Theres only three types of intetresting conflict?

edited March 2011 in Story Games
Ive been thinking of what types of conflict to roll for in my game: interesting, significant conflicts. And as part of that process, Ive been thinking about different types of conflict, and if there are some types of 'conflict' you just dont want to be bothered treating as a conflict at all.

So I made a list of types of conflict. and I came up with fightin and talkin. And then I maybe 'challenging situations' as a third type.

Is that it, does it all come down to fightin and talkin and maybe a few challenging situations? My personal definition of a challenging situation is something that dosent involve fightin or talkin, but is a task that is being performed under pressure. Like defusing a bomb, or competing in some kind of contest.

Does all interesting conflict basically involve being in opposition to another character? Like maybe the bomb defuser vs the bomb maker? Or the other competitor in the archery contest, etc...
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Comments

  • There's also man vs. God - surviving a tornado or cancer.

    There's also man vs. himself - overcoming a temptation or a bad habit.

    But yeah, most RPGs focus on man vs. man.
  • Im not expressing myself well. Surviving cancer or a tornado wouldnt be an interesting conflict - like "roll a dice - yay, you live / oh, you die!"

    And I dont see man vs. self as interesting either. OK, maybe it is interesting, but not something you would roll for. It would be even more interesting to have the player decide under what circumstances the character wins or looses vs himself than have it decided randomly.

    So Im thinking the only things worth rolling for are fighting, talking and contesting. Where contesting means a challenging situation for the character that can be represented in some way as a contest with another character, even if the character isnt actively present at the time. Like the bomb maker vs the bomb defuser.

    Can you think of an interesting conflict that isnt fighting, talking or contesting? (not a fair question because Im defining 'interesting', but Im asking it anyway)
  • To secularise JD: man vs Nature. Crossing a desert with five hundred people and water for three hundred. Climbing a sheer cliff. Harvesting berries from the spine-shooter vine.

    You're not in a contest -- even indirectly -- with another character.
  • Yeah, I guess those challenging activities are dramatic because they involve potential death, but its really only pretend potential death. You wouldnt frame the conflict as roll well = you succeed, roll badly = you fall or get spiked to death. You would frame them as 'you get to the top or you dont' or 'you get berries or you dont'. Which is really uninteresting if you need to get to the top or get the berries to advance the story.

    Still, they do seem like dramatic situations, so...
  • It may be constructive to think along several axis;
    - active or passive resistance
    - personal or practical engagement
    - physical or psychosocial means of resolution

    Possibly more too ...

    Having mapped the different axis, you may define a particular conflict by making simple choices along each axis, and thus you come up with certain preferences on how to handle it.
  • If you're interested in keeping the pressure on, what about charting ability on a fast/slow/impossible scale. Fast abilities can happen now, as in this scene. Slow abilities are things that you can do but it will take you a while, and I mean in a later scene. Impossible abilities are things you just can't do. For example, for me, fixing a car would be a slow ability. I could figure it out but it might take me the rest of the day. For a mechanic it might be a 10 minute problem. In this way, player's fast abilities happen in scenes, slow abilities happen between scenes, and impossible abilities can't happen until you advance and perhaps buy that ability at slow...
  • I played a PTA season as an ex-con who was trying, at every turn, to be a good father and a good citizen. It was pretty interesting.
  • Posted By: stefoidIve been thinking of what types of conflict to roll for in my game:

    Ingenero? Or another game?
  • Posted By: stefoidSurviving cancer or a tornado wouldnt be an interesting conflict - like "roll a dice - yay, you live / oh, you die!"
    Is this not what combat is?
  • "Talking" and "challenging situations" sure covers a lot of ground, doesn't it?

    A court case, a bank heist, a seduction, a dance competition, a game of chess, sneaking into an enemy's war camp to plant a bomb...

    You're definitely missing Man vs. Himself conflicts, though, like the failed priest looking to redeem himself in the eyes of God.

    What else are you looking for?

    How would you describe the final scene of Return of the Jedi, where the Emperor is killing Luke, and Darth Vader is torn between saving his son and remaining loyal to the Emperor?
  • Posted By: stefoidIm not expressing myself well. Surviving cancer or a tornado wouldnt be an interesting conflict - like "roll a dice - yay, you live / oh, you die!"
    Hmm... how is your game conflict mechanic working?
    Because I think there's a lot of ways to make such conflicts interesting, especially in a system where you need resources to take part in a conflict and in which narration is something you do -after- the roll is made. Sticking narration to the resources you used, it makes interesting to see "how" you managed to survive or failed trying.
    Maybe you survived the tornado, but you sacrificed all your camping material for that, which adds a lot to the future scenes... I think that interesting conflicts are those who actually add something that change the story in a way that results clear to the players. It's the way they get in the story that makes them interesting.
    So, can you make a brief example of a conflict for your game?
  • What about societal conflicts. I'm thinking about "season" or "kingdom" actions that are used in other games. Your character might not empower one group and disenfranchise another but they could impact setting-wide conflict, perhaps adding modifiers (which would be kind of cool in that character actions would thematically invoke/evoke setting-wide trends).
  • This reminds me of something Grant Morrison said about comics. He said that its easy to kill a character but much more interesting to change them. Its not bad to roll dice to see what happens when that tornado hits or how I feel about all those orcs I just murdered, its just important that its not an all or nothing situation, but a change you can live with.
  • Stefoid,

    From what I've read in the ingenero rules and above,

    I think you and I are looking for the same type of play experience.

    I think the paths you are taking to get there will work.

    But, you are also ruling-out certain paths as not viable. Which I think -would- also work.

    For example, Ingenero offers 'mechanic' as an example of a skill which lacks dramatic potential.

    I think 'mechanic' has great potential.

    For one thing-- when a mechanic fails-- the result isn't immediate.
    The brakes on a motorcycle become a ticking timebomb, but it's unclear when-exactly they will
    actually fail.

    Likewise, I'd point to the Aftermath mechanic in Fiasco as an example-- where 'rolling to find out you will be killed by a tornado' IS an interesting outcome.

    So, some of the sweeping generalizations you're making-- broad rules of thumb-- have enough exceptions,
    that you may be working from a faulty theory.

    Like I said above, I think your theory will result in viable play. So the faultiness may not matter. But, then again, you may be overthinking
    what 'doesn't work', and working too hard & unnecessarily to avoid things which would be perfectly interesting and dramatic, if they were to transpire in play.
  • Categories are interesting in that they divide up the otherwise infinite options into some kind of framework. They help you make sense of the world. But it's important to realize that they aren't "real" in any sense. They're just a way of interpreting things, based on a specific perspective. What's important is what they DO for you, how you can use them to say something or propose a certain way of looking at things.

    So, in your game, the important categories might be talkin', fightin', and accomplishing some significant task.

    In another game, about running a cupcake shop, it might be critical to have an entire category of conflicts about making frosting.
  • Posted By: J. WaltonIn another game, about running a cupcake shop, it might be critical to have an entire category of conflicts about making frosting.
    Just so you know, I'm ready to play this right now.
  • "interesting contest with another character" is pretty broad, and almost the definition of Conflict, isn't it? And would subsume fighting and most of talking?

    I would add learning to your broad list. Investigating, researching, piecing together clues, etc don't seem to fit in the "fight, talk, contest" trio.

    I'd probably also add building/creating something, in the man vs nature vein.

    These might not fit your interesting definition, but I'm not sure I see where "facing a bunch of orcs" is inherently more interesting than "facing down a tornado" either.
  • At the risk of sounding flippant, we could be even more reductionist and say that there is only one type of conflict, when the goals of Character A oppose the goals of Character B.

    Where A is, say, the player's character, and B can be a person, place, thing, or idea.

    It might be beyond the scope of stefold's engine to handle everything in existence, but if it could handle a person's conflict with himself, or a person's conflict with a societal norm, that would be gold.

    Actually, what happens to your engine if you personify B with something abstract, like, "Bigotry"? Would it work? In fact, now that I'm actually thinking, you could take any concept and personify it.

    Man vs. himself, you could create a "doppleganger" and have them "just talk".

    Man vs. Nature, you could create an abstracted Mother Nature who you could fight or talk, but the consequences could be a tornado smashing up the town.

    This would turn your game into something more shamanistic than you wanted though.
  • Posted By: mease19If you're interested in keeping the pressure on, what about charting ability on a fast/slow/impossible scale. Fast abilities can happen now, as in this scene. Slow abilities are things that you can do but it will take you a while, and I mean in a later scene. Impossible abilities are things you just can't do. For example, for me, fixing a car would be a slow ability. I could figure it out but it might take me the rest of the day. For a mechanic it might be a 10 minute problem. In this way, player's fast abilities happen in scenes, slow abilities happen between scenes, and impossible abilities can't happen until you advance and perhaps buy that ability at slow...
    Im with you there, but there is a difference between using an ability and being involved in an interesting conflict.
  • Posted By: Jason MorningstarI played a PTA season as an ex-con who was trying, at every turn, to be a good father and a good citizen. It was pretty interesting.
    How did that manifest in terms of actual stakes & rolling dice though? Certainly not "yay Im a good father / boo Im not"?
  • I recently looked at this same issue for a game of my own. I came up with two different ways to categorize conflict:
    1) A character may have a conflict with: another character, the environment, himself.
    2) Types of conflict: physical (including but not limited to combat), social (included but not limited to talking), mental (could be internal mental conflict or with another character i.e. psychic)
  • Posted By: JDCorleyPosted By: stefoidSurviving cancer or a tornado wouldnt be an interesting conflict - like "roll a dice - yay, you live / oh, you die!"
    Is this not what combat is?

    I agree that 'challenging situations' count as interesting conflict, on the proviso that there is more than mere 'pretend death' on the line.
  • Man vs. self is way interesting. As Jason pointed out, PTA is almost entirely about the internal conflict. So that scene in Spiderman 2 (I think) where he wants to go to Mary Jane's play and gets caught up in stopping a crime and lets her down? Those are totally PTA stakes, and the inner struggle is can he balance his superhero responsibility with getting what he wants out of a normal life?

    In that particular scene, the GM drew a higher card and Mary Jane wrote him off.
  • Posted By: Todd LStefoid,

    From what I've read in theingenero rulesand above,

    I think you and I are looking for the same type of play experience.

    I think the paths you are taking to get there will work.

    But, you are also ruling-out certain paths as not viable. Which I think -would- also work.

    For example, Ingenero offers 'mechanic' as an example of a skill which lacks dramatic potential.

    I think 'mechanic' has great potential.

    For one thing-- when a mechanic fails-- the result isn't immediate.
    The brakes on a motorcycle become a ticking timebomb, but it's unclear when-exactly they will
    actually fail.

    Likewise, I'd point to the Aftermath mechanic in Fiasco as an example-- where 'rolling to find out you will be killed by a tornado' IS an interesting outcome.

    So, some of the sweeping generalizations you're making-- broad rules of thumb-- have enough exceptions,
    that you may be working from a faulty theory.

    Like I said above, I think your theory will result in viable play. So the faultiness may not matter. But, then again, you may be overthinking
    what 'doesn't work', and working too hard & unnecessarily to avoid things which would be perfectly interesting and dramatic, if they were to transpire in play.
    Hi Todd, yeah, still going on Ingenero :) True you can think of situations where mechanic might result in an interesting conflict, but practically, it doesnt occur anywhere near as often as talking and fighting. I think the risk of an uber-mechanic player feeling useless in any given game is greater than the risk that a character that is a mechanic, but doesnt take mechanic as a background, feeling gipped because he wants to roll an interesting mehanic background conflict.

    Which is why Im trying ferret out different categories of interesting conflict that arent talking and fighting - you got me!
  • Posted By: Paul T."Talking" and "challenging situations" sure covers a lot of ground, doesn't it?

    A court case, a bank heist, a seduction, a dance competition, a game of chess, sneaking into an enemy's war camp to plant a bomb...

    You're definitely missing Man vs. Himself conflicts, though, like the failed priest looking to redeem himself in the eyes of God.

    What else are you looking for?

    How would you describe the final scene of Return of the Jedi, where the Emperor is killing Luke, and Darth Vader is torn between saving his son and remaining loyal to the Emperor?
    Man vs himself is definitely interesting, but you wouldnt make it a randomly decided conflict, would you?
  • edited March 2011
    Posted By: Bret GillanMan vs. self is way interesting. As Jason pointed out, PTA is almost entirely about the internal conflict. So that scene in Spiderman 2 (I think) where he wants to go to Mary Jane's play and gets caught up in stopping a crime and lets her down? Those are totally PTA stakes, and the inner struggle is can he balance his superhero responsibility with getting what he wants out of a normal life?

    In that particular scene, the GM drew a higher card and Mary Jane wrote him off.
    Thats a little different to what the others are talking about. I like the situation , but I think the others are implying in that situation, the conflict is about if Spidey stops for the crime, or not. And lets roll a dice to determine if he does. You are talking about the player resolving the characters internal struggle with a decision (which I agree with) and letting the dice decide the consequences of the man vs himself conflict. Thats fortune in the middle, right? (not too sure on forge terminology)

    This isnt really relevent, but with Ingenero, that would play out differently. Spidey would have one or more goals which the player sets before the challenge - maybe stopping the crime, maybe keeping MJ happy, maybe both. then the bastard GM would try to engineer a dilemma that forces the player had to choose which goal was more important -- lets say teh choice is crime. The consequences would be that MJ is let down, and then the Spidey rolls to see if he can stop the crime. If he does, he gets points for achieving a goal. He may have decided to abandon the goal and go to MJ. Players choice.
  • In our game (Wolsung) we've used three types of conflict:
    1. Combat (involving magick and other stuff, i.e. doing harm)
    2. Discussion,
    3. Chase (meaning: runnig from or going after someone, sometimes tracking someone or sneaking away)


    l.
  • Posted By: Jason MorningstarPosted By: J. WaltonIn another game, about running a cupcake shop, it might be critical to have an entire category of conflicts about making frosting.
    Just so you know, I'm ready to play this right now.

    Well said, J, and hilarious, Jason.
  • Posted By: stefoidMan vs himself is definitely interesting, but you wouldnt make it arandomlydecided conflict, would you?
    I might.

    In a game like Wraith or Nowhere Road, where two players control different sides of the same character, I might have it come down to a roll-off.

    Or Misery Bubblegum, one player might say, "I tell her how I really feel" and another player might play a card and say, "Actually, you can't quite bring yourself to tell her." Which is random in that the first player may or may not be able to trump.

    In fact, bringing some randomness to it can give it the same sort of suspense that man vs. man conflicts get in our games. "Will Joe be able to get over himself? We don't know!"
  • edited March 2011
    What I love about this sort of question/design inquiry is that there are so many correct answers!

    I don't know if you can really get a definitive answer without defining what "conflict" even is, and that's a well-trod road to madness right there. But even if you don't, I think you can have equally valid and playable models.

    In BW you set up the conflicts you're interested in following a pretty loose formula with lots of "best practices" to help. The mechanic pays you to build in internal conflicts -- man vs. self in the above scheme -- and that does a great job of prompting players to take up conflicted, even self-destructive, storylines for their characters. Best practices goes beyond the actual mechanics and prompts players to agree to a "situation" about which everyone agrees they will create a conflict (a Belief that needs to be resolved), but that "situation" might be a problem created by another intelligent entity (a corrupt summoner has taken the land by force and placed himself as Emperor) or by something entirely natural (the past generation has seen massive flooding, and what was once a unified nation is now broken up into island-nations).

    What's the game that explicitly specifies that the only mechanized conflicts are those between intelligent agents? Is it an Edwards thing? I feel so dumb. But that's also totally legit; it just makes for a different game.

    Then there's Heroquest, I think maybe (?), that maps "intelligence" onto natural phenomena that oppose the wishes of characters. The storm "wants" to keep your ship from reaching shore. The cliff "wants" to keep you from climbing it. It's abstract and interesting and is probably a smart way to standardize all conflict.

    I think the folks who can't wrap their heads around internal conflicts being a) interesting and/or b) mechanized probably can't buy into the idea of playing as the character's author, rather than as the character. I've still got a couple ex-players with whom I am still friends who shake their heads at the idea of any game that can "make" (?) "you" (???) change your mind about something through a die roll.
  • Posted By: stefoidMan vs himself is definitely interesting, but you wouldnt make it arandomlydecided conflict, would you?
    For some games, it can be a good choice.

    Most good solutions I've seen to this kind of situation, however, deal more with costs and consequences than the choice itself. The mechanics serve to set up consequences and challenges (in the Spiderman example, the mechanics would serve its role by making sure it was impossible or really unlikely for Spiderman to BOTH stop the crime and impress Mary Jane).

    It can be as simple as differing incentives:

    In The Shadow of Yesterday, Keys often have opposing rewards at different levels, with the Buyoff being the prime example: "You can get 3 XPs right now for helping the Princess, or you can get 10 XPs if you betray her. Which do you choose?"

    That said, I think a lot of people do play PTA with stakes like, "Can he bring himself to forgive her?" (And I hope we'll hear more from them in this thread.) In other games where Beliefs or goals are on the line, you can make the game do it for you by saying, "My goal/challenge is to overcome my fear of spiders," even if that's not what the game normally does.

    If I can play a game where I try to maneuver and improve my character's chances of defeating a bad guy, why not a game where I can maneuver to improve my character's chances of finally telling the truth to his loved ones? I think that could be a totally gripping game, in much the same way.
  • Fighting and talking are conflicts because they inherently are - they involve opposing wills.

    man v nature etc.. are tasks (unless you anthropomorphise nature)

    I think as long as the task is being performed under pressure, then it can be classified as an interesting conflict. Which depends on the context in which it is being performed.

    So to classify tasks further, there are those you can frame as suceed/fail of the task itself , and those that should be framed depending on the context.

    example of the first kind - can I fix the engine? succeed/fail.
    example of the 2nd kind - can I fix the engine within 3 hours, or so that it can reach warp speed 9?
  • edited March 2011
    So, I think Im happy saying that there are four types of conflict - fighting, talking, contesting and performing under pressure.

    Where preforming under pressure is best classified by the nature of the pressure, rather than the nature of the task.

    eg: if you have 32 ways of making cupcakes or just 1. It doesnt matter. Making cupcakes is inherently boring unless there is some kind of pressure involved. Youre a baker - can you make a cupcake? Of course you can! Its just not a big deal. Can you make 100 cupcakes before morning, or win 1st prize in the cupcake competition? now you have pressure....

    types of pressure:

    1) extreme degree of difficulty - either the task is very very hard, or the character is a total noob. either way the difficulty of the task becomes pressure.
    2) time
    3) duress - emotional, physical, practical (lacking tools or materials)
    4) expectation - external judgement, gambling on outcome, etc...
    5) ????

    any more?
  • Posted By: stefoidCan you make 100 cupcakes before morning, or win 1st prize in the cupcake competition? now you have pressure....
    Can you make a cupcake for your wife's birthday even if you just discoverd she slept with your best friend?
    This is pressure as well...
  • Posted By: stefoidSo, I think Im happy saying that there are four types of conflict - fighting, talking, contesting and performing under pressure.
    Stefoid, it seems like you're really apprehensive about expanding your definition of conflict. Your OP pondered whether other types of conflict existed, and then people responded with other types of conflict. Some were conflicts in the classic literary sense (man vs. nature, man vs. self) and others were more tailored to your particular inquiry. And you've roundly rejected a lot of them for rather immaterial reasons... most frequently that you don't think that they'd be exciting if reduced to a succeed/fail die roll.

    This is a weird stance to be taking, given your intitial inquiry.

    1.) Reducing any type of conflict to a flat succeed/fail die roll is sub-optimal game design. Games that do this without leveraging resource management or hard choices or skill dependency generally suck. If you aren't in immediate agreement with that statement, we can spin it into its own thread.

    2.) The fact that something doesn't make for an interesting succeed/fail die roll doesn't mean that it makes for an uninteresting conflict. Some conflicts aren't about success or failure, but rather about how much stress you accumulate, what you do with your resources, or what something is worth to you. In fact, good conflict is rarely about success and failure, just as suspense is rarely about finding out whether or not something happens. If you aren't in immediate agreement with that statement, I'd love to link a few articles (especially one of Vincent Baker's, about suspense).

    3.) Stepping away from points 1 and 2, many of the conflicts you've dismissed actually ARE interesting if reduced to a succeed/fail die roll, in comparison to the other types of conflict that you're choosing to accept. "Let's roll to see if you survive the harsh climate and man-eating plants of the Rag Waste" is at least as good an idea as "Let's roll to see if you defeat the village guards." In fact, I find the Rag Wastes conflict more interesting, because it focuses in more intimately on the protagonist's struggle, rather than pitting A (the protagonist) and B (the guards) against one another to compare values.
  • edited March 2011
    EDIT: Cross-posted x2. Joe speaks the truth.
    -----------------------------------------------------------------

    Frankly, I think that your preoccupation with "types of conflict" isn't doing too much work here. Really, the classifications of pressure are much more useful. Look at it this way: what you are really asking is, "What makes me, as an audience member, care about what's happening in the fiction?" (That's what I interpret you saying when you keep mentioning but not defining 'interesting.') What you are trying to do is find ways to "make" the audience care; of course you can't actually generate concern from scratch, but there are certain techniques to amplify it.

    The type of pressure, then, is much more important than the type of conflict. Consider:
    1) I'm trying to fight off a horde of mutant-beasts long enough for the shuttle to escape! (Pressures: I'm out-numbered and physically out-matched, there is a time constraint, I am risking harm to my life, the people in the shuttle are counting on me, etc.)

    2) I'm trying to talk the angry mob out of burning down the decrepit mansion where my deformed "monster" friends live. (Pressures: I'm outnumbered and physically/socially outmatched, there is a time constraint, I am risking harm to myself by standing in the way of the mob, my friends in the mansion are counting on me, etc.)

    3) I'm trying to bake 100 cupcakes with just the materials on hand in order to win the high-profile cupcake competition tomorrow over the three head cooks and my hated rivals from the Mega Cupcake Emporium, Inc. (Pressures: I'm out-numbered and materially out-matched, there is a time constraint, I am risking harm to my reputation by challenging my rivals in an extremely public arena, my fans/supporters/investors/backers are counting on me, etc.)

    4) I'm trying to beat my cocaine addiction before the end of the summer so that I can get a job and stable housing before the deadline when the court will take away my daughter forever. (Pressures: I'm out-matched psychically, there is a time constraint, I am risking permanent deterioration of my relationship with my daughter, my daughter-- and myself!-- are counting on me, etc.)

    5) My boat has been wreaked and I'm trying to keep my head above water until help arrives. (Pressures: I am grossly out-matched in strength and stamina, there is a time constraint, I am risking death, I and all of my dependents are counting on me to survive, etc.).

    I don't think I need to go on-- you get the idea. If you are looking for 'interesting,' then looking at the type of conflict is a red herring. The pressures involved plus what the character is risking (i.e. what is at stake) are what really matter. The tasks in each of those conflicts are wildly different, but the elements of pressure and risk make (read: help make) the audience care-- i.e., they make the drama.
  • edited March 2011
    Posted By: Stephen PEDIT: Cross-posted x2. Joe speaks the truth.
    -----------------------------------------------------------------

    Frankly, I think that your preoccupation with "types of conflict" isn't doing too much work here. Really, the classifications of pressure are much more useful. Look at it this way: what you are really asking is, "What makes me, as an audience member, care about what's happening in the fiction?" (That's what I interpret you saying when you keep mentioning but not defining 'interesting.') What you are trying to do is find ways to "make" the audience care; of course you can't actually generate concern from scratch, but there are certain techniques to amplify it.

    The type of pressure, then, is much more important than the type of conflict. Consider:
    1) I'm trying to fight off a horde of mutant-beasts long enough for the shuttle to escape! (Pressures: I'm out-numbered and physically out-matched, there is a time constraint, I am risking harm to my life, the people in the shuttle are counting on me, etc.)

    2) I'm trying to talk the angry mob out of burning down the decrepit mansion where my deformed "monster" friends live. (Pressures: I'm outnumbered and physically/socially outmatched, there is a time constraint, I am risking harm to myself by standing in the way of the mob, my friends in the mansion are counting on me, etc.)

    3) I'm trying to bake 100 cupcakes with just the materials on hand in order to win the high-profile cupcake competition tomorrow over the three head cooks and my hated rivals from the Mega Cupcake Emporium, Inc. (Pressures: I'm out-numbered and materially out-matched, there is a time constraint, I am risking harm to my reputation by challenging my rivals in an extremely public arena, my fans/supporters/investors/backers are counting on me, etc.)

    4) I'm trying to beat my cocaine addiction before the end of the summer so that I can get a job and stable housing before the deadline when the court will take away my daughter forever. (Pressures: I'm out-matched psychically, there is a time constraint, I am risking permanent deterioration of my relationship with my daughter, my daughter-- and myself!-- are counting on me, etc.)

    5) My boat has been wreaked and I'm trying to keep my head above water until help arrives. (Pressures: I am grossly out-matched in strength and stamina, there is a time constraint, I am risking death, I and all of my dependents are counting on me to survive, etc.).

    I don't think I need to go on-- you get the idea. If you are looking for 'interesting,' then looking at thetypeof conflict is a red herring. The pressures involved plus what the character is risking (i.e. what is at stake) are what really matter. The tasks in each of those conflicts are wildly different, but the elements of pressure and risk make (read: help make) the audience care-- i.e., they make the drama.
    I think we are already in agreement, given my last post.

    The point to classification is that it helps recognition. GMing is hard, and if you have a few rules of thumb or best practices in the back of your mind, you can use the useful human skill of pattern recognition to come up with an approach for the situation -- as long as there arent too many patterns and solutions to remember. sure theres always going to be exceptions and whatnot, but if you can cover the larger percentage of situations with a few general approaches, then its helpful.

    As for classification of types of conflict over context of conflict. (pressure) well, some types of conflict occur much more frequently than others, and in the case of talking and fighting, they are conflicts where you are opposed to other characters, so to some degree they are inherently interesting/dramatic. So I dont mind separating those out. The context of the talking and fighting is also important, but because they are opposed conflicts, I would say less important than 'tasky' conflicts where the context is critical.
  • Posted By: McdaldnoPosted By: stefoidSo, I think Im happy saying that there are four types of conflict - fighting, talking, contesting and performing under pressure.
    Stefoid, it seems like you're really apprehensive about expanding your definition of conflict. Your OP pondered whether other types of conflict existed, and then people responded with other types of conflict. Some were conflicts in the classic literary sense (man vs. nature, man vs. self) and others were more tailored to your particular inquiry. And you've roundly rejected a lot of them for rather immaterial reasons... most frequently that you don't think that they'd be exciting if reduced to a succeed/fail die roll.

    This is a weird stance to be taking, given your intitial inquiry.

    1.) Reducing any type of conflict to a flat succeed/fail die roll is sub-optimal game design. Games that do this without leveraging resource management or hard choices or skill dependency generally suck. If you aren't in immediate agreement with that statement, we can spin it into its own thread.

    2.) The fact that something doesn't make for an interesting succeed/fail die roll doesn't mean that it makes for an uninteresting conflict. Some conflicts aren't about success or failure, but rather about how much stress you accumulate, what you do with your resources, or what something is worth to you. In fact, good conflict is rarely about success and failure, just as suspense is rarely about finding out whether or not something happens. If you aren't in immediate agreement with that statement, I'd love to link a few articles (especially one of Vincent Baker's, about suspense).

    3.) Stepping away from points 1 and 2, many of the conflicts you've dismissed actually ARE interesting if reduced to a succeed/fail die roll, in comparison to the other types of conflict that you're choosing to accept. "Let's roll to see if you survive the harsh climate and man-eating plants of the Rag Waste" is at least as good an idea as "Let's roll to see if you defeat the village guards." In fact, I find the Rag Wastes conflict more interesting, because it focuses in more intimately on the protagonist's struggle, rather than pitting A (the protagonist) and B (the guards) against one another to compare values.

    no not apprehensive -- just trying to keep the amount of classification manageable. Classifying something into 1000 categories isnt helpful.

    1) ultimately things in RPGs do come down to a die roll. Choosing what to make the die roll about and when to make it is the hard thing I am trying to clarify. (for my game). I have concepts in my head - but I need to be able to make those concepts understandable on paper as clearly and concisely as possible. Maybe I cant do that -- then paragraphs of hand wavy advice is the fallback option.

    2) My whole game is about trying to engineer dramatic contexts for conflict, but please link those articles anyway.

    3) Im not sure what are the many conflicts Ive dismissed that you are referring to?
  • Posted By: stefoid2) My whole game is about trying to engineer dramatic contexts for conflict, but please link those articles anyway.
    Roleplaying Theory, Hardcore by Vincent Baker. The post I was referring to in particular is A Small Thing About Suspense. I think it'd be useful to read Task Resolution vs. Conflict Resolution as well, because it's one of the most concise pieces of writing there is on the subject - an important one to the discussion at hand.
    Posted By: stefoid3) Im not sure what are the many conflicts Ive dismissed that you are referring to?
    Well:

    In Post #3 you seem to roundly dismiss two types of conflict that JDCorley proposes in Post #2: Man vs. God, Man vs. Self.
    Sanglorian clarified in Post #4 that Man vs. God could also be characterized as Man vs. Nature, which you again declared to be uninteresting in Post #5.

    This is strange, to me, because when I google "Types of Conflict," the first and second link both define those are interesting types of conflict - ones that whole narratives have been constructed around for centuries.

    In Post #6, TomasHVM proposes that conflict can be seen as existing on several axis, and each individual intersection of axis forms a different type of interesting conflict.
    There is no response to this.

    In Post #26, Man vs. Nature is again dismissed on the presupposition that conflict is always randomly decided and that Man vs. Nature would make for an uninteresting random roll.

    Post #21 manages to do something much more productive: instead of dismissing an idea, actually inquiring and searching for additional ideas. The "yay Im a good father / boo Im not" seemed reductionist and patronizing, though, and so I'm unsure if that conversational thread will continue.

    It's worth noting that the types of conflicts you've outlined can be further reduced to: Man vs. Man, Man vs. Nature.
  • OK, well at the risk of playing I said/you said, it was pointed out that for some games ( a minority?) man vs man can indeed be the subject of a randomly choice, but for most , its was the consequences of the man vs man decision that were decided post-decision. and it was left at that.

    And man vs nature, I was given several valid examples, and I came to the conclusion that the context of these types of rolls was more important than the type of task.

    then you posted that I was 'apprehensive', 'roundly dismissive', 'weird stance taking', and 'patronising'.
  • I've had a lot of fun playing man vs. himself with FreeMarket, where the GM was roleplaying as an artist's (the player) fears and self-doubts. This and playing out a nature conflict in Mouse Guard, say, as a forest fire with an agenda can be very rewarding and fun for me. I think the key is to play the opposing side of the conflict as a character, even if it's not a sentient or rational thing. This way I can do a "driver vs. traffic", "doctor vs. sickness", or even "classic vs. new coke" (a marketing conflict!!) I don't really see a limit to how many types of conflicts you can do this way...
  • Mouse Guard gets a lot of good feedback, I really should check it out.
  • Economic conflicts of interest are every bit as potent as talking or fighting.
  • Posted By: Todd LEconomic conflicts of interest are every bit as potent as talking or fighting.
    Can they be resolved without talking and/or fighting? What scale of economic conflict are we talking about ?

  • The point to classification is that it helps recognition. GMing is hard, and if you have a few rules of thumb or best practices in the back of your mind, you can use the useful human skill of pattern recognition to come up with an approach for the situation -- as long as there arent too many patterns and solutions to remember. sure theres always going to be exceptions and whatnot, but if you can cover the larger percentage of situations with a few general approaches, then its helpful.
    Dubious assumptions make best practices, eh?
  • Posted By: Todd L
    The point to classification is that it helps recognition. GMing is hard, and if you have a few rules of thumb or best practices in the back of your mind, you can use the useful human skill of pattern recognition to come up with an approach for the situation -- as long as there arent too many patterns and solutions to remember. sure theres always going to be exceptions and whatnot, but if you can cover the larger percentage of situations with a few general approaches, then its helpful.
    Dubious assumptions make best practices, eh?

    yes by default in this instance
  • Posted By: stefoidCommentAuthorstefoidCommentTime18 hours agowhisperquote# 47Posted By: Todd L
    The point to classification is that it helps recognition. GMing is hard, and if you have a few rules of thumb or best practices in the back of your mind, you can use the useful human skill of pattern recognition to come up with an approach for the situation -- as long as there arent too many patterns and solutions to remember. sure theres always going to be exceptions and whatnot, but if you can cover the larger percentage of situations with a few general approaches, then its helpful.
    Dubious assumptions make best practices, eh?

    yes by default in this instance

    I predict it will look goofy when I blockquote your entire blockquote of my entire post, right after your post, right after my post.
  • OK, Im still thinking about Ingenero specifically, but I have another sort of question(s) to ask which I can probably already guess your answers to, but:

    Does all types interesting conflict have to involve rolling dice?

    If no, do you think that certain types of conflict are better suited to involving dice rolling and other types are better suited to not involve dice?


    Now obviously the answer to most of these types of queries is 'it depends' - it depends on the game, there is no true universal rule, yada yada... However, what I am after is your generalizations. Theres no right answer, I wont even agree/disagree, I promise, Im just after your thoughts.
  • Posted By: Stephen PEDIT: Cross-posted x2. Joe speaks the truth.
    -----------------------------------------------------------------

    Frankly, I think that your preoccupation with "types of conflict" isn't doing too much work here. Really, the classifications of pressure are much more useful. Look at it this way: what you are really asking is, "What makes me, as an audience member, care about what's happening in the fiction?" (That's what I interpret you saying when you keep mentioning but not defining 'interesting.') What you are trying to do is find ways to "make" the audience care; of course you can't actually generate concern from scratch, but there are certain techniques to amplify it.

    The type of pressure, then, is much more important than the type of conflict. Consider:
    1) I'm trying to fight off a horde of mutant-beasts long enough for the shuttle to escape! (Pressures: I'm out-numbered and physically out-matched, there is a time constraint, I am risking harm to my life, the people in the shuttle are counting on me, etc.)

    2) I'm trying to talk the angry mob out of burning down the decrepit mansion where my deformed "monster" friends live. (Pressures: I'm outnumbered and physically/socially outmatched, there is a time constraint, I am risking harm to myself by standing in the way of the mob, my friends in the mansion are counting on me, etc.)

    3) I'm trying to bake 100 cupcakes with just the materials on hand in order to win the high-profile cupcake competition tomorrow over the three head cooks and my hated rivals from the Mega Cupcake Emporium, Inc. (Pressures: I'm out-numbered and materially out-matched, there is a time constraint, I am risking harm to my reputation by challenging my rivals in an extremely public arena, my fans/supporters/investors/backers are counting on me, etc.)

    4) I'm trying to beat my cocaine addiction before the end of the summer so that I can get a job and stable housing before the deadline when the court will take away my daughter forever. (Pressures: I'm out-matched psychically, there is a time constraint, I am risking permanent deterioration of my relationship with my daughter, my daughter-- and myself!-- are counting on me, etc.)

    5) My boat has been wreaked and I'm trying to keep my head above water until help arrives. (Pressures: I am grossly out-matched in strength and stamina, there is a time constraint, I am risking death, I and all of my dependents are counting on me to survive, etc.).

    I don't think I need to go on-- you get the idea. If you are looking for 'interesting,' then looking at thetypeof conflict is a red herring. The pressures involved plus what the character is risking (i.e. what is at stake) are what really matter. The tasks in each of those conflicts are wildly different, but the elements of pressure and risk make (read: help make) the audience care-- i.e., they make the drama.
    Thank you for this post, Stephen. This is exactly what I struggle with as a GM - how to build up a sense of pressure in my players so that they are more engaged. This post is helping me think about it. Those examples are great.
  • Posted By: stefoidOK, Im still thinking about Ingenero specifically, but I have another sort of question(s) to ask which I can probably already guess your answers to, but:

    Does all types interesting conflict have to involve rolling dice?

    If no, do you think that certain types of conflict are better suited to involving dice rolling and other types are better suited to not involve dice?


    Now obviously the answer to most of these types of queries is 'it depends' - it depends on the game, there is no true universal rule, yada yada... However, what I am after is your generalizations. Theres no right answer, I wont even agree/disagree, I promise, Im just after your thoughts.
    Now this is a very interesting question :) I think that talking about "dice" is a bit misleading. Interesting means that there is uncertainty - we want to find out how things will turn out because we currently do not know. How the uncertainty and "find out" is determined is not all that interesting. But (important bit) the amount of uncertainty should be comprehensible to the player.

    An example, I am playing Thud the barbarian, i am being faced by an ork. As a player I know I am good at fighting because I have Excellent skill/stat/equipment. The uncertainty is - is the ork better or worse than Thud? The player will then ask questions about the ork - is he wearing armor, does it look stronger than me, is it faster or slower than me etc etc. You might get a couple of rounds of interest with determining how risky it is to fight, but eventually you want enough information to know "I will win" or "I will loose". If you make it certain then it is no longer interesting, just narrate and continue to next challenge.

    Its all about what am I risking. If I am risking that Thud will die and the game is over, I want to be really really certain about the fight - to the point of, I dont want to make that particular bet with my character life So I want to run away, but if the risk i I might get hurt a bit to hurt badly, but I will win and continue the game I would be happy to make that bet. If there is no real risk of even being hurt, then why the heck are we even rolling?

    But using cards, dice, etc is not so important, as long as I can gauge how risky a particular conflict is, and i KNOW what is at stake for me here as well.
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