Working Patiently in a Task-Intent fight?

When we determine a conflict like this:

GM: 6 brigands jump out at you wanting the cargo you carry.
PC: I’ll fight them off with my sword!
GM: Ok, one of them raises their sword, the others are helping.
Other PC’s: We’ll help our friend too.
GM: Alright, if I win you drive them off but if I win they get away with the cargo.

Sometimes this happens:

PC: Can I injure them?
GM: We’ll do it so you can spend additional margin of success to injure each other, using “add” like in the fight rules. And remember all helpers are bound to the same results.

At first this looks like a rule drift but thinking about working patiently you can allocate extra successes to the quality which is what’s happening here.

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It sounds like their intent was initially to drive them off and they then changed their intent to injuring them.

What’s the task? It seems like if the intent is to fend them off, and the test is a weapon skill, the task seems like it would be hurting them enough to cause a route? It could also be just defending yourselves to until the recognize they won’t gain any ground and then flee, I suppose, but that seems less plausible to me.

If it’s the former, then causing injury seems like a pretty natural result, especially if they players get enough successes to add such embellishment.

I’m curious to hear more from you about this.

EDIT: On the other hand, as a player, if we went in with the understanding that the stakes were only losing some of our stuff, I might not go all in with Artha and such. If then, after losing, the GM declared that the brigands got enough successes to that we were all taking B7 wounds too… I might be a tad miffed.

My immediate reaction would probably be the same: GM declares consequences of failure before the player rolls. Which could include taking wounds.

For example, Intent is to drive the bandits off, the players say they’ll do it by calling the bandit’s bluff, the GM rules the bandits are weak and the players are strong so the critical issue is doing it safely so sets consequence of failure as “you drive them off but take actual damage.” Then the players decide whether or not to test as is or revise their Intent/approach.

Maybe the players aren’t happy with taking damage so say they want to fight defensively rather than try an all out rush, i.e. advantage dice for time. So the GM changes the consequence of failure to “more bandits arrive because they hear the fight”. The players decide whether or not to proceed to a roll, add Persona, &c. again.

But the player is always deciding to take a known risk.

Yeah, I was mostly saying that in BW’s spirit of fairness, it’s worth while to look at a situation from each side: What if the GM did something a player wanted to do? Would that seem fair?

Bear with me, I’m going to try to cut to the heart of the confusion here, which I think has less to do with how you interpret the rules and more about how you communicate with your players.

The definition of working patiently (BWG, 29-30): “Working patiently allows a player to allocate extra successes to the quality of a finished product. Extra successes can be used to embellish a description or add a flourish. They are largely a narrative device. However, many skills have their own rules for allocating extra successes…”

Seeing as Martial skills do in fact have their own rules for allocating successes, it seems Textually fair that working patiently successes could feasibly be spent as Add.

HOWEVER -

Intent Applies. An injury means nothing if it’s not part of the narrative - if you drive them off, and they are never seen again, what was the point of applying damage? As per working patiently, what is the narrative “embellishment/flourish” that injury applies? What are they actually asking for when they want to injure someone?

Do they actually want to capture or kill their attackers rather than drive them off? In that case, couldn’t that be phrased as their intent in the first place?

Do they want to hurt their attackers enough that the attempt cannot be made again? Why might the players choose this over killing them?

Or do they want to scare off others from attempting the same? To make an example of their assailants?

In my personal experience, sometimes players ask to deal damage in addition to their original intent just because it feels cool. Rather than simply say yes or no, I have to pause and take a moment to ask them what the function / purpose of that damage is, while keeping them excited of the potential of their answer.

This is not an accusation, but meant to be a gentle observation: Based on how you phrased your gameplay example, @Totally_Guy, it looks a little like you may have leapt to a conclusion as to what their actual intent was instead of asking them for clarification. I say this because I have caught myself doing this as well - and every time I do so, I make a ruling that feels anticlimactic or disappointing. I think the confusion of this post was brought on by the same mistake I make all the time - I forget to interview my players to decipher the difference between what they’re saying and what they actually want. By asking them these questions, not only might you gain clarity in terms of how the rules should be utilized in the moment, but you also give them a chance to express the nature of themselves and their characters in a way that makes communication easier in the future.

TL;DR:

Technically, in accordance with the rules, Add is a viable way to use the Working Patiently mechanic, but doing so will not help your players learn how BW works and will likely create ongoing confusion in terms of how players and GM communicate task and intent to each other. In these moments, take the time to ask your players what they think they are getting versus what the rules will accomplish.

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