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How are you supposed to handle changing a conflict in Fate Core? I'll explain what I mean by way of example:

Example 1: We're in the middle of a social combat that isn't going well for me, so I go for the ever successful "punch you in the face" gambit, looking to halt negotiations and turn this into a punch up.

Example 2: We're in the middle of a fight that isn't going well for me, so I go for the ever successful "leg it" strategy, looking to turn this into a chase scene.

In both cases, I'm changing from one "type" of conflict to another. The latter could be handled as a concession with a new conflict in the next scene, I suppose, but that doesn't seem like it would solve the first one.

To be clear, I am looking for a rules-based answer, if one exists.

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Your second example is a transition from a Conflict (the fight) to a Contest (the chase).

Transitioning to a Contest or Challenge — Fate Core, page 173

You may find yourself in a conflict scene where the participants are no longer interested in or willing to harm one another, because of some change in the circumstances. If that happens, and there’s still more to resolve, you can transition straight into a contest or challenge as you need. In that case, hold off on awarding the end-of-conflict fate points and whatnot until you’ve also resolved the contest or challenge.

Your first example is a Conflict potentially transitioning to another kind of Conflict, if the other party wishes to continue. The question is, what is the other party's response if you start throwing punches? They could stop arguing and Concede the Conflict (page 167). They could flee, which is a transition to a Contest, as above. If they fight back, you're continuing the Conflict but now with different attack skills and consequences, per the definition of a Conflict (page 154).

As long as the characters involved have both the intent and the ability to harm one another, then you’re in a conflict scene. Conflicts are either physical or mental in nature, based on the kind of harm you’re at risk of suffering.

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The stakes of a Conflict aren't really determined until someone concedes or is taken out. This means that the nature of a conflict can change, story-wise, without there being any need to change anything game-wise. You just keep running Exchanges, letting people narrate and roll for whatever tactics they want to employ, until the Conflict ends, and that is the point at which we learn exactly what kind of Conflict it was, by the winner declaring what their victory means in story terms.

Ending a Conflict and starting a new one isn't the right way to address changes in the action or strategies, because ending a Conflict resets Stress tracks. That doesn't make sense if the Conflict really has not ended and is really still going on, but in a different way.

Rando provides an excellent answer about changing from a Conflict to something else that's not a Conflict at all, and also made the excellent point that "you're continuing the conflict" if something changes but they're still trying to take each other out.

Last thought: It's not really right to say that "Conflicts are either mental or physical in nature", because it absolutely is RAW for both social/mental and physical attacks to all be part of the same Conflict. It's not ideal to switch mid-fight, because if you give a foe the opportunity to soak Stress on not one but two Stress tracks, that means that it's going to take longer/more to take them out, but there's nothing special in the rules about switching. It isn't ending one Conflict and starting another one, it's employing different tactics in the same Conflict. (Fate Core page 160 makes no statement at all requiring a Conflict to be only all-physical or only all-mental.)

If you take Stress from a physical source, you check off a physical stress box. If it's a mental hit, check off a mental stress box.

Nothing at all about one stress track or the other being ruled out due to some notion of an overall Conflict type.

Once again: The most important thing in a Conflict is, what's at stake. Even this can change as the Conflict unfolds: People might have stakes in mind, but the stakes aren't manifest until the Conflict ends with a Concession or a Take-Out and the winner states their stakes.

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Depending on context, both of these might also be a Concession on your part.

A Concession must have the narrative consequence "you avoid the worst fate, but the other party gets what it wants and you don't". So depending on the situation, this might or might not be a permissible form of conceding the conflict.

In the first example, your character admits that they can not win this discussion with words, so they resort to violence.

A negotiation is usually not a Conflict, because characters want to find common ground, not cause harm to each other. It would usually be a Contest. A social combat is usually some form of heated debate where both parties want to humiliate the other party by proving them wrong.

If your character is in a verbal debate and they become violent, the debate is over and they are considered the loser because they couldn't keep their cool. They lost any moral high-ground and their credibility. But the actual question this debate was about wasn't yet fully answered, so the point your character had wasn't actually refuted. A typical concession.

In the second example, your character admits they can not win that battle and tries to retreat.

If your character attacks someone with the intention to kill them, finds themselves outmatched and decides to retreat, that's a concession. The target is still alive and safe. But if your character is the one being attacked by an assassin, just escaping is not a valid concession, because that's what your character wants and the other character wants to avoid. If you want to convince your group that escape is a proper Concession in this case, your character must escape to some place they would rather not want to be or in a way which costs them (like leaving something valuable behind).

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