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[The Mountain Witch] Rules Question

Started by Pyromancer, March 25, 2006, 07:05:47 AM

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I'm going to run tMW next week, but I'm still not sure about a few rules. For example, if two ronin are confronted with two monsters, each of them attacking one ronin. One of the ronin decides to aid the other. What happens? The rules state that you can do one and only one thing in a round, so by helping the other ronin you should be defenseless against the other attacker, but how do I resolve this mechanically?
Or are the two monsters combined, there dice rolled together and only the highest die count against the added dice of the ronin? This would imply that aiding is a great way to avoid wound for oneself, and that doesn't sound right to me.
What if the two ronin are helping each other in this conflict?

Another topic: I already did character creation with half of the players and there are a lot of movement abilities like "flying", "walk up walls" or "pass through walls". At first I was worried, but now I think this is a good thing for splitting up the party. What do you think?

Eero Tuovinen

I've asked the same thing myself. My exampled ha the ronin surprised by an avalanche which threatened to sweep each individual ronin down the mountain. The question: if you help another, will you yourself be swept away? Note that while I'll discuss this situation first, your situation is different: as I explain after the general discussion, the enemy example is amply dealt by the rules as they are. But, what to do with the avalance:

Tim, if my memory doesn't fail me, told that he plays it so that the helper is automagically protected from repercussions. I didn't like that, so my take was to introduce the concept of "unresistance"; when a ronin doesn't resist harm actively, his die roll is concidered zero for that roll. Thus a ronin focused on helping another is effectively "rolling zero" against his own threat, which is suitably dire.

Another option would be to give an automatic standard success to anybody doing anything against an unresisting target, on the notion that that's what happens if there isn't a conflict. After all, if the character is not resisting, where's the conflict? This is perhaps easier and not as dangerous for the ronin, but it breaks the principle of only allowing damage and conflict resolution facts through the die mechanics, not from narration. Regardless, I like it.

Anyway, the basic take stands: if a ronin for some reason is unresisting against a conflict, whether because he's busy with something more important or for some other reason, cook together some kind of exception to the conflict system to handle that. Thus far I haven't needed the "unresistance" mechanics in other situations, but they seem to crop up when the ronin encounter "area effects" like lots of gunfire, avalanches and the like. Also, I imagine that there could be situations where character abilities or other fiction conditions would cause "surprise attacks" that everybody agrees shouldn't be defended against. I've yet to see that, but if it happens, I'll use the concept of unresistance to explain it.

As for your specific example: if two ronin fight two opponents, you can handle it by giving both their own opponents, yes, but you can equally well allow the ronin to join up and fight the two as a group, as the rules describe. The game rules are not clear on who makes the decisions on grouping, but I've always played it by giving the players first initiative and only overriding if there's some in-fiction reason for their split being inpractical. Thus, if two players want to cooperate against two opponents, I definitely would allow them to group the opponents together unless the opponents have wildly divergent attack forms (like, say, one is fighting a curse while the other is fighting a wolf).

So while your actual question is a real issue in some situations, your example is easily dealt with according to the rules. In general, the grouping rules are a very important part of the system, and you should make sure that the players realize that their main tactical objective is to maneuver different threats into suitable groups and split themselves up into groups suited to defeating them. Matters of positioning, monster motivation and such are all key to this endeavour. If there's four wolves and three blood-sucking trees, for instance, and those monster tribes hate each other, this fact means that they can't be defeated as one group only, because they decline to fight as one group.

Especially realize that while grouping opponents does indeed make aiding more powerful, that's not your problem as a GM. The participants suffer less wounds as a result, too. Be that as it may, it's better to let the players pick the groupings in conflict.


Movement abilities: no problem, they're all good. Just put in situations where those abilities allow characters access to places where the others can't go. I'd rule that flying doesn't work indoors (not enough space) though, to differentiate from walking up walls.
Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.


Thanks a lot! I still don't know how I will handle it in play, but I do have a few days to think about it.

Eero Tuovinen

Perhaps a concrete example is called for here. Here's how you run a typical fight situation in TMW:

<scene starts>
GM: So, you leave the wayhouse behind and start climbing the mountain. After two hours of climbing you pretty much stumble on an opportunity: you <points at player 1>, you hear a loud argument from the bushes to the wayside.
Player 1: Well, obviously I'm stopping the party quietly. We're going to check this one out.
GM: Here's what you find: just beyond the roadside there's a sharp cliff, must be a ten meters drop at least. The thick shrubbery hides the drop, you're lucky that you didn't fall there. At the bottom there's what's clearly a camp of outlaws; there's a fire and a full five dirty, bearded outlaw types. They seem to be arguing about something.
Player 1: What you say guys? Not our problem?
GM: One of them is saying something to the tone of "Man, I'm glad the Witch spared our lives! I can't imagine even ronin like us would have been stupid enough to actually assault his fortress! I say we get out of here while we still can."
Player 2: Ha, these wretches clearly know something, we should assault them and learn what we can! I have the ability of "Climbing expertise here", I can get down there in a blink.
GM: <to the others> It's easy to get down there by a round-about route, it seems, but that takes time.
Player 1: Perhaps there's no need to fight? It seems they're on the same business we are here.
Player 2: Do you go out of your way to disrespect me, man? I've nothing to do with dirty curs like these! I have my honor and two swords by my side, I'll let you know.
GM: The ronin in the camp continue their discussion: "I say we should take the Witch up on his word. He's proved a generous lord and a fair man, I can imagine worse fates than serving him."
Player 1: Yeah, apparently we are fighting, then.
GM: OK, that sounds good to me. Now, player 2 can get down there quite easily with his climbing ability. Will you just get down and nasty, or what?
Player 1: No, we should all attack at once. Perhaps player 2 could sneak down and divert their attention at the right moment, so we can split the group and fight only half of them? They have us outnumbered after all.
Player 2: Hey, that's fine by me.
GM: OK, but you'll have to conflict with their guard or be seen, in which case you'll fight them alone.
Player 2: No fear, no courage, that's my motto. Goal of mine: "Split the outlaws successfully."
GM: Their guard's goal is, of course, to "Find and apprehend you."
Player 1:  Meanwhile, we'll hurry down and prepare to ambush them at the right moment.
GM: <rolls>
Player 2: <rolls> Hmm... that's a marginal success for you. I'll use ai-uchi and go for a partial.
GM: Quite so; how about you manage to lead a merry chase first, and thus leave the outlaws disorganized? But in the end they catch you.
Player 1: That's when we attack. A fast and furious assault!
Player 3: Yes, that's what we do. I'll aid player 1.
GM: Hmm... how about you go against three of them with your assault? Two are farther off in the woods, dragging player 2 back to the camp.
Player 1: My goal, of course, is to "subdue the outlaws". Not that I expect it to succeed in one round, I'll probably have to smack them around a bit.
GM: The three outlaws' goal is to "subdue you", certainly. I'll just pool their dice here, and roll them all at once. The highest result counts!
Player 1: And we'll roll our two dice and add the results together.

And so on. Did that clarify it at all? The idea is that usually you have a given number of "resistance dice" to go around, the number being the number of potential opponents for the PCs. Your job as the GM is to frame the scene in such a way as to allow the players to interact with the environment and define who they're conflicting with, and over what. Might be that they'll fight all the opposition at once, in which case you pool them all. Or they could pick them off one by one. Or they could themselves split up for any number of reasons, and confront different parts of the opposition at the same time. All of this depends on the type of opposition, the terrain, the weather, their goals and any number of other "realistic" concerns in the fiction.

Perhaps I confused you with my last explanation, as I started with the conditions under which your worry was well-founded, and handled the actual situation you asked about last. To re-explain: in normal combat or any other situation where you only have a defined number of opposition dice to go around, aiding another will indeed mean that the aider is not himself under any threat, but the one aided confronts both threats, instead. If the two threats confronted by the two samurai are at all similar in terms of who they're targeting or what their manner of opposition is, the samurai can pool their forces, pooling the opposition as well. This doesn't even require Aiding! They could just say that they're fighting both threats equally and simultaneously, in which case it'd be a two-die pool against a two-die pool. The difference between two one-on-ones and a single two-on-two in the terms of fiction is pretty much left open, but usually it has something to do with positioning in the scene, like in our example, above.

Now, there are, however, situations where the above does not hold true. As I explained earlier, these are somewhat rare and fall roughly into the following types:
- Area effects that target everybody simultaneously: the avalanche, for instance, has exactly as many opposition dice as there are characters getting hit by it, and they all target one of the characters. Thus, if you aid another, you're left without even a single die yourself. This is what I discussed in my above post.
- Enemies that won't team up: If the characters fought the cold wind, say, simultaneously with some giant winter spiders (a stalking hit and run affair, taking hours to resolve; if the spiders just assault them, it's over in minutes and the wind certainly won't be a factor during the fight), it'd be entirely reasonable for the GM to rule that those two can't be confronted simultaneously, as they're such different foes. The same might hold for guards+castle walls, magic+brawn or any number of other team-ups. If the opposition has clearly separate means of attack, it doesn't make sense to pool them together and resist them simultaneously.
- Enemies with different goals: finally, if the opposition has clearly differing goals, they won't pool up. If enemy A has a beef with ronin 1 and enemy B wants to fight ronin 2, the players would have to come up with a clear stratagem (use of ability or separate conflict, essentially) to force them to pool up anyway. Otherwise they'll just attack separately and (possibly, in the worst case) simultaneously, resulting in your original situation.
However, note and understand that all of these are rare situations which you're not forced to confront unless you want to as the GM. Most of the time the rule is that the opposition wants to oppose all the ronin equally, and thus the players may choose to split or pool them pretty freely. You can even run the avalanches etc. so that if a player aids another, then the two of them confront the two dice together. That is, allow players to pool opposition even in such "personal" situations.

By the by, I suggest reading the clarifications page for the game. I'm told it's full of good ideas and clarifications for the rules of the game:
Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.


QuotePyromancer asked:
Or are the two monsters combined, there dice rolled together and only the highest die count against the added dice of the ronin?

Timfire has stated that this is the case, and has also done so specifically for the avalance example.  Yes, it's good to work together.

Also remember that the players get to decide the groupings of conflict dice, so its not really as much as an issue as it looks like.

I think movement abilities like that are great!  It's not like D&D where bypassing an encounter can break the game.  And I agree:  splitting up the ronin, also great.