Running Conflicts in Shadowcraft

There has been some understandable confusion regarding how Shadowcraft plays out in a conflict because of the conversation mechanic. On the surface, it appears that the conversation mechanic is lifted directly from Apocalypse World, but while AW was surely our inspiration, Shadowcraft doesn’t have the move system AW requires to function smoothly. Shadowcraft is quite different, while strikingly similar.

Page 77 of Shadowcraft: The Glamour War is the go-to text for how the conversation functions here:

  1. The active player describes their action, then rolls the dice
  2. The reactive player describes how their character reacts to the other player’s action, then rolls the dice
  3. Aspects are invoked
  4. Consequences may be taken
  5. The outcome is decided

Getting to the stages above requires that the GM set the scene, describing what is taking place, setting the stakes, etc. (pg. 112).

Once the scene has been set the active player describes their action and rolls dice. Who is the active player? It can be decided in one of two ways: whoever responds to the GM setting things up first, or whoever the GM points out by asking them “what do you do?” You can describe anything you want when it’s your turn to do so, provided the rest of the table agrees that it’s something your character can do.

If there is no danger to performing the action, or no obstacle to overcome, then it’s free. You can ignore the dice roll and succeed at what you were trying to do.

If there is imminent danger, or if another character is getting in your way, then the reactive player describes how their character reacts to the active player’s action, then rolls the dice. This is commonly the GM describing NPC actions, but sometimes it can be a player (in the case of an NPC acting and the players resisting).

How Do NPCs Act?

Since Shadowcraft operates as a conversation, the GM is open to having an NPC act at any time and then asking the next player “what do you do?” in response to that action. It’s like setting the scene and stakes for the scene, but doing so in the middle of an exchange.

Like Neo said, “there is no round structure.” (Or was it something about silverware?)

Once both descriptions have been given, the fiction is set: that is what they are doing and cannot be changed once their dice hits the table. That is important for the next stages.

Now players vie for the win by invoking aspects. Spending fate points or free invocations to get their +2 or reroll benefits. This works as standard Fate: add the total from all invocations, plus the dice result, plus the (aspect) rating (aspects replace skills in Shadowcraft).

Once a winner is decided, consequences may be taken by the loser to reduce the value of the winner’s success. (If you’re familiar with Jadepunk: Tales From Kausao City, this is identical to how dueling works. In fact, our design concept for Shadowcraft was applying the one-on-one dueling mechanic from Jadepunk to full conflicts.)

Now that a successful player, and the effectiveness of their success, has been determined, the GM describes what happened and moves the conversation on to another player by using the current situation or creating a new one (possibly including NPC active action) and then asking the new player “what do you do?”

Here’s an example conflict that applies what has been discussed above.

And that’s how you run conflicts in Shadowcraft: The Glamour War. You can purchase the game now from DTRPG!

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