Beginners Luck for Assess

(Demian Luper) #1

(MOD: split from this thread:

I might be slapped down for bringing back and old thread (no necromancy…) but this was the newest one I found on the topic.

My group is only two maneuvers in but we still haven’t successfully completed and Assess. This is starting to feel like Burning Assesses, because at the early stage of the game, you can’t do much else because the other maneuvers don’t make sense (go to ground at the start of the game?) Now, I know that you can learn skills with repeated Beginner’s Luck rolls but what’s the point of spending an entire phase learning Observation when you can’t use it on maneuvers in the next two phases?

Anyways, my chief frustration is that there is no indication of the importance of certain skills to the Maneuvers until the Infiltration phase chapter. This is really irritating because you can burn up a great PC but then when it’s end of Maneuver time, you’re rolling Beginner’s Luck. In some games you’re encouraged to just create your PC and play who you want to play, metagaming and mechanics be dammed. If you don’t have one of the skills listed under each maneuver, you’re screwed. I’m now afraid that our group is never going to get out of the Assess maneuver. I don’t understand why it’s not explicitly stated earlier in the book that “Hey, these skill things you’re picking? They are really important for Maneuver rolls which affect how your side wins/loses the game, so, you might want to consider these ones…”

I’m completely ok on restricting the skills used in the different phases for each maneuver, I just wish our group had known before burning up PCs. Maybe I’m doing it wrong?


In my experience, this happens a lot during the first campaign. I think part of the problem is that there’s an assumption in the game that everybody a) has a copy of the rules, and b) has read them through at least once before you start playing. Most other games will let you make a character, and then explore the rest of the rules at your leisure. Not so with BE!

There’s a couple of things that you can do. If your GM is super nice, you could backtrack in character burning, and spend General points on some Infection-appropriate skills. Or, instead of banging your head against the Assess, you can try to use some maneuvers that don’t require it. Flack is a good option when the enemy has an advantage over you in the Infection, because it can buy you some time while you muster resources and tests. You could also use a Go to Ground or Conserve to try and generate some downtime for your side, then use that time to gain Infection skills through Practice. Or, you could always call it a lesson learned, count your first few maneuvers as a rules demo, and start over with a new world and new characters. The last ones were clearly not prepared for the Vaylen threat and fell to the worm, but that’s not going to happen on this new planet!

(Colin Booth) #3

Making a new thread on a topic that’s already here is fine. Link backs are also encouraged if you want a trail.

I’m surprised none of the PCs have any of the skills listed under Assess. Signals and Observation are the obvious one since martial characters should probably have it but the other skills all have their place within the game. Page 70 is the first place where the Infection skill list shows up. It doesn’t say which skills are needed for which maneuvers, but does give breakdowns by phase and has pretty much the warning you’re looking for.

Only Take Action, Innundate, Pin, and Gambit need a successful Assess. More importantly, Flak doesn’t and depending on the disposition breakdowns, you can do a lot of damage with that maneuver. My suggestion here would be to do something else (Flak is my favorite), generate some downtime, and practice up one of those skills. Again, Signals and Observation are the obvious two because they have application in Firefight as well. The other possibility is to see about slightly re-burning the Figure of Note for the Infiltration phase to open an Assess skill using a general point. I don’t particularly recommend that since part of what I love about Burning Empires is finding out how the players dig themselves out of the hole, but shuffling points around is an option if it’s taking away from your engagement and you can’t fix the issue in other ways.

(Gorsh) #4

I’ll just join in by saying that page 107, in the Character Burning chapter, Skills subsection; again reinforce the message about such skills being very important.

I’ll go with everyone else at saying you should consider either gaining Downtime through Conserve or Go to Ground, choosing a Flak to start hurting the other side while still providing some defense; or simply re-burning the characters to better fit the system in the long run.

Still, it sounds weird you can’t make Assess work: an independent assess is an Ob4 with Beginner’s Luck; in a Versus test, it’s about the other guy’s successes, so one of you are gonna get the Assess done for sure…
OH. Maybe you’re doubling each of the other side successes and using that as Ob! In that case, there’s no doubling to be made: just roll the stats and whoever wins, got his assess-ment done. See this thread, it’s from BWG but the rule seems to be the same.

(Gorsh) #5

Also, if you’re bumping against this kind of limits in place in the game, you probably need to read this series of articles if you haven’t already…

(Volper) #6

There are indeed lists, p70, and p107 which is an exact copy of p70, One sentence could have been added “One of these skills will be rolled by a player at the end of the Maneuver to determine if your side has been successful/effective/etc. which then reduces the opposing side’s Dispostion” But here’s the problem, scenes can unfold in a way that the PC without the key skills for the Maneuver roll actually had the most impact and/or relevance, and then, when it’s time to decide who rolls (p430) it seems totally fake if the players say “The guy with the right skill should roll instead of the dude who kicked major ass.”

If you don’t get a successful Assess, you’re still, in my opinion, handicapped. Also, Going to Ground and Conserve within the first or second Maneuver seems very meta and counter-intuitive to good plotting…“After Gandalf and the Dwarves visited Bilbo’s hobbit hole, they decided to spent the next several months hiding out in The Shire, organizing their belongings and doing lots of CrossFit.” Maybe Flak is the only other option?

With regards to Beginner’s Luck. If it’s an independent test, the Ob is 4, and if you’re rolling a root stat and you’ve run out of Artha during scenes, it’s still going to be hard.

I think this part is hard if you’re playing BE for the first time:

"One concept that has helped me is to emphasize that Maneuvers drive scenes, but scenes do not drive Maneuvers. When your players are picking a Maneuver, they’re setting the stage for their upcoming set of scenes. They may be frustrated by the fact that the game’s current events don’t play into an optimal Maneuver, but that’s the intent of the design. " (from The Maneuver-Scene Disconnect)

It seems ass-backwards, but, it’s like opening a scene with a climax and then having flashbacks to explain how you got there…


Maybe a Conserve isn’t the most exciting thing on a planetary scale from a fantasy space adventure point of view, but it certainly makes sense in terms of both military space-opera and good game strategy.

(Colin Booth) #8

Yup, it’s totally fake to have that happen. However, if you have a clutch PC who has the best chance of nailing the maneuver, the players should endevour to make sure that maneuver is their time to shine to guaranee that they get the roll. This is one of those places in Burning Empires that really rewards mastery. Now, it doesn’t always go to plan, but more often than not the person rolling for the maneuver has been set up for the moment.

(Gorsh) #9

I’d even go to the lenght of saying that’s the intent of the Infection mechanics: to ensure focus, make sure the conflicts are about what each phase is about, and press you to choose between individual character’s plans and the moves that go well with the big picture.

BTW, my first two maneuvers in our game’s Infiltration were an offensive Flak and a Go to Ground… (the fact that I lost the phase should not matter :slight_smile: )

(Anthony) #10

OK, guys, let’s give some room for the OP to respond.

(Demian Luper) #11

Thanks for all the responses and I’ve checked out some of the threads mentioned as well as the Getting Past the First Turn series.

Our group is hoping that each scene will get shorter once we have a firmer grasp of the mechanics as well as what we want to do each Maneuver. Our GM is in the middle of a gnarly project deadline so he hasn’t been able to devote as much time as he should (Burning Empires: The game you should play when you’re all unemployed…)

I think that we just need to have a tighter focus with our Maneuver and how it will drive the scenes, not vice versa.

One thing that is hard to grasp is the composition of the opposition/players/GM/FoNs. We’re almost in a situation where all the PCs are against each other, and FoNs on the GM side are working at cross-purposes. This fucks with my years and years of playing games where GM-controlled characters are almost always opponents, and you’re always cooperating with your fellow players. BE totally messes around with this because I’m assuming the players are all on one side of the fiction and the GM is on the other. “Help” in a scene isn’t actualy aid or support, it just means you’re in the scene together, and you could totally be calling each other assholes in the story, but when it’s time for the Maneuver meta, that’s a helping die…

Maybe if our world/FoNs/PCs weren’t all part of a messy fucked up convoluted web…or maybe that’s good? The privateer captain who always distrusts the merchant league he works for is being offered an admiralty by the head of the league who is a former lover and the captain’s first mate is a Kerrn who’s old friend is a rable-rousing labor-leader radical Kerrn in the mines who’s working against the underworld crime boss, and the head of the merchant league is making under the table deals with the visiting hammer lord…ah fuck, I could go on and on and we’ve only had two sessions.

I’m a fan of games where the system does a fantastic job of simulating the setting through genius mechanics. If you’ve ever played the Game of Thrones board game, you know that there is no easy choice. There is no guaranteed strategy and every turn is a gut-wrenching distillation of Sophie’s Choice via cardboard and plastic. So, therefore, is BE supposed to create shaded and tangled webs where choices aren’t clear and any side could be working with any other side? Where ideals and beliefs lead to ruin and impotence?

(Gorsh) #12

Honestly, it sounds like you’re having an awesome game, regardless of the Infection rolls.

Anyway, I think it is indeed good to have that in-faction hostility going on, for a while: it’s an Artha-making machine! Eventually, either pressed by the Infection or as a result of the fiction (ideally, by both) those frictions will start to fade and the humans will learn to cooperate… and you’ll have all those sweet points you won before to make sure it’s a hit.

In fact, I dare to say that keeping that strife on the enemy side longer than normal is a useful trick to learn for either GM or Humans; since it disables help on the Infection rolls and wastes the side scenes with the in-fighting.

Don’t force it, though: in our previous, failed campaign, we got so obsessed with winning the Infection that my kerrn philosopher and my friend’s magnate allied themselves, with zero reasons for it going on in-fiction, and that broke the “suspension of disbelief” for our game… we abandoned it shortly afterwards. So push for that alliance, but respect the narrative you’re building together… and always keep some sources of inter-faction strife, even amonst an allied front: again, good sources of Artha, and more importantly, the makings of a cool story.

EDIT: And yes, if you want to be competent at the Infection look at the maneuver you chose and its skills, and let those guide your scenes. Or at least a few important ones (your side’s conflict, or a building, as required by p. 429-430), the rest or the scenes can keep weaving other plots or foreshadowing/building for moves to come.