When NPCs test has always confused me a bit in Burning Wheel.
In the Codex, page 139, first paragraph under the heading “When to Use Versus Test for Social Interactions” looks to say, a PC would set the obstacle at their Will to resist being manipulated by an npc.
I think that’s for when a PC is trying to manipulate an NPC. The way I see it is that NPCs don’t generally have their own initiative; you’re generally asking players how they act and react to the situation at hand. There’s likely not a break in that flow for an NPC to get an unprovoked Test in.
I tend to wait for players to give me an intent first, and offer a counter-intent from an NPC if it makes sense. I don’t think I’ve ever had an NPC roll up and engage a PC in a social tests in their own.
Yeah. I’ve had players who are really into getting into the game of games be quite pleased that social interaction has engagement in Burning Wheel. I’ve had another player from that group kinda bounce off of it and say, “I was always fine just roleplaying that out, so DoW didn’t really give me anything I needed.”
I personally definitely find frustration with other games that have social skills, but don’t actually have social rules to apply those skills to.
This is a huge relief to hear. @Opti - I feel the key is roleplay, but roleplay with a goal in mind. The goal being - push your player characters to engage their BITs.
Ideally, your NPCs all have desires, but they don’t get to test until something they do challenges the Beliefs, Instincts or Traits of a player character. You have to roleplay the NPC’s goal until the player either simply lets them have what they want or picks up the dice to oppose them. Then you get a versus test.
NPC wants Ardyn the Wise to resurrect his son. Ardyn doesn’t want to - whatever the reasons, he’s saying no. Your job is to continue to push Ardyn in a way that fits the NPC’s nature - perhaps he follows him around, spewing insults and threatening him with a nasty reputation. Maybe he threatens to come back with a mob. Or begs and cries, making an awkward scene. Whatever it is, things are going to get worse and worse for Ardyn until he either simply gives the NPC what they want (no test!) or tries to change the NPCs behavior through a social skill test.
I feel that this really applies to everything. You never tell a Player: “Test Speed - this guy is trying to punch you”, you say “Beauregard winds up and his fist flies at your face - what do you do?” If they do nothing, there’s no test - but of course they get hit in the face. The narrative you just gave them clearly communicated the result of not acting, and they chose not to act. Same way, no NPC (actually, in reality, no one at all) can change a person’s desires and motivations with words. They can only challenge them, see how that person responds, and decide how they wish to proceed from that point onwards.
TL;DR: Roleplay NPC goals only when they are likely to conflict with PC BITs. Roleplay until the PC feels compelled to act. Let the PC state intent and task and proceed with gameplay.