Conflicts, such as combat, arguments and other opposed actions are a staple of RPGs. Her I outline a more detailed conflict resolution process for FU. What follows is heavily inspired by the work of the original FanMadeFU yahoo group, Adrian Price’s FUBAR and Vagrant Workshop‘s Earthdawn: Age of Legends.
Stress defines a character or opponent’s ability to stay in a scene. When a character fails a risky or dangerous action, or is injured in some manner, they lose a point of stress. When a character successfully takes an action to overcome an opponent or threat, it loses a point of stress. As a consequence, stress represents more than just “wounds” or “health”, but more a kind of plot immunity.
When a character, opponent or threat loses its last stress point it is removed from a scene. A player character might be knocked unconscious, captured, terrified or killed! An enemy might be vanquished, a bomb defused, or a competitor beaten.
Most of the time when a character is confronted by something that is stopping their progress they pose a question, roll the dice and see if they succeed at overcoming the obstacle. Any kind of “Yes…” result means the obstacle is defeated and they may move on. In these scenarios the challenge essentially has 1 stress.
An opponent, threat or obstacle with two or more stress cannot be overcome with a single action / roll. A player will have to take several actions, or a number of characters will have to work together. When you attempt to overcome an obstacle with two or more stress, any “yes” result will reduce the total stress by 1 point. Weapons or abilities do not increase the “damage”, but they could be tags that improve a character’s chance of success.
For example, October Jones (Girl Reporter) is attempting to get a scoop from a tight-lipped police detective (stress 2). As the detective’s stress is greater than one, Jones’ player cannot simply ask “Do I get the scoop?” – she has to work a bit for it! Jones uses some witty banter and asks “Can I get the detective to lower his guard?” The player rolls dice and gets a “Yes, but…” result. It’s a success, with some mitigating factor. “Yes, he lowers his guard, but it takes a lot longer than you wanted. It is now getting quite late and the city is a dangerous place at night.” As the roll was a success the detective’s stress is lowered to 1. Now, Jones asks “Do I get the scoop?”
Whether it is physical combat, a debate, battle of wills, or a magical duel, conflicts can be resolved in a similar manner to above. A player describes their action, the narrator describes the target’s response, modifiers are gathered and dice are rolled.
The player asks a question that shows how they are trying to wear down their opponent:
- If the action succeeds (any “yes” result) the target loses a stress point.
- If the action fails (any “no” result) the narrator gets to put pressure on the character. The target probably attempts to “attack” back.
If at any point the player’s actions open them up to be injured themselves, the tables have turned and the narrator will describe how the opponent attempts to cause harm. The player must now describe how they are avoiding injury or insult, gather modifiers and roll. If they get a “yes” result, no harm is done. A failure (a “No” result) means the player’s character loses a point of stress.
It is probably easier to understand with an example:
Harvey Reed (Retired boxer, 3 stress) is accosted by a Mob Enforcer (3 stress) with a grudge. They are in a dark alley filled with garbage and junk. Harvey realises the thug isn’t going to listen to reason, and the two get into a fist fight. Harvey’s player describes the old boxer circling the gangster, taking a few swings to test his opponent’s reflexes.
Player: Can I get in a few jabs and test this guy’s skills? (The dice hit the table and the result is “Yes”.)
Narrator: Yes, you get a couple of good shots in. You see this fella is tough but not particularly skilled. (The thug is down to 2 stress.) You continue to circle each other in the narrow alley. What do you do?
Player: Okay, we circle each other again, then I charge at this guy, slamming him against the brick wall of the alley. Do I knock the wind out of him? (The result is a “No, but…”)
Narrator: No, he isn’t winded, but he is pinned against the wall. That’s a condition tag on the enforcer. He struggles against your hold and brings an elbow down hard on your shoulder. What do you do?
Player: I’m strong, so I just grit my teeth and try to hold him. Can I resist the hit? (Dice are rolled, resulting in a “No, but…”)
Narrator: No, the blow sends a sharp pain right down your back. Lose a point of stress. But, the guy is still pinned against the wall. (Harvey is now down to 2 stress.) He is struggling furiously and flailing with his free hand, but to little effect.
Player: So, I have my arms wrapped around him, right? (The narrator nods, agreeing.) I lift him off his feet and throw him into a pile of junk.
Narrator: Cool. There’s a pile of old wooden pallets nearby. What’s your question? Can I hurl the enforcer into the pallets?
Player: Sounds good. (Modifiers are calculated and dice are rolled. The result is “Yes, and…”)
Narrator: Yes, you hurl the thug into the wooden pallets. They smash under him creating an awful racket. He is on the ground amongst the debris and he is clearly dazed. He’s no longer pinned though. (The enforcer also loses a point of stress as the player’s action was successful.)
Player: The enforcer is down to one stress, right? So I can take him out?
Player: Okay, I lean down, pull him up by the jacket and as I bring him up I punch him hard in the face. Can I knock him out? (Dice are rolled – “Yes, and…”)
Narrator: Yes! And as he falls backward his jacket, which you still have in one hand, tears, spilling the contents of his pockets onto the alley floor. You notice a matchbook with a familiar logo on it… (The enforcer has been reduced to 0 stress and therefore been taken out of the scene.)
What about conditions?
You still apply conditions or details as appropriate. While a “yes” result will see a character harm a target, they might still also apply a condition to either themselves or the target, or change the situation in some way. Likewise, a failed roll could also see additional details applied to the scene.
Here is a chart with some suggestions:
- Character/Target suffers a condition: apply a temporary condition tag to the character/target.
- Detail is added to the scene: a tag is applied to the scene. Anyone can use a tag to modify a roll (if it is relevant to the action being attempted). Positive details will probably provide some bonus to player actions while negative details will be a hindrance.
- Gain some advantage: this is an opening to take an action. Unlike a condition or detail that can modify a roll, an advantage is permission to take an action. If an enemy gains an advantage they will probably attempt to hurt the character(s), escape, or change the situation to their benefit. This usually means the character(s) has to act to stop the enemy. If a character gains an advantage, the scene has changed in some way that opens up new options.
How much stress?
I would recommend giving characters 3 stress points. Most obstacles will still only have 1 stress (so you can overcome them with a single roll). Give capable threats two or three stress. If there are a lot of player characters you will need to either have multiple opponents or increase the amount of stress each threat does in order to make conflicts interesting.
Faster, nastier conflicts
As an alternative to the conflicts described above, when a player takes an action to engage an enemy in a conflict, they could also risk injury. If their roll succeeds the target loses 1 stress, but if the roll fails the character loses 1 stress.
For this to work the action being rolled for must clearly leave both characters open to injury. In the example given above, the initial attempts by Harvey to “test this guy’s skills” would clearly leave both open to being punched. The earlier example with October Jones trying to get information from a police detective could also work, but might require some additional creativity to explain why she is “injured” if the roll fails (perhaps her pride is hurt, or she is threatened with trying to obstruct justice…). I would really like to know your opinion on this.
I was just looking at the Fate 3.0 stress track to see if I could adapt it to FU. I even bought and downloaded the Fate Hit Location pdf (though I don’t think it was worth what I paid for it.)
I bought Don’t Walk in Winter Wood, an rpg game that uses tokens the same way as the stress points above. In fact, it would be easy to add the FU system to this game. It’s extremely rules lite. But the setting and scenarios is worth the $5, IMHO.
However, I was thinking of coming up with a system where damage is based on damage levels, such as: mild, medium, severe, etc. With each level having suggestions on what specific damage was done. Such as severe having an artery severed or an extremity severed. And weapons would have a damage level where a ‘medium’ damage handgun does it’s medium damage on a “yes” roll. Does the next level up on a “yes, and” roll (medium to severe, perhaps.) Or does the one level of damage below its standard level on a “yes, but” roll (medium to minor damage.)
And I would keep the weapons’ damage in broad categories. Such as this I’ve found in a game supplement:
Weapon Rating Guidelines (page 202)
Small pocket weapons, knives, saps, and “belly
Swords, baseball bats, batons, most pistols Weapon:2
Two-handed weapons, oversized pistols
(Desert Eagle and company), rifles and shotguns,
most fully-automatic weapons
“Battlefield” weaponry, explosives Weapon:4+
Btw, I’m kind of big on the survival horror genre. So I’m looking for a system that can be more specific when it comes to physical damage.
You could totally make the stress system more granular. The easiest option is to give characters “wounds” or the like (basically hit points) instead of stress points. Give them, say 10 wounds (or 6, or 20, or whatever makes sense).
Give weapons a damage value, either in straight points (light weapons do 2 point, medium 4 points, heavy 8 points), or random value (light weapons d4, medium d6, heavy d8 or whatever – maybe 1d4, 2d4 or 3d4???). Apply appropriate damage to a target when a “yes” is scored. Apply damage to a character when they fail to avoid a hit.
If you want, a character (or enemy) could choose to take a light, medium or severe condition in order to reduce damage by a certain amount. Lets say a light condition reduces damage by 2 points, a medium by 4 and a severe condition negates all damage. This way it is in player’s hands whether they just lose wounds, or get beaten up but still alive.
Thank you. I will have to try one or more of those suggestions out this coming weekend.
Btw, I like the simplicity of the system yours. It’s easy to understand and apply.
Thanks! And please, if you do get a chance to try things out I would love feedback.
I think I may have some free time this coming weekend. If I get a chance, I’ll let you know how it plays out.
I tested out a damage system that Tiny Frontiers uses. The character simply has 5 hit points. And when those are gone, the character dies. Each hit takes away a single hit point, unless it’s a Yes, and…, or a No, and…
And I did come up with a system that’s really fast:
Yes, and… = two hp taken from opponent.
Yes= a single hp is taken from opponent
Yes, but… = a single hp is taken from both the character and opponent
No, but… = same as getting a Yes, but…
No= a single hp is taken from character
No, and… two hp is taken from character
With this system, the Apocalypse World damage system can also be ported over.
Rounds don’t have a time limit attached to them. They last until a hit(s) has been achieved.
In the case of the Yes, but… and the No, but…, it simply means that both opponents left themselves open to taking an immediate hit while giving a hit.
I used the dice system used in Alpha Blue and The Outer Presence. But I might use a system inspired by Lasers and Feelings. http://onesevendesign.com/lasers_and_feelings_rpg.pdf
Great stuff! I am currently toying with actual hit points and damage, too. It is easy to “bolt on” and adds a nice level of detail that many roleplayers want.
I just wanted to clarify my hastily posted post, above. Just in case someone buys Tiny Frontiers thinking that it’s FU-like. I only got the HP from that game. HP in that game is THE indicator of how tough an opponent is. As a hit only does one point of damage regardless of weapon.
I wanted a combat system that showed who got hit and for how much in one roll. I also wanted the combat system to have critical damage and the potential for both combatants to kill each other in the same battle.
Great ideas! I would use clarifying some things, though:
1. Does PC (Player Character) always should lose a stress point whenever he loses a roll (any result beginning with “No …”), or only in the case of challenges that have more than one stress point (i.e. those that need more than one success to overcome)? What do you think about the challenges that in the case of PC failure do not mean lose of stress points? I mean challenges that are difficult (e.g. long journeys, the need to acquire some very hard to find information), so one roll seems insufficient, but failure does not involve any physical or mental damage.
2. When (how fast) does PC regain lost stress points and how quickly disappear the consequences like “stunned”? Do you need to make a successful roll for treatment, or does it happen automatically? Perhaps both answers are correct – stress points are being recovered after some time, but if PC wants it faster, he needs a roll?
3. How soon after being taken out (eliminated) can PC act (e.g. fight) again? For example, if PC was defeated in battle by the opponents and captured, may he or she attempt to escape after a short time? Will he or she have again 3 stress points? Perhaps the answer to question above is the answer to this question as well.
4. What do you think about one of the options with “Yes and…” result is that PC regenerates a lost stress point, and with “No and…” – that the opponent regenerates the lost stress point?
5. What do you think about the assumption that during combat player gets one [+] for each ally who fights at his side (regardless if they are the other PC or NPC allies), and similarly, each enemy is one [-] to the result? Of course, other tags (e.g. for character’s Trademarks or Consequences) still apply.
Some great questions!
1. A character should only lose stress when it is narratively appropriate- when failure will logically cause them physical, emotional or psychological stress in some way.
2. Once again, conditions should go away when narratively appropriate. Minor things (like being stunned) I would remove at the end of the scene. Minor physical injuries might also disappear at this time. Nastier conditions might take the passing of time – a broken arm could take several weeks of game-time to heal.
3. Personally, I would let a character who was “taken out” be back in action in the scene – it is no fun being sidelined!
4. If it fits the genre this might work as a nice option. Instead of using the “and” for some additional detail, you get to regenerate a little stress. This might work well for larger than life pulp type games.
5. Totally. If you have an ally helping out that would totally be an advantage. I would want it to be clear that the characters are cooperating, not just randomly standing near each other. ?
Some great ideas there. Hope my answers help!
I have another three questions:
1. Let’s say that PCs (Player Characters) are only armed with melee weapons and their enemies with ranged weapons, or the opposite. In that situation, it seems intuitive that the side armed with ranged weapons should have at least one ,,free” attack on their opponents who need to get close to use their melee weapons. How would you recommend to establish how much ,,free” attacks (e.g. depending on terrain and distance) should the ranged side have?
2. Do you have any rules on distance and range? If one PC has a scoped sniper rifle, and another one a shotgun, it seems quite natural to players that the first one should be able to shoot enemies who are very far away, while the second needs to get much closer to enemies before successfully attacking them. But how many turns should exactly this getting closer take?
3. Do you have any rules on initiative? Sometimes it’s important in which order the participants of a scene make their moves.
Sorry it has taken a while for me to reply, I have been dealing with some personal matters. Now, on to your questions!
1. Totally. Always go back to the story – “You kick down the door, sword in hand, and a pair of goblins are on the opposite side of the barracks, their bows at the ready. They are going to shoot you as you try to get to them – what do you do?”
You could ask the question differently, too: “They have their bows ready, do you want to duck for cover, or try to close the distance as they shoot at you?” If they decide to close the distance then they will probably take damage on the way in. If they duck for cover, they probably won’t automatically be hit, but are now pinned down.
I wouldn’t put a blanket rule for how many free shots, because it will always depend on the situation. Is the room cluttered and it will take a while to cross? Are the goblins actually on a balcony and the characters have to climb to them? Both of these options will mean the goblins get more opportunities to attack than if the room was small and empty.
2. I think you partially answered this yourself – use logic and common sense. When running games I would be very clear with the players so they can make informed decisions about their character’s actions:
“You see a glint of light off the sniper’s scope – they are a long way away and it will take you several minutes to reach them. They will have time to pick you all off if you don’t use cover or find another way to conceal yourself.”
“The gunman with the rifle has positioned himself on the shipping containers just ahead of you. He’s going to get at least one more shot before your shotgun is in range.”
3. Initiative should be based on the logical order of things. I like to tell the players what the enemy are trying to do, then have the players state their intentions, and then have a very brief discussion about what the logical order of things should be. If we go back to the goblins in the room situation, it might look like this:
GM: You kick down the door and find a long narrow room with bunks down one side. You made so much noise that the two goblin guards sleeping here had time to wake up and grab their bows – they are at the far end of the room, ready to shoot you. What do you do?
Bob: gripping my sword, I dive through the nearest set of bunks and roll into cover beside the next set of beds.
Jill: I begin casting my lightning bolt spell!
GM: Okay, since the goblins are ready to fire, that’s going to happen pretty quickly, then Bob and Jill last. Bob, I imagine you are diving through the beds as the goblins loose their arrows?
Bob: Yep, I dive as soon as I see the bows.
GM: Okay, so you might have a chance of avoiding the hit. Jill if you are just standing casting a spell there is not much you can do about it. What do you guys think?
Jill: Yeah, sounds about right – I just need to survive and not have my casting disrupted.
GM: Okay, so the goblins shoot. Bob, roll to see if you move quick enough to avoid being hit. No matter what, you will end up where you wanted, we just want to know if you get shot. Jill, you get hit by one of the goblin archers and suffer the condition “arm wound”. The shock of the arrow hit and the pain of the wound is going to make casting your spell harder.
I know I haven’t offered any specific rules answers, but I hope this explanation of how to handle such situations helps.
Well, it has taken me even a longer while to reply, I have also been very busy. The time has come, though 🙂
Thank for your examples, they are very creative and inspiring. However, being a lawyer I like a bit more precise rules 🙂 I hope some ideas about range and initiative might be interesting for you. They are not really my ideas, though – they are mostly inspired by OHET (Outstanding Heroes and Extraordinary Threats), a game by Michał Dzidt which has just achieved over 9600 $ (and still counting) on Polish equivalent of Kickstarter 🙂 The very same game that made me know about the existence of FU, in fact.
Instead of counting precise weapon range, I would use 4 abstract ranges:
1st – direct contact – melee weapons. GM might apply a penalty when using ranged weapons at this range (unless you are Legolas, it’s difficult to shoot with bow at an orc who stands in front of you and tries to cut you with a battleaxe!). And if someone uses a grenade at this range, it will probably deal the same (deadly) damage to both his enemy and himself!
2nd – close distance – thrown weapons (javelins, grenades), blunderbuss and shotguns (this is a distance that character typically crosses in one turn – so that javelin throwers like Roman legionnaires have one “free” attack before they are engaged in direct melee contact)
3rd – medium distance – most ranged weapons and spells (this is a distance that character typically crosses in two turns)
4th – far distance – only weapons such as artillery, trebuchets, scoped sniper rifles, some magic weapons (Legendary Elven Longbow?) or very powerful spells (this is a distance that character typically crosses in three turns).
So that if a guy with a knife wants to charge at a sniper at far distance, he must spend three turns on getting closer, while a sniper has three shots on him. Unless a sniper has very bad luck he will most likely eliminate the guy with a knife, but in other case he is probably screwed!
As for initiative:
All players roll for initiative. This roll is just for establishing order of movement, it is not necessarily connected with consequences, details etc. GM does not roll for enemies. In typical situation the order of movement is like that:
1. players with “Yes, and” results
2. players with “Yes” results
3. players with “Yes, but” results
5. players with “No, but” results
6. players with “No” results
7. players with “No, and” results.
However, trademarks/tags like ,,quick”, ,,slow” may modify the result. For example, an evil knight in his heavy armour has -1 to his result and makes his move after players with (unmodified) “No, but” results and an agile griffon makes his move before players with (unmodified) “Yes, but” results. That gives a great advantage to knights on their warhorses – just like in real life, they are hard to kill and deadly fast at the same time!