Reconciling what you can do in Vs, Bvs and Fight!

Hi All, in running BWG I’ve run into the following a few times now and would like some help:

Often the characters are faced with fights which are important enough to roll for but not a big enough moment to go into full-on Fight! rules.

My issue is that in a VS test or BVS test the characters can easily dispatch enemies which would be really tough in a full Fight!

e.g. A fairly weak starting character is facing a bugbear unarmed.

In Vs the player can declare, “I’ll use my speed to pummel the creature before he can react knocking him out with a flurry of blows”, GM: “Ok roll your brawling vs his, I’ll give him 2D advantage.” PC still has a decent chance of doing what he declared.

In BVS a few more factors would come in to play (making success less likely for our PC)

In Fight! The PC would like be murdered with a miniscule chance of getting his intent.

…So how do you reconcile this in your games (or am I missing something?)

The only thing I can really think of to do is make the stakes higher in the VS test indicating the dangerous nature of it e.g. GM, “Ok if you win you get your intent, but if you lose the huge creature will tear your arm off and toss you in a ditch leaving you for dead”

thoughts / advice?

Ask this yourself: Can he or she really kill the bear? If so, well, the Bear can kill you too, or kill everyone you love, or destroy everything you care. But I prefer baby steps, y’know. “I try to attack the bear, I want the bear away from the camp.” But if you fail the bear attacks you, and you will try to avoid it, falling to the ground. “I try to climb the tree.” But if you fail the bear hits the tree and you fall to the ground, and the bear is going to run toward you. “I’ll try to stay out of sight of the bear, to approach stealthily.” But if you fail you will step on a bear trap and come out badly injured.

And so on.

But the intent is up to the players to state, I’d love my players to take more baby-steps but they often go right for getting the obstruction out of the way. So while I might WANT them to say ,“I’ll keep him away from the camp” what I tend to get is “I’ll kill it”

Would it be a faux pas to say to that player straight up, “you won’t be able to kill it right away, you’ll need to set things up more first?”

The harder their intent, the harder the penalties. If they just want to scare the bugbear off, then the consequence of failure might be they are robbed. If they try to kill the guy, he’s going to go all out to protect himself and probably try to kill or cripple them in self defence. So, kill or cripple a couple PC’s so they get the idea of baby steps. It shouldn’t be that hard.

A slight tangent from the advice so far. My group just had the opposite experience. We came across these guardians of somewhere we wanted to get in. We had to get past them so we just took it to a BVS and pretty well got our asses handed to us. We came back and took it to Fight! and came out completely unscathed. The nice thing about Fight (when it’s appropriate) is that, for the most part, no single roll is make-or-break.

But, yeah, if you think they’re getting off to easy in straight vs or BVS then definitely ramp up the consequences. Then when they start balking you can offer those baby steps “Well, do you want to just drive it off instead?”

Thanks for the advice all. :slight_smile:

And yes, TM, you can declare intent/task invalid. If you think something is too tough to handle with a “I kill with my sword” I/T then have the player reframe their actions.

Intent and Task is the core functionality of BW, but it can’t be used without restraint. If you can’t invalidate an I/T the game quickly devolves into “I win with my mind,” “No! I win with my mind first!”

I think it’s also worth taking a hard look at “this fight isn’t a big deal.” If it really isn’t who cares if you knock over the bugbears much easier than if you got into fight. It isn’t that important. Also, consider, are you really resorting to Versus or Bloody Versus because the fight isn’t that important, or because you are shying away from Fight! due to complexity/time constraints.

If it’s important that THIS bugbear is able to use all his resources because he shouldn’t go down easy, then perhaps it really is a Fight!.

If it really isn’t important, try and let go of the notion that “Bugbears SHOULD be hard to kill.” I find myself having to reevaluate my preconceived notions of SHOULDs that are baggage from some other game. In D&D Bugbears are a tough fight for 1st level PCs because that’s part of what D&D is about. Burning Wheel is about different things, which can include “this should be a tough fight”, but only if the story is about overcoming the challenges of Bugbears. If the story really is about gaining the princess’s hand in marriage, then the Bugbears are just a way of showing the PC is courageous or a skilled swordsman, or whatever (the whatever guiding the intent and task).

Something else to consider, an intent of “I want to kill it” is almost always worth probing for what the real intent is. Get to the real intent and the ease of killing a Bugbear in Versus or Bloody Versus may become less important.


Yeah, I generally draw the line at “I want to kill it.” I mean, sure, that’s your goal, but that’s not exactly the same as an intent. I like to try to keep Intent to be fairly discrete, if it makes sense.

I mean, killing a bug is a non-issue. If the Intent is “I want to kill the bugbear,” he should really have a chance to fight back. I’d do Bloody Versus at the bare minimum, to represent the relative danger of engaging in fights.

Besides, if you let them resolve it too simply, you’ll wind up setting a bad precedent for the consequences of killing.

Now, if you want to say something like, “I want the bugbear to leave me alone. I’m going to Intimidate him, with FoRK’s from Sword and Command, to convince him to stay away,” that’s perfectly valid. That’s actually probably a better way to do it anyhow.

I agree with probing the Intent more. I did that for my PC’s, and they got into a scuffle with a bugbear, and then an argument, and now he’s a friendly NPC! It’s way more interesting if you probe them for something other than “I kill the monster.”

What I have learned from the games I ran is, never ever be nice to your players. Put the obstacles high and the cost something to give a little more thought. so I am more for the tearing arm kind of stuff, killing companions. Complications shouldn’t be life treatening. You can also have them escape with a vengeful bugbear close on their heels and probably turning up every time it is inconvenient. Stakes should be high. Players should be on their toes all the time. If they aren’t, players will get bored quickly and what is worse, they will slack in their believes and instincts. When that happens, your game ends.

What I noticed in my games aswell that I tend to give advantages more quickly to the player’s opponents, instead of higher obstacles. It is harder to overcome a +1ob then an +2D advantage. But some how we think that giving the advantage is better. This is something I hope to change in my future games.

If the players are fairly new they may not be familiar with the incredibly dire consequences of getting seriously injured. A superficial or light wound is no big deal. But as out party found out, one good shot with an arrow or sword can seriously ruin your day. I think every member of our party at this point has had a mortal wound that resulted in horrible scarring and stat point drops. While we’ve all been able to mitigate our very very bad wounds, each time we learned a valuable lesson about mortality and are less quick to murder everything now.

Sometimes, it’s a learning experience. Your players may need to get seriously banged up before they learn that there are no hit points and you can’t just suck down a healing potion to make wounds go away and bounce back in a day. You can also let the players size up the challenge before hand. How many dice would they be rolling versus the bugbear? Are you going to allow helping dice? Does the bugbear have gray shade strength and have the capacity to do a b14 wound with a tossed rock in a single shot? You can let the players glimpse the situation before it happens and give them a chance to back down. Remember, YOU can set the ob for any test. Are bugbears scarey monsters, or are they run of the mill bad guys? If they’re a nasty beast, then that ob may indeed be versus the bugbear’s brawling, but his brawling might be 6…and he has gray strength or forte or both…and he has artha to spend. Suddenly, that bugbear isn’t something anyone wants to tangle with.

That being said, I agree with the “does it matter?” question. If it’s just a bugbear that they stumble upon by chance, and there’s no “big plot” or character beliefs about the creature and players just want a sword test or something, maybe you let them do what’s easier for them that one time. But if the bugbear is actually tied in to a character belief as Urk-Kal-Al the Viscous and is the same one that murdered a vengeful character’s family, that’s a serious plot point and it should definitely be a Fight!

Something is not quite right in this thread.