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I'm running a Fate Core fantasy game. One of my players is a paladin in shining armor, a prince in town from the next kingdom over --- but one who is in way over his head. Although he looks like a fighter-type, is apex skill is Rapport, and his Trouble is that he's on a Quest Plagued with Rotten Luck.

During play, he got a Success with Major Cost and acquired the aspect Losing Faith. Shortly thereafter he was invited by an NPC merchant to a fancy party. The merchant wants him to give it all up --- he thinks he can use the Prince for social climbing. Other party guests have reasons for wanting him to continue; still others are pursuing agendas that don't depend on his quest, but could still cause Stress. At least one PC has a solid reason for him to continue, and as for the other two PCs, their position will probably shift over the next session.

My idea is to set this up as a Conflict, with lots of Rapport, Deceipt, Provoke, and Empathy exchanges. (Meanwhile some more classic fantasy skills are being rolled by two characters who are sneaking in to the party during all this; violence could conceivably erupt when the Prince has taken a bunch of Stress/Consequences.) The reason it seems like a Conflict to me is that the stakes are very high: if the Prince doesn't concede and is instead Taken Out by the merchant, he would give up adventuring --- virtually the same thing as character death.

I've set things up so that the merchant has created a couple of good advantages. I want this to be a tough 'fight' for the PCs. But is it a fight? Or would it be better as some kind of Contest? I've run Fate once before but I'd welcome any advice on running this scene.

ETA: The Diaspora rules on social combat are quite interesting --- I'm especially interested in sketching out some different zones for dancing, chatting, and for the Mercenary to cause scandal whilst eating.

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I would suggest that you make a dynamic map out of some subjects to be discussed. Write them on a paper and link related ones with lines (meaning it is easy to switch from this to that subject). Be as generic or specific as you like (Politics > King's duties > Recent revocation of Lord Sombordy's peerage by the king), and as serious or light as the situation warrants (The massacre in Cephaledon vs. the Prince's affair with the widow countess)

Characters would be on one specific subject, describing what's on their mind right now, and they can move along the links, just as they would in a physical map. They could attack someone on a different subject, but that would be considered a ranged attack, as the conceptual distance between the two subjects would be an impediment.

Also consider each subject-zone to be an aspect of its own, which can be invoked or compelled as usual.

One extra possibility would be that characters could add new zones(ie. bring up new subjects to ponder) to the map by creating an advantage. The new zone is placed and linked to appropriate other subject zones.

The characters can also put their arguments about an existing subject/zone out by placing new aspects on them (ie. create an advantage).

Attacks and defenses work as usual.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Have you done this? \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Sep 12 '18 at 7:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes. Regularly in my own Fate based game. (My implementation is somewhat different because it's based on Diaspora's implementation of Fate rather than Core. I just changed the names here to fit the Core terms) \$\endgroup\$ – edgerunner Sep 12 '18 at 7:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ Per Good Subjective, Bad Subjective, it would help to add a description of how this works out in actual practice per your experience. It would help people understand how the idea plays out and help them build confidence this is good advice. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Sep 12 '18 at 10:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener let me brew that a bit. It's been a while now. \$\endgroup\$ – edgerunner Sep 12 '18 at 19:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is a very interesting idea that I'm going to think about how to incorporate. His quest is about the Current Issue facing the world (my players went pretty extreme with this --- there is strange weather happening, to the point that it is occasionally Raining Blood), but some people in town find it so disturbing that they're trying not to discuss it. A subject map sounds very interesting to lay on top of the zones I had in mind, like Secluded Garden Benches and Crowded Dance Floor and Sheer Parapets around. \$\endgroup\$ – tom Sep 12 '18 at 20:02
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Notes on Conflict and Framing

The important thing to remember about Fate is that you can't create consequences that wouldn't be supported by the story. This applies both to actually writing capital-C Consequences (you can't generally debate someone into a broken leg) and to setting up any of the three C's to zoom in on the action.

And the important element of a conflict is that everybody involved in it is willing to hurt someone else involved in it to see their goals accomplished.

Parallel Contests

Dresden Files Accelerated brings in rules for people taking other actions in a conflict, but I imagine they're mentioned elsewhere in the vastness of Fate canon. Basically you get one contest round and one conflict round and people can only take actions in one or the other.

So if, for example, some people are trying to sneak past the merchant's guards and rob his vault while a deadly game of cat-and-also-cat is distracting everyone in the ballroom, that could be run as a contest with simple "you get in"/"you get run off" outcomes.

But let's talk about the conflict for a second.

Conflicts and Goals

So, on the surface of it, Lady Featheringstoke and her predilection to three-hour arguments against clouds seem like they belong in a social conflict setting. Getting exposed to it is going to be generally draining, which would cause stress.

But what happens if Lady Featheringstoke takes out Sir Justice? What happens if he concedes to her? She's not actually working for the merchant in this scenario, she's just a social hazard.

For that matter, are there any concessions Sir Justice is willing to make that the merchant would even be willing to take? It sounds like the merchant's going in for, effectively, a killing blow.

It also sounds like there's going to be a PC merc at this social function and... involved in this conflict? Maybe? But what would it look like if the merchant took them out, or if they conceded? What would make sense in the story?

The Old Golden Rule

(It's now called the Bronze Rule.)

Anything can be a character. Anything can be "a side". If there's going to be a bunch of things lined up to take a bite out of Sir Justice's stress track, how far back do you have to pull before they're all part of a united front, and what does that front want to get out of the conflict?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ These are great, stimulating questions! I would definitely put Lady Featheringstroke in as a social hazard --- coping with her is the cheese-and-wine equivalent of dodging bolts of poisony death while you're just trying to grab the temple idol and get out before it collapses. I can definitely think of the vague outline of some concessions the merchant would take. What he really wants is to get the Prince into his family via marriage. Sure, he's envisioning being the important father-in-law to his Royal Highness and hanging around court, but setting a date would be a win for him as well. \$\endgroup\$ – tom Sep 12 '18 at 16:39

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