Wait... You Earn Tests on Failures?

So – as evidenced by my join date to post count ratio – I’ve had BW for a while, but I only recently had the opportunity to GM with it. I bought BW, then BWR, and now BWG and I’m finally able to use it because my players have an open mind. Cool. They love it and everything is going great. However…

I’m confused by the idea that you earn advancement tests when you fail them. I’d assumed that you had to succeed in order to “learn” anything until I reread the advancement section.

Doesn’t that mean a player with a Carpentry skill of B1 can state an intent like, “I’m building a fortress.” And then I give him an Ob 5 roll and he rolls and just earns himself a Challenging Test? Then, he can say, “Okay, now I’m building an Ark…” and so on?

What am I missing?

(and, yes, I realize those are ridiculous examples, but I think you get my point ;))

When I go rock climbing I regularly climb route too hard for me. I get part way up the wall then my arms give out and I have to come down. But the next time I get further up the wall.

I can also tell you from my experience as a fencer that the best way to learn fencing is to get your ass handed to you. Same goes for dancing, actually. I learn a whole lot when I dance with people better than me.

Also, check out the test mongering rules. Don’t have a page number, sorry.

You almost ALWAYS get something from a test. Failure becomes even more awesome, when you get a check for advancement.

Also…those intents are whack, I’d smack a player for being a quack.

What am I missing?

You only earn the Advancement if you actually try.

So, building a fortress? Better get yourself a Resources 8 Ob test worth of materials, and the time to build it (“2-3 years if you have teams working with you. If you try to do it alone, you can’t, anymore than you can do silversmithing without silver and tools.”)

That said, it comes back to Intent & Stakes - there has to be consequences to failure- the player who tries the impossible and is willing to pay the price? They get Advancement. If there’s no Stakes, there’s no roll, and there’s no advancement.

What this means in actual play, is that players will usually try one of three things to get those Challenging tests:

  1. Do it while injured or with penalties.
  2. Do it with extra bells & whistles to bring up the Obstacle
  3. Help someone else with higher skill work on an Obstacle you normally couldn’t do (Helping earns you a test as if you tested against it!)

That said, really advanced skills start making things progressively harder to get Obs that count as challenging, which can lead players on fun quests to dare the amazing.


bwg page 44. under soliciting tests heading.

also it can happen in any system. i remember that old dragon magazine cartoon where there is a panic because 20th level fighter who needs only 4xps for next level is passing through town :smiley:

i suppose players always look for more ways to earn some advancements.

You learn more from failures - but I get your point. This is how I interpret the rules. Having said this there should be some consequence to failure, e.g. you got yourself that great commission to build the ark and now you have not delivered…

I get what you’re all saying (and thanks for the page number, kimball). I just know my players are going to be itching for those Challenging tests, even if they fail them…

…What am I saying? That will probably get them into all kinds of trouble…

At low skill exponents, there are challenging tests around every corner. Your players will soon learn it’s the Routines that are precious. Because those need to be significant, in game situations with real intents & real consequences too. Better get help! Cause if not, just say yes…

“I build a birdhouse.”

“Yup, you do, the roof’s a little crooked, but the bird won’t care. It takes you most of the morning. Log it toward practice.”

Also, when you have a low exponent skill, you tend to get lots of Difficult and Challenging tests. It’s the Routine tests that are hard to come by.

All tests must be game significant and all tests should have consequences of failure. If it meets those conditions then the players absolutely deserve a test for advancement if they fail. It’s a powerful incentive to play the game and attempt things that are hard even if they don’t think they’ll succeed.

A million times yes to what rafial and Thor said about how hard it is to get Routines with low Exponent skills.

Just remember that you do need to succeed in order to advance Resources, Faith, and Perception.

Also, note that Persona or Deeds Artha spent to increase the number of dice you roll do not count towards factoring whether the test is R, D, or C.


Your players should angle for those Challenging tests. Or Routines. Or whatever they need. BW is set up to encourage the players to metagame. Turns out they’ll find their characters in interesting situations that way–taking on impossible odds (and suffering when they fail–don’t forget to make it count!) or struggling for Help or situational advantages or FoRKing in all sorts of interesting things that make the game more interesting.

Your character learns from their mistakes, just like you.

Sure. How long do you think building a fortess could take? Years maybe? Are you willing to sacrifice your life, your clients, even your family, for that task? Are you willing to be the mad man who spent the last ten years of his life building this useless fortress in the hills behind his house, the hermit of the long beard? Great! Make a roll.

And… maybe Ob 5 is too low. :slight_smile:

Pass the test, and you build the fortress; sure it takes you ten years and puts you into massive debt, but by gods, you have a fortress. Fail, and you still spend all the time and money to build the fortress, only it wasn’t properly constructed, and will collapse at a critical moment of the GM’s choosing, injuring or even killing everyone inside.

And I agrees that Ob 5 seems a bit low.

Cool. Thanks, guys! That makes much more sense now.

You’re not making failure “interesting” enough if he’s able to justify both. Trying to build a fortress with skill 1 is likely to mean a serious wound on a failure. Or tapping out his resources. Or being stopped by the guild taking it apart and then making dire threats if he continues. Or some other nastiness. And tell him the costs of failure BEFORE he rolls. Let him change his mind.

Players rolls to build fortress. Player fails. The character actually builds a decent fortress! An evil wizard and his orcish band show up and take the fortress. “Thanks, sucker!”

Instant plot!

I’d hate to let someone with that level of incompetence even succeed on the task, not the intent, if the Ob is that high. On the other hand, having the local Black Legion stop in and congratulate the would-be builder on his mastery as a Bastions of Hatred Architect for assembling such a misbegotten, ill-favored, ominous pile of unlikely stones teetering precariously on each other.

You roll to build a fortress and succeed. Great! Nice fortress and all. You fail. The fortress seems solid, but when the king passes through town and takes shelter, it collapses killing him and creating a succession crisis. Who knows the ramifications of our actions?

By the way, and this isn’t clear in BWR (I’m still waiting for Gold to arrive), but can a player ask for something, and the Obstacle will mean an immediate failure? Let’s say Carpentry B2 and it’s an Ob5 to build something and player is short on Artha and no one helps. Is this a valid action or there should be, at least, a slim chance of success (even if he fails the roll) to log the action for advancement?

I’m not %100 confident in my answer, but I don’t think that odds of success factor into determining if it’s a valid test. As long as attempting to build the thing is an interesting and appropriate thing for the character to do, then he should get the test for it.

So, if the player just wants to build something really hard to get a test, NO.
If they want to build a palisade to bolster the militia’s defenses against the orc attack, and then has to deal with the consequences of his poorly constructed defenses during the battle, sure. They EARNED that test.

Sure, testing when there’s zero chance for success is valid. However, there’s a difference between trying something impossible because it fits the story or pursues a Belief and simple test-mongering. A player asking to roll when there’s no chance of success is also a pretty good indicator that your failure consequences lack teeth.