FoRK-ed off

As I’ve started running another Burning Wheel campaign, I’ve noticed the heavy and seemingly extreme use of FoRKs.  Amongst the characters, there is an extremely dangerous persuader (Remy Leduc); He can easily FoRK three or more skills into a single Persuasion test.

I suppose that is the nature of a 7 Lifepath character.  He is extremely potent in his particular focus.  This character has the luxury that for each Persuasion test he can choose between almost certain success or a test for advancement.  This is clearly a design decision of Burning Wheel.

However, his heavy reliance on FoRKs comes with a mechanical cost…He won’t be advancing his Persuasion skill. Nor will he likely need to spend Artha on these tests.  Essentially, this character has already plateaued in regards to Persuasion.

In fact, Remy’s player is adverse to failing a Burning Wheel test. He is tracking the result of all tests by all players, recording dice rolled, obstacle, artha involved, and success/failure.

Why the Fear of Failure?

A single test in Burning Wheel is quite “gamey”.  After all you can maneuver for bonuses (i.e. FoRKs and helping dice), commit precious resources before the roll (i.e. spending a Persona point), and even gamble on salvaging a failed test  (i.e. spending a Fate point).

In fact, a single test in Burning Wheel has many similarities to combat in D&D, albeit a blazingly fast combat.  After all in D&D you maneuver for bonuses (i.e. flank) and commit precious resources before the roll (i.e. use a daily power, unleash your highest level spell).

I believe it is these similarities that creates the conditions the disproportional fear of failure. After all, in the games of D&D I’ve played, failure in combat means death or at least dead ends.

Burning Wheel, however, discourages failure from being the end, but instead the start of a new thread steeped in a complication.  In other words, Burning Wheel is all about saying “Yes but…”

Embrace Failure

So understand that Burning Wheel has many mechanics for improving your chance of success, but those chances come at the cost of advancement.  Don’t be afraid to fail a test in Burning Wheel, because even in failing, your character is getting something.

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3 thoughts on “FoRK-ed off

  1. Pingback: Hacking Together a Burning Wheel Conflict Resolution on the Fly | Take On Rules

  2. I agree… this is a by-product of years playing pass/fail systems. Also… I think if you examine our history as gamers, you will find that we have had too many GMs that brutally punish characters (or players) for failing when they tried to do something spectacular. What’s the point of pushing your character to grow if he just ends up dead on the day (year) your dice were unlucky?

    • I’m trying to recall the characters that have died under my watch, and here is my list.

      • a half-elf fighter/thief/mage
      • a halfling druid
      • a human warrior mage
      • a human paladin of Ilmater
      • a human alchemist
      • a handful of heroes trying to save a small village
      • and a couple of helmetless schmucks

      However, I would argue that we should push our characters, both so we can intensely celebrate success and cringe at failure.

      In looking at Burning Wheel, it is easy to see that someone in the game will likely receive a mortal wound. However, so long as you have a Persona point (something you get when you play towards your beliefs) your character will not die (especially if there are two capable surgeons in the group). The character may be horribly scarred but will continue to evolve.

      In non-life and death situations, complications will continue to build so long as the characters do not address those complications. Addressing those complications, with team work and artha, the characters should be able to overcome them.

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