The topic for today? Conflict vs task resolution. I’d seen mention of these terms, especially from Burning Wheel fans. I didn’t really understand what they were talking about. To paraphrase: “All he’s interested in is task resolution, that’s why he doesn’t like Burning Wheel.”
So I looked up what these terms mean. From RPG Theory Glossary:
A Forge term for a resolution mechanic which depends on the abstract higher-level conflict, rather than on the component tasks within that conflict. For example, one might roll to get past a guard -- regardless of whether you bluff, sneak, or fight your way past him. When using this technique, inanimate objects may be considered to have "interests" at odds with the character, if necessary.
A technique in which the resolution mechanisms of play focus on within-game cause, in linear in-game time, in terms of whether the acting character is competent to perform a task.
Reading that, one must conclude that task and conflict resolution are the same thing. No-one is going to attempt to model a world along reductionist lines, you'd be talking about the movement of atoms rather than the blow-by-blow conflicts of RuneQuest or the more distant conflicts of other RPGs. Therefore, all so-called task resolution mechanics must also be conflict resolution and vice-versa. It's merely the level of detail that your interested in that counts. That interest in detail changes from moment to moment within any RPG. Seconds, days, years, millennia can go by in game time with only moments of our time. Do RPGs that are labelled "task resolution" games involve cooking, defecating and brushing your hair? None I've played, but they could, if you were interested in that level of detail.
A better example:
All combat is a matter of taking thinking about time, space, kinetic energy, potential energy, material sciences, anatomy, willpower and distilling it into a natural reaction which requires no real thought, is mostly muscle memory and instinct. These principles cross all imaginary separations and divisions, thought becomes action without actual thought.If interested, the same sort of discussion is had on the gaming philosopher blog.
In game terms there are a ton of skills which people don't normally think of as contributing toward combat, which are really useful as a basis for real combat skills. For instance Lore (Animal, Mineral, Plant), these are essentially Anatomy, Chemistry, Botany. What do they tell us? Where to hit, what I can use to hit with, what might be useful as a poison, what is safe to move over etc. Perception is the basis of situational awareness, not walking into ambushes, knowing where attacks are coming from is vital to protecting yourself. Athletic and Acrobatics aid your movement over terrain, Evade is necessary to tactical movement keeping the enemy in each others way, Persistence and Resilience provide the mental and physical endurance to persevere and win in battle. To be a good warrior already requires a multitude of skills. Faelan Niall