Navigating Conflict


There are different types of conflict ranging from a simple permission to a straight-forward challenge to a complicated combat. While conflict can be complicated and involved, it doesn’t always have to be. Often a Lead’s decision, such as “peer over the cliff side”, doesn’t require a draw – it is considered a successful action and you explain what the character sees. But there are lots of instances when a Lead’s decision, such as “climb down the cliff side”, does need a draw since there is a risk of failure. Use your best judgment to decide when Leads need to draw or not and don’t be afraid to make a mistake.

It is common for one or more players to suggest to others how best to proceed. You may need to remind the players that the decision for how a protagonist will proceed is ultimately up to that protagonist’s controlling Lead.

A basic human that would be considered untrained/uneducated in the action they were about to perform.

Imagining the Generic Human

Samples of Fictional Characters to Use as Generic Humans

Narrator’s Intuition

The target difficulty and rules for handling actions will be different depending on the situation. As the Narrator, you will build an intuition for how scene variables – including the environment, characters, and other scene elements – affect the difficulty and management of the action. It will take time to build this intuition – even multiple game sessions. While building your intuition, refer to (section coming soon) for suggested ways to determine scene difficulty and rules for actions. You’ll eventually feel comfortable enough to determine target difficulties and actions on your own.

Note to all players: The Narrator has the ability to supersede any rules in StoryHammer with her own rules or variations. While StoryHammer has instructions for how to play games, it is up to the Narrator to abandon or modify the instructions in order to make your play experience better.

Note to the Narrator: While you have permission to abandon or modify these rules as you see fit, you must remain consistent and fair. Players should be surprised by story elements and not by rule interpretations.

Interpreting the Scene: Generic Human

As the Narrator, you will need to determine the target difficulty for actions. To do this, imagine the action being carried out by a human who is untrained and uneducated. This untrained/uneducated human is referred to as the generic human. Estimate how difficult it would be for the generic human to succeed in terms according to the difficulty chart below then assign the number as the target difficulty accordingly.

Target Number and Difficulty Description

  • 14 – Impossible for humans without magic or technology
  • 13 – Impossible for all but a few humans
  • 12 – Impossible for most humans
  • 11 – Impossible for an average human
  • 10 – Nearly Impossible
  • 09 – Extremely difficult
  • 08 – Difficult
  • 07 – Somewhat difficult
  • 06 – Medium difficulty
  • 05 – Somewhat easy
  • 04 – Easy

Imagining the Generic Human

The Generic Human is someone who is able to perform the ability in question, but not especially well. This person is not trained in this ability and has little-to-no experience performing it but they are capable of accomplishing the action.

Sometimes it is best to secretly think of an actual person or a fictional character for each ability (e.g. The Matrix’s “Neo” would be a good for an example of the “Communicate” ability as he was perfectly capable of communication but wasn’t necessarily going to charm anyone into giving him information, etc.). The idea of who this Generic Human is will differ from Narrator to Narrator, which is normal and expected; the important thing is that the Generic Human makes sense to you and you are consistent with your use of the Generic Human. It is also advisable to keep your examples of Generic Humans a secret from your players as it may become an unexpected point of contention.

For example, Tevhra wishes to jump over a waist-high barrier. This is a Move(Correl) action. Tevhra has a score of 4 in Traverse and a score of 1 in Correl. To determine the difficulty of the action, the Narrator should picture the Generic Human attempting the action. For this case, the Narrator pictures Scooby Doo’s “Velma” attempting to hop over a fence. Velma, while capable of the action, is not known for her coordination or physical prowess.  The Narrator figures that Velma would have a somewhat-difficult time jumping the barrier, which translates to a 7. The target difficulty is then reduced by Tevhra’s Correl, which is 1. The target difficulty for the action now becomes 6. Tevhra will draw 4 cards in an attempt to draw a 6 or better.

(Arguably) Samples of Fictional Characters to Use as Generic Humans

Will – using energy to withstand temptations, trauma, and mental states

  • Cypher (Matrix)
  • Smeagol (Lord of the Rings)

 Communicate – using methods to invoke feelings or understanding in another

  • Neo (Matrix)
  • Quirinus Quirrell (Harry Potter)

Think– using the mind to think, compute, and process

  • Jayne Cobb (Firefly)
  • Ron Weasley (Harry Potter)

Labor – using the body to create force, including blunt force

  • Rue (Hunger Games)
  • Captain Jack Sparrow (Pirates of the Caribbean)

Move – using limbs and muscles to traverse through space

  • C3P0 (Star Wars)
  • Grima Wormtongue (Lord of the Rings)

Operate – motor skills, using precision tools

  • Storm Trooper (Star Wars)
  • Gimli (Lord of the Rings)

Sense – using organs to perceive and research concrete and abstract information

  • Peregrin Took (Lord of the Rings)
  • Pintel and Ragetti (Pirates of the Caribbean)

Interpreting the Scene: Factor Tables

One way to determine target difficulty is to consider the level of factors that would affect the action. For example, an action intending to entertain an audience would depend on the mood of the scene: A relaxed audience expecting a good time will be much easier to entertain than an angry mob expecting to raze the home of the crooked mayor.

IMPORTANT: These factor tables are merely suggestions. They are neither intended to be all-comprehensive nor designed to stack. Refer to these tables as needed. The number refers to how it affects the target difficulty (e.g. -2 would reduce the target difficulty by 2 while +2 would increase the target difficulty by 2).

Auditory Noise (e.g. for eavesdropping)

  • -3: scene is very quiet minus the conversation being overheard
  • 0: scene is noisy but not louder than the conversation being overheard
  • +2: scene is somewhat louder than the conversation being overheard
  • +4: scene is louder than the conversation being overheard or there is a barrier between the conversation and you

Complexity of Instructions (e.g. for commanding a spirit)

  • 1: Simple, universal commands
  • 3: Not simple commands, but not overly complicated
  • 5: Complicated commands that may require background information in order to understand

Difficulty of Act (e.g. for performing a sonata)

  • 1: Simple melody / part / speech / maneuver / art with limited basic structure
  • 3: Somewhat complicated melody / part / speech / maneuver / art or somewhat complicated structure
  • 5: Very complicated melody / part / speech / maneuver / art or very complicated structure

Environmental Camouflage (EC) (e.g. for trying to hide)

Factor 1 EC Point 3 EC Points 6 EC Points
Darkness Dark room lit by indirect sunlight (or similar) Dark room lit by indirect moonlight (or similar) Nearly (or fully) Complete Darkness
Clutter One object just large enough to squat behind Up to three objects large enough to stand, sit, or lay behind or inside Four or more objects large enough to stand, sit, or lay behind or inside
Exits* One clear exit Up to three clear exits Four or more exits
Distractions One point of distraction – a loud noise, sudden movement from a secondary point, etc. Two to three points of distraction – noise, movement, light, etc. Crowds big enough to slip through

*Exits do not include the point of entry (i.e. One clear exit is technically two actual portals – the entrance and the clear exit).

In the above matrix, each column references a score for each factor. Tally up these points and then get the modifier from below:

  • 0: 0 – 3 EC Points
  • -1: 4 EC Points
  • -2: 5 EC Points
  • -3: 6 EC Points
  • -4: 7+ EC Points


Environmental Noise (e.g. for trying to concentrate)

Each factor (listed in the Factors that Contribute to Environmental Noise table) is either a Level 2, Level 1, or Level 0 (not a factor). Add up the levels for each factor for the scene. The sum total is the Level of Environmental Noise (LEN). Use the LEN table to determine the difficulty for the action.

Factors that Contribute to Environmental Noise

Factor Level 1 Level 2
Fatigue 1 – 3 4+
Clot 1 – 3 4+
Sensory Noisy and/or bright Extreme temperatures, stormy or other harsh weather
Familiarity Unfamiliar location Dangerous location
Presence of Strangers 1 stranger 2+ strangers
Presence of Antagonists 1 antagonist 2+ antagonists

Level of Environmental Noise Table 

Level of Environmental Noise (LEN) Target Difficulty
0 -1
1 – 2 0
3 +1
4 +2
5 +3
6+ +4

Familiarity of Part (e.g. for performing in an ensemble)

  • 0: Unknown
  • 1: Somewhat familiar, practiced once or twice
  • 2: Familiar, practiced a few times
  • 3: Very familiar, practiced several times

Foothold Difficulty (e.g. for scaling a cliffside)

  • 0: Built for climbing or appears that way (ladders, stairs, well branched tree, etc.)
  • 1: Not built for climbing but close (fences with foot sized mesh, wall facings with ledges good for foot and hand placement, etc.)
  • 3: Climbable but barely (fences with smaller-than-foot sized mesh, smooth barked trees with sparse-but-strong branches, etc.)

Jump Class (e.g. for jumping over a fence)

  • 0: Up to 1/4 the height of the jumper
  • 1: Between 1/4 and 1/2 the height of the jumper
  • 2: Between 1/2 and 3/4 the height of the jumper
  • 3: Between 3/4 and full height of the jumper

Levels of Quality (e.g. for drawing a portrait)

  • -2: Of poor quality or cartoonish in nature
  • 0: Of mediocre quality
  • +2: Of good quality
  • +3: Of great quality

Scene Vibe (e.g. for trying to convince an audience to calm)

  • 0: scene is not conducive to emotion at all
  • 1: scene is somewhat conducive to emotion
  • 2: scene is conducive to emotion
  • 3: scene is extremely conducive to emotion

Size Class (e.g. for trying to cast an illusion spell)

  • -2: Small (2cm – 30cm)
  • -1: Medium (30cm – 1.5m)
  • 0: Human (1.5m – 2.5m)
  • +1: Large (2.5m – 5m)
  • +2: Huge (5m – 10m)
  • +3: Grand (10m – 20m)

Terrain Difficulty (e.g. for trying to outrun a persuer)

  • -1: Flat pavement; Slight downhill grade
  • 0:  Not-paved-but-not-rough
  • +1: Uneven; Ankle-deep water/snow; Slight uphill grade; Sticky surface
  • +2: Slippery surface; Loose gravel/sand; Severe grade (up or downhill)
  • +4: Ankle-deep sticky goo; Knee-deep water/snow
  • +6: Knee-deep sticky goo, Armpit-deep water/snow

Urgency of the Action (e.g. for trying not to panic)

  • 0: No discernable effect on the actor
  • 1: Might make the actor happy
  • 2: Will harm the actor
  • 3: Life-threatening to the actor

Weight Class (e.g. for accuracy of throwing an object)

  • 0: Light – Up to 20kg
  • 1: Medium – Between 20kg – 40kg
  • 2: Heavy – Between 40kg – 80kg
  • 3: Very Heavy – Between 80kg – 160kg

Zone Range (e.g. for accuracy of shot)

  • 0: Close range
  • 1: Mid range
  • 2: Long range
  • 3: Extreme long range

Protagonists Positions

Consider the following questions:

“Do the protagonists all occupy the same zone?”
 “Is there a scout for the group; if so, how many zones ahead is he?”

Sometimes, the positioning of the protagonists is important for the conflict – especially when facing combat or while in dangerous areas. The players must determine the placement for each protagonist per zone. Typically, the protagonists in the front or back are prone to surprise attack. However, if the protagonists are clumped together, they are vulnerable to attacks that affect a whole zone.