Author Topic: Burning Wheel  (Read 20661 times)

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Golanthius

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Burning Wheel
« on: October 24, 2008, 06:24:43 PM »
I just received the Burning Wheel core book. Wow, talk about a totally different system.

I have been playing AD&D (TSR) for about 25 years and its really difficult to wrap my brain around a different gaming system. I intend to read the core book and try to come up with some idea of how this system works.

avisarr

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Re: Burning Wheel
« Reply #1 on: October 25, 2008, 07:51:45 PM »
After you get done reading and really understanding that system, perhaps you could write a brief summary here on the forum about what you think of it and how it differs from AD&D. I, for one, would be very interested in reading your opinion of it.

Golanthius

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Re: Burning Wheel
« Reply #2 on: November 06, 2008, 03:10:15 PM »
I will be happy to write a breif summary on the system... It may be awhile before I get to it though, I am putting together the "Labryinth" of Kelandor for the third skull quest. I will then move on to the rest of the campaign.
Maybe when I'm done with the Avisarr I will get a chance to read through it...

Golanthius

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Re: Burning Wheel
« Reply #3 on: November 21, 2008, 03:17:40 PM »
Here is a review of this system...

The default races strongly imply Tolkien fantasy. Men, Dwarves, Elves, and Orcs are the only races listed.

Each race has its own lifepaths from which to choose. Men mostly stick to traditional medieval roles, with the notable exception of wizards. Dwarves, Elves, and Orcs can follow a much broader range of lifestyles than their stereotypes suggest.

Magic is also very Tolkien-ish. For Dwarves and Elves, magic comes naturally, "making things" for Dwarves and "singing" for Elves. These result in race-specific skills with open-ended rolls to allow for spectacular results. Men and Orcs use Sorcery, which is its own skill based upon Will. (Of course, Orcs favor Sorcery with a nastier bent…)

Sorcerers can increase the area of effect of a spell in exchange for a more difficult cast and can spend extra successes on enhancing spell effects. Failed spells have a chance at some nasty side effects (like accidentally summoning something...), and all spells have a chance to wear out the caster. I like the way this combination of drawbacks means that beginners invoke powerful spells at their peril, while even master wizards cannot indefinitely push the limits of their power without wearing themselves out.

Miracles are another matter entirely. Only those with true Faith can pray for miracles, and the chance of an answered prayer depends upon the piety of the supplicant and the scope of the requested Divine boon.

Character “burning,” is one of the central features of this system. The core rulebooks are divided into two books, one book for character creation and one book for pretty much everything else. Characters start with six Stats: two Mental (Perception and Will) and four Physical (Agility, Speed, Power (strength) and Forte (endurance)). Character age determines the number of points available to divide between the Mental and Physical Stats.

I like the fact that a character’s willpower can help him recover from wounds and shrug off pain, but there’s still only so much damage his body can endure (based on strength and endurance) before giving out.

The overall process involves a lifepath system, each one lasting a set numbers of years. A character will pick up new skills and abilities with each one along the way, while the character ages and incurs the risks inherent in growing older. By the time you’re done creating your character, you will have a story behind every quirk and scar. The process will likely take at least one game session, and it helps to know the steps that will get you where you want to go, or you will spend a large amount of time running into dead-ends on your way to creating that wizard you’ve always wanted.

The Traits a character gains include both advantages and disadvantages, but both cost points. Traits can also be called upon in various ways during play: adding dice to rolls, allowing re-rolls, serving as tiebreakers in the Trait-holding character’s favor, etc.

Then there are Beliefs and Instincts. The former helps describe what makes the character “tick”, things like “they are all out to get me” or “I must always help the helpless.” Instincts, on the other hand, are highly specific if/then responses that a character will take; e.g., “If my character feels threatened, he will draw his sword.” This allows the player to have an advantage when the “If” factor pops up – everyone else will need to spend an action drawing his sword, while the character with the appropriate instinct will already have his at the ready. It needn’t be combat-related. 

The system’s core mechanic boils down to a simple pool of six-sided dice rolled in an effort to get as many results of 4 or better as possible. However, that applies to creatures on the normal human scale, or “Black shade,“ as the game calls it. The two superhuman “shades“ are Gray, for which 3 is the target number, and White, for which 2 is the target number. In this way, the system allows for truly powerful beings without resorting to dice pools of cumbersome size. Certain rolls open-end (i.e., allow the roll of an extra die) on 6s, allowing for extraordinary results.

Combat uses an Exchange and Volley system. Each round or exchange is broken down into three volleys which all participants, including the GM, secretly list, in order, their maneuvers for that exchange. Then the participants reveal their actions and the result may or may not result in a roll for advantage or disadvantage. For example, on the first volley, one combatant might swing his sword while another uses his shield, resulting in an attack roll from the sword-swinger but extra protection for the shield-user. If they both had swung their weapons at each other, neither would get any protection, since neither would have their shields up. And if both had scripted a wait-and-see stance for that volley, then neither would roll, they’d just stand there looking at each other. 

The end result is savage, intense combat in which every second literally counts – every desperate grab for a dagger, every swing with an unwieldy maul, every feinted sword thrust, and every vicious head butt.

The "Duel of Wits" is used to settle disputes and arguments, it is, in a word, complicated. I don't fully understand how it works, maybe David will be able to explain it after he reviews the books.

Thats it for now, except to say this is probably the best game I'll never play...
« Last Edit: November 21, 2008, 07:58:21 PM by Golanthius »

Offline Kristian

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Re: Burning Wheel
« Reply #4 on: November 24, 2008, 07:57:42 PM »
Hey, everyone. Thought I'd cast off my dusty old ghosting cape and throw in my two cents here.

Our group switched from playing DnD 3rd edition to playing Burning Wheel about a year ago, I think. The main reason was we were getting tired of dungeons and combat, and wanted something with a bit more depth of roleplaying, and a set of rules to support and encourage that depth.

I had developed an interest in the so-called indie rpgs (check out The Forge if you don't know what I'm talking about) and finally managed to persuade the rest of the group to try some of them out. We experimented with several - "Dogs in the Vineyard", "Polaris", "The Shab-Al-Hiri Roach", "Dust Devils", "Don't Rest Your Head" and "Agon" - but decided at one point to focus on Burning Wheel, because that seemed like the best game to support a long, on-going campaign. Plus it's set in a fantasy setting.

Basically, we never really got the handle on this game. On paper, it seemed like the perfect game for us. The skills, advancement system, combat and duel of wits looked like exactly what we were looking for. The implied setting was a bit too Tolkien, but that didn't matter.

But somehow it never clicked for us once we started playing. In all, I think we tried about three different campaign models over the course of about six months or so. The main reasons why we as a group didn't enjoy this game, I think, are these:

1.) The rules were too complex for some of the players. Full enjoyment of BW really demands that everyone understands how all the subsystems work, or you'll find yourself as GM (or whoever's read the rules) explaining the same maneuvers and rules over and over again. This is especially true for combat and duel of wits. Some of the players in our group did not want to read the rules - "Just explain the basics so we can get to playing!" This resulted in some people being annoyed that others didn't know the rules, and others being annoyed that the rules were too complex and weird.

2.) It was too different from everything else we'd ever tried. Some of the players in our group have been gaming for twenty years, and none of the bigger "mainstream" games compare to BW in terms of complexity and what it demands of the roleplay of the people around the table. It was hard to wrap our brains around some of the concepts in BW. Mainly, people had problems with the fact that you get Artha (xp, roughly) for certain types of roleplay. To some, it felt like "min-maxing" (or whatever it's called) when you created a specific Instinct or Belief that you knew would give you Artha whenever you did X. It seemed like bad roleplaying, when in fact it's the opposite.

3.) It didn't feel right. In the end, this is probably what it boils down to. It turned out to be not what were looking for after all.

This all sounds worse that it is. These were minor annoyances, that mostly just resulted in the game being pretty alien to the playstyle we've settled on over the years. Most of the time we did have fun with BW, and the decision to quit (or give up) was mainly based on the fact that, in the end, it just felt like too much hard work for what we were getting out of it.

On the positive side, I will say that the Duel of Wits is one of the coolest things ever, once you get a handle on it. The same goes for the Fight! mechanics. Basically these two forms of conflict (social and physical) use the same core rules - where you "script" your next three actions, like Golanthius mentioned - but when arguing with someone (using the DoW) you're trying to bring down their Body of Argument, thus proving them wrong or whatever your goal might be. To do this you use maneuvers like "Point", "Rebuttal" and "Avoid the Topic" where you would be using attacks, blocks, feints and so on in combat.

Also, the lifepaths are really cool. And once you've finally found the perfect way to creating whatever character you were aiming for, you'll start out knowing a lot more about his past that you usually do in other games.

Burning Wheel also has one of the most comitted and helpful fan communities I've ever seen.

Finally, a bit of advice:

To anyone intending to give this game a spin, I'll say this: Start out small. This advice is even in the book, but we thought "Bah! We're experienced roleplayers, we can handle this!" We couldn't. I strongly suggest playing at least the first session without using any of the Fight!, Duel of Wits or Range And Cover systems. Then start adding them one at a time, in that order. Wait until you have a firm grasp of a system before you add another. This might seem unnecessarily slow, but I think it's the only right way to go about it. In retrospect, I think this might be the root of most of our problems with BW. The game's just too big a mouthful if you start out with everything.

Also, there are a few of the concepts in the game that are far more abstract than most gamers are used. Resources stands out as the most jarring one to me, but there are others. Basically, Resources is more like a stat than a pool of cash, and when you want to buy something big, you roll a check to see if you can. This represents scraping together funds, calling in favours and so on. If you succeed you get whatever you were trying to buy. If you fail, you don't get it, and there's a chance of "taxing" your funds, which means they decrease (this description totally doesn't do the system justice, though). My advice is to just go with it. Accept it as part of the game and don't try to build around it - it won't work. None of us liked the abstract way funds were handled in the game, so we house-ruled an elaborate "cash on hand" system that ended up slowing everything down and sucking. Resources (and Circles and Reputation and so on) are a part of the whole, and were meant to get rid things that the designer hated in other games.

It's not "min-maxing" to choose BITs (beliefs, instincts and traits) that you know will get you Artha at certain points. You should be thinking of the BITs as "What do I want my character to get rewarded for doing?" or "Which situations Do I want my character to deal with?" or simply "What do I, the player, think is cool?" and base your BITs on that. It's an incredibly cool way of showing the GM what you want the story of your character to be about. We also found that having a Belief in common was a good way to ensure that at least some of the players' actions were motivated byt the same things. The downside is that this can put too much emphasis on that one Belief.

It helps to think of Duel of Wits as Combat with Words. It uses the same core system as the Fight! mechanics, only a lot simpler. The main difference between the two is that you have to roleplay the dialog between actions in the Duel of Wits.

All in all, Burning Wheel is a game that requires a fair bit of patience a first, along with the will to make it work. Once you do get it to work, though, it's an awesome game. We did have a few moments where you could sense what this game can do. In the end it just needed more work than we were willing to put into it.
« Last Edit: November 24, 2008, 08:14:32 PM by Kristian »
- Kristian

Golanthius

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Re: Burning Wheel
« Reply #5 on: November 24, 2008, 09:05:40 PM »
Thanks for the information Kristian. I never play-tested the system, my review is just from reading the core books. It nice to hear from someone who attempted to play.
I agree that this system is complex and for my group, like yours, the amount of work we would have to put into this sytem would by far out weigh the fun we would have playing it.

Offline Kristian

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Re: Burning Wheel
« Reply #6 on: November 24, 2008, 11:11:43 PM »
I will say this, though: When talking to people at cons who've successfully switched to BW, it's like talking to someone's who's seen the light. Some people out there are getting a great deal out of this game.
- Kristian

Offline tanis

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Re: Burning Wheel
« Reply #7 on: November 25, 2008, 11:05:44 PM »
     I have to say, this sounds amazing. I'm one of those people who prefers to understand every little detail before jumping into something, and I have no problem with tutorials, so I think this sounds like an amazing system both due to the fact that it appears very well designed, as well as the fact that it focuses on role play instead of just fighting and loot.

     And as for me, I've never really played any system and never even got through more than just a session or two, and I think this would be something I could learn before trying to learn D&D or something like that.

     Anyways, I'd like to hear David's opinion once he reads the core rulebooks.  :)
He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.

avisarr

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Re: Burning Wheel
« Reply #8 on: November 25, 2008, 11:38:32 PM »
Thanks to everyone who's contributed to this conversation. I do have the Burning Wheel books sitting here. However, I am right on the verge of launching a new campaign and I'm scrambling to get a bunch of things done in the next seven days. I will peruse the Burning Wheel books after the first session (early December-ish). But in the mean time, I think Kristian has given us an awesome and detailed review. Thanks you guys!

Offline tanis

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Re: Burning Wheel
« Reply #9 on: November 26, 2008, 10:48:12 PM »
Where are my manners???  ??? >:( :-[

Thanks Kristian!!!  :D
He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.

Offline Kristian

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Re: Burning Wheel
« Reply #10 on: November 27, 2008, 04:41:26 PM »
You're welcome, Tanis.  :)

For anyone wanting to give this game a chance I recommend going to the BW forums for any and all questions. Most of what you could possibly want to know has already been answered, and there's a bunch of friendly, intelligent people there who're quick to answer anything else.

Also, here are a couple of Youtube videos showing Luke Crane (the designer) demo'ing "The Sword", an introductory scenario for BW. A really enthusiastic guy.

Video 1, part 1 - video 1, part 2 - video 2, part 1 - video 2, part 2
- Kristian

Golanthius

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Re: Burning Wheel
« Reply #11 on: December 04, 2008, 08:48:10 PM »
Thanks for the links to the videos Kristian. It is interesting to watch Luke run this game, he makes it look easy.

Offline Kristian

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Re: Burning Wheel
« Reply #12 on: December 06, 2008, 05:27:21 PM »
Exactly. I wish I'd seen these before we began playing.

He's also made a game called Burning Empires, which is basically a BW revised edition, in a science-fiction universe. It's a licensed game based on the (very good) Iron Empires comics by Christopher Moeller. The few changes made to the BW rules in this edition are all for the better, I think. There are several additions, too, in this game. For instance the World Burner let's you basically design your campaign from the start - a very cool system. Also, the book looks great. I recommend checking it out if you become a BW fan. It's like, you can see where he was going with BW when you read BE.
- Kristian

Offline Kristian

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Re: Burning Wheel
« Reply #13 on: December 08, 2008, 07:18:53 AM »
 :D Exactly. And BW actually works really well with a game where the charcters have different agendas.
- Kristian

Golanthius

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Re: Burning Wheel
« Reply #14 on: June 02, 2010, 10:10:41 PM »
I was wondering if David has had a chance to play test this system yet...