Catch-all cheating Instincts

I have a new to BW player that wrote up a cool character. A sharp witted Con Man.

Two of his instincts are cool but can be problematic.

Always Reads and Fishes for NOC motivations

He used this in our first scene against a greedy landlord, surmising that he looked hungry and then offered to calm him down by offering him some dinner in his flat. I granted him a 1d to his Soothing Platitudes check.

I’m not sure if this instincts will be exploited for +1d throughout the campaign. On the one hand in this instance it was totally legit but I can see if getting repetitive and annoying.

Thoughts? Am I being harsh?

I see this instinct developing into the Maneater trait which is so cool.

Instinct 2: Always search a Room for a tactical advantage.
The character is a student, has geometry, B5 perception. Players knows that the character is physically weak and wants to compensate by being clever and using his environment. I love it. Classic old school d&d thief style play. But I have seen these kind of instincts frowned upon in the forums. Thoughts?

Heya, that sounds a great question! I think you’re being too generous!

So, for the first one, I assume it was ‘always reads and fishes for NPC Motivations’

Obviously, NPC is a completely out of character term. I’d probably say this is too broad, and also says two things instead of one. As a GM, I’d be wanting it to be a little plainer ‘work out what motivates those I deal with’ is one option; ‘always ask after people I’m talking to’ would be another. Basically, my issues are that the instinct should first either be ‘ask’ or ‘look for’, not both, and that it should be about an actual group of people that actually exists (business partners, people you talk to, gossips) rather than one that doesn’t exist in-universe (NPCs).

It’s also not worth +1D to have an appropriate instinct: it lets you test at all, or might be used to argue a FoRK. That’s already powerful enough, don’t hand out Advantage just for that. If they really want it, force a few Linked Tests but remember to make the Obs appropriately difficult and introduce damning Failure Consequences.

As for the second one…
‘A Room’ is dull, and ‘tactical advantage’ is either dull or meaningless. ‘always have an escape route’ would work for me: it’s about looking for a way out. ‘Check out what’s lying aroind and could be used as a weapon’ would even work for me, because it’s direct. But this is so generic: tactical advantage could be high ground, flammable objects, weaponry, placement of the sun, presence of a low handrail.
If encourage specificity, and then be a little generous in application, rather than having a generic instinct that can already apply to everything. “When things go to shit, get behind cover” is probably just as generically useful, but it says what the tactical advantage is (cover) and implies something about what the character’s actually looking for, more than ‘the idea of an advantage’.

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Reading a motivation and fishing for a motivation are two different actions to my mind, and so I would limit the instinct to one of them. Instinctively observjng people for motivation and instinctively fishing for motivations from them are singificantly different in color and methodology.

Don’t cut out the play between activating the instinct and getting some kind of benefit! The reason it was totally legit in this instance is because the play in between was good – even if it was just good color. (You’ll note this is a situational advantage die…)

“Tactical advantage” seems a bit broad, but I feel like that’s mostly splitting hairs at this point. To me, it seems fine. I wouldn’t worry about it unless/until it becomes a problem.

Remember you can also use the character to determine failure conditions: they want to always read people? A failed test and now they have a reputation for being nosy/manipulative/staring a bit too much.

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As people have said above pick one. Also a great opportunity for a linked test (fishing is more interesting than reading, so gossip wise or similar). If the player is up for it, a failed test might mean they’re convinced of something which isn’t true (I’ve been doing this for failed manhunter tests), or more mundanely +1Ob on the social test from misreading the situation. Though I wouldn’t shy away from straight up giving +1D for a good instinct here and there.

Same thing, let them roll a linked test, if they fail maybe they find out their assessment isn’t good, they try to flip a table but it’s bolted down etc. When there’s no real advantage just give them some info about the room, as though they’d just asked what they see when they look around. Though as other people have said, making it more specific adds personality to the character, and is probably better. Good the player is engaging with the system and clearly thinking about it.

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Just play it good and fun.
the first instinct, is like a lie detector test. Every time he tries to read someone, have the NPC be hiding something, and not reveal it. That way he gets the “hiding something” from everyone he comes into contact with and that turns out to be pretty funny. Or, he gets 2 conflicting motivations or more and has to decide which one is relevant.
Second instinct of tactical advantage, is funny also. Does he have soldiering, or military training to understand tactics. One theory of tactical advantage to a con man is totally different to a Knight, or bandit. So , he doesnt have adequate background to use it and defend it, then every
time he wants to use, it, say the door is a closet. lol
I have a player who has the" I orient myself to my surroundings " meaning that every
time after a break or goes outside, he always orients himself. Cool. So in a village he keeps getting lost. Then he says, I have orientation, how come I cant get over there? I then say ," as a crow flies its only 100 yards, you know exactly where it is, however the streets are like shanghai in the 1930s and nothing is in a straight line. So he got lost in a village for 2 hours. It was great time for all.