test to…” but rather “I look for _____, [describe how I’m looking]” - and giving the players such broad control over the fiction is, I think, against the spirit/intent of Describe to Live. Of course, that might be OK with you, since Describe to Live might actually be slightly counter to the spirit/intent of how you run games. :wink:

b) I don’t think Don’t Negotiate was put in the game to solve the “problem” of players slowing the game down (although it does help address that). I think Don’t Negotiate is a supplementary rule to Describe to Live - the players describe what their characters are doing, full stop. They’re not intended to be able to quibble over obstacle numbers, massaging the fiction in order to yield a more favorable mechanical situation. There are no backsies - if a character is described as poking at a mechanism to try to disable it, and the GM calls for a Dungeoneering test, the player’s not allowed to say “No! Wait! I don’t want to make a Beginner’s Luck test! If I’d known there’d be a test, I wouldn’t have done that!” I think Don’t Negotiate is more in line with that than a pacing or spotlight-sharing control.

So basically, I think your proposed hack runs counter to a lot of what the game’s “supposed” to be about. :slight_smile: However! To keep this from being an entirely negative post telling you you’re bad and you should feel bad (;)), I’ll second CarpeGuitarrem’s suggestion to let the players spend rewards to pick Twist or Condition on a failed roll (but the specifics are still up to the GM). I think it makes your game a little more “gameable,” though; my players are often heard to say “c’mon, make the test, the worst that can happen is we’ll get a Condition and we have plenty of checks” (whereupon I chuckle evilly to myself and start thinking of the meanest, nastiest twist I can introduce) and allowing them to pick Twists or Conditions means they can shoot for whatever they think will be less damaging. I suspect my group would be more about converting Twists into Conditions, because it means you’ve succeeded at what you were attempting (so you’ll pass through the obstacles/dungeon quicker) and you can mitigate Conditions with prayers, checks, Alchemy, class abilities, etc., while Twists delay your progress through the obstacles/adventure and put you in a spot.


Totally, I will go with players only converting Twist to Conditions and not the other way around. Giving the chance of success with a Condition was the point from the beginning.

I don’t see how this could interfere with Describe to Live:

Character describes his actions -> GM asks for a test -> Player makes the roll -> Character fails the test -> GM introduces a twist -> Player spends a Fate point to change twist to a condition arranged with the GM.

Stay cool :cool:

I would say they have to declare their intention to use Change your Fate after the dice show a failure but before the GM describes a twist. Some twists are story oriented and contain spoilers, or rather, content that would be a spoiler if the players can somehow undo the twist.

Example: (House of Thee Squires spoilers, sort of)

In the House of Three Squires my players failed to detect a trap. As a twist I had the tunnel collapse and they had to make Health tests to get out of the way. One of them failed. As a twist I introduced Elsa, who was hiding nearby and was now buried under the rubble. Had the used Change your Fate on any but the last test fine. But if I said “you hear a cry of pain coming from the rubble” and they said “Change your Fate!” I would definitely not be happy with that.

Reading Describe to Live with a closer eye, I think you’re right DagaZ - it doesn’t interefere with Describe to Live. (It interferes with GM’s Role, but that’s the point of your hack!) I formally retract a), above. :slight_smile:


Changing Your Fate
Spend a fate point after a failed test. Turn the resulting twist into a condition, GM’s choice.

You must spend the point before the GM introduces the twist.

What you guys think?

I was going to add a clarification saying that a player can retract if he feels that the condition is too hindering and let the GM go on with his planned twist, but I felt that the clarification didn’t fit in the wording.

Stay cool :cool:

A possible addition with the intent of handling the situation/issue raised in bold below:

Tools of the Trade - Fate’s Fickle Fortune:

When a Player invokes Change Your Fate, once the Fate Point has been spent, the GM may instead award the Player with one free Check before proceeding with the originally described Twist.

The Gods’ willful machinations are not so easily foiled ye mortal adventurers of tiny stature!

One point on Change Your Fate: I’d test it and see if players are willing to take a condition instead of a twist that they don’t know. I get the feeling that with the proper GMing, players would dread an unknown twist enough to swap it out for a condition…but it’s also possible that, since they don’t know what it is, they can’t evaluate it. The evaluation is much easier if you know that a twist will be a Very Bad Thing.

(I also am amused in a good way by Fate’s Fickle Fortune, especially the ending tagline.)

I’m still comfortable with the players picking the condition as long as they can justify it to the satisfaction of the group.

As for Fate’s Fickle Fortune, the name and tagline are cool… but I’m a little uncomfortable with the mechanism. I mean, in raw the players decide when to get check and the players get to roll when they encounter twists. For the rules to offer the players something and then allow the GM to take it away and hand out a pity check as compensation seems a little contrary to me. A die of fate might make it feel a little better though.

Agreed that generally the rules shouldn’t offer the player a biscuit that may then be subverted into something else by the GM - but in this case, the idea was to offer a tool for the GM to handle the situation you brought up wherein the GM’s Most Excellent Twist was subverted/diffused by the Player’s use of ‘Change Your Fate’. Trying to minimize the verbage of the rule, I didn’t make that bit clear in the wording, which could possibly be something more along the lines of:

Fate’s Fickle Fortune: After a Player has spent a Fate point to invoke the Change Your Fate effect, if you had a particularly juicy, plot-furthering Twist prepared for this Test, you may instead award the Player with one free Check before proceeding with the originally described/intended Twist. The Gods’ willful machinations are not so easily foiled ye mortal adventurers of tiny stature!

A die of fate might make it feel a little better though.

In my opinion, that just adds an extra roll and makes it arbitrary rather than a conscious directed ruling by the GM. Personally, I’d rather drop “Fates Fickle Fortune” altogether than to add a die of fate to the mix.

But I’m not advocating strongly for the hack one way or the other - just offering suggestions. (:


I’m not convinced :confused: that would be introducing two totally different mechanics (Rewards and checks) and merging them into one quite arbitrarily. Also no Reward expenditure is THAT complex. I don’t like teasing the player with the idea of a choice, making him spend his reward and then taking that away from him. Sounds like cheating the players out of the system.

Now a point about how I think

[…]the GM may have a really juicy twist in mind that would help the story, the players wouldn’t know that and might choose a condition.
is pointless (just and opinion, might be wrong):

Twist and conditions are a mechanism to have the game running. There are no fruitless tests, either you are successful but hurt or you are introduced into another problem. GM’s can’t have their games depending on a failed roll. That (IMO) is bad GMing. You might have the juiciest twists of them all, but that doesn’t guarantee that the characters are going to fail in a situation that makes sense for the twist.

Also it’s a self solving problem. “Letting” characters succeed is going to move forward the adventure anyway! (that’s the beauty of a conflict resolution oriented mechanic that one focused only on task resolution).

That’s another reason I have the “GM” choosing the condition. If he has placed a Problem too high for success hoping to introduce a twist (not totally agree with that kind of GMing, but is valid) the GM might go for a heavy condition (Injured, Sick, Dead) to push the player to settle for a twist. After all the Ob is high for a reason.

Stay cool :cool:

Bah! The Gods work in mysterious ways! <grin>

No but seriously - I completely get where you’re coming from and tend to agree, considering the fact that the player would be using this in order to specifically avoid said Twist. To then take the point and introduce the twist anyways would be crappy.

[…] would be introducing to totally different mechanics (Rewards and checks) and merging them into one quite arbitrarily.

… this however, I think still has potential, maybe. Using Checks as an alternate/secondary currency? For negotiating stakes/story between GM and Player? To power special abilities/effects?

But that’s pretty radically game-changing stuff; I don’t want to derail this thread. :o