Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Fate Universal Conflict System -- Part 4

As we discussed last time, we’re now discussing some examples of different Conflicts the Universal Conflict System can put together. Let’s get to it:

Access: The one artifact that can defeat evil warlord Ximu is held inside a magically protected vault. The party’s resident lockpick tries his hand, assisted by the mage. The zones of the vault door have tons of large (5-9) border value zones representing locks, and the opponents are magical warning systems the mage has to destroy or trap before they reach the alarm system. If the mage fails, the rest of the party will have to engage in a Physical conflict with the guards while the lockpick finishes.
Applicable Skills: Attack: Burglary, Engineering, [Magic]. Block: Burglary, Engineering. Maneuver: Engineering, Sleight of Hand, [Magic]. Move: Burglary, Engineering

Physical: Evil warlord Ximu has sent a band of bandits against the PCs. they are on a forest path, with zone Aspects like “Shadowy Leaves” (Cover), “Protruding Roots” (Unsteady Position), and “Thick Foliage” (Border 2/2). The PCs can win by causing enough Stress to incapacitate or kill all the bandits, or by getting to the nearby river.
Applicable Skills: Attack: Fists, Might, Weapons. Block: Athletics, Fists. Maneuver: Might, Science [Medical Attention trapping], Survival. Move: Athletics, Survival.

Repair: Ximu’s dark wizards infected one of the PCs’ allies with a mystical cancer. The area is the ally’s cardiovascular system, with zones like “Plaque-Encrusted Artery” (border value 3/3), “White Cell Production” (Superior Position), and “Fast-Moving Vein” (Pushing 2). The opponents are semi-sentient cancer cells, and will be attacking parts of the ally instead of the surgeon directly. The PCs’ goal is to destroy all the cancer cells or trap them in a cyst for easy removal, by using Block actions to build up a single zone’s border value to 8. While this conflict is very much centered on the doctor character, the other PCs can help by performing research, casting counterspells, -- or perhaps the mage can even shrink them down a la Fantastic Voyage so they can help directly.
Applicable Skills: Attack: Science [Medical Attention trapping], [Magic]. Block: Science [Medical Attention trapping] [Magic]. Maneuver: Science, Sleight of Hand, [Magic]. Move: Science [Medical Attention trapping], [Magic].

Research: On the streets of the city, the PCs have to find out where Ximu is likely to hide. The area is the array of back alleys that make up the city’s criminal underground, with zone like “Marku’s Bar” (Hazard [rowdy customers]), “Con Alley” (Unsteady Position [con men]), and “Thieves’ Guild” (border value 3/3). The PCs’ goal is to pick up four “pieces of intel,” each gained by a Contacting skill check in a different zone, before the unfriendly locals Intimidate them away.
Applicable Skills: Attack: Contacting, Investigation. Block: Contacting, Resolve. Maneuver: Contacting, Intimidation, Investigation. Move: Contacting, Investigation.

Social: The PCs have infiltrated a party thrown at Lord Ximu’s castle, trying to find out where he’s gone into hiding. The area is the party’s conversational space, with zones like “Talking About Local Sports Team” (border value 0/2), “Local Gossip” (Unsteady Position), and “Lord Ximu” (Hazard, border value 5/0). The PCs’ goal is to move through the party to “Lord Ximu’s Location,” while the enemies try to inflict Social stress and get the PCs ejected from the party.
Applicable Skills: Attack: Deceit, Empathy, Rapport. Block: Deceit, Empathy, Resolve. Maneuver: Art, Contacting, Resources. Move: Deceit, Rapport.

Vehicle: The PCs have to deliver the artifact to a friendly mage. They load it into a carriage, only to find they’re being pursued by riders on horseback. The area and zones will vary throughout the conflict, as they will be defined relative to the racing carriage and horses, not absolutely -- however, they will encounter an overturned cart (Hazard), a muddy patch (Unsteady Position), and low-hanging trees (Cover), among others. The PCs’ goal is either to outpace the riders by 6 zones, or cause all the riders to fall by either attacking them or luring them through dangerous zones.
Applicable Skills: Attack: Drive, Survival [Riding trapping] Block: Drive, Survival [Riding trapping]. Maneuver: Fists, Weapons. Move: Drive, Survival [Riding trapping].

And now that I’ve covered all the facets of the Universal Conflict System (so far), I’d like to address a comment I got on my first post: @snej comments: “The idea of a 'combat' system for things like lock picking or sabotage is interesting, but what I've read in reviews of cyberpunk game systems is that this sort of mechanic leaves all but one player twiddling their thumbs waiting for something to do while the hacker is at work.”

@snej has brought up a very good point: there is a real danger that, in specialized conflicts, one character will do all the work while the others sit around doing nothing. However, it’s my opinion that this danger exists already, with an unspoken solution that isn’t really in everyone’s best interest: specifically, physical combat. It’s an unstated assumption that every roleplaying campaign will feature fights, and plenty of them, and so every PC needs to be able to handle themselves in a sword/gun/fistfight. While this makes sense in many campaign, in others it ends up forced, and the con artist or mechanic faces the choice of putting valuable Skill slots towards combat Skills, or running and hiding -- essentially sitting on the sidelines while one combat monster PC cuts a swath of destruction through the enemy. By providing rules for conflict of every kind, I hope that GMsslingers do in a physical combat.

Of course, I predict most campaigns will stay focused around fights and fighters, with one or two PCs at most being thieves, socialites, etc. And in that case, one (generally) should just reduce a potential conflict to a single (or couple) skill roll.

Alternatively, an enterprising GM can run two types of conflict at once -- for example, one or two hackers running through a short access conflict while the rest of the party protects them from enemies in the real world. I myself have run dual conflicts like this -- with mixed success. In one example, I mixed together two conflict types (access and social) as the PCs interrogated and hacked simultaneously a cybernetic prisoner. This didn’t work terribly well, but I blame that more on my inexperience with my system, making the conflict spaces too abstract and not making it clear how the two pieces interacted. In another example, one PC had to conduct a research conflict while the others defended the library from incursion. This worked quite well, and gave the character with Academics as his peak Skill a time to shine. The only difficulty was balancing the two conflicts, ensuring one didn’t end long before the other.

Next time, we will head back into the game world of The City of Lives and head out of the titular City, which we’ve explored in-depth, and out into The Julian Plains!