Shadowcraft’s Conflict Mechanic

This was an update made to the Shadowcraft Kickstarter campaign.

Here’s Christopher Ruthenbeck describing some of the changes we’re making to the Fate rules for Shadowcraft: The Glamour War. And if we hit a certain stretch goal during the campaign, all of these rules will be available to designers under a creative commons license.

A Conflict with Conflicts

With Shadowcraft, we wanted to have a more back-and-forth feeling with conflicts, like the ones you see on big screen fight scenes. In order to do that, we had to completely revamp the way conflicts are handled in Fate.

Normally, each player—and the GM—takes their turn in an exchange, doing their own thing one at a time. It’s one side attacking and one side defending, not able to react to what the enemy is doing until their turn came up. Unlike the rest of the game, it’s very slow going.

Inspirations

We discussed some of our favorite rules and guidelines from other games and what we liked best about each, and came up with some inspirations that we wanted to use in Shadowcraft.

The number one inspiration came from Apocalypse World, and how the game is a conversation, and the GM doesn’t roll any dice.

As second runner up, Numenéra/The Strange echoed GMs not rolling dice.

We still have the GM rolling dice in Shadowcraft, but only for the main NPCs. It acts as a visual cue for the players that this character is important. For all minor NPCs, they are an obstacle to be overcome. Well, there’s more nuance than that, but that’s for another update!

Conflicts as Conversation

To change the way conflicts work, we decided to make it a conversation between combatants. The players begin the conversation, the GM reacts to it, and then each side rolls the dice. Whoever wins finishes the conversation.

This allows us to do away with the turn structure and focus on what we believe to be a more dynamic exchange structure. Instead of the turn-by-turn of the standard conflict structure, we instead decided to have it play out as a contest.

Each player gets a chance to roll one action, just like normal, the main rules changes are when they attack an main NPC. The attack is a conversation between the acting player and the GM.

Steps of the Conversation

  • The player narrates what their character attempts to do to the NPC
  • The GM narrates the NPCs reaction, which could include a threat to the PC
  • Both sides roll the dice and come out with a total
  • The highest roller narrates the outcome

Wrinkles in the Conversation

  • A successful roll deals one stress; two on a success with style
  • Characters only have 2 stress boxes by default (more with the proper stunts)
  • Consequences can be taken to improve your roll

With these wrinkles, we have a more dynamic conflict scene. Even if all the PCs work together to give six free invokes to the primary attacker, the most they’ll do is two stress, meaning the main NPCs stick around longer. This also gives the main NPC just as many “attack actions” against the players as they have against them!

Thanks for your support,

Christopher

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2 thoughts on “Shadowcraft’s Conflict Mechanic

    1. Say you’re attacking an opponent and describe it as charging in with your sword. The GM describes the NPC’s reaction as readying an arrow. You both roll, and the GM wins by 1 shift, which means the GM gets to narrate the result and deal 1 stress to you.

      However, you really want to win this roll, as it narratively gets you in close, or because you just want to win. You tell the GM, I’m taking a mild consequence (worth 2 shifts) to give me a +2 bonus. The player now wins by 1 shift. The player and GM work out what the consequence would be and the player works that into their narration.

      “Charging in, I catch an arrow in the armored plating in my shoulder. Besides causing some serious pain, the arrow is going to hinder my movements for a bit, but it doesn’t stop my charge! I run in and bring my sword down on my enemy.”

      In short, you can take consequences to gain bonuses to rolls. The idea is that you can either use your free invocations or fate points, or you can go into a kind of narrative debt to gain invocation-type bonuses. Invoking at cost, as it were.

      Like

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