2nd stab at Omac

Salutations from a new Burning Empires fan! I skipped right over Burning Wheel and jumped feet first into BE. So far I’m loving it. I’m in a game every Friday, but it’s a slightly non-standard fare: we aren’t using the infection mechanics or scene budget. It’s not set in the Iron Empires world, but an alternate history Earth we burned up the first session. It’s great stuff and I’m really enjoying it, but I also want to try my hand at the “vanilla” BE setting.

With that in mind, I’ve gotten a few of my other gaming buddies together to run them through Fires over Omac. We ran one session a couple weeks ago and came back for another maneuver last night. With all the explaining and rules research that had to be done, we only got one maneuver per night.

The players picked up on BIT’s right away and all of them immediately had clear goals for each character, so that was good. I did have a few questions, though.

1)When someone circles someone up, how much use do they get out out of that person? For the rest of the scene? Just one or two additional rolls?
The PC playing General Leaf wanted to circles up some fighters to go take care of the remnants of the Kodiaks. Is that a building scene and then next maneuver she can use a conflict scene to go take them out? Or can she circles up some soldiers and just sit on them for a few maneuvers until she’s ready to use them? Due to a firefight I’ll get to in a second, Kodiak Alpha ended up dead after an attempted kidnapping of Jack the Spiv. What happens to the Kodiaks then? Also, the maneuver action was “Take Action” which can be used to attack a faction. They all seemed pretty dead set on killing giant Mutant Death Bears. But what is the strength of the faction? I didn’t see it anywhere on the Infection Sheet.

2)For the close combat mini-firefight, do you have to roll Tactics or Command for each “close combat” phase, or do you just skip right to the close combat individual actions since you start nose to nose?

Also, when you’re establishing values for positions in the mini-fire fight, since you don’t make a contact roll, how do you determine who gets to assign points to the different positions? Normally winners “may add up to two 1P positions to the battle space, or he may increase two existing positions from 1P to 2P or one position from 1P to 3P.” and “The loser of the contact test may add a 1P position to the battle space, increase a 1P position to 2P or increase an existing position by one.” How do you determine that? Also, what positions to players start at in a mini-firefight?

This became particularly troublesome because Kodiak Alpha ambushed Jack the Spiv up on the orbital tether to try to kidnap him. I decided to do the mini-firefight because I didn’t think it was fair to kidnap a PC with a single roll. (Can you really do that? Really? My players aren’t going to mutiny of such arbitrary plot development?) So we did a mini-firefight. Jack doesn’t have Tactics OR Command and Shvi isn’t statted out. That means he had no hopes of using the “advance” maneuver to get to his ship. We drew out the battle map as such: A hallway (1P,0C) an automated warehouse area(2P, 3C) (Conveyor belts! Robotic load lifters!) the Hanger, and The Saucy Lugger (4P, 2C). We started both Kodiak Alpha and Jack in the Hallway, and because Jack had no way to use “advance” in the Hallway they stayed. In fact, Jack’s player just scripted Close Combat: Grenades over and over again. I’m not sure if I did that right at all.

3)What am I supposed to do with the Lord Steward? What authority does he have over the orbital tether? Can he order Julius around? Was he supposed to be statted out? I was really having trouble with this part. Jack wanted to sell him weapons to upgrade the tether and make it more defensible. Sure, I guess. Does that just mean the Lord Steward makes a resources test and Jack helps? Does Jack make a resources test and then GIVE the weapons to the Lord Steward? Can at any point the Count come in with the garrison and kick them all out?
I guess overall I was having trouble trying to figure out exactly what my FoN’s could do. Can they just take over the orbital tether? Where is Julius at? Pushing paperwork on the tether? If they come in and kick him out, does he take his Iron and leave? Or fight them single handedly?

Well, that’s a start. Any help you guys can provide would be really great. I can definitly see the challenge of this game. It’s not like switching from D&D to WoD, this requires a whole paradigm change. It’s hard. But my other group palyed through a whole BW game and half a BE game before starting this new one, so they’re all experienced Burning players. Watching how the game flows with them is really something else. I know the good is out there, I’ve SEEN it, heard about it, read about it, but I can’t seem the produce it. But I wanna!

Without infection and the scene budget you’re pretty much playing an alternate setting Burning Wheel with a different combat engine (and modified rules). Infection adds a really interesting higher level to the game that drives a larger conflict forward. Also, since the modifications to the BE rules all have been designed to take advantage of the scene economy and to push things towards a final conflict, if you want a solely people-oriented game without the macro conflict Burning Wheel will probably serve you a bit better.

The setting itself isn’t really required, but using infection and scene economy (at least conflict and builder scene limitations, Paul Tevis makes an argument for removing the interstitial and color scene limitations in single maneuver game sessions) will help you get the full BE experience.

Perfect use of building and conflict scenes. One to circle up the guys(and a few other rolls for other stuff like gear and linked tests) and then a conflict scene to kick in the doors and start shooting. You will need to sit on your mercs for one maneuver before you can use them (maneuver 1 - circle up the mercs, maneuver 2 - shoot the kodiaks) unless you have one person do the circling and another person run the firefight. Yes that’s gaming the system a bit, but it helps push group coherency forward so it’s all good (at least in my book).

I don’t have my copy of the Brick with me at work, but I believe that mini-firefights are a string of close combat actions, so no contact rolls, no testing tactics or command, and so on. Since in close combat only occurs when two units are in the same piece of terrain during firefight, there are no position values for mini-firefight since you are right on top of each other. If you want a full combat with positions and the like, it is doable (but exceptionally deadly and not terribly fun) to have a firefight with one person on each side, though testing command to tell yourself to do something is a bit weird.

Grabbed my PDF so it’ll be easier to look this stuff up. In the firefight section all of the actions have an “individual action” skill to test, so in a mini-firefight you will be testing Infiltration, Zero G, Physical Training, or so on for an advance maneuver. I’m still not sure about defining the battlespace, but that at least should save you from scripting “close combat -> grenades” over and over again.

As for the “capture with a single roll” you’re right, it’s impossible to do it that way. To capture a PC, you’ll need to have a firefight with the stakes being “I capture so-and-so.” Somewhere in the book there is a comment about killing or hulling a PC, and it petty much boils down to “conflict to capture, builder to hull.” Players can die in firefights (megablast weapons, fusors, overwhelming shots from a direct fire test as per the target selection note, etc), but you can’t explicitly target someone with a shot opportunity (for the record, I can’t find the specific note saying that the defender picks who gets hit with shot opportunities, but I’m pretty sure it’s in there since you can’t assassinate characters in firefight).

Not sure on the last question, I’d wait for Luke to answer that one (he’s good at that too, he’ll also probably overrule about half of what I said in this) but some things that you could do there is have Jack make a resource test as a linked test for the contact roll on a later engagement to defend the tether. Think about how you would want that to play out and then design your actions accordingly.

It is a pretty big paradigm change between a “traditional RPG” (don’t have a good word for this, traditional is wrong but you know what I mean) and BE, but you’ll get that shifting between most major games and many indie games. In many ways, BE is simply the next step in the direction that BW took, going farther from the standard RPG look and feel. Once the hurdle for sharing creative control and pushing for what you want is passed, then you start to see the awesome. Also, as GM, you’ll want to avoid the “GM helping” role that many games have, play hard and mean (but fair, the GM isn’t allowed to play outside of the rules). If the players have something that they really want to do, try your best to stop them. Conflict drives good stories, and Burning Empires (really Burning Whatever) is about pushing those stories.

Thanks for your suggestions, cathexis. I eagerly await hearing suggestions about the last half of my post! For the meantime, cathexis has given me some good food for thought.

It’s so weird, when i’m reading the rulebooks and forums, it all makes perfect sense. At the table, though, things don’t go so well. One thing I’ve noticed is that it takes practice to get better at BE. I can’t just coast through the system like when I learn a new Traditional RPG.

I’m worried that while I practice, people will get frustrated with the system and give up on it before we really get rolling with it. On the other hand, their loss, eh? I’ve got plenty of gaming friends and I can always round up 3 players or so. I’ll just take the practice as much as I can until I can run a full game. When I do run a full game, I’m going to make sure it’s required that everyone owns the Brick and has read it. You can’t just explain the rules that are needed at the time and expect people to grasp the big picture in this game.

Hey, sorry about not getting back to you on this, the forums ate my post and then I got really busy with things.

Anyway, one of the things to remember is that you need to remember is that the system itself is actually really simple and that all the various major mechanics (DoW, Firefight, Infection) use a similar system for resolving conflicts. Burning Anything takes a decent amount of practice to get better at, but it’s not practicing the game itself that you’re doing, it’s practicing the sharing of narrative control and getting the feel for how the interaction between the mechanics push the story forward.

Additionally, while I’m not sure if this is explicitly said in the BE book, Buring Wheel gives some very good suggestion for how to learn the system. Actually, Gopher’s note on page 286 gives the same suggestions: start with Infection, get used to how it works, solving the rest of the mechanics bits with simple opposed tests or something. Once you’re used to that, Firefight and DoW should come easy (same scripting system and all that), and while Resources and Circles are different they tend not to be used in the middle of high-stress situations so it shouldn’t matter if it takes a bit to do them correctly.

As for owning the book, while it’s a really nice piece of book, forcing everyone to shell out $45 for a gamebook is a bit excessive, as long as you have two copies (one for you and one for your players) it should work out all right. Make sure that everyone reads the book (or at least the major sections in the Burning Wheel section) and generally understands it, but easing into the various sections is really preferable to dumping everything on players all at once because it’ll keep them from getting frustrated with the amount of system that there is to deal with. It is a dense game with a lot of mechanics that work off of each other, and it’s a lot more gentile to start with a select few and build up instead of dropping people into the middle of it with everything. The main thing that is important for players to understand is the interaction between the micro and macro games, without that understanding the macro game seems superfluous because of the limited systemic connection between the two.

My suggestion: round up your players, run a Usurpation-phase game, and have fun stumbling through it as your practice. Omac is, while a good way to get your feet wet, not representative of the awesome that the game is capable of. Usurpation-level conflicts gives you the most varied material to work with (from the source material, Faith Conquers is a few maneuvers in a Usurpation conflict whereas Shiva’s War is a pretty solid Invasion game), so you’ll get a good range of intrigue, social interaction, and good old explosions.

Apologies if none of this makes sense or if it goes in circles, I’m pretty sleepy. Posting now before I start reading through it and edit it into the ground. Cheers, and have fun learning the system with your players.