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Suppose a character has perception B1 (maybe they are a young troll or something). If they open their observation skill, either in character burning or through play (testing, practice, instruction), are all of the following consequences true, or have I misunderstood something? The points are in no way specific to perception and observation; those are just examples.

  1. The new skill opens at B0.

  2. The new skill can not be rolled, even with artha. That is, it is no longer possible for the character to even try rolls they could try before opening the skill, even under neutral or favourable conditions.

  3. The only way to reacquire the ability to make observation tests is to get practice or instruction to increase the skill to B1. (In character burning, one might have extra skill points to increase the skill beyond just opening, but let us ignore this for now).

The consequence number two seems quite unintuitive, which is why I am asking.

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Don't open a skill and leave it at 0.

Exponent 0: If your stat, skill, or attribute is currently exponent 0 you may not test this ability. You may not receive help, FoRK into it or spend artha on it. It is unavailable until you advance it, replenish it, or recover.

-- "Testing Your Abilities", Burning Wheel Gold p.37

Yes, you can make yourself completely incapable of observing under your own power. Don't do that.

If it's character creation, you have multiple skill points to spend. Even the extremely, deeply, utterly ill-advised venture of making a character with only 1 lifepath, turfing a grade-schooler out into the hard world of adventuring, will still give them at least 2 points.

If you're opening the skill naturally during play, there's a different problem:

If the obstacle would count as routine (and thus not actually count) for advancing the stat, you note a test for learning the skill. If the Beginner's Luck test, before doubling, would count as difficult or challenging for the stat, [instead] note a test for advancing the stat.

-- "Learning New Skills", Burning Wheel Gold p.50

You can only begin learning the skill from routine tests. The only possible option for a routine test at Exp 1 is to take a 1-die test and choose for it to be routine instead of difficult, which you would have to do (10 - ability root =) 9 times on purpose.

This is not a problem with the rules; they're all operating exactly as they're written down. This is a bad decision you have to make, in some cases multiple times in succession.

Don't make it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks, this was also my reasoning. Given that this seems to be a (minor, as you mention) bug in the rules, the answer would be further improved by designer commentary or rationalization. \$\endgroup\$ – Tommi May 7 at 14:23
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The first and simplest solution would be for the GM to veto a character per page 106. Even if this were an interesting character without lopsided stats, effectively the minimum exponent for abilities is 1 since the rules for testing and advancement don't cover exponent 0. (Resources is the sole exception.) Don't “open” an attribute at 0. If a corner case would open something at 0 (Health, emotional attributes like Greed and Grief, etc.), veto it.

The second solution is to advance the stat to 2. This is really their only option for learning new skills after character creation rooted in that stat, because you can't practice a skill you don't have—instead, practice for the stat test. Also, any Beginner's Luck test, even an Ob 1 test (which would be doubled to Ob 2 for the Beginner's Luck test with the stat), counts as a test at Ob 1 versus the stat—a difficult test. It shouldn't be too hard to get the one difficult test and one challenging test needed to advance a stat from 1 to 2 (page 43). Perception tests required a successful test for it to count toward advancement, so save that artha!

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    \$\begingroup\$ Health at 0 is also a problem, and more likely highlights a degenerate character. I've reworded my answer. \$\endgroup\$ – okeefe May 12 at 13:38

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