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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 174 - most online ever: 660 (January 18, 2023, 03:22:41 PM)
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Author Topic: Conflict Resolution and Conspiracies  (Read 2979 times)

Posts: 642

« on: March 15, 2005, 07:26:53 PM »

Split from this thread about Conflict Resolution: How do you handle risk in the "free and clear" phase, when the GM would like the some of the risk to be a surprise?  Is it possible, or is this one of the things where the players simply have to separate IC knowledge from OOC knowledge?

Case in point from actual play:

The PC's have had an NPC sidekick since the beginning of the campaign.  This character--a brain in a jar, but connected to the Internet--operates as a fence, fixer, and facilitator, and pretty much minds the store while the group is out doing space-adventurer stuff.

Naturally it turns out that this sidekick is a spy, and always has been.  He's been playing them for three years of real-time, feeding information to one of their many enemies, and the players have just caught on.  They're understandably ticked at this guy, but so far haven't confronted him.

One of the players says via e-mail: "Okay--let's do some Conflict Resolution.  I wanna know the real deal with this Brain in a Jar.  I intend to find out using tasks X, Y, and Z.  The risk is, the Brain in a Jar finds out and realizes we've been faking."

Now, as I understand thanks to Callan's comment in the other thread, this risk isn't suitably dramatic.  The risk ought to be something like, "The spy figures out that you've been faking, realizes that you're probably going to ruin its mission, and puts into motion its contingency plan to take you out."   (If I make this change, I should e-mail the player and let him know that I'm raising the stakes, so he can agree or scale down.)

Now!  The trouble with this is, "contingency plan" can mean a lot of different things, and I'm not sure how much player consent is required here.  A player might agree to put his hero's bank account at risk (listed purely as an example; the spy has already liquidated their accounts earlier), but wouldn't agree to risk his hero's life.  In theory the player ought to know what he's risking, otherwise it's unfair.

Should I spell out what the contingency plan entails, in order to get informed player consent?  Or is there a way to get consent that skill keeps some of the big stuff secret?


Posts: 63

« Reply #1 on: March 16, 2005, 12:25:16 AM »

I've run into this a few times playing games like the Pool (and variant Snowball) and Pretenders. Often times it struck me that as players I / we aren't used to providing full details in conflict resolution terms.

ex: Trying to sneak into a secure area in a Cyberpunk style game. The player says something like 'success means I sneak in and find the data I'm after, failure means the security team arrives'.

To my limitied translation I read this as: I know if I succeed I want X to happen, but if I fail, I just want you to go ahead and kick me upside the head, I have no specific requirements for what that Bad Stuff (tm) might be'

I don't take it to mean that the player wants a washed out negative outcome, more that they have no specific ideas for what might happen. Sure, this can (and should be) attributed to either inexperience or simple laziness, but it certainly shifts decision making back to a central authority (and so seems to indicate a smidgen of both possibilities!).

In the case you outline, it seems to me the player is doing just this. It's possible that they are unsure of thier authority and so are only giving some direction to the outcome (ie the Brain finds out, rather than say the Brain escapes). Alternatively they may have, as above, no specific narrative requirements for exactly what an annoyed, ex-spy Brain in a Jar might do when it discovers ones secret plans to deal with it.

As a potential solution I'd ammend the players proposed resolution to something that includes a little more dramatic detail without specifics:

"Okay--let's do some Conflict Resolution. I wanna know the real deal with this Brain in a Jar. I intend to find out using tasks X, Y, and Z. The risk is, the Brain in a Jar finds out and realizes we've been faking and puts into motion its contingency plans"

This gives the player the wording that they couldn't / wouldn't / didn't know they should - provide. It also states to them that once the conflict resolution goes ahead, you're going to have the Brain *do something*, not merely *know something*.

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