This exchange took place last night and although it was a little uncomfortable I think we managed to get through it.
The player is playing the former slave Carlos. He wants to stop his villainous brother Pablo from gaining power in their town. The conversation is somewhat abridged.
Player: I want to find some dirt on my brother, an enemy, a weakness or something like that.
GM: How are you going to do that?
Player: Well I’ve got persuasion, extortion, brawling and intimidation and streetwise so I think I’ve got the right skill set to find that sort of thing out.
GM: But what’s the first step to doing that?
Player: I’m not really sure, my character would know that though because he’s got the right skill set. This is the sort of thing that he does.
GM: Hmmm… give me a second to think about this. What do you think, Rob?
Rob mentions task and intent in an exchange with the other player that I don’t remember so well.
GM: I know what your intent is; to dig up dirt on your brother, find a weakness but there needs to be something that you do to do that. Are you looking for someone specific?
Player: No. I would need to have some small clue before I would know who to look for. A clue to get me started. I think I would already know something. That’s the sort of thing I would pay attention to.
GM: You think that you would know something already. That sounds to me like politics-wise… do you have any wise skills on your sheet?
Player: What’s a wise? I have streetwise can I use that?
GM: Streetwise isn’t actually a wise, I’m talking about a knowledge skill.
Player: I don’t know if it’s actually knowledge it’s more like paying attention and keeping a look out.
GM: You said that your character would “just know something” I want to see if that’s true or not by testing for it.
Player: Okay. My perception is 3.
GM: Sounds like you are looking for an interesting fact. Ob 2 but it doubles up to 4 for beginners luck. Give me a sec to think of a complication…
Player: Maybe I wouldn’t know this after all… Carlos has been quite busy.
GM: Yeah he’s had a lot on his plate.
Player: I’m think that I should instead try to frame him rather than dig up dirt. I want to talk to Gaspar’s wife a she’s the religious presence on the council and I’ll try to plant a seed of doubt about this go getter…
GM: Melissa is right there she’ll be available once she’s finished her ceremony.
I think I should have forced him to test the wise but I couldn’t think of a complication because my brain was fried by all the wriggling. Following this early event the session got a lot better.
I’m assuming this is a player relatively new to Burning Wheel?
I think you have task and intent fairly early in that conversation. The player wants to t:[Find some Information] I:[that will implicate his brother]. From there I think it would be appropriate for the GM to suggest some mechanical options, especially with a new player.
One question I think might be useful in this type of situation (and be warned, I’m testing unskilled Burning Wheel-Wise) is “Are you going and looking for it, or is it something you just know.” “Just know” is a clear flag that we’re talking about a wise rather than an active skill test.
As for complications it’s always easier to armchair quarterback, but for wise-failures I think that a good place to start is “OK that’s true, but it has the opposite effect that you wanted.” So in this case, “Here’s the horrifying secret you know about your brother, but it actually gives him a reputation for ruthlessness that will aid his efforts to take over the town.” That kind of thing.
. . . Was clear from the beginning. If you couldn’t think of a failure complication, why didn’t you Say Yes?
The most obvious complication, I think, would have been that Pablo finds out Carlos is trying to undermine him. Seems like a straightforward, but still interesting direction in which to go. In this situation, I may have suggested the player test Circles in order to find someone that has dirt on Pablo, as introducing a supporting character (or risking enmity clause–maybe he or she has something on both brothers) seems richer than than just uncovering the information.
If I’d been on my game, I would have had Rob play the circled-up character, and make him worry about the details.
Why isn’t “find some information” an acceptable task? (Seriously asking, I’m JUST started running my first game and I’m trying to grok the system). It seems like what was missing was the mechanical tie in of the task to the system, not the task itself. Right?
Intent is the what, it’s the outcome the player wants. The Task is the how, Task is the method of achieving intent. In the example given learning dirt is the Intent because it is the desired outcome. The player needed to state the Task - how the character would gain the information (how the Intent would be accomplished). I hope that clarifies Intent vs. Task. And I hope its right!
When I GM and a player has a clear Intent but not a Task I suggest tasks they could use. In your example once the player lists some skills they want to use I would prompt them with tasks and ask if any of those sounded right. Also, in this case I would insist that the player state what the dirt would be, but I would help them brainstorm.
The player had a fundamental misunderstanding about how circles works.
player: I’ve got like extortion and persuasion and all that shit.
GM: So are you looking for someone in particular? You know, to extort or persuade? Player: No, I’d need a clue to know who to look for.
GM: Actually, you don’t. You want someone who knows some shit about your brother, right? Like a another slaver who worked with him? Okay, that’s in your Circles, with specific knowledge, and relatively soon. That’s an Ob 3 Circles test, Ob 4 if you want them predisposed to help you. Go ahead and make with the dice (just as an example).
I’d tell the player, “so your character would know what the best approach is - that’s fine, but irrelevant. Pick what approach you, as the player, want to try. If you pass the die roll, then yes, it was a good approach, as your character knew all along. If you fail, then maybe it was a good approach anyway, but didn’t work out this time.”
When the player says “Well I’ve got persuasion, extortion, brawling and intimidation and streetwise so I think I’ve got the right skill set to find that sort of thing out,” doesn’t that imply that the player has at least a vague task in mind for each of those skills? “I’ve got persuasion and it’s the right skill for this” -> “There’s a thing I could do with persuasion that might get me what I want.” So it’s not that the task is unclear so much as the player is having a hard time settling on one.
Like, I know what the attributes of a fictional detective are. So I can make a character with good stats to be one. But then I personally don’t actually know the genre well enough to, like, do detective stuff in a way that seems realistic or faithful to the inspirational material all the time. I can totally see myself going, “Erm, I know I can do one of these things I know how. But I have no clue which ones actually make sense. Help?”
Exactly, the player was saying my dude would know who to talk to, but I don’t. I’d like to roll the make the GM tell me who to talk to skill. But with Circles the Player isn’t really asking, as much as proposing.
There is someone who knows about his financial dealings.
There is someone with the skinny on his infidelities.
There is someone who knows he has traitorous plans.
Then it’s up to the player and GM to determine if such a person might exist, who they might be, and determine if an appropriate Ob exists. The player doesn’t need a clue about infidelities first, before circling someone up. But, the GM may say, the NPC is completely faithful, so there won’t be any infidelities, but you might be able to find a merchant that can give you some dirt about his tax evasion. Or you can always manufacture some evidence…
The intent is to implicate the brother. That’s interesting. But it might be incomplete. It’s quite possible that the player didn’t really care about his character knowing the information. What he wanted was to do something with the information, except he couldn’t think of anything because he didn’t actually have info to build a plan around. An enemy and a drug habit are very different weak points!
To me it’s generally not interesting to go floundering around looking for clues if there’s no clear idea of how that should work. If it’s something he should just know, it could be a wise… but it could also just be something he knows. Say Yes. “Sure, you’re well aware that your brother has been buying goods on the black market. It’s the only way to support his drug habits.” There’s the clue, but the clue isn’t the intent. “What do you do now? How do you intend to turn that knowledge into a weapon to get whatever your aim is, really?”
You can also skip the Say Yes to the implied step. “You want dirt? Okay. You can roll Intimidation to shake down your brother’s usual contacts, or maybe Persuasion to sweet-talk it out of them if you have a reasonable story for why they should take your side. Or any other skill that you can get to make sense.”
If the character would just know, I would make him role an wise. Or make him open it. No crawling back after he heard the ob.
in this case family secret-wise or Pablo-wise are appropriate. as a player in this case, I would go for adultry-wise, see what his religious wife has to say about that