I’ve not played a lot of burning wheel but I’m thinking the next game I run will not use the default setting. This may necessitate modifying and/or adding life paths and skills. Game of thrones seems like a natural fit that requires very few modifications but what about Wicked Fantasy or Iron Kingdoms? Both of those settings are compelling and are begging for a rules system like burning wheel.
How have you fared porting burning wheel to a different setting? What modifications did you make?
I have tried various self made hacks when I first started out and I can guarantee you that you are much better off learning the game as written, playing through the first 74 pages with a few 3 lifepath characters (no mages, not yet anyways) so that you get really comfortable with the rules. Then go on ahead and add more options, expanding the rules as you go along (like adding mages) it works much better that way.
As far as hacks are concerned, you can find a lot of them in the older gold sparks forum.
For my Burning Scrolls game we just seperated the elves into Altmer (Etharch: as written),
Dunmer (Citadel: substituted “Touched by Azura” (Dt. +1D afflIatIon wIth Dunmer, +1Ob to act as a dIfferent race) for Fair and Statuesque, and Tough for Born Under Silver Stars)
Bosmer (Wilder: substituted Diminutive Stature for Fair and Statuesque, and Low Speech: Beast of Field for Born Under Silver Stars, They were also require to have their Spd start higher than their Pow)
I just quick substituted Roden AssassIn (pg. 570) for Kajiit and the Hoszrem (Lizard Man) on page 568 for Argonians as these were not going to be playable races yet.
I could probably do it much better nowadays, but we’ve moved on to other things.
BW can do lots of settings if you’re playing humans or races that can be functionally equivalent to humans with just a couple of trait changes. Anything from early Bronze Age to probably late Renaissance will work with the Mannish lifepaths. You can tweak a little bit, but I’d suggest not doing so; you’d be surprised at how well they work for a very large swath of history. I’ve played with Homeric Greek heroes, D&D-esque pseudo-medieval adventurers, a Ptolus/Monbu City-inspired urban game with a decidedly modern slant, and the rules worked great for all of them with no alterations.
If you want tons of races as those two D&D-descended settings have, though, you’ll have your work cut out for you. Each race needs to either be just reskinned humans (easy) or a new full set of lifepaths (very, very hard). I’d advise against it. BW is flexible and can definitely do those settings, but making the races all playable probably isn’t worth the effort, at least in my opinion. You’re better off with a better-suited setting or a better-suited ruleset.
You could just “burn as you go” decide what people want to play and just focus on burning up those races (I never did get around to burning up the kajiit and argonians. They weren’t players and I just didn’t need to go into that much detail). If the human lifepaths fit the other pc races, you are much better off changing traits to get what you want. If it isn’t a pc then it’s just backround and color commentary anyways, complications are great for your plots and storylines, not so much for your game mechanics.
We’ve done Dark Sun and Tribe 8 using Burning Wheel. Generally, I think it works best to take a minimalist approach. Use as many LPs unchanged as possible, inventing only a few to capture what you need in the setting. Figure out the iconic setting things that you need in the game to make it feel right, like Defilement and Corruption from Dark Sun or Synthesis from Tribe 8, and ditch anything else. Build those as traits, skills or emotional attributes. Done.
What others have said here. Do the minimum. Like, I recently ran (and just concluded yesterday) a Burning Rome game. I only needed to create three lifepaths to represent some very specific cultural or politcal Roman things; otherwise, I used pretty much all the Human stock lifepaths as written. Ran it for 8 sessions and it worked beautifully (though I did use Burning Empires to represent “the war” and Mouse Guard for the mass battles). When I ran Game of Thrones, except for a few traits (to represent Maesters, Skinchangers, and Night Watch people) I didn’t change anything at all, and it worked like a charm.
That’s actually pretty close to standard BW sorcery. There are some very flashy spells, and your casting is limited only by tax—so try not to get taxed! You could even reduce tax to make more magic available, but that will make sorcery even more powerful than it is in BW standard. Not necessarily a problem, but be warned that sorcerers throwing around White Fire like candy will wreck all comers.
Most IK magic is quite fast to cast. Is it crazy to reduce BWG casting times?
When adding spells, is it reasonable to base them on white fire which looks pretty brutal or it more sensible to base them on shards and firebreath?
Yes, all of the above. Spells in BW go off pretty fast as well if you keep time in context. The action cost may se a bit long in Fight!, but then Fight is basically a blow by blow system and a single action takes as long as a punch. At the other end of the spectrum you can cast up to a 20 action spell in one round of Range and Cover or Duel of Wits (see page 503).
The Magic Burner (written for Revised but still very worthwhile) has alternative magic systems as well as the Abstractions and Distillations chapter which can help you create your own spells.
(MaBu can even help burn your own spell system)
However, as it was written for Revised it does use some rules that are no longer in Gold (most notably the spell weaver or will + sorcery rule) but people In forum can help you wIth that
As far as reducing casting time, the rules for casting hastily are on page 513. If you are thinking of changing casting times on BWG spells, that’s the way to do it. (Don’t forget the higher spell tax)
As far as the MaBu is concerned, I prefer to make up different spells that suit the needs of lower skilled casters or element specific ones. These spells are usually lower power compared to what’s already in BWG.
Regardless of anything else, if your game is going to feature any magic, you must become familiar with the Sorcery chapter (499 - 529).