BWG Questions

Hello :slight_smile:

Does the Gold Edition contain everything in the 2 revised books?

Is it an update/revision or word for word the same as the 2 books?

Does BW come with a setting or is it setting less?

How does it measure up to Harnmaster in terms of complexity?


From the Store: “The Gold Edition combines both the Revised Edition’s Burning Wheel and Character Burner. It has been reorganized for clarity and updated by the author.”

It’s neither setting-less in the sense of, say, main-book GURPS nor does it have a setting in the sense of like Greyhawk or something. No maps, no stat-blocks for NPCs you don’t care about, none of that bullshit. But the character burner does give a certain flavor. There’s some Harn folks around here, they seem to dig it and I suspect you will too. I never did the Harn thing myself, so I can’t compare rules complexity.

All of the “Rim” subsystems have been tweaked, Fight the most.

If you’re into Harn, check out Burning Harn.

BWG is an update and revision that combines the two core books of Revised into one new core book. It doesn’t have a setting, but it has an implied type of setting based on the available lifepaths: humans are quite medieval, with all the social stratification, illiteracy, and feudalism that comes with that. Sorcery comes with a very particular flavor. (You can modify the flavor created by the mechanics if you want, but it’s non-trivial). Elves are Tolkienesque and driven by the grief of witnessing tragedies over their long lives. Dwarves are familiar subterranean, grumbling, burly types with an affinity for crafts. Orcs are terrible, bloodthirsty, and backstabbing, driven by burning hatred; they’re quite often insane but not really any stupider than other races. You can make very different settings out of the mix, but you can’t make any fantasy setting you want without a lot of work.

If you want to know about setting complexity, there’s none. If you want to know about system complexity, I read many complaints about the crunchiness of BW but find it quite simple. Combat’s a little more complex, but actually shares a number of unusual qualities with HarnMaster. I’d rate it slightly less complex overall for better unity in how the rules work.

It’s the same content save for what’s changed. It’s not word for word.

It’s simpler than Hârnmaster, but it also is more precisely written than HM4.0x (which is the edition I got for free)…

The Setting is implied in the rules, rather than explicitly described. HM is explicit setting with some few elements evoked in rules alone. BW is everything evoked, nothing explicitly defined. It’s generally late medieval/early renaissance, but can easily be used for much more.

I little wary about this ‘conflict’ theme that propels the game along. Something to do with setting the odds in every encounter/conflict you have.

Does it come across as heavy handed or can it be ignored if needs be?

In respect to increasing a character’s skills/attributes/etc, how much growth can characters have rules wise?

I think you’ve perhaps misunderstood something here. “Conflict” is certainly central to BW, but in kinda the same way that, I don’t know, “dungeoncrawling” is central to D&D.

Conflict, as a theme, means that your characters want something that will not happen without a struggle, and then they try to make it happen. If that’s not true of your games, BW is definitely the wrong choice (but if that were the case, you wouldn’t need any game at all to have a nice little tea party, would you?) “Conflicts” or “detailed conflict subsystems” or what-have-you can refer to the Duel of Wits, Fight, and Range & Cover systems. They fulfill, basically, the function of combat systems. (The DoW is a social mechanic instead.) They are semi-optional, but I don’t really think you’re actually asking about them.

It’s as heavy-handed as you want it to be.

The story evolves according to the PC’s Beliefs – the GM doesn’t pre-write big detailed adventures, but instead lets the story unfold more naturally according to the whole group’s interactions and motivations. This tends to make the central conflicts in the story more personal to the PCs themselves.

The dice only hit the table when something interesting is going on. You don’t roll for stupid crap in BW. You roll the dice when there is an interesting consequence of failure. Otherwise, just role-play.

So, in a sense, yes, the odds are set for every encounter, and it can often be quite tense. But it isn’t “heavy-handed” at all. The odds are set because the story is so relevant to the PCs on a personal level. The players are invested in the story, and are therefore invested in setting the odds before tossing the dice, because the outcome really matters to them.

Skills advance as they’re used, and can be practiced during downtime. A plethora of new skills can be learned.
Beliefs evolve naturally over time.
Traits are gained and lost over the course of the character’s career.
Skills can advance to Heroic level, or even Supernatural level as Fate points are spent on them over the course of a long campaign.

If you’re playing a campaign with a long in-game timespan, the character might be a completely different person by the time the campaign ends. You can see a LOT of character advancement and evolution.

And then there’s also the gamist aspect of players increasing in skill level with the rules strategies. The combat system is easy to grok for a new player, but experienced players are able to find new strategies all the time. The entire game is like this, actually. Very simple to understand when you’re first learning it, yet intricate enough that you’re always finding new ways to approach the mechanics. Kinda like chess. ^^

An extreme example:

Thanks all

If I hadn’t just shelled out £59.16 on rpgs I’d be ordering this.

Think I’ll stick around all the same

BW looks fantastic – I love the art, and the writing style, it positively drips atmosphere and I’ve barely started reading it. It comes across as being a very elegant package. However, I have a few anxieties

  1. I hear the combat can get insanely complicated and involved
  2. The choice to just simply state ‘I kill him/her with a knife thrust to the throat’ seems very cut and dried. Is it really that easy?

Does anyone have a link or something to an example of combat?


  1. I’d call that a slight mischaracterization. D&D combat can get insanely complicated and involved, but it starts with the basics: you roll to hit and, if you do, roll damage. Then they do the same to you. BW doesn’t do that (in the Fight mechanics, at least; this is what Bloody Versus does); you have a lot of complexity up-front. You have to understand a bunch of interlocking rules to get started. But once you do it doesn’t become more complicated at “high levels”; what you see is what you get.

It does become messy if the combat is more than one on one. Duels work very well, as does, for instance, three vs. three when they pair up for duels. Two on one is possible, but it’s easiest to have extra combatants just add dice of Help. (It cuts down rolls, and if you don’t do that the one is at immense disadvantage. It’s probably realistic but it can be unfun for the one!) Large melees do work, but I’d save them for when you’re very comfortable with one on one Fight rules.

  1. BW’s intent and task system is very good for zooming in and zooming out on action. If something is important enough, it’s the focus of a campaign, not a single roll. At an intermediate level it might be several rolls over a session. Something simple might be a single roll. Some tasks don’t require rolls at all; you Say Yes, or sometimes the task is automatically accomplished because the most interesting failure blocks the intent but not the task. I’m going to give some examples.

“I’m playing a death cultist. After we get the information we want from the terrified peasant I want to slit his throat.” This is prime Say Yes material. The peasant’s role in the story is done. The character is acting the way he acts as flavor, and it doesn’t make much difference, really. Don’t roll anything, just let it happen. “Okay, you see his eyes widen in terror for just a moment as you bury your ritual knife in his throat. So what are you doing now that you know where the guards went with your captured friends?”

“I want to kill the sentry so I can slip into the camp undetected.” The sentry isn’t a character and isn’t important except as an obstacle. Using the Fight rules is overkill. You might have the player roll Knives (or Stealthy instead; either works!). But the sentry not dying isn’t terribly interesting. Here’s what I might say. “Okay, roll against Ob 3. If you succeed, you slip behind him and slit his throat and you’re free to enter the camp. If you fail the sentry screams before you silence him and the camp goes into high alert.” The man’s dead either way, with zero rolls. If the roll succeeds, the result is the intent: the character can wander the camp freely. If it fails, the character is in trouble.

“I want to kill the Wizard of Thâr in his sleep.” Now the Wizard is someone who matters. A major player in the world, or the story, or players have Beliefs about him. In this case I’d say declaring the intent is too much. You want more effort and buildup. It’s appropriate to say, “Sorry, that’s too much for one roll. You don’t know how to enter his tower or what arcane defenses he has. You have other work to do.” But after a session or three, when the character(s) have shadowed his daily routine, studied his wards, climbed his walls, out-riddled his guardians, and disarmed his traps and ascended to his bedchamber? A single roll might well be appropriate. (You could also go to Fight, but that’s not really ideal when one party is asleep.) Now the roll might be something like this. “Succeed, and he never wakes up again. Fail and you miss your clean cut. You inflict a Mark hit but he wakes up, terrified and enraged, with spells spilling from his lips.” And then you might go to Fight… or he might teleport away, flee in mundane fashion through his secret passage, summon more guardians, or trap you all in arcane chains and throw you in his dungeon, depending on the story you’re telling.

“I want to stab that murderous bastard Sir Learwyn in the throat!” Sir Learwyn is fully armed and armored. He’s standing in front of you in the town square, his sword dripping after he cut down your best friend. He’s a central antagonist. No, it’s not appropriate to roll and kill him; this is what Fight is for! Go to the full rules and see if you can manage to use your skill at arms and desperate rage against his training and his mail. For the record, you certainly can still resolve this with a single roll, as in Bloody Versus. This is just the kind of situation Fight is for. You don’t have to use it, as it’s an optional system, but it’s fun and if not now, when?

“I kill him!” should never be cut and dried. If you’re rolling, it’s because the result matters.

The Arena forum right here has lots of Fight examples. They can be a little hard to follow but they’re numerous. The downside: they’re also pretty much all from previous editions, so the rules are slightly different.

That was an incredible sum-up.

Yes, thank you for the in-depth reply. However I do still have a few issues

Uh oh…How messy exactly, complicated, or just detailed?

Love this part, it sounds very cool

Similar to my above grievances, this talk of fights being messy and hard to follow, I’m beginning to wonder if combat is too complicated for me. The trouble is, that I don’t want to read any fights from the arena, because if the rules deviates a little, it would just confuse me.

Maybe if I offered any example of what I can handle. I found Harnmaster combat easy enough. How does BW combat compare?

Finally, I have read some reviews and they all say that Character Burning is a big deal/event, with a lot of work up front. I don’t mind that at all (we’ve literally spent a session and a half creating GURPS characters), but what I don’t want, is to invest that sort of time creating NPCs. So how quick and easy is it to create an NPC? For example, a guard sentry, and let’s say, one of the character’s mentors?

Fight! handles nXn engagements by breaking them down into 1X1 or nX1. Where things can get convoluted are in how this happens. An example: Let’s say that a duo of assassins burst in on the king when he is alone with a sole bodyguard. The assassins both engage against the king, the bodygard engages against one of the assassins, and the king disengages. Everyone rolls their speed, and we proceed down from higest to lowest, with the highest getting their intent, and everyone else only getting their intent as long as it doesn’t conflict with the intent of someone who rolled higher than them.

So, let’s say that it goes Bodyguard, king, Assassin 1, Assassin 2. In that case, the bodyguard is now engaged in combat with one of the assassins, and the king and the other assassin are both out of combat (the king flees and the assassin gives chace, but is unable to catch up). Alternately, let’s say it goes Bodyguard, Assasin 1, King, Assassin 2. The result of this is a 2x1 combat, the bodyguard and the king against one of the assassins (the other was outmaneuvered is unable to participate in this exchange). More interestingly, it could go Bodyguard, Assassin 1, Assassin 2, King. Here, we get a 2x2 engagement, which must be broken up according to the preference of whoever rolled the highest; in this case, the bodyguard would have his choice of the assassins, leaving the king to fight off the other.

Sorry Taelor, you lost me there because I’ve not got the book yet

EDIT: Have Notifications been turned off or something, because I don’t receive any, and the settings are all correct?

The main reason multi-character combat can get messy is because combat is all pre-scripted. You choose a series of actions each round (such as attacking, defending, even throwing someone or getting them into a lock) and play them out against your opponents.

Taelor’s describing the engagement system which kicks in at the start of each round. You can only fight someone who you’re engaged with. So the king would want to disengage to get out of combat. When you have two characters on each side, though, you have a tangled mess of who wants to engage with who. 1v1 fights are what the game handles best.

Though, I’ve handled multi-fighter combats using helping dice. This somewhat lessens the numbers advantage of one side, but it makes things easier to handle. Only one character on each side actually does combat engagement and scripting; the rest throw in helping dice.

But let’s not make a mountain out of a molehill, either. We’ve had countless fights where piles of foes fight piles of heroes with little trouble. And even though you can only Engage once per Exchange, you can have an unlimited amount of opponents engaged at the same time. You don’t auto-disengage with one just because you engage another. Granted, it takes practice to do this smoothly, but doesn’t everything.

I have read some reviews and they all say that Character Burning is a big deal/event, with a lot of work up front. I don’t mind that at all (we’ve literally spent a session and a half creating GURPS characters), but what I don’t want, is to invest that sort of time creating NPCs. So how quick and easy is it to create an NPC? For example, a guard sentry, and let’s say, one of the character’s mentors?