Question: My group has had great success with the “instant gratification” of Prime Time Adventures fan mail, to the point of extending it to other games. Would it be okay to give out tokens representing artha during play, as soon as a player does something artha-worthy, so exciting play is rewarded at once, but then only allow the players to turn in those tokens for artha they can actualy spend at the end of the maneuver? I.e. you have one set of artha on your character sheet that you can actually spend, but you have a growing pile of tokens (of various colors for Deeds, Persona, Fate) that represents the artha you will have, if you can just live through this maneuver.
I’m a little dubious. PtA is a good game and Fan Mail is a fantastic system. But I’m not sure it would be beneficial to incorporate that immediate gratification with BE.
Burning Wheel and Burning Empires are focused with laser precision on choices and consequences. The choices and consequences in BE begin with World Burning and play a starring role all the way through to the Epilogue.
A big part of that is your pool of Artha and your decision to spend. Do you spend it during the maneuver when your character is in the thick of it and he is fighting tooth and nail for what he believes? Or do you husband it for the Maneuver roll when it can help save your planet (or damn it)?
Those choices are hard, and they’re meant to be. But if you’re sitting there with a pool of chits representing what you’re going to get back when the session is over, well, the choice is a lot simpler, you know?
Also, that period after the Sequel to your maneuver roll, when you go around the table and talk about how each character did or didn’t use his Beliefs, Instincts and Character traits during the game is important. The players get to tell everyone else what they, as players, were thinking during certain scenes and why they undertook certain actions and deserve Artha for it. It’s a chance to really reflect on what happens, and that helps when it’s time to award points for stuff like Workhorse, MVP, Embodiment, etc.
That period is a chance to collectively appreciate the experience of the session. It’s also useful in identifying if there are players that are not hitting their Beliefs who might need to rewrite them.
i’ve found that the best way to ‘reward’ players or even the GM during BE play is by table chatter. in our game, we were high-fiving, laughing and saying ‘oh my freaking god’ and ‘rock on’ all the time. that’s usually enough to keep people psyched. you’d think it ‘breaks character’ and all, but with the scene mechanics, it’s actually tottally fine. it might even be more of an impetus for better roleplaying than artha, cuz once you have the artha, like thor says, ‘who cares i already got some’ sets in. this way, you’re simply being egged on to up the ante even more on the roleplaying…
Oh, my group is all about breaking character. We make comments, laugh, yell, and above all say “oh! your character totally does [whatever]!” to which the response is often, “That’s great! My guy does that thing you said! And then your guy [whatever else]!”
But nothing underlines a moment like reacting to it in BOTH table chatter and in hard mechanics. That’s the beauty of fan mail, for example, and of Keys in The Shadow of Yesterday. In the 7-session campaign I ran last summer, Tony Lower-Basch’s character had made a Vow to protect her long-lost and fairly insufferable sister – a Key which gives you 1 XP every time you’re seriously tempted to break the Vow and don’t. I made that NPC so hard to deal with that all Tony had to do was grimace and check off another XP on the Vow and we’d all laugh. “I didn’t kill her!” Tony would say occasionally, and we’d all agree he’d earned it.
That’s the kind of mechanics-story linkage I’m trying to figure out how to replicate in Burning Empires without unintended bad consequences.
Luke, don’t worry: My group is very much into the Forge-head “play it by the rules at least once” mentality. If I were just gonna kitbash your game to hell and gone, I wouldn’t be asking “Is this okay?”
How do you, personally, make that emotional connection between artha awarded and the moment it was awarded for when you GM?
Burning Empires is designed to have downtime between the big moments. We stop and review what just happened after the maneuver and sequel. Artha is awarded very clearly based on how Beliefs, Instincts and Traits came into play.
As was probably clear in my “life support” thread, the Artha reward cycle was a stumbling block for our group as well. Having come from a long tradition of instant-gratification hero point systems (stunt dice in Exalted, chips in Deadlands, etc.), it was grating for my players to have to wait ‘til the end of the session. The very presence of an epilogue made the overarching story feel more episodic and much less continuous. The post-maneuver Artha reward was also the main conceptual wedge between the players’ narrative choices and the outcome of the Maneuver roll.
Is instant gratification wrong? It isn’t for my group, and interfering with it just made them feel surly and resentful…even after explaining the reasoning for it. They understand it just fine; they just want their bennies now and not later.
In our case, the game worked as designed but our group did not like the result.
As a counter-example, my group forgets. We tried the instant reward thing with other systems, and more often than not we forget to award the metagame junk when it should be. We’ve always handed out stuff at the end of the game. We take a drink break, come back upstairs, and hash out who deserves what. It’s a lot better than breaking up the flow (IMO) to dole out rewards in the middle of a frantic combat or climactic DoW.