Turns and Tests

This is from page 60 of the rulebook: “A turn contains a test or a conflict – along with plenty of discussion exploration and roleplay.”

My first interpretation was that this means that each turn contains exactly one test. However, I am rethinking turns as more of “scenes,” as the “one test, one turn” interpretation sometimes seems unrealistic, especially in the context of the Grind.

For example, my characters recently encountered a sleeping youth in a cavern. They snuck up on him (a Scout test), tackled and held him (a Fighter test), interrogated him over the course of a few short questions (a Manipulator test), and tied and gagged him (I forget what I test I asked for that…). This all seems like one encounter or interaction to me, and I think it belongs in one turn as opposed to four.

How do other folk interpret the relationship between tests and turns?

A single test is enough to overcome a problem of some sort, unless the problem is big enough to warrant a conflict. And has two sides, obviously–no such thing as a one-sided conflict. I think you’re asking for too many tests in your example. I would go with Fighter, myself, to have him at their mercy (and available for answering questions). If you really don’t think he’d open up, they can have a Convince conflict.

Mmmmmh, agree with CarpeGuitarrem. If they were some sleeping kids you could have just made them test Scout and then maybe Persuader/Manipulator, consuming only one, maybe two, turns.

If they were up for a greater challenge, a Scout test to sneak up and capture them, if they failed the Scout, twist into a Capture conflict. And then a Persuader/Manipulator test to interrogate. Two to three turns.

Stay cool :cool:

(1) In the context of the example, I think (a) that two or three turns is still too much for the scenario, and (b) a single test is not enough for the complex action my players wanted to make (I get that the skills are abstractions, but that’s long stretch in my opinion). Can you argue why a single test is enough here? Can you argue why Fighter is more appropriate than Scout or something else?

(2) In the spirit of the original post, is the intent of a turn to be exactly one test or conflict or one collection of tests related to a single encounter?

One turn per test or conflict.

Remember that you can always rule character’s actions as Good Ideas. Any experienced Torchbearer player can say that rolling dice is a bad idea :stuck_out_tongue:

Stay cool :cool:

What’s the purpose of sneaking up if they are just going to man handle him, either scout (to apprehend him quietly) or health or fighter test to run in and grab him, or if you want something more precise, a flee conflict.

Scout and then fighter seems like double jeopardy, if the scout fails…does he get away? Then what? Fighter to catch him? So scout success or failure seems–in your scenario, to require a fighting test…so there doesn’t seem to be any benefit to the players making the sneak test. What was the purpose of the fighter test if not to secure him, what was the purpose of the scout if not to apprehend him unawares? Why a separate roll to tie him up? Either you capture him or you don’t, I mean you could make a 2nd fighter test to see if you can hold him while you tie him up and then a test to tie him up or a lore test to remember how to tie a knot…too much!

A good idea is always possible of course.

Most of all, remember the dictum: describe to live:

“We creep in quietly and grab him while he sleeps and tie him up”. Scout test. Characters don’t need to test to tie a rope.

“We rush in and attempt to apprehend and tie him up” health or fighter or flee conflict.

The game is very clear on the one turn per test/conflict mechanic. If you were going to question that, your example isn’t even the most obvious one to pick from, what about traps? If they Scout for a trap, fail, and then make a Health test to avoid injury that’s 2 tests and therefore 2 turns even though the Health test is just an instantaneous reaction to the Scout test and adds maybe a few seconds at most to the narrative.

If you need to justify this for yourself then the first thing you need to understand is that a turn is not meant to be a consistent period of time. Instead think of a turn as one unit of stress. If the players are being careful, coming up with a lot of good ideas, and taking things slow, then it might be 4 hours before they get thirsty from their labors. If they are constantly on their toes dodging traps, getting into fights, and having intense and heated debates with npcs, then they might be feeling the burn after only a few minutes! That’s what a turn is, not a unit of time, but a unit of effort. That’s why the Grind is always 4 turns and why a turn is always a single test/conflict. If you are asking them to roll, it means they are experiencing a moment of conflict, stress, or exertion that will quickly start to wear them down.

I think the moral of the story is the Good Idea rule. Thanks for reminding me of this!

Or just do a Capture conflict.

I thought I remembered reading/hearing somewhere that a forced Health test like this doesn’t count as a turn?

Right. I think what I was missing was, as Jovialbard pointed out, a turn is a “unit of stress.” I am (and always have been) fine with a turn not being a unit of time. My mistake was interpreting a turn as a sort of “unit of tests.” The “stressing incident” should either involve a single test (with perhaps a collection of other actions that are not tested, some of which might fall under the Good Idea rule) or a collection of tests rolled into a single conflict. Is that about right?

See GM Imposed Tests and Turns on page 60. If the GM says, “You all have to make a Health test, Ob 3,” it only counts as one turn, even though four or five players may end up rolling the dice.

Ahhhhhhhhhh that’s right. I may have been thinking of traps with a wide effect.

Sounds about right. Another thing to keep in mind is that TB’s primary focus (for me) is on describe to live. The purpose of the mechanics are to provide incentives, pressures, and consequences that inform and improve the describe to live experience. As such the mechanics aren’t entirely meant to be part of the story, but rather are like a black box that give you an answer, bit of flavor, or constraint that will help make the narrative more engaging. Basically, the mechanics can sometimes be gamey or abstract, but that’s okay because if you play them out as written then they should inform a more robust describe to live narrative experience, which is really what the game is about.

I think I’ve been applying a Burning Wheel Gold perspective here, and it’s probably not be appropriate to these rules: If the players want to do something, the GM can Say Yes, call for a test, or let a previous test result roll. Here, “describe to live” sounds like a good guiding star. Thanks!

Oh, yes. The frequency with which you roll dice in Torchbearer is much lower. Burning Wheel is a “roll dice left and right” sort of game, with players willing to push the buttons. Torchbearer is “not the dice, not the dice, anything but the dice!” (Well, I exaggerate, but still.)

A good touchstone is Mouse Guard, which is very explicit in its low test count.