(Deliberate) Power Creep

As a thought, would the game break down terribly if fate gave Boon (+1D) instead of Luck (open-ended dice) and persona could give -1 Ob instead of +1D? It’s a big improvement to artha, but my players have been hitting walls where they accumulate far too much Fate because they don’t roll 6’s and have no way to spend even if they want to. -1 Ob, essentially buying success, might be too good. Maybe instead allowing Persona to purchase extra dice after the dice have been rolled? That would be much like the fate point reroll on open tests, but without the open test requirement.

Just looking for good ways to burn through Fate.

I really recommend against it. It will play havoc with the game’s economy.

In my experience, there are a few reasons players tend to build up Fate:

  1. Not enough conflicts. Fights, Duels of Wits and Range and Cover are situations where every success matters. They soak up Fate points. If you’re not using at least one or two conflicts a session, Fate accumulates. Drive toward conflict!

  2. The group is being too generous when handing out Fate for working toward a belief or using an instinct or trait. It’s not enough for a belief to come up in play. Acting on that belief has to drive the action of the story. Earning 3 Fate points in a session should feel like an accomplishment. Earning more than that is epic. Set a high bar for rewards. It will make them more special and incent stronger play.

  3. The players are playing it safe or the GM is being too nice about Obstacles. You need a good mix of obstacles, including ones tough enough to make players groan. If players don’t often find themselves in the position of just needing one more success, it’s likely that they’re not getting enough difficult obstacles or they’re backing out of tests for fear of the obstacle.

  4. Their exponents are too low. Occasionally, especially with two or three lifepath characters, characters throw few enough dice that sixes don’t come up that frequently in relevant situations. This issue almost always corrects itself in short order.

  5. They’re playing characters who often use magical abilities that allow sixes to explode automatically. It happens from time to time, with sorcerers and elves especially. Remind these players that a fate can still be used on these abilities to reroll a single failed die. More conflicts also tend to do the trick.

Another thing I have found will slow Fate burn. The mix of Tests are heavy on already-open-ended Skills/Stats/Attributes. For example I noticed this happening when I started calling for more Steel use.

This happens for a similar reason as Thor’s #4. The likelihood of situations where the use of the Fate would materially matter drop.

A thought…

If you let players spend two Fate on a single roll, to both explode the dice and then reroll a failed die after this if they still need to, wouldn’t this be a much lesser upset of game balance and also lead to them spending more Fate? You could even let them spend two Fate right out of the bat to reroll a failed die if they didn’t have any sixes (the first opens the roll).

Not RAW though, so I’d better Duck and Cover… :slight_smile:

Are you using Fate to shrug off wound penalties? That’s a nice way to burn some quickly.
Are your players looking at the Aristeia stunt? Another nice way to siphon off a few fate points.

Try your Sparks, for sure, and follow the advice above, but know that this Fate issue comes and goes in many campaigns. In our Burning THAC0 game, for instance, our characters regularly have 10+ Fate points. I think Fourth Horseman has 20+.

Remind them that they’ll never Epiphany until they start spending them. They need to use every opportunity, as it’s hard to spend the 20 that are required. The last thing you want is to be ready to Epiphany but for a few Fate points - very anti-climatic!

Yeah, the wound penalty one is a good use. Our guys forget about that one all the time.

A lot of my thoughts above are based on trying to figure out why we had such a Fate glut in the THAC0 campaign (as well as figuring out how to bleed my players dry in the games I’m running). These days I frequently have to suppress a smile as players moan about spending their last Fate point.

The expected first comment! I’m not really sure why this is true, though. The artha economy relies on artha coming in for BITs and artha going out because of tough rolls. This doesn’t change either end; you’re just more likely to benefit from spending artha.

I’m playing on maybe the low end of conflicts, with a little less than one conflict on average—but those sessions also tend to have less artha awarded. Probably 1-2 fate for most characters, with sometimes 3 for someone who was in the spotlight, 1-2 persona to go around the table, and I’d say deeds probably come up every 3-5 sessions (but clumpy, because aligned beliefs make it likely for several characters to earn deeds at the same time). There are more DoW than Fight or RoC, so although players do spend fate to shrug off wounds it’s a limited sink. The artha is all earned. For persona and deeds things are working fine; fate has hit a problem.

Buildup isn’t even quite right; because of the glut, players aren’t pushing as hard for fate artha from acting on beliefs or instincts, even when I’d award it if it didn’t slip my mind. They don’t spend it and don’t care much about more. In other groups I’ve played with this might wreck the game, but they’re still playing BW just right. One part of the reward cycle is just missing.

Oddly, it’s the Elf who spends fate most often for one more die on skill songs, and a lot of it’s luck: she’s the one who seems to come up one short of the Ob most often. The others tend to either have multiple sixes but enough successes or be 2 or more short with one six and not interested in the <10% chance of getting what they need. Too many statisticians, or maybe too few? Too much pessimism? The problem is mostly psychological. A few bad rolls (and my players have had impressively bad luck with the dice all campaign!), with 3 sixes producing no new successes, and they’ve kind of given up. Their expected value (what they expect, not actual average) is so low they don’t bother.

Epiphany is a good point, but the artha have been spent on such varied skills that I think it’s still too far away to be really motivating. Especially when there’s the “eh, I can spend it tomorrow” problem going on.

Allowing two Fate to be spent is likely to lead to a lot of 2 fate for 2+ dice deals. Spend to open-end a six, then reroll a traitor too! That might be too good.

I think I’ll give it a try and report back on what happens. It’s still on the psychology of it: before you roll another die can always be the one that saves you. After you roll it’s too easy to think the extra die isn’t enough to help. Since Persona gets spent and Fate doesn’t I’ll go with making Persona into Fate. I feel comfortable with the teeth my failure consequences have, and the hope is that they’ll use artha to really win when it matters—but it matters all the time and there’s never enough artha. (Currently they don’t use fate artha to really win even when they should, like they’ve just given up on it and pin all their chances on persona and the rare deeds instead.)

Indeed, the economy of Epiphanies will be affected, which seems to be the biggest ripple from your Sparks. But, honestly? It’s not that big a deal. In our pursuit of shade-shifting, towards the end when the new shade is in sight, we’ll often have 30+ points of Fate invested in that skill or stat. The real brakes are Deeds, and you have complete control over that.

And I understand the lack of motivation. At the beginning, the spending is very diffuse. But after some long-term play, clear candidates will come to the fore and the spending will become more and more focused. It’s a very fun process!

You’re talking about making bonus dice far more available than they currently are. Even 1 or 2 bonus dice on any particular roll make a big difference in BW. Having them available at will is problematic at best. Also, the ability to reduce obstacles is incredibly potent and provides much greater ability to game the advancement system.

(This is somewhat echoing what Thor said). It doesn’t affect the artha economy one whit, it will however mess with the overall advancement economy by removing several of the risk/reward elements involved with pushing for Difficult/Challenging tests. Especially for Perception and other abilities that only log successful tests for advancement. Other oddities that will happen here: does Persona lower the effective or actual Ob, how does spending Persona interact with opposed tests (+1S? +1Ob to opponent?). The biggest issue I can see is that it’s going to shift how people play since there’s less incentive to earn moldbreaker and personal goals artha rewards since you can now get free advancement dice for just going along with your beliefs.

That said, re-reading your post it sounds like there’s a lot more artha being awarded than the game is tuned for. Especially Deeds is coming out a lot more often than I’d expect unless you’re having some epic game sessions. Aligned beliefs should be getting people Persona rewards, with Deeds only going to self sacrifice for orthogonal or opposed beliefs. Actually, if Deeds are that common it’s not at all surprising that you’re seeing less effectiveness out of the lower artha levels.


My idea with Persona is an auto-success. Expressing it as +1 Ob is wrong, but I didn’t want to give the ability to buy success on Ob 1 without rolling. The intent certainly isn’t to change the difficulty of tests for advancement purposes.

Bonus dice are a big deal in BW—but the point of fate is already to provide bonus dice. Indeed, the times when you can’t get bonus dice you can’t spend artha, and the big change here is just enabling spending. Persona is the one getting the big upgrade (twice as good, from 50% chance of success on a die to guaranteed success) But since I’m aiming to have more times people want to use artha than artha available to use, it won’t be “available at will.” It will be a resource to be used carefully. Right now it’s just not seen as a resource and not used at all. By RAW fate gives extra dice at random times, which limits the use but not in a particularly dramatic way.

I guess I’m not understanding artha right if this is too much. The rules suggest that at least one fate and one persona should be earned each session. They’re getting more like 2-3 fate per session but averaging a little under 1 persona per session apiece. In 15 sessions they’ve gotten a total of 4 deeds among them. But it’s a fairly epic game. Those have been for regicide/patricide of the Etharch, who was a beloved figure who had to die for the greater good (two deeds given out, one to the Prince who also racked up some nice Grief and one to a human ambassador), one for accepting false blame and being sent to the scaffold as a traitor so that a needed alliance could be made, and one for the Roden cultist rallying all the nests and then giving up the chance to purge the humans from the city (most tenuous, but the Roden hadn’t gotten any deeds yet and is the weakest roleplayer, so I rounded up). All of these were in complete violation of at least one belief, usually in service to another and a larger non-Belief concern. But mostly the moments felt right and lived up to the Carrot Ironfounderrson dictum: “Personal is not the same as important.” And they were pretty epic.

At any rate, the accusations of too much artha seem strange. It’s not more artha than I’ve given out in other games where this wasn’t a problem. It’s not more than recommended, except maybe on the deeds.

The high-artha note was specifically in regards to the Deeds. Actually, it sounds like you’re high on deeds and low on Persona. I aim for 2f/1-2p per person per session, and deeds-worthy events roughly once every 15 sessions. Honestly, when I was running last we had the opposite problem - lots of stored Persona and people blowing Fate right and left.

I have more thoughts but I don’t have time.

Interesting. Do you generally give everyone deeds when the deeds flow, or does someone go months or years between getting deeds points? That seems a little too stingy to me. But I also like to pack my earth-shaking events close together.

I try to give them out to everyone at the same time when the PCs overcome their differences and step up to deal with a problem that’s bigger than them. For the next game I’m starting I think I’ll be a little bit more individual for my deeds rewards but still tying them to the tackling of major Big Picture issues that are (generally) outside the scope of a belief. Generally speaking though, I see the expenditure of artha as the fuel needed to drive heroic actions, and Deeds as the reward for engaging in those actions.

As for your examples above, the Roden rallying the nests sounds the most Deed-worthy to me (regardless of the reason, that’s a feat), though all of them in the right situation could earn a Deeds point to those involved. The one issue there is that they shouldn’t be granted if there already is a belief targeting the same thing. So if the Elf has a belief about needing to kill his father for the good of the country, that’s a persona point, regardless of how epic the cause, unless it comes to great hardship to the characters. Patricide with a belief - Persona, belief-fueled patricide knowing full well that the PCs will be branded traitors and exiled from the Elf-lands - that’s Deeds territory.

I am very stingy with Artha. Players should feel exhausted by the end of the session just for a few faith points. If they haven’t been fighting for their believes, getting in trouble with instincts or traits, they don’t get Artha, not even fate. It is simple as that. I want my campaigns to feel hard. My first campaign ended because I was to liberate with my rewards. Now I use the believes of my players as a whip to drive their characters and I hand out breadcrumbs at the end compared to my first two campaigns.

And the good part is, I never seen my players this happy before. In any game.

I hand out generally 1-3 fate, 1-3 persona per sessions. usually it 2 fate, 2-3 persona. Deeds artha… we haven’t seen that in any of the campaigns we played. I tried to give them deeds a couple of times, but my players didn’t feel they deserved it. They felt they were playing it too save for them to be awarded Deed.

I see my players spend about 2-3 fate and as much persona as they can spare every session. so I for me I think I struck a balance in play-believes-artha (except of the deeds problem… but I am working at that)

You say you’re stingy, but I’m stingier with artha, and giving out exactly as much as cathexis but on a staggered schedule. This weekend I’ll roll out the change and see how things go.

It does bother me a little bit how quickly everyone jumped on the “doing artha wrong” train. Especially that last one. I gave no real details of how or why the deeds were awarded, but you tell me the Roden earned it most? It’s just emblematic of a kind of general style for BW, from Luke down, not being afraid to tell people that they’re playing BW wrong. Which is good when people are, but comes across as abrasive. Also a common charge leveled against Mr. Crane.

For the record, none of the deeds awards were for fulfilling a belief (that’s embodiment). Some were in violation of beliefs (more moldbreaker), but only when it was realized that the actual priority was something bigger and higher than the beliefs. Epiphany moments. In any case, no one ever got what they wanted, but they did accomplish what they thought needed to be done.

I didn’t mean to jump on you for that so if it came across like that it was in error. As you said, you didn’t have any description as to what people did in each situation so I was going off of high-level description. Of the three: Roden bringing the nests together, self-framing for peace, “do the right thing” patricide, bringing the nests together is the closest to what I think of when I read the deeds section. Do try to your spend change and report back, I at least am interested in seeing how it changes table behavior.

The descriptions weren’t great. The Roden assembled nests, then realized they had to be used as a force for the greater good rather than Roden fanatical vengeance. The Elf brought his people kicking and screaming from sighing and looking backwards to grappling with the present, with the patricide as the final step—and he got to kingmake in the process. The ambassador brought those Elves not just into war against the Enemy but into alliance with the humans*(and made those same humans accept that alliance!), and stopped an Elvish civil war. The “traitor” wrangled a scheming court into cohesion. Not just temporary cohesion, but something lasting, if ugly under the surface.

At any rate, I tried it. As soon as I explained the change and through some high Ob tests around the Fate started pouring out like water, and then oh how they scrambled for more! They stabilized at around 2 Fate in reserve and far more attempts to get more Fate out of me. It required a few artificially inflated Obs in the beginning to stabilize things, but then the game went back to running pretty much as it had previously, but with a little more artha in and out. I’ll call it a success! I still think it was all in their heads, and I still don’t think it was an urgent fix, but it worked.

Persona as auto-success is a big deal, but I think it worked out okay. I’ve previously thrown out some Ob 6+ challenges that they knew they were going to fail. Now they know they can save up artha and have a real shot at these. It makes the game one in which even really high Ob challenges are achievable, rarely but more reliably, but I’m okay with that. The key now is making sure there are more of those challenges than they can afford to pay off with artha. By the end the last guy with two Persona in the bank was being yelled at not to waste them on “merely” saving a backwater province. Hard choices preserved!