Whenever two or more characters have mutually exclusive goals, but they aren’t trying to harm each other directly, they’re in a contest. Arm wrestling matches, races or other sports competitions, and public debates are all good examples of contests.
GMs, answer the following questions when you’re setting up a contest:
- What are the “sides”? Is every character in the contest in it for herself, or are there groups of people opposing other groups? If you have multiple characters on a side, they roll together using the Teamwork rules.
- What environment does the contest take place in? Are there any significant or notable features of that environment you want to define as situation aspects?
- How are the participants opposing each other? Are they rolling against each other directly (like in a straight sprint race or a poker match), or are they trying to overcome something in the environment (like an obstacle course or a panel of judges)?
- What skills are appropriate for this contest? Does everyone have to roll the same one, or do several apply?
Now you can get started.
A contest proceeds in a series of exchanges. In an exchange, every participant gets to make one skill roll to determine how well they do in that leg of the contest. This is basically an overcome action.
Players, when you make a contest roll, compare your result to everyone else’s.
- If you got the highest result, you win the exchange. If you’re rolling directly against the other participants, then that means you got the highest rank on the ladder out of everyone. If you’re all rolling against something in the environment, it means you got the most shifts out of everyone.
Winning the exchange means you score a victory (which you can just represent with a tally mark or check mark on scratch paper) and describe how you take the lead.
- If you succeed with style and no one else does, then you get to mark two victories.
- If there’s a tie for the highest result, no one gets a victory, and an unexpected twist occurs. This could mean several things depending on the situation—the terrain or environment shifts somehow, the parameters of the contest change, or an unanticipated variable shows up and affects all the participants. GMs, you should create a new situation aspect reflecting this change.
- The first participant to achieve three victories wins the contest.
Creating Advantages in a Contest
During any exchange, you can try to create an advantage before you make your contest roll. If you’re targeting another participant, they get to defend normally. If someone can interfere with your attempt, they provide active opposition as normal.
Doing this carries an additional risk—failing to create an advantage means you forfeit your contest roll, which means there’s no way you can make progress in the current exchange. If you at least tie, you get to make your contest roll normally.
If you’re providing a bonus via the Teamwork rules, failing to create an advantage means the lead character doesn’t benefit from your help this exchange.
Attacks in a Contest
If someone tries to attack in a contest, then they’re doing direct harm, and it ceases to be a contest. You should immediately stop what you’re doing and start setting up for a conflict instead.