Advice for Low Lifepath game

I’ve got an idea I’m batting around that I’m elevator-pitching as “Degrassi High + The Matter of Britain, but neither of those things.” I’m thinking 2-3 Lifepath characters growing up in the youth underclass of not-Camelot, learning how to be knights and diplomats and wizards, drawn up as pawns in courtly intrigue, and eventually growing up and taking command themselves.

Part of the appeal is watching these babies grow up, but I know there are a lot of challenges for low-lifepath, low-exponent characters. What are some of the lessons you’ve learned about low-LP campaigns? What should I be looking out for? How can I prepare for/mitigate some of these problems?

One thing that comes to mind is to give them challenges appropriate to their station (usually). To my thinking, Vs tests are bread and butter of Burning Wheel, cinveniently, this means that if a squire’s biggest problem in life is another squire, the opposition isn’t too stacked against them.

And you can frame introduce obstacles to work in this paradigm: Don’t have unskilled kids testing against Will Obs to convince people; bring in a rival to make a conflicting case with a conflicting Intent, and now you have a Duel of Wits or a Vs test against someone much more evenly matched.

The Light Touch Versus the Heavy Touch in the Codex (P. 118) has some particularly applicable advice, especially in the first paragraph. Let failures build an arc to catastrophe, but, for this, I would let that arc be long. Use failures to gradually build tension into the situation, reincorporate elements of that tension in later scenes until something pops. And even that pop doesn’t necessarily have to be life and death.

I would keep most of the Big Damn goings on focused on the older people in the characters’ lives and leave interacting with that stuff largely up to the players, with their characters taking a secondary role: Accomodating errands, Help, Linked Tests etc.

I would make sure that time passes! Either have situations that will simmer for months and zoom into scenes across that span of time. Or! After the resolution of each situation, put 6 months or a year between the trait vote and the next situation. Get a feel for how characters spent their time, log practice, test resources, etc., and then jump into the next situation. If you wanna watch them grow up, you gotta make sure they have time to grow up.

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Lean into the fact they are teenagers (to the extent “teenagers” exist in your setting) so will have the interests of teenagers when it comes to creating characters and setting consequences.

As any school drama shows, social status is radically important, friendships can explode or reform at the drop of a hat, and not being treated like an adult is the most unfair thing ever.

Which means, if the players have bought into it in creation, you can create consequences for the characters which hit really hard but aren’t ever going to kill them and can plausibly be overcome just as quickly as they hit (or could become a massive arc about losing the status of “Mark who landed in the swine trough while Adalhaid was looking”)


Thanks to both of you, this echoes a lot of what I was thinking. A challenge (that I’m looking forward to) is keeping the immediate scope small and intimate, but hinting at these big things happening just beyond those closed doors. Managing the sweep of time, too, will be interesting.

I hope to have reports soon!

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