What do you do when the Ob. is to low and/or the 'failure clause' is to faint?

So, I had both a Belief and an instinct riding on this. On a trek over the Mountains of the (known) world our father-figure, but inadequately prepared third member gets it in his head to wash his clothes (= a death sentence), we are on a quest to save the world (as we know it), but it’s vital to me to prove at we are three for all, so I take his cold clothes under my own (looking very much like a death sentence) and am prepared to run all night to dry his clothes, and I even enlist the aid of our final member, which basically means that we’re all dead and the world (as we know it) is lost.

But come test-time, we get a measly 3 Ob. I suggest that it’s a bit low and claim it to be more akin to a ‘Heoric Feat’ (Ob.6 I think.)

So, what happens if I fail? We’ll all get a measly +1=Ob. due to the cold.

The question I’m asking is a general one, but in this case I found that not only did my ‘sacrifice’ not get any notice (other than in the fiction), but I felt that the whole setting we’ve created wavered in it’s believable fiction (/“versimilitude”).

So what do you do, when the GM has too low Ob. and to feeble ‘failure clauses’? (I’ve read the Advernturer Burner on the issue, but that mainly adressed the GM.)

Answer in bold, above. Just gotta talk to the GM, voice your opinion. As a BW GM myself, I know from experience that it’s way too easy to lowball the OBs. I often have players telling me they think such-and-such a test should be more difficult, and that’s cool with me. The more the players are willing to help me run the game, the easier my job is, and the more fun I have!

I also think there’s a natural tendency to “go easy” on the players if the GM is a recent convert from more traditional styles of RPGs. In D&D, say, unless you run a module, that GM has to spend hours of work preparing each adventure. Nothing sucks worse than putting in all that effort, only to have the PCs all die before the adventure barely begins. So, it’s kinda instinctive to go easy at first, then raise up the difficulty bar when the adventure reaches a climax. Problem is, that GM-style doesn’t translate well to BW at all.

Talk to him!!!

Sometimes, the GM will go too easy on you. On occasion he fails to provide adequate challenge for our erstwhile heroes.

Other times, players work themselves up in a high dudgeon about a minor point that they invented, claiming it’s about their Beliefs. And when the GM either Says Yes or offers a low Ob test (that won’t net them advancements or require investments), they howl they’ve been wrong in the most terrible way.


Your case is clearly the former, but I note the second case because it came up in my game two weeks in a row.

I may be reading this completely wrong. But was this a test to dry clothes?

I honestly would have just said yes.
If the players look at me with crestfallen eyes or seem like they are about to protest. It’s a red flag for test mongering :3

Well, Ob 6 is what is needed to recover from a Mortal Wound. I’m not sure that surviving the terrible danger of wearing wet clothing is the same difficulty for survival as being gutted or run through by a weapon.

You couldn’t start a fire to dry the clothes? I mean…it seems like a bit of a disproportionate response.

I do know that sometimes, I’ve set an Ob that is anticlimactically low - but that’s the Ob the way I assessed it. I would advise players to suck up the “disappointment” and revel in their easy success - such things do not happen often! Remember that the primary reward for success is that you get your Intent - advancement and such are perks.

To inform:

The disease-phobic character needed to wash his clothes to function. We were up in “the Himalayas” (equivalent) and it was really freakin’ cold! The person with the wet clothes had no survival skills and they (I washed the clothes) botched the Fire-Building roll with the clause that we won’t get any fire at all. Having enjoyed and served in cold climates (and nearly frozen to death once, and been well on the way twice more) I’ve learned that “get wet = death sentence”. This was a windy part of the Himalayas.

Seriously, I’d prefer to be gutted by a knife rather than wear wet clothes in winter. Though surviving both would be a heroic feat! :wink:

As for advancement, I enlisted help from the last person (who really didn’t want to, but had a Belief about helping the one in the shit) and got an advantage die for my back-story, so even with a Ob 5 I wouldn’t have gotten anything but a Routine test for my stat. It was something I felt really bad about, both as a character (who really just had been talked into the by the others that we should treat eachother as family) and as someone who thinks role-players care to little about the Elements (and especially the Cold).

I do understand that the GM didn’t want the Campaign to end, but I offered to get frostbite (amputation?) or whatever. As it were the Ob. and failure-clause were so boring the roll really couldn’t fail and wouldn’t matter if it did.

I’m also aware that GMs has to grab what’s important to them, and be aware of “test-mongering”, but players are important in BW too. I’ve experienced what appeared to be grave miscalculations from the GMs before, but then they’ve proven to be the result of something behind the scenes. In this case, it could be that at least two Gods were invested in us, and if it were a secret a quick: “Yes, it’s low, you find the task easier than it should, but you don’t give it any more thought.” - would suffice.

Follow-up: We live in a world were suffering is a blessing from the only (really just main) God, and as I sacrificed myself to him later I instigated what could be the Belief in a kinder more caring god… The Brotherhood of us Guardians has grown to include a woman! We got lot’s of Cold-Ob.'s later, and the one without survival skills got the trait “Cold Bones” (+Ob. when in cold)

I can’t be sure (I wasn’t there) but that sounds like a weak failure result to me. I think I would have said ‘Yes’ to dry the clothes with fire.

I really don’t think people appreciate cold weather conditions. And I’ve experienced GMs taking it lightly as well, even though the Fellowship had to enter the cursed mines of Moria to avoid a snow storm in the mountains.

We had elms burning (no fire-building skill among us) and if we failed it would go out (thus we’d get no more fire for the rest of the trip). We’re talking about the Himalayas (4000+ metres above sea level), getting a fire started without modern equipment isn’t that easy not the least drying clothes is a great effort. I think this thread isn’t getting anywhere because of mis-matched expectations of the example. Maybe a rephrasing would do:

How do follow the advice of Dean to adress the GM, when one think the GM has to low Ob. and to weak failure clauses due to the GM not understanding the subject.


Player: “So my researcher will spend some weeks in the libraries of the city to try to find references to a Ritual to Call the Outer Gods, I know it’s forbidden knowledge, but I’m willing to circle someone up to gain access to the ‘restricted sections’.”
GM: “Ok, roll ‘research’ Ob.2. If you fail, you’ll be hungry (+1Ob. until you eat) due to skipping lunch.”

Clearly my this example reeks of a mis-match in understanding of how research and ‘library use’ works. Maybe my question is “how can one argue with GMs that Ob. are to low/weak”, but I realize that this is just something one need to work out. Trust the GM to make the calls; noone makes 100% correct calls all the time.

Thank you all for the attention/interest and the sharing of views. I see that GMs should be vary of players arguing strongly about Ob.

Best to stick with the real example. Easier to put into perspective, and stops things from getting silly.

Addressing the GM is as easy as doing just that. Say something like, “Don’t you think that Ob is too low”, or “the consequence of failure seems a little weak considering the circumstances.” Depending on the GM, you might even be able to hint that you’re fishing for a higher Ob test for advancement purposes. I allow my players to do that. It’s not really test fishing if their Intent is valid – they’re not fishing for the test, just for a different Ob. So, we discuss the circumstances a bit more, discuss the Task, and I set a consequence of failure appropriate to the Task and the Ob.

Also, it seems quite probable that the GM just thought dying of cold in the mountains was kinda lame and unheroic. If you really wanted to risk death, you could have said so. I’m sure the GM would have complied. Because really, if you wanted a realistic Ob and consequence of failure, it should have been sky-high with a consequence of “You Die”, or “You get hypothermia and frostbite. Take a Traumatic Wound.” How fun is that?

I see that the OP is tapping out and the discussion is pretty much finished, but I just wanted to toss in a concrete example of this. I was playing a very big and strong character whose Power had gotten up to 7 and I was imprisoned in a dungeon and manacled. Having the hot temper trait and having just been taunted by people I hate and having a revenge belief on the line, I decided to try to break out through savage, direct means. I told the GM, Dean, that I wanted to break the manacles with brute strength. First, though, I made an unskilled Manacles-wise test to declare that the manacles were made of hard-but-brittle black iron.

Dean gave me an Ob of 3, which I thought was definitely too low. An average man who worked patiently or whatever the code is for “give me an extra die” would have an excellent chance of breaking the manacles. I thought it should be impossible for an ordinary man and quite hard for me. I said so to Dean, and he considered, and raised the Ob to 5. This was nice because it was a Difficult test for me (and thus counted for advancement), but I thought it was a cool and appropriate scene and I deserved the Difficult test. I think the consequence was that I would attract the attention of the guards before I could free myself.

No fair, using an example from our game that came at the end of a 6-hour session! You know I’m always brain-dead by the end of the game. :wink:

But yes, this is also a great example of why a GM might set a too-low Ob. GMing requires a lot of juggling, and sometimes our brains get rattled enough that a surprise test request can leave us fishing in the dark for a suitable Ob. Some GMs juggle better than others (Ten never seems to get rattled, dunno how he does it). I love GMing, but I’ll be the first to admit that I often fumble with the mechanics of any game when I GM. Playing a PC is much easier because you’ve got only a single soul to worry about, not an entire host of NPCs and a party of unpredictable players.

And again, I can’t stress enough how appreciated it is when players voice their opinions at the table. A GM is like a party host in many ways, we are here to keep you entertained, but a host always needs some feedback in order to best cater to your needs. “Are you having a good time? Would you like some more dip?” But it goes much smoother when the guests speak up for themselves instead of just taking whatever’s given, donchya think? “Hey, great party, man! By the way, could we have a bit more of that awesome dip?”

We may be good guessers, but we are in no way mind readers.

Honestly Ob3 seems fine for that to me, since that’s the general guideline for professional-level results. Totally appropriate for declaring that a thing of (subject)-wise is made a certain way. Don’t forget that since it’s untrained you need double the successes. You’d need 6 for that test. At Ob5 you’d need 10 successes to pass.

People tend to cling too closely the intent of the test when it comes to these things instead of taking a cue from, say, Mouse Guard and having it open into a new situation. Example: Firebuilding failure in the mountains = “you can’t light a fire where you are, but you’re certain you can if you can find a cave…” Or, if you’re in a cave and fail, “you build a fire…” and then just smile evilly. The GM doesn’t have to spell out everything and ruin fun surprises as long as you know there’s something brewing. I’d then introduce an interesting element to the cave (evil symbols? dire warnings spelled out in blood?); have a large spider come out from a deep, hidden recess, pissed off that there’s light; or it’s the lair of a greyman or whatever else is appropriate to the story of the game.

For failure, first put intent in the crosshairs and try to hit a BIT. If nothing sparks from intent, look at story, trying to hit a BIT. When all else fails, complicate the situation or break gear.

This needs to be framed on every BW GM’s wall.

Can I quote this and put it on the GM screen I’m making?

Edit: I paraphrased this and put it on the GM screen I’m making. ^^ Pure gold, man.

This is what I cribbed together as a failure quick-reference, and there are good specific suggestions in the rest of the thread.


I like this too. The poor GM sheet is getting cramped though.

I think any GM could benefit through deep reflection on the Absolute Difficulty table on BWG p. 15, and the Practical Failure section on AdBu pp. 255-259. It’s something a GM might want to study regularly before game sessions until he has it memorized. I know I should… Perhaps the OP need only shove this information at his GM to rectify the situation.

Yes, of course you can use it or rephrase it or whatever you want! Glad it was a handy little phrase/quote.

Have you finished the screen, by chance? I’d like to see that.

Wrong thread for this discussion; Luke might come in here soon with his beat stick. But to answer your question: it’s an on-again, off-again project. Very close to completion, save for one page and some artwork. Looks like I’ll be doing the artwork myself though, as my artist friend fell through, so I gotta wait ‘till I’m in a drawin’ mood.