I have been reading the BWG rules through a couple of times. I bought it recently and haven’t yet played it.
As far as I can tell, some of the GM’s roles are clearly defined. Here is a brief run down of what I have understood:
[li]The GM is responsible for creating an overall situation that challenge the PCs’ beliefs.
[/li][li]Within that situation, the GM frames scenes that challenge the players’ beliefs, and bring into play their instincts and traits.
[/li][li]The GM decides whether an action requires a roll (“say yes or roll”)
[/li][li]The GM sets the failures conditions for rolls and the obstacle
[/li][li]The GM sets actions for NPCs in the combat subsystems - Fight!, Duel of Wits, and Range and Cover
However, it doesn’t seem clear to me how pro-active the GM is outside of those combat subsystems, and what kind of rules basis there might be for those actions. Do NPCs initiate their own actions? If so, do they need intent and task? And failure conditions? And does the GM state any of this out loud?
For example, let’s imagine an NPC assassin bursts in the door of a tavern where Lauren’s PC and her NPC husband, Roger, are. The assassin wants to throw a poisoned dagger at Roger. There are a number of ways this could proceed:
[li]The GM and his assassin acts just like a player and their PC do. The GM states an intent “Kill Roger”, and a task “Hit him with my thrown poisoned dagger”. The GM would then also set a failure condition - perhaps, “The dagger makes only a grazing cut on Roger, giving him a smaller dose of poison”. Assuming that Lauren tries to protect Roger we then do a versus test with a known failure condition.
[/li][li]The GM just does anything that makes sense fictionally, until a player intercedes. The GM would narrate the assassin throwing the dagger Roger, and unless Lauren does something, Roger dies with no dice rolled and no rules invoked - i.e. we only use dice when players are involved in conflict. Lauren is then the one who takes an action with an intent and a task - “protect Roger” by “leaping into the way”. Then the GM sets obstacles / calls for a versus test and sets the failure condition.
Those two are, I think, pretty close to extremes, but you get the idea - there are a lot of ways of handling NPCs actions. For traditional RPGs, these things tend to be left undefined. Different gaming groups then evolve their own way of doing things - and to you it may seem obvious the way in which you would resolve the situation above. I certainly have default modes of doing things from other games I have played. But I am interested in:
[li]Does Burning Wheel define this? Or is every group expected to have their own mode of play?
[/li][li]If it does define it, how does it define? How are NPCs expected to act?
Sorry if this is in the rules somewhere and I just missed it. Equally if this exists on these forums somewhere - it was an abstract enough question that I had trouble searching for it.