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My last session ended with a fight on the high seas that spilled blood and attracted sharks. One of my players now wants to concede to one of the sharks.

As I understand it, this should mean that the shark gets most of what it wants, but my player avoids the worst of his fate. But the only thing the shark really wants is to kill and eat my player. How do I adjudicate this?

Pretty much any outcome that allows the shark to get most of what it wants involves mauling my player - which seems like another consequence. But he's already full up on consequences - that's why he wants to concede.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Shark: "I wanted a nice tasty seal, not this weird gangly land monster wrapped in nonfood. What is it even doing out here?" \$\endgroup\$
    – notovny
    Sep 12, 2020 at 13:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ There's at least some prior work on the subject here: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/44741/… \$\endgroup\$
    – Jadasc
    Sep 12, 2020 at 21:59

2 Answers 2

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Only if the wild animal is playing Fate with you.

(Please don't play RPGs with wild animals.)

Concession, as a mechanic, specifically faces outward to the real people playing. It's explicitly about the parsing of narrative authority over the fate of the character post-conflict, and nothing else.

Characters do not concede. People do.

So it's basically like this:

The consequence of getting taken out is that the chief advocate for that character (GM included) gets no say over the fate of that character after that scene. Theoretically, anyone who takes anyone out in a physical conflict could follow that up with, "...and I kill you," and barring social contract disruptions in the group, that assertion stands.

If you concede before you get taken out, you as the chief advocate have the final word over the fate of the character after that scene. The bit that's up for negotiation is how we express the terms of your defeat in the fiction, but the chief advocate gets the last word.

-- Fate SRD, "Conceding the Conflict"

When you concede, you don't concede to a savage shark or a howling tornado or Perducci with a harpoon gun, you concede to the GM. A concession is something that's worked out between players; the characters can be set aside for the moment. Character desires don't necessarily have to matter unless they were important to the table narrative, and unless you've dropped into a situation analogous to, like, Maneater or some of the Jaws sequels, the shark's less a narrative agent and more a force of nature.

But this also makes things a little more difficult. If there were some party in the conflict that wanted something more than to be destructive, you'd be freer to work out the compromise as giving them what they want with minimal opposition on your part. Perducci isn't in the scene to skewer you with the harpoon gun, he's in the scene to make a getaway with the serum, which he can get easily enough by knocking you out and tying you up in your own ship's hold while he sails away. When dealing with destructive forces, like a howling tornado, or a raging wildfire, or a shark that just wants to chomps until it can't chomps no mores, you've got a couple of things to consider:

  • is dealing with them actually a conflict? Could you be capable of significantly hurting them to force a concession? Fate Condensed makes it explicit, but a lot of versions of Fate have the option of running a hybrid con(flict|test), where some of the participants are trying to stress others out, while the rest are just trying to rack up contest successes to e.g. get back on the ship or to a fire shelter.
  • what's actually a compromise in this case? If you're trying to outrun a wildfire but wind up having to concede, what happens as a result? It's obviously not in the cards that the wildfire burns you to a crisp and you die, because conceding gives you control over your own fate and if you could only hope to die you might as well go out fighting, right? But it also doesn't feel right that nothing further happens - that's what you were trying to get out of this scenario by getting to the fire shelter, but you gave up.

The obvious way out is to take some consequences, but that's gone in this case, since there aren't any chomps left on your character sheet. Here are some ideas for playing it out that might be fruitful, since they do still have to connect to the rest of the plot you've got out there.

Wait, have you got chomps left on your character sheet? You may have the option of taking an extreme consequence depending on which Fate version you're playing with, rewriting one of your aspects to reflect this dramatic travail (and only clearing it out with something less horrific when you hit a major milestone and rewrite an aspect). But maybe that option's not available, or maybe your chompee would rather not end up, for example, Mauled Beyond Recognition.

The shark breaks something (personal). This does depend on the ongoing story, but it's likely that the shark can break something to serve as a plot obstacle beyond just one character dropping out of the conflict.

It shears off your scuba tank regulator and swims away in a panicked cloud of bubbles.

Or, maybe, crushes some electronic gear and swims away after a stinging shock. Even if you've just assembled your gear by convention, in order to continue on now there's going to be a challenge to repair or get by without it.

The shark breaks something (less personal). If everyone's cool with it the shark can break something entrusted to the group as a whole rather than something carried just by the character doing the conceding. Like the ship that got you out to the high seas in the first place?

You frantically swim back and pull yourself to safety, but the shark just keeps after you, thrashing and thrashing until it's torn a hole in the hull and the ship starts to take on water.

Oh, I'm saved! ...oh no, I'm saved!

You drift away from the shark and then abruptly you're swept up in the wake of an escape sub! ...Perducci's escape sub. And in your condition you're pretty much just a hostage.

Even if there isn't necessarily somebody set up in the scene to want something, it might be possible to introduce somebody in the scene to want something less destructive to your person as part of the concession process - in this case, Perducci's people would really like to abscond with your unresisting chomped-on self.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Note that in general, conflicts should be about something more than "do I live?" So the starting cost of a Concession is "I don't get the stakes of the scene". Sometimes, that's enough.... but either way, you don't have to look at Concession cost purely in terms of "bad things happening to the character". \$\endgroup\$
    – kyoryu
    Sep 18, 2020 at 16:11
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Yes, in general

You can totally concede to a wild animal or group of wild animals. You could also concede to a force of nature, like a storm or wildfire or something, or anything else that is being modeled as an opponent in a conflict scene.

You probably shouldn't concede when your death is the goal, though

Fate Core says:

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.

It's pretty rare that characters actually have the other side's death as a goal in the conflict-- usually death is just the most obvious way of getting what they want.

With predatory animals, though, what they often want is to eat you, and that usually doesn't leave much room for you not to be dead. In a group conflict, one player conceding to avoid being taken out is potentially fine, since the animal(s) in question won't actually get to eat you until the conflict is over and if your side wins even though you individually conceded you are basically fine. But outside of that, you are going to probably be narrating your own death. You could try for getting swallowed whole and go for a Jonah in the belly of the whale scenario, but that really beggars belief and if you get away with it once in a campaign you are almost certainly not getting away with it a second time; recall:

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.

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    \$\begingroup\$ In general, animals don't have the goal to eat or kill humans. They are not their primary food source and most animals attack humans when they feel threatened or - in the case of sharks - by confusing them for actual food. Conceding could mean having to back off their teritory or losing a limb to "test bite" wounds. \$\endgroup\$
    – Silverclaw
    Sep 12, 2020 at 13:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ How does this square against the rules for conceding saying “you get to avoid the worst parts of your fate”? It's in the same paragraph as the last quote in your answer. Conceding to avoid dying in an ostensibly lethal fight is a textbook example of why to concede at all, but you seem to be interpreting it that the opponent just gets to have the worst part of your fate happen anyway. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 12, 2020 at 13:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener The mechanic for avoiding the worst part of your fate is that you, rather than the GM, get to narrate it. Like the part I quoted says, though, you can't use this to undermine the opponent's victory. "the worst part" language is misleading and, especially if you read the commonly attached Google+ commentary, I would argue, wrong. You get to avoid whatever you can come up with a way to justify except what was explicitly at stake in the conflict (i.e. the thing you talked about as being the opponent's goal when setting the scene). \$\endgroup\$ Sep 12, 2020 at 17:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener In an assassination attempt, for example, conceeding on the part of the defenders should mean the target dies. If the target was a PC, that still means the target dies. The player, if they conceded, can go ahead and narrate how the assassins were caught and gave up the name of their employer instead of getting away without a trace like if they were taken out, but the thing at stake there is 'you die', that's "what they wanted from you", so you can't not do that. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 12, 2020 at 17:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is also why a GM should use such encounters very sparingly-- animal attacks with the goal of predation, for example, are something that makes me think a GM doesn't really "get" the system. It's very common to see in GMs coming over from D&D, but in Fate Core animal attacks are hard to use to drive the story and are usually happening as, like, a filler thing the PCs are expected to win which is a really bad time to put player death on the line in a way it usually isn't. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 12, 2020 at 17:35

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