Doing all three phases fast?

My local gaming group is not keen on long commitments – our Prime Time Adventures game ran six sessions counting the pitch, the Shadow of Yesterday game I GM’d ran seven, one member is Tony Lower-Basch whose design holy grail is to go from setting generation to a concluded story in 60 minutes. Plus 75% of us are parents, so we do four-hour sessions, tops, which means one maneuver per session. So if we run Burning Empires, it just ain’t gonna be the full 36 session experience.

I know the rulebook’s answer is “just play one phase,” which gets you 8-12 sessions at four hours oer session, one maneuver per session. But I’d be sad not to get the full variety of Infiltration, Usurpation, and Invasion with three Figures of Note on each side (especially since I’d probably have exactly three players).

So what would be the unintended consequences of speeding up the Infection by doubling or tripling the Disposition effects of each maneuver? I.e., if we want to do the full Infection in half the regular time – 18 single-maneuver sessions instead of 36 – then at the end of every maneuver, we resolve disposition loss (and gain, for Conserve) as usual and then double it. To do the full Infection in a third the time – 12 single-maneuver sessions – we triple disposition changes at the end of each maneuver.

Obviously you all came to your current set-up through careful playtesting, but given that my group has different priorities – specifically, that we’re willing to sacrifice depth for breadth – would this kind of gear-shifting work?

I thought about this for a group that I visit on occasion (we get about two sessions a weekend maybe once every two months). But I was going to do it by taking the Starting Disposition Totals and Halfing it, but leaving Factions alone (making them worth more!). But in the end I decided that doing one Phase well, was better than three phases too quickly.

You can always do a double time Phase and them some time in the future (months down the line) do the next phase… even if you have new characters.

The factions are the reason I didn’t go for dividing the disposition totals – multiplying the maneuver successes instead treats factions equally to all other World Burner aspects.

I understand you lose something by doing it this way: 12 single-maneuvers sessions for the whole Infection means just four maneuvers per phase, presumably with each player-character getting to initiate one conflict scene (making that maneuver his or her “spotlight episodes” in a Prime Time Adventures sense), and the PC who’s this phase’s Figure of Note getting to initiate an extra conflict. There’s just a lot less time to explore each character and each aspect of the world.

But I’m willing to sacrifice depth for breadth, as I’ve said. And given that two of our three Shadow of Yesterday PCs achieved transcendence in seven sessions – the priest became an atheist, the barbarian became king, and the obedient nun-assassin defied her father and the (arguably) rightful heir of the throne – I’m really not too worried about our ability to do a good story fast.

What I’m wondering about is unintended mechanical consequences, like screwing with the importance of Factions, or unbalancing the value of the various maneuver options, or outpacing the skill advancement system, in some way that potentially breaks the game.

Honestly Sydney, I think you’d be better off doing one phase and making it really, really cool. Each of the graphic novels only show one phase.

I know Tony, and I appreciate what he’s trying to do, but that sort of sensibility doesn’t jibe with this particular game. This game is all about color, maneuvering and building pressure. It really needs a little room to grow. I don’t think speeding up the process will be very satisfying.

Let me second Thor.

Also, if you run one phase, at the end of that you guys can assess where you’re at campaign wise.

This is, if you’re ready to move onto another game/system/whatever, then great.

On the other hand, if you all feel like you wanna tackle a second phase, then you’ve got that option too.

Either way, you’re not commited to more sessions than you want to be committed to, if I’m reading you right.

Let me nominate Thor for mayor.

Sydney, the game is designed precisely so you can play a complete campaign, beginning to end, and have it be satisfying and relatively short.

If you want a trick to speeding up the game, increase the amount of artha that each player starts with. Don’t fuck with the maneuver structure.


[bowing very low]

Your humble student is enlightened. I will not try to make the Burning Wheel turn faster by cutting out half the spokes.

Now, splashing a little extra artha on the fire sounds nice: Would you recommend simplying bumping every player up a step on the “Starting Artha” chart on p. 128, e.g. a 10-LP character gets 1 fate point instead of nothing, a 9 LP character gets 1 fate & 1 persona, etc.?

I recommend playing the game as written. But otherwise, just start everyone with 3/2/1.


You could also raise the Skill exponent cap to 7 or 8, especially if you’re going with big 8+ LP characters.