Lifestyle and When to Roll Resources

I’m new to BW and stoked to give it a whirl as GM, but I’d like some clarification on Resources and lifestyle.

So here’s the umbrella question: If a character wants to purchase something, when is it appropriate for the player roll Resources and when does the purchase fall under Lifestyle?

I interpret the rules to mean that the character’s average meals, average housing, and average clothing are all taken into account in the Lifestyle Obstacles. Do you agree? Why or why not?

So, my players should never have to roll Resources to pay for a new shirt like the ones they usually wear or a drink and a meal at a tavern, even if the characters actually pay for these things in gameplay (and not in downtime). They simply tell me that they walk into the tavern and order a common ale, dark bread, and whatever’s in the pot. Then, we keep playing with no dice rolled. Do you agree?

On the other hand, if a poor confidence artist decides to up his game from two-bit street stuff to grifting nobles, then he’ll need to acquire a fine suit of clothing, start eating fine foods and drinking fine wines, etc., in order to interact appropriately with his new marks. These expenses are not part of his lifestyle, and so the player must roll Resources (and engage in all sorts of lovely roleplaying) in order for the character to actually have these. Do you agree?

At what point do you think it is appropriate to say that the confidence artist’s lifestyle now allows him fine clothes and meals (so that he doesn’t have to roll Resources anymore)?


Lifestyle tests are rolled during the agreed upon Maintenance cycle. It excludes single purchases like buying a meal at a tavern. For those instances, you should make them roll. The Ob would probably be pretty low, but they should roll if the result is uncertain and you can come up with an interesting failure.

The confidence man definitely has to roll Resources (or find another suitable task to achieve his intent) to obtain fineries. The Ob is probably much higher to obtain things above his usual station.

The confidence man will always have to roll for to be able to acquire things he does not have, as long as the result is uncertain and the failure interesting.

I break it down this way:

Is it a normal, everyday expenditure? A meal appropriate to the character’s station, some drinks at a tavern (for someone who’s not desperately poor), a night in the common room, etc. Chalk it up to lifestyle. In other words, if it makes sense to you that a person of this stature and wealth could make such a purchase without batting an eye, just say yes and let Lifestyle cover it.

Is it an extraordinary expenditure? Are you a person of middling wealth suddenly in need of a sword or pistol? A horse? Do you need finery to attend the duchess’s fete? Are you trying to impress everyone in the tavern by buying them drinks? Resources test.

Maybe we can make it even simpler: Do you have an Intent behind your purchase (trying to get an important tool, trying to impress somebody, etc.)? Resources test. Are you just adding to the color of the scene? Lifestyle.

I think “much higher” is a bit weird since Resources Obs are kinda exponential.

If availability is a serious issue, I’d make it something like Circles, Streetwise, or Black-Market-wise to set up the ability to buy the gear you need. +1 Ob might be appropriate if you can only get something through extortionate black-market prices, but any more is pretty huge.

(I don’t think fine clothes fall into that, really, if your setting is a prosperous city.)

I think this is really two separate questions.

  1. Does the purchase fall under lifestyle?
  2. Should you Say Yes to the purchase?

I consider lifestyle quite limited. It’s for off-screen stuff. Whether it’s buying the gruel you eat at home or all the maintenance for your vast estates, it’s stuff you don’t want to think of. If you’re buying something during the course of the game, be it ever so humble, it’s not lifestyle.

Should you Say Yes? Often you should. Food in a tavern is usually this. You can make interesting consequences, and of course loss of Resources matters, but it’s usually not worth the focus even for a peasant. Unless you need the food to demonstrate (falsely) that you’re not destitute, it’s just color. Say Yes.

Also consider that the game is about challenging the characters’ beliefs. Unless the player has a belief about dining in taverns, I would just say yes and move on to the interesting tests that your Situation and Beliefs suggest.

[QUOTE=noclue;136365]Lifestyle tests are rolled during the agreed upon Maintenance cycle. It excludes single purchases like buying a meal at a tavern. For those instances, you should make them roll. /QUOTE]

In your interpretation, then, what things are covered by Lifestyle? Mundane purchases in downtime? Taxes?

Thank you all for the terrific responses – I’ll keep these in mind!

I’m not the one asked, but I have a similar opinion. Yes, things that happen off screen, so to speak. Taxes. Incidental objects that don’t have established existence but really shouldn’t require a new purchase. (Do I have a bucket in my house? Sure, why not. Do I have a horse? No, you have to pay for that!

For some, a horse would be part of their lifestyle, though. Correct? If my character is a well-established lord with lands and income, then I have horses, even if I never made a Resources roll specifically to acquire one. The lifestyle of a lord dictates the owning of horses – I overcame my most recent Lifestyle Obstacle, so have a horse and need not roll for one, regardless of whether or not having a horse changes the drama significantly. (Fifty horses may be a different story.) Is that about right?

Similarly, I think, if you want to give a horse away to a friend, for example, because sure, you’ve got some horses, but not necessarily liquid horses.

I mostly just wanted an excuse to say “liquid horses”.

The horse might be lent though, to the temporary detriment (if necessary) of my own Resources by an appropriate amount.

In this situation, I’d probably still roll Resources for it (reasoning that if you really really want a horse, buy one in character creation). Since you have a sizable manor, you have horses regardless of whether you succeed or fail (invoking the “Gift of Kindness” rule); but if you fail taking care of all those horses is starting to be a drain on your estates (tax dice).

Because it’s something you can afford and are likely to own, sure, but it’s not a trivial part of your household.

One of my more ironclad rules is that anything listed in chargen gear, and anything with mechanical benefits, cannot be part of lifestyle. Horses? They may be on your estate but you cannot ride one unless you paid RP or pay with a Resources test. Swords? You may lead an army, but if you need a sword to swing you test Resources. Shoes? It may seem ridiculous, but if you want your outlandishly wealthy duke to wear more than rags on his feet you need to buy them. You’ll almost certainly pass that test, of course, but you do have to test.

Resources isn’t always buying things. It’s also for establishing what you can afford. It’s not “do I have a horse?” but “how expensive is having this horse?” or “can I afford to give away this horse?” Similarly, it’s not “is there a sword for me?” but “is there a sword that I can freely use without causing problems?”

This can get weird for wealthy characters. For example, the duke may well have a horse-drawn carriage take him to a royal ball. Sure, that team of horses and carriage is part of his lifestyle. Why? Because the carriage isn’t the point, it’s just flavor and transportation is lifestyle. As soon as he needs to use horses and carriage to haul heavy loads, though, in order to accomplish a task and get his intent, there’s mechanical weight. But maybe it’s just flavor; the fiction has established a carriage, so it makes sense to use it. That’s fine; Say Yes to the use. Later the duke needs to flee the country, though, so he loads up his carriage, wakes up his driver, and they ride off into the night. Now he needs to test Resources because the presence of the horses and carriage (and servant) are critical: they determine what he can and cannot do, and what he can and cannot bring with him. There’s no question of the existence of the horses and carriage, nor is there a question of ownership. Rather there’s a question of cost: is he taxing his resources to go for this particular use?

It’s rather abstract, yes, but that’s what Resources are. And it’s the best way to prevent lifestyle from spreading into things that really should be non-lifestyle.

You don’t need to have a belief about eating in taverns for the costs associated with buying your meal to challenge those beliefs. For instance, in The Name of the Wind, much of the plot revolves around what the protagonist has to do in order to afford tuition in the school. He doesn’t have a belief about eating in taverns, but the cost of filling his belly is a big concern and his limited resources provide major challenges to his beliefs.

saying Yes is always a valid option, but it doesn’t seem like a bad idea to consider providing routine tests that have the potential to tax resources and cause all sorts of complications later.

@wayfarer I agree that a Resources roll is often not about whether the character has something, but about the cost they bore to have it.

Can you explain why this might not fall under the Let It Stand rule? I overcame my Lifestyle Obstacle last maintenance cycle, and my lifestyle includes a horse, carriage, and driver. Why shouldn’t I be able to access my possessions, ride my horses, and wake my driver at all hours, regardless of the reason or mechanical weight?

That seems like an interesting and rewarding way to roll/roleplay the situation!

Because lifestyle, in my games, is extremely limited. It covers continuing to live at whatever level and incidental items. Nothing else. Lifestyle includes horse, carriage, and driver, but only for everyday, background/flavor lifestyle use.

If it helps, think of it mechanically. These are things to spend RP on during chargen. You can spend your RP on gear, which doesn’t contribute to Resources, or on property, which is fairly analogous to lifestyle and does. You can’t buy property and get gear; that’s double dipping. You risk your Resources or you get nothing.

Interesting. I see where you’re coming from.

What do you do when one of the characters advances in social status during gameplay: A knight is made a lord, say, and the king awards him land, a small keep, and servants for its upkeep. Surely the character’s Resources would increase, as would his Lifestyle Obstacle. Would you make him roll for use of his newly-gifted carriage and driver in a plot-changing situation? If so, would THAT roll stand?

This makes it pretty simple. Thanks!