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I'm in a game where my non-combat character ended up in a physical fight with two bobcat-like creatures who have been ordered to kill me. The entity ordering my death is powerful enough (and so are the bobcats) that they would be disinclined to avoid my death if given the chance.

In Fate Core, the rulebook states that:

Concession gives the other person what they wanted from you, or in the case of more than two combatants, removes you as a concern for the opposing side. You're out of the conflict, period. --(FC 167)

This would imply that because I conceded, I should die. That's the only thing the opposing creatures want. However, it also says:

Second of all, you get to avoid the worst parts of your fate. Yes, you lost, and the narration has to reflect that. But you can't use this privilege to undermine the opponent's victory, either--what you say happens has to pass muster with the group. --(FC 167, emph. not mine)

In this case, the opposing side has received direct orders to kill me that they're not inclined to disobey. However, I conceded before they had a chance to kill me.

It seems there's a catch 22 created by this: either my character dies, which violates the rules of concession, or my character lives, which violates the only thing the enemies want and therefore also violates the rules of concession.

What should happen by the rules-as-written, and where does RAW reasonably fail? What should most reasonably happen in this situation?

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Wait, the GM threw an "over-level" conflict at you and them decided the result was death? –  Wesley Obenshain Jul 21 at 0:43
    
@Wesley I don't hold it against this GM, as it's really their first game running anything Fatelike, but in essence, yes. –  Emrakul Jul 21 at 0:46
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Depending on your attachment to the character and the ramifications of the encounter, you might want to just talk to the GM about rewinding and providing a more appropriate encounter. Some really excellent advice here, though. –  Wesley Obenshain Jul 21 at 1:00

4 Answers 4

up vote 18 down vote accepted

"Doctor! It hurts when I move my arm like this!" "So don't do that, then…"

On page 168, the rules discuss what it means to be "Taken Out" — and, in particular, what the circumstances are like in groups where Taken Out equates to "dead":

So, if you think about it, there’s not a whole lot keeping someone from saying, after taking you out, that your character dies. If you’re talking about a physical conflict where people are using nasty sharp weapons, it certainly seems reasonable that one possible outcome of defeat is your character getting killed.

In practice, though, this assumption might be pretty controversial depending on what kind of group you’re in. Some people think that character death should always be on the table, if the rules allow it—if that’s how the dice fall, then so be it.

Others are more circumspect, and consider it very damaging to their fun if they lose a character upon whom they’ve invested hours and hours of gameplay, just because someone spent a lot of fate points or their die rolls were particularly unlucky.

We recommend the latter approach, mainly for the following reason: most of the time, sudden character death is a pretty boring outcome when compared to putting the character through hell. On top of that, all the story threads that character was connected to just kind of stall with no resolution, and you have to expend a bunch of effort and time figuring out how to get a new character into play mid-stride.

That doesn’t mean there’s no room for character death in the game, however. We just recommend that you save that possibility for conflicts that are extremely pivotal, dramatic, and meaningful for that character—in other words, conflicts in which that character would knowingly and willingly risk dying in order to win. Players and GMs, if you’ve got the feeling that you’re in that kind of conflict, talk it out when you’re setting the scene and see how people feel.

At the very least, even if you’re in a hardcore group that invites the potential for character death on any taken out result, make sure that you telegraph the opponent’s lethal intent. GMs, this is especially important for you, so the players will know which NPCs really mean business, and can concede to keep their characters alive if need be.

The Rules As Written answer, therefore, is that the GM has made a poor choice in setting the stakes that way, and should reevaluate the desires of the NPCs in question.

However, you're asking who bends when the unstoppable force meets the immovable object. In this case, the rules strongly suggest that the GM does -- the ability of the player to concede in this circumstance means that if he or she wants her character to survive, the character does. It's up to the group, as you quote above, to come to a consensus about how this happens.

In the situation you describe, I might have the bobcat-people maul the character and leave him for dead, rendering him wounded but capable of recovery with medical attention later. But at any case, once the decision is made to concede, it's a good time to stop and check in to make sure all parties are on the same page regarding the story being told here.

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Also worth noting, concession is something of a negotiation between the two controlling parties about what is a reasonable outcome. Just because the characters want the PC dead doesn't necessarily mean they wouldn't accept him running away from a pivotal conflict. –  Wesley Obenshain Jul 21 at 0:42

This sounds like an abuse of the spirit of the rules to me. You can't use concession to undermine the opponent's victory. If the opponent's goal is to kill you, then not killing you turns their victory into a failure.

Second of all, you get to avoid the worst parts of your fate. Yes, you lost, and the narration has to reflect that. But you can't use this privilege to undermine the opponent's victory, either

Conceding to a guard may result in your arrest and paying a fine or serving a slightly reduced in jail. Conceding to a mugger might mean throwing him your wallet and not getting beaten to a pulp. In each of these situations, the opponent has clearly achieved their goals while you have suffered reduced consequences.

What really needs to be re-examined is your opponent's goal that motivates them to kill you: why would they want to kill you? Can they succeed at their goal without killing you?

If they're out for revenge, then they can have their revenge without killing your character.

Very rarely will there ever be a character whose goal is simply "Kill this character" because that's a really poorly-defined motivation for a villain. Villains aren't evil for the sake of being evil - they have their own goals and plans that they want to succeed at.

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So what happens in the context of someone only wanting to kill you? (I'm not sure it makes their victory a failure or undermines it if something else bad happens instead. This isn't you getting taken out, it's concession.) –  doppelgreener Jul 21 at 2:06
    
The real question is WHY they want to kill you. If they're after revenge, then they can get revenge without killing the character. They must have a goal that motivates them to kill the character, and fulfilling that goal is what the concession should do. If the ultimate goal is "kill the player", then it's probably not a very well-written villain. –  morningstar2651 Jul 21 at 2:23
    
That's worth expanding on in your answer then. Your answer at the moment just doesn't say much to the actual situation being asked about, other than appearing to imply that concession means they must definitely succeed in killing you. –  doppelgreener Jul 21 at 2:24
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In this particular case, it's not a villain - it's a marginally sentient creature with an order to murder. In this case, the villain is otherwise occupied. Generally speaking, though, this is good advice. –  Emrakul Jul 21 at 4:56
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So the bobcats wish essentially is not to kill you, but to please her master. So if they knock you out cold and drag your numb body to their master, that should suffice. You said they are more animals than sentient, so if they were told to hunt you down, they could react like an animal and just drag you to their den if you play dead... –  Falco Jul 21 at 8:12

You don't concede to the NPCs, you concede to the other person—the GM, in this case.

Does the GM want your character dead? I'd hope not! There is lots of room to offer a concession that doesn't involve your PC's death while still offering something that the other person (the GM) wants out of this scene in their capacity as a fellow crafter of the narrative. That could be a lot of things—I suggest talking to the GM to negotiate a suitable concession.

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For reasoning purposes, you could have a look at what the rules encourage the GM to do in order to keep major enemy NPCs alive, considering the fact that players are more often than not quite pragmatic in their approach to outright murdering enemies.

In FATE Core page 219 (on concessions and supporting NPCs), conceding is presented as a way of achieving this - one could argue that this goes against the rule that forbids "undermining victory". However, "the opponent's victory" does not have to refer to "what they wanted in the first place". It simply means that the opponent has to get the next best thing, to come out on top. They still are the victor in this conflict and can do what they want - they simply cannot do the one thing that the conceding character rules out (in this case: killing him/her).

It is important to remember that characters have technically two goals in a conflict: positive ones they want to accomplish (called 'do-goals' hereafter) and negative goals they want to keep the opposition from accomplishing ('not-goals'). The conceding character achieves their "not-goal" (Do not get killed) while the winning character gets to choose a new "do-goal" (instead of Kill the Enemy) to meet.

To summarize: The way I understand conceding, it is meant to bar the one goal the winning party wants, forcing them to take a consolation prize in shape of something less impactful while still preserving their victory (they still gain something, the losers still lose something). It is also a matter of negotiation, with the GM holding the responsibility of making the final call that serves both the story and the enjoyment of everyone involved.

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