Twists (just say yes, good ideas) vs The Grind

It is said that deep down people are either fans of the Beatles or of Elvis. Sure, they might have both on their playlists but ultimately, a person will pick one over the other.

I feel like twists versus the grind is similar. For me, I love twists. I love looking over beliefs and goals and seeing what I can do to make players have to choose. Of course, any adventure we play turns into 3 planned rooms and 4 hours of character exploration. The grind is just there to ratchet up the pressure on the players when they have to make those choices. Of course, I’m also very lazy and I can use beliefs and twists to write the adventure for me.

I’ve played the other side too and enjoy it. Those nights the players are more secondary to the main story of the adventure and in those situations, I think the grind makes the game feel more “rogue-like” and plays more like a board game.

So, what’s it like for other groups? Do you find yourselves neglecting the grind just because you as GM want to see how Hunk the Racist Warrior will interact with his sworn enemy or are you more disciplined and prepared then me and focus more on the grind with staying on script?

I am confused.

Twists AND the Grind.

Are you implying that Twists do not also advance the Grind? Or are you simply stating your preference for Twists over Conditional Success (which grants a condition and therefore interacts with the grind).

From where I stand, there’s no “vs.” about it. In some sense, twists do more to advance the Grind than do conditional successes.

I love the grind. To me it is the core of the game. All twists must serve the grind, or the threat of it.

I feel that if the Grind were removed then the Twists would become toothless. With all the time in the world, even the seediest adventurers can have their cakes and eat them.

The Grind heightens tension, and makes the decision to continue or fall back worthwhile. Without it, every Twist can and will be explored to fullness. With it, going down into the dark is not always the best option.

Isn’t the purpose of a twist to introduce a complication, meaning Test? That should advance the Grind.

Sort of? I’ll also often use it to remove or destroy equipment, or to make the characters lost. Which, I guess, is a form of test extension. But the rules explicitly allow a kind of “delayed fuse” twist which doesn’t result in another test immediately.

I believe this stands in contrast to Mouse Guard, where the GM is somewhat expected to have two major twists in reserve at the outset of the GM Turn.

At any rate, I’m not being facetious-- I actually don’t understand the premise of the original post in this thread and I’m seeking clarification. Re-reading, it seems like Hardcorer is advocating ignoring the Grind selectively in order to focus on a more Burning Wheel approach, targeting beliefs and focusing on those roles. That’s as legitimate a style as any, but it also removes one of Torchbearer’s greatest innovations.

To my mind, what Torchbearer does beautifully is wrap all of the logistical elements of the original expeditionary play-style in D&D into a much more manageable package. To ignore this is essentially recapitulating the progression of D&D players’ jettisoning logistics in favor of set piece RP – moving out of the dungeon, and into more dynamic situations unencumbered by rations and light.

There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. There’s a good reason that nearly all D&D players eventually made this change 30 years ago. The game itself changed to support this. But it must be said that Torchbearer is the one game I know of that handles this stuff really, really well. It turns the logistics into fodder for roleplaying without a ton of paperwork. If for no other reason than that, I choose to leave the Grind rules in the “on” position.

EDIT: Reason #2 I track the Grind is that recording it gives me an incredibly comprehensive campaign record, which is just cool to have.

I realize that I wasn’t very clear in my original post so let me try again to explain.

Another GM I know and greatly enjoy playing with really likes to have his adventures planned out and he is very comfortable with running pre-made adventures.
My games are the complete opposite. We end up off the rails within 10 minutes of sitting down.

I greatly enjoy playing both types of games but I noticed a pattern with how the two of us run things when it comes to failed tests. He tends to favor conditions with an occasional twist to spice things up. When I run things, I usually go the other route. I tend to throw out twists with some conditions in there to keep things spicy or to place more pressure on the players if they are handling the grind too well.

I should not have used the word grind. We both love the grind for the pressure it puts on things. I’ve started using a timer that advances the grind every 10 minutes if the players haven’t had a check within that time. I also know that my style favors BW instead of TB, but the change of rules is really refreshing and is keeping my players interested.

Instead I was just wondering if others noticed that they too favor one or the other when it comes to failed tests.

Cool, thanks for clarifying!

I see what you’re talking about now. I think my groups (self included) tend to over-rely on conditional success, because it can be hard to dream up twists on the fly.

Over the course of much gameplay, I’ve started to view it as very situational – it depends on what point in the session we are, whether we have a chance to finish an adventure or we’ll be ending on Camp or Town phase. In general, I’ve found it best to twist early in the session, and conditional success later, since it keeps things on track (and makes boss fights feel more epic).

But mostly I’m just grateful to have the option! It’s a wonderful bit of control for the GM to be able to push forward on a failed roll like that.

As to your 10 minute timer, I think I would be very uncomfortable with that (on either side of the GM screen) – we embrace the Good Idea rule in our group, and I feel like forcing the Grind is somewhat counter to that. I like rewarding my players for interacting with the imagined space as much as possible. How does your practice interact with that?

Well, I haven’t used it for quite a while now. When we started, we have some players that are obsessed with choosing the “Best” action for the encounter and could easily spend 45 minutes arguing on how they want to open the door to the inn. So I started the timer thing. Now when there is a decision to make, they will discuss it but if there is any debate, they don’t freeze with analysis paralysis. If they start to, I might pull the old timer back out as a reminder…

Are you using the Leader role (The Leader​, page 58 ). The Leader’s job is to listen to everyone’s suggestions and then make a decision about what to do next. It usually helps to cut through the analysis paralysis.

We did a few times but never really stuck with it. I think that is what I find so amazing about all the BW systems. As elegant as the rules are, the systems are still very adaptable and robust enough to really fit every gaming group. If I ever ran something with a group that was very solid on the rules, my games would be very different I think. As it is, I have players in the group that struggled with Advantage in D&D for over a year. Still, even with the streamed lined system, the grind, twists, and everything else, as complicated as it is to explain to new players, within 15 minutes it seems so natural.

Well, when you think about it, representing chance as two uniform distribution probability curves of which one is discarded-- that is pretty abstract stuff. Not a bad rule, but neither inspired by nor grounded in reality.

Making characters get hungry after a while is downright relatable by comparison.