A Burning War

My friends,
I have not been idle.
These rules for warfare fell out of my head this past week.

They’ve been forming deep in my RPG brain for years… and they finally fell out. Bump crash bang. But they are still pretty raw.

They’re based on TB’s Warfare rules, of course, but with a lot of changes and affordances made for BW.

It was fun to design them side by side and see how different the games are.

I’ve tested bits and pieces of them…and they kind of work! But I’ve made lots of changes since the test so I might have broken more than I fixed.

Either way, I look forward to your thoughts.


I feel like it could use some ink about player’s influencing the terrain map with wises and such.

Also, under fighting with your back to the sea, I seem to recall Sun Tzu recommending generals putting their own units in such positions to force them to fight like their lives depended on it. (Because it does.) I don’t remember that bit of The Art of War precisely, though. Maybe they can get a die or two toward Steel? That would get them the benefits of Courage more often and keep them in the fight in general. :thinking:

I’m still processing the Battle(/Siege/Ambush/Skirmish – the Fighting Shit) rules.

So far, I’m loving the logistics and management section. It decodes a lot of the setting information embedded in the Lifepaths and such in Burning Wheel in a really engaging way.

Also, as someone who’s been playing a character with a B2 Soldiering for dozens of sessions, it’s especially nice seeing that skill get some fleshing out and examples.

If my unit is pursuing fleeing enemies, can I Help with Forte? :sweat_smile:

Thanks Quincy.

The map thing is interesting. Burning Empires relies more heavily on the map and terrain. For these rules though, for the map, I need a whole set of world building procedures. In our campaign, we have our world and many maps for it. There’s rarely an issue or question about where the armies are or what they are fighting over. Though, when I do spring a surprise—an unsurveyed fortress, village or river—it does provide nice grist for the war machine.

Which, again, points to another system for world building, mapping and scouting/surveying.

Check out the Strategic Deployment rules, though. I abstracted a lot of the advantages you’re looking for into those results.



First question: what do you think the scope of these rules should be. Obviously if we’re playing generals of armies then it’s in, but what if we have command of a single unit altogether, or if we’re a merchant caravan with a large number of guards? Should be stick to RnC and single tests?

Now to the actual meat: I love it, but there are some things that confuse me. I want to try these out, but I’m not sure I have the game for it. Yet. What stature does a pack of Spirit Hunters have?

The rules under Battlefield Movement say you can move when you play the Attack action, but the rules for Maneuver say you need to use it to Engage and the rules for Attack say that if you play it when unengaged you hesitate; what gives?

Secondly, there are some copying errors over the doc. I assume that Strategy substitutes for all instances of Strategist, Weapon Skills substitute for all instances of Fighter,Stealthy for Scout, Riding for Rider and Command for Commander. Which makes me ask: why do my unattached trolls/monsters seem to need to have the Command skill in order to make Attacks in a battle?

Thanks man.
You need to answer that first question for me!

Noted that we need a stature list for stocks in BW. A list might also clear up some of your queries in the first question.

Noted on the confusing battlefield movement stuff.

Noted on the editing stuff. That’s to be expected at this stage.


A civil war may be brewing in my home intrigue game, and I had already been considering zooming out and playing commanders for a few sessions if war does break out. Fingers crossed for turmoil and violence, so I can give these a test run :crossed_fingers:

1 Like

Perfect. That’s what they’re designed for. Go slow with them. Give them plenty of time to gather their armies and start learning Command/Tactics/Strategy, etc.


…welp. I trashed that conflict system and wrote a new one from scratch. The TB style wasn’t working for what BW needs—a sense of inevitability and danger. These rules are still rough and need to be tested more, but I figured I’d give you all a peek. Plus two new chapters!



I really like that the War rules feel like a synthesis of RnC, DoW, and Fight. There’s definitely a lot of moving parts but that seems appropriate for the scale, and growing out of existing systems helps it seem more manageable.

I’ve only had a chance to skim so far, but it’s the intention to run a War conflict in a session, or to resolve it piecemeal throughout a campaign? I think there’s something to be said for War As Campaign like in Burning Empires, where sessions are aimed toward advancing or resolving the overarching conflict. That might be too focused for general use in BW though

Glad you like what you see. A medium-sized battle conflict (five units per side) should take about an hour to resolve with one player knowing the rules and explaining them as they go.

Some development and set up will be required to build the units and the battlefield—but hopefully that process begins in the sessions leading up to the battle.

The campaign of war should be about more than conflict—there are numerous juicy tests just in fielding the army and finding the enemy. We’ve found those situations to be incredibly fun. They give weight to the idea of a war campaign, rather than just a one-off battle. The campaign format—gathering the army, supplying it, finding the enemy and maneuvering to battle—should be rewarding for the players who want to embrace it in this format. Battles should be as rare as fights, but when they come, they’ll produce a set of compelling results that you won’t get in any other part of the game.


I’ve actually been toying with the idea of Immortal Investment for a while! This is pretty dope. Thanks!


Anyone fighting a war in their campaigns this summer?

Somehow I’d missed this! We’ve been struggling a lot with how to resolve battles in my current high fantasy campaign, and consequently dialed the scope in somewhat to focus on adventuring. But perhaps no longer? A PC, newly crowned Warden of the Three Forges, has been looking to clear the dwarven Deep Roads of their Orcish inhabitants…

I’ll report back once we find a chance to try this out.


That’s fuckin’ rad.

wait wait wait. Don’t go all rushing off with that tattered old draft, please take this shinier, slightly more polished draft.

Oh no, that pdf also contains an entire new system that offers a new way to play Burning Wheel. Oh well, nothing to be done about it. I just hope y’all like it…


Bruh. I’ve been running Blades in the Dark to better work out how to incorporate faction play in my Burning Wheel. This is dope.

On the other hand, I’m not seeing the “Defeat in Detail” heading in my initial scan of the new War stuff. That was the best header in role-playing games, so what is even the point!? :sob:

1 Like

Page 69. It just got demoted a level to live under Disposition of Forces. I felt that defeat was a subject solely related to the concepts of disposition in these rules.

These faction rules aren’t as gritty as Blades (BW is not as gritty as Blades, ironically. No mechanic for prison shower murder in BW). I wanted something that fell between Jihad’s Propaganda War and Burning Empires’ Infection system. For systems like factions (and warfare), I’m always searching for the right position for the player character. I want the mechanisms to feel alive and powerful, not just an extension of the player’s will. But I don’t want them to be so remote that the a player doesn’t know how to affect them—even if indirectly.

Also, I was thinking: Is this new war system the longest chapter I’ve written in any of my games? It might be! It’s an entire mini-game supporting multiple campaigns worth of war-focused play. It’s wild!


Phew. What a relief.

These systems are overall very interesting to me. Part of the reason for doing Blades for me, too, was getting a model for wheels turning in the background. Burning Wheel talks about the importance of background movement, especially in the Codex, but I felt like there wasn’t much in the way of guidance for that process. Of course, that isn’t really Burning Wheel’s job; it’s a system (with a paradigm of play built in), not an instructional text on how to run a setting. I do think there’s an interesting anthropological angle regarding some of the assumptions of the TTRPG culture that BW came out of and was a response to and how the loss of those assumptions influence the interpretation of BW – but probably here is not where to do it!

What were we talking about? Factions? Right. Here are some Factions questions:

1a. Why the recommendations to bar Circles access to Factions behind Affiliations? It seems counter-intuitive that I can’t circle up my brother who is (conveniently) a member of the Holy Order of Saint Michael because I also did not buy into that affiliation. As a player, isn’t part of the appeal of Circles that you can get access to otherwise unaccessible factions through friends and family?

1b. Why the Members Must Believe clause? It seems like that precludes the duplicitous schemer archetype who is just using a faction’s assets and influence for their own ends – which is an archetype I’m sure I’m not alone in my affection for!

It seems like these stipulations paint a picture of highly insular, sincere organizations. I’m a huge fan of constraint, but these limitations leave me scratching my chin.

  1. I noticed that because smaller factions go first, it behooves a larger faction to secure an alliance with a smaller faction and use them as a catspaw to strike at the bigger factions rivals, while supplementing the smaller faction with a helping die. Is that the idea?

Members Must Believe: Nothing to stop you from using another belief slot to set out your true feelings about the faction.

And I feel that Circles is too loose with too many dice in the system. And I want to create real value in being a member of a faction.

So yes, this restriction does change the shape of the implied society of Burning Wheel, but I think it’s at least worth experimenting with.


There’s a bit of that going on with Sworn Homage and Sworn to the Order and opening up the fourth Belief slot, too. Not the same, exactly, but kind of in the same vein.

I mean, ya ain’t wrong. And fleshing out Affiliations has been on my mind since I started reading, honestly.

No doubt.

1 Like