By Darren Hill
This system was inspired by Trollbabe by Ron Edwards. It is very fast in play (at the table, at any rate). It cuts down on the number of rolls - many conflicts are decided after 1-3 rolls. But players don't feel cheated - every roll is filled with dramatic tension, if it's a conflict they care about. And if it's not, they give up before they take anything more than a Mild Consequence.
Whenever someone wants to do something, and someone else wants to interfere (and controls a character or entity that is able to), a roll is made.
A single opposed roll of the most relevant traits is made, and loser suffers the consequence listed on the table below:
|1-2||Mild Consequence||A Scene or Two|
|3-4||Moderate Consequence||A Day or Two|
|5-6||Severe Consequence||A Session or Two|
|7+||Taken Out (Lasting Consequence)||Many Sessions, an entire Story Arc|
After losing a roll, you have an immediate choice: Concede, or Press On.
Concede: If you concede, you suggest a way in which you lose this contest, just as in SOTC. The winner can decline and force you to continue, but if the GM believes the offered concession made sense under the terms of the conflict, the winner must pay the loser a fate point to decline the concession.
If you concede, at the very least, the winner is considered to have planted an aspect on you as if succeeding a manoeuvre, for the purposes of follow-up contests in the same scene. See The Scope Of Rolls below for the ramifications of this.
Press On: The loser takes the listed consequence and describes it, just as in SOTC. You can have only one consequence of each type (barring certain stunts), and they wrap up if necessary - once you reach Taken Out, it's out of your hands.
Taken Out: On this result, the winner gets to describe how the conflict is resolved, just as in SOTC. But the loser has an additional option: you can choose to continue after a Taken Out, describing how you narrowly averted defeat. But you suffer a Lasting Consequence (see below) and you can't concede this conflict. If you take a second Taken Out, your character is dead and buried. (Of course, if you do this, your opponent may reconsider how much he wants to win, knowing that you will be continuing till either you or he dies. A risky gamble…)
Lasting Consequence: This is a consequence that just can't be recovered without some significant effort over several sessions. By the rules, a Severe Consequence drops one level after a session, so is not that lasting at all. A Lasting Consequence should last at least a month of real time, and might even be permanent.
The Vital Role of Concessions
This system operates under the principle that players will usually concede, unless they really care about the outcome. In fact, they'll often be willing to take a Mild Consequence (since if they wanted to roll in the first place, they are probably willing to suffer some minor indignity), but beyond that, they'll think twice.
It's important that players know they don't have to take the consequence, they can concede. It's also important to know exactly what the roll is actually for, so they know what they are accepting or giving up.
Once you have conceded, you shouldn't start a new contest against the same opponent in the same scene, unless the contest is about something completely different.
As noted somewhere above, it's vital that people are clear about what the roll is for.
That thing does not come to pass unless someone concedes or is Taken Out.
Further, with each new opposed roll, both sides can choose to increase the severity of the intent.
You might start out wanting an opponent to apologize, and end up in a blood feud. There's an example below of this sort of thing.
The Scope of Rolls
At first glance this looks a system in which you are rolling for the contest with a single roll, but the actual scope of the roll is decided in play. You can be rolling for an entire conflict (like whether you win a duel or battle), or a small action (such as whether you disarm a foe during a battle).
If you are rolling for something smaller than a conflict and the opponent concedes, you should treat this as if the winner has placed a fragile aspect on him which he can tag once for free.
Here are a few examples of low and high stakes conflicts, and conflicts and actions.
Example of Low Stakes Conflict
Corrin and Ricardo are sparring with their swords, and Corrin's wife, Andvari is watching. Ricardo says, "I want to impress Andvari as a dashing swordsman, so when I try to seduce her later I have a bonus." In other words, he is trying to plant an aspect, "Intrigued by Ricardo" on Andvari.
Andvari's player decides to object: "I'm not so easily swayed, I'll use Resolve to resist, and plant an aspect on Ricardo: Enchanted by Andvari's Cool Resolve."
Corrin's player also objects, "I'm going to make Ricardo look like a bumbling fool, planting the aspect: Corrin is a Better Man than Me."
Ricardo now rolls, and Corrin and Andvari both roll, comparing their rolls independently against Ricardo. It's possible that Corrin wins but Andvari is smitten anyway, for example.
Let's say Ricardo rolls Good, Andvari Poor (she's quite flighty), and Corrin rolls Superb.
Andvari has failed by four, and risks a Moderate consequence. But the contest was over something less severe than that so she concedes.
Ricardo has got what he set out to get, but doesn't like that aspect planted by Corrin. He could press on, since he failed by two he only risks a Mild Consequence. And he does. Since it's a physical conflict, he describes how Corrin outfenced him momentarily, sending him sprawling and spraining his ankle. (He plans to get some sympathy from Andvari for that later.)
He then continues the conflict the next turn - and since his conflict against Andvari is over, he declares a new goal against Corrin. "In a dazzling display of swordsmanship, I'm going to disarm Corrin."
Corrin has the option of changing his goal, or indeed conceding before the roll if he doesn't want to risk hurting his opponent too much. But Corrin's stubborn, and sticks with his original goal.
They roll, and Corrin loses by 3. Corrin can concede, in which case this scene is over, or accept a Moderate consequence and continue.
Corrin concedes, describing how he grabs his sword and storms off in a huff. He could just as easily have said how he and Ricardo complemented each other and walked off as friends, but Corrin's not like that.
Example Of High Stakes Conflict
Later, Ricardo is planning his seduction of Andvari. He invokes the aspect: Intrigued by Corrin, using up his free tag, and suggests, "Andvari comes to see me, to check on my ankle and apologise for her husband's churlish behaviour."
The GM asks Andvari's player is she is willing to do this. She says, "Sounds good," so the GM gives her a fate point for the compel.
Ricardo's player says, "I try to make light of my injury, but I lead her on to suggesting that she examines it and attends to my wound."
Andvari's player says, "That's fine by me," so there's no conflict roll.
Then Ricardo's player says, "We chat for a while, with a little light flirting, and the time flies by. As I finally escort Andvari to the door, her resistance crumbles in the face of my charm and she kisses me."
Andvari's player: "NO!"
But the conflict isn't over.
Andvar's player declares, "I'm going to slap him, and he's going to suddenly realise that he's overstepped the mark, and gain the aspect, Will Do Anything to Make Things Up To Andvari! The aspect will last until I tell him he's off the hook."
Ricardo's player, simultaneously chuckling and looking worried, knows how petty Andvari can be, and briefly considers conceding even though he has the upper hand. But, no, he continues. And after the consequence Andvari took, he's upping the stakes. "Andvari, despite thinking I'm a toerag, can't resist me and we tumble into bed!"
Again, before rolling, Andvari's player pauses, thinking "Maybe I should concede before things get out of hand. I could concede with a kiss and leave the room…" But she presses on.
And so the contest continues…
I hope this example shows how this system tends to lead to dramatic escalation, and players often get sucked in to taking more risks than they ever intended to. The finest example of this in my campaign was when Corrin, a knight and a doctor, wanted to see his ailing liege and was stopped by his son, Alleron, who didn't trust him. So this was essentially a conflict over whether Corrin examine a patient, and in the scene that followed, he ended up challenging Alleron's status as a knight, having a duel with him, killing him, and being banished. Faced with the cost of his 'victory,' he left without examining the patient.