By Andrew Peregrine
During a conflict, there are more actions and options than just making an attack and moving assets. The option to create new assets and traits offers a lot of possibilities as well as opportunities to roleplay and guide the narrative.
Creating new physical assets, especially weapons, is perhaps the most obvious use of this option. Obviously, the player characters are not just pulling these items out thin air, so there must be a narrative reason to bring anything new into a scene. A common weapon might be found on a fallen opponent, but it is also acceptable to rewrite history a little and reveal a character has another weapon no one has yet noticed (as long as it is reasonably concealable). Improvised weapons like a broken bottle are also easy to justify. Remember that as part of the action of ‘creating’ the asset, the player character might be searching a body or smashing a nearby bottle to claim the new asset. So, anything a player creates for their character can be assumed to be in their hand or nearby, at the very least.
You are not just restricted to small objects when creating assets either. While your character can’t have an ornithopter secreted about their person, you can remember that they are near a private landing field where they might easily find one. The same goes for people. Your character might recall that a group of allied soldiers will be coming down this very street in only a moment as part of a routine patrol.
It is important to note that the introduction of an asset is not just about trying to find an excuse to get hold of an item. It offers an opportunity to expand the current encounter and add new details to the scene. More importantly, it is an opportunity for the players to do that, as well as the gamemaster. So don’t be afraid to describe a little more about the new asset and the circumstances by which your character finds it. Every extra detail might add new potential for story seeds.
As much as physical assets are useful, creating traits can be even more useful, as they cannot be easily dropped or stolen. Like an asset, a trait must come with a narration to describe how it appears in the scene. Traits can apply to the environment, creating new obstacles or opportunities to a scene. A door might be left open, or rain may be imminent. But traits that focus on characters can offer a good opportunity for roleplaying during the scene, as they duel with words to try and gain a mental advantage in a fight.
Banter and insults during a fight can often be deadly weapons, striking at the opponent’s self-confidence, to gain an edge. An opponent might try several different insults, if not just to undermine their foe, but even to impress anyone watching. This taunting offers a device to introduce these new traits and add some social interaction to a conflict. If such bullying makes the insulting character feel better, they might gain traits like ‘Confident’ or ‘Dominating the Fight’. It is also possible to impose a trait on your opponent like ‘Undermined’ or ‘Unfocused’, but doing so should be a contested test rather than the usual standard test to introduce a new trait. If imposing a trait on someone else, you must defeat their will to make the taunt hit home.
It can also be just as telling when such attempts fail as when they succeed. If the character fails to gain or impose a trait it is clearly a remark that has not hurt the confidence of their opponent. This allows that character to detail how they react to this failed attempt to dominate their feelings. They might scowl a reply, taunt in return, or remain silent and focused to show how above the remarks they are. Whatever the response, it sets the stage for them to try and gain or impose a trait of their own.
While it might seem a waste to try and add a trait instead of moving or using an asset in a conflict, it is all about the long-term view. A useful trait can make Difficulties easier (or harder for an opponent). So, they can tip the scales in an evenly matched fight. The advantage of destroying your enemy’s focus or taking their confidence can often be the difference between defeat and victory, even for a weaker opponent.