Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Fate Universal Conflict System -- Part 2

Okay, we're going to pick up right where we left off, by showing how to set up a Conflict.

First, define your conflict space. For physical conflict, it could be a gladiatorial arena, or the corridors of a starship, or an abandoned garage. For social conflict, it could be a party, or interrogation, or even a trial. For an access conflict, it could be a computer LAN, or a vault door, or the entrance points to a high-security building. For a vehicle conflict, it could be a race track, or asteroid field, or demolition derby arena. For a repair conflict, it could be the interior of a busted transmitter, or a dying man’s torso, or the wires of a ticking bomb. For research conflicts, it could an area of the internet, or a section of library, or the back alleys of the criminal underworld.

Next, divide the areas into zones. a zone is a small area of physical or conceptual space, loosely defined as the area where two people can easily interact -- about 10’ square, a single topic of conversation, a computer subsystem, etc. Each zone may have one or more Aspects on it, representing environmental conditions. Aspects can be anything from “Shadowed” to “Mixed-Up Wires” to “Sports Talk.” However, mechanically, all Aspects across all conflict types, can be broken down into the following categories:

Zone AspectDefault EffectOther Names
CoverTag to gain +2 to next Defensive Skill against target in another zone.Low Wall, Mist, Obscuring Monologue, Pile of Rubble, Prep Work, Protective Gear, Safe Topic
Difficult TerrainBorder Value of 2 or moreBoring Anecdote, Deep Mud, Deep Water, Fallen Trees, Rubble, Shallow Water
HazardTag to apply an attack vs. target in zone.Alarmed Panel, Bare Wires, Broken Glass, Caltrops, Fire, Gas Leak, Painful Memory, Stressful Topic, Spike Trap, Useless Information
FailureEnd conflict in NPCs’ favor.Defeat, Retreat, Surrender
ImpassableHas an infinite Border value, so cannot be crossed.Impassable Rubble, Wall
Inferior PositionTag to penalize -2 to next Attack or Defensive Skill against target in another zone.Attractive Falsehood, Discredited Source, Low Ground, Missing Part, Red Herring, Snake Eyes, Verbal Misstep, Wrong Combination
PushingTag to move target up to 2 zones.Convincing Argument, Slick Surface, Fast Water
SuccessEnd conflict in PCs’ favor.Convince, Goal
Superior PositionTag to gain +2 to next Attack or Defensive Skill against target in another zone.Bypassed Lock, Convincing Argument, Full House, Good Idea, Higher Ground, Meaningful Clue, New Tactic, Scholarly Article, Successful Juryrig
Unsteady PositionTag to apply Aspect “Prone.”Crowded, Faulty Logic, Grease Spill, Icy Ground, Logical Conundrum, Thin Beam, Uneven Ground, Unreliable Juryrig, Unstable Code, Unsteady Footing, Unsupported Thesis, Wrong Wire

Next, determine participants. Any character involved in a conflict is known as a participant. Every participant has these possible actions available: Attack, Block, Maneuver, Move Other, or Move Self. However, which Skill governs which action depends on what kind of conflict the participants are in [more on this later]. Importantly, not every participant needs to be an actual person in the context of the game world. In Physical, Social, and Vehicle conflicts, most if not all will be people, animals, supernatural beings, etc., but the other kinds of conflicts may work better with concepts instead of/in addition to actual people. In an Access conflict, the PCs may battle against security programs, or the magical sparks that maintain a mystic lock, or self-setting alarms in a vault. In a Repair conflict, opponents might be cancer cells or blood trying to gush out the “Slashed Veins” zones, or the mysterious fault in the engine, or the hair trigger on the bomb. The enemies in a Research conflict could be rival researchers, but they could also be misfiled books, surly contacts, or even the twin specters of Confusion and Exhaustion. While most Social conflicts will include only people, they could also feature an interrogation subject’s Ego and Id, or political parties.

Next, assign borders. Borders represent difficulty in moving from one zone to another -- in a Physical conflict, it could be a door, or a pit, or a cliff, etc. A border has a value of x/y, where “x” is the number of shifts of success in a Move action it take to enter the zone, and “y” is the same for exiting it. Some borders, like a door, might be equally difficult to pass through in both directions. Others, like a cliff face, might take 3 shifts to climb up but only 1 to jump down. Borders in non-physical conflicts might represent computer firewalls, or the difficulty in moving from serious conversation back to small talk, or accessing a secure library section.

It’s important to note that the participants’ goals need not always be to wipe out the other side. Perhaps the goal is to destroy the evil genius’s superweapon before he fires it, defeating or avoiding his minions; in many Social conflicts, the goal is to bring your enemy around to your way of thinking -- representing by using the “Move Other” action to place the enemy in a zone labeled with your opinion.

Next time, we will go into Skills and Example Conflicts in Part 3 of the Universal Conflict System!