The Scene Economy

I feel like I’m still fuzzy enough about the scene economy that either a) I’m having a massive conceptual problem with the whole thing or b) the rules and examples, as written, don’t work.

Point the first: Building rolls. Currently you get three of them, maximum, in a maneuver. They need not all be used in a single scene. The building roll function is to give mechanical weight to a bit of narrative, a way to set an Ob against someone else’s desire to do something.

Point the second: Built, but not rolled. Apparently BWHQ has an unwritten understanding that if you introduce something during a building scene, it’s considered “built” even if you didn’t roll to create it. This serves to speed up play, a commendable goal. However, in-book examples don’t clarify the difference between unrolled things that are “built” and unrolled things that are color.

Point the third: Color trumps color. Under one interpretation, if you haven’t rolled to give something mechanical weight it’s color. Under another, some things can be unrolled but “harder” than mere color. Mechanically a differentiation between them is needed, otherwise there’s no way to know when color can trump color.

My suggestions, based on my understanding of how BWHQ actually uses the system:

  1. Rather than a “building scene,” you get three “building opportunties.” Up to three builds can appear in the same scene, or can be banked for later (other people’s scenes, as a hardening defense against color challenges).

  2. A “building opportunity” may involve a roll or it may involve the GM saying yes. It can also be cashed in to create a Conflict scene.

  3. If the GM says yes, and you’re using a building opportunity to do so, it uses up one of your three opportunities. It’s on you to keep track of stuff that’s harder than color but not yet rolled.

  4. Anything created in one of your three building opportunities is “hard” and color-proofed. Challenging it requires a player use a building opportunity, which tactically may mean keeping a building roll in reserve during the Maneuver.

  5. Anything created in-game is considered color, unless it was explicitly created in a building opportunity. There is no upper limit to how much color you can introduce in a color scene.

  6. Since you can use building rolls at almost any time, simply eliminate the difference between color, interstitial, and building scenes. I’m not sure if it breaks anything if you simply get 3x scenes per maneuver, within which you have 3x building opportunities.

My second proposal is very close to the first, but completely eliminates the “harder than color” bit of extra book keeping required to keep different kinds of color straight. Under this regime, it’s absolutely color 'til you roll for it, and other color can make it go away…unless the defender has a building roll left in this maneuver (no banking from prior maneuvers), at which point he can harden the creation in question. I personally prefer this, and it’s how we’ve been playing, as it’s less to keep track of. I also think it’s the closest to how the rules actually read right now.

(Proposal #2 renders the Fortress and Ship Sensors examples invalid as written (you’d need to clarify there are building rolls left in the kitty to use, and then show them being used), but maintains the Pistol example’s validity.)

Those are my initial thoughts on the subject. I’d like to hear counterarguments!

I totally get that this tightening may not be in the spirit of how the game is played at BWHQ or among the old-timers. It’s something I feel must be clarified, at least in my own group.


Where do you see the "Built, but not rolled" option? Your issues seem to revolve around that, and I’m not sure where getting that from.

It’s from this thread, in which we explore an example from the book that apparently uses an inobvious interpretation of the “say yes or roll” rule. It’s a quick read.


Well, the first thing I can see here is that a Fortifications test is not the same thing as Technology. Dro stated he wanted to make a Fortifications test during his building scene (as described in the skill description). The GM said sure, but don’t roll for it now. When it mattered, the dice were thrown. Technology - color or hard - never entered into it.

But asking for the dice at that point breaks the scene economy.


No, not really. You’re presuming Dro spent all the rest of his building rolls, which is not in the example at all. His roll, if it had happened in his building scene, would have set the obstacle for Mayuran’s test in his own building scene. All that happened here is changing when the actual dice were picked up and thrown down.

Paul, I’m lost.

Your post clearly states that you understand the scene economy and are playing by the rules.

it’s absolutely color 'til you roll for it, and other color can make it go away…unless the defender has a building roll left in this maneuver (no banking from prior maneuvers), at which point he can harden the creation in question.

It’s in the book that you can break up building scenes and use your rolls as needed throughout the maneuver. Don’t have the book in front of me for a page reference.

You’ve also said numerous times that none of this has actually come up in play. What’s the big deal?


Yeah, I get that it works if you assume Dro has dice left and the maneuver isn’t over yet, and I’m willing to chalk it up to simply bad example-writing. However, there’s still the extremely (in my mind!) blurry distinction between stuff described as color and stuff described as “built” but not rolled for. This is particularly fuzzy since you don’t have to use your building rolls only during your building scene. The very fact a “building scene” even exists is misleading to my mind.


Paul, there is no “built but not rolled for.” Just forget it. Ignore it. Move on.


I’m bringing it up because it’s an incredibly easy loophole to exploit. Off the top of my head:

Player: Here I am in my fortress, with my fleet of armored cars watched over by genetically engineered hot chicks armed with destructo-blasters.

Player, later scene: Ooh, I need to send in my hotties with guns. I’ll circle 'em up (1 roll) and arm them (resources test).

GM: While the ladies are out on their killing spree, I launch an assault on your fortress. Have at you!

Player: Wait! Shit! I need to burn my fortress.

GM: I thought that was color…

Player: Nope, I want to burn it now. And I have a roll left.

GM: Fine, fine. waits for whatever roll you’d make to “make” a fortress Done? Great. After we’ve assaulted the fortress, I burn your armored cars to the ground.

Player: Wait! Those are hard, too.

GM: The hell you say. That’s four things!

Player: I described them, I want to protect them against you getting rid of them. (At this point I “get” the cars haven’t had any mechanical impact on the game, and the player can simply color in a new fleet later.) I need them because I need to chase after your guys after they escape the ruins of my fortress.

Now…is “Player” SOL? Groovy if he is. Or does “Player” indeed get to make a resources test to keep around a car and begin the chase (thereby giving him 4+ tests this turn and breaking the scene economy)? What if we never described “Player’s” scene as a building scene? Is it on “Player” to call out whether he’s using a color or building scene? Did the GM “say yes” to a build scene thing or to a piece of color that I assumed I could toss away with my own color later?

Finally…no, this scenario hasn’t come up in play. But I hate – really, really hate – being unclear on rules interpretations and having to retcon stuff back into or out of the game. If I at least have a handle on the correct intent, I can make a sound judgement in-game that will be minimally disruptive during play.

Thanks, again, for everyone’s patience!


In the example (btw where is this example from? I didn’t see a page reference int he other thread), Dro would have rolled a test if the GM hadn’t stopped him. Your example is a player trying to weasel extra rolls for stuff he didn’t do.

You’re also still trying to extrapolate the rules for technology and circles over to other tasks in the game.

I guess I don’t see the difference between a circles test, a tech burner test, a resource test, and any other test. I assume you can “say yes” to any of those tests as well? Or no? That’s the only time I could see an easy-to-explain difference between circles/resources and other tests.

Weaseling: Yes, absolutely. But if it’s within the rules I can’t really ask a player not to do that.

The Fortress example: p. 297.



It’s not a loophole. Based on your reading of the rules, what does your gut tell you?

I’ll help with a rules recap:

Don’t be a dick.

The game is all about the player characters.

The GM’s job is to challenge the players (and their characters).

Players get one building scene comprised of three separate rolls in the maneuver.

Players may introduce color description once per maneuver, but color description can never count for a die mechanical benefit (excepting that it sets up a technology roll).

So, based on your situation, and the rules with which you are clearly familiar, what call would you make?

(Also, let’s ignore the fact that your example is technically inaccurate since the hotties could not be out on an assault in same maneuver they were built. Technically, they’d be there to defend the “color” fortress.)


Yeah, okay, don’t be a dick to your players. Got it. :rolleyes: I’m also thinking about a) having it turned back on me and b) the thought that the GM ought to have a shot at winning as well.

How I’d rule it, probably, is that the fourth thing (the cars) would be one thing too many. I’m thinking three “things”, rolled or not, is the budget. And then I’d have to feel out the repercussions of that in my group.

Nice catch on the timing with the hotties as well. Thank you!


I donno about limiting characters to three things. Hear me out.

First of all, one of the main reasons for rolling the dice is to gain tests. If you don’t roll the dice, your character doesn’t improve, and you get penalized on the manouver. It seems to me a GM could say yes all the time, and then cream the players on the manouver roll.

Second, I feel that ALL colour is a case of Say Yes Or Roll. It explicitly states that all colour in the game is subject to vetoing if most of the players don’t think it fits. There’s group consensus here. That means any colour that gets created is real. It doesn’t give any dice benifits, but as far as the story goes, it’s perfectly real. That means, if the GM says “my people use explosives to blow up the colour fortification”, there are two ways this can be turned from a statement of colour into dice rolling. First is if the players protest. If they don’t, all well and good… they said yes. But if they object strenuously, the game falls back on mechanics to determine what happened. The second situation is if the GM wants to use blowing up the fortifications as a link test towards a propaganda roll about increases in acts of terrorism. Since the action has a dice benifit, the action should be rolled even if it is being taken against a ‘colour’ object.

Am I wildly off-base here, Luke?

Just wanted to jump in really quick. Mike – I liked what you said about the group consensus. It’s giving me pause for thought and I’m very curious to hear what the boss sez about it. (It still seems to me that handing out free tests that basically give mechanical weight to color, for nothing, breaks the scene economy.) Also, really good point about the maneuver roll, although it’s not so hard to get one of the other players to slip in a relevant scene.

And re my lousy example, I of course broke a big rule: I can only introduce one piece of color tech per color scene. I introduced a fortress, guns, and armored cars all at the same time. I think the best thing my example served was to show how hard it is to write a good example!