(Back to the Rule Reference)
Not all rolls are simple Challenges against fixed opposition — just as often, the Heroes face down enemies in races, debates, tactical ploys, and other competitions that test their skills directly against other characters without intending them harm. These (largely) non-violent head-to-head competitions are called Contests. (When the goal is to hurt the opposition, you’re looking at a Conflict)
In a simple contest, the opposing characters declare actions, form pools, and roll the dice as usual. The character with the highest numbered set wins the Contest. In the event of a tie, the character with the most Nudges wins. If those are tied as well, the Contest is a stalemate for now and continues into the next Beat (unless one or both characters decide to call it quits or the Contest ends for another reason).
Many Contests can’t be resolved with a single action or in a single Beat. Many contests demand multiple rounds of give and take and numerous tense decisions from those involved, and should ideally present plenty of opportunities for each side to gain and lose ground until one comes out the victor.
At the start of an Extended Contest, the Narrator decides how many successes are needed to win: at least two and as many as five. This choice is based on the complexity of the task and how important the Narrator feels it is to the story — the higher the complexity and the greater the importance, the more successes the Narrator should assign (with six or more being excessive and likely to devolve into a tedious exercise).
The Narrator may choose the number of successes secretly if he or she wants to keep the other players unsure how close anyone is to winning, or if it’s appropriate to the story (when the characters actually can’t tell how close anyone is to winning).
An Extended Contest then unfolds alongside the ongoing conversation, with each participant rolling once per Beat. The first character to get the final success wins the Contest — much like a race. If both characters get the final success in the same Beat, the character with the most Nudges wins (though only by a very narrow margin). If the Nudges are also tied, the Contest continues into a new Beat with no clear winner.
Except for rare instances where the Narrator determines that additional activities are possible, participants in an Extended Contest may not also perform other actions — the Contest demands their full attention.
ACTIONS BETWEEN BEATS
Extended Contests can sometimes portray lengthy activities with periodic downtime, like contentious, multi-session Assembly debates or protracted sieges intent on starving out the defenders. Some characters may be able to slip away between critical moments without jeopardizing the Contest, in which case the Narrator should warn them that if they’re not back in time they won’t be able to contribute (and whether the Contest may be forfeit as a result). The Narrator may or may not let the characters know when the next roll is being made (as sometimes it won’t be evident).
Taking other actions without leaving the Contest area doesn’t risk losing; in those cases the Narrator can just continue play according to the characters’ actions, resuming the Contest with its next Beat. Smaller Beats can be used for actions taken in the intervening time.
OTHER CONTEST RULES
The following additional rules apply during Contests.
CONTESTS WITH MULTIPLE PARTICIPANTS
Sometimes a Contest involves multiple characters on one or both sides. In these cases everyone rolls and only the best Result on each side is used. When the number of characters on a side confers an advantage, the Narrator may also give that side a Circumstance die.
CONTESTS WITH THREE OR MORE SIDES
Contests with more than two sides are handled a little differently. Each side declares one action (possibly in secret if it makes sense for the story), and rolls are made normally. Any actions that succeed and aren’t in direct conflict with another action are automatically successful, while conflicting actions are resolved like any other Contest.
CONTESTS AND DIFFICULTY
Difficulty is rarely used in Contests — each side’s roll effectively becomes the Difficulty for opponents’ rolls — but some rare tasks are tough enough that some or even all of the competitors may not succeed, let alone win.
In these cases the Narrator applies Difficulty as in a Challenge, and the Contest stalls, or possibly fails, unless at least one character succeeds (regardless of the Results and Nudges rolled). Characters who fail may also face unfortunate consequences, as appropriate to the task at hand.
Difficulty may sometimes apply to only one side of a Contest, as fits the situation.
CONTESTS AND OUTCOME
The Outcome of a Contest between two sides is equal to the difference between the Results (which naturally gives the winner a positive Outcome and the loser a negative Outcome).
With three or more sides you can figure the Outcomes between any one side and each other side, though you’ll only want to do this when the detail is absolutely required. Most often only the Outcomes between the overall winner and loser will be helpful.
No matter how many sides there are, Difficulty broadens the Outcome range and allows for greater degrees of failure (which is appropriate given the increased hardship).
Here are some Contests you might find in a typical Mistborn game. Some are flagged as Extended, which only means that they’re usually Extended — they can always become single-roll Contests when appropriate, or when the Narrator wants to speed them up.
When more than one Attribute, Standing, or Power is listed for a side, the Narrator chooses the one that best fi ts the situation at hand.
Finally, the Narrator should always feel comfortable swapping out any Attribute, Standing, or Power listed here or in any other Contest (or Challenge, or Conflict). The situations the Crew will face are myriad and the Narrator’s ability to represent them with the rules should be as well.
• Arm wrestling: Physique vs. Physique
• Trickery: Wits vs. Wits
• Lying: Charm (liar) vs. Wits (listener)
• Seduction: Charm vs. Charm
• Intimidation: Charm or Physique (intimidator) vs. Wits or Physique (intimidated)
• Sneaking past a guard: Physique (sneaker) vs. Wits (guard)
• Racing in a foot chase (Extended): Physique vs. Physique
• Running a confidence scheme (Extended): Charm (con-man) vs. Wits (mark)
• Making a skeptic believe: Spirit vs. Spirit
• Bribery: Resources (briber) vs. Resources (bribed)
• Swaying a bribed jury: Influences (advocate) vs. Resources (jury)
• Impressing a mystic with wealth: Resources (wealthy man) vs. Spirit (mystic)
• Convincing a crowd it’s the end of the world: Spirit (convincer) vs. Influence (naysayers)
• Debating at the Assembly (possibly Extended): Influence vs. Influence
• Conducting a legal trial (Extended): Influence vs. Influence
• Tricking Ruin into revealing a plan (Extended): Spirit (tricker) vs. Wits (Ruin)
• Winning a Steelpush duel: Steel vs. Steel
• Detecting the location of an Allomancer burning metals: Bronze (Seeker) vs. Copper (Smoker)
• Perfectly imitating a mimicked character: Mimic (kandra) vs. Wits (observer)
• Pulling a metal weapon from someone’s hand: Iron (Allomancer) vs. Physique (wielder)
• Competing for a crowd with Rioting and Soothing: Zinc (Rioter) vs. Brass (Soother)
• Subtly manipulating emotions over time (Extended): Zinc or Brass (Allomancer) vs. Wits (mark)