Extra actions during players' turn

So our GM has decided that, since some of our players aren’t taking extra risks on the GM turn to earn checks* (and therefore actions on the players’ turn), he’s going to let players get up to two extra actions on their turn-- but then the GM gets to decide when to apply the penalties on his own turn.

Thus far, it doesn’t seem to have had any adverse effect.

*which are different than checks, checks or checks. Don’t get them confused!

Why is he rewarding bad behavior?

It’s punishing bad behaviour, not rewarding it. The idea is that a player wants to have control over when they lose that tie or take that die penalty, and so after a couple of sessions of seeing a crucial roll undercut, they’ll start deciding to take the hit on their own terms.

But it’s allowing them, perhaps even encouraging them, to turtle in the GM’s Turn.

The punishing mechanisms are already in place to drive players to use their traits correctly.

They’re turtling anyway, so clearly those punishing mechanisms aren’t working out. So, we tweak.

I’m sorry if we added pepper to your soup.

This is the six player group?

It is. Of the players, I’d say… two of the players of the six are turtling, and a third only takes a penalty on rolls he thinks he can win with the die penalty anyway.

Then I think this has arisen because there’s not enough spotlight time to provide adequate pressure for each player. They can sit back and let the other players do the work.

What kind of conditions do the characters get in play? One each? Two each? More? Less?

I don’t follow.

We try to let each player have a specialty and a moment to shine, but certainly some players are better at picking up the slack than others. While it’s true that some players are more active than others, it seems to me like a player with more pressure on them on the GM’s Turn is more likely to turtle, not less. I feel like a turtling, risk-averse player is more likely to take risks if he feels like he has enough backup from his teammates, not less.

Forget my opinions. Give me data. How many conditions do each of you get in play?

Depends on the session. 0-3, depending on sessions/conflicts, but average is probably a little bit over one.

So the majority of players receive one condition, but a couple receive two. Or most receive none, and a couple receive three or more?

Again, depends on the session. There’s definitely a condition gap between the most active and the turtles. Usually, though, the gap is pretty small. We either all get sick or tired due to a botched Weather-Watching check or none of us, or all of us get hurt in a Fight or none of us. Rarely is one player singled out, though sometimes one 3-mouse team will be hurt/angered/whatever when the other one doesn’t, depending on our respective dispos at the end of the conflict.

It’s actually not quite that cut and dry, because – well, let’s use me as an example. I’m an aggressive check-whore, so I do a lot and take a lot of risks and therefore I’ve been Tired or Angry when the rest of the group hasn’t been, but then I tend to know the Fight! system better and so the team I’m on gets wounded in combat less.

I should say that it’s not entirely unusual for a session to go by with no condition at all, if it’s a session where the conflicts are resolved via sneaking and talking rather than fighting or arguing.

You all don’t get Angry from talking or Tired from sneaking?

Conditions are part of the negative feedback cycle that drives players to interface with the traits/checks system. One or two conditions isn’t really enough incentive to engage with that cycle. Thus you have players that don’t feel the need to use traits to get checks. They can get by just fine without them.


Just for the sake of comparison, my Thursday night group varies between 2 and 5 players depending on who can make it. The majority of Conditions I hand out are the result of tests outside of conflicts (ie, not fights or arguments or chases, etc.).

On average, players enter the Players’ Turn with 3 Conditions, and it is not unusual that they have a full suite of conditions at the end of a given GM’s Turn.

As a result, and also because I rarely give them the opportunity to complete their Goals before I end the GM’s Turn, they choose to earn checks whenever they feel the odds are stacked against them.

You all don't get Angry from talking or Tired from sneaking? 

Only as a failure condition, and then only sometimes. Often the penalty for failing a Sneak is a Fight, and the penalty for failing to talk our way out of a situation is a DoW or a Fight. Once I blew a Scout roll and got into an extended chase, the result of which was a Tired condition and a Fight scene.

On average one I would say, depending on the mission. Sometimes they go as high as three (usually something like injured, tired and hungry though angry was popular for a bit) , sometimes they scrape by with none. I can’t say I have kept a strict accounting.

Generally I disapprove of punishing players, especially if everyone is having fun, favoring instead to use more instructional methods. The reason I decided to let the Players get actions “on credit” as it were was more to point out on my (the GM’s) turn good places to pick up checks. My group tends to get very involved in the RPing aspects and often forget about the mechanical gamey bits. They (and I) are not longtime Burning Wheel players and tend toward more freeform play-styles, so rather than make them suffer for their enthusiasm I decided to try and find a way to give them more to do on their turn while bringing the system a little more into the forefront on mine.

It’s an ongoing process to find our comfort zone with the game.

Yags and Brian, just to be clear, are you all in the same game?