Test Difficulty for Advancement

Proposal: When you log a test, you can optionally record it at its actual difficulty, or, if that category is full, as or any lower difficulty.

Goal: Reduce the advancement whiff factor when players have filled up their Challenging and/or Difficult requirements.

Example: You need 2R and 1C to advance. You get a challenging test, which you record. Thereafter (maybe because your exponent is low) you keep getting Difficults and Challenging tests, which are worthless and you ignore, which is frustrating (especially if they were awesome moments you blew Artha on). So, you downgrade them to Routines and record them.

There’s still absolutely no up-converting of tests - combining four Routines to make a Difficult or whatever. You must do hard things to advance.

Consequences (or so I predict):

  1. Whiff will be reduced - yay! Disregarding routines will still happen, but it feels much more palatable to disregard a test that’s too lame than one that’s too awesome. This is a definite plus, since the disappointment whenever this happens is palpable, for both my players and for me when I’m a player. (Yay, I passed! … Aww.)

  2. Advancement will be slightly faster, particularly for low-exponent skills where Routines are hard to get: now any test will count. Exponent 5+ might also be affected quite a bit, since the Difficult test ranges are so narrow. (Thanks to Peregrine for pointing that out.)

  3. Downtime will be slightly less precious - you won’t have players desperate for practice time or instruction to get that hard-to-obtain Difficult quite as often. (I’m not sure how much less often.) This seems like a downside, since downtime is good.

  4. Characters won’t need to scrounge for Help or FoRKs to game advancement (though they will still need to forego Help and FoRKs to get harder tests). This strikes me as a plus; Help and FoRKs that come in for these reasons are usually after the fact and less … natural.

One thing I remember us discussing is it feels slightly out of character for the game to scrounge for downtime to get new tests for which nothing is risked, when there are no mechanics specifically for generating downtime. I remember us discussing the possibility that Instruction and Practice, rather than generating new tests from scratch, which seems a bit artificial, could be used to convert existing surplus tests into another difficulty category. If you need 1C and 2R, but you have 3C, you can practice to convert two of the Cs into Rs. You still need to get all the tests from doing things in play, but you can round out your experiences through practice.

I might not be following, but if downtime is hard to obtain (such that you need to test for it, or give up something, such as some narrative concession like allowing the NPC free reign for a while), then I see the resulting practice/instruction as a reward.

Our situation in Burning Airships isn’t quite like that - the travel time is a given, so the downtime rewards are freebies. I suppose, BE-style, we could be forced to make some sort of test to deal with on-ship politics to earn the downtime. For example, we might be making Oratory, Command or Observation tests to forestall morale problems from the shit we’ve been through, and we earn practice time via margin of success.

Woah, I think this is a really neat way to handle travel in general. Extra successes on things like Orienteering and Firebuilding either get you there faster, earn practice time.

Oh, I get what you’re saying - an alternate reading of practice would be to convert tests, rather than as a means of obtaining them. That’s interesting. That way, you still need to fight for downtime, and at the same time you mitigate whiff, since an extra Challenging test isn’t wasted.

Wait, I don’t like practice ONLY being used for test conversion, since that doesn’t let you open new skills with practice.

Yeah. It feels weird that you can declare you’re taking a month, and then get a Power test. In BE, it makes sense - downtime is earned. And I could see ways in which downtime could be earned in BW, but none of them are codified. It’s always felt a bit odd to me.

Extra successes being applied to practice/instruction time or travel speed is a really good idea.

And maybe practice can only generate routine tests and convert others. I don’t know. Spitballin’ here =)

I think part of the problem, in reference to the specific game in question, is that we have not determined a Resources Cycle. Theoretically, your characters should only have free time when you are not working, and you should be practicing whatever your job is the rest of the time. That said, a sea (or UnDeeps) voyage seems like an excellent occasion for spending time learning new things (think Darwin on the Beagle).

Burning Airship’s Resource Cycle is a year. Technically you’d be making another one when you hit the capital.

In the particular case of our game, I’m less concerned because given the starting powerhouse status of the characters and the fact that barring disaster they aren’t going to die; rounding a few things out with large stretches of time available doesn’t seem that problematic to me.

However, in other games I think I would be a bit more meticulous about the time. After all, with human characters life is short. There is never enough time, and pressing the issues of immediate needs distracting from longer term goals makes sense. Yes of course you’d like to retreat and study ancient secrets, but you were kicked out of your order and must make a living teaching spoiled noble brats.

In terms of travel and other stretches where the game is actively happening but you should have some chunks of time that can go to practice—that’s definitely where you can work in mechanical ways of earning practice time. Traveling through the woods? Failure means you spend the whole time desperate to survive and arrive tired and worse for the wear. Extra successes don’t get you there faster, instead they get you there with more leisure time on the trip.

I think the scale of those sorts of time rewards relative to the established time a trip takes is probably the sort of thing that should be worked out when you decide on the Resource Cycle as it is going to have similar impact on overall pacing.