Why must we beat an Ob and not match it to gain an Advantage Die?

I think I’ve brought this up before, but I still don’t get the philosophy behind this rule exception that states, in some cases, you must beat an Ob rather than match it in order to achieve your intent.

Makes sense:
When crafting a boat, my Ob is 3. I get three successes and build a boat.
When striking my opponent, my Ob is 2. I get two successes and hit my opponent.
When orienteering to an unknown land, my Ob is 4. I get one success and I find myself captured by cannibal pygmies.

Doesn’t make sense:
When casting a spell, my Ob is 4. I get 4 successes and nothing happens.
When centering using Meditation, my Ob is 3. I get 3 successes and nothing happens.

What bothers me so much is that this is the one time in BW when throwing the dice leads to a result that doesn’t matter. Matching the Ob doesn’t result in success or failure and the story isn’t moved forward. So why am I throwing dice?

This is patently untrue. See Basic Casting on page 502-503: “For all spells, meeting the obstacle means the spell is completed successfully. For ^ spells, successes over and above the obstacle may be used to further the spell’s effect, area of effect or duration.”

When centering using Meditation, my Ob is 3. I get 3 successes and nothing happens.

Centering is a linked test (which it says explicitly in the skill entry on page 283) and follows all the rules of linked tests. See Failure Behind, Success Ahead on page 27. In effect, the Meditation test is successful, but it does not grant a bonus to the linked task. Nor does it impose an obstacle penalty as it would if the Meditation test were failed.

Because a linked test must have an intent and task all on its own. The intent/task of “I want an advantage die” is unacceptable. You can’t roll the dice for that. If you simply want a bonus die, roleplay and lobby for advantage. If you want to accomplish something in the game that gives an advantage to another action, use a linked test.

That doesn’t bother me. I like it. What bothers me is that you need to meet an Ob in a standard test, but you need to beat an Ob in a versus test. “Defenders win” is an easy-enough rule to remember, but there’s just a part of me that wants the rule to be “must always beat the Ob”.

This has been bugging me for a little while. I definitely get that Linked Tests should have their own stakes and create their own game fiction. Awesome. I approve.

But there are a few skills - Meditation is a good example - whose only purpose seems to be to generate Linked Tests.

I mean, sure, there’s technically an Intent when you use Meditation: “I want to center myself.” The problem is that there’s nothing at stake outside of the parameters of a Linked Test. What possible consequences of failure are there? The only thing that really makes sense in this case is the +1 Ob from a failed attempt at a Linked Test.

And let’s be honest, “I want to center myself” is really just “I want a bonus die.”

For examples of meditation tests that mattered, watch Avatar the Last Airbender. It’s not ONLY for linked tests.

However, I agree that “I want to center myself” really does seem to be a linked test without anything at stake aside from the bonus or penalty. And I think maybe that’s okay - sometimes you’ll come up with a more serious consequence for failure, like “you failed your meditation because there was a landslide and now you must fight while distracted by worry over what’s happening to your mother further down the hillside who surely must have been caught in its path.” - but having that happen all the time is silly.

Well, I think it’s interesting that Meditation is a cheating skill developed by Kublai way back in the day. All makes sense now.

Also, Meditation is meant to be kinda magical and special.

Saying that meditation doesn’t have any stakes seems like a cop-out. It’s up to the GM and the players to determine what the stakes are prior to the skill being rolled. The way I’ve always perceived linked tests is as a way to allow access to situations that wouldn’t have been available before. If you’re trying to sneak out to a tiny island to bury treasure, you are NOT rolling stealthy, then navigation, then ditch-digging just to get advantages on each successive roll. You’re rolling them to be able to perform the next task at all. A navigation check that gets the exact right number of successes neither helps nor hinders with the ditch-digging; but you wold not have been able to dig the ditch at all if you hadn’t rolled navigation! The success is still meaningful, but it doesn’t confer bonus dice.

So, in response to the issue with meditation, there needs to be some stake that meditation is opening up. You could cast your spell without centering yourself, or you can try it a different way with meditation. Maybe the local temple priest refuses to let you perform magic without meditation beforehand – now there are consequences for either using meditation or not. It’s silly to just use meditation in a vacuum, with no story or conflict associated with it. Some ideas for stakes – this area is infested with spirits; using meditation may help, but you will expose yourself to the mind-bending effects of the spirits. OR in order to gain the beneficial (or detrimental) effects of meditation, you have to travel to the top of a mountain, and refuse human contact and food for three days. OR you’re exposing yourself to dangerous animals by getting out of touch with the physical world. OR you uncover a truth while meditating that changes the way you think about the spell you were about to cast.

Make the linked tests matter!

I only asked for it because you made sleeping a Sanity-risking activity! Necessity is the mother of invention.

Also, Mister, stop trying to Avoid the Topic. The Meditation I developed has nothing to do with my original post. You created the “You succeed, but nothing happens” rule well after that.

All discussion about failure stakes for meditation aside, why should meditation grant a bonus die in the linked test if doesnt beat it’s obstacle by one? It’s essentially always a versus test (whether against a living opponent or a static Ob to overcome). If you don’t win a versus test by at least 1, you didn’t win the versus test.

but you wold not have been able to dig the ditch at all if you hadn’t rolled navigation!
Hm, that doesn’t quite jive with the built-in failure consequences for a Linked test, though. If a fail a prior roll, the next roll is at +1 Ob. You’re sort of circumventing the Linked Test cycle by having the consequences of failure of the skill test totally override the rules for the Linked Test.

But I see your point. Instead of saying, “You don’t navigate to the island,” say, “You got caught in a riptide and lost a bunch of your equipment. Digging is now at +1 Ob.”

OK, so we can get consequences of failure for Meditation, but what does the skill get us on its own? You’re narrating the fiction of how the linked test could help, but what does simple success get us? Let’s take your “Meditation helps against mind-bending spirits.” What mechanics are given by the Meditation skill that would make it a valid Task for an Intent other than “I want an advantage die?” Meditation doesn’t detect spirits, it doesn’t tell you anything about them, it can’t be used as a weapon against them, and so on.

I’m leaning towards, then, “Some skills are just special and cheaty,” like Astrology.

To steal half a page from Apocalypse World, perhaps what makes Mediation more than just sitting and thinking is that you’re tapping into gaia, mana, the force… whatever you want to call it, but in a passive kind of way. But if the Meditation goes wrong… there’s a bleed-back effect. In that specific example, it’s the spirits of the dead that you’re drawing on for preternatural calm and focus… but sometimes the visions that you roll past frighten you instead.

As someone who meditates, failure in the real world means you are unable to keep your awareness or attention on your point of focus (breath, candle, wind, whatever). Instead, your awareness is distracted by thoughts, feelings, or physical sensations arising in your mind. Think of the bubbles rising in a boiling pot of water (failure) versus a still mountain lake (success). Success in the linked meditation test could mean achieving a state of centeredness while failure could mean that while you were meditating thoughts or feelings surfaced and allowed the PC to become aware of his true thoughts or feelings. Not only does this impose a +1 Ob bonus die to the following test, it should lead the story in an interesting new direction. Meditation is never wasted, even when the result is less than ideal.

Taira makes a linked meditation test in his pebble garden preceding a katana duel with his rival Totoro. If he exceeds the Ob, he gets +1D to his sword skill in the duel. If he fails, this means that Taira was unable to become centered because lustful thoughts of the lady Emiko kept arising in his awareness. Although he will be at +1 Ob in his duel with Totoro, he is now aware of his feelings for Emiko and will pursue them (maybe even write a Belief) if he survives the duel.

Contemplate this…you know where. :slight_smile: