How do Fates and Trust interact in “The Mountain Witch”?

I get that you use Dark Fates to take narrative control when they apply. The book says this adds tension that counteracts the Trust mechanic. So are we expected to oppose the other PC when they try to take control? Do you use the betrayal bonus? Why oppose them if they aren’t affecting your own Fates? Is it just because the genre demands that?

Oh, interesting! A discussion of the Mountain Witch? A nice surprise.

I’ve only played the game once, but it was a many-session, detailed and involved game, and highly successful.

I don’t see any particular mechanical interactions between Trust and Dark Fates, but the tension is narrative:

The game encourages the characters to develop Trust with each other. At first, there’s little apparent reason not to keep giving the others more Trust.

The Dark Fates work against that, since the revelations and hints about each character’s true “dark” nature start to foreshadow potential betrayals and sow seeds of tension in the group. It’s classic dramatic irony; we are seeing two people supporting each other and trusting each other “on screen”, but, even as that happens, we are learning that one is cursed and the other is a murderer. How will all this end?

So, in that sense, these two mechanics or structures are pulling us in opposite directions.

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Thanks Paul, I’ve never played it myself but I’ve heard the trust/betrayal theme was well done so I was interested to see how it worked.

At first glance it didn’t seem like a lot of the fates were directly confrontational. I guess the GM needs to emphasize that to the players when making them. I couldn’t see why you wouldn’t just always trust each other. Why care if one of you has a secret love?

I guess I need to stop thinking of it as a team quest to kill the witch with some hidden objectives. It’s actually more like a competition to who can fulfill their objective and only cooperating when that helps you as an individual.

That’s a good insight, I think.

The game will not work well if the players don’t get on the same page about the creative goals of the game. It’s not a game that’s so hard-coded that simply playing it will align you with its goals: instead, the players have to bring the right attitude and the right spirit to the game.

If you’re not excited about the premise of a morally-grey story with conflicted characters, this game isn’t going to “force” that upon you. Write yourself a morally conflicted Dark Fate and then enjoy “teasing” it to the other players - it’s very much the same sort of pleasure you might get as a GM in a more traditional game: you’re looking to create a difficult choice for the other players, to get an emotional reaction out of them, and to heighten the drama of the story you’re telling.

Contrast this with a game with clear victory conditions, like Mafia or The Resistance or Among Us, and you’ll see what I mean: in those games, you play to win, as simple as that, and if you do anything else, you’re not really contributing.

In The Mountain Witch, there’s not much to enjoy by “playing optimally”: sure, you can “win” (i.e. kill the Witch) by making boring and good characters, with pretty obvious justifications for their Dark Fates, and cooperate the whole time. The game is quite deliberately “rigged”, so that cooperating players are bound to kill the Witch, no problem. Overcoming the Witch isn’t the objective of this game.

Instead, think more like you’re making a Tarantino film together, and it’s each player’s job to heighten the tension and to make things interesting.

When I’m portraying my Dark Fate, I’m looking to create something which will really get a rise out of the other players/characters. Are you willing to ally with a man who, as a child, murdered his own parents? What if one of your companions is the son of the Witch (a la Luke Skywalker)? What will you do?

I hope that bit of orientation helps. I’m pretty sure one of the Dark Fates is, straight up, that you are some kind of servant of the Witch, but it’s been a while since I’ve looked at the text. On the other hand, “why care if one of you has a secret love?” Well, that’s up to that player: if you draw “secret love” as your Dark Fate, the game is prompting you to make something interesting out of it. How can you make the “secret love” something interesting, complex, and explosive?

The GM gets to do this, too. Make the Witch someone who is morally gray, too. Make the Witch someone who will offer the characters the very thing they want most. When I played, my character was on a quest to avenge his dead wife. So the GM made the Witch someone who was experimenting with the boundary between life and death… the Witch offered me the chance to be reunited with my beloved, if I would join with him and turn on my companions.

I hope that helps illustrate the situation.

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Definitely helps. I’m actually trying to hack BitD to make a Cold War spy game. I wanted to have PCs need to cooperate but also double cross if it helped them reach their ultimate goal. I’m thinking I could use Trust as written but also for resisting instead of Stress. Make Fates into Secrets. I think it could work.

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I think the real key here is to determine whether your game puts the players at odds with one another (as, say, Mafia does), or whether it’s a source of creative conflict for the characters. And then design accordingly.

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