More Fuel for the Fire

I’ve been reading the Burning Wheel forums and realizing that my approach to tests has not been as explicit as it should be. All tests should involve a task, intent, and a consequence for failing the test:

  • Task: How or what you are going to do (e.g. I go hunting with my soldiers)
  • Intent: What you want to accomplish (e.g. I want to take down a yeti)
  • Consequences: What will happen if you fail the test (e.g. Umm… here’s the problem, I didn’t specify the consequences, this is a big deal in BW and something I should have done)?
  • Once those are stated, there is a negotiation. The player can say opt to change his intent and or task in order to mitigate or change the consequences. For example, had I said, if you fail you will take a severe wound from the Yeti while you bring it down* the player could opt to say, “Hmm, maybe I’ll hunt for something safer, like mountain lions instead.”

After the stakes are settled, we roll and find out what happens.

I need to specify the consequences before the roll is made! So far I don’t think it’s been hurting the game, but I can see players getting very frustrated if they don’t know what they are facing on a failed roll.

* Note, I failing the test does not have to mean losing your intent. The classic example is the thief picking the lock which NEEDS to be opened. Instead of a failed die roll meaning the lock can’t be picked, it can mean the lock is picked but not before the guards come running down the hall, or that it is picked and trap is sprung, etc. As a rule of thumb, win or fail we always want the story to move forward, opening up more options rather than closing them.