All Burners Day

On November 1st, 2002 I officially released Burning Wheel. Two decades later, we’re still on fire!

We’d love to hear about your first encounter with Burning Wheel. Your first game, your first forum post, your first character, your first deeds point or your first acquisition. Tell us how you first found us, first fell in (or out of!) of love.


I was rooming with a bunch of friends, many of which were in my gaming group at the time. This was around 2016. Another friend and troup member brought his Burning Wheel books by at one point. He got these from a Kickstart for Gold, I think. You guys were having some issues with your printer, and so he ended up with a couple not-quite-run-of-the-mill extra copies of Gold. He introduced some of us to this game he was super amped about and left a copy or two in the house for us to peruse should we take an interest.

I read that copy over the course of about a week, declared the game unrunnable, and didn’t touch it again for a year or three.

Some time later my tastes in gaming matured. I was super into the old World of Darkness games – those were the games that made me fall in love with the hobby. As I read and played and tweaked more and more games, my understanding of the hobby as a whole grew. Eventually, I stumbled on a review for Burning Wheel, paused the video about a minute in and opened that loaner copy back up. It was like reading an entirely different book and coming home at the same time. I became enamored with it. I still tend to think of of it as, “What if the Storyteller system was actually a game.”

I did, I think, three games right around the same time. I think the first one was a demo session of The Sword. It went real well! One of the highlights was The Gambler and the Roden having a Duel of Wits about waving the Roden’s fee vs ensuring he gets paid – only for the Dwarf to interrupt the negotiations by tapping Greed to pay the Roden’s price, removing him as an obstacle between the Dwarf and The Sword. The bastard even succeeded! I wasn’t sure what to do! The Dwarf’s actions fulfilled the desires of both sides, so I just stopped the Duel there and we moved on.

Leon was a fish out of water. Thrust into the soldiering life as a child, he soon found himself captured by the enemy and turned his cloak. He became a seargent in a medical corps, where his capacity for keeping his comrades in line was noted by a powerful lord who took him as a bondsman to serve as his steward and enforcer.

When this lord died, an intrigue developed amongst his unmarried daughters to seize as much of his property and influence as possible. Leon found himself in the middle of this intrigue. He had more ambition than sense, but also an abysmal self-image and loyalty to one of his late lord’s daughters. He negotiated these tensions as a blunt instrument, hitching himself to this would-be countess’s cause and doing what she was too idealistic to do.

Near the climax of these intrigues, the capitol was struck by a supernatural cataclysm. Horrible spirits drowned the streets with blood. What people could, fled, and a holy military order quarantined the city. Naturally, Leon’s adopted cause demanded he retrieve some sensitive material from the city. After working his way through the quarantine, he found himself in need of assistance on the inside. Gangs had taken root in the city, twisted and deranged by their spirit patrons. Assistance came in the form of one of these gangs, willing to trade. Slaves was their chief commodity. They used them for currency, and for food and other things. It was a moment of clarity for Leon. This place was as harsh and crude as he was, and these depravities were profound. Suddenly he had a place in the world; a cause he could call his own. He killed as many of those monsters as he could before being driven away.

After fleeing the city, he used the clout he’d accumulated to hire a company of mercenaries to bring back. The countess came with him. She felt obligated to support him in this, as he had supported her. She underestimated Leon’s commitment. For her, this was a dalliance between her ascension and her marriage. Leon expected to die in the capitol. This would be his life’s work, however long that might be.

She kind of fucked things up for Leon. She made a deal with a spirit and became possessed – a novel political asset, that. Leon’s mercenaries were contracted to combat collaborators with these spirits. They always abide by the contract. Leon was torn between betraying his countess and making enemies of his mercenaries.

They bailed. He led her through the city and fought through a weak point in the quarantine. He got her home, and she began to plan their next intrigue. He bid her goodbye, and the last we saw of Leon he was heading back to the capitol aline.

:thinking: I was asking about how having a Gray Forte affects Superficial Wound.

N/A :confused:


Encounter is such a mellow sounding word… Sscientists say there are likely to be things we’ll never fully discover but we know @Mark_Watson was exposed at some point and soon became radically contagious. A strong regime of other systems and him living some distance away kept me safe for a while, but I finally caught it after I moved closer to him.

The Sword. Two player game run by some mook with excellent facial hair. I was the dwarf. From what I recall, we managed to resolve it without coming close to brutal violence.

First character I created was a young country noble whose father believed a noble’s role was to make decisions that protect and improve the estate rather than to rule over it; so he had all his children spend some time working with various commoners before they became adults. My character had just finished that and so should have been appointed his eldest brother’s squire in order to add a bit of noble/world experience. However, about a day after the two of them set off together using the family barge that his father had given him so he could learn management skills, a bunch of shouting figures charged toward them from the woods. My character charged to defend his brother, cutting one of them down but was knocked out. When he woke up, he was in a young commoner woman’s hut, having been nursed back to health by her. They (because who doesn’t want to add drama) fell in love but my character couldn’t leave his brother in trouble so, instead of staying with her or heading home, found the (fortunately unstolen) barge and sailed hard down river away from home seeking clues. Thinking the fight through as he recovers, he realises he can’t be sure if the person he cut down at the head of the attackers was gleefully leading the charge or fleeing from a group of thugs.


Born Noble > Pedlar (Peasant) > Barber (Village) > Desperate Killer (Outcast)

Relationship: Girlfriend (Forbidden, Romantic)
Relationship: Father (Forbidden — he has killed someone and fled so getting in touch is “socially problematic”)

Belief 1: Find my brother!

Instinct 1: Never strike first

After chasing the cult that kidnapped my character’s brother and thwarting them in the first city we stopped in, we discovered my brother seemed to now be working with them. So, we raced after him to a wine growing region where we discovered he was apparently visiting with a group of religious zealots who were there to deal with a grape blight. Some spying uncovered that the vineyard that was under investigation was actually just using “good” fungus that is normal in viniculture but the one that was supposedly “clean” had tiny demonic presence in the cellar and evil ritual magic on the press.

Obviously, these religious types were the bad guys, but we couldn’t take them down with the entire (apparently innocent) town supporting their plan to save them from the evil rot. So, I came up with a plan to break into the mayor’s house, hide (most of) the loot in the fake zealots’ rooms, then tip off the mayor. To avoid the issue with my brother recognising me and/or getting arrested, I suggested we kidnap him the same night.

So, we break into the mayor’s house, steal a bunch of stuff, break into my brother’s room and kidnap him, plant a few bits of stolen stuff to look like they were dropped/missed by someone scooping up their loot and fleeing, then retire to a warehouse to question him.

He, being a cultist, tries to open a portal as soon as he wakes up in the warehouse. We make him unconscious again and investigate. On the other side, we find ourselves deep in a forest under stars that don’t seem right, near a hut that has my brother tied up in it. So we return to our side, now with two brothers.

A bit of effortful questioning later, I determine the one in the hut is (not that surprisingly) my brother and the other one is a cultist using powerful magic to steal his face. We stash them safely and grab a few hours sleep before going to the mayor early next morning with “our suspicions” about the zealots.

The mayor, us, and concerned tool-holding citizens turn up at the inn. The zealots are having a pleasant breakfast having just assumed their missing leader hasn’t got up yet, so are caught utterly off guard by the sudden unfriendly faces. Despite having very little sleep, the group sells the “your group robbed the mayor then your leader double-crossed you and fled in the night” so well that the zealots half think it’s true and they just weren’t in on it.

Based on our valiant uncovering of the “thieves”, the mayor put us in charge of uncovering what was happening in with the vines. So we purged the cult’s plan to sell tainted wine and put the untainted winery out of business.

Recovering my brother and foiling the cult’s plans in two places was Deed worthy.

I’m very much a character-driven rather than optimal-build roleplayer, so the whole shebang of BITs and failing forward pleases me.

However, the heart of my joy is probably Duel of Wits. I’ve argued cases in front of courts across England and Wales, so know first hand that debate is hugely complex. Many systems talk about social interaction being at the heart (Vampire: The Masquerade, for example) but BW is the first system I’ve encountered that treats non-violence in as complex and nuanced a way as a random brawl in a pub is treated in most systems.


Gentlemen, you warm the coal of my burning heart!


Burning Wheel is something special to a bunch of us. It’s cool having a day to celebrate it.


My friends and I had recently run a successful Kickstarter campaign for a board/card game, and we had a booth at PAX East to sell some extra copies and playtest some new game designs. We had enough people to be able to rotate in and out of the booth, and on my break I wandered over to BWHQ’s setup. Didn’t know anything about the games, but I was struck by how beautiful Burning Wheel Gold’s cover was. So, I leafed through the display copy and saw Kurt Komoda’s incredible art for Elven Grief. That was enough to convince me that it was worth picking up, if only as a something nice to put on my RPG shelf.

I’ve always read RPG books cover to cover, even when they’re not always laid out to work that way, and as I read BWG at the hotel that night it just made sense mechanically and stylistically. And, hey, it’s well-ordered for learning the system as you read too! I ended up buying a second copy the next day, so I’d have one to lend to friends to get them into the game as well.

I ran a game of Words Remain Below for some friends on our weekly RPG night. I originally wanted to go with The Sword, but we had enough people interested to fill out the inn so it seemed like a good fit.

I was pretty nervous about how it’d go, but everyone had a great time. It’s only one of two times that people have sent emails in the scheduling thread in-character after the session was over; the other was after we did Inheritance.

Not sure if there’s an older one lost to the forum restructure, but I argued for Saying Yes to spellcasting in some circumstances to avoid letting players fish for Obstacles. Sure, you turn into a falcon, what happens now?

Oldest thread on Reddit was asking about a rules quirk with skill requirements and “Wife” lifepaths. Got an answer from Luke less than an hour later. Talk about service!

Alas, I am a Forever-GM, but I have a moment to share from our first world-burning.

The players had settled on a Human-centric game focused on a religious schism that had formed in their nation. The faithful had lost the ability to commune with their goddess a generation ago but it seemed that her voice was returning to them, commanding them to arm themselves and march for war in contradiction of her old teachings. The clergy was torn as to whether this was truly their goddess or a usurper; whether they had misunderstood old teaching or if there were new ones. Our players were firmly on the side of the old teachings, and of peace. The Situation would be set at a council convened to discuss the theological problems, immediately following the assassination of a high ranking priest of their faction.

When I asked the players what it would it would look like if they failed, they didn’t say “we get framed for the assassination” or “our faction is excommunicated” or “war breaks out while we devolve into infighting”. They decided that failure meant uniting the church under their banner, only to find that they were wrong and they’d left their church and their nation unprepared for a war they have no choice in.

When your players worry that they’ll win a pyrrhic victory, you’ve got a lot of dramatic stakes and interesting roleplay lined up. Not something you’ll get from most games.


I first heard about Burning Wheel via Paul Tevis’s Have Games Will Travel podcast, followed shortly after with the Sons of Kryos, ballpark 2005-06, where BW (and then Burning Empires) kept cropping up, but, thanks to the vagaries and costs of international shipping (if only I’d known what was coming), it wasn’t until Mouse Guard in 2009 that I got a copy. I running it with a group of friends who new to RPGs for about a year. I quickly ordered BWR and BE after that but had a lot less success getting games off the ground despite multiple attempts.

Fast forward to last year and @Judd posted his Tower Knight prefab situation on his blog, and I somehow managed to sell my regular D&D group on giving BW an honest shot using that starter, and at year later we are stilling running that campaign.

My first forum post was asking for some help checking my prep for my first session of Mouse Guard


I think that my first brush with Burning Wheel was (looking at these email dates) back in mid-2007.

I cannot quite remember why I bought Burning Wheel Revised (I’m presuming I’d seen some interesting reviews or discussion and went looking), but I can remember trying to wrap my head around it a number of times, flicking between the two books.

We were just starting to play in a WFRP LARP (a homebrewed LARP based on the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying game), and I did what I often / always do with a new RPG, and tried to burn up my LARP character in BWR.

WFRP had been my first RPG, back in the day, and with the LARP starting up, and with me running a home game of WFRP, I thought that I could see a lot of potential parallels, especially between WFRP’s Careers and BW’s Lifepaths.

Trying to burn up Heinrich Segler, a Marine, was a fascinating, and helped start clicking a number of pieces into place.

What in WFRP was a single career, someone village-born who became a Marine, I had to break down into the lifepaths of Burning Wheel:

  • Village Born - (Village) Sailor - (Sea) Sailor - Marine
    That works. Oh, but I can also do:
  • Village Born - (Sea) Boy - Sailor - Marine
    … hrm. Or I could…
  • Village Born - Carpenter’s Mate (for Bullseye-Accurate Spitting!) - Sailor - Marine
    But could I do this another way?

I could, of course, each ending up the same, but different, and potentially radically so.

BW-Heinrich never saw play, but that sealed it for me, and I just kept digging into Burning Wheel deeper and deeper.

Whilst I did (very) briefly play in a one-on-one, I’ve GM’d far more.

From early attempts that collapsed because you don’t use full-on-fight for the first 3 orcs you encounter (that’s what Bloody Vs. is for!), to trying out Burning Empires in acoupe of abortive campaigns, it took a while for me to find my feet. There were plenty of other RPGs that I could also be playing or, more likely, running.

Still, the hooks were in, and I kept circling the game and coming back to it. It looks like I joined the forum some time back in 2008, probably because I had some rules question / Trait issue that was tripping me up.

Although, when I look back (on this forum), it looks like it might have been in reply to Per Fischer to get involved in a custom Burning Wheel / Burning Empires dice order. (Said dice have continued to be used in every BWHQ game I’ve run since, and are a most belovéd).

In between, I’ve dabbled in all things Burning Empires, poked at Mouseguard, facilitated a couple of runs of Inheritance and run an 18 month Torchbearer campaign (Three Against Middarmark).

I feel like I really hit my Burning Wheel stride with our Broken Wheel campaign, that ended up running for over 100 sessions, a 5 player monster of a campaign, of hunting cults and saving the (WFRP) Empire.

After that, came Houses of Snakes, a 3 player game of initially inspired by Torchbearer and Hilary Mantel’s “Wolf Hall” (specifically Thomas Cromwell’s growing household and the interconnected responsibilities of those living there). That lasted for a solid 4 years, with the start point (lowest-of-the-low adventurers) - end point (command of the kingdom / lover to a god) being as epic (if not more so) than I had hoped.

Currently, I’m running Flussgeschichten / River Stories (another) Burning WFRP game (hi @DaveHiggins !)

@DaveHiggins 's excellent session summaries (written in the style of an in-setting biography of his character) let me know that we just played session 94 on Sunday 31st October.

Here, we’re dealing with cults (again - a strong natural default for me in WFRP), but also Halfling/Skaven apostle-hood, bargaining with ghosts, sailing and trading up and down the rivers, and (currently) heading into Sylvania, a vampire-ruled land to rescue someone’s daughter…

Thanks @luke , @Thor, @Drozdal, @AndyAction and all of BWHQ.


The first game I ran was with 2 players as humans and 2 as elves in some situation that I can’t recall. I remember one of the elf characters said, “If a human dies, it is like destroying a cottage. If an elf dies, it is like destroying a cathedral…”


Yes, his excellent session summaries, which can be found for public consumption at… ? :eyes:

First Game:
First game overall was right after I got the book and recruited three friends of mine to play a group of villagers in a town caught in the midst of a long and devastating war. They all played local craftspeople trying to get by as their lord conscripted their children and family while taking their goods and services to serve the war effort. My first game as a player was with a group of randoms online coming into Trouble in Hochen a few sessions after they started.

First Character:
Not counting a pregen, my first character was a young priestess who served as a singer in her church. She was young and idealistic, was dating a man who ran a gang who got her into all sorts of trouble, and she was terrible at essentially everything that wasn’t singing, which she was incredible at. In game, she consistently flubbed every singing roll I made, regardless of the odds, and succeeded at everything she was supposed to suck at. This also included the best roll I have ever made in a game, where a B4 or 5 Faith test resulted in 10 successes. Immediately vaporizing some horrifying devils who were attacking me.

First Deeds Point:
I have never received one. I run Burning Wheel way more than I play, so I’ve only had about 7 or 8 sessions of play as a PC.

What I love about it:
I think I really fell in love right after character creation the first time I ran a game. My players were all making choices that they would NEVER make in another game. One asked if they could take less lifepaths than we allowed purely because they wanted to be less capable. Another decided that their character’s main goal and drive would be to find out what happened to their son, with no restrictions on what that was. They were all so excited by the system and they all wanted to set up tension and then see what happened, rather than playing safe and avoiding giving me anything to pull on as their GM.

First Forum Post:
I for sure posted on the old forums, but I can’t find the details on that now. On this forum, not counting a Mouse Guard question, I asked how I could tell apart different editions of the book, even though it was SUPER obvious in retrospect.

Favorite PC:
A friend of mine came up with a character who was essentially a rabble-rousing anarchist because the character just couldn’t be bothered to get a real job. They spent all their time trying to stage rebellions, and it was almost entirely because they had no other marketable skills.

Favorite NPC:
The first, last, and possibly only time my players bought an antagonistic major character relationship. One of the players bought a relationship with a Dwarf who was the head of the trading guild in their city during character creation. The entire cast ended up getting dragged into his orbit, and all of them ended up hating him passionately by the time we were done. I got multiple grimaces and curses out of character because of how much he got the better of them, and we staged an entire four session series that was all taking place over the course of a ridiculous dinner party he was throwing. It was rad.


They are, as @Mark_Watson says, in the style of biography rather than “pool assembled vs. Ob, traits poked, &c.” so didn’t think they’d be of much interest as a resource here.

They’re currently in a shared folder for our group: might be tricky to share only some of that publically, so I’ll ponder.

1 Like

Me before starting this post: “Wow everyone’s posts are so long what is up with that?”

God it was years ago now, definitely in the revised era. I read about the system on some blog, I can’t even tell you which one. Whatever it was it sold me on at least buying it for a read through, and once I had it in my grubby little hands, it was like… The answer to questions about RPGs I didn’t even know to ask yet.

I tried to convince my school friends to play a test game or two with me but… I hadn’t yet fully grokked the system yet. I knew enough of the rules but I didn’t know how to encourage my players to write good beliefs, I didn’t know how to challenge those beliefs, I didn’t know how to set up a good situation. I think the only pitch we had was “let’s be pirates!”, the game didn’t work, and my friends decided that meant the system itself was bad.

I wasn’t convinced. I had the gut feeling that I set things up wrong, that it wasn’t really the systems fault, I just set up an unfocused game that would have failed in a huge number of systems.

I read more. I browsed the old forums, I read the old APs, I got my hands on the AdBu and the MoBu and read through those. My friends were mostly lost causes at this point, but I felt like I could still have a great game with this system even if I met some strangers online to do so.

I have the distinct feeling I am forgetting some games I played in that era, so if I played online with you and our game is not mentioned here, please, jog my memory, one of my regrets right now looking back on this is that I didn’t A) start blogging sooner and B) missed recording some sessions on my blog. Some of my APs were lost in the closing of the old forums and some even after I started doing them on my blog I just did not write up APs for. Once I dive deeply back into gaming again (burning wheel or otherwise), I am going to make sure to revive my blog and record every session in a place where I will be able to maintain my records.

That said here are some cool games I do remember:

Burning Holy War of Succession. My first ever deeds point where my very talky Princess managed to kill a Kraken (totally was her and not the crossbow bolts my fellow PCs shot beforehand), learn to use a sword, and use her father’s death to emotionally manipulate her brother into not going to war over his claim and putting her power-hungry sister in charge. The other PCs had some cool events too like or holy warrior getting married, and getting his rival future father in law to give his blessing, or our commoner PC hitting it off with a cute noble lady. Was overall a cool game that lead to a Sidequel game about orcs which I ran and again could have focused a bit better, but had some fun in it as well.
Kaigan: A cool game that showed me I suck at running mysteries, but overall I really liked the conflict that came up as the characters each had their own ideals about how to best serve their clan and what to do when those ideals were betrayed (either by other PCs or the clan itself). There was also a side story here afterwards about a set of PCs that ran a bar in the city that was briefly visited by the first set of PCs
Plague Island: Done with the same crew as above, this was a super fun game about colonialism and a magical curse. I got to play Anju. a native summoner which is probably my favorite magic system in the game. My character ended up getting convinced that the only way to save her husband and her people, was to use her powers to call up the dark god behind the curse, and let him wreck his wrath on the rest of the settlers. The ending came down to, of all things, myself vs the party’s spirit binder and the “working quickly” rules for our various circination tests to see if I could finish my summoning circle first, or if he could finish his binding circle first to stop me, I ended up winning but just barely failing my summoning roll, and poor Anju lost control and lost herself to the Dark God’s power. There was talk of playing a game several years down the line and seeing what terrible destruction the possessed Anju wrought but we never came up with a good enough situation and the group went their separate ways a bit after.
Maxim/Kento’s stories: A pair of really cool one on one games that I really wish we had a chance to keep going on, but only ended up with like three sessions each. They both had some cool parallels being about a young nobleman forced into exile and mercenary work in a hostile land. Kento in not!Japan in blossoms and Maxim in the frozen lands of not!Russia. The games both ended with both of them having to rescue someone dear to them, Kento left surrounded in the middle of the rescue attempt, Maxim just having woken up from a bad injury where his companion was kidnapped after he was left for dead. Perhaps a happy ending would have awaited these two, but while I would have liked to have done more, I am fine with leaving it where we did.
I also ran a few demo games for a bit which was really neat, might have to do more of that in the future.

Lots of cool stories, many of which I wish I recorded better, but now that things have settled down for me I am looking forward to making some more cool stories in the future.

Me now: “Oh, that’s what is up with that.”


:eyes: I may have noticed that I was gonna be first and used the opportunity to set the standard of answering all of the questions to lure people into blabbing as much as possible!


I probably would have gone on a long rant on my own, but you setting that standard makes me look less ridiculous so thanks for that! :wink:

1 Like

:point_right: :point_right:

Thanks you for your offering!

For a very long time, BW was one of many games that I enjoyed reading, but never got to actually play. I bought the original game not long after you initally released it, created characters with my friends, but we didn’t really get around to playing.

My gaming buddies moved away, I got married, and while I still bought the occasional game to read (including BWR, and Mouseguard) I stopped role playing almost entirely for nigh on 15 years.

When my son got old enough, though (8, I think) I pulled out some of the the old books again. He had already expressed interest in the ‘talking games’ I had mentioned. My Little Pony the RPG only held his attention for so long, but BW was still a bit … adult for him.

Mouseguard, though, totally grabbed his imagination. He read the rules cover-to-cover, and had created two characters before I had even read the first chapter. I bought him the graphic novels for Christmas, and promised to run a game for him.

I roped in one of my old gaming buddies to mentor him and ran Deliver the Mail.

Lieam, a tender-paw on his first mission, was trying to prove to Thom that he had the ‘right stuff’ to be a guardmouse. Thom, a grizzled ‘too-old-for-this-shit’ veteran was trying to show Lieam what it actually takes to be a guardmouse. It is fair to say that they had different beliefs about that; there was a nice tension to their relationship. So that was my first BWHQ game

We played fortnightly games of MG for a year or so, and before too long I was running a BW game as well, though this time for grown ups.

I am basically the designated GM in my gaming circle, so sadly I have never earned a Deeds point, or played a character (other than one of the pregens in Twilight in the Duchy Verdorben) but the first Deeds Point I gave was to a player who stopped his cultist father from sacrificing townsfolk to Rán by dragging him into the ocean, where they died together. As epic a moment as I’ve ever had at a role-playing table.

My first forum post jokingly asked someone if they had received a free musical instrument because they said ‘Viola!’ instead of ‘Voila!’. Yeah, I know.


I was dragged, kicking and screaming, into a Burning Wheel game in 2015. I’d been trying to hack D&D (first 4e, then 5e) to play out character-driven mono-mythical stories set in the Star Wars Galaxy, and becoming increasingly frustrated with a system that seemed to defy emotional stakes. My younger brother (@Wembley ) saw Adam Koebel’s hype video for the Burning Wheel on YouTube, bought a copy, then decided that the next game he was going to run would be with the Burning Wheel. I had my heart set on playing a Goliath Barbarian, and told him there was no way I was playing a weird new system that used boring d6s for conflict resolution. He told me he wasn’t going to run anything else. So I reluctantly joined the party. I fell in love in the first session.

My first forum post was about Shields and how effective they are. I gave some really stupid advice.

My first character was (ahem) a Goliath Barbarian. I am stubborn. He died of picking a fight after spending his last persona point. I was warned. I am stubborn.

My first Deeds point was earned by Gertie Growler; after a cave-in wounded and trapped my whole party, I stole a trapped and guarded gem and used it as leverage to coerce its guardian to free my friends. It played directly against my beliefs, yet saved the party. Gertie’s still out there, somewhere.

I’ll add one: favorite campaign. I ran a standalone mystery adventure of my own design called Welcome to Wenbight, wherein a mysterious beast has been mauling and devouring members of the same noble house. After our session 0 was complete, I spent a whole month (50+ hours) burning up the Major Characters, devising the sequence of events that had unfolded up to where play would begin, seeding every necessary clue (and numerous connections) within the setting, and tweaking the rules for our Summoning so that magical investigation would be viable, but not story-breaking. Intent and Task did wonders for making both success and failure a means of unraveling the mystery (just in different ways). Among the host of terrifying events that occurred, four I still think about with relish are:
1. the investigative duo discovering that murder victims had been carefully given their funeral rites in order to make their spirits harder to summon and glean revelation from.
2. a brilliant fight where a player character with no combat skills spent a physical action to pants an enemy. And it worked.
3. my players enjoying my portrayal of a character so much that they entrusted her (Adelaide the Elder) with sensitive information that brought the beast to their door(Adelaide was burned up during my prep specifically as the mastermind of the whole conspiracy - I had to suppress a maniacal laugh).
4. the players using Folklore magic to build an anti-beast ward around the next intended victim, leading to a tense moment of combat as the creature tried to circumvent the warding circle by clawing through the inn roof.


Discovered it when I was invited to play in a Revised game in 2008 by a fellow gaming friend. That group, unfortunately, never got off the ground, dissolving before we ever had our first in-game session. But we did manage to have a couple of intro sessions where we made sample characters and experimented with the rules.

And I was hooked instantly! From the moment I sat down and started making characters, it just fit me like a well-made glove!

Here at last was a game that seemed to resolve every issues I’d ever had with D&D and other systems I’d tried! Where you didn’t just sit around taking turns during combat in an orderly fashion - which grated on me as an experienced martial artist - but went all at the same time as real combat should! Where you could play as someone as lowly as the village idiot or as an assistant pig keeper (I grew up with those books) and mold them into a capable warrior or chosen hero over time and through great struggle, instead of just starting off that way! And the idea of “learning by doing” reminded me of one of my favorite games of all time, Quest for Glory, which I didn’t think could even exist in a tabletop form at all before then, so was VERY excited to try that out!

But most of all, for the first time ever, I had ZERO issue coming up with backstory for my character! Sure, I could DO it in other games, and always did like a good little player should, but it always took a long time to get started and come up with something, and I was always left with at least one part that I had to “force” into place, as if I was justifying part of the sheet I’d made. With Burning Wheel, by the time I’m done making a sheet - and often times, even before I’m fully done - it seemed as if no matter where I look on the pages, there’s a story waiting to be told (something that I’ve seen from ALL of my friends who’ve enjoyed playing)!

Yeah, to say it was love at first sight was pretty much the case. I knew then that BW was going to be my favorite system from that point forward. And even though that group failed to play, I went and bought all of the books for the old Revised (ALL of them) playing in other games of other groups to scratch my itch, while quietly biding my time. I even ripped straight from BW to come up with “homebrew” to fix issues I found in the game we played, either as suggestions for my GM or just whenever I was forced to run a session to fill a game night. My favorite to use is Garbled Transmission for Nat 1s on spellcasting; martial characters get snapped bowstrings and thrown swords all the time, why shouldn’t spell-slingers get some of the “fun”? And have it be way crazier since ethereal forces are way harder to handle then a piece of sharp metal or a stick with some sinew attached!

Unfortunately, I never could find a group that had heard of BW, or that I felt comfortable introducing the game to. So, despite my trepidation over GMing, I finally gathered some choice friends together a little bit ago, bought BWGR to update myself, and have introduced them to the game myself.

And, as I suspected, playing is different from practicing. But it’s overall been a pleasant experience; as I also suspected, Burning Wheel fits me like peanut butter fits chocolate, and save for the usual teething issues, the game’s treated me quite well so far, as it has my friends.

What’s surprised me the most is how utterly accessible the game’s turned out to be! I’ve always been hesitant to recommend the game to new tabletoppers because it seems so complex to learn and there’s so much bookkeeping to keep track of (tests, artha use, practice/instruction, etc) that I thought new players would get bogged down and frustrated with the pacing, and so only considered veterans who’d played tabletops back in the day. But my group has a mix of new and veteran players, and the new ones are having as much of a blast with it as the old-school players! It’s been at once a sad and fantastic revelation that I’ve been wrong all these years.

Joining the forum itself followed soon after I bought BWGR; I wanted to ensure I was interpreting the rules correctly and not just “Monopoly”-ing it with my own made-up head game, so figured going there to ask veterans of the system questions was a good idea. And boy has it ever been! I can’t thank them enough for helping me work out the kinks in my knowledge so I can be a fair and balanced GM, and so we can experience Burning Wheel in all its blazing glory!

As far as my first character ever…yeah, that would have to be Melthias, the street sage, back in that 2008 session. I’d wanted to test the limits of BW by creating a character that had zero combat ability at all, focusing i’nstead on DoW as his niche, but I also wanted him to be able to support combat-oriented characters in some meaningful way; taking Tactics and Strategy, namely, so he could help advise his comrades in a battle and make them more effective as a team.

The GM encouraged this “pacifist” character build (much to my surprise at the time) and I quickly came up with a character who had once been a minstrel of the court before finding himself kicked out for a scandal in court, finding himself on the streets where he’d garnered a reputation as a man of sharp mind and wit in his middle age, working as a poor store clerk by day and as a philosopher by night. And to that day, every day, he would spend part of his meager pay on ink and paper to write to the court requesting yet again that they open a Guild of Minstrels for the betterment of the kingdom (a plea that they have yet to respond to).

Never officially played him, of course, but I’ve used him since as a way to demonstrate DoW to people I’ve met, and to prove that you don’t necessarily need combat and violence to get suspense and drama.


Long ago, not too far after the turn of the millennium, there was a website called RPGnet, and there was a review (it might even have been this one) which talked about a strange set of tomes in which desperate combatants were exhorted to write down their strikes and feints secretly and in advance. Having delved in games of war in my youth, this concept of “scripted movement” was not unknown to me, but I had to know more.

So I sent away a missive with the paltry sum of 15 dollars (Resource Obs were unknown to us in those days) and received in due time a pair of slimmish volumes, in hues of umber and ochre, filled with strange ranting imps and odd notions. As I was then a participant of a weekly gathering of like-minded individuals, housed within an ill-favored temple of commerce given over to the worship of small illustrated rectangles of pasteboard, I vowed to put these strange rituals to the test.

That first outing revealed the tale of that most luckless of knights, von Goten. His skeletal remains might still to this day lie upon the roof of that forgotten cottage in which his lynx-eyed captors sheltered from the burning sun, directing their black barbs against any who dared to approach. As it was, a doughty dwarf and an elusive elf effected his rescue, although at some cost, I recall, to the elf’s grip on this mortal coil.

Through these volumes, I later divined some of the history of lost Tarshish and an Orc who sailed, and the summoning of spirits long forgotten. In later days, there would be a blacksmith in the haunted woods of easternmost Rus whose tales would spool out slowly over many years, and lame tinker turned shipwright on the shores of not-quite-France. Further afield, a glittering spider with a mind of crystal and limbs of untarnished alloy would seek the destruction of an abode of man amidst the endless sky of the Azure Pearl. Each time I would marvel how the faithful application of the rituals, now grown and elaborated in the fullness of their years, brought depth and richness to the tales they revealed.

It has been some time now since I have taken up the practices of the Wheel, and allowed it to spool out more stories, but I trust that what I am again ready, I will find it ever there, to spin, to burn, and to give light, all in equal measure for decades more to come.