I’ve played and run rpg’s for a few years now. I’ve played some D&D 5e, 3.5(just a little), and some Pathfinder. I’ve been trying to find other/better systems, but I’ve had trouble. There’s a lot that goes into it, but a lot of the things I’ve long heard people talk about wanting, a lot of the things I want, all seemed to kind of click into place when I read burning wheel.
BITs at the core is amazing. Taking character motivation first seems to allow for a lot of the characters and stories I’ve wanted to allow in rpg’s to thrive. For example, the idea of a paladin is often driven by their beliefs, instincts, and traits in a way that I feel if not character driven, is hard to portray or play in a game(unless the “campaign” is built specificially around them). Allowing buy in in this way also seems solid for understanding if a game is viable/will be enjoyable, but also keep the game moving forward. I also love how fulfilling BITs is a good barometer for success, and is rewarded. Instincts seem like a very awesome way to allow people to portray themselves in ways that it’s easy to forget to explicitly mention(or would be boring to mention ahead of time). Traits, well traits are just a nifty bonus.
I really love the simple resolution mechanics, and how Intent and Task both seem to encourage pushing for rolls, but also seems to provide a solid framework around thinking about role playing, but also getting better outcomes. I like how money and connections are pushed to rolls rather then being handled by tedius bookeeping or gm fiat. I like how burning wheel acknowledges rolling in a meta sense. I really like how the more complicated rules are just extensions of simpler rules in interesting and dynamic ways(although some of the complicated ones feel like a bit much at first).
Character building, I could take or leave, but I struggle to imagine running BW without it. I have avoided/had trouble thinking about games like FATE because I think coming up with a balanced set of skills seems difficult, but the list in burning wheel often feels like a bit much. I’ve seen people frustrated at both feelings of how not varied stats are to start(especially abilities), how the 1/2 point problem still exists to a large degree for abilities. I’ve experience some frustration with how long it takes to nail down and explain the mechanical side of building characters(you know, everything that’s not bits) to actual players.
I havn’t played that much(I’ve run trouble in hochen once, and also did a burning session that resulted in…well a lot of problems), but I also have a little bit of concerns with how it runs over longer periods of time, how the mechanics feel in both short and long periods, but also whether things would “go off the rails” at some point for me like some other systems tend to do(although magic seems more interesting/better then other places).
So to get into my point, after droning on and on(I’m sorry). I don’t understand the advice I’m given often for teaching burning wheel. It’s said at various points to run only humans and avoid magic, but the often advised starting points (hochen and the sword), contain all of these things. I’ve also tried to tell people that to start off, but they run straight to magic and non-human characters. I’m also confused by how the default material heavily guides to “just use intent and task, and save the complicated rules for later”, but hochen and the sword both shove you straight into attempting more complicated rules. Given that I feel the strongest part of the game is BITs, it also seems weird to not focus more on building bits, especially in a way that garners the same buy in that you want from a full game. Sure hochen has some of it, but it feels a bit muted.
All together, the rules just seem a lot to onboard people into. I may be passionate(I have jokingly personal referred to the book as “the gospel of crane”) , but I think it’s hard to get other people as passionate as I get to read a 600 page book, or even just the hub and spokes, and even then you might miss a lot of the rational/understanding that either I pulled out of it, or that I got out of the codex. Actually running the game, well, there doesn’t seem to be a way to gradually bring people in, let people wade a bit in comfort before moving on, to ease people more into the rules that are…less important and push them head first into the most important parts. I also have trouble remembering all the things without the ingraining you get from running it a lot/even a little(it’s been months since I ran the demo games), and lack some of the confidence to run the game.
I’ve tried to think about ideas of how to ease people in slower, while still allowing the same amount of player choice/buy in that exists in the full rules. Like trying to combine character burning with actual play? Trying to “unlock” rules as time goes on like a “legacy” game? Somehow run some simplified version of burning?(although I’d have no idea how to balance that, and I’d have fears of making an awkward and bad system). But I’ve had trouble figuring out how to do stuff like that, and whenever I talk about the idea, people just tell me to run “the sword” or “trouble in hochen”.
I guess this is one part feedback, and one part question. Do y’all have any advice on these concerns or thoughts? What have you said or done to inspire people about the game? Do y’all have easier methods to onboard people or deal with early times problems? Do you have any advice to gain confidence running the game(especially as that’s probably the only way I’m playing any game for a while at least)?