I’ve occupied my commute by listening to the Sunday Skyper’s Burning Beards podcast. I wrote about this in my Rethinking the Failed Climb Check I have fast become attached to the trials and tribulations of Fandril, Flint, Ulfkell, and Slate.
In episode 38, after a battle to a stalemate, the spiders pinned the dwarves. One spider begins parlaying with Flint. Having earlier spoken about ghosts, weird dreams, unseen spirits haunting Flint enters the parlay; Flint requests that the spiders let them pass if they promise to come back and talk with the mother spider tomorrow. The group has side-stepped many Dual of Wits in favor of expediency; After all they have but a few hours for the whole session; And scripted conflict will take more time than a quick Vs. test. An unfortunate side-effect is that poor Flint, every engaging in social conflict, has rarely had a chance for a Routine persuasion test, something far easier to come by in a Dual of Wits than in a Vs. Will persuasion.
The GM presents a great complication for Flint’s failure. But I was wondering what other consequences could someone inflict?
First complication, Flint was invoking his Oddly Likeable character trait. In the rules as written Burning Wheel, character traits are not something that add advantages. This is something from Mouseguard and Torchbearer. However, it is a reasonable hack. . This would be something I’d put in the crosshairs. If you fail, you’ll shift Oddly Likeable to just Odd Definitely bring this up in a trait vote.
Second complication, Flint has been blathering about spirits and such. On failure, you’ll gain an infamous reputation “Speaker of Nonsense.”
Third complication, they’ll let you leave, but you’ll need to leave reassurances. Their first request is Fandril’s dwarven mail.
Fourth complication, they’ll give you what you want, but as you’re leaving they’ll spring a trap, picking off one or two of you.
Burning Wheel offers minimal guidance, but frames how to approach test failures; Namely look to their intent and push against that. I know when I’ve run Burning Wheel, I sometimes forget to press for intent before rolling the dice; I find it more difficult to establish intent after a failure.
Look to Apocalypse World for a bit more nuanced guidance. In 2012, I wrote about Apocalypse World moves in the Fellowship of the Ring Below is a quick summary:
- Separate them.
- Capture someone.
- Put someone in a spot.
- Trade harm for harm (as established).
- Announce off-screen badness.
- Announce future badness.
- Inflict harm (as established).
- Take away their stuff.
- Make them buy.
- Activate their stuff’s downside.
- Tell them the possible consequences and ask.
- Offer an opportunity, with or without a cost.
- Turn their move back on them.
- Make a threat move.
And remember, after every move ask: “what do you do?”
A failed move/test should push the fiction in a direction that demands a response and further risk.