New to BW, Questions Vol. 1

I’ve been trying to solidify by questions and here are my first batch - mostly about the Hub and Spokes I believe, although I may have creeped to some Rim territory.

I want to make a quick few disclaimers. I clearly have never played (other than participating in an attempt at the Sword demo) and so I don’t understand a lot of things. I’m sure some things that I may be concerned about just end up “working” when you sit down to play the game but simply telling me “you need to play a session” (while you may be correct) aren’t terribly helpful.

I don’t expect BW to be an rpg holy grail but I do have faith based upon reading the book and these forums that it’s a good system with the right group. In order for me to be able to play a game I need to convince myself and a group of friends that it’s going to work, that the outside the box thinking will make sense and coalesce and the mechanics will make sense. I’m not trying to bash or criticise so please don’t get defensive, help me understand and love the game as much as you guys do!

Because of my lack of knowledge and experience I may use the wrong terminology or word for a skill or my example may be wrong semantically. Please feel free to correct the errors but also try to answer the spirit of the question. I tried to come up with some examples to show how I understand things to work and where I have questions, they may not be the best examples of encounters in a good BW game but I’m tyring to look big picture here, understand concepts so I can apply those concepts to actual game play situations.

Thanks in advance for your help =)


The Player states intent and task, then the GM sets the skill used and the Ob. right? I see people saying the GM needs to state a failure option but I couldn’t find (or didn’t see) that in the rules, if it’s there can you point me to it?

Does the player get to back down after hearing the failure? (if not seems a pointless step to add in)

If so, what if the potential failure consequences revealed information the character wouldn’t know until the failure happens?

In this case, can the player decide he’s going to bang on the door or do something different? Even if he succeeds and gets in to see the merchant before the Assassin arrives he knows that an assassin is en route and may attack, or may not since the merchant has company – which still gives up info.

I’m sure my example has flaws but you get the concept right? A failure consequence given by the GM might reveal conditional information that the characters and players wouldn’t normally have access to.

Say Yes

So when do I “say yes”? When the task is so easy I assume the character should just be able to do it? When I can’t think of an interesting consequence of failing? Either of the above? Both of the above? Some other situation I haven’t covered?

Do I ever “say no”?


In a straight up test vs an ob I can give the player extra dice if, due to external factors, they are “advantaged” or increase the Ob if they are “disadvantaged”, potentially doing both right?

Let it ride

How “different” do the conditions need to be? Is a change that would cause the addition (or subtraction) of an advantage die or disadvantage penalty a good guideline? In a versus test do both sides reroll or just the side whose roll would have been affected by the addition or subtraction of the advantage die?

Does the roll last for one intent or can the player, upon realizing they have rolled an amazing stealth roll to sneak past a guard decide they are going to make the most of the 10 successes they got and do a bunch of other stuff they wouldn’t have if their sneak roll had been poorer?

Thanks in advance for helping!



The player can back away.
The player can get information his character doesn’t know about. Maybe not as specific as in your example (there is an assassin is enough information)
The assassin is kind of a shrödingers Assassin. He is there if you fail, he doesn’t have to be there if you pass.


You say yes when there is no interesting complication - ease of the task is not that important.

I think you have Intent and Task down, although in my experience the GM and player generally come to an agreement on what skill should be tested, if it’s not obvious (with the GM having the final say). There tends to be a little back-and-forth. Most groups allow you to back down if the Obstacle is a lot higher than you expected, but a lot of people see that as wimping out (not to mention the system is built to lessen this–it rewards you for hard tests and makes failure interesting).

I’m not sure off-hand if the “GM should state the failure consequences up front” is in the book or if it’s just an agreed-upon piece of advice, but it’s pretty universal. Burning Wheel is, in my mind, a system for mature players, in that the player is expected to keep player knowledge and character knowledge separate. Oftentimes the failure consequence is going to be “your character doesn’t realize X”. The failure consequence ought to be related to the Intent. In Example 1, why does the character want to pick the lock quickly and quietly? If it’s to sneak up on the merchant, perhaps the failure consequence is that the merchant hears somebody at the door and starts shouting for guards–who appear as the lock clicks open. If it’s to avoid being seen by people outside, maybe you say “as your character slips inside, the shadowy figure he didn’t see in the doorway across the alley grins…” (an example of keeping character and player knowledge separate).

In the case of the assassin-as-failure-consequence I’d say “no, your character doesn’t know anything about the assassin. That’s part of the failure consequence–you’re surprised by the assassin.”

As for “Say Yes”, I’d say both of your options are correct (it’s ridiculously easy or there are no interesting consequences), although remember that characters need Routines also. If there are no interesting consequences, Say Yes. Remember if a character fails a test they don’t get their Intent. In Example 2, “get rich” isn’t a great Intent–it’s not specific enough. “Earn 1D cash in hand” is better. This is an example of something that has a fairly built-in failure consequence: fail the Painting test (the Ob should be based on how much money they want to make) and you don’t get the money. You can add to that if there’s an interesting conseqence–say, the Painters’ Guild hears that there’s an unaffiliated painter trying to pass off crappy paintings and they’re not happy about it. I’d reserve “saying no” for situations that simply can’t occur. “I want to jump to the moon” would be a Say No. “I want to paint a masterpiece using Beginner’s Luck” is just a ridiculously high Ob. If you want to punish them for silly Intents, do so with the failure consequences.

Advantages/Disadvantages: Correct. To add an advantage, +1D because the masonry is old and pitted, providing obvious handholds.

I’d be a little more strict with Let It Ride. Yeah, I’d say the Difficulty changing is a good benchmark, but sneaking in is different than sneaking out, even if the difficulty is the same. If you’re caught sneaking in, you run away. You get caught sneaking out and you could be trapped in the building, you’ve got stolen goods on you, etc. The Intent has changed: from wanting to get in unseen to getting away. The role of LIR is to keep a GM from saying “OK, you snuck past the first guard, but there are three more. I need three more Stealthy tests.” LIR lasts for one Intent or while the conditions remain the same, whichever is shorter. You can’t make an amazing Persuasion roll and have no one say “no” to you ever again by invoking LIR.

All in all, I’d say you have a pretty good grasp of the rules!

I watched a video on you tube of someone (I think it was Luke) running “the sword” for a group at a con. In the video the rat guy made a versus test (sneak vs perception of the other players) to get the sword and hide in the shadows while the rest of the group helped robard out of a trap. He made the roll so the players couldnt see him, they moved to clock the door so he couldnt simply walk out so he then said he was going to find a place in the room to stash the sword and then reveal himself (after walking away from his hiding place). Luke invoked LiR and he didnt have to roll stealth again to move around the room to the hiding place he had located (although I think he had him make a tomb-wise roll or something to identify a good place to hide it).

It is better if you put numbers to your questions, so we don’t need to make separate quotes. :smiley:

Page 32:

When a player sets out a task for his character and states his intent, it is the GM’s job to inform him of the consequences of failure before the dice are rolled.

“If you fail this…” should often be heard at the table. Let the players know the consequences of their actions. Failure is not the end of the line, but it is complication that pushes the story in another direction.

Don’t forget that usually the player is not telling you a crude Intent and a Task. He is telling you what his character wants and do. Stay with the fiction. Use the mechanics only when the fiction tells you that you need to use a game mechanic.

I think it depends. There are maybe two reason why you should inform the player what is going to happen if he fails the test:

  1. Because it forces you to think in an interesting failure consequence before the test, so if you can’t think of anything maybe it’s not time to throw the dice. (That way you don’t force the player to make unnecessary tests.)

  2. Because the player knows what is going to happen if he fails the test, so he can use Artha or wait for a better oportunity. (That way nobody complains if someone fails and the consequences are hard. “You knew what was at stake, and you did it anyway. So don’t cry to me.”)

If this were a movie, do you inform the audience that an assassin is behind the door? If you would, then tell the players. The players are not limited to their characters knowledge.

It was his intent to arrive before the assassin? If the players still don’t know that there is an assassin, maybe there is no assassin.

I think there is no “conditional information”. If an assassin is part of the scene or situation, share with the players that there is an assassin. If not, you can reserve him as a consequence for a future failure test.

You say “yes” when there is no interesting consequence of failure and there is no Belief or Instint involved. (In other words, when you don’t want a player fails his roll.) The failures of the players are the opportunities that you have to bring the story in the direction you want. So make them roll the dice when you (or an interesting NPC) want to bring something new (and opposed to the characters Beliefs) to the fiction. No matter whether it is easy or difficult. If a failure could take the story in a direction you want to, but different from what the player wants, he has to roll the dice.

You don’t need to say “no”. When a player says something stupid or ridiculous, everybody in the table will know.

Becoming a rich is not (usually) and apropiate Intent. Sounds like a goal for an entire campaign. Besides, you have the Resources attribute to define the wealth of the character.

You can -and should- do both, yes.

It is more “intuitive” than that. Don’t roll a same stat/attribute/skill in the same scene for the same Intent. Usually you don’t need to worry about that because, after a roll of the dice, the situation has changed, so we are in another moment in our story now.

Note that Bill and Craig don’t make a separate test each. One player makes the test, the other helps if appropriate. If Bill is successful you have to move the story to the next complication. If the player wants to back for more, he must to declare that before the roll. If not, we need to start a new scene, but… What happen when Bill and Craig find out that a jewels bag is missing?

Note also that a Perception versus Stealth test suffers a double obstacle penalty. (You need at least 7 Per successes to win against 3 Stealth successes.

Sneak past the guard is a Task, not an Intent. Why do you want to past the guard? Do you want to climb The Tower of the Elephant without being noticed? Do you want to know what the teachers are hiding in the secret chamber? Do you want to know if the queen has an affair with her ​​bodyguard? The player make his roll, he succeeds and then you introduce a new complication if need it. In any case, we are in a new situation now. No a new guard, no a new tower to climb. Something else. Try to think that this is a movie. What interesting thing is going to happen now? What new obstacle is put in the path of the characters?

I think generally, if it would be reasonable to “say no,” the players are being obnoxious or something.
“Did you know I’m secretly a space alien? I shoot the guy with my mind lazors!”
“Um, no, you don’t. Look, are we going to play this game, or what?”
In those cases, you have problems outside the scope of the rules. (Of course, goofing around is probably fine, depending on what your group feels is appropriate. We’re assuming this player’s just being disruptive and irritating.)

I think you are also within your rights to insist that a task be beyond the scope of a single roll, possibly via linked test. You aren’t saying they can’t do it, in that case, just that it’s going to be more complicated.

Note also that scrounging up dice via linked tests to set up situational advantages or circles to call in old favors from friends or whatever means the player might have enough dice to have a shot at that difficult test after all - and that’s awesome, you might have a whole adventure right there! And if the player makes the roll and gets the cash dice from the painting, good on 'em! And they’ll get a test for advancing a stat and presumably persona artha for completing a belief goal, too - and they’ll have earned it!

The key thing is that you shouldn’t be going “Hmm, how do I stop the players from getting away with this,” because you’re the GM, it won’t be hard to stop them from succeeding. But it will suck, and nobody will have any fun. So if failure would be boring, don’t let it even be an option, and if it would be an interesting possibility, then have them face that possibility and roll for it. But always at least let them have a fair try.

What you can do is rule that a given task is not appropriate for a given intent.

Player wants to sneak into the castle to find out who is staying in the room at the very top of the tallest tower.

Player makes a stealth roll, there are two guards at the front gate, I guess one makes the perception roll and the other “helps”?

What if there is a guard outside the room the player wants to go to? does he make a perception roll? does he “help” the two at the front gate?

What if there are 10 guards between the player and his goal, I understand LiR means the player doesn’t have to make 10 stealth checks but do the guards make 10 perception checks?, do 9 of them help the last 1? Do I figure out which group has the best roll (let’s say the group of 3 including the especially perceptive guard captain at the base of the tower) and make one roll with that group and figure if they didn’t see him none of the other patrols did?

Saying Yes and No are often about choosing focus and avoiding stupidity.

One case for Say Yes is not telling players to roll for things that are not interesting. Don’t ever have characters look stupid for roleplaying (the playing on a bridge and falling off example). Don’t have decently prosperous characters roll to afford a sandwich. Don’t waste time on boring stuff.

Another case is when failure sets the story back. If the players want to talk to the Jarvis, it’s reasonable for them to, and the plot really involves doing so, don’t roll Circles! They find Jarvis. Say Yes is an anti-roadblock mechanism.

Say No is mostly anti-stupid. No, you can’t do the impossible. I also extend it to the ludicrously improbable. No, I will not bother levying interesting failure on tasks that are hard enough that I can’t Say Yes and irrelevant enough that it’s not worth wasting time on consequences and rolls. It’s a GM eyeroll. Use sparingly and when players deserve it. But this also extends to the non-ridiculous impossible. You can’t jump to the Moon; that’s a ludicrous intent and no task will do it. But maybe you also cannot cheer up the grieving surgeon and get him to take up his craft again. There’s nothing inherently impossible about it; I just think it’s within the GM’s rights to say that something cannot be done.

But consider two different games. In one, characters are playing at politics, and to kick off their scheme a duke must die. The duke himself isn’t important at all. It’s what happens when others panic at his unexpected death or fight over the inheritance that things get interesting. In fact, the duke may not be a character at all—players are within their rights to suggest the intent of fomenting strife by the task of assassinating a duke, especially if they use Nobility-Wise or Political Leverage-Wise or something like that. In this game, it may be a single roll of Stealthy to get into the duke’s castle, evade the guards, knife him (or poison him, or push him off a tower), and get out.

In another game, a grubby gang of low-level criminals find someone willing to pay for the Duke’s death. That’s an intent! But you Say No: there are several beliefs on the line, and this is supposed to be a session’s (or several sessions’) entertainment. You Say No because even though it could be one task you don’t want it to be. You want the players to break it down. They have to scheme, sneak, sabotage, subvert, and stab. You’re asking for many little intents and tasks.

After all, you could make a single Orienteering roll to trek through Mordor and deliver the One Ring into the fires of Mount Doom. That kills the drama though. But you can also make a dozen rolls just to get from Gondor back to the Shire; again, while it’s justifiable, it just delays getting to the good part. Saying Yes and determining the scope of intents and tasks is how you zoom in and out.

Tests: When a player sets out a task for his character and states his intent, it is the GM’s job to inform him of the consequences of failure before the dice are rolled. Page 32.

EDIT: yes, I did miss the fact that Etsu already posted this.

Generally, the player can back down or try a different tack once they’ve heard the cost. That’s what makes deciding to go forward with the roll meaningful. That’s what makes it an important tool for challenging beliefs.

The GM is free to reveal as much or as little out of character knowledge to the players as they think fits the fiction. The more knowledge you reveal the more you prioritize irony over surprise. Depending on how you phrase things, you can control what the player knows or does not know. Look at the difference between “If you fail, the assassin sent by the necromancer guild gets to the merchant before you” and “If you fail, you reach the merchant’s study in time to see an assassin from the necromancer guild standing over his dead body.” If the player succeeds in the second example, he doesn’t know if an assassin is coming or not? He definitely knows that the guild may have reason to send an assassin. Will the player use this knowledge, undoubtedly! That’s a good thing. The player knows there’s something afoot between the merchant and the guild that the character doesn’t know about. Now the player can maneuver his character into a position to learn things or overhear things that they otherwise wouldn’t. That’s the beauty of phrasing your failure condition as you did. The player is now in on the game. He or she is working with the GM to make the merchant and the Guild important to the story. You don’t have to trick them or surprise them with a big reveal. You just have to challenge the character’s beliefs and tell them what skills to roll at what ob.

But the GM always has control of what failure conditions they set. If you don’t want to reveal some information, don’t.

Say Yes. Say Yes until the game comes to a point where you think it would be interesting to roll dice. When you’re engaged and the other players are engaged. When you want to see what happens if they fail.

And yes, you can say no. The GM says no quite a bit. For example, if the task does not match the intent. If your player says they want to become rich by painting a picture, you are perfectly within your rights to say “No. Painting a picture that might make you rich is an Ob 9 Painting test, but in order to become rich you’ll need to sell it. So, you’re going to have to find a wealthy buyer and convince them to purchase it.”

Another good time for a no is if Let it Ride applies. You can say no to a roll if it’s already been decided. Also, if something doesn’t make sense or is out of tone. But, saying yes at the right times is much harder than saying no.

Let it Ride. How different is different? That’s up to you. If Let it Ride is over, I’d make them all reroll (just to pick a nit, Bill’s advantage die for night vision is also removed). In your extended example, I’d allow Andy’s 10 stealth to stand unless something changes. Like when he goes to knife the general, I turn to him and say “Ok, the general is a dead man walking. That’s not even a roll. The question is do you kill him before he makes a sound? It’s your knife skill against Ob4 for his health, failure and he squeals like a stuck pig, rousing the camp.”

There are 10 guards between you and the place you want to go? That’s going to be very tough.

I go for letting the guy with the best Observation or Perception exponent make the roll, no help. You can give them a +1D adventage to symbolize the help if you want. (Which is the same as saying that only one guard can help the leader.) I’m not sure about this. You can even set an Obstacle and make this a simple test.)

BW is against roll until you fail. That’s Let It Ride. It also covers other characters rolling until you fail. If you succeed at stealthiness, you’re stealthy. If you intend for there to be many guards, it’s fine to have multiple guards offer help dice, effectively raising the Ob. More guards are harder to sneak past.

A good way to make the situation change is to make the intent and task no longer a match for the problem. If there are two guards posted outside the door of the tower and it’s just a straight hall to reach them, you can’t hide. There’s no cover. You can sneak to them, but then you need another task and intent. You have to be upfront about that as the GM, though. If the player says, “I want to sneak up to the top of the tower!” sometimes you have to reply with, “You can use Stealthy to get through the castle to the tower, and get caught if you fail, but from there you’ll need to do something else.”

Once they’ve gotten the peek at the tower’s occupant, the Stealthy still stands. Sneaking out is no problem. But let’s say they try to talk to the guy or gal and he/she screams bloody murder. Now the guards are alerted, torches are lit, patrols go out, and the circumstances have changed. You can (but don’t have to) demand another Stealthy test.

A good rule of thumb is that no one should ever roll the same skill twice in a row without a whole lot of game events in between. I’d go so far as to say that using the same skill with only one different skill use in between is still often more frequent than you want. Challenge your players with different barriers.

There are a lot of good answers in here but let me reiterate a few points:

  1. Tests.
    Player states intent (what they want to have happen) and task (how they do it). Often times there’s an obvious skill (“I want to climb the wall” -> Climbing). The GM decides if it’s a reasonable intent, sets the Obstacle and Skill (if not obvious), states the failure case (which should be the opposite of the intent), and then rolling happens. Players can back down if they don’t want to risk the given failure but it’s considered lame if they back down too often.

Assuming the task and intent are different (“Pick the lock before the guard arrives” has a task of “pick the lock” and an intent of “before the guard arrives”), the task succeeds even if the roll is failed. So in the parenthetical example the lock is opened but the guard arrives in mid-process. This is important as a GM because unrelated failure cases can seem weird. Related, if a failure case is reasonable but exposes some hidden information, the game assumes that the players are able to differentiate player knowledge and character knowledge.

Your example isn’t great because the players should either a) know that they are at odds with the necromancer guild (via beliefs or prior game play) or b) it should be a failure that makes sense with their intent. A question heard at my table a lot for those strong task / weak intent test requests is “what do you want out of it” which is designed to suss out what their intent is and helps me formulate a good and in-fiction failure.

  1. Say Yes.
    The full rule is “Roll the Dice or Say Yes” which first lets you ask the following question “Is the test valid?” If it isn’t you tell the player and move on. This is the case when you can tell the player no, if the test intent is invalid. You hear this one a fair bit as well, often times something like “that doesn’t make sense” or “you’re in a land-locked city, there isn’t a shipping guild here.” If the test is valid then you have them roll the dice or, if you can’t think of a good failure case, say Yes. Always have them roll if there’s an interesting failure and the intent is valid.

In your particular example the GM can say that isn’t a valid test due to their lack of painting skill or, they can attempt to make money via a beginners luck test and Get A Job. Generally speaking though, I’d say that test isn’t valid due to it being too broad and fairly weak.

  1. Advantage / Disadvantage.
    Generally speaking arbitrary advantages and disadvantages should be rare. Most bonus dice should come through the system, be they balance dice, FoRKs, or linked tests. Most disadvantages should make systemic sense as well. Also, “advantage” usually comes in the form of a +1Ob to the opponent unless explicitly granted via the rules.

Your example is pretty good and one that I’ve used as well. It needs a good failure as well depending on the intent. I’d say something like “you’ll make it either way, but that box only makes it up if you succeed.”

  1. Let it Ride.
    Let it Ride lives within the confines of the intent so it’s not legal to make a stealth test with the intent of “sneak past the guard” and then, seeing a wildly successful test, turn it into “sneak past the guard, into the throne room, steal the sceptre, and then get out” without going through a second round of task/intent negotiation. Generally speaking, LiR covers the case of “I want to do X to get Y” and with a significant change to X or Y breaks out of that instance of Let it Ride. What constitutes “Significant Change” is up to the particular people around the table but the intent of the rule is to block explicit re-testing for identical rolls.

In your second example, changing things up from “sneak around the camp and see what’s what” to “sneak around the camp, see what’s what, then steal everything not nailed down that belongs to the general” sounds to me like a new intent and so would call for another round of rolling. In the Sword example, Let it Ride takes effect because the intent hasn’t really changed throughout the whole escapade. It started out as “get myself hidden” and continued as “move around in this room while hidden.”

Things to remember with Let it Ride is that anything falling within the scope of the original intent is covered by Let it Ride, which means that the test of “sneak into the keep to the throne room, steal the sceptre, and get out, all while undetected” is a much more sweeping (and by extension, has a much higher obstacle) intent than simply “sneak into the keep.” When going against a whole ton of opposition, it’s generally expected that the GM will state a reasonable failure case and then make a single roll modified appropriately for the opposition. A squad of three guards will roll Observation with an extra die or two from help, a tower full of guards covering the king will probably throw something like 7-15 dice in Observation due to the overlapping patrols. The guard on the king’s quarters will be abstracted away into the overall Observation roll and the stakes that are set (specifically the failure case that you offer about where they get caught if discovered).

Hope this, and everyone else’s answers, help!

One other thing that I think is important enough to make as its own comment. Re-read Success (page 30) and Failure (page 31). In either case, once the dice hit the table you find out if the stated intent is successful or not and then move on. Let it Ride exists solely to make a given task/intent/test group binding.

This is a point that bears repeating, since I totally missed it in my response. If Andy is sneaking past Bill and Craig, don’t make perception rolls for both Bill and Craig. Probably Bill rolls perception (because he’s the one with the night vision). Craig Helps. That may not be a hard rule, but it’s a good rule of thumb.

I am not sure about this. Afaik, when Character 1 get’s +1Ob for a test against Character 2 then it counts as +1s for Character 2.

Advantage: +1D.
Disadvantage: +1 Ob.

I don’t think it has to be rare, but it should make sense to the current situation.

Let it Ride

Ok I understand the intent of LiR, stopping “roll until fail” (or roll until succeed!). My hang up was that it is presented partially as a protection of players from an unfair GM and so I wanted to know how strong that protection is and if it can be turned around and used as a weapon against the GM.

My understanding of it now is:

Andy wants to sneak in the castle to see who lives there, failure is agreed upon and Ob. is set. He rolls…

a) …and succeeds. He sneaks in and can see who lives there. If he decides he wants to then sneak into this person’s bedchamber to kill them or into their vault to rob them LiR would not apply and they would have to roll again. (Strictly speaking the player’s intent didnt cover sneaking back out but it’s reasonable to allow that as part of the original intent right?)

b) …and fails, he either doesn’t sneak in, or sneaks in but can’t see who lives there, perhaps he takes an arrow to the knee as part of the failure agreed upon ahead of time. If the player wants to try and sneak in the next night LiR would apply unless the situation was “different”.

Do I have it now? and although it’s cited as protection from the GM, the GM ultimately decides if LiR applies so it won’t “protect” players from a truly dickish GM, rather it is there to prod a GM to think twice about whether a new test is really suitable.

Versus tests between a character and a group

I had not realised this when I made my original post, thanks!

Ok, so if none of the guards are “characters” (as in, not important to the story either as pc or npc) I could just abstract it as a static stealth test vs an Ob? I kind of like that idea as communicating a level of importance and zooming in/out based upon the demands of the fiction, using versus tests for characters and obs for “mooks”.


My understanding on the failure was it isn’t just the opposite of the intent, but it introduces a new complication?

My understanding is that you can do a “task succeeds but intent fails” if it fits the fiction but that it isn’t required. Would “The Guard arrives before you pick the lock” not be a possible/reasonable failure consequence? If not why not?

Also Etsu said this:

Which I find a very interesting way to think about GMing.

I also found this comment by Etsu illuminating:

I obviously was aware of the difference in player knowledge vs character knowledge but for some reason the way Etsu put it really struck a chord with me. The challenge will now be making sure my players buy into it.

Saying “Yes” (and “No”)

I think I have “Say Yes” fairly down now, but it’s going to take experience to be fully comfortable when to do so. I also feel better knowing that “Say No” is possible, but it seems like if I’m saying “No” with regularity then either I or my players aren’t getting BW.

I’d like to thank everyone for their great answers, obviously there are many different ways to play BW but you’ve all been a huge help in giving me a glimpse into how BW plays at your table.

I do have a Vol 2 of questions which I’ll put together (complete with question numbers this time!) which I think will be focused on the two areas I’m having the most trouble making sense in my head, Social rolls and Resource rolls. I found that in taking the time to formulate my questions for this thread I actually answered a lot of them myself and was able to cut them from the big list, hopefully I’ll find the same thing happens with Vol 2.

I don’t remember anything in the rules saying that the task must always succeed, even if the roll fails. It CAN succeed, sure.
Likewise, my understanding is that a failed roll can be “You get your intent, but with strings attached/other conditions apply/something screws you up anyway.”
Like, “I grab it before it falls in the lava.” “Okay, Agility ob 4, and if you fail, you still grab it but you burn your hand badly in the process.” Am I wrong about that? It seems reasonable to me.

In my opinion, if you ever find yourself saying no, it should set off warning bells and you should stop and consider whether you actually have a good reason or whether you should be saying yes or rolling.
“But if the PC succeeds, it’ll screw up all my plans!” is not a good reason.
I still also think that “But that’s too hard, they’ll never pull it off!” is more about where you set the ob, not whether you let them try. They should always have an opportunity to try.

There’s no requirement that tasks must succeed, only that failure complicates things.