Hey, just got my copy of BWG and have been reading through it, haven’t had a chance to play it yet. Based on the advice of these threads I’ll be GM-ing The Sword at some point with some friends so I can get to grips with the mechanics and my players can see if they like it/see how the mechanic work before we get to actual character-burning. I’ll be doing it with just the Hub & Spokes (maybe Bloody Versus) and the rules for Circles (because that mechanic is too awesome not to use), since I want to practice with the basics before I get to the more complex stuff.
My question is how do you handle arguments and negotiations without DoW, bearing in mind The Sword is PvP focused and might not even involve NPCs for most of the session. Would you just have a single Versus test between the two PCs using whatever Oratory skills they have, and have them agree on the conditions of losing the argument before them begin (though admittedly this doesn’t leave room for compromises like a proper Duel of Wits would)? Or would you just have them roleplay the discussion and not have any sort of mechanic in place to resolve disagreements and get the plot moving when neither side will budge? I guess the thing I’m worried about is that I want to be careful that skills like Persuasion can’t be used to just unfairly force other PCs to do what the player wants them to do, which is why it seems important to me that a DoW is something you can always agree not to do (or go berserk and kill all witnesses). What do you guys think?
Ps. If I have other questions that are unrelated should I make new threads for them or should I add it to this thread and make it another general “questions about running The Sword” thread?
One very important thing that Burning Wheel does different than some games is a firm separation between player and character. What this means is that if you lose a Duel of Wits, your character will (begrudgingly) go along with the course of action the other side wanted. The same holds true for a single Persuasion test. Let them know they don’t have to engage with this character, but they also don’t get a say in what happens if they choose not to play the game. If they want a voice, they have to risk not getting what they want.
You could also do a simplified version of the compromise. If the player attempting to persuade the other character only meets their Will, the defender gets a compromise. If the Persuader exceeds the Will, they get what they want no questions asked.
This is also a good time to teach them the importance of Intent and Task. If their intent is to lie about helping, they shouldn’t be rolling Persuasion. That would be a Falsehood test. Let me know if this makes sense!
The player can’t be forced into a Persuasion Test against their will either. But if they agree to roll dice, they live with the results. On the other hand, if they absolutely will not expose their character to Persuasion tests, you may want to reconsider playing Burning Wheel with them.
Also: I pretty confident that longtime BW players who lose DoW’s live with the results. I’d be very surprised if there was a lot of “going berserk and killing all witnesses.”
I understand your fears, but I don’t think they will materialize if your players understand that they are not their characters. It’s not because the player is not convinced that his character is not… the same that the player is not “hurt” when his character got a midi wound. In most games, there is just no rules to manage the distinction between the “player’s intention” and “character’s intention” (or mind, or Lebenswelt, if you are into german philosophy). You usually resolves those issues with social agreements, most of the time grounded in implicit norms of what is to be “in character” or “out of character” in your gaming group. In BW, you have rule to manage those situations. If at first your player won’t feel at ease because they feel they’re “loosing control” over their character, just remind them that in the end it’s collaborative play, and they have a word to say before the dice are rolled. And they will soon learn that failing as as much as fun as succeeding (well, most of the time )
One tweak I’ve always used: you can’t roll any social skills against an Ob of Will to manipulate a PC. That’s too coercive out of game. If the players can’t agree, you go to DoW. You can also do a simple versus test as long as both sides have strong stakes.
Off the cuff, maybe you could get interesting results out of a Witty Versus Test. Each rolls Skill against an Ob of the opponent’s Will. Then you need some matrix of results if both fail, one succeeds, or both succeed. Both fail suggests a totally intermediate compromise; one success means that side wins. Maybe major compromises if the margin of success when both succeed is only 1 and minor compromise if 2 or greater?
There’s a version that I’ve used in actual play that just uses the difference between the two skill checks to figure out the compromise. It’s kind of off-topic for “First Reading,” so I’ll just go post it to the Sparks forum later when I’ve got the chance.
Ok, I think I get the idea. So say hypothetically I’m running The Sword, the dwarf has the sword and the elf wants to talk him into giving it over. First I’d let them roleplay the situation, then if they aren’t able to reach an agreement and play isn’t going anywhere I’d suggest using the negotiation mechanics to resolve the situation. So if the elf is trying to talk the dwarf into doing something I’d have them roll against the dwarf’s Will with whichever skill matches their Intent and Task (Persuasion, Falsehood, etc.). In that case, I probably wouldn’t allow an Intent that’s unrealistic, like “I want them to give me the sword with no strings attached”, they’d have to find some way to tempt the dwarf (and I could encourage them to play up to the dwarf’s beliefs). I like the idea of saying that if the elf only just manages to succeed then they have to agree on a compromise. This is also the perfect time show off the Let It Ride rule, since once they’ve made the relevant social-vs-Will roll they can’t make that roll again until the circumstances have significantly changed.
Of course, I’d still tell the dwarf he doesn’t have to agree to the roll and is entirely able to just ignore everything the elf says, but that also means they have no chance of influencing the elf to do what they want If either side is worried about not passing a test then they’d damn well better spend Artha points on it!
Why don’t you just ask them to resolve the issue with the dice mechanics, take a moment to agree to terms with the understanding that they both have to be willing to live by the results, then roll the dice and determine who convinces the other character to go their way, and then abide by the results of the roll?