Conflicts are long-form tests and contest where a single roll rarely is enough to win. Conflicts don't necessarily mean combat. Conflicts can involve social encounters, intrigue and espionage as well as large scale army battles, or personal combat in a one on one setting.
There are two types of conflicts, much like tests. One is a long-form test, an unopposed conflict where the only opposition is time and the risk of making mistakes.
Unopposed conflicts are handled much like tests are, only they may require several tests to be performed before they are considered passed.
Conflict Target [CT]
The goal of an unopposed conflict is to gather enough progress to reach the target difficulty of the conflict. A conflict can have any arbitrary target, but a good start for the Keeper is to stay within 15-30 as a target for most simple conflicts.
A way to calculate a decent conflict is to take the number of players times the desired number of rounds the conflict should take. So, a party of 4 and a desired 3 round conflict, would have a CT of 12 (4 x 3). That's assuming each player can output an average of one point per round, ie pass their desired test at least half the times it's their turn. This can be adjusted up or down depending on how hard the conflict is, if the party has an exceptionally powerful character in it or what have you. The calculation only provides an average guideline.
Reaching the target involves performing tests and accumulating successes. The difficulty of the tests can vary depending on the situation, and players can cooperate in the conflict, if they have skills that match. Not every test in a conflict need be with the same skill.
Passing a test in a conflict grants that side two points of progress towards the target. Any excess successes surpassing the DC provides a single, additional point each towards the target. Finally, the quality of a used asset, provided it's more than 0, adds one point per quality level when the test passes.
Once enough points have been gathered to match, or surpass, the target, the conflict is considered passed. Whatever goal was chosen takes effect.
If the DC of a test in a conflict is 3, you get 2 points towards the target for getting 3 successes. Any successes beyond that you get 1 additional point per extra success. The quality of a used asset also adds 1 points per quality level, if the test passes.
Types of conflict
A physical altercation between two individuals.
Small groups duking it out in a confined area. Like an adventuring party against a band of brigands on a forest road.
Large scale combat with entire armies. Tactics and strategy matter on a much larger scale here.
Social interaction, diplomacy, buttering up the right people, trying to make a name for oneself in a social context.
Gathering information, hacking through complex computer systems, solving an ancient arcane puzzle, planting incriminating evidence, investigating a crime scene.
The party is trying to gather information on a potential operation a rival faction might be planning against the party. This information gathering conflict involves the party using their skills to interrogate, dig up dirt and break into information safes. The Keeper decides this is a CT6 espionage conflict, meaning the party needs to gain at least 9 points of progress.
Valkira uses Street-Smarts to cruise the local neighborhood to sniff out the goings on, the rumors and the talk. She asks the Keeper to use Manipulation for the test and the Keeper obliges and calls for a DC2 test, since it's on home turf. Valkira has no assets on hand that would help her in this situation.
Kavor is not much of an investigator, but he knows the locals and he's well liked. He uses Empathy and Carousing to scope out his local bar. The Keeper calls for another DC2 test for that. Kavor, like Valkira, holds no assets at the time.
As a cyberrunner, Telon has no time for social connections. His goal is to scope out the Web and see what he can find going down the grapevine. For this, he uses Logic and Technology. While this may be familiar grounds to Telon, the rival faction is somewhat skilled at tech, so the Keeper calls for a DC3 test. Telon, being the nerd that he is, has a cyberjack quality 1 asset, which will provide +1 progress if he passes the test.
Valkira rolls 0, 1, 3, 4, 5, 7, 9, totalling three successes. She provides three total points towards the target. Two points for passing the test, and one additional point for the extra success.
Kavor rolls 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 9, totalling three successes. He provides three total points towards the target. Two points for passing the test, and one additional point for the extra success.
Telon rolls 0, 0, 1, 2, 3, 3, 6, 6 which is a failure with Setback. Telon therefore provides no benefit at all to the conflict, instead raising suspicion. The Keeper gives him the Vice Tracked by the enemy for the rest of the scene.
In spite of Telon's mess-up, both Valkira and Kavor provided enough points on their own to just reach the target, passing this conflict in a single round. Telon, however, have made himself known to the enemy and might need to stay low for a bit.
The bread and butter of conflict resolution lies in the opposed conflicts system. You have two, or more, sides that try to one-up one another by gathering enough progress to beat the opposition, before the opposition does the same to them. This sounds rather detached and it is of course not how we treat things narratively.
When a conflict is initiated with an opposition, both sides start at 0 progress as usual. A series of contests, using appropriate expertises, will provide progress to beating the opposition. The CT of the conflict varies with opposition. Most of the time, unless it's a duel or similar situation, there are multiple opponents in a conflict and the Keeper can pick the strongest opponent and take their highest, relevant talent+skill combo and use that as the conflict target. Or, if this is a narratively significant battle with several important enemies, each NPC may have their own stack of progress needing to be defeated.
An opposed conflict consists of a number of zones, regardless of what type of conflict it is. What a zone represents depends on the conflict.
- Duel: Body parts or defensive areas of each combatant.
- Skirmish: Discrete areas of the small combat theatre.
- Warfare: Areas of the battlefield, or even separate geographic regions.
- Intrigue: Here, important people and factions become zones.
- Espionage: Physical locations, storage, encrypted databases, different nodes in a network.
In conflicts, a character may take any of two actions. They can either move an asset (or themselves, if it makes sense) or they can use an asset. Using an asset requires it to be in the same zone as the target. For duels, this would be the opposing fighter's personal zone, for skirmishes this would be in range to use a weapon or have line of sight. For skirmishes with ranged weapon, zones are generally defined as areas that are safe, in cover or not in cover. For melee weapons in a physical conflict, a combatant needs to be in the same zone as the target to use their asset.
Moving an asset is a DC2 test of a relevant skill. If the test succeeds, the asset is moved. An asset can be moved either with Force or with Stealth.
Using an asset
Using an asset usually means that there's an opponent and using the asset affects another character. In that case, using an asset is a contest with the opponent's relevant skill. If the attacker fails the contest, they've failed to achieve what they intended. If they win the contest, the outcome depends on the opponent.
Mooks are outright defeated. The cannot stand up to the power of a hero. Villains and Nemesises have a CT that needs to be overcome before they are defeated. A villain's CT is their best talent+skill combo relevant for the conflict type, and a nemesis has the same, but doubled.
Regardless of conflict type, player characters and nemesises can resist defeat if they find themselves facing a "killing blow" in conflict. A character who is threatened and just lost their contest are defeated. But they can resist defeat by performing a DC1 test with the appropriate talent (physical,social or mental). The DC is adjusted upwards by +1 for every quality level of the enemy's asset. So a quality 3 asset would make the DC4 (1+3).
Resisting defeat always inflicts one point of Crisis immediately. It also provides the opposition with +1 narrative point. So a player resisting defeat gives the Keeper a villain point, while a nemesis gives the party a hero point.
Remember that stress and strain tests are performed at the end of a scene, not when they are taken. However, no character can accrue more than 5 strain or stress in a scene, so if they already have 5, they are either unable to take the action they're attempting, or they immediately accrue one crisis instead of gaining another point of stress or strain. They must still take their test at the end of the scene, regardless.
An opponent's CT is set by their best Talent+Skill combo for the conflict.
Conflict is won by the side who defeats all opponents individually, or reaches their set goal of the conflict.
Using force is meant to provoke a response from an opponent, by pushing them back, putting them into a defensive position or forcing their hand to do something, usually baiting them into a move you expect.
If you use force to pressure an opponent, you move your asset to an adjacent zone and you may also move one of the opponents assets in the same way. Their asset can be anywhere in the conflict, as long as it makes narrative sense that you are in a position to affect their asset, you may move it.
Using stealth means that you're not trying to provoke a response, but you are trying to hide what you are doing. If you pass your test you may move your asset as usual, but you may now also automatically keep the initative and hand the action over to someone else on your side, without paying the point cost.
Circumstances are "traits" for conflicts, describing elements of what is happening in the narrative and putting a mechanical function to them. Circumstances are almost always created as the result of a character's intentional action and provide a ±1DC to tests and contests where the circumstance would apply. Creating a circumstance costs 4 HP/VP (yes, the Keeper can also create circumstances) and it will start applying immediately. If the circumstance is connected to a character, say an opponent, the character trying to create the circumstance must also win a contest against that character, or the circumstance fails to apply, the points are refunded and the attacker has lost their action for the round.
Circumstances don't always have to be created. They can be things that someone realises, chooses to take advantage of or pure luck. The Keeper should be very lenient and allowing when it comes to accepting circumstances. The party spends a significant part of their Hero Point pool to create them, so as long as it's remotely possible and within the narrative space, the Keeper should allow it.
The same goes for the Keeper creating her own circumstances. They should make sense and always be initiated by a character. If the Keeper simply wants to shift the DC of a test, she can do that without spending the villain points. That's her perogative. However, if one of her characters want to affect things, that's when villain points and circumstances come into play.
Creating a circumstance in a conflict costs 4 points from the narrative pool, be it Hero or Villain. A circumstance provides a +1DC on checks that are affected by the circumstance, or a -1DC if it's to a character's own benefit.
If the circumstance cannot be opposed or don't affect an opposing character, it takes effect immediately. If it is opposed, the character trying to create or make use of the circumstance must first win an appropriate contest against the character they're trying to apply the circumstance to.
Altering an established circumstance costs 2 points from the narrative pool. This can be either to strengthen, or weaken the circumstance. A circumstance that is a 1 and is weakened is removed entirely.
Altering an established circumstancce created by another character that is opposed requires a contest to be won by the one trying to alter the circumstance. If the contest is not won by the attacker, they do not pay the points but lose their action for the round.
In a tense duel, the player decides to throw a handful of sand in the eyes of their opponent. This is a perfect opportunity to use circumstances and te player is trying to create the Blinded circumstance on the opponent, providing a +1DC on all their rolls against the player's character.
Since this is a circumstance that affects a character, they have the option to oppose its creation. The player and the Keeper both roll their respective pools. If the player wins, the circumstance is created and the party pays 4 HP. If the player loses, no points are spent and the turn passes to the Keeper's side.