I have found myself in the unexpected position of running a BW game. I will soon be introducing the mechanics to people new to the game, which is odd given my sometimes strained relationship with BW. So I’m turning to you, the experts.
From where I sit, skills for PCs seem to have two very different roles, which sometimes overlap.
1. Skills are attached to the character
“Skills” on the sheet reflect how facile a character is with a skill set. They are character descriptors expressed through game mechanics: literally a rating of 0-10 in a character’s particular expertise, and a skill score should reflect that role. In certain subsystems, this is the only relevant role a skill serves–like DoW, R&C, Fight, and similar subsystems.
2. Skills are a resource attached to the player
“Skills” on the sheet reflect to what degree a player has narrative control over scenes involving a character and that skill. Thus, a player can narrate a character picking a lock as a means to assassinate a man, even though lock picking isn’t traditionally thought of as such a grisly skill set. And in light of “failing forward,” a character with a very low “skill” on the sheet may regularly perform well in tasks related to the skill–there just may be unfortunate consequences because the player lacks narrative control.
In these situations, the skill score does not reflect a character’s expertise in the skill. The skill is a game mechanic for determining narrative control. Ostensibly, a skill score should reflect the player’s interest in narrative control over scenes involving the skill.
I’d add that regardless of these very different roles, the mechanics of skill advancement and shade change service each role well.
Is this a fair explanation of how skills “really” play, regardless of the line-and-verse of the rulebook? Or am I doin’ in wrong? This is significant because I want the new players to understand how the mechanics “really” work at the table. Mechanics weren’t well explained when I was introduced to BW, which turned me off from the game for about ten years. Some of that lingers. I’d like to avoid repeating the same with other new people.
Thank you for your thoughts.