First timer having trouble getting started

I want to start playing Burning Wheel one-on-one with my partner, but due to not roleplaying for 20 years, never having GMed and she being a roleplaying ingenue, I’ve been prevaricating in case the first session sucks massively and she won’t play again. I felt my setting had to fit round her, and her fascination with faeries, ghosts and magic and have been wary of making any of my ideas too concrete whilst also feeling the need to provide her with hooks to hang her BITs on.

My original setting idea was based around the idea of peace keepers/regime changers from The United Republic having to deal with the less sophisticated but cunning population of Dakkistan(spirit/faery summoners), whose terrorist cells are raising demons in cities back on Republic soil.

The Republic is a materialist economy based on enchantment. Their soldiers use enchanted weapons, their citizens use enchanted “dream machines”. All cooks feel the pressure to keep up with the latest +3 ladle, everyone wants the latest shimmering chameleon clothing etc…

This Republic is effectively governed according to the whim of the competing Magical Corporations, who manufacture and control the enchantments, and rapaciously exploit(ie kill) the faerie creatures of the world, to provide their antecedents. Hence the war in spirit-rich Dakkistan.

We chatted about these ideas and my partner was enthused by them, but she wanted to play a noble young woman, able to sword fight, in a wintery Norway style realm (Arya Stark basically). I was surprised, but “said yes” and we came up with the possibility of her old noble family still clinging to the spirit worshipping old ways, and protecting the faeries on their land from antecedent hunters, and maybe getting into hot water with the Corporations and the Church at the same time.

Thing is, thinking about how to challenge that sort of character, i’ve realised i don’t necessarily need all this high concept stuff, and could save a lot of effort not inventing crazy enchanted items to flood the world with and warring factions to fill the background with. I’m also aware that a game flooded with magic items is considered troublesome and I always found golf-bag-syndrome in D&D ridiculous, but perversely, that’s kind of why I liked the idea.

Should I save the more complex setting for a later campaign and default to vanilla Fantasy World (with faeries represented by humanoid and monstrous races), or should I wait to see what character she actually burns?

Help and comments would be greatly appreciated as I want to get started soon, and I really don’t want to fuck up too massively.

Thanks in advance and apologies for the length,


First of all, welcome to the forum.Second, Arya Stark as a sordswoman in a wintery Norway style world…Awesome!I’d suggest keeping things focussed on the character and her traits, instincts and beliefs. Let those guide you as to what the setting needs. Also, you will notice that there’s very little golf bag syndrome in BWG.

I’m with noclue. Arya Stark in Norway sounds like the basis of a very fun campaign! Also note that especially with one-on-one campaigns, vanilla settings tend to evolve into highly complex environments all on their own. It’s just the two of you playing, which gives you both lots of time to develop the world together. Start small, start in her castle, and build outwards. Teach her how to use Wises to declare facts about the setting, and let her go nuts, let her co-invent. You can have the complex environment waiting for her in the next territory over, the next country, wherever, and by the time she gets there she’ll be well-versed in how the game works and ready for that kind of challenge. And who knows, you might find wintry Norway to be more fun anyways!

I also suggest running through the setting-creation questions with her before you start playing: CLICK HERE FOR THE QUESTIONS. Answer the questions with her, allow her to answer them herself if she has some ideas. This really makes the players invested in the campaign, and makes the campaign far less likely to fail. And it works especially well with solo campaigns!

Thanks for your advice guys.

I’m relieved that my gut instinct agreed with your opinions. I guess I only came up with the setting in the first place to give her some prods in a possible direction, and I made it clear that nothing was set in stone and everything is ripe for change. That’s what’s so cool about BW I suppose, you can keep all your ideas swirling in the back of your head until you really need them.

I’ll do as you suggest Dean, and run through the setting questions, while we’re burning her character.

Do it before character burning, as the answers might affect her chosen Lifepaths and BITs.

Hi Phil,

If the situation is exciting for you and your player(s), then that’s a good start, period.

Though BW has a lot of fiddly bits, in the end, it’s surprisingly easy to improvise - for any skill thing you can simply set an Obstacle, and for any NPC you can assign reasonable skills or stats on the fly (mostly sitting in the 3/4/5 range for humans).

I’d probably figure out a generic way most of the magic items work - maybe they provide Skill 3/4 for a lot of things, or a +1 Helping Die for specific tasks. (“Crap, I left my Mystic Finder Map back at the inn… and my Orienteering is 2…”)

The easiest way to engage and challenge the player character? Figure out what the Beliefs are- what will she fight for, what will she risk everything for? Here’s my Belief 101 that gives a fun set of questions to build Beliefs on:

Also- my other advice? Don’t waste a lot of time dropping clues or “building up” to the excitement. Lay out the conflicts and relationships right away and follow the player’s leanings to see what’s the most exciting. Failures will lead to more conflicts, and, just as often, so will successes… between that and Beliefs the GMs job becomes picking out what is the most entertaining problems for the characters to have.


Thanks Chris,

I’ll definitely use that when we’re writing beliefs.
As far as stickig with that setting, I think maybe i liked it more than she did. If she wasn’t being kind to me, she’d probably say it was a bit too “boy”. I’d rather she felt like she owned the game and had less reason to become disenchanted.
(I like your quick fix for the consumer magic items…I had imagined a world where form seems more important than function, and goods are advertised using flashy illusion…so that would work quite nicely.)

We spent an hour this evening answering Luke’s setting questions, which was fairly tense, but I let her come up with anything she felt like within reason. Total lack of RPG experience meant she found the technical questions and currency specifics bemusing and frustrating, but we got there in the end.

I’ve posted the results in the “Playing” forum, and would really appreciate any feedback.