I’ve played quite a bit of Mouse Guard and Torchbearer now, and a little bit of Burning Wheel and Burning Empires. I have a question for those who know the latter two better than I:
Is there any significant advantage to the advancement system in BW/BE over MG/TB? Both systems seem like they are meant to encourage players to take risks, but I think MG/TB is just easier in general. BW/E seems like a lot more work, but it allows players to conceivably advance without ever failing at rolls. I’m not sure that counts as a good thing.
If you’re familiar with both methods, could you show me an advantage to BW/BE’s method that I might be otherwise missing?
If there’s not one, then I might well start using the MG/TB method in all of my Wheel-based games.
MG/TB requires you to fail. BW requires you to at least attempt really difficult things.
With the former, you’ll fail even relatively easy rolls not infrequently, so advancement will just happen even with safe play because the dice do not provide guarantees. In BW you need to seek out real challenges if you want to get better. In theory you can still always succeed; in practice those difficult and challenging tests are going to rack up failures fast. Pursuit of difficult tests means you need to spend artha to have a chance. Needing artha means you need to hammer away at those Beliefs. Beliefs are what make BW run. I’d worry that by short-circuiting advancement you stunt artha and can break the wheel, or at least make the axle kind of wobbly.
There’s also something very nice about having an insurmountable Ob 8 task and having the players excited to advance rather than just feeling crushed. And in BW you especially need reasons to push difficult/challenging because extra sources of dice are so plentiful. With a few FoRKs, help, and working carefully you can get pretty close to arbitrary numbers of dice if you really want. The advancement system puts a counterweight on that. Do it and you’ll always need the FoRKs and the help. You’ll never get really good at anything.
In my experience, that really depends on what kind of stuff you’re doing and how you treat fiction positioning as a group. We’ve had a lot of times where ample help just doesn’t make much sense to us, based on the intent and task selected.
It’s not just about the method to advance the Skill, the number of skills is also a factor in this. The skills in BW are more numerous but narrower.
If you were to use the MG advancement method in BW it’d be a slower process. You need more tests to advance and you use any one skill less regularly than in MG.
If you were to use the BW advancement rules in MG you’d advance faster. You’d need fewer tests with fewer total number of skills.
BW is faster and easier. MG is simpler and longer.