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Started by Marshall Burns, August 26, 2008, 11:33:31 PM

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Marshall Burns

There's a few things that should have made it into the book that did not.  And they are:

So, a moment from actual play:

Kitt, the shady doctor, wants to cook up a concoction that will put a brug to sleep.  What does Kitt have to roll against to make a concoction that will have the best odds of putting the brug out? 

Answer: there's really no telling, 'cause the brug might Push.  But 21 is a good bet, and that's what we decided to use.  Kitt had to Push to get it, of course.

Here's why that's the answer:

The brug in question is Tough for 10.  Upon being doped with the stuff (which would be administered via intravenous injection shot through a blow-gun – Slick vs. Slick to hit), he would make a Tough check to stay awake under the stuff.  The best Performance he could get would be 20, against 21, so he loses on any roll, and, unless he Pushes, he's out like a light.  In the game, he did Push to stay up for one round, but he Gave on his roll in the next round. We made him do a Tough check for each action once he was hit, as an interpretation of the Mandated Check rules.

Point is, if you want to package an Effect for future use, do a check against a value that you anticipate will be high enough to get the job done.  This packaged effect now counts for that amount of Performance when you use it.  And I would not recommend doing this retroactively; in the source fiction, it's good to be prepared, and when you're not you've really gotta strive.  You either look cool because you were prepared (f'rinstance, Marv's planned assault on Kevin in Sin City, with the handcuffs), or you look cool because you strive like a motherfucker.  Let the game work that way too.

As you can see, this is implied by the numerics of the game, and is an *application* of existing rules, not a spot rule.  That, and because I said so.  Informal, sure, but consider this as me making it formal.  'Cause the books are already printed, so it's too late for that.

AS AN EXPERIMENT, consider applying this rule to some things that would otherwise be unopposed rolls against a Challenge.  F'rinstance, you come to the locked door; who locked it?  Who is trying to keep you out?  BAM, you're in conflict with that guy, and the GM can treat this door is a packaged Effect he left in your way.   The GM should roll Performance for said NPC, and may Push if it makes sense, before the PC makes his decision regarding what to do about the door.  This is a good way to handle it because it prevents antagonist NPCs from being in perfect condition (resource-wise) when the PCs, battered and weary from the obstacles they've overcome, confront them.

Also, in other situations, consider of the character is in conflict with the Rust.  In fact, it might very well be that there's no need for unopposed rolls at all except for packaging Effects.  But I'm still thinking about that.

This isn't clear in the text, but doubts and fears make good Woes too.  Not the "I'm terrified of spiders" kind of fears, which are lame; the more personal "What if something happens to him?" kind of fears.

Money isn't discussed in the text anywhere, so that might raise some questions.  So, here's the thing.  If a situation comes up where you need money, look at your Concept.  If your Concept makes you out to be wealthy (which I doubt), you've got enough money.  Otherwise, you don't, and you have to figure out a way to get some.

Also, if you've got one of the old playtest documents, depending on which version looking at, the damage rules for relatively lightweight blunt instruments like bats, bricks, barstools, etc. either do 10 or (10 + Tough).  I went back-and-forth on that a lot while working on the game; the final ashcan version says 10.  I don't really care which one you use, just like it doesn't bother me that Wilmer added the attribute Spry in his games.  The important thing is that they do at least 10, which means that anyone can potentially knock someone out by hitting them with a wrench or the butt of their gun or whatever.


Marshall Burns

The Psyche components, including their scores, should guide your roleplaying.  The decisions are in your hands totally, but the intensity of those decisions and the way the character enacts them should correspond to the scores.  While you are allowed to break a Faith with Zeal 20 just as much as one with Zeal 5, you should roleplay breaking the higher one as something hard for the character to do, or perhaps with such decisiveness that it's scary, or in some other manner with appropriate intensity.

One point at a time, as the scores increase, you should escalate the intensity a notch.     There's some milestones here, and some other concerns that are more subtle, so let's look at them in some detail.

At Frustration scores 5 and below, Hunger is just a niggling thing in the back of your mind.  It gradually becomes harder to ignore, and by the time you hit 10 Frustration, it has become totally clear that you are missing something vital, even if you don't know what it is.  At 20 and higher, we're talking about a huge, yawning void inside you that simply cannot be ignored – the desire to fill it consumes you.  Which isn't to say that you must pursue your Hunger, just that refraining from pursuing it is that much harder.

Under 5 Grip, the Vice is something that you aren't really used to yet; you're probably clumsy and awkward about it.  Between 5 and 10 is where you become increasingly comfortable with it, even casual.  As it gets above 10, it starts transforming from an activity into a lifestyle; you start ritualizing it, and/or you start indulging in bigger doses (figuratively speaking, in the case of non-drug Vice) with more pronounced and intense effect.  At 20 and higher, the Vice is threatening to be your entire life, the end at which all your means are directed, rollin' just to keep on rollin'.

As the Grip increases, not only does your sensation of need for the Vice increase, but so does your anxiety about fixing, and about having enough to fix tomorrow, and about having the ritualized environs of your Vice in proper order.

Those environs deserve some special consideration.  With any addiction, people will endure certain inconveniences and annoyances for the sake of the addiction.  Some examples:  crack users tend to not have enough lightbulbs in the house, as they use them to improvise glass-pipes; pot heads take the screens out of faucets to replace those in their pipes, and the faucets spray water in uncontrolled blasts without them; junkies' spoons are burned on the bottom because they use them to "cook up" (dissolving the drug into water heated by a flame held under the spoon, so that it can be drawn into the needle).  There's also the way in which people actively arrange their surroundings to focus on the Vice; for instance, meth users who make their own construct what amounts to a chemistry lab in their home.

Now, while those examples all deal with drug-based Vice, the same principles apply to social and behavioral Vice.  Someone who is addicted to watching television will arrange things around that activity.  He probably doesn't take meals in the dining room, instead eating on the couch from a tray table, while the dining room table is neglected and/or relegated to shelf-space, covered in various objects.  Perhaps he has programming guides strewn about the living room.  After all, you gotta know when your shows are coming on, right?

Consider factors like this when roleplaying your character.  Think about the way Vice influences his surroundings, his mannerisms, the way he talks.  Think about the way he justifies and rationalizes all of this.

Faith runs parallel to Vice in most regards.  The milestones are essentially the same:  the period of awkwardness; the increasing casualness and comfort; the transition from belief and axiom into lifestyle, complete with attendant ritualization; the shift from being a part of your life to being the focus of your life.  As Zeal increases, Faith-based issues should also be seen in increasingly black-and-white terms by your character; at 20 Zeal, there is no gray at all.  Again, you can still choose the "black" option, but that choice is going to have that much more gravity.

Faith also creates its own environment.  The more Zealous you become, the more this should be reflected in the way you talk, the people you associate with and how you treat them, and the objects you keep with you and in your home.  Consider the decent, church-going lady with all her crucifixes on the walls and religious books on the coffee table, or the monk with his hair-shirt, studying scriptures by dim light in a cramped, unadorned cell -- and he chooses this.

Woe is harder to graduate.  The primary function of the Depth value is to indicate how intense and involved your coping mechanisms have to be when the Woe is triggered.  But, also, as Depth increases, so do your feelings of guilt, at being at fault for what happened.  At low Depths, your perception of the Woe and its inciting event will include mitigations, places where you acknowledge factors beyond your control and responsibility.  On the other hand, by Depth 20, you've taken responsibility for the entire thing onto your shoulders, even if it was the work of another person – if you gain Woe from failing to save your brother from murder, by the time you hit 20 Depth, you no longer consider the murderer's agency in this at all; it is all your fault, as far as you can see, and seeing it otherwise would require considerable prompting or effort.

By their very nature, Vices are not reliably present.  If it's a drug, you eventually use it up.  If it's a behavior, you don't always have the opportunity or environs you need.  If it's a person, they're not always around.  Therefore, all Vice comes with the hassle of getting more, keeping it around, and keeping things in proper order.  It's either that or try to kick it.  The phrase Waiting for the Man, which refers to waiting for a pusher to arrive at a rendezvous so that you can score, summarizes this nicely.  Waiting for the Man is always a hassle, and the Man is always late.  After all, you need him more than he needs you.

As GM, you are permitted from time-to-time to put PCs in a position where they must either Wait for the Man or go into Withdrawal.  This must be a real choice: no matter what events led to running dry, there has to be a way to get more.  Remember, you can't take something important away from the PCs without a chance to defend it; in this case, that something important is access to their Vice.

In game terms, Waiting for the Man means facing a hassle, ordeal, challenge, or series thereof in order to get what you need.  As always, you should let the player decide the course of action his PC will take to reach his goals, but it's your job to make sure it's problematic.  This should always require at least one pass through the resolution system, to test the PC's resolve by giving him a concrete, consequential price (and maybe even Price) to pay for what he wants.  It's also great if Waiting for the Man complicates the emerging plot.  The more you can tie it in to important events, characters, conflicts, and symbols, the better.

And, as always, remember to slam 'em with the consequences of their actions.

Examples of Waiting for the Man in action:

Lucy Stowe, played by Tina, is a junkie.  She's about to run out, so she needs to score, soon.

"I call up Bonesy Bill," Tina says, "He always knows where to get some."

"Yep, he does," I, the GM, say, "But the price has gone up." 

Lucy Stowe's Concept doesn't make her out to have much cash, and there haven't been any established events so far to suggest that she would have any now, so, by the money rules, she doesn't have enough.  Lucy has to get some cash.  How is up to Tina, and I  figure out how to make it a problem.

"I hit up my sister, Dora Stowe.  Maybe she's got some dough."

I roleplay Dora as being sick of handing out cash to her good-for-nothing, drug-addled sister all the time.  She goes on a long tirade against Lucy, which Lucy interrupts by desperately pleading.  Look's like it's time to roll Lucy's Personable vs. Dora's Grizzled.

Right Mike, played by Brad, is addicted to watching TV.  One day he comes home to find that his old, piece-of-crap TV set has finally given up the ghost.  He's gonna have to get a new one, or give it up.  He could scrounge up the money to buy one, or...

"Do the neighbors have one?" Brad asks me.

"They do now," I say.

"I fuckin' steal it.  I sneak in through the window while they're asleep and steal it."

Looks like a Slick check to get through the window, with the Danger that he will alert the neighbors.  If he fails that, a violent conflict with the neighbors is almost certainly in order.

Marshall Burns

Okay, so, that Magic chapter?  With the exception of the manaburn rules, you don't need it.  Between Faith, the Uncanny stat, and the Rust, you've got everything you need for it.

The idea behind magic in this game – the whole reason it's even there – is to serve as a symbol of the over-arcing conflict of humanity vs. the Rust, in which you bow to the Rust and the corruption it represents, or you pay through the nose for what you want.  Weird, "magical" feats are only accomplished with the consent of the Rust, and it exacts its price one way or the other.  While a character thinks that he is "casting a spell" or "preparing a nostrum" or some such thing, what he's actually doing is engaging in antisocial, morbid, and disturbing behavior that the Rust smiles upon, and thus the Rust lends him a hand.

So, to handle this stuff, you need Faith regarding what the character believes that explains how he can "perform magic."  Maybe he found a book somewhere with crazy rituals in it, and he believes it's all true.  Maybe he's kinda crazy and believes there's a demon living in his hat.  Whatever makes sense to him.

When your guy is performing magic, name his goal and describe how he goes about doing the magic.  The GM will set the Challenge based on the nature of that goal, using the same rubric as otherwise:  10 is moderately difficult, 15 is difficult, 20 is extremely difficult, and 25+ requires superhuman effort.  Where magic is concerned, there's probably gonna be lots of 25+ going around.  Then, based on your description of the magical process, the GM should decide if the Rust finds it suitably corrupt.  If so, the Rust will cooperate, adding the Rust level +d10 to your Uncanny +d10.  If the Rust is decidedly not pleased, you might have to roll against Challenge + Rust + d10.  If it's an edge case, then you'll just roll against Challenge, with the Rust not particularly doing anything.

Price is in terms of manaburn (which I'm trying to think of a better name for).  If your magical process involves damaging yourself in terms of Blood, Sweat, Tears, or Injury, consider it a down-payment on the Price.

Sometimes the Rust might want your magic to get out of hand.  In such cases, you'll still pool your rolls for comparison to the Challenge, but you'll also compare your roll vs. the Rust's roll to see whether you get the effect you wanted or the effect the Rust wanted.  As always, you can Push to get what you want.  Also, remember that the Rust never Pushes.

Here's how I've been interpreting Injury and how many points it's worth:

<5:  Minor Injuries that probably only last for the duration of the scene (twisted ankles, that sort of thing), not too hard to overcome (10 Challenge).

~5: This is Injury in the realm of sprained ankles, broken fingers, and such.  In other words, not too hard to overcome (~10 Challenge), and it can be pretty well alleviated by medical treatment.  I've interpreted this as momentary stunning as well, which can be a big deal in the middle of a fight.

~10:  Knockouts, or major sprains and strains, or losing a finger.  More difficult to overcome (~15 Challenge), and harder to alleviate (if not permanent, as with losing a finger).

~20:  Broken bones, severed tendons, that sort of thing.  These Injuries are hard to overcome (~20 Challenge), and they can be assumed to last for the duration of the Yarn.

~30:  Compound fractures, bones sticking out through the skin, that sort of thing.  Take superhuman effort to overcome (25-30 Challenge), and can be assumed to last for the duration of the Yarn.

40+:  Catastrophic Injury.  Like mangled, useless limbs requiring immanent amputation, if not losing a limb outright.  Almost certainly permanent, given the state of the technology, but the intervention of Devices or something might be able to do something about it.

All of these give the GM the authority to make them hurt.  The most simple way is through the Tough checks to overcome them, or by increasing Challenge ratings on what would ordinarily be simple tasks.  With really severe Injuries, like 30+, the GM can mandate Tough checks to see if the character can keep from passing out from the pain.  And, of course, things like knockouts can often mean getting captured, or being left stripped in the street, or any other manner of unpleasantness.  You get knocked out, then the GM gets to say what things are like when you wake up.

Marshall Burns


This is a revised version of the text describing how to frame conflicts and unopposed tasks.  In response to feedback that certain areas were unclear and there were a few holes, I decided to just go all-out and detail everything I could think of.  That revised text follows.  The Price rules and special rules for fights and influence and such that are added onto the basic rules aren't included; use your extant text for that.  None of the rules have changed, just the way I explain them.  


The resolution system for this game is all about the characters' resolve.  It revolves around the following idea:  you can accomplish anything, if you're willing to lose enough in the process.  Sometimes, if you're lucky, you'll get what you want for free.  Sooner or later, though, it's going to come down to a judgment on your part:  is my goal worth the price?

The basic mechanic is a simple d10 roll added to an attribute score then compared to a target number.  If you fail that, you are given a choice:  do you Push or do you Give?  If you Give, you take your failure and like it.  If you Push, you get to succeed anyway.  You'll have to pay for it somehow, but, as William S. Burroughs might say, them's the breaks, kid; you gotta take a broad, general view of things.  When the going gets tough, that roll of yours is really just there to determine how much you gotta pay.

Pushing means paying a Price with a value equal to the margin of failure.  The Price can manifest as a variety of inconveniences and loss of resourcs, including but not limited to damage; the various implementations of the Price are discussed later in this chapter.  Essentially, you "buy" the number of points you need to achieve success.  In the cases of unopposed tasks and orthogonal conflicts, you need only meet the target number, but in diametric conflicts, you must exceed the target number.  These situations are discussed in more detail below.

If you want to Push, you must meet any one of the following criteria:

  • You are acting to pursue your Hunger
  • You used Vice or Faith to steady your nerve (this counts as Coping)
  • You are acting to get a fix for a Vice
  • You are acting to uphold or prove a Faith
  • You are acting to achieve absolution or redemption for a Woe
  • You are acting for the sake of someone you care about

There's really no limit on how far you can Push.  You can put your hand through a foot of concrete if you really want to – you just won't recognize it afterwards.  

Note to the GM:  when the roll fails, ask the player, "Do you give or do you Push?"  The Push is the most important mechanic in the game, and you don't want anyone to miss an opportunity to use it.

Checks are the simplest application of the system.  They are used when a character is performing an important task that might conceivably fail, with negative repercussions for failure – that is, it shouldn't be a situation where, if you fail, you just roll again.  Whether you succeed or fail, something has to happen.  If there's no chance of failure, don't do a check; the stated action succeeds.  If there's nothing at stake (i.e. no consequence for failure), don't do a check; the stated action succeeds.  Deciding when to do a check is the GM's call.  It will either be in response to a player's stated action, or to an imminent danger introduced by the GM that must be faced.  The former case will be pretty easy to spot; it's when the player says, "I kick down the door!" or something to that tune.  Here's some examples of the latter case:

If you have been performing a physically demanding task for an extended time (carrying a heavy weight, running, going without food), the GM may call for a Tough check to see if you can carry on.

If you have been performing a mentally demanding task for an extended time (complex mathematics, studying a strange book, investigating a crime scene), the GM may call for a Thorough check to see if you can carry on.

If you're about to trigger a trap, the GM can call for a Cagey check to see if you notice in time.  When failed, this can usually be followed up with a Slick check to see if you can get out of the way once the thing is triggered.

When you witness or experience human carnage (ranging from seeing someone get mutilated to coming across a corpse) or weird, supernatural occurrences, the GM may call for a Grizzled check to see if you can suppress response (screaming, panic, nausea, etc., at your call).  In such cases, you can also Cope with Faith or Vice instead or if you fail.

The procedure for resolving checks is as follows:

Step 1:  Declare Intent & Danger
The player first needs to state the Intent.  This should consist of three factors:

1. The Goal:  what are you trying to accomplish?
2. The motivation for achieving the Goal.  This will usually be implicit, but may occasionally require verbalization.  As GM, feel free to ask a player to elaborate when motivation is unclear.
3. The Task:  how will you go about accomplishing your Goal?

The difference between Task and Goal is crucial.  For example, picking a lock and kicking down a door are both Tasks performed to accomplish the Goal of getting past a locked door.  The Task tells us what exactly is happening, and it determines which attribute is used.  The Goal tells us what will happen if you succeed.

The best way to declare a Task is to describe exactly how you'd like it to turn out.  Use concrete details; avoid generics (like "I swing at him") whenever possible.  We need a clear picture of what exactly your character is trying to do.

You can change your mind about your Intent and return to this step any time you want, up until you roll the dice (Step 4).

The Danger is what will happen if you fail.  A good Danger needs to be dangerous, disadvantageous, or at least inconvenient in some way.  The GM decides the Danger; other people can suggest Dangers, but it's the GM's call.

Here's some example Dangers:

When stealthily infiltrating a compound, the Danger is that someone might see you.
When trying to get past an obstacle to rescue a friend from enemies, the Danger is that they might kill him (or at least hurt him) before you get there.
When trying to jump out of a window in order to escape a bomb, the Danger is that it might go off before you make it.

Not every single check needs a Danger; sometimes the consequences for failure are just that the intended course of action can't be taken, and you must pursue a different tack.  As long as there is somewhere for events to go after failure besides trying the same thing again, you're good.

Step 2:  Set the Challenge
The Challenge is a numerical rating representing how much effort, expertise, and/or presence of mind is needed to succeed.  It's the target number that you roll against in checks.  The GM chooses a Challenge rating based on pacing and  the importance of the Goal, then describes things to explain why it's that high.  This is a bit of a reversal from most games; rather than look at the fiction in terms of what's being attempted and gauging how difficult it should be, you decide how difficult it should be and then narrate the reason into the fiction.

Now, this doesn't mean that the same door is easier to knock down when it's not as important and then harder when it is; it means that when getting past a door is going to be important, that's when the GM starts putting in steel doors with reinforced locks.  As GM, you'll have to think on your feet for this and pay close attention to what the characters are working towards.  When it's time to escalate the tension, that's when you throw in a high-Challenge obstacle.

Challenge ratings should be set in increments of 5.  Here's a breakdown of Challenge values:

10:  Moderately difficult.  This means that a slightly above-average person (with a relevant attribute of 5) can do it without breaking a sweat roughly half the time.  This is as easy as it gets; if the Challenge would be less than 10, don't bother with the check; it just happens.

15:  Considerably difficult.  this means that someone at the pinnacle of human ability (with a relevant attribute of 10) can do it without breaking a sweat roughly half the time.

20:  Extremely difficult.  The only people who can make this without Pushing are those with a relevant attribute of 10, and they only have a 10% chance to do so.

25+:  This requires an amount of effort that is beyond the human frame of reference.  It is, strictly speaking, impossible.  But, with enough resolve, you can do it anyway.  When someone does, it should be something awesome, and also awful due to the price.  Challenges in this range are best reserved for climactic or otherwise momentous situations.  

Step 3:  Identify Attribute & Advantage
The GM decides which of the eight attributes would best help the character to accomplish the Task, based on their described functions.  Only one attribute should be applied.

This will be pretty clear-cut most of the time, but sometimes more than one will seem like a good candidate; pick the one that is most applicable.  If you're still at a loss, just pick the one that has a higher score.

We also need to know how many Advantage dice you will get.  The Rule of Advantage is this:  one advantaging factor yields one Advantage die.  If expertise in the Task at hand is contained or implied in your Concept, you get an Advantage die.  If you have appropriate tools or other relevant equipment, that's worth an Advantage die.  Concrete details of the situation can also provide Advantage dice, as determined by the GM.

Step 4:  Roll the Dice
All rolls in this game are to be made in public, for all participants to see.  You get one die automatically, plus any Advantage dice you've been awarded.  To recap, all the dice are ten-siders.  You do not add the values of the dice together; you take the highest rolled value and add it to the attribute being used.  This total value is Performance, and represents how well you're able to perform the Task, at this moment in time without Pushing.

Step 5:  Determine Success or Failure
Compare your Performance to the Challenge.  If Performance meets or exceeds Challenge, then you performed so well that the Task is accomplished and the Goal attained without any problems.

If the Challenge exceeds Performance, however, you gotta choose whether to Give or Push.  If you Give, you fail the Task, forfeit the Goal, and face the Danger.  Giving is the only way to fail.  If you Push, you accomplish the Task, attain the Goal, avoid the Danger, and pay a Price equal to the difference between your Performance and the Challenge.

Step 6:  Narrate What Happens
Now it's time to describe the actual events, rather than intentions, as determined by the previous steps.  Anyone can narrate; as long as all the stuff determined by the mechanics is included, it doesn't matter.  If certain details of sequence are going to have important repercussions in a follow-up check or conflict and the players can't come to an agreement, they should defer to the GM.  But remember that when narrating a somebody's actions and decisions (as opposed to what happens to and around them), the buck stops with the player who controls that character.  The GM can describe your character's actions, but there's an implicit, "...right?" attached to the end, and you can veto it if you don't like it.

If the Danger came true, it needs to be narrated (the buck stops with the GM on that one).  If you Pushed, that needs to be narrated.  The circumstances, effect, and Price of the Push should provide enough information to make that easy.  Just explain how the character succeeded when, by rights, he should have failed:  sheer willpower, dumb luck, a split-second reaction, whatever makes sense.

You'll find that once you get a feel for the game, you'll be narrating bits and pieces throughout the process, but you'll still need this step from time to time in order to sort out what exactly happened, making sure that everyone is on the same page.

Step 7:  Fallout
Now you apply all mechanical effects and consequences, such as the effects of the Price or perhaps damage due to Danger.  Don't forget this:  effects are applied only after actions are resolved, even if they incapacitate the character!

Many times, the consequences of a check (especially a failed one) will lead directly to another check or a conflict.  For instance, if the Danger was that someone might see you, now you'll have to deal with that somehow.  If you're the GM, you need to be thinking about this.  You need to capitalize on the consequences of the characters' actions.

Marshall Burns


Diametric conflicts occur when characters are acting against each other in directly opposed ways, such that only one of their goals can be achieved.  These are pretty easy to spot:  if we're both trying to grab the same gun from the floor at the same time, that's a diametric conflict; if I'm trying to punch you, and you're trying to dodge, that's a diametric conflict.

Here's the procedure for resolving diametric conflicts:

Step 1:  Declare Intents
Intents are declared as in the check rules:  Goal, motivation, and Task.  Keep in mind that "I stop him!" and similar things are declarations of your Goal, and thus only half of the picture; you still need to tell us how you stop him.

Either player can adjust his Intent as much as desired up until the dice are rolled.  Note that these changes might change the nature of the conflict from diametric to orthogonal (see below), or even avoid conflict altogether.

Step 2:  Identify Attributes & Advantage
This step works just like checks.  Note, however, that the attribute a character uses is determined by the Task he is attempting, and is not influenced by the other character's Task at all.

Step 3:  Roll the Dice
Again, this works just like checks.  Each player rolls their dice, takes the highest and adds it to the appropriate attribute to derive their Performance value.

Step 4:  Success & Failure
In a diametric conflict, only one person can succeed.  The person with the lowest Performance value gets the option to Push or to Give.  If he Gives, then his Goal is forfeit and his opponent's is accomplished.  If he Pushes, then he pays a Price equal to the difference between his Performance and his opponent's.

If the loser of the roll Pushed, then at this point the two characters are evenly matched.  The winner of the roll must now decide whether to Give or to Push Back.  If he Pushes Back, the conflict becomes a Deadlock.  Deadlock also occurs if the Performance values are tied.  To resolve a Deadlock, follow these steps in order:

1. The players may both choose to back down, in which case neither player succeeds.  This step only applies to tied rolls or bids; if you Pushed back to get to Deadlock, it doesn't make any sense to back down immediately after that.  If one of players does not wish to do this, go to the next step.
2. The players each write down a bid for how much additional Price they are willing to pay, then reveal them simultaneously.  The person who bid lowest must Give, and the other must pay a Price equal to the lower bid plus one.
3. If the bids tied, return to step 1.  If more bids are called for, they are cumulative with the previous set.

The Price of the Push Back that brings it to a Deadlock is determined solely by the bids.

Fair warning:  Deadlocks can get nasty real fast.  In diametric conflicts, before you end up at a Deadlock, you need to be thinking hard about how much you're willing to pay in order to win this thing.  There is nothing more dangerous than the terrible resolve of someone willing to pay more than you.

Step 5:  Narration and Step 6:  Fallout work exactly like the narration and fallout in checks.

Orthogonal conflicts occur when characters are acting against each other in ways that, while antagonistic, are not mutually exclusive, such that both Goals could be achieved.  If you visualize the characters running toward their goals at right angles to each other such that they are going to intersect, that's what an orthogonal conflict is like.  The question is, will one block the path of the other, or will they both make it through the intersection?  An instance of this that you will see frequently in play is a fight in which both sides are trying to hurt each other at the same time.

Here's the procedure:

Steps 1 – 3 are the same as diametric conflicts.

Step 4:  Success & Failure
In an orthogonal conflict, either one Goal will be achieved or both will.  First, compare the Performance values.  The person with the highest one will succeed in his Goal.  The loser must now choose whether to Push or to Give.  If he Gives, his Goal is forfeit.  If he Pushes, he pays a Price equal to the difference between the two Performance values, and achieves his Goal.  Pushing won't affect the first guy's success; it's set in stone.  If the rolls tied, then both Goals are achieved.

Step 5:  Narrate What Happens
This works just as before.  It's worth noting, however, that the actual sequence of the actions is irrelevant as far as the rules are concerned; there is no "initiative" in any shape, form, or fashion in this game, and you can narrate it however it makes sense.  If you were punching me, and I was punching you, and we both succeeded, then maybe you hit me first, or I hit you first, or we hit each other at the same time.  As far as the rules are concerned, it's all the same thing.

Step 6:  Fallout works just as before.

The above structures are all based on fairly straightforward situations, but you'll find that much, much messier ones will often arise in play.  These are handled by extensions and combinations of the basic three structures:  checks, diametric conflicts, and orthogonal conflicts.  Here's some scenarios:

Diametric conflict for more than two people – What if there's three of us reaching for the gun that's been dropped on the floor?

The people with the two lowest Performance scores must each choose whether to Push or to Give; their Price is equal to the difference between their respective Performances and the highest.  If one Gives, he's out and it's an ordinary diametric conflict between the two remaining parties.  If both Give, the high roll succeeds.  If both Push, the high roller must choose whether to Give or Push Back.  If he Gives, it's a Deadlock between the other two guys.  But if he Pushes Back, it's a three-way Deadlock; the highest bidder must pay a Price equal to the second-highest bid plus one.  The "back down" option requires that all three agree to it.  If two or more bids tie for highest, you return to step 1 of the Deadlock procedure, but if two people tie and the third bid lower, he's out of the running.

You can extend this to as many participants as necessary; those who Push are Pushing against the highest Performance, and the winner of Deadlock bids pays a Price equal to the next highest bid plus 1.

Cooperation – What if you're pushing the car up the hill, and I'm helping?  Or you're punching a guy while I'm holding him still for you?

The normal check or conflict structure applies, but our Performance scores are pooled against the Challenge or opposing Performance (whichever is applicable).  There is all kinds of strength in numbers.

Check plus diametric interference – What if you're trying to pick the lock on the door but I'm trying to prevent you from doing that by tackling you?

First, compare your Performance against me as a diametric conflict.  If you Give, then I prevent you from picking the lock, and the Danger happens (if there was one).  If I Give, you may now compare your Performance against the Challenge of the check.  You will be using the same Performance value here; it's one action, it gets one roll.  Note that your active attribute should be determined based on the Task you are attempting in the check.  You aren't actively doing anything against the interferer; you're trying to get your Task done before he can interfere.  And, yes, sometimes you might have to Push twice in such situations:  once in the conflict, and once in the check.

Check plus orthogonal interference – What if you're trying to pick the lock on the door while I'm trying to cream you with a baseball bat?

First, compare your Performance against me as an orthogonal conflict.  If you roll high and I Give, you get to go straight on to the check (using the same Performance value); I didn't get to you in time, or I missed, or whatever else makes sense.  If you roll high and I Push, you get hit with the baseball bat (taking appropriate damage), but you still get to do your check.  If I roll high and you Give, you get hit with the baseball bat and forfeit your check, and the Danger happens (if there was one).  If I roll high and you Push, you get hit with the baseball bat, but you still get to do your check.  If we tie, then you get hit and still get to do your check.  As before, you use your same Performance value in the conflict and the check.  And, yes, sometimes you might have to Push twice in such situations:  once in the conflict, and once in the check.

There's a subtle but crucial factor differentiating between diametric and orthogonal interference, and that's the interferer's Goal -- not necessarily his Task.  In the first example, the Tasks could both feasibly be accomplished:  you could pick the lock and get tackled.  But because the Goal was to PREVENT you from picking the lock, it was diametric.  Cases like the second example, where an interferer is trying to harm you, will ALWAYS be orthogonal because the Goal is to inflict damage.  My stated Goal can't be "I prevent you and inflict damage"; I have to pick just one of them.  Both might happen (if I'm lucky), but I only get to roll for one of them.

Conflict plus diametric interference – What if I'm trying to punch you, you're trying to dodge, and Steve is trying to prevent me from hitting you? 

This works just like a check with diametric interference, with a conflict substituted for the check.  First resolve the interfering conflict, then resolve the main conflict.  First we resolve me vs. Steve (diametric); if I win that, then we resolve me vs. you (diametric).  If I Give against Steve, then my Goal against you is forfeit.

Now, this example might look like cooperation between you and Steve, but it's not.  Your Goal is to avoid, Steve's is to prevent.  If Steve was trying to pull you out of the way, that would be cooperation.

What if I'm trying to punch you, you're trying to punch me, and Steve is trying to prevent me from hitting you?  The only difference is that the conflict of me vs. you is orthogonal.  If I Give against Steve, however, my Goal is forfeit even if my roll beat yours, and you will get your Goal unchallenged.

Conflict plus orthogonal interference – What if I'm trying to punch you, and you're trying to dodge, and Steve is trying to punch me?

This works just like a check with orthogonal interference, with a conflict substitued for the check.  First we resolve me vs. Steve (orthogonal).  This can come out five different ways:  I roll high, Steve Gives (I don't get punched), then we resolve me vs. you; I roll high, Steve Pushes (I get punched), then we resolve me vs. you; Steve rolls high (I get punched), I Give, and my Goal against you is forfeit; Steve rolls high (I get punched), I Push, then we resolve me vs. you; Steve and I tie (I get punched), then we resolve me vs. you.

Circular conflict – What if you're trying to punch me, I'm trying to bludgeon Steve, and Steve's trying to stab you?

What's going on here is that each of us is in a simultaneous orthogonal conflict plus orthogonal interference.  We all roll for Performance once.  Let's say that Steve's is 16, yours is 14, and mine is 12.  We go from highest to lowest.  Steve's Goal is in the clear:  you get stabbed, and there's nothing anyone can do about it.  Now you can either Give, which means that I won't get punched, so I need only Push against Steve (Price 4) in order to bludgeon him.  On the other hand, you can Push against Steve (Price 2) in order to punch me, and now I have to Push against you and then Push against Steve (total Price 6: 4 against Steve, 2 against you) in order to bludgeon Steve. 

To boil it down:  high roll gets what he wants; second highest must Push to get what he wants; lowest must Push twice to get what he wants, once against each person who rolled higher than him.  You can extend this to as many participants as necessary.  For each person that rolls higher than you and does not Give, you have to Push once to get your Goal; so if there's three people who rolled better than you, and none of them Gave, you have to Push three times to get what you want. 

Marshall Burns

(Because I did a terrible job of explaining this in the ashcan)

You can talk, threaten, bargain, and beg all you want in-character, and it might work, but if you want to give that some teeth, you need to inflict Influence on the person you're dealing with.  Influence is a mechanical effect that constrains a character's decisions (although the authority over those decisions remains always with that character's player) by, essentially, making it harder to do whatever it is you don't want him to do.  Like, if you were begging for your life and managed to Influence your aggressor, it would be harder for him to keep hurting you.  He might get over the Influence and do it anyway, but it'll be that much harder, and it might be enough to save you.

To Influence a character, you have to win a diametric conflict, with your Goal being to Influence.  Your Goal can't include anything else; just Influence.  So, you can't Influence and inflict damage, or Influence and accomplish a task; not in one roll.  If you're in a fight, and someone wants to try to Influence someone, then the fighting is on hold until the Influence roll is resolved – so, when your enemy, battered and bleeding, clings to the seam of your jeans, getting his blood all over your shoes, and he begs for his life in strangled sobs, you can't just shoot him in the face.  You have to win the Influence conflict first.  Then you can shoot him in the face.

When you successfully inflict Influence, your target takes on an Influence effect equal to your Performance roll, plus any points you Pushed for (and you can Push for more than you needed).  In order to act in defiance of that Influence (to kill you if you begged for your life, to stand up to you if you intimidated him, etc.), the guy has to win a check against that Influence value before trying.  If he wins, he's over it and he can do what he likes; if he Gives, he must continue to act in line with that Influence.

Influence is a short-term thing.  If you intimidated a bouncer in order to get into the club's VIP room, and you come back the next day, that bouncer's not going to still be intimidated (unless you do it again).  If you seduced somebody to get money from him, he won't still be under your thrall when you meet him next; you've got to renew the effect.  And it's not unreasonable for the GM to give your victim an Advantage die when you try repeat attempts at Influence – knowing that you've played 'em before, they're likely to be on the lookout for it, and that's certainly an advantaging factor in their favor.  Fool me once.

So, here's some different ways you can Influence people:
•use Tough for physical coercion, or slapping someone upside the head to shame or shock them into compliance
•use Savvy to fast-talk or sway with rhetoric
•use Grizzled to intimidate
•use Slick for deceptions through sleight of hand
•use Thorough to slowly break someone down, say through wheedling or interrogation
•use Personable to appeal to someone's emotions
•use Cagey to lie convincingly
•use Uncanny to freak someone out, or sway them with your aura (a favorite of manic preachers and cult leaders).

Don't think of these as limitations; they are merely examples.  There are other ways to Influence; use your imagination.

As for resisting Influence, pay special attention to how you're resisting it.  You're usually going to be using Savvy, Grizzled, Cagey, or Thorough, depending on that how.  If you're seeing through it because you're smart enough to work out the vectors and realize that you're being played like a fiddle, that's Savvy.  If you're resisting it by being hardboiled and mastering your emotions, that's Grizzled.  If you're being suspicious and perceptive, on the lookout for this sort of thing, that's Cagey.  If you're relying on disciplined focus, or even obsession, that's Thorough.

By the way, remember that whole thing about Task vs. Goal.  "I talk him into letting us into the club" is just the Goal, just half of the picture.  We need to know how you do that.  So, you should still "roleplay out" social conflicts as the conventional wisdom goes, even while bringing the dice into it.  The Influence mechanic is there to give the thing extra weight, not to obviate the roleplaying.