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…”
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.