Monday, November 13, 2017

[CRIT] The Practice Hack

The wound system in Burning Wheel is no joke. I’m running a short 16-session campaign, and if the plot didn’t just so happen to be able to facilitate a year-long timeskip, we would have had two of the characters waylaid for most of that. Even then, they were still really messed up; those wounds were felt in a way no other roleplaying system could simulate.
In the meantime, the rest of the parties had about a year of downtime to spend. The two subsystems that come into play when skipping over large chunks of time are resources and practice, the only subsystems that utilize the cycle as a unit of time. As far as I can tell, cycles denote the “cooldown” period between tests made within the context of a cyclical subsystem. A cycle can range anywhere from a month to a year, depending on the nature of the world’s economy and the type of skill being practiced.
Resources maintenance cycles are easy enough: after one maintenance cycle (ours was set at 6 months), you make a Resources test against an obstacle based on the lifestyle you’ve been living and the assets you’ve maintained, the outcome of which represents your general financial health.
Practice is a different beast entirely. First, in order to earn a test, you have to be practicing a skill for a total amount of time equal to the cycle of the category it belongs to. Second, the level of test you want to earn requires you to practice a certain number of consecutive hours in a day before those hours count towards the cycle. Third, the number of hours you can practice in a day is limited to 3 x your Will exponent (to a maximum of 20 hours per day).
What this boils down to is a shitload of math. The practice system is useful for extended periods of downtime and allowing flavorful but inessential activities to have some mechanical bearing, but not when the entire game grinds to a halt. By design, Burning Wheel falls flat on its face unless it’s focusing on actions that don’t provide momentum.
It’s called a time skip for a reason, and this quick-and-dirty hack of the practice subsystem lets you press fast-forward, instead of alternating between play and pause. Follow along using pages 47 and 48 in the Burning Wheel Gold Edition rulebook.

Determining the Price of a Test

Instead of earning tests, you purchase tests. For a given skill category, multiply the cycle length (in days) by the hours of practice per day required to earn that test. That is the number of hours you must “spend” from your practice budget in order to earn that test. You can invest hours towards earning a test instead of purchasing it outright.
You can spend hours from your practice budget to satisfy the time requirements to learn from another. If you are learning from another player, that player must spend an equal number of hours from their practice budget.

Converting Cycle Lengths into Days

No matter the system I’m running, I standardize the number of days in each month. Hence:
  • One month is 30 days
  • Two months is 60 days
  • Three months is 90 days
  • Six months is 180 days
  • One year is 360 days

Calculating a Practice Budget

The GM should tell you how many days of downtime you have. To determine your practice budget, use the formula below. The result is your practice budget, in hours. You lose any unused hours leftover after the designated period of downtime has passed.
  • # of days x [ 3 x your Will exponent (max 20) ]

New Table: Test Prices

Skill Category
Routine
Difficult
Challenging
Academic
360
720
1,440
Artisan
1,440
2,880
4,320
Artist
540
1,080
2,160
Craftsman
1,080
2,880
4,320
Forester
540
1,080
2,160
Martial
60
120
240
Medicinal
1,440
2,880
4,320
Military
360
720
1,440
Musical
60
120
240
Peasant
90
360
1,080
Physical
60
120
240
School of Thought
540
1,080
2,160
Seafearing
180
360
720
Social
60
120
240
Sorecerous
1,800
3,600
5,400
Misc
270
540
1,080
Stat/Attribute



Will
1,440
2,880
5,760
Perception
540
1,080
2,160
Agility
180
360
720
Speed
270
540
810
Power
60
120
240
Forte
240
480
960
Faith
1,800
3,600
7,200
Steel
60
180
540

Down-and-Dirty Practice

Sometimes, I don’t even want to deal with players spending their practice budgets at the table. I let them keep their practice budgets after the allotted downtime period and spend them to earn tests during play.
The only stipulation is that each purchase has to make sense retroactively; just because it makes sense to open Jewelry now doesn’t mean you had the convenient inspiration to study jewelry six months ago.
I consider this method to be kinda naughty, and would recommend that you devote time to spend practice budgets at the table before resuming play.