Burning Westeros: Advice about 6Pl/6Hr BWG Scenario of Robert's Rebellion

At the end of August, I will running a BWG scenario for 6 players for 6 hours set as Robert’s Rebellion against Mad King Aerys II Targaryen.
The six characters will be the primary antagonists:

Mad King Aerys II Targaryen (known as The Mad)
His son and heir, Prince Rhaegar
Prince Lewyn Martell of Dorne, and uncle to Elia, Rhaegar’s wife
Tywin Lannister, until recently Hand of the King
The Rebel Robert Baratheon
His close ally, the young Eddard Stark

The premise is that these characters will be thrown into conflict with one another, after Rhaegar kidnaps Eddard’s sister and Robert’s betrothed, Lyanna Stark.

To familarize some with the rules, I will be running The Sword in open gaming prior to the scenario.

Why I chose this scenario:

The convention requires 6 players for 6 hours, and The Sword is not appropriate.
With 6 players, having the players in conflict obviates the need for a single protagonist.
Burning Wheel Gold seems ideal for Westeros: it draws on the same historical period, and has appropriate mechanics.
Westeros seems ideal for attaining buy-in for Burning Wheel: A Game of Thrones is extremely popular.

My goal is to run the scenario based on BWG with as little deviation as possible.
The closest to a “house rule” I envision is to use Resources as a stand in for warfare.
To a first approximation, battles are attempts to inflict a Maintenance check on another character.
Tax represents the potential loss. Cash and Funds abstractly represent military resources that may be expended in battle.

I would appreciate any advice, other than suggestions that I not do this scenario, for any number of reasons.
I am committed to seeing this through.


I’m going to violate your suggestion and say that this isn’t a great BW demo scenario. Not because BW can’t do ASoIaF, but because there are some issues with the setup.

  1. A familiar conflict has preset expectations of how things will go and, more importantly, how people will behave. It also sucks a lot of force out of Wises and other narrative tools. Players may not like anyone making up details that contradict the books/show.

  2. BW is at its best when the focus is on the personal. And the personal can be political, but this is very much a setup of big conflicts beyond the scope of personal input. You’re setting up a conflict in which PCs may not personally be present and certainly skill that have broad scope over many others (leadership, tactics, administration, and so on) are going to have much more utility than the personal (Climb, Stealthy). It can be done, but I’m not sure it can be done well in a 6 hour session. If you come up with a good way more power to you.

  3. As you’ve set it up, unless there are really out there beliefs it’s a 3v2 conflict with Tywin as the swing. If it turns 4v2 it’s a foregone conclusion. If Tywin has a belief forcing him to join up with the rebels it’s really an expected 3v3, which works but is less exciting than having more flexible loyalties. The Sword is all about shifting alliances. Or take a look at The Gift, my favorite for large groups. It looks like 4 Elves versus 4 Dwarves, but there are some subtleties there and the results can vary much more widely than just whether the king is victorious or toppled.

That said, I’d be interested in seeing the characters you’ve burned up and, more importantly, their beliefs.

While I agree that it’s not good to use a preset conflict, you can totally get away with a Game of Thrones theme. There’s lots of places you can set up a conflict with characters who don’t necessarily appear in the books. For instance, a bit of backstabbiness up on The Wall might be interesting. A patrol of rangers, one of whom is actually a spy, are faced with a harsh decision while on patrol beyond The Wall. Make sure to cast characters whose Beliefs tie one another together and drive one another apart.

yeah, this scenario has too broad a scope. it’s gonna be really hard to get those characters in a room, or even convince the players (if familiar with the cannon) to even concieve of deviating from the story.

i created a Westeros scenario that works quiet well, and has room for six characters (though i only use five)
it’s on the wiki - here. i’ve run it very successfully, multiple times. i found it better to use the setting without using previously established ‘recent history’

either way, good luck with it

Six Player Characters and Their Lifepaths and Beliefs:

All six characters have a fourth belief from the trait Noblesse Oblige. Three beliefs are given, and the last belief will be chosen by the players.

Mad King Aerys Targaryen II:

7 Life Paths: Born Noble -> Page -> Squire -> Knight -> Duke -> Noble Prince -> Prince of the Blood.

Noblesse Oblige: [i]“Rulership is my natural and ordained task.”

“The power of House Targaryen is the Dragon’s Fire which courses through our veins.”

"Rhaegar is weak and unready to rule.[/i]

Tywin Lannister:

6 Life Paths: Born Noble -> Page -> Squire -> Knight -> Count -> Duke."

Noblesse Oblige: [i]“I govern from Duty, Heritage and Right.”

“All I do, I do for House Lannister.”

“First minimize risk, then maximize gain.”[/i]

Prince Rhaegar:

5 Life Paths: Born Noble -> Page -> Squire -> Knight -> Lord.

Noblesse Oblige: [i]“Rulership is my natural and ordained task.”

“Beauty is the Oil which fuels the Dragon’s Fire of House Targaryen.”

“I will prove myself worthy to my Father by defending his Rule.”[/i]

Robert Baratheon:

5 Life Paths: Born Noble -> Page -> Squire -> Knight -> Baron.

Noblesse Oblige: [i]“My reverence is towards the Crown.”

“House Targaryen has become a line of Mad Dogs and must be extuinguished.”

“I will win the Iron Throne by Might of Arms, for I am a Warrior of Legend!”[/i]

Eddard Stark:

5 Life Paths: Born Noble -> Page -> Squire -> Knight -> Baron.

Noblesse Oblige: [i]“I am responsible for the People.”

“I will avenge the deaths of Rickard and Brandon Stark, and rescue my sister Lyanna.”

“Robert Baratheon is now my brother, and I will give all to support him.”[/i]

Lewin Martell:

5 Life Paths: Born Noble -> Page -> Squire -> Knight -> Viscount."

Noblesse Oblige: [i]“The Rule of Many strips society of its strength, and divides it into unfriendly fragments.”

“I am responsible for the well-being of my niece, Elia, wife of Rhaegar and future Queen.”

“It is in the heat of battle when the Gods show their favor.”[/i]


I hope to post more details of these characters later, especially their Resources, Circles, Affiliations, and Reputations. I expect Circles to be used heavily, and I am using the Resources rules to resolve battles.


I’m actually in the stages of putting together a BW Westeros campaign myself now, and so I’ve a quibble or question for you, if you don’t mind:

One quibble (or perhaps it’s a question) - my understanding of Westeros is that a noble takes the position of his father only after they die, and that no one really “goes through the ranks,” if you will, before they take up their lordship. For example, Ned doesn’t give Robb a smaller piece of the pie before Rob would become Lord of Winterfell. And I’m pretty sure Tywin didn’t have some sort of Lordship before his father died and assumed the mantle of Casterly Rock.

Unless (and this is the question) are you using the noble lifepaths as a proxy to represent the person becoming “more powerful”? Like, Tywin starts as a “count”, and as the years go by, becomes a “duke”?

Also, Eddard and Robert were both quite young when the whole thing goes down. They’re both about 20-25 or so (if we believe a Game of Thrones, we’re 13-15 years after Robert’s Rebellion, and depending if you’re using the show or the books as the base, we get different ages for the characters; that still puts them both in their early 20s for the Rebellion). Remember, Eddard had JUST married Catlyn, and Robert was as yet unwed to Cersei and all that. Following lifepaths, unless you’re messing with year numbers, we’d need to drop both lordships for Eddard and Robert - at most, they’d have been knights (though you could make a case for other lifepaths at the time, or drop knight and segue them into their “lordship” lifepath young, to represent growing into their power, if you’re using the noble lifepaths that way, rather than to represent actual landholding).

Also, another quibble - Tywin comes into his power young (at 20 he was named Hand of the King), so, I’d say drop Knight and move right on into the Noble titles. What I did for my conversion was drop Knight as a requirement for all the noble titles (since, in Westeros, it isn’t necessary). I made all the noble lifepaths open as long as one has the Your Lordship/Ladyship trait. Agin, just using the books as my source.

Last quibble/clarification?: Noblesse Oblige can be taken as a 4th Belief; so, you can have the regular three, and then add a fourth based on N.O. Though I guess, technically, you don’t have to…but I think it’s more fun to flesh out the characters this way (I just did it for the Lord of my players’ noble house, and having those three regular Beliefs was needed).

Just advice and quibbling and the rest. Unless you do not wish it. Then ignore everything I said…

Running the game tomorrow, we’ll see how it goes.

Some responses to comments and questions.

  1. I am running this scenario because I think I will get more enthusiasm and buy-in. I’ve sold nearly 20 copies of BWG, given away five copies myself, and tried three mini-campaigns, not to mention running The Sword, and it’s not clicking. When I started running FATE at Northern California RPG conventions years ago, I was the only one. Now FATE is one of the most offered Indy games at those conventions, and I see a lot of GMs who got their start in my games.

I’d really like to get Burning Wheel going here as well.

  1. From FATE, I’ve learned that having a shared world helps build consensus about expectations. So I hope players bring some knowledge about Westeros to the table. I have a surprise for the opening that guarantees that history will not proceed as in the fiction, and it will break it very early. I will reach into the fiction for places and names when required.

  2. There are very few relationships on the character sheets: just Lyana Stark and Elia Martel. Everyone else will be discovered via Circles, and I expect that to work very well.

  3. I don’t think playing “nobodies” will attract the kind of attention I am looking for. I think the opportunity to “play big” will really help me get buy-in. I am intending to play on a large scale, with the characters mostly distant from each other, and depend a lot on Circles and Resources. I expect at least one big battle, and a fight to the death towards the end. I plan to make great use of the Gift of Kindness and the Enmity Clause.

  4. I have chosen to try to stick with the rules as written as much as possible, and to avoid “hacks.” So I am sticking with the Life Paths as written. Also, because the lifepath choices are so similar, it made character burning much easier, and I can choose the skills I want to deal with. This means the ages of the character don’t match the ages in the fiction, but that’s fine with me.

  5. The characters are 98% burned for the players: their only options are one Belief and one Instinct. Since Noblesse Oblige gives a list of Beliefs, I rather choose those myself.

Besides the Gift of Kindness for Gear (I really want to emphasize Affiliations and Reputations instead of scrounging for expensive gear), my only significant “hack” involves using Resources tests as a proxy for war. In essence, success in battle means forcing a Lifestyle Maintainance check.

  1. Tywin Lannister wants to be King himself, and Targaryen mistreatment of Elia Martel means Lewin may become in play. Additionally, Aerys is a more powerful character than all the others, and is better positioned to withstand 4 vs 2.