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In Burning Wheel (Gold, also Revised), there are some stats — specifically, Perception, Faith, and Resources — that only advance when you succeed at a test.

This makes advancement much more difficult, since you need to actually pass Difficult and Challenging tests — by definition, tests that you're likely to fail, and tests that you have no hope of succeeding without extra effort, respectively; whereas with other skills you merely need to attempt them (well, attempt them and survive the consequences of failure).

However, this is Burning Wheel, so artha is limited and tests don't happen without something at stake. The game's ethos is that you should put something on the line and face danger head-on, but also put some thought and strategy into your approach in order to actually persevere. Doubly so for the "only successful tests count" stats because there's no consolation prize for failure.

For instance, I've been able to advance Perception at the same rate as Will and Power while actively trying to advance and shade-shift Perception while largely ignoring those other stats (and rolling them significantly less often than Perception). Meanwhile, advancing Resources seems like a delicate balancing act because failing tough tests leads to tax, which can actually permanently drain your Resources if you're not careful.

So, what's the best way to pick up the successful Difficult and Challenging tests needed to advance Perception, Resources, or Faith in real play, where artha is scarce and failed tests have real consequences?

(If it involves using a limited resource judicially, tell us how. If it involves setting up certain specific fictional situations, provide some guidance on how to do it awesomely. Et cetera.)

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Most of the answer to this is in Adventure Burner (which I own). However, it's a big-deal question for the system, so I feel like we should address it here. Also, since I'm the one who asked it, I'm going to be tough and demand more than just what the Adventure Burner says to make a truly good answer. (I don't already have a canonical answer in mind. But I've spent some time looking at this!) –  Alex P Dec 16 '13 at 8:00
    
I was kinda wondering why this was asked. Honestly, this comes off like a "haven't finished reading the rules" question, because it's fundamental. It's also not something a reader will miss, since it's explicitly called out for attention on pages 41–2. –  SevenSidedDie Dec 16 '13 at 8:16
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You seem to be implying a problem you want solved that you haven't put in your question. As asked, this is a pretty basic rules question. –  SevenSidedDie Dec 16 '13 at 16:19
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@okeefe Yeah, that's the design reason. I meant the reason for the question is somewhere in the nebulous meta hovering over an actual gaming table, and isn't yet revealed to us. Hence my clarification question up-comments. –  SevenSidedDie Dec 16 '13 at 18:52
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@AlexP I'd rather not assume. I mean, I am assuming those things, but your question gives no context for your "in real play". What's your real play? Make your question about your real play. This stuff in the comments is good, and should be in the question. Most of the question could be replaced by the comments, and I think it'd be closer to what you're actually trying to ask about. (Are you trying to keep the question more general and not contain details of your specific actual problem as experienced, for some reason?) –  SevenSidedDie Dec 16 '13 at 19:02
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2 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Gaming the Help System

1. Follow the Leader/AKA the Gandalf Effect

Take the person with the highest stat, have them deal with the higher obstacle things, have the rest of the group each throw in Helping dice in order to get the advancements. The leader often will get nothing beyond a Routine test at best, but everyone else gets a good advancement out of it.

2. The Leapfrog game

Let's say you have two characters close or identical in a stat. One will take the test, using as many ways to get extra dice as possible - Linked Test, FORKs, Working Carefully, etc. etc. The other one puts in a Help die. Notice that the Helper isn't penalized for all these extra dice - as long as it passes, it counts as if they met that Ob with their given stat.

Next time, switch roles.

3. Someone needs my Help!

Find an NPC who is has the higher stat, is doing tough Obstacles, and offer your Help. This is easiest to do with Resources, since nearly no one turns down financial assistance. Perception is harder, by it's nature. Faith is the hardest to find someone, but of course, if they share the same Faith as you, they'll probably be happy to take on a disciple and then the tests should come easy.

Practice

Obviously, not easy to do during an adventure, but between adventures, or while waiting for someone to heal up, it's a great time. In general, if you're not doing anything particularly useful, it's always a good time to ask the GM if you can get practice. "Hey, we're going to be riding on horses for weeks at a time. Can I get part of that as Forte practice and part as 'Horse-wise'?"

For things like Perception or Faith, it's a little tougher but not impossible, you just have to be creative or at least have an NPC who can tell you how to practice them.

Artha, the gambling way

You can always spend Artha. If you have it. The thing to remember is the more dice you're rolling, the more likely you are to get a benefit from open-ending a roll. That said... Artha doesn't come quick enough to really pull one of these kinds of tests more than once every 2-3 sessions at best.

Greed, the one exception

Spend a persona point, add your Greed to a test involving the things you have Greed over - the dice count as Artha dice, so you can start making big rolls without having those dice count against you. It's pretty easy to see how this can work for Resources rolls, a bit harder for Perception, and unfortunately, Dwarves don't get Faith at all.

Eleven Grief takes a full Deeds point, which makes it too rare to be that useful, and while Orcs can roll Hate in place of other skills or stats, the advancement only counts towards Hate.

The Fact is...

Practice and Help are the ways to go. Remember Burning Wheel also is built on the assumption of the long term, old school campaign length - it may take dozens upon dozens of sessions to advance these things. You should probably assume that unless you have a game group like that, that a lot of these stats will stay static for the entire campaign.

Resources: Easy to find situations, easy to Help, can't practice.

Perception: moderate to find situations, moderate to Help, can practice.

Faith: moderate to find situations, hard to Help (that is, hard to find other people with Faith), can practice.

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The Slowest and Loudest rule might negate your first point, but otherwise this is great advice. –  okeefe Dec 18 '13 at 9:14
    
Given the 3 stats being asked about - it's pretty rare to have to only rely on the weakest link. Resources - you turn to the rich PC, playing lookout/searching, you go to the highest Perception person, and Faith, you turn to the holy character. –  Bankuei Dec 18 '13 at 18:04
    
This is the kind of thing I was looking for. Practicals about how all the mechanics come together in play. I'm not sure how to rewrite my question to better state that. –  Alex P Dec 19 '13 at 0:52
    
Resources is not just riches. It includes favors and estate management. It can absolutely depend on who and why. Perception seems fair for Slowest and Loudest. Faith is a lot more subjective. If there's a belief involved, I'd probably ask that player to be the primary on the roll. –  okeefe Dec 19 '13 at 1:06
    
Slowest and Loudest makes little sense for any of them. Are your blind companions going to make your eagle eyes less sharp? –  SevenSidedDie Dec 25 '13 at 3:00
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Artha

Persona gives you more dice—which don't count toward dice used in the test, and thus don't shift the test down from challenging and difficult—and Fate opens sixes or, for Faith which already open-ended, allows you to reroll a failed die. And of course Deeds, when you need to break out the big guns. Call-on traits, such as Pennywise for Resources, are a last ditch way to squeeze out needed successes from a failed roll.

Helping

You need to help someone with a task that ultimately ends up successful, but with a high enough Obstacle to get you a challenging or difficult test.

Practice

While it is not at all speedy and you need to have the downtime to spare, you can spend six months (Perception) or a year (Faith) practicing for what's hopefully that one last test you need.

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Call-ons can let you reroll or break ties, so they can't get you past a Challenging test alone. –  SevenSidedDie Dec 16 '13 at 7:56
    
Rerolling failed dice is huge, especially after you've spent the persona for the dice and need a success to earn the test. –  okeefe Dec 16 '13 at 7:59
    
There's a Call-On for Resources ("Pennywise"). I can definitely tell you there's no straight-up Call-On for Perception tests; I don't think there's even a situational one (like Sea Legs for Agility aboard a ship). Which isn't to say that you couldn't make a trait like this, but it does seem rather "cheaty." –  Alex P Dec 16 '13 at 8:07
    
Ah, "secondarily" on top of spending Artha. Yeah; just not by themselves. –  SevenSidedDie Dec 16 '13 at 8:10
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