Example clarification

On the subject of tech color, and converting it to hard tech.

First example is on page 379. A PC describes a firearm but doesn’t burn it. Later, an NPC in a conflict scene dispatches the gun because it’s just color.

Second example is on page 380. A PC describes a fleet of ships but doesn’t burn it. He needs to send a message to a nearby planet but the GM tries to block it, turning it into a conflict scene. In THIS example, the player has the opportunity to “harden” the transmitter on the ship via a resources test. Later, in the body of the actual rules, there’s an explanation for making a tech resources test during either a building or a conflict scene.

So I’m wondering – why didn’t the PC have the same opportunity on the p379 example? Why did the GM get to swat the gun away before the PC could do the test? In a similar fashion, why couldn’t the GM swat away (so to speak) the ship’s transmitter, trumping the ship’s color with other story color (oops, the transmitter broke!)?


I think for the first example, the PC had the opportunity but didn’t take it (for whatever reason). Maybe his Resources were tax’d out, or he intended to bluff his way out. The example served its’ purpose by showing that color trumps color.

Burning Hard tech in a non-Building scene suffers a -1d penalty to the Resources check if I recall correctly, while taking a Building scene actually gives you a +1d bonus to the check. Maybe the guy’s Resources were low or tax’d badly enough he couldn’t attempt the roll in a Conflict scene?

As for the second example, the GM can’t trump with color if the PC declare’s he’s burning Hard tech. Hard tech trumps Color. Then there’s the contested roll of the conflict scene. If the GM won handidly, he could claim the transmitter’s broken.

Remember: Say yes and move on, or roll for it.

Well…we have to make certain suppositions about unwritten elements of that first example, then?

Burning in a building scene gets you +1D, burning in a conflict scene gets you +1Ob. To my understanding, those are the only two opportunities to even touch dice (unless you have an instinct at comes up during color/interstitial scenes that triggers a roll). I guess you could have a scene that starts as color and then gets challenged, turning it into a building or conflict scene.

I don’t know what happens if you’ve already spent your building/conflict scene budget for the maneuver.

In any case, I can’t find any indication that you CAN “harden” your tech under any circumstances other than in a building or conflict scene. No mention I can find in the tech burner chapter about a -1D penalty or whatever.

Sorry I’m being a pill. Just want to make sure I’m understanding everything.


I think you’re right that its a +1Ob, not -1d. Mea Cupla.
And yes, I think Burning Tech only possible in Conflict and Building scenes.

As to who gets charged for a Conflict scene depends on who initiated the conflict I think. The first example is a conflict scene initated by the GM (its his assassin after the PC), so it goes on the GM’s scene-tab. If everyone’s out of scenes, its the end of the Maneuver, and you don’t have to end every Maneuver with a Conflict scene.

My big question now is, is it kosher to wait 'til the other guy has already used up his building scene, and then go hit some piece of color he hasn’t hardened? Because he won’t have a building scene available any more to harden the tech you’re about to color out of existence, and you can just nuke it with extreme prejudice (or nonchalantly, whatever).


That’s a good question, to which I have no definitive answer. If by “color out of existence” you mean force a Conflict scene, the question becomes: “as the defender in a conflict scene, may I Burn Hard Tech even if it isn’t my scene?” Off hand, I’d say ‘no,’ but I want to know what the guru’s of Burning Wheel/Empire have to say.

Well, on one hand what you’re describing seems an example of the kind of tactical play Burning Empires espouses. If scenes are currency in the game, then it seems not unreasonable to wait for your opponent to use up his building/conflict scene for this manoeuvre before you smack his colour with yours.

On the other hand, you’re bringing up the prospect of wiping out someone’s introduced colour might smack of dickery. I think it depends highly on the individual circumstances, including the opinions of the two players in question and the group. Now, you, mister I’m-gonna-wipe-your-colour-out might have a really cool idea in mind, one that shows off what a rotten mofo your character is, and once you describe it, your poor victim’s player might say, “Look, no, I don’t really wanna lose this piece of colour. I mean, I’m down with it being ineffective this time around, but I still want to burn it soon. Can you like, sneak around it or maybe hold its power supply up in front of my PC when he tries to use it or something?” And if the rest of the group is behind your victim’s player, then no, it’s not kosher, and you’ve gotta either change your idea or just set it aside for the mo.

Still, your poor victim’s player might just say, “Whoa! Holy (S-WORD)! That’s just utterly bad-ass! I love it! Yeah, take my colour and raze it to the ground, man, it’s worth it! To the ground!” In which case, you, your victim’s player and the whole group get to revel in the sheer badassery-ness of your character, everyone has a good time and the world you guys are sharing gets that little bit richer at the cost of one item of colour.

As the quote in your own signature goes, it’s against the rules to be a dick in Burning Empires. But the text can’t define precisely what constitutes dickery and what doesn’t; it’s really down to your group and its tastes.

You CAN use that tactic to GET AROUND his color (I think you can make burning rolls to harden tech in your opponent’s conflict scenes. You can not make him wait 20 minutes while you tweak it and figure out its traits, in my game. Save that shit for your building scenes or do it away from the table. But if you know what it does and what the Ob is, I think making the roll is legit. Even so, if you’re out of builders and I stage a builder, you can’t make the roll then, so I don’t have to go up against your tech.

This does not remove the tech from canon. It can still be burned. You will notice that when Mayuran’s pistol was countered in the conflict, the GM didn’t say “When you draw your pistol, my assassin knocks it out of your hand, melts it down, destroys the prototype, bombs the factory, releases a virus that recognizes and scrambles all computerized blueprints, and executes the designers.” Mayuran can still make his Resources roll to have that pistol later.

Depending on what the Rebels had paid for and what was color, it’s maybe possible that the first Death Star was just color (and maybe some burned weapons and so on, but mostly the fight was against Hammer Lord Vader and his fighters). Its complete destruction didn’t stop the Emperor from burning the second one.

Countering something in color does not prevent it from becoming hard tech later.

Listen to Devin (Zabieru). He is wise beyond his years. (Or not. Maybe he’s sixty. But listen to him anyway).

That’s a brilliant example. We could conceivably do a Firefight in which my objective is “Destroy the rebel base,” and your objective is “Destroy the Death Star,” and have all the combat between fighters and turret weapons, and never have either the Death Star or the rebel base show up as Hard Tech, just Color Tech – and then Color another Secret Rebel Base into existence at the start of the next maneuver (movie) and another, even bigger Death Star into existence a few sessions later.

Good comments all around. I still find the two conflicting examples in the book contradictory. Perhaps a future edition can clarify that example #1 catches the player with his pants down, while example #2 does not.

Re. tactical play: If the game espouses a style of play but the system undermines that style, that’s poor design. I have more faith in the design than that, so I’m working hard at understanding its intent as well as its limits.

“Competitive” games need to be waaaay more airtight than your typical RPG, otherwise the competition is pointless. There are no meaningful stakes if everyone has to rely on not playing full-throttle. (Full-throttle play =/= being a dick. You can play a game with the intent of winning, or with the intent of making your opponent’s life miserable for the game’s duration.)

I strongly suspect the scene economy is self-balancing: If you use up your color scenes describing cool shit and I use up my color scenes explaining it away, we both end up with nothing accomplished. Since your side and my side have an equal # of scenes, we can neutralize each other’s play indefinitely. OTOH, the first one to call a new piece of color tech and who hasn’t used up their building scene to harden it has a significant advantage.

So probably the loophole takes place where you describe some color tech, and then build something unrelated to that tech, and I strike at you in your moment of weakness. It probably doesn’t come up too terribly often in actual play, except where you described color during character generation and didn’t bother spending RPs on it.


Paul, you’re still having a disconnect about what using color against color tech does. It does nothing. It doesn’t impact the game economy at all. It doesn’t need to be balanced any more than Burning Empires needs rules for, I don’t know, players using pig latin at the table. If I spend my color scenes bringing in cool tech ideas, and you spend yours attacking my color tech, at the end of the day I can spend builders making my color hard just the same as if you’d spent your color scenes showcasing your traits or your beautiful herd of ponies or establishing your own color tech.

Let’s try this from another angle. Things in Burning Empires are not real until you pay for them, usually with tests. Tech has a special rule where it has to be talked about before you can pay for it. If it’s just been talked about, it cannot be used for anything, no matter what. But there’s also no way to un-talk it. It’s like escrow, maybe.

As a special rule, to smooth over the weirdness of “we say he has a pistol on his hip but he can’t shoot anyone,” you can pretend that your talked-about tech exists and you or your opponent can make up a reason why it doesn’t work today. In a hard rules sense, Mayuran COULD NOT use his pistol. It’s not real. He could (maybe) narrate shooting someone with it, but he’d have to roll the DoF and apply damage as if from a weapon he really did have, like his fists. So when his opponent narrates taking it away, he doesn’t really take anything away.

Now, as for the example. Mayuran DID have the option to buy it, I think. He didn’t take that option in this case. He also had the option to initiate a psychic duel (the character was a psychologist, though I don’t know if he had a connection to his attacker or anything). This was an example of negating color with color, though, so if he’d bought the tech, that would have ruined the example. If I recall correctly, that example also occurs before the rules for buying hard tech, so it would be poor form to write into the example rules that haven’t been covered yet.

What Devin said.

What moment of weakness?

As I read the rules, this is a perfectly legitimate sequence:

I describe a piece of color tech., an Uber Space Destroyer.

You describe some color of your own, attacking my color . “Ha! I have an Super Uber Space Destroyer Destroyer! Zap! Zap!”

I decide it’s not worth making a resources roll at +1 Ob to make my color into Hard Tech in a conflict scene.

You describe my color blowing up, colorfully. “The Uber Space Destroyer is Uber Destroyed by the Super Uber Space Destroyer Destroyer! Super!”

On my next building scene, I roll against Resources to turn that same piece of color into Hard Tech. “Well, the next Tuesday, my other Uber Space Destroyer comes back – the one I lent my Aunt Agatha, whom I haven’t mentioned before, for her honeymoon – and I board it and prepare it for battle. Uh, okay, I made my Resources roll, so I really have it now.”

Once I’ve “established” color tech as existing in the setting and as being somehow connected to my character, I don’t think anything anybody can do can “un-establish” it or somehow disconnect it from my character. If everyone around the table accepted that it’s in keeping with the setting that I had one Whatever-It-Was, it’s in keeping with the setting that I have another one lying around, or another ten.

This is I suppose slightly trickier if I describe my color tech as rare and irreplaceable:

“Look! My character’s got the Mona Lisa next to his zero-g waterbed! On my next building scene I’m gonna make a Resources roll to turn it into a +2D to Etiquette…”

“I blow it up!”

But I’d argue that this actually just establishes a whole collection of unique and irreplceable items as color tech appropriate for my character:

“Well, okay, now that it’s my building scene, I should mention that I obviously have Michelangelo’s statue of David in the guest bathroom, so, um, +2D skill advantage, five points; categorical limitation, only with art lovers, -1 point; that’s a Resources obstacle of four. [dice clatter] Got it! So I invite the Lord Steward over and say, Sire, I know you collect art…”

Paul, this is a great thread, and I think you’re right in figuring out how far Burning Empires means you to push the ‘scenes as currency’ thing in a competitive way.

I do think you’ll find that in actual play, most of the time anyway, the people at the table will have their minds filled up with stuff like how to tell a good story, how to portray their characters’ beliefs, what their next scene should even be about, etc. There’s a lot to worry about besides figuring out how many building/conflict scenes your opponent has left so that you can trap him without one.

From my experience playing the game so far, certain aspects of it are definitely meant to be 100% competitve. The Infection rules for example - you’re supposed to try to guess what the other side will do and choose a maneuver that will beat theirs, and to try and get the most dice for your roll that you can by maximizing the helping rules, getting the character with the right skill into position make the maneuver roll, etc.

But in other aspects, the focus is more on “making cool stuff happen” than winning. I think this is a big reason why the outcome of the maneuver’s scenes don’t directly affect the maneuver roll: You’re supposed to totally game the big-picture Infection stuff, but within the scenes your characters are struggling with their Beliefs, fighting among themselves, walking the fine line between sacrificing everything they care about and giving in to the enemy. (All that stuff it talks about in that Faces of Collapse intro, really.) The neat thing is, that’s the best way to affect the maneuver roll anyway - play up your struggles and losses in the scenes to get some Artha, and spend that Artha later on in maneuver rolls.

Hmm. I was going to conclude this post with something along the lines of “you’re not supposed to be always trying to win the Infection all the time”. But maybe you are; you’re just supposed to realize that within the scenes your best bet for winning is to do what gets you Artha & Helping dice, which sometimes means you have to “lose”.

This is getting a little off-topic, but anyway, if you’re using the “scenes as currency” tactically, do it to tell a good story, in a way that gets artha, whether you’re the GM or player.

P.S. Sorry if this sounds a bit preachy, it’s not meant to be at all, I’m still fairly new to the game and trying to work these things out for myself too.

Awesome feedback, guys. Just want to play Devil’s Advocate for a moment about a couple things that jump out at me…

I thought about this and I think I have to disagree. Introducing tech into the game takes two steps, right? It takes a color scene that says, “This is my cool tech item” and it takes a rolling scene that gives it rules. There are, therefore, two costs associated with bringing something into the game: the scene and the resources. Both are in limited supply. If you only get ONE scene in which to introduce your item, there is most certainly an impact on the game economy.

I’m coming around to the opinion that color scenes are quite possibly the most useful and impactful bit of the entire game economy. I’m still trying to work out what is going to be “fair” in terms of who gets their color scenes first.

Beyond that I’m maybe being pedantic. But I’m telling everyone on this thread here, I have diabolical, brilliant players who will explore every opportunity to push this game to its limits. I’m very much looking forward to seeing what they do with it. :slight_smile:

I think I’m willing to accept this interpretation of the example, but I think it’s obvious a tiny bit of editing could have helped explain why Mayuran doesn’t get to keep his color gun in one example but does get to keep his color transmitter in another example.


One note. You need to introduce your tech as color. You do not need to SPEND A COLOR SCENE to do so, however. One of my players uses mind drugs. He introduced his mind drugs in a building scene about something completely different. Didn’t spend a damn thing to do it.

So it’s not really a cost, though it surely is a constraint. You don’t need to spend a scene to establish your tech in color. It’s just a constraint that you can’t think of something on the spot, then roll Resources and have it as hard tech immediately.

And, on an irrelevant note, I think Mayuran does keep his color gun. The assassin knocks it across the room. Afterwards he can just go get it. Probably he’ll be thinking pretty hard about buying it for real at that point.

“Color - it’s not just for color scenes anymore.” Again, listen to Devin: A “color scene” is just a scene in which nothing but Color happens – there’s no roll. But any other kind of scene can still have Color in it. Heck, in the middle of a firefight, I can narrate my character having a flashback to his father teaching him to shoot on the grounds of their massive estate, and I’ve now established that estate as color tech that I can roll Resources to make real in my next scene; I can narrate my character saying, “Dang, I wish my army of giant, invincible, super-death mega-tanks were here in this firefight today,” and I’ve established the army as color tech.

We might be splitting hairs here, and I agree with Devin’s and Sydney’s ideas of introducing color tech in building & conflict scenes (as long as it’s not burned to hard tech in the same scene).

However, by the book, directly below the “Mayuran’s sidearm” example, it says:

So you can see where Paul gets that idea from.

Hm. I read that as “May be introduced in a color or interstitial, as opposed to requiring a builder.” But I could be wrong about that.

And Paul, I wanted to mention that I think you’re going about this just right, and I fear for your players. Keep it up.

That is precisely where I got that idea. Crazy, I know! But introducing the tech as “color” in any flavor scene prior to the scene in which the tech gets burned is certainly more flexible for all involved. I’ll have to see how it goes.

I believe there’s also a restriction stated at some point that you only get to introduce ONE bit of tech per scene. Might be a gun, might be a fleet. Another restriction.

Thanks again, everyone, for your input. I think I’ve got a pretty good grasp of the intended execution of the rule(s). Time to go turn my abandoned mining colony into a filthy worm-loving cult!


Yes, I think you’re right – I don’t have my book handy. I also think you’re right about one “piece” of tech per scene, be it a nailclipper or a starfleet.