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[Burning Wheel] what is it like in play?

vivsavage

Independent Procrastinor
Validated User
I have a love/hate relationship with BW. I've read the game rules many times and am consistently impressed with its laser like focus and the confidence the author has in what he's doing. The game is genuinely innovative and impresses me on virtually every level. But, and here's the rub, it looks unplayable for my type of style. Too fiddly. Too crunchy. Sometimes seems too interested in being clever and different.

So, tell me, how smooth does it play? What game world do you use it in?
 

CarpeGuitarrem

Blogger and gamer
Validated User
I've been using it to run a low-magic fantasy campaign (and a micro-campaign based on post-War of the Ring Middle Earth), and if you have players who buy into the game, it works wonders. i.e., you need players who will take the leash offered and run with it. (Like, y'know, the player who decided that in order to deal with the supernatural threat of magically-enhanced wolves, he had to talk the village into burning down the nearby forest. Or the player who, because they hunt witches, splattered a major NPC and caused everyone to go on the run.)

It's a dynamic game, where actions ripple out very quickly. I've found it to run very smoothly in play. (For reference, this is the Gold edition; prior editions were clunkier.) The core mechanic works slickly--players generally find a skill on their sheets that works, then use it to inform their action, then work other skills into the description as forks. The Duel of Wits has taken some getting used-to with some of them, same with the Fight, but both of those have lent themselves to great moments.

I would take the leap and play. (Also, I find that it helps a lot, for some reason, if you try burning up characters at random. I've gotten my character creation time down to 30 minutes, and it really helps me understand how the game fits together.)
 
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Odie

If only she could breathe
Validated User
The core engine hums along quite smoothly and takes very little to get used to. Intimidated by my experience with the subsystems, my first Burning Wheel game stuck to the basic rules* (the "Hub" as the book refers to them), and we had a blast for several months. It was probably a good thing that I did that, since it took me a little bit to really internalize Task/Intent and for my players to start driving the game with Beliefs. That really is all you need - the gears are driven by Beliefs and Instincts, and Task/Intent is the axle. The thing'll go, and go nicely, with just that. I recommend giving it a shot.

* We added in Circles and Resources almost immediately; they're very simple subsystems, basically extensions of the core rules, and they add a lot to the game.

-B
 

mosswood17

Registered User
Validated User
I had an absolute blast with Mouse Guard a few weeks ago. I have the Burning Wheel book and character burner I just haven't gotten to read through them yet. They didn't seem so bad, at least the parts that I read, but maybe it gets a little clunkier later on. I think Mouse Guard would make a nice gateway into Burning Wheel from what I have heard. It is also very prep light on behalf of the DM. We had so much fun with it that I would like to play it again! We had the action cards, too. Which really helped a lot as far as getting people up to speed with how Conflicts worked. There is also an immense amount of information on the Mouse Guard character sheets. I don't know about straight up BW. We are gearing up for Torchbearer later on, but that is sort of peripheral to BW I have heard.
 

Skiorht

Despair Shouter
Validated User
My best RPG experiences as a player in nearly 30 years of gaming have been with Burning Wheel, and I consider BW Gold to be quite possibly the best fit for my own gaming style. However, it's not a game for everyone or for every occasion.

Burning Wheel is geared towards extended campaign play with people who are committed to actually playing the game, and are willing to engage the rules. That's when it shines so very brightly.

Personally, I won't even consider using BW for a campaign that's not going to run at least two dozen sessions. You need a long campaign to have the game's full reward cycle, including trait votes. Everything in the game is informed by the reward system, and you need to keep it in mind when you play the game.

Playing BW, at least for me, is a very intense and even intimate experience. Compared to most other RPGs, BW tends to have a slower and more considered pace. Since each dice roll is a fucking big thing, every choice you make matters. It\s very much a game where actions have consequences, and your character\s growth is wholly dependent on taking action and facing those consequences.

Finally, BW has been designed to be played using the rules. Each and every rule in BW Gold is there for a reason, and they have been extensively playtested. Unless the players are willing to learn the rules and use them actively, there is not much point in playing BW.
 

Propagandor

Square-Cube Law Compliant
Validated User
Life path system will leave you rolling unskilled checks a lot for the first few sessions, after that it smooths out more or less.
 

TGryph

Dire Halfling
Validated User
Loved it...until we got to the Combat Section. we began to feel like 'Ok Kids...get out your paper and pencils...time for a Pop Quiz!". The scripted combat absolutely ruined an otherwise good game. Nowadays I would find it too crunchy anyways, but man..that scripted combat...

TGryph
 

CarpeGuitarrem

Blogger and gamer
Validated User
Loved it...until we got to the Combat Section. we began to feel like 'Ok Kids...get out your paper and pencils...time for a Pop Quiz!". The scripted combat absolutely ruined an otherwise good game. Nowadays I would find it too crunchy anyways, but man..that scripted combat...

TGryph
I think the scripted combat works best when the fight has been built to. Along the lines of "Alright, we're at the fight we've been planning for, and it's time to bust out the scripting sheets!" Plus, I think that the more accustomed a group gets to the combat system, the better it flows and the less intrusive it feels.
 

Knarf

Registered User
Validated User
I've never played BW, though I'd really like to. But my understanding is that the combat rules are complex enough that they should only be used when the conflict is important, not just a 10x10 room with orcs in it.
 

Noclue

Registered User
Validated User
I love the scripting, love it. But, it's a big investment of time and energy, so you don't roll it out at the drop of a hat. But when we're ready to throw down and those scripting sheets hit the table, things get tense fast.

We go sessions without touching the subsystems, and often we're scripting a Duel of Wits rather than a knife fight.
 
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