Converting or Subsituting Quests

From page 45 of TBW - ***“Converting or Substituting Tests” - What if my character is one routine test from advancing his skill, but has tons of difficult tests? I can just convert a test, right? No. Hard and fast rule: Players cannot convert or substitute tests, ever. ***

My question is, why? It seems unfair somehow or even illogical - how could you have acheived a number of difficult tests and not advance a skill because of you are lacking one routine test?

We haven’t started to use burning wheel and I only ask this question because I know my players are going to definitely gripe and want a good answer for this.

Thanks for your time and input!!

You may have done all sorts of crazy and improbable things, but you’re never going to get better until you practice the basics.

Advancing requires a number of Routine, Difficult and Challenging Tests. I justify it as you have to do the simple stuff until it comes naturally and attempt the hard stuff to stretch yourself.

And eventually you get the easy stuff down – at exponents 5 and above most things don’t count routines to advance anymore.

Remember that you’re not an expert at something until exponent 5. That’s also when Routine tests stop mattering for advancement.

Until that point, you’re competent but still learning. You still need repetition in order to make some of those basic things second-nature. It’s like playing a musical instrument; if you want to be come an amazing guitarist, you need to be able to play lots of different scales without even thinking about it, and that takes repetition and muscle memory.

That’s the justification. The “Why” is because that’s the way Luke wrote it. It’s possible that it’s just an arbitrary game decision and you could let tests count as lesser tests if desired with no consequences.

My intuition is that doing so would be mostly okay, but there would be consequences, mostly in strange outcomes. Someone who isn’t very skilled could face only outrageously difficult tests, fail them all, and improve. The current system requires you to face some tests that you could at least conceivably succeed at. That will also play out in the game, because players will be pushing for those achievable successes.

If you allow downconverting, it suddenly becomes extremely easy to advance B2 and B3 skills. They only require 3 or 4 tests total, and it’s trivial to get Challenging tests for a B2 skill. If you do require the Routines, suddenly going from beginner-level to competence requires either some work (to get Routine tests in-game) or a little bit of practice.

Also, often you’ll get the same Ob from doing the same thing over and over again. Making your first horseshoe will make you a better blacksmith. Making your thousandth won’t: try making some spearheads or plowshares too.

These are all great responses and I really appreciate the community input and response. Considering that later on routine tests no longer even matter - I think it’s an easy sell to convince the group why this is a good rule and we should stick with it.

Have a great week all. Happy Holidays.