uring the course of most stories, there will come a time when tow or more players will come into a conflict that cannot be resolved simply and quickly. It doesn’t matter whether this sort of conflict is a firefight or a test of will. This face-off is called a challenge. The system for resolving challenges in Oblivion is simple, and in most cases, a Narrator does not need to be present when a challenge is played.
Roleplaying does not necessarily have to end when a challenge begins. Experienced players can seamlessly integrate a challenge into their roleplaying so that outsiders don’t know that anything unusual is going on. At the player’s option, hand signals can be used to indicate then certain Traits and powers are being employed.
Finally, in order for this system to work, players need to work together. Players need to educate each other on the rules and agree on what Traits can be used in a challenge. Compromise and cooperation are the bywords of the game.
Before you can begin to learn how challenges work, you must first understand what defines the characters abilities. A character is created by choosing a number of adjectives that describes and defines that person as an individual. These adjectives are called Traits, and are described in chapters three and four. These traits are used to declare a challenge against another character or against a static force represented by a narrator.
A challenge begins with a player “bidding” one of her traits against her opponent. At the same time, she must declare what the conditions of the challenge are, i.e., firing with a gun or attacking with a sword, etc. The defender must then decide how she will respond. She can either relent immediately or bid one of her own Traits in response.
When players bid Traits against one another, they may only use Traits that could sensibly be used in that situation. Essentially, this means a player can usually only use Traits from the same category as her opponent’s Traits. Most challenges are categorized as Physical, Social or Mental, and all Traits used in a challenge must be from the same category unless it is stated otherwise in the rules concerning specific situations. Experienced players may offer each other more creative leeway, but that is strictly by mutual agreement.
If the defender relents, she automatically loses the challenge. For example, if she were being attacked, she would suffer a wound. If she matches the challenger’s bid, the two immediately go to a test (described below). Those Traits bid are put at risk, as the loser of the test not only loses the challenge, but the Trait she bid as well.
Example of Play
Alexander, a Legionnaire on patrol, is attacking Tanith, a well-known Renegade leader. Alexander begins his attack by bidding Brutal. (“I Brutally grab you by your neck and dig my fingers into the Corpus of your face!” This is an appropriate Trait, since he is trying to cause serious damage to her.) Tanith bids the Trait Quick (“I Quickly try to evade your grasp and make a run for the nearest exit.” She wishes to dodge his attack in order to make a break so she will have a chance to escape capture.) The conditions for victory have been established: if Alexander wins, he grabs hold of Tanith’s neck and begins to perform impromptu reconstructive surgery; if Tanith wins, she gets a head start on running away. The two now go to the test.
Once both parties involved in a challenge have bid a Trait, they immediately go to a test. The test itself is not what you may think – the outcome is random, but no cards or dice are used. The two players face off against one another by playing Rock-Paper-Scissors. It may sound a little silly, but it works.
If you lose the test, you lose the Trait you bid. The Trait is lost for the duration of the story (this usually means the rest of the evening). Essentially, you’ve lost some of your self-confidence in your own capabilities. You can no longer use the Trait effectively, at least until you regain confidence in your Traits.
The test works like the moment in poker when the cards are turned over and the winner is declared. There are two possible results: Somebody wins, or there’s a tie.
In the case of a tie, the players must then reveal the number of Traits that they possess in the category used (Physical, Social or Mental). The player with fewer Traits loses the test and therefore loses the challenge. Note that the number of Traits you’ve lost in previous challenges, or lost for any other reason, counts toward this total. The trick to the declaration is that you may lie about the number of Traits you possess, but only by declaring fewer Traits than you actually possess – you may never lie and say that you have more Traits than you actually do. This allows you to keep the actual number of Traits you possess a secret, although doing so may be risky. The challenger is always the first to declare his number of Traits. If both players declare the same number of Traits, then the challenge is a draw and both players lost the Trait(s) they bid.
Example of Play
Alexander and Tanith now go to a test. They both do Rock-Paper-Scissors. They both choose Paper, so they tie. They now compare Traits. Alexander, who is the attacker, must decide how many of these seven Traits he wants to declare. He is rather confident in himself and his abilities, so he declares all seven. Tanith, who is a leader and not a fighter, has only five Physical Traits. She loses the test. Tanith loses her Trait she bid, Quick, and will subtract one Temporary Corpus Level. Furthermore, Tanith will not escape, and Alexander now has a firm grip on her face. Things are starting to look grim for Tanith.
Incidentally, certain advanced powers allow some characters to use gestures other than Rock, Paper or Scissors. Before players can use the gestures in a test, they must explain what they are and how they are used.
If you don’t happen to know (or remember) what we mean by Rock-Paper-Scissors, here’s the concept: you and another person face off and, on the count of three, show one of the three hand gestures. “Rock” is just a basic fist. “Paper” is just a flat hand. Sticking out two fingers spread apart from each other represents “Scissors”. You then compare the two gestures to determine the winner. Rock crushes Scissors. Scissors cuts Paper. Paper covers Rock. Identical sign indicate a tie.
If you have any questions or arguments about the rules or the conditions of a challenge, you need to find a Narrator to make a judgment. Try to remain in character while looking for a Narrator. Any interruption in the progress of the story should be avoided, so work problems out with other players if it is at all possible. If you don’t know the exact correct application of a certain rule, it’s usually better to wing it rather than interrupt the flow of the story by hunting down a Narrator. Remember, while you’re out of character looking for help, others characters can’t contact you and do things that they need to do, and the entire effect can snowball. Cooperation is the key to telling a good story.