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Strife vs. Strain

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As someone coming from the SWRPG I notice that Strife seems to have a similar role but also very different. The book seems to suggest that Strife can be removed or heal a bit after a scene, but the Length of Scenes in Real Time description on pg. 150 seems to have scenes lasting quite a long time. In a game we played last night characters were making checks on things like trying to remember a bit of geography in a non-stressful situation or some other rather non-epic determination, but one allowed by the GM nonetheless. As a matter of making these checks quite a bit of strife was incurred by one character in particular and he ended up having 3 outbursts in the session. 

SWRPG Strain is recommended to not be used frequently to mentally overcome the PC during combat, and has a rather generous refresh guideline. 

But Strife, especially in a session with one or two long scenes (30 min to 2 hours the book says), can easily accumulate into Outburst fodder without some sense of when it should be applied to the character's composure from checks and what a reasonable refresh would be. I imagine a good portion of this dilemma is too many checks or frivolous checks, but I thought I would see what the opinion is as far as the forum testers are concerned. What are the similarities in the current build, the differences?

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I had two players outburst, neé unmask, tonight.

Let's see, scene count...

  1. New PC gets hired by Seppun-Sama (Narrative)
  2. Old PCs arrive at Seppun-sama's manor (Downtime orphing to Narrative)
  3. Seppun-sama shows up and gives instructions to head to Village-where-fish-leap-to-their-death to investigate claims of Maho. Old PC's meet New PC. (Narrative)
  4. PC's arrive outside Village-where-fish-leap-to-their-death. Pop estimate 50. (downtime)
  5. PC's arrive in village proper (narrative - new scene because change from party alone to party with NPCs)
  6. PC's Begin to fight the Water Kami (PC's start in skirmish mode. Most NPCs flee.)
  7. PC's talk to it instead (PC's de-escalate to intrigue)
  8. PC's keep it busy playing shogi while Shugenja works on ritual to tell if it's Kansen or Kami (narrative)
  9. PC's drive it back to the water. (Back to skirmish)
  10. PC's attempt to purify it, find it's genuinely kansen. (Back to narrative) PC's jointly set up a jade labyrinth.
  11. PC's lure it to a fight. (Back to skirmish)

3.5 hours. 11 discrete scenes; changing conflict types is usually a scene break.

If the scene progress takes a break, or the characters change locations significantly - change scene. If the type of scene changes, just like in a movie, change scenes and allow strife recovery. I didn't even trigger anyone's Ninjō nor Giri this session. The Isawa seeks to blow his top.

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I'm really torn on Strife.

If samurai are conflicted people, I like the idea that there is a mechanical way to track that conflict.
But it should come from the game, from what is actually happening, and not from some random roll. Especially not from every single roll you make.

Strife should come at the end of a scene, based on what happened in that scene.
Were you forced to choose between you honour and someone else's honour ? Between honour and duty ? Ninjo and giri ? Two tenets of bushido ? Two conflicting duties ?
Was your sensei insulted by someone your lord need as an ally ? Do you have to keep your face on after a glorious win / sour defeat ?
That should accrue strife. Not remembering some obscure family mon.

In conflict, Strife works too much like Strain, but with consequences affecting your character on the long term. Seems like it's trying to be two different things at the same time, and it's bad.

Another thing I don't like about it, is that (as many limites ressources in many games) it doesn't affect PCs and NPCs in the same way.
PCs have to carefuly manage it if they don't want to suffer outbursts.
NPCS ? They don't care.
If your are cleansing the area of some bandits, they can just accumulate strife, unmask, and be done with it.
Strife with NPCs will only matter if they are recurring characters. If it can be useful for the PCs to learn their strengths and weaknesses. But they might just take a glory or honour hit, instead of giving you a clue about themselves.
Or they might reveal useless or otherwise obvious stuff (like that Mirumoto bushi, fighting in niten stance, revealing he is Ambidextrous. Or that old advisor, at a meeting, revealing he is Blind)

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The Isawa in our game is cool as a cucumber :)  Thank you for your posts. I too am torn on the Strife thing because as you noted it is every roll, so it can be kind of random and weird. In the game I don't tend to like to have my guy do a check for simple things or things that require thinking, so I tended to roll very few checks with my Shiba Bushi, while the player who was playing an Ikoma Courtier was wanting a check to see if it was time for lunch. The Strife system can be good in that it mechanically discourages overuse of the dice, but it also discourages use of the dice at the same time. 

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9 hours ago, AtoMaki said:

I would much more prefer Strain. In my experience, Strife tends to be somewhat... counterproductive if not downright silly. 

the name's connotations do matter in its reception, and my players who have played SW keep calling it strain anyway.

@Archlyte - one other though - rereading the sidebar - they're suggesting that a scene break should happen no less than 30 to 60 minutes of play, not that scenes should be taking 30-60 minutes routinely.

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