Some Questions About Duel of Wits

Hi all! I’ve only recently discovered Burning Wheel, and I haven’t had a chance to play a full game yet, but I did get a chance to try out the Duel of Wits mechanics with my wife earlier tonight. We just took the elf and the dwarf from The Sword and ran a DoW without anything else from the scenario. We enjoyed it quite a bit, but were left with a few questions. I was hoping you folks could help us out.

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[li]Tactics: It seemed like “point” was far and away the best tactic to use. The standard roll means that you are almost guaranteed at least half your skill in damage to the other person’s argument, and point most often leads to a standard roll. Why would anyone choose any other rhetorical move for the volley?
[/li][li]Examples of play: Anyone know of/have any good examples of the different rhetorical moves in action? We were especially perplexed by the feint. In one volley, my wife chose it and then we had no idea how to role play it.
[/li][li]Good reasons, bad rolls: On a related note, how do you handle the possible gap between the roleplayer’s argument and the die rolls? At one point, my wife gave a really awesome mini-speech in character that got really terrible rolls. It was one of the few moments where we felt a little let down by the rules.
[/li][li]Order of rolls and roleplaying: How do you structure the rolling and roleplaying? Do you have people give their speech/argument and then roll? Or do you have them roll, so that they can shape their speech/argument accordingly? It doesn’t seem like there’s a hard rule on this, but I thought maybe some more experienced players would have some thoughts.
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And really, I would appreciate any tips at all on how to make the duel of wits run more smoothly, be maximally fun, and integrate well into the actual story. We are pretty excited about the possibilities that it seems to hold.

Thanks in advance, everyone!

Welcome to the forum!

  1. There’s tons of discussion on this topic in the forums. This thread is worth reading.
  2. There’s got to be tons of AP in the forum. With feint you need to set up a nice fat target for them to hit, then pound them when they take the bait. What you say is going to depend on the argument. I’ll look around for some good examples.
  3. One way to avoid this is to wait until you see the roll before you make the speech. The other way is to realize that great speeches don’t always win arguments and the dice aren’t passing judgement on your words, only determining how successful you were at achieving your intent. You should always make as great a speech as you like, then figure out why it did or did not carry an weight with your opponent.
  4. We do both without any real rhyme or reason.

I have an example of Feint from a recent session. I was playing a boy brought up in a pirate stronghold (think Tortuga from Pirates of the Carribean) and I was arguing with a priest running a temple on the island. The governor was trying to seek legitimacy from a neighboring elf kingdom and make us a proper colony instead of a pirate stronghold, and I was against that. I was trying to convince the priest to call a meeting of pirate captains and local business owners to resist the governor’s plan, and the priest was trying to convince me to accept the transition to legitimate colony so I could have stuff like school and the rule of law.

In one exchange I scripted feint and it worked - I forget what he scripted, but feint was effective against it. So I made a little trail of innocent questions for him to follow. I don’t remember them exactly, but it was close to this:

Me: What god are you sworn to serve?
Him: Sissa, our lady of beauty.
Me: And the people here worship at your temple.
Him: They do, though not as often as I’d like.
Me: The elves are not of our continent, right?
Him: Yes, of course. They are of Thule.
Me: Do they worship Sissa on Thule?
Him: They do not.
Me: Then when this island becomes a colony of Thule, what gods will be worshipped here? Thulean gods or Ashurian gods?
Him: (fidget)
Me: How are you serving Sissa by letting the governor make us subjugate to unbelievers?

Thanks!

  1. There’s tons of discussion on this topic in the forums. This thread is worth reading.

Oh yeah, that pretty much answers that.

  1. There’s got to be tons of AP in the forum.

What does AP stand for?

With feint you need to set up a nice fat target for them to hit, then pound them when they take the bait. What you say is going to depend on the argument. I’ll look around for some good examples.

That would be much appreciated, thanks!

Wow, that’s totally awesome. And even more so that you came up with it on the fly.

What’s the reasoning why a feint does nothing against a point, then?

Let’s say the priest scripted “point,” and said, “Our children are languishing in ignorance because the chaos of piracy prevents us from opening schools. We need Thulean order to give our kids the education they need!”

Your character responds with the above feint. If we weren’t talking game mechanics, that would be a totally awesome response. But in terms of mechanics, since you scripted it as a feint, you don’t actually get to roll. What’s the reasoning there?

Well, it’s a game, so you may need to deform the fiction to fit the rules occasionally, but I think he just wouldn’t rise to the bait, being busier making his own point. It would go something like this:

Me: What god are you sworn to serve?
Him: Our children are languishing in ignorance because the chaos of piracy prevents us from opening schools.
Me: Yeah, but listen. What god are you sworn to serve?
Him: We need Thulean order to give our kids the education they need! You’re a ratcatcher, my dear boy, but you could be so much more.
Me: But what god are you sworn to serve?
Him: As long as we persist in our trade of murder on the seas we’ll never be able to attract the educated people who could make our lives better.

These words are beautiful, they hang together like a poem.

RE: bad roll and great argument…one thing that I tend to associate with a random die roll is all of those little things that you can’t account for, that you don’t realize could be important. Maybe one of your points rubbed someone (or most of the people) the completely wrong way, without you realizing it. That’s a fun chance to add to the scene, and maybe even to build the world a bit, especially if players get to suggest ideas. “Maybe my mention of Queen Ladirra was a completely vulgar breach of protocol in their culture!”

AP stands for Actual Play.

My games adhere to the order of action being “speak then roll” (as opposed to doing either) for a few reasons. The main one is that it lets people bring in FoRKS from appropriate wises based on what they said. The other reason I can think of is that, at least with my group, we tend to think of actions as over once dice hit the table and having the spoken part lead into the die roll makes sure that we always remember to have the spoken part.

You technically can’t roll until you’ve spoken the part. There would be no way to determine which skill you’re rolling, let alone which FoRKs are appropriate.

Sure, but why would you have a rule that deformed the fiction unless there was some reason? In other words, if there is no narrative reason for a rule, there should be some kind of procedural reason for it. Especially in a game that is more focused on story and character development than your average bear.

Obviously, I could just house rule that feint gets a standard role against a point or something. But I’m interested in understanding what the procedural reason is for the rule, if we are acknowledging there’s no story-based reason. All of the other rules that I’ve come across seem so deeply well-thought out that, even when they are somewhat counterintuitive (like resources), they actually do make a great deal of sense. So my assumption is that there’s some good reason here that I just don’t know yet.

Not to mention the fact that it’d be nice to have an explanation for people at my game table who aren’t already sold on the ruleset.

Thanks so much!

BTW, your example gives an excellent illustration of how not getting a roll could roleplay. So to clarify my above question, why wouldn’t you just have them check their feint skill against the other person’s will. Failure means that they are sticking with their point and not going down the garden path of your feint. Failure means they didn’t have the will to stick with it.

It’s actually not all that hard to say, “Hey, you rolled Incite. That sounds more like you’re persuading. Let’s hear the insult.” Or, “how does what you just said fork in Forest-wise.”

Because the story does not have primacy of place to the system. We want to the system to deform the fiction. We want the system to give us unexpected and often unpleasant results to incorporate into the character’s story.

It’s pretty counter to the whole spirit of the rules. Sometimes you make what seems like it should be a really telling statement but it doesn’t hit home. Sometimes what seems like a weak point is incredibly telling. That’s how it goes.

Why would allowing a die roll be any less likely to give unexpected/unpleasant results? Wouldn’t you actually have more chance of varied and unexpected results by allowing the die roll?

Don’t forget that if you have a Point/Feint script, you don’t have to roll the dice to know that it’s a Point vs. a Feint.

1: Each side reveals an action
2: Both sides speak their pieces
3: Both sides roll to see how effective their arguments were in the grand scheme of things

So let’s say both sides know it’s Point vs. Feint, so that the Feint loses. I would suggest that they narrate that as the Feinter starting to make a point only to have it blown out of the water by an actual Point that cuts the crap. “I don’t have time for your games”, or something like that. But the point is, you don’t actually have to deform anything in the fiction. You give the fiction, knowing the setup and framing of the situation. You know it’s gonna be a Point vs. a Feint.

Then, based on what was spoken, you figure out what skills to roll for each action, and fork in what was apropos. The above post by noclue that references “Hey, you rolled Incite…” is a bit off the mark, since you don’t roll to know that you’re making an Incite. It’s an action, not a skill.

BTW, I would totally go with the justification that Point vs. Feint is the Point telling the Feinter to cut the crap and get back to the real issue.

Ooohh, I think I just answered my question regarding feint.

I was forgetting that choosing feint isn’t just completely useless that round. It’s just that it doesn’t gain you any attacking advantage. Which maybe makes sense if you think of it in the following way. Fidhean chooses feint for the volley vs. Brechteanz’s point. Brechteanz makes an argument for his side. If Fidhean tries to go off on some meandering path, he’s leaving the point totally unchallenged. The feint in this instance actually just turns into Fidhean protecting himself against the force of Brecht.'s logic.

Related question: what happens if the person has a hesitation action? I don’t see that mentioned in the DoW rules, but I haven’t finished reading the rulebook yet, so maybe it’s later. Does the person with the point just get a graduated test or something?

He’s probably also at a loss for words, since he was gearing up for this meandering argument. :smiley: So B hits him full-force with a Point.

B: <makes super-solid Point>
F: “Wait–I--but…children…dreams…something…”

Related question: what happens if the person has a hesitation action? I don’t see that mentioned in the DoW rules, but I haven’t finished reading the rulebook yet, so maybe it’s later. Does the person with the point just get a graduated test or something?

Yeup, it’s an independent test. Every success subtracts, and it’s not canceled by anything. There’s a reason why one of my players has started to place a lot of stock in the Incite-Dismiss combo: it’s nasty.

What I mean when I say “deform the fiction” is just that the game rules and systems inform the fiction, just like the fiction informs the system. You don’t have to have a game element in a social encounter at all, and many games do without it.

You could just roleplay the scene and have the characters react the way you think they ought to react. The priest can take the bait from the ratcatcher boy or not as you see fit. But BW does have a social mechanic (a couple of them, actually) and if you’re using it, you should expect it to frame and shape the fiction. Does the priest take the bait? It depends on what he scripted. If it was a point then no, he doesn’t. If it was a rebuttal then yes. The system decides, and you shape the fiction to fit what the system gives you rather than the other way around.

If one person is hesitating and the other is pointing, then the point is a standard test against Ob 0. All successes damage the opponent’s disposition.

It’s allowed to give an Advantage Die to a player who gave a great speech before a roll.

This is the way I prefer determine what skills to roll:
-Think about the action and what skills will support it.
-Say aloud what I was thinking.
-Determine what skills were used based on what I actually said.
-Roll the dice.

Sometimes, the 1st and 3rd items don’t line up, but that’s fine. I only include skills I actually used in what I said aloud.

I totally agree with this statement.

My point was just a response to the statement that you would no way to know what skill was used or what was forked if you had rolled first.

In our games, I’d say we generally speak first then roll. Every so often, there’ll be a roll and then the onus is on the player to follow through with an appropriate point, obfuscate, whatever. Its actually kind of fun to be forced to conform to the dice in those instances. I’m not suggesting its RAW, but the game still works fine.