Free-Floating Color

Last night in Burning Grunweld I had planned out some color for the northern communities. The players never wound up going there, but I had the perfect opportunity to reuse one of the things I came up with closer to home.

This gave me the idea of free-floating color - basically, interesting dynamics, trends, or reactions (as per the color wheel) but which aren’t attached to specific NPCs or locations. I suppose this is much the same as getting inspired by a book, just more deliberate.

The specific example was this - I decided that the community of Isvor was having a renewal of an old tradition whereby the names of everyone who died there would be engraved on plaques (or, for more humble homes, directly on the bricks) - part of their ancestor worship. In recent decades, this had fallen by the wayside but now, with the dire troubles (invasion by Bedarkon’s hill men and accompanying monsters), fear has driven them into thinking they’re being punished by neglected ancestors.

Anyways, par for the course, they didn’t go anywhere near Isvor, nor even leave Keroon. Siggar (PC) circles up Adofo, however, an NPC monk archivist who has helped them with research over many sessions. When the troubles began, the abbot fled to Pelark, and Adofo has gradually taken on increased responsibility - a few sessions ago, Siggar offered to support him in a bid for the position of abbot.

Siggar goes to Adofo to ask about something, and it seemed the perfect place to put this in - so I transplanted the bit from Isvor, and made this one of Adofo’s new projects that was keeping him busy. At the time it was nothing more than a pretext to make Siggar work for Adofo’s aid, but the opportunity felt like it had just landed in my lap. What was particularly good about it was that Dallin (PC), later in the session, destroyed the tower of silence, Bedarkon’s magical ossuary, fundamentally changing the relationship with the ancestors for the entire vale. So the interaction with Adofo will serve as a great bit of contrast.

So… next time, I’m going to make sure I have a dozen of these things ruminating in the back of my mind.

Yeah, it feels to me (as an inexperienced Burning Wheel GM, but a relatively experienced GM overall) that it’s almost better to just come up with free-floating concepts for Burning Wheel campaigns, rather than nailing them to any specific place in the world. BW is just such a player-driven game that it’s very hard to predict where the players will go or what they’ll do next, so trying to set too much in stone just creates a lot of busywork for yourself. If, instead, you just brainstorm some flavorful ideas, you can plug those in wherever they happen to fit into the ongoing narrative, rather than waiting for the players to go to where you decided this idea lives.

I love it, because I have ADD, so it’s hard for me to concentrate long enough to build up a campaign suitable for (say) D&D. On the other hand, it’s very easy for me to just come up with a dozen cool, flavorful events/encounters/locations/people and just use them when it’d be cool to do so. It takes a lot of the pressure off me as GM and at the same time makes the game more interesting. Win/win.