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Ongoing Challenges


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I'm having some trouble wrapping my mind around how to use these.


Let's say for example that the players are looking for a specific book in a large library........or are seeking evidence from a crime scene......or any number of things that are not necessarily very exciting but by their virtue require some time....and could take several game hours to complete. 


The example in the latest FAQ seems fine as you're running through the woods trying to evade something......you could probably role-play that out with the Stag getting closer or further away depending on the number of successes and failures.


But how would you play my examples? If you're looking for a book it's tough to role-play blowing the dust off the old books for too long between each flip.......you could just have the players keep flipping....but in that case, why not just ask for one flip and get it over with?


If you're interviewing two or three witnesses to a crime, and you need 10 total successes to get all the info you need; you can role-play asking some questions, but how often and when would you flip?


Can anybody offer me some guidance here?

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Well, in some cases just don't use an Ongoing Challenge. If it feels like a waste to you, maybe another mechanic is more appropriate. Also, the FAQ doesn't change how they work, just attempts to make the different portions of them more clear.


Looking for a book in a library...


Use an Ongoing Challenge when:

  • It is going to take some time
  • The amount of time it takes matters (Ongoing Challenges are good about setting up success within a time limit)
  • Possibly: The players might do other things while searching (the Duration doesn't need to represent exactly how long it takes to do something; it can represent how long before you can take another test -- particularly long things, like learning a new language, benefit from long Durations that are not exclusively committed to that task)

Use a single flip when:

  • The amount of time it takes does not matter

Do not use a flip of any kind (and just give them the book) when:

  • The book is needed for the story to proceed (so you won't actually let them fail, i.e. you'd just have them flip again until they make it)
  • The amount of time it takes does not matter

Note: I'm not sure the situations you're running into, but that last one is always worth keeping in mind. Sometimes Fatemasters make players flip even though they need them to succeed, and that's a waste of a flip.



So ask yourself these questions when you've got an idea to flip:

  1. Is it OK for the story if the players actually fail?
  2. If no, then don't make them flip and just describe (use something else for the tension). If yes, then does it matter how long it will take OR is it likely to take such a long time that they'll need to do other things in the middle of the attempt?
  3. If no to both, use a simple duel. If yes to either, use an Ongoing Challenge.


That's the way I view it, as a Fatemaster.


In the upcoming book, Into the Steam we provide a number of Ongoing Challenges for certain situations, like trying to navigate from one location to another off the beaten path. We use an Ongoing Challenge because 1) you'll want to know how long it takes and 2) it is entirely possible that something else will happen during the Durations, such as bumping into some Nephilim. This is a good place where it's appropriate (assuming that you care how long it takes to get them somewhere or that they might actually never make it, of course).


In an upcoming Penny Dreadful, we use an Ongoing Challenge to track how long something is taking because failure could spell disaster -- and the story is totally prepared for that disaster to actually occur, so it's worth making players flip.


In the case of trying to find the book in the library, it may seem that flip after flip is dull for an Ongoing Challenge, and it may be worthwhile making it a simple challenge. But in the case of needing to find the antidote for a poison where the one of the Fated's life is on the line, well, suddenly each flip has its own tension... and it's a perfect place to have an Ongoing Challenge.

  • Flip one, success. "You begin to go through the books, and you think you are beginning to grasp the cataloguing."
  • Flip two, success. "You're making progress now, and have eliminated a section of the library. But Susie is looking awfully pale, and this has taken twenty minutes so far."
  • Flip three, failure. "You thought you understood the layout, but this section has you confused and you're beginning to doubt you eliminated those other sections. Susie begins to vomit on the floor, she doesn't have long left."
  • Flip four, success. "Aha! You've found it, and just in time!"


This gets you rolling where the flips are fast, but there's tension on each individual one, as it's so vital the book is found quickly. And keep in mind that margins of success come into play, allowing players to succeed more, thus allowing for brilliant moments that speed up the overall time. This makes the flip go beyond pass/fail, and the players can feel a direct sense of progress, as every increment counts.


Hope that helps!

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Thanks Aaron that was very helpful.


I didn't mean to imply that the FAQ example was different, just that it was a good example of creating excitement while doing an ongoing challenge compared to other times that may not seem as exciting and would be harder to role-play.


And technically I haven't run into anything yet since the campaign hasn't started yet but I like to be prepared and have a thorough understanding of my tools before starting. I've been working on a painting commission and that gives me plenty of time to think and work out potential hurdles.

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Those are some nice guidelines Aaron, cheers:) The only time I used ongoing flips when one of my fated was attempting to talk the concerned residents out of Lynching an NPC they wanted some information from whilst the other Fated were inside asking the questions. (the information was available elsewhere, so if they failed it wasn't major, but as they had come up with this idea I was happy to go along with it) Each successful flip would buy them more time, each failure would result in less. 


I let the player babble a bit about what they were going to try and do (impersonate a guild lawyer as it turned out) and then as they flipped I gave them a commentary on how the mood of the crowd seemed to be,  


"They don't seem inclined to listen to reason at this point, one or two of the burlier miners are edging closer to the guards"

"You seem to have shaken up a few of the less hardy souls, and the back of the crowd is thinning out"

"The mention of the guild seems to have stirred the miners up more and you're losing their focus"

"The 'Legal document' you are waving around has convinced the more law abiding that they should probably listen to reason"

"Without the mob to back them up even the drunken miners are allowing themselves to be led back to the saloon by the girls"


They managed some exceptional flips with a bit of cheating, and then red jokered on the fourth flip (as well as some impressive on the spot roleplaying improv) so rather than running it through any longer I ended it as a reward, giving the players as much time as they needed, (which was good, as the guy doing the fast talking was also the only one any good at interrogations)


He's also now the town Lawyer, which is what he deserves for telling such a blatant fib. ;)

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I had a really good one during an adventure where the (very Guild) Fated walked into a Union bar looking for answers. Conversation ground to a halt as everyone looked up at them, and the Fated kicked themselves for wearing their fancy Guild pins where everyone could see them.


During the Challenge, the Fated tried to improve the mood of the miners: one of them used Artefacting to adjust some pneumatic limbs, another used Music to play his guitar, and the would-be Arcanist just went to the bar and started using Deceive to spread some lies about how they were secretly Union sympathizers who took Guild jobs to help the Union out from the inside.


In the end, they succeeding at the Ongoing Challenge and got the information they wanted...but there was a bar fight just waiting to break out if they had ended up with a catastrophic failure.



I think that Ongoing Challenges are really great options for things that the Fated are trying to do as a group. One bad flip might not result in failure, and if you say something stupid, your friends can probably cover for you...up to a point.

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During the Challenge, the Fated tried to improve the mood of the miners: one of them used Artefacting to adjust some pneumatic limbs, another used Music to play his guitar, and the would-be Arcanist just went to the bar and started using Deceive to spread some lies about how they were secretly Union sympathizers who took Guild jobs to help the Union out from the inside.

This is a very important use-case for Ongoing Challenges which has nothing to do with timing or importance to the story: it's the game's only mechanic for handling situations where it's demonstrably absurd for success or failure to boil down to a single skill/stat. It doesn't actually matter how many characters are working at the challenge, only that multiple skills and/or stats are involved.

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