Risk Examples

These are sample examples of how to manage story-scope conflicts. (None of these are actual game conflicts, and no details here should be taken as canon for the game. This is just a set of examples that illustrate the rules.)

Simple Example: Rebman Blockade

The Rebmans have set up a naval blockade near the entrance to the Minos shadowpath, blocking off Minos trade. Minos persuades Gerard to intervene, and, in disguise, he takes a Minos fleet and attempts to break the blockade.

Frame the Situation and Agree on Stakes

Moire has decided not to get involved above the surface, as usual. She sends Martin to command the Rebman fleet at the blockade, and so Martin and Gerard will represent the two sides. They agree that their understanding of the situation is the same — the Rebman fleet is maintaining a picket line, and Gerard's ships will be trying to break through it. They both agree that this can't be settled as a Contest with +compare, because it involves more than one story-scope token per side.

They agree that the stakes are simple: If Gerard wins, he breaks the picket line and Rebma will not be able to interfere with Minos shipping again for the next month. If Rebma wins, they maintain the blockade and Minos will not be able to make any story-scale attempt to run the blockade for the next month. (This leaves things open for individual players with single ships to try to get past the blockade.) They also agree that if they tie, the picket line will not be broken, but Rebma will be able to tell that the disguised Gerard commanded the Minos fleet.

(As an interesting alternative to these stakes, Martin could just as easily request the stakes be "If Gerard wins, the blockade is effectively broken and he stays in disguise" and "If Martin wins, the blockade is effectively broken but Rebma knows that Gerard is behind it". Like regular consequences, this does not necessarily need to be about traditional notions of winning or losing a battle. If Martin's player is happy to let the blockade be broken either way, this kind of stakes can be especially useful.)

Set the Stage

Martin and Gerard's players agree that the battle will take place in open water, with no land nearby that would give a tactical advantage to either side, or any special underwater obstacles. They agree that the scene will begin with Gerard's fleet encountering the Rebman picket line, and that the battle will take place in the day, in good weather, with normal visibility and calm seas.

They further agree that it will simply be assumed that both sides possess spyglasses that allow them to see each other's ship positions, and that both sides possess signal flags that allow normal communication between all ships involved in the battle. They also agree that both of these things depend on continued good visibility, so if visibility is altered, both of these things can be affected.

Finally, they agree that there will be no sub-conflicts, so they'll simply throw forces at each other until someone runs out of tokens, surrenders, or retreats.

These scene facts are essentially neutral.

Agree on Relevant Tokens

Gerard has two tokens — a Resource 3 token from Minos that represents the fleet of ships that Minos has loaned him, and a 3-Focus PAT-WA token that represents a trio of fast ships with elite crews. (We'll call these tokens the Minos Fleet and the Fast Ships. Note that if Gerard didn't have that second token, this could have just been settled as a Contest.)

Martin has only one token — a Resource 4 token from Rebma that represents the entirety of the Rebman blockade. (We'll call this token the Rebma Fleet).

None of these tokens are secret, so both players +declare them, agree that they're legitimate, and stage them.

Resolve the Outcome

They agree that since Gerard's fleet approaches the blockade, that Gerard goes first, and they'll do mechanical resolution for the fleet tokens first to get a general sense of the battle.

Gerard chooses a medium risk for his Minos Fleet token, as he wants them to be higher impact but doesn't want to run as much risk of something going drastically wrong. Gerard generates 1 positive fact and 1 negative fact. He decides to name his positive fact, which is, "The Minos fleet successfully fights its way through the picket line in places, creating openings that can be exploited." Martin uses the negative fact to caveat, "Those Minos ships that encounter Rebman ships take heavy damage, and many sink." The score is still Gerard: 0, Martin: 0.

Martin decides that the Rebman ships are conservative, and so he chooses a low risk for his Rebma Fleet token. He does well, generating 1 positive fact, 1 negative fact, and 1 point of advantage. He decides that his positive fact will be, "Rebma's ships manuever to close with Minos's ships, preventing exploitation of the openings," preferring the narrative control to converting the positive fact into a point of advantage. However, he cedes the negative fact to Gerard. Gerard chooses, "Many Rebma ships lose their crews because Minos ships board Rebman ships wherever possible, winning the hand-to-hand fights." Now the score is Gerard: 0, Martin: 1.

Gerard and Martin then roleplay out the beginning of the scene, describing the battle in general. Throughout that roleplay, the facts that have been stated need to be respected, along with the fact that the score of Gerard: 0, Martin: 1 means that at this point, the battle favors Rebma.

Gerard decides that he is going to use his Fast Ships to try to isolate Martin's flagship from the rest of the fleet. He wants this to be high-impact as possible, so he chooses a high risk. He generates a single positive fact, and he decides to use it rather than taking a point of advantage, to state, "Gerard's trio of elite ships engage and draw off the Rebman ships near Martin's flagship, keeping them occupied." The score remains Gerard: 0, Martin: 1. This is then roleplayed out.

Martin does not have another token, but he can still take a personal action. He states that Martin notices that his flagship has become isolated, and he is personally going to try to get the ship back to the protection of the rest of the fleet. Gerard and Martin's players agree that Gerard's flagship can see Martin's flagship and can therefore give chase, and therefore, this is an opposed action. They +compare, and Gerard wins; he chooses a consequence of, "Martin's flagship is forced to confront Gerard's flagship." The score stays Gerard: 0, Martin: 1. The chase is roleplayed out.

Gerard now takes his personal action, stating that he is going to use it to try to take over the Rebman flagship. Since Martin is on board, this is directly opposed by him. They +compare, and Gerard wins again. This time, Gerard claims the advantage point, rather than a consequence. This ties the score at Gerard: 1, Martin: 1. This fight is roleplayed out.

Both players have acted and they're out of tokens. Therefore, the mechanical resolution is finished. Since neither side has more advantage points, the agreed-upon conclusion for a tie is used: the blockade remains, but Rebma knows that Gerard, in disguise, commanded the Minos fleet. The conclusion to the battle is roleplayed out.

Since Gerard has captured the flagship, that's clearly a dangling roleplay thread; he and Martin are now back on the level of a non-story-scope, individual scene, and can proceed to roleplay that out as they choose. However, whatever either the Rebman or Minos fleets now do will have only color effects, as per the agreement regarding the stakes; those tokens were expended and no longer have further story impact.

Complex Example: Moonriders of Ghenesh

The Moonriders out of Ghenesh are invading Amber, led by Khoresh, a great warrior (a PC). Benedict and Amber's army have been in slow retreat as the Moonriders push further and further into Amber, until finally, it becomes critically necessary for Amber to hold the pass above Arden.

Frame the Situation and Agree on Stakes

In the OOC negotiation between Khoresh and Benedict's players, it is agreed upon that this is a critical moment in the war, and the stakes are simple: If the pass is held, the Moonriders will not be able to advance further into Amber, but if it falls, the Moonriders will have an unobstructed road to Amber City. It is agreed by the players that this means that if the pass falls, the next battle scene would occur at the gates of Amber City, but if the pass is held, the Moonriders will need to retreat back and may be pursued by Amber's army (with the location of the next scene to be determined). If there is a tie, the pass is held, but the Moonriders can discover another way to get through the mountains (which will require another battle at some future date and location to be determined).

Set the Stage

In the OOC negotiation between Khoresh and Benedict's players, it is agreed that the pass is a narrow, treacherous, rocky gorge, and there were no fortifications in it prior to the start of the war. Footing is uncertain for everyone, due to the harshness of the terrain. These scene facts are essentially neutral. It is agreed upon that Benedict has the opportunity to choose where this next battle takes place, giving him some slight advantages and the ability to prepare in advance.

Benedict asserts that he has chosen this pass for Amber to make a last stand because the rough terrain conveys tactical advantages for him, preventing everyone, including the skilled Moonriders, from easily using their horses, forcing all but the most skilled horsemen (i.e., any non-PCs) to fight dismounted. Khoresh asks to balance this fact with the fact that the pass is too small for Benedict to bring in a large force, limiting the amount of number of troops that the Moonriders face. (Note that although Benedict could shadowfind some troops that can fight on sure-footed mules, so if he's chosen to use such troops, he must disclose at this stage that he has troops that can get around this limitation, so that Khoresh can understand the full implications of his agreement to this fact.)

Benedict further asserts that the end of the pass that the Moonriders will enter is the widest opening, and it is wide enough for twenty men to walk side by side, and furthermore, the other end of the pass is much narrower, and is only large enough for five men to walk side by side. This is something of an advantage to Benedict, but not a large one. Khoresh proposes, in turn, that the battle will take place at night, when the Moonriders' superior night-vision will give them a slight advantage; the Moonriders would logically choose to attack at a time when this advantage would come into play. (Again, if Benedict has shadowfound troops that can see in the dark, he would have to disclose that this fact is actually neutral, not to Khoresh's advantage.)

This set-up respects the IC attempt of both sides to choose a time and place for the battle that is to their best tactical circumstances, and is appropriately dramatic. It does not need to be perfectly balanced, as long as the players agree that the set-up is fair given the IC circumstances. At this baseline agreement on facts, neither side's preparations (fortifications, etc.) are taken into account, since this is an ad-hoc thing — it's not as if the Moonriders were assaulting Immeraus, a long-standing Arden fortress that is built on the grid. The pass is essentially a neutral location from a prop controller perspective. However, by choosing this set-up, the players agree that Benedict might well have hastily-erected defenses within the pass.

They agree that there are three important elements in this battle, and that each of these things represents a sub-conflict.

The first sub-conflict is a piece of ground near the entrance of the pass that is a good staging ground for archers and others with ranged weapons. Benedict's defenders initially hold this spot, and it is will be the first sub-conflict — if the defenders lose it, the Moonriders will, for the remainder of the battle, be able to snipe at the defenders from range.

The second sub-conflict is a bit of a wildcard — a dragon makes its home in a cave near the middle of the pass, and the noise of the battle will draw it out to investigate. It does not favor either side; it is simply a dramatic element. They agree that the dragon can be defeated by the application of one consequence earned by a PC, or by five positive facts applied to injure/outwit/etc. the dragon. While the dragon is in play, either side can use it for color in positive or negative facts. The stakes are that the side that lands the killing blow gains a morale advantage, and its troops cannot be routed and will not break for the remainder of the battle.

The third sub-conflict is an avalanche that Benedict has set up towards the far end of the pass. A small troop of men are set up to trigger this if the Moonriders get too far into the pass. They agree that the stakes here are whether or not the avalanche is successfully triggered in time to stop the Moonriders — if the Moonriders advance swiftly enough and are sufficiently intermingled with Amber's army in hand-to-hand combat, the avalanche will not occur. If the avalanche does occur, the Moonriders will take losses and have a difficult time scrambling over the rocks to continue. (Note that this avalanche might ordinarily be something that Benedict would want to keep secret. However, he gets to make it much more significant if he discloses it and lets it become a sub-conflict. Otherwise, it might be tokenized as a preparation and used somewhere else in the scene.)

They agree that these sub-conflicts will be sequential, since they will occur as the Moonriders move deeper into the pass. They also agree that this all sets up the final showdown, where whatever is left of the Moonrider army confronts Benedict at the far end of the pass — where he'll be holding the pass, and where the conflict is likely to come down to a final duel between Benedict and Khoresh.

They also agree that there may be other PCs involved in the battle. Benedict has Corwin with him, and Khoresh has a PC lieutenant, Korb.

Agree on Relevant Tokens

Because of the agreement that the small size of the pass limits the troop strength that Benedict can bring in, Benedict knows that he needs to choose tokens whose descriptions indicate only a small number of men. Benedict decides to ask Julian for a unit of his Arden Rangers to hold the entrance to the pass; Julian gives him an Arden Rangers resource token at level 2, representing an elite squad. Benedict has a unit of the Defenders of Kolvir (resource token at level 1), and decides that they'll be responsible for the avalanche. Then, he chooses three of his Amber Army resource tokens at level 2, each representing small elite companies, which will be the rest of his army in the battle (we'll call them Amber Army #1, #2, and #3). Finally, he chooses a token for a squadron of shadowfound mountain dwarves that he's hired on as mercenary shock troops, a 6-Focus PAT-WA token. He declares all six of these tokens to Khoresh, who agrees that they are legitimate and that the number of troops is within the parameters of their agreement on the scene facts.

Benedict also has a trap planned. His archers have a magical firebomb pot that Benedict has had a wizard PC make, that is intended for a last stand. This device is represented by a 3-Focus WAR-BM token (Battlefield Magic allows story-scope tokens to be created using other gifts), which the wizard PC has created and given to Benedict, and Benedict amends the token to note his plan. He does not declare this token to Khoresh at this time. However, he does note that he is holding a secret. Now that Khoresh has agreed to these tokens, Benedict stages all of these tokens — including this secret token.

Khoresh, by contrast, has defined his forces as a huge army, but the scene facts limit how quickly he can bring them into the pass and how many can occupy the pass at once. He has nine tokens for the Moonriders, all resource tokens at level 2 (we'll call them Horde tokens #1 through #9). He has decided that since he commands a horde, these forces are largely undifferentiated and simply massed, skilled cavalry (who, thanks to the scene facts, will have to fight dismounted). He declares these tokens to Benedict, who agrees that they are fine.

However, Khoresh also has a couple of extra tricks up his sleeve. One of his allies is a PC chirurgeon, and he's given him a 3-Focus WAR-TO (Tough It Out) token representing preparations for painful but effective bandages that help his troops continue to fight even when badly injured. He also has a magical seed that when thrown, spreads total darkness over a small area (a Gheneshi PC wizard with WAR-BM and relevant gifts has given him a 3-Focus token). Finally, he has a Gheneshi totemic warbird, a 3-Focus ANI-BB (Bred for Battle) token given to him by a beastmaster PC. The warbird is traveling in a covered wagon, so he needs to let Benedict know that his troops can see that wagon. However, he chooses not to declare any of these additional tokens. He just stages them with the rest of his tokens (so Benedict is aware that he has three more secret things, but doesn't know what those things are).

Resolve Sub-Conflicts: Part 1

The players agree that Khoresh should get the first move, because the battle begins when the Moonriders move into the pass. They also agree that they will roleplay the scene out as they go, rather than doing all the mechanical resolution up front. The scene is set, with the four PCs involved — Benedict, Khoresh, Corwin, and Korb — also posing where they are. Benedict is deeper in the pass with the bulk of his army, Corwin is near the entrance commanding the troops from the vantage of the archery platform, and Khoresh and Korb are riding at the forefront of the Horde. They also state where all their non-secret tokens are. Benedict has his army spread out through the pass, with the dwarves in the center and the Rangers up on the archery platform.

Khoresh's player decides to open up with Horde #1's advance into the pass. He asks Benedict if he wants the token declared again, but since Benedict has logged the earlier negotiation, he says he doesn't need it, and he and Khoresh agree that already-declared tokens will not need to be re-declared during the scene. Khoresh risks Horde #1. He decides to proceed with caution, and thus chooses a Low risk. He receives a result of 1 positive fact. He decides to name a fact — "The Horde is not ambushed" — which Benedict agrees is reasonable. Khoresh narrates in RP that the Horde dismounts and sends a small group of scouts ahead into the pass to report back what they're dealing with, before they proceed in cautiously.

Benedict's player responds with his Arden Rangers, stating that they're the significant force closest to the entrance and that therefore are the next significant point. He decides that they're willing to sustain some casualties for better results, and chooses a Medium risk. He receives a result of 2 positive facts and 1 negative fact. He decides to name both of his facts — "The archers bottleneck the Horde" and "The archers kill the soldiers around the mysterious wagon" — and he does not want to let Khoresh name a negative fact, so he gives an advantage point to Khoresh (generically representing the Horde continuing to do well despite opposition). They agree that the wagon-related fact means that Khoresh can't bring the wagon into play this sub-conflict unless he uses a positive fact or PC action to do it.

Khoresh and Benedict's players decide to play out the scene for a bit, resulting in color that elaborates on the battle but which respects that the narrative can't grant further advantages to either side until someone calls a halt to do something with mechanical impact. This would normally be Khoresh (whose turn it is), but he could cede this to Benedict if he wanted.

Khoresh's player eventually decides that Khoresh is, IC, going to personally try to deal with the archers. This is his action for the sub-conflict. Since Corwin is nearby, he states he's going to interpose, so he provides Khoresh with some PC opposition. Unfortunately for both of them, the +compare is neutral. They agree that Khoresh fights his way towards the platform but is met on the rocks by Corwin, and they fight.

Corwin's player suggests that they wait to pose out the fight, as Corwin is personally going to continue defend the archery platform, which will be his action for the sub-conflict. Khoresh has already been established as pressing him, so this triggers another +compare between them, and this time Corwin throws in a MAG-OM prophecy token that predicts he will be victorious in a great battle. Corwin wins this time, and he chooses to take an advantage point for Benedict's side rather than inflicting a consequence on Khoresh. They agree that for a while, Khoresh and Corwin are at an impasse, but Corwin outlasts Khoresh, preventing him from personally getting to the archers. Then they pose out the fight.

Korb's player interjects now, and states that Korb is going to personally lead a Horde charge forward, farther into the pass. Because Corwin is preoccupied and Benedict is too far away to assist, his action is unopposed. That means he scores an advantage point for Khoresh's side, and the Horde pushes deeper into the pass in the scene. The score is now Khoresh: 2, Benedict: 1.

Benedict's player decides that Benedict, seeing that the battle isn't going well for Amber, is going to personally ride forward to lead his troops in a counter-charge. He gets Khoresh's player's agreement that Benedict can get there in time to be useful during this sub-conflict, as this is a lengthy fight. Benedict wins a +compare versus Korb, who is commanding the Horde contingent that intercepts him, and chooses to take the advantage point, making the score tied. This portion of the scene is played out.

Now Benedict has a dilemma. All the PCs have taken an action, and if no one else chooses to use a token, this sub-conflict will end in a tie, effectively meaning that the archery platform is useful to neither the attackers or defenders for the remainder of the scene). Benedict does have more tokened troops in this section of the pass, and he could choose to risk them in order to try to win. However, he also knows that Khoresh has plenty more Horde tokens, so he needs to decide whether he should make a stand here, or further along in the pass.

Benedict has his secret firebomb token for the archers, and he decides this is a good time to use it. He declares it, and Khoresh accepts it. He explains the archers are going to throw it down, and he chooses a High risk, gambling that it will go better than not. But he gets unlucky, receiving only 1 negative fact from it. He decides it will be best to simply concede this portion of the battle, so he gives Khoresh the advantage point (making the score Khoresh: 3, Benedict: 2), and states that the firebomb has exploded prematurely, setting fire to the platform and killing many of his own archers. Khoresh agrees to this, but since the stakes are explicit (if the Moonriders win, they get to use the platform to snipe from), he stipulates that the fire will go out quickly and the platform will still be useful afterwards.

This bit is roleplayed out, and sub-conflict #1 concludes with a Moonrider victory, as they seize the archery platform.

Resolve Sub-Conflicts: Part 2

Benedict and Khoresh's players agree that a portion of this sub-conflict should be fought out before the dragon appears, representing the initial clash of the bulk of the Horde against the bulk of Amber's army. They further agree that each of them should risk one of their generic soldier tokens in tandem, and then combine the results to decide the narrative of this portion of the battle. Benedict chooses Medium risk for Amber Army #1, and Khoresh also chooses Medium risk for Horde #2. Each of them earn 1 positive fact and 1 negative fact.

Khoresh's player decides that his positive fact will be used to state, "The archers within the Moonrider ranks take up well-protected positions high up on the rocks." He decides to let Benedict's player name the negative fact, rather than granting him an advantage point; Benedict chooses, "The Moonriders take heavy casualties in the attempt to secure the archery positions."

Benedict's player decides that his positive fact will be "Amber's army stands its ground, making it difficult for the Horde to push further into the pass." He also chooses to let Khoresh name the negative fact, which turns out to be, "Amber's army is too preoccupied with the fight to usefully target the wagon," and they agree that this settles the question of the wagon — the normal state (anyone can use any staged token that makes sense) prevails. (This kind of agreement prevents endless back-and-forth over something, and should be the norm for issues like this.) Although Amber might continue to target the wagon's soldiers, the Horde is keeping it moving.

This portion of the scene is then roleplayed out as a pitched battle, including the additional color that Amber's army is also taking fire from the captured archery platform. Benedict's player decides that it's appropriate to make Amber's defenders grimly resolute, fighting on despite many wounds, while Khoresh decides it's appropriate for his Horde to be decimated but for sheer weight of numbers and the archery advantage to help them press onwards. No side has any advantage points in this sub-conflict yet.

At this point, as agreed upon, the dragon appears, and its initial appearance is roleplayed out for color. The players agree that once more they're going to try to pair up tokens in opposed attacks wherever possible, with both sides taking turns in tandem rather than alternating turns between sides, to try to speed resolution and to provide fairness of opportunity to eventually land the killing blow on the dragon.

To be continued.

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