5.0 (Advanced) Long Contests

Most conflicts should be resolved simply and quickly, using the simple contest rules.

However, every so often, your GM wants to draw out the resolution, breaking it down into a series of smaller actions, increasing the suspense you feel as you wait to see if they succeed or fail.

Think of the different ways a film director can choose to portray a given moment, depending on how important it is to the story, and how invested they want us to feel in its outcome.

For example, there are two ways to shoot a scene in which a thief breaks into the bank to steal the contents of the safe.

The action can be portrayed quickly, cutting to a moment with the thief, their ear pressed against the safe trying to get the tumblers to fall into place. Then they sigh with relief, open the safe, and get whatever is inside. In this instance, the story is about what happens after the thief gets what’s in the safe, not about what might happen to them if they fail.

Another film might instead choose to make the bank robbery a pivotal turning point in the story, if not its climactic moment. It would spend many scenes building up to the safe-cracking sequence: obtaining the plans of the bank, learning the movements of the guards, crawling through the air conditioning ducts, sliding past the motion sensors and pressure plates, and finally cracking the safe itself. All of these scenes would be rounds of a long contest.

Remember that QuestWorlds uses conflict resolution. If you want to describe how you overcome a sequence of story obstacles to overcome the resistance then your GM should use a long contest, if you just want to move on to the next scene, use a simple contest.

Even a movie driven by action and suspense will typically include only a handful of these set-piece sequences. They need the rest of their running time to build up to their big moments, to make us care about the characters, and to give us quiet moments to contrast with the white-knuckle parts.

So pacing may always trump your desire to work through the sequence of events, as your GM may wish to resolve this conflict quickly. This is especially true if only one player is involved.

Your GM may be tempted, to adjudicate every fight with a long contest, because fights seem like they should be played out blow-by-blow. They should resist this temptation, as fights are often repetitive trading of blows that can drag when everyone repeats actions from round to round. Only use long contests for fights where the PCs want to do more than slug it out toe-to-toe with their opponents until only one is left standing.

There are three types of long contest. Your GM should choose one to use with their campaign: scored contest, extended contest, or chained contest.