Unknown Armies 1:3 Conflict

We know how this chapter normally works – explaining initiative, to-hit rolls, damage and healing first. Then other ways to get hurt, and maybe at the end a couple of paragraphs on social conflict, assuming that wasn’t covered in the skills chapter under Persuasion…

But that ain’t how this game rolls, oh no.

The first section is all about Coercion which is presented as the main form of conflict that you are likely to use. It’s not surprising, given that this is a game where the PC stats, measure your state of mind, not your strength and constitution. So how does in work?

First of you you establish a credible threat. Now this last word is an unfortunate choice, it suggests violence, but that’s not the only lever you have to coerce people. You could threaten them with withdrawing your love, with the idea that the supernatural is real, with taking away their sense of control, with isolation or even an attack on their sense of self. Whatever your threat, you roll against the relevant identity, relationship or ability. If you fail they don’t believe your threat is real, and it’s us to you to decide if it is or not. If you succeed, they have a choice, do what you want or take a stress check. Its worth pointing out something mentioned later in the chapter, concerning less coercive attempts at persuasion – whatever you do, to GMCs or each-other’s characters,

You cannot make anyone do anything, except die in combat.

And so to combat, but even that section starts with six ways to avoid a fight. The impression here is that you REALLY don’t want to start one, but of you insist…

There’s no initiative, players just announce what they want to do, when their want to do it. If there’s an argument about who goes first, the character with the highest relevant ability or identity wins. To attack you roll the appropriate identity, and if you succeed you inflict wounds. The number of wounds is based (mostly) off your attack roll. You have, say Soldier 40%, so you must roll 40 or under to hit. If you roll 32, you hit. If you were punching your opponent, the damage would be 3+2 or 5. If you are using a weapon, you get bonuses depending on whether its sharp, big and/or heavy. +3 for each of those that apply: a stilletto knife would deal 3+2+3 or 8 wounds (and indeed as its sharp, one wound even when you miss); a tree-felling axe (sharp and heavy and big) 3+2+3+3+3 or 14 wounds. If you are shooting at them, the damage is 32. A critical hit, unarmed or with a melee weapon can kill, or with a gun, deal max damage for the gun (which in most cases, will kill).

Most people can take 50 wounds before dying, but the GM, not the player, monitors the wounds – describing the state of the character – so the player will never be entirely sure how close he came to death.

There’s a short discussion on the effects of non-lethal weapons, tasers and the like, before getting into less common things you might do in fights, throwing furniture, aiming,  grappling etc. and how they are handled within the rules. If I have one reservation at this point, its that there are a lot of exceptions to the basic mechanic appearing. The crits being different for guns thing for starters, and the fact that matched success doesn’t get you any bonus unarmed. I can’t argue with any of them, they make sense in the game world, making guns a lot more deadly than fist fights, but they do leave the GM with lots to remember. Grappling introduces “the gridiron” which a tool for all the less martial or psychological conflicts – car chases or arguments for example.

Then there’s the usual section on other things that can do you harm: car crashes; being set on fire; electricty; falling objects; being a falling object, drowning or being smothered; getting sick. Finally the section on treatment, both medical and psychological. Long story short, there is no short story, recovery takes time, and often hospital.

Or of course, magick.


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