How much Artha is too much?

Four months into our campaign, one player has managed to amass 15 fate points. The other characters have lower numbers (a handful of fate and the occasional persona). He’s not shy about spending it, but he gets in enough trouble that it bobs right back up again.

Playing as expected, or cause for alarm? Am I, as a DM, giving out rewards too freely?

It’s alright. Having a lot of fate doesn’t really break anything. Their usefulness is somewhat limited.

Too much fate is usually an indicator that there haven’t been enough scripted conflicts. It doesn’t hurt anything to have too much, other than the fact that it’s less of an incentive to chase it later.

Iirc the game is calibrated to expect one or two scripts per artha reward period.

If they have enough to spend on every roll it’s too much. It should always be a meaningful choice to spend artha. A couple things to look for:

  1. Are you being tight enough on rewards? Are they actually bringing their beliefs to play in a meaningful manner, or are they simply mentioning them and thinking that’s enough? A belief needs to be the root of a meaningful decision in play.

  2. Are you presenting enough conflicts? Fight, Range & Cover and Duel of Wits eat up a lot of artha, as Paul noted. If you don’t use them often, that could explain it.

  3. Are you setting consequences for failure that have enough teeth? This is a fine line. You don’t want to smack them down on every test, or they’ll become too risk averse to play Burning Wheel. But failure needs to hurt. If it hurts, they’ll spend the artha to improve their chances of success. Note: when they are loaded up with artha, you should become ruthless. Push them hard, then ease up once they’ve spent ost of it. The game will fall into a very natural rhythm if you do.

  4. Are you challenging every player equally? One way to build up a stockpile of artha is to play the background character who is always helping others but rarely rolling himself. Keep an eye on who is testing and how frequently.

  5. Are you providing them with enough high ob tests? Do they always seem to have more than enough dice to tackle any test? If things are always easy,they won’t spend the artha.

  1. I’ll have to think on this. It’s certainly possible; I’ve been handing out Artha pretty regularly, but I’m not sure if their beliefs are being hit hard enough to justify it. It’s possible their beliefs are a bit weak as they stand, because it feels (as the DM) that they’re pursuing them a bit haphazardly. We’ve only fulfilled a handful of beliefs, so they may no be focusing on them enough?

The character in question has managed to gain the Trait “Impulsive”, which has gotten him into trouble countless times. I don’t have any problem rewarding that, since it tends to drive the story in unexpected ways…

  1. So far we have had a grand total of one Fight. And even that was pushing it a bit; it felt (to me anyway) that the Fight was more because they were looking for combat, so I had them attacked. It didn’t necessarily feel like it had enough to do with their beliefs. They have avoided outright violence for most of the campaign so far.

Duel of Wits has come up several times to good effect, but not in every session.

  1. Sounds like I may need to push harder right now.

  2. The most impulsive of the players is playing the most impulsive of the characters, so he’s definitely rolling a lot. I may want to consider prodding some of the other a bit, though.

  3. I’ll have to watch this next session.

If s/he’s playing Impulsive and regularly earning Artha off it, make sure to suggest its elevation to a neat (preferably double-edged) Die Trait at the next vote. If it’s affecting the other players, too, or they’re just jealous of his mound of fate it will become explicit.

The character in question has managed to gain the Trait “Impulsive”, which has gotten him into trouble countless times. I don’t have any problem rewarding that, since it tends to drive the story in unexpected ways…

Might also be time to consider a Reputation. (“Fool-headed”, “Trouble”, “Meddler”).

And all the problems that go with it. =) The player may love it.


How much Persona does he have?

I use a futzy metric. Basically, I like to make sure my players have enough artha to spend when they need it, but not enough to spend whenever they want to.

I usually measure this by tracking the amount of time my players spend staring at their character sheets before they say “Damn it” and spend the artha. A Fate point decision should be made in about 30 seconds. A Persona point usually takes a minute or two prior to the roll, and is accompanied by mild profanity. A Deeds point should be spent after a few minutes of blankly staring at the dice and frantically searching the character sheet for a secret Call-On, and should be accompanied by a sigh of resignation and “Fuck you, Pete.”

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Why isn’t this in the Adventure Burner?

You didn’t consult with me prior to release.

It’s OK. The first one is free.

EDIT: Another way I like to look at it: a player should only spend their last Persona point because they’ve decided that what they’re rolling for is more important than living. Otherwise, they should always have at least one Persona point in reserve.


We say, “I’m spending my will to live…”

Although we have (at least once) let the player take an advance on his MVP artha for will to live

I did that too. Player spent enough artha for two aristeas - Sorcery and Will - to be able to inflict gray shade Sorcery damage. He killed the evil minor god in an epic final confrontation, but took a G12 wound in the process.

I gave him an advance on his MVP artha.

I’ve found players stockpiling Fate precisely because it’s not strong enough to be critical. They could use it to enhance a roll, but the choice comes after the roll. What if there’s no 6 in the roll? There’s no way to spend Fate. What if there’s one six and they’re two successes short? My players won’t bother spending artha on a 1/72 chance even if they have a huge Fate stockpile. The result is that Fate really does often accumulate to the point of irrelevancy. I tend to under-award Fate for this reason: it makes no difference anyway and stops being a good motivator except as a kind of kudos. Instead I prefer to be lenient with Moldbreaker and Personal Goals because Persona get fast turnover—except that last point. It keeps the cycle flowing a little better at my table.

I’d really only worry when Persona has built up to the point where challenging tests aren’t actually challenging as a matter of course. Like Pete’s metric, but my delays are a little shorter. I have less patience for delaying over rolls, and I may have a tendency for high heroics anyway.

“This will enable players to have artha on hand, possibly for every roll!” (BWR 72). It’s not even against recommendations! Just use the gold standard for judging BW games: Are the players having a good time? Is the drama flowing? If yes to the former, consider not messing with it. If the latter as well, definitely don’t mess with it.

Yes, that is definitely the golden rule: don’t mess with success. If you’re having fun, then you’re doing it right.

One thing people often forget with Fate. If a roll is already open-ended, spending Fate allows you to re-roll a traitor. That’s definitely saved me on Steel & Faith tests in the past.

There should be pressure to spend artha in the game, primarily from two angles. Players should want to succeed so badly that even a remote chance of success is worth it. And players should be hungry for challenges that allow them to spend artha and invest in their abilities so they can shade-shift them. Without these two pressures, there’s no point to the reward system as it stands.

But I see sixes all the time. And remember: If you obtain another six you may roll an extra die, and another, and another. Even if you need two or three more success, and have only one six, you can do it with a Fate point and a single die. I’ve seen it happen.

I agree with Wayfarer, Fates nice, but you can only use it if you roll a six and haven’t already passed the test, and often even if you have rolled sixes being able to open them doesn’t adjust the odds massively. It really doesn’t matter much if they have extra Fate. Persona is another story.