I’m a big fan of DM Cornish’s Monster Blood Tattoo series (also known as Tales of the Half Continent), and I’ve tried (and failed) to represent it in an RPG three times. However, Burning Wheel finally seems like the perfect system, and so I’d like to get burning! There were a couple of things I was wondering how to represent though:
Threwd: Threwd is the creepy, spine-tingling, being-watched sensation that is strong in places where monsters live. Its effects can range from unsettling, to terrifying, to maddening, and finally to all-out mind control at the hands of some of the most powerful monsters. Threwd can cause paranoia, fear and disorientation. I’m really not quite sure how to represent it - it seems like a kind of drawn-out version of steel tests. Or maybe it would just give a disadvantage to most actions?
Skold-Shots: Monsters in MBT are resistant to normal weapons - average lead bullets fired by flintlock weapons don’t do them much harm - but bullets specially treated with poisons and corrosives (called skold-shots) can hurt them. Similarly, they don’t feel much hurt from swords and punches but the electric shock applied by an astrapecrith (a person with special electricity-generating organs) can get at them much more easily. I would just grey-shade their mortal wound, but the things that do work on them seem to work pretty much as well as on regular folk. Does anyone know how to deal with this kind of thing, where the monsters aren’t really supernaturally tough, they just have a resistance that can be bypassed?
(you can find my embarrassingly awful attempt to represent MBT in D&D (4e of all things!) here)
Thewd sounds like a Steel or Will test to avoid some consequence, but no, it doesn’t seem like a good fit for Let It Ride. It really wants to be a test taken over and over to see how long you last and when consequences start piling up, which is anti-BW.
Skold-shot is easy. Give monsters a trait that reduces the value of injuries taken (so a B6 hit becomes, say, B3) and have special attacks exempted from the reduction. It’s not necessarily elegant but it’s very simple.
I am wanting to ask if Threwd is an actual ability that monsters possess, or just a clever writing device to explain this world’s creepy atmosphere? Or is it an inherent, truly important quality of the world that is felt and experienced by it’s denizens?
This is important.
If it’s an ability of monsters, then give these monsters a trait or monstrous ability. Apply Aura of Terror or Aura of Fear, call it Threwd, and call it a day.
If it’s a device of the author, merely a clever way for him to call attention to the creeps in his book,then it isn’t a mechanical thing. It’s something YOU need to relay through your story telling.
If it’s a very important, tangible experience that has psuedo-magical effect, then I would consider making it an Emotional Attribute. A similar circumstance occurs in RavenLoft, which is a tangible event. Call it Threwd, have it escalate from minor, creepy experiences that perhaps power the character’s abilities (like Greed) due to paranoid desperation, and have it elevate to heightened fear experiences, then absolute lunacy that drives the character to actions outside their control (exponent 10-they go off the deep end).
I don’t know ehat else this setting has that may make BW a good or poor match for it though…
Settings are rarely a good or poor match for BW other than grossly different conceits and time periods (nothing modern or futuristic is going to work simply because the LPs and rules aren’t set up for it. But it could work, as in Burning Sands and Burning Empires.) But the type of game makes a huge difference. A game of dungeon crawling and monster hunting is going to fall flat unless you’re emphasizing something more than just kickin’ doors and killin’ creepy-crawlies. (For that, you want Torchbearer!) And you can play in a bog-standard D&D universe as long as you put the focus on those beliefs. (Burning THAC0!)
My reasoning was that BW seemed to match the narrative structure of the books e.g. tough fights, strong beliefs, grim consequences. Additionally, the absence of classes was important, since characters in MBT are prone to picking up different sets of skills. I wonder why Luke thought classic d&d would make a good fit - MBT is certainly not about dungeon crawling.
I like the idea of the trait, and yes, threwd is tangible and semi magical - an emotional attribute fits it rather well. But after Luke’s certainty that BW won’t fit, I’m not sure what will…
Certainly ‘Treasure’ is absolutely absent in MBT - resources work much more like in BW, where you struggle along until someone gives you some cash or a fund to support you. Indeed, since one of the main character ‘abilities’ revolves around making special draughts and chemicals which require expensive ingredients, it would be much better to avoid a system that had any actual money, since such an economy would be hellish to manage. And certainly, MBT is all about failing - about failing to save somebody, about failing to keep up appearances, about your foreign organs failing, about failing to escape your past.
I hope I won’t receive any DM smiting for saying this, but while Luke’s perspective is MORE than respected (he made the game, so yeah), I think in the end it is your choice to try it out.
Yes, BW is more accomodating to certain types of fiction, even certain styles of fantasy more than others, but if YOU think it can work out, and you want to invest the time to burn the world, AND you’re happy with the result after play…then its a success. I may think otherwise from a glance, but its not my game, it’s yours and your friends’.
I find its good to get advice, and advice from those who are experts is greatly appreciated. But I also find that making my own decisions is valuable, even if they result in mistakes. The experience is just as important and educational, sometimes moreso than the best advice. Ultimately, you will never know until you try.
Yeah, but even if I do try it out, it’d be helpful to know why Luke was so sure it wouldn’t work. I know he tends to give short, to-the-point responses, but (and here we make the awkward move from third to second person) I’d be really helpful, Luke, if you could tell me why this world seems so opposed to Burning Wheel, and maybe why you think classic D&D - styled games would work better.
You’re going to have to hack the hell out of a game to get MBT to work. So if you’re going to hack, might as well start with the game that MBT was originally formulated in/for.
Also, Moldvay D&D is elegantly simple. Very easy to add on to.
Of course, you’d have to strip out XP and add in another sort of advancement system, but lots of folks have done that before.
Torchbearer could probably handle it all with just some recoloring of some of the items and weapons. Maybe jiggering some classes and level benefits.
Burning Wheel…you’d have to make all new lifepaths, update the technology, devise new combat systems, new magic systems, probably a new wounding/damage system, too. It’s just not worth it. I love MBT. BW is not built to do MBT.