Information Declaration with non-wises

I know that people can use wises to state things and help add their own elements to the story. But what about non-wises to do that?

Specific example, we had an incident where one PC wound up whipping another in public. The first PC was an orc, the whipped PC was a respected Abbes. Sure the Abbes got to reroll her skill, but I had the guards come along and try to arrest the Orc. At this point the Abbes wanted to use her Church Law to say that Flagellation was a legal and holy right in the church. I argued for a few moments that as it was adding something to play that I had not established already, it would be more some sort of wise.

Eventually I think I just “Said Yes” rather than roll. The city was incredibly racist and a social check was going to be needed to calm the guards down. But it did get me thinking.

It feels to me that the player was right with their original desire to use Church Law. Other wise, I would have to have every aspect of the Church already penned down. Any thoughts, advice, page numbers that can help me out. Not sure if I made my thoughts completely clear. Thanks in advance.

You can do a bit of it, but it’s important to not let it bleed too much or you end up with any skill being useful in any situation. Having limits on the applicability of skills should drive the players to either strike out and learn new skills, or to try to maneuver the fiction so that their skills apply.

In this case, I would not have allowed Church Law - the guards would tell the Abbess to take it up with the Magistrate or whoever.

IMHO, this sounds like a valid use of the skill. At the most, it’d be Ob 5 for “interpreting scripture”, although I’d set the Ob much lower personally. Or just say yes! Gotta be careful though – for skills that don’t get used often, like Church Law, saying yes kinda robs them of their usefulness.

Even if this is not how this particular skill is meant to be used, so long as it’s fun, no harm with going along with it. I’m apt to let many unconventional skills be used to declare stuff, Wise-style, such as my interpretation of the Read skill that I posted about earlier. I think a line does have to be drawn somewhere though, and will not let the regularly useful skills be used for declarations. It’s important to leave enough room for Wises to shine in their own right as well. And if ever in doubt, just ask for the player to roll a Wise instead. That’s what Wises are for.

One point to consider is that anybody can declare nearly anything within reason with a Perception test at Ob 2. All that’s needed is to make a Beginner’s Luck test for an extremely narrow Wise that they make up on the spot (the obstacle for almost any declaration can be lowered to Ob 1 if the Wise is narrow enough, which doubles to Ob 2). So, if you didn’t like Church Law being used that way, they could have made an unskilled “Public Flagellation Law-wise” test.

But would you really rather them to be testing Public Flagellation Law-wise? It’s silly, for one. And secondly, it’s a skill that will never be tested again. Unskilled Wise tests seem like they’re better-suited to Wises that the player might actually want to pursue and open up. IMHO, better to just test Church Law at Ob 2 (or higher!), and get some actual meaningful usage out of a real skill already in play.

I don’t stand for that nonsense, either.

They’re coming for the orc to take him to the hoosegow. If you want to stop them you need to target them, not some arbitrary metagame fact.

Yeah, you ninjaed my original post while I was writing. In the given situation, reconsidering how charged it was, I think I’d agree now that a more proactive skill would be appropriate. Depends very much on the situation. If a declaration were made before the whole spectacle, on the other hand, I think it’d be a fair use of the skill.

That was a Falsehood or Intimidation test. It had nothing to do with Church Law. Just like the player was trying to bullshit you, the Abbes was trying to bullshit the guards.

You could maybe fork it in…

There are two things at issue here. The first is whether you can use Church Law to determine things about Church Law. To which, absolutely. The second is an Intent and Task question about whether Church Law alone is enough to defuse the situation. To which, no. To wit, I’d allow the Church Law roll as a Linked Test, or possibly a ForK as Praion suggests.

I was involved in a group-destroying argument about this issue, that was documented about a year and three quarters ago. The problem with not allowing non-Wise scholarly skills to be used to declare facts is that there are then no valid Intents for those skills, ever. (As you say, it’s not like you’re going to start the game having already established every fact about Church Law.)


This is actually a problem in my current campaign. The player of the sorcery PC has a bunch of knowledge skills, but he’s not a very imaginative person, and can’t seem to wrap his head around declarations. So, he’s always trying to use these skills to assess for information that has never existed in the story thus far, and I have not prewritten. Meaning, he’s basically saying, “I’ll roll, and the GM can declare a fact if I succeed OR fail.” Which is a huge problem. These skills are mostly Wises with a different name and a few extra special uses, and I think they should be described as such in the book, IMHO.

I don’t think it is a problem at all. He is making a declaration by soliciting information that doesn’t exist.

This is how Wises work. They are not magical “make a thing appear because I happen to have a Wise” skills.

Somebody says, “huh I wonder if orcs have a morning ritual that I can use to sneak into their camp and they’ll be distracted” and the GM says, “I’m not sure, I never thought of that. Lets roll and see if it is true”.

So here’s a trick to make knowledge skills directly applicable in play.

  1. Does any of the players have skills that could give them info about this situation?
  2. Look at what Exponent they have it at, and give them an amount of information based on that.
  3. Also drop a question or possibility that would probably come to mind, and a few leads of where they might think to look next.
  4. If they have a directed question, then roll the dice. You can treat it as a Linked test to where ever they were going to go next to get more info or take another action.

“Politician-wise 2 - You know the clan is rich, and they fought in the War 2 generations ago, but getting an audience with the Matriarch? You’re going to have to pull a hefty Circles test or find someone lesser who might serve as an ‘in’ to get there.”

“Rome-wise 4? You’re in the know about the city. You can already tell there’s too many legionnaires about for this time of the year- they SHOULD be campaigning and there’s no way the Emperor would have called back this many armies at the same time. If you want to find out more, you might check with your friend, Marcus the Smith… or you could talk to your estranged father…”

Don’t be afraid to THROW facts at knowledge characters (Say Yes or Roll the Dice). It lets them be smart, which is what the players want, let’s you throw some leads at them so the group isn’t floundering (they can always choose not to use them), and then you can start getting into the question/answer situation and finally digging out details.


No, you misunderstand. The problem in my campaign is that this player is not declaring anything at all. For example, I’ll describe such-and-such a scene, mostly off the top of my head, and he’ll grab his dice and ask to roll History, with the Intent of “What else do I know about this region?” There’s no declaration, and his Intent is almost never related to anything else, solely for the gathering of more information. There’s no, “Do I know something that would help me sneak into the orc camp?” It’s always just, “What do I know about random description such-and-such?” I press him for more detail, some Task, or a deeper Intent, and usually there’s just nothing. He just wants to know shit, but he doesn’t know what he wants to know.

I usually just Say Yes and give further description, unless there is some interesting consequence of failure. I do not have the vast majority of this info made up already, so I’m basically just declaring new stuff for him, and if I let him roll the dice, that goes doubly for declaring consequences.

I’ve tried many times to explain how declarations work, but the poor guy just can’t grok it all that well. We’ve been playing for half a year now, and it’s still a big problem for him. He’s a very old-school gamer, I guess. And a large number of his skills are going wasted. He gets a bit miffed when I Say Yes to his attempts at information assessment, but when I try to press him for a declaration, he usually just gives up. And quite often for skills like this, thinking up an interesting consequence of failure is a bit of a stretch. I’ve managed some good ones though, and I give him his tests as often as I can. shrug

Yeah, this part is working out fine for me. It’s just that he’s not getting enough actual tests. Which is what’s needed in BW, for knowledge characters to truly shine.

The procedure as I see it goes:

The player wants to know something.

  1. Is it a valid Intent? If so then…
  2. Is it already established? Then say Yes.
  3. Does it contradict something you have planned for the Big Picture? Then say No (or get them to re-phrase).
  4. Is it plausible and interesting? Then Roll the Dice.

Just because a player has a Wise doesn’t give the player free reign to declare whatever they want – it needs to make sense in the fiction and be justifiable by the player via the character. Reread the Trial-by-Combat-Wise in the AdBu (pg. 303) to see what I’m talking about as well as the Dragon-Wise example (pg. 300).

Just because they have Smelly-Person-Wise doesn’t mean they get to go around and make people smelly. It just means they know a lot about smelly people. It is NOT a magical power to make any person smelly (pg. 306).

And as Chris said it is totally fine to give GM-information via a Wise. Why don’t people do this?

[Okay, I’ll let the dead horse stay dead. This is just a very touchy subject for me].

EDIT: oops cross-posted. I’ll reply in another post.

No, by all means! I could use some help in this department. Thanks for your input!

Sounds painful, Dean. Some people simply aren’t willing to embrace the BW philosophy. Does he have good Beliefs?

I will say—in situations in which the GM does have some sort of information pre-planned, it can be fine to have people use their knowledge skills to find out that information, with failure consequences being either the information is incomplete/twisted in some way, or “It’s too late!” or whatever. This came up this past Tuesday; one of my players was using Symbology at the site of a grisly ritualistic murder, and she stated her Intent as something along the lines of, “I want to know what the meaning of these symbols is.” Which was fine, because I did know what they were for.


Apparently I let my own fustrations with pass-the-stick-circle-jerk-Wises get the better of me! :slight_smile:

Ahh, okay.

So he doesn’t even know why he wants the information – but I’m getting the sense that he is searching for something and that something would be a specific question to help his character – a declaration so to speak. Too bad he can’t articulate it. I’d love to hear some specific examples.

I’ve faced similar situations in my games. I usually end up just having them make a graduated test.

Not really. His Beliefs and Instincts have always been vague and/or lacking, unless others helped word them for him.

I should say that he has been catching on a bit more lately though. I don’t think it’s that he was unwilling to embrace the BW philosophy. Some people just have a hard time understanding it, and to their credit, for an old-school player, BW’s demands are pretty radical.

And yeah, I’ve been trying to let his skills get used as often as possible. Usually either by coming up with an interesting-enough consequence of failure, by turning it into a linked test or allowing it to count as a simple graduated test (have done this more than once), or by full on inventing scenarios they could be useful in and bringing it to his attention. The campaign is going well, I just wish those knowledge skills didn’t prove to be sticks in the mud so many times.

Thanks a lot guys. This thread has been full of really useful discussion. I keep forgetting with information based things - it isn’t what they are trying to find out, it is what they are trying to do with the information. Clearly in that situation it should have just been a persuasion or falsehood, with using a Church Law as a fork. Need to get my head back in to the BW mindset. :3

One last thing: If you have academic or intellectual based characters you must 1) create information about your world 2) provide challenges to learn said information.