Campaign Setting

One of the reasons I chose BWG was because it was well suited for long campaigns. My wife and I are interested in running a two year long campaign. Having just discovered there is no official World Burner for BWG I’m wondering if I now need to hold off reading the core rules to work on a campaign setting to ensure we have something to play in as soon as we finish reading the core rulebook. I’m curious what kinds of settings you fine folks are using in your games?

1) Are you using something homebrew or published?
2) What level of detail do you establish in a setting before you start playing with your group?
3) Are there any published settings that you think work especially well with BW?

Any feedback or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

The implied basic setting is Middle-Earth-ish. You could go with that as a basic idea, it’s probably a setting you all know fairly well. It would also play, Out-of-the-box, with no real changes needed to fit another campaign world.

The general consensus on the forums is to start with broad strokes for your campaign setting, then a touch more detail on your situation, the story arc defining problem that the game will work around.

For the game I’m trying to get a group together for, I said basically it’s “Byzantium ruled by houses of Sorcerous Noblility”. The Story arc I want to do is centered around a series of ritualistic murders in a port town. I’ve defined a few basic power groups in the city, and hope the players I get together will define the rest in burning and later, in play. Now I just need to find a schedule when I can regularly get a group together.

Good stuff from the horse’s mouth.

Alright I’ve been talking things over with my wife and we both are leaning towards an established setting just to start off with. We’ll give whatever story we setup ten sessions and then decide on whether we like the setting or want to try another or revisit the idea of a homebrew campaign. So for my #3 question above I’ve been looking around and found several supporters of the following settings being used with BW. Anybody else have recommendations for settings that are particularly well setup for BW with no tweaking to the system and not adding new races?

Kingdoms of Kalamar
Middle Earth
Warhammer Fantasy

I’m not familiar with Hârn.

Kalamar (not Kalimdor, I think?) is too D&D-based. You can’t really play it straight. Warhammer Fantasy is likely to have a similar problem, I think: the metaphysics and rules influence how the world is set up, and you won’t have those rules to back you up in BW. You can do these, but you’d have to be flexible about it.

Midnight is also very D&D, but you can take the idea of the setting and run a really neat BW campaign.

Middle Earth will run right out of the box.

Here are my recommendations:

  1. Do not add new races, especially not when new. It is an immense undertaking, far larger than in most other games. And it’s easy to break the game with them.

  2. Look at the standard lifepaths. Think about whether they describe the way people live in the world you intend to play in. If not, pick a different world. The lifepaths in BW are the implied setting.

  3. In BW you don’t need to set up the entire setting from the beginning. It works great to come up with a central thematic struggle and a rough idea of the world. You can fill it in as you go. In fact, the characters do a lot of that filling in with Wises and other skills.

My friend Justin ran Midnight BW, and we had a blast. We just took the basic setting and then standard BW rules to have some fun being Dwarves. Midnight is a fun setting, but we hardly scratched the surface of the grand plots of the setting, instead, we focused on the personal tragedies of the PC’s.

Want BW Harn, it’s hard to beat this if you know a bit about the world already.

Middle Earth, perfect for the system. Just no hobbits.

What kind of character does your wife want to play?

I’d advise against starting out with a plan to play a two-year campaign. Or, if you do, do it by trying to play an awesome twelve-session campaign, leaving enough open that you can continue it if you like.

Aiming for a long campaign is fine. Trying to plot it all out in advance is a recipe for disaster, especially in BW where you can’t predict where new Beliefs will take your game. But if you know you want a long-form game it’s appropriate to think about it up front so things like advancement work out. (Less an issue in BW than, say, D&D, but still a concern!)

To answer your original question, my group started by brainstorming about the setting. We came up with a vague physical description (A country with mountains to the northwest, ocean to the east, and dangerous jungle to the south) and a bit of color (the ocean is The Silence, the jungle is The Noise). We gave the setting a group of famous philosophers who are known throughout the realm. We added in two capital cities (Grace and Reason - Grace is the governmental capital, and it is on the coast. Reason is the garden-city of the philosophers, and it is inland) and a river to link them. We also established a couple of details relevant to the PCs’ origins (one is from an order of monks in the mountains, one is from the outskirts of the Noise, called the Twisted Orchard) and that humans are the only race, but a “sub-race” of them require a dietary supplement called Medicine.

That’s basically it. An ocean, a jungle, some mountains, an organization and a couple of cities.

The players have only just now left Grace. They’re heading toward the mountains. Absolutely nothing has been established about these mountains except their name (which I’ve forgotten, it’s in the campaign notes somewhere) and that there’s an order of monks in them somewhere. Oh, and they’re to the north. But that’s fine! Leaves plenty of room to fill in details. While the players were in Grace, it grew several districts, a government, a prominent arson-themed gang and a nearby island. I have no doubt that the mountains will also acquire character as things progress.

I found your examples extremely helpful. I’ve received a lot of general advice across a few different threads but this right here has helped the most. Seeing it in action is a lot more informative for me than general theory. Thank You! I can’t get enough of these types of examples!

This AP thread starts off with our first session world burning. It may be helpful.

  1. homebrew
  2. barely
  3. Middle-earth, Warhammer, Forgotten Realms (I think it was Judd who ran what seemed to me to be a really kickass Waterdeep game), etc. Lots of options for you here.

I want to elaborate on my #2. When I set up my campaign with my [at the time only one] player, we wrote things in very broad strokes: magic would be rare, as would true Faith; the general flavour would be Tolkien-ish. We knew two nations: the one the player had been a slave in and the one he was being forced to fight in when the game began. That was pretty much it. We basically established what he wanted out of the game experience – eventual revenge against his father for having sold him into slavery, and becoming a legendary warrior – and sorted out the bare bones we needed to kick off and let the rest emerge in play. The three players (those two joined over time – 10 sessions in and 18 sessions in) used -wises and other skills and abilities (Circles, etc.) to build entire regions, religions, world events, politics, etc. and I contributed to challenge and oppose their Beliefs and to create interesting scenarios.

I know some people like to really really fine-tune their world-building up front, but I find it a hindrance to play, particularly longer-term play. For short-term play, it more detail can help, though.

(Sorry, I might have rambled a bit there.)

For the “Burning THAC0” campaign we have been running for some time at BWHQ:

  1. Published (Known World/Mystara)
  2. Minimal.
  3. Anything that isn’t too prescriptive. Honestly we have chucked out or reworked a ton of the canon stuff in Mystara rather than hack BW to emulate some D&Disms.

Take a look at Microscope. It’s in the same spirirt of TBW about involving players in the setting.

  1. Are you using something homebrew or published?

I’ve done both. We played a campaign in the Forgotten Realms. Actually, now that I think of it, I’ve played three campaigns in the Realms, all of them out of the original gray boxed set and a few of the original supplements. One was set in Waterdeep, another was a play-by-post set in the Dalelands and another is about giant spiders landing on Evermeet through planar gates and taking over the world.

Most of the time we get together and hash out some world details, thinking about what kind of game we want and what kind of lifepaths we’re thinking about. I really enjoy world-building. The last game we played was MoBu City, where we made the setting together and then went to it.

  1. What level of detail do you establish in a setting before you start playing with your group?

I like an evocative map with room to build and a situation at hand that everyone can easily attach their beliefs to.

  1. Are there any published settings that you think work especially well with BW?

I like settings that are firmly medieval, so I don’t have to futz with the lifepaths.

  1. I’ve used Dave Arenson’s Blackmoor, primarily as published in Judge’s Guild’s First Fantasy Campaign, however, using the maps from the later TSR modules (same map actually, just more named places). FFC has very little detail leaving plenty of room to take the setting wherever we choose. We invented the social fabric for Sorcery, Spirit Binding, and Faith.

  2. I have come to appreciate evocative map with a few details (maybe a few locations detailed, and then perhaps the same kind of detail there, an evocative map with a few places detailed) no matter what game I’m going to run. Such settings really sing with Burning Wheel though.


I’ve played this, and it’s pretty awesome. I intend to try and use it for all my pre-game setting creation from now on.
It runs best with 3-4 people, though. You (the OP) only have one player, right? If you do this, be sure and read the 2 player rules in the back of the book.