First Time a Group Burns up Characters.

I picked up Burning Wheel Gold for the very first time, and I am really intrigued by it. Its a little denser than the games I typically run, but its extremely well crafted and tightly focused. It seems to be designed to explicitly promote a style of gameplay I want to bring out of my players while simultaenously curbing a lot of problems that can occur in other systems. I am probably going to read through the core book a few more times, and it will likely be a few months before I can maneuver my group off our current system and campaign onto something new.

Though I wanted to ask how folks normally heard players through character creation, especially at a purely pen and paper game table. I kind of plan on trying to run a subset of my gaming group through a couple of games (possibly an all human game, sans sorcery to get a “feel” for the mechanics.) However lifepaths and skills seem expansive enough that I feel like every player needs a copy of the book in front of them durring character creation. Do I need to buy a bunch of copies of burning wheel gold or is there a slicker way of doing this atleast for the trial run? Ive gathered that in prior editions there was a slim lifepath pdf that I could print a few copies of, but that doesn’t seem to be available anymore.

Get them to burn up a bunch of orcs. Burning new characters is a fun introduction to BW that makes people really wanna see more. Have them play around with writing beliefs and instincts, making at least one each. Then immediately run a short impromptu RP session that ends in a Fight scene. Play around with the Fight rules; you’ll get confused, but you’ll all get interested in figuring out what you did wrong. Don’t spend too long on this entire process, maybe 4-5 hours tops.

That’s what I did.

Note: You do NOT need a copy of the rulebook for every player. To start with, one book is fine. Once people are interested in the system, kindly request that at least one or two players purchase another book. Tell them the system really “rewards rules mastery” (which is true). But you don’t really need more than 2 or 3 copies of the book per gaming group. People can borrow books for a couple nights, and the books always sit on the table during sessions. My group only has two, works fine. The guys with the books play better than the guys without though, and it’s obvious. Up to them…

Welcome, TrashHeap. My quick advice would be to run The Sword for your group, and then maybe Trouble in Hochen and its sequels, and see if you can get your group to buy into Burning Wheel after a few to several sessions of play. If so, and you all are interested in a longer campaign, you can burn a situation and characters. With any luck, some of the other players will take it upon themselves to get copies of the gamebook at that point, and they can be shared for character creation.

I would like to emphasize that Burning Wheel works best with buy-in from all the people involved in the game. Part of that buy-in is a willingness to engage with the rules proactively, and a good way to do that is for a player to be able read and reference the rules him- or herself.

One big help is the online BWG character burner. There’s also the Lifepath Browser, not updated to Gold (and requiring a copy of Revised to log in) but still a much nicer tool for browsing rather than building. Generally, though, you don’t need a copy of the book for everyone. I’ve done well passing a single copy around the table, and this may even help the players make characters collaboratively rather than in their own little bubbles.

The standard advice is to run The Sword as an intro. It’s a great mechanics introduction, but a lot more antagonistic than some groups are quite comfortable with (and much more so than most actual BW games).

I am not big on prebuilt adventures and pre-gen characters, I have nothing against them. However, historically for some reason they land kind of flat in play with my group. In fact pre-gen characters for the trial run makes it kind of a tougher sale to my group in general. It might be we will fair better with this in Burning Wheel than other systems, it seems like parts of burning wheel is about forgetting prior notions from other systems in how certain things are expected to unfold.

I am aware of the online tools for character burning. I am not terribly big on online tools in general (Ive seen some for a few systems which have had issues in practice) and I have a few folks who come to the game table without any electronics.

Typically when we sit down at a game table on a new system everyone builds there character at once with some handouts or books in front of them. It tends to be ad hoc collaboartive but there tends to be a mix of books, handouts and printed excepts from PDFS in play so that most folks have refrence material and can build characters in parallel too. I guess im just worried about people twiddling their thumbs while one or two people are taking time shopping life paths. I also Im skeptical of all my players building characters correctly on their own. I think atleast a subset of my players will grock the rules through repitition and play, but are bound to not understand character creation without guidance.

An Orc game (which ive neber been big on Orcs, but it works) or picking up an extra book or two (but not one for every player) might be my best options if I don’t want to drift too far from how we usually do things.

How long does an average player unfamiliar with the system usually take to burn up a character if guided?

The mechanics of it are quite simple. You get X lifepaths, each of which grants you a bunch of stuff. There are restrictions on where you can go from each one. They give you traits. And so on. You can explain all that in probably five or ten minutes.

Burning characters takes a long time because there are very long lists and people keep rethinking what they want as they realize they’re on strange trajectories or there’s a lifepath they missed that they really want or that they can’t afford shoes. And that part doesn’t always become much faster with experience; a lot of what in other games would be purely thinking about character backstory and the like is mechanical in BW.

I think it’s okay to do it with just one books as long as there’s plenty of discussion aloud about what’s being chosen and why and what it means. That way each character burned is also a little bit of a tutorial in chargen and the rules of BW.

Yeah I understand the mechanics behind it, was just wondering how long in practice it takes folks to shop through their options, and rebuild when they discover they have made a mistake. Trying to decide if we should just have an evening of burning characters and eating pizza rather than a short bout character creation and then play.

The first one.

@TrashHeap: Asking for advice and then saying you’re “not big on” everything suggested to you is a bit non-productive, no? All the people here are very well-seasoned BW players, and all the advice we’ve given is good. Part of trying BW is setting aside your preconceptions and actually trying something NEW. Whether or not you’re “big on” a given approach is irrelevant, becauee I guarantee you have never tried a game quite like this before in your life. Just try it.

The reason I suggested Orcs for your first attempt at character burning is because: A) they’re very fun to burn; B) there is a much more limited lifepath selection, so it doesnt take as long; and C) there is actually a Gold edition orc burner pdf floating around on the interwebs somewhere (on the wiki? Yes? No?), so everybody can burn up at once without having to wait for the sole copy of the book.

Running The Sword first is usually suggested as the best first introduction to BW because this scenario (it’s NOT even a one-shot, just a single very short scenario) really highlights the most important elements of BW: A) the dice mechanic and how skills work; B) Beliefs (which is why they’re pregenned, of course); and C) Duel of Wits and/or Fight, which is totally fun, and often a selling point for the game.

However, I do feel that the character burning system is the absolute coolest aspect of the system, and an excellent selling point in its own right. Have 'em burn up some orcs – takes maybe an hour or two, if you print the pdf – and then tell the players you’re gonna play a short RP session inside the orc camp only. Tell them to each write ONE belief about a character (PC or NPC) in the camp. It’s an easy concept to grasp, so it should highlight how beliefs work in play. Once you start playing, chase those beliefs around, see what happens, really test out the intent vs consequence mechanic. About an hour before the session wraps up, try out a Fight scene (not too hard to find a fight in an orc camp). You’ll mess up the rules a lot. No worries. Just get a good taste of it.

Do this, and I am sure your players will be sold. Disclaimer: if you have a massive group of 6+ players, it might not work well. Break 'em up abd run for smaller groups first. Or exclusively. …

Wow, Dean. That comes across as incredibly rude.

“Part of trying BW is setting aside your preconceptions…” and playing it how we say you should.

He’s asking for advice, not dictates.

Play it how you want to play it, trashHeap. But you probably already knew that.

I recommend having more than one copy of the core book around. It makes running crunchy conflicts much easier.

For character creation, these can also help: – actually builds characters for you, though it’s not the best for browsing – in a larger group, this is like having extra copies of the book to browse (Revised but it’ll at least give you a good idea of what your options are)

I recommend 3 LPs for your first characters (4 for orcs). It’s way less stuff to figure out than 4- or 5- lifepath characters. You get a bit of the “first level” feel – competent 18-year-olds with a lot of room to grow.

– Alex

I never thought of the idea of playing an Orcs game. That would be easier to get off of the ground, and it’s a good way to shed light on some aspects of Burning Wheel. Plus, it very handily lets players cut loose and chop off limbs and whatnot, because you can always dovetail it into a game with humans and such–they come across an orc squabble!

Even just taking the short time before you burn campaign characters to run two-pregens through a couple of Fights and Duel of Wits is so very worth it. We’ve seen a few “regret threads” about how players were disappointed on how their burned PCs didn’t match their expectations. And that was because they didn’t quite grok the rules. That said, there are plenty of success stories where everyone just jumped into the deep end. You know your players better than us, of course.

For my group I wish that I went with Character Burning first and then went into the adventure. One thing that I can imagine being useful is, if your characters want to burn up characters first, burn up your characters and then run a prefab like The Sword. Yes if you read through it it will degrade, in my experience, into bloodshed and players may be hurt over it. especially after the investment that they have put into character burning.

I would have to echo the idea of making the character and world burning session a separate session than the actual gameplay. A session 0. This way the players characters are born into the world. In one campaign we started out wanting a bit more of the political intrigue, from the characters first lifepath choices we started to see the world, in our case city, start to come to life. From that city the world blossomed around it. Most persons would have a hard time coming off of the cuff for this, unless you have a forgiving group and are quiet adept at improvisation.

The only other thing I have found with Burning Wheel is that over-preparation is just as damning as under-preparation.

I hope it did. The OP’s last post came across as incredibly dismissive, which in my books is quite rude, enough that I felt he deserved being called out on it. I hope it wasn’t overlooked, however, that I was only rude in that one paragraph, and proceeded to offer good advice from there on out. My intent was not to insult – and if I did, I do apologize, TrashHeap – but to bring this dismissiveness to attention such that it can be reconsidered. Because it should be reconsidered. Because all of the advice was good.

RE: “Part of trying BW is setting aside your preconceptions…” and playing it how we say you should…

He’s asking for advice, not dictates.

Play it how you want to play it, trashHeap. But you probably already knew that.

Terrible advice, Drewstah. Part of learning a new game is… learning the new game. You have to learn how the game is played before you can experience it the way the game’s designer intended. Which means following the rules, at least at first, and even perhaps following advice at first too. Not “playing however you want”. Especially with Burning Wheel. This game is quite different from most others, and even quite different from what you think it is before you actually sit down to play.

But all of that is neither here nor there, since I never “dictated” anything. I simply suggested the OP put aside his prejudices and reconsider some of the great advice given to him thus far. And that’s… pretty much all I said.

(NOTE: I am neither interested in nor have the time for a “flame war”. I felt it was important to explain my stance, but I’m not going to argue any further. So, don’t.)

Dean, he’s under absolutely no obligation to follow your or anyone else’s advice, even if he’s asked for it. And no matter how “good” you believe it to be.

How unbelievably boring would it be if everyone did everything the same way.

I think both of you are coming across as a little bit abrasive, probably with the best of intentions.

Yes, you’re free to play games however you want. Part of that, though, is knowing how they’re intended to be played. With a game like BW, it’s easy to play it wrong. That’s not badwrongfun, it’s not fun. BW is a fragile game that can completely fall apart from the very beginning if you miss some of its subtleties, and that’s a shame. It’s a shame because it’s a waste of game time, and it’s a shame because you’re likely to be turned off of BW, which is actually a great game when played right. There are many varieties of right; I know I play differently from many other people here. The many rights don’t mean there are no wrongs, though, and part of what we’re trying to do is steer TrashHeap away from the really bad ideas.

I know this because I botched a first attempt at BW. If s/he can learn from my mistakes and have more fun thereby, I hope that works out.

I’ll reiterate that The Sword is not a premade adventure. It has premade characters, but it has to: it’s a rules demo, and part of the rules is having characters with certain Beliefs and instincts built in. You’re not running it for the fun, exactly, although it is fun; you’re running it as an excuse to test the mechanics. Think of it as an extended rules explanation.

And like others, I think it’s best to devote a full session to character burning. I do that even with experienced players most of the time. I find it can still take twenty or thirty minutes per person, but a lot of that is tuning characters to have Beliefs and relationships that bounce off each other in interesting ways.

Drew, Dean, et omnes, deep breaths all around. Let it go and carry on.

Here’s what I would do, ask the players. Give them a choice, either you can grab The Sword and run through a quick scenario, get a feel for the mechanics and spend the rest of the night tossing around ideas about setting and situation over beers in preparation for Session 0, or jump right into world burning and chargen, which will mean no actual playing that evening, but has the benefit of breaking out the beers immediately. The one drawback to choice two is that character burning is informed greatly by familiarity with how the system works in play.

I apologize, it was not my intention to be dismissive. However, I do know or atleast I have a pretty good idea on how my players are going to recieve certain things and what in turn is likely to unsell them on a new system. As I stated while its normally not my cup of tea that an all orc game is actually likely one of my best options mentioned and I am likely to give that a go. (I think the fact that I called it one of the two better ideas for my group seems to have been overlooked.) That being said, everyone has given me plenty of good information to mull over and I think I have a better grasp of how I want to go about doing the first game.