Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Conflict Resolution vs. Task Resolution and Fudging Dice Rolls

From a post I made today at

I hate GM fudging and hidden rolls. I say put the dice on the table and let everyone weep at the outcome!

But seriously, if you play a game that gives you more latitude to determine what success or failure mean, you need never fudge another roll or hide the results.

Jenskot, I know you've been reading Vincent's blog, and this is pretty much what the whole Conflict Resolution vs. Task Resolution thing is all about. When a die roll is resolving a conflict rather than a task, you never need to fudge the results.

Over at the Forge, they suggest that everytime you go to the dice (or other method of Fortune, like cards), there are actually four steps that happen. They call this IIEE (Intent, Initiation, Execution, Effect).

So how does that help? I'm going to steal an example from Abzu to help illustrate. Let's say you're playing a fantasy game, and your character is in a castle and running from some guards. He comes to a locked door.

Step 1: Intent. You say, "I want to get through the door before the guards arrive!" That's your intent. That's what you're trying to achieve with your roll.

Step 2: Initiation. I, as the GM, ask you what skill (or trait, or however the system you're using judges these things) you're going to use to accomplish your intent. You say, "My lockpicking skill."

Cool! Now we have an Intent and have established the Task that you will use to accomplish that Intent. As a good GM, I'm going to help you qualify that by restating the risk (or stakes) for you and making sure you understand and agree.

"Your Intent is to get through the door before the guards arrive. If you fail the roll, the guards arrive before you get through the door. Cool?"

Step 3: Execution. You've consented to the risk. The dice hit the table. Failure!

Step 4: Effect. "You struggle with the lock, the pins are a bit rusty and you really have to push to slide them into place. Your heart is beating a mile a minute and sweat is trickling down your brow as the last tumbler falls into place! The lock clicks open! Just as you begin to tug the door open, two guards stumble around the corner, shouting, "Halt! Thief!"

See? The conflict in this situation was never about the lock at all. It was merely a complication, placed there as a problem to see if we can't eke a little more drama out of your escape attempt. In this case you failed the lockpicking roll, but that really had nothing to do with your Intent in the scene, so as the GM, I'm free to let you open the lock. Unfortunately, it took you long enough that the guards were able to catch up with you. Now we have another juicy conflict to deal with.

You can do this sort of thing with any system. However, some will support it better than others. For instance, Clinton R. Nixon's game, The Shadow of Yesterday, gives this sort of thing awesome support (and he explains IIEE pretty clearly). In his system, you cannot have a deadly conflict unless a player intentionally escalates things to a deadly degree.